A very official start date

IMG_3131

Tomorrow wasn’t awesome, but it was better. Don and Rodney repaired the alternator and fitted the shiny new radiator. Rodney’s brother made and fitted a safe and they reinforced the pull-down bed, replaced the halogen lights with energy-saving LEDs, and fitted new locks to the door and all compartments. I put a second coat of white paint all over the interior and cleaned up everyone’s mess (yet to expand my skills). I also bought material which I plan to turn into lovely curtains for the front windows (soon to expand my skills).

Then Hollywood called requesting that the boy wonder return to London before the end of the month for more adventures in pretend space. And so we did the unthinkable, we bit the bullet and we booked a ferry from Belfast to Liverpool on Saturday 27 June. So that’s that, we have a brand new and very official start date for moving into the van and hitting the road. Holy shit!

On Wednesday we took the van on a 70 mile test drive. She performed admirably and fuel consumption is at least a third better than we were expecting. We celebrated with fire and cider and cheese.

IMG_3035

On Thursday I sat outside in the cloud (sun appears to be a foreign concept in Northern Ireland) drinking a cup of tea and I thought to myself ‘something is going to happen’. It was a fleeting, unsettling thought and I may have a future career in soothsaying.

On Friday we were woken by a phone call from Rodney’s cousin. Granny Betty had phoned, she’d fallen over and couldn’t walk (she’d shuffled down the stairs on her bum to get to the phone). An ambulance was taking her to the hospital with a suspected broken hip. When we got to the hospital she was still in the ambulance. The gas and air and morphine were doing little to numb the pain so they’d had to give her more of everything. The paramedic said he thought the hip must be shattered.

We were in A&E for 5 hours whilst they did X-Rays and scans and I lost count of the number of people who came over to say hello- passing nurses, visitors, other injured folk- they all knew her, or knew of her, or were somehow related. “I’m Mary’s wee girl”, “My Granny was your first cousin”, “I used to live next to your son” etc etc. Everyone just knew everyone.

It occurred to me that had I been rushed to hospital in London under similar circumstances, I wouldn’t have known anybody, nobody would have known me, nobody would have been related to me, and it would have been a royal pain in the arse for family to come visit me. I always said that one of my favourite things about London was the anonymity. I’m now not so sure.

In the end ‘a wee fracture’ was the diagnosis and GB was ambulanced off to a hospital in Derry that knows how to deal with that sort of thing. She had to wait until Monday morning to get a partial hip replacement and I’m pleased to say she’s doing well (or as well as can be expected for an 83 year old chain smoker who can no longer walk) and may even be home again by the end of the week.

546159_10152079770200230_1328315800_n

Now, here’s the thing… the last time Rodney and I went off travelling (2011) my Nan died. I wholly regret that we chose to go away when we did- she’d told me months before that she’d be done within a year, but as I couldn’t really comprehend such a thing I guess I just didn’t believe her. It is my one and only regret in life.

We’re yet to have a serious adult discussion on the topic, but given the week’s events it’s starting to weigh heavily. Are we really about to feck orf again and allow history to repeat itself? Rodney has two very fragile grannies and, sorry to be the bearer of bad news but father Don is pretty sick too. We could spend a year or so closer to home so that Rodney can get some quality time, or we could get the ferry to Spain in September as originally intended knowing that when we leave this Saturday some goodbyes will likely be permanent and we may be flying back before too long for funerals. Quite the predicament.

If we postpone the ferry and spend the winter in Ireland, would we not just be two chilly unemployed people living in a van, waiting for the grim reaper? Would Rodney persist in wearing (holey) socks and sandals?

IMG_3059

I guess time will tell. Stay tuned… watch this hole… etc.

“The force is strong with this one”

childhood

We had big plans to get our shit together and sort the van out once and for all this week. But then Rodney got “the call” and he ran off into the sunset, leaving me and the van lying by the wayside (Rodney’s parent’s drive), lost and broken and so casually abandoned.

