These initial blog posts are really to play catch up. As we transition from the normal run of the mill lifestyle to one with a lot less stuff and very different modes of transport. Moving from house to boat via van, perhaps a pointer to a classic mid life crisis? We don’t think so.
There’s quite a lot to learn
Our very first experience in the van is a classic schoolboy error. We run out of gas. On day (or should that be night) one. It’s freezing outside and the thermometer reads in minus figures. We could blame the garage for not leaving a full bottle of (or indeed any) gas, but we don’t see the point. It’s a lesson learnt. Make sure you always have a spare or indeed any bottle with gas in.
We don’t travel far on that initial evening. In fact, we end up parked outside my sister’s house. We use her car to go to a BP station and buy more gas. I don’t know why we didn’t take the van. [Oh, Al has just reminded me it was because we didn’t want to lose the really good parking space we had. When you find space to park a 30ft vehicle on a packed housing estate, you are somewhat loath to move].
Al works out how to fit the new bottle, and we finally get some heat. The blinds are up, the curtains drawn, the silver quilted linings suckered up against the windscreen. It’s cold.
At the beginning of the month we attend the Boat Show in London. We discover if you park at one of the more remote stations, you can ride the Underground in for a great deal less than using the mainline service. You can also park at the station until three in the morning. This proves handy when we realise if we park overnight in a nearby street, we can move to the station at three, park up (get the best spaces available, because we actually require two of them), go back to sleep for a further six hours and catch the nine-thirty into town.
The Boat Show is fruitful in providing plenty of information, leaflets (which naturally end up in the recycle bin), and a couple of pairs of deck shoes (aka ‘toe cripplers’). Other than Al purchasing shoes in sizes too small, the event proves a success. We leave London buoyant with ideas.
During the first few weeks, the van goes back and forth to another (somewhat dubious) garage (not of our choosing), and has bits and pieces fixed as per the deal. If you mention waiting area carpets (in said dubious garage) to Al, he’ll laugh. If you mention them to me, I’ll grimace. They were black; though apparently once red. Black, not from years of oil being trodden in, but because the owner’s dog persistently drags its rear across the floor. (A bit like Brian from Family Guy). It then proceeds to sit on the customer seats, occasionally glancing up at us in the hope of a stroke. He clearly hasn’t heard of the chance triplets: some, fat and no. Filthy as heck; and that was just the carpet.
So, we spent most of January back and forth, getting things fixed, getting parts ordered, and generally working out how to maintain the van. Once we were all fixed up (we weren’t, but that’s another story), we headed off up to Skegness and enjoyed what felt like a real holiday at a proper old fashioned seaside town. Unfortunately, it’s a bit run down and dilapidated in areas which is a shame as it’s not a bad place.
Why Skeggy you might ask? Because I wanted to go to New York and Boston. We’ve spent a lot of time in Boston (the American one), but no time in the UK one (and now I know why). The disappointment is an understatement. And as for New York? The Big Apple has nothing to worry about. We drive through in about three minutes, stop to take a photo of the sign, then drive on up to Skeg-Vegas (honestly, that’s the name printed on a receipt from a certain pizza parlour).
We spend a week in Skegness. It is quiet (as you would expect for out of season), and we were left alone. Most of the time. Except for when some NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) decides to call the local council and complain that the legally parked vehicle is using a parking space which he believed he was entitled to.
As we were on the seafront, and it is public parking, he was somewhat mistaken. The poor chap from the council was very apologetic. He can tell we aren’t ‘travellers’: we have shiny boating shoes and an umbrella: which of course we offer as shelter from the rain (the umbrella, not the shoes). He is very nice and explains that he has to act on information even though he knows it is a waste of his time. He asks us if we would mind moving a further ten feet along the road. We were more than happy to accommodate his request.
There is a plus side to “Skeggy”. The launderette. It is smashing. When you live in a van, launderettes become quite a find; and good ones become quite a catch. But be warned. Where there is good, there is bad, and where there is bad, there is evil. The worst launderette ever is later on found just around the corner in Hunstanton. Where we were literally “taken to the cleaners”, or should that be “taken by the cleaners”?
We don’t achieve much in our first month. We make sure the van is in shape, we stay local (aside from our excursion into Lincolnshire). We visit family, show off our new abode, and generally get to grips with our new life.
At the end of the month we head North (why head South where there might be just a smidgeon of heat, when you can go North and be even more cold than you already are?). Hunstanton is the first port of call. We figure that after eight years’ living in East Anglia, it’s about time we actually see and experience it.