Why 2019 London Pride was Different, Explained Through A Kung Fu Movie

Jet Li

Sai Yuk, representing the LGBTQ+ community

My favourite Kung Fu movie is The Legend of Fong Sai Yuk, featuring a young Jet Li as our hero. He is part of a group of rebels fighting an evil regime, which oppresses all people. The final battle ***SPOILER ALERT*** sees Sai Yuk being challenged to defeat the town Governor and save his father from execution. To make things more difficult the rope that will release the guillotine blade is lit, so that Sai Yuk has only minutes to defeat his enemy and free his father before the rope burns through. The supporting townsfolk stand and watch.

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Sai Yuk’s father, representing equality

What has this to do with Pride? Well to me, Pride used to be just like this movie scene: Sai Yuk represents the LGBTQ+ community, his father represents equality, and the governor represents discrimination. We, the Queer community, would march through the centre of town, protesting against oppressive values which really, truly affect all people – yet this was considered to be our fight and those supporting came to watch, not participate.

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The Governor, representing discrimination

But what happened in 2019 was different. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan made a statement which shows his understanding of two important points:

1. A society that accepts discrimination against any one group is a society that accepts discrimination full stop.

2. True support takes more than watching people: you must stand with them.

This shift has been taking place for some time, with more and more allies joining the march each year, but 2019 was a breakthrough, like the breakthrough that was about to be made by one old lady in our Kung Fu movie…

…let’s get back to our scene and find out what happens next. Sai Yuk fights hard and wins the battle of course, catching the rope just as it burns through, stopping the guillotine blade from meeting his father’s neck. He is a strong hero, having trained his entire life, but there is one thing he cannot overcome: the blade is heavier than his body. As it sinks lower and lower in the guillotine frame, it’s clear that Sai Yuk won’t be able to hold it.

 

But then something incredible happens: one shrivelled old lady and her grandchildren push through the barrier shouting “Fong Sai Yuk! We’ll help you!”

 

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Soon the whole town has broken through. They take the rope, pull it back and save Sai Yuk’s father.

 

It’s a revolutionary moment; it’s a moment of revolution.

Coming back to the subject of London Pride, if Sai Yuk represents the Queer Community, his father equality, and the governor discrimination, then I’m not sure who the old lady represents… perhaps Sadiq Khan? Perhaps you? Perhaps whoever was first to break the barrier and join us?

Old-lady-vs-Sadiq

Or, perhaps it doesn’t matter because it point is, the barrier has been broken and this year everyone was IN. London was rainbow-bombed completely and it was no longer ‘cool’ for any shop, street or station not to display a rainbow flag (or several). The march contained not just queer groups, but everyone from the MOD to O2. TFL and even London Zoo went beyond the call of duty to show their support.

Some criticised the business contingent for purely wanting to advertise, but I say that when you see business, finance, military, government and general public all taking part, the point is it’s everybody. When I saw ‘The Conservatives’ in the march I thought “My god, it’s really everybody!”.

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Banner reads: “Some penguins are gay – get over it!”

Until London Pride week when it was finally safe to let my guard down, I didn’t realise that I myself always been on guard against personal discrimination. When London Zoo greeted my partner and I with rainbow flags at the door, we knew that we could hold hands or hug whilst watching the penguins and no-one would ask us to stop. It made me sad to realise that I had never before felt such a sense of safety outside of a queer venue.

65882198_10161867975105632_8963286628638392320_nAttending the march itself, as I watched row upon row of queer and mainstream floats and groups go past, the whole thing felt like a personal apology to me. Perhaps my reaction seems odd, since I maybe haven’t received much discrimination comparatively, but I hope that everyone present received the same personal message as I did through the actions of the march. It was like I was hearing a whole crowd of allies say: “We’re sorry. Before, when we said we were supporting you, really we were just watching you fight. We understand now. We’re here standing with you. It wasn’t ok what happened. No-one ever should have judged you because of who you are. That was never ok. And it’s going to stop now, because we won’t tolerate it.”

