Monday, 10 October 2011

Pick yourself up and try again!

Hello again, laptop is back... well it never left really, but packing and phoning and sorting isn't very interesting in the first place, far less writing about it as well.

One week today and Archie and I move to France. The van resolutely stays here! He reinvented himself as a storage shed, inconsiderate @^£$! Remember the very expensive key/fob thingy? Well it decided it didn't like talking to the immobiliser after all, that along with all the other iffy bits made me decide to forget it, I cant trust it to even start, far less go 1200 miles. Its not easy giving in but sometimes its best.

Lessons learnt:
1. vans that cost £300 are shit.
2. positive thinking does not apply to mechanics.
3. when things go pear shaped, just wait a wee while and generally all problems are surmountable.

So, I am hiring a van to get me, Archie and my stuff to France. The delightful Adrian is allowing my shed to stay on his driveway for the time being and is even making the trip with me to return the hire van. 17 hour drive, a few days sussing out how stuff works in France, then Adrian makes the return 17 hour journey, and I'm alone in France with Archie. Its not quite the dream I had, but life's like that. I don't get my solo drive into the sunset, I don't get my meandering 3 to 4 week journey through the country, visiting friends and relatives, showing off my newly build lovely van, I don't get my £20K profit from the house to play with... but I do get to go to somewhere..... for now, that will do.

I am saving hard to buy another van, as soon as I possibly can (I'm homeless once the work in France dries up). Hopefully before the end of the year I will be back to playing with bits of wood, losing pencils and swearing at pipes.  Target is £1000 for the base van and I'm recruiting my brother into selecting it this time (hindsight is such an arrogant git!).  Hopefully I can get another Renault Master ambulance, I really like the interior and the parts and fittings I already have can be easily used again. I hate selling stuff, its such a hassle, photographing, advertising, posting etc... There are heaps of good bits on my shed, it would make life much simpler if I could re-use them myself.

Oh, I bought a bike, £10 from the recycling place! Will I ever learn? No, I'm broke....if I want something, it has to be cheap or I just have to keep wanting it.  Unfortunately, the bracket and basket required for Archie will cost me £60... I might just buy the bracket (£18) and rig something else up for the basket. The nearest shop, from my abode in France is about 6 miles away, on the other side of a forest.  I have the use of a land rover discovery in France but with a 4 litre engine, I would be silly to waste money on bombing about in it, besides I'm not entirely confident about driving on the wrong side of the road!  Why the basket? have you tried cycling through the streets of a strange town with a very agile little dog running beside you? I thought not, or you wouldn't have asked.

Am I excited? no, not really... I'm getting all sorts of weird vibes from family and friends about leaving. Of course this may just be my guilt at abandoning everyone or more likely my complete ineptitude at learning French, but its weird none the less.  I've been talking about this for over a decade, I think they all thought I was waffling (not a poor conclusion, I have been known to waffle occasionally) now I'm actually going, it doesn't seem that big a deal to me. Its only France, you can get a train to France, and I will no doubt be back very soon.  It is nice that folk will miss me, but please stop being sad, its scary enough as it is!

Monday, 22 August 2011

The End of the Blog, as we know it....

This blog is going to die, not least because I have far to much to do and am really struggling to find time and motivation to continue writing it.... (on the off chance that anyone other than I actually reads it)

The project is continuing, but my laptop is going to start college next week with my daughter, so my internet access is going, and Im not keen enough to try and write a blog from my mobile.

Good luck to you all X

Friday, 29 July 2011

And now we can pee (but only if we really really have to!)

As I don't have a fridge yet and I am unlikely to do better than a coolbox in the near future, I decided to put the shower/loo box thingy in the fridge space, I think it fits rather nicely there and doesn't eat into much floor space.  It makes a rather handy little bench too, perfect height for putting your feet up!  Also it is in an ideal location to soak your feet in while sat on the sofa.... I can't finish it yet, i.e. seal it, as the gas pipe will run behind it somewhere, but its only a box screwed to the woodwork either side, so its easy to move for now.

Table/seat.. (table top yet to be added)

My utterly sophisticated emergency loo (yes its a bucket!)

Shower tray

It needs sanded, sealed and tidied but Im pleased with it. I will put some hinged worktop over the lid to hide its real function...and drill a hole in the floor for the drain....talking of worktop, we went to the dump yesterday and found (I love freebies!!)...

4 large-ish sheets of 18mm ply and a lovely wee folding table, I'm a happy girl, worktop can be fitted next week without costing a penny!  I had planned on buying a length of worktop from Ikea at £60 which would give the van a smarter finish, but the buzz of getting something free over rules!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Reassess and rewrite plan.

The last month has been boring, frustrating and humbling.... But as ever there are plenty of silver linings around, so not all is lost... :)  Bare in mind, my main plan of 'taking off and seeing what happens'... well this is how its happening, for good and bad.

I'm in the process of becoming insolvent, which isn't quite as bad as it sounds... The house is not selling and every month brings me closer to disaster, so I've surrendered...kind of. The longer the house is on the market, the more I have to eat into any collateral therein, and I'm rapidly reaching the point where I'll still be in debt once it does sell. I have therefore started insolvency proceedings, which should be formalised next week..Square 1, isn't a bad place to be.  This leaves me, I think, with a van and a dog and no money....I've been in worse situations!

But what I also have is work and accommodation waiting for me in France (for an unspecified time).  I have been offered a house sitting/gardening/project manager/labourer post in Brittany, which suits me down to the ground (literally). All I have to do is get there, around 1100 miles.

As it is doubtful whether the van will pass another MOT, it makes sense to get the van to France before the end of November. This time scale changes the level of finishing quite considerably. The van and interior are now only required to provide adequate accommodation and transport for a few weeks.  I plan on leaving here mid September (arriving in France early October), so I have 6 weeks to get the van running, safe and taxed along with somehow providing cooking and washing facilities (albeit minimal).  Everything must be done on the very very cheap; the diesel costs alone are a struggle (AA reckon £300), far less ferry (£100) and food etc.. I should really get breakdown cover too.

