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

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Living the dream?

The trailer, which miraculously survived last week's gales, is almost ready to move into. When I say move, what I mean is sleep in – for it is to be our dormitory.

This, I am hoping, will free up time and make life much easier. No longer will I have to put away and take out beds every night. A boring process that requires much moaning and carrying on for my part. The trouble is that nothing can be achieved in the morning until the beds are put away. The kitchen area is the size of half a small tablecloth and the table needs to be put up before dishes can be cleaned and breakfast made – multi-tasking is just not possible in a small space. A procedure must be followed in strict order which very often means we get to late morning and all we've managed to achieve is to get up.

So, I see the trailer as a solution to many problems – with an unexpected bonus. The man has given much thought to its insulation over the past months and many plans have fallen by the wayside in the process. At one point it was going to have pallet boards filled with straw nailed on to it and layers of papier mâché glued in to it. I can't remember why he dropped the pallet board idea – but I had something to say about the papier mâché – given the work involved and the sheer volume of paper needed. Working in the newspaper industry means I have more access than most to unwanted newsprint, but there's a limit to how much I can comfortably carry home on the train.

We finally settled on an external double layer of slater's underfelt, and bubble wrap inside. This latter did not go quite to plan – first, an exclamation mark instead of a 1 in a text caused us to order four times what we actually needed. Second, it was found to be too prone to tearing. Then, after Sam had been ominously quiet and absent for a long time one day, I went into the trailer to find him thoughtfully popping all the air out of the bubbles, thus rendering our insulation pointless.

So it was that we decided to layer the bubble wrap with loft insulation and gardening fleece – all stapled to the walls of the trailer. The effect is not unlike a padded cell. In fact, it's very like a padded cell. This, serendipitously, falls into line with permaculture, one of the tenets of which is for everything to fulfil more than one function. So, not only will our trailer be warm and cosy – but I can throw myself at the walls as madness takes hold, which it is surely doing already.

I was awoken from a most pleasant dream earlier this week that I was in New York staying, improbably, with a non-existent friend who was managing the development of the most glorious and sophisticated shopping mall on Earth. I detest shopping – not from an anti-consumer point of view – I just hate shops – but in my dream I was captivated by the trees and gardens and vistas within the mall and especially by the lifts, which contained holographic buttons giving instant access to Facebook and all the information one could hope for. Meanwhile, the children were on a museum trail and I and my friends that don't exist were idly discussing which avant-garde ballet to attend.

Back at work, and waiting to email Chris in the Guardian's New York office who was at lunch, I regaled colleagues with my dream. I realised in the telling – and by the aghast looks on my colleague's faces – that what I was describing was the antithesis of my life in rural Devon.

'So, let me get this straight, you're dreaming of Brent Cross,' said one, a tad unfairly – my mall was Much Better than that. 'I think I'd have to be chained to a radiator for a month before I dreamed of Brent Cross,' he added in wonder.

'Or living in a caravan in a muddy field for several months,' supplied another.

Yes, that could be it …


  1. Great post!

    I remember very clearly the 'putting the beds away before being able to move' thing after spending far too many childhood holidays in a cramped Lynton caravan.

    Actually it was the caravan hammock (nylon slung between two poles) bed in which the lightest - i.e. me - person had to sleep, that probably made me swear to revert to camping in tents in my adult life. It might have had something to do with the night I fell out of the window after the hammock ejected me.

  2. Do you know, Big mamma frog, I think we may need more details on that last bit. Not that we found it in any way, er, hilarious, you understand, but so we can empathise more with your experience. Thanks for the great comment!

  3. :)

    Apparently I slept through the whole experience including the part where my parents posted me back through the window. (Psychologically scarred for life of course...)

    Still preferable to the time my sister slept up top in the hammock and the whole lot collapsed and fell on me in the night, nearly knocking me senseless.

    Oh happy days...