Sunday, 30 November 2014

My New Garden

I love gardens and, if invited, will quite happily spend  hours in one admiring all that clever planting and landscaping.  It's even better if someone pops a nice glass of Pimms or gin and tonic into my hand. A chilled wine would also do the trick. In fact my current profile picture was taken just after my gorgeously attentive friend Mr Metrosexual had done just that whilst I was sitting in the beautiful space that he's devoting thousands of hours to creating behind his house.

As I've mentioned before, gardening itself is an altogether different beastie.  I don't know where to start and find it bewildering and yes, stressful. There's a few of you green fingered lot out there who I expect will find that hard to believe. Giving up a patch of ground that I was responsible for tending when I moved into the motorhome isn't a hardship at all.  It was a cause of celebration.  Instead of the scrubby piece of lawn I used to fret over, a much better outside space that's less than a minute from my door is available

Just a few yards away from my motorhome I belatedly discovered a few days ago, a path between hedges down to a gate.  This leads out onto a road and just opposite, over a stile, there's this riverside footpath through the fields.  Isn't it a glorious resource? Lou and I took our lunch down there last weekend and as we were munching we saw a heron really close up. We're hoping to bag a kingfisher as well.  Although I saw a belted one on the Madison River in Yellowstone I've never seen the English variety.  I did lie once and say that I'd spotted the one that another person was pointing out to me.  Perhaps that fibbing will bugger things up from a Karma perspective and the consequence will be that I won't clap eyes on one in this lifetime!

The fact that it's not my job to maintain the boundary fence and stop it from getting overgrown makes my joy complete.  No matter that it's not for my exclusive use.  It's lovely to share it with other people and often their soggy dogs as well. Just because I don't own this land that I'm now using as my garden doesn't mean that I enjoy it less.   As I've said before, with ownership comes responsibility.  Shedding some of that is one of the things that is making this experiment in living with less such a successful one.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Another 3053 to Go!

I've woken up on the sofa of my postal address in Brixham to the sound of those effing gulls and a big wet good morning kiss, from Baxter, the dog with an ASBO tattoo.   His tiny bit of mixed breeding makes the big soft lump a pit bull!  I had a lovely night out that involved beer and belly pork.  It can't be bad.  On the way home this morning I'll be popping into Red Mel's as, dear of her, she's offered to cook breakfast for me.  Then the drudgery begins.   It's back to the van, where fuelled by tea, I'm holing myself up for a long hard weekend of essay writing.  947 words out of four thousand on paper with a deadline of 12 December.  That's not very far away at all.

Aside from it giving me an entitlement to an NHS Extra card, I'm not really that enamoured with life as a distance learning student on a masters course. Sure I have a tutor on the end of the phone and for picking his brains by email but studying in the absence of other learners is a lonesome experience.  I don't need the social life that an ordinary university experience would entail.  I have one of those that's a bit hard to keep up with anyway!  But it would be lovely to have fellow learners around to bounce around ideas, play with concepts, tell me I'm going down completely the wrong track.  Often I seem to be the only person registered on a particular module so there's not even electronic contact to be had.  Take this into account if you're ever thinking of going down the same route.  It makes the learning that much harder.

Then there's critical analysis.  Normally I love writing, just popping onto paper whatever spews out of the old noggin.   It's why I blog. This stuff though is different.  Every sentence has to be critiqued and references found in dry, dull academic journals to substantiate what's been said. I'm pretty sure I'm not allowed to embellish my work with the funny things that have happened in my life, or indeed a joke or two.  It's hard and boring, a horrible combination of adjectives.

In the current absence of a clinical career structure within the part of the NHS where I work,  I have to keep reminding myself why I'm doing this.   There are good reasons that don't involved extrinsic personal gain.  The study has already improved my practice, benefited individuals that I work with and spurred me on to be more active at strategic level, getting some of my new acquired ideas across.  My learning gives my voice a teeny bit of extra authority.   I'm also putting together a set of new knowledge that will allow me to devise a way of working with people with advanced dementias .   Someone the other day commented after a post that finding information as the illness advances is difficult.  Well,  in a small way I'll be hoping to rectify that.  The essays are just an inconvenient part of the wider learning that I'm doing  that I hope is for the greater good.  So I'll keep plugging away, shall I?  One thing's certain.  This is the last big batch of formal study that I think I'm ever going to commit myself to.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Confession Time

You saw my motorhome the other day didn't you? It is no way minimalist but as I've already mentioned, to keep it cosy and not cluttered, I must be extremely careful not to fill it with 'stuff' otherwise I'd be tunnelling to put the kettle on in the very near future. That's why I revised the 2014 spending rules, saying that I would kiss and tell about anything that I bought that was out of the ordinary. Somewhere, stored in a barn in Buckfastleigh, I have a beautiful perfectly weighed corkscrew.  The one in the van was all bent and twisted and not fit for purpose at all. I've replaced it with this cleverly designed Le Creuset number. It's a pleasure to use.

