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!
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.
It’s not even been a week since my last post, but we’ve been super-busy so I thought I’d update anyway.
Jake has had his first maths (higher) exam and he seemed quite pleased with how it went. There were some questions towards the end (the A/A* ones) which he said he couldn’t do but he was confident he’d done enough to pass the paper, which is the best we can hope for. Considering he’s only been studying properly since January, I’m super-proud of how he’s done. He’s got a short break from exams now (it’s half term so there aren’t any) before he has both English papers and his second maths paper the following week. There’s a bit of work to do before then, but I’m sure he’ll be fine.
Work is getting very hectic. It’s been pre-TT so everyone needs everything weeks ago (because, you know, their bikes won’t work without that sticker/screen/insert-random-vanity-trickbit-here)
We’ve started using “Drop & Go” at the Post Office which has definitely been a blessing. Being able to just drop the postbag in, rather than queueing, is AWESOME!
Busy work means that van business has had to wait until after tea or weekends mostly. This weekend, being a bank holiday (and, dare I say it, good weather?!) has been productive already.
We’re on lots of finishings at the moment. Wallboards, felting and suchlike.
The overhead lockers that went in are now felted around the inner edge (and one at the back – just so we could see what it is going to look like!) and silver panelled both on the fronts and underneath. We need to run a trim along the back (wall edge) underneath and the front where the silver panels meet but it’s looking good, and we could finally mount those lights which sit above the sofa area.
As you can see, we’ve also fitted both wall panels on that side, the window trim and the inner window ledges and sides.
Can I just take a moment to say a little about routing?
Oh. My. Goodness! What a hugely messy job.
By our second window, we’d resorted to using multiple taped sheets, but it still got into every nook and cranny.
Routing these boards in situ is scary. One false move and the panel is ruined, so it’d be one expensive mistake if that router slipped!
Added to that, we’d had to build up the inner edge with plywood so that the cut-out was slightly in from the window itself, allowing us to add that edging on the wallboard. This also meant we had to create slightly more curvy corners out of cut wood so that the edging would go around the corners better. It was a tricky thing to do but it worked out really well in the end.
As well as walls, we also faced the kitchen unit. Another exercise in how much you have to cut out to make stuff look good!
Hopefully, the cut-outs will be useful for panelling other bits or that’s a lot of money sitting as leftovers!
As well as panelling, we also tested the water system. We filled the fresh water tank (mounted underneath the van) and checked that the water level registered on the gauge.
We fitted the kitchen and bathroom taps onto the pipework and pressurised the system. The pump worked beautifully filling the pipes and the hot water tank. Then we opened each tap, one at a time, checking they all worked and making sure we had no leaks.
There was one small leak on a joint in the (secondhand) hot water tank, but easily fixable.
We also tested filling the bathroom sink and draining it to see if the waste pipes worked OK. The bathroom sink and shower waste actually merge before going through the van floor to the waste tank and despite our efforts, we were worried that the sink, when emptied, would flow back through the shower waste and up the shower plug hole.
We were right to be concerned.
So, one non-return valve ordered and the problem will be sorted. At least we know now.
That photo was taken before the overhead lockers were done underneath, but it’s certainly starting to take shape.
And there’s a whole other day tomorrow!
Tomorrow’s plans are to finish the underside of the overhead (still with me!) lockers, to fit the kitchen strip LED lighting and to felt and panel the side sliding door. I insulated the sliding door today (which is why we’re working ’round the back of the van so the side door can be closed) so it’s ready for covering.
We’re felting it around the edges and into the window (because old work vans looks dinted and bumped!) and then we’ll panel where the van panels have been in the same board as the walls so it’ll all coordinate with our “lounge” area. The removable table will probably be stored here too so we need to sort out how we’re doing that too.
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…
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!