Thursday, 29 July 2010

Less is more. More or less.

I just got back from my 5 week tour of the UK in my camper van for BBC2. I went to some great places and saw some brill stuff. I took the van to a few hellish roads, tasted the UK's finest ingredients and stayed in some amazing places. I met a lot of very good people too. I'd like to be able to tell you more but that would be giving it away. And what a final epsiode it ended up being! You'll have to watch it to find out what happened at the end of the 2500 mile tour. Let's just say that nothing, and I mean nothing, should keep a camper van man from his home made beef burger with camper van chutney. You know the rules.


Anyway, the last 5 weeks or so have been spent living with one pair of shorts (for hot days), one pair of jeans (for cold days), one pair of flip flops (for hot days whilst not driving), one pair of walking boots (for hiking up big hills), sneakers (cold days and driving), a few tees (alternate days) and my trusty biker's Barbour jacket (are you listening Barbour? Yes, it did get wrecked). So when I got home, it was a revelation to have so much choice. In everything. Where to sit, what pan to cook with, what to wear, what mug to have my tea in. I even had a telly and a laptop to play with. Crikey! That's a lot of stuff. The only thing I had no choice about was what to see out of the window. I'm not complaining because the view out of our house is pretty spectacular but it never changes - unlike the view on my tour, which changed every day. Some days I was by the beach, on other days by a lake, some a pond, others mountains, others fields. One day I woke up and there was an orchard outside my bedroom window. And a lot of empty bottles of cider.
So my question is this: do we really need all this crap? If we can be perfectly happy without it, why do we bother with all the trappings? Is it easier to have no choice when you wake up in the morning? "Is it sunny? Yes! Then it's flip flops today! Hurrah." Personally I think it is. As long as I've chosen carefully and have things to do then I can't see why I'd waste time thinking about what to wear or what not to wear. It's liberating. I am camper van man (apparently) and I think about driving and food and adventure.
I decided to have what is known in our house as a scourge. That is the brutal and remorseless removal of unwanted objects. I bagged up a load of my old clothes and I recycled them so that someone else can enjoy them more than they were being enjoyed at the back of my wardrobe (I never liked that green silk kimono anyway. When you live in a cold cottage in Devon it is the last thing you'd put on in the morning I can tell you). And now I am back to basics, ready for the next trip.


Now then. Where did I put that map?




Sunday, 4 July 2010

Holy Island. Holy Shit.


Today I am taking a break at home after two weeks of filming for The Camper Van Cook, my BBC2 TV series. I've been all over the place: Devon, Hampshire, Norfolk, Yorshire and Northumberland. It's been pretty good. I've eaten some wonderful food including lobster, crab and samphire, Britain's best cheese, wild mushrooms, chickweed and an exotic bird. And I've seen some beautiful places. The Dales, with its 'rustic' campsite rates among the best I have ever stayed at. Not because of the facilitites but because of the view. Simply amazing. I have met some wonderful people too. The forager taught me more in a day of foraging than I could ever have learned on my own in a year. Andy the fisherman showed me the best way to cook a crab. He was right too. I met the folks at Wiveton Hall. Crazy English through and through. I ate Yorshire Chorizo. Really? Damn right. And I met Richard and Sean, the lobster fishermen, who let me 'help' them as they hauled in a precious cargo of velvet swimmers and huge brown crabs. I saw some great stuff. And then I saw this. I took this photograph at Lindisfarne on Holy Island. It is a stunningly beautiful place and it's easy to see why pilgrims have been flocking here for the past thousand or so years. Twice a day it is cut off by the tide, a process that cleanses the island of its tourists, leaving nothing but a quiet village with a ruined priory and a sense of rural wildness that's very English, extremely timeless and well worth protecting. But I guess not everyone sees it that way, do they? He said it was the cheapest way.

I went back the next day to see if he'd cleared up the remains of his burning three piece suite. I hoped that maybe he had picked out the old springs from the ashes, tidied up a bit and made good. I thought that it couldn't have been possible to be so ignorant and reckless, but, it seemed, it was. There, on a beautiful beach in a lovely harbour on an island in a remote corner of England was a pile of ash, some twisted springs, a few screws and a bit of tattered, unburned upholstery.

You can say what you like about eco-living, hippy ideals and a sense of pride in beauty but you can't argue with this can you? The evidence is there for all to see. Some people just don't give a f**k. Holy shit.