I had a (van) dream

We’re currently in Northern Ireland, working and saving to get back on the road. Back to the dream. However, we may have hit a bit of a snag. A bit of a metaphorical pothole (remember them?!). A bit of an ‘are you fucking kidding me?’ juncture. At the beginning of May Rodney drove the van into the side of a Mercedes van. Into the side of a ‘one-off’ / ‘brand new’ / ‘not cheap’ / ‘was speeding but we can’t prove it’ Mercedes van. Thankfully no-one was hurt. We waited six long agonising weeks to find out if our insurance would pay out. If it didn’t the dream would have been well and truly over. We’d have been wiped out, financially, emotionally, and van dreamily. The past six months of commuting four hours a day to work and living off supermarket reductions to save save save would have been meaningless. The small repairs we had done after Rodney’s previous smash would have been insignificant. Long story short, they paid out, Goldie is back to her former glory and we’re now trying to figure out our next move.

It’s highly likely that Rodney’s insurance will now skyrocket to unsavoury levels that would make her economically unattractive. If we want to keep Goldie I’ll have to become the sole driver and at the moment that isn’t filling me with joy, partly because of the size of her but also because she’s a left hand drive and has no power steering. I have no doubt that I could get the hang of it, but do I really want to? Also, if I crash her I’ll have to stop mocking Rodney for driving her into houses and stuff, and he’ll never let me live it down. He’ll probably start his own rival blog as pay back, and the mocker would become the mocked. I may be overthinking this.

The other option is to sell Goldie and get a smaller right hand drive that might be a bit easier / more relaxing for me to manoeuvre. The downside of that is we’ve put a lot of effort into adapting Goldie into an off grid dream machine and I’m not sure I want to go through all that effort again with another van. Also, we love her. She’s become a member of the family.  Like an irritating little sister and a wise old grandmother rolled into one. She’s part of our increasingly fucked up story and I’m not sure I’m quite ready for the Great Golden Disaster chapter to end.

Slight tangent, but I read an article once that said if you want to know whether you are on the right path in life you should consider what you would do with your time if you won the lottery. If your lotto dream life is wildly different to your current reality then you may be on the wrong path and might want to make some changes. It’s easy to argue that this is utter bullshit as many people in the world are not free to change their circumstances, but I guess the article wasn’t meant for them folk. No siree. I guess it was meant for wankers that type ‘am I on the right path?’ into the Google search bar, and write blogs about their vacuous van-loving existential crises. Touché!

I asked Rodney the other day what he’d do if we won the lottery and the first thing he said was ‘I’d get Goldie pimped’. So who knows Goldie Horn. Maybe we’re not done with you yet.

We chatted a bit more about our hopes and dreams and it turns out we’ve not strayed too far from our wanky wee paths. We still dream of travel. Of not having to ‘come back’ to work, but just to keep going until the world stops spinning or we die of natural causes, whichever comes first. Maybe it doesn’t matter how we travel, but that we just find a way to keep going. To see the world before it burns.

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Scroll down for a quick catch up on what else we’ve been up to for the past 7 months. I don’t have as much photo evidence as usual as we’ve been trying out this strange ‘living in the moment’ phenomenon so I’ve not been as snap happy…

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We celebrated Christmas at the beach house…

We popped over to London for the Star Wars premiere and said farewell to a strange year. I’m not sure Rodney will ever forgive himself for fucking up his Darth Vader audition but he still got to dive off space ships and shoot rebel scum so I think he’ll look back on it without regret. Maybe. Someday.

