Friday, 21 November 2014

Bye Bye Beautiful Beach

That's it.  I return to Blighty today and get my boy back. My time as a Breton coastal inhabitant has gone way quicker than I ever could have imagined a week on my own. It's been absolutely superb and will definitely be a way that I'll recharge my batteries in the future.  Maybe without an essay looming over me it will be even more restful.  There's some beachcombed shells in my jacket pocket that I'll keep there for a few weeks to extend those holiday feelings.

I'll set off in a few hours time after a final stroll along the sand, say goodbye to my friend, the egret if he's there,  and head for the supermarket at St Pol de Leon.  I've promised Louis that I'll do a weekly shop there so the fridge will be full of all his favourite continental food and drink - fish soup, religieuses, scallop pate, dinosaur shaped chocolate biscuits,  some interesting cheese and a couple of bottles of that lovely local vanilla tinged Breizh cola that we're both rather partial to.

I'll get a puncture repair kit there as well as the bike has developed a flat tyre that  refuses to stay up for the duration of a ride even after the type of  good hard pump that been doing the trick for the last few months.   Sometime over the weekend I'll work out how to use those little patches, the sandpaper and glue. And there's chalk in the tin I think as well.  I'm blowed if I know what's that for.  Playing hangman or noughts and crosses on the pavement whilst you get the nearest passing blokey to fix your bike I reckon! Not sure how I've managed to squirm out of this for a lifetime of cycling. There's was always a really grumpy Dad or husband around making snidey comments about how I should really learn to do it myself.   Now seems to be the time.  Then again it might be a job  I could delegate to the little man.  I'm sure he's nearly old enough to take on  Mama's cycle maintenance mantle.  He's got to do something to earn all those treats after all.

This afternoon I'll get the ferry for the six hour trip back to Plymouth.  The routine on board is very familiar as I do it three or four times a year.  I'll have a drink and a meal in the restaurant, catch a movie if there's one that takes my fancy, have a little snooze in my cabin, relish a shower that doesn't involve an outside dash and have a mooch around the shops.  There's nothing I want to buy but, like the staff member, I saw on the way out availing herself of a perk of the job that I'd like myself, I'll pop into the perfume section and  have a free squirt.  It'll be a different Chanel to the one I'm using at the moment.  I reckon that, at the current time, 'Chance' seems to be the most apt!

Thursday, 20 November 2014


When I showed off my lovely home on wheels the other day I mentioned that there were little hitches and glitches. Of course, they're inevitable. The trick is not to let them override the good stuff as life's way too short even if you do believe that you get extra cracks at it.  Reiki Ray reckons I've been reincarnated fifty two times! Words of alleged wisdom from that daft bugger are definitely taken with a pinch of salt. Sometimes I'm clueless enough to feel that I'm definitely here for the first time around.

I bet you're expecting a list of annoyances as long as your arm that might include that Scottish Widows-esque scurry to the communal showers each morning with that pretty umbrella that's back in my possession during more inclement times.  No! That's not bugging me. I find it funny.   Fetching and carrying water isn't getting my goat either.   I quite enjoy filling the tank with a couple of watering canfuls each day.  It's lead me to appreciate the H2O stuff as the precious  life sustaining commodity that it is, rather than something to be taken for granted when it's so freely available from the tap of a conventional plumbing system. Nor is that toilet emptying so bad. Again there's more appreciation of the relative ease with which I can dispense my waste in a world where many don't have adequate sewage systems and suffer ill health as a consequence.   I'm perfectly resigned also to the fact that I can't use my electric heater and the halogen cooker at the same time as it causes overload on my hookup. Strangely enough, that doesn't bother me anywhere near as much as it would if the same thing were to happen in a house.

My biggest gripe is the relative difficulty around cleaning clothes. A very first world problem indeed but one that has always been a personal bugbear since student days whenever I haven't had my own washing facilities. The dryers on the campsite launderette are inadequate for the job and washing line use is unfeasible in Devon's long autumnal and winter rainy season.  Have you ever wondered why it's so green in the county that I call my home? Well, there's your answer!  I've had to resort to laying out stuff in the cab in the daytime before I can put it away.   Not great given that damp is the biggest enemy of a motorhomer. The problem's  been rectified partially by dividing the wet clothes between the two drying machines  but at two pounds a pop on top of the three pounds for a wash it's an expensive old business.  A good old fashioned service wash might reduce the stress. Even if it's a little more expensive my stuff will come back beautifully folded.  I'm going to look into that when I get back home.

Other than that there's very little that's getting on the titties.  Well, okay  the frequency the floor has to be cleaned is a little annoying. Even if people take their shoes off on entering  it seems to get dirty way too quickly.  That can be sorted out though in the time it takes to boil a kettle.  Any untidiness makes me a bit snaky as well.  A small space can look skanky very quickly. That means small boys with their tendency to let things drop where gravity dictates have to be kept in check.

