Legends from our own lunchtimes

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Tuesday - Electrics


It was barely two weeks ago when that lightning bolt of reality struck and it became clear that there simply would not be time for someone with barely a basic knowledge of twelve volt wiring to muddle his way through by our deadline. 

Fortunately, barely two weeks was exactly the lead time Sean needed.  It was therefore with just a large amount of anxiety that one of us exhibited while peering down street at five minutes past the appointed time this morning searching for a small white van with an electrician in it.  

We shouldn't have worried, but we'd just gone into a Covid Lockdown, and while we were completely isolated from any chance of infection, that did provide a degree of difficulty in picking up the various "essential" parts.

By the end of a very long day we were wired, except for a little tidying up that couldn't be done until the rest of the cupboards were in.  

"Little" tidying up things like the actual installation of the battery, but there's always tomorrow when there will be just four days to go

MONDAY - install frig cupboards, frig and switchboard.
TUESDAY - help Sean with the wiring and reinstate the cabin
WEDNESDAY - install the remaining cupboards
THURSDAY - pack the van full of all we need to get it up to working load
FRIDAY - get a wheel alignment with everything on board
SATURDAY - leave for the Cape!

Monday, August 30, 2021

MONDAY _ Frig and Switchboard IN!

 By about now that everyone reading this journal should be thoroughly tired of it.

If indeed that is the case, then I have been mildly successful in conveying exactly how we felt about the work in hand at this time.   The mess in the garage, combined with the sheer number of unfinished parts looked like an insurmountable mountain.

One of us was really doubting his ability to get it all done.  

The other however, kept baking cakes and food to keep him going and a little more to take on the trip without doubting for a moment.  We had five days to go after all, and from her perspective at least things were going swimmingly.

MONDAY - install frig cupboards, frig and switchboard.
TUESDAY - help Sean with the wiring and reinstate the cabin
WEDNESDAY - install the remaining cupboards
THURSDAY - pack the van full of all we need to get it up to working load
FRIDAY - get a wheel alignment with everything on board
SATURDAY - leave for the Cape!


Sunday, August 29, 2021

Start again Sunday - PANIC NOW!


No one, NO ONE believed me when I said it all had to come out again, yet here we are at the very pointy end of the project with now less than a week to go, ready to start again.

The insulation on the floor is done, the cabin has to be stripped of dashboard, seats and floormats so that the wiring can take place, and if I hadn't known I had four days to get it back together I may not have had so much adrenaline coursing through my veins.

The programme for what it's worth, goes like this:

MONDAY - install frig cupboards, frig and switchboard.
TUESDAY - help Sean with the wiring and reinstate the cabin
WEDNESDAY - install the remaining cupboards
THURSDAY - pack the van full of all we need to get it up to working load
FRIDAY - get a wheel alignment with everything on board
SATURDAY - leave for the Cape!

Hmmmm... I feel tired just looking at this photo, and it was taken almost three months ago.


Saturday, August 28, 2021


If someone has said by now that the thing could have been finished if it weren't for my propensity to reinvent the wheel, I might have to cautiously admit that there is an element of truth in that.  

In my defence a lot of the time spent nutting out the smaller details was spent well before we had taken delivery of the van.

These brackets for the solar panel for instance, were custom-built to suit our particular installation, because all of the commercially available fixings were too clunky, too obvious or exactly the wrong size or one of us just didn't like them. They didn't really delay anything though as they have been designed, printed on the trusty 3d printer and sitting in a cardboard box waiting for their day in the sun for weeks while yours truly busied himself on things further up the list.

Today (or whatever day in the past this took place) was the day they came out, but in the complete absence of sunshine and with no time left on the schedule to delay further, we found ourselves under the shelter of a friend's monster carport, spending an entire morning, doing another "ten minute job".  

Looks just like a bought one.


Friday, August 27, 2021

Nine Days to Go.


With nine days to go, things to the casual observer things looked quite promising.

The bed platform was lashed in place ready to collect the mattress and a few other bits and bobs.

Mechanically things were ready to go, we had the awning on and the windshields fitted, the drawers in place if not quite adjusted properly, and even did a test run on the wrap which we'll eventually apply to the drawer fronts. 