Anyway, I'll return to the van in a later blog (once I've reassessed what really has to be done) My shifts at work have changed and Ive spent the last month clearing and sorting the house ready to vacate, so the van is my main priority now...(well besides a million other things, like learn French! Eeeeek!)...

Any advise will be appreciated on cheapness and easiness, so don't be afraid to tell me I'm doing something daft....the clock is ticking to my long awaited drive down the A9 away from life as I know it, and I am so excited (and a little scared!)

Monday, 20 June 2011

And stop!

Van is on hold at the moment and for the next couple of months, need to spend time sorting other stuff...

Friday, 10 June 2011

Fatal Flaw, realised at 3am!

The shower can't go behind the sliding door.... The shower head will reach but I won't be able to reach the tap to control the temperature (assuming at some point, I will have temperature to control)..... grrrr

Back to the drawing board....again :)

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Decision made.

The shower box is going behind the sliding door, the tap reaches over.... pics to explain...

As a tap.
As a shower.

The tap, I liked this tap, its a bit on the large side but its dual function amuses me somewhat... And as it reaches happily from the Kitchen area across the van, I can easily site the shower behind the sliding door... leaving the heater free and giving access to the cab and kitchen cupboards.  Just need to work out what kind of unobtrusive hook/bracket/support to use to hold the shower head in place when required....Im thinking velcro strap for easiness, will think more on this.

The position of the shower box.

Tomorrow I'll turn this blue plastic thing into a seat, I think... or upholster the sofa arms (which I didn't do today, but I did rope my sister into advising.... and leaving with fabric and measurements for some blinds....thanks Susan)

Most of my time today was spent designing the storage bags over the bed, its so easy to get carried away with planning forgetting that actually executing these ideas is an entirely different thing.

One more pic....Archie helping!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Oh look its raining....again

Successful couple of days, despite the constant rain... framework for the kitchen is complete....

The timbers are slightly larger section than I would have liked, but they were there and changing them became such a headache... on the plus side it is solid as it is and therefore can happily be clad in lighter stuff... 

The water tanks tuck in rather nicely, will have to remember to fill the waste one with water and check its still easy to remove for emptying before cladding the unit.  The fresh water tank can stay where it is and I'll rig up some kind of filler hose to make things easier.  The oven and stove bits will be lined with steel, but first I need to suss out the vent that goes out the side of the van and figure out what/where/how to fit the gas locker... I was hoping the gas bottles would fit under the oven but thats obviously not going to work, so they will have to go under the bed at the back.  I decided to keep it simple and use corner brackets (mainly as I found some cheap and bought lots....and I got to borrow a new drill/screwdriver!) for fixing the framework together...also makes it easy to dismantle if required in the future.  Im hoping that I can have a curved cupboard under the sink, but it wont be easy to may become shelves :)

Dan dismantled the ice machine today, to get the sheet steel for the oven, and left me with a dilema.... the bit that held the ice is a fully sealed fibreglass unit with a drain hole, which would make a perfect base for my shower/loo/seat box idea.... but its slightly larger than I need it to be, height wise is easily cut down but width is not so simple....

The plan (for those who can't be bothered reading back) is to have a sealed box which houses the portapotty, with a hinged, cushioned lid to be used generally as a seat, lift the lid and remove the potty and using a curtain a shower can, in theory, be utilised without drowning the dog! The drain at the moment was going to simply be a hole drilled into the floor and a bucket put under the van if required, or park over a drain, with a limited water supply I won't be showering for long!)However...

My problem is that I had planned for the shower box to be located behind the passenger seat but
1.  It makes removing the water/waste tanks difficult.
2. Access to the cab is also less than I'd like, but not impossible.
3. It blocks the heater (the wee round hole to the lower left in the first photo above.

So, do I...
1. Move the shower to sit tight against the sink unit and climb over to reach the cab... would mean relocating the tanks and restricts access to the kitchen storage, but does free up the heater.
2. Somehow duct the heater to the front face of the shower box, or move the heater somewhere else completely (not sure Im capable of executing that)
3. Move the shower box to behind the sliding door...Not sure if the tap/shower head will reach.
4. Have the box as a loose unit (secured by...something, but able to be moved when the shower is needed) so it generally lives behind the sliding door but can be moved to behind the passenger seat so the tap/shower head) reaches.
5. Forget it and go back to my custom made (but probably no where near as well sealed) shower box idea and use this bit as a gas locker.

Its all abitary at the moment as I have no real chance of getting a water heater until the house sells and the solar idea is for much later on, but I don't want to have to completely redesign the van when I do eventually get one....or maybe I do :)

Hoping to upholster (ish) the arms of the sofa tomorrow.... but Im definately winging it so who knows whether it will be achieved! I cut out the fabric on the back of the 'real' sofa, the sofa is being dumped when I leave as Im taking the cushions.... as its sitting against a wall in the house, I didn't think it mattered.... The cat is thoroughly enjoying ambushing Archie by hiding in the space under the sofa though.... :)

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The way a day should end!

Its 1am, my wrists ache with turning screws (my faithful drill has died) but I have 2 curved sofa arms, a working compressor, a van that starts first time and a new brake pipe almost fitted....

Im pleased with my sofa, the second arm was a bit tricky (hesitant mindset, you have to be masterful with bits of wood or they do as they please!) so I decided to use 2 pieces on the bend (and a whole box of panel pins!) but its there and once the glue is set is it will stay there! It is being upholstered (when i figure out how :-/....) so it doesn't need to look pretty yet. I even put the hinges on the seat bases, hinges and I don't generally see eye to eye, but its done and I reackon I won!

