We are often asked how two low-paid public sector workers managed to afford a new campervan. There is no mystery to this, we didn’t find a lucky money tree, win the lottery or rob a bank, the answer is that we saved our money to achieve our dream.
This (and perhaps my love of the west coast of Scotland) is why I feel a connection to the Deacon Blue song Dignity. If you don’t know this song, you can hear Deacon Blue version here. I became reacquainted with this beautiful song when the singer-songwriter Karine Polwart played her own version of this 1987 hit at a gig last year, after playing it at the National Theatre of Scotland Blabbermouth event in 2014. This was a twelve hour celebration of Scottish music and spoken word on the eve of the Scottish referendum and you can see her playing it in this video.
The song is about a man who works for the council and is mocked by local children but who has a dream; over the years he saves his money to achieve his goal. The song reminds us that no one is who they might seem at first glance and celebrates the hopes and dreams of those who work in humble but essential jobs.
I had dreamt about owning a campervan since I was 13-years old and although there were many years when this and a twelve month gap year in a van seemed unachievable and impractical Mr BOTRA and I got there eventually and the adventures are told on my first blog. Now we are saving for early retirement because for us there is no dignity in working until we drop.
There’s a man I meet
Walks up our street
He’s a worker for the council
Has been twenty years
And he takes no lip off nobody
And litter off the gutter
Puts it in a bag
And never thinks to mutter
And he packs his lunch in a Sunblest bag
The children call him Bogie
He never lets on
But I know ’cause he once told me
He let me know a secret
About the money in his kitty
He’s gonna buy a dinghy
Gonna call her Dignity
And I’ll sail her up the west coast
Through villages and towns
I’ll be on my holidays
They’ll be doing their rounds
They’ll ask me how I got her I’ll say
I saved my money
They’ll say isn’t she pretty
That ship called Dignity
And I’m telling this story
In a faraway scene
Sipping down Raki
And reading Maynard Keynes
And I’m thinking about home
And all that means
And a place in the winter
Set it up (repeat)
And I’m thinking about home
And I’m thinking about faith
And I’m thinking about work
And I’m thinking
How good it would be
To be here some day
On a ship called Dignity
A ship called Dignity
We opted to see the year out in County Durham and Cleveland in the north-east of England. We followed the river Tees from the wild open country of the Pennines to the North Sea. After the heavy rain we had experienced in the north of England over Christmas, High Force and Low Force were spectacular and on a sunny afternoon there were plenty of people around to marvel at the spectacle. We found a quieter spot for contemplation at Summerhill Force and Gibson’s Cave, although just a few minutes’ walk from the Bowlees car park.
At this time of year we like to tour around in the van and make the most of the seven hours or so of daylight. We followed the river through the lovely town of Barnard Castle, spending some time exploring the castle and the blue plaque trail and moved on to Darlington. This once thriving engineering town still had a lovely buzz about it in the December drizzle. We visited the Head of Steam Railway Museum and looked in wonder at the amazing Locomotion No. 1, the first passenger steam train.
From Darlington the Tees flows through industrial and urban areas but we still found plenty that is beautiful.
The Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough is a stunning piece of engineering from 100 years ago. The ‘bridge’ carries cars and pedestrians over the Tees in a cradle that is wound on cables across the river. Ducks, geese and hordes of lapwings entertained us while we explored the National Nature Reserve on the north side of the river and at the excellent Saltholme RSPB reserve.
We finished our trip on the fantastic stretch of sand at Saltburn-by-the-Sea. From the attractive and recently restored pier we watched the hardy surfers and we wandered around the pretty streets window shopping.
We stayed at:
The Crown at Mickleton in Teesdale – this is a small Caravan Club CL with a bathroom and all hard-standing. It was £20/night.
White Water Park Caravan Club Site in Stockton-On-Tees is about 20 minutes walk from Stockton town centre and 30 minutes walk to Thornaby railway station for trains to Darlington, Bishop Aukland and Saltburn and Redcar. We paid just short of £25/night.
We also had one night free camping to help the budget.
Having read plenty of other blogs by fantastic people working towards financial independence and early retirement, all I have really learnt is that everyone has different priorities for their spending.
So our spending for 2015 is below and is offered up humbly for blog readers to pick at as you see fit. I don’t claim to be a model of frugality, Mr BOTRA and I are just doing our best but hopefully you will think that managing to save 40% of our income isn’t at all bad.
We save by looking for the cheapest deals for utilities where we can, shopping in the discount stores (mostly Lidl as I like to support them for paying the living wage ahead of other supermarkets) and Mr BOTRA does all the bicycle maintenance. As you can see we have a weakness for rock concerts … they do make us happy … and a lot of our socialising with friends involves eating in restaurants.