Of course it will take a day on the road to collect the mattress, and while we are out we'll do our last round of visits to those in the big smoke and by the time we're back we'll be ready to strip everything out and start the final assembly.

And there'll be seven days to go!


Thursday, August 26, 2021

Adding lightness.


"Simplify, then add lightness" was the catchcry of Colin Chapman, the founder of the Lotus Car Company and it's a philosophy I've borrowed many times.  Time and time again I've shown that nothing beats a simple light weight box for strength and rigidity, and we are going to need both in the coming weeks when the going gets rough.

I don't think I can make a bed platform any simpler, and there are one hundred and fifty lightnesses added to it at the moment, although a few necessary hinges will take the weight in the wrong direction so maybe I'll enlarge the lightnesses at a later date.  

The template for the curvy beam at the back which will tie it all together is done.  The switchboard is done.   There's a real feeling that progress is happening, and then we realise that those empty cupboard carcasses are supposed to have drawers in them.

About now, we are thinking  we could just stash all our camping gear in the boxes and we'd still be OK to go, but even then some electricity would be nice.


Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Meanwhile in places other than our driveway.

 Meanwhile indoors, the other of us, not content with standing by, possibly lest she be called upon to hold the end of a tape, or juggle the other end of a drawer slide, or perhaps spread some smelly glue on something while it was being held in mid air, decided to get on with stuff that would be necessary further down the track.

Pillow covers and bed spreads were produced in far quicker order than one would imagine, and our camping gear cleaned and sorted ready to pack into drawers that as yet with barely a week left in our schedule were just a figment of our imaginations.

I am a little ashamed to to admit that when my mind is filled with schedules and details and things that need to be ordered or things that need to be built, I often forget to do stop for sustenance.  She has no such impediment, and therefore food, drink and the odd warm treat straight from the oven kept turning up at regular intervals as indeed they have for the past five decades whenever I have been similarly distracted.

While I am, and always have been enormously thankful for her part in this pair of complimentary behaviours,  I am pretty sure that on this occasion the primary motivation was not my well being.   

Alas, I think she was entirely focussed on ensuring "her" van would be ready on schedule and if that took a batch of fresh scones every day, well that was a small price to pay!


Tuesday, August 24, 2021



If we'd been keeping track of time, we'd have known that we had barely two and and a half weeks left until departure.

What better way of making progress towards a deadline than ignoring all the proper work remaining to be done, and fitting a nice set of wheel arch protectors?

While the end result was very satisfying, it might be noted that one of us is prone to panic when working with great gobs of black sticky stuff designed to glue bits of spaceship together in an instant, and this is a very fiddly gooey job indeed.   Ignoring the labels which read "for use by experienced applicators only" we launched ourselves headlong into the task.

Thankfully, although she would never admit it, the other of us seems to thrive in these situations and spent the entire day replenishing rags soaked in solvent, and making the gooey ones disappear before they did much damage and generally being a lot calmer and cheerier than her spouse.   

When it was all done, we couldn't help but laugh at ourselves.  Here we were standing back admiring our handiwork, having turned the bus in our eyes from a delivery hack into our own personal Hot Wheels Super Truck.

Realistically to anyone else it was always going to be...

a delivery hack.


Monday, August 23, 2021



It's hard to explain how much nervous energy one can waste trying to nut out which tyres will be best for the job particularly when trying to strike a balance between load carrying and on and off-road performance particularly when one is intending to do things with a vehicle it wasn't particularly designed to do.

After a lot of thought, research and assistance, not to mention patience from our local mechanic who happily chopped out great swathes of the under carriage, and tyre company which lent us a tyre to make sure it would all fit, we settled on a  combination which would conservatively get us close to the maximum legal diameter and offset while still fitting in the spare wheel carrier.   

All of that meant we were without the van for two full days, which gave a nice clear run at some of the other tasks. When it came back we had to admit that the angst had been worth it.

Who had we been kidding, we weren't concerned with performance or fit, it just had to look good, and by golly to our terribly unbiased eyes, it did!


Sunday, August 22, 2021

When more becomes less.

It looks like not much has happened, but there are templates aplenty spread all over the garage floor, and discussions aplenty about what will be, mixed with cups of tea and coffee and head scratching and making sure that things will go together in an orderly fashion when they do..

