Monday, 30 January 2012

All I need is...

One of the nicest things about planning trips in the camper van is working out what you need to take. It can be very liberating, especially when you are in the mood for making life simple. What do you need? Ok, what do you really need? Lay it all out and then throw half of it away. Then you'll be ready. Despite my best efforts our home is filled with so much clutter that forgetting it all for a few weeks is a joy. What do we need all this stuff for? Do we really need two coats and twenty pairs of shoes? Not really. Casting them aside can feel like the beginning of that simple kind of freedom I long for.

Do you long for it too?

What would you never travel without? What would be the one thing you'd always pack first? What would be at the top of your list, come what may? The kindle? iphone? Macbook? A decent evening heel? For me it's the humble Swiss Army knife. That's it above. I've had it for years and years and I adore it, even if I don't use it that often. If I misplace it, even for a moment, I feel uncomfortable. Yes, so the blade isn't as keen as my cooking knives, the pliers aren't as strong as those in my toolkit and the toothpick is little more than wishful thinking, but at least it's there if I need it.

If the screws in my sun glasses get loose I can tighten them up. If I get a thorn in my finger I can get it out. If my eyesight lets me down I can look at it more closely with the magnifying glass. If the can needs opening I can eat. If the bottle needs uncorking I'm your man. If the wood needs whittling I can whittle that too. I could even make you a walking stick if you got tired on a ramble. Heck, if a horse had a stone in its hoof I could probably deal with that too. If it were to happen, which it rarely does. But you just never know, do you?

My Swiss Army knife adds comfort to my journeys, like the kids' blankies or the favourite fountain pen or that tatty old notebook you rarely write in (and isn't nearly as useful). They are the familiar, the friends you can't leave home without. You take them because you know they will be there for you, should you ever need them.

So there it is, the start of my summer holiday plans for 2012 laid out for all to see. Tweezers and all. It's the best start that any plan could have.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Camper Van Coast: Cooking, eating, living the life.

Well, here it is at last! This is the cover of The Camper Van Coast, spread out on my coffee table so that I can finally see it in all its glossy glory. I think it looks like summer.

The Camper Van Coast is the follow up to my first book, The Camper Van Cookbook. It's been almost a year in the making and has taken me to the four corners of the UK to see and do some of the very best things on these lovely little islands of ours. Inside there are more great recipes for cooking on the road, for baking before you take or keeping the kids involved. There are also lots of other ideas for places to go and things to do to get the most out of any visit to the great British seaside. There are notes on the camper van year, festivals to attend, lighthouses to visit, my favourite beaches, how to put up a deckchair and even some bits and pieces about seasonal ingredients that you can find or forage at the seaside. I might even reveal some of the secrets of making seaside rock or where to watch surfers catching monstrous waves.

All our trips away last spring and summer - including a wild goose chase to find the UK's most remote chip shop in the Outer Hebrides and a 1500 mile round trip to cruise the incredible Causeway Coastal drive - seem like a world away now, looking at the gorgeous blue skies of Widemouth Bay and Northam Burrows (where the cover shots were taken) on this murky January morning. But of course, time flies and the days between now (when the book is being printed, bound and sent back to us) and the release date of April 12th will pass by in a flutter.

I am excited enough by the book but even more so as we're running a competition on the cover to win a Cornish campervan adventure or the equivalent value in Just Kampers vouchers for those who already have campervans. It'll be free to enter and anyone can have a go but you might have to flick through a few of the pages to find the answer to the question! So if you've longed for a cruise in your very own van but have yet to own one, this is your chance to find out what the hype is all about. If you win you'll get to spend a week in Cornwall with one of O'Connor's beautiful VW Campers. Cooking, eating and living the life. The way it should be.

What do you call yours? #mycampervaniscalled LOVE!

A few weeks ago I (with the help of my friends at the Caravan and Motorhome Club) asked the good people of Twitter and Instagram to...