We have this camper van, my husband and I. It’s special. We’re going away in her for the first time this year, soon, tomorrow in fact. I have a lovely lady coming to look after my house and animals and the big lad, my dog Toby, is going off to kennels for a few days. It’s a chance to down all the tools and not work. Not working is something I find incredibly hard. But I have a stack of books and days ahead of me to just stretch out and relax.
Let me tell you about Blue. She’s a 1982 T25 VW. She is…blue. She has just enough room for a couple to be cozy, but not much more. She is the van that I use for my business, she is a work horse: collecting animals, picking up hutches, doing tip runs. I love driving her, I love the window down and the thrum of the engine and the non powered steering and the skill in manoeuvring her. I love tipping an imaginary hat to other VW drivers. Sometimes, if I’m not in a rush, while I’m out and about, I pull over to look at the view, and I just open the door and sit. Sometimes I write. She is four wheels of freedom.
I often pick Chris up in her and we go and sit on the cliff top looking down over Cayton bay to eat lunch together, listening to Radio Four. We have been on holiday in her a few times, twice to Wales, and closer to home; York, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire. This time we are going all the way down to Devon. We like to do road trips, so we are starting in Husthwaite, this time, then down to Alton for Alton towers, to Derby to visit the mother in law, to Crystal Palace for London visits, then over to Devon to visit the father in law and to just relax. I am not even bothered if it’s sunny or not, because the thing is about Blue is how much of a bolthole she is. I can lie on the bed and read all day long, whether it’s raining or not. And there are always local pubs. When we are in Blue we are distanced from anything except each other, we find ourselves quieted by it, just being together without having to do anything. We always choose the wilder campsites, rather than the manicured ones. I don’t like feeling like I am camping on a driveway, I like to feel like I am camping. We like to be near water, we like to be near trees. We like a fire pit on a night. There is something so satisfying about the cold night, snuggling under the duvet, and the hot mornings, coffee with the door open and the rain hissing on the roof, or toast and tea and sun and the day stretching out with books and walking.
We bought Blue with the compensation we were awarded after the bloody awful legal investigation that went on for years over my daughter’s death. We bought her off a man in Thornton le Dale. We knew she was right for us. She wasn’t just a van, even then. She had a personality. And this man, he’d had her for years and years, he’d been all over the world in her until he’d had a stroke, and now he was letting her go. It was so sad. He was so kind. I will not forget him standing on the driveway waving us off and crying and crying as we took his beloved Blue away. I never told him how special she was to us too, that the money we had been awarded was so precious, being Matilda’s money, that we would only buy things with it that we thought Matilda would approve of. I know that sounds utterly ridiculous. But I bet it won’t, to the bereaved.
We had a camper van when I was a child. A big mustard and brown Bedford which leaked rain on us and broke down a lot. But, God, we had the best holidays you could imagine in her. We went all over Yorkshire, we went everywhere, with my dad at the wheel and my mum rolling him cigarettes and singing along to David Bowie and that freedom, the ability to be anywhere outside your own life has really stuck with me.I really need that right now. I loved it. I felt safe in that camper van. I cried and cried and physically wouldn’t let go of it, when my dad sold it. I had to be wrenched away. Because it was so much more than a place to have a holiday, it was freedom, it was silence and calm and sleeping with both eyes closed ( I was an anxious child) and it was darkness and family and how I imagine a tepee or a yurt or a cave might feel; surrounded by the breathing of family, the heat from bodies, the calm togetherness of love. That’s what it is. I am so ready for a holiday.