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Love at first sight

I’ve found The One.

It’s taken years of searching and longing, numerous near misses and countless emotional highs and lows but yesterday I finally took a deep breath and committed.

The One is strong, lean, adventurous and has a name that promises off piste excitement and adventure.  How could anyone resist a  “Jazz Champagne” model in the colour of pale biscuity bubbles? Clearly not me.

It has impractical creamy leather seats, an awning for the Scottish rain, fly screens for midges, charcoal grey carpets to disguise muddy footprints and a multipurpose desk/dining table/bed which will surely become faster to manipulate as time goes by.

The fog lights, cruise control and reversing sensors are bound to be useful too. There’s a proper kitchen and a tiny washroom with minimal storage for moisturisers and shampoo. Engine? Er… Peugeot. Four wheels and probably a spare somewhere.

As with any partner the practical considerations and reliability will ultimately prove more important than initial impressions and outward appearances. But you have to fall in love first.

I’m picking in up in 10 days time.

Point the way, beach sentinel

On lightening blue days it kicks and dances or reclines to soak up scarce northern rays. When the storms come I watch it shiver; exposed to the blast from the sea. And once the sun fades low, it turns mellow in the glow of our soft winter light. Bare beach tree, I love your moods.

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A serious case of Camper Craving

Maybe it’s the longer light that’s fuelling the urge.

It’s been particularly strong in the last couple of days. I’ve spent hours online researching the options and poring over specialist magazines, then at night I dream of the wild sites I’ll park in, the prospect of a home and the freedom to roam.

I’ve narrowed the styles down. Again.  And tomorrow I’m going to do something about it. Yes, again. My long-suffering friend is coming with me. OK, yet again. But he’s refusing to return to the showrooms we’ve already spent days trawling through, trying the patience of salesmen, asking questions, wearing out the locks on drawers and cupboards and making permanent dents in the upholstery. Well, you need to be sure, don’t you?

Tomorrow it’s somewhere new, with styles I haven’t seen before. I’m so excited I may not sleep tonight.

Campervan, motorhome, RV; no vehicle escapes my attention. Out on the roads I’ve crawled behind the models I’m interested in for mile after mile, holding up the traffic (and often going in a direction I hadn’t intended) while I wonder how it would feel to be driving that machine, what my options would be for an overnight stop and if it’s really as good as camping. I need a home for a while but it has to be small and not too clumsy because it’ll also take the place of my dear little car and permanently packed tent.

As I walked back from the beach in the dark yesterday afternoon I saw a vehicle swing round the harbour and park up at an angle to get the best view of hills and sea and moon. It’s bigger than  the van conversion style I want but it was enough to convince me that it’s still an option in January. In Scotland.

vanThe problem is that (until now, at least) common sense kicks in before I sign the cheque and reminds me that I’d be parting with a substantial chunk of my limited resources. I don’t want an old one that’s going to cause me problems so I’m looking at new or almost new. Today’s favoured model is Globecar but I can’t predict what it’ll be after tomorrow.

I wonder if Camper Envy is a medical condition?

Surviving the season with a blast from the past

Thermals… tick. Down jacket… tick. Gloves, scarf, hat… tick.  Boots, double socks…

The damp and darkness of a Scottish winter have driven me indoors to pore over my 2013 diary for a fiery blast of southern sunshine. This time last year I was in the goldfields of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia where the temperature was 46 degrees; unbreathable and unsleepable and the most extreme heat I’ve ever encountered.

On Hogmanay 2012 I’d caught the Prospector train from Perth for a seven hour journey east across barren land, the train track accompanied all the way by the essential water pipe from the coast that the sceptics said could never be built. And on New Year’s Day 2013 I joined my brother in the truck he drives for hundreds of miles every week, over ungraded red roads, all the way out to the remote gold mines.

We explored deserted settlements and abandoned mines where there’s nothing but a few sun-faded signs to hint at the P1030053gamble that went into the building of pioneering prospector towns like Kanowna, just an hour’s drive from Kalgoorlie.  I ventured out of the cab for a few minutes at a time to poke around the weather-beaten posts that marked ancient claims and to see how the props of solitary digs and the dreams of desperate men had crumbled to dust.

The unrealised expectations that had been invested in these harsh places just 100 years ago made me wistful. The prospect of riches had attracted an optimistic community of people who build homes and hotels, formed social clubs and a football team, a fire service and a Salvation Army. Children went to school here. Yet despite enduring the discomfort and sacrifices the dream ultimately failed to deliver. And now the inhospitable land that was once home to a town full of miners and their families has been returned to nature with only a few dents in the ground to show for all the expectation and effort.

P1020910By contrast, just a few miles away, the Kalgoorlie Super Pit still continues to yield gold, ever since  three Irishman stumbled across a huge nugget in 1893. Around 50 million ounces of gold have been mined here and the dumper trucks which look like worker ants in the huge scale of the pit still appear to work 24 hours a day.

Kalgoorlie-Boulder was once one of the biggest cities in Australia and home to the “richest mile on earth”. And some of the characters you meet on its streets even now look every bit as desperate and determined as the 19th century photographs of prospectors on display in the town’s museum.

There were a few of these men in the Broad Arrow Tavern too, an outback pub where we retreated indoors in the relative cool and drank pint after pint of iced water and I, the unacclimatised Scot, tried to stabilise my soaring body temperature.

P1030022 Maybe that cool dark Scottish rain pelting the window tonight isn’t such a problem after all.  I’ll just throw another log on the fire.

Good morning 2014

Sunrise on 2014 and the first breakfast of the year. Sláinte!

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