Reflective
Now, Want and Able are two different things
One is desire, and the other is the means
Like I wanna hold you, and see you, and feel you in my dreams
But that’s not possible, something simply will not let me
Want and Able, Jack White
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Diary

Keep On Moving

“Fancy a vintage weekend in Wendy, Gemma? 

“Absolutely! 😍😘 Book it. Xxxx”

So I did; a birthday present for one of my dearest friends, who Nige absolutely bloody loved! She’d mentioned that she wanted a weekend away with Wendy so, yeah, what better than three glorious days in the Wiltshire sunshine, at the Vintage Nostalgia Festival.


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My man and I, rocking hats!

In 2015, Nige and I were gifted two VIP tickets to the Vintage Nostalgia Festival by the brother of the organiser. I was so excited, I longed to go the previous year but it didn’t happen – now we had 2 shiny, gold tickets!

As soon as we parked up we were seduced by the utter loveliness of the venue; as we wandered through the eclectically-dressed folk, we were charmed by their warmth; The stalls too welcomed us with a huge selection of nostalgic wares and then, as we stopped for a well-earned Pimms, we bumped into Bex and Liam – friends from Bath who, along with their

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Liam and Nige

Camper van, Bluebell, were staying for the whole weekend. We went back to Bluebell and had ‘afternoon tea’ with gin, laced with a rhubarb and ginger liquor. The atmosphere was so beautifully soft, you know? Fluid, sweet, idyllic… We were hooked!

Of course, both Nige and I dreamed of returning there for a weekend in our own camper van – and we should’ve done, in 2016. But we didn’t. I thought we had time, so did he.

2018 then, with the lovely Gemma. No pressure Wootten!


 

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The Flaming Feathers

After ending my Postern Hill jaunt on a soggy Wednesday morning, the washing machine and tumble drier were on continually in order to get Wendy ready for Friday! Even the dog went to the groomers for a bath and trim. By Friday morning I was calm and organised, feeling pretty great about my organisation skills. All I needed now was Django, my side-kick, and Gemma – my other side-kick…

Friday, 1st June

11am, and we were off, hitting the road to wild Warminster. It was a simple drive with Django reclining on the bed in the back and Gem nattering to me in the front. That felt strange. Aside from short journeys dropping the boys off here and there, I seldom have passengers. And never on my trips away – for once Wendy’s directions were not the prevalent voice in the van and I loved that. We arrived around lunchtime, found a spot to set up our little camp and promptly started on the wine.


With the rose windsock flying high, to guide us back, we set off to the main arena. Quite a few stalls were already trading but many more were covered, teasing us as to what may be available to buy tomorrow! Django wandered around a little gingerly – he’s been quite skittish since our foray into Marlborough earlier in the week, like his confidence has been knocked. To be fair, he’ll probably be a better dog for it. We bought ourselves a baguette and headed back to Wendy. Django wouldn’t eat his food but he did enjoy a long run in a field full of cow shit (he ate that) and managed to do his bits. Happy fur mummy.

We had a gin or two and a game of Carcassone before returning to the festival. A chilled mooch with the dog, a bit of window shopping and then we settled at The Black Swan for a few pints of Boondoggle (Boondoogle – you had to be there…). Django, quite literally, stopped traffic; barely a person passed him by without commenting on his beauty, ruffling his head or stroking his beard. He behaved impeccably actually. I was so impressed. Gem, too, was relieved that the manic puppy she’d met a month or so earlier had transformed into such a gent!

We laughed, we smiled, we remembered. So we cried.

As we settled in for the evening at the Swan, I said,

“Oh my God Gem, it’s Nige Luton!”

“What? No way! Oh it is!!”

So we both said hello. I gave him a hug but he looked quite shocked, I think. Gabe sees Nige Luton a lot in The Raven so I used that as an ice-breaker whilst Gem chatted to Cathy, his wife. I wasn’t sure if he knew about Nige so when I introduced him to Django I explained that he was my salvation after his death. I still don’t know if he knows! Maybe seeing us was more of a shock for him than us… We were both part of his life at Southdown and I’m not sure he really likes reminding of that time. Who knows.