I got work in Belfast so we moved back into the van and headed across the country to become city van dwellers. It was fucking freezing…

Rodney had to wear his turtle neck to keep warm…

We lasted three weeks before moving back into the beach house and I now commute to Belfast everyday. My contract ends in 17 weeks so I guess that’s how long we’ve got to decide our next destination. We talked about renting a place in Belfast so that I wouldn’t have to endure the long commute but decided we’d miss the beach too much. Returning home every evening never gets old…

We had a few guests. Making the most of having a place for friends to stay before we become nomads again…

We went to Tenerife for a bit of vitamin D. It was very resorty. We weren’t too keen to be honest but the sun was glorious…

We had some great trips away in Goldie the horn dog…

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And then there was that thing I mentioned…

But we just got her back and she’s looking as blingy as ever…

To be continued…

Reflections of a van dweller

Last week was our… last week of van dwelling, for a good old while. I spent much of it huddled under the duvet wearing a couple of jumpers and bed socks (socks), sipping on hot cocoa and trying to warm my hands as the rain hammered on the roof and the repti-thermometer struggled to rise up over the 10 degree mark… and I was surprisingly content!

Perhaps it’s not surprising at all. Perhaps I finally just realised how insanely lucky I am. And before anyone pipes up with ‘you make your own luck’, that’s clearly not the case. As we’ve established in previous posts, I can be a very lazy daisy when I want to be. Make my own luck? You’re lucky if I make my own bed.

No I am one lucky rubber duck, and although our transition from hard-working Londoners to carefree ferals of no fixed abode has had its “challenges”, I am ultimately happier than a pig in shit (ah isn’t it amazing how the prospect of a winter in Asia can lift a girl’s mood?!).

So, without further ado, here are some of the things I have loved about living a nomadic life for the past four and a half months…

(If you’re already struggling to cope with my irritating levels of positivity then just scroll down to the things I have loathed section. You’re welcome.)

‘My, isn’t life fabulous?’

  1. You cannot take our Freeeduuuum!!!!- Freedom means different things for different people. For me it is having less restrictions on how and where I spend my time, having more time in general and having so little stress that my mind is as quiet as a mouse. I am freeeeeeeee!!
  2. Alfresco dining- cooking and eating outside, in the sunshine or under the stars, never gets old. (Although blowing up the BBQ, Rodney, might be considered a nail in the alfresco dining coffin).
  3. Alfresco everything- when your home is ever so small you tend to want to spend less time in it. It forces you to explore and go be outdoorsy, if not for the love of nature, then just to ease the boredom (although you may quickly turn into a bird-spotting, nature-loving, cagoule-wearing beauty). Add Action Man Rodney to the mix and you’ll soon start to feel like you’re on a permanent PGL adventure holiday.
  4. Sticking it to the man- On 2 May 2015 we climbed into a van and drove it and ourselves off the conveyor belt, raising our middle fingers in the general direction of Westminster. It felt good.
  5. Less stuff- I hate stuff. I hate shopping for stuff. I hate wasting money on stuff. I hate cleaning stuff. I have loved being free from stuff. I’m really looking forward to taking it a step further and living out of my 35 litre rucksack for the next few months. Down with the stuff!
  6. Great Britain- we’ve not been everywhere yet, but we’ve seen more of the country than most. It’s beautiful.
  7. I think we’re alone now- I may have said some unkind words about our golden dream machine, however she’s turned out to be pretty perfect. The huge water tank means that we can spend a week alone in the wilderness before needing to find a tap. The composting toilet continues to fill me with joy. The solar power is a marvel and we just discovered that we can fit larger gas bottles in the side compartment, reducing the frequency with which we run out of gas. We’re a long way off being self-sufficient but living off-grid feels like a step in the right direction.
  8. Family- We’ve seen more of our families this year than we have in the past decade. They might disagree, but I thought it was pretty lovely.
  9. Fresh air- The air tastes better outside London. In fact, it’s delicious! (It also tastes better when we’re not driving around in a diesel-guzzling tank, but that’s a problem for another day 😳).
  10. Rodney- Funny that he should appear on this list when he’s about to feature at the top of the list of things I have loathed! Strictly speaking he should really be at the top of this list too, but nobody likes a smug couple so I’ve snuck him in down here instead. For the record, I would not like to live in a van with any other person… because there is no better person… in the world. Let’s leave it at that!

And now for the flip side. Ten things I have loathed about living in a van for the past four and a half months…

‘Just shoot me, shoot me now!’

