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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!)
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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!)
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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.
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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.
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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!).
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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…
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And the pay-off is that, on Sundays, my house is empty (just me an’ the dog) and my boys look like this…
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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…

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

Summer lasted an entire weekend! Did you enjoy it?

We should at least be grateful it landed on a weekend though, eh? If it’d been, say, a Monday/Tuesday, we’d have been mightily peeved!
We did take the opportunity to get stuff done on the van though. If anything, it was TOO hot for such work, but we certainly weren’t going to let that stop us.
We’ve got several “main tasks” on the go at the moment. Firstly, the gas. We received our 4-way gas manifold so now we can get sorted with copper pipe and fittings and get the gas lines running through the van to the cooker, hob, water heater and fridge (yes, fridge. A 3-way fridge can run on 12v (leisure battery), 240v (hook up) or gas!)
4-way gas manifold
4-way gas manifold to isolate each gas line in the van
In the meantime, seeing as we didn’t have the manifold in time to make the gas our weekend project, we continued felt-lining, working on the bed end of the van. Unlike the main living area, kitchen area and bathroom, which all have finishing boards for the walls, the “bedroom” ends are going to be carpet/felt-lined for comfort. There are some big panels to cover, as well as around the already-covered back doors and, ultimately, the bed sides will be covered too.
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Doors, door surrounds and one side panel covered. The tops of the sides will also be done; the bottoms are in cupboards (why waste fabric?!)
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Of course, behind every panel, felted or not, lots of insulation is required. 
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The beds took a bit of getting back in! The bed ends will be rounded off before being felt-covered themselves (where visible) and the white area around the back doors is where the rubber door seal fits.
There’s quite a bit to cover with this grey stuff: the bed-side wardrobe wall, the main sliding door inner and the tops of the bed ends but hopefully we have enough carpet felt left!
We’ll probably be tackling the gas as the next project though. The fridge vents and flue are marked to cut out and we can get the kitchen built-in once the gas pipes are run.
That’s definitely a milestone!
Apart from that, we’ve not done much. Work is busy, business is picking up for the summer (which is both good for our business and good for Jake as it means there’s work for him at Pyramid too!)
Customers all want it yesterday though, of course. Despite our 28 day warnings!
Eliot has been practising his writing a bit. He learned how to use a dictionary in order to spell a word you don’t know, and he wrote a nice (and quite neat!) piece about Redstone (it’s a Minecraft thing!) which I was impressed with. He’s very talented with redstone and often takes hours and hours building contraptions that really require some thinking “outside the box”. It’s something I tend to encourage as it’s education without him realising it!
Shhhh, don’t tell him!
We’ve not renewed the Maths Whizz subscription.
I don’t think we have another 12 months use left in it, and Eliot does appear to have lost interest in the way it teaches. It was excellent while it lasted and I cannot imagine that I could have taught Eliot all that he has learned any other way. We’ve moved to workbooks but the improvement in 12 months is clear to see.
Yep, it’s really been 12 months since Eliot left school. In that time we’ve managed to rescue his “maths age” by 2 years. That’d never have happened in school. We also read quite regularly (Minecraft-related books – whatever piques his interest works for me) and that’s improving too. It can only help his spelling and vocabulary.
I had a discussion with him the other day about going back to school in September. He was sort of interested but didn’t want to and I think it would be a backwards step if he did (I didn’t tell him that, obviously!)
There’s so much that his peers will have been taught that he’d have missed that he’d quickly get behind again and unfortunately, once behind always behind in classes of 30+ kids in schools with targets to hit!
Anyway, we’re getting on OK. It’ll be all change again when Jake starts college in September so who knows where life will take us then!

It’s all go around here.

Well, the sun is shining, Nik is packing stock boxes in the garage and I feel compelled to post a blog update.Nik and Eliot are counting down to their Portugal holiday next week. They’re staying with a friend and visiting Jerez for MotoGP weekend as well as generally dossing around the area, catching up with friends and eating out.

They’re both super-excited. I’m less so because I’m left holding the work-baby, but it’ll be fine. It’ll be super-weird being in an empty house in the mornings though while Jake is at work….which brings me to Jake!

He’s been offered work during the mornings now that the biking season is getting underway (easier to believe with today’s weather than yesterday’s!). He’s working up at Pyramid on Monday to Friday mornings and then coming home and doing 3-4 hours of school work in the afternoons.

