Wild camping or campsite?

Wild camping or campsite? The beauty about Scotland is that you can (pretty much) wild camp anywhere, even where it says ‘no overnight camping’, which isn’t that often. We won’t park where there’s a sign that tells you you can’t, but apparently the police will not move you on. It’s all to do with the ‘right to roam’ part of the Scottish constitution which allows you to (pretty much) walk anywhere you like. 

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if you look really hard you can spot Doris in the distance

As a result Scotland is, like France which has the same sort of approach, a boon for wild camping. And, as there are plenty of gravelly parking places with some fab views, you sort of want to wild camp. The views are enticing you to. And we have … and we do. And when you find yourself on your own, with nights as black as pitch, with deer wandering around where you are, it is a difficult draw to ignore. 

 

So why don’t we do it all the time up here? Two reasons. First we have to fill with water and empty our loo. Unlike France where there are aires (purpose built motorhome stops most with facilities) in almost every village, there is nothing similar here. Yes, you could use the odd public convenience, and we have on one or two occasions (not this time), but it is frowned upon as you can’t help not making a bit of a mess and it is always difficult to clear up afterwards. And it’s not a mess you want to leave lying around. Also, public loos do not generally have drinking water that’s easy to get at, and, again, taking it is frowned upon.

We can survive a week with a full tank of water (110 litres) but only 3 nights, maybe 4 max, with our loo. I am going to get a spare ‘cassette’ for our loo and this should allow us to roam free for a week. But, up here we would still need to stay in a campsite one day in seven. [Insofar as charging batteries, etc, our system is so efficient now that I have everything sorted, we have been ‘off grid’ for 4 weeks in late autumn in France without a worry, so it’s not a problem for us … but it might be for you.]IMG_20190916_112312842_HDR

Which is fine, because, whilst I don’t like spending the money (you’re working on between £17 and £30 a night here in Scotland – our three pitches have cost us £23; £25 and £18) staying on a campsite does give you that sense of freedom to open your doors and just let everything hang out. There is always something a little bit edgy about wild camping – not so on a campsite. And, whilst our shower is perfectly adequate, we always restrict the amount of water we use. On a campsite, that is not an issue. 

So, it’s a balance, one forced on us by the need to get water and empty tanks. Which works well. Currently, now meandering home having had a fab couple of nights in Scourie campsite … with another 25 mile cycle ride that our thighs have yet to recover from … and then two nights wild camping in the back of beyond, we on Morvic Campsite. I’ve just run five klicks and C is out doing the same. We’ve got Cassie again, as Jen and James are heading home, and we are pushing south via Mallaig to see old work friends of C’s.

Home by Tuesday. Work at the school on Thursday. And then a busy time here and there, including a three-night stay in Paris in mid-October with Mary. I know, it’s a hard life. I should be writing book 6 by then. I’ve finished rewriting Unsuspecting Hero and we are now in the ‘reading out loud to C stage’, which really does help. It is a much better book now, even if I say so myself.

And good news: no politics today! 

[John Redwood tweeted yesterday that it wasn’t the courts’ responsibility to preside on issues like the poroguing of parliament … it was parliament who should be debating the issue. I’m not quite sure he saw the irony of his tweet. Oh well.]

The weather hasn’t defeated us

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another fabulous wild camping spot

My anti-Brexit tirades have lost me countless followers and probably a couple of good friends. If the latter is the case, I am genuinely sorry, but in my defence I don’t think I could feel more strongly about it.

Never mind.

So … what have we been up to in the last week?

Skye first. Three nights in Camping Skye, a £25-a-night stop over in Broadford. It’s modern, clean and usefully placed – but no views, and it is pricey – for us. We spent the time with Jen and James and his mum and dad, Bob and Kath – who are lovely. We went pier fishing, had lunch at where Jen and James had married last Easter and generally pottered about. And then we headed off north, along the west coast.

It’s not until you get to Ullapool that you really begin to understand how wild and remote Scotland can be. The roads are all stunning, with lochs and broken castles, and glimpses of the sea and big, foreboding mountains. We wild-camped for three nights, stopping at the lovely Lochinver and cycling a 25-mile round trip to Stoer Lighthouse (visiting Leigh of the lighthouse’s Blue Tea Van) on the way. She moved up from central England a while back and bought a decrofted croft, set up and ran the tea van for seven years and now, with three Spanish-rescue dogs, still considers herself to be ‘living the dream’.

