The caravanners

The Yorkshire Wolds make for an unimpressive horizon. Middling chalk downland that struggles north from the Humber for 40 miles, they fail to be truly noticeable at any point between the M62 and the coast. As if to confirm this failure, the land east of the hills quickly slopes off to the flat plain of Holderness, then falls into the white-flecked grey that is the North Sea in high summer. Viewed from above, it can be seen that this plain is dotted with boxes. It is caravan land.

Down by the sea, one of the sites claims to be the best caravan park in Yorkshire. Yorkshire being such a nebulous concept these days - large chunks of the old county, such as Teesdale or Bowland, are not included in its borders and places that have nothing to do with it, such as Scunthorpe, are - it is hard to say if the claim is confused or mendacious.

At the chip shop on the A road adjacent to the entrance of the best caravan park in Yorkshire, the queue is loud with fluorescent pinks and greens. Two very big women wear tight leggings; a big man wears Lycra shorts and a bumbag. He doesn't position the bag over his bum but has turned it around to the front. It sits above a genital bulge that bobbles as he retrieves a Berkley cigarette, which he then ignites with a lighter that is emblazoned with the slogan "Hull City: the Tigers". Around him, the smell of fags and frying combines in a palpable haze.

Inside the park, through the security gate operated by a silent youth in a white shirt with sky-blue epaulettes, children and dogs dominate. They run around noisily, pulling the patient animals along behind them and hitting each other with the long stalks of pampas grass they have pulled from the line of plants that screens the shower block.

Neither obese nor bulimic, the children are simply happy. The only supervising adults seem to be grandparents - thin, old women who suck deeply on cigarettes; thinner old men in slippers and trousers who walk from the site shop carrying the Daily Mirror and bags of sweets. But what has happened to the generation in the middle? Where are the parents?

We find them at the bingo, arrayed around a central dais where, microphone in hand, the cadaverous bingo caller with a giant Adam's apple stalks the thin corridor between the glass box of writhing balls and the circle of caravanners. Saying little, licking their pencils, the men and women keep their heads down as he pulls out a ball and calls the number.

The scene seems as staged as a civil war re-enactment - this, surely, is how we used to live - and nostalgia hangs in the air as heavily as the smoke and fat. Wilson is in No 10, the NUM bestrides the land, and the cry of "House!" drifts across the sands.

Michael Hodges writes the Class Monitor column for the New Statesman. He was named columnist of the year at the 2008 Magazine Design and Journalism Awards for his contributions to Time Out.

This article first appeared in the 09 August 2010 issue of the New Statesman, The first 100 days