So we’re Back to School!

Well, it’s a day we never thought would come, but we are now, officially, back to school! Who’d have thought?

It’s not been an easy start, but El is settling, gradually. He’s a sociable sort (although, being a teenager, he does forget that from time to time) and being surrounded by his peers, even in a school environment, is doing wonders for him already.

We’ve had some starting hiccups. First day anxiety, obviously, but beyond that, timetabling issues and general poor management, but we’re getting there.

It’ll be fine. I’m not going to dwell on it. It’ll all sort itself out.

We spent that last few weeks of August giving the van a bit of an external makeover.

The bumpers were a shocking state, rocking rather unfetching multiple shades of grey.
After trying several less orthodox ideas of refreshing the colour, we eventually decided that plain old black bumper spray paint was the way to go.

It’s done an AWESOME job, and it’s given the van a completely new lease of life.

20988291_10154663839271126_6358163731513827200_o
Before and after shots

Along with fixing the bumpers, Nik also decided to refresh the decals. He’d never been really happy with the original stickers on it (he always noticed the wavy lines; nobody else did), so we decided that, now the bumpers and trim could act as the “black strip”, we could swap out the existing vinyl black stripes for red.

The red took a while to grow on us, but now we LOVE it. It’s so much more vibrant, and it feels like we have a completely new van.

21125501_10154685610061126_6665038800128641305_o

We’ve had another trip away in the ‘van too.

Our broken August Bank Holiday plans meant that we were available for the AGM Summer Festival held by the Self Build Motor Caravanners Club (SBMCC)

We’ve been members of the SBMCC for over a year now (I wish we’d discovered them pre- and during our build!) and the member forums are a wealth of experience and information.

Every year, they hold an AGM meeting, combined with an organised long weekend of activities. As the bank holiday weekend drew close, and the weather forecast looked good (which, in itself, is shocking for a bank holiday!), we decided we’d make the trip to Stratford upon Avon (the event was held at the racecourse) for the festival, and spend the weekend getting to know fellow members and their builds.

It was THE best weekend! We had to come home on the Sunday (MotoGP!!), but we went Friday afternoon to Sunday lunchtime and had the most fantastic time. We met lots of new people, saw lots of cool van ideas, chatted, played bingo, ate, chatted some more, and generally had a great time.

The following photos are credit to Vanish9876 from the SBMCC forums.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather too, and so decided to spend Saturday afternoon walking the dog from the racecourse into Stratford town itself. I can honestly say I have never seen so many people! Everywhere was bustling with families with picnics and dogs and just generally out enjoying the sunshine.

And Stratford upon Avon itself is beautiful (in the sunshine anyway!)

It was a lovely, riverside walk all the way, and we stopped several times to chat to fellow dog owners and children who wanted to fuss the dog.

The whole weekend was a treat. The location, weather and people were just perfect.

AND we were able to trial our “new bed”! Well, not new bed per se, but our “out with the sleeping bag, in with the duvet” bed.

21105799_10154680027171126_7465464737284538496_n

It worked well. Definitely a keeper!

Since coming back, we’ve had a few minor repairs to make in the van too. Our kitchen tap was weeping slightly from one of the joints underneath.

This turned out out to be due to the jubilee clip squashing the fins and crimping the joint on the underside of the tap.

21369481_10154708143916126_5440425483880905790_n
The original also snapped from the tap when Nik tried to remove it. New, replacement joint on right.

The new joint has also been padded out a bit with plumbing tap to cushion it and hopefully avoid a repeat of the problem.

It was one occasion when we were really thankful for having built our own van to exactly the right spec and with all the access that was required should such a job ever need doing.

It was a “sink out” job, and this had been made possible by ensuring, when we built, that the sink COULD be removed by removing the cutlery draw to access the other sink fixings.

If it hadn’t been planned carefully, it might have been nearly impossible to do!

In addition to fixing the kitchen tap, we’ve also replaced the ugly, and now rather broken, cigarette lighter and USB socket that we have in the van.