It's easy to iron out most problems just after they crop up.  The wardrobe has now been re-organised and clothes storage no longer presents a headache.  Stowage in the bathroom was getting way more messy than I liked so has been rethought.   Some bungees have been added to secure down things so they doesn't fall off the shelves when I move off and turn the first corner. And  I leave crockery  that I use often out on display so I'm not forever having to climb and root around in into cupboards.  Unlike when I was living in rental property I'm responsible for sorting out my own niggles. With complete control of my own surroundings they're much easier to fix!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

University By the Sea

Studying at my makeshift coastal campus isn't quite panning out as I'd envisaged.  Even though I've got free Wi-Fi access through the campsite and I've paid for five days on an intermittently available FON network too, reception is piss poor and a lot of the time non-existent. Nothing for it when I can't access the online library but to nip over that grassy bank that separates my van from the beach.  It's a good place to think about what I'm going to write even if I'm not poring over online journals and committing all that academic evidence to paper.  Well that's my excuse anyway.  I've come up with some corking insights as I've gazed out to sea.

In the absence of human company I've also made friends in this, my fresher's week,  with this little egret who frequents a rocky outcrop.  I call him Englebert.  We sit and stare at each other.  Sometimes when he gets a bit freaked he makes a half hearted attempt to put a few more feet of distance between us.  In doing so he reveals some spectacular comedy yellow feet on the end of his gangly black legs. I giggled when I first saw them.  'How do you know that he's your friend' asked Louis on the phone last night  'Because he speaks back when I talk to him' I said.  He took this in his stride   'I love you, Mad Mum' he replied.

Please be reassured that the absence of fellow students of the same species isn't really causing me to hear birdies  chatter away in fluent English or Franglais.  That would be way weird.  I only said it for effect.  I'm not devoid of human contact altogether anyway.  There's nightly phone calls to friends and family, little conversations with the people that I encounter in town and on the beach and email dialogues with my tutor.  Distance learning is a bit isolating though.  It would be lovely to have other learners to bounce ideas around with and drink cider with in a bar after a hard day's study.  I'm sure it would improve my grades.  The flexibility of this kind of learning though outweighs its downsides.

Largely alone but in no way lonely is how I'd describe my situation here.   Instead of motoring through that essay I'm learning  different lessons about the value of practical and mental self reliance and the power that silent contemplation brings.  After all, isn't education about all meant to be wider than the stuff that is formally taught?

In one of those rare windows of Internet activity, I turned to Wikipedia  to see what it had to say about solitude. I like the take on it from Edward Abbey, an American activist and philosopher.  Follow this link and go and have a look  under the heading ' As Pleasure' if you're interested.  I'd never heard of the guy before but now I've sought out some of his other wisdom. There's heaps of it from someone who seemed like a rather chilled, but together dude.

The other day I had a conversation with an ex-accountancy colleague, who'd also left the profession to work in a way that nurtured her heart rather than her bank balance. She's now a Bowen therapist and rescues racehorses.  We agreed that if we'd stuck around as tax consultants we'd have been way better off financially but would have sold our souls to the devil in return.  Consequently it's this fitting quote that I'm going to share from Abbey today.  It's also provides a good excuse for not knuckling down to study every waking hour.  May there be someone out there who also learns from it.

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast....a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”

Petit Dejeuner: English Style!

Morning all!  After a night of raindrops drumming on my roof, I've woken up to the brightest and cheeriest of November days.  It might be a good one to cycle to a nearby church with an interesting artefact that I'm compelled to visit. My GPS says it's a 45 minute ride away.

Some resupply is needed too as I've eaten absolutely all my treats. A woman holed up in a van writing yet another 4,000 word essay needs that chocolate after all. Didn't Salty Dog tell me that cocoa stimulates the brain?  That's enough of an excuse for me to get through a bar at record breaking pace.  The local organic smoked trout on buttered crackers slipped down a treat as well.  I'm also going to have to rectify the problem of having no wine.  The idea that I'm going to have a  tea total holiday must be eradicated once and for all..  It never quite pans out.

As a single woman traveller I'm very comfortable in this part of France.  As I drive off the ferry it feels as if I'm coming home.  The Bretons are well mannered souls with a sense of humour that's in tune with my own.  I can now speak enough Franglais to have a natter when I'm out and about.  The food and music are great.  And I'm not hassled by letchy lotharios.   Mind you, that could just be it's because I'm now past the age where that is still a problem!

Even though I integrate quite happily, a foreigner in another land must retain some of the customs and traditions from their native country.  As such I'll always have a proper English style breakfast. We Brits are way more creative than our French cousins when it comes to the first meal of the day. Croissants and newly baked baguettes with butter and jam are, granted, very nice but a bit samey.  Don't these pan fried mushrooms laced with lardons of bacon on leftover toasted bread, all washed down with a big cup of Yorkshire tea, look way more tempting?

