OPINION: Everyone's an expert when it comes to reversing

OPINION: The joys of caravanning are many and varied - the feeling of freedom, the independence, the sightseeing, the relaxation, lack of commitments, the list goes on.

But one of the joys rarely experienced by the uninitiated is watching other couples try to reverse their van.

Of course, it is one of those peculiar aspects of life where everyone else is an expert. In a caravan park it is one of the more enjoyable pastimes to sit back in one's folding chair and watch the new arrivals try to get their van onto their site.

Van reversing techniques fall into several categories. One of the most common is the Arm Wavers. In this method one spouse stands in a spot where the driver can't see them and madly waves both arms, usually in different directions at once. The driver can only use trial and error - turn the steering wheel any way and see what response it brings. It is truly amazing how many different ways there are to wave two arms. A side effect of this style is that the driver often gets a kinked neck from trying to turn around in a vain attempt to find the other spouse. One disadvantage with this technique is that it usually degenerates into using another method when the van gets jack-knifed. A commonly heard phrase is "well you do it!"

Another frequently observed routine is Shouting. It is necessary to shout loudly as the guiding spouse usually stands a long way from the driver and has to make an effort to be heard above the madly revving engine. Phrases like "not that way, the other way, no the other way" and "more yet" or "you just hit the tree" ring out across the park. Laughter from amassed onlookers does not help the hassled driver.

These two previous methods are usually combined with Standing Behind the Van. Obviously, it is best for the guiding spouse to stand at the back of the van - they can then see exactly what is going on and where the obstacles are. The only trouble is the poor driver hasn't got a clue what is happening.

It is the norm for tempers to fray rather rapidly between partners while attempting to get their mobile dwelling parked on the allotted space. Friends of mine really dread reversing onto a site and will go to several caravan parks until they find one with drive-through sites. Divorce proceedings have been pending on several occasions when the inevitable misunderstanding escalates, tempers fray, blood pressure rises and nobody wins. When they arrive home from a trip their neighbour rushes out and offers to put the van in its spot. He hates the sight of blood.

One couple was recently spotted using a walkie-talkie. She was moving around giving very clear directions while he calmly did as he was told. Their large van was quickly unhitched and the cuppa soon on the table. That was no fun for the audience.

In all seriousness, backing a van can be a real hassle - but it need not be. Here is the method my wife and I use. We have tested it over the years and avid onlookers around the country have applauded it. A starting condition is to have both the car's front windows wound down. The spouse outside the car stands beside one of the open windows and faces the van, that is, faces the rear of the car. All the driver has to do is sit comfortably and listen. Shouting is not required as the guiding spouse is right alongside the driver. It does not matter which side of the car one stands, the one giving the best view is obviously preferable. The secret of this method's success is this: if the rear of the van needs to go to the right, tell the driver "right hand down" - the van will then move in the correct direction. If the rear of the van needs to go to the left, the command is "left hand down". When it is necessary to check for obstacles, the driver waits until the other returns to their position alongside the window. Change sides if necessary, but always stand beside an open window and face the rear. Fine-tuning the turn of the steering wheel can regulate the rate of turn of the van.

After years of using this method we have never had a fight and the van ends up positioned exactly where we want it. Plaudits from fellow caravanners are testimony to its worth and we have more time to spare to watch others wreck their marriages.

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