Camper van adventures – the memories we take with us as we trundle on… 💙

This winter, we are preparing to say a last goodbye to our much-loved 26-year-old Bedford Rascal camper van – bought on impulse, on eBay, from a pick-up location 500 miles away, just under half a decade ago.

This is, just to be clear, absolutely not the kind of thing it would ever have occurred to me to do, once upon a time – but is very much the kind of thing that was first introduced to my life (and repeated with what seems to have been increasing regularity over time) ten years ago when I first got together with my husband; for whom concepts like buying vehicles older than us from Brighton (and taking possession of them and driving them home in one long, Red Bull-fuelled day) have always seemed entirely feasible and achievable.

The Rascal wasn’t by any means the first – two 1980s Fiat Pandas had preceded it as his surprisingly reliable runarounds, one of which was also his partner in crime in a 10-country rally across Europe; and more recently we got three years worth of day-to-day life out of a bright turquoise ’96 Toyota Starlet he picked up very cheap one night in 2014 as a second car to see us through a couple of months of winter – going on to outlive everyone’s expectations until just this summer (when we finally gave it up for a “safe and reliable family car” which has, as it happens, caused us more trouble than all our older cars combined in the six months since… such is life!).

The van was, however, unique in that it was the first vehicle we could full-on holiday in – and suddenly the world (or, maybe more fairly, the parts of Scotland closest to us mainly, with the odd longer trip thrown in!) was our oyster; a night away requiring no more planning than slinging a bag in the back, beginning the (admittedly not always challenge-free) process of getting the engine started (tending to take slightly longer in the cold or when the choke was playing up!) and heading off.

Our first camp is one I’ll always remember – setting off on a beautiful sunny February day in 2013, we pitched up in Auchterarder at a lovely little campsite overnight, thankfully bringing plenty of layers and keeping every one of them on all night, as we woke the next morning to -10 degrees and a thick layer of ice on the windows inside and out. Our coffee that morning, brewed on the tiny two-ring hob, might have been the most warming I’ve ever tasted!

From those frosty beginnings on, we’ve had years of chugging up hills and waking up to the stillness of the world around us as we’ve got the van out and about and made so many memories I’ll hang onto forever.

The summer we got engaged, the autumn we got married, New Years being seen in on a cold, deserted but beautiful beach… They are all with us now wherever we go, moving on to all the next phases of our life together, and I’ll always be so very grateful for them. ♥️

Our lovely Reuben ~ April 2016 – 13th July 2017

Today we said our last goodbye to Reuben, our handsome and endlessly loving boy. 

From the first moment we met him he was one of the most people-focused, gentle and kind-hearted rats we’ve ever known – an absolute credit to his first owner – and it hurts to have lost him so young, especially as we were only blessed with his company for eight short months. In a way, that’s hard to believe, as he was such a wonderful character that his time with us felt like so much longer. 

I was more sorry than I can express to discover a month or so ago that our little Reuben would not live into old age and didn’t have too much longer left with us. But as saddening as that was, nothing makes every minute count more than knowing that time is not infinite; and the last week of Reuben’s life was one of the loveliest we’ve spent as a little family, holed up in a holiday cottage, him cuddling with his brothers by day – both Marley and Perry looking out for him as he grew frailer – and with us in the evenings, truly content. 

We first brought Reuben and Perry home during our last holiday back in November, and fell in love with them instantly. From that lazy autumn week at home getting to know our new wee ones, to this past week spending our last days with him; throughout all the months since then Reubes has been a constant and loyal companion to us all.

Rest in peace my wee boy; one of the truly special ones. Xxxx

Rat round-up… 🐭🐭🐭

It’s been a hectic month or so for our little mischief, as – as always seems to be the way somehow – a run of easy care and fun since Christmas has been followed by one thing after another with the boys’ health. It’s just a few weeks since we lost our old boy Ty and since then both Reuben and Marley have been taking it in turns to be medicated, while Perry remains fighting fit but continues to be the one who is taking longest to adapt to his new surroundings and settle in the new house. 

Reuben is on round two at the moment of a Baytril / Loxicom / Ranitidine combo for a mystery illness – he really has me (and the vet!) stumped, seeming just generally unwell without anything to indicate the cause and help narrow down the treatment. Thankfully he is doing a lot better than he was, and making progress all the time, but time well tell whether we can get him cleared up completely. All we know is he’s had an upset stomach, been losing weight, seems not himself and, thanks to the vets doing a urine test which I was very grateful for, that he has high white blood cell and platelet counts, meaning he’s most likely to have an infection we can’t see. Hoping the meds he’s on will manage to treat it; and in the meantime am very thankful for what an absolutely star patient wee Rubes is – not only will he sit gently on my knee every night but he will drink any medicine from a spoon with just a dash of fruit juice – in all the anti biotics we’ve had to con our charges into ingesting over the years, we’ve never had it so easy… 💙

Marley, on the other hand, can sniff out Baytril a mile off in any substance and does NOT care for being syringed it… but thankfully we are almost through the other side of his treatment and his mild respiratory infection seems to be all but cleared up, with a much happier soul now we’re done!

