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…

The incredible Irish adventure(rs)

Well, holy guacamole, it appears we might actually have stuck to The Plan! We drove to the ferry port, we got on the ferry, we travelled around Ireland (come here, it’s lovely) and then we rented a beach house on the north coast so that we can work through the winter and replenish travel funds. I’m currently writing this from my new king-size bed in my new lovely home looking out at one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It’s actually more of a beach mansion than a beach house (and at a snip of our old London rent), but I guess everything feels like a mansion after a. renting in London and b. living in a f*cking van.

As for the f*cking van, well, in a bizarre turn of events Rodney has just crashed the van into our new house. Yeah. He moved our old home into the new one, quite f*cking literally. Perhaps he subconsciously thought the beach mansion was a mistake and that we should just live in the van all winter. Perhaps he thought the golden beauty needed shelter from the sea air. Perhaps it wasn’t his fault at all and Goldie was so enraged at being rejected for a second winter in a row that she sought revenge. Who knows! I balled my eyes out. I think you might have to live in a van to understand why it’s so painful. The strange thing is, I’ve been expecting it. For two years I’ve been consciously wondering when it might happen, what with Rodney being the clumsiest eejit in the world and all that. But in all honesty, nothing could have prepared me for the gut-wrenching horror of seeing my vintage wagon split in two. Rodney was flapping around like a headless chicken not really knowing what to do. He’s been in that state ever since though I’ve calmed down a wee bit, it’s only a f*cking van after all, hey?! 😳 Small mercies, the house is unscathed.

So our to-do list now consists of:

  1. Get work
  2. Save for next adventure
  3. Fix Goldie

Easily the dullest to-do list I’ve had all year. But it turns out the beach mansion is “parked” on one of the best surf beaches on the North coast, so don’t pity me too much. We have ample space for fellow van lovers so if you’re ever in the area, by all means come find us. You can warm your toes by the fire and make our eyes misty with talk of adventure and wilderness and the open road. Ahh I miss it already. Onwards and upwards as they say.

Keep reading for the lowdown on our drunken tour of the South…

 

There were two main reasons that we decided to tour Ireland, the first is that we found a stash of Euros in our safe from last year. We bought them when the going was good and the plan was to live in Europe for a couple of years, then Rodney got a job dicking around on Star Wars and the rest is history. We’d completely forgotten about them, which is incredibly unlike us, so when Rodney found them one day, hiding under our insurance documents, we immediately put together a plan to spend them before they could burn a hole in our pockets. The second reason is that despite our Irish connections, neither of us has really spent that much time in the Republic. I’d never strayed further than Dublin on family visits and Rodney once went to Killarney on a family hoo-haa. Given that we’re applying for Irish passports, it seemed appropriate to right this wrong. Call it a research trip. A very drunken research trip.

So that’s me chilling on our very early ferry to Rosslare. I think I got the shade wrong, I was going for emerald but it’s maybe a bit more… baby shite…

Mixing his stout. Controversial…

A few drinks later I fell out with Rodney because he wouldn’t help me escort (steal) my new friend back to the van. Eventually he managed to convince me that there simply wasn’t room for him, and that we’d be arrested. Farewell Jeeves, maybe next time…

Rodney at Blarney Castle, looking like a keen-bean tourist…

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Rodney kissing the Blarney stone that I was too short/ scaredy-cat to reach. Although, from what I hear tis a rather filthy deed so I should perhaps be grateful that I couldn’t reach it…

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Ahh what’s the craic? D’yer loike me wee castle there? (Can’t remember the name of this one but it was the day after we got drunk with some wealthy American Trump-loving golfers and Rodney spent the night trying to alter their political stance. So somewhere near Killarney)…

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That tall Rodney fella climbing my wee nameless castle…

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Boats!…

Nearly got a really amazing shot of Bambi. I think Thumper must have hollered…

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Hi Goldie, remember when you weren’t being driven into a wall? Ahh them were the days!…