  1. ‘Agggggghhhhhhhh’- Rodney drives like a f*cking maniac. He takes corners like he’s driving a ferrari, speeds up when he sees a red light and will often close his right eye so that when I look across at him I think he’s fallen asleep at the wheel- just to mess with me. Also, because it’s a left hand drive, when he cuts people up they give me the finger.
  2. ‘Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr’- If it’s cold outside, there’s a good chance it’s cold inside too. If I put the heating on the windows steam up and condensation drips from the skylights. I am tired of being cold and dripped on.
  3. People don’t like us (part one)- Every now and then we stay at a ‘proper’ campsite with power showers and washing machines etc. Caravan Club sites tend to be the best equipped. Without fail- I can’t emphasise this enough- WITHOUT FAIL whenever we stay at a Caravan Club site, we are approached by another camper who tells us that they are here for a bit of peace and quiet. They’ll be nervously eyeing the golden beast (as if a party might erupt from its doors at any moment) whilst speaking further sentences on the topic of peace and quiet, such as how great it is to be in a lovely quiet spot on this lovely quiet campsite. I have to fight the urge to tell them that we’re there for the illegal rave.
  4. People don’t like us (part two)- Rodney has an Irish accent. There have been several occasions when he’s called a campsite to book a pitch and they have said that they were full. However when I called them back two minutes later with my very english accent, they were not full. The first time this happened we were killing ourselves laughing, but as it started to become a more frequent occurrence we stopped finding it funny. Rodney now makes all bookings using his best Gandalf voice.
  5. Please please Mr Postman- I used to love getting post. It made me feel like a proper person. I dream of a future where royal mail will track down the golden van wherever it may be and bring me postal joy once more.
  6. Road kill- The country is covered in dead animals. Badgers, birds, squirrels, foxes and hedgehogs lie squashed along every stretch of road. It’s a blood bath.
  7. Dust- Where does it all come from?????!!!!!!!!!
  8. I can’t think of anything else
  9. Nope my mind’s gone completely blank
  10. Hi there!

So there we are. We lived in a van and it was mostly great. I look forward to living in a van again, in about four months time. I look forward to finally making it to mainland Europe!

We’ll be spending much of today getting our shit together for Asia (we fly out next week) so I’ll sign off now and leave you with a final van-life update, for a while at least…

We went back to the Chilterns and walked the Ridgeway… 

We discovered Geocaching… 

We spent a day along the Grand Union Canal… 

It was really misty for a while (we had no solar power for a few days)… 

Rodney sang ‘Who wants to live forever?’ to some inquisitive sheep… 

I went to London to see Buzz the dog (and some two-legged friends)… 

And to get some travel vaccines (free on the mighty NHS)… 

We slept in the van one last time, at the ferry port… 

An old friend stopped by the ferry port early on Sunday morning to wave us off, and to add to our CD collection… 

The ferry crossing was pretty wild… 

We didn’t think we would make it off the ferry as our battery light had been on for a couple of days and it was getting harder and harder to start the engine. But third time lucky the golden oldie jumped into action and we made our way onto dry land and sort of ‘limped’ home (with fading headlights and sloooow wipers) in a rather anticlimactic fashion… 

And we were finally reunited with my summer fling… 

We’re now celebrating an early Christmas as we’ll be away for the real thing… 

And the van is looking forward to a few months of rest and relaxation…

As are we!!
Happy November one and all!

Van living is sometimes a bit crap

  
Our commitment to van dwelling has been tested this week. The alternator, exhaust and composting toilet all broke at the weekend in a triple whammy of horse shit. Rodney repaired everything as best he could but it looks like more expensive repairs may be in the pipeline. Then on Sunday evening we ran out of gas (butane) and spent five days without heating, hot water, fridge freezer and cooking facilities. I like to think of myself as fairly easygoing and low maintenance… turns out I’m completely deluded! After visiting or phoning over twenty petrol stations in the Chilterns and coming away empty handed (an obvious conspiracy), we resigned ourselves to a week of “roughing it”.