Monday, 17 November 2014

Welcome to My New Home!

Way back in December 2011 I posted a tour around my 1995 German motorhome. Now finally I've again got around to showing off Klaus the Knaus, who's just had a makeover to revive his nineteen year old fraying upholstery and holey flooring.   For anyone who stumbles upon this blog for the first time, Klaus is for the moment, my main abode.  I co-parent my eleven year old son, Louis so, for half the time, he lives here too. Luckily the main site where we park up  is right on the school bus route.

When the door to the main living space is left open, I've realised that  there's a bit of a gallery thing going on for the benefit of passers by.  I thought that I was going to treat myself to the lovely 'Light Living' letterprint by Lesley & Pea to hang here but it wouldn't have fitted when framed up. Instead I've improvised and there's a jolly 'Take Hart' thing on view. Those pictures that Lou brought home at the end of the school year has been blu-tacked up. After all,  It's nice to have  reminders of my kid  at the times when he's back with his dad and experiencing the contrast of living a conventional life in a brick house.

I found out that it's blooming difficult trying to photograph the inside of the van.  I hope I've done it justice.  In reality it's way lighter in daytime than these pictures suggest. This was taken from the  bed above the cab and shows the main living area,   Mr Metrosexual reckons there's a bit of an Austin Powers thing going on but I beg to differ. It's funky retro, yes, but in an understated calming way.

The king sized bed is where Lou sometimes holes up to read or game. He's been known to fit six of his mates up there with him.  It's supposed to be my own little peace and quiet zone. Is nothing sacred? You'll notice that neither of us like to skimp on fluffy pillows! The tray substitutes for a bedside table though needs a squirt of sealant before I use it to put my morning cuppa on again. A leaky spillage didn't do that pristine white bedding any good at all.

This is Lou's own cosy sleeping space, which, like mine is reached by a ladder.  The great thing about the design of my van is that there is no need to make up beds by messing about with table heights and retrieving bedding from cupboards.  Climbing up and down isn't at all onerous for us nimble footed travelling types. That London Underground duvet set was chosen by Lou from George at Asda.  He's taken to asking me to name a couple of stations, he finds them and then sees how many routes there are between them! The furry thing is Bart, his bison from Yellowstone.  There's a cuddly Dennis the Menace and some rats around somewhere too.

Other toys are kept under one of the seats.  With their love of technology kids don't play with lots of things these days. Lou's not making up games to play with his bedding because he feels deprived! Other than a phone and computer he has a bike, sports gear, cards, a few Nerf guns, loom bands and a couple of board games. They seem to be all he needs. He does his homework on the back table.  It's working well though let's hope he's not asked to make a paper mache scale model of the Colosseum anytime soon.

My bathroom is compact and bijou.  I wanted to say Mostyn but that would have been so cliche. The space for ablutions is nowhere near as small as the cloakroom at my substantial Brixham house. There, the door butts against your knees as you sit on the loo and water splashes upwards from a teeny tiny washbasin.  Not ideal.

Here, there's space to swing a larger than average kitten and even a secret shower. The tap pulls out from the sink to reveal a long hose that can be hung on the wall.  It's never used though as it would be too heavy on water consumption.  Instead we do a runner to the shower block in our dressing gowns and come back to dress in the sub tropical van. The small electric fan heater from Lidl that is tucked under the main table more than does the job as far as heating is concerned.  If there is a power cut or no hook up a bottled gas powered central heating system acts as back up.

This space is a bit clinical at the moment. I'd like to see if I can make it more homely.  I've tried adding ceramics that I've made myself and some pretty hanging bags but it needs more than that to create that cosy touch.

Here's a different view of a substantial part of our living space taken from its rear end!  That seat in the cab with my hippy poncho hanging on it swivels to give more seating for guests. There's been a few of those since I moved in.  Seven of us continued the revelries here after Sugar Plumb's Dia de Los Muertos party.   Someone was even grateful enough to leave me a full wine box type thing full of rather good organic cider! I've had a reiki treatment on a dropped down table and Scary Secretary stayed over after Thursday's Passenger concert. She is sorely jealous of the small amount of cleaning that such a compact living space warrants.

I'm not showing off the cab at the moment.  Phase two of the revamp will see its seats reupholstered by the Stitching Workshop in Exeter.  David who owns the company once made a bag for Sean Connery that 'stars' in a James Bond movie. How's that for a recommendation?  I'll also have a new removable footwell carpet made in a muted chocolate colour that will match that newly laid funky vinyl which is a light reflecting silver with tiny chocolatey dots.

