Friday, 29 August 2014

You wouldn't like me when I'm angry...

Increasingly I find myself angry. Oh, I contain it as well as I can most of the time, but sometimes I can feel it boiling away inside me and at my age I really don't like the feeling it leaves behind. It makes me feel guilty. It makes me far too much like my shouting, bullying, father and I don't want to look in the mirror and see him staring back.

Sometimes I feel angry at just about everything. Only for very short periods, but again it makes me feel exhausted with myself.

This week alone I've been angry with a defrosted freezer, defrosted when it shouldn't have been with all the waste entailed, the fact that it's one of those bloody frost free things (which I didn't want in the first place) and won't refreeze so may need replacing, the state of the car parking in the road (why do they let people dig up their gardens and make them into eyesores with cars?), my customers, the stupid American gun laws, stupid Americans, doctors, my friends, just about every politician that is still (unfortunately) drawing breath, but most of all with myself for being angry in the first place.

Sometimes I wish I was David Banner, at least he seemed to know when he was going to turn into the hulk, I seem to have no idea. It just happens. Perhaps I need anger management, or drugs, or something.

Anyway, you wouldn't like me when I'm angry... I don't even like myself.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Le Fanu, libraries, and lesbian vampires...

Today is Sheridan Le Fanu’s 200th birthday, or so Google reliably tells me. Le Fanu was an Irish writer of spooky tales and mystery novels, the leading ghost-story writer of the nineteenth century and he was central to the development of this much ridiculed genre. You may know his best known works: Uncle Silas, Carmilla, and The House by the Churchyard.

Ah, Carmilla. How well I remember first reading about her.

It can be relatively small things that set the pattern of your life and add to the person that you will become. When I was growing up in a small market town in Oxfordshire my greatest entertainment, prior to my teens and pubs and girls, was the library. I spent a couple of evenings a week and as many Saturday mornings as I could at the library. I loved the quiet and order of the surroundings and I carried my beige library cards like badges of honour. They made me feel special, privy to a secret world only I and the authors I read really knew about.

By the age of nine I’d tired of books written specifically for children. Narnia was fine, but I’d read all of those. The Hobbit was okay, but a little overlong. The Borrowers were just The Borrowers and Stig, William, Bunter, Biggles, and Jennings were all a little easy.

What could I read?

My hours in the library had stood me in good stead and not a librarian’s eyelid was blinked when I wandered out of the children’s room and over to adult fiction. My gaze fell upon a book of short stories, an old battered volume with at least three ‘borrower’ pages stamped up to the full, each one covering the other. This book had been going for years and had been much read. As it worked out it was an anthology of ghost stories by authors such as M.R. James, Ambrose Bierce, Saki, and Sheridan Le Fanu. I took it to the desk only to be told that I would need an adult reading card to take it out. The librarian looked at me and then made me one up. I was not quite ten at the time.

The stories in that book were literally fantastic and I was hooked - which brings me to those small things that set the patterns of our lives. I was so taken by a story by Sherdan Le Fanu, Green Tea I think it may have been, that I sought out and read as much of him as I could. It wasn’t long before I discovered his novella Carmilla and must have read it three times in a row without a break. I realise now that the reason that it so enraptured me was that it’s themes were lust and decadence, with it’s ‘heroine’ Carmilla not only a vampire but a lusting lesbian bloodsucker to boot. Of course at the time I think I only picked up on the understated sexual connotation subliminally. But it set the scene for all those Hammer Horror movies that I was to devour so earnestly a few years later.

Of course, Le Fanu pre-dated Bram Stoker’s Dracula by a number of years and Stoker owes much to Le Fanu’s Carmilla, but this one story set me on the Vampire trail – one I followed until that bloody awful Twilight nonsense was published.

I also owe Le Fanu another great debt. His short story ‘A Strange Event In The Life Of Schalken The Painter’ was made into a TV film by the BBC in 1979. Godfried Schalcken was a real life painter by trade, serving his apprenticeship to Gerrit Dou, the trompe l’oeil master.

Schalcken, at least in the story, is quite in love with Rose, his pretty blonde niece. But whatever aspirations he may have for her are quickly dashed when a wealthy older man named Vanderhausen purchases her wedding contract, much to her dismay. Schalcken figures the best way for him to deal with this is to get so good at his craft that he can quickly make enough money to buy Rose’s contract from Vanderhausen, and to cut a short story even shorter, Schalcken gets what he wants, but not quite in the way he expected.

