From as early as I can remember, I have always loved being outside. In fact, my Dad fondly remembers me demanding “OUT GARDEN! OUT GARDEN” as a toddler. For my 11th birthday, I got a 2-man tent and that was the start of my love of camping. I stayed in friends’ gardens, my own garden and even took it to high school once, pitched it on the school field and then me and my friends sat in it for our dinner hour before taking it down again!
In 2009, we bought Big Red. A lovely bright red T5 panel van, previously used to cart fire extinguishers around South Wales. We converted him of sorts, extremely basic and no running water or electrics but he did us proud for several years until adulting and mortgages got in the way, and he had to go, a decision I’ve regretted ever since.
Fast forward to lockdown 2020. A period of change and reflection for many, I think. I had already done some crazy shit like had a baby and got a puppy, (now affectionately known as knob dog because that is exactly what she is). “I want another campervan” I declare to husband one evening. He rolled his eyes and knew it was futile to argue.
Within a few weeks, we had traded in the very sensible family Peugeot, used most of hubby’s lockdown redundancy money and put a large wedge on a credit card and we were the proud owners of Vic the T6. Another unconverted panel van.
“I’m not going crazy with the conversion” I say, “basic will be fine.” (This makes me smile now as I clock up everything I have changed – alloys and AT’s, side bars, splitter, spoiler, roof bars, solar, electrics, a stage 2 remap, re-upholstered seats and RNR bed and an awfully expensive Vangear cupboard)!
Two trips in, husband declares he hates camping! Surely acceptable grounds for divorce in my eyes. Oh no wait, I would have to return his redundancy money if I did that. Ok, will have to keep him then. With true British grit and determination, I decide I will go it alone. Well with my then two-year-old and crazy knob dog. I can do this; I am a strong independent woman! I am a strong independent woman with anxiety. Anxiety that throws up a thousand “what ifs” before every situation. Anxiety that makes my stomach churn to the point I cannot eat and makes my heartbeat so loud that I can hear it pounding. Can I do this? Really?
I had been to a few day meets and knew Lee’s face (who could forget such a beautiful face?) and so I ended up joining WVVW. I signed up for my first campout and did not know anyone. I felt sick, I nearly did not go, I was having palpitations all the way there. “What if I can’t put the awning up? what if no one speaks to me? what if everyone else is there in couples? What if, what if, what if.”
I found my space and quietly parked up not wanting to draw attention to myself. Now for the bloody divorce in a bag. Except there is only me to divorce if it goes tits up. Griff is running round asking a million questions, knob dog is trying to catch flying insects and I am fighting with the awning wishing I were an octopus and trying not to cry. “Do you need a hand?” I turn around and there is my knight in shining armour! A lovely gentleman with a big smile. “That would be amazing, thank you” I say, and my heart settles and I can breathe again.
The rest of the weekend went swimmingly, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Everyone was so friendly, and I realised there were lots of people like me, going it alone. There are a fair few single parents in the club who are going it alone full time and are absolutely smashing it out the park and they have my upmost respect because I can barely do it for a weekend.
I want to thank the strangers I met that weekend, most of whom are now my dear friends. Especially, my knight in Shining Armour – the wonderful Keith also Kiva and Mark Simpson for stopping to chat to me and of course our amazing Lee who does so much for others and is always on messenger when I cannot sleep at 4am and asks if I am ok. You may think you did not do anything but you made me believe I could do it and so I did! Now here I am, away every weekend with Griff, my now 3yr old and Knob dog, Meg but I have the confidence to do it and for that, I will be forever thankful.