Gosh, I’m shattered. I wanted to write this blog and got as far as the title before I had to take to my bed for a nap. Seriously, I wrote three words—and two hours, bang, gone. I have our staff team meeting in an hour so let’s see how we get on.
The first weekend away in Heidi, the camper van, was an unmitigated disaster.
The story so far—come on, you stragglers, keep up. So Hubby buys a camper van. I have no idea why I call him that as Alec, his confused dad, isn’t with us anymore. We’re not married, and Mark called me his wife because it was easy for Alec to understand. I’d like to be married, I think, but we’re not, but it continued after Alec’s death. It saves another messy divorce.
I digress. That’s the fun thing about writing a blog. You can go this way or that way, or right down the nearest rabbit hole, and there I go again. I’m going to try and curtail my enthusiasm in this entry and spare you the graphic details—but being graphic is what I do. I go as far as the Stop sign at the norms of society’s niceties and then continue into areas I shouldn’t—but I’m going to try and explain it in an upper-class society way and avoid all the scenes that you really don’t need to read. The weekend got messy.
Hubby bought a camper. It could roughly pass trades description as that. It had a bed, seating and table, a cooker, sink and fridge. Here is where the story gets crazy. He put his jag into the same garage to have a fault fixed on its brakes. What should have taken a few hours took eighteen months, and Mark never drove his beloved jag again. He sold it for little more than scrap value.
I had a few words about using the same garage again to re-fit Heidi—but what do I know?
This bloke is cheap, and what would have cost five grand, Mark reckons he’ll get for two—though another interesting fact—they haven’t even discussed money–not once.
‘Sooz, it’s a strategy.’
Heidi went into the garage with a promise that she’d come out like a mobile home program exhibit in time for last weekend.
The first week it wasn’t touched, so mark brought it home and stripped it out himself.
We’d had a camper.
Now we had–a van.
The second week it wasn’t touched, so he brought it home and put the floor in.
We had a van.
Now we had a van with a floor.
By the third and final week, he was panicking.
Wednesday night, they were cutting wood to make the bed frame and had filed some old seat mountings away.
Thursday night, the bed was in. The garage man had got some old bloke in to do the carpentry, and he’d thrown it together in a right mess with nothing aligning and one part sticking up an eighth of an inch from the rest.
This job was being done on the cheap.
Thursday night, Mark came home almost in tears. I know him, and the whole point in buying the damned van was to play with his brothers, who both have campers. Alan’s cost over eighty-five grand, and Keith’s is a serviceable build like ours should be—but isn’t.
The job was supposed to be finished by Thursday night—we were driving in convoy to Essex with one of the brothers at twelve on Friday.
We gave the garage an extension until eleven. God himself would have winced at the thought of turning that mess into a fully-functioning camper in time.
Eleven o clock came and went.
We were told to come back at twelve, then two and three. Mark was up and down to the garage all day—it was cheap, remember. Three turned into four and five, and then they were down to the final push and we were told seven—with a promise.
Seven became eight. By this time, I was livid. I didn’t want to go away. Mark knew better than to let me anywhere near that garage because I’d have told them where to go, taken the van, and we’d have had nothing but an old van.
This is why I love Mark so much. He was bitterly disappointed. And while I whinged and whined to the moon and back. He was calm and took every knock and delay on the chin and looked for a positive in the disaster. We’d lost our first day away.
‘Oh well, at least driving through the night, we’ll avoid the traffic.’
The last call before we picked the van up was to say that our brand new fridge was damaged—and the make of cooker they’d told Mark to order didn’t fit. The idiots at the garage had dropped the fridge and taken off one of the back corners. Of course, they weren’t admitting that and said it had been done in transit.
By this time, I was a rottweiler and wanted to fire off and bite the balls off all five last-minute call-outs to get the van done.
Mark was beyond it all. He was down and depressed but wouldn’t let it show. He said if the fridge works, to put it in anyway, and we’d make do without a cooker for this week.
We finally picked the sodding mess up at eight-thirty.
We had a bed of sorts. The seating cushions had been cut too thick but were there un-upholstered, with some kind of table. The fridge was in, with the damage hidden by a work counter—and no sink as yet. The electrics hadn’t been done. The wheels hadn’t been changed. The solar panels weren’t on, tuning hadn’t been changed from performance to economy, and the interior was an abortion—but it would have to do.
By the time we’d loaded the van, refuelled and got on the road, it was turned nine at night. The first night party would be in full swing, and they’d all be around the fire pit eating pizza and having fun without us.
The journey was awful. On the plus side, the van is tuned to performance. It’s as hungry as a horse on fuel but goes like a rocket—and there’s a mixed metaphor if I ever wrote one. The M1 or M11 or some such road was closed. And we had forty pounds worth of diversion to contend with. Mark didn’t trust the GPS to get us there—of course, he didn’t–and we got lost.
It was past three in the morning when we turned onto the field. Kate had put ground lights all the way up the lane like a runway to guide us in—that’s the kind of people they are. So thoughtful. We were in a quiet hamlet near Ongar in Essex.
Everybody was asleep, and the field was pitch black. We were so stressed when we set off that we threw everything into the back of the van with no order or method. With much shushing, we got the bed down and were exhausted. The bed was surprisingly roomy and comfortable.
Mark was too wired to sleep, and I was too hot, too cold, too uncomfortable, too stuffy, too this, too that and lay awake for the rest of the night—it wasn’t a long one. The traditional and obligatory village cockrels wake early in Essex. We haven’t got our curtains up yet, so I watched the dark turn to light and got up at the first wink of the sun.
The first problem presented itself. I needed to pee. I went to the back of the van and was going to go—but I physically couldn’t squat in the grass like a dog. Couldn’t do it.
My God, did Little Miss Prim and Proper lose any shred of dignity before that day was done.
Bloody Sparky came on holiday and partied like a hooligan.
What should have been a fabulous day of good people, good food, sunshine, plenty of alcohol and a beautiful walk through the forest to scatter Alec’s Ashes turned into one of the most embarrassing days of my life.
Katherine Black / Susan (Sooz) Simpson
Founder of Best Book Editors
Katherine has held almost every single job imaginable, from painting gnomes to zookeeper. She spent most of her life in the caring profession and has managed both a nursing home and a care agency. But her passion for the written language always brings her home to novel writing.
Born in Tyne-and-Wear, North-East England, she has settled in the beautiful Lake District, Cumbria, with her partner, two dogs, a cat, an iguana and a python (just don’t ask her which of those six things is her favourite!).
She specialises in content creation and social media outreach, and has been a developmental editor for hundreds of clients. She owns and operates bestbookeditors.com where she helps foundling authors polish their skills. However, after being diagnosed with a dramatic brain condition in 2022, she has had to let 23 staff go, and scale back the business. BBE is still very much open, we are just fewer and can’t take as much work on.
Katherine Black is the author of psychological thriller/detective/fantasy adventure novels.