Wandering. And quite a bit of wondering too

Tonight will be the sixth in the van and we’ve already had adventures aplenty.

Saturday night was spent at my parents; a nice evening complete with beers and wine, fish n chips, a lovely hot bath and a night back in beds for Dragon and Star who slept in the house while Ady and I went out to the van.

We had a lovely lunch with Mum, Dad and my brother and grandmother on Sunday before heading off for our mid-point stop. We had two visits back to the car in storage during the stay at Mum & Dad’s – one because I had forgotten to grab the tax disc out of the car (it still has four months to go so will be sent back to DVLA for a refund) and the second because I had also forgotten to pick up the tent which is coming with us. In theory we may never use the tent but if the van needed to be repaired at any point along the way it would render us homeless so it’s good to have a back up and it may come in handy to stick up for extra storage or space along the way too. The first time Dad managed to lean in the window to grab the tax disc but the second time the car needed to come back out of the garage to get to the boot. Mum, who is much, much smaller than me slipped in and drove the car out, then I reversed it back in, doing a much better job this time enabling me to actually get out. When I’d put it in on Saturday morning I had spent a comedy ten minutes trying to work out how to actually get myself out of the car without getting rammed inbetween the car and the garage wall. I’d eventually had to go behind the car, along the passenger side and duck under the wing mirror, much to my Dad’s amusement. This time I parked much closer to the wall on the passenger side. I am hoping by the time I retrieve the car in a years time I will be considerably thinner anyway!

We were waved off (again – we are really getting used to goodbyes) and headed for our first overnight stop in Dorset. When we were first planning our adventure I built in a weeks holiday before we start at WWOOF hosts, thinking we would need that transition time between leaving our jobs, the house and our old life and starting on our new reality. Time to get used to living in the van, de-stress and get used to a different pace of life, to iron out any teething troubles between the old life and the new and re-establish a dynamic of being a full time family of four rather than a three with Ady around at the weekend. Our first hosts are in Devon but one of the things we learnt in the first 48 hours with Willow is that you need to allow about double the travelling time we are used to. She drives at a steady 45-50mph rather than the more speedy pace we are used to in a brand new company car, plus we need to factor in a rest stop every 90 minutes or so – both so that we all don’t get too motion sick and so that we treat her with the respect she deserves!

So I booked a campsite really close to our first hosts. I found it trawling the internet and reading reviews of campsites open all year, suitable for campervans, with electric hook-up. It sounded fab, had made it into Cool Camping and when I talked to the owner on the phone a couple of weeks ago I was reassured that it would be a perfect place for the week. Then we needed to find a mid-point overnight stop between my parents and Devon so I flicked through the C&CC book to find somewhere with hook-up and found somewhere equally lovely sounding with chickens and ducks, rang and booked a one night stay there and felt all was nicely organised. Of course life never does work out that way so last night when we arrived at the campsite (really poorly sign posted, had to do scary turning round manourveres and then head up a very, very puddly and holey road then across a rather uneven and muddy field) it was to the news they had no running water. Very, very fortunately we had picked up a big bottle of water from the supermarket, the guy charged us half price and we were not in need of showers or toilets or water supplies.

So we cooked a first dinner in the van, I read to Dragon and Star while they ate and it all felt very cosy and comfy. Unfortunately Star had been feeling a car sick earlier and once food had hit her tummy it rebelled and she brought her dinner back up again 🙁 She is very calm and unpanicked about being sick and managed to get to the bathroom, position herself over the portapotty and hold her own hair back (sorry if TMI!) then proclaimed herself feeling ‘much better’. Dragon joined in by feeling icky and needing an emergency dash of his own to the portapotty. They both looked very washed out and pale so we got them into pjs and up to their bunk, put our bed down and I snuggled into my sleeping bag and read them a couple of chapters of story before they fell asleep. Just before they went to bed though Ady called us all out to stand just outside the campervan for a few moments as it was an amazingly clear night with no light pollution and the stars were just stunning. The longer you stood gazing up the deeper the layers of stars came into focus.

We all slept well in the end and ate breakfast looking out over the field while a buzzard treated us to a spectacular fly-by circling over the field, hovering and gliding and giving us thrilling glimpses of it’s gorgeous feathers and huge wingspan. Hurrah for skies and all the wonder they provide!

