Danni

danni and sarah
A party in my old flat (think there were 5 of us there haha)

I took my van to her first festival last weekend and I vividly remembered what (or who) pushed me to actually buy it. I have wanted a camper since I was around 9; I would go into the tiny studio apartment spaces in Ikea and decide “this is all the space I need” the bed on top of the couch, the couch that is also a desk. A little while later a family member bought me a VW money box and that was it, I decided one day I would do it. One day I would have a tiny house on wheels. But knowing that I wanted it and actually finding the guts to do it are two wildly different things. What day is one day? When do you actualise your dreams?

I met Dannielle when I started working at the Jacaranda in Liverpool (before the toilets got done up). I was almost scared of her she was so vivacious. Her eyes lit up and she would laugh and scream no matter who was listening. She had this way of furrowing her brow and saying “NUH” in her Northern (West coast) Irish accent and her head wobbled as she danced with a perpetual grin. I didn’t stay scared of her and soon we were swinging around poles, getting into trouble, getting out of trouble (mostly) and put the world to rights. She was my running partner, and like everything with Danni you felt like you were always just catching up, panting behind her as she skipped energetically off ahead. She went to Australia, Bali, Nepal, Goa and so many place in between. She shucked pearls, fed hammerhead sharks, hiked, swam, drank and connected and inspired people all over the world. We saw each other the night before she left to go travelling and I told her I was going to do it, to finally buy the van.

What happened next is scary. What happened next is something you imagine but never expect. She didn’t come home. It wasn’t an accident but it was a mistake, because nobody who really knew Danni would ever want her to leave. I attended her funeral, still not believing she was gone, sat with her friends, my friends, expecting her to saunter in saying “ahh have youse all been waiting on me yeah?”. But she didn’t, and she won’t in this lifetime.

So I bought the van.

That’s it, this is it, that one day, this day is the day because she didn’t get all of hers and one day will turn into tomorrow that will turn into when I retire that will turn into never. I have written and rewritten this post so many times because I didn’t know what sentiment to convey, it is sad and it will always be sad but in a lot of ways it hasn’t made me sad. It has made me wake up and take action, it has made me realise that whatever job I get I will always be in debt. Whoever I vote for I might end up living under a government that doesn’t look after or understand me. Whoever I meet might not be with me forever.

So buy a van. Become a golfer. Learn to scuba. Speak Spanish. Play chess. Run a mile. Climb, cook, DJ or play the French horn. Whatever you closed your eyes and wanted to do when you were little, whatever makes you feel like you might never stop smiling, DO IT. Even just a little bit, even just once a week or on the smallest of scales.

Danni didn’t wait for life, she ran in front of it. Once one dream is attempted you will find a new one, and another one, and another one. One might turn into another one you didn’t realise. You don’t even have to be good at it. You might not even like it. But try it. Give it a wee go.

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Mumma shez on the right, Danni on the left. The sun never sets on that smile x

This post is dedicated to the unwavering friends and family of Danielle. There has been so much support and love that it has kept the essence and attitude of Danni around. This is for your sisters, and of course for you Danni. You didn’t care about people who didn’t care about you, you wasted no energy on holding a grudge, and you were right – yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Without knowing you I would have taken a lot more shit without standing up for myself, without you I might not have ever bought this van, without even just the memory of you I would be totally fucked. My cider sister, my leggy running coach, you are and will always be a fucking legend.

Whatever you are up to, KEEP WINNING

I have a confession

***Please note this post was actually written on Sunday, I just didn’t want to post it so soon after my brief commentary on millennial guilt and FOMO***

Until today I had never driven my van. I had never driven any van. I know it is a bit (a lot) crazy to buy a van and start converting it without ever having put your foot to the pedals, but I was fucking terrified.

Like stupidly scared.