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The weather was not a highlight of the trip. “F*ck it, let’s go to the pub”…

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The signs were a highlight. Ireland’s signposting is superior to any other country on the planet. (A dream for crap navigators like me)…

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We still used Google Maps on occasion, it’s worth it just to know the name of the road you’re on. Here we are cruising down ‘The Ha-Ha’…

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The Cliffs of Moher were a blustery affair. Quite cool though…

Another wild (but blissfully flat) camp spot. We tend to gravitate to the water when looking for a place to sleep, and fortunately Ireland has lots of it…

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And when the sun shines it’s glorious!…



Rodney’s one and only shower, dirty wee brute…

We made it up to Galway for the Oyster Festival. It was a hoot…

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Camping at Galway Docks in close proximity to the pubs. If you want a city break in Ireland go to Galway. This is my one nugget of advice for all man-kind. You don’t have to rough it at the docks like us of course, but just go to Galway…


We made a brief stop at Ballyshannon so that Rodney could stand next to this statue of his friend’s guitar hero and so that I could take a picture of him doing so (this one’s for you Neill McIlfatrick)…

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After said picture was taken, this happened! We were the sole witnesses of the 2016 Ballyshannon Tractor Run. Tractors for miles, parading the empty streets. What a treat!…

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Quick vodka before the pub. Running low on Euros at this point, but not on enthusiasm. Excuse the state of the place (all Rodney’s mess)…

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Looks a bit dicey…

(sorry)

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Single track lanes, hell on earth for the nervous navigator…

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We took the Pilgrim’s walk up to Slieve League. (As an aside, Rodney’s commitment to tea-making could be the main reason our relationship has survived the old house / new house collision)…

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You might have noticed we’re mostly wearing the same clothes every day. This is because we hate doing laundry and we don’t have anywhere in the van to store a large bag of dirty laundry. We’ve slowly learned that it’s best to keep wearing something until it becomes unsociable to do so. (Don’t tell Rodney his jumper’s on back-to-front)…

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When we arrived at Slieve League it was so foggy and blustery we couldn’t see where we were going, and it was a bit eerie so we turned around to walk back down to the van. If Rodney hadn’t made us stop for that cuppa we never would have returned to see the lovely view (and how close we were to dropping off the edge)…

Before…

After…

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What is this life if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows…

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There’s that sheep I/ William was talking about…

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Starey bastards…

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Trying to decide whether we can make it to the top of Errigal Mountain before dark (we couldn’t)…

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No cars beyond this point! Just in case you were considering it. ❤️ Ireland

 

Eating rocky road because I really like it, and not because it’s like totally symbolic of our lives…

We parked in a lovely dark layby for the night and were rudely awoken a couple of hours later by some angry locals who didn’t want us on their patch (there are w*nkers in all corners of the Earth unfortunately, though this was our only run-in of the trip). We drove to the next town and hid behind a boat for the night to avoid drawing further attention to ourselves. Slept like a baby!…

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Our timing is always impeccable. We realised we had a flat tyre whilst in the queue for the ferry (from Donegal to Northern Ireland). Rodney handled it like a pro. I took pictures and got in his way. Two years… two ferry-related flat tyres. Not bad considering the tyres were over a decade old! (We just bought her four new shoes. Lucky girl!)…


Back in his home land. King o’ the North!!

 

Old house 😭😭😭😭😭

New house…



(Not my dog 👆)

 
And Rodney has already finished his Christmas shopping…

 

And it’s all delightfully warm and festive. 

But one month in and we’ve already got itchy feet. (Relaxed but itchy feet).

And we can’t wait for the next adventure…


 

Get well soon Goldie! 🚍👍

‘Are we there yet?’

We’ve changed our plans so many times I can’t actually recall what the last plan was. I think it involved Southern Europe. Yeah, that certainly sounds familiar. Well guess where we’re NOT going next week??? Ahh you’re too good!

After a wee bit of soul searching we have once again decided to postpone our massive European adventure. At least we can say we’re consistent… consistently shit at doing what we say we’ll do. 

