Snakes and ladders

Wednesday 30 May 2012

just in case you’ve not got any plans this weekend…

TICKETS FOR FIRE IN THE MOUNTAIN STILL AVAILABLE – forecast good, site looking beautiful, sauna stove arrived yesterday and is being plumbed in next to a mountain stream plunge pool as we speak – escape the humidity and the jubilosity  and come jig on a welsh hillside with a few hundred lovely folk.

So right now I’m on the train back to London to do a Talkaoke gig at the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden for Self Help Africa, come along if you’re free tonight (7.30pm)

It’s quite exciting to be ‘flown in’ for a gig, albeit by train from Aberysthwyth. I’m just in town for the gig and the thunderstorms then heading back to Aber tomorrow. I think I may have packed a little light, with just a pair of pants and my pjs but we’ll see. Haven’t really washed in a modern sense for a while so looking forward to such luxuries, but quite a long way to go for a shower.

It’s been a while, hello, I hope you’ve been loving the weather and I hope you have fun plans for the long weekend be they red, white and blue or not. I’ve been pretty unaware of all 2012 festivities except we were hampered by the Olympic Torch malarkey in Mid Wales this weekend. Rolling blockades along the route held us captive (albeit in one of the most idyllic spots ever and time between light chores and delicious food was passed cooling off in the pool). 95% of the population will be within 1 mile of the torch at some point. Who asked us if we wanted to be?

I will be dancing under gingham bunting, no red, white and blue at Fire in the Mountain this weekend though I have to say I fell for this one genius bit of Jubilee branding.

Last weekend (25-27 May) was a pretty huge ladder for me in the snakes and ladders game that I seem to be neck deep in. The initial pain of a snakebite was followed by that crafty old snake leading me right to a big ladder which I’ve run up with glee.

A fine group of us came together in a magical place (thank you Corrine and Daniel), just south of Machynthlleth for a weekend playing, learning, discussing, plotting how to engage ourselves and those we work with in the natural world to engender a more connected community (be it our own communities or the community of the human race – either small and big ambitions with this work are entirely acceptable). It was challenging, interesting and important for me. Huge love and blue skies to the FSC Nature Connection collective who were truly inspiring.

Personally I had to deal with some demons about where I belong both in terms of my community and locality. My emotional resources are being worked hard at the moment – all this dipping in to others’ lives momentarily plays to my dichotomous skills. I am strong and independent and capable of self sufficiency, but those strengths are also the blocks and mortar that are part of the defensive wall that took 34 years to build and that I’ve been slowly dismantling for a 8 years now. I’m an immeasurably happier person than I was but I’m a little bit bored of the painstaking deconstruction process; it does speed up with practice but I wouldn’t mind a bit of demolition rather than chipping away at the wall pebble by pebble… Fast-track enlightenment required for the impatient.

Well then, where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to since I last updated. After Sheffield (19/20 May) I drove back to mid Wales to spend a few days at the Llanfyllin Workhouse. I wanted to dip into a bit more of a community project and dare I say it something a little more alternative. I loved being at Molly and Fred’s but I was also a little overwhelmed by living someone else’s existence for a couple of days. Being unrooted is complicated. I love the contained nature of van life, it’s my comforting beige womb, my den… but that can also play to my separatist leanings and when I stay with others I’m not sure I know how to ‘be’. I’m an unusual sort of guest; I’ve usually invited myself, I’ve got mystery previous and next destinations so there could be a fear that I may not leave… I suppose this is just another craft I’m learning: how to be emotionally and socially engaged when I dip in and out of different communities. I have a natural inclination not to impose or disrupt and so I work overtime to make my presence positive, but by doing this I can easily forget what I need in these situations. And what I think I need is to feel like I belong, and belonging when you’re passing through is a difficult thing to master.

Confusingly  for one who is craving community, I found that I needed some time on my own when I left Sheffield. The knots I’d tied myself in needed a couple of days on my own to unravel so I did the campervan equivalent of checking into a hotel. I went to a posh campsite and hooked up to their power and wifi for a couple of nights (£14 for pitch + £5 for 24 hours of wi-fi). Bala is a lovely little town and the Pen-y-bont campsite beautiful and midweek in term time, very quiet and relaxing. Very sadly this lovely ironmonger was closed. I’m sure I would have found something quirky and wholly un-needed if it had been open. A local hardware shop is my favourite kind of tourist shopping. When Tessa and I were in Cuba several years ago we noted that the state control had hampered or indeed actively blocked any creativity around what the locals sold to tourists. Crocheted bikinis and coconut maracas on every stall was unexciting, but the hand made tin sink drainer that we found for pennies in a household goods market is cherished as a thing of beauty.

phyllis, bob and gerald hanging out at the van

The R&R was well timed and I headed back to Llanfyllin on 23 May for a couple of days to help out at the Workhouse LINK. This is an imposing but beautiful building just outside the village where lovely folk are trying to preserve the building whilst working out how to make it work for it’s keep. More info at the website. I met the lovely Leila and her family who were very welcoming and put me to work for a couple of days. Interesting to think about how a Victorian workhouse conjures up bleakness, suffering and oppression but was actually the very earliest form of welfare state where an injured tenant farmer and their family who had lost their land and had no back up could find 2 meals a day (including a glass of beer) and basic medical care. That said they developed into pretty brutal places.

From Llanfyllin I pootled over the mountains to Machynlleth (I have offended many folk with mispronunciations of both places in the past few weeks) to join the Nature Connection crew and on Monday (28 May) I rambled down to Aberysthwyth and on to the Fire In the Mountain site to help set up this weekend’s festival.

Currently I’m feeling very communal. The Nature Connection collective last weekend were an extraordinary source of fun, kindness and inspiration and I feel very much part of something there. The enthusiasm of the festival crew most of whom are donating their skills and time is a fine thing to be part of too.

P.S. Dashboard garden looking good. Chilli (Limon) growing well, Dalmatin (otherwise knowns as Orca or Yin and Yang) beans just germinating and basil donated by Ann and Simon a very useful van plant. Also added a Lidl living salad box since this was taken.


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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2 Responses to Snakes and ladders

  1. Susan says:

    Loved your ‘gardeninavan’. Hope the weekend went really well and that the weather was kind.

  2. Duncan says:


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