Archive for the ‘r&m’ Category

Life in the fast lane

March 25, 2018

We seem to have slipped back into our Camp Host mode at Shakespear Park all too easily so it seems. People come and go, we try and help those who need assistance with everything and anything from directions, to equipment, to booking enquiries and to top it all Roy has been lawnmowing the last couple of days! A ride on lawnmower I must add, but the contractors have not mown the campground for ages it seems, as every time they come to the park, the camp is full of school children so they leave the mowing for another day. Well, that day never seems to arrive, so Roy decided that it really did need doing and this past couple of days has been an ideal opportunity with hardly anyone in the camp.

one man went to mow, went to mow a meadow….

That’s a good job well done and at least it will be tidy ready for the full camp at Easter.

We seem to manage to keep ourselves busy and out of mischief and there is always something to be done either dealing with people or just keeping on top of tasks in the van. There are always chores to be done and more ideas to implement. Roy has put in two USB ports at either side of our bed so that we can charge iPads and phones etc overnight. As well they came in useful over the hot summer days as I bought two small USB fans, $5 each from that store where everyone gets a bargain, that I mounted at either side of our bed to keep a bit of cool air circulating on those very hot, still, humid summer evenings. And they worked a treat as well.

Roy is also putting in two 12v outlets in either side of our big back lockers, the wiring is already there as there were originally lights inside the locker that we never used, so they are being removed and replaced with the sockets. The 12v sockets will be useful as when we pump rain water that we have collected into our tank, we use a 12v bilge pump that we currently power via an extension cord through the bedroom window, across the bed to the nearest accessible plug. By having the outlet in the locker it is right next to the inlet pipe for the water and filter so there will be no cords running everywhere.

We also could have used the cigarette plug with our compressor which we use to top up the airbag suspension and also to check the air pressure in the tyres, however, our old compressor decided to stop working last week so Roy bought a new one, and this one definitely can only be run by jumping it off the car battery.

The compressor at work topping up the airbags.

We haven’t done any fishing for a while now, or so it seems, and I doubt if we will get a chance to do any over the next couple of months. Just as well I have a good supply of vacuum packed fish fillets in the freezer to keep us going.

I had a Dentist appointment last week as I broke a filling, I have to admit that I was not particularly looking forward to going, but I have to say that I think I have discovered a gem of a Dental Practice, Stanmore Bay Dental Studio. I was made to feel at ease by the Dentist Amanda and her assistant, I have to admit that the whole experience was painless, efficient and overall pleasant – not a term usually associated with going to the Dentist!!!. I can highly recommend them.

Tomorrow Roy has his “set up” appointment at the hospital so he can begin his radiation therapy. The treatment will last for 7 and a half weeks for 5 days a week which means going into the hospital daily. The treatment itself will begin on 11 April and we shall be moving from Shakespear once this begins to be closer to the hospital. Then on Tuesday I find out the results of the MRI I had last week and a plan of action will be put in place once we discuss the options, it will be either a hip replacement first or straight onto the knees, depending on the outcome of the scans. Then we begin the juggling act of hospitals, recovery, and rehabilitation as of course our respective hospitals are on opposite sides of the city! Oh well, keeps us on our toes I guess.

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Back in New Zealand

March 9, 2018

After a couple of good nights sleep we were ready to head down to Kopu to pick up the van. It had been having a bit of TLC whilst we were away with some R&M done with Matt and the excellent crew at Autotech. The van was all ready for us and on a quick inspection of repairs done we were soon on our way back to Auckland where we headed for Ardmore Airport as we would be parked there for the next few days. However, those plans were soon to change.

Roy back at the wheel

The fridge and pantry needed restocking as well as the task of unpacking and sorting out wardrobes ie. put away all the winter clothing particularly as on our return Auckland was putting on its finest weather of high temperatures and energy sapping humidity. There were also appointments to be kept with doctors and specialists which required a bit of planning and tripping across the city. Both Roy and Antony had returned home with some sort of flu virus with Roy ending up with pneumonia, for the next few days he was pretty well bed bound.