The lack of heating was miserable, but the easiest to solve, by putting on extra socks and jumpers and hibernating under the duvet. The lack of cooking facilities was more miserable because I’d picked shitloads of blackberries and had wonderful wholesome plans to turn them into jam and a fruit crumble. We couldn’t even make a cup of tea (heavy sigh).

The lack of heated water was the most miserable of all because I felt and smelled totally repugnant and would have killed for a long hot shower. There’s really only so clean you can get by flicking cold water onto your cold skin, in between squeals.

So I spent the best part of the week cold, grubby, headachey from the caffeine withdrawal and surrounded by decaying blackberries. I was mostly weathering this storm alone as Rodney was working 6am to 8pm everyday, and it was f*cking miserable!

However, on Wednesday I found a little survival stove that we had bought last Christmas (when we were fantasising about a future in the wild) and forgotten about at the back of the cupboard. 

  
  
Strictly speaking we weren’t allowed to light fires on the site, but we felt this constituted an emergency. The survival stove is now our most prized possession. It took maybe two minutes to assemble, about 10 minutes to get it roaring and hardly any minutes to boil a kettle. Several burnt twigs later I had enough water to wash my hair and make tea and hot chocolate. We felt pretty invincible after that.

 

  
  
On Thursday we met some fellow nomads for the very first time and the week ended far better than it had started, sharing stories and pancake recipes and accepting kind donations of hot water.

(Check out Vagabond Baker for awesome recipes and blogging!)

My favourite thing about transient living is that things can and do change very quickly and good times usually follow bad. I’ll be sure to remind myself of that next time I’m huddled under a duvet with greasy hair, or when we’re handing over cash for a new alternator in the not too distant future!

This weekend we’re staying at a farm near London where they make THE BEST APPLE JUICE IN THE WORLD. I don’t usually like apple juice all that much, but I’ve already guzzled a couple of bottles so it must be good. 

  
We’ve also been learning about beekeeping which is a lot harder than I thought, but my tickled taste buds say it’s probably worth it.

  
And I finally got to make my blackberry jam this morning as we are now fully stocked up on gas! As luck would have it some of the berries survived the week because it’s been so cold, so I got to pretend to be a wholesome van-wife after all.

  
We just found out that Rodney is being flown out to Iceland next week to work on a film for 10 days, so we’ve decided to store the van and I’m going to get the bus to Cornwall to stay with my Ma (Queen of power showers and maker of delicious biscuits). After that I think there are just three more weeks of filming and then… we’re off!!! I’ll be using the Queen of power showers’ speedy wifi to figure out where.

Until next time, sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite!

(We don’t have bed bugs)

  

Winter is Coming

  
Rodney fitted the solar panel last week. It started raining as soon as he’d squirted glue onto it so he threw a bit of a paddy. The rain was my fault. He wouldn’t let me help so I took the dog for a walk instead, though whilst on the walk it occurred to me that I’d just left him, the clumsiest man on earth, alone on top of a van, in the rain, with wires in his hand. I jogged back and was relieved (sort of) to find him still breathing; still in a mood, but still breathing.

Clumsiness, moodiness and rainyness aside, he did a tidy job and we are now basking in solar wonderment. This blog comes to you courtesy of the sun’s power. We are at one with the sun. May it forever shine on our roof.

  
We went for a 100 watt semi flexible panel from Photonic Universe for the special offer price of £140. There are cheaper semi-flexible panels out there but we went for the best currently available for our purposes, in the hope that it will last longer. We went with semi-flexible because weight is a key concern for our old van (they’re a lot lighter than the rigid panels) and because we didn’t want to drill holes in the roof. We bought a 30A solar controller from Amazon for £20 which seems to work just fine at the moment, though we’re a bit suspicious of its cheapness. Add on to that a couple of cables and the whole system came in at about £200. We have the option of adding another panel in future if the 100 watt doesn’t seem to be enough, but so far it appears sufficient for our needs (charging phones, laptop, lights, water pump and fans).

