Tuesday, 30 September 2014

No Going Back. Gulp!

This is the  lovely squishy vinyl which arrived yesterday that's going on the floor of Klaus, my motorhome.   Those small beige spots are on a silvery background which will help keep that interior looking light and spacious  Teamed with the green Santorini upholstery fabric that I finally decided on after much poring over fabric samples, it's going to look well funky and retro.   It's way off the nautical theme that I originally envisaged for the makeover but aren't minds just made for changing?

Events dear boy, which are motorhome move related, are now  happening on a pretty much daily basis.  On some, things that I've ordered arrive in the post and I get all excited and do little dances of glee. On other days I may pop into the van and move stuff around, do little bits of DIY or put my plotting and scheming down on paper.  Yesterday though  I did a really important job.  The letter terminating my tenancy was written and once Louis has left to catch the school bus I'll be nipping to the letting agents office to post it.  It's a  big landmark that means that my radical move is going to happen.   I really will be saying farewell to bricks and mortar in just a month's time.  Yikes!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Single Handywoman Blues

Every so often I think that it might be quite nice to have a blokey around for bigger hugs than an eleven year old can muster, the occasional bit of emotional bolstering and some practical know-how.  That's not to say that I can't manage on my own.  Spending the last two and a half years being single has made me resilient and fiercely independent even when I had a leg that didn't work properly.  'Shall I carry that for you?' said my manly, but due to his gayness, unattainable neighbour when the big roll of material that's going on the cushions in the motorhome arrived at his house the other day.  'No, you're alright'.  I said as I hoiked it over my shoulder. 'I'm a big strong girlie'.

Yesterday was one of those days when it would have been good to have been able to stand back, act the helpless female and coo whilst  someone else manfully took command over all those tools that I've accumulated.  Billy Bragg need not apply. He sings a very funny song called 'Handyman Blues' where he makes it very clear that he doesn't know one end of a screwdriver from another.  It came to mind a lot yesterday.  I've been thinking Viscount Linley might do due to his furniture making prowess but then again I don't need someone with that degree of expertise or indeed quite so upper class.  The Guardian ran a quiz last week where you could test how posh you are.  I managed a miserable 5/23 and only scored so highly because I know the names of items of clothing and use a smattering of Latin in common parlance. My friend Helen got an impressive 15 which has something to do with the fact that she's spent an awful lot of time around horses and is on close terms with people with names like Binky.

Anyway I digress so back to the case in point.  I just needed some simple shelves for the van's wardrobe as they will effectively triple its clothes storage capacity.  Just the job for the other half, except there isn't one. So it was down to me.  In a brief optimistic moment I did think I might be writing a 'How To' type of post today demonstrating coolly and calmly how women in my situation might cope with DIY tasks on their own without the need for a man.  Sadly it's not to be. After exercising my knowledge of Anglo Saxon to the limits as plywood is a bugger to work with, a trip to Trago Mills to buy a different saw and muscles that feel like they've gone ten rounds against Mike Tyson I do have finished articles.  In spite of the fact that they'll do the job, they're an abomination and I'm too embarrassed to show them off!  Time I think to hone some skills.   Do I learn how to use tools for woodwork properly or do I just polish up my prowess at flirting with chippies?

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Using It Up

Here's the very lovely Salty Dog and I getting to grips with reducing my store cupboard essentials to a bare minimum yesterday. Somehow we made inroads into my wine supply too during our girlie night in! Here, we're  using up the last of the chapati flour in my kitchen.  I've posted the incredibly easy recipe for these Indian flatbreads before.  Oh, and the one for the dal we ate them with that used up some of my red lentil supply.  I've been eating this combo for the last four evenings.  It's so yummy I didn't get fed up with it.

There's been more action to ensure that the cupboard is bare before I move into the van at the end of next month.  I had the tin of Ambrosia rice that I won from the tombola at the Scout Christmas Fayre last year.  Blimey, that stuff was made for a tooth that is way sweeter than mine.  I've donated a whole lot of jam and marmalade to Salty Dog. Gawd knows how I've collected the stuff along the way. I certainly don't buy it.

With just three small cupboards and a teenier fridge than the one in a domestic kitchen I'm going to have to rethink what really constitutes a kitchen essential that's worth dedicating space too.  Salt, pepper, carefully considered spices and olive and sunflower oil will have a home as will tea, coffee marmite and nutella for Lou.  They'll be breakfast porridge of course and in the fridge they'll be cheddar, milk, butter, eggs and bacon.  I'll store potatoes, onions and carrots under the seat at the back of the van.  A tub of plain flour will come in handy.