After watching that film, with its candlelit scenes and implied mysterious goings on, the way I looked at paintings was never the same again. It opened my eyes to what was going on around the subject, the sub-plot that artists put into their work. Godfried Schalcken was the master of chiaroscuro, painting candlelit scenes, and if you looked closely into those shadows I wonder what you might see? For that matter, what might you see in the shadows of the real world?

Anyway happy birthday Sheridan and thanks, I’ve been looking over my shoulder, behind open doors, and under beds ever since I met you and God forbid that candle ever blows out.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

At the end of the world...

No man is an island or so they say. But then the same ‘they’also say that it’s not the end of the world.

Here's my end of the world. Sometimes I come here looking for something lost; the muse that’s eluded me for quite a while now. A trip to the old places trying to find the me that used to be able to see the beauty even when that beauty was hiding away not really wanting to be found. This island place where once thousands came seeking whatever it was they were looking for: a blessing from a Pope, a magic apple, the call of a mermaid, a gust of wind to blow their cares out and their hopes back in.

This Tuesday morning, after a restless night, the wind at the end of the world blew at the aches and pains of a man not yet old but getting older with every step taken. The mountain was steeper that I remembered and my knee didn’t do much to help, aching and throbbing as I pressed on. At the edge of the drop I stood taking it all in and was filled with, not the exultation that I had expected, but a dull sense of emptiness. I don’t know why, nothing had changed. Perhaps it was the weather or a bit of undigested beef, or perhaps something had changed after all. After all, no man is an island.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Increasingly autumn...

Increasingly I’m catching that autumn vibe. The mornings are cooler, the air cold with damp, and the sunshine somehow seems to be a slightly paler yellow. Autumn comes early methinks as the fruits in the hedgerow tumble into luscious juiciness and the mushrooms pop up in the fields.

I hear the cawing of crows in the mornings and the gentle thrum of cold rain upon the roof. The light changes quickly across the mountains. Dark clouds breaking into slabs of sunshine on the distant fields and sea. A glowing arena of illumination one moment, a few sliced rays of light the next. If you aren’t quick you’ll miss it.

Harvest time is here. Do schools still have Harvest Festival services I wonder? I doubt it, so many things have changed. Not everything though, we still have a semblance of the seasons even it they appear to happen at slightly the wrong time. I noticed a spider’s web on the gate all covered in watery diamonds, and even a brown leaf or two fluttering down the lane the other morning.

Yes, I think that old autumn is on his way, softly, softly, stealing away our summer, and he didn’t even have the decency to wait for September to begin.

Let's hope that he's as glorious as our summer has been.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Dream car...

I’ve seen this old heap around a lot in Pwhelli over the last few months. It’s rusting and filled, but someone has taken the trouble to find it some whitewall tyres and paint an intricate embellishment on its hood. It’s sometimes parked outside the tattoo shop and I want it to belong to one of the tattooists. It’s a very tattooist type of car, the type of car that Sailor Jerry might have driven, a bottle of rum on the dash and a pin up stuck to the windscreen.

I’m not great with cars and I don’t know exactly what it is. But I remember these Americanesqe vehicles being around when I was a kid. I loved the fins and the shiny chrome bumpers, the solid wing mirrors, the red leather seats. It’s the type of car that has a trunk and is filled with gas, not petrol. It’s the type of car guys in white T-shirts with kiss-curl hair drive one-handed, leaning out of the rolled-down window to flick the ash from a Marlborough as the drive down Route 66.

This type of car has a radio that is tuned to R&R/R&B, a station that only plays Chantilly Lace. Summertime Blues, Be Bop a Loo Bop and Good Golly Miss Molly. It’s the type of car that you give a girl’s name, maybe your first girl, the one that you gave your baseball jacket to – Sally or Peggy or even Christine. A car that might, late at night when nobody is around to watch, repair itself and make each and every one if its panels shine as good as new.

This car is the stuff of dreams.

I hope that whoever owns it realises this dream. They deserve to.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A Welsh funeral...

This most traditional of English summer carries on. Sunny and hot, humid and windy, stormy and wet all at the same time and all very acceptable in the main, as good as any summer I can remember. Of course for the most part I have spent much of my time in Wales, that strange half-life way of living which isn’t quite here nor completely there. Not holiday or work, not home or hotel. We fit into the village landscape; not quite holiday people, but never quite local either.