But hello, we have another problem that we thought had been resolved before we ventured off on holiday, the fridge was not working and in this heat milk was turning into yoghurt overnight! Any food purchases were kept to a minimum and most of our meals we were having at Antony’s place whilst both he and a Roy recouperated. After making lots of calls to try and sort out the fridge problem, as well as making sure that the previous repairs were still under warranty from both the repairer and the manufacturer and with lots of advice from some “experts” at Ardmore, we eventually upsticks and headed over to see Peter at RVRepairs in Gelnfield. Peter quickly had us on our way after a simple fix, so we then continued northwards to return to Shakespear Park.

on the motorway/carpark!

Whilst we have been on holiday, Pat & Sue have taken over our duties as camp hosts for the summer. Oh it was so nice to be back at the beach, parked on grass and of course great to see lots of familiar faces – Rangers, Volunteers and campers alike welcomed us home like long lost friends.

We settled into our usual routines back at the camp with lots of catching up with friends and family over the past few weeks (which will be the subject of another blog entry), and we have kept ourselves very busy what with one thing and another.

With the beginning of the school year the past few weeks has seen the camp being taken over by lots of school groups so we have decamped into the Self Contained Parking area for the interim but still do our duties from there and keep a watchful eye over the rest of the park. We shall probably stay here for the next week or two as there are more school groups booked in over the coming weeks and it seems stilly to keep moving in and out.

that’s a school group enjoying the water with sailing, paddle boarding and kayaking

and that’s the Navy boys on diving exercises off the beach. They also were in doing night diving exercises some evenings as well.

Our plans at this stage are a little up in the air as Roy starts a course of radiation treatment soon so we have to sort out dates and where we shall base ourselves. And the other news? Well, I am off to see the specialist next week to see about my knees….eeeeekkkk! I have managed to defer having replacements done for 10years now but the time has come where I cannot handle the pain, discomfort nor the lack of being able to stand or walk for any length of time before my knee collapses. Watch this space for what comes next.

We’re off

September 26, 2017

Oops, sorry to those who received a half written blog entry yesterday, it was a slip of the finger on the screen.

Bags are packed, passports are at the ready, currency exchanged, what else can there be to do? Yes, we’re off tonight, I can hardly believe that the time has finally arrived for us to step onto the plane for the loooong flights ahead of us.

We finished our housesitting duties last week when Jack & Chris arrived home on Thursday. We really enjoyed our housesitting stint as we were able to catch up with lots of friends and family, plus it was a nice change for us. On Friday we headed to the van, quickly got sorted and made our way down to Papakura for a couple of nights. We caught up with friends Bill & Linda for dinner at the Papakura Club on Friday evening which was lovely to see them and catch up on all their news. Saturday we exercised our democratic right to vote, watching the results come in later that evening but gave up watching after 30minutes or so, pretty unexciting viewing. Sunday we headed off to Kopu to where the van is having some R&M done on it whilst we are away, we stayed the night before returning to Antony’s on Monday. Today has been doing all those last minute chores before we head away, getting the last of the washing done, repacking the bags and taking out what we don’t really need, plus Roy had an appointment with the specialist for his final injection ready for treatment to begin next year when we return.

So that’s about it folks, we fly out later this evening (actually in the early hours just after midnight) for Singapore where we have a short 2hr stopover before the flight to London. We shall endeavour to update the blog on a reasonably regular basis where and when we can. In the meantime, stay safe and well out there!

A glitch or two…

June 9, 2017

Life for the Vanninis ticks along nicely most of the time with only the odd minor hiccup along the way, you know, things like the odd flood, slips, high wind, brakes needing repair, parts for the van, the little things in life.  But occasionally life throws us a bit of a curve ball.  Some of you may have picked up on the fact that recently Roy has been having a number of appointments to attend all around Auckland.   Well, make a cuppa, take a seat and read on…

It started a month or two ago when Roy went for his annual check up with the Urology specialist.  Previously he had a hiccup with his kidneys, which you can recap that story here.  As part of the checkup the specialist does the usual blood tests, flow tests etc, and he said hmmmmm, Roy, your PSA levels have gone up a bit, lets check things out further. So off he went for an ultrasound scan. The scan showed that his prostate was very enlarged and warranted further investigation. So off for a full MRI to see what is happening.  I have to add in here that in between all this Roy also had hearing tests, scans, an auditory MRI, more tests and hearing specialists, as well as eye tests, eye specialists, more visits, laser surgery, checkups.  It’s been a busy old time with lots of appointments all around Auckland.