I want to be positive here, and respectful; this shift from ‘watching’ to ‘standing with us’ is wonderful and to be celebrated, and yet all that time spent ‘watching in support’ is to be celebrated too, since it got us here. We have been gaining ground towards this shift for a long time and every step taken along the way is a hero’s deed. Every year, more and more progress towards equality is made, and every breakthrough shows how far we have come and how far we can go, in the UK and worldwide. This isn’t over: it is growing. Our Kung Fu movie ends with a revolution in one town, but plenty more work for the rebellion to do. Allies, thank you for standing with us and fighting with us – Jet Li couldn’t do it without you… and neither can we.

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Symphony For Happiness 2019 – Update! I’m Back!

After a 1 year gap in posting…I’m back!

What will Symphony For Happiness in 2019 look like? Up until now, I’ve written about experimenting to find alternatives ways of doing things that make sense to me, hoping that if they make sense to you too, reading this could give you an idea for change, or simply help you feel like you’re not the only one. I’ve written about running out of money on purpose, in my £0 Challenge, travelling only by fixed gear bike during my One Gear Year, living as a Digital Nomad Skype Tutor in a VW T4 van, Minimalism and anti-consumerism, and many other experiences that I consider part of my Symphony For Happiness.

Everything I’ve done in my own life has been because I’m interested in challenging all ideas that we take for granted whether their good for us or not, because if they are not good for us then we need to find a different way of doing things. This year, that ethos has led me very naturally into climate campaigning and Extinction Rebellion (XR), as well as being more visible as a gender and LGBTQ+ activist. I’ve also become Bard, and now Grand Bard of Exeter, in which I have taken an oath to the land and the people of the city, and this devotion has made me even more dedicated to the sustainable future of the planet. As well as personal growth, change and empowerment, I’m going to be writing about more of the above this year.

So, here’s a bit of a summary of the story so far, in pictures and videos:

Kimwei Pink Boat

Here I am performing on the Pink Boat at Oxford Circus, during this years April action for Climate justice, by Extinction Rebellion. Photo by Tony Pletts. See me perform, here: https://www.facebook.com/kimweidotcom/videos/1086225831562887/

My 7 spoken pieces, filmed by Exeter University Television Channel which consider what a sustainable future could be like:

My 7 spoken pieces, explaining climate change through the eyes of a Climate Scientist I lived with from 2013-16 filmed by Exeter University Television Channel:

Kimwei-Cover-For-Bandcamp

“Nothing’s Binary”, my gender and identity themed album, which also features some world change songs, was self-released Dec 2018. I have also appeared on queer discussion panels and given workshops at various festivals including Come As You Are and Exeter Pride, as well as Summerhouse and Togetherness.

 

 

 

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Being sworn in as Grand Bard of Exeter (2019-2025). An extract from my speech:
And so we are in the age of the Bards, 
Because all we have is the sum of our commitments.
We do not have what we own, 
We have what we commit to.
We do not have what we buy
We have what we commit to take care of.
As Bard I have taken an oath to the land and the people of the city, but regardless of who becomes the new Bard tonight we all can go to our own homes and make a commitment to the land below us and the people around us. If we do that, we can all have the Earth, to restore, to nourish and to care for.

So watch this space for more, as I am back and posting!

Kimwei

See kimwei.com for music, videos and more!

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Sleeping On The Floor – My Solution Revealed

I’ve been learning to sleep on the floor for some time now, having both read about its benefits and wanting to become more adaptable when I’m travelling and couch surfing… or floor surfing perhaps.

Finally, after 9months of practice, on and off, I’ve decided what I want to sleep on. It’s the most sophisticated sleep technology known to mankind and for a good night’s sleep, I was willing to break the bank. Here’s what I got:

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I’m not kidding. This £13 luxurious foam mat is what I settled on. Don’t get me wrong, I tried the £9/£6 model and there was no contest.

The reason it took my so long to decide was simply that as I practiced sleeping on the floor, my body started to change and adapt. After my first week, the floor felt more like a hard mattress and a soft mattress felt weird. By the time months had passed I preferred a firm futon to anything else and didn’t mind a floor. But floors still felt hard, or more to the point, cold. I bought a cheap sleeping mat but found that my arms rolled off it and I’d still wake up with cold body parts.