Three dresses from Asda including this soft skater dress seem to have spirited themselves into my wardrobe.  There was a similar one in their collection last year that I love to pieces. I am a very wayward clothes horse who's used the excuse that frocks take up less room in the laundry basket than an outfit made up of separate and so fit better with van life. Hmm!  Not sure if this wears.  To atone for sin I must get rid of three other clothing items in wardrobe and take them to the charity shop.

And finally, new combs for our Wahl Clipper.  Some have gone missing over the last few months and the grade 5 one broke.  It the one that I now favour, after last year's bizarrely fortutious bad hair day accident taught me that going shorter was way funkier.  And funky I like!  By the way, hair cuts in the van, that I thought were going to make a right royal mess are stress free.  I have an old sheet that I spread on the floor of the bathroom and when I'm done I just throw the clippings outside.  Simples.  Lovelygrey hair is probably lining a mouse nest near here as a consequence.

So there we have it.  The naughty list.  Not shopaholic by any means but could do better  Let's hope that December's buying tally is even more reined in!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Top 5 Happy

Facebook is cropping up again for two days running.  My gorgeous friend Crafty Kerry nominated me there to share five photos that make me happy.  As I'm always looking out for things to pad out my blog I thought I'd post them here instead.

Numero uno has to one depicting  glorious mum-son time with my boy. Priceless!

A close second are those that commemorate wonderful moments with friends and family.  Kerry,  as you nominated me, a photo from a day out with you lot gets first dibs.  To everyone else out who counts themselves as close I want you to know how special you are.  You wouldn't be around otherwise!

A picture of food and drink  must feature, especially if it is lovingly produced and shared.  This basket of delicious goodies was made as a present by Janet.  

There needs to be one that celebrates being outside in beautiful places.   Sea, mountains, river valleys, the wild woolly moorland of's all good.   Nature  can provide that yabba dabba doo factor so often.  This is a photo of the unpredictable eruption of Beehive Geyser in  Yellowstone National Park.   Seeing it go off just metres away from me has to be one of my most joyous moments ever.

And music!  Okay it's a video and not a photo. Who cares if I'm bending the rules a little? The title and melody of this song evoke perkiness but a little perusal of the lyrics suggest they may be quite dark.  No matter.


So there's my five.  Good when experienced separately but when all of them are in tandem then it's happy days indeed.  And what do you know?  It's not that difficult to achieve.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Right to be Left

Facebook keeps telling me that if I donate £19 to the Labour Party election campaign I'll get myself a limited edition bag with this wacky Grayson Perry lion on it.  It's based on a ceramic piece that he produced If I needed a tote I might be tempted as I'm liking its madness rather a lot.

But hang on! Didn't Ed Miliband pee me off big time in the summer when he posed on the cover of that free World Cup edition of The Sun. Well, in my eyes, he did redeem himself somewhat by refusing to play ball when the same paper cynically set up a 'Help for Heroes' photo opportunity. Poor Ed was lambasted by the people at that nasty rag at a consequence but maybe gained a bit of respect back from the inhabitants of Liverpool in doing so. However,  I'm still in a quandary about whether my historical party of choice will get my vote at the next  general election. They haven't always because in this true blue neck of the woods, I've attempted the tactical voting card more than once.  After the unspeakable decision that Nick Clegg made last time to allow the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition with the Tories  that's not ever going to happen again. I will be voting for the party that best fits my values and beliefs.  I'd like to think that could be Labour again but we'll see.

Although I absolutely 100% per cent view my van as a very acceptable and cosy home, to all intents and purposes I have no fixed abode.  I was wondering whether that would make voting rather tricky. Yet it is a right that I want to retain even more than ever as I'd like to show that you don't have to be marginalised by adopting this non standard lifestyle.