Then came the results, he needed a biopsy so we went off to have that done at the specialists. 14 samples were taken for testing.  We only had to wait a few days before the results came back, and you hear those dreaded words …”sorry, but you have prostate cancer”.  Knock us down with a feather.  

Regather and press on, we need to discuss options and also get a better idea of what is happening. The next step is to have a Gallium PET scan, which shows if the cancer has spread anywhere else and gives a better idea of what we are dealing with. You can read about this amazing technology here.  Up until just over a year ago this scan was only available in Australia and we would have had to go there for one, but Mercy hospital in Auckland now has the only machine in NZ so off we went there for the scan last Thursday.  Thank goodness for medical insurance as these things are costly and as well as with all the specialist visits, MRI’s etc over the past few weeks we have had our monies worth from our medical insurance already this year. 

But back to the tests.  We came away from the Gallium PET scan with a copy of the CD and of course we just had to have a look at it ourselves….bad idea…..as we stared intently at the computer screen all we could see was that every organ appeared to be glowing and as far as we could tell things did not look good.  However, a bit of googling and research helped alleviate those fears, things were not as bad as what we thought. Best we wait for the experts to fill us in as give us the official report.

We were scheduled to get the results the following day on the Friday, however the specialist had been called away for urgent surgery so our appointment was deferred until the following Tuesday.  Meanwhile, we had already scheduled a visit to our GP for the Monday.   Our doctor has been a very good sounding board and we trust her advice and we wanted to discuss options with her from her perspective, in particular her experience with other patients and their aftercare specifically any problems associated with the different options available. She had the results from the PET scan and could finally put our minds to rest and tell us that Roy was all OK, apart from a very small spot of cancer in the prostate, obviously caught very early.  Phew.   Well that’s a relief.   We came away from our GP armed with lots of good questions for the Urologist.

The folllowing day, Tuesday,  we went off to the Urologist where he confirmed that there is indeed a small bit of cancer in one part of the prostate BUT the size of the prostate was more of an issue at more than twice the normal size.  What was good news was that the cancer is completely contained within the prostate AND the PET scan showed that apart from that he is all good.

I could bore you all here with the details of all of the various options for the next step i.e. do nothing, have radiotherapy, have radioactive seeds implanted or have surgery, all of which have their individual pros and cons but I will spare you all the details of each. However, if anyone wishes to know the ins and outs then give us a call. 

The best and only real option for Roy is to have the prostate removed which will be done on Thursday 8th June. Again, thank goodness for medical insurance as things wouldn’t have been happening this quickly I am sure. The surgery will be done via Robotic Keyhole  Surgery.

We rock up to Southern Cross Hospital yesterday morning at some ungodly hour ready for surgery.  Roy is prepped and tested and is soon ready to be wheeled off to theatre as he is first on the list.all ready to go!

I head off to get some breakfast and to do some shopping as he is scheduled to be in theatre for 4 hours.   However, I soon get a phone call from the anaesthetist saying that they will not be operating today as they found a bit of an irregular heartbeat so they need us to get that sorted.  Knock me over with a feather.  So back I go to pick him up.  By the time I get there they have arranged a cardiologist to see him over at Ascot Hospital, so we head straight on over. We are there by 10am.

Next comes a barrage of tests, upshot? Roy has Atrial Fibrulation which mean his heart beats irregularly and needs to be sorted as the consequences could be dire.  By midday we leave the cardiologist with our heads reeling full of information and with more appointments scheduled.  Next week he will be going in for a CV and a TOE.  What do these mean?  Well a CV is a Cardio Version  which restores the heart to its natural rhythm by shocking it, and a TOE is a transoesohageal echocardiogram whereby a fibre optic tube will be position in the osophegus allowing an ultrasound of the heart.  All will be done under sedation.  The following week he is booked in for an angiogram depending on the results from the previous two procedures will determine what is to be done.

So the next step is to get this sorted, then they will reschedule the prostate surgery and we can then look forward to our trip to the UK & Europe in September.  Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment.

