It was a chilly November day but we’d promised my parents a trip to the Black Country Living Museum so a combined trip and test of a comfy, warm VW California campervan seemed in order.
The Museum didn’t disappoint, especially as it was the first of its Christmas in the Home weekends. The damp weather made the re-created homes feel particularly authentic across the 26-acres site. It highlighted some of the challenges of life over the last 300 years, but cheered by the Christmas decorations.
Candles lit many rooms and bedrooms felt distinctly chilly, even when the living rooms were heated by roaring fires. The fact that it was almost dark by about 3 o’clock only added to the atmosphere.
Christmas in the First World War was pretty spartan, as you might expect, but in many homes we found activities that were remarkably familiar – I’d made my Christmas puddings just the week before. And the trip opened up so many discussion points for our own family. The 1930s apartment had dining chairs just like my grandmother’s, for example, though I could perhaps have lived without the detailed discussion on why my great-grandmother polished the oak toilet seat in her outside privy. I fear the Museum’s version fell behind such standards, according to my mother’s childhood recollections. (In case you wondered, in Dudley in 2018 the earth closets were for viewing only).
So how did the California perform? It was an excellent transporter – my passengers commented on the comfort of the seats and ride. Getting in the back was a bit of a challenge but we’re used to carrying a folding step to make this easier in small campers. The only fly in the ointment was the facilities at the Museum. The Workers’ Institute Café provided a delicious lunch and my parents warmed up with a glass of mulled wine at the Bottle and Glass Inn in the afternoon so my thoughts of rustling up something to eat and enjoying a relaxing afternoon tea in the California were dashed...