Our wee Marjorie Jean, out in the sunshine
My last operation (no point sugar coating it, was a hysterectomy) was a success, although it turned out to be a much bigger deal recovery wise than I thought it was. As someone who was back on the farm feeding calves 10 days after my youngest was born by caesarean, I envisaged a similar scenario this time around. Boy was I wrong! Going back to the van was terrifying, I didn't think I was ready, or would ever be. Whereas poor Gareth couldn't wait to get back to the van, I never wanted to leave the motel and cried a LOT. How would we possibly cope in such a tiny space? I really don't know how my long suffering hubby managed to get through the first week post surgery without throttling me, but as it turned out, we coped amazingly well. It didn't take long to settle back in and it was a brilliant feeling to be able to get through something so major in our beloved van. I felt as though if we could make it through that, we could handle anything. So it came as a major fright to discover that once the pain from surgery had subsided, there was still something very wrong. To say I wasn't in a good head space during that time would be the understatement of the century. It took numerous visits to the doctors with no success until three of them put their heads together and diagnosed me with something called pudendal neuralgia. A flash term for what basically means quite literally, a pain in the bum! As soon as they passed me the literature I knew they had hit the nail on the head. 'That's it! That's me!' At last we had the final piece of the puzzle. However the more I learned about the condition, the more I realised that we were now in a right old predicament.
Pudendal neuralgia is a condition which is most commonly suffered by cyclists, in particular spin cyclists, as they are sitting in the same position for long periods of time. Just like I had been doing all these months in the van, because let's face it, it's all I could do. As a writer I sat to work and because it was impossible to stand up in the van, I also did everything else from cooking to brushing my teeth in a sitting position. And therein lay the problem. Sitting is the worst thing you can do for pudendal neuralgia. The more you do it, the more you aggravate it. To my horror, I realised that all the while we continued living in the van, I wasn't going to get better. Excuse the pun, but this really was a bummer. I mean, we loved our van! It was perfect for us, it was home and despite copping heaps of flack over the past two years from fellow motorhomers saying 'You'll be wanting something bigger soon, won't you?' and failing to see how we could possibly be happy living full time in such a small vehicle, we really were ridiculously happy. If we had had the choice, we would have continued just as we were, for as long as we could.
But now that choice was being taken away from us. Gareth, in typical laid back style took it all in his stride. 'We'll look for something bigger then', he shrugged, and that was that. We didn't know exactly what we wanted but were leaning towards a caravan, maybe a retro one? Whatever it was, we wanted something with plenty of character, yet was still enough of a blank canvas that we could make our own. The only other condition was that while we were now on the lookout for a new home, we wouldn't look too hard. The right one would come to us, just as Batty and Ken had. We didn't know how long it would take for that to happen, but we would wait as long as it took.
The very next evening, our friend Margaret called out as she was walking past. 'There's a caravan for sale just around the corner', she said. 'Go and have a look, it could be just what you're after!' With a budget as tiny as ours, I very much doubted we would be able to afford it. But after more than 22 years on the road Margaret knew her stuff, so instead of procrastinating like usual, we forced ourselves to go for a stroll and have a look. Margaret was right, the dear little 1970's green and white caravan was exactly what we were after - and to my amazement and delight, the price was right in our bracket too! As we peered through the window we saw that with the exception of a double bed and two couches, the interior was also just waiting for someone like us to transform it into a cosy home. We knew we had no time to waste, so texted the owner and he arranged to meet us the next day. As Steven, the owner gave us a tour, with his young daughter looking on, we could see how very well loved and looked after this little caravan was. The family of five had enjoyed many summer holidays and getaways in it together, before recently upsizing to a larger, newer model to accommodate the now teenage children. Even the original ownership papers had been kept in pristine condition, showing its very first registration in 1975.
We keep Marjorie's original papers in a little frame on the wall!