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With a lot of alcohol in us and not enough food, we found ourselves at a fresh pizza place. We ordered a Margherita Calzone each (my first ever)… They were huge! In fact we were given someone else’s at first and I thought that between us was ample… Still, I think we needed something that big to soak up the drink because when we woke up the next morning we both felt great.


Saturday, 2nd June

I lit the stove this morning and produced a passable mug of coffee. On my journey to the far end of the field I found, not only the water, but a huge bank of toilets, the temporary showers and a little fresh coffee van! Gem wandered up afterwards whilst Django and I chilled out in the sunshine. As I sat there I hoped she was having a good time; she looks to be but I think she would try hard to enjoy herself on my behalf so can only hope she’s genuinely loving it. There was no rush to get back to the festival; we lounged and chatted about life which inevitably leads on to death and the future – mine and hers. We both have changes to make and we both need encouragement, not just from each other, but from everyone who is part of our lives. I’m certainly looking forward – and always have done – to seeing just where Gemma ends up professionally. She has a real gift with children and young adults; almost effortless. I’m absolutely positive that there’s a higher calling for her somewhere! We’ve always been able to chat like this: mixing up the important stuff with the downright idiotic. I’ve missed it.

Right, enough of that, time for some vintage jollies! Within ten minutes of entering the festival I’d bought a lamp. It’s not just a lamp – it’s a teapot, teacup and saucer… and is my gift to Wendy! Next up: pressies for my Grace (shhh, don’t tell her…) As usual, my crappy phone was out of power so there was no way of knowing whether Nick and Shell were coming over or not…

“We’ll bump into them if we’re meant to…” I told Gem.

“I love that…!”

“Aha, there’s Nick, over there…”

and sure enough, through the Classic Cars, walks my big brother and Shelley with Amy, turning a fabulous weekend into a perfect one.

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As we sat outside the Spirit of Gin bar, Gem and I (Gemini!) knocking back a few, Shelley chatted to Gem about other avenues in ‘children’s services’ she may not have thought about, Nick and I talked about Postern Hill, dogs and me whilst Django soaked up all the attention! So chilled out and relaxed, we could’ve stayed there all day and night. But as Nick, Shell and Amy wandered off to see more, we went back to pick up my lamp and get some dinner: traditional chips with curry sauce for Gem and mushy peas for me.

As Django flaked out on the bed in the van, we opened a bottle of Prosecco. Well, what else do you drink with chips? We stayed there, chatting and drinking until we were ready to, first, take Django for a walk and then on into the festival for some evening entertainment. Nige and I loved seeing burlesque shows together and one of our favourite troupes were The Flaming Feathers – so much fun. Anyway, they play the festival each year and Gem’s never seen them so it was a bit of a must-see. We set up our chairs, relaxed with an English Tea Garden cocktail and got ready for the show. Before they even started we were on cocktail number two – a Vintage Nostalgia. Django, laying down by my feet, behaved beautifully (which is probably more than can be said for the naughty Flaming Feathers – Saucy minxes!) Gem managed to shuffle into a better seat and so got to see the show. I am glad – I’d have hated her to have missed it.

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As the sun went down on our last night away, I felt no real sadness – yes I’d shed a few tears but that’s a daily thing and perfectly normal. But the sadness that usually settles within me didn’t settle; it came and went, came again, went again and that was a lot less exhausting. As I’m writing this, I’m wondering why that was. Why, though all the ingredients were the same, save one, did the sadness just dissipate? I think it’s because I was showing Gemma something new; camping in a van, going to a festival, snuggling up to an Airedale pup, watching a burlesque show… It wasn’t about me being on my own, in fact it wasn’t about me at all!

It was about a lovely young woman who I have watched endure much and grow in spite of it, who, in return, stood by my side at the most traumatic moment in my life. Moments really, as the past 18 months have had many. But more than that, she was one of only a handful who continually visited Nige, making him smile and keeping a semblance of normality within a family that was anything but. You know, I’m not sure I could’ve done it.

So Happy Birthday, you! I know it’s belated but well, we were all a little bit tied up on your special day! xxxx

 

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Diary

Keep On Moving…

“There’s a campsite? I’m booking in for a couple of nights – I want to find more of the Great Oaks!”


