Who else dreams of life on the road?


I got too much stuff to live in a van

I CAN’T pretend I haven’t thought about van life. You say, “A man in your place? Living in a van? Absurd!” But, in fact, I remember many years ago people suggesting that this was something I would be perfectly suited for.

I can’t settle down. Don’t go anywhere. Free spirit, ken? Irresponsible, unnecessary, childish: I think those were also mentioned.

My blabla is therefore occasioned by a BBC Alba documentary, Beatha sa Bhan (Van Life), available on all good iPlayers. It chronicles the trend of people fitting out vans, installing toilets, showers, kitchens and beds, and then hitting the road.

Not all of them live there long term – most appear to be holiday RV types – but some do, although they are mostly young people and will eventually settle into proper accommodation.

However, ultimately, it’s not for me. I like the idea of ​​being uprooted, of looking in different places every week, of never getting attached to them because they – leafy suburbs, idyllic-looking village, little house on the prairie – always turn out to be garbage and full of problems. With a van, you take off before that happens.

But I have too many things to live in a van. I am chained to my possessions. It’s condemnable, but that’s the way it is. It’s funny how we can know that something is wrong but we don’t have the courage to change it.

I have a two-bedroom bungalow that’s too small for me: thousands of books, hundreds of DVDs, 13 guitars and associated antics. Several of the guitars are broken, but I don’t know how to fix them – or anything on the guitars, for that matter – so I can’t sell them.

Lots of people now have lots of guitars when they used to have just one. But the instruments are so much cheaper and playable these days. I bought two new ones for a total of £170 recently, and I prefer them to the £1,000 one bought two decades ago that lies dormant with its crazy electronics. DVDs? I need the old and obscure ones unavailable on streaming sites, although I tend to deploy the latter more and more now.

Books? When I threw a bunch of them, it was mostly thrillers like Michael Crichton and Lee Child. Since then, I have discovered that these are the only things, apart from Tolkien, that I read again. I had to buy them again on Kindle. As for re-reading the literary “classics”, crivvens, once was enough.

The vans people are talking about aren’t fancy campers, but ordinary, cheap efforts they’ve converted. But I would need a man to do that.

Also, unlike most women – and van life, as chronicled frequently on YouTube, seems particularly popular with independent-minded women – I don’t think I would have the skills and confidence to maneuver a van. I have enough problems with a small sedan. My car backs up five meters, it’s like a drunk trying to walk in a straight line. To park a van, I would need a space the size of a small airfield.

In the past when moving I have rented vans (to take some books, movers hate them) but only the smallest ones available. I would do two multi-hundred mile trips rather than just one in a larger van.

I wish I wasn’t so desperate sometimes. But I’m fair. My tombstone will be marked “Failed”. I heartily dislike the idea of ​​reincarnation and will vigorously protest it. But, forced back into that hellhole, I hope next time it will be as a man with big, hairy hands, innate DIY and driving skills, a modicum of courage, and a little semblance of a sense of the adventure.

Failing that, I would content myself with being a fat heir to a large country house, a cellar of fine wines and a driver.

Free time

I still listened to the classic album Free Live. I never thought I would still be doing this so many decades later. It was either the first album or one of the first I bought.

It is widely considered the greatest live album of all time, rivaled only by Deep Purple’s Made in Japan.

A key element of Free’s sound was Paul Kossof’s guitar playing. Its up and down curves can make a grown man wave. Like Jimi Hendrix and Rory Gallagher, he achieved this by having strong fingers and using heavy strings, which he wavered with aplomb.

The reason I mention this album is because of the serendipity of the songs. Thinking about moving again, by chance – apparently; Tolkien believed such things were a cosmic design – I find myself listening to songs on this LP called I’m a Mover and Get Where I Belong.

Once when faced with another big move decision, it was the Clash song, Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Arguably, many messages in classic rock, and even common pop, have subliminal power. The writers themselves didn’t know what they were saying, but were just conduits for a greater force directing our lives.

I receive a message in my earpiece. Am I still talking guts? Fair enough. But you can’t stop me from thinking about it.

Our columns are a platform for writers to voice their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.


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