Brake pipe dilema is also solved, remarkably easily.  I've had some valuable assistance from a very nice gentleman Jim, from the SBMCC who was passing this way on a trip and offered to help out. He suggested that Dan remove the old breakpipe and take it to a garage for them to make a new one. At 4:30pm the old pipe is removed and off they go, returning at 5pm with a new shiny breakpipe complete with connecting ends and it only cost a fiver! Its not fitted yet as I was too engrossed with bending bits of wood to stop and let them jack up the van. They decided to replace Jims oil filter instead, which all went well until they discovered a washer that Dan should have put back on, luckily they only lost a litre or so of the gallons of new oil trying to fit it retrospectively.... Jim restrained (restrained? did I mention it was 1 am when I wrote that?...I mean refrained, obviously...I disagree with restraints!) from slapping him :)....But I doubt Dan will ever make that mistake again....the timeless irony of youth verses experience.

I SWORNED the van today, I don't see the point in spending £112 when the van isn't going to leave Adrians driveway for a few weeks yet. Most of my remaining 'van money' went to Unite as a deposit for my daughters room for college, hence the lack of 'costs' at the end of each blog :) ...I'm having to use what I can find/beg and borrow, strangely I find it much more entertaining than just buying the stuff I need. I have most of the necessary items, but will have to smile sweetly at work to get extra tips to buy the inevitable odds and ends.

The van started first time this morning and the compressor behaved too, my faith in it is being restored rapidly and Im again thinking about its debut trip.  All is well again in van world, and thanks Jim...

Monday, 30 May 2011

What a difference a day makes

Today, is officially a good van day! It didn't particulary start that way.... but I best begin with Saturday for anything to make sense....

Saturday - I nailed (literally) one curved arm for the I pleased with myself :) I do find, an forgive me  my ramblings but I've spent many hours of my life, alone with a bit of wood that doesn't want to do what I think it should do....but I have found that my ability to actually complete a task I've never done before, has more to do with my mindset than anything else.  I didn't find bendy MDF, nor did I look very hard... but Saturday, I decided to try again... same tools, same knowledge, same bit of wood but this time I end up with a curved arm rest rather than a bit of wood messed up with glue and panel pins.

Meanwhile, the boys were tinkering under the bonnet... van doesn't start, nothing but a soft click in reward for turning the very expensive key/fob thingy... but by the end of the day we turn the key again and hey presto we have a running engine.... would love to say gently purring engine but that would be an utter lie! But it goes, so we all smile and go away happy....

This morning however, we happily get to the van to tackle the compressor and arm rest No 2, turn the key and are rewarded once again with a soft click. A day of taking off/cleaning/securing/remaking connections and cables and we once again have a running engine.... whats more, with a little bit of tinkering and a huge dollop of luck from the compressor elf, we also have a functioning compressor.... Im a happy girl, and would like to say thanks to the boys for their help.

So,  next problem on the list, finding the brake fluid leak and replacing necessary brake pipes.... which apparently requires a brake pipe flaring tool (I hope thats right), which are not easy to get hold of and may be quite expensive to buy.... Im away to hunt ebay for a few hours.

Update - ebay brake flaring tools range from £8.99 to £219.... how the heck does one know what to do....looks like I'll have to ask a bloke, again....pffft :)

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Slip Sliding Away...

Things are not going great at the moment and may be heading for square 1 again, or even square -20..... The compressor that runs the suspension appears to be knackered, well it ain't working and we (Dan) hasn't figured out why yet... To replace it is approx £300 and therefore definately kills my van.  So until we find a solution for that, nothing else is going to happen (can still sell the brake parts, as new if required).

The road tax is up at the end of the month, 6 months tax will take us up to November (when the MOT runs out) but Im not buying it if the van doesn't get to go can happily be SORNed (thanks again Adrian) but that gives me nothing but a workshop to build the units in....and a smoking room at Adrians house.... 

I really want to keep going with this, even if other commitments are taking priority right now and time is tight but at this point, I really don't know whats going to happen.  My confidence is taking a battering and my stress levels are increasing rapidly (not just with the van) so some time out is required...pity the van isn't mobile I could really do with a jaunt away. 

I did discover an old timber gypsy wagon for sale a few miles away, I know as much about horses as I do about mechanics... but right now that seems so much simpler! not sure how to get a horse on a ferry though...ha ha

Posts will be sporadic over the next wee while, but hopefully they will become more possitive... I strongly believe that, as they say in these parts, 'fit's fae ye, will'nae gan by ye'  or for the rest of you... 'whats for you you will not go by you'.... but at the moment, its not looking like the 'van plan', is for me, but who know whats around the corner.

Hope you're all having better luck with your plans.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

My Silence is noted :)

I've developed a major attack of the 'can't be arsed'... Probably due to the lovely weather we have been having, or the distinct lack of 'bendy mdf' suppliers in the Highlands, or that the wheel nuts refuse to budge, or....maybe Im just lazy :)

Had full intentions of working on the van yesterday, but woke up feeling really grumpy... decided it wasn't wise to work in that frame of mind, I did try to remove the lockers... took out every screw possible but they are still firmly attached to the van! Been advised to keep them which is good advise, but Im not going to follow it... I dont want them there, and now that they seem to want to stay, Im more determined than ever that they are not!  Last resort - grinder! I hate grinders, I'm not keen on power tools of any sort (although I wouldn't be able to do half the things I do without them) but I especially hate power tools that cause sparks.  What can I say, Im a girl!

Bendy MDF exists! I know it does, the internet knows it does, B&Q (Wickes/homebase/etc) knows it does....but the 12 year old, spotty guy that works in Inverness's B&Q claims different, Inverness Homebase guy - never heard of it, Inverness Wickes guy - we dont stock that, try Aberdeen! (Aberdeen is 100 miles away)  Wickes online can send me a sheet.... £12 for the sheet, £35 delivery! I dont think so.  My mission tomorrow is to locate and purchase 1 piddly little sheet of bendy MDF in Inverness, failing that I could always learn how to use my router....or smile sweetly at someone else to use my router...

