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!
Busy week!Of course, the Bank Holiday weekend meant that the week was already destined to be busier than usual, and the week was packed with “stuff” apart from work!
I had (clearly without realising it was a post-bank-holiday Tuesday) booked Zac in to be groomed on Tuesday afternoon so it was super-hectic what with work and orders and then having to fit in two additional trips to town to drop off and fetch back Zac from the groomers.
It was the first time he’d ever been done (apart from the odd times we trim around his docked tail and feathery back end!) so we had no idea how he’d look, but we took recommendation and got booked in to Tybellas and we are thrilled with the result.
He looks even teenie tinier now (he’s actually nearly 2!) but he’s completely adorable and we found lots of yummy spots under all those feathers and fluff.
We did also manage to find a bit of time to celebrate my birthday this week. I feel I ought to mention that because it was a great day and I thoroughly enjoyed my free meal out at Damon’s in Lincoln (Steak, please!)
Apart from work, of course, the rest of the time has been spent on, you guessed it, van!
We’ve been super busy though. We sneaked an hour or so earlier in the week to have a wee play with overhead locker doors. The overhead lockers, as I’ve mentioned before, have been one of those things (along with the upcoming “bathroom build”) that have been a dread, and even once the lockers were up and looking good, we still have the doors to decide on.
I ordered a variety of hinges from Magnum Motorhomes and we headed down the back to work out what we could use where and what worked best.
We also had no real clue about what to actually use AS doors. We’d like black conti board but nowhere sells it locally (and buying it online means extortionate postage because, well, it’s BIG!) so we decided we’d use white and cover it with black vinyl.
Obviously, the edges will be trimmed off and we have a couple of types of knock on edging to experiment with to finish off the look. It’s still a work in progress, of course. There’s so much else to do!
We also fitted another silver end panel and experimented with the silver bead trim which will also go along the front bottom edge of the overheads.
The bead edging works quite well so it’ll be handy stuff.
Also, randomly, we now have one mattress for the bunks. They’re an odd size and have corners cut off where the van back corners are, so I wasn’t sure what size to get. The top bunk is 2ft x 5ft9 and the bottom is 2ft x 6ft. I ordered one 5’9 mattress to see if we could either squash it into the top bunk (despite the corners) or, if not, use it on the bottom and pad out the narrower ends.
As it was, it fitted perfectly into the 5’9 top so I’ve ordered a 2×6 for the bottom now.
Today, we’ve been super-busy doing a ton of stuff to mark off the to-do list.
Around watching the MotoGP practises and qualifying, the kitchen unit was fitted with a shelf in the far end and all the water pipes we routed where the sink will be.
Then ALL the gas pipework was measured and routed behind the kitchen unit and up for the 3-way fridge, the cooker and the hob.
We also fitted the heat shield barrier, behind where the cooker sits, to protect the van and wiring in the cavities.
After this was fitted, it became apparent that we really needed to look at the drawer, which sits above the fridge, and the kitchen worktop itself. We’d been saving drawer runners from the lots of furniture we’ve dismantled over the past 6 months or so, but when it came to it, we still didn’t have a full usable set! Quite how that happened, I’ve no idea. We had loads, but not a full useful set!
Anyway, a trip to B&Q later and we decided we’d probably have to buy a drawer pack which has runners, sides, bottom and base, and trim or extend to fit our oddly-sized cavity (which we couldn’t buy until we’d come home and actually measured said oddly-sized hole!)
As it happened, in conversation with our neighbour, it turned out he has several of these drawer packs just in his shed, unused and unneeded, so we didn’t even have to buy them, and it came out really well (pic will follow after I’ve waffled about the worktop!)
So, worktop: nightmare!
As we have second-hand appliances and fittings (hob and sink/drainer) we have no templates to cut anything out so we had to measure everything quite meticulously to avoid making an expensive mistake.
