It was like a morning in late September when we set off for the van on Friday; sunny and with not a breath of wind. We had a straight run down to Portsmouth and a smooth crossing over to the Isle of Wight. Then it was a case of me turning off the taps while Sam grabbed some water pump pliers to drain up the caravan, and then with a quick sweep of the decking we were in. We couldn’t help but notice that a certain person well known to everybody had mowed the grass again, as our washing line had a dent in it and a definite list to port.

It was the weekend of the end-of-season gala. The rest of the site had been closed to holidaymakers at the end of October, but around 100 or so owners were still there for the free 3-course carvery and disco. Owners tend to appear in droves for anything free, as bills come in thick and fast during the year and a free dinner and dance all paid for by the company is definitely not a thing to be missed.

Meanwhile there was Saturday to enjoy before the dinner in the evening. However, in my opinion there’s nothing sadder than the seaside in winter. Our site’s clubhouse, swimming pool and shop were all closed and would not re-open until February 11th, and in the afternoon when we ventured out to Puckpool, the wind had turned to a force 9 gale as we battled our way along the seafront. There were a few cafes still open with the owners standing in hope in their doorways, but to be honest only a few hardy souls were out. I felt like applauding the family who, coats on and blankets over their knees, had set up camp outside their beach hut.

Nevertheless we walked the couple of miles into Ryde, had a cup of tea in one of the cafes, and then walked back again to the car. Days are short at the end of November, and by the time we got back to the van the light was already beginning to fade. Our gas man arrived with our new thermostat, but it was the wrong one. It looked as though I’d still have burnt offerings if I cooked anything in our oven. Some owners were stringing Christmas lights around their deckings, but Sam couldn’t be bothered as we were only there for the weekend.

Nobody dresses up too finely for owners’ events. You can do if you like, but you would stick out like a sore thumb. Sam and I put on our smart-but-casual attire and joined our neighbours in the clubhouse. The tables and chairs had all been decorated as if for a wedding; decorations hung from the ceiling, and somebody had obviously gone to a lot of trouble for us. The dinner was a choice of hummus and veg sticks or meatballs for starters, beef or pork with several veggies for mains, and then something rather gloopy for desert which I (being dairy intolerant) looked at with horror.

Once fed, we danced away the evening, and then joined the owners again for a free breakfast the next morning and also the usual forum. The GM announced more lodges would be built on the tent field, which we thought would happen eventually anyway, as there’s more money to be made from lodges than from tents. The NIMBY couple in one of the lodges behind the new building site complained how their view of the beach would be spoiled, but I refrained from saying that their own lodge had blocked the view of the family in the older lodge behind their one.

The rest of Sunday we battled the elements again and noticed how cold it had become in our un-insulated van, especially in the mornings before the boiler came on. Winter had set in with a vengeance, and yesterday morning we knew it was time to endure the cold months in East Anglia. Sam drained down the van, I turned on the taps to release pressure, and then plonked several plates of salt around. We had a last cup of tea and chatted about happy memories we had made there this year, before catching the 11 o’clock ferry back to the dark side. We may go back at Christmas and drain the van up again for a few days, or we may give one of those gallic shrugs in the knowledge that there is nothing sadder than the seaside in winter.