I once had an interview to be an ice cream lady, sorry ‘person’, a job I didn’t get because the man (who was a bit of a wanker) had no confidence in my driving abilities. I last drove a car three years ago in Martinique for about an hour until my passengers voted to swap drivers. And, I was repeatedly scolded by Margaret – a lady I looked after in Hawaii who taught people how to drive in the war – for my poor efforts in her automatic. You could say that this has left me with a few insecurities about driving…

So yesterday after it was all taxed and insured I steeled myself and went down to have a go. Until the battery was dead. Completely dead. Oh and the sneaky leak in the ceiling had returned.

I tried not to cry. I actually went to work and stayed pretty cheerful, but after that I cried LOADS.

This is the point where you give up right? This thing you bought with all the money you had is sat dead on a driveway. You probably can’t drive it anyway. Even if it starts working the leak has probably caused mould and the whole thing will crumble apart. This thing I want to live in and drive thousands of miles in might not be viable.

But I didn’t give up. I rang the AA and Alex turned up, who was amazing (amazing Alex from the AA couldn’t make this shit up). He reminded me what a good base van it is (pre 2006 sprinters are known as one of the most reliable vans going) and assured me that apart from needing a new battery and clamp I was good to go. We also discovered the leak was because I had drilled the vent I was so proud of wrong.

Vent fixed. Battery in. I WENT AND DROVE IT!

So lessons learnt – if you are scared do it anyway. If you are thinking about quitting don’t. Don’t keep your foot on the clutch round corners. Basically everything it says on those motivational fridge magnets is right. Granted there probably aren’t loads of fridge magnets about clutch use but you get me.

 

“It’s getting hot in here…”(please note there is no nudity in the following post)

Commencing insulation

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I started with a very hungover trip to Wickes and Screwfix with Big Phil (my dad) where I spent a lot of time laughing at the terms panhead and ironmongery. I was sporting the same clothes as the night before plus a big red wine stain on my new work uniform and vino breath.

As usual I made a few small errors; I bought screws that were too short (½ inch self tappers for anyone who cares), and insulation that potentially might be shit because it isn’t double sided foil bubble wrap (I got cheaper single sided foil bubblewrap) . I also bought expanding foam insulation which someone has since said might give off toxic fumes that will make me feel sick.

However I did manage to get stuff to insulate, ply to clad the ceiling and some other stuff that is quite boring! So today I cleaned and insulated (layer 1) the roof of the Vanni. BTW I did this completely solo, Big Phil was at work so I just steamed ahead and succeeded apart from the clump of spray glue stuck to the top of my head…

Instructions from a clueless person in case you’re still reading

  • clean the area – I used normal soapy water, then sugar soap, then plain water, then dried the whole thing with one tiny bit of kitchen roll (I would have used more kitchen roll if I had remembered to bring it)
  • cut foil to size
  • stick the middle of the foil piece to the middle of the corresponding section of van with tape
  • spray glue one side and stick foil
  • spray glue the other side and stick foil
  • take off tape
  • have a realisation that the glue you bought will not withstand the (hopefully) high temperatures of the sun, so use white Gorilla tape around the edges of the foil because it is made to withstand high temperatures and is weirdly cheaper than the black Gorilla tape and hope this is ok
  • smooth down and feel amazing

 

The next step will be to do this same thing to the walls.

***Things I learnt…(1)wear a hat – you have to start with the ceiling so the walls look flush, and also so you don’t ruin your new floor with all the glue that drips onto your clothes, and scalp, and floor, and chairs. (2) Don’t use your teeth to rip Gorilla tape***

First things first

I have started, stopped, and rewrote this post (and several others) more times that I can count, so here I go with the final effort.

I bought a van! It’s an old DHL delivery van, a 2004 Mercedes Sprinter and I have named it Danni. I have about 2 months to fit windows, insulate it, build and install some sort of bed thing… and whatever else I figure out before heading down south.

Oh and I just got fired so money is a little tight.

I had saved £2500 before buying the van which set me back £1400, so I have the remaining £1100 and whatever I can earn from temping to tax it, insure it, and do the work needed to make it comfortable enough to live in.

As previously mentioned my ability to not stay on track with things, for example this blog, means this might be a journey full of small breaks and big hiatus’. But please stick around if you want to; if you are a budding van person it might help, and if you are a seasoned van person you might be able to help me.