Tag Archives: Portugal

Changes are a-coming

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

Will winter just make up its mind already?

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

Mother Nature is a bloody tease!

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

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

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

Yesterday, as usual, was prep day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Shhhh, don’t anybody mention summer!

If you say it, it’ll hear you and then it’ll go away, so shhhhhh!

sunshine

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.

underslung water and waste tanks

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!

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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!

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Took a while but we eventually figures what, where, how and why!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

Let’s just enjoy the sunshine!

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!