This works great for us because Jake has a tendency to spend his mornings in bed, so having to be up for work isn’t taking away any study time, it’s just much better for him to be out and about and earning.

And not only does my boy have a job, but he also got his college acceptance confirmation letter today. His experience day went really well (albeit running VERY late!) and the course tutor who interviewed him even commented that Jake’s high assessment results were unusual, and next time Jake comes, could he please bring 20 more Jakes with him! I think that bolstered not only Jake’s confidence and morale, but mine too. It’s awesome to think that he’s doing so well after what he’s come through. He just needs to knuckle down and get those two GCSE results now.

Not only has he got his college place, but he’s also decided that, as he’s working now, he wants his own transport.

Now, Jake is only 16 so he’s limited to one thing: a 50cc scooter. So we hunted about for a decent secondhand one, spent ages debating the pros and cons of a new one, and eventually found a proper COOL one secondhand relatively locally.

You'd never think that was a 50cc scooter, eh?
You’d never think that was a 50cc scooter, eh?

It needed a little bit of work: new levers, a new head bearing and a few niggly bits but we happen to know some someones in the trade! Helps, eh?

Jake’s CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) is booked for a week on Friday. It’s while Nik is away but if we’d waited until he came back, it’d just delay it. It’s a full-day, 7 hour course anyway so it’s not like he could stand around and watch (much as he may have wanted to!)
Then Jake’ll be able to use his scooter for work instead of us having to taxi him about (yay!)
When he’s 17, he’ll be able to get a 125cc which will be suitable to use for runs to Lincoln to college too. Even better!

Oh, and I nearly forgot, he had ANOTHER driving experience this week: his Easter present from Nik and I (he got that, Eliot got weights!). This time he chose to drive the Ferrari and LOVED it. The instructor/co-driver was really encouraging and Jake really enjoyed it. The fact that Nik took him up to the track on his own CB1000R probably added to the day’s fun!

Work has been getting busy so non-work stuff is very much confined to weekends (well, Saturday lunchtime onwards) only right now.
We have managed to get a few hours on the van though. Nik fitted the solar panel to the roof on Saturday and that’s now been keeping both batteries (the vehicle battery and the leisure battery) fully charged, which is great!

All fitted and working - excuse the grubby roof!
All fitted and working – excuse the grubby roof. It’s not usually on view!

There’s room for more panels if we decide to expand too. We might not, but it was a consideration when it was positioned anyway.

As well as being on top of the van, Nik has been underneath the van this weekend. He’s fitted both underslung water tanks under the van body. That’s a job we’d been dreading and, while it wasn’t as complicated as expected, it certainly wasn’t as straightforward as it should have been.

Both tanks are tailored to the vans specific chassis so the fittings that came with the tanks SHOULD have made it simple to fix.

It wasn’t.

But it wasn’t any great feat of engineering to get them to fit either so, meh.

Next thing to fit under there is the LPG gas tank which we also bought with vehicle-specific fittings. Fingers crossed that project is simpler. There’s a lot less space left under there now!

Anyway, I think that’s about it. What with work, the van, and being “back to school”,  (and can I just mention ANOTHER phenomenal MotoGP race last weekend?!) there’s not much time for much else.

By the time Nik and El come back from Portugal, it’ll be ME whose ready for a holiday!

 

Busy, busy, busy. Van stuff, work stuff, school stuff, MotoGP stuff

I don’t even know where to begin!

Firstly, the campervan blog has broken ALL my images (thanks, Facebook, for making your links non-permanent!) so I’ve taken it down for now. I have neither the time nor the inclination to re-do every broken image. Maybe someday, but not now.
I’ve also posted a notice on our Portugal blog to say I’ll no longer be posting there. It contains a few home education updates which are probably more relevant to here than there, but hey ho. Maybe I’ll merge the two someday. Or maybe I won’t!

So this blog will now contain campervan build updates, as well as life updates, school update and work updates.

Because, you know, we’re everything all in one place round here!

And boy, did we have a work update recently!

For the past 6 years or so, a third-party has handled the incoming goods and dispatch for our business. It worked particularly well while we were in Portugal (obviously, we couldn’t do it then!) and we’d continued to use it after moving back because it freed up considerable time for us to concentrate on other work issues.

