This is my original blog – all my blogs  since I started in 2009 - are here including those from The Ale Archive – all the beers I’ve sampled at home and on our travels since 2012.
 
Since 2012 most of our travel has involved a caravan. I now have a specific caravanning blog called (Get Your) Legs Down which not only documents all our trips but includes product reviews, site listings, storage locations, mobile service engineers and much more. It too is on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, 30 September 2013

The Flat – Week Four

Another week, another visit to B & Q – or two! Progress continues and there are last seems to be light at the end of the tunnel – although that’s probably a Been & Queued lorry coming the other way….

The last of the plastic skirting board went down today, and very smart it looks too. The rest of the carpet is due Friday, then we can start moving the rest of our stuff in.

Most of the new light fittings are now up – some traditional, some more modern. The ones in the hall have a bit of a delay on them – because they are low voltage via a transformer I guess – and take up to five seconds to come on on from cold once the switch is flicked. Pewter effect switches and sockets are replacing the white plastic ones where visible.

Decorating continues throughout. Nearly two thirds of the hall is done – brilliant white as was on there before, but having little natural light it’s been fun getting even coverage. A coat rack, a picture and a couple of mirrors now adorn the walls.

Most ceilings are done and the lounge walls are looking good in a lovely soft apple white.

A fireplace – coal effect electric - and surround has been ordered and is due in a couple of weeks.

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Monday, 23 September 2013

The Flat – Week 3

We’re in! Yes, actually living here now, or more realistically, sleeping and working. There has been progress but it has been painfully slow at times, not helped by having to work for a living – it always gets in the way doesn’t it!

Anyway, the kitchen continues to be ‘finished’ – od little finicky jobs that seem to keep cropping up. Our bedroom is now complete – ish. Having been immersed in the detritus of flat pack furniture for a couple of days we now have a functional bedroom. It’s not finished – neither of us realised that the tops for the bedside draws have to be ordered separately – and they are not due until November. The bed is an old one from our bungalow – the new one is due in three weeks. There’s a couple of ottomans to come from storage but other than that we’re pretty much there.

The bathroom is usable too. A new blind for the window – rather laboriously swapped for the one in the kitchen because it was a fraction too long – and decorated throughout. I can report that the bath works after a communal dip last night.

The last of the laminate flooring  - in the second bedroom/dining room was ripped up today. That’s almost the last of the real messy stuff thankfully. The making good of the area in the hall where the cupboard was continues and is looking good.

It’s nice to have the broadband back although to be honest I’ve hardly used the PC – there’s always been something to do. The phone line was run through to the lounge today for when we get everything set up properly.

Have been picking up more stuff from the lock up – kitchen gear and most of our clothes are now here, so I’ve got a lot more black to chose from and my trusty leather trench coat will be ready for action on our next trip in Patsy in just over three weeks.

Talking of Patsy, the old girl is now safely in storage, about half an hour a way. We emptied her out last Saturday. It seemed odd to leave her, but she will be safe and secure – and at the price they’re charging she should be.

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So, this week. Wednesday the rest of the skirting board goes down, but we’ve got to wait nearly two weeks for the rest of the carpet. This means that the big stuff that’s in storage will have to stay there  a little longer – and the meter is running there too.

Still, it will all be worth it in the end!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Flat – Week Two

As promised, another update on our flat and what we’re doing to it:

Monday, and with a fair amount of brute force but much more ignorance, the cupboard in the hall yielded to the club hammer and my temper. Decorating continued in the main bedroom.

Tuesday and Window Workshop were in fitting new mechanisms to the windows, whilst Iain the plumber got cracking on the kitchen. We watched and made the occasional cuppa.

Wednesday. Whilst the plumber finished off we went to Been & Queued with a very long shopping list. Our neighbour and friend Jackie came with us armed with her discount card.  Finally got storage sorted out for Patsy. What with B & Q and the plumber it was an expensive day, and given my aversion to parting with money – unless it’s for essentials like beer and clothes of course – quite a painful one too!

Thursday and the box section thingy in the lounge yielded to my persuasions with the club hammer. Another trip to the dump in what is now a very filthy Jessie. Used some of the wood battens to put some shelves up in the meter cupboard and in doing so dislodged one of the fuse carriers causing  a short circuit and an extremely loud bang and the main fuse to go. No harm done thankfully but frightening at the time.