I can see clearly now…

April 25, 2017

It only took ten days from ordering the windscreen replacement from the USA for it to arrive at Stieger Glass  in Takanini.  

This is how it is shipped from the USA.


Franz doing his thing, removing the rubber before he gets the old glass out.


Highlighted is the offending chip!


Windscreen removed, it’s a bit draughty now.


Old screen looking a bit sorry.

New one in, all tidied up.   The other half of the windscreen was reglued into place in the middle join as the old glue had deteriorated.

All taped up ready for the final seal


We can highly recommend Franz for his workmanship, work ethic and ability to source glass from anywhere in the world for any van, vehicle or caravan.  His Web site is here.  

Out of the closet

March 31, 2017

Time for me to finally sort out my closet.  We have made many adjustments to the wardrobe space and made many changes over the years but nothing has ever been totally satisfactory, until we finally came up with the solution.  Wanting to utilise the baskets we already have, we finally found a shelving system that we could put together which would fit the baskets we have as well as being adjustable for the wardrobe space plus leave a little room for hanging garments as well.

First we had to put together the racks, cutting the width down to fit the baskets.  That done, a minor adjustment was needed to the wardrobe space to fit it all in easily.

Roy prepping the cupboard.

Next it was time to check and see if everything worked and fitted.

Perfect.  A good time to sort out the clothes and make a donation to the local charity shop.  It may never t look like there is much hanging space left in the wardrobe but it’s just the silly angle I took the picture making it appear as tho there is no room.  

That job finally completed and ticked off the list.  Another job that has been on the list for a while is painting the blocks we carry around to use for levelling the van.  Roy spent a few days applying coats of paint to the blocks and then attaching straps to them so that when the blocks are in place under the hydraulic levellers, they can be easily retrieved by pulling on the straps.

Painting in progress.
Another job has been to repaint the A-frame used for towing the RAV4.  This necessitated sanding it back, applying masking tape to areas not required to be painted then prepping it with anti-rust stuff (technical term that!), before painting it with the specialised paint.  And damn fine it looks now too.

Note the carefully painted blocks it is sitting on! 

 We have a large inbuilt LPG tank which is in an open locker so gets covered in road grime and the odd stone chip.  When the tank was checked for recertification last year, we thought then that it would need a repainting and treated for the odd rust spots where stones have chipped away the paint. So Roy has also done the same to our LPG tank.  He rubbed it down, sanded it, and painted it and now it looks pretty tidy as well. 

Another important task was to sort out an issue we discovered with the brake lights, as the other day when I followed Roy in the van out to the get the brakes repaired I noticed that the lights were only coming on when full pressure was being applied to the brake pedal i.e. when coming to a complete stop.  Apparently there is a pressure type switch thingy (another technical term) under the dash that had come a bit loose but to access it is a little difficult  to bend oneself over the engine cover, around the seat, under the dash…..apparently ‘one’ is not as slim or as bendy as ‘one’ was!!  To make it easier we removed the drivers seat.
Can you see where the seat was??

Switch fixed, tested, seat reinstalled, all done.  Now we just wait for more parts for the brakes which should be here early next week, then fingers crossed they are well and truly fixed and we can be on our way.




Escape tunnel

March 21, 2017

Dickie Attenborough, Steve McQueen, James Garner  – where are you when I need you? I need help in digging our escape tunnel from Shakespear!  The uniforms are being stitched together,  the forged passes are being printed and the clever devices are sewn into the trousers ready to surreptitiously dispose of the diggings onto the parade ground whilst the Germans stand guard ………. well, perhaps that’s going a little too far but it does feel a little like we need to tunnel out of here, you will see why shortly.

It was our 35th wedding anniversary last Monday, and we celebrated in our usual manner in that we exchanged our perpetual cards – these are the same card we give each other, each year, once given they go back in the drawer ready for next year! 

Tuesday morning and Roy had an appointment with an ophthalmic surgeon to have a small hole lasered into each eye.   After the initial consultation, he was 5 minutes in the chair and it was all done with little fuss and with no after effects or problems.  