The pigeon holes for our clothes won't be in place before we leave, because they will require a few day's work which we just don't have.  More  important for now is sourceing things like tyres capable of withstanding thousands of kilometres of heavily corrugated gravel and worse, and mechanical checks to make sure the rest of the van is capable of that as well.

The mountain in front of us still looks just a bit too big to conquer in the timeframe, but a quick call to Matt and Abbie to check on their progress made us feel considerably better.

They have had almost two years longer to prepare for this trip, and on the face of it they don't appear to be any better prepared than we are. We console each other and get our respective heads down once more.

For now, the more things we leave out, the greater our chance of actually departing on time, which after all is our primary objective.


Saturday, August 21, 2021

It's not all just sitting around with your feet up.


With a tad over three weeks to go and not enough apparent progress, one would have to hope that there was a lot going on in the background, and indeed that was the case.

What was clear was that not everything was going to be finished, and to that end, actual sleep was being lost trying to figure out how to fit a quart's worth of time into a pint pot.   

An executive decision was made to finalise the templates for everything needed to complete the project to ensure that when we got back to complete it everything would fit. At the same time it was necessary concentrate the building on the bare necessities that we would need for the trip.   

All thoughts of finishing the lining were pushed aside which would mean effectively stripping everything out at a later date,  and it was pretty clear by now that if there was to be any electrical wiring at all, (which would be helpful if the refrigerator was going to serve a purpose), some help was going to be necessary. 

So measurements were taken and wheels set in motion (more on that in a day or two) and ducks set in a row, ready for a final assault.


Friday, August 20, 2021


After the enthusiasm stage of any project comes disillusionment, this time with one's capacity to progress at a reasonable rate, even if "reasonable" in one's head is completely unreasonable in real life. Even though we were consoled by the thought that we could  just go with a mattress in the back and an icebox the mountain of work ahead did seem insurmountable for a time.

The nice thing about the swivel seat was that it provided a wonderful place to sit and think and watch progress as the van failed to build itself.

With most of the support cupboard shells clamped or just balancing in place there was still an enormous amount of sitting and thinking to do, some of it terribly productive, some of it not quite so.

Sometimes he was sitting and thinking.

But mostly he was just sitting.


Thursday, August 19, 2021

How to enthuse an eleven year old.


Lily (with a roll of the eyes):

"This is going to be a VERY long holiday!"

Yes, we do have the deluxe version for the van, and yes we have made provision for it to slide neatly out of the way when not in use.


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The easy part.


These are strange times, Covid times; when everyone is buying stuff and no-one has any stock because everyone is buying it.  Local suppliers don't have stock, can't get stock or seem to have made so much money selling what they had that they had no interest at all in providing any service.

Can anyone blame me for ordering the new floor mats from Turkey, Wheel Arch Flares from Lithuania, a Light from Finland, Door rubbers from China, my 3d print supplies from Czechia and new head unit from China, particularly when all promise delivery within a week. 

Not that any of this would have any impact at all on our programme.  Our road trip spent picking up all the bulky and heavy items that we would need went very smoothly, and with our new seat swivel installed it was time to make a hole into which the fridge could be fitted, and from which all the other measurements could be taken.

It did look like a lot of progress, and it WAS quite encouraging.  It was so exciting that for a time it was easy to overlook the inconvenient truth that there remained but four weeks until our immutable departure date.


Tuesday, August 17, 2021


We got the floor done in double-quick time and it looked fantastic.   If I'd had my way we'd have stopped then, while it all looked all shiny and new, thrown a rug on that ice-rink and taken off.  

There was something a bit deflating in the knowledge that it had to come out again to attach the cupboards to it.   Then the cupboards would have to come out to get the wall lining done.   After that everything has to come out again so we can put the insulation under the floor.  Then there's the wiring, some of which has to run beneath the insulation, some on top …

One of the curious things about fitting out a camper is that there is almost no sequential work.  Everything that needs to be installed, needs something else installed before the correct location or fitting can be carried out.  At this point we were bracing ourselves for a lot of fitting and re-fitting. 

We were aiming to have the whole thing with a finished (fitout) weight about half of an equivalent commercial camper.  This will have obvious benefits on-road, and hopefully will make things a degree or two easier on the running gear on the rougher roads we intend to encounter, but even more importantly at this stage, it will be a lot easier to all that putting in and pulling out of half-built cabinetry.

