Showing posts from 2015

The new ride. A Transit in a posh frock.

We finally took possession of our new ride last week. It’s been an interesting time searching for a camper that’s just right for us – and it coincided perfectly with the work I have been doing for ‘The Camper Van Bible’, my new book. So a lot of the questions we asked ourselves about 'what is right for us' will be in there if you're ever facing the difficult decision to buy a camper. This is about our thought process but there's a lot more to it than what I have written here (it IS in the book)... Buying a camper van isn’t like buying a car. There are lots of extra considerations to take into account such as the type of roof to go for, the type of kitchen and the number of people you need to sleep. And that’s once you have decided what kind of a van you’re going to fit it all in. One of the chapters in ‘The Camper Van bible’ deals with exactly the issues I faced when selling our old Type 2 and moving on to our new van, which, incidentally, is a VW T5 Californi

The illusion of freedom and the tyranny of teatime

Here's a little tease. It's the final words from my new book, The Camper Van Bible. I finished the manuscript and delivered it in September after five months of constant writing, photographing, cooking and camping. It'll be the final tome in my 'camper van' trilogy and it is to be published by publishing giant Bloomsbury. It is due out late next spring. I am currently doing edits so I thought I'd share with you my final word.... apologies in advance for the expletive at the end. But it's well placed and makes the point perfectly.  Do you remember when you were a little kid and you had to go to bed when it was still light outside? Or when you had to go home to have your tea at a certain time? If you didn’t you were in trouble. I still feel that now, when the kids have to be up for school or meals have to be taken at sensible times. I feel it in the winter too, when teatime turns into telly time and telly time turns into bedtime. Suddenly a wet and windy we

Famous little van seeks loving home

This is a very tough post to write. We are selling Dave the camper. This is the same one I drove around the UK in my BBC TV show One Man and His Campervan in the summer of 2010. Let me explain. Dave came into our lives just before we shot the TV series. At the time I owned a Type 25 called Pootle but the BBC said that he wasn’t ‘cool’ enough for the show. They wanted me to drive a rental van. I said “absolutely no”. We had a standoff. Eventually I agreed to sell Pootle, buy a Bay and then rent the Bay to the BBC for the duration of the shoot. So we sold Pootle (we all cried) and bought Dave (who wasn’t called Dave at the time). And then I set off on that great adventure. Since then Dave has had a lot of love lavished on him and has been on a few trips with us. We went to France and Spain, Ireland and the Outer Hebrides and we loved every single minute of it. So has Dave. He has let us down only twice. Once when his clutch cable snapped during filming and once when the engine

Calling all campers. Let's get this show back on the road.

Hello! How are you all? Getting ready for the new season of camper van adventures, fun and frolics in the sun? I hope so. This winter seemed to go on forever. It didn't stop us from camping though. We've been testing motorhomes and camper vans for MMM Magazine for a new series of articles that comes out very soon. In November we camped on the Lizard Peninsula then, in February, we took a trip to the Isle of Purbeck. At Easter we headed for the Lakes and North Wales. It's been really interesting to sleep in and experience some other vehicles and has really opened up our eyes to how the other half live. Some of you really are enjoying a world of luxury previously unknown to Mrs D (trooper that she is). She's a changed woman. And that could prove costly. The experience has also been really useful for my next book project, which I have just started. It is provisionally entitled 'The Camper Van Bible' and, as the name suggests, will cover all things camper va

Hey pesto! Go wild in the woods today!

Have you noticed anything lately? When you go into the woods or drive along country lanes, are you getting that tell tale smell that spring is here? That's wild garlic and it grows in abundance in our shady dell and dingles, on north facing verges and along the side of shady country lanes. It arrives around March / April and will last until June in the shadiest spots. After that the leaves will begin to wilt and die back, only to grow again next year. Wild garlic is entirely edible: the flowers make a lovely garnish and the roots are edible too. But we'd prefer not to dig it up, choosing instead to pick the leaves and cook with them. Making wild garlic pesto is very easy on a camping trip. Use the end of a wooden spoon and a cup or mug . Chop the leaves then muddle them (by that I mean crush them) with the wrong end of the wooden spoon, adding a little olive oil as you go. Then add half a handful of chopped pine nuts, again muddling and adding olive oil as you go.

What a lotta bottles! Time to change with a new refill scheme.

How do you save 99 quid ? Fill this 100 times. How do you like your water? Bottled or straight from the tap? What about when you are camping? Do you buy large bottles or fill up from the camp site tap? I know what I prefer, and it doesn't come with some fancy schmancy label, a whole bunch of hype or an advert with roller skating babies. It comes out of the tap and it costs just a couple of pence for a litre. It's also the best drinking water in the world. And no, that's not marketing spiel, it's true. In the UK our tap water is the best there is anywhere in the world and is tested every single day for quality. How often does your posh drinking water get tested once it leaves the bottling plant, travels hundreds of miles to get to you and then sits on the supermarket shelves for weeks? Why would you spend a pound or more on bottled water when it's available so freely - and when it's so good? Because you don't like the taste o

