I wonder how many of my blog posts, over the last 8 years of blogging, have the same title or similar? Actually, I don’t think I’ll go count them.
It’s a poor reflection of how shocking I am at updating blogs, I suppose, so let’s gloss over that one!
It’s been so long since I blogged now that I can barely recall what has even happened over the past 3/4 months.
<heads over to Facebook to remind self of notable events>
<comes back realising life is relatively mundane, uneventful and dull really>
That’s unfair actually. We’ve done several trips away in the van since then.
We’ve been to the end-of-season Motorhome show, and went away in October to Mablethorpe to take Zac on his first trip to the beach.
(Note to self: pick a warmer month than October next time!)
The Motorhome show was a bit of a treat because we went both child- AND dog-free! Much as we love our dog (and our children, of course!), it was relaxing not to have to think about letting him out and walking him, especially as he sleeps pretty poorly in the van (much preferring, I think, the warmth of our bed/sleeping bag to the floor!)
It was a nice to have a wander in and out of vans without having to leave one of us outside with the dog too. Having said that, we did miss him, of course.
The other trip we did (and it was the last time we were away in the van) was Mablethorpe for a long weekend.
Fun? Actually, yes! (but cold!)
Not exactly a busy beach. There’s a dog (Zac!) over there on the right somewhere!
He loved having all that space to run around in and, although he was initially reluctant, he was soon bounding about in the shallow waters.
The boys (Nik and Eliot; Jake stayed home being a teenager) had some fun too. There was a large arcade on site as well as some novice activities such as target shooting and archery.
Being fairly experienced at Archery and shooting, they both only really partially enjoyed them due to the basic nature and inaccuracy of the equipment, but it was something to do.
Eliot also had a go at the climbing wall (although soon got bored, as he does!).
In all honesty, I think everyone (well, the men) in this house has decided that the only real pastime any of them enjoys (other than sleep (teenagers) and Xbox (all of them)) is airsoft.
Oh lordy, the airsoft.
It’s something Nik tried out as a way of keeping fit and, unfortunately, took the boys with him on his first trip.
Now, my house looks like this most Saturdays…
And the pay-off is that, on Sundays, my house is empty (just me an’ the dog) and my boys look like this…
They’re all loving it, and they’ve found several different places to play now, each with different game formats and site layouts. Barton on Humber seems to be a favourite although Lincoln, being closer, is visited equally often.
Now they’ve got all the kit, it’s cheaper for them to go as they don’t need to hire guns and vests etc, but they’re still having to pace themselves a bit as it’s a dear do to go every week when there’s 3 of you.
“Hang on a minute, ” I hear you say. “There are 4 in that photo!”
Well spotted. Nik is the one taking the photo and alongside Jake (left) and Eliot (right) are 2 other friends who have also become addicted thanks to my lot. There are even more of them now too. I think the Gainsborough tally is now up to 7!
They’ll have their own club at this rate.
So anyway, apart from airsoft and a few van trips, what else has been going on?
Well, big news (although, for us, old new now) is that Jake decided he wasn’t coping with college. Under normal circumstances, I think he’d have excelled academically, but unfortunately, he had difficulties handling both the travel and the environment and, in an effort to avoid the problems we had in school, we decided it would be better for him to leave college for the time being. He’s only 16, and it’s something he can most definitely re-visit in the future if health allows.
Additionally, he was laid off at work due to the winter period being quiet, so he’s been helping us at home/work until he finds himself another job.
Fortunately, we’ve been fairly busy so he’s helpful occasionally!
Unfortunately, by the time he’d found out he was losing his job, we were too late to apply to any Christmas posts (we ask about a LOT, everything was filled already) so he’s been applying for any suitable jobs he can find. Him and a thousand other people.
So far, no luck. One warehouse job he applied for had had 700 other applications already, and that was just online applications!
What hope does a 17 year old have?
Ah yes, Jake turned 17!
Not only is that terrifying because he’s getting older (I, of course, am not!), but also it is expensive as we insured him on our car as well as upgrading his motorbike now that he can ride a 125cc.
And how he loves that bike!