All those ingredients that usually lurk in cupboards for months waiting to be used will have to be banished.  There's no room for three types each of pasta and rice.  What I'm thinking might be the solution is to shop little and often and use up, say a bag of risotto rice over three or four consecutive meals by adding different ingredients each time,  We're just going to have to see how it goes!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Living in A Motorhome: Questions I've Been Asking Myself

Here's a shot taken inside the motorhome from way back in 2011 when Louis and I spent the week before Christmas in Bristol. For those of you who are worried that we are going to freeze our jubblies off over winter please note that my very woosy square-eyed son is wearing just his pyjamas. Evidence I think that cosiness will prevail.

Things are moving in the right direction here. This weekend will see me developing nascent woodworking skills and making shelves for the wardrobe to effectively increase clothes storage. My furnishing material has arrived and David, my upholsterer has taken it away along with as many cushions that he could fit into a Mondeo around his dog.  Vince the carpet fitter has told me it's possible to refit vinyl on the floor and under the units even if it will involve some swearing because it's a pig of a job.  So some lovely, thick, funky lino has been ordered .  In about three weeks I'll be able to show off how the van has been completely transformed.  I wonder if George Clarke would be interested in an inspection!

Last Saturday I shared a bunch of questions that over people have been asking about my imminent move into my home on wheels.  Here today are the ones that are going around in my own head.

Q:  What stuff am I going to bring from my home?
A: I'm going around the house mentally picking out stuff that might not be put in storage. There's the hand blender, my hair clippers and epilator, a few books, a box of sewing gear, those two jars of sloe gin that I've made,  my meditation stool........ I've got to be careful of not creating clutter while at the same time not feeling hard done by because I'm missing some jolly useful item of kit.  Then again if I've missed something glaringly obvious I can go out and buy it.

Q: Isn't cutting my hair in the van going to make a right royal mess?
A: In spite of the bad hair day accident that I had last year I still clip my own hair.  It's a messy old business and if I'm not careful the house is strewn with fine grey clippings that get trodden around.  I'm going to have to be careful not to spread these around the van.  Perhaps I'll lock myself in the bathroom to do this job to limit the potential mess.

Q:Where am I going to store my paperwork?
A: In the office at work under my desk in its existing Really Useful Box. It'll take up too much work in the van.

Q:Should I bring my Magimix and sewing machine?
A: I'm sorely tempted! There's space enough under one of the benches.

Q: Do I need a TV licence?
A: Now here's a nubby question.  Louis will officially move to the home of his dad as he lives there half the time anyway.  My  residence will be deemed to be the house of Mr Metrosexual and Ruff Stuff, who have described this arrangement as  appearing like a virtual menage à trois with the dog! No funny stuff planned.  It's just the place where my post will be delivered  and I'll be on the electoral roll.  As there are two adults at this address already it does not affect the amount of council tax anyone pays.

The TV licensing authority website doesn't make it clear if I have to pay a licence fee or not.  If you have a licensed TV in the house you don't have to pay again when you're in your motorhome or caravan.  But my address won't really be my proper home. The van is!  I'm going to phone up and put the question about whether I need a licence in my own right explicitly and how to go about it. Whatever stereotypes there might be about travellers this one isn't going to be living outside the law.

Q: Do I need a printer?
A: Didn't think I did as hadn't used mine for months  but then every other piece of homework that Louis brings home seems to require him to print off images from the Internet.  Maybe we can organise it so that he does his printing elsewhere, at his Dad's house or school.  There are some mini pieces of kits available that I might have to invest in if it really proves necessary.

Q: Are there any fancy must-have storage gadgets that I haven't seen that will make life a whole load easier?
A: There's quite a bit unused gap behind the driver's seat and I'm particularly on the lookout for stylish storage for shoes and laundry.

Q: Will I be able to make bread and cakes?
A;  Absolutely yes!  Thanks to advice from Toffeeapple I've ditched the idea of a Remoska in favour of a cheaper, and apparently better, halogen oven.  One is waiting for me to collect it this morning at the local Yodel office.

Q: How am I going to top up my water without moving the motorhome each time I do so?
A:  The grey water from washing ourselves and our dishes is going to drain into a bucket and I'll empty that as I go along. But how do I keep topping up my clean water?  The opening to the tank is quite awkward and I'm after a dastardly simple or hi-tech but cheap solution.  I haven't thought of it yet.