Same, same but different

Savernake Forest has always held a fascination for me; with it’s 1000, even 2000, year old oaks and beeches casting knowledgeable shadows over ancient soil. As children, Nick, Ben and I would run amongst them. Now, some 40 years on, here we are; same soil, same boughs, no Ben. For 17 years we have learned to live our lives without that mischievous brother of mayhem and, like all grief, it’s been a bit of a ride. Now I have a whole different load of shit to deal with; again, mainly grief-shaped but there are relationships too that need careful attention. As I set up my ‘sparkly’ campsite, I was full of hope.

Monday

I travelled to Marlborough along the motorway – practice, practice, practice! No wrong turnings, just a bit of Bank Holiday traffic as I got onto and off of the M4. Knowing the Salisbury Road through Marlborough helped of course. Postern Hill Campsite sits along this road, higher up than the town, meaning that all you can glimpse through the trees is sky instead of town, and though Salisbury Road is a main one, you barely hear a thing due to the vast amount of huge oaks and beeches that fill the site. Before I left the house, whilst checking the postcode, I found two pretty unfavourable reviews. They both cited the lack of amenities (showers), the state of the toilets and the ‘jobsworth’ nature of the wardens as their reasons for giving the campsite just 1 star. So I was a bit apprehensive going into the reception area, wondering just what kind of officious little twat awaited me there.

“Hello! I’m Lisa Lee… I have booked,” biiig smile.

“Yes you are! Right, here’s a site map,” draws a line through half of it, “This half has electric, that half doesn’t. Oh, and we do do fresh pastries in the morning, you just need to order the night before.” Huuge smile back.

Such a lovely man. I asked about burning wood as it said on the website that you weren’t allowed to.

“What kind of wood?”

“Kiln-Dried, from Homebase…”

“No, sorry. We have locally made charcoal. I can guarantee you won’t need firelighters neither!”

“Right-ho. Mind you, I am shocking at lighting a fire so, well YOU may not need firelighters!”

I found the perfect spot to set up my salubrious camp. There was a very barky dog next to me but they were just leaving. To be replaced by a larger family with three dogs – only one was barky though, and even he wasn’t that bad. Anyway, my new wind-break acted superbly as a sort-of garden wall, offering me some vital privacy that I haven’t had on previous camping trips. In fact, as gorgeous as my new chairs and stove are, the wind-break made the biggest difference overall. I may buy another one…


Big Brotherly Love, Sisterly Hugs, Parental Mirth

The moment I mentioned booking up at Postern Hill for a couple of nights, Nick was on-board.

“We can come over Liz. Bring a barbecue, cook some food; it’ll be lovely!”

Neither of us were hopeful that mum and dad would join us though; they have been fairly reclusive of late and since Nige passed, mum finds it incredibly difficult to talk to me. I mean; at all. The normal me would try and understand, would make allowances but I’m not normal. I’m broken and even when I’m fixed I doubt I’ll have the compunction to take on such a futile task. The way both mum and dad are has not changed in my lifetime but I guess I always imagined that when I truly needed them they’d put their neurosis aside and, against type, be there for me. After all, that is precisely what Nick has done, and (as I’ve said before) I would not be here now if it wasn’t for his timely phone calls. There’s time yet, and though I will make no effort to try and understand, I do have an innate ability to grasp at hope. I mean, come on, those of you who followed Nige and my journey know at least that much about me! Anyway, I digress: mum and dad were the first to arrive! I saw dad come into the site and thought initially that he was on his own. Then I saw mum’s hand, gripping the back of the passenger seat like a claw – “Wow, her anxiety’s bad…” I thought. But then she popped her head up and in her other hand held a piece of kitchen roll,

“We made it all the way here and just as we came through the gate, she threw up!” 

I looked harder; Cara, they brought Cara along… My word, I was surprised to see them, I was utterly flabbergasted to see the dog! So chuffed though, and mum was beaming. Quite like her normal self. See, we’re all broken a little.

Nick and Shell were mere minutes after and had Amy with them. Aha, Django – a little get together with Auntie Cara and Cousin Amy; he was made up.

