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?
It’s sooooo close now that even I can see it (and, unlike Nik, I’ve been in denial about the proximity of completion for months!)It’s starts to feel real when the carpet goes down.
That’s right: carpet!But let’s backtrack a bit.
Last weekend was spent mostly trying to construct a bathroom. We had side walls but no front (hallway) wall so that needed building and installing, as well as the waterproof shower board which needed fixing up.
Plumbing was debated quite a lot and it was decided that our corner sink, small as it was, was too big for our little wet room so we bit the bullet and ordered a tip-up sink unit. We’d contemplated it earlier in the project but they don’t come cheap.
In a campervan, however, NO additional space comes cheap!
We also then had to re-think how and where to fit the new sink and the taps, which were originally fitted into the worktop with the corner sink.
So a box was made in which to locate the taps outside of the fold-up sink so it could be used both to fill the sink or, with the sink folded away, to shower.
As it stands, the bathroom now only really needs a shower tray building and then fully sealing.
That’ll be fun!
The front wall was added and silver boarded to match the rest of the van interior (silver for interior fittings/furniture, textured cream fleck for walls)
Nik also built, from scratch, a very impressive unit to make up the last piece of additional furniture in the van. We had always planned to put storage here but didn’t make it or plan it at all until we’d been using the van entrance with the L-shaped seat/bed units in for a while. It helped because we then decided not to encroach on the entrance area at all and angle off the corner to open up the hallway area a bit.
He is clever my man!
There’s been a lot of trimming done this week too.
The sink and hob both got their seals ordered and fitted. They’d both come (second hand) with their original trims but I couldn’t clean them up satisfactorily. The originals are cream but I could only get black as replacements. Fortunately, black works for us!
A start was made on the section above the main sliding door too. It’s a tricky area to cover and there’s been much discussion over felt vs board or a combination of the two. Nik decided he’d prefer board (he’s the one making it so it’s his decision!) and it’s still a work in progress (many templates later!)
We’ve also been 3D printing bits and pieces. We have a few doors in the van which don’t have space to accommodate handles so we (aka Nik) improvised and printed some finger hole handles which glue in to a drilled hole and have caps on the inside.
There are a couple more places where we’re using these handles too. In the storage space under the beds, we made a pull-out step storage so the boys can climb up to the bunks.
This is the point at which we realised we really needed to fit carpet!
This box slides in and out, and we couldn’t begin to put in the drawer without having definite heights which would be dictated by the carpet. So, we headed into town and picked up an offcut!
Carpet was also added to the top of the box step…
…which opens to reveal oodles of (probably) kitchen storage for larger items (cereals and suchlike)
So yeah. Apart from work and the van (and we most certainly will NOT talk about THAT referendum!), we’ve been kept pretty busy.
Even more so this Monday when not only did we have to take the car to the garage to fix a water leak (it was booked in for Wednesday but the problem had got significantly worse over the weekend) and then our main work laptop died. Fortunately, that’s under warranty still but it’s still a week without it (and using a backup laptop which is far from ideal) in the meantime.
The car however. That will be costly.
This year’s been a bit rubbish really.
But hey, there’s always the van…
And I did find 5p on the floor today so there’s that!
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.
We should at least be grateful it landed on a weekend though, eh? If it’d been, say, a Monday/Tuesday, we’d have been mightily peeved!
We did take the opportunity to get stuff done on the van though. If anything, it was TOO hot for such work, but we certainly weren’t going to let that stop us.
We’ve got several “main tasks” on the go at the moment. Firstly, the gas. We received our 4-way gas manifold so now we can get sorted with copper pipe and fittings and get the gas lines running through the van to the cooker, hob, water heater and fridge (yes, fridge. A 3-way fridge can run on 12v (leisure battery), 240v (hook up) or gas!)
4-way gas manifold to isolate each gas line in the van
In the meantime, seeing as we didn’t have the manifold in time to make the gas our weekend project, we continued felt-lining, working on the bed end of the van. Unlike the main living area, kitchen area and bathroom, which all have finishing boards for the walls, the “bedroom” ends are going to be carpet/felt-lined for comfort. There are some big panels to cover, as well as around the already-covered back doors and, ultimately, the bed sides will be covered too.
Doors, door surrounds and one side panel covered. The tops of the sides will also be done; the bottoms are in cupboards (why waste fabric?!)
Of course, behind every panel, felted or not, lots of insulation is required.
The beds took a bit of getting back in! The bed ends will be rounded off before being felt-covered themselves (where visible) and the white area around the back doors is where the rubber door seal fits.
There’s quite a bit to cover with this grey stuff: the bed-side wardrobe wall, the main sliding door inner and the tops of the bed ends but hopefully we have enough carpet felt left!
We’ll probably be tackling the gas as the next project though. The fridge vents and flue are marked to cut out and we can get the kitchen built-in once the gas pipes are run.
That’s definitely a milestone!
Apart from that, we’ve not done much. Work is busy, business is picking up for the summer (which is both good for our business and good for Jake as it means there’s work for him at Pyramid too!)
Customers all want it yesterday though, of course. Despite our 28 day warnings!
Eliot has been practising his writing a bit. He learned how to use a dictionary in order to spell a word you don’t know, and he wrote a nice (and quite neat!) piece about Redstone (it’s a Minecraft thing!) which I was impressed with. He’s very talented with redstone and often takes hours and hours building contraptions that really require some thinking “outside the box”. It’s something I tend to encourage as it’s education without him realising it!
I don’t think we have another 12 months use left in it, and Eliot does appear to have lost interest in the way it teaches. It was excellent while it lasted and I cannot imagine that I could have taught Eliot all that he has learned any other way. We’ve moved to workbooks but the improvement in 12 months is clear to see.
Yep, it’s really been 12 months since Eliot left school. In that time we’ve managed to rescue his “maths age” by 2 years. That’d never have happened in school. We also read quite regularly (Minecraft-related books – whatever piques his interest works for me) and that’s improving too. It can only help his spelling and vocabulary.
I had a discussion with him the other day about going back to school in September. He was sort of interested but didn’t want to and I think it would be a backwards step if he did (I didn’t tell him that, obviously!)
There’s so much that his peers will have been taught that he’d have missed that he’d quickly get behind again and unfortunately, once behind always behind in classes of 30+ kids in schools with targets to hit!
Anyway, we’re getting on OK. It’ll be all change again when Jake starts college in September so who knows where life will take us then!
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!