Our commitment to van dwelling has been tested this week. The alternator, exhaust and composting toilet all broke at the weekend in a triple whammy of horse shit. Rodney repaired everything as best he could but it looks like more expensive repairs may be in the pipeline. Then on Sunday evening we ran out of gas (butane) and spent five days without heating, hot water, fridge freezer and cooking facilities. I like to think of myself as fairly easygoing and low maintenance… turns out I’m completely deluded! After visiting or phoning over twenty petrol stations in the Chilterns and coming away empty handed (an obvious conspiracy), we resigned ourselves to a week of “roughing it”.
The lack of heating was miserable, but the easiest to solve, by putting on extra socks and jumpers and hibernating under the duvet. The lack of cooking facilities was more miserable because I’d picked shitloads of blackberries and had wonderful wholesome plans to turn them into jam and a fruit crumble. We couldn’t even make a cup of tea (heavy sigh).
The lack of heated water was the most miserable of all because I felt and smelled totally repugnant and would have killed for a long hot shower. There’s really only so clean you can get by flicking cold water onto your cold skin, in between squeals.
So I spent the best part of the week cold, grubby, headachey from the caffeine withdrawal and surrounded by decaying blackberries. I was mostly weathering this storm alone as Rodney was working 6am to 8pm everyday, and it was f*cking miserable!
However, on Wednesday I found a little survival stove that we had bought last Christmas (when we were fantasising about a future in the wild) and forgotten about at the back of the cupboard.
Strictly speaking we weren’t allowed to light fires on the site, but we felt this constituted an emergency. The survival stove is now our most prized possession. It took maybe two minutes to assemble, about 10 minutes to get it roaring and hardly any minutes to boil a kettle. Several burnt twigs later I had enough water to wash my hair and make tea and hot chocolate. We felt pretty invincible after that.
(Check out Vagabond Baker for awesome recipes and blogging!)
My favourite thing about transient living is that things can and do change very quickly and good times usually follow bad. I’ll be sure to remind myself of that next time I’m huddled under a duvet with greasy hair, or when we’re handing over cash for a new alternator in the not too distant future!
This weekend we’re staying at a farm near London where they make THE BEST APPLE JUICE IN THE WORLD. I don’t usually like apple juice all that much, but I’ve already guzzled a couple of bottles so it must be good.
And I finally got to make my blackberry jam this morning as we are now fully stocked up on gas! As luck would have it some of the berries survived the week because it’s been so cold, so I got to pretend to be a wholesome van-wife after all.
We just found out that Rodney is being flown out to Iceland next week to work on a film for 10 days, so we’ve decided to store the van and I’m going to get the bus to Cornwall to stay with my Ma (Queen of power showers and maker of delicious biscuits). After that I think there are just three more weeks of filming and then… we’re off!!! I’ll be using the Queen of power showers’ speedy wifi to figure out where.
Until next time, sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite!
(We don’t have bed bugs)