Our first day here, just over three years ago. We had travelled down in convoy (three vehicles) from the UK and had finally arrived in the early hours of the morning. We were tired. It had been raining. Getting out of the camper van we were plunged into a sea of sopping wet grass. Nowhere to make a cup of tea, (camper van too full of stuff to be able to get to the cooking facilities it has on board), no proper bathroom to have a shower and a loo, although we had a porta potti on board and we had made sure of being able to use it albeit with a bit of a struggle swamped as it was by stuff. Anyway, all we could do was shift all the 'stuff' around so we could get to the bed, and down for a sleep we went.
We had sold our house in the UK. Taken the plunge. Do it. Or not. 'Or not' was dreadfully relevant that first morning. In the dark nothing could be seen of Labartere. It was a blob of blackness. Wetness. But with the arrival of daylight we could see all. The overgrown Courtyard. The gates hanging off their hinges. The house. Half the roof down, the rest almost. We were tired. Wanted only to get onto a comfy sofa, switch telly on, munch on a humungous pile of food. Be cosy. Warm. Dry. That is what I wanted.
Dismay, therefore, took hold of me as I stood beside the camper van and observed our new home. Behind me, footsteps. It was Gary, our removal man. He, who had remained optimistic and cheerful for all the long hours of packing us up in the UK, and delivering us here in SW France. He, who had sat-navved us all the way down, probably taking several hours longer than what we should have as the sat-nav directed us this way and that way through Paris often in the opposite direction to the actual signs for Bordeaux.
But cheerful, he remained always cheerful, as did we. Only my cheerfulness seemed to be on holiday at that moment, and forlorn-ness was swamping me.
"I'm not taking you back" he said. Just that. It was enough. We unpacked. We started life.
But the camper van didn't. Start life, I mean. Oh for a while it was our only vehicle. It took us into the first visits to the local supermarket where we stood for hours in front of foreign food shelves which didn't make any sense to us, it took us into our first city to try and get the internet and phones sorted out which was absolutely necessary because it is connected to our work, it took me on my first solo drive on foreign roads teaching me how to drive on the opposite of the road. For a while it stood in the gateway, then it got parked out front, pushed to one side as we came by an old French Mercedes which became our first vehicle.
And so it got left, driven less and less, eventually becoming mechanically sticky such that it went into a miff and refused to budge. Meanwhile life went on. One roof up, two roofs, three, and the fourth was finished yesterday.
A man came by three days ago and made us an offer. Yesterday he fetched up here unexpectedly.
I felt a deep lump in my chest as I watched the camper van being towed away behind a big black lorry. It gave us France. I had an urge to purchase it when we moved from Kent to Buckinghamshire. Then I eventually got another urge to travel to France with it. Although I argued with that urge for a year or so, the urge won and to France we went and our life unexpectedly changed around because it felt like we were coming home. Three years or so later, another trip to France, and Labartere was bought. Another year or so, and we started our life here. It was the camper van which helped open that door.
It is ironic that the day the fourth roof is finished, the camper van goes. The remaining caravan goes next week. It is the end of a phase. Like all endings, there is a time to stop and reflect, to feel that wrench of parting, even if it is with a vehicle rather than a person.
But enough! I wallowed in memories yesterday. I guess that memories, because they are known, give one a measure of safety. After all, the future is unknown, which makes it a scary place to think about stepping into.
We couldn't register the camper van here, that is why it eventually became almost abandoned. I put up a thought to the Universe as to what to do with it. The Universe answered and sent a man our way. But the man did not come 'empty handed'. Here is what he delivered by way of a trade:
......an Ifor horsebox! Takes two horses and a pony apparently. So what are we supposed to do with that! It's too big for our requirements really although we do need a trailer. Lester is not fussed with towing it anyway. I looked inside it and thought it would make a cosy 'get away from it all' space especially if parked down in the woodland. Or the chickens could have it. Or we could use it as a shed. Like our future, its future is unknown to us at this time.........