The two of them over the last few weeks have been a little huddle on the settee of an evening, not up to their usual games to the same extent but opting instead for a more cosy vantage point and looking after each other well, they’re both such sweethearts.

Perry, meanwhile, has been taking the chance to explore around the room and, to my great relief, is finally starting to seem relaxed and playful in the new living room instead of edgy and unsure. For the first few weeks he seemed very afraid of his new surroundings, taking cover under a throw and keeping completely still – which led to us thinking we’d lost him more than once!! – and it was so unlike him and such a shame to see him jumpy instead of enthusiastically into everything like normal. Over the past couple of weeks though, bit by bit, he’s made the journey from his position hidden away to adventuring around and playing his usual games, in and out of books and corners… 💙

It’s certainly been a challenging few weeks with the boys – they bring so much exuberance and affection into our home when they’re well but it’s so difficult to know what to do for the best if they’re not themselves or unwell. In the last week or so though, really glad to see Marley feeling better, Perry finding his feet in the house and starting to play like his old self, and enjoying cuddles with Reuben and keeping fingers crossed for a recovery for him… 

My bundle 💙💙💙

Hope you are all having a lovely week. X 

Little pieces of home ❤

Having recently moved house, for the first time in several years and out of the very first home I shared with my husband, into our second; I have been thinking a lot about home in the last few weeks. 

I have always been a big homebody, always loved nothing more than pointing the car homewards at the end of the day, and felt such a huge joy just turning the key in the lock and exchanging shouted hellos as I come in. 

I’ve also always been a big believer in a house being just that, and a home being the people and the moments and the heart of what you make of it. Still, in the first couple of weeks in our new house I did struggle to detach from our old one, which I had loved with all my heart for all the years we lived in it. 

I knew we were taking with us all the memories we made there, and moving on to make more; and our new house couldn’t have been more suited to us and our life together, and even offered things I’d always dreamed of, like the chance to watch the sun set over the hills and sheep graze outside the window on summer evenings. Still, I panicked that this house wouldn’t feel like “home” the way our tiny tumbling cottage where we took our first steps in our life together had.

Slowly but surely, though, as I always knew it would, the heart of our home has followed us. One of the main turning points, after a week of moving boxes in, building furniture and laying everything out, was bringing our pets along and settling them in their new room. The daily routine of making my way to the pets of a morning to greet them first thing – already adapted from jumping down the two steps into our old kitchen to making my way downstairs and opening the door to the utility room with the same usual shout of good morning – is such a big part of my day and brings so much balance and grounding to it. 

As other parts of our day-to-day life began to take up residence in the new house too – Saturday morning coffees in the garden, Friday night takeaways watching favourite box sets, evening walks before bed, hanging washing out on the line first thing – it began to feel more and more like home. Having friends to visit,  choosing books from the shelves and finding a cleaning routine, day by day we slotted into life here. 

The last few weeks have made me more sure than ever that a home is all the things that matter most. When I look around our house it is the gifts from friends and family that are so special – the sunflower our friends brought over when they came to stay, the painting of our old home our talented neighbour gave us as a wedding present, the letter-opener my dad whittled sitting by the mail – and the frames all round the house filled with photos of people and moments that mean so much. 

“Home” is such a huge part of my life, something I love so much and feel anchored to wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. Making a shift in where it is is a big adjustment, but ultimately doesn’t change it at its very heart – and within just a few weeks, I’m pointing the car at the new location with the same sense of happiness. ❤

Have a lovely weekend all. X 

Endings and Beginnings

This week began in my little world with a sad goodbye, as I gathered together with my mum, dad, brother and sister to spend a last couple of days with our family dog Ginny, before taking her to the vet to be put to sleep. At nearly 14 years old, Ginny had done so very well and led a full and happy life, but her back legs had been failing her for a while, getting progressively worse, and we knew by this point that after a couple of days in the sun, this was the kindest thing to do for her. The joy animals bring to our lives is never felt more keenly than when we are faced with a hard goodbye, and as we came together for her last few moments in the vet’s room, praising her one last time, the years of family life and us all growing up together, dogs and children alike, were brought into sharp focus. It is easy to get overwhelmed at the end of a life with the final moments, but in fact those aren’t the ones that matter.

