Archive for September, 2019


September 27, 2019

We tried, we truly did. But the wing mirror fix was not going to work, it was still wobbly so in desperation Roy went to see a man, returning a little later to tell me that we would be taking the van down the road to see the man at Vanco as he was going to fix it for us. Friday we went for a drive down the road to dump at Bruce Pullman Park and then on to Vanco for the repair work to be done. We were there for just under an hour whilst options A,B and C for the repair were discussed before finally agreeing on the simple fix.

With the wing mirror removed and the old holes filled, new holes were drilled ready for an aluminium plate to be attached on top of the fibreglass body of the van. Oh, and the wing mirror also has an indicator light on the arm so things have to be kept clear of those wires so they can be reconnected.

Old holes filled, new holes drilled

Next it was time to affix the new base plate.

Attaching the plate

All complete

With the mirror back in place. Sorted!

Perfect, it all works and it’s still on the side of the van a week later so a good job all round.

Next we had the new table leg to position inside the van. Where to put it came with lots of debate, not all of them polite!, with several positions attempted by holding the leg in different locations and trialling it until Roy decided he would put in a couple of screws to hold the base plate in place in where he thought it should go .

Location No. 1….nope, that wasn’t going to work as it was too close to the slide out for a table to move effectively.

Location No. 2….nope, that wouldn’t work either but if we moved the power point by putting in horizontally rather than vertically, that could work.

No, the picture is not the wrong way, the power point has been turned on its side

Location No. 3……nope, not in the middle of the seat Roy, too inconvenient.

Location No. 4…..yes, that may work, let’s try it. A couple of pieces of wood found in our ’roundtuit’ box are used to set it at the right angle and position, let’s try that.

Temporarily positioned.

That looks like it may work…BUT, it all depends on the size and shape of the table top that we are going to have. The next round of debate ensues. First large pieces of cardboard are used as table top prototypes, duct taped into position to trial. We think we know what the final size should be.

Then we had the brainwave, we have a stack of tables in Antony’s garage, let’s measure up a few and see what we have. Perfect, an old table that folds in half which is what we were thinking for our final table top, with two sizes in one. A bit of duct tape and it was attached to the table mount.

Trying out the table for size, yes, we know it’s upside down when folded out, we were just gauging the size and position.

Now, I am a ‘visual’ person, as in I need to actually see what and how something will look like and work before committing to it. Do we really want a table that shape and to fold in that manner? I know, how about I try folding pieces of paper cut to scale to see which idea is best and will work?

My prototypes in paper form.

We looked and we tried different versions and sizing and came up with exactly what would work for us. A small table perfect for the two of us, which folds out so that it will then fit six people around it comfortably, something like the middle version of the paper examples above.

Another brainwave, what about trialling the old small table top that we used to use, it had a central leg but we can unscrew the mount off that and give it a go as we need to be sure where the table top should be mounted onto the table to give the best movement and height. It is a bit smaller than the final size we have agreed upon but it will do in the meantime.

Version number……oh, I’ve lost count now!!

In store away mode

The duct tape has been usurped and we have screwed this table top in place to continue the trial. Next will be to attach the leg to the front corner of the seat in its permanent position and then get the table top made.

We also have an extra mounting plate which can be used elsewhere in the van, the debate continues on where that one will be positioned… this space!

Unpack and a reshuffle

September 19, 2019

The worst thing about getting home after a long time away is the unpacking, nothing ever seems to fit back where it should, or you cannot remember where things should go, and of course there is all the extra goodies that we brought home with us to find a new home.

Actually, we didn’t bring too much back with us although the bags seemed to be fairly full. We did bring back with us a Lagun table leg for the van. See here for a clip of it in action. Its a height adjustable swivel table mount that you can then put on your choice of table top. Now, that’s the issue, we don’t have a table top as yet that we are both happy with. Much debate will ensue I am sure.

I did bring back some tea bags though, rather a lot! Not only the 480 Yorkshire tea bags but also tea bags with a malty biscuit flavour!! It’s the tea you have when you want a biscuit but don’t want the calories.

Tea bags and a cuppa

Yes, I know, you can buy the tea bags here but these were such a large quantity for a bargain price, I just could not resist.

Also brought back were a couple of items I picked up at IKEA for the van kitchen and pantry, and some organisational pieces for the wardrobes. I can’t think of what else we brought back, apart from wonderful memories of time spent with family and friends.

