It’s Monday evening. To be honest days have started to lose their meaning and identity, but my computer tells me it is Monday evening. I am sitting in my parents lovely spacious house whilst the rest of our team either sleeps or hangs out in the van. We rejected beds in a house in favour of sleeping in the van whilst we are here. The van feels like home. I have kind of missed it today as we pottered around the local area and ate around a table inside. It has been great but I am glad we are heading off early tomorrow morning for the last few stages of our adventures.
This last week and weekend have had an entirely different flavour to them than the first week and a half. This trip seems to have been neatly split into three sections, the first one heading away as a family, forming our identity together, establishing van routines, enjoying the vast and empty North of England. That seemed to all too soon come to an end as we headed back down South just over a week ago for our middle section of mainly hanging out with friends.
We started that section by driving through my old university town, Durham. I introduced my boys and husband to the place I spent three years bumming around and to the Botanic Gardens that were our playground, round the back of the college I lived in. Those three years were utterly formative to my life and seem so so long ago now. Little had changed in 21 years and it was fairly emotional to return with the boys and husbandface. After a brief run around the gardens and lunch we got back in the van and headed for York for the first leg of our people filled week.
Susie was a friend from our old church who numbers amongst our friends who have moved too far away. The kind of friend you’d see every week if you actually lived in the same place and the kind of friend who you plunge into the conversational depths with pretty quick. We caught up on a walk down the river into York, bathed the boys, then drank wine and put the world to rights in the van once the boys had gone to sleep. We spent the night on a friend of her Dad’s driveway (my first reverse into an uber tight spot. It went ok. I was proud of myself.) near a busy road. It rained all night and we got little sleep but it was lovely to have breakfast with Susie before hitting the road. I don’t recommend the A1 to anyone. I was tired and grumpy pounding down it to Cambridge. It was the longest drive we had done and I’m glad there isn’t a longer one on the trip. 2 hours in and we managed to find an amazing garden centre to pull into. I shed exhausted tears as we came to a stop. Thankfully lunch in the van provided the energy needed and the boys loved running around the garden centre. Back on the road they slept and I sang loud to my music to keep my eyes open and soul happy. The drive South was making me sad. I knew we had loads of fun stuff lined up but my soul was just starting to unwrap and breathe up North and I could feel shrinking going on inside as we pulled up in a very lovely but very Cambridge campsite.
Steph was our next companion on the journey. We’ve recently got back in touch with each other and it was lovely to spend time with her and her daughter as she joined us for the first evening and an afternoon (again pottering around another garden centre). We loved hanging out whilst trying to forget our rather civilised surroundings. I had a day without driving and we made the boys walk a long way to Waitrose. Exciting times.
We had our first day of torrential rain which did not stop in Cambridge. Thankfully we had booked in to see an old friend of mine from Uni, the boys wanted to know where we were going. I promised a house full of toys and some children to hang out with. Laura and her lovely boys Alex and James did not disappoint. We hung out, the boys disappeared for most of the day and we recreated our Uni days by drinking uber amounts of tea and chatting.
We drove a rather boring route across to Leighton Buzzard the next day, back to see my brother and family again. We had another slow fun filled day with the cousins, full of good food and chats. We also started to gear ourselves up for the main people filled event of Legoland the next day. I decided this was the antithesis of Keilder Water. So many people. So much loud. So much stuff assaulting the senses. The boys had a great time. We survived and even had some fun along the way. We met up with husbandface’s family and enjoyed leaving the park before the rush, the boys instantly falling asleep as we drove out of the carpark.
Our family followed us into Wellington Country Park for a weekend together in a forest park. I booked it a while ago in hope it would provide enough entertainment for us to enjoy a fun weekend together without much travel for us all. It was brilliant. We camped in the park, it had uber amounts of playgrounds, trains, dinosaurs, cars to drive on, sandpits and gorgeous nature trails to wander around. We managed to squeeze my sister in law and nephew into the van with my father in law outside in a tent. Thankfully it didn’t rain all weekend and we enjoyed loads of time outdoors. An intense but great weekend.
We drove away on Sunday afternoon knowing we had put my parents house in the itinerary at this point to provide what it has done so well. A place to crash, to wash all our clothes, to be well fed and to provide the boys with distraction whilst we dealt with the introvert fall out of such a people filled week. We have all been exhausted today but I hope, after a good nights sleep, we will feel vaguely refreshed as we hit the road again tomorrow.
Bristol calls tomorrow for time with our friends John and Laura and their lovely small boy and then we are off to Cheddar Gorge for a few days alone before camping with friends at the weekend. I am looking forward to getting back on the road again. I am looking forward to these last 10 days on the road.
I can’t believe it feels like it’s coming to an end already. I am not ready to even start thinking about home again. I love life on the road, I don’t have the overwhelmed feeling of not being able to cope with life, I don’t feel overwhelmed by our situation or future here in the van. I feel safe and free and able to just deal with the three people in front of me. I am reading Jo Swinney’s book Home at the moment and I have had to stop for a while. The chapter I have stopped on is about our houses. I cannot cope with thinking about our house yet. I know it’s there waiting for us but I am too scared to start processing the reality that this trip will have to end soon. It feels far too much to remember where we live. Husbandface suggested waiting until our last few days to start reading the book again. He is wise.
I do not want to think about it now. For now I have washing to put away in our packing cubes, a bed to lie in and a book to read. That is all. That is enough.