In the end, a luxury (thickest available, widest available) foam mat turned out to be the answer. I finally decided after sleeping on a nursery play mat for a whole week’s house sit, baffled by my choosing this over the real bed I was offered. I don’t know if I’ll want to sleep on it full time, but it’s a great solution for travelling and staying with people who might only have person-shaped-floor-space for me and nothing more. With this, I can feel confident that I’ll get a good night’s sleep wherever I go, in what feels like “my own bed”

Kimwei

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Gear Post 2018: What’s In The Bag?

It’s that time of year when all us Digital Nomads review what’s in our bags, read Tynan’s annual Gear Post and then make our own respectively.

Here’s mine:

A couple of notes. First, there’s one typo in the video – spot it and you win a prize… not really. Second, I forgot my little earbud handsfree kit. It goes without saying that my guitar goes everywhere with me but I don’t need to do a “What’s In The Guitar Case” video do I? I’ll give you a clue: it’s a guitar.

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As you can see, I’m in a beautiful house-sit at the moment, which means I can do unheard of things such as get the 2 for 1 offer on milk, since I can KEEP IT IN THE FRIDGE!!

However, crazy as it sounds, I’m finding that I use my Life-bag as normal. Even living in a house, I live out of that bag, keeping what I don’t carry in the van mostly and then swapping things out, including my spare trousers, umbrella, raincoat etc. The result is that when I want to go out, I don’t have to get ready to leave the house, I just grab the whole bag.

Any questions I’m happy to answer. This post is both dull and interesting depending on how you look at it. I spend a bunch of time on geeky stuff like this, so I can get it sorted and move onto the creative things in life, so here’s hoping my geeky research can be informative for likeminded fools/heroes.

Here are the details to go with the video. I’ve included brands where it matters. I don’t like advertising products because there’s almost no such thing as an ethical product… but the way I see it, if there are any brands which I find support me to consume/carry less, and create a minimal lifestyle then those products should be shared.

  1. Big Bag: Osprey Farpoint 40 – the only Digital Nomad specific bag I could find in a shop to try, and it was well worth the money.
  2. Laptop: Macbook Pro, 2012, provided by my workplace (I’m a Skype tutor)
  3. Webcam: Logitech c920. My first video with it… it’s an improvement from the inbuilt or my standalone.
  4. Clothes: Brands don’t matter as long as everything that can be wool IS wool and fits you.
  5. Packing cubes: eBags – recommended.
  6. Hard drive: Lacie rugged – totally droppable!
  7. iPhone Mic: iQ7 – a clear upgrade from the iPhone mic, for music, but not a replacement for a recording studio.
  8. Camera: Sony Cybershot II – from 2009, yet still doing ok apart from short battery life. I’ve bought 3 batteries for it that I charge in the van.
  9. Penknife: Victorinox – the big one.
  10. Mouse and Keyboard: Mouse is random. Keyboard is Anker and trumps the apple equivalent in all ways.
  11. Foldable USB/Phone charger: MU
  12. Mini Tripod: Joby Gorillapod – tough, magnetic, flexible and worth the money.
  13. Noise cancelling headphones: Bose QC25s – good enough for mixing audio. I wouldn’t compromise by using in-ears.
  14. Kindle: Paperwhite
  15. Phone: iPhone 5s. I do hate recommending apple, but they have served me well I’m afraid.
  16. Keyring multitool: Doohickey
  17. Boots: Made by Chuckles Shoes, Exeter. I had them made before I was a minimalist traveller, which is why I didn’t consider weight at the time, but they are a first rate and I’m having them make a lighter pair soon.

That’s all.

-Kimwei

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Van Vlog!

Here are all my van vlogs in one playlist!

 

I’ve not written as many articles recently, but I’ve been BUSY making video. Check out my Symphony For Happiness Channel for more!