Time is short. Waste it wisely.

It was Will’s funeral yesterday. For eighty-four years he lived in the cottage next to ours. Eighty-four years of being a local, eighty-four years to build up likes and dislikes, have the occasional feud, even make the odd enemy or two I guess. Eighty-four years - much more than our fifteen as his neighbour.

The funeral was a private one - by invitation only. The body resting in the house and those invited gathering together in their blacks in the living room where the local Baptist minister conducted a private service. Of course there was no singing, no hymns, no recorded music, no favourite songs, not even a radio playing; just the voice of the preacher droning on in a tiny room for what seemed like hours, his guttural Welsh intonation buzzing like a wasp caught in a window.

I was surprised who wasn’t there, and surprised by some who were. I wondered why we had been invited given that so many neighbours, neighbours Will must have known all his life, had not been. A responsibility, yet at the same time a strange honour and not to be undervalued.

It’s hard to follow anything in a language you don’t understand, even harder if it sounds like a series of grunts and throat-clearing and you are standing in a room full of strangers. Even so, after a while I began to lose the stiffness in my back, as it transferred to my feet, and appreciate the melodic quality and cadence of the preacher’s voice. I stood listening to the sound of the words, rather than trying to guess their meaning. I’m sure that at one point the preacher said: “the dada has bought a new Mercedes,” and that he called someone a “knobhead” (perhaps God) three or four times. Of course by then I was mostly in a trance, his words lulling me into a tranquil quiet that was almost sleep.

Occasionally he’d drop into English. I guess for the benefit of my wife and me as, at these points, he’d always say the word ‘neighbours’ after ‘family and friends’. We were the only English of the score or so people in the room and I felt relief and gratitude to hear even a few words I could understand; even so it made me feel a little uncomfortable to be singled out in this way.

“We may not understand, but my advice would be ‘don’t panic’.” He said.

How right he was, although at the time I couldn’t help thinking of Dad’s Army and Private Jones – Will’s family name coincidentally. Yes. Don’t panic - the same words that I’d said to myself as I climbed the steep stairs to Will’s bedroom less than a week before.
I was pleased that my cheap black funeral suit still just about fitted. Relieved that I’d found my good blackish tie clean and not crumpled and that I had a white shirt hanging ready in the wardrobe. I’d have fitted in completely if it wasn’t for my Englishness, the small gloomy room so full of black that it became a coal mine of clothes once hung in other wardrobes awaiting outings like this.

Will’s body was in the smaller room to the side, enclosed in an even smaller coffin. I have no idea what that room was used for, but today it was a place for the dead to wait “before going on to the next life,” the preacher said in English for the benefit of neighbours.

We followed the hearse up to the windy cemetery on the hill, the graves arranged regimentally in lines. A five minute walk, but we drove; part of the procession on Will’s last journey. The older gravestones were slate, the more recent a shiny polished granite. Reading the dates I realised that this place usually sees less than two or three burials a year. Perhaps that is why it had only taken six days, including the autopsy and coroner’s inquest, from Will’s death to his interment.

The rain kept off, the wind whipping away the preacher’s words and scattering them across the fields. Somewhere Mair, Will’s wife, was buried in this place too. I couldn’t remember exactly where and examined the lines of graves trying to recall where I had stood those four years ago. I promised myself that I must come back to look, but I doubted that I would. Even with its solitude, the view of the sea, the sound of the wind, it wasn’t the place to picnic.

They lowered Will into the ground and Carol, his daughter, looked sad. For some reason people came forward to peer down into the grave. I wasn’t sure if I should or not, but in the end I didn’t. Then it was over, the preacher walking away and almost falling over a grave. He managed to keep his balance. But I had to stop myself from nearly saying: ‘Maybe you should take more water with it next time,’ despite his walking stick.

I can find the funny in anything. But I always find the sad too.

Afterwards there were sandwiches, cakes, and pots of hot steaming liquids for a funeral tea at a local hotel. Hefin, Carol’s husband, had managed to arrange it last minute despite a wedding reception that evening. Life truly does go on, and the cakes, scones, and sandwiches were excellent as if to underline this fact. I watched as Will’s people enjoyed their food and the chance to smile again, then they drifted away in twos and threes taking their own particular memories of Will with them

As we were waiting for our turn to thank Carol, an old man asked me ‘who (the hell) I was’. The ‘hell’ was implied, but his manner seemed overly curt. “Just a neighbour,” I replied, suddenly realising with his question that I was the one who had pronounced Will dead. It was me who had said the ‘dead’ word for the first time ever in reference to Will. I didn’t share that thought with my inquisitor though, half expecting him to ask me just who I thought I was to be making judgements like that and me not even a Welshman - and to be honest I would have agreed with him.