13754542_10153617200906126_603639341231074761_n
Original plug and charge point.

We have occasional use for a cigarette lighter plug when we use our air cooler, so we needed a replacement one, rather than just the USB plugs, which we use when we are living on our 12v system.

Even this job wasn’t a quick one. We bought a flush fit unit to replace it, so it was a panel off, drill down (and hope there was enough depth in the van wall) job, to fit the new one.

It certainly looks much better (and you can also see the previously-replaced mains plug too: double with 3 USB, for when we do have mains hook up.)

We are well set up for charging, that’s for sure.

Our next trip away is the Season Finale Motorhome Show at Lincolnshire Showground in a couple of weeks.

It’s a trip away with friends, which are always the best kind!

Can’t wait!!

Advertisements

Summer starts…apparently

Well, we’re into the school summer holidays now, and we’re on countdown to the big “Back to School”. We have uniform and everything (purchase in Tesco when I noticed they’d got it in, because, if you leave it too late into the summer, places sell out of the big teenager sizes!)

El is quite looking forwards to it. I think he’s ready to be back in the hustle and bustle of his peers, and learning. He ended up needing to choose a 4th subject after all so, in addition to music, drama and construction, he’s now also doing catering (all subjects that he’s happy with. Music and drama are made for El, and he’s looking forwards to learning useful skills in the other two, even if he doesn’t pursue them further post-16.
Obviously this is in addition to maths, English and science so hopefully he makes the most of the 2 years in school and makes friend and learns something useful.
When El is back to school, the house is going to be so quiet during the day. It’ll be very strange having a full working day with no teenager appearing requesting food or drinks or just general attention.

Mind you, business has been very patchy lately. Overall, it’s still doing OK, but some  days lately have been soooooo quiet. It’s not just us. Our suppliers have been reporting the same, but, when it’s your full-time income, it’s scary when it’s quiet, because you never know for certain when (or, indeed, IF) it’ll pick up again.
We’ve had a ‘van trip too. We (re-)visited Tattershall Lakes last weekend and had a good few days away. I think it might be one of Eliot’s last trips actually. He’s old enough to leave for weekends with Jake (who stays home anyway) and they’re quite capable of looking after themselves. It does them good and it does us good too.
We have a few short trips planned over the summer (and I use the word “summer” loosely!) including the Lincoln Steam Rally and hopefully a few weekends away, weather permitting. We had a bank holiday break booked at the Haven site at Lakeland, but they kindly cancelled that when I missed paying my final balance by 2 days. I’d completely forgotten and was not aware that they don’t give any sort of reminder. Customer “service” on the phone was unhelpful. I’m sure they love the fact that they don’t send out (I mean, honestly, an automated reminder email wouldn’t take any time of effort. It’s 2017, Haven!!) a payment reminder and then get to keep everybody’s £25 deposits. It’s criminal really, but I now won’t book with them again. Anywhere.

It’s done us a favour in a way (albeit one that’s cost us £25!) as the August bank holiday is notorious for poor weather. Also, El didn’t really want to come AND it coincides with the British MotoGP weekend. So now we’ll play it by ear. If the forecast is good, we’ll late book somewhere for just the Friday and Saturday and come home Sunday to watch the GP and enjoy Monday off.
That’s the plan anyway.

We’ve been spending a bit of time this week researching DIY ‘van canopies. We decided it’d be nice to have a simple canopy for trips when we don’t need a full awning but need a little bit of weather protection when parked up with the sliding door open.
After some interweb searching about, I bought some 6mm beading and sewed it onto a decent quality waterproof tarp from Halfords.
A pack of guy ropes and adjusters (reduced to £3.99 in Mountain Warehouse, for 3 x 8m guy ropes, a pack of sliding adjusters, some dodgy pegs, and a terrible plastic peg hammer) later and a re-using of the rear pad poles from our main awning and we’ve got a usable canopy.