The Citizen's Advice Bureau has published some useful advice about how to go about registering to vote as a homeless person.  It seems that I have to declare a local connection somewhere in order to do so.  Will that be in Teignbridge where I'll be moving between campsites, the South Hams where I work or Torbay where I eventually plan to live and where my post is sent?  Could I be tactical by registering in the area where the party I favour has the greatest chance of winning?  I'll update you on my decision and how easy the process is in practice when it's all been done and dusted.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Lightening Up for Tuesday

Frances yesterday commented that my post yesterday was a bit deep so, for her, I'm ringing the changes with some humour, albeit of the black nature.  Since childhood, I've loved the work of Giles, who I see hails from Islington, the same part of London as my dad.  That made him a Cockney as well then.

Compilation annuals of his cartoons arrived in our family home at Christmas so there was a stack of them.  They're probably still in one of the overflowing cupboards somewhere.  My parents aren't really the decluttering type.  Some of the earlier copies dated back to the fifties, well before I was born.   They contain so much detail and often provide a historical record of bygone events in modern history as well.  My favourite image here is the kid sucking the kettle though  I'm particularly keen on Larry, the evil kid with the moptop who's pictured up to mischief in the bottom right corner.  And of course there's Grandma, who I'm happy to see is commemorated with a statue outside an office in Ipswich where Giles once worked.  As you can see, she's priceless!

Images:  A Celebration of Giles

Monday, 24 November 2014

Nineteen vs Forty Nine

My nineteen year old self, who craved  all round success, status and wealth would be even more horrified with me, thirty years on than she would have been when I wrote about her a couple of years ago. Possibly she'd be a bit happier that I've done way more partying this year than my stay at home counterpart did back in 2012.   In the main I've given up prolific Crocs wearing too in favour of lovely calf length Doc Marten Authentic Wedge boots that she might have even coveted.  After all, didn't she have a bit of an Air Wair thing going on herself?

There, her slightly elevated approval would abruptly end. Instead of living in one of those magnificent seaside retreats in the South Hams,  I've ended up merely visiting them to do assessments. And I live in a van with no proper plumbing for goodness sake!   I recall that part of the fantasy  too was a shared life with  Mr Perfect, probably a corporate type, and our brood of ultra talented and sickeningly good looking, well behaved children.  They'd of course be looked after by a Norlands nanny while I was pursuing some high profile jet setting career. Single motherhood and a full time non managerial job without paid help was definitely not on the cards. Nor was I meant to be spending so much time with my child, that  happy, funny, grubby son who has to be frog marched to water to get him to wash.

I've been reading a lot more again lately.  It's one of those things that motorhome life allows time for. This book I've just finished is possibly one of the thought provoking pieces of writing that I've ever come across.  Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl is pretty famous.  As it says on the cover, 'Nine million copies sold' so some of you must have read it before me.  It tells the story of Frankl's time in Auschwitz and other concentration camps.  His experiences  shaped his perception of the human psyche and went on to inform his
 therapeutic practice which embodies hope and the capacity for individuals to survive and learn from the bleakest experience.  Wherever you turn in the text there is wisdom.  Frankl's compassion leaps out from each page.  Take for example, this passage:

'An incurably psychotic individual may lose his usefulness but yet retain the dignity of a human being.  This is my psychiatric credo.  With it I should not think it worthwhile to be a psychiatrist.  For whose sake?  Just for the sake of a damaged brain machine which cannot be repaired?  If the patient were not definitely more, euthanasia would be justified.'

This spoke to me so much about the value of my own work with people who many in society have discarded as terminally useless.  It might have to be the credo of an occupational therapist working with people with dementia as well.

To conclude today,  I'll share another Frankl quote because they are so profound.  It's his take on success and crucially how to go about attaining it. Definitely it's a perspective that would have been lost on my younger self but for the older and hopefully wiser forty nine year old that I hope to God that I've become, it's making a lot of sense.

“Don't aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it” 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Answers, Answers, Answers: Get Out the Hula Hula Skirts!

Good Morning from the positively tropical space that is my motorhome.  Hula hula! My compact Silvercrest heater from Lidl does the job of heating it up  in minutes. What's more it has a remote control so that I can turn it on from my bedroom space and warm the place up before I get up. How genius is that! Some moaning minis are actually griping on about it getting too hot in here.

