It started during my bi-monthly Campervan search. First of all I trawl the vans I definitely can’t afford, closely by the Ford transits etc that I dreamily imagine converting until the full ridiculousness of it hits me slap in the face once more and I close the zillion pages I have been comparing down again. I then usually start searching ‘sleeping in your Nissan Qashqai 2010’.. and only a couple of hits show up and they basically tear the arse out of Qashqai’s as having shit boot space for a (pretend) SUV… Only this time.. I looked on YouTube and started to see a wonderous step by step tutorial with an actual design and plan of how you could build a bed in the back of your usual family car.
Which I didn’t do. What I have ended up with isn’t remotely like that tutorial… It’s like this instead…
But it works. Albeit in a slightly wonky, can’t sit up without banging your head, sort of way. So as I dreamt of how to buy the foam to level the lowered back seats, and merrily ordered car sleeping mattresses, I also started to wonder what exactly it was that I was hoping to get from this ‘I can do anything, I am a warrior queen of solo-tripping on the seas of the southern coast’ attitude. Because in all reality, what was this gung-ho shit all about really? Being armed with a paddle board you can barely stand on and driving around in a car you have tried to kit out as a Campervan does not a cool, surfer girl make. On one hand I am feeling courageous and powerful and ‘who needs someone else to go and have an adventure’… on the other, deep inside there is the little voice that is piping up gently and quietly with a little hint of shame… saying, ‘me.. I do..’.
I grew up very alone and thus was very lonely. Until I was in my teens I didn’t have any real, firm, school friends as we had moved around too much to have ties anywhere. I had no cousins or extended family that I saw regularly and so being on my own and being my own friend is something I have cultivated over many years. I used to be shy. Not something anyone would believe now but yes, Chloe used to be a shy introvert who was only extrovert on her own or around people she trusted. With no-one to play with and long, long hours of fending for myself whilst my mum worked, or my grandmother tutored, I had to learn to amuse myself. Hours spent climbing apple trees in my grandmother’s garden as it bloomed furiously with roses and lavender, co-existing with insects that used to hover and then dive, buzzing in the air and the spiders that had me squealing as I tried to balance on branches. I had made up friends and imaginary adventures.
Yesterday I giggled as I took wrong turns and argued with myself as to where I should park. Called myself a ‘dick’ many a time as I wobbled on the board and at one point nearly fell in whilst grasping onto a tree. At this point a man on the phone walked past me.. just as I ungraciously slid one half of me into the water.. but luckily he was so deep in conversation that he either didn’t find it funny, or my own demons were screaming so hard with laughter that I couldn’t hear him. There were the most exquisite iridescent blue dragonflies over the lilypads that my phone was too slow to capture. At one point there was swan who started to swim reeeeeallly slowly in front of me.. it kept making snide glances back at me and I, really quickly, pretended to look somewhere else at the same time.. almost breaking, nonchalantly, into a whistle.. I did not want to get into a fight with said swan whilst on a paddle board.
I visited a beautiful National Trust place called Sheffield Park which had a vast array of rhododendrons and which made mine feel a little bit fucking inadequate if I am honest.. but actually I realised that I far prefer seeing the wilderness of nature rather than the Victorianesque manicured gardens that the NT presents. Very white. Very middle-class and I actually felt a sense of unease as I walked through there. It didn’t feel like the sort of place I wanted to be in. It felt ordered and restrained and very indicative of what is wrong with our society. Another example of uncomfortable history I guess. Interestingly though, one of the rhododendrons (white) smelt like Deep Heat….
(I have cleverly disguised my own rhododendron in below. See if you can spot it.).
Once I felt I had used my membership enough (I will now probably cancel after my whole ‘one’ visit.. I have decided I would prefer to travel to some rewilding sites instead). I drove to Hales Farm Campsite, which is the most wonderful site that I have visited regularly over the past 5 years. They have bell tents and shepherds hut and very spacious settings for camping. It boasts eco toilets and showers and lots of lovely walks around. I figured that if I were going to set up on my own for the night then this would be the best place for it. Luckily enough they remembered me, (the first time I visited I stayed in the hut with my husband (a gift from a friend) and threatened to come and help them with lambing. They never did reply that following Spring.. ).
I did lots of manoeuvring as I parked up and still managed to end up on a slant that meant during the night I was slowly rolling to the other side of the car. I tootled around and cut out crude coverings for some of the windows. I cooked my dinner and spoke to a passing female camper (staying with her partner and child), explaining that ‘no, I am not waiting for someone to turn up.. yes I am camping on my own.. yes in a car’.
I necked a couple of tiny cans of Prosecco and shot into my bed with a book. By 9 I was settling down to sleep. By midnight I was wondering what animal was trying to break into the car and by 1 in the morning I thought I was going to die of carbon dioxide poisoning because I hadn’t opened any windows. I finally slept, albeit fitfully.
I made my tea followed by a cup of salt which was supposed to be coffee with sugar (note to self; remember to label the pot of salt as ‘salt’) and watched as minuscule, kamikaze flies dive-bombed the kettle as it boiled. Not clever.
And as I deconstructed Adelina, I felt this nasty little worm of anxiety start wheedling around the deep innards of my psyche. Was it tiredness? Was it because I had work at midday? Was it the Prosecco? Was it because it was cloudy? Was it because despite pushing past the boundaries of societal attitude of a woman camping alone, I felt deflated? What had I expected? No. Not that. What did I want. What did I actually want?
And that my dear friends is the million dollar question. What. Do. I. Want? And the answer. Er. Everything. Yup. I want it all. I want to be feisty and strong and independent. And also I would like to be comforted when I feel needy and I would very much like to be cooked nice food. And I want to be sexy and admired and no, not seen as a slightly too dominant one minute, too submissive the next, mentalist. And I realise that this harps back to the earlier years as a child. I knew how to play on my own in the playground. But I wanted to play with others. However, the comfort from my own company was far too delightful in comparison to the company of others I wanted to impress. I want to feel how I feel on my own but with others. And that is something I am not sure I will ever manage to harness. And that also, I fear is where my future goes a rather murky shade of grey. A bit like the view out of Casa del Sea this morning..
As I started my journey home, I realised that I feel so, so lost. I can’t move to the countryside because my 2 youngest children need stability and they like where they live. I don’t know if I want to move somewhere rural on my own. Do I want to move with someone? I don’t know. Do I think I will meet someone (ever again)? Not at the moment. Do I need to meet someone? No. Not really. But I do feel that time is rushing by. That age and time are against me. I have even had filler in my lips for gods sake.. now that IS a midlife crisis (no.4021). I have no point to this post other than, yes.. yes I can go away on my own. Yes I enjoy my own company.. but also? I do crave companionship. I
t’s a very basic, human need and I am no different (..well…) to any other human.