20368991_10154603231956126_3473125471688884776_o
The sewing machine had a rare outing to fix the beading onto the awning


It didn’t turn out too bad

We have made a few little changes inside the van. A bit of storage modification (some smaller storage boxes to tidy an overhead locker) and we made the important decision to ditch our double sleeping bag.
Now, I LOVE the sleeping bag. It’s cosy warm in winter and you can unzip (it zips along both edges) the side and sling a leg out, if need be, in summer, but Nik hates it, so I sourced a 4ft x 6ft fitted sheet (which I’m hoping will fit our made up bed area. It should!) and we’ve bought a double bed set which we’ll use with the double duvet we already have vacuum-stored in the loft in the hope that it works for us. It should do. El had already moved on from using sleeping bag on his bunk to taking his own duvet each time so, as long as the bottom sheet fits and the double duvet isn’t too big (or too small – we’re used to a king size!) , then we should be set. Time will tell.

What else? What else? The boys are out at airsoft today, which is why I am able to blog. They’re out pretty much alternate weekends (leaving us the other alternate to go away in the van – MotoGP permitting!) and they all still love it. It’s good for them, and it’s GREAT for me! I can potter about, catch up on TV, blog, clean the oven. I have all the fun.

IMG_6784
Eliot, having much more fun than oven-cleaning!

Think that’s us updated for now. Next one might be “Back to School” proper!
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few tweaks as we go – installing a powered omni-directional TV antenna

We’ve generally had little to tinker with on the ‘van of late. We’ve done three trips away in the past month and have had few niggles now that the whole thing is bedded in a bit.

One thing that has been a total pain in the proverbial though is our TV tuning. We’d found a very decent digital TV aerial (and actually have the same aerial on the downstairs of our house now, for the kitchen) and Nik made a mounting pole for it, fixed to the rear roof of the ‘van. We ran a coax cable along the inner ceiling channel and fixed aerial points at each end of the interior: one above the top bunk, for the cable entering the ‘van, and one above the TV area for a short cable to the television itself.

The set-up was fine, except when it came to tuning! Each time we pitched up, Nik would climb up onto the bunk beds at attempts to align the aerial until I yelled that we had a decent picture. It was a real pain in every way, especially if the weather wasn’t ideal.

We’d originally ruled out a “proper” caravan aerial, purely because they required power. At the time, it’d put us off as there is limited access to 12v at the back end of the ‘van, but, having struggled with tuning numerous times, and even losing our signal completely overnight on one stay (after having had it working fine the previous evening!) we bit the bullet and bought an Omni-directional aerial from Maplin.

An omni0directional aerial does what is says on the tin: it points all directions so that, in theory, it’ll be tuned in wherever you park. They’re very commonly factory-fitted to caravans and motorhomes, so we decided that was recommendation enough.

We decided not to use the original cable entry point (which was via the rear door jamb) and fitted it slightly further forward on the roof instead, drilling a new entry point through the roof and into the wardrobe, where we also fitted and powered the booster box (taking the 12v from the feed that is there for the lights and charge points for both bunks.

19875410_10154539253296126_3468200770322488707_n

Nik sealed the aerial to the roof of the van and now we have a good TV signal without fiddling with it each time we pitch up, which will be GREAT!

As well as fitting the aerial, we also took a look at the 240v sockets we had initially installed. After realising that most of what gets plugging into them is USB charge cables, we decided it’d be much easier to swap the main sockets for ones with USB plugs in (the bunks at the back both have USB points as well as their 12v reading lights). We switched the single socket in the kitchen area for a single with 2 USB (as it’s next to the bed and most used overnight) and swapped the single that was next to the TV to a double with USBs for media use as well as charging.

19748820_10154539252781126_1115846925614314664_n
We’ve also lowered the TV bracket, as it was much too high to watch TV comfortably before.

Now we have charge points and power for all needs and we can even get a TV signal when parked out the back of the house which we couldn’t really with the previous aerial (which meant that making sure stuff worked was tricky!)

The powered aerial and USB points are just two of those things that we probably should have done from the outset.

But we’ll know for next time!

