Friday, 26 February 2010

A Crystal Palace with wheels.

In1990 we started out on our 'mobile living' adventure. Jeffery's father had recently had a heart attack, and, as his home was on the south coast while ours was in mid Wales, visiting him had been difficult - we could not afford a car as well as a mortgage and 3 children! Becoming mobile was clearly important, but so was having a home - how to square this particular circle? At this time i was home schooling the children (the eldest of the 3 had become school-phobic, following major bullying, and the 2nd had specific learning difficulties which were neither acknowledged nor supported) so staying close to school was not a problem, the only tie was the house and my husband's job.

So, we asked ourselves, could we combine home & transport? To cut a long story short, we decided that a large American-style motorhome would give enough space and conveniences, and give us independent transport, too. With the dubious support of the Bank, and putting our house on the market, we invested in a 'Camp Mate' RV on a Chevrolet base vehicle. The next year or 2 were a VERY sharp learning curve! Over the past 20 years we've had an eclectic collection of vehicles, ranging from our swank RV through a converted ambulance, a bus we converted ourselves and a real Gipsy Vardo (20th century style!) to our present, brand new caravan.

It really has been an adventure, or rather, a succession of them! Nor have they ended yet, the comfort our present home has offered us through the recent, harsh winter has far surpassed any previous home - with or without wheels - so we are not tempted to return to bricks and mortar. We have survived losing a wheel at speed from our caravan while towing (I recommend Al-Ko's safety hitch!) many snowy winters when house dwellers shivered in cold, disconnected houses, and lots of trying extrications of large vehicles from small spaces (e.g. tiny Welsh country lanes!) We have enjoyed spending nights in many glorious locations, such as a lay-by overlooking Jura, where we watched the sunset over the Paps with amazement, or another where we had no tv, phone or radio signal, but were lulled to sleep by the rushing of water flowing down the granite cliffs on the opposite side of the glen.

Our gipsy caravan was probably the most spectacular of our homes, with its glittering chrome, mirrors and glass everywhere - including engraved windows! Tasteful it may not have been, but glorious it most certainly was - if it hadn't weighed so much, we'd probably still have it, but it simply took way too long to get from A to B, and climbing a hill was a nail-biting affair!

Our present, luxurious Abbey Spectrum535 will certainly remain home for some time (barring disaster) and I am confident it will be our window on many new, exciting aspects of Britain, and possibly further afield.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Southwick farm, a very special place.

We are coming to another time of change, a nexus point in our lives. Jeffery's contract in Bishops Cleeve comes to an end a week today, and, as yet, he doesn't have another one to go to - a chance to step back, take a breather and assess our life. This is not unusual in our lifestyle, and, while we may feel a bit insecure financially for a while, it is one of the pleasures of our way of life - we don't so much 'get off the treadmill' as the treadmill/rat race leaves us alone for a while!

However, this is a very different nexus point for from any we've had for a good few years, because this is the longest contract jeffery has ever had - 14 months. To be in one geographical area, let alone one place, has not been the norm for us for 5 years or more, and has been something we have actively avoided, we have itchy feet! This time, we will leave where we have stayed for the best part of a year with great sadness, and will return when life gives us the opportunity with delight. We have spent as much as possible of this last year at Southwick Farm, a Caravan Club 'Certificated Location' ( ie a small site licensed for 5 'vans under a scheme run by the Caravan Club, usually a farm or someone's back garden!) These sites supply a place to site your van, water, drainage and rubbish disposal, and most now supply electricity, too. Some are very basic, and in small spaces, you can feel very much that you are treading on the owners toes, but others are spacious and easy going, and make you feel like you can treat the place as home - with respect for others, of course. Southwick is very much one of the latter, with an added dimension that, once you are a regular, you become accepted as part of the farm's community.

The Southwick community is special, there are houses on the farm, let to tenants, and several small businesses operate from here, as well as the farm's own business. This multiple use means that there is always something happening, people to talk to and a general feeling that you will not be on your own in time of need - but neither is it noisy, intrusive or wearing. It is a sizable farm, growing fodder & bedding for horses, with strong social connections with the country community through hunting and Young Farmers, as well as links through the nature of their business. Through the year there are many social events happening on the farm, from enormous, glorious parties in the farm buildings (truly, the best barn dances ever, from what I could see!) to pony club-type gatherings, barbecues and the Hunt itself, of course.

As well as all that, though, Southwick is a place of beauty. It has big skies, with glorious, mind-expanding sunsets, it has traditional hedgerows sprinkled with venerable trees - many hung with a rich mistletoe harvest this past winter, as the weather changes, Southwick shows a new face - and each one has its own beauty. Even the mud that afflicts us at present has the rich, thick quality and colour of melted dark chocolate! In the snow, Southwick has an ethereal grace and glow, the utilitarian shapes of agricultural machinery and debris are lent a soft, sparkling new shape, sculptural and inspiring, putting one in touch with the long history of the place. In the snow, it's easy to imagine how it must have been in past centuries, the fields and hedgerows, the way of life have really changed only superficially, the link with the earth and nature is still strong in places like this.

Both the people and the place here at Southwick have made us feel at home, in a way we never have before, and we will be very sad to leave, though, as always, excited by the next challenge!