I reversed up a winding cul de sac to Ben’s house, a little tedious as the van didn't come with a reversing camera (Ive gone so long with out one now I dont think I'll bother) and eventually lined up to Ben's gateposts. I learned later that as I was doing this, Ben's wife had appeared in their garage “Ben there's a huge motorhome reversing up the
drive, who the hell is it?”
Ben let me in the man cave (a large double garage) Inside was a stove fashioned
from a gas bottle, a 1960's VW campervan, two KTM dirt bikes - one Jack's, one Ben's, a workbench, tools,
music. Man heaven. “Takeout & beer?” asked Ben. Our eyes met at once - a no brainer. I noticed
both Jack & Ben's dirt bikes had been repaired by sewing broken parts together using cable ties, I
thought it was quite abstract. After a few hours of chatting utter rubbish,
boozing and feeding the stove to keep warm, Jack and I slept in the van up the
driveway. I put the heating on all night for the first time and found it works a
About 8am Ben’s 4-year-old son Bob came hurtling
out the house shouting “Mam sez u gotta move cos she needs to go to the doctors NOW”
Another surprise mini adventure, it's great spending time
with people unexpectedly, and Im doing it more than ever now. Instead of having to return to a home, I just walk outside and its there.
The naked doll hanging in the garage however was quite disturbing......
Breeze is a large white German Shepherd dog. He often looks quite like an Arctic Wolf. Sometimes people are very wary of him - someone actually asked Tom if he was indeed a wolf (really?)
He was a rescue dog who plainly has never been lucky enough to live with a
family. He came with large sores on his flanks, the Vet believed this
was because Breeze had slept on a hard floor rather than a bed for a
great deal of of his life (4/5 years old?) His muscles were under developed due to lack of excercise. Thankfully he was brought in by the Dogs Trust, an amazing organization that do a fantastic job. The staff really care about their work and they played an important part in Breeze finding a new home with my sons.
He is also scared of hairdryers, vacuum cleaners,
doors even his own shadow - he plainly has never spent time in a house. You can never know what life such a dog has, however now he is settling into a great life with a loving family.
Tatton park is a great place to walk a big dog with lots of space. My sons Tom, Owen and I set off with Breeze to the park. I wondered to myself if Breeze has
seen Deer before?, will he chase them? I shared my concernes with the boys and they too hoped we didnt see any. Breeze loves a journey in the van as he has quickly learned it leads to a new adventure.The journey only takes about 30 minutes.
Arriving in the park we turned a sharp corner only
to hear my son Tom “Dad we need to.....oh. Ok well... Never mind”
Hmmmm. not 2
mins from parking Breeze had upchucked like a horse. Okay - so Breeze gets carsick. We quickly found a nice
spot in the woods by the lake, and I cleared up. (I pointed out Breeze is technically Tom's dog, and wondered why it remained Dad's job to clear up? but I dont think anyone was listening - and by the way a dustpan & brush is always the best approach for upchuck)
Owen, Tom and Breeze got back in
and we had sausage rolls (not Breeze - somehow he wasnt hungry) before heading out into the drizzle and long wet grass
by the lake. (not before dog knocking over his drinking bowl) Clean up no 2.
We had a good walk, as it was not great weather there was hardly anyone around. Breeze likes mud and sitting in puddles. He even
thought about launching himself of the end of a pier into the deep. (we dont even know if he can swim) Thankfully
he didnt today.
Hotdogs and barmcakes on our return - and even two hotdogs for Breeze who by now had regained his appetite. I drove quite a bit slower on the way home....
I never got around to connecting the new Propane bottle I picked up earlier in the day, so while it was still light the approaching layby was a good opportuninty to do it. For some reason the connection didnt seem tight enough and I was concerned it might leak. Sharing the layby with me was a car & caravan, with a dog tethered by a very long lead. I called out and a guy appeared at the caravan door. He apologised for not being able to help and explained he hadnt had his caravan long and didnt even have a gas bottle. However as it was cold he'd resolved to get one soon to keep warm at night. We got talking and I asked him where he had been touring.
"Scotland, the North East and now Wales - I hate Wales"
I have Welsh ancestry so didnt linger on it, instead I asked another question
"Where are you off next?"
"Back to Scotland, I love the place and the people." he paused then continued
" I have terminal cancer so Im doing this while I still can. I intend to keep travelling until I simply can't drive anymore, Id be happy to die on the road as this has always been my dream"
Jesus. If this isnt a message to convince me Im doing the right thing I dont know what is.
My son Joe asked me to collect him from work - a
nightclub in central Liverpool. So I found myself in carpark at 5.30 on a Sunday
morning waiting. And waiting. The carpark was gravel, dotted with flooded
potholes and very dark. Adjacent were bars, night clubs, cafes. A txt came "Im waiting to be paid" Hmmmm. Im gonna be while here I guess.You know when
your mind plays trick and you start to imagine things? Well I thought that was
what was happening until I realised there was indeed something moving around in
the gloom. Military training tells you that full night vision takes 30 mins to
accumulate, so gradually I realised what was infront of me. One, then two, five, then
quickly I lost count. Rats rats and more rats, in the potholes, racing between
them, under the cars, in the bins, in and out of the cafe, under my van.
Everywhere. After 40 mins Joe appeared with his girlfriend. As I opened the door
to let them in I said “don’t let any rats in”
I don't know why I followed the sat nav, but all
too late I realised it would take me over the tops to Hebden to see AJ. What I
didn't expect was the snow, the hill fog and an icy road. (it was a warmer outlook in the rearview mirror) Worst of all was the high crown camber together with an
undulating surface. The speed limit was 50mph. I was scared to death of going
35 let alone 50
I kept imagining my van turning into a pile of firewood by the
snowy roadside as my hands were locked to the steering wheel.
Parking a 23’ van in a small valley town is test,
but eventually AJ and I met for coffee n cake. Later we had a veggie curry,
then watched Murder on the Orient Express in freezing cold Halifax.(can't recommend - it and Im not talking about Halifax) On our
return, I parked adjacent to his detached garage down the road from his
cottage, hoping for a beautiful view of the valley in the morning. Instead I
got wind and rain all night. You know the type that comes in waves, and you
hear it coming? It raced up the valley rocking the van each time. When the wind
fetched rain it was like someone throwing buckets of gravel at the side of my
Well, not every sleep in the van is good, but worth it to see
an old mate. (yes he’s way older than me, just sayin’)
The first escape was all I had dreamed of for so
long. Me, the sky and the road. It led me to a place I'm so familiar with but
never experienced in the way I did this time. I parked on the prom, lit the hob
and filled the kettle. Opening the door was like one of those ‘I'm in a movie’
moments. The sound of burning propane next to the sea lapping right by my door.