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Nick cooked some marvellous mackerel on a disposable barbecue. He’d made a lovely salsa-type salad and bought sourdough bread as well. Honestly, we would all have starved without him! We all sat munching on our mackerel and salsa sourdough sandwiches while the dogs seemed pretty well settled. Cara too, although she did make the occasional break for it (never far though and I think mum was pretty proud of her). Conversation was suitably bizarre; mum tends to talk most and chose to talk about her family. There was the usual and slightly tactless comments – most noticeably about how sad her mum must have been when she lost her husband…

“I can’t really imagine how she must have felt you know… Lonely I guess…”

I had no words. Well, I had plenty but when all’s said and done, I believe she meant to draw a parallel between nana and myself but just couldn’t complete the connection – emotions and all that. The nicest thing she said was,

“You’re nana would think that what you’re doing is absolutely great you know? She’d love you.” 

Now that’s the sort of comment you want to fall asleep thinking about. I mean, I know she’s proud of me, it goes without saying, but I never knew my nana so mum’s insight is all I have. Along with her spirit of course, which I seem to have in abundance.

Dad sat and listened to us all without really hearing anything. He’s been like this now for a couple of years and though it concerns all of us (mainly mum), he’s no nearer actually doing anything about it. So he throws in the occasional laugh when he sees others laugh, and not always at the appropriate time. As glorious as it was to see them both, I felt sad to witness such utter collapse. Mum still has embers there; the spark of conversation and laughter just needs a little kindling and she’d be as bright as ever she was. But dad’s fire has been extinguished. He needs to make a decision: to live or not live. To live he first needs to get himself a hearing aid. It’s as simple as that. For some reason though he has chosen not to – to not live. Speaking not only as his daughter but as a heart-broken widow, I am incredulous that he’s content with that choice; to make mum a living widow. If only all that Nige needed was a sodding gadget to put him back in this world… Man, it makes no fucking sense to me at all. I would tell him all this, of course, but he wouldn’t hear me so…

*

Nick and Shelley stayed awhile after mum and dad left. Talking to them both always brings my emotions to the surface and Nick, too, fights back tears. Shelley has hugs to spare and when I’m on my solo little camping trips, it’s the hugs I miss the most. Django tries his best but, well, he has teeth – massive, sharp, bitey teeth! Somehow we ended the evening laughing, which is how parties should end right? It wasn’t late; still enough light for me and Django to see our way through the forest for an evening stroll. I bottled going too far to be fair, telling Django that I was saving it all for tomorrow.

As the sun went down, I pondered on my evening with family. We’ve lost so many and each of us hurts in a thousand different ways. The only thing any of us have in common is grief and the fact that none of us chose the road it’s put us on. Grief is like no other human thing because it’s done to us, not by us. That is what makes it so shit.


Tuesday

Oh Django. I knew I should’ve got up at 7am… For the first time he had wet the bed! Only on the bottom corner so it could’ve been worse. Anyway, up I got and out went the throw-over in a vain attempt to get it dry. There’s a damp feeling in the air though so I didn’t hold out much hope. As my gas canister is deplete and to boil a kettle on my stove would take eons, I chose instead to walk the 20 minutes or so to Marlborough. I have fond memories of Marlborough; the Mop, The Polly Tearooms, Cornish Pasties (!). Now it was the place most likely to give me a double espresso.

Through the forest where we walked with mum, dad, Nick and Shelley the previous day, and out onto the busy Salisbury Road. Oh my goodness, poor Django. From that point to our return to that point, he was one very anxious puppy. Building works meant, not only huge, thundering lorries but also a diversion onto the main road right on the roundabout. When we eventually got into town we had delivery lorries to contend with: loud bangs, trollies piled high with black polythene wrapped merchandise as well as daily commuters hurrying through with little thought for a nervous pup. I endured it with him and thought, aloud,

“I never realised how wonderfully quiet Bath is due to it’s pedestrianisation…”

At the far end I stopped for my espresso. Django commanded ALL the attention of course. It went a little way towards settling him – he did lay down in the middle of the pavement. On our way back we met a lovely little fox terrier called Barney. I chatted to his mum while Django chatted to him. Nice to have a positive experience on an otherwise disastrous trip!