Friday. More of those little jobs that seem to take for ever. The bedroom furniture arrived in the afternoon.

Saturday. Kitchen finished and blinds back up in the main bedroom too. Discover immersion heater element needs replacing. Something else to add to the never ending shopping list.

Sunday. Curtain rail and curtains up in main bedroom and filled in some of the holes in the concrete floor and started filling the gaps left by the removal of the hall cupboard. Afternoon off – to do this!

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Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Flat – Week One

Hmm, what’s this got to do with caravans then? Well, not a lot although, as it happens there is a sort of link. Many will know that we have recently downsized, selling our bungalow - ‘Border Control' - and buying a flat – name yet to be decided. The whole idea is to release cash to fund a year long trip in to Europe in our ‘van as well as having a place that’s easier to lock up and leave and not worry about gardening etc.

There’s things to do in the flat, and as its a while for our next outing in Patsy – 5 weeks & 5 days at the time of typing – not that I’m counting – I thought I’d chronicle our progress in weekly-ish photo updates. So to start things off, photos of the day we got the keys:

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As you can see, laminate flooring everywhere. It’s got to come up – we don’t like it but it’s also against the terms of the lease.

Brilliant white everywhere. That’s going to be softened down a bit and the kitchen needs a decent sink and some units moving around.

So, at the end of the first week, what does it look like:

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Units moved in kitchen – the plumber is due this week to do the rest. The second bedroom is the workshop and store room. The laminate floor and pine skirting board has been removed from the hall and the main bedroom which is being decorated.

This week – all being well -  the cupboard in the hall is coming out to open it up as well as the box section thingy in the lounge. More decoration and removal of the rest of the laminate floor. Windows are having new catches and mechanisms fitted and wardrobes and units for the main bedroom are coming Friday – flat packed. Grrr!

We have got another ten days on site here in Brighton. By then the kitchen and main bedroom should be complete so at least we can move in.

Check back for another progress report soon!

Pump it up!

You know how it is. You’ve found the site ok, got checked in, sorted your pitch, got the van set up, the kettle on or the bottle opened. Time to relax? No, because you know the next job on the list.

The awning……

In the short time that we’ve been caravanning – 18 months give or take – there seems to be one thing on which caravanners almost universally agree. The single worst aspect of caravanning is putting up that awning. I remember our early attempts all to clearly. We had embarked on a three month trip around Britain – the idea being that if all went well, we would go off in to Europe for a year or so. Our first stop was Cardiff and it rained pretty much everyday, so there was no opportunity to try out our new awning which hadn’t even been out of the box. In Pembrokeshire however, the awning saw daylight for the first time and having got it threaded through the rail we started to sort out the poles only to realise that we’d got the damn thing on inside out!

Having corrected this we then discovered that the supplied plastic pegs were about as much use as a chocolate teapot. I was somewhat relieved when we decided to pack it all away.

Eventually a couple of weeks later we did finally get the awning up and whilst the extra space was no doubt useful I still questioned whether it was worth all the effort and grief. We were on site for a week but for a weekend away I wouldn’t want to waste valuable time with it.

Fast forward to this year and the first inflatable awnings came on the market, promising much quicker er, erections. Having seen how easy one went up at Twittercamp in July we decided to take the plunge and eventually purchased a Kampa Rally Air 390 from Johns Cross Camping.

It comes as one large package – remember the air poles are integral to the awning and whilst it is lighter overall you still have the whole weight of the awning in one bag.

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To erect, the awning is threaded through the rail in the usual way. Four pegs are put in – one at each corner – and then the awning is inflated using the supplied pump. Inflating takes only a few minutes – advice is given on required pressure in the literature – and then you finish pegging out making any adjustments as necessary.

Now I wont pretend it went smoothly the first time – we ended up deflating it and starting again. But there is no doubt that it is much quicker and easier to put up. All the air poles have isolating valves in case a repair is required using the supplied puncture kit. Taking it down was easy too – un-peg then let the air out, remove from rail and fold. And yes it went back in the bag easily!

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There is still quite a premium at the moment and I am concerned that they may not be as forgiving as traditional awnings on un-level pitches. Alloy poles to improve the seal where the caravan meets the awning are available as an extra but I feel should be included given the price. We’ve mocked up a couple from some spares but will order the proper poles at some point. Storm straps are available as an extra too, but the awning stands pretty firm as is. Metal pegs are supplied but may not be up to the hardest of hard standings, an given the high quality finish of the awning overall, some better peg were expected.