I’d determinded a mid-point in our 80 miles or so for today of Morrisons in Bridport. We sort of consider it ‘our’ Morrisons as we have been there so many times, choosing that area of Dorset for many holidays over the years and using the Morrisons as a stop off point for trips further along the South Coast too. We needed fuel – both for us and for Willow so we called in to get food, ate in the van, then filled up with petrol before the second leg of the journey.

We arrived at the campsite and were warmly greeted by the owner who took us on foot to the couple of choices of site for the van – one was in the garden, next to a fab oversized swing off one of the apple trees, the other at the foot of their land next to a little babbling stream, both gorgeous. Unfortunately 20 minutes of terrifying backwards and forwards, scraping of underside of the van on the muddy uneven ground and sides of the van on branches, fence posts and trees and revving to the point of smoke starting to emerge we had to conclude both also totally inappropriate for us and Willow. With regret we had to say goodbye to the owner and drive off, hoping we would be able to find somewhere else before Willow protested any further and conked out.

We drove further down scary up and down hill, narrow road bends before stopping in a layby to regroup. Star felt sick again, Ady and I both needed a cup of tea (at the very least!) and we needed to rather rapidly find somewhere to stay the night, it now being nearly 4pm. A peruse of the C&CC book, several hasty phonecalls, a visit to the portapotty and a kettle boil later we had a destination for the night sorted, a caffine hit satiated and a child making the rest of the journey in the loo! Star has veered between fine and cheery, and wobbly and a bit vomitty. I think tomorrow we’ll get some more travel sick tablets.

The campsite we’re at tonight is pricey, empty and not very us at all with it’s manicured pitches and holiday club onsite (closed this time of year) but for one night it has been perfect. The kids got to play in the little playground, we’re plugged in to hook up and have water just outside the door, we’ve had lovely warm showers, I’ve sat for 90 minutes in the laundry room and processed all of our washing while reading a book on the kindle (already our most loved campervan item I think).

We have a nearby campsite booked for the rest of the week. It’s a working cattle farm and has an on site shop selling their own meat and eggs. It is not too expensive, has hook up and nice sounding showers and is close enough to the local village for us to walk in each day. I’ll retain judgement further until we’re there of course…

I think today the enormity of our adventure has rather hit us all. Both Dragon and Star are missing ‘home’ although when I asked them tonight how they would feel if I said we were going home tomorrow they both looked horrified at the prospect and said ‘sad’ and ‘disappointed’. We are already learning loads – nappy sacks have made it onto our must have list of items for their perfect sick bag properties, we will always carry water, we are filling glasses only half full as it is less to spill if knocked over (remember our sofas are also our bed!), distraction techniques work wonders for homesickness, travelsickness and being super organised about where stuff is stashed and thinking about the next time you are likely to need stuff and how accessible it will be then is a really useful exercise.

Oh and our tenants? Apparently they are *definitely* going in tomorrow. I’ll update then.

This post is brought to you using a Mifi from Three.

Three nights down, three hundred and sixty two to go!

Nights two and three in Willow have been smooth, warm and comfortable. It is way cosier than a tent and whilst there is no denying it is compact living in the extreme we are already starting to get a feel for the rhythm of what life might be like. We have shed yet more stuff and the van almost feels spacious as a result. On our first night we realised two pillows each was unneccessary and went down to one each, decided our ‘just-in-case’ fleece blanket and spare sleeping bag’ suuplies were excessive and took them out. On day two I went through my massive heap of clothes I had been unable to get my head around paring down while still in the house and halved it, meaning the clothes cupboard is now much more tidy and organised and has space for waterproofs too. This morning we decided the metal ladder was not worth it’s weight and trip hazard status and that made it into my car too. The kids are able to scramble up and down into the bunk without it, it is unwieldy and we are just bound to hit either a window or a child with it as we attempt to shove it in places to get it out of the way. Having my car with us for the first few days has been fantastic and meant we were able to bring along the few things we *thought* we might need (a fold up camping stool for each of us has been promoted back into the van and as we have four legs for the table meaning it can be used outside we now have seating for outside the van sorted for the evenings when we might want to cook and eat in the open air) as well as stow away things we have already decided we don’t need after all.

