Then they got too big for campers and the white van began to create quite a bit of black smoke when it drove away and we gave up campers, always thinking this was only temporary. Clearly we liked campervans, little ones, ones the size of a car, not the great huge RVs, so we would surely be back sometime.
And here we are many years later with our children all adult and married, or about to be, and long gone. We haven't gone far in the last three years or so since my father in law came to live with us but somehow our first week-long trip away came to involve a campervan. We didn't start with the idea of the van. We started with a wish to see the machair in the Outer Hebrides.
This is an image from the BBC. The machair is an area of grassy flatland along the western coast of some of the islands of the Outer Hebrides. It has been cultivated by crofters for generations and in early and mid summer it produces a carpet of wildflowers, starting with yellow and white and moving to pinks and blues. I have wanted to see it for ages. In fact if I look back to a diary from a few years ago I find the entry "go to South Uist to see the machair" for late May in 2011. For a variety of reasons that didn't happen then but now it has and I am very glad we went.
It is a long journey to the Uists from North Wales. We drove in our own car to Glasgow and picked up a campervan from the very good Caledonian Campers. It seemed a long time since we had used a campervan. Did we always use to take so much stuff? Was it always so small inside and was the bed always so narrow? But the sense of excitement as we drove out of Glasgow was the same as ever and we quickly grew used to the size of the van and the way we had to live if we were to be comfortable. We drove over the bridge to the Isle of Skye and took the ferry from Uig.
I love ferries, despite the inconvenient fact that in bad weather I am often seasick. I love the whole thing: the queuing up and the driving on and the sound of the doors closing. I love the wake behind you as you leave and the sense of real travel. I especially love Caledonian Macbrayne who serve the islands around Scotland. There is a romance in the idea of the ferry, above, docking at the tiny island of Eriskay to take people to Barra.
The islands were wonderful, each with an oddly distinct character. A week was not long enough. We walked one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been on in Bernaray.
We had the delight of meeting croftgarden on South Uist and admiring the fine house, garden and polytunnel they have established. The house is amazing. It sits quietly on the machair looking uninterrruptedly at the sea and on a fine day with the machair flowering and the sea and the sky an astonishing blue it is hard to imagine a more beautiful place to be. They also run a holiday cottage which would be a perfect escape. It was great to meet them and hear their story. We left clutching a home grown lettuce, full of tea and the inevitable musings about whether we could or would do what they have done. We have done our own version of moving to create a new life I suppose in moving to North Wales. We are too tied into family, both up and down the generations, to make a choice which would take us this far away from them but I totally understand why they have done so.
We stayed at some great campsites: Balranald, Kilbride and Moorcroft, all unreservedly recommended. The mornings were often cloudy and windy but most afternoons the sky cleared and the sun shone. We read, we slept, we ate and we walked. And gradually the running undercurrent of the last couple of years, that sense that I am stretched too thin and not doing enough for all the many different people that I love, just stilled. Not stilled by yoga or a glass of wine or frantically doing things but simply and calmly the current ceased to flow and there were just the two of us, in the van or in the sun, being together.
The sun shone. The wind blew. I gathered shells. We saw seals. Ian used our new camera. It was good.