We didn't have time to sit and admire that shiny floor however.  As soon as the photos were taken, the de-construction commenced, cargo hold-downs reinstated, and we were off on a 500 kilometre road trip to pick up the bigger bits we'd be needing over the next few weeks. 


Monday, August 16, 2021

Because too much insulation is never enough.


It may have taken a couple of days of sliding around, straining every muscle including a few I didn't know I had, before I came to my senses, and borrowed a nice set of car ramps.  

With these in place I could raise the front of the car to achieve some semblance of level working platform, and working within became a good deal more comfortable.   The second stage of insulation work proceeded without adding significantly to the number of aches which by that time had quite possibly reached every corner of my body anyway.

I'd like to say that this little job took a good deal of time more than one would think it should, because it was a little bit fiddly in spots, but this might have been exacerbated by a reluctance on the part of some extremities of my body to bend as required.

Never the less, by the time you can say "well that's nice, but you do realise that now you only have four weeks to finish the job, don't you?", The insulation work was complete.

Actually it wasn't quite complete.   At some point in the future the entire cabin will be stripped and the front bit treated similarly, but since that is a job that in itself will require another week to complete, it's on the list of things to do much, much later.


Saturday, August 14, 2021

Let the fun Begin!

A week may not seem like a long time to wait to pick up  one's new vehicle, but it dragged interminably.  Days (and nights) were filled searching for things which would one day go into that purchase.  So many things were ordered that within a few days their value added up to almost half of the purchase cost of the van itself.   

Thankfully the first bit of stuff to arrive was the sound deadening material, which arrived at our place before the van was as it happens, therefore we were able to start work within minutes of its arrival. The poor thing was subjected to the removal of everything in the cargo area that could be removed or unclipped or in some cases pried off, and the simple but somewhat tedious task of lining the interior with sound deadening commenced.  

When one is working to a deadline, even simple tasks have a way of complicating themselves, and we only had five weeks to get this job done after all and it wasn't long before the first complication reared its ugly head:

Our driveway is somewhere between "quite" and "very" steep.  

The Van is too tall to fit in the garage,  therefore all work has to happen on that slope.   

A sloping van interior provides no traction for tools, equipment or even people, therefore about two thirds of actual installation time was spent either crawling back to where I wanted to be, or retrieving tools or tape from exactly the other end of the workspace.  

What about those blue mats brought in to take some of the pain out of my already battered knees, surely they'd help?   

How was I to know they are just cut down versions of the big ones they use on the giant slippery slides?  


Friday, August 13, 2021

On wearing out shoe leather.


There's probably no more archaic expression these days than "wearing out shoe leather", when one considers what shoes are made of, and how little wearing out they get while seated in front of a computer searching the world for bits for one's new vehicle, but wearing out "bum denim" doesn't imply the actual effort that goes into the task. 

There we were, deposit paid on our "new" van in a yard not much more than a hundred kilometres away. For some reason which is quite unfathomable now but is probably a bit related to being in a bit of shock after so suddenly completing the purchase after such a protracted search, making arrangements to pick it up a week from the day we agreed to buy it.

With the optimism that comes with every new project, we figured it would take twelve to fourteen weeks to do a reasonable job of transforming delivery vehicle into camper.  

The fact that we had only five until the time we were due to leave for Cape York did not even begin to sink in until much, much later.


Thursday, August 12, 2021

(Jean-Claude for short.)


We'd inspected this damned van (damned, because through no fault of its own, by now we had had enough of our fruitless search and were becoming rather impatient if not entirely without hope)  on our way out to Warwick a week or so before.  

We sort of snuck in to the yard, and snuck out again before we could be harangued by someone intent on making us its owners before the sun went down.  It WAS clean, very clean and very tidy with astonishingly low kilometres for its age, had legitimate trail of paper, a complete service history and being the absolute base model for its year, although it had nothing in the way of creature comforts.  It was priced at an eye watering fifty percent more than its insurance value, wasn't four wheel drive, had a dodgy after-market cruise control and it seemed on that first inspection that we could probably do better if we could just wait a little longer.

A week later which seemed an interminable amount of time in our state of mind, it was still there, surely a sign of just how over-priced it was.