Wheel nuts.... I have brake discs (disks?) and pads x 4, in a box in the van... ordering and delivery was no problem... getting Dan up on Tuesday to fit them - no problem.... 2 broken socket sets later, they are all still sitting in a  box in the van! Im going to have to drive the van to a garage, smile sweetly (or pathetically depending on how old the mechanic is) and get them to loosen them all, tighten by hand and drive home again... unless anyone out there has any bright ideas? We have tried clarting them in wd40 over night, using a scaffolding pole to extend the leverage, hitting them with a big hammer, swearing a lot and kicking the wheels...

Up side is, I again have power steering! Pulley collected and fitted...Thanks Dan

I probably won't get to the van until Friday, but if I can complete my mission tomorrow, I will have a finished sofa by Friday night....if not the lockers are getting it!

Fed up doing costs, proper....

Pulley cost £30 :)

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

4 days, doing what?

Were did all that time go? I took the weekend off (to go camping, didnt camp) but seem to have spent all that time building, just one arm of a sofa!....did I mention that Im big on comfort?...  Sofa's are vital for a contented life, in my humble opinion, comfy bed and comfy sofa makes Annie a happy girl, Archie approves too! I hate how normally caravans etc have square backed narrow sofa cushions, they may be easy to fit and take up less space, but you then have a lifetime of squirming about tryng to get comfy when you should be relaxing happily on holiday.... not for me, I own one very comfy sofa and I plan on taking it with me!  Im even planning cutting a big section of fabric out of the back to cover the arms with, but I've never tried upholstery proper, and haven't the foggiest how to make a bendy bit wood, cover in fabric then fit to van securely....could just paint the arms, they will generally have cushions on them anyway....we shall see how maliable the mdf is when it gets here...

I tried using 3mm ply on the curvy bits, which took most of a day, faffing about, then gave up.... bendy mdf is required!  (used cardboard to show how it should look)....But now I'd really like to have wee cubby holes in the arms (for art stuff, paint brushes/pencils etc)... I kinda know how I could achieve this but suspect it will take another 4 days of trial and error! Luckily I aquired a dozen sheets of ply (freebie) a few months ago, so trial and error is allowed!...  The sofa base is easily transferable to another (probably narrower) van, the arms are seperate units, these will need adjusted if refitted in another van, I may leave the cubby holes until then. 

Patience is a virtue apparently but the human mind just wants things finished!

The Ice machine is now sitting pointlessly in Adrians garage, ready to be stripped down to compoents... Im not sure what I'll get from it, but hopefully a gas locker, at least....

Solar water heater - I mentioned this previously, still trying to work out how and if it will work.... I calculated (roughly) that 25m of 40mm diameter pipework will hold 11 litres of water (enough for my purposes) now I just need to find a formula to establish how much area (on roof) 25m of curled up pipework will take up, preferably without actually buying the pipe (£50)...

This shows what I have in mind, except without the fancy plastic fittings, Im planning a sheet of wire mesh and fit the pipework to this with cable ties... Im begining to think its not worth the effort, but getting something for nothing really appeals to me.... even if the sun raises the water temperature a few degrees, it could still then be put through a gas powered water heater but cost me less gas than without it...lord alone knows how long it would take to pay for itself (Im not working that out!) But I reackon, in summer (especially in Europe) I could get a free hot-ish shower every day?

Enough rambling... I have stuff to do.... promised Archie a decent walk today...he's been this bored all weekend....

Costs - I really can't be bothered thinking about it...its my birthday today, so I don't have to do boring stuff!... bought brake discs/pads etc for around £180...couple of sheets of 3mm ply..... and not much else...

Away for a sunny walk by the river... :)

Thursday, 28 April 2011

It was all going so well...or was it?

Well the last 2 days have been interesting....or rather frustrating.

The garage did an MOT test, which has effectively killed my van... but not yet as the current MOT lasts until November. For £60, I now have a list of defects.  It included brake discs, pads and pipes, wipers, lights etc but they also found structural corrosion at the rear suspension, which is apparently far too complicated/expensive/pain-in-the-arse to fix on such a van. I have been assured that it is not bad enough to be a safety concern, just that its not worth putting it through another test. They didnt bother fixing anything at all... So, options are...

1- I can scrap the van for £300 and start again with the searching for another van, budget maximum £1300 (I did find a lovely green LDV for £850 but its in middle-england-shire, and to be honest, the thought of starting all over again with another unknown...well it isn't pleasant!  I could be no further forward with another cheap van... the AA would do a vehicle inspection for £190, but that plus costs to get there and drive it back would leave me with no spare cash for unforeseens. 

2- Give-up the whole thing and have a wee holiday!  :)

3- Spend a fortune getting this van able to travel europe.

4- Spend a couple of hundred pound replacing brakes, broken pulley etc and use this van for the summer, scrapping it in November when its test runs out.

Option 4, on balance is my favourite....Im still hopeful that the house will sell soon, which ups my budget for the base van, I was already making all the fittings demountable and can happily continue doing so (with or without a van) And I (and Archie) get to spend the summer practicing van life....Down side is theres nothing to say that more and more isn't going to break down, and I just keep having to buy parts to keep it running... would probably also be wise to join the AA!  And if on the off chance I happen to find a good looking welder, capable of being corrupted by flirting, it may get a 2nd innings...but more likely I'll have to find a better van to do Europe...

Anyway, I have a sofa to build tomorrow (its quite a bit narrower than the van making it easily traferred to a new van when required. I also need to board up the window a bit more neatly, and tidy up the bodywork as best I more money will be spent making this van pretty!

I also managed to blag an old ice machine from work, which is made out of 2mm steel, about the size of an industrial washing machine, so should be able to get enough metal to build a gas locker... And I've even been offered a free (used) leisure battery, so between that and the old van battery I reackon I have enough power for now (if the van moves occasionally that is!)