We said our goodbyes to Carol and as I turned to her she looked me in the eyes and thanked me for all my help on that day. I just smiled. There was really nothing I could say.

I didn’t have the words.

And that was that.

Friday, 15 August 2014

There's not mushroom inside...

I say, I say, I say (What you again)
My dustbin's absolutely full with toadstools
(How do you know it's full?)
'Cos there's not mushroom inside...

Lonnie Donegan's 'My Old Man's a Dustman' was probably the first song that I ever learnt off by heart. I'd play it over and over again on the spanking new Dansette record player that my parent's bought from the club book. It was on a long player and I remember Cumberland Gap, Battle of New Orleans, Have a Drink on Me, Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour... But it was the dustman song that I remember best, and of course that lousy joke.

Yes, there's not mushroom inside.

Mushrooms are strange things. I love them fried for breakfast, with garlic as a starter, and in an occasional omelette. But when it comes to soup or mushroom flan... Well, I'm not keen.They aren't the most adaptable of edibles.

Yes, beyond fried, sauteed in garlic, folded into eggs, or maybe added to a pie they leave me pretty much cold and I'd love to find a really good recipe that isn't one of the above because, at the moment, we have a glut.

The mushroom season seems to have hit early this year and the field opposite the cottage is full of them. Last weekend our farmer friend dropped off two carrier bags full of the lovely round fungi and after numerous breakfasts of mushrooms on toast, mushroom omelettes, fried mushrooms with bacon, and a couple of garlic mushroom starters I have to admit that I begin to tire of them.

A large carrier bag full of the things still sits in the corner of the room waiting for an inspiration. All I can think of is mushroom soup... And I don't like mushroom soup.

Any ideas?

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Coffee and dolphins...

Given the events of the last few days, the deaths of comics and sirens, old men slipping away without a murmur, the continuing tragedy of the Middle East, or Rolf Harris giving away signed cartoons to inmates at his prison to buy his safety. I think that on balance I’d rather be with the dolphins.

I don't know how they managed to swim through the air to our bird feeders, but somehow they did. Mind you I was asleep and probably smiling; for once my dreams didn't include meetings and car keys and various missing items of clothing.

Drinking my coffee, I began to wonder. Animals don’t seem to have news, particularly bad news, and if they did it’d probably be about a change in the wind or where the best bird table was to be found. Animals aren’t constantly bombarded by terrible and terrifying information about who’s killing who or who did what and for why. Oh, it happens to them just the same – the cat pounces, the hawk swoops – but it isn’t expected and it hardly ever makes the news.

Unless of course you count Facebook.

Yes, on balance I think I’d rather be a dolphin - or failing that a cup of coffee.

Drink me.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

A death...

I don’t know if I should write about this, but I know that if I don’t write about this that it will rattle around in my head and eventually take me somewhere that I may not want to go.

My Sunday in Wales started out well enough. A nuthatch visited the feeders and the weather was fine. I had a haircut, my wife Gaynor cutting my hair, and was listening to The Archers watching the dozens of birds that had congregated on our growing array of feeders.

Gaynor had washed her hair and was drying it upstairs when a knock came on the door. It was Carol, our neighbour from a few cottages down. She’d been to check on her dada, our next door neighbour Will, and couldn’t wake him and asked me to help.

I kicked into automatic as soon as I saw her distress, following her next door and up the stairs to his ‘in the roof bedroom’. I was aware of him in his bed, noticed how neat the room was, his clothes hanging from hangers on the wardrobe, everything in its place, and how still Will was.

‘He’s cold.’ Carol said.

He was cold, the coldest thing I’ve ever touched. I checked his pulse, listened for breath, and remember thinking ‘Will’s not here, where are you Will?’ For all the world he looked like he might wake up at any moment to find me standing over him in his bedroom, only this wasn’t Will. This was some waxwork that had replaced the man and, although it looked just like him, Will had gone.

I’d never touched a dead person before, nor been so close to one. Had I even seen a dead person before, a corpse? I didn’t think that I had. I was surprised how calm I was and hoped that when I told Carol her Dad was dead that I didn’t seem matter of fact. It was such a strange feeling being so calm, so in control, with a dead person in the room.

