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.
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.
And prep day is one thing, clean up day is probably worse!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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
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!
Yes, you do see right. This is the second post in a week!
Now you’ve got over the shock…
We have a new water heater. Yay!
And with a new water heater, comes a new flue/exhaust.
The swap-over was fairly simple. Once the old flue and heater were off (removing the sealing silicon was probably the trickiest bit!), the new heater fitted in place without much trouble. We just needed to move the supporting platform back slightly as the new insulation jacket was a slightly different shape, but it’s all in and working hunky dory!
One thing we did have a minor problem with was the new control panel. You can’t use the Carver Cascade control panel with the new design Henry water heater so we had to fit the new Henry controls. That meant routing a new cable through the van (behind wall panels etc!) because the plugs are all different! (Apparently, you COULD use the old cable, removing the plugs off it and using the wires individually, but we had no intention of attempting that and do not recommend it.)
The trickiest part of routing the new cable was getting the old one to feed through the narrow feed hole in the metal chassis part of the van. The duct itself is quite spacious but the access hole is small and difficult to get to and, as we were using the old cable to pull through the new, the feed was tight. Very tight, but we managed it.
Also, we couldn’t quite accommodate the new control panel properly where the old one had been on the control fascia. Now, we COULD have re-done the whole fascia… but decided just to mount it sideways instead.
I mean, really, who cares anyway?!
(Note to self/husband: must make sure additional screws are put into light switches and new, un-mucky, labels are made up!)
Much of what we’ve been doing on the van has been finishing touches now. Labelling, storing, kitting out and preparing for our first trip away over the summer.
Let’s just talk a bit about this bathroom mirror!
I hunted for ages for a decent mirror to fit in the bathroom. I didn’t want a glass one, just in case we had a problem with it falling and breaking, so I wanted an acrylic one, but finding a wall-mount acrylic mirror that we could fully fix to the wall (as opposed to just hanging) took some research and eBay searching.
The first one I found was no good. It had a plastic frame that we struggled to fit to the wall, and as we couldn’t really use a wooden frame in a wetroom, I eventually plumped for a plain acrylic sheet, paid a little extra for rounded corners and pre-drilled holes with screws and mirror caps.
The only problem is, the wall of the van isn’t entirely flat. This means that the mirror has a slight curve in it.
Think Hall of Mirrors.
Fortunately, the curve is inwards so it gives a rather flattering “skinnify” effect rather than a “fattify” effect, so I’m good with that.
Maybe I’ll fit one in the house too!
It’s all trimming and stocking up of the van now really. I’ve started adding in food and supplies for our trip away soon, and the next job is to drain down the water and waste water tanks so they’ve been flushed out. The fresh water tank particularly needs a flush through as the water it is currently running has been sat in the tank a while. We’ll drain it down and then part-fill it and drain it again (thank goodness we’re not on a water meter!)
Being nearly done in the van means that we have done stuff other than van lately too.
El is quite obsessed with Japan so he’d been nagging to go here since I let slip of its existence. The weather was good on Tuesday so we went. We had a great morning and a lovely lunch of Japanese Rice Salad, freshly cooked to order by Buddha Maitreya.
Along with the outdoor gardens, which were beautiful, there is also what is thought to be the world’s largest indoor crystal garden.
This was only half of it, but photos absolutely do NOT do this place justice. It was breathtaking, and both Eliot and I “wow-ed” when we walked in.
Eliot loved the whole place, and it’s probably only a matter of time before he asks to go again. At £11 though (£7 adults, £4 children) it isn’t cheap and you need to ensure you’re going to “get” it before going, I think. I was a bit worried that it’d be anticlimactic for Eliot, but I was happy to be proved wrong and so didn’t mind paying the extra £6 a head for the rice salad (which was lovely also!)
Next time though, the £2 fresh scones and a pot of tea, I think. For the budget’s sake!
Right, I’d better get back to work now! Nik and Jake are off doing a job dismantling a spray bay in town so I’m womanning the fort today.
I’d better stop blogging procrastinating and get some work done!
But before I go, I’ll just leave this here: a little something Nik made to go in place of the Fiat badges on the van.
It’s sooooo close now that even I can see it (and, unlike Nik, I’ve been in denial about the proximity of completion for months!)It’s starts to feel real when the carpet goes down.
That’s right: carpet!But let’s backtrack a bit.
Last weekend was spent mostly trying to construct a bathroom. We had side walls but no front (hallway) wall so that needed building and installing, as well as the waterproof shower board which needed fixing up.
