We’ve been a bit more settled over the last week or so. D had a meeting in Oxford, so we needed a campsite close by. We had also accumulated an enormous amount of washing so needed laundry facilities. We found an amazing place in Abingdon – free wifi, electricity, laundry. They even supplied breakfast, lunch, dinner and wine. Incredible and all free. It is a pretty exclusive site too – you have to be related to the owners to stay there. Thanks Mum & Dad!
D also has quite a bit of work on now, so when we left Mum & Dad’s (I know it should be Mum’s & Dad’s but that seems clumsy), we were looking for somewhere quiet, but with wifi and in nice countryside. Aha! we thought. We stayed somewhere like that when we first started our trip – lovely farmshop, cafe with wifi, countryside walks, big site with lots of space. So we’ve been back for a few days, moving on again tomorrow.
Well, we’ve been on the road for 7 weeks now. You might remember when we started that I said it might take a while to get into a routine. The good news is that we haven’t run out of water since that first stop! We are quite organised now. Generally. Most of the time.
Setting Up and Packing Up
When we are settled on a site, the van looks like home. The radio and fruit bowl (yes, we have a fruit bowl) are on the table, the bed is down, bits and pieces are hanging up in the kitchen. When we are on the road, everything must be stowed otherwise the radio and fruit bowl will end up on the floor and bits and pieces would be flying off hooks. In any case, with the bed down, we can’t go anywhere – it drops down from above the driver & passenger seats. The curtains you can see at the far side of the bed are around the windscreen.
Anyway, it seems obvious to us that everything would have to be away to travel, but I’m sure my sister will forgive me when I tell you that she commented on how tidy the van was when we met her for lunch at a pub in the Lake District a few weeks ago. I pointed out that it has to be for the reasons already mentioned. That isn’t to say, of course, that we don’t forget the odd thing and have a surprise as we are driving along – the favourite seems to be the calendar flying off the noticeboard, or the thing we use to wind the awning out falling out of its holder. That one never fails to make me jump and therefore swear quite loudly.
Where was I going with this? Oh yes, I remember. Bear with me. To make the van feel like home when we settle, we have Setting Up duties and to make it safe to travel, we have Packing Up duties. Setting Up includes things like turning the gas back on to the fridge, getting the bed made up, topping up the water and opening up the skylights. Not surprisingly, Packing Up duties include turning the gas off, putting the bed away, emptying various things that need to be emptied and closing the skylights. We are getting better at remembering to do everything, but it isn’t uncommon for us to get 5 minutes down the road and have to pull over to close the bathroom skylight. Apparently you can buy checklists to remind you of everything you should do, but where’s the fun in that?
One of the questions we are asked most often, in one form or another, is what we eat. Well, food – why, what do you eat? We have no oven or grill, but do have a fab bit of kit called a Double Skillet, two frying pans which can clip together to form a sort of oven on a gas hob. We’ve used it for all kinds of things – crumpets, toasted sandwiches, jacket potatoes, casseroles. Apparently you can also use it to make cakes – I haven’t tried that yet, but do have ingredients for brownies and lemon drizzle cake to hand should the mood take me. Otherwise it is fairly normal stuff – this week’s meals for example have included barbecued lamb with roasted vegetables, pasta, ham salad, chickpea curry. Not all together. Normal stuff really and I cook most of our meals – this is our normal life now and we can’t afford to eat out all the time.
Our home is a little smaller now, but there is still housework to do. Occasionally. Actually, some of it needs to be done more often than in old bricks and mortar home.
Cleaning mirrors is one example. When you have a tiny bathroom, the designers very kindly make it seem bigger by putting in a lot of mirrors. Great, except that, in such a small space, the mirror is constantly being splashed when we wash hands etc. They need cleaning every day. Consequently, they are cleaned most days.
(I’ve just read this to D and he hadn’t realised that I clean them most days. Don’t know why I bother sometimes).