Going to call an old friend tomorrow to ask if he'll take a look at the van, there are a few problems that haven't been addressed yet, like the van doesnt seem to be earthed properly (battery draining) and the suspension still isn't playing nice etc...I would value an opinion from one I trust...

Costs  £995.50  Carried forward
           £ 60.00  Garage

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Do we really want to know the future?

Good stuff and bad stuff today... Got the bed fixed tight and almost finished, well finished enough to throw an air matress and sleeping bag on and be quite happy (did take a pic but the camera battery died, I'll hunt for charger tomorrow)... Dan tidied up the cab and put all the door panels back on (door shuts now.... abracadabra!....still doesn't lock with the very expensive key/fob thingy!)  So we happily went to the local industrial estate for a practice drive before dropping it off at the garage.  I decided to keep the garage appointment as the compressor for the suspension doesnt shut off, so thought it best be looked at, turns out that was a very wise move, a few creaks, a crack followed by loss of power steering and a wee pile of 'bits' left on the road.... the power steering pulley had snaped in 2... Got it to the garage and left them a very nice note explaining (Im sure I will be the butt of their jokes tomorrow, but I dont care) and Im now hoping that all can be rectified simply and of course cheaply.... Shall find out in the future! :)

Costs   £970.50 Carried forward
             £ 25      Hydrolic fluid (I forgot to add this a few days ago)
             £995.50....... I must spend a fiver tomorrow to cross the half way mark...
                                  ....ha ha of course I will, the van is in the garage....
                                  ....for a moment I forgot they will want paying!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Happy van, Happy girl!

Just a quick update before work.... Had a miserable week with flat batteries, and doors not closing, and mechanics that don't wake before 4pm....

Managed to borrow a charger last night and this afternoon the van started nicely for Adrian, but even better....the suspension works! Had arranged for it to go into the expensive garage on Wednesday, now I can spend the money on diesel and take the van (and Archie) on its debut camping trip (Ive booked the weekend off).   Dan had tied off a lose air pipe (suggested 3 weeks ago, done yesterday!) but we couldn't check it without the battery being charged...

I've ordered a new battery anyway, the old one can be a back-up for the electrics in the van...

Happy Days!

Costs        £885.50 Carried Forward
                 £  85      battery

Oh! Almost half way to spending my funds,but I'm happy!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Fed up!

Not having a great week, to be expected occasionally I'm sure, but going backwards instead of forwards.

Power steering pump has arrived and is the correct one, but not fited yet (not sure why, by thats to be expected too when you use your son as your mechanic!) And now the battery is flat and doesnt seem to want to take a charge or a jump start.  I am thoroughly grateful for the help I get with the mechanics (as I'm very aware how little I know) but it all goes so very slow.

I've bitten the bullet and booked the van into a garage to have a look at the suspension, and of course the only garage in town with ramps big enough is the most expensive one. But at least I should get an answer, and I can still hope that its something silly and won't make the whole project financially unfeasible with this van (please don't send me back to square 1!).

I remebered what else I bought last week, as it arrived along with the distibution board... its my hob and grill :) £21.50 including delivery, from ebay. Its as old as I am but looks rather good in a retro kinda way, needs a bit of TLC and is unfortunalty white while the oven is cream but one cannot complain when the whole lot cost £51.50!  Now I need to build a housing for them, get gas bottle/s and build gas locker, get manifold, pipes, connections etc, make a hole in floor for venting gas bottles, find someone to connect the gas and possibly service the appliances and I should have full cooking facilities. It all sounds very easy until you actually start doing it :)  Where do you buy sheet metal from? (lining of cooker housing and gas locker) Will a regular plumber be willing to connect the gas? What gas (propane or butane) should I be getting or does it matter? It all adds up to many hours reading books and forums, before consulting trade websites and ebay to find the 'bits' that I've just learned I need!

All this stress and angst is completely my own fault, of course!  :) I know that, I'm in no hurry and the van is not required at the moment but I want to take it away next weekend and the stuff stopping me doing that, is stuff that I cant do myself. I so dislike not being in control.  I've also tentatively booked a place on a meet with the SBMCC in Scarborough, early May as its relatively close to York where the double passenger seat is... I feel daft enough going to the meet with the van barely started, but it at least has to actually go! Would be good to see what others have done before I get too entrenched.

Costs    £864  Carried forward
             £ 21.50  Hob and grill

Monday, 18 April 2011

I blame Aesop!

Havent done any work on the van today, except numerous phone calls...yawn!

PAS pump is ordered, £74 (why I dont know, the quote I got from them was for almost £100, but I bit my tongue and didnt argue the point).

Man with double seat (£60 on ebay) quoted anther £60 for delivery, think a trip to York might be in order....well Im half planning a trip to Scarborough early May anyway so this might make it worthwhile.

Called Autoglass, and they left me with a dilema.... I can get the side window replaced for £75 excess on my insurance, but.... it seems wrong to claim for something that was broken when I bought it, I'd have to lie about how it broke, kinda, and I dont like lying. although I know that insurance companies are the biggest legal crooks going (closely followed by bankers and estate agents!) my principles should still remain, regardless of what other people do/would do.... looks like Im paying full price for the window!

Note to parents of young children - reading Aesops Fables to your child, seriously damages their ability to function in modern life!

Costs - £790 carried forward
             £74  power steering pump

Friday, 15 April 2011

And the day is done...

How much did I want to get done today? Aspirations always excede reality!  And it'll will be over a week before I can get back to it!.... but I almost have a bed :)  Nothing is actually fixed to the van yet, but I plan to use the flooring rails to bolt the finished units to, along with fixing at high level to the walls.... this means that the units have to be solid, independantly (like free standing furniture)... I also have to decide (or buy) batteries and gas bottles... I only need to know what size they are, but its easier if you have them on hand to make sure they can be accessed properly when complete... this has to be right before I glue the joints in the units, in case adjustments are required.  So it all means frustration at not getting on quicker, I've only been patient for a decade, so another year will be easy-peasy!

