It’s day 4, and it’s 4am. The fabric of space and time appear to be different here. In the city, this is the time I would be going to sleep. Here, it is apparently the time I wake up. I’ve had 6 solid hours. The van is pretty flipping cold. I decide to get up and do some damage control. I temporarily light a couple of the gas hobs just to cut through the chill, turn one of the radiators up, and put on the blow heater. Hoping to god that the surge of electric doesn’t knock out the power yet again. I wait in anticipation with my torch, will I have to wonder to the fuse box outside? No, thank god, it stays on.
The heating sitch still isn’t optimum. I have 3 oil-filled radiators of varying size and power, and a blow heater. I could do with 2 more small ones. Ventilation in caravans is excessive, presumably to prevent damp when they’re not being used in the winter months, so I’ve covered roughly a third of them. I’ve hung some heavy door curtains, and I keep rooms closed that are not in use. It’s not ideal, but it’s manageable. My electric is set at £40 per month ( dropping to £20 in the summer) so I don’t have to worry about running a huge electric bill. The Gas for the oven and hot water is by canister; £55 for a large bottle that I’m guessing is going to last me a couple of months if I’m careful. And that’s what you have to be, careful. You have to be present. Suddenly in such a small space and with so many restrictions you become deftly aware of temperature, how much gas you’re using, how much food you’re using (you can’t just nip to the corner shop to stock up, it would be a 90min walk), you have to be organised and tidy (two things I’m not known for), and if you’re cold you don’t just whack the thermostat up – you put on more layers, and possibly a beanie.
*AT THIS POINT (with perfect timing) THE ELECTRIC CUTS OUT AND I VENTURE OUTSIDE TO FLIP THE FUSE BACK ON*
I flick on my phone torch and move the door curtain to find it stuck to the door, with ice. The curtain has obviously been doing it’s job! Outside is pitch black, the ground covered in frost which lights up like glitter by the light of my torch. I flip the switch, we’re back in business. But having to open the door means we’ve lost valuable heat. And I’m not going to risk putting the blow heater back on. The hobs are lit once more. Today I will invest in yet more heating.
So why am I telling you this? I have a tendency to focus on the good in things, and to romanticise the crap out of it too. I often ignore the practicalities and downsides of a situation. I can instagram a thousand sunsets and have you see this new life through filtered lenses, or I can give you the bits that aren’t so pretty.
This new life takes compromise, I knew it would, and it’s not for everyone. But for me, it’s worth it. Without the mod-cons you start to re-appreciate all the small things that much more. A hot breakfast tastes all the more satisfying after a freezing morning walk. After all, if we get everything we need and want are we every really happy? There’s always something else to aim for, and that my friends, is capitalism. And capitalism makes you think you are progressing, that you are winning when you buy a new car, or a new house, so why is depression so prevalent in modern society? I’m not saying I have the answer, or the cure, all I know is that to be in nature, to be free, ice covered doors and all, is the only antidote I need.
The hot water pipe has frozen, and I’ve been informed it’s -5 outside. It’s definitely an indoor day.