Matt’s Chats: Meet Andrew J Ditton – Living in an Airstream in the South East of England

1) Who are you and what’s your deal?

I’m Andrew J Ditton, and ‘my’ Deal is the seaside town of Deal in the county of Kent, North of Dover in the South East of England. My Mum still lives there and I spent my formative years there as well as Dover, the town famous for having the busiest international ferry port in the world. We grew up nipping over to France for grocery shopping.

Now, though, I live full-time in my Airstream trailer, spending about 60 percent of my time in the South East of England where my work and my family are, and I spend about 40 percent of my time in Scotland, where my heart and my university are.

My job, part-time, is as an International Train Manager for Eurostar, the high-speed train operator. My favourite destination is Brussels. I speak French and Flemish, and I love the Belgian people. They are as bonkers as the British.

College is Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in the beautiful Isle of Skye. I’m doing a distance learning CertHE course in Scottish Gaelic which is pronounced ‘Gallic’ as opposed to ‘Gay-lick’ which is Irish Gaelic. Hopefully this will lead to my first ever degree. Gaelic is fiendishly difficult but it’s absolutely fascinating. I love everything about Scotland’s language, people, landscape, and culture.

Living in an Airstream gives me the freedom to work just two days a week and the freedom to be where I want to be. I enjoy living simply. By all means see what I’m up to by following me on Twitter at twitter.com/andrewjditton, see my videos of what I get up to atyoutube.com/andrewjditton, or check out my Airstreamy blog at airstream-andrew.blogspot.co.uk.

2) What’s your view right now?

Right now I am on board a Eurostar train to Paris on duty, but what we call ‘Haut Le Pied’ (with your feet up). I’m on my way to Disneyland to work a train back to London tonight. Right now we are just entering the Channel Tunnel. I must have been through this tunnel about 10,000 times by now.

3) Who should play you in a movie about your life?

Oh my goodness I haven’t a clue. I don’t have a TV, I very rarely go to the cinema, and I am completely detached from popular culture. The last film I saw was Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in a travelling cinema (a lorry trailer with slide-outs) at Tobermory on the Isle of Mull.

4) Everyone has a superpower.  What’s yours?

Not sure about superpower, but I do seem to be lucky most of the time. I have my share of challenges like everyone else, but never a day goes by when I don’t stop and reflect on how incredibly privileged I am to live the life I do. So yes, I’m very, very lucky.

5) In your many, many trips to Scotland, what’s your favorite place?

If I had to pick a favourite place it would be the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides. It is the most beautiful island imaginable. To the west side you have spectacular beaches with white sand and turquoise sea. To the east side you have a rocky, almost lunar landscape. And to the north you have the Harris Hills which rise dramatically and loom moodily over Harris to the South and Lewis to the north.

Apart from the breathtaking scenery, you have two of the finest eateries in the UK – Skoon Art Café in Geocrab, and the Temple Café in Northton (An Taobh Tuath in Gaelic). The people are lovely and it really is the most energising, grounding, and inspiring place I have ever been. However, as far as cities go it has to be Glasgow. I love Glasgow and everything about it.

6) What’s something you had to learn the hard way?

I had to learn to slow down, take stock and be less selfish the hard way. In my 20’s and 30’s I took people for granted and made few compromises. Ironically, I could also put my own needs aside and try and fit my life around unsuitable people. I’ve learned that while putting my own needs first I also need to be more understanding about the needs of others. I now concentrate on quality rather than quantity when it comes to people in my life. I’d rather nurture the relationships I already have than spend my energy trying to establish dozens of new ones. Some people understand that. Some people don’t.

7) In an alien invasion/robot uprising/general apocalypse, what would you be sure to include in your bunker?

My bunker already exists – it’s my Airstream. First and foremost my dog Dougal would be coming with me. He’s my best friend and has taught me how to love unconditionally. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I left him behind. Other than Dougal it would be purely practical stuff: Woodworking tools, fuel, survival stuff. My dear friends Mike and Tracy own a woodland and have taught me a lot about self-sufficency. I’m not that attached to ‘stuff’ or ‘things’.

8) Sunrises or sunsets?

I would love to say sunrise as it’s the dawn of a fresh new day, but I’m bad at going to bed and I’m bad at getting up. Therefore it has to be sunsets, especially late summer Scottish sunsets sat outside the Airstream on the beach with the camp fire blazing and a good generous measure of decent single malt.

9) What would you want your last meal to be?

I love simple, tasty food. We Brits are mad for Baked Beans on Toast, and this would probably be it. But it has to be absolutely perfect and sadly can’t be easily recreated outside the UK. The baked beans HAVE TO be UK Heinz beans, which are purely beans in tomato sauce without any meat product or excessive sugar. The bread HAS TO be thick hand-cut slices of granary bread, again the UK variant which has very little sugar. Finally, the whole lot is topped with strong extra-mature cheddar cheese. Served, of course, with a good strong cup of tea. Failing that, it would have to be the warm triple-choc brownie with Scottish ice cream served at the Skoon Art Café on the Isle of Harris. Gosh, writing that has made me SO hungry!

10) What’s the question you wish I had asked?