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When The Shit Hits The Relationship

do young people in love ever stop and ask each other the really important things about marriage? Do any of them ever ask whether you like to sleep with with window open or closed?*

With Conscious Speed Dating on the up, and dating apps more popular than ever, the trend is on for people being clear about what they want, before they even have a partner in mind. One friend said to me “I’m done with first meetings. I’m asking potentials to apply and then they have to get past my detailed questionnaire.”

Unromantic as it is to put one’s desires in bullet points, when I think about my windows open/closed wants in a relationship…they are all about the SHIT.

Honestly, it’s not that I want shit, it’s just that the good stuff doesn’t tend to need stipulating. That stuff just works. I don’t want to specify. Let it be a lovely surprise! But what I’ve learned is that living in small van (as I do) and relationships share a similarity: in both cases, the key to happiness lies in what gets done about the shit.

I’ve got my shit, and you’ve got yours. Point 1: Accept that.

When we get together the shit will hit the relationship.

I’m not looking to the impossible task of getting over all my shit so that I can have a shit-free-relationship. I’m not looking for the non-existent person who has no shit themselves.

Having shit is called being alive.

AND

When we get together the shit will hit the relationship. Point 1: Accept that.

Ok we love each other. I’m going to take that as a given otherwise I doubt we’d want a relationship. We probably have a lot in common and like doing stuff together. Great. Sorted.

Now for Point 2.

In my ultimate relationship, we both have the desire and ability to:

  • Look at our own shit when it comes up
  • Look at each other’s shit when it comes up
  • Love ourselves and each other in that.

This is harder that it sounds, right? It’s ok. We don’t have to get it right all the time. The point is for this to be the number one aim. It’s what we’re striving for. When one or other of us gets off track, or gets lost, we know that between us we want to find our way back to that.

Essentially, it’s this: “I want our relationship to be a place we can heal and grow,” because that’s what looking at the shit is. Like I said, we’re not always going to get it right, but we’ll get better and better at it if that’s our common goal. Another way of putting it is “since we love each other, AND ourselves, we’re putting our healing paths at the centre.”

One of the most important realisations I’ve ever had is this: we’ve all got trauma and we tend to repeat patterns. BUT this isn’t because we want to punish ourselves, it’s because we want to heal. We’re trying to do it again until we get it right, until we properly look at the shit, and heal it.

We can’t just do this by ourselves, or in theory. We have to do it in practice, with people.

So yes, the draw to repeat patterns is strong, but that’s only because the drive to heal is strong. It’s the drive to be free after all. It’s life calling us to be more alive. What could be stronger?

The key is, not just accepting this as a downside of falling in love, but cherishing it as the most precious gift in having relationships. Let it not be something we’re dragged kicking and screaming into in an oh-god-the-shit-has-hit-the-relationship way, but something we’re consciously inviting in. Let’s say to each other “I’m so grateful that I have this wonderful love with you which is so joyful that I feel safe to go through the pain of healing.”

When I look at any close relationship now, romantic or otherwise, I ask myself two questions.

  1. Which parts of my loved one’s healing journey are most present now and how can I best support them in that?
  2. Which areas of my own trauma are coming forward to be healed as a result of this person loving me and how do I bring all of my awareness to those?

When the shit hits the relationship, rather than saying “this means it isn’t working,” I’d prefer to say “this means it IS working. Our love must be strong or the shit wouldn’t have hit.”

*from Sinclair Lewis Remembered

For more information, my top recommended reads are:

Getting The Love You Want

Families And How To Survive Them

-Kimwei

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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Digital Nomad Life in the UK: 9 month review

Someone: What’s it like living like you do?

Me: Easy and difficult, but in all the right ways.

Autumn is certainly here. I’m sitting on the bed in my van, which is covered in the Sami tribe’s finest reindeer skin, wearing three layers of wool. The light is dimming and I’ve lit a single candle. It’s 11C indoors according to the wall-mounted thermometer. Life is currently slow, stable and peaceful. I’ve no source of heat in my vehicle and no plans for a winter let or similar but I’m strangely un-phased by the uncertainty.