Wednesday was pack up time for us to leave the SCC (Self Contained) parking area at Shakespear as the van was going in to have the brakes sorted…. We hope.  We stayed with Leslie (Steve was away) for the night before heading back to pick up the van on Thursday afternoon.  But oh dear, the brakes are not fixed properly as we need to replace the calipers and of course there are no available parts here in NZ so these need to be sourced from the USA which of course means we wont be leaving here anytime soon whilst we wait for their arrival and then of course the fitting of them.  But brakes are pretty important so best we get them sorted once and for all.  Heavy sigh, I was never very good at being patient but never mind, there could be worse places to be stuck. 

So here we are back in the main campground at Shakespear where we will be for at least the next two weeks whilst we wait for the parts to arrive.  We are told that it’s no problem for us to stay on and as we are continuing with our camp host duties as it’s a huge help to the staff here.

On top of the brake issues, Roy has more appointments to keep with various specialists, we seem to visit one specialist after another which then necessitates another appointment for scans or MRI’s or tests for further investigations and then further appointments.  At least we are getting everything sorted relatively quickly but it does seem as though the goal posts are forever shifting or should I say, the escape tunnel seems to be getting longer and longer!  

A Busy week

March 7, 2017

Summer may have officially slipped in autumn this last week  but the temperatures are still saying that it’s definitely summer time with lots of sunshine and warmth although I think that is about to change.   It’s also been a busy week what with one thing or another. Friends Brian & Marj came to join us for a few days, funnily enough it’s almost 6 years to the day since  we first met them.  We were real greenhorns then with just one days experience of living full time in the van but they were very kind to us and gave us lots of useful advise about living full time on the road including happy hour etiquette which you can read about here.  However this time I neglected to take a single picture of us together, I must have spent too much time chatting!

It felt as though we were constantly on the go as it was a busy week of appointments, most of which involved fighting the Auckland traffic….groan.  First off Roy had an appointment for a scan, no problem, it was not too far away in Wairau Road which is not too far from Shakespear , just 35km down the motorway.  So one hour and 35 minutes later he arrived for his appointment!  I don’t know how, or why, people commute through the madness of traffic everyday, it would drive me nuts.  But lesson learnt, don’t make any appointments during the commuter/school traffic peak times.  The next day we had another appointment but this time just down the road at Silverdale where the van was getting its brakes sorted and it was 9.30am that the van had to be in so it was a quick trip down the road.  We then went on to Steve & Les’ in Torbay for the day and also to get a bit of shopping done at Albany.  We picked the van up in the late afternoon and headed off to the dump station at Hatfield Beach to take care of necessities before heading back to Shakespear.  

But it wasn’t the end of our running around, the following morning we were both off to the Doctors in Mt Albert for our annual checkups.  This time we allowed plenty of time to get there and with a late morning appointment we had a good run through with it taking us just over an hour. From there we headed to Manukau to meet up with Antony to collect our mail and to have lunch with him before we headed back to Shakespear.  It was another  reasonable run taking just over an hour and a half this time. According to the newspapers the traffic problems are set to continue to get worse with “March madness”  occurring this month.   I think we will try and avoid travelling across the city especially at peak times.  

By the time Friday came, we were both ready to have a day without travelling anywhere!  Not that I was idle mind you, no, it was time to bottle a huge pot of beetroot!

Beetroot getting ready to be bottled.

We had visited our favourite market garden in Mangere last week when we were over that way to stock up on lovely outdoor tomatoes and lots of lovely fresh vegetables picked straight from the ground.  Soon it will be time to make  relishes, pickles and chutneys with supplies from these gardens, in particular using their flavoursome (ugly & mishapen) outdoor tomatoes. 

More visitors through the week, with Gary & Marg calling in for a catch up on their way through Auckland before heading to their home in Tokerau Beach.  It won’t be long and we will be back up their way again where we look forward to sharing some fishy tales as well as some fish!  

Colin & Ed came visiting at the weekend, and it was great to catch up and relax in the sun.  This time I did remember to take a picture 

Meanwhile, a graffitiI artist has been secretly at work as we found two labels stuck on the van, one under the passenger side wing mirror and the other on the back of the van

After extensive investigations we are pretty sure we have discovered the identity of the phantom labeller …….let’s just say that a certain bald Ranger, currently on a road trip around the South Island may get a surprise one of these days!  All in good fun of course. 