It’s about time to have a good clean out of lockers, ditch a load of gear that we have been carting around for “justin” …….as in just-in-case, either to off load to store at Antony’s or just get rid of stuff.

The shed at Ardmore became the recipient of some fairly decent items, all to give away in the hope that they find their way to a good home.

Items included;

a Navman GPS (we use our phones/iPads for navigation) including the instructions

A portable 600w inverter (we have a decent built in one)

Headphones and charging cord

USB Charging plugs

4 x Stainless steel drink bottles

A static mini cycle

Various other items. NB. all items disappeared within a few hours of putting them out.

Lockers have been emptied and anything not used in the past year or two have been put into storage and a reshuffle of other lockers items have been done to make better use of the space.

As well, a bit of R&M has been undertaken on the van; the sliding door inside has had some mods done to make it glide more efficiently, the drivers side wing mirror mount has had a bit of TLC after we noticed the mirror wobbling a bit. The fridge has a new ignitor installed after it spat the dummy on our return. And the major thing has been some welding work done on our A-Frame after a weld broke, with it all now having been checked and sorted.

And in case you were missing out seeing lots of Callum pictures, here are a few to keep you going!!

Solar upgrades

September 15, 2019

We have had our solar set up on our van for just over 8 years now. We’ve had a great run with our set up including the solar panels and the battery bank. We are told that AGM batteries should last only about 5 years but ours are still going strong, which is what happens when you;

a) buy decent batteries in the first place

b) look after the batteries

c) don’t overload their usage ie. we panic if the battery levels ever get below 80-85% full!!!

However, we did want to put in a new charger that would top up the van battery off the solar feed that serves the house batteries, as when we sit still for any length of time, the van battery starts to lose power and although we can top them up from running the engine, it seems silly to start the engine every day just to charge it up again although we do have a magic switch that allows us to start the van off the house batteries. A new charger would keep the battery topped up all the time with the excess solar. So it was off to see Wayne Hunt in Hamilton.

We had arranged to meet him at his premises opposite the Base shopping complex in Hamilton, after a bit of discussion we also opted to have a new solar controller put in, an MPPT controller which would allow better charging of the batteries especially when they are getting to nearly full. I had it explained to me once that putting the last little bit of power into the battery was like trying to fill a container of water to the very top, carefully and slowly trying to dribble in the last little bit in to get it absolutely full. Previously, on a sunny day and batteries at 96% full, we would get a maximum of 0 to 1.5 amps dribbling in. In stark contrast, today at 96% with a weak sun we are putting in up to 11amps with the inverter going as well. A great improvement.

Wayne had it all done quickly, efficiently and tidily, he also tested out a couple of other things for us and also told us that our initial set up done by Absolute Power all those years ago was very well done which is always good to hear and he also made a point of telling us that our batteries were in great condition and we must have looked after them very well. We were happily on our way in an hour or so.

The new digital VSR on the left and the new MPPT controller at the rear

We can highly recommend Wayne at Motorhome Solar in Hamilton for very friendly, excellent service and at a very reasonable price, plus he goes out of his way to explain in layman’s terms the ins and outs to people like me who have few clues on all things electrical!

Home again, home again, jiggedy jig.

September 10, 2019

There’s no place like home said someone, once, and it’s so true. Although I have to quickly add that we do feel at home in England as well, especially at Alex & Ian’s.

I remember in one of my tutorials at University we were asked to define where is home…is it where you live now? or where you were born? or where you were raised? or where you went to school? You hear immigrants in particular talking of ‘home’, I remember my parents talking of ‘back home’ meaning England. Is home defined by place, people or thing? There is no right answer, everyone has a different viewpoint.

Getting over jet lag, opening mail, sorting out stuff were the order of events over the first days back. We made appointments for Doctors visits for checkups, sorted out bits and pieces and in between tried to get body clocks onto NZ time.

We had a very pleasant surprise in the mail from England. A spice kit that Alex Ian and Callum had organised for us. It’s a monthly spice kit which arrives with all the spice mixes to make delicious meals. With full instructions on the meal preparations as well as a little history on where the meal originated, a list of how to remake the spice mixes for a repeat of the meal all included.

The kit and the note from Callum

It’s something we had seen in England as Alex had bough Ian a subscription for his birthday. You receive an email notification of what is coming up in the next months kit and options to change for another kit of your choice if you so desire as there are up to 5 choices each month. You can also put a hold on receiving it for a few months if you wish and restart when it suits.

We just love the curries in England, it’s always our first choice when we arrive and it’s our choice of farewell meal as well.

