Work, babbies, campervans and life. Part 1

By Darren Caveney

The older I get the more chilled I become about many a thing. I’m comfortable in my middle-aged skin, recognise my flaws but we co-exist quite happily.

I have a job, so I am one of the lucky ones, and I get to do exciting things with comms2point0, which I love.

I’m fortunate too that I get to work nationally, through LGcomms, and I also get to mentor a couple of comms people in an attempt to share any nuggets of learning/pitfall avoidance that I have picked up along the way.

So all good.

The bit where I am struggling is that that little lot takes up a fair chunk of time every week and so I’m experiencing some guilt at not being around enough to see my two little chimps – the babbies, as we sometimes call them in Birmingham.

Like all parents, I am silly over them. But I feel like I am struggling to find a work balance where I see enough of them and they see enough of me.

Trying to do the right thing, pay a mortgage, keep the little birds’ insatiable appetites met and generally keeping our heads above water comes at a price. That price is not doing the school run too often, sometimes getting home late to find them already asleep and generally being a bit rubbish at getting involved in school clubs and ferrying them to friends and to hobbies.

I’m not sure who originally said the much quoted line: ‘none of us will lie on our death beds wishing we had spent more time at work.’ Whilst I would whole-heartedly agree with that, it will have been written in an age when getting and keeping a job wasn’t quite so tough, when we hadn’t saddled ourselves with big mortgages and when 9-5 actually meant 9-5.

I’m not alone in this, of course – I‘m sure most parents have similar concerns and pangs of guilt from time-to-time. It does mean that weekends become precious times to catch up, redeem, have fun and scoff nice food together. So, the weekend it is then. The time at which to do the really great and important things in life. Best of all of these special times is a trip to the coast for a day, a weekend or, best of all, a week.

Hmmm, the coast…

You see living in Birmingham we are as far away from the seaside as you can ever be living in the UK. That gives us Brummies a natural yearning to get to the coast as often as is possible, invariably jumping on the M5 south and stopping off at: Cornwall (it we have a week off); Devon (if it is 3-4 days); or Weston-Super-Mare if it’s just a day trip (where, on a decent run, we can be just 1hour 40mins from having sandy mud between our city toes)

Visit any one of these locations, at pretty much any time of the year, and you’ll bump into plenty of Brummagem folk. It’s weird but we almost never head north. This isn’t because we’re North-ist, it’s just that we are born pre-set with these ‘head south’ factory settings.

We’re all hell bent on escaping city life, our dirty-ish air and our largely rubbish fish & chips – whilst we reign supreme at curries and balties, our fish & chips are terrible so we pine for the near legendary, bona fide seaside derivatives.

I have a huge urge to live by the sea too because of this hereditary sense of land-locked place. So, when laptops get switched off and work is at last put in its place off we pop in the family saloon down to said locations. This always begins with what we term ‘car picnics’ for the kids, to add to their already giddy excitement. These have normally been troughed well before we hit the M5.

Of course this all costs money and so doesn’t happen very often in reality. Which makes the pining and the longing all the greater.

But I have a solution to all of this work/life, kids/seaside dilemma.

I have been trying – unsuccessfully – for some time to lure Mrs C into the idea of buying a 60’s campervan so that we can “go wherever we want, any weekend of the year.”

I know, it’s probably all wrapped up in some kind of daft mix of mid-life crisis and trying to be Jamie sodding Oliver cooking freshly line-caught mackerel on a sun-kissed Cornish beach. But I like the look of them, I’m sort of convinced that it would be fun, and it would be instant guilt-removal on four retro wheels.

The kids would love it and their joy at sleeping ‘in the ‘van’ would be a thing of pure wonder.

But, there are a couple of flaws to my plan.

  1. Mrs C is having none of it. She thinks I’m being a plonker.
  2. Campervans, I have discovered, are really expensive.
  3. My rose-tinted vision of having a new freedom to travel and sleep under the stars and cook mackerel on beaches is probably an incredibly daft illusion. I regularly moan about sleep deprivation as it is so the chances of any sleep at all with a 7 and 3-year old rammed into a metal box is bordering on delusional.

So, the moral to this meandering tale?

Well it’s this – we’re all trying to do the right thing, work hard and find the right balance between careers and personal life. To provide the very best start and home life for our children but still manage to pull off a half decent career and profession. And to have fun along the way.

For me, the M5 represents an escape route to guilt-free living, and the campervan is my vehicle of choice. Albeit a slow, noisy and expensive one.

Meanwhile, I am sat writing this post when I should be bathing the kids. Cue more guilt.

This would never happen in our campervan…

Footnote

An extra big thank you to the ace Kate Bentham for (nicely) pestering me no end to write a post. Likewise to Janet Davis and Phil Jewitt for friendly nudges. I’m a huge fan of the Weekly Blog Club but have never got around to writing a post for it. And no matter how ropey this post – written in between parenting woes – is, I feel very satisfied to have delivered one at last.

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Working in local gov, managing a frontline service for families. I love Shropshire, love family and love information and blog about all three. There is also the occasional mention of cake and caek.

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Posted in beaches, childcare, communicating, family, holiday, local government, natural environment, public sector, public spaces, relationship, setting goals, special events, travel, travel and exploration
6 comments on “Work, babbies, campervans and life. Part 1
  1. You should try the M6 north for a change. Me, I’m after an Airstream but HimIndoors will never have a towbar on his Alfa 😦 Failing that I’d settle for a Yurt and some full-on glamping. We’ve even got the stove from the emergency home kit for real disasters and my brand new Le Creuset whistling kettle so we’re sorted. On the other hand there are little coastal cottages to rent the length and breadth of the country – the chimps and you could camp in the back garden while Mrs C gets to make like a starfish in a quiet and peaceful bed 😉

  2. Thank you very much, Darren, for being our first guest blogger. I’m thrilled that you contributed a post.
    When I was a child, we camped & later on had a secondhand (or third-hand) VW camper van with canvas annexe. I loved that VW van – loved the idea of it perhaps even more than the reality.

  3. We lived the dream in a campervan in New Zealand for 2 weeks. Mistakes, hiring one too big, with a loo, and at the end of the trip it became the transit van with a bed in the back, we hated it. Really, hated it. Really hated it. Advice, hire before you buy. I still crave a classic vw though. I believe in the dream.

  4. thebuddster says:

    I really enjoyed your post. Ive been struggling with the work life balance debate A LOT of late too. It turns out guilt is a lover of company as much as misery.
    It’s funny how these presets get bred into us. Being Scottish I’m geared to head up north to the highlands when it all gets too much. 🙂

  5. Ross says:

    Nice post. I can walk to the beach anytime so pretty lucky in that respect. Head up the A1 for the best, most deserted beaches in the country ;-).

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