It’s been a while! Not sure why really to be honest. I know y’all love my stories and antics so what’s up? Well I guess a combination of things. Writers block, lack of things worthwhile of writing about, head space, ill health. So let’s see if I can’t break some of those blocks!
The Vanlife Blog
Over 18's Only!
You may laugh, you may cry. You may do both. You will probably wee a little too.
I've had a varied and busy 47 years (Yes, I know, thank you!) of life so far and if there's one thing it's taught me is to always expect the unexpected. I'm definitely one of those people that "stuff" always happens to. If I fall, I most definitely do not come up smelling of roses but rather stinking of fox shit. Which is the worst shit of all shits to fall into. Dogs love it and will chase you for hundreds of miles if they smell it on you! I have learned to embrace this unfortunate stance life has taken upon me and to laugh into the very face of it.
After such a dry spell and a calamity free few months of self-pity and wallowing around like a fat pig, I was quite enjoying life. Just sat here on my Jack Jones, often in 2 day-old boxer shorts, dried pizza cheese in my chest hair, unkept beard itching like a 23 year old skank after a night in the clubs and a fridge full of crap food and chocolate was starting to feel quite good. That whole free spirit vibe going on. I even thought about growing some dreads but that takes effort. And effort I didn't have.
First, it was light orange with a hint of bright tangerine, tinned pineapple chunk yellow and the odd streak of fluffy Barbie doll pink. After a few minutes, the fluffy pink was replaced with a deep red and the tangerine and pineapple fruit salad turned into a burning fire orange, flames almost licking the sky, clouds burning up as the colours raced across the horizon. Bright, dark, deep, loud. The sky ablaze with colours that no human could ever replicate. So beautiful, so surreal. Almost alive. Colours so beautiful you could hear them.
Living in a van is a bit weird if I'm honest. The weird times are like when you're having a poo in the toilet in the back of the van in Asda car park and people are aimlessly chatting just the other side of the door. Or you do the shopping and the till assistant asks if you would like a carrier bag and you reply "It's ok, my fridge is just in the car park inside my van" and look at you like you're a nut job. Or when someone you're talking to asks "where do you live" And they're slightly baffled by the response "Anywhere. Everywhere. It's complicated and I think your suit already tells me you'll guffaw at the knowledge of where I actually live." Or when you're all cosy at night, curtains drawn and you forget where you are. In the back of a van on an industrial estate watching the Big Bang Theory repeats. Again.
I’ve not really been anywhere or done anything fancy the last couple of months. I’ve mostly been helping out on this farm and campsite learning about farming and how to vomit in one’s own mouth whilst trying desperately to not breath in through the nasal passages. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to ignore the brain melting stench of pigs piss.
I bumped into an old friend the other day. Someone that I used to like a lot. We drifted apart because we were different. He was a chaser. Always chasing his dreams, chasing money, women, something. He could never find what it was he was looking for and was always too busy for his real friends, the ones that stood by him, were there for a shoulder. Too busy chasing the fake ones to improve his image.
The sky in this picture I just took sums up my head at the moment, perfectly: occasional bright patch with massive dark clouds. I’m going to be honest now, like always, and say I’m having a tough time of it lately. My heads a mess and I’m battling with myself constantly. I have been quiet with my blogs as I’m trying not to pester y’all with my doom and gloom but this is the only way I can get it out there that I’m struggling without bullshitting myself. It’s that same old “I’m ok” response when asked and I’m really not ok.
The last couple of weeks have had me busy on my laptop creating content, playing with logo ideas, redesigning my website, learning stuff and breaking the internet. I've had headaches for days, sat at this one-eyed monster (the laptop ya filthy animals) while I've been tapping away trying to get the manuscript together for my book. The first error I made was choosing the wrong format. I had somehow hit 7x9 inches with my big sausage fingers and never noticed. I'd got about 4 chapters in before I saw my error! Easy to sort, you'd think?
Firstly, let me start by apologising for last week's sandstorm. Those of you south of Watford Gap may have noticed half-inch of orange dust on just about everything in sight. Well, that was my fault. You see, I took the pleasure of basking in the first sunny shows of spring and washed my van. I washed it with love, care and attention as if I was bathing a newborn squirrel. Gently but with due caution in case bits fell off. I went a step further than I would with a newborn squirrel and got the wax out for a well needed polish.