Catch up posts are becoming a bit of a theme!

Maybe it’s because nothing much newsworthy happens, but it has been far too long since I posted so I figured a catch up post was in order.

Obviously, since I last posted in February, it’s mostly been work and airsoft around here, but we did manage to go on holiday too, as a family of 4 (yes, that’s FOUR!) back to Portugal for 10 days.

Nik visited the MotoGP in Jerez while  we were there, and we all did some touristy things like waterparks (Nik and Eliot), theme parks (Zoomarine, all of us) and mini golf (various combinations!) as well as eating out and general Lagos-y wanderings.

Proof that even Jake enjoyed Zoomarine
Obligatory photo from “The Lighthouse”
The river from the Marina bridge

I won’t bore with more photos. You all get the general idea. Sunshine, holidays, touristy things etc. It was a great trip and probably both Jake’s and my last. Eliot will probably just move back one day and Nik, I am sure, will do many more trips for the Jerez MotoGP race.

It was almost certainly our last family holiday, so it was nice that it went well.

Since then,  (and after the mammoth job of catching up with 10 days away from work!) we’ve been trying to get away in the van for the odd weekends here and there.

We’re experimenting with local-ish smaller sites, just for Friday and Saturday nights, and without either of the boys (but usually with dog).

We’ve been to Wolds View Touring Park near Caistor which was really nice. Adults only, and on a quiet weekend at the end of half term (not that half term makes a difference at an adults only park, but that’s why we chose it) so only alternating pitches were occupied. The facilities were great and the owners were lovely. Cafe on site served a good breakfast and afternoon tea (although we didn’t try that). Bit of a walk into the town, and not really worth the effort unless you need anything from the Co-op. It’s about all that’s there.

We had a fab weekend though and will definitely go back.

It was a weekend we did without the dog too so it was truly a weekend of doing absolutely nothing whatsoever (except streaming MotoGP qualifying!) which was great! Although we did miss the dog!

Pitched up (and having a quick kip) at Wolds View Touring Park

A few weeks later, we had another trip, this time to a place near Harby, Lincoln run by a place that sells campervans and motorhomes (which, oddly, I hadn’t come across previously!)

It was a larger site but it was lovely to only have to drive 15 minutes down the road! We had a grass pitch, which we wouldn’t usually choose because they can be uneven and a bit damp, but it was fine with a lovely view of the fishing lake. We’d probably choose a grass pitch next time, although they are a little further away from the toilets/showers. It had plenty of space to walk the dog too (including a rally field)

We liked the site and its owners a lot and had a great weekend. Another definitely re-visit!

‘Vans across the other side of the fishing lake
I recognise that ‘van!
It was a lovely setting
Looking forwards to going back here!

We’ve also been away for a third time since the beginning of June! This time to somewhere a little further up, in Barton upon Stather. A (former?) award-winning Camping and Caravanning Club certified site at Acorn Wood.

Again, a lovely site. Small, with only 5 hardstanding pitches and perhaps room for 3 or 4 grass pitches, but with fabulous toilet and shower facilities and lovely owners. There wasn’t much of a rural area to walk to dog nearby (there’s a very small fishing pond with a walk around) but we took the short walk into the town (village?) itself and sat in the park for a bit, so we didn’t miss out. Definitely another gem of a site that we’d recommend and revisit.

Ducks on the pond bridge at Acorn Wood
Playing doggie bubbles in the awning

So many places, so little time!

There is another story I could tell about a site who decided they didn’t want me on their site in case I blogged bad things about it (this coming from a 10/10 rated site), but I’m done ranting and brewing on it now! Their loss!

Our next trip is to Tattershall Lakes, which is where we made our first real trip last year. There’s lots to do and Eliot is coming with us this time too. It’ll be fun. We hope!

Apart from being busy with work, Jake is out at work most days and Eliot is getting ready for starting school in September. We’ve had a trip up to school today for a(nother) tour around and to discuss his options. He’s chosen to do Music, Drama and Construction, leaving the 4th option slot open for additional support lessons for maths and English if required. He seems happier about going back now that he’s got some control over what he spends his time doing all day.

