Monday 16 April 2012

Pics at the bottom – can’t quite handle wordpress formatting after a day in the field.

Official day one of Kate’s trip comes to you thanks to the generosity of the following corporate sponsors:

  • The Colour Flooring Company (Lena) for the donation of kick-ass tangerine vinyl flooring which is now protecting, well hiding, the original 80s nylon carpet


  • The People Speak (Mikey and Rick) for the donation of a massive roll of the best gaffer tape in the business (MagTape ‘professionelle klasse’) which I used to mask the edge I bodged when cutting the vinyl. Just one of many uses to come I’m sure. Thanks also for the microphone windshields, which will be of great use here.

So yeah, as feared I’m teetering on a Pembrokeshire cliff in the rain with a bitter wind coming off the sea. A few miles north of St. David’s just outside the the village of Berea at the Caerhys Community Supported Organic farm.

I’m staying in the van and finding my groove (I thought I might be in a caravan this week but it’s occupied). Each bit of her I get to know a bit better seems to be paired with something I discover I need to get fixed. Yesterday revealed a mystery (unlabelled) fuse that keeps blowing, so something is shorting – probably to do with the gas ignition on the fridge as that’s not working. But I’m hooked up to the mains here so the delicious organic untreated milk for my morning porridge is beautifully chilled.

Also perfectly chilled was the mini bottle of cava the lovely Lisa donated to the cause. Enjoyed as a cocktail mixed with home made sloe vodka on Sunday night to accompany the first meal I cooked myself in the van; leek omelette with maple smoked porcini with a smidgeon of amazing air dried pork. The pork was grown by my aunt Tessa about 20 miles away and charcuteried thanks to my brother Mark at at the award winning Trealey Farm in Monmouthshire. A pretty classy first meal I think. I’m determined to be as inventive as I can be with 2 gas rings and a grill. I brought my cast iron chappati pan with me to make stove top pizzas and flatbreads. I may be a little overloaded with kitchen equipment, I was slightly terrified it would be impossible to stop it all rattling but it was fine on the motorway. But I now understand why Dan insisted on decent sound system – a good stereo can at least stop you trying to identify the panoply of new rattles that appear while driving.

Moment of the drive from London to Pembrokeshire on Friday 13th: crossing the Severn Bridge, such a beautiful structure it always fills me with joy, in the glorious sunshine with O Happy Day blasting out.

Last week was exhausting, packing up my flat and saying my farewells, all with the vague van anxiety backdrop as I’m not familiar with it’s quirks yet so I have to learn on the way. It was very lovely to start the trip off with a teeny but important family event, my aunt Tessa’s wedding to Nick on Saturday. It was a day of 4 seasons, but was really lovely and smiley and had the full spectrum of activities from the fastest hen party ever with sloe vodka shots at 9am. A really warm and charming ceremony at possibly the least atmospheric venue ever conceived, the Haverfordwest registry office. Then back home for delicious canapés, champagne, lobster, sticky toffee pudding, and the Grand National. Some evening fishing and cheese toasties rounded off the nuptials. T’was very special to be able to celebrate with them.

A quick nod to the individual donors who sent me on my way last week with various brilliant mini gifts. Chas, the extraordinary cactus is dashboard loaded. Dan, bondage cow is strapped to the bonnet – and thanks for the stereo and speakers, A-May-Zing. Dan built me freestanding speakers for surround sound DVD action and general van disco action. She’s got pretty bouncy suspension I’m looking forward to put to work. Lisa’s miniatures make my little fridge look like a minibar, and once I’ve got the Vegas visor on, I feel like miniature cocktails might be the only way forward. And of course, Lottie’s Japanese 3 legged crow who portents good adventures for its new owner.

This week I think is about van teething, working out what I need (list includes fan heater, doormat and Velcro at the moment), screwing bits back on that fall off and making friends with the Pembrokeshire Camper Maintenance Man who is mobile and maybe able to solve my fuse problem and the fact that when I try to fill my water tank, the water just pours straight out of a broken tap… ho hum.

This week is also about adjusting to my new pace of life. After all the excitement leaving London and so many people being encouraging and lovely that this was a good and wondrous thing to be doing, I slightly bounced into today a little tigger like. The reality is that sowing around 400 courgette and squash is pretty dull and though it’s been fairly dry today, it’s been really windy and we’re very exposed here. I’m due to stay here for 10 days, which may well be enough at this time of year. It’s still pretty wintry here with a brutal wind shaking the van right now.

The farmers are amazing – Gerald and Caz, more about the community supported farming model later.

It was most definitely spring in London, I even saw some very early Wisteria out before I left but it’s most definitely not spring here yet. The plan is to head up to a Fire in the Mountain work week near Aberystwyth at the end of next week (27th) and then on to a May bank holiday children’s camp. I’m really excited about camp as it’ll be the first time I’ve camped with Ed and Rosa my nephew and niece but also nervous about how they’ll take to the unbounded reality of FSC.

So today has been a gentle way in, only about 3 hours work on the farm so I fitted the tangerine floor this afternoon and started some writing. The van is cold and is being buffeted in the wind right now but is really snug and friendly and I love my new floor. Off to have a shower in Ann the French Wwoofer’s static caravan while the bread bakes. Quite excited about a sausage and lentil casserole sometime this week. All the meat and dairy is from local farms but is sold in a hokey honesty shop from our farm.

So it looks like I need some guidance as to where to head in May. Any thoughts folks? Maybe Somerset… Maybe somewhere further south or at least inland until winter ends!

And of course I forgot to give a quick mention to my snowmen friends who are joining me once again on my travels. They last accompanied me to Chile and Bolivia.

Kate x

Tessa and Nick

view of sea with 3 legged crow...

Abereiddy Beach

a stone wall in the harshest of spots with a ridiculous array of plants happily clinging on

farm grown leeks and Rose donated chopping board

a 'slava'

parked up at Caerys Farm, Berea, St David's


About Kate Fenhalls

This may or may not be my 41 year old gap year. Yesterday (2/4/12) may or may not have been my last ever day working in an office. Who knows, let's see what happens...
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7 Responses to Monday 16 April 2012

  1. Jessica Tyler says:

    It’s not spring anymore in London, you took the weather with you! Winter coats and fleece on everything! Head to Devon, we passed so many lovely farms when we were there last year this time, a quick search brings up this:
    All the best,

  2. Sarah Williams says:

    I wish i had donated you one of my many hot water bottles… Good read. Miss you x

  3. susanpoozan says:

    Wow, what a time you’re having! Sorry the weather is so unkind, hope you get the fuse fixed and something done about the water problem. Good luck!

    • I’m having an understandsbly interesting first week. Just a bit of a culture shock after a hectic farewell week I’m now adjusting to a new pace a new physical challenge dhole learning about The van. Think I fixed water tank today! We’ll see when sealant dries tmrw… Xxx

  4. What a great read, so far….I’m looking forward to the next instalment already. It’s wet & windy here too and potting up 5 courgettes and 4 squash was my limit today (in a warm kitchen of course)

  5. Adam Austerfield says:

    God kate darling you write so well, I love to read you! You’ve always made me laugh.

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