However, time came that we felt it was time to reclaim this part of the business and it’s most definitely been “all change” since then. In the past 2 weeks, we’ve had to find space in our huge, but cluttered garage to store and handle the stock until we decide what to do next. We have the opportunity to take up a business unit at a very good price, but we’ve decided to find our feet first before committing to something like that.

Stock arriving back at the house for stock-checking and sorting.
Stock arriving back at the house for stock-checking and sorting.
Then it all had to be karted down the garden to the garage.
Then it all had to be carted down the garden to the garage.

I love how Zac makes an appearance in both of those shots.

He’s a nosey little so-n-so.

It took an entire weekend to ready the garage for this stuff! Units were moved, kitchen units were dismantled, work benches were dragged half-way across the garage and racking was assembled! It was a lonnnnggggg week!

This is about a third of the garage stock (and about a 10th of the garage space, but you wouldn't know it to look at it!)
This is about a third of the garage stock (and about a 10th of the garage space, but you wouldn’t know it to look at it!)

The garage, of course, is chock full of not only general garage stuff but also most of the interior of a campervan! The van is currently empty because our next project is to remove the floor panels and fit the water, waste and gas tanks under the van floor.

The van has had a bit of time spent on it lately though, which is nice. A few nice weather days have meant we could get the roof panels lined as well as the two rear doors.

Full covered roof panels
Full covered roof panels. Actually, that’s a terrible shot of the full covered roof panels!

 

There’s about 2 inches of insulation between the outer van roof and the ceiling panels.
Layers and layers of the stuff! Both double-foiled bubble insulation and a layer of 10mm dense insulation foam.
Layers and layers of the stuff! Both double-foiled bubble insulation and a layer of 10mm dense insulation foam.

It’s quite a thing, and you can tell it’s there. It’s noticeably warmer in the van than out. And hopefully, it’ll be the reverse in the summer.

We’ve also covered the two back doors in the stretchy felty-type stuff that you use for such things. Horrid stuff. A nightmare to cut, but looks good when done.

One covered back door. Both are done now though and it looks pretty good, I reckon!
One covered back door. Both are done now though and it looks pretty good, I reckon!

As well as the roof and the back doors, we’ve finished feeding all the electric cables. It’s amazing just how many wires you end up using for lights and switches and suchlike. There’s not much on the mains (hook-up) circuit but there certainly is on the 12 volt system!

Pretty. huh? Don't worry, it's all hidden in a seat box!
Pretty. huh? Don’t worry, it’s all hidden in a seat box!

Anyways, van aside, work is super-busy and school has been getting that way. Jake is gearing up to finish his courses ready for exams in a couple of months. He had his college assessment day which he passed with ease, and he has an “experience day” coming up in a couple of weeks. He’ll be fine though and he doesn’t seem too worried about it. He’s more looking forwards to some days working at Pyramid Plastics again over the Easter break!

Money in his pocket! Or hopefully mine. We have quite a hefty IOU going on!

He had another driving experience day (which he’d got for a Christmas present but March 21st was the earlier date he could book) up at Blyton. He was expecting to drive the Ferrari 458 but, on the day, the Nissan GTR was there. The GTR is Jake’s DREAM car, so all thoughts of anything else went out of the window. He loved it!

There's actually a photo where Nik has edited out the co-driver, but using that seems a bit wrong!
There’s actually a photo where Nik has edited out the co-driver, but using that seems a bit wrong!

School-wise, Eliot has reached a bit of a point where he’s really had enough of Maths Whizz so we’re giving it a bit of a break in favour of maths workbooks instead. We’ve also been reading Minecraft story books which he enjoys. It’s good practise for both his reading and comprehension, and he wants to write his own now.

As well as doing some art sessions, he also decided he wanted to learn Japanese! (Thanks to Attack on Titan anime for that one!) We’ve done a bit online and he’s spent a fair bit of time working from apps and practising the writing and pronunciation. It might not be a terribly useful thing to learn but the discipline is what counts so I’m running with it for now… although I can only ever remember how to say hello!

What else, what else?

I finished my beginners sign language course. It went well, I thought. I learned far more than I expected to and I enjoyed it a lot. I’m fairly certain I’ll enrol for the improvers course in June, once I’m sure I can make all the sessions. I’d hate to miss one!