It even looks like a bed, and cost nothing :)  (except 2 days)

I have designed (in my head) the kitchen corner now, a cup of coffee and a smoke, after tidying up, solved that one... I didn't think too much about it before as I wasn't sure what size the appliances would be nor had I decided on the services, now I have the oven, sink and water tanks in the van, makes it much easier to visualise how things fit together. I also think I can have a slightly bigger shower than I thought.  I have great ideas for storage in many of the nooks-and-crannies, but I'm not sure I can actually execute them... I'm gonna try anyway!

Didn't spend anything today, never left the van :) 

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Go away life, Im busy!

Again I feel like I've achieved nothing, but that isn't true... tomorrow will be the assembly of the small mountain of wood that was painstakingly cut today.  I also found a unwanted pine wardrobe in Adrians garage :) which will very soon become the base of the fixed bed, it even has a slot in exactly the right place to take the edge of the fold down ply (that probably doesnt make sense yet, but it will very soon). No need to learn how to use the unused, 2 year old, router, yet!  Why these things scare me I'll never work out, once I do use it, I'll love it! I like playing with wood, so all is well in van-world. Would be nice to have a few more hours, but I have more freedom than many on this venture so I'd better not complain.  Another whole day tomorrow, hopefully.

A whole day? Thats never true, stopping every 10 mins to rescue Archie from whatever misadventure he's discovered, is distracting... he discovered a large black bee today, was he confused by this fluffy, buzzy thing he'd found?...he tried playing with it but just covered it with drool, preventing it from flying... I like bee's (well, I think they are important...I don't like them enough to pick one up!), so of course I then spent half an hour playing football with Archie, to stop him eating the poor thing, until it found shelter.

My cheap sink is getting more expensive, cost £8 for a plug hole kit, but even proper sinks dont have this part included, so I suppose its ok.

The plumbing stuff I ordered yesterday arrived this afternoon! (Well done, rainbow conversions!) Why delivery companies make so much fuss about delivering up here is beyond me, we may be 3 hours north of Edinburgh but we do have roads and trucks. I dont know if Ive mentioned this, but the company I can get a window from (centre side window) is charging £55 for the window, £15 for a fixing kit and £50 for delivery! Im reluctant to order it, but more reluctant to spend van-hours on the phone to scrappies, so I stay in limbo. As with the power steering pump, I haven't ordered yet (£55 again, with £20 delivery) And the double front seat in York that I should buy from ebay, but would have to organise a courier....I really hate phoning folk, its one of the reasons I want to wander off aimlessly, no postal address, no official phone number... :) 

I'd like to take the van away 'camping' just to get a feel for sleeping in it, but its daft doing that until I get the window fixed (not to mention bloody freezing!) The steering pump needs done before then as well as the suspension, I really should focus on these things but I'm secretly hoping Dan will do them if I keep ignoring them, he owes me hours as digs (rent) until he finds another job, and I really dont want to learn all about the parts I'm asking for (why, do scrappies always ask me questions I haven't got a clue about?) But I'm in no real hurry, I can't really leave until the house sells and there is no sign of that happening anytime soon. The weather is getting better now though, so maybe the market will pick up again.

Costs     £775  carried forward
              £   8   sink plug thingy
              £   7   brackets

I think I bought something else, but I cant remember what it is, I'll add it into cost when I do.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

To blog or not to blog?

As this blog is about the build and nothing has happened with the build, do I blog at all? Life will repeatedly interfere with this project so there will be many days of silence to come.

My bowl arrived, and Im delighted! Just need to drill a suitable hole for the waste and I have a shiny sink :) I've also decided to keep the services, just one notch above camping standards for the time being; hot water, pumps, solar panels etc, for a decent home-from-home system is out of my budget at the moment. I've ordered stuff for a simple 25lt jerry can system which will provide me with a functioning sink, albeit with only cold water at the moment...water heaters are expensive, even second hand! I would like to somehow rig up a solar water heater (simple one, with black pipe laid out on the roof of the van) which should give me warm enough water on sunny days, but is utterly useless in Winter.   Camping has been my activity of choice for many years, so I think I can live with that, for now :)

The manaul I ordered for the van arrived too, but as ever technology has beaten me and I can't get the thing to load on the laptop even resorted to asking Dan to load it, but no... it will require contact with the providers to sort it out..... how I hate those calls to folk that bamboozle me with words I don't understand!

Fabric arrived too (I like this, getting parcels millarky) its ok, or it will be once it isn't lying innately in the corner and actually serves a function. 

Work tonight, then (all being well) 2 whole days working on the van!... probably wont achieve much more than finishing off the sofa and bed framework.  Ive almost used all the wood I took out of the van, so a timber order will be required soon... money is so easily spent, always makes me question whether its worth having :)

Oh, I'd like to mention the SBMCC... now Im not normally one for clubs or forums but I must recommend the Self Build Motor Caravanners Club, they have a wealth of information on there and are very friendly helpful people (they also give a discount from many suppliers).

Costs     £706 carried forward
              £69   water/waste tanks, pumps, filter, switch etc (rainbow conversions)

Sunday, 10 April 2011


Meet Archie (as I've done nothing to the van)...

Im so tempted to photoshop a cigar in place of his stick :)

I like him lots!

Ebay - I won an electrical distribution board for £15,  new ones are almst £200....

Costs  - £15 dist board
             £691 carried forward

Friday, 8 April 2011

The First cut is the hardest...

So many ways to do things.... I spent most of yesterday faffing about doing anything possible other than deciding which piece of wood goes 1st...but I did build a nice little work bench, and de-nailled all the wood I removed from the van. 