The main reason for this particular postponement is that Rodney has a few work commitments and it is a pain in the arse to plan anything around them. So instead we shall be heading over to Ireland next week and touring the West coast before driving up to Rodney’s hometown in the north to work for a bit before heading down to mainland Europe early spring. Although, it’s highly possible I’ll have a shit-fit at the first sign of chilly weather and the plan will change again next month. But let’s just try our best to keep a cool head.

The good news is that we have had the most amazing summer in sometimes-sunny England and we’re loving living in our little home on wheels. It’s definitely better when the sun is shining though and we’re going to need to figure out how to make the van more bearable for the colder temperatures that await us in Ireland. 

Here’s a little update on our second summer of full time van living…

When we weren’t zipping up and down England’s motorways for work and pet-sitting duties, we were mostly ‘drive-surfing’ at my Ma’s new cottage in Cornwall, with a view of some bins and the big blue. She even let us use her shower and eat all her beer, I mean food. Not too shabby!

The beach beyond the driveway wasn’t too shabby either…

We enjoyed lots of family dinners. Though I remember these being a lot more relaxing when I was a kid and didn’t have to lift a finger…

And another…

We walked the South West Coastal Path. Not all of it. Saving the rest for next year…

Ever since Rodney called my Mum a C U Next Tuesday, they’ve got along like a house on fire. Funny old world…

We love our Hymer THIS much🙌…

My brother also loves our Hymer, just not so much 👍…

We went camping with my oldest friend, and enjoyed some tasty sausage…

We helped my Mum with some decorating. It was boring as shit so I made monsters in the chipboard…

And Rodney amused himself in other ways…

Rodney dutifully ate my vegetarian spag bol…

He was farting for days after and spent a good deal of time doing so freely, outside…

More vegetarian goodies on the menu. Will she never learn?…

Our sport of choice… bat n ball. Oh the evenings just fly by…

This campsite cost £5. We had it to ourselves. Rodney likes to wear his socks on the grass…

We met this owl and this spider. I’m writing a book about them…

Some days it rained so we drank gin and waited for it to stop…

We hid in the sand dunes and marvelled at our good fortune. I always loved the school holidays as a kid and as an adult I find it sheer torture to be hidden away in an office during the best months of the year. Grown ups should all be given the chance to rediscover the timeless joy of having nothing to do and nowhere to be…

After much frustration and a couple of minor electrocutions, we have finally fixed the van and it starts like a dream. Last week we caved in and bought a new engine battery. Turns out that was what she needed all along. Silly bastards…

We go to Ireland in FIVE little days!!

I’ll let you know how that particular plan turns out. You can follow us on Instagram! ✌️💚

An irresponsible adult…


One thing I didn’t expect when we set out to live this nomadic life is how much it would change me. I rather naively thought that I’d already developed into the final version of myself. Which is pretty f*cking stoopid now I think about it. 

It’s been over a year since we left London. I haven’t worked in over 13 months. I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. Hundreds of days in fact with no routine, no commutes, no emails, no meetings, no colleagues, no to-do lists, no wages, no purpose. Sometimes it’s felt a little overwhelming. Sometimes it’s felt a little underwhelming. As Dusty herself discovered, sometimes you just don’t know (just) what to do with yourself. 😳.

Rodney once asked me (when we were bored shitless in the van one rainy day last year), ‘is there something wrong with us that we can’t be happy doing nothing?’. After a bit of thought we agreed that it’s sort of like when people are released from prison after many years of incarceration and they often struggle to adapt to life in the outside world (I said sort of).

I’ve now been an adult on this earth longer than I was a child. I’ve been in work for most of my adult life and I’ve got used to fulfilling the role of a “responsible” adult. I had thought I was doing quite well at it, the whole adulting malarky, but there were days when I felt I couldn’t breathe, days when I thought ‘f*ck, is this it’? As each year passed I found I had less energy, knew fewer jokes and completely lost my ability to do a crab/cartwheel/headstand (though I can still gambol… small mercies). I was a thousand times better at living as a kid. Back when people asked you your favourite colour by way of sizing you up. Nowadays of course they ask ‘so what do you do?’. 