I can’t say I blame him really. Seeing his little face light up when he got “the call”, I knew there was only one way that this was going to pan out. There was no way I was going to stand in the way of him fulfilling another childhood dream. (He still hasn’t forgiven me for dragging him away from the baggage reclaim in Delhi airport before he had a chance to accost Ian McKellan with “a bag is never late Sir Ian, nor is it early, it arrives precisely when it means to”. I maintain that he was probably a bit tired after the long flight and wouldn’t have appreciated Rodney’s hilarity- you can thank me in your own time Ian).

So the call was an invitation to work as a stand-in for a certain character on a certain sci-fi film. If you can’t recall what a stand-in does, then maybe this will jog your memory:

martin-freeman

That said, I’m not really sure what being a stand-in for this certain character would entail. Same as usual I expect… lots of standing in. Dreamy stuff!

Ah but there’s more! For no sooner had he jetted off to London than the phone rang again… “another call” (this is exhausting), this time offering work on the new James Bond film. Two childhood dreams in one week, should have bought a lottery ticket.

And so he’s gone and here am I, keeping the other dream alive, like a champ, an internet shopping champ (still searching for that illusive blowy air motor). Van worries aside I’m pretty content. I have fully mastered the art of relaxation and I am in love, with this wee dote…

IMG_2980

She is called Lucy, she is a Jack Russell / Yorkie cross and was bought (saved) by Rodney’s parents for £40 from travellers, a little over a year ago. She has a sticky-out ribcage on one side where she’s been kicked or thrown, and sometimes she gets a bit scared. But mostly she’s happy and awesome. She’s very intelligent and she gives cute hugs. Her childhood dreams are just to be loved.

Rodney who?

Home is where?

We’re now back in chilly Ireland after spending 10 toasty days in England. I was lying low at my brother’s house for most of that time whilst Rodney was  filming at Pinewood. It was actually a really lovely trip, but I did kinda feel like a bit of a freeloader for much of it. My family have always been very encouraging of my escapades however it usually involves me disappearing to other continents and them seeing less of me. I’m not sure they really know what to make of my recent life choices / me showing up on their doorstep and evading the question ‘so how long are you staying for?’.

I don’t miss London or our old flat, but I think I do miss having a home. At the moment we’re relying on the kindness of family, living out of our rucksacks (carry on luggage), and it can be a bit unsettling at times. Home may be where the heart is (and in my case where the Rodney is) but it’s also the place where you put your shizzle, hang your hat and make like a sloth. We are territorial beings and I miss having my own patch to escape to.

IMG_2880

Luckily we are now very close to having a home again as the van is almost ready. Hoorah! Don has fixed the bed and the fridge (I think he blew through a piece of gas pipe for two hours to remove dust and spider skeletons) and today they put up new fly screens / window blinds. We think we’ve sourced a replacement motor for the blowy air heating thingy on the dash and we’ve ordered some new LED lights to replace the florescent lighting (because they make Rodney sad).

Rodney is making heroic / stinky attempts to turn an old chemical loo into a composting toilet. He’s now on his second porta-potti having cocked up the first one. I’ve been dreaming about this composting toilet for months. It’s sort of become a symbol of our break for freedom; our transformation from apathetic consuming robots into… well something better.  If you think that sounds daft, then you might want to avoid this blog in future because the composting toilet is going to become a regular feature… #vanfaeces.

IMG_2955

Tomorrow I plan to fumigate the van, which involves murdering the family of mites currently living in the cupboard. I don’t feel good about this, but I really don’t want mites in my cupboard and they’ve ignored my polite eviction notice.

All that glitters

This week has felt like a bit of an uphill struggle at times with numerous van cock-ups and disappointments. I’m kicking myself that we painted the interior white. Though I most definitely prefer white to magnolia, the original wallpaper was still in good nick and was easy to wipe clean. The white is going to be a nightmare (and it looks like it has been painted by a small child). It would be difficult to keep clean if I was living on my own, but with a Rodney on board, I think we can just call it a write off. Or a white off! Aha ha de ha ha.

IMG_20150522_205458

Then the other day the battery light came on and ‘we’ (Rodney’s Dad Don) discovered that the alternator belt had fallen off whilst we were cruising / chugging along. At the time this felt like a massive set back and we stopped working and spending money on the van until it was up and running again. Potentially an over-reaction as in the end the new belt cost £6 and an hour of The Don’s time (free), but I guess you could say we’re very nervous about the van’s ability to get us around Europe and how much money we may have to sink into it to keep it on the road. Very nervous indeed.

