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“The end of life for a caterpillar is a butterfly for the master.”

This quote came to mind recently and though it might not seem the most applicable one for the post I am about to write, in a vague way has something to do with it. 

For I have passed the caterpillar phase. Even passed the butterfly phase.

Now the third phase of my life (signified by the selling of my small green camper)is about to start. 

I have sold the van!

‘Please don’t call it that’ my younger daughter sighs throwing her eyes up to heaven. ‘It’s a camper not a van!’ (Which makes me wonder if the word ‘van’ has connotations that I am unaware of?)

But she is right! It’s more than just a Toyota hiace van its a CAMPER!

And it is efficiently fitted out with double bed, cooker, sink, fridge, storage cupboards, a passenger seat that swivels (to make a comfy armchair.) and a table to dine off.

It is turquoise green to match the color of the sea on a stormy day and, to make it look as though I have just driven through a cherry orchard, I have painted pink blossoms along its sides.

It did have a an awning but sadly all that is left of that is the holes where the bolts held it in place. (Gentle awnings built for shading one from the mediterranean sun are not capable of withstanding connemara storms as I discovered one night)

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The bike rack on the back is invaluable for carrying my yellow bike and even my pink and my purple bike and when I’m heading west and am stopped at traffic lights, children in the back of the cars pulling up beside me point and smile and wave.

Once when I pulled into a petrol station, a very large and shiney audi jeep pulled up on the opposite side of the pump. As we filled our vehicles, our eyes lifted from our task and met across the metal tank.

‘I’m admiring your jeep’ I smiled at the well groomed blond woman.

She smiled back ‘My children and I think your camper is wonderful and want to do a swap. What a happy way it must be to travel’.

‘But yours looks so comfortable and new and shiney’ .

‘Things are not always as they seem’ she grimaced.

I wanted to enquire further but something in her eyes told me not to delve any deeper.

So I held my whist and instead waved at her children who are madly craning their heads for a better look

Yes it was such a happy way to travel and I am parting with it in sadness.

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The lane down to my favorite camping place is narrow and potholed

I drive carefully, my two hands gripping the steering wheel. I already have a large dent in the sliding door where I hit a rock that had disguised itself as a fuschia bush.

To  my right, as the lane straightens out and over the stone wall, Jo’s garden is doing well with its rows of carrots and onions and spuds standing in neat lines.

I am drawn to a halt by a gate tied shut with a length of rope. I pull the brake, jump down and untying the rope, lift the gate open

Not being on hinges it is heavy and unwieldy but I don’t mind

The struggle is worth it. I follow one of the sand roads across the commons and it’s not by luck but from years of camping here that it leads me to my favorite spot.

I tuck the camper in behind ‘whale rock’.

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Now though the west of Ireland is the favoured haunt of the green van camper, It is happy to explore further afield.

Driving from calais we too have been swept along with the flow of caravans, Cars pulling trailer tents and other campervans.

With registration numbers from Finland, Denmark, Sweden, we too flew like migrating geese in formation, heading south in search of warmth, sometimes passing and repassing each other at a speed my van camper has never known in ireland.

And she is able to keep up with the best of them except for once.

A tiny 2cv driven by two ancient white haired women shoots past us. Two worn leather suitcases tied to the back jiggle madly and look in danger of flying off as the small car bounces along like an out of control pram.

They disappear from sight in a swirl of dust. I fear for their safety but needn’t have worried.

When I pull into one of the ‘Aires’ to stretch my legs I see them again.

The tiny car is parked skew ways and is taking up two spaces.

Its two occupants are already settled nearby on a tartan rug in the shade of some pines.

An open picnic basket lies beside them and the slimmer and taller of the two is in the process of pouring coffee from a flask . Seeing me examining their car (It had a right hand drive and the reg which I had presumed was french but couldn’t quite see in the blur of their speedy passing was actually scottish) They wave me over.

‘Your from Eire, we passed you earlier! sit here, have a coffee with us’

They tell me their story.

Two sisters in their late eighties from Edinburgh who love all things french are heading to their house in St Tropez which they had bought 10 years previously.

‘We didn’t always live together but when our husbands died within a year of each other we decided it might be a good idea’

It worked well they told me. They couldn’t get on each other’s nerves because the younger one was a night owl and the older one an early bird so they didn’t have a chance to get in each other’s way. They shared the housework and then the younger did the cooking and shopping whilst the older ‘did the Bins’.

I didn’t think ‘doing the bins’ equalled the cooking and shopping and said so

‘Oh yes it does. Bins entail a lot of hard work’ The ‘bin ‘ sister explained. ‘You have to sort the rubbish, wash all the tins and jars, not mix the paper and the plastic, fold the newspapers, breakup and flatten any boxes, remember which day which bin goes out out on AND be up early enough to have it out on time.

She pauses to catch her breath

‘I would hate having to do all that’ the younger one frowns

‘And I would be bored cooking and shopping’ her sister replies.

They both smile at me, their ancient eyes still bright blue and their white hair in soft curls, seated elegantly on their tartan rug with their cardigans draped across their shoulders and tweed skirts pulled modestly over their knees, the pines shading their pale skin from the mediterranean sun.

‘So you see’ They say in unison ‘It works very well indeed’.

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So goodbye dear van with your stories and memories of which there are too many to mention in a single posting.

I am sad to see you go.

But I still have my yellow bicycle and now am off once more to cycle the small roads of the west of Ireland in search of what the third stage of my life will bring.

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