So without blinking, or so much as a mechanical inspection, we paid our deposit and returned to our base to ponder what we had done.

We finally had our blank canvas onto which we could paint a host of new adventures.


Wednesday, August 11, 2021


We could and arguably should have strung the report of our May road trip out for quite a while, with photos of pretty faced wallabies and red dragon flies, campfires and dice games and empty bottles and rock chasms and moss and crystal clear creeks.   Of course there are also photos of country towns and historic sheds and vast open spaces on empty roads, and good times had by all.  A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then however, and besides, during every one of those several thousand kilometres travelled our minds and conversation were somewhat distracted. 

For two years we'd been looking for a van with a particular set of features: Short wheel base, automatic, cruise control, four wheel drive with diff lock, reasonable kilometres.  How hard could that be?

"These go forever" they'd say, as we peered into an obviously well-used, gloomy dashboard showing more than half a million kilometres on the dashboard, "and well worth the money" at barely less than the new price.

We even thought we'd found one for an hour or two.  Quite tidy it was, although it had a mess of modifications to its electrical system and there was something not quite right with its service records. 

The dealer was archetypal dodgy, answering questions just a little too quickly, but when he couldn't tell us what the strange ant-like creatures were that seemed to be moving in every crevice, we quietly stopped our conversation without breaking eye contact, and gently backed away.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

It's their fault!

Almost exactly ten years ago, Warwick and Julie introduced themselves to us, completely unaware of the inspiration they would provide.  They were in a little camping car, we on our boat, all of us somewhere in France.  

At that time, about to turn seventy they were working their way through what they called their mid-life crises.  I hope I am not causing offence in relating part of our conversation (heavily paraphrased) but the gist of it was as follows: They were reaching a dangerous age.  Some were suggesting they should perhaps slow down a bit, become more sedentary perhaps, after all that they were only a twisted ankle away from a forced radical change to their peripatetic lives.

They in turn, had given this advice a good deal of consideration, and acknowledged that their advisors were quite correct. 

It was quite clear to them that the slightest mishap at their age could severely curtail future travel.  They therefore decided that rather than slowing down, they needed to speed up in the hope of getting more of the things seen that needed to be seen before that fateful calamity occurred. So they did.

While in the town of Warwick a few months ago, how could we not think of them?  Surrounded by autumn colours (a rarity in our State), we were filled with a sort of urgency, only  too aware that we were in a delightfully colourful part of our lives, but that the leaves will inevitably start to shrivel (some would observe that is already happening).  

We decided there and then that we would stop dithering around looking for the perfect van, and just get on with it as soon as we returned home.

Wishing you a speedy recovery Julie and hoping to be inspired by your adventures for a long time to come!

The Day We Met


Monday, August 09, 2021

Make yourself at home (somewhere in south west Queensland)


We are incredibly grateful for the opportunities we've had during the past decade and more.  We've mostly been free to travel without the constraints of having to plan our movements beyond the next few minutes.  Life on a boat, or a car with a tent gives unlimited flexibility, notwithstanding the need for water or the merest semblance of a road to guide one on one's way.  To travel without living from a suitcase, whether because one is carrying nought, or because one is travelling in the comfort of one's home, is to really travel.

There we were in the month of May (and a bit of June) in once familiar territory without the benefit of boat or tent, reminding ourselves of earlier times when we carried our stuff in bags, this time with our movements constrained by bookings made almost a year before.  

Our accomodation though mostly not at the absolute budget end of the spectrum, (admittedly this was mostly because we didn't actually confirm our reservations until way too late and our choice was limited at best), invariably provided a number of constants as though each place had been working from a manual.

Just as the larger, more salubrious hotel chains strive for a consistency between each location, these lesser places were also not without a host of comforting reminders that these were not the sorts of places where no man had been before.  

Though always serviceably clean, sometimes in a "could do better" kind of way, there were reminders that this was not home: The dog-ears on the breakfast menus flying in the face of one-use-only Covid rules, the bit of sticky tape to hold the battery covers on the tv remotes, the shower roses that were at exactly the wrong height, and our favourite; that lingering smell that is always there, always the same, a mix of the faintest whiff of forbidden tobacco smoke lingering in the chenille bedspread and a furtive attempt to conceal it by rubbing it with what we can only guess was one of those cardboard car air fresheners that's invariably shaped like a pineapple.