This nicely answers the first of the questions that people were asking me about motorhome life that I posted just over a month ago.  You'll remember that  I had some others of my own.  I thought it would be a good idea if today, I shared some of the solutions to those conundrums.

Q: The homework one:
A: Louis can do his homework anywhere.  The problem isn't so much around physical space but whether he remembers to actually write what he's got in his student planner. That's as much of a problem at the relatively baronial pad that is his dad's home.  Aaaargh!   He's terribly disorganised and, whilst lots is down to being an excitable 11 year  old, some of it is an SpLD thing.  We're working with the school to fix it.

Q: The mass murder one:
A: According to my son, who shares my love of metaphor, I am like 'a fluffy bomb'. He elaborated on this because I was at odds to understand.  'Very kind, but once it's gone off you know about it.'  I guess that's about right. There haven't been any of those rare incendiary incidents yet. In spite of the homework difficulties we're not getting on each other's nerves.  Far from it.  Extra time has been freed up to enjoy playing games, practising magic tricks with the new set of marked cards that I bought on the ferry....and dancing. Yes, we've established that there's enough more than enough room to boogie together in here!

Q: The madness one:
A: Four weeks into this experiment and I'm even more sure that it was a sane rational thing to do. What's more this way of life has ongoing benefits for maintaining mental well-being. Some of the time saved from the demands of living in a proper home has gone towards re-establishing my meditation practice, for instance.

Q: The beast with two backs one:
A: Someone commented on my original post that this was not an issue.  Thanks for that. I'll have to take your work for it as there's been no firsthand verification.  There again, wouldn't be reporting back if there was!

Q: The bread and cake one:
A:Here's my first baking attempt in the halogen oven, spelt soda loaf, knocked up because I seemed to be in the only place in France without an operational boulangerie. Yum! It went jolly nicely with the only things that have been killed in the motorhome.  Not in temper I'll add. Some  langoustines from the market met their maker in a pan of boiling water.

Q: The TV Licensing One:
A:  The peeps got back to me and yes, I still have one. Once I get round to all the address changing it'll be registered c/o the house where I'm conducting my postally necessary virtual menage a trois with the two gay men and their dog.

Q: The Gadget One
A: The sewing machine is kept in my free underdesk storage space at work.  It'll stay there with my ski stuff until someone officious gives me a bollocking!  Alas I decided that there was no room for the Magimix.  A handheld grater, stick blender and electric whisk are acceptable substitutes.

Q: The Water One:
A: I top up the water tank of my van with, get this, a watering can.  Duh!  Why I couldn't think  of this simple solution before I'll never know.  Some bloke at the camping shop said it should be made of food grade plastic.  It's probably those phthalate thingies that it was so important that Lou's baby bib didn't contain.  I'll take my chances.  Death by watering can?  I really don't think so!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

It's Only The Finger Of God's Cousin!!!!!!

That cycle ride the other day was aborted for two reasons.  You know about the puncture from yesterday's post.  It's also because due to the 'inevitable' setbacks in my fitness regime I now have the exercise tolerance of a three toed sloth.  My efforts up the first hill were jeered at by some old geezer in a beret.  Some of my mental musings on holiday were around how to sort  out this sorry state of affairs now that the knee and ankle aren't grumbling anymore.  I think I've come up with a winter exercise plan that doesn't involve being holed up in a soulless gym.  I'll divulge that at  another time.

Had I persevered and reached the destination that I'd planned the other day I think that I'd have been mightily pee-ed off.  I was heading out to the church of St Jean du Doigt.  It's name is a bit of a giveaway as to what might be there. Yep, it contains the finger of John the Baptist.  And it's not any old finger I'll have you know but ,the exact same one that in the bible story it said that he pointed at the big guy in the white dress.  Wow! You'd think with provenance like that the place would be crawling with Chinese and Japanese tourists and there'd be a gift shop selling suitably themed artifacts.  Heck, I'd have stumped up the dosh for a grisly keyring if there had been any.

Except there wasn't. It turned out that I was the only person in a very dank, dark church.  I've got a bit of a gory fascination going on around those sacred body parts that some church denominations have a fondness for.  A very surreal moment in a Greek Orthodox shrine springs to mind when the priest allowed me to touch a severed head in a box while he spoke the only English words he knew. 'Gary Lineker!'  I thought that this covered offering on top of one of the altars looked like it might be a promising storage area.  After all that skull with the bits of hair on it had a similar curtainy thing going on, probably made lovingly for it by one of the old ladies in the village.