Even in mid December (when his birthday is) he went out on it. And several times since, including Christmas Day!
It’s unfortunate that his birthday is in the winter really, because riding opportunities are few, but he goes when he can. I’m sure he’ll go more for leisure when it’s warmer and drier, but it gives him a form of transport if and when he needs it for work.
And, as he keeps reminding us, it’s MUCH cooler than a scooter!
So, we’re about updated I think.
We had a good (busy) Christmas and New Year. I’d (crazily) decided to host for my side of the family for Christmas dinner (something I usually actively avoid doing!) for once and we had the more extended side of my family (I don’t see them often as they don’t live in town) up for an afternoon between Christmas and New Year so I’ve done my hosting duties for the next decade, I reckon.
Actually, it wasn’t so bad.
But, no, I’m not doing it again this year.
Before I go, a cheer-you-up piccie of our groomed prettyboy!
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!
The weather forecast was good, and LOOK what arrived 2 days before we left!
I know, right?
That pesky 5th sofa cushion finally turned up and made our seating area complete!
After carting numerous crates of “stuff” out to fill the ‘van on Friday morning, Jake got home from work after lunch (because, yes, he came too!) and we arrived at Tattershall around 2pm.
Less than 30 minutes later, and we were all set up, awning, chairs ‘n’ all.
We had a great weekend. We BBQ-ed twice (we’d planned to) and ate out at the resort restaurant on the Saturday evening. Nice food, if pricey, but that’s to be expected on a site like that, I think.
We weathered some rain on Friday night without incident. The awning held up fine, nothing broke down and we even trialled out the air con unit on the Saturday night because it was so hot overnight (even with the ‘van door half open)
Zac behaved impeccably the entire weekend. He wasn’t stressed out about being tethered (sometimes between van and awning, sometimes between awning and outdoors depending on what we were doing) and he was good as gold around the site on his lead.
We had no idea how he’d be either on site or amongst the crowds (and, BOY, it was busy!) but we needn’t have worried. He was the best behaved a little doggie can be. Bless him.
The one thing that was noted as a problem was how uncomfortable the rear bunk mattresses are. They’re cheap sprung jobbies from eBay and they really are sloppy and horrid. Eliot found it so bad that he actually slept the second night on the floor of the van with the dog (who slept under the extended section of the sofa bed)
So this week I ordered some 6ft x 2ft sheets of medium density foam to replace the awful mattresses. The top one needs cutting down a few inches and perhaps across the corners to accommodate the angles at the outer side (the bottom bunk didn’t need these trimming, we just squashed it in, so it might not need it up top either) and then both will be wrapped in stockinette to protect the foam before the mattress protectors are put back on.
Eliot was so much happier with this so that’s good. More space for the dog on the floor for the next trip then, hopefully!
Speaking of next trips, Jake isn’t coming with us now so there’s just 3 of us and the dog for the Lincoln Steam and Vintage Rally next weekend (an experiment in non-EHU trip which will test the 12v system and the solar charge more thoroughly) and then we’re away, again as 3 plus dog, for the bank holiday weekend at Wolverley Club Site. No idea what it’ll be like but reviews are good and it’s supposed to be great for dogs too, so we’ll see.
Jake, meanwhile, will be having wild parties (AKA sleeping in and playing Xbox all day).
Or, he’ll be tinkering with his new toy.
He’s not old enough to drive it on the road yet (not under December when he turns 17) but it needs work anyway right now (it was bought damaged to repair) and maybe that’ll give him something to do.
Or maybe it’ll just be sleep and the Xbox. (more likely!)
A few other things we noted while on our first trip:
we need more rock pegs. We had just enough for the awning but not enough that we could have used the windbreak. Halfords had some decent ones reduced in price, of which we’d picked up a couple of packs before we went away, so we’ll see if they have any left.
We ran out of water after 36 hours! An entire 66 litre tank! Probably because we weren’t policing it at all and we refilled water bottles and bowls and washed up from it regularly. We are going to purchase a large (10-15 litre) water bottle with pourer so we can decant from that for the dog’s bowl and, if required, use it to refill the underslung tank if we run out again.
