What’s in a name?

Sometimes it’s tricky deciding what to call something.

What's this?

What’s this?

A dead one of these!

A dead one of these!

“A building for human habitation, especially one that consists of a ground floor and one or more upper storeys”

This is the dictionary definition of a house. Our new place of habitation doesn’t have any upper storeys so I guess it isn’t a house. It’s not a bungalow either. So if we don’t live in a house or a bungalow, a flat or a maisonette, what do we live in? What do we call our new home?

The problem started as soon as we began negotiations with the vendors and it’s still going on now three months after we moved in. Obviously you don’t buy a new home without constantly referring to it and we quickly found that we didn’t actually know what to call the thing we were buying. I don’t mean we were struggling to choose between ‘Dunroamin’ or ‘Att-om-ere’, I mean we just kept using different ways of describing it. Park home, Mobile home, Caravan, Static Van, Unit; we tried them all out but they all felt a bit awkward. We are not alone in this either. When people come to visit for the first time they are genuinely complimentary but they always seem to stumble when reaching for the correct descriptive noun. “It’s bigger than I thought”, they say, “I’ve never actually been inside ‘one of them’ before”. That’s the giveaway isn’t it? “One of them”. There is something about that phrase that says, “Well it’s not a house is it?”

It's mobile but it isn't going anywhere.

It’s mobile but it isn’t going anywhere.

I think I have worked out what is going on here now. Everybody is really supposed to live in a house aren’t they? We all have this pre-conceived idea of ‘the family’, ‘the home’, ‘the job’ etc. and if we are confronted by anything that breaks the mould in any way it makes us a bit uncomfortable. You hear phrases like; “Oh they’re not married”, or “They work from home” suggesting that ‘they’ are actually not quite normal.  Perhaps that is why we are all struggling with what to call the place where we live now. No matter how you dress it up it’s not a house in a conventional sense and in reality it’s a plywood box sitting on a steel chassis with a fake tiled roof made out of aluminium. By any stretch of the imagination that is not a conventional house as described by the dictionary. Of course no friend wants to describe it like that for fear of being rude but the plain truth is; Park Home, Mobile Home, Caravan, Static Van and Unit all describe it much better than ‘house’ does. This is why we all keep stumbling when we grasp for the right name to use. I have experimented with referring to it as a house from time to time but it just doesn’t sound right. Calling it a house won’t magically make it sprout another storey and it feels phoney. A bit like the well-dressed lady in Lidl’s who answered her mobile phone and announced to the caller, “Oh I’m just doing a bit of shopping in Sainsbury’s”. Who does she think she is kidding? (That’s a true story by the way; thank you Elaine.)

The official UK government website has settled on Park (mobile) Home, thus hedging its bets by putting the potentially offensive word in brackets. Use of the word mobile is a bit misleading anyway. It’s got nothing to do with the thing having wheels or being towable, it’s doesn’t and it isn’t. The mobile word refers to the fact that in theory at least, we could, should we choose, load our house onto the back of a big lorry and take it somewhere else. In that sense it is mobile. In reality these things rarely move anywhere unless it’s really, really windy.

I suppose it’s fitting really that if you choose to live somewhere a bit quirky and unconventional then it follows that it might be a bit tricky to refer to it without mortally offending the owners. Just for the record I should point out that we really don’t care what people call it. To us it’s just home and you can call it anything you like but “Gill and Tony’s place” sounds quite nice. It’s going to be a whole lot easier if we stick to our plan of buying a narrow boat at some point in the future. At least that is what it says it is; nothing more, nothing less.

Gathering sun beams

There are sun beams out there if you just go and look for them.

image

The last week riding through Wales has been full of precious moments. The sun beams have been real at times, shining down through the trees so bright and strong that I almost felt them as I passed through. They also act as a lovely metaphor for people, views, moments of delight, even a pint of golden ale at the end of another day of endless ups and downs. The Welsh coast is certainly hilly, giving Cornwall a good run for it’s money both in the effort required to ride it and the visual rewards that appear around every corner.

Wales coastal scenery can rival anywhere

Wales coastal scenery can rival anywhere

I thought I knew this corner of Wales quite well but my visits have all been car based and even though Gill and I love to take to the quieter roads when travelling I quickly realised last week that I haven’t even scratched this landscape’s surface. Take Cardigan for example. I have passed through this busy little town dozens of times before. I have wandered it’s streets and enjoyed it’s picturesque river setting before moving on down the A487 towards St. Davids. What I have never done before is to go north up to Cardigan Island where you can find some amazing coastal scenery.

image image

We camped opposite the island a couple of nights ago and took a walk around the headland in the evening light.

Gill enjoying a moment

Gill enjoying a moment

The sun was low behind hazy clouds producing a golden light that picked out the drama of the cliffs in pin sharp clarity. We scanned the flat calm seas for any signs of dolphins but had to settle for a couple of seals, one of which bobbed curiously in the water, seemingly as pleased to see us as we were to see him.

 

Who you looking at?

Who you looking at?