There is no doubt in my mind though, that inflatable awnings will grow in popularity – and hopefully as they do, the price will drop too.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Twittercamp 2013 – Another view

Some will know that we met up with some friends from ‘Twitter’ recently at the inaugural ‘Twittercamp’. You can read my blog about it (in amongst other drivel) here. However, thankfully for posterity Amanda who was also there has written a much more accurate piece on our meet up. Amanda wrote the article specifically for the Cover4Caravans newsletter but has kindly allowed me to reproduce it here too:

RALLY ROUND IT’S TWITTERCAMP 2013

Meet as strangers leave as friends

Conventional definitions of rally include, amongst other things, “assemble in a mass meeting”. The urban dictionary puts a different spin on it, defining rally as “clawing your way out of the depths of drunken hell and rejoining the party in full-on pimp style”. Although alcohol was imbibed over the course of the weekend, Twittercamp erred more towards the traditional definition.

A group of us had chatted on Twitter, united by our shared passion for caravans and the associated lifestyle. A Twitter rally had been mooted for a while and in August 2013 it finally became reality when six Tweeters accompanied by caravans Elvis, Gertie, Patsy and the Shiny One assembled at Bo Peep Farm in Oxfordshire. Some of us had met before, some had not.

Richard and Trevor (along with caravan Patsy) had arrived a few days before and secured us four fabulous pitches in one of Bo Peep’s paddocks. Taking advantage of Bo Peep’s flexible approach to arrival and departure times my partner Allie and I (with caravan Gertie) arrived at 0900 on Friday. We were given a wonderfully warm welcome by birthday boy Richard and Trevor and the kettle was soon on.

Having inflated our new awning we settled down for a coffee and a chinwag. The calm was interrupted by Richard’s cry of “there’s Elvis”! Elvis has his own Twitter account and we had to remind ourselves that we were actually talking to his boss David rather than Elvis the caravan! David received an equally warm welcome and we were soon enjoying delicious toasted sandwiches courtesy of the well equipped kitchen in Patsy’s awning. Andrew and the Shiny One were last to arrive after a nightmare journey but the welcome was no less enthusiastic. We shared a fantastic meal that evening. As the sun went down on our first day we retired to the warmth of Patsy’s awning and watched as solar lights illuminated our beloved caravans.

It amazed me how, with little discussion or planning, we each contributed something to mealtimes and between us conjured up a feast of food and drink to share. We felt like a proper community with each person having something to offer to the group. We enjoyed wonderful barbecues, amazing egg and bacon rolls for breakfast, very quaffable beer from France and delicious homemade cakes.

Activities on Saturday included chilling on site, exploring the local area or venturing a little further afield for work purposes. I was particularly grateful for the last activity as I was nominated dog sitter for the delightful Dougal Goose. Having taught me the necessary commands, Dougal’s Dad, Andrew, disappeared on his motorbike as Dougal and I set off to explore the river walk on site before returning to Gertie for a rest. We enjoyed it so much that Dougal and I repeated our walk upon Andrew’s return, this time accompanied by Allie and David.

Another barbecue banquet was rustled up and this time we had a fire too. Andrew passed on kindling skills to Allie as she used our camp stove for the first time; an ingenious device which can also charge smart phones via usb connection. We enjoyed the soporific affect of the flames and indulged in lazy conversation about love, life, caravans and everything in between. Further excitement was added to the evening as we discovered we were to be guinea pigs for a prototype product. I shall say no more but if it comes to fruition it will be very exciting.

Sunday was a sad day with Elvis departing first, followed by Andrew. Allie and I had the shortest drive so once again we took advantage of Bo Peep’s flexible attitude and left much later. Trevor and Richard were staying on for a few days before continuing their holiday. Fond farewells were accompanied by much hugging and waving.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend and the realisation that we were all true to our Twitter personas was reassuring. We unanimously agreed that Twittercamp 2014 should take place. We are considering how we might attract more people, perhaps by holding it at a different time of year or further north. Talk of potential dates and locations has already started so if you are interested in joining us please contact me on Twitter.

Amanda Regan aka @Amandaregan2606