We had a taste of WWOOFing staying with our friends the last couple of nights and did our best to repay their hospitality by helping move stuff around the farm, assist with some lifting of pallets to help build a pig ark and did the cooking last night. We had two lovely evenings of chatting, sharing a bottle of wine and talking about big dreams and philosophising. Ady and I had a walk into the town to buy dinner ingredients and I am loving watching him start to relax and feel the pressures of that constant feeling of ‘should be doing..’ hanging over his head. It’s a promising start.

We have had a minor wobble in that our tenants were due to move into the house yesterday but I had a phonecall to say one of them had gone to a funeral and so they had not been able to go and sign paperwork, collect keys and hand over the rent. They are now due to move in on Monday. I am very hopeful that this will go smoothly, but rather holding my breath at it not happening quite as per my schedule.

Tonight we are at my parents, my car has been eased into a locked garage where it will sit until we come home and need it again. We’ve all had baths and Star has spent an hour dozing on the sofa (she has had some very late nights). We now have a week of campsite with hook-up ahead of us to really get used to sleeping, cooking and living in the van before heading to our first WWOOF hosts in just over a week.

This post is brought to you  by Three, using a Mifi

It’s a great day to start an adventure

So we survived our first night in the van 🙂

It was cosy, warm, comfortable and already feels like home :). I stirred a couple of times in the night – once for another visit to the portapotty (curse that tea!) and at least once just to revel in the fact I was asleep in my campervan :).

Dragon and Star slept well up in their bunk and we all properly stirred just before 8am and it just felt lovely to open the van curtains and see the world outside while still being snuggled inside my sleeping bag.

We’ve already shed a few things – the spare blankets and sleeping bags have gone back into my car which we have with us until the weekend when it will go into storage complete with anything stashed inside it. We’re getting used to the idea of living in different  spaces – the kids bunk is effectively a storage space during the day and the cab becomes the storage space during the evening / night time.

After a lovely day with family we headed just a mile or two along the road to stay with friends. Dragon and Star’s very close friends (and ours too) who live a similar sort of lifestyle to the one we hanker after ; growing their own food and being very much part of the local community. Dragon and Star instantly headed off with their boys and infact are sleeping in the house with them tonight while Ady and I have the van to ourselves. C & B came in the van with us and toasted adventuring with wine and crisps around the little table inside Willow.

Tomorrow we get a taste of WWOOFing joining in with our friends’ Volunteer work day where local people come along and join in with growing in exchange for a share of the eventual produce.

Today the sun has shone, we have been outside in T shirts, shared food and stories with friends and family and particularly for Ady the first steps towards being free with no schedule, no time keeping and no pressure have begun. As first day of the rest of your lives go it’s been a pretty good one.

This blog post is brought to you by Three who are supplying our internet access by way of a MiFi

Officially homeless

Today we closed the front door of the house behind us and handed the keys over the letting agents. Then drove off, in the pouring rain to stay with family for our first night in the van.

The house clean and empty took longer than expected, well probably not longer than expected as realistically you always expect these things to take longer than you expected! But by lunchtime we were driving away from the house. We’re currently still a two vehicle family, with my car along for the journey til the weekend when we’ll put it into storage. This gives us the luxury of deciding we didn’t need some things after all and keeping a few others in back up status for a day or two. So far we have already decided one pillow each will be enough (we’d initially packed two), halved the volume of fleecy blankets, taken out the spare just-in-case sleeping bag each Ady thought we should bring along and been far more ruthless with kitchen equipment than we’d had in our original plans.

We’ve had a lovely evening with Ady’s brother and family who have fed us, given us hints and tips about campervan living (having done it themselves a few years ago) and I have my first lesson learnt of not accepting that final cup of tea as I’m about to leave the snuggly cosiness of my sleeping bag and christen the portapotty toilet!

Charging it all up

It’s nearly 1am, it’s been a mad and crazy couple of days and I really should be sleeping, I can’t say ‘in bed’ because we don’t actually have one of those anymore, we’re all bedded down on the lounge floor on camping mats. But I’m here, briefly, because this is the very start of the adventure and I want to capture how we’re feeling today.

We still have time before we actually start WWOOFing, four nights staying with family and friends parked on their driveways and spending precious last few hours with them before we head off, then a week camping just the four of us, getting our heads round the transition from work, house and what has been ‘real life’ for all these years before embarking on the new version of ‘real life’ for us this year.

