Friday 26 December 2008

Horseboxing Day Happy

HELLO! Happy Christmas! And thank you to you all for such a jubilant waving-off! We have travelled the whole length of the country through rainclouds and sunclouds and in and out of radiator leaks and battery failures to get here, although we have always been "here" wherever we stopped along the way and we've always been heading "there".

Gradually day by day we have settled in to our wheely home and begun to realise why we did it. We have had warm candlelit evenings by the fire eating mince pies with cream and saying to each other - do you remember leaving all those months ago? (when in fact it was just the previous monday) Days turn into weeks when the scenery changes so fast and your days are so full of so many faces. It is wonderful to wake each morning to a new tree outside the round bedroom windows, and in its branches, a new bird singing. As we have headed south, the cold Scottish winter has lessened its grip on our toes and there have even been days on the street selling pictures without coats!

We have been lucky enough to find forests or at least a tree or two beside which to park each night, and have met interested people young and old along the way who have come inside our house to nose about. Sales got gradually better as we headed south too, culminating in a shockingly lucrative two days before Christmas in Canterbury - our favourite town to sell!

The TK is a beast of a thing to manoeuvre around little snaking lanes and is left floundering on slightly inclined motorways, managing a top speed of about 45mph. And of course there have been mechanical stresses too.. our last leg of the journey was made through heavy four lane traffic with a bolt stuck in a radiator hole to quell a leak until we could reach "dry land". I had to leap from the vehicle amid traffic to refill the leaking radiator with water whilst impatient drivers zoomed round us. We just made it to Canterbury and found ourselves heartily welcomed. It was a delight to meet kind folks of all sorts in all corners. The Brothers of St Francis whose wall we sell our pictures against were accommodatingly friendly and the Park & Ride attendant offered redundant tree stakes to burn in our fire which we delightedly collected from the emptying carpark to bemused stares from the departing shoppers.

However we had reached our final selling destination with no leafy corners in which to moor our land boat, and were beginning to worry a little. Thank you for all your kind offers and ideas.. You may well be hearing the rumble of a Bedford engine up your lanes one day :) On the day before Christmas eve Tui got into conversation with a nice bookbinder man inquiring about a commission. The converation turned to houses and horseboxes and he said "well if you are stuck for a place to stop I have an orchard with a barn on it where you'd be welcome to park"... what a perfect turn up that was! And so we trundled away from town with bulging wallets on Christmas eve to find this excellent spot where we have been given kind permission to stay for a while. This was just the most perfect outcome after all these long months of work, exhaustion and bad weather, and there we'll be able to spend a time resting. We can rig up internet and power, make windows and build roofracks, mend radiator holes and add another layer of waterproofing. And I can paint clocks at my desk and we can take afternoons for reading books and wandering about the hedgerows. And after a time there we can wander off again :)

Christmas Day dawned over young apple and quince trees, Kentish oast houses and a draughty barn; the early coo-hoo of a wood pigeon made us feel very much in England. I have noticed a phenomenon amongst folk we meet whilst selling.. they almost all ask "where are you based?" or "where are you from?". It's a strange question anyway, because you never know whether that means where were you born or where do you live.. and when your house moves about it's even harder to answer! It seems an interesting need in people to be able to pinpoint some kind of originating place, and it makes passing through other people's originating places all the more interesting.
I am writing at present from my family home where we have been able to spend lovely time at Christmas; and dotted amongst these words here are pictures from our journey: sunrises in Lincoln and tree-stake fires and peeps in and out of our door. Soon I will be blogging from "our" orchard and I look forward to making stories and creating things from inside our lovely creation of a home.

We wish you all warm and happy tale-filled Christmastimes all over the world wherever you are from and wherever you are going to in 2009!

Sunday 14 December 2008

"Well goodbye then!" They cried ...

PHEW! What a gargantuan journey of a mountain we have just climbed, and here, now, on the eve of our departure we sit with aching bodies and creaking minds and half mad smiles on our grubby faces.
Apologies for my quietness here of late.. this really has been a huge upheaval for us. We have felt like we've been gestating for months in a wooden sawdusty womb, elbowing for room
between boxes of stuff and now this week we have been born. For all the romance of our adventure, it has been such a struggle getting to this point. There have been tears and black clouds, deep snow and ice, worries upon worries, mechanical complications and utter physical and mental exhaustion.
The animation is finished at long last and it is lovely.. and so
a couple of weeks ago I climbed down the ladder from the attic where I had been living to launch myself into frenzied packing and chucking. How on earth I have accumulated so much stuff I do not know.. and it is hard being brutal when you are sentimental. Nevertheless, a houseful of chattels has had to be shrunk to fit inside a vehicle. Every time I go the local shop to buy biscuits they ask after our progress and the conversation continues between them... "could you fit everything you own into a horsebox?" "Pfrrfffffffftt! No Way!"