Today was better, I got the framework for the sofa done (batteries will be housed in here) and half the bed supports (mid height with storage beneath).  I changed the detail to extend the bed to double size, mid build (never a wise move), but the original way was too complex. The spaces either side of the sofa will be wee secret (shhh...) cubby holes for odds-and-ends.  Im now forming the back of the sofa with 3 layers of hinged ply which pulls up and out to sit on the worktops either side. Need to find some decent hinges and brackets tonight, well I've found plenty but I need to actually order some. Of the million websites Ive sourced stuff, I still can't find one that has everything vital. Delivery costs to the 'Highlands & Islands' can be expensive, regardless of the fact its no more difficult to get here as Aberdeen or Inverness...anyway, I try to keep my deliveries as bulked as possible.

Im taking the weekend off building, Im working Saturday and Sunday anyway...but will no doubt spend many hours trawling ebay for brackets/screws/etc.  Have bearly seen my daughter since I got the van and Archie needs a good walk tomorrow, he convinced me he was bored this morning by stealing the bit of wood I'd just cut and running off round the garden. He learned to 'wave' this week, its so cute :)

Costs      £30 oil and filter and rust-stuff
               £13 brake switch
               £15 10lt steel mixing bowl (sink)
               £6 Manual (van)              
               £627 carried forward

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

How much?!?!

Achieved lots of negatives today...
1. I now know that I dont really need a 2nd key for the van, since they cost at least £150! For one key! The single key I do have which opens every door except the drivers door (Im giving this prank to the April fools day purchase!) detaches itself from the fob-thingy, that is meant to work the central locking (if only it had a functioning battery). I have been informed that the fob-thingy also tells the immobiliser that Im allowed to start the engine.  Therefore, I already own one very important fob-thingy (what a lucky girl I am...ha ha) So, instead of buying a new key at a ridiculous price, Im going to develop a form of OCD about keys.
2. I (well Dan, my son has to take credit for this one) also discovered that, I don't really need to access the van via the drivers door (What a pain in the neck that is gonna be!). As the little plastic thingy....have you worked out that Im not mechanically minded yet?...anyhow, the little plastic thingy that allows the drivers door to be unlocked and locked from the outside, with the very expensive key/fob-thingy, is missing: but in order to replace the plastic thingy, I would have to purchase a new lock barrel, specifically designed around my very expensive key/fob-thingy!  That really isnt going to happen. So, I'm considering redesigning my entire layout, to make access from rear of van to drivers seat much more convienient, therefore giving myself an outside chance of not looking a complete pratt shuffling in through the passenger door to start the van. Heres hoping that a bit of fiddling by Dan with some wire can solve the problem.
3. I discovered that shopping in Inverness is not time efficient, cost efficient, enjoyable, or even worthwhile. I am intending purchasing everything possible online, from here in. We went to Halfords today, and were forcably tortured for the entire visit by having Jeremy Vine's wingeing moaners show blasted through the entire store! Went to 'Reid's Nuts and Bolts', for bolts (obvious enough?) they didn't do the kind of bolts I was looking for! it me?....haha Fortunately the guy at Renault was so very nice, and almost apologetic about the cost of a key, that I can honestly say that was the best shopping experience I had today...£150 for a key!
4. £20 ovens, need lots of cleaning. (I had expected this of course)
5. The van came with various anonomous switches, one of which cuts the electrics and engine (mentioned previously) I actually think this is a very useful security feature, as it prohibits anyone starting the engine without knowing how to reset it. However, when the van is occupied by a 7 month old puppy, the location of said switch should not be 6 inches off the floor! Must design a cover.

Enough doom and gloom, tomorrow I build! Comfort is very important to me as I intend to spend a long time in the van, so Im using the cushions off my existing sofa (which I love!) These are bigger than normal camper cushions so the van is essentially designed around them. By Saturdays pub shift, I'll have a comfy sofa in my van....the kids aren't impressed by the sofa base they have been left with at home!

I'd do costs tomorrow as its late.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Aches and Angst

Been cleaning the interior all day and Im still not finished! Walls have come up great but losing the will to live, not to mention a fair few braincells, removing stickers and signs with solvent. Its very satisfying removing 'NO SMOKING' signs whilst smoking though :) Spent ages trying to remove the lockers, but failed.... try again tomorrow, it would really piss me off if they had to stay simply because I cant get the screws out without bursting the ceiling finish! They are not an efficient use of space and are positioned exactly where I'll bang my head on them while in bed, which will never do!
Ebay won again today, Spent £70 on fabric, for blinds/curtains/storage etc. Tomorrow, an expensive trip to Inverness for bits and bobs.
Im concerned there might not be a lot, or even any insulation behind the fibreglass interior (cant see any through the numerous fitting openings), but its too valuable to me, in time and standard of finish, to remove at this point. Im thinking that lined curtains may be required to improve heat loss, with some kind of light penetrating blinds, for privacy without darkness. Will decide once fabric arrives :)
Dan and Adrian have been checking brakes/lights and fiddling with dodgy door handles etc all day... Van is now filled with little bundles of screws and facing panels.... I pressume they know where to put them back :/

Costs -   £70 fabric
            £557 Carried forward

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Pics and plans

Sunday morning...well my mornings start around noon, thanks to finishing work at 1am. Mothers day today, No 1 child (21) is out in the stormy Highland rain/sleet playing at a hockey match,  No 2 (18)child is serving breakfast to the esteemed guests at a local hotel. Archie is chewing a floor brush.

Wanted to upload pics of the van (Im thinking he may be called 'Lance' but seem to call him 'chuggalug' whenever I drive him :)) Anyway following pics are the interior of the van as I bought him. Last owner had plans to use it as a motorcross day van, hence the heavy duty OSB boarding (and broken window... motorbike handlebars + right hand turn = smashed window).  I'll be removing all of this as its too heavy for my plans, and of course not where i want it to be.

I've decided to build all of the fittings out of the van, and fix to the van as complete units thus allowing them to be removed and fitted into a new van if the need arises. Im not overly confident at the 200K + mileage, nor my mechanical or indeed driving skills! In the event of the base van dying, I would not then have to start from the begining again. It also help with insurance (minefield!) Self builders have limited choice of where to get insurance, even more limited if you want to spend most of the year on the Continent. However, once insurance is obtained, they only give you 90 days to complete the conversion. Not building the units in-situ means I can run on normal van insurance until all the units are assembled.  Again, thanks a millions to Adrian, who's garage and driveway is invaluable!