So yesterday and today we have been packing, cleaning, defrosting fridges and freezers, taking final things to the tip, making last minute calls on whether to put things into storage or squeeze them into the van. Today we hired a van and moved all the furniture – heavy, cumbersome work, not made easier by the rain or overexcited children, helped even less when we simply could not get Dragon’s bed out of his bedroom and down the stairs. We cannot work out how we possibly could have got it in there if we can’t get it out but half an hour of headscratching used out of our fairly tight schedule meant desperate measures were called and we ended up putting out through the window! Anyone watching would have been treated to a scene worthy of the very best slapstick comedy as I hung out of the upstairs window holding onto it while Ady stood underneath on a ladder trying to reach up and guide it down. Against all odds I managed not to follow it out of the window, Ady managed not to get knocked off the ladder and the bed remained in one piece!

This evening we had fish and chips, sat on our lounge floor in our empty house and toasted ‘wandering’ with our cherry coke. We had last baths, touched up knocked paintwork, cleaned the kitchen, wiped down paintwork and things like skirting boards, hoovered and carpet shampooed and did last loads of laundry. We now have everything plugged in so we leave with it all fully charged (camera batteries, laptop, mobile phones, DSs, kindle (did I mention we have a kindle), Mifi etc.

We are all feeling a real mix of emotions today. Scared, certainly; of the unknown and of the things we know we’ll miss like beds, sofas, bath, TV, a washing machine and so on. Excited, very, very excited – really looking forward to meeting new friends, learning loads, seeing amazing things and visiting interesting places. I am feeling pretty responsible for leading the other three down this crazy path, knowing it was my idea and I convinced and persuaded them it would be a great thing to do. We feel ready – literally ready as in we have got everything done we needed to (although we could possibly have done with an extra three hours or so in today!) and ready as in we know this is something we want to do and the time is right to do it.

I sat in the pitch dark back of the removal van today – it had three seats in the front so Dragon and Star sat there with Ady and I rode in the back with the furniture. It was very strange sitting in complete blackness trying to gauge where we were and at what point of the journey. I do that drive several times a week and would have said I could do it with my eyes shut, today I sort of did and it was really interesting how much it threw me not being able to see what point of the journey I was at, having to guess, use what I already knew in terms of the route and when we might be turning left or right along with the sensations of going up or down a hill, heading east or west. I think this year will be a lot like that experience today – planned out so in theory a ‘known’ journey but one where there are enough variables to keep me guessing along the way, call different skills into use and teach me a thing or too in the process.

All four of us keep catching each others eyes and asking ‘you OK?’ and at least one of us is probably wobbling at any one time but I think between the four of us we have enough excitement and spirit of adventure to keep each other going if we have the odd moment of uncertainty. So in the glow of the dying embers of the fire – oh and all those little led indicators on the various things plugged in and charging up I’m looking at the restless faces of the other three, all now asleep on their camping mats and tossing and turning a little and feeling proud of us all. Proud that we are doing something different, something adventurous, something challenging and scary and above all something together; united as we begin to wonder and to wander.

Adieu, Farewell, Au Revoir, See Ya, Bye Then.

The last four days have been one great big long round of goodbyes.

On Thursday I had my last day at work. I’ve worked at the local public library for just over four years, one and a half days a week. It’s been one of my favourite jobs ever; close to home so no horrid commute to work, interesting and varied work, lovely work colleagues, a wide variety of different people coming in to borrow books, find information, use the computers and so on. It’s had great perks too – no more library fines, free reservations of books (although frankly 50p to reserve a book and get it sent from any library in the county to your local one for you to collect is a real bargain anyway), a lovely working environment that Dragon and Star have spent lots of time in too and the kind of role where my personal stamp has been welcomed and appreciated. I have helped run events, design and deliver a kids book group programme and co-run a reading group alongside all my regular duties.

So leaving all that behind was tear jerking, particularly the lovely colleagues. 13 current and ex-colleagues (although I guess all of them are now ex-colleagues!) joined me for a meal out where I seat-hopped to spend time chatting to all of them, drank far too much until I was even louder and more enthusiastic about how fond of them I all was than usual (and I’m known for being loud and enthusiastic even when sober in broad daylight! A library was not a natural environment for me really!). I was presented with thoughtful gifts, lovely words and touching sentiments. I should probably apologise to the staff at the pub for keeping them late at work, the neighbours of my work colleagues who were dropped off before me where I insisted on getting out of the car for sentimental kerbside goodbyes with everybody and the final two friends both of who I dripped over as I got emotional. I hope they are reading this and know how much I’ve loved working with them all, how every single one of them means something special to me and they have become friends rather than colleagues.

