Real-life 'Lady in The Van' spent 30 years living off grid

A REAL-LIFE 'Lady In The Van' has shared her remarkable story of living off-grid for 30 years in VANS - including a bright yellow one just like the famous film. Jill Raymond, in her 60s, moved into her first mobile home in the 1980s - a small four-wheeled drive that she converted from a fruit and veg shop. READ ALSO: Berkshire clubber nicks bouncer's clipboard and ends up in Basingstoke Magistrates Court.

She spent decades travelling solo, living all around the UK including Greenham Common in Newbury for 12 years and even New York. She eventually upgraded to a bright yellow GBP10,000 solar powered truck with mod-cons like power steering and a shower. She made most of her money through busking, and said she had to teach herself self-defence to protect herself against attacks from "vigilantes".

Ms Raymond explained: "I knew I did not want to get married, I knew I did not want kids, and even if I could have afforded a mortgage, I knew I didn't want one because it looked like a ball and chain to me. "I didn't want to be working all my life to pay the rent so I just found another way of putting a roof over my head." Whilst at Greenham Common, Ms Raymond took part in famous protests including when the women danced on the nuclear silos on New Years Day 1983.

She is the custodian of the Blue Gate Diaries kept by the Greenham women, who lived in primitive conditions at each gate, to document their stay. The women have agreed the diaries stay private until the last one dies. But she began to feel unsafe at Greenham Common.

She explained: "They used to come with this big machine that we called the Muncher. "It was like a giant bin lorry and they would just drag the tents across the floor with women sleeping in them and throw everything in the Muncher. "You would see women crawling out of just before they were thrown in The Muncher and they would lose all their belongings."

Ms Raymond had to think of everyday practicalities - finding somewhere to park, making sure she had enough water and keeping herself and the van clean. She would either visit laundrettes or find springs to wash her clothes. She said: "I would have a fire and a big cauldron to boil up the water.

I would rinse the clothes in the river and stream and hang them on the bushes to dry. "It would take all day but it's a lovely way to be in the woods." Ms Raymond has never been interested in watching television, hardly went to the cinema and instead has filled her spare time with art galleries, books, yoga, camp-fire debates with other travellers, and walking under the stars.

Ms Raymond said travelling in a van is very different to being a tourist. She said: "I am not homeless. I have a home.

I can invite people to dinner and offer them spiced coffee." In 2013, she moved into a tiny, hillside terrace overlooking the woodlands in Gloucestershire. She refuses to drink water from the tap, choosing instead to collect it from a local spring.

The film 'The Lady in the Van' starred Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings, based on the memoir of the same name created by Alan Bennett.

It tells the true story an elderly woman who lived in a dilapidated yellow van on his driveway in London for 15 years.

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