Our dog and house sitting duties sadly ended last week and we are now back down south for Rodney’s work. They are filming on location for the next fortnight so we have found a nearby site to park up at close to the lovely Tring Park.

  
We’re paying £6 per night and for that we get access to drinking water and waste disposal, and a wonderful view of the Chilterns. There’s no toilet or shower, but as we have both on board (in our tiny bathroom) we’re doing just fine.

Here’s where the magic happens…

  
However, as Ned Stark would tell you, a thousand times (were his head not on a stick), winter is coming. Our Repti-zoo thermometer was at a chilly 9 degrees when we woke up this morning and my teeth were chattering as I tried and failed to turn the heater on. It was a small wake up call to our non-planning ways. My next task is to consult Google on ‘where in Europe is warm(er) in winter?’

If the search returns a ‘nowhere you silly cow’, then we may be booking those flights to India after all. Forgive us our indecisiveness, for we know not whether we’re coming or going. Namaste!

  

Happy Mondays

Mondays feel different nowadays. Actually, everything feels pretty different. We no longer count down the days until the weekend, we don’t get that Friday feeling, the Sunday evening sorrow, or the ‘just f*cking shoot me’ Monday morning blues.

Today (on this sublime if a little grey Monday) I’ve made a promise to myself that I will never again work more days in a year than not. I actually quite like working. I’ve liked most of the jobs I’ve had in my adult life (apart from the year I worked in banking to pay my drama school fees- I wouldn’t wish that kind of misery on anyone, although the parties were excellent and the Friday feeling euphoric). However if my current state of contentment is anything to go by, it would appear that I like not working much much more. Call it a personal preference. I will therefore be ensuring that I achieve a genuine work-life balance for the rest of my time on earth.

Conveniently, it would also appear that I am content to survive on very little. Living in a van is not free, but the costs are a fraction of our previous London rent, and our other costs appear low too (so far anyway) so I don’t think I need to work full time to pay my way.

I’m aware that not everyone would wish to live in a small space but I rather enjoy it. I felt quite weighed down by all the stuff we owned in our London flat. Stuff is stressful. Living simply makes me feel lighter. It’s also a great time-saver. I can clean the whole van in about 30 mins (inside anyway- we’re yet to clean the outside, dirty bastards) which leaves more time for playing.

I’ve also got a bit of a phobia when it comes to contracts. Signing rental agreements and employment contracts has always made me feel quite nauseous, like I’m signing away my freedom. I prefer to feel like I could do a runner as and when I please without pissing anyone off. So the non-committal, flighty nature of van living suits me pretty well.

Anyway, enough of the self-indulgent reflection, let’s move on to business…

(Drumroll)…

(Tumbleweed)…

The chap from National Windscreens called this afternoon. They have found a replacement screen and can fit it for us tomorrow. We are officially saved!!!! Hooray for uncracked glass!!!!

And that’s not all. The icing on the cake of this merry Monday was the delivery of this genius piece of kit…

 

At some point this week (once we figure out how to install it) we will begin to draw energy from the sun (if it ever comes out to play again). I am still amazed that this is even possible. Sun hats off to whoever figured it out.

Van Damned

The day before we left Ireland, a local man stopped by. He’d seen the van parked on the drive, found out what we were up to and wanted to come over to wish us luck. Rather amazingly he brought us some gifts; a travel iron, solar shower, hydraulic jack, washing line, emergency triangle and some hymer curtain hooks. Nice man. He had travelled across Europe himself in an identical Hymer several years ago and told us a few stories of his adventures. One in particular stuck with us…

He was driving along a bad road one night in a storm, keen to get to his next location as soon as possible, when a lorry overtook him and a “brick” flew up from the road, hit the windscreen and completely shattered the glass. He pulled over, a bit shaken and bloodied and phoned the police. Long story short, the insurance company were unable to find a replacement windscreen and the van was written off, thus ending his adventures across Europe in a Hymer. He gifted the van to the Hymer Museum in Germany where it remains today.