But the point of all this drivel is, a girl cannot become free simply by freeing up her time. A girl ( just watched Game of Thrones) must remember how it feels to be free. I’m getting there. With each purposeless day we live, the shackles of adulthood loosen. I may never be a crustacean again, but somewhere inside my head is a six year old girl who hates routine, loves cake, and believes in magic. And her voice is getting louder. When she grows up she wants to be a dancer. But she’d settle for being a butterfly. Or a chief chocolate taster. Or a writer. More importantly, her favourite colour is yellow.

Here’s a quick photographic update on all the nothing us crazy kidz have been doing…

Cowboy ping pong…

A man’s van is his castle…

Taking this beautiful girl on one last walk before we left Ireland…

Snoozing on the long ferry journey from Belfast to Liverpool…

Playing in the bluebells with my old mate Rufus in Sheffield…

Cruising in my Ma’s T4 in Cornwall…

Testing a portable solar panel kit… before sending it back to the shop coz it was shite…

We picked some wild garlic flowers and made the tastiest garlic soup. Proper wholesome like…

Family…

Rodney suggested we run 10k along the south west coastal path, in the rain. I managed not to throw up. Just…

We passed another MOT. Going up…

We drank a lot. A perk of adulthood perhaps…

A more pleasant run. We saw three seals and a snake…

Driving around Cornwall…

Just rockin’…

Collecting shells with a dog named Boo…

Rodney loves it when we go out for vegan Sunday lunch 😬…

I had my hair cut and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t do it sooner as it’s so much easier to wash in the van…

Rodney multi-tasking…

Just picked up this old lonely planet to help us plan our route. Don’t you just love EU?…

We’re now back at our fruit farm for another wee fillum. We’ll be off across the channel just as soon as the director calls it a wrap…

 But don’t hold your breath…

How to turn a chemical toilet into a composting toilet

  

I finally got around to writing a ‘how to’ on our awesome ‘porta potti’ conversion. I suspect you may be desperate to make your own so without further ado, here’s the link…

https://vanspecies.com/the-composting-toilet/

I’ll be posting very soon on our exciting summer plans (just as soon as we make them 😁) but in the meantime here’s a picture of us living the dream…


Hashtag Vanlife 😳

Bye bye April

April has sailed by in a blur of van repairs, plummeting temperatures and hangovers. The van repairs (and hangovers) were far more involved than either of us cared for so it all took twice as long (almost finished) and the chilly Irish winds have kept me hovering over a hot stove, baking (mostly) delicious recipes with a glass of wine in hand. To counteract the change in diet I’ve been running, a lot, like Forest. The first week I ran 10km each day, inspired by Eddie Izzard and just to see if I could really. It wasn’t very difficult, however I do find running quite boring so I’ve since reduced this to 6km every second day, which seems like a respectable amount whilst still allowing me to eat a lot of cake. I f*cking love cake.

We’re about to head off in the van for a wee Irish coastal jaunt before getting the ferry over to England on 8 May. I haven’t seen my own family in over six months so I’m very excited. Unusually, a lot has changed since we’ve been away. Not least, my dear ol’ Ma has sold her home and business and bought a campervan (I guess that’s where I get my gypsy spirit?), and Rodney’s 90 year old granny who we did not expect to see again when we left for Asia, has returned from the brink. It turns out she doesn’t have dementia after all but was being heavily sedated by a cocktail of unnecessary drugs and depressed by an enforced liquid diet. She now has cake, chocolate and Murder She Wrote back in her life and is all the happier for it.

In other news I’ve just discovered that a comment I wrote on a comedian’s Facebook page last month garnered some unexpected attention. I don’t make a habit of engaging in the dreary world of Facebook comments and I’m not sure what came over me on this occasion but the responses are comedy gold.