Thanks to the good Good Friday weather, the garden even had a bit of TLC. As well as getting the lawn cut and strimmed (a long overdue task) and some soil transplanted from the veggie patch to try to level the grass out a bit (it’s horribly uneven), the veggie plot itself was dug over and the first crop of potatoes and peas has gone in.

Two types of peas and two of potatoes.
Two types of peas and two of potatoes.

Last year, we grew loads of different things alongside peas and potatoes. We had carrots (which should grow well but always fail, so we’ve given up), beetroot, lettuces, broccoli, runner beans and probably some other stuff I’ve forgotten.

Nothing really did well apart from the peas and potatoes and you can NEVER have too many of those, so that’s what we’re doing this year. We’re easy us!

Starter rows of potatoes and peas. We'll sow a second crop in a month or so.
Starter rows of potatoes and peas. We’ll sow a second crop in a month or so.

Nik and Eliot are looking forwards to their Portugal trip in 3 weeks or so. I’ll be left holding the business (not sure if that’s better than worse than the proverbial baby!) while Nik and Eliot galavant off to sunnier climes (no doubt) and across to Jerez for the MotoGP.

Ahhhh, MotoGP.

How we missed you so over the winter break!
It’s a long 4-5 months between seasons and the opening round at Qatar did NOT disappoint.
I’m excited already for round 2 in Argentina next weekend!

In fact it’s two-in-a-row with Texas the following weekend (and we’ll gloss over the following one again because that’s Jerez and I’ll be stuck at home watching it on the TV!)

Actually, I don’t really mind. I didn’t want to go back to Portugal so, while the GP would have been nice, I’m fine watching it while milling about my house.

It’s a good job I like my house really. I do spend almost 24/7 here!

 

 

 

 

Meet “The Hands” and a first post

Well, I posted an “About us” to the blog which pretty much covers the intro bit.

If you’ve read that, you’ll know that we’re a home-educating family of 4. Me (Tracey), Nik (the long-suffering hubby), Jake (16) and Eliot (12)…oh and not forgetting our slightly bonkers 18 month old Springer Spaniel, Zac.

Say “Hi”, Zac.

(As an aside, you would not BELIEVE the hassle it was to try to get that image in there! WordPress is seriously playing up today!)

So, that’s Zac. He makes us laugh on a very regular basis. He’s WAY more entertaining than telly!

So the boys have been coming on well. Jake is plodding on with his coursework. I’ve set him a kind of schedule so we can make sure he gets through his course materials in time to get some revision and mock exams in before the real ones (I might do a blog post about those sometime)

He recently did a week of work experience at a local business. One of our local suppliers (who just so happens to also be one of Nik’s ex-employers!) agreed to have him for a week and it was lovely to see him so social. He’d come home from work “buzzing” from being in a work environment and he was able to experience a whole range of business activities from inputting data (which he is good at but didn’t enjoy!) to visiting bike shops, packing stock and translating to and from Portuguese!

He seemed like a different person that week and it makes me excited for how he’ll be when he’s out and about living his own life.

Eliot is still an enigma. He swings from being enthusiastic and capable to stubborn and, well, more stubborn. Thank goodness nobody is having to teach him alongside 30 other kids, is all I can say! Every day I am reminded how much better he is here at home.

The improvement is visible to all of us

We have a new home ed group parkour session actually this week. Thursday afternoons in Lincoln, one of the fitness centres has a coach who will be starting home ed parkour. Eliot is super-excited about it. I only hope he isn’t disappointed! We shall see.

Work is busy. There’s always a quiet lull between October and December, but when January comes around business picks up again.

The campervan (which I haven’t mentioned previously) is on hold right now. We’ve been out once or twice since our last blog update** but weather is really putting it at the bottom of our to-do list. We’ve things to get finished in the house in the meantime. Things that don’t matter if it’s raining or freezing or dark!

I’ll try to keep updated fairly regularly as and when things crop up or occur to me.

Meantime, we’ll be plodding along. Learning, working and generally just being at home!

**Note, the campervan blog is currently offline after Facebook decided that its image links in my public album would not be permanent and broke ALL my images. I haven’t yet decided whether I can be bothered to fix them!