The weather has haunted us, really since we left Suffolk three weeks ago. As always, though, it has never stopped us from doing what we would like. The long cycle was mostly in sunshine, but against ferocious winds (and some pretty big gradients). Battling very. very heavy winds we wild-camped last night up a hill, beside a big rock which protected us a bit; and we managed a walk, almost crawl, from there to catch a lovely view across Loch Chairn Bhain. And today (and tomorrow) we have booked into Scourie campsite (£22 all in), which is as far north as you can go without hitting the north coast. Just now we walked the Scourie pennisular with, without doubt, the best views so far: Cape Wrath to our right, and Suilven and The Old Man of Stoer to our left. Fabulous.

And all this ‘vanning’ continues to remind me how much I miss travelling full time in Doris. That feeling that she’s home, and not our (lovely) little house in Bradley Stoke. Doris continues to please, although I do have to report that the satellite controller has stopped speaking to the automatic dish … which I pretty sure I can sort, once the wind dies down enough so I won’t be blown off the roof. More watching West Wing then …

I am almost at the end of Unsuspecting Hero rewrite. It will be a much more fluent novel than edition one when I get it out there. Once finished (two days?) I’ll read it out loud to C – she has a nose for picking up irregularities – and then print it out for Rosie (proofreader) as soon as I get home. It’s all on track for an end of October publication.

And then book six. Mmmm. Exhausted already.

Those sunlit uplands

Ahh, the sunlit uplands. All the positives. Independence, freedom and the ability to make our own rules. The best trade agreements with the rest of the world – negotiating from a position of strength. A European Singapore (without, of course, the influx of migrant workers living in not much more than shanty towns in the centre of the small, and very expensive island). So much to look forward to. So much progress to make. And, not forgetting the fact that we can again enjoy bendy bananas, we can move our dead fish about without having to refrigerate them … and, bless them, the blue passports. Mmmm. Can’t wait for mine. 

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those sunlit uplands

And what about the £350 million a week we have left over? Yes, of course! Think of all the doctors and nurses we can afford with that. And … no Turkish immigrants! Because Turkey is about to join the EU and they will come over here in their floods. No, we’re not getting them. Not now. Let’s face it, there are far too many immigrants in the country already paying taxes, doing many of the jobs we don’t like doing, working for the NHS and contributing to our way of life – we certainly don’t want any more.

Unelected bureaucrats! No – damn them and their goggly eyes. No, we will have our politicians voted for democratically – not by a small number of the population, or maybe even a whole party dreamt up and funded by some unknown, offshore account. Just like the good old days, where they served Queen and country, without deceit and lacking self-interest. Not holding onto power for power’s sake. And our laws! Yes, please. No more European nonsense protecting our workers’ rights, our health … and our safety. We have always had the best judges in the world – even the Scottish ones. 

Mmmmm … so much to look forward to.

And damn your Project Fear! The riots, food shortages, lack of medicines, failures in industry, lack of investment, the poor being worse off, and the queues of trucks at Dover. You lied! It was all nonsense and as a result the pound is slumping against the dollar and the Euro. 

But I don’t care, even if there is the odd bump in the road! No, a friend of my grandfather’s was at Dunkirk – and he only lost a leg. And my grandmother’s bridesmaid mother grew her own vegetables in between the rubble of her neighbour’s back garden and her house. We can do it again! We have shown time and again that we have tenacity and guts … although my back is not what it used to be, so don’t necessarily count on me. But, we can win wars and stick two fingers up in victory. 

And, so what if holidays in Spain are now too expensive …

… because I’m off to the sunny uplands with my blue passport. There’s a Wetherspoons there where there’s 20p off a pint and me and my mates can swill it down and remember the good times and celebrate the future. Doubtless Nige, Jake and Boris will be along to prop up the bar.

Can’t wait.  

 

Ah, Doris

A few words about Doris. 

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ahh, Doris!

I think we’re coming up to our third year of ownership (don’t ask me why I can’t remember) having lived in a Dethleffs Van II three years before that. In the end we lived in this van for a year and three quarters before moving into a small two-up, two-down in Bristol – just under five years fulltiming in total. The more I think about that, fulltiming in a van for almost half a decade, the more I wonder whether or not we were in a sane place when we made that decision. 

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Five years! Three of which we in a much smaller van than we’re in now. Blimey.

 

Part of me does think we were kinda mad. And that same part fully understands why our friends must have thought we were off our heads. But there’s a huge part of me that is massively proud of what we achieved. And I miss it. I really do. There is something about having everything you need, and close to everything you own (all our spare stuff was in a lock up garage) all around you – wherever you are. There is integrity to what you are doing … an honesty about your life. It makes everything much simpler (except when you need to go somewhere without the van, for which we bought a 10-year old Focus which is still going strong), and everything is on a much smaller and manageable scale. There is no room to expand … you can’t buy trinkets and unnecessaries as there is nowhere to keep them. Did I mention that I miss it? I genuinely believe we will do another 8-monther, onto the continent over Christmas which we did for our first year, this time towing the trike. And I can’t wait. It may not be soon, and indeed it might be years away, but we will do it. C always reminisces fondly of the, ‘do you remember when we were on Sicily …’.