On Friday it was Ady’s turn. He has been in his job for nearly seven years and similarly ‘workmates’ have turned into ‘mates’. He was taken out for breakfast, presented with cards, many gifts and then brought home (he was stranded as of course he drove his company car in to work but had to leave it there!). In just the same way Ady will terribly miss his friends at work, the camaraderie and laughs and whilst I don’t think he’ll miss the 9-5 he will certainly miss the people who kept him company during it.

Saturday was our ‘Bye Then Party’, our chance to gather both local friends and our friends from around the country for a big send off. We are very lucky to be part of a group of amazing Home Educating families who met online several years ago and have become almost an extended family to us. Our children are growing up with each other as peers, friends, part of a gang and us adults are in daily online contact with each other thanks to email, forums and social network sites. We holiday together several times a year, meet up at parties and celebrations and share the highs and lows of each others lives. It is this feeling of community and brief periods of living, cooking and sharing together that have inspired us to embark on a year of spending time living with host families while WWOOFing, learning from others, pooling resources and ideas and finding ways of working as a group.

The party was a true celebration of our adventure and I hope summed us up as a family and part of a group of friends. We obviously provided the reason for the party, hired a hall, invited people to come and then stood there in an empty hall with empty tables, four people, a cake and about a hundred inspirational quotes I’d written on different coloured paper. A couple of hours later the room was heaving; there were children playing together in the outside area, many of them with children they’d never met before. The table was laden with food and drink made, baked and bought by friends, music was playing, people were dancing, laughing, chatting and the room was alive. We were utterly overwhelmed with the thoughtful, generous and fabulous gifts people had brought, the well-wishes, hugs, occassional tears and cheerleading.

A mammoth effort turned the hall from a trashed party venue to a clean and tidy place once more and then a large group came home with us to help finish up the food and drink and spend the evening with us. Today a smaller group of us went to the local beach for a crazy hour of playing chase the waves until every child (and a couple of the adults) were soaked with sea water, we came home for hot chocolate and cake and finally the last guests left and it’s just the four of us once more.

People have said some very wondering things to us in the last few weeks; told us the sort of lovely things you would like to think people think of you but so very rarely hear. We have been told we are brave, courageous, inspirational, adventurous…I’d love to think this is true and hope we prove deserving of their faith and belief in us. I know that it is the support, enthusiasm and love of friends that has made us brave, given us courage, been our inspiration and fed our thirst for adventure. It is the knowledge that so many people are indeed ‘wandering with us in spirit’ that means we think we can do this.

So many fantastic stories start with a page thanking everyone who made the telling of the story possible. So we’d like to start our story now as we count down the sleeps left in our house (three!) by thanking the amazing supporting cast of friends who might not fit in the van with us but are definitely along for the ride.

Stand Up at altitude

 This is a sponsored post, written in line with our own views and hopefully inkeeping with our blog and interesting to our readers. Money raised from sponsored posts will go towards keeping us in fuel, waterproof clothing and emergency chocolate rations! 

    It probably goes without saying that air travel generally is something I would attempt to avoid. Not only would I wobble over the environmental impact, I am also a firm believer in holidaying in the UK. I think there is so much to see and do in our own country with our beautiful landscapes, rich cultural history, wide and varied wildlife and diverse mix of towns, cities, countryside and coasts. In the coming year we will be relishing the chance to see more of the UK and hope to take in dolphin and seal spotting off the coast, bird, bat, fox and badger watching using Star’s fabulous night vision binoculars, see salmon leaping in Scotland, meteor showers in August and maybe even fingers crossed glimpse the northern lights.

    However in the past we have been to places by plane. Ady and I married 11 years ago in Las Vegas, while pregnant with Dragon we had an amazing trip to New York and whilst it didn’t involve actually leaving the runway all four of us took part in the Terminal 5 trials at Heathrow a few years ago. Airports are exciting places, the ability to fly without your own wings is a thrill that probably never wears off for even the most seasoned traveller. Seeing the world from above and being up there with the clouds is something I know both Dragon and Star are keen to experience and one day hopefully we’ll be airborne again, on our way to a further flung adventure than the one we’re about to embark on here on British soil.