So this celebrity had posted a warning about feeding chocolate eggs to dogs (it’s poisonous) so I posted this *hilarious*/predictably crude comment in response…

Now, you and I both know that I do not own a dog. However, I do know lots of dogs and many of them would confess to loving a tasty turd or two for tea, so I don’t feel a total fraud. But it is obvious from the responses that people really do believe what they read on the Internet… concerning and lovely in equal measure!

There were many, like Michelle, who fully understood my anguish…

Poor Michelle. Some showed their unbridled emoji-ladened appreciation for my comic genius…

You’re welcome ladies. Others skipped the comedy entirely and instead tried to help me solve my shitty problem. I started to take their advice on board and then I remembered that I do not own a dog…


(“Shit is food”. I repeat “Shit is food”. Oh Judith!)

Adam got a bit narked about something Sophie said and decided to educate her using concise sentences…

Lots of people from up north waded in to take the piss out of Adam…


(I like you Scott but you really need to get a new profile picture)

This wee man-child wasn’t impressed…

And Pia secretly wishes I was killed at birth…

Imagine how insulted I’d feel… if I owned a dog*.

And after all of that drama I was awarded my first Oscar…

Thanks Susan. After successfully getting the Internet to talk shite I shall now happily hang up my commenting hat.

Here’s a quick update on the past six weeks:

Rodney’s trying to start a new band…

I baked brownies, most days…

These bastards kicked me out of bed (not even my dawg)…

Rodney’s brother was a bit terrifying in his first charity boxing match…


 

 
Ireland is pretty…

Although my mouth is big, it turns out I’m unable to fit my entire hand inside it…

Just making sure his nephew’s new trampoline works okay…

Yeah I’ve mostly just been eating…

More dog-parading in his favourite jumper…

And a sneaky peak of the van refurb. It’s not finished by any stretch but starting to feel more homely…

Before

After



👆🏼 Not my dog

Until next time, cheers bitches!

*Rodney is taking a new parental approach to my persistent requests to get a dog and is saying we can get one but I’ll have to do all the walking, feeding, shit pick-upping, and dogsitter-paying. As I reeaaaally want to go to India next winter it’s temporarily made me see sense, but if anyone needs a short-term dog sitter in the meantime just say the word. I promise not to feed it chocolate or poo!

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!

A vanless detour 

  

So we finally made a decision, sort of. We’ve almost definitely made some kind of decision. And we’ve booked a ferry… to Ireland.

Confused? Welcome to my world. After a chilly week at the farm, some overdue research on European climates, and a very vivid dream about a Balinese rice paddy, we’ve decided we’re not going to mainland Europe for the winter afterall. We’re going to Asia instead. 

I guess if you know us well you’re currently rolling your eyes at the predictability of it all, but in all honesty the decision has come as quite a surprise to me. I’m sure if Rodney hadn’t taken the film work things would be very different- we’d have been in Europe for months already. We’d be bronzed and beautiful (subjectively speaking) after multiple heatwaves, and we’d be looking forward to some cooler temperatures. Instead we’ve spent the summer chasing rain and mostly freezing our arses off. So winter, albeit a mild winter in Southern Europe, suddenly feels as appealing as a dog shit facial (I’m sure such a thing exists!?). And as my dear ol’ mother always says, ‘when life gives you lemons, go to Bali!’ (she has never said this, but she would if she’d ever been to Bali).

I woke up on Wednesday morning, the warmth of the imagined Balinese sun still lingering on my skin, took a look at the repti-thermometer (7 degrees) and the decision was made.  Rodney took zero time to convince and is now insisting it was all his idea. 

We’re taking the van back to Northern Ireland on Nov 8 to store it for the winter and then we hope to fly out later in the month. All we need to decide now is where exactly we’re going to go in Asia (other than Bali) and for how long. Europe should be starting to warm up nicely by March (I think) so we’d like to be back by then, bronzed and beautiful (😁), to pick up where we left off.