We went downstairs and I called the ambulance, but before they arrived I went back upstairs again to check Will again. I was hoping to find that he’d shifted positions, but of course he hadn’t.

One last check. Picking up his hand I noticed how hard his flesh was, hard and hard to move, and of course that awful cold again. I’d heard him pottering in his greenhouse just the evening before. How could death creep in so unannounced? He wasn’t ill, he wasn’t on any medication and, for an eighty-four year old, was the most sprightly man I’ve ever met.

Not here now though. Just this (and I know it’s a cliché) shell lying in Will’s bed. An inanimate object that once had grown tomatoes, talked to my cat, and loved to tell me that I’d put on far too much weight.

 'You're not here are you Will? Where are you?'

I looked at his ‘eyes closed’ face and knew he’d just died in his sleep; a good way to go, if there ever is a good way, and knew I’d never forget his face as it was then. I didn’t know him well, but I knew enough to care.

Anyway, that’s it really. I think that I feel a better now that I’ve written it down.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

August back yard...

This too-ing and fro-ing from Wales has meant that my back yard had had its head and each time I return I find it just a little bit jungley than it was before. Well, the season has been warm and the rain adequate, in fact it has been one of the lushest growing seasons that I remember. Of course the downside to this is that I have powdery mildew on my sweet peas and the enclosing higher growth is well out of control.

So here it sits teetering on the edge of wild abandon. The paths need weeding, the borders trimming, not to mention the pruning and cutting back that's required to let the whole thing, tiny though it may be, breathe again. I'm going to leave it though.

I think that given the plants have managed themselves to this degree of verdant lushness that they deserve a break. There are plants in here that I never planted, plants that I don't even know the name of, this bit of the planet is as self cultivating as any piece of hidden rain forest. This time when I return who knows where the self-seeded nasturtiums will have crept to, how big the mystery hollyhock will have grown?

Best let them get on with it.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Fire and concentration…

There he is, he never changes. Same cap, same jacket, same expression on his face. The granddad I remember wasn’t much of a smiler. A quiet man, I only saw him laugh once or twice and he spoke in pauses, silences, and a collection of grunts. But then I wasn't around him much, so I'm sure that there was much more to him than I knew.

My memories of him are few. I only saw him for brief holidays and when he and my grandmother came to visit at Christmas. They always brought the most enormous fresh turkey, as big as me it seemed. I always thought that he looked sad somehow, my granddad not the turkey. But that could be my memory playing tricks, maybe I interpreted his quietness as melancholy. I have a much later memory of him on a Friday night drinking whisky at a strange little pub, playing cribbage, and laughing. I think that’s one of the last memories I have of him.

Most of my recollections are tinged with the views of my parents and their judgement on people is particularly poor. So somewhere between what they said, and the fleeting time I spent with him, I've built up an image of my granddad that will be far less that the truth. He bought me a huge box of old Meccano from an auction one time. The original stuff and the best present I ever had. Perhaps he wanted me to become an engineer or a blacksmith like he was; anyway I like to think so.

Once, I must have been five or six, I watched him make the rim for a cartwheel. I seemed to know what was going on without being told and I think understood instinctively what was happening and how it was done. Maybe that’s just hindsight and wishful thinking. He told me to keep away from the fire. But of course I didn’t and moved in far too close, getting full of smoke and soot. I was like that - a naughty, disobedient, not very likable boy.

Hard, hard, work with a rim of steel deep in the fire until hot, red hot, then hammered on the round stone you see in the background onto the wooden cartwheel in the doorway and plunged into water from the tank to cool. Look how he watches the fire, waiting for the iron to be hot enough to expand and be ready to hammer onto the wooden edge of the wheel. Fascinated, I watched him hold the rim with long metal tongs and hammer it on, round and round, round and round, until it fitted perfectly.

Of course this picture, lent to me by my cousin Sharon, was taken years later. Some time in the seventies. He’s shoeing a wheel for a Romany caravan; a real one, not a tinker’s rig. I wonder if they paid him in cash or lucky charms and homemade whisky? The children from the local school in Wragby came to watch, and Yorkshire Television filmed him at his work. Even then wheelwright work was a disappearing art.