So with nosiness getting the better of me, and having checked that there were no security cameras or alarms I peeled back the curtain to reveal a box with a locked door. Bah!  Prising it open with a crowbar would have been a step too far.  I was very disappointed but not so much as I would have been if I'd arrived, near dead on the bike, after having pumped up that tyre twenty times!  The stained glass was lovely though.  Modern pieces by Louis Rene Petit.  You'll have to follow this link to have a look.  My own pictures didn't do justice.

What I've found out since is the finger only gets an airing once a year as  the highlight of the village's festival.  Those Bretons certainly know how to live.   It's the second object in this picture and is stored in, what looks to be, a very fancy lipstick case.  There's other precious things too, tucked safely away somewhere very secret no doubt.  I reckon that the frilly box was just a red herring.

Yep, the thing in the middle is a real arm.  It belongs to a holy bloke that I hadn't heard of.  That's the thing with these relics,  If they're from someone very famous you're only likely to get a teeny tiny body part like a toenail clipping or, indeed a finger. Whole limbs and heads are only on offer if the saint was very obscure!

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.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

From the Girl Who Doesn't Like Poetry...

...another poem!  I'd like to share somewhere that I went the other day, on a work trip with my occupational therapy colleagues.  However, I want to do it justice so you'll have to wait.  Just like everyone's been hanging around to see the pictures of my made over van.  I know I've been errant lately but every waking hour is filled.  Let's hope that I'll have time to draw breath, and maybe observe it mindfully, on my break next week!

I've written about my strongly held view that people with dementia should have access to outside space before. It's  been a persistent, unsettling theme in my thinking lately.   So I was really happy to find out about two relevant reports that will help me explore this subject further.  They'll help me form cohesive arguments for to make sure that a very disadvantaged group have something I really believe is a basic right.  Greening Dementia explores the evidence for the benefits and barriers that people with dementia have in accessing the outdoors. Living with dementia and connecting with nature: looking back and stepping forwards focuses on the benefits of green exercise.  These might be just what I need to explore this topic further.

The second document contains this moving poem by Dora who has dementia herself.  It sums up nicely why this topic is so close to my heart.


A young fella carried me
in here; it were a long way 
and a long time ago.
I were lying on grass...

I don't want to stay, no
there's nothing for me
they're all very kind
but I don't want to be

Inside anywhere at all
It's much too hot and bright
it just don't feel right
I've not been used

I need the fresh air
I keep calling out
Nurse, Nurse carry me
outside to where

I were lying on grass

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

I See the Sea

Here's another picture of my little mate, Bossy Bess, taken on our lovely afternoon out to Shaldon last month.  I needed a seaside photo for today's post and this one, capturing the beautiful autumnal light, will do  rather nicely.  I find watching waves akin to focusing on breathing in mindfulness, each one reliable in arriving on the beach but unique in its presentation.  It's therapeutic stuff, and at this, a super stressful time at work, I've been fortunate enough when dashing off to the coastal fringes of my patch to catch daily glimpses of the sea in motion and momentarily take stock.

I had hoped that the simple motorhome life might be established by now but everything has been too hectic. So I've come up with a cunning plan to fast track simplicity.  I've booked a week's leave on Friday I'll take the overnight Plymouth ferry and head off for the Breton coast.  It's easy to do these days.  After all I am like a snail and can unplug the hook-up and take my home with me at a moment's notice. None of that annoying packing that I had to do in the past.

With nothing else to disturb me, I intend to get on top of things by catching up with my studies, doing a bit of van maintenance and getting to grips with all that paperwork that results from a move.   It seems daunting at the moment but with time to get on with it and a coastal view from the window, it will be a breeze.  There'll  be plenty of opportunities for reading, walking, cycling, cooking and meditating too.  Probably I'll nap a bit to restore the batteries and almost certainly a jar or two will be consumed.  I'm going on my own but have no doubt that I'll bump into new people on the way.  It's not like me to stay solitary for long when I don't want to be!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Cut Off from Civilisation!