Back at the camp I bought us some charcoal – time to fire up the brand new stove! Another family turned up and set up camp next to us (definitely need another wind-break!) Every time they banged a car door Django flipped. Looking back I think it was because of our trip into town. Before that he never flinched at anything – thunder, lightning, fireworks… Twice it was so extreme he ended up knocking over the stove, complete with burning coals and water. The second time he took himself into the van and stayed there. Watching the 10 plus kids next to me kicking a ball about and hitting logs with sticks, I almost joined him! I let him have a while to chill out and then I took him on a walk to find the Great Oaks. Some of them anyway.


Where’s Cathedral Oak?

On my £1.50 map, the oak nearest to us was ‘Cathedral Oak’. Anyway, as we were wondering down White Road I came across ‘White Road Oak’. That gave me an idea as to where we actually were. So, keep going until you see two adjacent barriers; turn right, then left up a grass track to…. ‘Old Paunchy’! I’m making it sound way too easy – it really wasn’t. I couldn’t get to grips with the scale of the map and the tracks, other than the tarmac ones, were pretty indiscernible due to time and weather I guess. Django bunny-hopped ahead and for the most part I let him dictate our route. I had a rough idea where we were… Up here, left on to a main bit, then right, just before a barrier – hopefully to ‘Cathedral Oak’. Well, the walk was beautiful; to the right was a chainlink fence and a building beyond that undergoing extensive renovations. There were quite a few grand oaks en route. Suddenly I came upon a stunner. “Surely this is ‘Cathedral Oak’?” I thought… Not until this very moment did I know for sure. There was no sign you see, and I thought they were all labelled. I’ve just seen a picture though, and it is most definitely the magnificent oak I saw. Brilliant.

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White Rd Oak

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Old Paunchy

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Cathedral Oak (the sign is not there now… but you just know who he is, right?)


Last Night Blues

I’m never not thinking about Nige. Never. He is present in my every thought, my every sentence, my every action. Never more so than when I’m with Wendy, the van we chose together because we believed (he believed) that we would have at least another year in which to travel and fulfil just a few of our dreams. It’s when faced with the beauty of nature, which he saw in abundance, that I feel how unfair life truly is. That to deny others the joy of your conversation and humour (dad) is to make a mockery of the loss I so keenly feel. Come on dad, it’s fixable. You’re fixable and worth fixing. Mum, well I really felt she had turned a corner in just turning up yesterday. I hope we can build on it – if not, it won’t be for the want of trying.

So I sobbed my way from oak to oak. I reminisced with myself and allowed Nigel’s spirit to swamp my own. In this thoughtful, mournful state I returned with my pup to Wendy. I tidied away (save me a job in the morning) and did all the pots. Then it was bed with Django and Radio4X. Honestly? Not the worse second night ever – I did stay sober!

At about 3am I awoke to a horrendous downpour! Django was unfazed though I reached out to him instinctively anyway. For a while I lay listening to beech and oak dropping their debris onto the van roof. I wondered what exactly I had left outside of the awning, “Shit, the moon chairs… Ah well. They’ll dry.”

7am and I’m up. The rain is minimal and, well, it’s got to be done and Django can’t help… Methodically, I worked from flagpole to chairs, to stove to awning and then to rubbish. When it was all packed and ready, I took Django for a last walk round the forest. More a sniffy walk than a jaunt, it was enough for him to have a pee and a pooh. His pooh was thankfully a little more solid though very light. And at the end there was blood. Right, we’re off home, via the vet.


Salmon and Potato

I cannot tell you thoughts that went through my head as I drove the hour and a half trip back to Bath. They were centred around terminal doggy illnesses though, as that seems to be my lot in life.

I love my vet. I love that Michelle alerted me to the benefits of a vet within a 7 day a week pet shop. I pulled up, went in and, on seeing the receptionist, Django livened up! That in itself was a relief. I told her my concerns but as I was talking I was kind of answering too: anxious – of course, he was walked on a choker lead through a busy town for the first time and then had strange people replicating those noises next to him… Pale pooh, well, as I told the nurse, he does tend to pick out the chicken when we’re away and leave the biscuits… Blood? The nurse reassured me that as the blood appeared at the end of his pooh it was likely to be due to him passing a solid stool after a day or so of runny ones. The upshot is that his chicken based diet isn’t suiting his stomach.

“My dog was the same. It took a while but eventually we found that a diet based on salmon and potato was perfect…”

So, just an hour back home and Django is his old bouncy, bitey, beautiful puppy self again…


Sorry

Mum rang. She actually rang a few times but I let it go – too tired. At teatime I picked up the phone.

