Colour photograph of a white caravan from outside the wooden orchard gates, framed by trees, with a red brick tiled cottage behind it. If you look very carefully, you can see a Westie immediately behind the gate.


Holton Lee

Visit 26: 24 - 27 July 2009

Colour photograph of the outside of the caravan, with the door open.
Thanks to Eddie, the caravan is still standing.

We leave for Holton Lee on Friday lunchtime, as Julie has been in meetings all morning. Before this our PA Shola comes to help me load the scooter directly into the back of the van, where I have taken out the back seats altogether. This is so we can avoid towing the scooter behind us, which slows us down on the motorway. Towing is also problematic when we reach Holton Lee at present because the lane is waiting to be repaired - my little trailer bounces around much more than a larger one would do. Riding the scooter up the ramp into the van is a scary business, as it is so much more powerful and heavy than my wheelchair, but with Shola and her husband to help we manage it safely. Now I just have to unload it again at the other end!

Although we are able to drive in the fast lane (towing vehicles are limited to 60 miles an hour and the two slower motorway lanes in the UK), the journey still takes us five and a half hours, as it is the busiest holiday weekend of the year. At first I distract myself by reading a history of land art, which I have bought at Tate Britain the day beforehand after visiting the Richard Long exhibition. Richard Long has always been a hero of mine, so I have found the exhibition very exciting and stimulating. Later I move on to a book about labyrinths, as I am still hoping to take forward the Holton Lee labyrinth project that was begun by Derek and Brigid, and later still I start sketching possible designs. My aim is to create a labyrinth that is entirely biodegradable (as well, of course, as being fully accessible), made from the pine trees that are being cleared from the heathland, together with one larger tree that has been blown down by the wind. As it will be more like a wooden henge than a traditional labyrinth or maze, I name the project the 'Holton Henge'.

When we arrive, I am delighted to see how well Eddie has been able to mend the caravan roof and ceiling. I already know from his phone calls that the interior of part of the roof collapsed completely when he started work - not surprising given that it was condemned by the professionals during my last visit! - and he has had to build a new ceiling structure from hardboard to replace it. He has also told me that there will be a lot of clearing up and decorating to do, but luckily Eddie has been able to do a lot of the clearing up himself so it is just about manageable for me. Fortunately too our neighbours are in and allow us to hook up our electricity supply through their sitting room window - as only part of the caravan's electrics run off the battery, we are dependent on their kindness while the power to the orchard remains out.

Trying to forget that my hand consultant told me on Monday to do less rather than more, I get started on the clearing up while Julie kindly goes into Wareham to buy us a takeaway. With non-stop disco music on the radio and two burgers - I may be vegan at home, but some things require red meat! - we are able to start moving our luggage in by about 9.30pm. Only then does Genie get fed, although she has been partly pacified by some burger and chips earlier in the evening. To add insult to injury, I realise that I have forgotten her basket - oh well, she usually moves out of it on to the bed fairly early on in the night anyway! We go out for a short walk in compensation, when I realise that the stars are as bright as I have ever seen them in Dorset. The horses have been put to graze on Twin Oak Tree field, and Genie is pleased, though rather surprised, to see them there. Overall it is a lovely evening, and well worth the effort to be here.

On Saturday morning I do a few more chores, and then we go into Poole to visit the Kube gallery. This was formerly known as the Study Gallery, as it is on the campus of Bournemough and Poole College, but is now independent. Ania, the curator, came to the workshop that I ran at Bournemouth Library in April as part of my Abnormal exhibition, and I am looking forward to seeing her again. Ania organises a wide-ranging programme of events at the gallery, including an artists' boot sale which is on this morning. The traffic is very heavy again, but it is worth it as the gallery is wonderful. We spend a very pleasant morning there, buying artists' cards and jewellery, books (today's theme is art books) and in my case a felt rocket made by a wonderful artist called Lisa Berkshire - I then have to commission another one from Lisa for Julie's birthday next month to avoid her removing mine! We also enjoy a bacon sandwich at the cafe and look around the equally wonderful gallery shop, as well as chatting to Ania about future possibilities for joint working.

On the way back we detour to Sandbanks. Sadly there is too long a wait to take the ferry to Studland and to come back that way, as we'd originally planned, but it is still lovely to see the harbour there, full of kitesurfers, sailors and so on. Our part of Poole harbour is, by comparison, much quieter. I love Sandbanks, particularly the fact that you can move across a very narrow strip of land between a wonderful, Mediterranean-like beach on the English Channel and the enclosed waters of the harbour, as well as the stalls and cafe which add to its charm - and, it has to be said, the fact that Genie is allowed on part of the beach is an added attraction. I hope that we are able to come back before the end of the summer and relax on the beach.

Now, though, we need to get into Wareham to buy food and supplies for the caravan, so we reluctantly join the traffic heading west. As usual, Lords the ironmongers have everything on my shopping list, and - also as usual - I find other things that will be incredibly useful but that I didn't know existed before I saw them on the shelves. The wholefood shop too has its usual wonderful stock, including a dairy free icecream which I am sure I deserve! I also lay in supplies of vegan snacks and biscuits (being unable to tolerate egg and dairy products), as I have a lot more work to do on the caravan ahead of me.

