SINCE YOU LAST SAW US parked in East Anglia, our house has made its longest leap so far (apart from the initial flight south from Scotland). We wended our way west across the country a couple of weeks ago now, taking a few days about it and stopping with friends en route. In Cambridge we loitered to see the Folk Museum and a lovely Swedish film, as well as desperately seeking out some Chinese Medicine for a nasty neck-crick of mine which wouldn't go away. Then onwards we drove, noticing the landscape changing subtly. Into Bedfordshire we took our Bedford, and stayed a happy couple of nights in the orchard of friends where their two year old twins ran about clothless in the withering heatwave, and we helped add an undercoat of paint to their house-lorry in the making. They took us to an Emmaus Centre for cake and second-hand rifling, where we found a bike for £20 that now resides on the roofrack, has since been painted olive green with matte emulsion and can take us from parkups to towns that are just a little too far away to walk to. Overnighting by a lake (above), we drove the next day via Ikea to restock our picture frame reserves, and onward into Oxfordshire. Each county we have noticed is just a little different from the last. You cannot always put your finger on the reason, they are all most definitely England, but also unique in their county character. From the flats of East Anglia we were gradually encountering hillier roads, the further westward we drove. The maximum speed of our truck-house hovers around 50mph, and this plummets to about 30mph if there's a slight incline. So on motorways we are hooted as impatient drivers zoom around us and even slow moving vehicles have to overtake. We prefer to wiggle down medium sized roads, at our own pace, and so that the old engine is not screeching so loud that we can't converse. As the map reader I take us on occasion down a road that looks small and picturesque on the map only to find that we are squeezing the hulking house down a single track road with low hanging branches swiping at our chimney and no idea of what claustrophobic peril might be round the corner.
In Oxfordshire we were surprised by a rare sight on the roadside verge as we whizzed past - another Bedford TK house! Parked with a tipi beside, and a man reclining in a deck chair, talking on the phone! We honked and waved but he did not look up.
And then, since we were passing right by her neck of the woods, we pulled into a layby for a cup of tea with my friend Gretel (who many of you may know already in blogland through her brilliant illustration and felt toy sculpture work). Braving the dreadful heat, Gretel and Andy zoomed out on their motorbike to find us. It was a delightful visit, which Gretel told of here.
We were keen to make it to Wales the next day so we plodded on and made it as far as just past Ross-on-Wye where we drove around a fair bit, at the tired end of the day, remembering that frustrating feeling trying to find a suitable place to park overnight that wouldn't be too near the traffic (it's noisy and large passing vehicles rock the truck in their wind-wakes), or bother anyone else living nearby. Eventually we hunkered down at Winter's Cross, knowing we only had a short last leg to go the next day.
We were loving seeing Welsh hills from our windows and following bilingual road signs. The house was even slower up and down the hills, and the air was thankfully cooling.
Do you remember back when we were parked by the sea in Kent? And kind Maria who brought us food and flowers and offered us her sister's address in Wales? Well that is where we are now, parked on the land of kind Mo, sister of kind Maria, next to her rather unusual gypsyish wagon. We overlook a river where we have spent happy hours, and are surrounded by the misty Brecon Beacons.
Not that we have had any chance to go up into them, because since we arrived it has rained every day. Westerly wild weather. Wet winds, weather that reminds us of those endless rainy days in Scotland. Tui has been fighting an ongoing battle with leaks. Armed with his silicone sealant gun, he is daily clambering about on the roof and walls to find and fill the sneaky little cracks that seem to let torrents in. The beauty of an old wooden house vehicle has the downside that the wood moves and swells and shrinks with the heat and damp and even a tiny chink beside a screw can let enough correctly angled rain in to soak through my entire clothes cupboard.
The river below us has been a delight, we have pottered about in it and I even swam an invigorating swim amongst the rocks and green slime in the icy icy water. One night we left our mats in a rushing bit, weighed down by river rocks til the morning, where we found them washed (fairly) clean and harbouring little clinging pincered things.
Another night we had a fire on the flat rock beside the water, which was lovely. Woodsmoke drifted along with the water to wherever it was in such a hurry to go. Out to sea?
There are horses all around us here. This group we met in the field beyond the river, and friendlier horses I've not met. One black fellow with the softest of wrinkly noses became my friend for an hour, and the horses all stood in a kind of horse-trance, gazing into the mid-distance, one hind leg cocked slightly, thinking maybe thoughts of hay and who-knows-what.
The next day we heard shouting from the field which we think was the farmer cajoling the horses into transport for market. We never saw them again.
Tui did manage to get just inches from one horse's eye, since they were so comfortable with us there, and took this exquisite photograph.
And inbetween all the Welsh raindrops I have been busily painting a clock to celebrate the marriage of my younger-yet-6'4"-tall brother Jan to his lovely lady Maria. We travelled by train to the wedding, to see the dear pair make their vows, which were sincere and moving. A beautiful couple they are and right now off in the Pacifics on honeymoon...
The clock is them but not a portrait, riding a tandem of two clocks, one that moves forwards, and one in reverse. They carry a basket each containing things they love to do. Jan is a wizard of mechanical trickery and could easily build a real-life bike powered clock if he wished. Maria is a keen finder of antique things and a crafter of wool and wonder. May they be ever happy on their tandem.
Here too is another thing I gave them, a little cardboard heart box painted by me with treeish things, the day of they marriage and words: Of Leaf And Tree May Your Love Be. Inside was berries from the hornbeam trees in the road where we grew up.
If you look closely at the clock painting, you'll see that the happy cycling couple have mouse tails poking beneath their garments, just to add an edge of Rima-oddness!
We're off tomorrow to the Big Green Gathering and so we had to return from London to wet Wales. We came back to find all in order, the truck having been well watched over by Mo. Though in the food cupboard, the cheese and the chocolate had dear little rodent tooth marks in the corners. Who could have been sneaking up through the clutch pedal holes I wonder?...