It’s time to make a confession about this van life. This working away from home a (not insignificant) distance from the doorstep and living in a van that, the inside of which, looks like a 12 year old’s attempt at a den of pillows and duvets. This is a half-life.
This is a life that is about to get harder.
I’ve known for a while that it would. It progressively has become harder, more frustrating and in need of an off button when it comes to living standards.
I think of all those less fortunate than me and wonder if they have the same internal off button. Their perseverance and hardship makes mine easier to swallow.
It feels as though Necessity is the master and Fear the shepherd in this valley. The necessity is a steady and reliable income; the fear is that I couldn’t do this job successfully anywhere else, that depression would sneak back in, after all, no door, in the human mind at least, can be vacuum tight, shutting out the darkness pressing against that timber plug.
But the confession isn’t this particular violin I’m playing.
When I took the job and started this adventure, it was for three months only; then it was up to the summer; then, halfway through the year the bounds of Necessity altered. I had made it half way through the year. I had survived the cold and found plenty of places to secrete myself and the van to in the night – life found balance. The bank account found balance too.
At Christmas, agreeing to stay until the end of the summer, I had thought I couldn’t do it any longer than this. But half way through I realised I could. And, after a bump in the night, I also realised I might have to.
My wife was pregnant.
We had been trying, but it was still a surprise; another of life’s course corrections.
So halfway through the half-life of van living I knew I had to keep this up. Even if another job did come along nearer to home, the idea of a new baby and a new job, colleagues, kids, routines and expectations felt like dangerous territory. I didn’t want to risk a repeat of the last time I moved from this haven, when I moved to Elsewhere and began to imagine taut rope, high trees, open water black and deep. The convenience of practicality didn’t seem worth it.
In the interview I sat across from the, then, headmistress and shone as brightly as I could. This job wasn’t mine, it was my son’s, my daughter’s. We still don’t know. We opted for a surprise. This job was for my sanity and our family’s security.
For nine months I’ve blogged without mention of this. We made the decision to keep the pregnancy free of digital toxicity.
But now, now?
Now the baby is due and 11 hours ago my wife’s waters broke.
Now, while the digital world has known nothing, the entire high street now knows everything. People know. The neighbours know, the coffee shop owner knows; the lady at the kids’ clothes shop knows, the guys in the hardware shop know; the hairdresser knows. Sally in the card shop knows. And, the family know. Not in that order.
Community is in the know. Reality is in the know.
Colleagues at work have now known for some time and the kids keep a countdown tally on the board which seems, all of a sudden, as though it will be remarkably accurate.
As I left last week my Year 11s wished me well, the last to leave the room saying, “I hope you have a good baby, Sir.”
I hope so too.
So, I’m fully expectant of the van living to become harder. The separation to feel more tangible and I know that between now and Christmas this will be the subject of my life analysis. I know it’s not unfeasible to live away from wife and baby, after all so many do, of course they do, that’s just the dice we play with.
At school I will be ghosted by cover teachers for the next two weeks. Year 11 will miss 7 hours of professional contact time and so too will Year 10, but right now Year 11 is the money shot for every secondary education facility in Christendom. Everyone tells you not to worry about this, life ticks along, but I know I’ll be doing a mighty amount of backpedalling when I do return. My glues will be missing and scissors disappeared. I took the precaution, however, before leaving, of hiding my board pens: they are buried! They are as true to the figurative gold that Blue and Black beards buried on sandy shores in days gone by. If the Tories, Labour, or even the Libs, are going to flood education with heretofore unseen spending, this is where I’d like to see it, in red, blue, black and green.
My last night’s camping of the week was outside a friend’s bakery. Inside there are pasties galore in the oven. He doesn’t do buns, that’s down to my wife.