Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Glamorous Nomad

One of the charms of moving your home to a different place is noticing the path of the sun in relation to your windows, and how that differs from your previous location. But after the first two days on our present pitch, I hadn't seen the sun, I had no idea how it might be tracking across the sky above a grimy, monotoned gloom. And then, ta dah! Another promise of Spring. I remembered my theory about my perception of the length of winter. At the moment I am convinced that this has been the longest winter ever. Then I applied my theory: It's because we were robbed of summer. The winter after a rubbish summer feels extra long.

Pete is on a course for a few days, which takes place in a suburb of Birmingham. We are staying on a farm several miles further out to the north east and I am amazed to find that there are acres and acres of clay-hued farmland, 14th century castles (privately owned and not open to the public!), and tiny red sandstone villages. Who knew that you can drive the overpass over the M6 and within mere moments you are in rural Warwickshire?

My previous knowledge of the Birmingham area was pretty limited to the dauntingly massive series of motorway junctions and ring roads that seem to surround and engulf the city, separating north from south. Or, as the road signs call it, 'The North' and 'The South'. Birmingham seems impenetrable and sprawling and constantly circled by a sea of motor vehicles. I'm still avoiding it this week, but I have discovered the peaceful contrast on its doorstep.

Our campsite this week is called something Hall Farm. I'm being a coward/diplomat and not naming it properly but you might see how one could have high hopes of a name like that. You might, like I did, imagine a grand estate with a charming little paddock set aside for campers. In fact this whole area is clearly a series of estates with halls and castles, woods and farmland. A search of the history of the area shows ownership of the estate dating back to the 15th century. And I will concede that this is not the time of year to see a basic campsite at its best. An adjacent strip of woods is going to burst with daffodils very soon, so that will brighten things up. But it is basic, which we don't mind at all, but I am judging the site by the fact that it is costing us £5 more per night than our last place, offering us no more, and by the awkwardness and unpleasantness of the black waste point.

It is an enclosed, above-ground tank. You have to climb two steps to access the wooden hatch on the top, once held on with two hinges, long since rusted and useless. And if you are 5ft 3in tall as I am, you have to lift your full black-waste cassette to chest height, rest it on the edge of the opening, carefully and with a very firm hold. Also treating the cap of your own tank as if it were part of an unexploded bomb, lest you drop it into the liquid hell below. Then to rinse, step down to ground level, reach several feet to the other end of the tank to grab the hose, rinse, climb back up, etc. Glamping my arse!

Apart from that, it is indeed peaceful and remote-yet-handy. And money for old rope for the farmer.

Mini moan and griping aside, it has been tingly and exciting to move to a completely unknown area again. Out of necessity we have been staying in one area for weeks, sometimes months at a time, and it has been lovely to make friendships and connections and to get comfortable with the familiarity of the roads and day to day facilities one relies upon. But there was a time when we moved every four or five days and got used to never really knowing our way around. After almost two years of exploring the country we were surprised to find ourselves in one spot for two whole weeks. And there are still places we haven't seen, which is great. For some reason we missed out Yorkshire completely.

We had a tricky time getting to this site. The junction we thought we wanted didn't have an exit on the bit of motorway we were travelling on. It took a couple of rethinks to find a way off! But finally here and set up, fairy lights on, cup of tea in hand I said, "Wherever we go, we're always here." You know, after all that, we are still at home.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Seasonal Musing

So far this winter has been a bit more challenging than previous ones in the Airstream. When we were still in self-imposed sabbatical mode there was a touch of charm and romance to most aspects of living in a trailer, and being nomadic to a greater or lesser degree. And I still relish a less conventional lifestyle. I never did aspire to an average existence. But I have found that, when life becomes more laden with serious or emotive diversions it is a little bit harder to engage with the charms that had previously shone a glow over everything. They can become time-consuming extras, chores. I'm talking about stuff like the fetching and carrying of water and waste, the need to put stuff away and not always have it instantly to hand. Little things really, that can eat into your day when you're just trying to get on with something.

Weather matters too, and the length of the days. I don't mind the snow, and I don't mind too much having to thaw the taps and negotiate icy tracks to get to them, as long as it's just for a couple of days. Plus, our 'landlord' Dave has recently built a unique little heated wooden structure around the fresh water tap so that we never have to do the traipsing thing with jugs of warm water again. But like many parts of the country, the ground here was already saturated, and the thaw and subsequent rain has made everything muddy. And 'Wet Keep Off' signs are multiplying on the campsite. Not that you would want to walk on the grass, the ground beneath it has the consistency of room-temperature butter.

I can project forward in time slightly and envisage a lighter, warmer Spring when the prospect of enjoying a view across a pine covered hill, or a rocky coastline can be savoured from outside rather than in and behind glass. It's only just February and those days are a way off yet. But the merging of indoors and out, and the changing view on your doorstep is something to anticipate.

And by the way, the picture is not of us. It's a nearby farmyard with a vintage Airstream awaiting some TLC.