|Young Rima and family in my first wheeled house - a Bedford CA, en route to Europe|
|Young Rima in living-van window seat with toy arrangement!|
WHEELS have turned in my life since before I can remember. The characters in my paintings are wheeled, their houses are wheeled; my stories are wheeled. Handcarts and wagons and caravans have always drawn my eyes, in that urgent, beautiful way a well-loved colour or a certain kind of face stands out in a crowd. Wheels call to me even louder if they have a door, a window or a chimney atop them. Something about the combination of vehicle and house sets my blood thrilling.
Travelling, I have gradually realised over the years — and more specifically, living in a house that moves — is a fundamental part of the person I am; it’s what makes my heart sing the highest, and my feet feel the rightest.
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...And so begins an article I've written about my love for the travelling life, published this month in the beautiful EarthLines Magazine. I'll not write more reflections here on my travelling-vagabonding urge, because I've mused at length in this illustrated article - Wayfaring — A Wheeled & Painted Life, and I'd love for you all to go and buy a copy of the magazine, or better still subscribe to it. Produced from a croft on the Isle of Lewis, this quarterly dedicated to the culture of nature is a wonderful thing, and comes very highly recommended. This issue, apart from being exquisitely put together, is filled with wild, thoughtful, diverse and intelligent writing on all manner of land-based subjects, and I'm delighted to be amongst such company as Robert McFarlane, Guy McPherson, Charlotte DuCann, Melanie Challenger, Sharon Blackie, Hugh Warwick, Susan Richardson and many others. (A PDF of the contents page is available here)
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Last year my Bedford TK Horsebox house was featured in the newest book from Shelter Publications - Tiny Homes. It's a beautiful book, chock-full of handbuilt, unique and unusual homes from the burgeoning Tiny House movement, where dwellings are counted as tiny when they're less than 500 square feet. Unfortunately the first printing of the book misspelled my name, but I'm told that the book has proved hugely popular and so has run into its second, correctly spelt, print run! It even came with a tiny version of Tiny Homes, small enough to fit in my hand. I was mightily honoured to be included in this book. Lloyd Kahn's books have been an incredible inspiration to alternative self-builders all over the world since the publication of Shelter back in the 1970s. There are homes on wheels, on water, in trees, in desert, mountain and city. There are even some Tiny House-dwelling friends whom I know from the internet amongst its pages, like Nikki of Click Clack Gorilla in her Bauwagen in Germany, and Keith Levy of The Flying Tortoise in New Zealand, as well as the now widely-recognised 'Hobbit House' built by Simon Dale in Wales. Here are some pages from Tiny Homes, photographed back when the sun used to shine through the windows...
This is one of those books to pore over again and again, full of pictures to make your heart sing. Here's Lloyd Kahn talking about its creation:
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Longtime followers of this blog will have accompanied me during my travelling days and watched the green lands pass by my windows. Since moving back into a house three years ago, I have felt a profound sense of loss for the half-indoor, half-outdoor life on wheels that I loved so much, which I've not really been able to write about here since. Suffice to say, that the desire to live this life has never left me, and the waysides still call to me, loud and nettling...
|Rima reading in hammock, tied to truck-house in a Devon field|
|Washing strung from truck-house in a field in Colchester|
|Truck-house interior, Rima's painting desk corner|
|Rima stacking wood by truck-house in Kent orchard|
|Truck-house in Kent orchard|
|Truck-house in Kent woods|
|Truck-house interior - kitchen with woodburner, gas stove and belfast sink|
|Rima playing accordion by truck-house stable door|
|View from back door of truck-house in Devon field|
|Truck-house on Devon hill|
|Truck-house on layby in Wales (NB No Stopping sign!)|
|Truck-house parked up in Wales|
|Rima washing clothes in river|
|Rima selling artwork at Weird and Wonderful Wood Fair, Suffolk 2009|
|View from round above-cab bedroom window on Dartmoor hill|
|Truck-house in Lincolnshire sunset|
|Incense smoke escapes out the back door of truck-house in Wales|
|Truck-house leaves Scotland at the beginning of winter|
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...which is why, after three years in a house, I am
taking to wheels again!!
Rejoice with me as I look excitedly out of our cottage windows at what is parked in yonder field:
A beautiful 1960s Bedford RL ex auxiliary fire-service vehicle, with the smileyest face you've ever seen on a truck!
These vehicles, along with the Green Goddess fire engines which share the same chassis, were bought up in their thousands by the government during the cold war in case of nuclear disaster, and then never used. So years later they gradually got sold off to private collectors and consequently have done hardly any miles! Ours has just 7000 on the clock!
It's four wheel drive, converted to run on LPG (and not exactly easy on the petrol!); the back is solid oak with not an iota of rot in it, topped with military canvas. The interior of the cab is an unnamable shade of tawny orange, and there are boxes and compartments and hooks and ropes all over the place. The split windscreen opens, and the truck does a maximum of 45 mph! The journey home from collecting it was an adventure and a half. It's incredibly loud and slow and big. Its previous owner described it as the water buffalo of the vehicle world. It draws waves and comments from all who see it passing by, and we were exhausted and elated when we pulled into the field at last.
Now we go out with our cups of tea and sit out on the tail gate, almost as high as the trees, dripping in their winter bareness around us. And we grin to each other, dreaming of the tangible travelling days, now within our grasp. We have much building to do. Tom and I are ridiculously excited, planning and dreaming of the right spot for the woodburner, and the windows, and the kitchen, and of the wonderful days which await us on the wayfaring goosegrassed byways of our coming happy years.
|Baby Rima at Bedford CA wheel|