Plumbing was debated quite a lot and it was decided that our corner sink, small as it was, was too big for our little wet room so we bit the bullet and ordered a tip-up sink unit. We’d contemplated it earlier in the project but they don’t come cheap.
In a campervan, however, NO additional space comes cheap!
We also then had to re-think how and where to fit the new sink and the taps, which were originally fitted into the worktop with the corner sink.
So a box was made in which to locate the taps outside of the fold-up sink so it could be used both to fill the sink or, with the sink folded away, to shower.
As it stands, the bathroom now only really needs a shower tray building and then fully sealing.
That’ll be fun!
The front wall was added and silver boarded to match the rest of the van interior (silver for interior fittings/furniture, textured cream fleck for walls)
Nik also built, from scratch, a very impressive unit to make up the last piece of additional furniture in the van. We had always planned to put storage here but didn’t make it or plan it at all until we’d been using the van entrance with the L-shaped seat/bed units in for a while. It helped because we then decided not to encroach on the entrance area at all and angle off the corner to open up the hallway area a bit.
He is clever my man!
There’s been a lot of trimming done this week too.
The sink and hob both got their seals ordered and fitted. They’d both come (second hand) with their original trims but I couldn’t clean them up satisfactorily. The originals are cream but I could only get black as replacements. Fortunately, black works for us!
A start was made on the section above the main sliding door too. It’s a tricky area to cover and there’s been much discussion over felt vs board or a combination of the two. Nik decided he’d prefer board (he’s the one making it so it’s his decision!) and it’s still a work in progress (many templates later!)
We’ve also been 3D printing bits and pieces. We have a few doors in the van which don’t have space to accommodate handles so we (aka Nik) improvised and printed some finger hole handles which glue in to a drilled hole and have caps on the inside.
There are a couple more places where we’re using these handles too. In the storage space under the beds, we made a pull-out step storage so the boys can climb up to the bunks.
This is the point at which we realised we really needed to fit carpet!
This box slides in and out, and we couldn’t begin to put in the drawer without having definite heights which would be dictated by the carpet. So, we headed into town and picked up an offcut!
Carpet was also added to the top of the box step…
…which opens to reveal oodles of (probably) kitchen storage for larger items (cereals and suchlike)
So yeah. Apart from work and the van (and we most certainly will NOT talk about THAT referendum!), we’ve been kept pretty busy.
Even more so this Monday when not only did we have to take the car to the garage to fix a water leak (it was booked in for Wednesday but the problem had got significantly worse over the weekend) and then our main work laptop died. Fortunately, that’s under warranty still but it’s still a week without it (and using a backup laptop which is far from ideal) in the meantime.
The car however. That will be costly.
This year’s been a bit rubbish really.
But hey, there’s always the van…
And I did find 5p on the floor today so there’s that!
Since I last posted Jake has finished his GCSE exams. He thinks he did OK, and he seemed happy enough after each one, so fingers crossed he’ll have done what he needs to get the grades college are asking for. Time will tell, roll on August 25th!
Meantime, he’s hoping to get some extra hours in at work so he can start saving for his 125cc motorbike when he turns 17 in December. He’ll be able to use a 125 to get to Lincoln at back (for college) and he much prefers this idea to the bus (personally, I’d rather he used the bus!)
Speaking of bikes, we’ve upgraded Jake’s! His original bike was great but a bit on the slow side to be riding on Lea Road (which is a 40 mph) so we upped it to a slightly nippier one which will allow him to ride WITH the traffic rather than holding it all up. It’s a nice looking thing now that Nik has done a custom sticker job on it!
It’ll do him for work until he can up it to something suitable for his college run.
Nik, being Nik, managed to sell his old one within hours of listing it on eBay. Bonus!
I also had a quick weekend jolly to my sister’s last weekend. That was fun. She’s got herself a new job (after 6 months without one) so we had a bit of a celebration weekend. That and a belated birthday treat of afternoon tea in Folkingham which was lovely.
So, aside from afternoon teas, bikes and exams, about the only thing that’s been happening (aside from work being busy, but you really don’t want to read about that!) is, guess what? The van!
Nik got tons done while I was away last weekend. He made lots of lovely doors for overhead lockers and kitchen units; routing them with super curvy edges and knock-on trim.
The fridge electrics were finished (12v and 240v) and the gas lines were fitted properly so we could, when we’re feeling brave enough, actually put some gas in the tank and try them all out.