Lately, I've been feeling like I just exist. Kinda like floating around, aimlessly. Not really needed anywhere for anything nor really having the mojo to actually do anything. I'm always the first to tell people to "get off yo ass and go for a hike" or something similar but for reasons unbeknown to me, I rarely follow my own advice choosing instead to wallow in my own self-pity.
Well, I survived the Great Storm of 2022! I don't know how though. Between shuffling from spot to spot and daring escapades to the shops, fetching diesel for the heater and going for a hike across an open field, I probably shouldn't have survived it.
I've always been honest and open with my writing and blogging here, but right now I'm finding life very difficult so I have chosen not to talk about it for a while. But, in doing so, I have neglected what makes me, well, me. I am also aware that some of my posts have become dark and depressing and not very nice for you guys to read which is another reason I had stepped back a bit.
These last few weeks have been like a weird sort of few weeks. My emotions have been here, there and everywhere all at the same time. Christmas isn't my favourite time of the year, it's always been overshadowed by drunken arguments, money stresses, work etc, just like anyone else's I guess, but I find things harder than most people. The last few years I've worked Christmas day as I was a chef. A bloody good one I might add, not to blow smoke up my own arse... It's not really as simple as that and the bad shit goes back a long way but I don't want to get into the nitty gritty details about the whys etc. Just understand me when I say I find it difficult.
December has been a helluva month for me so far. A lot has happened, both good and bad. It’s been like a competition between good and evil. A ridiculous competition where both sides are trying way too hard to win. I feel like I'm at the centre of a custody case of a naughty child, being pulled here, pushed there and shoved over there into the corner to be ignored and left to fend for himself. One day the bad shit is winning by a count of 7-3 but then a couple of good things happen and I sigh some relief only for several more shitty things to stand up tall and overrule.
Just past midnight, as I was blowing yet more snot from my now sore nose, my phone dings. This is it. This is when I find out I'm going to die in a few days. But nope, it was from the Covid people but it was just informing me that my test was unreadable. Unreadable? What do they mean? How can it be unreadable? How can I go through all that and you can't read the sample? More like you dropped it in the lab whilst texting your pal about last nights party. I booked another test for the following morning and went back to sleep.
Yesterday I held the door for someone. Something I've always done but I do expect some kind of acknowledgement or gratitude for the service. A tenner or something at the most but I normally settle for a little nod at the very least. What I don't settle for is fuck all. Now I know that person never verbally exclaimed "Hey, would you mind holding the door for me please, kind sir, I'd be ever so grateful" or any words to that effect, but it's just common decency to look over your shoulder and if someone is within 20 feet or so, just hold the door open.
Vanlife is popping up with all sorts of pains in the arses lately. The other month it was the doctors chucking me off their list because I didn't have a fixed abode. I used my daughters as a care of address that was outside their catchment area so struck me off. Today, it was the woe of the tooth doctor. Toothache or tooth pain or tooth hell is one of the worst pains one can have. Now if you've been following my blog for some time you'll know that my life revolves around pain. But pain in the face from toothache? I'd rather stuff wasps up my arse than deal with that!
I sit here wondering yet again what to have for dinner. Cooking for one is a ball ache, everything comes in huge packs these days. Family size this, extra large that. In bricks and mortar it’s easy to forget about the water, gas and electricity you’re using for every day tasks. The utilities are almost invisible, a phenomenon that we pay for monthly or weekly but a mystery source that enables you to Hoover, cook, clean, wash, do your hair. When you buy your gas in a bottle, fill your water cans from a tap and harvest your electricity from the power of the sun you become acutely aware of how much you’re using and what remains. “Think I’ll have sausage mash and beans for dinner tonight” I thought 3 hours ago.
The first time you realise that you can only call on your pals and family to decimate their bathroom so many times, is a weird realisation. Your kind of in limbo, stuck between a smelly, sweaty rock and grimy, dirty hard place. You need to clean yourself but you’re well aware that calling on the next person on your shrinking list will make you sweat even more.