Nothing more disheartening that sitting in a class learning about stuff you’ll never need to know again. I remember it well (or, perhaps more pertinently, I don’t!)

I hated school. In fact, I hate schools in general, but these next 2 years will be good for Eliot. Unlike Jake, who was already advanced enough to teach himself, for the most part, to get through his English and Maths GCSEs at home, Eliot needs more help and support than I can give him. Hopefully, he’ll come out with some qualifications and some friends from being at school, and both of those are good things.

Maybe some of his mates will fancy campervan weekends away, or airsoft days out!

Oh, just one more thing. If anybody is into Forza or knows anybody who is into Forza, Jake does Youtube videos and regular(-ish, internet permitting) live streams with gameplay, giveaway and dev builds. His channel is here and support is always welcome!

Changes are a-coming

Firstly, what is this weather doing? One minute its brilliant sunshine, the next it’s snowing like Alaska, and the next it’s just grey and raining all day.

Will winter just make up its mind already?

Where we live, we tend to get a bit short-changed when it comes to the wintry stuff, so Eliot and I both got a little excited the other day when PROPER snow started falling. And then, 2 hours later we had blue skies and sunshine.

Mother Nature is a bloody tease!

This weekend, we were hoping it’d err on the side of “bright” rather than “grey and rainy” as the boys (the 3 of them, plus numerous friends) had planned to go to airsoft in Lincoln.

A photo taken of Jake (foreground) at a recent game.
A photo taken of Jake (foreground) at a recent game.

In fact, despite the weather and the forecast, they went anyway, leaving at 8 this morning with the car (and newly fitted roof box – we owned the box already from our tent camping days, but needed to buy new fittings for the Ampera) all loaded up with guns and kit.

Yesterday, as usual, was prep day.

16729512_10154147922661126_6273147900861385161_n

16603067_10154147922636126_2903182645243945339_n

And prep day is one thing, clean up day is probably worse!

Will ya just look at those boots?!
Will ya just look at those boots?!

I have that to look forward to when they get back in a couple of hours. Oh joys!

Still, they’ll hopefully have had fun – despite the rain – and will no doubt be super excited to go again in a couple of weeks.

It won’t be long until we’re juggling our weekends though, between airsoft, MotoGP and going away in the van. MotoGP is a set calendar so that will get first dibs on our weekend, then hopefully we’ll get away in the van a few times in amongst airsoft. Hopefully!

We’ve got a couple of van trips away booked already, but nothing until the summer holidays. The rest of our vacation planning is really concentrating on our Portugal trip in May.

We need to get all the term-time holidays in that we can this year, because, all going well, Eliot will be in school from September!

We had much discussion about it, but we had a meeting with the school and we think he’ll be OK to go back, entering year 10 in September.

He’ll take Maths, English and Science as standard, and then be able to choose from a range of non/less-academic courses (such as construction, which he fancies, performing arts, music etc) on top. Hopefully, he’ll cope OK with it, knowing that it’s only 6 terms.

I think it might be a bigger deal when it comes to it, but we’ll see. We’ve got some work to do before then, but it is getting difficult as winter has remained busy for us work-wise.

Busy work is good, of course. We recently invested some money into some clearance stock, and we’ve had good sales on that stock so far. Much better than expected.

Of course, with increased sales, comes increased headaches. It’s a trade-off.

Jake is still hoping to find a job himself. He’s applying for various suitable jobs (warehouse work etc) but no luck yet. One job we applied for said it had had 700 applicants online alone. What hope does a 17 year old have?

 

Eeek, how long? A very overdue update!

