mumsnetBack 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

Saturday, 7 January 2012

I saw Mummy kicking Santa Claus

Twelfth night has been and gone - and thank goodness for that … How do you do Christmas in a caravan with three smallish children, one dog and two cats? Basically you exit as quickly as possible taking the dog and leaving enough food for the cats to gorge on over a 24-hour period, then repair to a nice warm house complete with full-size oven and a large dining table. In this case, my mother's, where we feasted and watched the telly until our eyes were square and our brains sated.

We tried to be festive. I got some fabulous little battery-operated fairy lights from a great website (lights4fun) and we had the smallest Christmas tree in the world, which is now planted in the field.

But on Christmas day you need space in which to sprawl after a big dinner, and television to gaze at, and so after opening stockings - or in our case pillow slips - we left. This was the first year Santa didn't come - not because he couldn't find the caravan or because we don't have a chimney - but because after protracted conversations debating whether Santa would find us, the children decided that he didn't exist. And so Santa went the same way as the tooth fairy earlier this year, and all pretence was dropped.

I felt a little sad at the ending of this ritual - another piece of childish innocence lost along the way - but it was also quite handy. The logistics of creeping about the caravan in the dead of night trying to deliver pillow cases quietly had been exercising me for some weeks - thus I was able to crash about swearing and tripping over the dog, and not particularly care if anyone woke up.

I had primed the children not to expect many presents explaining that we lived in constrained circumstances and didn't have the room for toys and games. We would instead, I hastily added before the howls of protest could begin, take a trip somewhere fantastic in lieu of exciting parcels. In practice what happened is that they got more presents than I felt comfortable with, or that the caravan could contain, as well as the promise of an expensive trip somewhere. How did that happen?

I spent New Year working at the Observer with much-loved and longstanding colleagues, listening to the thuds and bangs of the amazing Thames firework display and messing up the editor's office with bits of cheese and French bread and cheesecake. Back home in the quiet and dark of the field, there was also a party going on. The kids and Gully, overdosed on Schloer, were still busting some moves to Radio 1 and the fairy lights well after midnight. The distance between us suddenly seemed huge - but I guess what mattered was that we all enjoyed ourselves seeing in what is very likely going to be an interesting year!

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