'We love it!', we told Steven. 'I knew they would!' grinned his daughter. There was just one thing stopping us from snapping it up right on the spot. We needed to sell Batty, our first van, before we could afford the caravan. Luckily for us, a long weekend was just beginning and Steven and his family were going away for a few days in their new caravan. Even so, the pressure was still on, Steven had already had other enquiries from people wanting to come and view. While Gareth was unphased, I was panicking. There was no way we would be able to find a buyer for Batty in just a few days! But just as had happened for us with the caravan, everything just fell in to place, right when we needed it to. A chap from Invercargill had been looking for a van exactly like Batty for some time, and having spotted our For Sale notice on Facebook, came and picked it up just like that. I couldn't believe everything had happened so easily. After so many months of disasters and dramas, I had almost stopped believing that good things happened to us any more! But despite me still panicking and anticipating all kinds of last minute problems, everything went through without a hitch and just six days after we first saw her, Steven delivered Marjorie Jean to her new spot in our campground.
We could hardly believe Marjorie Jean was ours!
As if upsizing to a caravan wasn't enough, we also have a huge awning which is almost as big again as the caravan and divides into two rooms!
It probably sounds funny but I felt dreadfully guilty to be moving out of Ken. After all, he wasn't just a car, he had been our home and everything we had in the world for so long. Living in Ken had been wonderful, it wasn't his fault that we had to leave. It's just as well everything happened so fast, as I would no doubt have found the whole moving out experience to have been far more difficult and emotional. As it was, we had only a few hours between periods of heavy rain to transfer everything out of Ken into our new home. Being in Marjorie Jean felt right straight away. As I busied myself with playing house and finding the perfect place for everything, I had to chuckle when Gareth gently chided me. 'Just because we have more room now, doesn't mean we have to go and fill it with a load more stuff', he reminded me. 'Look around at all this already!' 'What do you mean? I haven't bought any more stuff! All this was in the van! It's just we couldn't see it before', I laughed, looking around at our tiny array of ornaments; the bride and groom from our wedding cake, a seashell from Whangamata beach and the little jade Buddha my mum had brought me back from Asia.
Admittedly I did end up treating myself to one small folly the very next day. I spent a whole $4 at The Warehouse on a battery operated light up cactus. I figured everyone needs one of those. At least, everyone needs to remember the words on it.
A little reminder, just in case we ever forget!
We lost count of new joys and differences we noticed in the caravan that day. For starters, it was quite a sight to see Gareth get out of bed, STAND up and WALK over to the fridge to get a drink. For the past two years all he had been able to do was roll over and perch on the edge of the bed! Although we didn't even have a kitchen yet, it was an immediate joy to sit at the table to cook and to eat together. When we were in the van, we could only sit facing one another at meal times when the weather was nice enough to sit outside. When it wasn't, one of us had to sit at the back of the van on one end of the bed, while the other perched on the other end with their back to them, preparing the evening meal. Much as we loved Ken, we quickly began to wonder, how in heaven's name had we managed to live that way for so long?!
We still love you Ken! Even if you do smell...
Talking of Ken, I never realised how God awful he smelled all the while we had been living in him. Upon leaving the caravan the next day to drive Ken into town, I opened the door and was immediately hit with the stench of 1000 dinners. That, and the indescribable scent of an unwashed couple and a dog, who had occupied it almost constantly for the last 700 odd days. Thank goodness we had never had room for visitors in there! So many new things to delight in that almost anyone else would take for granted. I will think of more as we go along; even now, weeks later I still smile at the simple act of turning the key in the lock and quietly opening and closing the little hinge door, rather than cringe at the earth shattering SCREEEEK Ken would make whenever we used the sliding door. At least now we're up to date on how Marjorie came about and how we found her. We adore our little home and have been busy bees renovating the inside so that she has the kitchen and office that we so desperately need. I can't wait to show you some of our finds! Gareth has been doing an awesome job of transforming objects and giving them a new purpose and lease of life. To be honest, after such a dreadful few months, I think our Marjorie Jean has given us a new lease of life too!
Our adorable new home, with its super quiet door!