It was a busy week. With two nights on call, miscellaneous interviews to promote the new TV series and three book signings squeezed in around work, the weekend seemed to be a long time in coming. However, as I finished my last visit on Friday lunchtime, it was finally time to head out on our first family camper van adventure.
We have been thinking about getting a van for years, but a few months ago, we decided to stop pondering and actually do something about it.
My wife, Anne, followed up an advert for a van for sale in Tewkesbury. It looked exactly what we were after. It turned out that the previous owner had bought the van to take his daughter, who was a good swimmer, to swimming galas. This was an amazing coincidence, as it was also one of the reasons now was the time for a van for us.
Archie swims in galas all over the North East of England, while Jack rows on rivers up and down the country, and staying in the van would mean less driving and more time in bed before a 7.30am start on poolside, or on the river.
Two more amazing coincidences quickly followed. It emerged that the swimmer was also a budding veterinary student and spent her Saturday mornings at the local veterinary practice – the very same practice, in the Cotswolds, where Anne and I had both worked, before we came up to Yorkshire. Clearly, this was to be our van – the deal was quickly done.
So, this weekend, we headed north, to Kielder in Northumberland for Anne to run in the Kielder half marathon, following the forest tracks around half of Kielder Water. Its big brother, the marathon, circumnavigated the entire lake. Jack and Archie were also racing in the junior race. For a change, I was just the support team, along with Emmy, our dog.
Northumberland was so quiet and so free from traffic that it made the roads around North Yorkshire look quite hectic. 4G was soon left behind, quickly followed by the 3 version and soon we had no phone reception at all. It was nice to be able to abandon mobile phones and loose the distracting ‘ping’ of another Whatsapp message.
It was a clear and still evening and, as the sun set, we awaited the much-anticipated Draconid meteor shower. This part of Northumberland is proud of its status of having one of the darkest in the UK, so we were expecting a spectacular display. However, not long after darkness fell, all four of us were fast asleep, utterly oblivious to the shooting stars overhead.
Race day dawned all too quickly but, for once, it wasn’t me feeling the nerves. Normally, the phrase ‘race day’ has me brimming with excitement that has been building for weeks. This morning, though I took charge of the coffee and bacon sandwiches, as we packed up camp for the race.
Anne was off first, setting a good pace. Jack, Archie, Emmy and I skimmed stones across the still waters of the lake, whilst we watched the full marathoners go past the start line. The junior race was next. Archie led the Norton brothers up the first hill, but positions had changed by the last 400 metres.
Jack finished an impressive eighth in a competitive under sixteen race. Archie, on the other hand, limped in, nursing a swollen knee and spent more time in the first aid tent than he had on the course.
Sore knees apart, it was a great weekend and lovely family time, without phones, without vetting and for me, without a race. I could get used to this. Maybe I’m getting old?
Follow Julian on Instagram: @juliannortonvet