I wonder how many of my blog posts, over the last 8 years of blogging, have the same title or similar? Actually, I don’t think I’ll go count them.
It’s a poor reflection of how shocking I am at updating blogs, I suppose, so let’s gloss over that one!
It’s been so long since I blogged now that I can barely recall what has even happened over the past 3/4 months.
<heads over to Facebook to remind self of notable events>
<comes back realising life is relatively mundane, uneventful and dull really>
That’s unfair actually. We’ve done several trips away in the van since then.
We’ve been to the end-of-season Motorhome show, and went away in October to Mablethorpe to take Zac on his first trip to the beach.
(Note to self: pick a warmer month than October next time!)
The Motorhome show was a bit of a treat because we went both child- AND dog-free! Much as we love our dog (and our children, of course!), it was relaxing not to have to think about letting him out and walking him, especially as he sleeps pretty poorly in the van (much preferring, I think, the warmth of our bed/sleeping bag to the floor!)
14457503_10153764613106126_2308684196926201346_n
It was a nice to have a wander in and out of vans without having to leave one of us outside with the dog too. Having said that, we did miss him, of course.
The other trip we did (and it was the last time we were away in the van) was Mablethorpe for a long weekend.
Exotic? No.
Fun? Actually, yes! (but cold!)
14720436_10153815031951126_8654657995108370048_n
Not exactly a busy beach. There’s a dog (Zac!) over there on the right somewhere!
He loved having all that space to run around in and, although he was initially reluctant, he was soon bounding about in the shallow waters.
14720382_10153815031976126_3964201178713489921_n
The boys (Nik and Eliot; Jake stayed home being a teenager) had some fun too. There was a large arcade on site as well as some novice activities such as target shooting and archery.
14724444_10153817800791126_1922495424148657214_n
Being fairly experienced at Archery and shooting, they both only really partially enjoyed them due to the basic nature and inaccuracy of the equipment, but it was something to do.
Eliot also had a go at the climbing wall (although soon got bored, as he does!).
14705613_10153818612231126_4094300661911062911_n
In all honesty, I think everyone (well, the men) in this house has decided that the only real pastime any of them enjoys (other than sleep (teenagers) and Xbox (all of them)) is airsoft.
Oh lordy, the airsoft.
It’s something Nik tried out as a way of keeping fit and, unfortunately, took the boys with him on his first trip.
Now, my house looks like this most Saturdays…
15032763_10153908025671126_7315870625543396477_n
15940765_10154059376406126_3670681756609449996_n
And the pay-off is that, on Sundays, my house is empty (just me an’ the dog) and my boys look like this…
15027550_10153908025926126_1887937297444060001_n
They’re all loving it, and they’ve found several different places to play now, each with different game formats and site layouts. Barton on Humber seems to be a favourite although Lincoln, being closer, is visited equally often.
Now they’ve got all the kit, it’s cheaper for them to go as they don’t need to hire guns and vests etc, but they’re still having to pace themselves a bit as it’s a dear do to go every week when there’s 3 of you.
Ragtag crew of airsoft!
“Hang on a minute, ” I hear you say. “There are 4 in that photo!”
Well spotted. Nik is the one taking the photo and alongside Jake (left) and Eliot (right) are 2 other friends who have also become addicted thanks to my lot. There are even more of them now too. I think the Gainsborough tally is now up to 7!
They’ll have their own club at this rate.
A christmas tree is supposed to have PRESENTS under it!!
A christmas tree is supposed to have PRESENTS under it!!
So anyway, apart from airsoft and a few van trips, what else has been going on?
Well, big news (although, for us, old new now) is that Jake decided he wasn’t coping with college. Under normal circumstances, I think he’d have excelled academically, but unfortunately, he had difficulties handling both the travel and the environment and, in an effort to avoid the problems we had in school, we decided it would be better for him to leave college for the time being. He’s only 16, and it’s something he can most definitely re-visit in the future if health allows.
College uniform all packed away for now
College uniform all packed away for now
Additionally, he was laid off at work due to the winter period being quiet, so he’s been helping us at home/work until he finds himself another job.
Fortunately, we’ve been fairly busy so he’s helpful occasionally!
Unfortunately, by the time he’d found out he was losing his job, we were too late to apply to any Christmas posts (we ask about a LOT, everything was filled already) so he’s been applying for any suitable jobs he can find. Him and a thousand other people.
So far, no luck. One warehouse job he applied for had had 700 other applications already, and that was just online applications!
What hope does a 17 year old have?
Ah yes, Jake turned 17!
Not only is that terrifying because he’s getting older (I, of course, am not!), but also it is expensive as we insured him on our car as well as upgrading his motorbike now that he can ride a 125cc.
And how he loves that bike!
Even in mid December (when his birthday is) he went out on it. And several times since, including Christmas Day!
My boy togged up for proper biking
My boy togged up for proper biking
The machine (a Yamaha YZF R125, if anyone is interested)
The machine (a Yamaha YZF R125, if anyone is interested)

