Following this summer, I have a new standard for measuring the quality of a holiday: it should not involve:
- the emergency services
- any mention of us in the local paper
- a dead body
By day two of our summer holiday this year, we’d already failed on all three counts, through no fault of our own.
Mindful of the feelings of the relatives of number 3 on the list, I won’t go into details, for fear of making the incident identifiable. Sufficient to say the experience was enough to make me empathise with the famous author/detective Jessica Fletcher, as played by Angela Lansbury in the ever-popular television series, “Murder She Wrote”. Like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, Jessica Fletcher never seems to be able to take a holiday without stumbling over a corpse.
We’d stopped for the night in our camper van in a delightful, safe place that we’ve stayed many times, in a scenic corner of a pleasant town, popular with dog-walkers, cyclists, skateboarders and motor-homes. Returning from an enjoyable family cycle ride, we noticed a cluster of anxious-looking dog-walkers around a vehicle parked within sight of ours. My husband went to find out what the fuss was about, only to return, pallid, moments later, telling us the vehicle contained a dead body. Being a trained first-aider, he’d instinctively reached out to check the body for vital signs. It was cold. A dog-walker dialled 999. The emergency services, quick to arrive, diagnosed natural causes.
On the pretext that It was starting to get dark, we drew the curtains in our van, to shield our young daughter and ourselves from the distressing sight of the emergency services removing the body. For our daughter’s sake, we went out of our way to carry on with the evening as planned, putting on a calm, non-alarmist front. We played cards till bedtime, interrupted only by a knock on the door from a pleasant Polish policewoman who came to take a statement from my husband as a witness to the discovery. We made small-talk with her and she rewarded us with great advice about the best nearby beach to visit.
When she’d gone, we retired to bed and slept well until awoken by a knock on the door around 9.30am. It was another policeman.
“If I were you, I’d move on now, sir, because the local press have got wind of the incident and they’ll be coming round asking you questions.”
We took his advice and made ready to depart. Only on opening the curtains did we discover that, overnight, the area had been deserted by every vehicle but ours. We were now alone and conspicuous within a large empty parking lot, cordoned off by police tape signalling a crime scene.
A courteous bobby moved the cordon aside for us to drive out, and for the rest of the day we tried to put the incident behind us.
That is, until we were in a supermarket that afternoon, where I spotted a front-page article about the event. We were mentioned in despatches:
A camper van was parked within the cordoned off area, but police confirmed it was not involved with the incident.
I think Jessica Fletcher may have put in a word on our behalf.
You might enjoy these other posts about this summer’s adventures in our camper van – and there’ll be more to follow soon.