Like I said, when we’re feeling brave enough!
There’s a slide out shelf, above the fridge, which can be removed (along with the drawer) for fridge maintenance.
While I was away (Nik gets a lot done when I’m not about because he has no one getting in his way. Apparently, at times it is like trying to “do plumbing with an orangutan”! His exact words which he is NOT allowed to forget he said!), Nik also sussed out fitting our kitchen taps which were proving to be a bit of a challenge because our worktop was deeper than the stem.
Since coming back from my sister’s, we’ve not spent much time in the van until yesterday (Friday).
I did manage to paint the inside of the wardrobe walls though during the afternoons. We’ve just used a satin paint to take the wood edge off it and make it a bit lighter, brighter and more inviting for storage – because, you know, storage needs to feel welcome!
While I was painting outside, Nik was tidying up electrics inside. It’s al much neater in the overhead locker “control panel” section now and, apart from the kitchen light which still has to be wired up to the switch, almost done and ready for trimming and fitting.
Additionally, he finished felt-lining the overhead lockers fully (I cut all the felts to size while Nik was in the van, and he glued it all in)
I also became re-acquainted with my sewing machine! We have 3 sets of curtains to hang and they all need modifying in some way or another.
Firstly, The ones for the rear doors. The 2 rear windows were going to use one pair of curtains: one curtain on each door, but we discovered that it wasn’t possible to open them fully to one side because a full curtain width took up too much space across the small window still. So, I halved each single curtain and hemmed the insides. The look pretty good now and will hopefully open better each side of the windows. We just have rails to make for the back doors first (we only have one “demo rail” at present)
Then, we figured out what sort of pole to use for the main living area window and test hung those. The length will be adjusted once the seating cushions are here because we’ll be better able to gauge how long we want them then.
Hanging a set on the sliding door is going to be more of a challenge and will probably involve 2 taut net curtain wires, one top and one bottom, to keep the curtain from flapping when the door is opened or closed.
Also, today, we’ve started on the dreaded bathroom! All walls have been built, including the passageway wall which we hadn’t previously constructed, at we’ve begun lining them with the waterproof shower/wet room wall finish. It’s a tricky process and everything will need silicon sealant around it to make it watertight enough to shower in, but it’s going OK so far.
Tomorrow will be a super-busy day, lining the rest of the walls as well as lining the hall/passageway side of the wardrobe and bathroom with the silver finish…and routing out door holes.
The back end of the van is coming on nicely. Obviously, we’ve a storage unit to building under the bottom bunk but that back end is a nice boost when the front end tries to convince us we’ve still a long way to go!
It’s all a matter of insulating and covering for that back third of the van really and, once we’ve done routing the water pipes, the walls for the wardrobe and bathroom can go back in (remember those?!)
To the left, the storage/wardrobe (which now accommodates that water filler hose too) and then, obviously, the bathroom minus its front wall (yet to be built!)
It seems like a long time since it looked like this!
Now, apart from fitting the gas connections, it’s mostly prepping for final finishes, such as insulating walls, and rasping and sanding any woodwork that needs felt covering. Such as the beds.
I’m quite pleased with the end result. The felt is actually quite hard to work with though. It’s tough to cut (and wrecks the blades quickly) and its stretch is both a blessing and a curse: when you’re trying to lay along a straight line and DON’T want to stretch, it’s difficult!
Still, it’s getting easier the more we do and there’s still plenty to do!
What else has gone on?
Jake has got exams upcoming so he’s just finishing off his courses in time to do some final revision and mock exams beforehand. It’s cutting it a bit close but I think he’ll be OK. As long as he realises he needs to knuckle down.
But he’s a teen, so who knows?!
Work is busy.
Busy is good (of course), but it is hampering our efforts to get stuff done anywhere other than in the office during the sunshiney daytime! However, we cannot complain about busy because busy is mortgage paid and food on the table.
It’s not long since I updated really, so not much else has happened.
We spent Sunday enjoying the weather round at my Mum’s, clearing her garden and noshing on BBQ. As the weather is due to change, it was a nice opportunity to be out in it.
Hopefully the upcoming non-summery/spring-like weather is just a blip and we’ll be back to working on the van in the sun again very soon.
You never know, we might even finish it before the Dutch… German… British MotoGP… end of the year…
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 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.
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?!)
Of course, behind every panel, felted or not, lots of insulation is required.
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!
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!