Yesterday I was left rather embarrassed in the high street Chickaroo’s fried chicken shop. I’ll set the scene: Yesterday I worked like a maniac on my van to build new shelving in the “garage” under my bed. It’s a small awkward space for a 14 stone 6 foot man to be working in and due to that fact I ended up with a trapped nerve in my back.
When I moved into my van, I swore on my guinea pigs life that I wouldn’t have a junk drawer. You know that drawer that’s full of shit that you can’t find a forever home for. The old phone charger leads, headphones that only one side works. A couple of those old Bluetooth hands free headsets that hook over your ear “hello, can I take your order please” and copious amounts of dead batteries that may work in one of the copious amounts of tv remotes you’ve collected, absolutely unaware of what even happened to the TVs they were for! Thousands of pens that still have ink but point blank refuse to work but one day, they may just spring into life…
I had my boys for the weekend and I took them to a different campsite to the usual ones. Playground, laundry facilities, electric hookup, you know, what us vanlifers call “lording it up”. I reversed my van onto the gravel rectangle that I’d paid for, thinking “This is my turf. I am lord of this patch, no matter how small it is, it’s my land!”
I’m sitting here in this lay-by, watching the world go by. Cars speeding past, the driver on their way home or who knows where. Trucks thundering along hauling tomorrow’s goods for the shops. My mind wanders to and fro. Not really thinking of anything in particular for a change, just random thoughts.
When I was at secondary school, I guess it was the first or second year (I don’t know what years they are in new money) it was that time of the day for our biology lesson. “I wonder what experiments we’ll do today?” I pondered. I probably didn’t ponder that at all. I more than likely thought “I hope we’re gonna burst some cows eyeballs again”
*Wallop* ~ What the fuck was that? Argh my head! Ah man! Ah shit is that blood? Oooooh my head hurts.
A couple of weeks ago I had a brainwave. Not really a eureka moment, more like a “Yes! That’s a fantastic idea” kinda moment. For reasons unbeknown to me, I decided I needed a floodlight for above the sliding door so I can see outside at night. Seems like a perfectly legitimate reason, yes?
Alrighty then guys, gals and everyone in between, I’m back and ready to amuse y’all with stories of my misfortune, mishaps and words of wisdom! Thank you for bearing with me whilst I regain my composure! I’ve a lot to tell you over the next few days and weeks, including all about the upcoming NC500 road trip with a date set for 16th August, the plans, or lack of, how we’re doing it and more.
Oooohhhh where to start! It’s been a massively busy few weeks for me which is why I haven’t been posting much, so please forgive me. Forgive me gently though, don’t be getting out the pitch forks or owt will ya! I decided to step back for a few weeks as I was signed off from my EMDR therapy after many long hard emotional sessions, and my PTSD has been put back in its place! I am now proudly PTSD free!
My daughter Shannon has recently got into BBQ and bought a pretty tasty used Traeger from a friend of mine near Newcastle. Now me being a bit of a BBQ god, well a self titled Pitmaster to be precise, offered to go and pick it up for her. I set off the night before with a plan. A master plan. A plan of all plans!
I feel like I’m in way over my head with blogging, and I love it! It’s a whole new world for me. It’s inspiring, marvellous, mysterious, daunting all at the same time. When I sit back and think about that first ever post I did back in December on Vanlife UK, I would never have thought I’d be where I am today!
My week has been mostly spent fixing shit that I’ve broken or making shit really badly. I’ve also been planning the North Coast 500 trip to an extent and a BBQ on the beach. But let’s focus on the fixing shit first.
Piri Piri chicken does not and should never have broccoli with it. Rice? Yes. Fries? Yes. Salad? Hmmm just about get away with that! But any other form of veggies is an absolute disgrace. When you live in a van converted to a camper, one gets used to eating weird and wonderful “what’s left in the fridge” concoctions.
Today I’m mostly drinking coffee and getting stared at in my permissive pub car park. The thing these guys don’t seem to understand is that I have permission to be here. They don’t but I get stared at nonetheless. “He should be at home” I hear them exclaim loudly. Loudly enough for me to obviously hear, hoping I’d pack my shit up and run away “home”.
