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family

Family Travel

Intentional Nonpurpose (we are rubbish at it)

23 August, 2013

We had been at our very first campsite for an hour or so. Ramona was busy filling her bag with the bare necessities- a balloon, a shoe, a tiny hippo. She looked up and, with her bag in hand, hand on hip, said “RIGHT! Let’s go!” “Where to?” I replied (confused, as she seemed to have much more of a clue than I) “To see what we can see!”

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Tim and I have found it a bit harder than we thought we would, this settling in to doing nothing business. We spent the first couple of days almost down in the dumps, intimidated by the gaping hole of three empty months – where our biggest achievement is getting to the end of the day having bumped our heads less than the day before. (Becoming used to living in a van is a headache- I feel like how Ramona’s Cabbage Patch Kid feels being made to hang out in her tiny doll’s house.)

We realised on our third day that we’d be a lot happier if we just acted as if we were on a short holiday- something about knowing you’re going back to Real Life and Work in a few weeks somehow frees you up for nonpurposeful living. (And then strangely, sometimes holidays can be hard to get into because there is so much pressure to relax and have fun BECAUSE you are going home soon. At least we don’t have to worry about that…)

So we are trying to take each day as it comes, to get used to being aimless. And just by waking up and “seeing what we can see” we have come across some cool stuff-

A campsite where every tent had a caged parrot (we obviously didn’t get the memo about the BYO parrot thing) – one of them kept chatting away and Ramona totally didn’t believe me when I told her it was the parrot; “You’re tricking me!”

Some amazing azure lakes and crystal clear rivers (and one flipping MAHOOOSIVE LEECH- it’s a whole blog post in itself) where we have swum and swum and swum.

Loads of incredible free camping spots, with views and forests and swimming- the French are well cool when it comes to wild camping.

A perfect nest of swallows who all slept with their bums straight up, poking right out.

A little family from the Midlands whom we spent the afternoon with, drinking tea and talking about childhood, attachment theory and emotional health (some of my favourite things)

A forest full of the tiniest frogs, we chased them around and around for an afternoon.

A path up a waterfall that we could climb and splash and float twigs, leaves and berries down.

A meal with a French couple of fish baked on the campfire – we had very little shared language (I did French for 3 years at school but there’s a limit to how many times you can say J’aim le tennis) so it was a conversation made up almost entirely of hand gestures and wild facial expressions.

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We’re not quite good enough at this intentional nonpurpose yet but fortunately we are with Ramona who is the PROFESSOR of it. Most children are perfectly expert at simply BEING- hopefully we’ll learn a thing or two from her.

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We have been following Dan Start’s Wild Swimming France around the Jura region but we’re about to gatecrash my sister’s family hols in the Alps. Will try and get to a McDonald’s soon (we are totally abusing their free wifi) to tell you about the leech, as I know you are on the absolute edge of your seat waiting to hear about that little sucker…

Family Travel

Ten Tableaus from Camp Bestival

5 August, 2013

This is my first post on the road although we haven’t left Old Blighty yet and it doesn’t look like we can for at least a week as Juno’s passport hasn’t turned up! They decided to check up on it via our counter signatory who works in a hospital and THREE letters and SEVEN weeks later, she still hasn’t received it. I am tearing my hair out, feeling like the wheels of bureaucracy are cranking all over our application, squishing out hope. It looks like we’ll have to start the application all over again tomorrow. *CRIES IN CAPITALS*

Meanwhile we’ve spent the first few days of our Bombaround at Camp Bestival. It doesn’t bode well for the next three months of campervanning that by the second day we were both showering AND doing our dishes with baby wipes. Camp Bestival Family Festival

But what a magical, unfettered experience Camp Bestival was! There can’t be that many places on earth where you see:
A father and daughter wandering around with the same pink, glittery kitten face paint.
A two year old wearing nothing but sunglasses and a polka dot hat wriggling her hips along to global superstar DJ Sasha.
A whole family decked out in matching onesies.
A tall, too-cool teenage throwing down shapes happily with his 9 year old sister.
A mum breastfeeding her baby while dancing hard to Drum and Bass, clearly reminiscing.
A whole bank of gardening trollies filled with sleeping tots while a rock concert rages around them.
An enormous “Art Town” filled to the brim with art supplies and free activities, and kids of all ages crafting messily while the adults kick back to the sounds of a nearby jazz band.
A field filling with the most giant of bubbles that bounce above the waving arms of an entire audience singing in their best Caribbean accents “EY OH E-E-E- OH daylight comes and ah want to go ‘ome!” (Bit of a raving misogynist that King Creole if you ask me.)
A family of four paused in the middle of a tiny woodland, each with headphones on, bopping about to their own silent disco amongst the gnarly old trees.
A vast number of people playing a giant game of “Hat Scrabble” (scrabble pieces on headgear, obvs) cheered on by the Camp Bestival Bluecoats, who are mad as hatters, really.

(I’ll let you guess which of these scenes us lot provided!)

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I love seeing families connecting and the bedlam of Camp Bestival provides so many ways to do this- with play, dance, music, crafts and stories. It was just brilliant to see teenagers and their Nanas bonding through absurdity alone.

It speaks volumes about the quality of the entertainment on offer that Ramona spent nearly the whole weekend watching from her trolley and was still happy. She got really poorly so couldn’t get nearly as involved as she would have wanted to but she was merry and bright and it massively beats (by a squillion) back to back Peppa Pig which is what normally happens during sickness.

There are few chances in life to be a part of wild, collective joy; Camp Bestival is teeming with them. At times I’m sure we were getting high on the oxytocin being pumped out of the of the exhilarated crowd.

Going to festivals isn’t cheap (although it’s much cheapER if you take all your own food and paint your own daughter’s face – it was a very dubious purple horse, but she loved it. So much that she still has half of it left on.) But I think I’m going to chose a festival over a holiday every other year if we can, as a way of affording it.

On one of the behemothic HI DE HI sculptures that adorned the castle grounds (yeah, it’s all set up around a castle, how wonderful?!) was scrawled “WE LIVE FOR FESTIVALS – The Whybrows” It made me chuckle and then also feel a bit sad for The Whybrows for the 10 months of the year in which there are no festivals. But in some ways I get it. I think that experiencing the otherworldly surrealism of the most creative festivals can infuse daily reality with magic and family connection, they can create memories of shared wonder to get families through tough or banal days and weeks.

And they can inspire us to inject a bit of absurdity and wildness into our own everyday existence.

Right, I’m off to order four matching dinosaur onesies. With extra glitter.

Ginormous thanks to Camp Bestival for sending us a family pass and to Money Supermarket for giving us £50 to contribute to our road trip there as part of their Road Trip challenge.

PS This post is dedicated to our blanket. We lost it in the wild fields of Camp Bestival, along with our sun cream, a pair of shorts and a pair of tights. It was like we were flinging our belongings about in a joyous frenzy, or perhaps Ramona was just dripping them out the back of the trolley as we went along and that’s why she was enjoying herself so much. We had just that day been chatting about how our blanket, bought pre-kiddos in Bolivia, was the perfect blanket – a tough, versatile picnic rug and emergency bringer of warmth. BYE BLANKET! I hope your new family treat you with respect like the badass you are.

PPS You must, must, MUST check out Annie from Mammasaurus and her A-Z of Camp Bestival, it is wondrous!

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