I wish you’d asked about the ethics and benefits of living simply, and why I decided to unplug from the ‘more bigger better’ lifestyle. I see a lot of people trapped in jobs they hate to earn money they need to keep up with an expected lifestyle, allowing themselves to be sucked into certain patterns of thinking by popular media. Life is so much easier when you let go of all that. I’m working on a website/blog about that, and hopefully a book, but I’m too wrapped up enjoying my Gaelic learning to be taking that forward right now. Keep an eye on my Twitter feed as it will be up and running soon.

Matt Grigsby was born and raised in Redding but has often felt he should have been born in Italy. By day he’s a computer analyst toiling for the public good and by night he searches airline websites for great travel deals. His interests include books, movies, prowling thrift shops for treasure and tricking his friends into cooking for him. One day he hopes to complete his quest in finding the best gelato shop in Italy.

Matt Grigsby
Matt Grigsby was born and raised in Redding but has often felt he should have been born in Italy. By day he's a computer analyst toiling for the public good and by night he searches airline websites for great travel deals. His interests include books, movies, prowling thrift shops for treasure and tricking his friends into cooking for him. One day he hopes to complete his quest in finding the best gelato shop in Italy.
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32 Responses

  1. Avatar Shelley Ridgley says:

    Another great interview Matt. I really enjoyed it. I think I might know Andrew?

    • Avatar Matthew Humphrey Grigsby says:

      Thank you! It’s very possible he’s a friend we have in common from the blogging days.

  2. Avatar Hal Johnson says:

    This was another fun interview, Matt. Thanks.

  3. Avatar Brian says:

    That was very nicely done! What a great description of who he is and where he lives. I was there with him for a brief time.

    Well done!

  4. Deb Deb says:

    Great interview, thank you Matt and Andrew! Waving to Andrew from East Sutherland in the Highlands, and thanking you for mentioning the proper way to pronounce ‘Gaelic’ – that’s a big bugaboo of my husband’s (he is a Caithness man). What a lovely way to live, and I’m glad we got to see the cheeky Dougal, too.

    • Avatar Matthew Aberdeen Grigsby says:

      I had no idea there were different ways to pronounce Gaelic, depending on which country we were talking about. I went to college with two girls from Ireland who spoke fluent Gaelic, or “Irish”, as they called it. The things I learn around here!

  5. Avatar Cathy A. says:

    A lovely glimpse into another friend’s life, thank you both, Andrew and Matthew Charlemagne Grigsby!

  6. Avatar Kathleen says:

    Wow, an absolute joy to read! What an interesting guy!

  7. Avatar Anne Gibbons (a Glesca lass) says:

    Ya dunnit again Matt! Another original, colourful, eclectic character, is your friend, Mr Ditton.

  8. Avatar Matthew Vegas Grigsby says:

    Thank you!

  9. Avatar Debbie says:

    He definitely described the benefits of having a lifestyle that is not focused on material things. I agree.

  10. A. Jacoby A. Jacoby says:

    What interesting/fascinating/engaging people you find . . . and the wisdom to interact with them and the brilliance to share that all with us all . . .

    I love having you in my world!

  11. Avatar KarenC says:

    Great story, love to read and dream what it would be like. For those of us who do not travel into these areas, this is a wonderful addition to our lives!

  12. Avatar Shannon O'Grigsby-Medici says:

    Loved this one…but then again, I love all of the interviews you do. I want to know more about the question he wished that you’d asked. It seems so appealing as I get to paying the bills or keeping up with this thing or that thing. Keep us posted on the blog he’s working on.

    • Avatar Matthew Lorenzo Grigsby says:

      His last answer made me think a lot too, about my life and my work and the things that are important to me. I think it’s smart to reassess our lives sometimes, to make sure we’re on the right path.

      • Avatar Shannon O'Grigsby-Medici says:

        I totally agree! I think we all live with a lot of “noise” in our lives and when we have to go without or have experiences that aren’t extravagant, but simple, we come away with a richer experience.

  13. Avatar Jeffrey Da Vinci Spencer says:

    VERY INTERESTING!
    I like the way he words things. Great questions!

  14. A. Jacoby A. Jacoby says:

    BTW is that a picture he sent or is that a file picture? If it’s one he took, Airstream should use it for advertising!!

    • Avatar Matthew Waterfall Grigsby says:

      All of the pictures are his, and he’s got such a great eye. I do believe he has taken some photos for Airstream advertisements, as well as written for them and produced videos.

  15. Avatar Canda says:

    Matt, this was such an enjoyable read. It’s relaxing just to read about Andrew’s lifestyle. Love the photos, and we even got to see his best friend, Dougal. Very inspiring indeed. Thank you!

  16. A. Jacoby A. Jacoby says:

    And to top it all off, HE’S A TRAIN ENGINEER!!! That elevates him above mere mortal in my book. Y0u KNOW how I am about trains. . . . and I’ve even ridden the bullet train between London and Paris thru the Chunnel. What a fascinating person . … both and and Mr. Ditton!

    • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

      One day I’m going to take the bullet train through the Chunnel and I hope Andrew will be working that shift. Imagine the stories he could tell!