I shall continue to blog about our travels, van or no van, because as my dear ol’ mother always says ‘when life gives you Bali, blog about it’. 

Wise words mum.

Here’s a quick update on the past couple of weeks:

I got a job as a fruit picker. It’s been keeping me out of trouble (and boredom)…

  
  

But I’m a bit of a slacker so I eventually roped Rodney into doing most of the work for me…

   
 
He looks delighted. 

We’ve had the field all to ourselves this month as other campers retreated to their bricks and mortar (clever bar stewards)…

  

Most days my only company is this little myxomatosis-suffering rabbit…

  
Poor chap.

We went to the ferret races, and now Rodney wants a ferret…

 

I went on a London bus for the first time in six months. A lady was cutting her finger nails, loudly. Clippings flying everywhere. Cuticle Carnage. I took a picture…  

 

We continue to enjoy our vegetarian BBQs…  

It started to get very cold in the mornings…

 

We decided to go to Asia for winter instead of Europe, which means my little European vegetable display is a little redundant…

 

Shame.

Three months in (a van)

  

So it’s now been over three months since we moved into the van and made our way to England. And we didn’t kill each other yet, so that’s something! Yay!

I should probably stop joking about murder. Just in case Rodney has a mysterious accident with, say, an alternator belt (plausible) and somehow strangles himself. It might look suspicious. 

So yes, three months. Three bizarre months. Whose idea was it to give up everything and move into a f*cking van? Ah yes, that would be me. In all honesty when I came up with this plan I envisaged myself bronzed and goddess-like, swinging on a hammock on a deserted beach in the med whilst Rodney caught fish with his bare hands and fed me grapes (after washing his fishy hands) and fanned me with a palm leaf. Later we’d get pissed around a raging campfire whilst Rodney strummed a happy tune and I’d say ‘look Rodney, a shooting star!’ and… you get the picture. 

As it is I’m just sat in a van, on a cold muddy farm, in England, in October, alone, trying to get a better signal and willing Rodney’s film to wrap early so we can escape to warmer climes before I a. go mad, b. freeze to death (and get eaten by the farmer’s slightly unhinged dog) or c. strangle Rodney with an alternator belt (and feed him to said dog). Hey, these things happen. 

I’ve delayed writing this post because I wanted to be able to share news of booked ferries and plans coming together. (I’m sighing heavily as I laboriously type this on my phone). I’ve basically got no news. The film schedule changes day to day and it could be one more week or maybe even six, so I can’t book anything. It’s ridiculous. My advice to any ‘resting’ actor is to leave London and make really exciting travel plans. I promise you, your phone will not stop ringing with offers of work. I think they call it Sod’s law.

I’d like to say that I was making the most of all this me time, but it turns out I’m very, very lazy when left to my own devices. The only thing I’ve achieved this summer is making four little curtains for the van. It took me three months, and I made them out of existing bloody curtains. 

I contemplated writing a novel, but like most people who contemplate such a thing I stared at a blank word document for five minutes before declaring the project a failure and moving on to new projects, such as ‘how many biscuits can I dunk in my tea before all the tea is gone?’

God I’m bored. 

So anyway you’ll not hear from me again until we have a concrete departure date and news of our travel plans. This is supposed to be a travel blog after all.

In the meantime, here’s some pics from the last month…

 Rodney went to Iceland to “work”… 
   

Here he is high-fiving his new BFF…

 

I took my bored, lazy arse to Cornwall, and had a fairly pleasant week eating ice cream and playing with my Ma’s disobedient dog…

 
  
  
   
    
 
 

But eventually it was time to return to the van, and the farm…

 
  
  
   

And to Rodney, who appears to have become very patriotic…
 
  

And to the news that we just became an uncle (Fester) and auntie again, to this wee superstar…

   
  

The first girl to be born into the Tosh family for over fifty years! Awwwwww!

It’s now getting cold enough for woolly hats, indoors…

  
   

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Did I mention that we ran out of gas again?

Must have slipped my frozen mind!

Laters

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)