It's murder on the camp site (part 2)

Ok. So I have been testing motorhomes recently for MMM Magazine. I will freely admit it. I have lived a little of the luxurious life while my old VW sits in the garage. I have enjoyed hot running water, fixed beds, indoor loos, blown air heating that works, space to put stuff, blinds, extractors and retractable steps. Woosh! It's a different world I can tell you. And it's not without its pleasures. For once I didn't have to order everyone out to get a knife from the cutlery drawer or fight over the captain's seat. We had cold wine and warm toes and space to swing a cat. But of course, everything comes at a price. Even in a luxury motorhome (in this case a very tidy 2015 Marquis 155) you still have to go outside and do manly stuff on the campsite. You have to fill up tanks and empty tanks and swill out the porta potti and plug stuff in. It's not all glam glam glam. Anyway, here is the price I paid for forgetting that it can be murder on the campsite. As I

That’s not a camper van! And other rubbish vehicles to sleep in.

Our last T25 before we bought the Bay. Happy campers. Some vehicles make good campers. Some vehicles make bad campers. That’s life. The VW transporter is one of those that has lent itself perfectly to living, eating and sleeping in for many years. Its first three incarnations with the rear engine provided a ready-made sleeping platform and plenty of living space. It was a design that offered campers a huge amount of versatility. You only have to look at the range of conversions – From Westfalia to Devon, Autosleeper and beyond – to see that. The problem with classic VWs – and newer models for that matter – is that they aren’t cheap. So many of us have had to ‘make do’ with other, 'less desirable', vehicles in their quest for campervan nirvana. I’m one of those too. Before I got the red and white T2 I had a series of 3 T25s. Two of them were aircooled and the other was a water cooled petrol model. This was the time when they were deeply unfashionable, came in a range

Our precious. Your precious. Everyone's precious NHS.

It was around this time eleven years ago that my daughter Maggie (that's her at Malham Cove last spring) was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia. It was a frightening time for all of us. She had just had her first birthday when her jaw began to swell and distort, disfiguring her face, exploding the bones in her jaw and sending her teeth in all directions. She cried in pain almost constantly for weeks. It was a while before she was correctly diagnosed and was able to receive treatment and I can remember standing at the kitchen sink, crying myself with the worry of the unknown as I listened to Joanne upstairs trying to comfort her. Without knowing what it was or what it would become, we had no idea what turn our lives would take. Why am I telling you this? Because the rest of the story is all good news, that's why. And the reason it is good news is because of the NHS. This is the NHS that cares for its patients, that pulls out all the stops to save lives, that offers sup

Likes are good. Shares are better. But direct action is best.

UPDATED 28/01/16 The internet, or more specifically, social media, is a powerful thing. It can spread jokes, images, movies and empathy and outrage to every corner of the world in seconds. It likes cat pictures and shots of your dinner and film of my dog trying to get comfy. And there is nothing wrong with that. However, I am really curious about the effect that social media can have on the real world. Sometimes I feel that social media is just a way of communicating something, anything, to our fellow humans, whatever it is. There are other times when I feel the swiftly flowing wind of possibility blow through my time line. These are the times when the internet becomes an open door and it feels as if we’re really starting to get somewhere. My twitter postcard comps, for example, are experiments in making things happen – and I am always thrilled to get so many inspired entries turn up on my doormat. And when I see posts on facebook from the WTF [ more here ] about upcomin

Don't forget your tent pegs. And other camping stupidity.

My first solo camping trip was a disaster. And it was all down to terrible preparation. Actually I wasn’t solo. I was with my school friend Oliver Wilson, a funny, ginger haired kid with a round face and a great line in one liners. He made me laugh constantly. We were sixteen, had just finished our ‘O’ levels and wanted an adventure. So we decided to go camping. For both of us it was our first camping trip without our parents and we hoped to spend the week getting into all sorts of trouble and laughing a lot. We did both. However, Oliver told me later, when we had got home and could put a little distance between us and the trip, that when we arrived at the campsite he didn’t feel like laughing very much at all. He had wanted to punch my lights out. The reason? His idea of a perfect campsite was wildly different to mine. I had chosen the location, Thurlestone, in South Devon, because I had been there many times with my parents. I had enjoyed lots of happy summer holiday

The Camping Nazis.

Hell’s Mouth Beach, North Wales, August 1987 There used to be a campsite at the southern end of Hell’s Mouth beach. The location was perfect but the facilities – one stinking, broken loo in a tumbledown shack and a fresh water tap – left a lot to be desired. It was basic and cheap but somehow perfect. On a low cliff overlooking one of the area’s best surf breaks, it provided a base for surfers riding the waves of this famous spot. We’d leave a few quid on the window of the farmhouse as we passed and pitched as we wished. The only problem with the field was that it had no shelter, so when the wind blew you really knew about it. Even in August a fresh south west wind could tear apart our camp and keep us awake with flapping canvas and lashing rain. It must have been howling the night we decided to pitch in the dunes because we left the car on the camp site and trekked some way across the stream. There would be no other reason for leaving the flat clean grass on the camps