Sweeping the floor is another example. We started off with the best intentions of changing our shoes before stepping foot into the van – blah, blah. Complete faff and we gave up pretty quickly. Outdoor shoes are confined to the door mat, but we are in and out all day and constantly walking in grass (wet or dry), mud, sand etc. Add a dog and long hair to the equation and the floor needs to be swept every day. Consequently, it is swept most days. Thank goodness we don’t have carpet like a lot of motorhomes – that would get very messy very quickly, especially without a vacuum cleaner.
Mentioning the vacuum cleaner brings me on to power. Motorhomes have leisure batteries which provide 12v power. They can also be connected to mains electricity when on a campsite (known as hookup and it usually costs more). We have a solar panel which charges our leisure battery and an inverter, which converts (why is it not called a converter then?) the 12v power from the battery to normal 240v power. Here endeth the lesson.
We use one 12v socket for charging phones and radio and one 240v socket for charging the laptop and Kindle. We don’t have any other electrical appliances – no vacuum cleaner, iron, hairdryer (I can hear gasps from some people). Most of our lighting is LED and it is all low-level – we don’t like bright lights and only had lamps on in the old house. We bought warm-glow LEDs so we are not bathed in a pale blue light that makes us look like vampires and our food look like it is grey and mouldy. All of this means that, in 6 weeks (not counting the time we spent at Mum & Dad’s), we have only used hookup for 4 nights – all the rest of our power has come from the solar panel. Not bad when you consider that D uses the laptop for work, we watch films on it, listen to music on it – it is on most of the time. The solar panel is, without doubt, the best bit of kit we have bought for the van.
What do you do with yourselves all day?
No-one has actually asked that question yet, but I suspect a lot of people are wondering, especially those who aren’t retired. Firstly, I should point out that the point of our trip is not really to Do or See – we wanted to try a different way of life for a while. Hence we can go to the Lake District and not leave our little valley for a week and not actually visit any lakes. We have also found that we are not that interested in towns – we popped into Hereford and Kendal but by and large have avoided them. Shopping is usually done at whatever shops we pass between campsites.
So, how do we pass our time? Working (for D), reading, walking, reading, talking, reading, watching films, reading, exploring the area we are in, reading. It is nice to be able to take time over things like breakfast, rather than eating toast at my desk, especially when there is a view.
Let me see, did I mention reading? I think I’m up to about 23 books now. Much as I love a physical book, I couldn’t have found the space for that many, so love my Kindle. My second favourite bit of kit. I’m varying what I read more now too – currently reading Tony Blair’s memoir which I’m enjoying and finding really interesting. We were in Australia for 8 of his 10 years of premiership and were quite stunned by the passion with which he was hated when we returned. Obviously, we came in at the tail end when it was all going belly up, but it is interesting to read about some of the things that his government did when they first came to power, like introducing a national minimum wage and handing decisions about interest rates to the Bank of England. Both seem quite sensible to me, but it is interesting that they are never mentioned when people talk about what the Labour government did – you’d think the only thing they did in 10 years was go to war.
Everyday things take time too – topping up water, emptying tanks, doing the handwashing. All little, simple things but we have realised that we are simple people who are really enjoying life at the moment. I’m actually getting fit and enjoying the walking we are doing – shush, I can hear you all sniggering from here. I realise that I am not known for my love of the outdoors, but that is changing.
Uller is loving life. Outdoors most of the time, lots of walks, new smells to explore every day and we’re around nearly all the time. What more could a dog ask for? She is also getting fitter, which isn’t bad for the ripe old age of 13. Jumping in and out of the van (a height of about 70cm) frequently seems to have sorted out the stiff hip that she had before. She certainly seems pretty content.
So now you know about the details of our everyday life, even if you weren’t that interested. If you want to know anything else, just ask.
That answered a few questions for me, am so glad you are enjoying it,I think I should take a leaf from your book[ how do you convert that to kindles ?]and go & read . good night. xx
Thanks S, loved hearing about the practicalities of your new life – fascinating, and also loved the photos, it all looks so cosy. Am really enjoying the journey!
ENGLISH MUM AND DAD
Very impressive statistics about the solar panel. Just goes to prove that we do have sunny days in Blighty (those Down Under please note!) D will probably now tell me that they don’t need sun to charge it, only daylight.