'I want croissants for breakfast,' demanded eight year old Zena earlier this week. 'I haven't got any,' I replied. 'Well you can make some,' she said. 'I wouldn't know where to begin,' I said. 'Well,' she reposted 'that Raymond Blank can do it.'
Raymond Bloody Blanc, if you please! This is what my daughter expects of me with my tiny temperamental oven in an overcrowded four-berth caravan. Still, this exchange did have the effect of rendering me speechless in what had hitherto been a voluble morning conducted at volume.
It has to be said that there are times that all is not peace and harmony in our wee living space. Mornings and evenings tend to be particular flashpoints, entailing as they do the putting away – or getting out – of beds and bedding. Children have to be ejected from sleeping bags and chivied to stow them away before anything meaningful can be achieved. This, they are reluctant to do. Then there is the squabbling that starts first thing – and for which I am hopelessly ill equipped to deal without the benefits of several cups of tea and a sturdy breakfast. So soon, too, I am behaving like a child shrieking and carrying on in the grip of low blood sugar levels while the morning hours tick away.
I tend to get overly upset about this and have to remind myself that even the most functional family might reasonably expect to be tested at times by our living arrangements. There is no privacy, no quiet place to go if you want to recharge the batteries, on top of which are the deprivations – screens, in the kids' case, and the internet and hot baths in mine. And I won't even get started on the mud.
I've been reading a useful little book called Think Yourself Happy, by Rick Norris. In it, he explains how easy it is to fall into a pattern of negativity – for instance, to remember only the disagreement we had at the end of what had up to that point been a lovely harmonious day.
Positive thinking is kind of essential in maintaining sanity. It's so easy to get bogged down by the difficulties – but actually it is overcoming those difficulties that makes this whole venture such a worthwhile exercise.
Back before we moved onto the land, I was explaining to an open-mouthed Guardian colleague that five of us, two cats and a dog would be living in a small caravan. 'You'll all go mad' he said – somewhat prophetically. At the time I quipped that on the contrary, while his world fell apart because the capsules hadn't arrived for his Nespresso machine, I would find happiness in something as simple as a hot tap.
In fact, this has turned out to be very true – I really do derive enormous pleasure and satisfaction from little conveniences. Today, for instance, I had my monthly bath – an event which I look forward to and savour. This particular bath is in a colleague's bachelor apartment – one of my roving Friday night crash pads. I love Ed's flat because it is the antithesis of my usual life. It is spacious, male, organised and uncluttered – guitars adorn the walls and interesting books are arranged in neat and pleasing symmetry. Lying in the bath this morning, I tried to work out how many caravans I could fit into the flat, and decided it would be about twelve. That's floor space, incidentally, not actual caravans.
What I need to do is adapt these positive feelings for those times when things aren't going so well and remind myself that when the children are exchanging blows, 'im indoors is being miserable and the cat's in the butter again, that this is all to be expected and perfectly in order.
But I'm still not making any bloody croissants.
Back along, my family and I swapped a house for a three-acre field in Devon and a leaky caravan where we lived off-grid for two years. Sadly, we failed to get the planning permission we needed to stay. We are now back within four walls, with a proper loo and everything in a cottage in Dartmoor. So this is now a blog about living ethically amid a fabulous landscape with our home educated kids while we adjust to being 'normal' - for a while... and what we plan to do with our land next