This update is to give a snapshot of my life, living and working “houseless” in the UK. The new term has started. I have one full day’s Skype teaching, which in theory I could do anywhere in the country, or the world, but I’ve found that rock-solid-stable internet connections are hard to find (I hate to say it, but Virgin are the only ones I trust). As a result, I usually end up working at the college itself in Exeter, where I’m generously provided an office for the day. There’s also an admin day, but this is more flexible and can be done from anywhere, including my van through phone tethering.

When I first moved into this lifestyle of van+improvisation, I had imagined myself travelling all around the country, sleeping in a different place every night. Not so. As it turns out, I orbit Exeter and enjoy the beauty of Devon. My van is not equipped for full time living, so I often stay over with a handful of friends on rotation, on a basis that works for them. This is something I call “docking” and each relationship is individual and always evolving.

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Cat-sitting the most affectionate cat in the world.

I’m loving this way of life and I’m not thinking of giving it up any time soon. Why? Well, maybe one way to explain it is this: it hit me only the other day that my annual income is currently the same as it was when I first entered the working world 10 years ago. Yet, back then I was renting and struggling for money. I distinctly remember putting a sign up in the post office asking if anyone had spare allotment veg because I couldn’t make my grocery bill. Just think what a struggle it would be to live on the same money now in the same situation?

 

Now, I live without rent. I am careful with money and although I undergo what other people might call hardships, such as sleeping in an unheated van, I am able to do many of the things that I love. For example, I can to afford a 5-7 day trip away from Exeter every 6 weeks. This would have been out of the question back when I was renting.

It’s worth noting however, my earnings are not based on a 40hr week. My Skype teaching role is roughly 20hrs, 30weeks per year. Maybe another 10hrs per week go on my non-teaching paid work – gigs, recording, misc, self-employed promotion. Working part time, may result in low earnings (for a professional) and therefore Nomadism, but the lower hours also give me time in my week to be creative. This is invaluable.

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Minimal wardrobe – happily takes up 1/3 of my 40ltr backpack

Another factor that gives me more time is the inherent minimalism created by nomadism (though my friends would argue this is also my character). Wait a minute.. minimalism creates more time? Yes it does. Having less stuff means less time spent sorting it out, fixing, replacing it etc. It also means being able to afford higher quality stuff on the same budget, since you’re buying fewer things, which means they last longer, which means less time spent shopping. I can’t imagine going back to dealing with having more things, in fact I often crave the simplicity that even less would bring.

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My office for an hour or so – under a tree outside the train station. Spot The Dog: an essential

Sometimes I long for the “ultimate” everything – the best lightweight laptop, moulded in-ear headphones, flashy camera and high performance clothing that would no doubt half the weight of my backpack. But, in fact, my honed minimal amount of mid-range, half-decent kit is really very functional. I’d also hate to have to turn down little gifts from my friends because I’d decided to be super-strict about pack weight. I know a lot of minimalists go that far.

So that’s about it for now. 9 months in, all is going well. Life is much more stable and grounded than I had imagined, or perhaps I’m just comfortable with the uncertainties this life brings. There are challenges (like what on earth do I do when my van is at the garage?), but I guess they are the challenges that I welcome.

-Kimwei

kimwei.com

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Kimwei on BBC Radio Devon’s Pause For Thought: Gender & Non-binary

This week I’m talking about gender, being non-binary and gender stereotyping in a series of Pause For Thoughts for Laura James’ Early Show on BBC Radio Devon. There will be 7 in total, so stay tuned and remember – nothing’s binary.

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Van Living Offline: If It’s Not On Instagram, Did It Really Happen? 

IMG_3808Usually I’m the odd hippy in the corporate world, working as a university lecturer on Skype, living in a van/house-sitting. Now that summers on, I enter into being the odd Digital Nomad in the world of offline-van-dwellers and travellers. Alternative lifestyle blogs are unusual because people are usually either doing it, or writing about it, not both. As I know from my yurt days, it’s hard to get online when you’re off-grid.