Of course we were keen to give the kit a go, with the shopping list in hand (included in the kit) it was off to the shops for the main ingredients.

We were cooking this

Tonight’s dinner

it also required us to make a dum aloo, potato dish, and a spicy tomato chutney to accompany the main dishes. We had only arrived back the previous day, I should have thought a bit more about that before embarking on cooking the meal. I got 9/10ths of the way through preparing it all when Jet lag hit me, I just had to go to bed right there and then before I fell over. Roy and Antony finished off the cooking and reported that the meal was fantastic.

The result

Really flavoursome and tasty with the only chilli heat coming from the tomato chilli chutney that accompanied the meal.

We had the rest of the meal the following day and I can attest to how deliciously flavoursome it was and plenty for all of us so a generous 4 servings as per the leaflet. We really look forward to receiving the next parcel.

We had to get a WOF for the car as well as register it, that was done the afternoon of our arrival. Then we both needed a WOF for ourselves at the Doctors, that done we then could head off down to Whakatane to be reunited with our van.

The trip to Whakatane was via Hamilton so we could call in to see Wayne Hunt, a motorhome solar expert, to sort out a time to have a new charger put in that would trickle feed the van battery off the solar so that when we sit still for any length of time the van battery will be fully charged negating the need to start the engine every other day. That done we then called in to see our dear friends Wade & Lindsay for a quick catch up and lunch before heading off to Whakatane.

We arrived at John & Jude’s late in the afternoon and then spent the next few days sorting ourselves out. John had kindly sorted out our RUCs and van registration whilst we were away so we just had to take the van in to get a COF. It was all done very quickly and efficiently without any hassles at Ted’s Testing Station in Whakatane. We can highly recommend them and we will definitely use them again.

We made a day trip up to Papamoa to see friend Estelle whose husband Bill passed away whilst we were overseas. It was then on into Tauranga to see my 3 nieces and great nieces to catch up with them before we leave the Bay and make our way north.

We can’t thank John & Jude enough for looking after our home on wheels whilst we were away, it was great to know that it was safe and sound in their care and well looked after.

The journey home

September 8, 2019

We waved our farewells, sitting in the back of the taxi blubbering, we valiantly pulled ourselves together to get a few words out to our taxi driver. He was already 30 minutes late due to traffic holdups and he was explaining to us that he would be taking us to Heathrow via a very roundabout route as there were major traffic holdups on the M25 – the motorway that circumnavigates London city.

The trip should take one and half hours, on a good day, 2 hours at the most we are told. He was telling us that we would be having a very memorable last drive in England, travelling through some very small country lanes, until we had to rejoin the M25.

Narrow country lanes

Then we meet traffic….who is backing up?

We went through a few pretty little villages, and we were enjoying the scenery on our journey through the countryside. His navigation system (Waze) was being constantly updated with reports coming in of accidents, holdups and other traffic info plus it had our expected time of arrival emblazoned across the bottom of the screen. We started off with an ETA of 6:00pm, which then extended to 6:30pm which then soon became 7:00pm, by the time we got to the multi lane motorway car park we had an ETA of 7:59pm. We finally checked in at 8:20pm.

During this travel time we were in contact with Alex as they were able to follow our progress through a tracking app on their phones as Ian had made the initial taxi booking for us. I’m sure they thought that we had been kidnapped and were being taken off somewhere deep into the countryside.

Back to our airport arrival. Fortunately, we always allow a lot of extra time for exactly this sort of event as we don’t mind being at the airport early. It means we can relax and partake of a favourite pastime, people watching. We didn’t have much time to relax or people watch as it was soon time to board but looking at our boarding passes, I was sure that we had not been allocated our preferred seats and on checking my phone app, I was right. When we came to board we queried why we had not been allocated our assigned seats, we were soon ushered to a senior staff person who apologised and reassigned us new seats, this time we were to have a whole row to ourselves…score!

I have to admit that the tears welled up again as the plane took off, it’s not easy leaving .

The flight was uneventful, we tried to sleep, I even managed to lie down along our row of seats but sleep eluded us. We were soon landing in Hong Kong where upon arrival everyone goes through a scanner to check your temperature. The current measles outbreak is worldwide and precautionary measures are in place everywhere.

Once through passport control and then customs we were met by our driver who was waiting to take us to our hotel in Central HK.

Streets of Hong Kong

By the time we checked into our hotel it was mid evening local time, a quick bite to eat, a shower and a good nights sleep was all that was on our agenda.

