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

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Lost for a spell

I've been feeling like a hick from the sticks this weekend on account of spending much of it being lost and befuddled in the big city.

It started badly when I took a different exit off the Victoria line at King's Cross and found myself wandering round a part of it I never knew existed. This has been happening a lot of late at the station, which has been massively revamped over recent years - first to accommodate the Eurostar at St Pancras and now with a swanky and rather beautiful new domestic departure hall. Perhaps it says something about King's Cross that one departs in style, but still arrives in the old grimy bit.

Anyway, all this revamping has led to miles of labyrinthine tunnels that all look the same and can end in a myriad of assorted exits. This lends an air of unexpectedness to journeys through King's Cross - even though I have been negotiating it regularly for many years.

King's Cross St Pancras            Hogwarts School of Wizardry
As I walked in surprise down a new tunnel, I found myself thinking  how many similarities King's Cross has with Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry - moving staircases, for instance, animated pictures on the wall – and endless corridors. Hogwarts is so complex, that even its headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, professes it remains a mystery to him happening once upon 'a beautifully proportioned room ... containing a really rather magnificent collection of chamber pots'.

Harry Potter readers will know he is referring to the Room of Requirement - and this set me off on a new avenue of thought of what I would require should I stumble upon just such a room in King's Cross. Having lately arrived off the 9.06 from Devon, travelled underground across London and walked around the station for some length of time, it will be of no surprise to you that I decided my room of requirement would contain a table laid out for tea, with a large pot, some ginger cake and lump sugar with tongs. (I still enjoy holding the sugar in the tea and trying to find the point where it will absorb the liquid and turn an orange/brown in the tongs. I really should get out more.)

No such room appeared however, so I eventually emerged into the light to discover a whole new station exit and then wandered vaguely round the back streets behind my office for a while before locating the entrance.

Later that night, on the way to my Friday stayover in Brighton, I managed to jump on two wrong trains and ended up spending a long 50 minutes on a platform. By this time I was feeling tired, stupid and fed up – I like to feel part of the purposeful moving mass in London, not dotty, lost and late. So if that room of requirement does appear, I am fervently hoping it has a younger, more dynamic brain in it.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

An awning chasm

A sizeable portion of our living accommodation blew away last weekend.

I wasn't there at the time being at work in London, which was largely wind free despite the torrential rain. Thus I was blissfully unaware until I was alerted by a phone call on the train home and told the awning, which acts as entrance, depository and storage facility, was on top of the caravan and the polytunnel plastic roof that keeps us dry in our trailer was flapping its last.

I don't get much sleep on a Saturday night. I work into the small hours and catch the first train to Devon, so this news was unwelcome since I had been promising myself a little snooze after lunch. But my woes were nothing to those being experienced at home.

Trailer trashed
Gully had spent the entire night awake as the trailer was buffeted by the winds, finally falling into an exhausted sleep somewhere after dawn from which he was awoken by a small, excited child shouting 'coo, come and look'. Before him, lay a scene of devastation. The tent had been lifted off its poles but with a single long zip bizarrely clinging on to the frame. In the space where it had been was an upturned picnic bench, which had been lifted into the air and thrown several feet into the awning – and had probably been its nemesis. Our assorted chattels were scattered everywhere.

Inside the caravan, the dog too had spent a sleepless night. She was found trembling unhappily and refused to eat her breakfast. Oody, it should be said, is no highly strung, dainty thing; she is a considerable poundage of bull terrier/labrador cross – refusal of food is not in her genes and a sign that she is very, very pissed off.

The wind, as I alighted at Tiverton Parkway, was strong though not alarmingly so. But on arrival at the field a hundred or so metres higher, the weather was savage. It was difficult to stand upright and hail was coming down – sideways. Bending double, with what felt like freezing gravel being persistently flung in our faces, it was a miserable trudge across the field to the sanctuary of the caravan. But poor Oody hated it the most, she whined and walked backwards shaking her head. She plunged into the undergrowth hoping for refuge, but finding none crawled out and walked backwards again. It was a pitiful sight.

There was little we could do to deal with the havoc outside. So we made a nice cup of tea and listened while the roof on the trailer billowed and flapped and tore, threatening to rip completely any minute  exposing the porch Gully had built to the elements – and leaving the wooden trailer roof unprotected from the rain.

I packed a bag and we left for yet another emergency stay with my mother, who should be able to enjoy her well-ordered life and house without her flaky daughter habitually turning up. There we stayed in comfort, while poor Gully was left to put what he could to rights. It took two days for the storm to die down, during which time the trailer roof finally gave up the ghost. Then he had to find a new roofing solution and fix it in place – quickly.

After the best part of a week of TV, comfy chairs and dinners cooked in a proper oven, the children were less than enthusiastic about returning home. But none more so than the dog. Oody loves her nana and she particularly loves her nana's house. For a start there are soft carpets on which it pleases her to roll and wriggle. Then there's a large ginger cat three doors down to get excited about – and two to three regular walks a day, necessitated by the lack of lawn there but not crucial in a three-acre field. Best of all, the house doesn't move and bits of it fall off and crash about in the middle of the night.

Back in the caravan, the kettle was whistling and the children picked up where they had left off with their toys and activities. But the dog stopped short of the door and stood resolutely outside, alone and forlorn. She didn't say as much, but her expression definitely read: 'You have got to be bloody joking!'