week one of the rest of my life…

Saturday 21 April 2012

That’s a terrible title but it sort of fits the transitional nature of this week. After a frenetic, busy week packing up, saying goodbye and leaving London, the pace of life on a small Pembrokeshire farm has brought me firmly down to earth, literally and figuratively. The planting of 4000 onions and a full day potato picking has emphatically earthed my body physically and the mind is slowly adapting to the pace of this new phase.

It’s been a slight culture shock and I don’t have the best Wwoofing companion in Anne who isn’t chatty in French let alone in broken English so there’s no banter or exchange to help me through the work or play… The hosts leave the Wwoofers to their own devices after work which can be great but also means in this quite isolated spot, my only company of an evening is Anne the monosyllabic one.

I do like the fact that I can tally the week up in quite simple terms – the number of; things planted or picked, episodes of 30 Rock watched on DVD, potato crates mended, loaves baked, market stalls run, conversations had…

For muppet fans out there can I just go a little wild for the 30 Rock scene (season 3) when  Kenneth’s (naive, country boy in big smoke) view of the world is illustrated by everyone else being a muppet. I love the muppets and am starting a campaign to reclaim the word from the current negative conatations out there. “You muppet” should be a compliment.

I fixed my water tank which rocked pretty highly on the self sufficiency scale and also got a nice man from Pembrokeshire Caravan Care – a mobile service – to say useful things like, “I’d never buy one of these” and ” one of the worst vans VW built”. He was helpful on the subject of my leisure battery; it’s either not getting or not holding charge, a job for an auto electrician to determine. He also didn’t know leisure batteries that small (45 Ah / Amp hours) existed or were of any practical use and that there was absolutely no way a bigger one would fit in my van. A raft of opinions on offer that were helpful on the overall knowledge scale but also played directly to some basic fears I still have about this vehicle. Which I love of course, but in this transitional phase, learning about the van is one of the character building things that I haven’t quite got the objectivity to look back on with fondness yet.

It will be very good to spend some time at the Fire in the Mountain work week and then on camp. Both are communities of folk who work together in such a vital way. It’s all about cooperation and interaction. It’ll be a good recharge of people energy, while exhausting other reserves.

Gerald and his son Caz who run the farm are fantastic. Funny, friendly folk who approach life with a grin. Gerald has created something special here, a community organic farm model created after he sold off his dairy herd. The members share the responsibility and the risk of his farm, often this model is used for communal growing space. And Gerald’s being very inventive with diversification – he’s hoping that this will be his first year for a hemp crop.

So it’s 6.30pm on Saturday night in Haverfordwest and the Friars Vaults (only place I could find with wi-fi) is starting to fill up a little so I’m beating a retreat. Got a leek and mushroom risotto on the menu tonight and might try to find a little wild spot to camp up in, thought I don’t really know how… Do you just try and be unobtrusive and hope no one notices you? I’m in a moving fridge, how can they not notice me?

Well we’ll see. It’s very nice to have my house on my back though. I think I just did my final part of stage one sorting of stuff in the van today. When I got the van, my mum said not to move anything once I’d put it there or I’d never be able to find it again and I panicked and left everything in boxes. It now all has homes and I’m not entirely sure where anything is. Apart from the large bag of coins from the car boot 2 weeks ago that I’m still lugging around. £15 in 5ps anyone?


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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12 Responses to week one of the rest of my life…

  1. Pol says:

    Ah I remember that exact same camper van feeling! So much excitement at having bought it and all the little gadgets it comes with and then that sinking feeling when you realise that nothing quite works as it should, will need endless attention and still probably won’t work as it should. But then with time you just can’t help but love ’em (time and money that is – and not mine I hasten to add!). But I think it must just come with the territory and you have a working DVD player and that’s definitely progress. I’ll lend you Borgen if we ever get to meet…. Keep smiling, and cooking, the menus on this trip are hot!!! pol xxx

    • I do love the van, it’s just all mixed up with my transitional emotions and being a fairly social animal in the middle of fucking nowhere! Yes please to Borgen. I’ve got The Killing and some medical porn (Grey’s Anatomy season 6) lined up next which will last about a week!

  2. Adam Austerfield says:

    Katie Fenhalls, I imagine by now you might be camping out there somewhere in Haverfordwest (or as I like to call it, Hwlffordd, but that´s only with my Spanish accent after too much Rioja) and I hope you´ve found a decent, dry place. I hear it rains a lot over there. Seem to remember its on the A40, umbilically connnected with Shepherd´s Bush, but less mobile phone cover shops or Cheques Cashed boutiques – but I could well be wrong. There is a great Little Chef somewhere around there, if the organic food becomes too much, the Olympic Breakfast was a complete winner, 8.95 GBP I think, unlimited tea or coffee – brilliant.

    Looking forward to your next post – very excited to hear the news on your great adventures, and on the onion front – once you´ve planted 4000 (approx), do you have to come back and pick them? Maaaaan…

    • Top tips on the Little Chef front – do they allow slightly broken organic types in? Actually I know they do as the last time I dabbled with the Chef it was the classic post Glasto pit stop on the way home and even in that broken state I knew it was wrong. Struggling with my welsh pronunciation – will try the Rioja trick.


  3. susanpoozan says:

    Sorry the van has proved to be something of a disappointment and hope all the problems can be cleared up soon. I enjoyed reading your blog, keep it up.

  4. Danielle says:

    Loving the tales honey. Listening from London xxx

  5. Having been away for a few days (and empathy with your motor challenges, having my own vintage car challenges that threw spanners in the works) your post brought a warm glow of anticipation when it popped into my inbox. I saved reading it until I had made a good cup of coffee. And what a lovely read too. I’m sure the second week of the rest of your life will be equally as engaging:)

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