The sink itself is just a large oblong so no real challenge beyond ensuring the inner batons that make up the unit’s frame don’t interfere with the fit of the drainer, but the hob presented a whole other challenge. In the end, for the hob, we made an estimated template and worked with a piece of scrap 3mm ply as a demo/practice sheet (so we could then use THAT piece as a template)
The initial cut was OK and after a few tweaks to it, we laid it on the worktop and pencilled out the cut shape we needed.
It didn’t go wrong though, and despite the, quite honestly, horrific jigsaw blades we had (bought new and supposedly “for the job”!), the holes were cut.
And with the drawer in (front to be added when doors are done), it’s even MORE awesome!
It’s a huge step in the right direction and quite a weight off my mind. There’s still so much to do.
Wardrobe, bathroom (*shudder*), cupboard doors aplenty and the seat boxes to trim (and measure for seating/bed cushions!) as well as curtain rails to make, curtains to sort, the list goes on and on and on.
Here’s to another busy day tomorrow… around the Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP races!
Meanwhile, I’ll just leave this here and a poignant reminder to the hazards that motorbike racers deal with on a daily basis. Such a tragic loss of someone so young and with so much to live for.
If you say it, it’ll hear you and then it’ll go away, so shhhhhh!
It’s been nice though, hasn’t it? I mean, not so much while Nik and El were away (nice for them; less so for me!), but the last few days have been… well, I’m not going to say it but you know what I’m saying!
We’ve taken advantage of the weather to get some decent hours in on the van. It’s so frustratingly close yet so far away and sometimes, when we’ve spent ages wiring or laying pipes, you just look back at the van and wonder what on earth we just spent hours doing!
Fitting the water tanks felt a bit like that. Huge job, with Nik under the van placing and drilling and bolting and moving; trying to work out how on earth to accommodate the water filler pipe (which has ended up coming through the wardrobe!) and where to bring pipes up and (waste) pipes down.
The 2 custom-fit tanks (from CAK Tanks) are designed specifically to fit under the Fiat Ducato but that doesn’t mean they are easy to fit or make it simple to plan your pipework!
This lot all had to fit under the floors and/or through the floor level channels along the sides of the van. No mean feat!
Took a while but we eventually figures what, where, how and why!
And after a zillion different options, we eventually routed the water filler through the built-in storage/wardrobe area of the van.
That seems easy compared to the trials we are having with the gas tank filler!
We also have an underslung LPG tank, with custom fittings for the Fiat Ducato, which Nik has fitted expertly under the van. That, it turns out, was the simple bit. We’re yet to decide on a suitable location for the filler…watch this space! I’ll post photos of the fitted tank etc when we’ve sorted it too.
We did manage to fit the water heater though. That meant first cutting yet another hole in the van walls.
The tank then fits from the outside and is fitted with a vent/exhaust cover (the position of which is giving us grief when trying to position the gas filler!)
The heater itself is fitted within the seat box though so it’s well accommodated inside. The water pump will fit below it and the provisional plumbing pipework is coming on quite well there.
It’s getting busy in that there seat box. The battery also sits in the left hand side of it but it was moved to make lifting the seat unit in and out easier.
We’re hoping to get some decent hours in on it this weekend too… while the weather is…you know!
So, Nik and El’s holiday.
Oh wait, it wasn’t a holiday, so I keep being told. Eliot was “going home” and Nik was “going to the MotoGP and then killing time until he could come home”.
Yeh right. Not fooling anyone there! They enjoyed it anyway. Lots of sun, some sea (they went kayaking) and many ice creams.
Alright for some, eh?
I find it difficult looking at some of the photos of town actually. It’s too close for me. I know nobody really thinks I’m affected by not being there but…anyways… let’s not.
So, apart from that, what’s cooking?
Not much (well, apart from the bread in the oven that is to have with lasagna for dinner!)
Jake did his CBT and has been commuting himself to and from work on his GTR50. We’ve had to fix a few things on it but he likes it. He just wishes it was faster. Isn’t that just typical of any bloke and any bike ever?!
That’s it really. Work, school, (holiday!) and van. Not a lot else going on for the time being.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!