Since hearing this cautionary tale we have made a continuous conscious effort to give all other vehicles a wide berth, which isn’t always easy when there are so many cars on the road -a massive increase I’m guessing, since I last owned a car in 2008.

(Deep breaths)

Yesterday, some total f*cking prick in a devil red jeep cut us up on the M1 and just as we were shouting “priiiiiiiiick!” (as you do) our eyes were drawn to a stone flying up from beneath his piece-of-shit wheels. Our mouths gaped in a silent scream as the stone bounced off our beautiful big windscreen leaving behind a very small but very visible chip. Within ten seconds the small chip became a small crack. We watched in something close to horror as the crack spread across the screen, neither of us able to form words.

We’ve taken refuge at Rodney’s brother’s house in Sheffield and are waiting for the insurance company to phone us back. They’re Yorkshire-based so are perhaps a little busy drinking tea with our old blowy-air motor friend. We’re drinking something a little stronger.

Road worthy?

It took three nail-biting days to get the van back from the garage. The first mechanic who tried to MOT it went home with a mysterious injury (true story), then by the time the other mechanic came to do it, the DVLA in Northern Ireland had shut for the weekend meaning they couldn’t check that the vehicle was registered, so they locked it away, alone in the cold dark garage until the Monday. If you’re in any kind of hurry to get an MOT done, don’t hand your vehicle over to a Cornish mechanic who says it’ll be done “dreckly”.

Fortunately we weren’t in any great hurry as we were living it up at my folk’s B&B in St Ives, celebrating my Mum’s big sixty. Because I am her one and only daughter, and because I live in a van, I was rewarded with the best room in the house, much to my nieces’ dismay. So for one glorious week we were sleeping in a super king-size bed with soft designer bed linen, fluffy white towels and the best scalp-battering power shower in the history of mankind. Sigh (now a distant memory).

Imagine our surprise come the Monday afternoon when the garage phoned to say that the golden beast had passed the MOT, and that the final bill was a wonderfully unchanged £40. I didn’t realise it was possible to feel relief and disappointment at the same time. It is.

It took a while to get back into the swing of van life after that. Partly because we were reminded how much easier it is to live in a lovely spacious sturdy on-grid building and partly because Rodney has been back and forth working on that there fillum for the past few weeks, thus shitting all over the holiday vibes. We’re currently waiting for confirmation of filming dates for September and October, which would put our Europe departure back considerably. That doesn’t particularly fill me with joy but Rodney is already counting his chickens and bartering them for extra special European treats and adventures, so I’m not totally against it.

In the meantime we’re back on the road again, heading north for a while, chasing the rain (unintentionally) and the good times. My mum has just sent me a shiny new smart phone so that I can update this here blog more easily and regularly, reducing the number of ‘are you still alive?’ phone calls she has to make. FUN!

Below is a light smorgasbord of our recent adventures to help fill in the gaps caused by my tardy blogging (I’m not sure if I can use smorgasbord in this context?!) and bring things up to date…

Getting happily windswept atop a hill at Boscastle…

Rodney became one with nature on his own private safari…

Then he threw a spear at me…

Then he stunk the van out for three days with this bony old trout (this was before he stunk the van out with badger shit after rolling around the fields, drunk, in his best suit, but I don’t have any pictures of that)…

Me pretending to wait for a train by the side of this old disused railway station (comic genius that I am)…

Rodney’s first ever visit to Newquay, Cornwall…

£2 a pint (the view is free), Sailors, Newquay…

The time we found prawn and mangetout gyoza in the reduced section at Marks & Spencers, bought three packs and ran out to the car park to cook them there and then (because we’re wild!)…

Go to the Eden Project, get in line at the Roskilly kiosk, buy shitloads of hazelnut & baobab ice-cream. Put it all in your mouth. All of it. That’s right (You can thank me later)…

The Great British holiday… Hmmm, 14 degrees and raining… Let’s hit the beach! (St Ives, Cornwall)