A quick visit to any festival van field shows me a different world. Whilst my colleagues are often shocked to discover that my Vansion neither has a water tap nor fridge, rock-n-roll bed, nor toilet, this setup comes as standard for van-dwellers who self-build. Why would you want to replicate a house in a van? Fridges need power. Water tanks are a hassle compared to bottles. Fold out beds are for holiday makers, and lastly, when you live a in 65sqft box don’t poo in it!

What’s inspiring to me about chatting to the folks who live almost totally offline, is learning about the wide range of lifestyles available. It’s so easy to think that you need to be online to make a living. What’s rule one of starting your own business? Answer: get it on social media of course! That’s what we’re used to thinking anyway. Even during my £0 Challenge of 2014, I survived largely by making sure I stayed online. Yet there are alternatives.

As musicians go, they all outstrip me; of course they do. Full time buskers are hot as hell on their instruments because they play for hours per day. They don’t have space in their packs/vans for tons of sheet music, but they don’t need it because they are constantly learning new tunes from each other. I only have to sit with a van-dwelling busker for 5mins and they’ll teach me a song so we can play together. With that and seasonal work, they get by more than fine.

As travellers go, I met some super-tramps who can sleep anywhere without a tent, hitch-hike anywhere and get there before you, build their own benders at the drop of a willow, and skip-dive like their in Mission Impossible. I thought I was experiencing a collision of worlds when I realised how much more extreme that collision must sometimes be for offline hitch-hikers:

Me: Thanks for the great meal Jake. Lovely to have loads of veg after a few days travel where it’s hard to get it.

Jane: Yeah me too.

Me: You too? I thought you just travelled from organic farming community to organic farming community.

Jane: Well, yes but… via service stations.

This reminds me of the folk I met who were hitch-hiking and ended up stranded at a motorway service station for so long they set up camp in the woodland just off the carpark.

 

Jane, incidentally, who can survive in the wilderness for months on end using only stone age tools she has made herself, is soon to be flown to Germany to “perform stone age living” at an immersion project, in the strangest mix of modern and ancient worlds I have ever heard of. She also told me a secret: “I’ve got a smartphone now.”

There is a myth that the offline world doesn’t really exist. If you can’t google it, or there isn’t a photo on Facebook to prove it, did it really happen? 

My income is online; I straddle two quite disparate worlds… and I like that (“I love my hybrid nature – no binary can contain me!” – Meredith Tea ). But it’s refreshing to see people making their way in the world through offline networks, or at least a real mix between the two. The online world isn’t as dominant and powerful as all that: whole worlds still function under its radar.
Over the past few years, I’ve given up so many things I thought I needed, and have felt freer each time. Being immersed in the offline world, even for a short time, inspires me to ask “What more I could free myself from?”… I’ll let you know when I have the answer.

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Summer Van Living

Summer’s here and I’m finding myself drawn to the river more and more, spending less time in houses and more in the van. Partly, university has finished for the summer, so I’m not tied to a router for teaching (on Skype), and partly the weather’s great. 

It’s time to set up the van more as a living area than purely the sleeping/storage area it was before. Thought I’d share my developments with you. 

Over the weekend I visited a T4 with a proper conversion – pop top, running water, fold out bed. “Ah” I thought, “this is why my life doesn’t work so well”. In contrast, I’ve just got a short bed, and a set of cupboards. I do have a gas ring and leisure battery though. 

Today I set about an improving on my already chocka set-up. But to my horror, I actually needed to add MORE stuff; to devote cupboards to food, kitchen stuff, 5ltr water bottles and other living items. How to make room? 

In the end, I decided to give up a portion of the bed, leading to this conversation with a friend. 


You can see on the right where I’ve put a load of stuff – that used to all be bed. 


It was a real pinch trying to find space for everything, but my favourite new discovery is that the van came with an in-built shoe rack all along! 


There never seems to be anywhere to put my guitar away, but maybe it being constantly in the way will make me get it out and practice more. 


Will keep updating on how the new setup goes. I would still like to be able to find a way to wash myself or record music out here, but it’s been liberating to find that the weather is warm enough for me to use the world as my living room, for work/play/practice. Roll on summer! 

-Kimwei

Kimwei.com

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