Sunday, August 08, 2021

Camping without our tent.
sometime in May


A year ago we made a reservation at Carnarvon Gorge for a week in May with a bunch of our mates who would all be in their tents or caravans.   

According to our plan, we would have our van by then, but in case our plan should go the way our plans often do, we booked one of those hut/cabin/tent things with its own ensuite, the kind that cost about the same per night as a week in a luxury hotel, as a contingency.

So certain were we of realising our plan, that we quite deliberately burnt our bridges, and sold our camping setup, including tent, battery, solar panel and refrigerator.   We WOULD have a van by then wouldn't we?

Well no actually as things turned out.  

Vans are very thin on the ground in this neck of the woods, their value inflating at a greater rate than BitCoin, so there we were, tentless, with a commitment to spend more on that week of sub-luxury than we'd received for our entire camping inventory.

In the depths of the Gorge, we had time to ponder our lot… Were we really sad to be at the far end of the camping ground?  

Sad to be so far away from our mates, dry and warm, but without the joy of walking to the amenities block in the damp chill of the wee small hours, far from that smell of campfire smoke permeating everything we owned, completely without risk of finding spiders in our boots, with insect screens keeping admittedly a better class of mosquito far from where they could do us ill?

No one could accuse us of not knowing what we were missing!



Thank you to the three of you who have agreed to be my guinea pigs!  There is only supposed to be one person in this room at the moment, but here you are!

Well you may not have agreed exactly, but when I set up the feed you were already there, so I'm guessing you subscribed while I wasn't watching!

If you've received this in the old format, I do apologise - I published this before deleting the old setup, so carry on, there's nothing to see here until I get this sorted.    The new feed should kick off at 5:00am GMT, which is still a few hours from now, so I will wait with breath held!

This is a test to see if the feed sends out photographs - if it doesn't I'll drop it back to "headlines" rather than the full story.

I hope that I don't inadvertently add you again, not sure how to cope with that if I do, but let me know anyway.


Friday, August 06, 2021

The writing is on the wall. (Changes coming for subscribers!)

Actually the writing's been on the wall for a while, admittedly not as long as the incredible art on this wall we visited in Carnarvon Gorge earlier this year, but quite a while none the less.

In this instance I'm referring to big changes to the way subscriptions to this blog are handled, and Google's cancellation of the current email subscription service.   There is a bit of relevance in the photo, because it was when I was away that the very first notice of this upcoming change arrived.

Naturally, arriving home to over four hundred emails it was one of those that I put in the "get to it later" basket.  Facing a similar number of messages this week, it seems my three month's notice is up, and email subscriptions will be discontinued any tick of the clock.

For that legion of subscribers to this blog I can only apologise for the disruption this is going to cause, and hope you forgive me for switching hopefully in the long term to "Follow.it" as of tomorrow.   If all goes according to plan, you will have the ability to edit what you receive, and even cancel your subscription (heaven forbid!)   

In the meantime, if this is the last message you receive via email, please let me know by email or by commenting on the blog, and I'll see what I can do to reconnect.   Thank you all for your support, it really is greatly appreciated!


Thursday, August 05, 2021

Making a Mountain out of an Anthill.


After a lengthy absence, which might possibly be explained at length over the coming days or weeks or indeed may never be explained, we're back with a new family member and a list of things to make and do which is so long that the time for completion, if we abide by our traditional method of dealing with such lists, may well not take place in this lifetime.

Meet Jean Claude Damned Van, the product of decades of discussion, volumes of hastily sketched notes and thoughts, years of planning, and a hasty last minute decision to purchase in the face of a looming deadline.  

It's fair to say that there were a few ticks missing from the boxes on our carefully compiled list of "must haves" and with fewer than five weeks to create some semblance of habitable space before taking off into the great red and blue northern unknown with a third of our children, the process could best be described as "not relaxing".

In a departure from our usual diaries, daily documentation has not been possible due in part to a complete absence of communication networks, and during the build period when networks did exist, a complete absence of energy left to do so. 

Yet here we are.   Locked in, with not much else to do but catch up on three months' worth of garden maintenance and tell the tale of how we got here.

Blogger Template Created by pipdig