We’d seen it several years before on an afternoon walk. I’d been working all morning, guiding people to their tents and campsite amenities. We were staying in a large tent within a tent – double protection from the elements and design flaws. Just meters from the Welsh border, in an England only spoken of in enclosed circles, I felt at peace, surrounded by nature, far from “civilisation”.
Four years had come and gone, moving from site to site, festival to festival, country to country, when another global financial crash meant no upper working class nor middle class persisted to exist. We were all dirt poor now, apart from those protected at The Top. It was raining, a cold January afternoon. Two weeks beforehand, the pickled delivery driver for the pizza shop below us had given us the shop’s wifi access code in exchange for a crate of cheap beer. This afternoon was the perfect time to log on and watch a film on one of the many sites featuring newly-released films.
As the kettle boiled and Kendrick watched it, waiting with one tea bag and two large mugs, the internet connected me to the last page I had looked at; unusual homes in idyllic locations. I saw that the snake flats in Rio were still way out of our price range. Out of boredom and masochism, rather than interest, I scrolled down the page.
And it was there.
It needed repairs, it needed attention and tender loving care, but it was there – the large wooden yurt that stood firmly on the line that separated the Welsh from the English. We clicked “Interested” and the following day we pulled out the stuffing of the old settee, littering the dusty carpet with wads of raw cash, musty and faded. But still legal tender.
Over five weeks we gutted, varnished and furnished the yurt to our eccentric tastes with more than a hint of a traditional homestead. It was one chilly March evening, reading by the woodstove that I looked up from my book and noticed the flames seemed to be pulled a little to the left. At first, I thought I was imagining it, as people often do imagine the faces of loved ones and dancing figures in the golden shifting shapes before them. Kendrick eyed me from over his newspaper as I crawled to the left of the stove. There was a chill at my cheek and my hair flicked past my eye. I was sure we had sealed all the holes in the wooden panels of the wall. There was no reason why any wind should get through. I was determined to find the hole and plug it, to do a proper repair the next day, but the cold air changed direction. It seemed to curl around the woodstove chimney itself. With my hand raised to shoulder level, and Kendrick’s questioning eyes on me, I followed the source of the cold air to the join of the wall panels behind the chimney.
‘Honey, you sealed these panels right?’
‘Just after you told me to, darling,’ Kendrick replied.
‘Then why is this panel rotted to buggary?’
‘Take your medication, darling,’ Kendrick said, flicking his newspaper. ‘There was an army of spiders climbing the walls last time you didn’t take your tablets.’
‘Come and see for yourself,’ I insisted.
‘You can see enough for the both of us,’ Kendrick said. ‘Probably enough for the entire county.’
The cold air sucked at the purple hem of my dress. It wasn’t just pulling the flames, it was pulling me!
I couldn’t let this go. I pushed at the rotten panel.
‘What are you doing?’ Kendrick asked.
‘I … don’t… know!’ I gasped as I put all my energies into my actions. He was behind me now, taking hold of my hands.
‘Stop it! What are you doing?!’
‘I have to!’ I wriggled free and gave the panel a final push, sending the splintering wood flying, across and open expanse that was not our garden. It was daytime, yet looking back, our windows showed that it was night.
This was the beginning of our new adventures. We found a heavy metal door to fit between the standing panels, and we advertised in only the most enclosed of circles. Our new career as tour operators into another world had begun and it had all started with a walk, hand in hand, into the wilderness.