    In a different life I’ve often thought I would have loved to try my hand at stand up stand up comedy, making people laugh makes me happy. I enjoy telling a story, weaving in the details, seeing people grasp the same humour as me and laughing together. I’ve seen many stand up comedian acts live and enjoy watching them on TV or listening on the radio. I think the gift of laughter is one of the most precious ones you can give to someone. Another of my passions is helping or volunteering, not always for organised charities although in the last year I have done a couple of sponsored swims to raise money for charity and giving of my time or money to help others less fortunate than us is something I am keen to give Dragon and Star an example of. I am particularly inclined to support charities that help children and Comic Relief is a charity that certainly ticks those boxes.

    So I have agreed to make this the first of the odd sponsored posts on the blog and mention the Flying Start Campaign which  British Airways and Comic Relief are joining together for. It’s a fab idea combining stand up comedy with a stellar line up and fundraising for a very worthy cause with the added excitement of taking place at 35,000 feet

    British Airways are teaming up to forge a year-long partnership with Comic Relief to deliver a comic treat; one which has never been done before.
On Saturday 12th March, Dara O’Briain, Jack Whitehall and Jon Richardson will be teaming up with BA, Guinness World Records, they will be setting the record for the Highest Stand-Up Comedy Gig in the World. It’s part of a wider campaign by British Airways called Flying Start, hoping to transform the lives of disadvantaged children at home and abroad.

    To be in with a chance of being one of 75 lucky people flying over the UK to enjoy two-and-a-half hours of stand-up for charity; including champagne and refreshments ; fans can text ‘Fly1’  to 70300 or visit  www.facebook.com/britishairwaysenter the competition. Full terms and conditions are available from the Facebook page.


Sponsored Post

Brought to you by three

It feels a bit Sesame Street to say this post is brought to you by three (the letters M, I, F and I and the number 3), but as our BT landline and broadband internet were switched off on Monday in the countdown to going off grid although I am still using mains electric for now to power the laptop the magical internet powers that bring my words from my laptop to the rest of the world are now truly wireless.

My friend Jax over at Live Otherwise brought along a Mifi to a group holiday we were at before Christmas and I was most impressed with it. It allows you to set up your own wireless hotspot wherever you are and hook up up to five seperate devices to it. This means I can be blogging, Ady can be checking his emails on his phone, Dragon can be hooked up to the internet on his PSP and Star can be checking animal facts online all at once. It sounded perfect so I got in touch with Jo at Three and she sent us a Mifi so we can test it out for ourselves.

So far I am really impressed with it. It is tiny, smaller and thinner than the tiniest mobile phone, able to be charged off mains or a USB port on the laptop, dead simple to connect to the internet and is providing high speed, reliable internet access for us to check emails, blog, google and more. Staying online is really important for us this year – to keep in contact with family and friends via email and skype, to keep the blog updated and be able to upload photos, to check in with hosts to confirm bookings and access the WWOOF website, to look at online weather forecasts, maps and keep checking in with our planned route.

There are a host of gadgets and gizmos we could fall in love with and consider ‘essential’ along the way but living in such confined space every single thing we bring has to justify it’s place. On first impressions the Mifi is worth at least ten times it’s tiny size.

By bread alone

One of the questions that people ask when we tell them about our plan is how we will ‘live’. This means different things to different people (see the post where I invited questions) but often people are wanting to know about money. Last week I rang the tax office, having been poked by a couple of people to do so. I’d been intending leaving all of our finances alone but informing the tax office of our change in circumstances is a legal requirement so I spoke to them about leaving dates and lack of income. We will end up with considerably more tax credits than we get now and as a result our weekly ‘income’ will be doubled for the year. It is made up of the residue from renting our house out once the mortgage and various other bills have been paid. It’s surprisingly how much more disposable income you find yourself having even with such reduced numbers coming in when you are not paying utility bills, TV licence and Sky TV subs, phone bill, internet and all the various other things we consider essential when we live in a house.
Part of the challenge of the year is seeing what we can do without; both money and ‘home comfort’ wise and we won’t be taking the advice from the tax office to contact the job centre for other benefits. We feel no sense of entitlement for them when this is a choice we have made. Another part of the year is about finding other skills to earn money though, seeking alternative methods to bolster our finances for the times when we want to book into a campsite, buy a bottle of wine or some chocolate, take Dragon and Star to the cinema or deal with the more mundane but likely need to find money to spend on the van.

