Sunday, 30 July 2017

Was it a good idea?

"I don't mind admitting, when you first told me about this, I thought it was A FUCK IDEA," my 74-year-old Dad is saying. He is rather drunk and making strange new use of rude language, but is also expressing his enthusiasm for our motorhome, which does indeed seem to possess all of the features required to make a life on the road quite possible. Later that evening he will walk out of his front door in total darkness, fall over and start talking to a frog that is sitting in one of his plant pots. 

Fast forward three days, and I'm lying in the strange extra-single bed space at the back of the van next to the bog. I got a bit pissed myself last night, on Dark Fruit Strongbow ("When In Rome...") in a horrible bar on a campsite near Cromer that occupies the elusive middle ground between the outdoor experience and Butlins. As a result, I wasn't confident to clamber over a sleeping M in the double bed, so I ended up here. 

This campsite cost us thirty quid for a small space on a steep slope that served to empty the sink onto the gas hob and has stopped one of the rings working. Admittedly I might've noticed this happening if I'd drunk less nasty cider, but then I would have suffered more from the soul-destroying awareness that campsites like this are no way of discovering the geographical area in which they exist. 

The night before, I got even less sleep as I was nervous. Our first night sleeping in the van, we were determined to go stealth or rogue or wild or whatever it is, and lay awake in a van that bounced and swayed through some truly awful weather in the enormous riverside car park at Walberswick. The famous old lady with a beard who ran the campsite next door is surely no more, and we wouldn't have been able to get the van down the narrow track to it anyway, but there is a perfect understanding throughout the family that this project won't work if we have to go looking for a place to park and sleep in each locality where nobody can come and tell us to piss off. 

Admittedly, the man with the gorgeous wood-and-glass-built home looking out to sea, who was our nearest neighbour that tumultuous night, would have been quite mad to brave these raging elements just to tell us to sling our hooks when he surely could not have seen or heard us, but a combination of new experiences meant we could not rest easy. We will get used to it, M and I, we expect, but we have some way to go before we give as little of a shit as the kids do. They slept like logs.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Ready for the off?

The move was about as smooth as it could be, although the removal men arrived at half seven in the morning when my brain was still sleeping, and I forgot to show them the loft. Predictably, they weren't best pleased when M remembered it, so I had to shift all the things up there myself and attempt to pass them down without sweating onto this muscly Polish bloke. I didn't have the heart to bother him with the three dozen ‘last few bits’ that were loose up there, as he had long been receiving boxes I could barely lift with his fingertips, a grimace and tightly-closed eyes.

So I had to do an extra run to the lock-up at Jumbo's Safari Shithouse and didn't get back until
three o’clock on our last London morning. In an otherwise empty house, I found H blissfully asleep next to M on the inflatable mattress we’d borrowed, leaving me a foam dog-bed that was squashed completely flat under my weight, with a towel for a blanket. I got precisely three hours’ restlessness before getting up, seeing the boys off for their last day at school and making my testimonial visit to the dump. After overloading the Focus to the point that my tearful sons in scribbled-on uniforms had to sit cross-legged on piles of pillows, we headed for our bolthole in Suffolk, where my dad was pissed and my mum went to bed straight after Celebrity Mastermind.

Living with my folks again (four nights, so far, is my longest-ever stay with my whole family) has been surprisingly comfortable and easy. They are lovely old people who live a quiet life and have made space for us in a home that would usually make our ride out of Peckham look roomy. Both are fond of whisky - dad a little too much so, as evidenced by the loud banging we heard when M put a half-load of washing on yesterday morning. We stopped the machine and found mum had hidden a litre bottle of Lidl blended Scotch from dad under a towel in there.

We are picking up our van on Wednesday evening and are planning a short trip up to Cromer first, for that inevitable first-week breakdown. M has friends near there and my great aunt has a chalet that's  hardly ever used, so we have somewhere to stay while Norfolk’s least-reputable mechanics go mental rebuilding the entire bloody engine and giving us a bill that doubles the price we paid. They are probably Norwich fans, although they don’t actually exist yet.

My brother saw this van, a Hymer box on a Fiat Ducato, advertised on a noticeboard at work. This appealed to both M's instincts to get some kind of bargain that very few people would know about, and my instinct to hastily throw cash at the first thing that comes along. A couple in their fifties had been using it for the last SEVEN YEARS while getting their even-older-and-more-ridiculous camper fixed up. After a little conversation I had a lot of faith in them, and therefore their vehicle for sale. But I have been known to be wrong about these things.