Close up colour photograph of a Westie looking up at the camera from a field.
Genie does not let me forget that I have forgotten her basket.

We finally return to Holton Lee around 5pm, where we rest in the sun as planned. Jonnie comes and joins us after arriving to feed the horses, and we enjoy catching up. Unfortunately the wind gets up and we are tired, so we decide we are too chilled to light a barbecue. Instead we eat inside the caravan, listening to Big Brother on my pocket TV as I still haven't been able to get the caravan television tuned in properly. (Priorities, priorities.) Genie then goes to sleep on my bed while I sit up in a folding chair sniffing, terrier-like - I am sure there is a very tiny leak from the new hob that Eddie has installed, and eventually I go out to turn off the supply from the bottle to be on the safe side.

On Sunday we have a lie-in, and then I go out on the scooter as we can hear the sound of loudly revving motorbike engines. Eventually I decide that, wherever they are and whatever they are doing that they shouldn't be, they are not on Holton Lee land so there is no need to worry. In the process I am able to visit the area where I think the Henge might be situated, and take some photographs. Then I return to the caravan and begin the 'decorations' - covering Eddie's ceiling repairs with suitably 70s-looking sticky backed plastic, and filling in the gaps with tiling strips and silicon. It is much colder, so I am not as sorry to do this as I would have been yesterday.

Fortunately in any case we have a lunch date with Wally and Denise, who are continuing to manage to take the weekends off. We therefore head for the Craft Courtyard just down the road for a Sunday roast (more red meat!), where we are made very welcome indeed. It is lovely to see both our friends, and we eventually move on to our favourite shop/cafe on the main road for tea so we can continue to catch up. In the process I manage to acquire a large crocheted square (bound to come in handy!) and a fish-shaped windvane from the courtyard shops.

We finally get back about 5.30pm, after which I carry on with the decorating until 10-ish to a mixture of disco music and Big Brother, fired by all of the food I have eaten earlier. I have bought Genie a rottweiler-sized rawhide chewy bone from the shop as an apology for first forgetting her basket and then spending the day in places she is not allowed to come into, and she is delighted with it. So delighted, in fact, that she alternately chomps, pants and looks demented throughout the evening as she is committed to finishing it the same night! (Which she somehow manages to do.) A beer is then very welcome. When I take Genie out last thing I see at least half a dozen white deer across the lane in Twin Oak Tree field, inevitable since the light is far too low to photograph them! However, when I finally complete my long-running mission to get a good photograph of a white deer or stag I imagine that I will feel quite bereft, so I am happy to ignore them for now.

I have set the alarm for Monday morning, as there is so much still to do. I start by visiting the stables, though, where I have coffee with Wally and John. Wally then trims my hair for me - is there no end to the stables volunteers' talents? After that I meet Ali, who comes back to the caravan with me, along with her silicon and paint scraper, and we hang out together while finishing the repairs etc. Eddie then arrives and it is so good to see him; without all of his hard work the residency would have been in serious danger of coming to a premature end. As it is I have to break it to him that the new hob is indeed leaking, so he takes part of the old hob with him so we can replace the gas tap to the burner. I just don't have words to express how grateful I am to him. Overall, the stables volunteers spend an awful lot of time patronising the arts at Holton Lee, in the form of making it possible for me to carry out the residency without PA support.

At around 4pm I manage to find time to stop for a ham roll (!), and then we pack the van ready to leave. It has been an extremely busy weekend, and I am pleased we have been able to balance the chores with time off site with friends, though sorry not to have been able to spend more time on the scooter and making work. However, at least I have been able to focus on the labyrinth, and have ensured that I will be able to come back to make more work in the future. It is obvious, though, that the caravan is becoming increasingly fragile, and that further efforts will need to be made to preserve it. For now Ali helps to put the cover on, which will protect it to some extent.

Our departure is interrupted when I realise that I have lost my Blackberry, but eventually find it in the long grass of the orchard. Just as well, as I have taken more photos with it than with my camera - see below for the results. As usual I am reluctant to leave, but am certainly looking forward to having a bath!

Click here to see my initial design for the Henge.

Mobile phone photo of feet in sandals resting on a cushioned bench, with a TV at the end of it.

Admiring the caravan late on Sunday night with the aid of my Blackberry after all of Eddie's hard work.

Mobile phone photograph looking up at windchimes, curtains and a plastic floral chandelier.

Mobile phone photograph of the caravan ceiling.

Mobile phone photograph of the end of the caravan, showing the table and cushioned benches. Mobile phone photograph of the caravan shelf, showing tins, bottles etc. Mobile phone photograph of the caravan lockers, with a spotty plastic beaker in the foreground.
Mobile phone photograph of the sink and door. Mobile phone photograph of the cooker unit from the other end of the caravan. Mobile phone photograph of the toilet door, with a blue feather duster hanging from it.
Mobile phone photograph of the opposite side of the caravan, with stockinged feet in the foreground. Mobile phone photograph of the caravan noticeboards and lockers. Mobile phone photograph of Genie crashed out on a blue furry rug.

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Dr Ju Gosling aka ju90's ABNORMAL: How Britain became body dysphoric and the key to a cure is available now for just 3.09 for the Kindle or in a limited-edition hardback with full-colour art plates for 20 inc UK postage and packing. Book cover