The next morning as we left the camp site we startled a couple of badgers as they strolled nonchalantly down the lane only to disappear into the undergrowth in panic at being caught out well past their bed time. As I cycled down a quiet lane a short time later I was treated to the sight of a hobby flying just inches above the road ahead of me. It alighted briefly in the hedge, thought better of it and put on a further display of breath taking aerobatics as I chased it down the lane. Wonderful sights that will live in my memories long after I have hung up my panniers.

We stayed in Aberystwyth last night with another sun beam in the form of Hannah, aka the Seaside Donkey. That doesn’t sound quite right but it will make more sense if you go and read her blog. Hannah is one of those people that are good to hang around with. She exudes positive energy and it was lovely to be able to talk to someone who has so recently come to the end of a long journey like ours. We sat on the prom last night, surrounded by dozens of seagulls intent on stealing our chips, and we talked about ‘coming down’ from a big adventure and how easy it is to underestimate the amount of rest required before normality returns. Being aware of these things is going to be a distinct advantage when we get home, staying aware will be the difficult bit I fear. It was interesting talking to Hannah about our respective trips and the one theme that kept recurring was the generosity of strangers when you put yourself at their mercy. It’s another memory to cherish and to hang on to once we are being bombarded again by media negativity every day.

With Hannah in Aberystwyth. Swapping tales about sleeping with strangers.

With Hannah in Aberystwyth. Swapping tales about sleeping with strangers.

Tonight we are staying in Machynlleth, somewhere Gill and I lived close to for ten years and I for ten more before that. I must say that riding towards the market town today past so many familiar landmarks it really felt like a bit of a home coming. Almost like a practice run for our arrival back in Freckleton in about ten days time. Thinking of all the people we left behind when we moved from here and those back home now makes me realise how much home is ninety percent friends and family and ten percent place. I find my thoughts turning more and more to these things as our adventure draws to a close. It’s getting harder and harder to avoid thinking about the end of our travels and how we will settle down again once we get home. For the next two days we will be diverted from such thoughts by seeing old friends and enjoying their company and on Saturday we head for the beautiful Lleyn Peninsula and a bit more more sun beam hunting. I’m sure we will find one or two to put in our pockets before we get home.

Aberystwyth basking in the sun

Aberystwyth basking in the sun

 

Into the unknown

We have just made plans for exactly how we intend to restart our ride and it’s got me all excited again but also a little bit edgy. Having looked at the maps and worked out where I am going to ride tomorrow afternoon and where we might camp in the evening the trip feels very much alive again. Now I am imagining what it is going to be like to be riding alone and only seeing Gill at intervals along the route. I have also had a closer look at the first 200 miles and it’s definitely going to be the hardest in terms of terrain. I have a jumble of feelings going on in my head, some positive and some not. I’m looking forward to riding without so much weight on the bike but still daunted by the amount of climbing that I will have to do. I’m really happy that Gill has found a way to be with me but I will still miss her even during the short periods on my own. I am excited to be moving again but trying not to think that there is still over a thousand miles to go. It’s a mixed bag of emotions but on balance it makes me really happy.

In the intro to our blog I made reference to how rubbish I am at being on my own so the next few weeks are going to be a challenge of a very different kind. It may be that the format we have worked out will carry me through but I’m still a little bit nervous. It may turn out to be just another really laid back way of touring, like a long holiday, but it doesn’t feel that way at the moment. It feels like a serious undertaking that may push us into yet more unknown territory. Maybe that’s a good thing. All this stepping out of our comfort zones is what it was all about in the first place so I’m not complaining. I will just be glad to be on the move again, extending that wiggly black line around the coast and heading for home.

What I am really looking forward to is reaching particular milestones that only a week ago I thought we might not reach at all. Lands End is the first and most obvious one but it’s the visits to family and friends that are the most important. After all the build up, the support and the anticipation of people dotted along our route the idea of not reaching them was a hard one to contemplate. I think that, above all else, would have made our journey feel incomplete. Now we are both looking forward tremendously to catching up with friends old and new and the remaining members of our coastal dwelling families. (You know who you are).

The same applies, of course, to seeing everybody back home in Lancashire. In some ways with all the contact that the blog and social media gives us it seems like we haven’t been away at all but we still miss people lots.

I don’t know the north Cornwall and Devon coasts all that well. I do know that they are very beautiful but that the beauty comes at a price for cyclists. Everybody that rides Lands End to John o’ Groats says the first two or three days are the hardest and I’m getting a little tired of that knowing look on people’s faces when it accompanies phrases like “ooh you’ve got a few hills to climb there”. As a friend said just the other day, “it’s not called a ‘push’ bike for nothing” and I’m not too proud to push if I have to. In my mind it’s a going to be a tough ride back to Somerset and then apart from a few lumps in Pembrokeshire it will be a breeze all the way home. I can’t wait to get going now.

A few pictures from South Cornwall

The joy of small ferries

The joy of small ferries

They can be erm, intresting

They can be erm, interesting

Cornwall is hard to beat on a sunny day

Cornwall is hard to beat on a sunny day

St. Michaels Mount

St. Michaels Mount

image_pdfimage_print