We need a splashguard of some sort between the sink and the beds. The water pressure is good and it did tend to splash up a little when turned up high. We’ve made a cover for the hob from the waterproof shower wall 3mm ply (to give more work space) which doubles as the splashguard for now.
We have a slightly creaky sofa area. One specific half of one sofa. Typically the part my head and shoulders is on when I’m rolling from side to side at night so it’s annoying. For EVERYONE! Will find out what’s causing that and fix it.
The seat velcro wasn’t quite positioned correctly and made pulling the bed out a bit tricky (although not impossible) so that needs relocating. Also, the smaller, infill cushion could do with some on it as it moved a bit when I got in and out of bed!
More dog towels required! We took 2 large bath sheets for Zac which was just about OK for the tim we were there and the weather we had (scorchio!) but if it’d stayed wet overnight and still been so in the morning on Saturday, we’d have found ourselves lacking. Might need to pack 4 for bad weather!
I think that’s it!
Nothing major and certainly nothing that can’t be sorted out.
I’m kidding, obviously, because we’re not spending every hour on the van (chance would be a fine thing) but it sure feels like it’s the only thing I post photos of. That, in fact, is due to the kids not wanting their photos taken and the van doesn’t object.Eliot used to feature in most of the photos on my phone. Sadly, those days are long gone.
Anyway, apart from the usual work and school, there’s not much occurring, but I did want to post a quick van update before it became too long and I lost the will to do it.
We’ve kind of reached a stage where stuff is going in and staying in, and it’s all getting a bit real now.
The overhead lockers were dug out of their storage place (where they have literally been for over half a year; they were done and stored by the beginning of November!) and the silver finishing board was cut and glued on and then the openings routed out.
We had to remove a row of screws from the roof panels because these were along the line to which the top baton of the lockers fixes. We had to make sure everything was secure and solid and then screw back to the walls and up to the roof (no mean feat!)
We’ve tried not to use too much in the way of tacks/nails because they’re a bit visible (although inevitable) but they’ve actually come out pretty good.
The router is terrifying! These locker holes were done on the work bench but the windows have to be done in situ!
It was a complicated process because we then had to add a temporary further layer of board and sound roundy corners to make sure that the router followed a nice line just inside the window line (so we can run an edging strip around it)
We also bought the kitchen worktop this week. Previous converters have laminated a thick piece of ply but we decided that a piece of 28mm worktop would do the job. It’s only a 6ft run and once the hob and sink and drainer and cut out, there’ll not be much weight left!
I initially looked at the B&Q 28mm stuff but our store didn’t stock it and we couldn’t be bothered to drive to the nearest store that did, so we looked in Howdens, borrowed a friends trade discount (thank god we did! They’re EXPENSIVE in there!) and found the perfect worktop to match our wallboard. It’s cut to length and currently being used as a workbench!
There’s so much more to do though.
Nik keeps saying that we’re nearly there but it honestly feels a mile away! Still, baby steps, I guess.
We did get some garden work done over the last week too (by “we” I mean “Nik”, of course)
The peas are all staked and netted now so they should be good to go, and the potatoes have doubled in size already since I took that photo!
The nice weather has been great for the garden but it’s a bit of a pain having to take away from “van time” to get the grass cut or the garden hoed!
Apart from that, nothing much is doing. Jake’s approaching his first exam so he’s concentrating on making sure he’s as maths-crammed as is humanly possible, but he’ll be fine. He’s a bright kid. He’s come on so much in the last 6 months that he’s almost a different person now.
He’s independently getting himself to and from work on his scooter and he’s come out of his shell a lot.
I’m excited to see how he grows and learns over the next few years.
I’ve switched Eliot’s school from focussing on Maths to concentrating a bit more on English. He did some writing and currently we’re reading his book and every so often I’ll read out a paragraph and he’ll type it. We’re using it to develop (and test!) his spelling, and I’ve been surprised actually at just how reasonable his spelling is.
Usually, the only things I see him type are social media posts, so the like and it’s reassuring to know that he actually CAN spell!
It’s a big weight off my mind.
So yeh, all updated, I think… until the next time!
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!