Image; Beatrice Coron
The image today has only a tenuous link to the subject being discussed but the work of papercutter, Beatrice Coron,  is way prettier than a picture of a pair of scissors or a knife! One of the questions that I forgot to ask myself before I moved into the motorhome was pretty crucial.  What was my phone  and Internet access going to be like?  After all, as David Cameron knows himself, it can be pretty patchy down here in the South West.  Luckily all is usually well. The strength of the signal here at the campground is good enough to tether two laptops at the same time.  Crucial for doing homework and everything else really.  Remote access to my work system, which involves shedloads of security, interestingly seems better here than from my previous BT superfast broadband landline.

Last night though was a different picture.  Aril, from Gnat Bottomed Towers introduced me to the idea of a first world problem in a comment on one of my post after suffering the other day. I'm liking it.  The little hitch that I had, certainly was one of those.  I had no phone signal from Three, except for emergency calls, for the entire evening.   What made it more annoying was that the final call that I received before I was cut off was from the phone provider themself trying to hard sell me an i-Pad  contract that I did know I needed. The annoying man at the other end of the line  had other ideas and thought it was the missing link in my life!

 Like the lady that lost her glasses outside Specsavers and the person who was bitten by their hamster, I did think of dialling 999 and telling them that my Internet was down but decided against it. Thank goodness I'm able to screen out some of the stupid ideas that come to mind.   The multi-functionality of my phone never ceases to amaze me and I'm in awe of how it now saves me carrying about a phone, radio, organiser or camera.  I no longer have to buy  CDs, music, newspapers, photo albums either.  All very useful when it's all tickettyboo.  When it's not, there's the potential to be very stuffed indeed!

Monday, 10 November 2014

2014 Spending Rules Revised!

In this transitional period of my life I thought it would be a good idea to review the spending rules for 2014 that I set myself at the beginning of the year.  There's no much to say really.  Up to now I've still been a sod when it comes to clothes buying. Pretty garb has always been a weakness.  Those after work tipples haven't gone away entirely either. I'd like to say that they're sometimes needed but that would be suggesting a modicum of dysfunctionality that I don't like admitting to! There's been one book, a very obscure occupational therapy text that I need for my studies that wasn't held in the university library. And I suppose that the wildly useful halogen oven that has expanded my motorhome culinary repetoire big time counts as a kitchen gadget. Surely these can be excused my honour?

The rules have to change big time anyway now so that adapting to living in a much smaller space. They are now very simple to avoid me becoming the subject of one of the reality TV decluttering programmes where a concerned psychologist has to make a tunnel  through my possessions to get to the bathroom at the back of the van.  Now the new law states that 'every new acquisition over and above food, cleaning products, presents, consummables and van spares , however small and seemingly trivial, must be thought about carefully and then purchases 'fessed on this blog'.  There!  That should stop me in my tracks.  The first week saw some major shopping for things that I'd forgotten to put in a motorhome,that now functions as a proper home rather than a holiday getaway.  Here's what I bought.

  • A plastic jug, new spatula and small flat set of scales for the kitchen.
  • Extra tea towels
  • An Angry Birds dressing gown for Lou so that he can run to the shower block and back in comfort.
  • New bras and tights for me.
  • Reading glasses to replace my broken prescription pairs.  There's a story here I may come to later!
  • A 15 tog duvet as I was getting chilly at night.
  • And of course, our angelic pocket things from the Abbey!
Aside from some washing line pegs, there's thankfully nothing else planned for a while.  I'll keep you informed if I deviate though. Honest!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Days Out In Devon: Buckfast Abbey

Another pregnancy story.  When my bump was just about beginning to get noticeable, I popped over to a local filing station for some milk.  Some overseas readers might think that odd as you'd think that they'd sell petrol and diesel and maybe a few car related artefacts. But oh no! In the UK they sell all sorts of stuff.  Food, newspapers......I even spotted a money box in the one at Trago Mills the other day.  More worryingly I was tempted to buy it for Lou.

Now where was I?  There was a Spanish woman in the queue in front of me who remarked on my bump with way more excitement than you'd expect from a complete stranger.  We were almost doing a little dance of joy in that soulless striplit stop.  'Ah a baby!' she cried manhandling my abdomen as people think that they have an entitlement to do when you're with child.  'When you have him you will realise that you never knew you could love so much!' I think she may have been right.

Anyway we reached another milestone yesterday.  I've realised early on that successful motorhome life means that you do not stay holed up in the vehicle day after day, especially if another human being is sharing it with you.  The refectory restaurant at Buckfast Abbey is lovely and after those glamourous tasks of buying a replacement gas bottle and toilet fluid, we headed on down there for a snack.