The real moments to remember are those that took place over the years, just everyday and often even unnoticed snapshots of our shared lives. The clanging shut of the gate as we came home from school to a young and fit blur of black and tan careering down the garden path to greet us – that tan replaced over the years by white in an ever-elegant ageing. Rambling through the woods with the dogs and the cat never far behind, amusing the neighbours with the Homeward-Bound-style walks the girls always chose to make. Waking up to four black paws landing squarely on the bed, face-licking commencing. Summers in the garden with sticks and balls lazily thrown and now and then some hilarity-enducing attempts at agility courses. Bending down to tell a 9 month old puppy not to lick the plates in the dishwasher, truly believing the message to be received and understood, and smiling in exasperation when chasing away a 12-year-old dog from doing the very same so many years down the line. Each of us children packing up at different times to leave home, nervously stepping away from all the comforts there, and being greeted with such a welcome on visits back. Leaving on our wedding day with kisses goodbye to an always adoring dog, face upturned to us all as ever. Christmas dinners round the big table with wrapping everywhere and the dogs and cat Instagrammed, party hats askew and loving the festivity of the day, before all tumbling out to throw snowballs that Ginny hunted for incessantly once they landed, ever sure that she would find the ball she was sure she’d seen just in the next drift of snow, and ever the puppy she once was nomatter her age.

Looking back, it hasn’t all been plain sailing, and the last few years haven’t been the easiest for our family. In all the different phases of our lives, however, the good times have been made even better by the pets running alongside us on all our journeys, and the worse times been helped by the reassuring weight of a gentle dog’s head in a lap whenever it was needed most.

Ginny was faithful, kind and above all loving, and as our lives meander on in whatever directions they do, she will remain an unforgettable part of our family story forever.

 


In my own little family, we have been preparing for change too, although of a much more positive kind. We are beginning to get things packed up to move house in a few weeks’ time, bringing to an end an era here and beginning a whole new one we’re very excited to start.

We have lived in our little cottage for over six years – it’s the only place we’ve ever lived together and it’s been home to so many memories over the years. It’s quite a thought to be leaving it behind; but we are looking forward unreservedly to starting a new chapter in the new house. It’s close enough to where we are now to mean we keep our same area in many ways, but have a new village to get to know just one along from where we live now, we keep our open fire and gardens and add more space inside and hill views from the windows in the new location which I’m so looking forward to waking to every morning.

 

The hard work has begun sorting and beginning to pack, and it feels, with new starts on the horizon for others in our family as well as us, as if change is all around us. This one though is one I’m so optimistic about making, and we are throwing ourselves both into making the most of our last few weeks here in the house we’ve loved so much and into preparing for the new.

In the midst of it all, when the shifting of  seasons becomes too much, I’m glad to be able to stand still for a moment with my boys, whether pouring morning coffee, spending evenings in in front of favourite TV programmes, taking night-time walks along the waterfront or increasingly light wanders with Charmer on the farm.

 

Starting the day with a curious Marley-rat

 


The daily walk out with my oldest boy ♥

 

In a time of endings and beginnings, heartache and hope, I’m grateful for the family and friends, both human and animal, I have, and for all the memories too of those we’ve loved and lost.

 


Charmer, Maisie (2004-2014), Ginny (2003-2017) and me ♥

Our Ginny ❤

When I was growing up, our house was always filled with as many animals as people – often more. The family life I loved and learned in was defined by the happy stromash of an exuberant springer spaniel puppy, an ageing Labrador, three children, an assorted collection of small pets and a kitten who quickly grew into a cat but never forgot to remain afraid of the lop-eared rabbit who was once upon a time bigger than her. First pets of our own were our first responsibilities and such a big part of growing up – goldfish to begin with and later my little grey gerbil Rustler and my very first rats, Charlie and Brodie, beginning a lifetime passion. 

Above all, we were definitely dog people. My earliest memories involve lying by the fire with our old golden retriever Shane, and as I got older walking our dogs was a highlight of my day and gave me my solitude and thinking time in amongst all the inevitable ups and downs of adolescence. 

Thirteen years ago this spring, we had just lost our last dog, a beautiful old chocolate lab called Penny, and our home just didn’t feel the same. It was only a matter of time before a new member of the family found her way into our lives – which was how it came to be that in 2004, as I was turning 16 and studying for my first round of school exams, I was absolutely besotted with the little black and tan collie pup who had come to live with us. ❤ 

Ginny was very timid when she first arrived – she was only 9 months old and although she had been given to the rescue centre along with her brother, they had made the decision to rehome her away from him as she had struggled to move out from his shadow in her last home. In ours, she initially had only Corrie, our tortoiseshell cat, for company; and, we all firmly believed as the first few years went by, Ginny began to think of herself as a cat too, curling anywhere Cor did and loving nothing more than to sit in a lap and be stroked, with very little regard for how big she was! ❤ 

Back in those days, Gin was so lithe and active and we believed she had some whippet in her as she cut about the woods where we lived, turning on a sixpence and never running short of energy. Thirteen years later, we help her around on walks with a special harness supporting her back legs which are now prone to giving up on her much sooner than she is done with the excitement of being out for a walk. 