And that brings us onto the now. Scotland is big, but the roads are small.We have beenIMG_20190908_091754424 caught in a couple of tricky situations this time where we have needed to breath in … or, as happened the day before yesterday, turn round with no obvious way forward and no easy place to back into. Of course, in that moment you think that it must be fab to be in a panel van: narrower and shorter. And, from an observer’s point of view, less big white block of aluminium and fibreglass.

But, we got out of both those situations without a hitch – I backed up 200 metres, and found a place to turn around. With big mirrors and a reversing camera it was no trickier than driving forward. 

We have done small and smaller vans. We know what it’s like to have to make your bed up every night (not good for days on end). We understand the difference between watching tele in comfort, and watching it with your neck crooked. We know what it’s like to have to watch the electricity and worry about running out of water. And, and this is the biggest and, the moment you go on the continent big vans are everywhere – and accommodated for. 

Doris has everything. Everything. And it’s all beautifully made and eminently practical. Everything works and everything suits us. There is nothing we would want to compromise on. And we have never not done something because of what she is. 

So … we love her and she suits us. She acts as a granny flat outside our house in Bristol and has, like all of our previous vans, delivered some fabulous holidays for us. That’s Doris.

Nothing about politics, Roland? Well this next week is going to be interesting. His Borisness looks set to do everything he can to crash out of Europe on 31 October, legal and illegal. But … let everyone be clear. We may leave on 31 October without a deal. But read that sentence again: without a deal. The EU is our biggest trading partner by far. That means at some point in the future we will have to sort out a deal. So no deal becomes … well, a deal. And we will be negotiating from a position of less strength, whilst our country struggles to make do and mend with all of the predicted Yellowhammer outcomes. Including, dare I say it, some unnecessary deaths of people who cannot find medicine. 

Those pushing for a no deal need to be clear that the rest of us will blame them for all of this. I hope it is worth it.

Not so bad, thank you

We woke this morning and lifted the blind in our bedroom – yes, we have one of those. The window is right next to our heads (our being three of us: me, C and Cassie). I opened the window and, still lying down, we looked out over the Cromarty Firth, across to Invergordon. On the beach, less than five metres away, were more seabirds than you could count on all our hands and paws. The water was clam, OK, so there were no sun, but it wasn’t overly cold and we enjoyed a very slight breeze through the window. It was, pretty prefect.

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at the entrance to the Cromarty Firth; last night we stayed further down the coast

That’s what motorhoming can do. It can, very often, provide you with vistas that you cannot pay for. There is no hotel that I know of which gives you a bed right up against a window, right up against the shore. And it’s not an exaggeration to say that we have had similar views for the past 10 days. 

After breakfast we popped into Dingwall (yes, it’s a place) so C could pick up some more books from a charity shop, and then we drove on a few miles to Srathpeffer, and parked up in the local forestry commission. We walked for about 3 miles with Cassie, and when we got back I ran the same route whilst C made us a sandwich, and then she did the same when I got back. I write this having had a shower in our ‘ensuite’ … with a cup of Redbush and a doughnut. 

What’s my point? 

We are luckiest people alive. And, whilst I’d recommend semi-retirement to anyone, I absolutely recommend motorhoming to anyone who loves the outdoors. Yes, the weather hasn’t been great, but every time we’ve been out we’ve missed the rain – and when it has fallen it hasn’t stopped us from doing what we want to do. Since my Dad’s death, and even with 6 weeks in SE Asia (which we took at a run), it has been pretty non-stop. Now, after almost two weeks in Doris, we are pretty horizontal. Fab.

For the record rewriting Unsuspecting Hero is pottering along nicely. It will be a better book when I’ve finished, for sure. My ambition is to have it out there before the end of October. And book sales are very good at the moment … I’d say an average of around two books a day. That may well drop off in the coming weeks, but I’ll take it for now.

And I’ve slowed my running down. I think my heart, which currently is behaving up to a point, has sent me a clear message. I’m now running for longer (about 30 minutes) at what I guess the experts call ‘steady state’, that is where I could hold a conversation if I wished. At some point my fitness will drop and steady state will become a harder run, but we’ll see.

Anyhow. As you can tell … all’s good here, even if the His Borisness has, let’s face it, made a complete cock of everything. I’m still convinced we won’t leave. And whilst I know that will upset a good number of people, I sincerely believe it’s better for the country – their country.

We’ll see. 

Loving this bit of Scotland

No politics. No politics. No politics.

Phew. 

Loving the coast of Perthshire and Aberdeenshire, so often ignored by most people – us included. I think this must be our tenth trip to Scotland in the/a van and we have never ventured this way. We are, like most folk, attracted to the central highlands and the west coast and islands, all of which are beautiful in their own way.