For the first time in years, I persuaded Louis to try the tea that came with his scones, cream and jam and he loved it!  After filling our tummies we headed off to reacquaint ourselves with the place.

Now the abbey here isn't an old one. It was only finished at the end of the 1930s.  There is a beautiful Arts and Crafts feel to it.  Sure, there are some fancy twirly bits like a gilded ceiling but these adornments are used in moderation, unlike in some older churches which are so crammed full that you don't know which way to look.

My favourite part of the church is the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. an even more modern annexe with funky, chunky stained glass made by the monks in their workshop, including this great big Jesus!  It's a chilly place of prayer where I sneaked a few minutes silence.   Then after eschewing a purchase made from the bewildering amounts of alcohol made in convents and monasteries throughout Europe, I treated us both to a bronze pocket angel from the monastic produce shop made at Maria Laach, a Benedictine Abbey in Germany. We had one before but lost him.  Let's hope that he was found by someone who needed him.

We returned to the abbey in the evening.  After all its only a hop and a skip down the road.  We found a poster saying that the abbey choir were singing Faure's 'Requiem',  as part of the remembrance weekend programme, one of the free concerts where there is a retiring collection, that seem to happen quite regularly.   This mass is  one of my favourite bits of choral music, and even though Ollie Murs is more up Lou's street, he was happy to give it a go. The performance was inspiring.  It brought tears to my eyes and made my spine tingle.  I reckon Passenger might be able do that too on Thursday when I see him.  My musical taste is eclectic after all. Louis loved  it  and had a great time staring out the little boy soloist, the only other kid too.  'I think I won,' he said.  Then he added  'Can we come to this next year?

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Suffering in Perspective

'There's torture and there's killing and there's all my bad reviews'.  Words sung by Leonard Cohen in this song from his latest album, Popular Problems.  And there's me trying to convince people that you're not so gloomy after all, Len.  Buck up!

It's been a difficult few weeks at work for me and my colleagues and looks set to continue.  In my job in a mental health team I'm exposed to levels of human suffering that I could never have envisaged in my previous life as a would-be fat cat tax consultant.   No regrets though. I'm much prouder of what I do these days. The gang have developed MASH-like senses of humour to cope.  There was a bit of a 'Vic and Bob' thing going on yesterday, for instance.  Our gay colleagues are also adept at rooting out male eye candy to cheer us up! The very good looking smiley builder working downstairs at the hospital, initially spotted by Mr Metrosexual,  is on our collective radar.  I hope he's got someone lovely when he goes homes, and perhaps a brood of little peeps who appreciate him. Our arguably politically incorrect morale boosters don't always work. A colleague was reduced to tears this week over the bureaucratic hoops that she was being made to jump through just to get someone a bit of basic care.

The NHS is stretched to capacity and I'm bringing home paperwork just to keep up.   For my sins I'll be doing some of that over the weekend.  It's something that really goes against the grain but necessary to maintain client care and also to keep my own headspace in order.  I'm behind with my studies as a consequence but I've got a novel way of rectifying that which will be revealed soon!

My own problems are teeny tiny in relation to those of the people that I work on behalf of. Those lyrics  highlight how, mentally, we put our own trials and tribulations on a par with the bigger much more devastating stuff going on in the world.  'Torture, killing and  intermittent problems with my leisure battery' might be my own version of the words.  What is going on personally, however trivial, often evokes the same, or  sometimes an even bigger, emotional response than the abject terror and despair that is relentless for many others.  I'm blowed about how things can truly be put in perspective.   Maybe just being mindful that this tendency to over-inflate our own problems is a good start?

Friday, 7 November 2014

Wild and Woolly

Morning all!  Last night was a humdinger. Now I like to wake in the wee small hours, snuggled up under cosy bedding and hear the pitter patter of rain on the room of Klaus the Knaus.  I find it comforting . But last night sounded a bit like an bad Old Testament prophesy was coming true.   The wind tested my awning, which creates a sheltered place to unlock the van and take shoes off, to its limits and the rain came down in sheets.  The whole van was shaking as each gust challenged those spindly legs.  Obviously I wasn't going to leave it up when a hurricane or even a severe gale was forecast. There might have to be some rethinking done though  about whether it'd be better to reel it in when gusts are further down the Beaufort scale.  It's an expensive bit of kit after all.   Thank  goodness it's survived so far.  One good thing is that it is right toasty in here which I hope will reassure those who thought that unseasonal motorhoming would be too nippy for comfort.

