Friday, 30 August 2013

A Bumpy Ride

Recent travels have had me on edge. The roads in England have been allowed to become potholed and patched-up and it can make for a bumpy journey. It takes the thrill out of taking to the road, and it gives the impression of a nation letting itself go. Five years ago we travelled around Ireland and found the roads to be in a poor state at the time. When we returned to England you could almost hear the car and Airstream sigh with relief. Now I think ours are even worse. We have spent a lot of time near Cheltenham and I have a mental map of many of the crappest roads in and around the town, but when you move on you have a whole new set of obstacles to avoid. And you can't swerve out of the way with a trailer on the back!

A trip to Wiltshire last week had the added headache of a flat tyre on the car whilst towing along a busy, rural, two lane A road. We had passed a lay-by on the other side and had to reverse back, inch by inch, during any gaps in the traffic. Once we had managed to cross over we then had to empty the contents of our boot in order to release the spare wheel that is fixed below the car. What can you do but grin encouragingly at each other and get through it?

The rest of the journey was one of those south of England routes that keeps passing through little villages, narrowing regularly and twisting its way around the countryside. These roads might be fun to whizz around on a motorbike or in an un-hitched car, but to tow an Airstream along them is slow and requires constant and prolonged concentration. The speed limit keeps dropping for all the bends and the quaint villages. It took us three hours to travel 100 miles.

I thoroughly enjoyed being somewhere completely new, once we had arrived, but the travel itself was not a pleasure, at all.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Summertime Neighbours: Part 2

These neighbours can turn up at any time of the year. They do full-timing in a fully committed and old-school style. They spend most of their time outdoors, and I don't just mean going for lots of walks. They cook outdoors, they craft and work outdoors as much as possible. Part of the year is spent in a teepee next to a stream. This isn't the glamping version with proper furniture and pot-bellied stoves. It can be cold and damp, the ground is a bit hard to sleep on, the smoke from the fire-pit doesn't always rise out through the top. It's pretty basic, and it sounds like they might be ready to build in some comforts before long, but it also sounds as though the challenge of constantly adapting is part of the appeal, as well as living with the senses constantly stimulated by the natural environment, plus the ability to move on when it feels like it's time to do so.

I tend to think I'm lucky to be hardly separated from my surroundings. Even when I'm indoors I see the sky through the skylights, and we have a wrap-around view through wrap-around windows. But I'm such a lightweight compared with these guys.

We just spent a lovely evening in their cozy, green caravan, hearing about their adventures with unconventionality, and eating some intriguing Cotswold cheeses with a smoky chilli paste. On the way back to the Airstream we were enchanted by the Perseid meteor shower.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Summertime Neighbours

These are our neighbour's flowers. We have neighbours in the summertime. During the winter full-timing can be more quiet and solitary, in the summer we meet more long-termers. Well, that's around here anyway. We have found this friendly site with its incredibly accommodating and laid back owner, and due to the projects that Pete has been involved with recently our travels have been short, and usually starting from this same spot.

So it would appear that the combination of a really nice 'landlord', relative peace and quiet  and lots of green scenery brings people back year after year. Our opposite neighbour has been coming here for years, stays for a few weeks and then pops home for a bit to keep and eye on things there and pick up her post. A couple who spend their winters in Spain return here for about three months each summer to catch up with family and friends, attend weddings, that sort of thing.

And I've got used to seeing them. My hermit tendencies have receded just enough for me to pass the time of day, and so when Pete returns from a day of fixing up Airstreams I can let him know that after three years I have learnt somebody's name, they are 71 years old and in training to run a marathon, their next-door neighbour back home just won the lottery, and I've been asked to water someone's plants while they go away for the weekend.

Our clever Gerbera that just keeps on flowering

Hermit tendencies is a slight exaggeration, but when you live in an Airstream you can spend an awful lot of your time explaining what it is, where it's made, admitting that it costs  more than any other caravan, and why. And sometimes that's a lovely thing to do, other times I might just be trying to do my chores quickly and efficiently so that I can get on with my day. So you develop a way of making fleeting eye-contact and giving a short, friendly greeting, just enough not to be rude but brief enough to be able to move on. Often, someone will say, I didn't know they still made them. That happened yesterday and, when I offered my brief explanation it clearly wasn't brief enough and the chap who had started the 'conversation' cut me short and started to walk off. Suits me.

I know this all makes me sound pretty antisocial. But it's a common experience. Ultimately I am trying to avoid a situation that has happened too often, which is when someone, typically a middle-aged man (that's just a fact, not a judgement on age or gender) comes up to me while I'm busy, makes an opening statement like, I bet it takes a lot of cleaning. I say, no not really. He then tells me all sorts of facile misconceptions about Airstreams, or worse, tells me all about his caravan, not noticing that I am not actually asking or agreeing with any of it. He just goes on and on. He might tell me stuff I already know, but he hasn't got the perceptive skills to realise that I know stuff too, or he doesn't care, because he's a crashing bore!

There, that's what can happen. That's what has happened, a lot! And that's what I'm avoiding with my dark glasses or shifty glances. On the other hand you don't want to miss out on genuinely interested and interesting people, because there are plenty of those too, and it can make your day to have an unexpected friendly encounter. And having vented and ranted, I'll just go back to our lovely neighbours and point out that the long-termers and full-timers know about all of this and mostly respect each other's space. So you get a friendly little chat about the weather or a trip out somewhere, then move on. I know that they would help me if I needed it, and vice versa.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Happy Airstreamy Day

The Little Tin Hut website has been through a bit of a transformation recently. It is now the home of information about our mobile Airstream servicing, as well as our shop for Airstream-related goodies. We are aiming to find the most lovely and the most useful of Airstreamy accessories and gifts and I think that we have got off to a good start with these gorgeous cards and some genuine Don Featherstone pink plastic flamingos.

It has been quite a steep learning curve for me, building a website. But it has been pretty interesting. I just had the software that came with my laptop to work with, and it has a lot of frustrating quirks. But in the end I enjoyed that feeling of mastering it sufficiently to achieve what we needed. Of course I wouldn't even have got started without my 'technical advisor' and capable other half, Pete.

I have still been stitching and crafting. Sometimes, a crick in the neck will tell me that it's time to step away from the laptop and I find that making something quietly allows my brain to work in that pleasingly productive and contemplative way. And I have been working on something that will make its way into the shop soon, so watch this space.