Older but not wiser, my nieces made a piñata for my Mum’s birthday celebrations. Only we took the piñata away as soon as the blindfold went on her and then cried laughing as, unawares, she beat the shit out of her pear tree…

A typical van meal (all grilled on the BBQ), when we’re not eating curry…

The time that Rodney was chased out of a field by giant cows when we were trying to find a shortcut home. And I accidentally wet myself laughing…

Nope, we’re definitely going to have to go the long way round…

Adjusting to van life

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We’ve been living in the mighty gold van for almost a month now. So ‘how’s it going?’ I hear you ask. Well, as you may have perhaps guessed it’s been a bit of a bumpy ride with numerous metaphorical (and real) potholes along the way.

The biggest metaphorical pothole (aside from the mini heatwave that left our tin can totally uninhabitable) was the discovery of rain water seeping in through the skylight last week. Yes, you read that correctly, the sh*****g f*****g roof leaks.

You’d think we’d know this already, seeing as we were working on the van in a very wet Ireland for two months. But noooo! It turns out that if you park the van at a particular angle (i.e. the exact angle it was parked on Rodney’s parent’s drive) the rain just runs off. It was mere luck that kept us dry through our first few rainstorms. Unfortunately that luck ended last Monday when we parked on the flattest patch of land in England and woke up to a raging torrent (a bit of a drip). We’re now only able to park on slopes until ‘Bodge a job Rod’ (business cards are on the way) gets what he needs to finish the repairs.

Soggy jim-jams aside, we’re starting to feel pretty good about living. The main thing that we struggled with in London was the feeling that life was passing us by; that there was never any time to do anything except work and sleep. We have very literally just bought ourselves some time. It’s not a massive amount of time (coz time is money yo!) but it feels significant.

For now we’re still figuring out how to live in a tiny space, and how to avoid killing each other when living in a tiny space. I’m happy to report that we are both still alive. We’re no further along in terms of a plan, but there are some big decisions on the horizon! We took the van into the garage this morning for its MOT and all future plans rest on the outcome of this momentous occasion. Fingers and toes are currently crossed. The results of this standard £40 test will determine whether we travel across Europe in a golden van this winter… or book ourselves flights to India / New Zealand / Japan instead. I’m not entirely sure which outcome we’ve got our fingers and toes crossed for to be honest?!

In the meantime here are a few highlights from our first month driving across our great british lands…

The fence appeared to be the only thing stopping these lovely bovines from humping the golden beast (Peak District):

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Banana pancakes for breakfast (every breakfast):

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Suspension bridge (Forest of Dean):

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Moments after Rodney (part-time vegetarian) said ‘I’m glad I chose the chicken instead of that pork loin, I can hear the pigs squealing from here’, this little chicken crept up behind him with an unmistakable look of judgement in her tiny eyes:

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A very green place (somewhere in the peak district):

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Cheesy chips and a cuppa tea at ‘The Regent Restaurant’ (Weston Super Maaaaare):

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Not a bad place to do engine repairs (Stratford-Upon-Avon):

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Foraging for wild garlic- delicious! (Forest of Dean):

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Wild mushroom foraging bounty- shroom roulette (Cheddar Gorge):

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Peace and quiet and spidery sunsets (South Downs):

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And here are some early tips for living in a van and for life in general (all lessons learned the hard way)…

  • Do check for leaks before you set off
  • Don’t expect to get a phone signal or wifi in rural England
  • Don’t expect to know what day it is
  • Don’t drive through a campsite at night (people will HATE you)
  • Do pull over immediately if the van starts to shake and shudder
  • Don’t wear skinny jeans on an eight mile hill walk on a sunny day

Good morning campers!