I had a phone call last week advising me I had a CT scan on my heart booked. They’d found something they wanted to look at deeper on a previous ultrasound scan, despite getting the all clear, the girl on the phone explained. “That’s fine! I’ll be there. No drama! Cool beans!” I responded. The rules were spoken to me “no caffeine for 12 hours beforehand” was one of them. My reply? “But people will die!”
Today started off grand. It was cloudy this morning but when I slid the door open I was pleasantly surprised by how warm it was! The birds were singing, the resident Red Kites were circling above my head looking for their breakfast and my little robin friend was skipping about the ground outside the door. The sun fighting its way through the clouds, appearing as white disc floating in sea of grey.
Fuel Chocolate Instant Porridge. Just don’t do it. It’s probably one of the worst things I’ve ever eaten. Second to only aubergine soup. It has the texture of chocolate flavoured dog sick.
This van is the bane of my life at the minute. Every month something goes wrong. Something breaks or falls off. Something rattles loose and bounces down the motorway or rolls past me when I stop at the lights. But I still love though! This month it was pretty good to me at MOT time, only costing brake pads and a brake calliper, a reset and properly fitted handbrake cable, a rear number plate, 3 bulbs, brake juice and a windscreen wiper.
I traveled back to Hertfordshire to have my boys for the weekend, on Friday. The journey was unremarkable save my handbrake failing when I was parked in the services grabbing a coffee. My van had rolled back out of the space I was parked in, across the road and into another space where it came to rest against the kerb. All neat and everything!
It’s been a busy week this one. I managed to delete my YouTube channel, watched the coastguard search for a mad swimmer in a raging stormy sea, ate bad bacon and nearly shit myself and lost a dear friend to cancer.
Yesterday the sun shine bright and warmed your soul and the wind froze you at the same time. So what better to do than go for a walk along the rocky outcrops of North Somerset! I’m not a well seasoned hiker but I know my limits and I am more than well aware of the dangers and predicaments one can find themselves in. I own the right equipment and clothing rather than choosing to be the news headline on any given night as that bloke that “was ill prepared and put himself in danger”.
We travel through life almost in a dream like state. Not noticing the little things, as they pass us by. I know the last four years for me have been exactly like that. I’ve been wrapped up in this PTSD, letting it take over my life, controlling me like a puppet with it as my master pulling the strings whilst I danced unconsciously to entertain it.
I’ve not managed to work life out yet. 45 1/2 years in and I’m still none the wiser. Well I am wiser in a lot of aspects, but life? Nah not so much. Well not at all to be honest. Life is as simple as you make it some say. Well you can’t get any more simple than van life. Apparently... So why then is van life so damned complicated?
Fairies seem to have it made. They live in tiny little houses carved into trees or the skirting board, flitting about waving their magic wands and sprinkling sparkles everywhere without a care in the world. But what’s it like behind closed doors? When we’re not looking, they’re busy picking up litter and tidying up. Putting right the humans wrongs. They’re busy little dudettes really. Working hard and never asking for a thank you. Just like us vanlifers.
Sometimes as we travel the weary road of life, we stop and wonder what it’s all about. What our purpose is. I’ve done this on many occasions. Too many to remember, not that I can even remember what I did last week anyway! I’ve had a tough old life, most of it my own doing to be honest. Because I’ve made my own choices I try not to reflect too much as it just gets depressing. But yeah, I still stop and wonder what our purpose is every now and then.
It’s amazing how a little bit of sunshine makes us feel. A blue sky, a couple of clouds dotted about and POW! We feel awesome! The sun doesn’t actually know what it’s doing to us. It just appears over the horizon every morning as our slightly tainted planet rotates, and up she rises. Even if it did know, it probably really wouldn’t give a shit anyway. “I’m far too important to worry about how I make these peasants feel” it probably wouldn’t say.
Do you ever get the sneezes? I do. Thousands of them for ages. On and on and Ariston they go! One after the other, until snot comes out of my eyeballs and I’m choking on air. I don’t know why I get them, but I do. Not all the the time though, I’m not broken. Just every now and then, like maybe a month will go by and then all of a sudden boom! Like I’ve been snorting mustard powder or summat!
I’ve been nervous about posting this, because no man likes to admit he’s a shit dad.