Good grief it's just 10 days until we move, has life gone just a bit mental or what? I can't believe how fast the time is going, I'm rushing around like a mad thing. Unlike other house moves I've ever done previously, this time it's not just a question of packing things up in boxes to take to the next place. It's a question of packing up a bit of stuff for me but the basics such as washing machine, microwave and other essentials are all going to the boys for their respective flats. Anything they don't want has been unearthed and listed on our local Buy and Sell Facebook page, which is a big job in itself as there is a surprising amount of stuff when you start emptying a house! I'm sure the locals will be very glad when I'm gone and no longer swamping their Facebook news feeds but I am grateful to each and every person who has ever bought an item from me, no matter how small. They made not realise it but they have not just been helping me declutter, but also helping me put food on the table and I honestly don't know what I would have done without them.
And there is still so much more to be done! But I really wanted to stop packing for a moment so that I could at least introduce you to Batty. Short for 'The Batmobile', Batty is not only our new vehicle but our new home for the next while at least. She has been lovingly converted and certified fully self contained by her previous owner and she is beautiful. We can't wait to start our adventures around NZ with her! But I really wanted to share the story of how we came to find her - or perhaps she found us.
Looking for a vehicle was hard as you can imagine when we didn't have wheels ourselves to be able to go and check any out but nonetheless it didn't stop me from trawling the web endlessly for a suitable camper van. Initially the plan was to go for a big motor home but once we realised that our plan to live permanently on the road had morphed into finding some land to build a tiny house, we decided that we would go for a camper van instead as it would enable us to invest more money into land and building rather than a vehicle. Most of the camper vans we saw were located at least two hours away or often half way down the country and it was getting a tad frustrating not being able to get to them. Just as I had almost given up hope of us being able to get sorted with anything, this gleaming black camper jumped out at me. It looked perfect - and it was only 40 minutes away! Already we really liked the look of this one, it looked exactly what we were after and so well cared for, with less than half the kilometres on the clock than any of the others we had seen. As soon as the house went unconditional, we arranged to go and see the owners, who were selling on behalf of their daughter.
I'm a bit of a believer in signs, me, and from the start I rather liked the number plate, which was JAL. 'Jackie, Ali, Liam' I smiled to myself. I also liked the owners straight away and as we checked out the interior I couldn't help but notice that the blinds at the windows had been beautifully handmade from the same material as our lounge curtains! Even the squabs which made up the seats and mattress had been made by hand. 'Let's go for a test drive!' said the owner, Robin. As we climbed in I noticed approvingly how spacious and comfortable it was. 'This will be perfect for me to work in', I smiled as we went along. 'What do you do?' asked Robin. 'I'm a writer', I replied somewhat shyly as I always feel that being a writer doesn't sound like a 'proper' job. 'Oh really? What sort of stuff do you write?' she asked. 'I work for a company in Australia, we teach people how to save money. I also used to write for That's Life magazine', I explained. I certainly didn't expect what came next. 'Are you Penny Wise?' Robin said, looking straight at me in surprise. 'Yes! I am!' I said back, equally surprised. 'You've got the two little boys - well, big boys now! I've read your stuff for years!' Robin laughed. She even used to be a Simple Savings member!
We were still laughing when we got back to the house. I'd already had a good feeling about the camper van but even more so now! It really did seem as though it was meant for us. Even so, as I went for one final walk around the outside I began feeling rather nervous. This was it - I was about to exchange living in a house like a 'normal' person for living in this van. Was it going to be big enough? Was I doing the right thing? What the heck was I thinking?!' I was literally almost shaking. In the meantime, Gareth had thought of one more important thing we hadn't checked out yet. 'Does the stereo work any good?' he grinned. 'Yes, it goes great! See for yourself!' said Robin, switching it on. And I almost fell backwards.
The song which blared out of the speakers was a song I hadn't heard in almost 20 years. A song I hadn't been able to bring myself to listen to. 'Stranger on the Shore' by Acker Bilk was mine and my dad's special song. When I was nine years old I learned to play the clarinet just so that I could play that song for him. When I was 25 and half a world away when my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer I played it endlessly as it brought me comfort and made me feel closer to him. When he passed away a few months later, I put the song on a CD and sent it to the vicar in the UK so that he could play it at dad's funeral in the church I sang in as a kid, from me. But from the day he died, I hadn't been able to listen to that song any more. Not since 1997. For almost two decades I had been scared to listen to it as I couldn't bear the emotion it released and now here it was playing joyfully in front of Gareth and these people I had never met, who couldn't possibly know what it meant to me and I had to hold myself together. But once I got over the shock I realised that hearing it wasn't making me sad. It was making me happy! It was as if Dad was saying 'Go for it Jack, it's going to be alright'. If that wasn't a sign, I didn't know what was.
A few short days later, I met Robin and her husband half way and she handed me the keys. As I sat behind the wheel of what we had affectionately named 'The Batmobile' it felt as though I had been driving her for ages! We said our farewells and then Batty and I set off for our maiden voyage together along the windy mountain road in the sunshine. Robin insisted I keep the CD with my special song on it and this time I had no reservations about listening to it; it just made me smile. Whilst neither Gareth or I profess to be mechanically minded, everyone who has seen Batty thinks she is a wonderful investment. I love that she is so shiny and comfy but most of all I love the personal touches which make her extra special to us, such as the cushion and blanket Robin's daughter (Batty's previous owner) made for us and the black and white cat cushion given to us by our friend Victoria who runs the local cat rescue charity we volunteer for. In just 10 days we will be not only passengers but inhabitants! And we can't wait!