Vanlife, the second week. Day 10: Monday

Day 10: Monday

As ever, I wake up early, the Cornish sunlight streaming through the skylights and the too translucent roller blinds. It’s a rather cloudy sky, and that sun only peeks through sporadically, but it’s a pleasant enough temperature. I’ve no idea when Tom will be up and around – we did drink quite a lot of beer last night and stay up rather late.

So I pass the time watching TV on iPlayer – I’m connected to Trelay’s guest WiFi network, so no worries about data usage or the frankly rubbish 4G signal in rural North Cornwall. There’s been another episode of Bodyguard, so I catch up on that; the web of intrigue continues to grow around ambiguous hero/possible villain DS David Budd, and it looks like next week’s season finale will be a good one.

I also start watching a show that’s been on my radar for a while, now in its third season – Upstart Crow, a comedy about William Shakespeare written by Ben Elton and starring David Mitchell. This turns out to be rather brilliant, packed with enough knowing Shakespearean gags to please a literature snob like me, so I get through three episodes before thinking I should do something more constructive than just watching TV.

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Obviously I don’t have a laptop yet, but I do have an iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard, and it strikes me that I can start writing my blog on that. So I fire up Microsoft Word on it, and spend a while writing until Tom messages me to say that he’s surfaced. I join him at Kathy’s for a cup of tea, and then we head off to nearby Bude to get some shopping in for later.

Tom’s a bit hungover, and he’s always been endearingly vague about planning, so the trip becomes an epic travelogue of seemingly every supermarket in Bude – Morrisons, Lidl, then Sainsbury’s, which is the only one with a recycling point. This extended tour does however allow me to visit possibly Bude’s premier tourist attraction, the much lauded ‘Bude Tunnel’. This modern wonder of the world is an arched structure made from steel and transparent plastic, allowing visitors to Sainsbury’s to traverse the lengths between the car park at the rear of the building and the entrance at the front without being exposed to the elements. One of its many gushing reviews on TripAdvisor notes that it’s “the longest undercover walk in all of Bude” and “has to be in the top three tunnels in the UK”. Exciting stuff!

But we can’t spend all day touring supermarkets, and thankfully Tom comes up with the more conventional suggestion that we go down to the beach. That’s great – I realise I haven’t been to the beach all summer, and at this tail end it won’t be packed with tourists. So we trot on down to Bude beach, and by this time it’s actually getting sunny and warm.

The beach turns out to be full of surfers, and I do enjoy watching surfing. We both take off our shoes and socks and indulge in some paddling in the surprisingly warm Atlantic, while watching the waves and the wetsuit clad people trying to precariously balance on top of them. Then we spend some time just wandering along the beach and enjoying the sunshine. Tom scampers around like an energetic skinny hobbit, watching his footprints fade in the wet sand – he’s having fun.

Tom suggests we drive further down the coast to visit another beach. He’s driving (in his mum’s car), so we head down to the much larger beach of Widemouth Bay. There’s plenty of surfers there too, and the beach is MASSIVE – this is probably because the tide’s going out. More paddling, scampering and chilling ensue, and eventually we plop ourselves down on a dry sheltered bit of sand and just enjoy the tranquility. Sun, waves, sand – it’s incredibly relaxing. Tom may not be a total hippie, but I can’t think of any other friend who would have brought us here just to chill out and take in the surroundings.

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He’s also the sort of guy that suggests watching the sunset would be kind of cool, but we head to yet another beach to do that. I’d been to Crackington Haven before, but in the depths of winter, so it was nice to see it in the fading late summer sunlight. It’s a narrow bay with awe-inspiring cliffs either side of it, and a pub facing straight out towards the view – the Coombe Barton Inn. Again, I’ve been here before, but in the pitch black of a winter night.

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This time, we get ourselves a pint, and settle down on an outside table to watch the sun go down over the bay. It’s a perfect view, facing almost straight west. We sit in silence mostly, watching the sun slowly sink towards the horizon – it’s awe-inspiring, and sadly an iPhone camera can’t really catch how amazing it looks.

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The sky clouds over before the blazing orb can touch the ocean, but we’ve seen plenty already so we head back to Trelay for some food. Tom cooks us a terrific stir fry, and we sit down with his mum for another evening of chat, beer, wine and Dobble. Very idyllic.

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But remember those clouds that swam in front of the sun earlier? They presage the start of Storm Florence, which is predicted to lash the South West with vicious winds. As I walk back to the van, the wind’s already pretty fierce, and I have to hold my hat onto my head so I don’t lose it. By the time I’m ready for sleep, it’s howling like a banshee outside – not quite gale force, but not far off. The van’s a big slab-sided thing with the aerodynamics of a shed, so all night it rocks back and forth in the wind like a ship in a storm. No danger of it blowing away though (unlike the nearby tent), so I just enjoy the unusual sensations and settle in to sleep.

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