So rewind to last Friday, I was knee-deep in curtain fabric not knowing my arse from my elbow, Don was discovering new weird and wonderful broken things under the bonnet and with only 20 hours to go before we were due on the ferry Rodney’s stressy head veins looked like they were about to explode (all over my newly upholstered cushions). A reprieve came in the form of a phone call at 2pm telling us that the film dates were being rescheduled to later in July. We wasted mere seconds celebrating before diving for the phone to amend our ferry booking. For £31 we bought ourselves an extra day to get the van ready. I don’t know why we decided that just one extra day would be enough- could’ve really done with an extra week- but somehow, with the help of the wider Tosh clan, we made it onto that ferry on Sunday morning… and we bloody drove on, not a tow truck in sight! Here we are 30 seconds after “moving in” to our new home on wheels, and 30 seconds before we hit the road (for realsies!):

The crossing from Belfast to Liverpool was eight long hours and we used the time to steal HP sauce satchets (for emergencies) and to try to figure out what to do when we arrived in Liverpool. We decided that we should drive to a forest because that sounded like a solid plan. We drove off the ferry and no less than 3 miles down the road we realised that we were in trouble. The van was shaking so violently we thought it might actually break apart. We pulled off the motorway and drove into a creepy industrial estate and stepped outside to find this:

 

It was a joyful moment! Flat tyres are easy- vans breaking apart for no reason are not so easy (apparently). Of course, dealing with the flat tyre would have been easier still if our jack was a couple of inches higher (Rodney had to let down the spare in order to get it on and then pump it up again).

We tentatively set off again, marvelling at what a smooth ride we have (when all four tyres are intact). Within an hour we had arrived at Delamere forest, complete with owls, bunny rabbits and whispering trees (it really was a solid plan). We were too knackered to cook so reverted to our 15 yr old selves and ate Pot Noodles and cheese sandwiches before promptly passing out. Classy:

On Monday morning we woke up, made tea and wandered through the trees marvelling at the wilderness and proclaiming ourselves lucky bastards.

After many years of dreaming and many months of preparations it would appear that we are now fulltime van-dwellers, gypsies if you like. After spending so much time looking to the future it may come as no surprise that we now need to learn how to live in the present- which may prove quite challenging when it takes 15 minutes to boil water on the hob (pot noodles are not a convenience food).

Good morning campers- everything might just be awesome!

When the eleventh hour turns out to be the twelfth hour

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The blowy air heater thingy has arrived… at my brother’s house in England. There is now no chance of us getting it fitted before we head off, and probably no chance of us getting it fitted at all seeing as Don is the only person we know who would do it for free. It would take him over a day to fit as he’d have to take apart the entire dash and mess with wiring etc. so even if we had it couriered to us for tomorrow, we still wouldn’t have time to get it in before we leave on Saturday morning. So close and yet! I don’t want to think about how many hours we’ve wasted finding the piece of crap.

I also (finally) managed to convince Rodney that we should get solar panels, and having spent many, many, many days searching for the most amazing panels at the most amazing price, they go out of stock (20 minutes before we phone them) and we have to wait a month for them to be delivered. If you were the person who placed the last order, I hope it’s very cloudy where you are (for the next month). We did however order and fit a decent inverter, so what little power we do have can now be safely used to power electric shizzle. Exciting!

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We’ve still got a long list of jobs to do before we leave so we’re now at the point where we have to prioritise which jobs are most important as we don’t have time to do it all. The alternator is still on the list, I don’t know why but it is. And the composting toilet is on there too, though Rodney has said “we’ll not leave until your shit bucket is installed”, so either he’s sure it’ll be done or he’s willing to change to a later ferry (I doubt it’s the latter coz he really wants to go back to space).

I’ve just written a long list of the jobs we’ve already completed so that we feel less like we’re failing, and we really have done a lot. It made us feel better for two whole minutes… then we started to think about how we’ve spent TRUCK LOADS on these repairs… and how lovely it is in Bali at this time of year. The cost of the van plus our expenditure since leaving London on May 2 has now exceeded what we spent on our last (7 month) trip around SE Asia. What a hoot!

None of that matters of course because this was never really about living it up in warmer climates (though we like that very much), but about breaking away from a life that did not make us happy, living more simply and freely and reducing our footprint.

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Now, I’ve got one day to make / learn how to make four curtains. Someone send us a bit of good luck because I think we’re going to need it!