It’s unfortunate that his birthday is in the winter really, because riding opportunities are few, but he goes when he can. I’m sure he’ll go more for leisure when it’s warmer and drier, but it gives him a form of transport if and when he needs it for work.

And, as he keeps reminding us, it’s MUCH cooler than a scooter!

So, we’re about updated I think.

We had a good (busy) Christmas and New Year. I’d (crazily) decided to host for my side of the family for Christmas dinner (something I usually actively avoid doing!) for once and we had the more extended side of my family (I don’t see them often as they don’t live in town) up for an afternoon between Christmas and New Year so I’ve done my hosting duties for the next decade, I reckon.

Actually, it wasn’t so bad.

But, no, I’m not doing it again this year.

Maybe…

15541330_10153984096846126_5400969716791816681_n

Before I go, a cheer-you-up piccie of our groomed prettyboy!

Busy, busy, busy. Work,, school and play!

Summer, huh?It was summer, right? Because right now it’s easy to forget we actually had one. Stupid autumnal weather and its precipitation!

But anyway, we did. I know we did because I have blue sky photos and memories of van trips away to prove it.

14390761_10153749222691126_8832411640229056150_n

We’ve been away twice, in fact, since I last blogged.

Firstly, we did the Lincolnshire Steam and Vintage Rally which was a great few days away and our first trip without electric, and we managed just fine. In fact, if anything we are much heavier users of our fresh water than we are mains hook up electric. We managed easily on our 12v system (even on a less-than-sunny weekend where our solar wasn’t getting as much as it could) but we had to refill our water tank by Saturday evening. How we’re using 66 litres of fresh water, I’ve no idea, but for our subsequent trip away, we took bottled for tea/boiling (which was so much nicer than tap/site water) and used a large bottle of site water for the dog. We managed better over a longer period then, so perhaps we have it sussed now.

The Steam Rally was good. Typically British weather (and particularly windy) but everything worked and held up and we got pitched (in the Caravan Club area) alongside friends which definitely gave the weekend something extra.

Sunset along the rows of caravans at the Steam Rally - August 2016
Sunset along the rows of caravans at the Steam Rally – August 2016

Only a week or so after the steam rally, we had a longer, 4-day break at Kidderminster. Jake, again, decided to stay home (being 16, he’d rather not “camp”!) so it was just the 3 of us and the dog. Weather was rain, sun, rain, sun (same old, same old!) but we had a great few days.

The first day was particularly warm and sunny and we made the 4 mile walk into Kidderminster along the tow path of the canal.

14035004_10153690500811126_7492660266730959036_n

We spent a good few hours in the town, with the dog who was absolutely no trouble whatsoever as we took turns to go into shops and he was good as gold while we ate lunch.

It was a good trip away, although we did find one van issue. Well, not a van issue but an issue we had at the site in particular: slope!

There’d been no mention of all sloping pitches in the booking details (and I’d already ruled out a different site because it DID mention it!) and we had real problems levelling. The fridge told us we were nowhere near level when it melted all our ice creams because it wasn’t working, and it took a good 45 minutes with 2 site staff and a lot of scaffold planks to get us somewhere near to level on day 2!

14141696_10153691136576126_5878793348532559685_n

We know now though: pack levelling planks as the ramps we had (visible above) were definitely NOT up to the job!