Q: What about getting access to my summer wardrobe if I decide to extend my time in the van.  Won't it be in a storage container?
A: Because I'm intending to dress in layers there should be enough clothes to last through the summer anyway.  If not a charity shop spree might be called for.  That will of course bring about another problem to be overcome.  Where to put the winter clothes?

Although there's lots to think about I'm not too anxious just excited. I'm pretty sure that I'll work things out as I go along.

Friday, 26 September 2014

No Fear!

Do I care about what others think about me?  Of course I do.  I'd worry if they thought that I was inconsiderate, hurtful, rude or impacting on their lives detrimentally because of my own behaviour or that of my son. For what Louis does reflects, to some degree, on how I parent him.  I wouldn't like to be thought of as smelly either.  Even when others resort to perfunctory wet wipe washes at festivals and in the wilderness, I'm  there being fastidious with my soap, deodorant and perfume.  I even take my chances on US hiking trails in spite of the fact that my US friends have warned me about the alleged bear attracting qualities of fragrance. I just have to be clean!

But do I mind if other people judge me harshly because of my appearance, background, what I believe or the lifestyle choices I make? Well, in the words of the incorrigible Rhett Butler,  'Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn'.

It's taken me a long time to get around to this way of thinking but as fifty approaches I'm not doing badly.  I have enough self-love and supportive friends and family who are right behind me to be able to ignore those who have a less rosy opinion based on their own attitudes and assumptions. And I wonder if they're a very small minority.  No-one so far has been terribly scathing of my 'living in my motorhome' project, for example.  Those who've expressed views against it so far have only done so because they are expressing concern about my comfort and not because they are expressing derogatory ideas.

I liked this article that I read the other day about overcoming the fear of what others think.  Doing this is such an important step to take toward being the person that you want to be.    There's wisdom here that I've already taken on board.  I thought that someone somewhere out there might find it helpful too!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Like Son Like Mother

This grainy, dark old selfie makes me laugh and will be a reminder of an excellent Mummy/Boy moment in years to come in spite of its poor quality.  It was taken last month at twilight on my favourite beach at Ster Greich in Southern Brittany where we'd parked up for a couple of nights.  Lou and I were mucking about.  You'd never have guessed would you?  Even though I look jovial I have to point out that my life was in considerable danger.  That thing tied under my nose is Louis'  two day old used sock that I'd failed to wrestle off him after twenty four hours as bedtime foot covering now seems to be de rigueur  whatever the weather.  In summer that makes it an incredibly noxious thing indeed!

With September comes more serious pursuits.  I'm back to tying my head in knots with Master's study and Lou has nearly finished three weeks at his new school.  Tuesday was a 'quick off the mark' parents' evening  to iron out problems early on.   Nothing major was highlighted.  Phew! According to his nonplussed form teacher Louis is very cheerful but disorganised.  Wonder who he gets that from?

Wednesday, 24 September 2014


Photo: Neil Kennedy
There are churches and chapels where I have like to hang around because I sense an extra special dose of sanctity in the air.  The cathedral at Wells is one such place where I got hit on my visits by those feelings of awe and wonderment.  Nearer home the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrement at Buckfast Abbey, with this modernistic stained glass window designed by the monks, does the trick.  I pop in there sometime to top up the calm.  When in France I've found peace in smaller churches like the simple Chapelle del la Joie that I discovered on the Breton coast. The church in the middle of Roscoff is another of my meditative haunts.

I am sensitive to how places feel and have chosen my homes bearing this in mind.   Even in  places where the atmosphere is generally good I've noticed that this can be temporarily  disrupted, say if a person is unpleasant when they visit.  Residual tension seems to hang around for a while after they've left the premises as well.

I hope  visitors to Lovelygrey Cottage get good vibes here. I've tried to create a happy, safe place where people can relax and share with me and Lou.   One of the reasons I believe that it feels good here is that it is relatively clean, tidy and uncluttered.  It's not been Feng Shunned to within an inch of its life because I know diddly squat about the system.  What I do know is that a tidy ordered house reflects my brain state.  It works both ways. If I'm stressed the house soon looks like a small tsunami has passed through. Conversely a cluttered, untidy environment causes me to get fretful.

Packing up a home to move inevitably causes disorder.  So I'm being extra specially careful to preserve a little bit of sanctuary at a time when bits of the house, because of the sorting and packing process already look as if a bomb has gone off.  My bedroom has been cleared in advance of the other room.    All extraneous clutter has now been cleared.  It'll will be my little haven where I can shut the door on all the chaos over the next few weeks and study, sleep and make plans for a much simpler small space future.