The MOT was a third time lucky affair, only failing for one small thing, but causing a week of worry and running about and back again. We finally have the all important piece of paper and thanks to Andy whose help was such a support. We have now been able to fill up Tui's beautiful creation with the nest of things that make a home.
Over the last few days we have been bringing our beloved truck outside the house and laying a pathway of mats across the ice from door to door. Gradually we have filled cupboards and drawers and hung pictures and bells. On each and every hook and corner there sits a little piece of colour, a little tail of our tale.
And so tomorrow is a day of house cleaning and then we're off.. somewhat later than planned, but such is life. We should manage a day or two of picture selling amongst the Christmas crowds and after that we'll just follow our noses. A wee while back we received a beautiful gift handstitched in red on white by Ciara to wish us well on our road. It is a moomin-inspired delight and I was touched indeed. Thank you Ciara.. it will grace our wooden walls and make us smile :)

This blog will continue on the road, but there will be a bit of tumbleweed blowing past here in the next weeks... we haven't organised mobile power and internet yet and until we do, blogs and emails will be restricted to internet cafes en route.

Now.. just before I go, I wanted to be cheeky and invite ourselves round for tea :) You see we have many lovely little spots dotted about the country where we park for a night or two and wake to the twittering of birds. These places are perfect for the way we flit from town to town
selling pictures, but if we stay longer then we're sure to get a knock on the door from some men in uniforms. So, my cheeky question to all you lovely UK blog wanderers is ... do you have or know of a leafy spot where a beautiful Bedford and its two inhabitants could park for a few weeks at a time and not bother a soul?
Ideally a corner of a farm or similar rural setting would suit us best. We don't want to step on anyone's toes or doorsteps and wish to keep our hermitdom as well as giving others plenty of space. Really if the spot was not near any houses, that would be splendid. Obviously we'd be extremely quiet and tidy and wouldn't dream of accruing piles of scrap metal or other unsightlies. Indeed we'd be willing to keep watch, scare crows or sweep leaves or similar in
return for a small spot of earth to park our house for a while. There would be a kettle on the boil for you too :)

We have a problem near London because of the new low emissions zone around the M25 which seems specifically designed to exclude Bedford TK horseboxes built in 1976. So visiting my family will mean finding a more Kentish spot as a base.
Living in a vehicle in the UK, especially England, is not an easy thing to do unless you keep moving. Scotland, where there is more expanse of nature, is easier. But I would like to try to see if by joining an old rolling wooden cabin with the wonders of 21st century communications technology, we might be able to bypass the usual prejudice and bother that comes with a travelling way of life. We don't want to get in anyone's way.. but no doubt we'll come across folk who would rather we weren't there. So if we can get an OK here and there, perhaps our wanderings might intrigue rather than strike fear and people in corners of the country can enjoy a cup of tea with us and a tale or three. If you think you might know of a place drop me a little mail to the address over there.. Thank you :)

Here for you to see are some peeks inside our newly born house. There are two new portholes and some copper behind the fire (my tiles fell off!), there's a wooden edge to the bedroom that I made, another window and many many other lovely nicknacks. Tui has been sanding off the nasty old brown paint on the outside and has nearly defeated it all.. so now it has a patchworky woodenness to it that I love. For a while the truck leaned a bit due to my books residing on just one side of it.. the lean has been righted now by a rearranging. What a wonder our house on wheels is! And we are nearly too frazzled to see it, but I think we have a sneaking suspicion that we'll realize in a few days what it is that we've done.

Last but certainly not least I want to stand on a hill and say a loud and sincere thank you to my Tui for building us such a beautiful and heartfelt home, the like of which I have never seen in my life before. I cannot wait to spend days of wanderings in it, to look outside at the new and turning world passing by our windows, and to sit by a fire together in smoke in the forest smelling the rustlings of other places ...

Cheerio!! .....

Monday 1 December 2008

A visit from Jack Frost

CAN YOU HEAR IT? A tinkling crackity-crickity peppering all over the hills. It sounds like the breaking of a thousand tiny glasses under a thousand tiny boots. The ground is hard as stone and walking on the earth sounds like my feet are knocking on a wooden door that leads to Underground. All of nature is iced in mid sway and crowned with winter jewels rarer than diamonds. A low sun scatters fractals of beauty between the tips of grass blades and the furthest reaches of my eyelashes.
Jack Frost has been here.