"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/A stately pleasure-dome decree."
Note: Coleridge’s biographer, Richard Holmes, has stated that the Moghul emperors’ pleasure domes were in fact portable devices and hence could be considered to be the early precursors of the caravan.
To the editor, “Caravanserai, the magazine of portable gracious living in the United Kingdom.”
Sir, I read with great interest Mr. Coleridge’s review of the new four-berth model “Stately Pleasure” developed by Mr. Khan of this very site and would wish to crave your indulgence to make a few points, some complimentary and some critical. However, before I start, I should also like to point out that there appears to have been some mishap at the printers as the article seemed to end in a rather abrupt fashion.
Point 1 To begin: I was very impressed with the section: "So twice five miles of fertile ground/With walls and towers were girdled round:/And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,/Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;/And here were forests ancient as the hills,/Enfolding sunny spots of greenery./But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted/Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!/A savage place! as holy and enchanted." This is an almost perfect description of this site and the general air of tranquillity with which it is imbued. Mr. Coleridge obviously made detailed notes of the setting when he inspected the vehicle. Thank you! It captures the atmosphere precisely and accurately, especially now that the long-awaited refurbishment has finally ridded us of the couch grass, bracken, boggy areas, giant hogweed, mosquitoes, wild dogs, cow pats and midges that took the edge off our enjoyment in previous times.
Point 2 However, this brings me to the section "Where Alph, the sacred river, ran/Through caverns measureless to man/Down to a sunless sea. Whilst it is true that Alf does indeed run everywhere, or at least did, before his unfortunate recent altercation, which need not detain us here, I have never heard him referred to as a "sacred river" before! I assume that this expression has been transliterated orally and should have read "naked shiverer" as this is, of course, or rather was, an accurate description of his normal state and the condition it tended to impose whilst exposed to the rigours of the north west Somerset climate, in spite of the regular and commendable turn of speed he obtained. It has to be admitted that these changes in Alf's circumstances have indeed caused him to tend to shun human companionship by spending as much time as possible underground, but I see no reason to dwell on these matters. A little more delicacy as to the repercussions of these sorts of statements would be appreciated in the future. He is still down there, in his caverns measureless to man, and he does not appear to intend to come out. Moreover, the expression "As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted/By woman wailing for her demon-lover!" is pure speculation on the author's part. This is a rumour that I had hoped had been well and truly scotched. The lady in question has suffered enough.
Point 3 On the subject of indelicacy, there is also a reference to a “sunny dome”: this is not only a needless slur from someone who, if I recall correctly, has a full head of hair, but also irresponsible advice. I am rather challenged in the follicle department myself, but cover my pate with a hat at all times, even when the weather is dull, a habit I would urge should be observed by all my fellow "baldies". One cannot be too careful.
Point 4 And as to “A damsel with a dulcimer/In a vision once I saw:/It was an Abyssinian maid,/And on her dulcimer she played," this, I regret to say, is simply a complete departure from the truth. "The Abyssinian Maid” is a long-established and very enjoyable cruise vessel, but the "music loud and long" referred to is always from Fred Fleet and his Minehead Rhythm Manglers, who do not possess a dulcimer, which anyway would be rendered inaudible by the combination of trombone, tuba, five-stringed banjo and megaphone-amplified vocals they favour and would also be in sore danger of damage from the one of the traditional alcohol-induced mêlées that regularly occur towards the end of the cruise. Furthermore, whilst Rosie, the Manglers' resident vocalist has often, to my certain knowledge, been described variously as madam and mistress, to refer to her as a damsel is to stretch credibility to breaking point, I'm afraid!
Point 5 One – possibly the only one - of the Stately Pleasure's deficiencies is its absence of internal sanitary facilities, and the section “And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,/As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,/A mighty fountain momently was forced:/Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst/Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail” must surely be one of the most powerful descriptions that has ever been committed to paper of that regrettable phenomenon of being caught short in the night when it’s freezing outside and the dew is rising. In these circumstances, one simply can’t beat streamlined, winter-gauge Gortex trousers to pull on for protection against the elements yet elimination of perspiration in the course of the dash to the facilities made simple by the sleek contours of the garments. "Fast thick pants were breathing" indeed. An ideal advertising slogan and a very responsible piece of advice. Visitors to this site may purchase them from the camp shop.
Point 6 And finally, “For he on honey-dew hath fed,/And drunk the milk of Paradise.”: Exactly! My attitude to caravanning to a T! Thank you!
In conclusion, sir, on balance, we are all grateful for Mr. Coleridge's visit and would be happy to accommodate him again. In particular, there is an old sailor, who has retired here, who wishes to have a word with him about some matter.
I remain, as ever, your most obedient servant,
A Person esq. (Xanadu Caravan Site, Porlock, Somerset.)