Here's my kitchen with its nifty folding worktop.   My two ring burner is on display. Am I the only person thinking that sounds a bit rude?  That's the second lot of 'Carry On' innuendo and quite enough for one post. Let's get back to sensible talk.

Underneath the drop down portion of the worktop  is a sink. The tap above is a bit of a giveaway. The unit houses a cupboard and a fridge that's fairly substantial in the motorhome scheme of things. Above are more cupboards for provisions. I also keep veggies in a plastic box under the back seat. Once Red Mel slept there and said that there was an awful smell.  I put it down to an olfactory hallucination until I found a six month old cabbage that I'd forgotten about. You live and learn.  My quartermastering skills have improved since then.

Storage has been thought out so that extras, over and above what would be taken on short trips can be accommodated.  I've worked out that you can never have too many hooks or bungees!  My entrance area is now the place where underwear, coats, keys, shoes and rubbish is stored.  It works well. I think I've got homes for all my kitchen stuff sussed to perfection too. It's all about keeping utensils and gadgets to a minimum, substituting similar ingredients in recipes to use what I have, shopping little and often and not taking advantage of too many of those multi-buy bargains.

Other areas need a rethink.  I still haven't quite got the wardrobe space sussed so that getting clothes in and out are stress free. A new cubby hole for bed linen and miscellaneous bits and bobs in a void above the cab also needs work. I'm sure I'll get there. Without all that routine house maintenance to occupy my brain there's plenty of scope to come up with clever solutions.

Inevitably there's some niggles about this way of living that I'll share in a later post. Again I think I'll find ways around them. However time and money savings and the ability to move my home to places where the view in the morning is this good definitely more than make up for any small inconveniences.

It's a strange thing to say but living this way feels very dignified.  Not sure why but this is the word that keeps coming to mind.  I hope that I've shown you that this is not about sacrifice but rather I am very privileged to be able to call this beautifully quirky and versatile small comfy space,  home, sweet home for both me and my boy.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

He Who Dares Wins Rodney!

Aaargh! a day when superfast broadband has been replaced by its weedier superslow cousin!  I'd love to upload pictures of my made over van but I fear it's going to be a long old process.  I'll try and see if it can be achieved during the day in short bursts so you can have a look tomorrow. Listening to ten seconds of a coffee advert from Nestle for the privilege of an intermittent service makes it all the more frustrating. Still it's better than nothing.  

Quite a few times  I've been told that I have been very brave to give up conventional bricks and mortar and choose to live in a motorhome.  I like that.  Courage is a quality that I'm well chuffed to have associated with me.  For, in the grip of past fears, I was not true to myself and did not act or speak in the ways that my inner voice told me was right.  I'm trying to actively change that.

So today's title, a favourite quote from my mate Reiki Ray, is my new motto.  And for my final words today let me share something in a similar vein that is  altogether more highbrow. It was nicked from another blogger's profile.  I'd tell you who quoted this Danish philosopher but I'm darned if I can remember. If it was you, leave me a comment and I'll give you the acknowledgement that you deserve for these very wise words.

'To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily.  Not to dare is to lose oneself.'  Soren Kierkegaard.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

La Retraite Commence

Look where I've moved my home to for the week!  I am a very happy bunny and couldn't have been more smiley as I drove over the hill and saw where I'd be staying.  It's on the Northern Coast of Brittany, not a million miles from Perros Guirec, where I now take an annual holiday. On the top of that bank that you see in the foreground, which is about three metres from the door, is the coast path.  It's a good job I've got my walking boots with me.

This is the first ever holiday I've come away on my own.  There's a part of me that thinks it would be lovely to have someone here with me to share this gorgeous spot.   But on the other hand I'm pleased I'm alone.  I'm really exhausted and the chance to have a week of plodding along at my own pace with no agenda other than mine is very appealing.  There's not many people that get an opportunity to ever do this and I'm grateful for the chance.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Laying Down Memories with Passenger

Here's Passenger during his amazing concert at Plymouth Pavillions last night! He's only got one arm because there was a big bugger with a kid on his shoulders blocking our view.  Paparazzi I ain't! We were at the back of the standing area.  After all Scary Secretary is only little and I didn't want her getting squished.

Maybe I might have got a better picture if I'd persevered and taken more.  However I take heed of the research that suggests that we diminish the quality of the experience by taking photos at events.  So instead I listened intently, sang along, danced like an embarrassing mum during the boppy bits and whooped in the same way that you can hear if you listen closely to Leonard Cohen's Live in London CD.  To the relief of my colleagues I might not have a voice left this morning as a consequence.

Anyway thank you Passenger for a fabulous evening. You can be sure that there were many people in the audience, who like me, have taken away beautiful memories that will stay with us for years to come.   Here's his cover of Sound of Silence.  He did it justice last night.