All that glitters

This week has felt like a bit of an uphill struggle at times with numerous van cock-ups and disappointments. I’m kicking myself that we painted the interior white. Though I most definitely prefer white to magnolia, the original wallpaper was still in good nick and was easy to wipe clean. The white is going to be a nightmare (and it looks like it has been painted by a small child). It would be difficult to keep clean if I was living on my own, but with a Rodney on board, I think we can just call it a write off. Or a white off! Aha ha de ha ha.

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Then the other day the battery light came on and ‘we’ (Rodney’s Dad Don) discovered that the alternator belt had fallen off whilst we were cruising / chugging along. At the time this felt like a massive set back and we stopped working and spending money on the van until it was up and running again. Potentially an over-reaction as in the end the new belt cost £6 and an hour of The Don’s time (free), but I guess you could say we’re very nervous about the van’s ability to get us around Europe and how much money we may have to sink into it to keep it on the road. Very nervous indeed.

Next we tried to get some gold paint to do touch ups, but it turned out to be a shoddy paint matching service which left us with glittery yellow spots / a shitter looking van than we started out with. Then the fridge stopped working. Then the bed broke. Then we found a strange mite infestation. Then… actually I think that’ll do for now.

Somewhere in the middle of it all Rodney was offered work on a film in London. Neither of us really imagined we’d be going back so soon but it’s easy work that will keep us stocked up on diesel / beer for a few extra months. So tomorrow we fly to London for ten whole days. This will push back our van departure date somewhat but ‘frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn’!

I need to get to bed ASAP as it’s a stupidly early flight, but before I do let me share a little tale of mirth with you…

Rodney was helping his brother dig a grave this morning, as you do. He then got roped into helping to lower the coffin into the grave (a terrifying thought for anyone who knows how frequently Rodney breaks / drops things). Fortunately he only injured himself in the process (a small but bloody cut to the hand). The funeral ended, the bereaved departed and Rodney and his brother set to work filling the grave back in. Now, I’ve never really given much thought to graves before, what happens when the funeral ends etc. but it turns out you need to pack the earth back in pretty tightly to ensure the grave is level and doesn’t sink. To do this well, you’re gonna want to climb down into the grave and jump up and down on the earth every now and again. Rodney isn’t really the kind of person to do things by halves, and he tends to enjoy a bit of physical activity, so when the time came to pack in the earth, he wasted no time in climbing into the grave,  jumping up and down on the coffin and swinging his arms about the place. And it was at that point that some latecomers arrived at the graveside to pay their respects and were faced with the sight of a large jolly irishman appearing to dance on their loved ones grave, wearing a muddied, bloodied T-shirt with (we realised afterwards) ‘Day of the dead – play dead’ emblazoned across it in Spanish.

In between the hysterics we were all of course suitably appalled and Rodney has agreed to steer clear of graveyards for the foreseeable future, so worry not.

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The shiniest van in Europe

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Week one of working on the van has been quite scary. It turns out that between us we have one skill –  cleaning. It may not get us very far but it will be the shiniest van in Europe. When something seems too difficult to clean, we paint it… badly! Fortunately Rodney’s dad is good at pretty much everything. He’s an engineer, a motor mechanic, a plumber, an electrician, an inventor and a builder. Granny Betty tells me he even knows how to use a sewing machine (so something else he’s going to need to teach us). It makes me feel quite humbled, and a bit pathetic at the same time. We’ve decided to blame poor schooling for this, even though we’ve been out in the real world for a couple of decades with plenty of time to learn for ourselves. I just don’t recall being taught anything practical/useful  at school that could help us with this project- how to make coleslaw (yuk), how to create a very bright light with a Bunsen burner and a piece of Magnesium (cool but no), how to evacuate for a fire drill… actually that one could come in quite useful before long.

So basically Don has done most of the work for us so far, including fitting a new Truma water heater which enables us to have three consecutive showers of five minutes each- Rodney can’t really fit in the shower and is happy to wash in the sea / cold water so this means I “could” have a 15 minute hot shower all to myself every morning. EXCITING. Obviously I’m not going to because I really care about the environment and everything but theoretically speaking, I’m very excited about this.

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The other thing we hadn’t factored in is how difficult it is to get parts for an elderly vehicle. Trawling the internet looking for things has almost become a fulltime job, and bugger me is it boring. We’ve found it so hard to get simple window stays (without a lock) and I’m so tired of looking that yesterday we were discussing whether or not the window needed to ever stay open anyway. Rodney: ‘If it’s too warm we can sleep outside’.

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Nevertheless progress is being made and we should be on the road before the end of the month. We’ve been out for a couple of trips, to the beach and to the forest and it’s pretty awesome, the captain chairs are big and comfy and the windscreen is so vast, you really do feel like you’re in a space ship!

As we were driving along, no matter what speed we were travelling (slow or very slow) other cars seemed to stay behind us and not feel inclined to overtake. I said that they must be admiring our shiny behind, but Rodney insists there were probably bits falling off the van and they were trying to catch them for us.

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Leaving London

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After counting down the months and days until our departure, the last week went by in a speedy blur. We packed, cleaned, worked, got drunk, ate a lot of sushi and Pho (not easy to get in Ireland), and said a few more goodbyes. On the last day we took a few hours out to sleepwalk our way around the Harry Potter Studios (quite cool) before rushing home to finish packing / scrubbing the oven.

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My brother surprised me on the Saturday by getting a train down to help us move. As he’s very strong this meant that I got to do very little whilst he and Rodney competed to be the bestest / strongest of all mankind. Rodney won on the basis that he broke everything he touched, such is his superhuman strength.

In all it took 7 hours to load the van, give the flat a final scrub, drive to Coventry, put everything in storage and get back to my brother’s for a well earned beer or five. As the van was priced per 24 hours, Rodney then got up at 4.30am, drove the van to Hampstead, ran to Euston, got a train back to Coventry and then ran to my brothers, arriving just in time for breakfast / Jodie getting up. Quite the trooper.

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We chilled at my brothers for a while feeling pretty knackered and then flew out to Northern Ireland on Tuesday where we have been eating / drinking / sleeping the days away ever since, achieving very little apart from a state of (almost) total relaxation.

I’m not sure how I feel about leaving London yet as it doesn’t really seem real. We watched some of the VE day concert on tele last night and I felt a small pang of regret that I no longer live in (arguably) the greatest city on earth, but then Katherine Jenkins started squawking and the feeling passed.

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I’m slowly getting used to the idea that I’ve nowhere to be anytime soon; that I can wake up and decide on a whim what to do with my day. I’ve been competing to be the busiest of people for so long that indefinite relaxation has me feeling a bit unsettled. I think I could eventually become a champ at doing rock all, but it does make me feel a tad guilty.

Fortunately I’ll not be feeling guilty for long as we’ve got shit to do. Lots of very important shit! Tomorrow we start work on the van- we’re anticipating it will take about three weeks to get it ready to live in. Time to get busy again!