From the very beginning of her life with us, Ginny was so loyal and loving to us all. When we all lived at home and she was young and agile she would career through the house of a morning, finding us all in our beds – for years my days began in the best possible way, waking up being pounced on by the puppy, ready to play; a much-loved era and one any stay back at home always brings a happy reliving of nomatter how many years have gone by. 

A faithful sheepdog at heart, Ginny has always taken her self-imposed responsibility to round us all up very seriously indeed; and she has continued to keep tabs on us even as we’ve all grown up and come and gone from the family home; always one eye on the door if we’re not all together, and reaching a level of happiness and relaxation so lovely to see when she has achieved her goal in life and has all of us around her of an evening.

As is life’s way, there have been so many twists and turns in our shared story as the years have gone by, and such a huge expanse of time has been crossed together as a family. People, dogs and cats have merged into our little flock and Ginny has always accepted them without a moment’s hesitatation, adding them to her headcount and extending the same love and loyalty she offers everything in life. There’s no way of knowing what lies ahead, and quite how life might change for us all as it meanders on. But, come what may, I’ll always be grateful for all these years, and for our Ginny dog herding us together and being one of the lights of all our lives. 

With Corrie, 2005:

Playing in the snow, Christmas Day 2009:

Me with Ginny, our beautiful old deerhound Maisie (with us 2007-2014) and Charmer, 2012:

Summers in the garden:

Ginny, Maisie and Phoebe-cat out for a walk in their usual formation, 2013:

Getting ready for my wedding in 2014:

Waiting patiently for someone to come home, 2015:

Out walking with her new younger sister Katy, 2017:

Our Ginny…. ❤❤❤❤❤

Home ❤

Six years ago this weekend, I packed up my much-loved little flat in town, along with my girls, Smokie and Peatie, my first rats since childhood; while my husband (then boyfriend) and his handsome and hilarious lionhead house rabbit Simba did the same in theirs; and we all moved into our home together for the very first time. It’s strange to think that it’s been that long – sometimes it seems like no time at all and at others when I think of all that’s happened in the last six years it feels forever. 

I still remember so clearly sitting down on our first night in our new home, late on – all our lovely helpers gone, books arranged, key turned in the old door for the first time and the remainder of the boxes left for now – just enjoying the space we could call ours. The girls were down in the kitchen getting acquainted with the new view from their cage, and I always remember Simba, who was as big a character as we’ve ever had the privilege of sharing our life with, making us laugh so much lying very regally in front of the fire even that very first day, happily acclimatising to his new spot.

Five years ago, on Valentines Day in 2012, after a year of living the five of us, we brought home our first pet together, Grace, our little hamster. She was again one of the most wonderful personalities we’ve come across – she was 4 months old when we met her and had been recently rescued having spent all of her life until then in a little plastic box. She was much smaller than any other Syrian hamsters we’ve had, and had lost one ear, but if any of that should have dampened her love of life it certainly didn’t – Grace approached everything with so much enthusiasm, climbing to the top of bookcases in a heartbeat, rocketing on her much-too-big 12″ wheel with no effort, and was incredibly friendly and affectionate. 

The years have tumbled by and life has moved on in so many ways – we’ve begun and ended whole careers, got engaged in our little kitchen, come home as newlyweds, hosted family and friends, seen the blackbird couple come back every summer, lit the fire every winter and seen so many beloved pets come and go. It has all been such an adventure. 

Two years ago, we brought Ty and his brother Harvey home on the same day we moved in, and in fact named Ty in part for the Gaelic “Tigh” meaning “home” since he arrived on such an appropriate day. Sitting with him in our home this evening it is lovely to look back on so many memories.

Not just in our house, and our home wherever we come to make it in the future, but in all of our life, our story has been enhanced by all of the characters in it, including our pets. 

Thought I’d take such an opportune chance to share a couple of them – our beautiful Mr & Mrs rat couple who were a much-loved gift for our wedding and who stand in pride of place in our living room:

…and our wedding horseshoe, one of Charmer’s own, decorated by my very talented friend..

We don’t know where the future will take us and what lies around the corner. I love to celebrate our home-aversary even if one of these years it is our last in this house, as I know whenever we move on it will be all together and to somewhere just as loved and just a new chapter in our life together – as another of my favourite home pieces says, “What I love most about my home is who I share it with” – wherever it is. ❤

Just a few pictures of some very favourite moments here over the years.. 

Whether you are celebrating Valentines Day, light nights, Friday finally being here, anything else or nothing at all, hope you all have a really lovely weekend. X