“What time did you get off this morning?”

“Wow, um, it was early… About twenty past eight… I was worried about Django.”

“I just missed you then! I got there at about half past. I thought ‘Lizzie could do with a hand packing things away in this wet weather,’ so decided to come over…”

I was so overwhelmed. I mean that’s awesome right? Shelley said that maybe coming over would kick-start her into action and look! I said there were still glowing embers… Before hanging up she said,

“I know you won’t ask for help but I wish you would.”

“Well, I guess I think I shouldn’t have to…”

“I know, it’s taken me a while to realise that and I’m sorry.”

That is everything to me. Aha, the healing power of the oak trees… kindling to the soul.

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Next: Vintage Nostalgia Show xxx

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Reflective

“I want him back but can’t have him. I’d like her to care but she can’t. I have to move forward and I will. Because he would want that, and that is the closest to having him back I will ever get.”

Lisa Lee
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Reflective

“Gabe’s a practitioner of perpetual motion – move forward at a steady pace: don’t stop or you’ll fall – kind of guy; whereas Harry only puts one foot forward if he’s absolutely, positively certain that it’s the right foot and the right direction. I’m a bit like that myself… What you should take from this is that we’re all moving forward; at varying speeds.”

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Diary

Keep On Moving

“There’s always time for fairy lights…”

I booked for Vanwest months ago, just after losing Nige. It was uncharacteristically spur of the moment and definitely against my better judgement. But Nige would’ve loved the idea of me going so I clicked ‘Book Tickets’ and instantly felt part of the crowd he always wanted me to be part of. This past week however, has been one of extreme, mixed emotions as the reality of not one, but two nights away hit. Thirteen years ago I went to Glastonbury without him and cried each night… and he was on the end of the phone back then.

On Friday evening, 5.30ish and with limited preparation (again), the dog and I set off. Wendy guided us brilliantly through the roundabouts, onto the M4; off again and then onto the M5. Dare I say, I’m actually enjoying motorway driving! Though I wouldn’t do it without Wendy’s Sat-Nav showing me the way. Off the motorway and it was all country lanes until Warren Farm, our destination for Vanwest. I felt optimistic as I drove through the site to get to field 12 though the enormity of the area did make me a little anxious.


Gin and Death Proof

Typically, the rain began as Django and I set off to explore our temporary surroundings. I asked the guy in the van next to us if he knew how to get to the main arena and he pointed me in the direction of a handy stile just 200 yards away. The bouncy pup bounced all the way past the Fishing Lake and into the Vanwest event. There were a few stalls already set up so we checked out their wares. Such a lot of stickers to be bought though I was more drawn to the flag guy. I’ve been meaning to sort out a pole and flags and this was the perfect time; he wasn’t busy, there wasn’t anyone really about so I had his full attention. I came away with quite a tidy setup and a very wet, muddy and smelly puppy!

Back at the van I stowed away my new purchase (I really should’ve put it up; despite the downpour and lack of hammer). Django hopped into the van and made himself comfortable whilst I poured myself a large Gin and Tonic. I tried to play Death Proof on the TV but, for some reason, it wouldn’t play. Luckily I had my laptop. So, after much prodding to get my DVD back, I finally settled down. Another drink, the dog and Death Proof then – what could go wrong?


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The above photos were taken on the first night… The first one I remember taking; the rain was hammering down and Django was oblivious as he watched Death Proof with me. We cosied-up, a girl and her pup. And a bottle of gin. As is the problem with drinking whilst alone, the glasses become too many. You have no way of really knowing when enough is enough because you’re not conversing with anyone or walking up to a bar – there’s no barometer, no slurred speech or wobbly legs. Needless to say, at some point it got too much and I only have the second picture to tell me that. Oh, and an almighty hangover the next morning… ahem. I’ll not go into the whole furry-tongue-light-head-vomit-breathe thing but, oh look, I kind of did!