It was very hot and sticky weather in HK, not conducive to wandering around very much at all. Breakfast, repack and a late checkout we set off for the airport yet again hoping that any protests would not hinder our departure. We saw no evidence of any of the protests but we did note that our passports and travel docs were checked before we could take a step inside the terminal building.

Interesting shop seen on our way to the airport….can you read the sign?

Closeup of the sign

I did notice a shop sign on our return trip to the airport, a Bakery I thought. Just a minute, that says “Professional Barkey”, does that mean it sells keys for bars or maybe it’s something to do with dogs who bark a lot?

Once at the airport we settled in to wait for our flight and ended up chatting to a you g couple who were travelling with their baby. To cut a long story short, it seems that they had tried to book the seats that we had been allocated, being in the front row where there is a bassinet, they had booked the third seat in the row and the one on the row behind. After take off once the crew were out of their seats we asked if it would be ok for Roy to swap with the Dad so he could be next to his partner and baby. We couldn’t help notice that the exit row seats across the aisle were empty, the crew said please, you two move to the exit row (Roy & I) so the couple and their baby had the middle three seats to themselves and Roy and I had the two exit row seats. Everyone was happy and comfortable.

We were quickly through passport and customs in Auckland where I have to say that the NZ officials are the most welcoming we have encountered, they are always pleasant and polite making the homecoming experience a pleasant one.

Antony was waiting for us in the arrivals hall and we were soon on our way to Antony’s for the weekend.

All in all a memorable trip home. Now we start planning our return trip next year!

The final day

September 4, 2019

Alex and Callum, Roy & I went out for a leisurely brunch on our last day in England. We caught the bus into Bexley and found ourselves at a lovely cafe in the centre of town.

The temperatures were again going to hit the mid thirties and it was very warm even for mid morning. With choices made we set out to enjoy a lovely relaxed brunch.

Alex and Callum with Callum preferring to eat his fingers!!

The return trip home was via the B12 bus, the bus that we took frequently and became a bit of a running joke at how we knew the timetable and its route off by heart.

It was back home to pack our bags and make sure we had everything.

Just checking to see if Callum will fit in our bag (along with the Yorkshire Tea).

Everything was packed, bags set by the door ready for the taxi ride to the airport.

Grandma, Grandad and Callum

I am sure that saying goodbye gets more difficult every time and this time was gut wrenching. But we know we will be back again soon and we are fortunate to live at a time when communication is instant with video calling through one of the many means available to us.

It won’t be too long before we return though so we have that to look forward to.

We feel very privileged to have been able to be part of Callum’s life for the first three months of his life and look forward to watching him grow under the wonderful care and love of his amazing parents.

Family BBQ

September 2, 2019

Our last weekend in England and we were having a family BBQ at Brian & Julie’s (Ian’s Dad’s cousin), along with the rest of Ian’s family. This was a bank holiday weekend in the UK, a long weekend with Monday being a public holiday, and the BBQ was planned for Sunday afternoon, with the weather playing a large part in the planning. We needn’t have worried though with the hottest August Bank holiday weekend on record being recorded and the days temperature set to reach at least 32C.

We arrived at Julie & Brian’s and made our way out to their lovely garden where the gazebos were set up providing much welcome shade.

Brian was manning the charcoal BBQs with Roy giving a hand. Charcoal BBQs are a rarity for us these days as most people in NZ use gas fired BBQs mainly because of fire restrictions for NZ’ers over the summer months.

Brian and Roy manning the BBQs

Comparing notes behind a smoke screen

All sorts of fun and games were had by all generations.

Grandad Barry and Callum

I forgot to take any pictures of the table set out for the main event but needless to say it was all delicious and there was plenty to eat, it was some time later in the day before we got around to having dessert and cheese.

Panoramic shot

I had said I would make a dessert and thought I should make a pavlova as my homage to all things kiwi, but decided an ordinary pav would be a bit boring so instead made a brown sugar version with dates, almonds and chocolate. Topped with fresh whipped cream and raspberries it was rather delicious. Roy put together a cheese board and even made radish mice with the radishes grown in Alex & Ian’s garden, and it too also went down a treat.

Cheese board

Dessert and cheese….yes, I forgot to take pics of the main event!

Group photo

It was a wonderful afternoon and evening with lots of fun and laughter.

Thank you to the Denny family for making us feel so welcome and part of your family. We shall miss you all, until next time x.