This could take the form of finding some casual work along the way; fruit picking or something. It might be that we use our new found skills to create stuff we could sell – produce, crafted items or it might be that we move closer towards the idea of bartering and skill exchanges instead, something I would love to make a part of our lives. The other option is an income from writing about our adventure and sharing it with people. This blog is first and foremost an account of the year for the four of us. I have always kept diaries, in hardback notebooks with doodles and scribbles through my teens, adorned with names of people I thought at the time I would love forever with hearts drawn round them. I have accounts of the early days of our relationship and then with the advent of the internet I moved to internet diarising or blogging for recording parenthood and our Home Ed adventures. With an adventure as big as this one I felt it deserved a new diary – or blog – all of it’s own. We have enough friends and family who want to catch up with us along the way and share our adventures that I have opened it up for everyone to read and I’m thrilled to know plenty of people are reading it – Hello Everyone!

This of course opens the blog up for sponsorship and advertising opportunities too. I won’t be compromising any of our ideas so there won’t be adverts or posts about supermarkets, curriculums or anything that is otherwise against what we are trying to achieve but if the odd post pops up here and there marked as ‘sponsored’ it’s there to boost our funds along the way, please view it as a brief commercial break 🙂

and they’re all made out of ticky tacky…

We don’t usually fit into little boxes, partially because I am just too big to fit in a little box but mostly because we don’t believe that we’re all just the same.

But today, in the home of the Wondering Wanderers we’re all about the boxes. My job list is being kicked into submission, I am on track, hittin’ targets, shootin’ ball, kickin’ ass and all that sort of thing and doing everything I am supposed to be doing according to the post below. I have this piece of paper that I am living by and ticking things off of. I have resisted the urge to colour code it but only because I have already packed the felt tips and the only pen left is a black one.

So today we have moved everything other than beds, one solitary stacking crate which fits in the wardrobe in the van and is full of clothes and one small box of stuff that will come in the van with us out of Dragon and Star’s bedrooms. This took the sorts of skills that would get me a job in hostage situation negotiation division of the American cops in films for Star. She loves her soft toys, like really, really loves them. She managed to reduce the pile that live on her bed by about 3 /4 a while ago and we had a goodbye party for them before they went into the loft and they still write and everything. Today the remainder needed to go into a box. She started with a huge pile that simply could not come with us in the van unless at least four of them had driving licences and were prepared to take their turn at the driving. Much talking her down was required on rationales as diverse as ‘these are wild animals from Africa, let us put them away until we return for we will see only native British wild animals on this trip’ to ‘these teddies are all hues of purple, how about they keep each other company and stay in this box?’. Of course Star is many years wiser for her age than I am and by the end I fear she was patronising me far more than the other way round but we did at least reduce the pile to one which will merely make her bunk uncomfortable for her instead of preventing any of the rest of us from getting in the van due to the volume of them.

Dragon meanwhile was being very helpful packing up his boxes. So helpful infact that he packed them to the point that each box weighed more than he does. Which would be fine if I didn’t need to get them down the stairs, along a narrow hall, down the steep front door steps, past Willow and into my car, then along a drive, up more front door steps and through the house at the other end. I did some reshuffling but still four of the boxes gave up on me at various points with the handles breaking and the box spewing it’s contents across the garden path or down the stairs. The box which won the title of Most Annoying Box That Nic Hates Most was one containing a Darth Vadar mask which not only broke and bumped down the stairs but then managed to mock my asthmastic breathing as I carried it.

Still, boxes moved, various other things ticked off the list and a very lovely bouquet of flowers (containing a spring of Willow ;)) and card from my Book Group tonight have me feeling everything will be okay. Ady confessed he is feeling wobbly tonight and I asked if in all of the nearly 18 years I’ve been saying airily ‘it’ll all be okay’ about everything from debts to parenthood to pork chops two days past their best before date I’ve ever been wrong. He agreed I have not yet, so at risk of inviting retrospective food poisoning I will continue to maintain that it’ll be okay.