Pups and Kids Don’t ‘Do’ Hangovers

It is a fact, universally acknowledged, that pups and kids don’t stop because you have a hangover. Quite right too. So it was up, toilet (such fun squeezing into a Portaloo with the world’s largest puppy) and a long walkies – to find coffee. We ambled back to Wendy, via the beautiful Fishing Lake, where we stopped a while to watch the Canada Geese with their goslings and so I could mutter, “Oh my head…” a few times. Once my head steadied itself, we set off again. Django said, no, bounced, “Good morning!” to every dog we met (there were a lot) whilst I made an oath never, NEVER to drink more than one glass when on my own; it never ends well and only serves as a tap to my emotions. Besides which, it’s bloody sad. I don’t mind being the enigmatic lady in the van with the Airedale but not the alcoholic lady in the van with the Airedale… and I can see that becoming a possibility. Back at the van I forced Django to have a nap with me – the old, “Mummy’s got a headache,” routine. Bless him, he did manage a full 5 minutes before demanding my attention.

After the rain last night, the sun shone brilliantly on all us Vee Dubbers so I braved the main arena. There were so many more stalls than last night and people, of course. Everyone noticed Django, especially if they had a dog. He insisted on bouncing, “Hello!” to all of them, often accompanied with a wet nose on their behind! As you can imagine, this didn’t always go down well and my arm was fair worn out from pulling him away from angry, confused and damn-right indignant mutts by the end of the day. Other than that, I sailed through the whole event as if on another plane. I spoke to people when spoken to, smiled as they smiled and seemed to have to try so hard to just be there, you know? It was exhausting. I bought lunch – noodles. I got to be honest, they were a bland mess and the spring roll was pure grease. I ate it in the picnic area, by the lake. Django got quite a bit of the spring roll but I wasn’t about to let him have the noodles – all those vegetables and egg; I had to sleep in a van with him later! No, I used the box with left over noodles to carry Django’s first pooh of the weekend. And the fork came in handy too.


“Don’t scrimp on the luxuries”

Before leaving for pastures new in France, a good friend of mine passed on the above advice when camping. She also added, ‘There’s always time for fairy lights!’

As I sat by the lake, later that night, I thought to myself (and probably said out loud), ‘This is awful. I’m not here, it’s all too much; too many people, too much laughter, too long…” I realised that two nights without conversation and company was too hard for me. Then I said, “You should’ve put up the awning and the fairy lights. Oh, and the fucking flag pole you bought.”

You see, if you put nothing in you get nothing back. I really felt that by rolling up, I had already put everything in – I was reluctant to go and could feel my emotions running amok before we’d left the house. But the truth is, I’m fine at that bit: I couldn’t wait to get back on the road this morning; me and my dog in the van… on the road. No, what I’m rubbish at is what Nige was so good at: socialising, belonging, smiling and I spent this weekend remembering that sparkle and missing him like crazy.

If I’d put in more – the awning, the lights, the stove then I would’ve had my sparkle. Django has the over stuff covered anyway.


“One more night. You can do this.”

We did have an early night. The TV worked so I watched a bit of that. Django was absolutely shattered and proceeded to lie diagonally across the whole bed. I managed to squash myself in somewhere and there we both stayed, until 7am this morning.

Up, up and away home! Once the bed was put back I had room to connect the stove and make my own coffee. I’m making it seem easy, in actual fact it was anything but. Over the past year I have put too much in the boot that the seat struggled to find its shape… With much jiggery-pokery and to-ing and fro-ing, the seat was up, the coffee was bubbling and Django was making a nuisance of himself to everyone else. One last walk to the toilet and beyond gave me (more) time to reflect. I had the Polaroid camera set up perfectly to capture the VWs and flags (I had tried twice before but they were rubbish). I pressed the button – nothing. No film left. There’s a poetry in that; the last morning, I finally got it. But it was too late to save this weekend – there was no more film. As I said goodbye and wound my way back down the country lanes, I cried and cried.

I know Nige wanted me to go but I completely missed the point and now it’s too late. What a waste of a weekend. And just look at that sunshine…


At home, talking to Gabe, he said, “It’s not a waste mum, you have to push yourself otherwise how do you know what to do differently?” He’s right, of course. I can be subjective and take away lessons learnt and with each adventure comes a new group of Polaroids. They’re not all going to be jolly are they, because life isn’t is it? But they will tell my story and that was the point.

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Next stop; Postern Hill xxx

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