We have data!

January 3, 2017

We have leapt into the real world and now have lots of internet data!  You see, up until a few months ago we have only had limited data (6GB/month) available through the mobile phone network (at exorbitant rates) and to access more we have had to make use of free wifi spots at libraries and the like around the country to satisfy our internet needs or pay through the nose for extra data.  However, a few months ago we became aware that there were other options available.  

We waited until the dust settled on the debates around which options were best and which company to go with before making an informed decision on what was best for us. As loyal Vodafone customers we also approached Vodafone directly to see if they were offering a similar package, however, after many phone calls and checking with many levels of management it seems that yes, they do offer a package for their customers however their modem is geolocked which means you cannot use it outside a specific area.  And yes, they know about the other companies offerings and no, they are not about to offer similar services any time soon!  So guess what? They have now lost these loyal clients, and we have changed our phone plans which means we are saving ourselves plenty, well, enough to boost the happy hour funds!  

With now just the two other options (and yes, we understand Spark is also trialling a similar system) we had to make a choice on which company to go with.   Both options are utilising the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) which is the government’s initiative to provide fast broadband to areas outside the urban copper and fibre networks. It uses long range fixed wireless towers to provide broadband coverage to receivers  within range. 

After much debate and checking out our options we have gone with a company called  Netspeed.  

We rang them to get ourselves sorted which was done quickly and efficiently.The modem arrived the next working day to our designated mail pick up point, where we returned with it to the van, plugged it in, another phone call to Netspeed to activate and voilà, instant internet access. As we already have a Yagi directional aerial set up for Vodafone, if it is required, but at this stage we have had no problems with access to good fast internet anywhere we have been. Although we have put it up whilst we are here at Shakespear as we are parked in a bay which is surrounded by trees and the signal is so much faster with the aerial up.


At the moment it sits on the sunscreen visor at the front and is plugged into the 12v adaptor.  We haven’t mounted it permanently as we have found that depending where we are in the country it works better in different locations in the bus. For example when we were at Rarawa, it worked best when it was located at the rear of the van in the bedroom.  And whilst we are here at Shakespear it doesn’t get moved, nor does it get turned off!

Now we don’t know ourselves, having gone from only having 6GB a month to 120GB peak hours plus another 50Gb off peak (10pm – 6am – perfect for the lark of the touring party), we can watch movies, catch up on TV series and generally waste time to our hearts content 😉 and all for a similar price to what we were previously paying on our phone plans.   

We have also given up Sky TV (until the netball starts again!!), and as a result we have decided not to bother with a Freeview box either so we are a TV free zone and not missing it one iota.  We sometimes have a feed running from the computer to the TV to watch the news on demand, but most of the time we don’t bother.  

So if any of you have any recommendations of movies or series we should watch, then let us know.

First weeks at Shakespear

December 21, 2016

Look – there’s a man on the roof of the van.  

Indeed Roy was on the roof of the van, fixing a small leak we discovered during a recent downpour before it became a major issue and then he gave the roof a good scrub.

Once the roof was cleaned of course the rest of the van had to be washed as the dirty water from the roof had run down the sides of the van making it all look rather messy, especially the windows so they got a good clean.  So that’s another one of the jobs ticked off the list, especially the list that has been made up of ‘when we get to Shakespear’ items.  

The next item on that particular list was to crack open all the Macadamia nuts we had gathered when we were further north at this gem of a place.  There was a large macadamia tree on the roadside and it seemed a shame to let the rats & mice have them all so a container of nuts were picked.  

Macadamia nuts are notoriously difficult nuts to crack open, and after checking with Mr Google and watching a few YouTube clips and trialling many methods of opening them, the best method we could come up with was to hold the nut with a pair of vice grips, and hammer the nut.  But the hammering needs to be done on a firm solid surface, we tried a few things including the the table but that was no good, what did we find to use?   The solid plate metal base of our camp host sign of course!


A close up of the process. 

A few other minor tasks have been completed and we are now looking forward to some good weather, good company, and lots of fun over the summer.