"We all get old, bald, fat, and stuck in chairs."

Workshop outside

Having completed almost all parts of the build, only minor superficial additions were left such as “roller blinds” (Easy concept. Hard to implement. I am still plagued with the inability to fully unroll them or them falling down completely!). It was time to take the van for a test camp out. The first few nights were spent directly next to the caravan and the 'workshop' whilst I transferred bedding and realised storage arrangements.

Workshop outside 2

The Workshop

Whilst I'm mentioning the Workshop, I might as well give a little context as to where all the magic happened. Where hours of toil, blood, sweat, and downright confusion were able to transform the loaf from a potential crime scene into a habitable hove.

Van in cowshed One of the main holes in the roof

The workshop is, and probably always was, built to just about meet the needs of its users. Flood lights that point up into the rafter, provide just enough illumination at the ground level to work at night. There are seldom spots within the barn that are fully sheltered from the rain. Under nominal rain conditions the asbestos roof does a good job. However, almost all areas of the barn are subject to a good dowsing given the correct prevailing wind direction. The patch work of panels that make up with walls and roof provide limited protection to lateral rain fronts.

More holes

Frequently, after such lateral rain fronts have passed, the strong winds will have dislodged yet another panel, further exasperating the holey issue and requiring a half-day quarantine cleanup. Although, the significant holey nature of the barn probably provided enough ventilation that any asbestos fibres would be safely removed to the environment beyond.

Outside View

Bully Hole Bottom

The next step after safety camping was in the remote fields of Bully Hole Bottom, at most 1000m down the road, but an entirely isolated world of nature. Situated at the bottom of the valley, three fields widths from the nearest road or house, and next to the small stream, is Spingo's tree. A young teenage oak tree. This materialisations of Merrie England, albeit in Wales, was an idyllic location for the premier outing.

Field view Reflect field view

The trial was a roaring success. Every part of the van worked flawlessly. Much to my surprise. Nothing exploded. The carbon monoxide alarm didn't ring when running the stove. The nights, however, were uncomfortably hot with the van quickly turning into a sauna in a matter of minutes. Perhaps that would have something to do with the arctic insulation? But this problem was mitigated by sleeping with the rear doors open. I'm sure this problem won't get worse as I head south and into the heart of summer.

Door open view of field

The end of the Bully Hole Bottom excursion was marked with a ceremonial BBQ. The Oldman was quite openly impressed, a marked change from his previous stance of “this is a stupid idea”. The provision of ice cold beers from the fridge was the point of inflection, I think. It was towards the end of the evening when the universe provided a little nudge. The kind that slaps you in the face, reminding you of the basic fundamental facts of life.

A fat balding man bound to a chair was the cold splash. The scene drew unnerving parallels to my memories of visiting Gramps. Minus the dominos… maybe I should get him some for Christmas. To be fair to Gramps he had several more years and various farming injuries, and wasn't just immobilised by his fatass breaking and becoming wedged in a lawn chair.

Fat man in chair Fat man still stuck in chair

I guess the message is we all get old, bald, fat, and stuck in chairs. And then we are gone. In that moment my opinion of the last 12 turbulent months shifted. I think if I was faced with the same choices again I would have pursued a different path, however, having reached the otherside I don't think I would trade the time for anything else.

Dusk walk away

Tills nästa gång. Hejdå.