It’s 10am, I have just cooked myself breakfast, washed up and tidied the kitchen and settled down at the table in the sun to write this blog post. I have been van-lifing for about 2 weeks now… Give or take a number of days spent at friends for various reasons…
‘Soooooo?’ I know you wanna know, ‘What’s it like!?’
Well honestly I think this last 24 hours might be the closest I have got to what I would call normal life. And it’s awesome! But let me back track a bit and tell you about what’s happened since I left France.
So after a long drive but a quick ferry journey from Cherbourg to Poole I landed back in the UK late Friday night and needed somewhere to park up. One of our favourite family beach spots has always been Studland Bay and I remembered seeing vans up and down the back of the beach so I drove over there to try my luck for a wild camping pitch. When I arrived I discovered that there were midnight to 6am parking restrictions. Doh! So that was out. Fortunately just after I’d passed Corfe Castle I noticed another van (just like mine) parked in a large lay-by at the side of the road, it’s windows glowing slightly. It was almost 11pm (midnight for my body still on french time) and I needed to stop. Views were no longer a necessity I just needed somewhere safe and fairly flat. The fact that the other camper was there, parked perpendicular to the road and well back, gave me confidence so I backed in beside it.
At this point I hadn’t yet had any of my electrics hooked up and Lutine had smashed my gas lamp earlier that day so I lit candles and put them in glass lanterns while I got ready for bed. The cigarette lighter plug was still wired up to the water pump so I did have running water that first night to clean my teeth but that was it. I wasn’t yet happy with my gas set up so I didn’t try for the hot water as well. With curtains also still to be installed I only had my insulation mats to block the light so I put them up and jumped into bed. I was knackered and pretty much just passed out straight away.
The night was uneventful, I slept well and I was awoken about 7am the next morning by the sound of the other van pulling away. Up early I guess to go and grab a spot along Studland Bay. I took it kind of leisurely rising about 8am to go into Swanage. This photo is from my dining room.
Aside from toasted tea cakes and coffee on the beach, my day was not to be spent lazing about on the sand. I had to get going for another trip down memory lane. I had a school reunion to attend that night in Honiton! So after a quick wander round Swanage town centre where I acquired some hooks and catches to install in the van, I set off. I admit, I only got as far as Corfe Castle. There was a lay-by beneath the ruins and it was too tempting to park up somewhere so picturesque for a while. So I pulled in to did some moving in type maintenance. I installed some of the hooks and catches and a carbon monoxide detector – Important, that!
Then I set off again down the rather gorgeous stretch of road that is the A35. I spotted a herd of 5 or 6 beautiful Fallow deer at the side of the road. That was pretty special. I had found out from Google that there was a great caravan supply shop in Charmouth so I heading there. I needed to change the regulator on my gas cylinder – To one that didn’t leak!!!
I have to say that the folks that run Dorset Leisure Centre couldn’t have been more smiley, lovely and helpful. I went back and forth to the van figuring out all the things I needed and nothing was too much trouble, and they had everything in stock. They were amazing! Really.
Sadly it was a huge contrast to another caravan shop, in Oxfordshire, where a certain member of staff had the most appalling attitude every time I went in there. In fact today I pulled in with the van hoping the shop would be manned by someone else, it wasn’t. She saw me, I saw her and I pulled straight back out. I didn’t even switch the engine off. If only she had realised how much money I have spent on this van, and how much business and free publicity she might have got from me if she hadn’t been such a cow! Instead I’m ranting about her online. To quote Pretty Woman ‘Big mistake!’
Anyway… I when I got to Honiton I celebrated the now, safe, non-leaking gas regulator with a cup of tea hot shower! In Tesco car park! Classy. But it was quite amusing. Because of my privacy windows, the guy parked next to me, munching on his sandwich and sucking on his fag, had no idea that I was prancing about in a towel. He was totally oblivious. Haha! (sorry the pick is of the tea not the towel!)
I got ready for the reunion. The full works of course. Nothing less when seeing a bunch of people I haven’t seen in 22 years, most of whom previously thought me a crazy nobody.
It was a great night and for the most part my memories of being bullied and ostracized (which I concede I might have brought on myself) were replaced with an understanding of who everyone has become. We’ve all (well most of us) grown and changed and turned into someone different. I had some apologies to make and some to accept. It was a really amazing time learning all my old friends and adversaries a new. And wowing a few of them with the brand new campervan!
In fact I feel like the build with my folks in France, the visit to my favourite family places in Dorset, the return to my home town, seeing my old class mates and other old friends, and then later catching up with Ant (tell you all about that in the next post) has in some way re-set me. The last 6 months have brought so much emotional and physical upheaval that to return to my roots and remember where I started and who I was before all this, well, it reminded me who I am now and who I want to be as I start over again. It’s not that my memory is erased… But I feel grounded again. And oh how good it feels!!!
Anyway the night of the reunion was spent outside a friends house in a cul-de-sac. Very safe. Very easy. Then I drove back to Oxford for the mammoth task of cleaning, packing and finally leaving Bay Cottage. I wouldn’t call it Van Life just yet, I slept in the van but I barely ate or even showered cos I was working so hard. Strangely I felt more vulnerable there than anywhere I’ve stayed yet. Even though I know the village is safe and the van has been fine out there for weeks before, once I was in it I realised how fast everyone drives. The van shook with the cars that broke the speed limit and what a lot of them there were!
On the Monday I had a silly moment. I was tired, I’d worked really hard but I hadn’t eaten all day, I went to the pub in the late afternoon and had a few glasses of wine (I wasn’t driving). I got home, sat down in the van for a moment thinking ‘I’ll just have a little rest and then I’ll clean the bathroom.’ I woke up at 2am! The van and the house were all open! Fortunately it was all fine, but I scared myself. That kind of behavior is foolish and makes me dangerously vulnerable. So I have been much MUCH more vigilant and careful since. There will be no repeats of that!
By the time I handed back the keys to Bay Cottage the van was loaded down with junk again and needed a big sort out and a trip to the charity shops and the bins. I just about managed it, fueled by coffee and lemon drizzle cup cakes my friend next door made for me. I then drove straight to Ant’s workshop, Kustom Revival near Brighton to fit out my electrics.
And that’s my queue to stop. My visit to Kustom Revival deserves a whole post and this one is already reeeaaaaly long, if you’re still reading, thanks. It’s been a hell of a journey! And it’s only the beginning!!
‘Til next time, lots of love,
P.s…. The Great Reveal as I like to call it where I show you the final thing is coming really soon so stay tuned!!! xx