All fitted units will be below window height, with the exception of behind the drivers seat, where I think I'm meant to have a solid panel anyway (stops my contents hitting me on the head, in the event of a shunt!)  As mentioned yesterday, I now have a kitchen sink tap which doubles as a shower head. I do not need nor want and enclosed shower/toilet, as it will generally just be me and Archie in the van, privacy isnt a big problem. We will have to ensure any visitors are close friends though as essentially the loo will be in the Living/Kitchen area! The portapotty thingy will be housed in a box, which doubles as a seat, just behind the passenger seat. Lifting out the loo will reveal a shower tray beneath, with a curtain rig up all the shower water can be directed into the box.  Siting the Kitchen sink adjacent to this seat/loo/shower box and having a high level support for the shower head, I think I can get away with only 1 water system.

My bed will run across the van at the back (I so appreciate being smaller, 5' 2" on a good day) I couldnt stand having to shift cushions around twice a day to get to bed, so a fixed made-up single bed will be fitted (just below the bottom of the windows with storage beneath), with the ability to extend this down the van to make a full length double bed, when required...never know why this might be required ;)

To help reduce weight (this is important although before I get the van weighed the payload numbers mean little to me) Im not planning fixed wooden units at high level, but rails with canvas bags hanging, these are mainly for clothes, linen and knicknaks. Not seen anyone else do this, Im sure the flaw will become apparent in time, but as yet I like the idea.

Currently the cab only has a single passenger seat, which means I only have 1 additional legal seatbelt, this will usually be enough but I can foresee the need for 2.  A double seat relatively easy to procure for around £60.

If anyone knows what all the switches dials are for, please let me know....appart from the 'cut off everything' switch Dan discovered (Did he get a fright!) the rest seem to do nothing...

Enough rambling for today, the rain/sleet has gone and we now have glorious sunshine! (Highland weather is a force to be reckoned with, not least when deciding what to wear!) So a quick walk on the beach before lunch with kids and Adrian, then another 8 hours behind the bar.

Work begins tomorrow with a thorough clean and proper measurement/parts survey.

Costs Carried Forward £557 (nothing spent today :))

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Its a Keeper!

Woken this morning by a call from the garage, van is running fine with its new fan belt and bolt :) Driving it home was fun, no really! Much more fun now the power steering works, although the dodgy suspension did make for a bouncy ride.  He is now all tucked up in Adrian's driveway (thanks a million Adie, couldn't do this without you or your driveway!) Unfortunately Saturday and Sunday mean full shifts at the bar so didnt get much done today but twiddle with all the many, many odd switches, trying to figure out what they do/did. Dan (my son) will have to trace them all for me as most did nothing, must see if I can sweet talk an ambulance driver to find me a manual from somewhere.
Im a happy girl today, the bodywork on the van (I really need to think of a name for him) isnt as bad as I thought, so the only major problem left is the suspension...we have found a broken air pipe under the van, which Im hoping will be relatively simple to replace... worse case senario is remove the air suspension altogether and fit old fasioned springs.
Got to go to sleep, 8 hours of drunken nonsense takes a toll on a girls humour... Will post pics tomorrow when I can be bothered hunting for the cable.
Oh! I lost my Ebay virginity today :) I bought an oven for £10 (£20 delivery, but thats pretty good for up here) only fridge, hob, grill and sink and Ill be applianced up.I also found and bought a tap which sadly has me very excited, it doubles as a shower head with a concealed flexible extension pipe. This, with a little bit of jiggery pokery means I can limit myself to 1 water system to cover the kitchen sink and the shower, 1 supply tank, 1 waste tank, and less plumbing. Less plumbing is always a good thing as far as Im concerned!All will be revealed during the build.  Mummies day tomorrow, and work so won't get much done then either.

Costs - £29 garage bill
            £30 oven
            £48 kitchen sink tap
            £450 carried forward

Friday, 1 April 2011

Van bought and buggered - Day 1

After a number of weeks trawling websites I rapidly came to the conclusion that finding a minibus within my budget and in a feasible location was almost impossible. Im not sure what happens to the old minibuses in the North of Scotland but they certainly don't seem to hang around! So I've taken a chance on a very cheap Renault Master ex ambulance, which otherwise I wouldnt have touched.  High mileage, dodgy air suspension, rusty on the sills, broken window....yada yada, but it was only £300 and 20 miles away.  Its worth more than that scrap! And if the problems can be sorted relatively easily or better still, by me, it will still be cheaper and much less stressful than trying to get to 'some-blokes-house' in Southern England with no transport... it also has some good points, lots of windows, rooflights, heating, lighting, insulated and lined, but mainly because its here!
Today ( 1st of April) I collected....kind of, my van! The guy selling the van had told me all its problems including the snapped fan belt, so I duely arranged for a friend to get me a new one to take out with us. Armed with every concievable tool we could possibly need we headed off. But the van wouldn't start.
I'd expected that, so we began fitting the new fan belt and quickly discovered the bolt holding the tensioner was missing (we had tools but no bolts!).... no fan belt will be fitted here today.  With a jump start we got him going and decided to chance it, we did manage to drive him a few miles (with no power steering and electronic dials flashing all over) but alas he slowly died.
Decided to call the garage and get them to tow road, dusk setting in, we had few options, £130 was duely paid and a very nice man (no, not that very nice man from the AA, but an equally nice man from a local garage) came and towed it to his workshop, where it will have the fan belt fitted on Monday and a once-over by a man that knows.

On Monday I shall discover whether van No1 will become my pride and joy, or driven directly to the scrap yard and my search will begin again.

Costs - £300 van
           £20 fan belt
           £130 tow