What can be derived from vandals destroying your home?
Some bastard burnt my bus!
Mid Uk/Europe tour on August 30th I woke up to messages coming in from friends in Australia. Our friends were directing us to news sites on which we found pictures of our converted live-in bus completely burnt out.
The bad news did not stop there. At the end of the last Australian season we had finally found and bought a bigger bus to live in. It was the right size and the right price and had acceptable fuel consumption. We were really excited about this as we felt this bus could cope with our family on the move for the next 8 to 10 years; maybe more. We left Australia in May for the UK season with the new bus parked by the old bus outside Stargazer Motorhomes’ yard. Brett at Stargazer was going to put a couple of cupboards into the new bus, and help us sell the old bus.
The old bus! The bus both my sons were conceived in.
Vandals had broken in to the new bus, graffitied, and set it alight. The fire jumped from the new bus to the old bus. Both went up in flames. The same vandals had a busy weekend, setting alight caravans, bins, skips, cars….
When Trish and I got the news we were very busy. Almost too busy to allow a response.
The first response…. My gut seized. Rapidly came ‘its only stuff’, ‘no one has been hurt’, ‘we are not grieving the loss of anyone’. That first day everything important to me was intensified… my kids, my wife. They give me happiness. Somehow this realisation was intensified by the loss of such big material objects. I remember walking across a field, pushing Roary who had just nodded off in the push chair, looking at Trish sitting in the sun by our live-in truck with Jackpot, our eldest, playing beside her. I felt such intense love, happiness, gratitude for them. Two fingers to the vandals I thought. All they have done is proven what is truly important.
We worked the next two festivals back to back and then drove straight up to Edinburgh Fringe. Knackered, with a bit of space to slow down, a shuddering feeling of vulnerability overwhelmed me. Tears came. Shaking body. Shuddering tension throughout me. Anger at whoever had destroyed so much of what we had built to improve life for our family. Exposed, raw.
I had to take a day off. I tried to lick my wounds. To calm.
A week later I was in Switzerland performing at the Vevey festival of street arts. While there I got the news that the insurance company had decided that the new bus was not covered under insurance. The insurers had sent us the wrong papers, but it was our fault for not getting in touch with them to get the correct papers. So the new bus was not covered. 55,000 dollars gone! 6 years of frugality and saving whatever we could. Up in smoke. Due to vandals’ stupid emotionless reality, combined with insurance companies staying true to form and trying to weedle out of paying. The shaky powerless exposed vulnerable feeling swept back in like a wave…. Taking my breath and my strength away.
On the weekend I had to perform 8 shows to make people laugh! Irony eh!?
The shaky feeling was awful. Breathless. Weak. Shocked. Almost desperate.
My fantastic wife Trish has Catholic roots. Her world view makes her look for messages from the universe. Was this a sign we should stop our life on tour? Should we make a drastic change? Sometimes I would like to, but I don’t really believe in that. For me the value comes from what we can learn from things.
What have I learnt? Well the shaky breathless vulnerability feeling was changed by human interaction and human kindness. Truly and simply. Human kindness was the balm for the wounds. On the weekend at Vevey Hardey McCurrick offered pleasant, soft, real human conversation. Another big lift was receiving a message from Nina who I helped create her new street show; her message told me her show was going great and thanked me for super mentoring. Over time other friends have helped us with childcare; given us strong hugs at the right time; Brett from Stargazer has offered to work for no charge to redo another bus for us… my mum even offered to sell some jewellery!
All these human kindnesses have been the healing ointments. It is the warmth of human interaction that has changed my state from shaky, cold and shivering, to warm, hopeful and strong.
I know it’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché because its true. Material objects help me do things…. but happiness, the happy hormones in my body are released through interactions with humans – my family, my friends, messages from people I have helped. If there is a silver lining to this dark cloud, at the moment it seems to be the reaffirmation of this ancient human truth….
Material objects don’t make you happy, warm humanity does.