Day 9, 12th Jan – “Smaller than a Prison Cell”

Today was the day I had allotted for sending out my Dragon book to the next set of Literary Agencies.  It’s a laborious process.  There are lists of the agents and it’s a case of ploughing through them, discerning which lists are open or appropriate and then tailoring your submission individually for each agency.  5 submissions usually takes around 2 hours.  I now understand why an established author once told me:  “Send out 5 a week, don’t do more, it’s too soul destroying.”

Having sent out my missives of hope, I came back to the van and we got ready to pack up and move on.  As we pottered, M and I chattered about how you need to get on if you’re in a camper van. 

Apparently, Todd Fisher (brother of Carrie Fisher and son of Debbie Reynolds) had a camper and he used it as the acid test for any romantic relationship.  If a prospective girlfriend (a) didn’t want to travel in the camper and (b) they couldn’t get on when together in one, then that was the end of that interlude.

Which was why, this morning, I was surprised to hear M announce:

“Well, this is smaller than a UK prison cell”

I burst out laughing.  Then I stopped abruptly and looked at him to check his facial expression.  Was that a good thing, the space, I mean?

He turned to face me with his customary grin, before adding “Well, it is…”

OK, well he wasn’t about to march out in a huff then, nine days into a ten week trip. But he’s right, the space does have some similarities with a penitentiary allotment: –

  1. It’s small, rectangular and you have to sleep as well as live in the confines of it’s walls
  2. It has a loo, which isn’t in a separate room, and if you’re sharing that’s a compromise on modesty
  3. You have to negotiate about how that space is managed and used; there’s two of us, after all

The differences are, however, important:

  1. We chose to be in here.  We lock the doors and open them at will, although Stan, if he could be interviewed on the subject might feel more of a prisoner than we do
  2. I can send M out if I need the loo.  
  3. Prison bathrooms have a flush, our loo collects whatever goes into it (of which, more anon)
  4. We are 60% window, we choose our destinations and our mobile conservatory offers us a unique view of the world that we cherish

M and I share roles and tasks, but there’s a job demarcation for which I’m truly grateful. We share cooking and washing up; generally, whoever cooks, then the other washes up.  I’m better at sweeping and keeping internal spaces sorted, M takes care of the engine and bodywork.  

He also takes care of the… “you know what”…

I’m not squeamish.  Honestly, I’m not… but…

There’s something about the idea of emptying the “Poo Box” that makes me shudder. To my shame, I’ve never done it and I have to admit that I never want to.

So, today was the day when the deed needed to be done.  Spanish motorways are less abundant with their equivalent of the French Aires.  We have to look harder for spots that advertise places to get rid of ‘Black Waste’. Eventually, we spy one, just off the motorway behind a petrol station and service area.  

There’s a French camper in front of us, with a gentleman in his seventies filling up drinking water, one laborious watering can at a time for his huge camper tanks.  We wait for him to move on, not wanting to empty our black waste out where and while he’s taking on fresh drinking water.  As he takes one can load at a time back to his van and returns for the next we have plenty of opportunity to take in the state of the facilities.

It really isn’t lovely.  There’s an area designated for fresh water, another for grey water (from washing/showering/cooking) and a grate for black water.  Other visitors have just dumped black water (and associated solids) wherever, in all three spaces.  Yuk.

I duck out and take Stan over to a patch of wasteland to stretch his legs and have a wee, leaving M to deal with the ‘other stuff’.

He’s washing his hands and everything else with bleach as I return.  Oh dear.  That can’t have been good.  

So, I’d like to say in public to my cell mate, that I don’t just treasure him for his sense of humor or the way he wakes up cheerful almost every morning.  I also appreciate my travelling companion because it is he, not me, that deals with the sh*te, so that I don’t have to.

Thanks Angel.

2 thoughts on “Day 9, 12th Jan – “Smaller than a Prison Cell””

  1. Oh my, Julie, you left me in such giggles! Bless M! ? and thank you, Julie, for allowing me to continue being a spectator in your adventures with M and Stanley. It’s as if I’m back in the living room with you and M sharing, laughing and being mesmerized by your amazing writing ability. Today you triggered a reminiscent smile for me brought on by M.’s comment on the size of your camper.

    Years ago we planned a family trek in a small borrowed camper van across the US with our 2 sons, then 9 and 12. A few days before leaving on our adventure, our 12 year old and I got in a bit of a typical parent-child tiff. He stormed out of the room with indignant preadolescent melodrama murmuring through gritted teeth, “I cannot believe I’m spending 3 weeks in a BOX with THAT WOMAN!!” with a not so subtle implication that perhaps spending the time in Hell might be preferred. I, being in a good mood despite our clash, collapsed in hysterical laughter. After regaining my composure, I slipped outside and peeked in “the BOX” with just the tiniest twinge of trepidation. I’m happy to report it was a marvelous time spent in that BOX with some of our fondest memories — and not one tiff amongst the 4 of us! ?

    Sleep well. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s chapter. ?

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