The road to Nowhere.

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3 for me and 6 for Angus, years of totally brilliant fun in London. But student life and loans came to an end, staying in London faced us with the prospect of 6 days a week, before 8 in the morning to varyingly late at night in a job we thought was sort of great at the start, but over weeks we'd start to resent for depriving us of a sociable time to have dinner with our housemates, any days off spent mostly sleeping… Wondering when we last made any art… and how long are we supposed to pretend we are enjoying this? Trying to 'climb the ladder' in an economy where half the ladder rungs turn out to be an inaccessible illusion. Being a part of Actionspace when they got their funding cut and could no longer provide a free art centre; Watching the individuals with disabilities and learning difficulties who had come regularly to make their art, which for most was their best or only way of communicating, disappear off the radar. Their disability allowance had also been cut. Angus working hard and reliably for 5 years for Evans Cycles in Holborn who, after an 'extraordinarily successful year', wrote to tell their staff (working for £6.50/h without any real pay rise) of the millions they had made in profit, and to reward them for their hard work with a box of Quality Streets to share between them, equalling at a reward of a chocolate and a half per staff member.

There were ways to live around the economic kind of shit- we had 3 years of delicious meals for next to no £. At around 7pm Peckham Rye bins overflow with slightly bruised vegetables and ripe fruit. Covent Garden Market will give you bags of focaccia and samphire if the market manager catches you rummaging in a bin, he walked us around the stalls collecting bits that didn't sell, happy to ensure no food from his market would go to waste. Or New Covent Garden Market at 5am if you put on a 'I'm supposed to be here' high-vis and avoid the security guards who have now been told to get rid of the people diving into skips to make meals from the mountains of food heading to land-fill.













But with what we were spending on 2 months of rent in London, we could buy somewhere to live, rent free, with wheels. So in January we bought a green VW LT35 van that had been converted to camper and stripped it of its red fake leather, grey felt carpet lining, television and playstation2(!?). We built benches and cupboards and a cooking unit and cubby holes out of bits of wood from Peckham pavements, twitching as we cut huge holes in the van that miraculously fit a vent and a window. Didn't kill each other, cleaned up rust, filled holes with fibreglass, wired up a solar panel… One tantrum at the rain… A lot of internet learning and a lot of making it up as we went along. We spent the morning before the evening Channel ferry sweating and stuffing the van by wheelbarrow load with some psychopathic logic that meant we spent the next 3 days sleeping with a 10 metre roll of purple carpet and bike locks and finding underwear in saucepans. We followed (swore at and threw at the windscreen) out of date maps across Europe, avoiding toll routes and sleeping by rivers and lakes. Didn't lose the trailer. Befriended a hedgehog. One night was spent in the Pyrenees, metres from a surging torrent of a mountain river. We washed in the shallows and went to bed as torrential rain begun and didn't stop, nightmares of flash flooding & trying to escape-squeeze through the roof vent.

Lesson 1 of driving a van across Europe:
Don't drive a 3.5ton vehicle plus trailer onto unknown ground surface by a lake in the middle of nowhere without checking first that the surface isn't a deep sand pit.

Lesson 2 of driving a van across Europe:
Don't put 100 Euros into a strange machine at a fuel station when you don't need 100 Euros of fuel and there isn't anywhere for the change to come out.

Van and trailer loaded up with enough food and water and building materials to build a camp and survive a week in the middle of nowhere, we turned off the tarmac and trundled in a cloud of dust for 15km, on a track leading into the Spanish desert, for Nowhere festival. Gracey and Paul arrived in their van with Ale. Nick and Cuthbert arrived a day later via cancelled flights and missed trains. The festival is based on inclusion, self-expression, and no-commerce. No money is allowed, there is nothing to buy. Everything is shared or gifted. Everything is self-organised; there is no main-stage line-up, no security staff, no falafel stand. Most people form a camp called a Barrio (neighbourhood), build their structure and bring something or some event to offer. A small town grew on enthusiasm and kindness, and willingness to dance with one hand holding tightly to 50 metres of billowing shade-cloth roof of another Barrio's camp, as the wind rips it from its wooden structure and a stumbling group of smiling, floaty people try to coordinate any kind of secure re-fastening.

Seven of us were The Asylum Road Social Club and between our vans built a softy living room of cushions and blankets and rugs with a fabric roof and walls. We served tea and toast daily at 4pm, held sessions of naked life drawing on a twister mat (contorted perspectives + the occasional bum hole), Gracey taught a knitting circle, Angus took festival portraits. People brought gifts of home-made strawberry jam and fig liquor. Barrios had parties in the evening, gifting music and cocktail bars and trapeze acts (Nick). Days were filled with events and workshops, from acrobatic yoga to a human carcass wash.. Swedish massage and wine tasting to penis appreciation hour, or colour-in your favourite cunt; throughout constant wind, a lot of dust, 35 degree heat and the occasional furious storm. Together at The Top of Nowhere- A mountain to climb to watch the sunset and howl at the moonrise, and 12 hours later, the moonset and sunrise.
Hugs all round and a lot of love, where all it costs you for the sexiest mohito you could drink is your empty metal mug on the bar top. London living seemed even further away from this ramshackled, dust-coated town of people who truly lived and breathed:
 'all that is mine is yours' and
 'you are totally, fucking fabulous'.





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Thank you to Nick for the last 4 pics! More of his here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrisnick/sets/72157646279817815/




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3 comments:

  1. I've just found your blog in Another Escape magazine - you are living my dream life. What an adventure. We have a T4 but it's too small to live in and we're still happy with our Brighton life so live in it on holidays and long weekends away. Yours looks a much better size - do you need a different license to drive a 3.5ton?

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    1. Hi Tess! Thanks! We love it! It's a good size, although if we were do to it all again, we'd have bought one the same size but with straight sides / a box back. Much easier for fitting units etc when building inside and gives the option of a bed over the driving cab!

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    2. Oh and no you don't need a different license

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