Since coming back from Kidderminster, the van went on hold for a while as we sorted Jake out for starting college. We did a few trial bus runs to check timing and walking routes (which, through Lincoln at the moment, are both a nightmare as the major roadworks of COURSE were scheduled to start right as the schools/colleges start back!)

All went fine though and, on the whole, his start at college has gone well. He’s even been nominated Class Representative. As long as he doesn’t have to actually do anything, I’m sure he’ll be fine!

Oh, and speaking of college, we had exam results, of course. Jake needed 2 C grade passes  (in Maths and English) for college and he exceeded these by getting a B in his English. Apparently though, college then made EVERYONE sit both a maths and English assessment anyway in case people had given false grades!

say-wha-logo

Beats me why they did that. Jake was more concerned that he’d only got a C in his English one though (although he did better than his GCSE result in his Maths!) but he’s fine. He’ll still be one of the brightest ones in the class, I have no doubt.

He’s eagerly awaiting being 17 in December so he can start using his 125cc motorcycle for college instead of the bus. He’s still working at Pyramid on the days he isn’t at college so he still has some income even during the school term which is currently funding a motorcycle jacket and then trousers and, after that, fuel and running costs to get him to and from college and work.

They grow up too fast!

We are tentatively back to school with Eliot too, currently doing a bit of a maths recap with a view to slowly starting to look at GCSE programs. Hopefully, he’ll also take at least Maths and English GCSE/IGCSE to keep his college options open, but he has no clue really what he wants to do yet. He’s only 13, he’s got ages to decide anyway. Meantime he can learn life things and continue his passion for all things Japanese. We are learning some of the language and El regularly practises his sushi-making.

Eliot making sushi. The hat is just a teenager thing!
Eliot making sushi. The hat is just a teenager thing!

And obviously, he gets to learn geography as we travel in our van!

We’ve modded the van a little bit since our last trip actually. The kitchen cupboard was a pain, with the left door opening into the aisle and making it impossible really to reach over or around it to take anything out from inside. So, I requested a bi-fold option.

14333221_10153749222696126_2135455891056148810_n
It now hinges in the middle…
...and opens well out of the way...
…and opens well out of the way…
...for super duper access!
…for super duper access!

It’s SOOOO much better and I can’t wait to trial it this weekend when we’re away at the Motorhome Show (child-free AND dog-free!!)

We also added a much-needed bathroom cabinet to the wetroom

Valuable storage in the bathroom
Valuable storage in the bathroom

And, although I don’t have a photo – shocking, I know – Nik fitted an external switch for the new water heater so we don’t need to reach under the seat to switch on the mains/240v supply for it. It’d have been in the original design except the original heater was gas only so we never planned to have a 240v supply needing a switch.

We’ve got another short break planned in mid October too. We’re taking the dog to the beach for his first “sand and sea” experience. In the two years we’ve had him, we’ve not taken him to the coast at all and now we can do easily, so we’ve booked 3 nights away. We contemplated going actually during half term but a) Eliot said he’d prefer to go when kids are at school and b) £60!

3 nights mid October was £30
3 nights two weeks later, during half term, £90!

We can spend that extra money on stuff to do, so it was an easy decision really. It’ll be fun.

Apart from that, nothing much else planned. I’d like to fit in another trip away this year, but I think we’ll wait and see how the van fares in the cooler weather in October first (although, if it’s anything like previous years, it’ll be nicer and milder than now!)

We’ll do a few winter trips anyway because that’s why we made the van: to use it all year round. It’s just hunting down those good sites that are walking distance to other places, rather than needing a car to get anywhere off-site, especially out of season.

We’d really love to do a longer trip, further away. Maybe a week or so. But that would mean partially closing the business for that period (and ensuring that the 16yo got himself to college from home alone) so it’s unlikely to happen.

We joked about closing down for November and driving down to Valencia for the final race of the MotoGP season. That WOULD be awesome, but it’s not too likely to happen.  It’s quiet season, admittedly, but still a scary idea!

Maybe next year…