Now I've popped out this morning to take a quick picture.   When I reserved my motorhome pitch nearly a couple of months bad, I said that there was a back gate near my pitch onto a lane leading to a nearby pub. How  I got that so wrong I'll never know. The pub is a good jaunt away and is closed at the moment.   And that gate leads not, onto a lane, but a little pontoon where there is a measuring stick.  It gauges whether the adjacent river will flood.  Gulp! Even though it's flowing in an enthusiastic way there's plenty of ruler sticking out at the top at the moment.  But its mere existence indicates that there might be all sorts of challenges associated with living on a flood plain ahead!

Thursday, 6 November 2014


Photo: Spazuk Fire Painter
I was rather taken by this beautifully detailed drawing of what I think may be a starling living dangerously!   It comes from a series of artworks by the Quebecois artist Steve Spazuk  makes an environmentalist statement and shows images of birds juxtaposted with things designed to kill insects.  Now to me a hand grenade to dispatch a couple of pesky flies to their maker is overkill but what happens in North America never surprises me.  When I was walking the Appalachian Trail I discovered a device in the hunting section of a supermarket which was dropped in a pond.  It exploded and hey presto!  Loads of dead fish rose to the surface. Man in harmony with his environment at its very best!

The way that this has been put on paper is rather hazardous  too.  With my accident prone tendencies it's not a way of working that I'm going to try out in the motorhome at anytime soon, unless I decide to embark on an experiment around starting a life over devoid of possessions. Spazuk uses a technique called fumage, drawing with a candle or torch flame to leave sooty deposits.   He then embellishes the images with paint and gold leaf.  For those of you who've got a hankering to find out more here's how this clever artist operates.  As a safety warning, it's probably an activity to try out in the open with a fire extinguisher handy if you fancy giving it a go!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Rising and Shining the Motorhome Way

A nice little AM routine is being established here in Klaus the Knaus.  It's taken a week to get going but now it's in place I can operate on autopilot for the first couple of hours in the day.  I start by popping down the ladder from my king sized bed that I've straightened before I've tumbled out of it, slippering and jumpering up, turn the heating on and then make myself a big vat of tea to kickstart the blogging process  Yes, those super sized Cornishware mugs came with me! Once I'm published I might sort out other bits and pieces of paperwork or messaging.

At 6:30, if he's here, I wake Lou.  I start by talking gently and kissing the little nose that pokes out of his duvet.  If that doesn't work, let the nagging commence! It usually has to. Meanwhile I'll get breakfast going.  It's usually tummy warming porridge but there are some oddities to ring the changes. Our camper van staple, baked bean soup, was on the menu last night and Lou likes  leftovers in the morning.  And why ever not? It's filling and healthy and I'm sure people in the Far East have soup for breakfast.

More fish wife shouty antics and Lou's dressed.  He's taken to reading if there's a bit of time over.  I run him up to the school bus stop in the car.  It is within walking distance but I'm using this as a bit of a carrot.  After all if I get too hair shirted about living here then he won't want to stay.

For me the morning is the time I'll do a few chores. Remember that question that I was asking myself about how to fill the water tank without moving  the van each time?  Well the solution was easy and cheap.  A long stemmed watering can does the trick.  Two trips over to the tap, a couple of pitches away, and I'm sorted.  Believe me, when you're carrying your water supply you think about every drop that you use.  I take over the rubbish as well and the grey water that collects in a washing up bowl.   The toilet needs emptying today, still not my favourite job.  This morning I'll probably give the bathroom a good clean too.  It'll take all of five minutes.

And then there's hygiene for I am not the grubby kind.  I nip over to the rather chilly bathroom block in a big thick dressing gown and my Birkies.  It's so good for the soul!  After a quick shower I dress in the warmth of the motorhome.  A  natty dress later, a few squirts of Chanel, some teeth cleaning and I'm done.  There! No-one would guess from my outward appearance that I live in a van.

I haven't forgotten that my motorhome makeover hasn't been revealed yet but it's always too dark to take pictures when I'm home.  Let me sort something out for you all at the weekend!