So there he is; same cap, same jacket, same expression on his face. I doubt there are many who could hammer a metal rim onto a wooden cartwheel these days. I don't think I knew him very well, just those opinions of my parents and the short experiences I had of him. Looking at this picture of him gazing into the fire, watching and waiting for the heat to be just right, I can almost see what he is thinking - almost, but not quite.

I know that look. I feel it on my own face when I am trying to work something out; where to put the next splash of paint, what that sentence should really feel like. I can’t rim a cartwheel though, I only wish that I could.

Fire and concentration. That is all there really is to everything.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Got the T shirt…

I wouldn’t say that I am obsessed with VW campervans, it’s a passing interest, so whenever I pass one I’m interested, really interested. If it’s rolling along the road I gaze longingly at it as it trundles by, wishing that it was mine, rating it out of ten. I’m torn between the split screen and the original Westphalia, but really any VW campervan takes my interest, even the new ones.

I’ve managed so far to stay away from too much campervan stuff. I’ve a print, a couple of fridge magnets, and my collection of T shirts. I have four, so it’s hardly an obsession is it?

Is my collection of T shirts bordering on the obsessive?

Of course, in my dreams I own a campervan and sometimes I pass the time by imagining what my campervan would look like and how I would campervan it up. I might just go for a cool cream, a subtle green, or maybe a grey. Of course I’d like it to look cool, so maybe a few Sailor Jerry tattoo embellishments might do the trick. Yes, I quite fancy that.

The bus in the picture is cool. I bumped into it in Wales at the weekend, Barmouth to be precise. It may look wrecked and rusty but the distress and rust are lovingly painted on. I went up close and checked it out. The lumps and bumps of rust are resin and it’s been painstakingly painted then hand-faded to make it look worn out. What a great example of a really cool vehicle all shabby chic-ed up and immaculate in every other way. Just look at those shiny hub caps and the streamliner interior gleamed like that proverbial new pin.

Oh well, at least I have the T shirts.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014


Here it is. My one sunflower from the packet of seed that I found lost in my seed draw, the packet that should have been used by 2008. I knew that there was little chance of them taking, but even so I sowed around a dozen of the shrivelled husks in individual pots and put them in the greenhouse. Hoping but not really expecting any of them to grow.

This one must have been particularly hardy, a survivor, a sunflower with the will to live, because despite all the odds it grew and grew and now stands a proud eight feet tall in my backyard enjoying the sunshine and soaking up the rain.

I find it amazing that anything can grow so tall in just a few months - from tiny seed to mighty plant in a season. To give you an idea of just how big it is, that's a standard size hanging Basket on the right and that grey trowel handle in the foreground is eight inches long.

I like my sunflower so much that next spring I shall plant more sunflower seeds, and this time I’ve bought a new packet. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Sunshine and snails...

I spend my time in Wales doing pretty much what I choose and this morning I chose to collect dead snails and photograph them in the sunshine. The snails demise, alas, was due to a scattering of slug pellets I made early in the season and now the shells are all that remain of the little creatures. It made me feel quite the killer, and for a second I felt more than a little remorse at being the perpetrator of such heinous death. They looked so beautiful upon my old terracotta table, with their swirls, yellows, greens and burnt umber oranges.

Maybe in future I'll leave them alone and let them live.

Friday, 1 August 2014

It’s elementary…

Yes, I’m off to Wales again. Well, you have to go somewhere don’t you. Sometimes when I’m there I like to sleep in the dilapidated old caravan at the bottom of the garden. It isn’t a happy memory thing, my memories of caravan holidays aren’t that great, it’s an adventure thing.

I know I should really be up a mountain in a tent, but my really rough camping days are gone, not that they really ever began. The closest that I really want to get to the elements is a nice cosy bed with an electric lamp, running water, the sound of the wind in the trees around me, and very little chance of snakes. Yes when it comes to the elements – earth, air, fire, and water – I best like them with a dash of comfort and a glass of flaming brandy.

It’s a nest thing, or maybe a cave. Enclosed in my small space of ‘almost outdoors’, reading by the light of a guttering Ikea lamp, I will feel like an owl or a badger; both avid readers Walt Disney has led me to believe.

Oh, to be a gypsy on the road to who knows where?

So this weekend I will bravely walk down to the caravan and spend a night or two in the closest I hope I'll ever get to the open air. I’m also hoping that it rains in the night; I love the sound of the raindrops on the tin roof and knowing that I really am ‘out there in the wildernesses’ will make me feel pretty brave.

Especially if there are spiders.