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she’s happier than she looks

But … this coastline is different and special. Think Devon and Dorset – tall cliffs, hawking seabirds, soft brown sandy coves and more village harbours than you can count. It is, even in some rubbish weather, breathtakingly beautiful, especially the northcoast between Fraseburgh and Inverness. And it’s perfect for vanners. The roads are good and there are ample wild camping spots. And very few of us. OK, we are now just outside the summer season, but we have never been with more than two other vans overnight.

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The best bit of all are the people. They are all lovely. Chatty, welcoming and, when needed, indifferent to a seven and a half metre long tube of white aluminium and tyres. We have always felt welcomed and never uncomfortable with parking up and lazing along the beach.

We have run, and walked Cassie – she’s completely knackered. We have got up late (8.30 – yippee!) and read books. And I am one-fifth of the way through Unsuspecting Hero – the rewrite. And still loving that.

We need to be in Skye next weekend to meet up with Jen and James, and so will leave the IMG_20190830_084932928_HDRcoast tomorrow or the day after and then push off into them there hills. And then meander through the Highlands stopping here and there.

It has already been a touch rejuvenating. I think at the end of four weeks, we will be ready to take on the world …

… and politics? Well. No. I don’t think I’ll bother.  

We live in interesting times

I wouldn’t mind if Boris Johnson just told us the truth. He’s proroguing parliament for the longest session for decades because he wants to restrict parliament’s ability to discuss Brexit, and particularly a no-deal Brexit. Fine. And with parliament unable to come to any quorum on the subject in the last three years I have the smallest amount sympathy with that. But only a very small amount.

But, no. Apparently it’s about preparing parliament for what his government (which has the vast majority of one) is going to do over the coming year. But it can’t be that. Because he knows that we know there must be a general election. And he knows that we know that he cannot hope to continue to govern and pass legislation (and spend billions of money on things that austerity ripped from the country’s administration just recently – brazen vote catching if ever there was) with a majority of one. There has to be a GE. And the only way he can win a GE is if the Brexit Party do not compete … because if they do they will split the right wing vote and the Tories will lose badly. And, and this is key, the only way the Brexit Party will stand down is if there is a no-deal … on 31 October. His Farageness has made that perfectly clear.

So Boris Johnson is proroguing parliament to prevent it from legislating against a no-deal. And he intends to go ahead with a no-deal on 31 October. 

And, on that basis, sad as it sounds from me, that’s what’s going to happen – unless the rest of them prevent the extended proroguing … if, indeed, that is even English.

Ho-hum.

I don’t want to rehearse the arguments against a no-deal, but I do want to remind everyone of one important fact. A no-deal does not put an end to Brexit. Far from it. The EU is our largest trading partner and if we crash out without a deal (and leaving aside job losses, maybe even deaths from medicine shortages, and the collapse of the Good Friday Agreement) we will have to very quickly come back to the EU and sort out a trade deal. The first thing they will rightly insist on is that we pay the divorce bill. And then, whatever we want to take on trade we will have to give on other concessions. Like freedom of movement. As we are the junior partners in this – and as we have soured our pitch with our largest trading partner by originally walking away from a deal – we will not have all the cards; if, indeed we have any. It will take forever, will not be anywhere near as generous as it is now and we will be the worse for it. 

And for those relishing the impact a no-deal with have on the EU, they need to understand that if that market fails … then so do we. 

Ho-hum squared.

Across the Pond, among a million things I could rant about, His Orangeness is pushing for one of his resorts to hold the next G7 summit. One of his resorts. There’s gold in there them hills. And he told Merkel that he was part German, for which she sniggered. And he was the only G7 leader that didn’t stay for the emergency meeting on the Amazon fires. For which they only raised £20 million – Brexit so far has cost £60 billion (x 3,000). Which Bolsonaro (Brazil’s popularist Trump) has petulantly turned down.

So. What’s my point?

Greta Thunberg has just arrived in New York, travelling across the Atlantic by wind and solar power. It has taken her six days and, as far as I know, she’s in good spirits. She’s going to the UN to talk about the Climate Emergency. On her own. A teenager on the autistic spectrum.

A lamb. Leading the elephants. 

How did we get here?

Some photos to cheer you up:

Back on Earth, we have made it as far as Aberdeen. C’s pal Katie came to lunch on Monday, we’ve had some fun wild camping on the east coast and tomorrow we’re taking Cassie to the vets because I have been unable to successfully remove a tic from her side. In my defence I have had two ticks myself over my time, and in both cases needles and tweezers (and a lot of blood) have done the trick. She was v good about the open tick surgery.

So we will be visiting the vets tomorrow …