Next we tried to get some gold paint to do touch ups, but it turned out to be a shoddy paint matching service which left us with glittery yellow spots / a shitter looking van than we started out with. Then the fridge stopped working. Then the bed broke. Then we found a strange mite infestation. Then… actually I think that’ll do for now.

Somewhere in the middle of it all Rodney was offered work on a film in London. Neither of us really imagined we’d be going back so soon but it’s easy work that will keep us stocked up on diesel / beer for a few extra months. So tomorrow we fly to London for ten whole days. This will push back our van departure date somewhat but ‘frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn’!

I need to get to bed ASAP as it’s a stupidly early flight, but before I do let me share a little tale of mirth with you…

Rodney was helping his brother dig a grave this morning, as you do. He then got roped into helping to lower the coffin into the grave (a terrifying thought for anyone who knows how frequently Rodney breaks / drops things). Fortunately he only injured himself in the process (a small but bloody cut to the hand). The funeral ended, the bereaved departed and Rodney and his brother set to work filling the grave back in. Now, I’ve never really given much thought to graves before, what happens when the funeral ends etc. but it turns out you need to pack the earth back in pretty tightly to ensure the grave is level and doesn’t sink. To do this well, you’re gonna want to climb down into the grave and jump up and down on the earth every now and again. Rodney isn’t really the kind of person to do things by halves, and he tends to enjoy a bit of physical activity, so when the time came to pack in the earth, he wasted no time in climbing into the grave,  jumping up and down on the coffin and swinging his arms about the place. And it was at that point that some latecomers arrived at the graveside to pay their respects and were faced with the sight of a large jolly irishman appearing to dance on their loved ones grave, wearing a muddied, bloodied T-shirt with (we realised afterwards) ‘Day of the dead – play dead’ emblazoned across it in Spanish.

In between the hysterics we were all of course suitably appalled and Rodney has agreed to steer clear of graveyards for the foreseeable future, so worry not.

11350327_1455031804790342_1066525479_n

Leaving London

IMG_2450

After counting down the months and days until our departure, the last week went by in a speedy blur. We packed, cleaned, worked, got drunk, ate a lot of sushi and Pho (not easy to get in Ireland), and said a few more goodbyes. On the last day we took a few hours out to sleepwalk our way around the Harry Potter Studios (quite cool) before rushing home to finish packing / scrubbing the oven.

IMG_1837

IMG_0827

My brother surprised me on the Saturday by getting a train down to help us move. As he’s very strong this meant that I got to do very little whilst he and Rodney competed to be the bestest / strongest of all mankind. Rodney won on the basis that he broke everything he touched, such is his superhuman strength.

In all it took 7 hours to load the van, give the flat a final scrub, drive to Coventry, put everything in storage and get back to my brother’s for a well earned beer or five. As the van was priced per 24 hours, Rodney then got up at 4.30am, drove the van to Hampstead, ran to Euston, got a train back to Coventry and then ran to my brothers, arriving just in time for breakfast / Jodie getting up. Quite the trooper.

IMG_2559

We chilled at my brothers for a while feeling pretty knackered and then flew out to Northern Ireland on Tuesday where we have been eating / drinking / sleeping the days away ever since, achieving very little apart from a state of (almost) total relaxation.

I’m not sure how I feel about leaving London yet as it doesn’t really seem real. We watched some of the VE day concert on tele last night and I felt a small pang of regret that I no longer live in (arguably) the greatest city on earth, but then Katherine Jenkins started squawking and the feeling passed.

IMG_1750

I’m slowly getting used to the idea that I’ve nowhere to be anytime soon; that I can wake up and decide on a whim what to do with my day. I’ve been competing to be the busiest of people for so long that indefinite relaxation has me feeling a bit unsettled. I think I could eventually become a champ at doing rock all, but it does make me feel a tad guilty.

Fortunately I’ll not be feeling guilty for long as we’ve got shit to do. Lots of very important shit! Tomorrow we start work on the van- we’re anticipating it will take about three weeks to get it ready to live in. Time to get busy again!