Thursday, 26 March 2015

Niggles Resolved

When you're living somewhere that's smaller than the average dwelling, and have the type of personality where an untidy house equates to an untidy mind, it's absolutely essential that everything  remains just so.  As space is a very valuable commodity indeed and is often multi-functional it's extreme hard to ignore pockets of untidiness or indeed a way of storing something that just doesn't really work. I've been making some changes to my motorhome, Klaus the Knaus,  that have rectified some of the niggles that using him as a full-time dwelling have brought to the fore.  These pretty cushions were not  just bought as they were a perfect match for my swanky retro upholstery and make my van look even more homely.  They also give me something to sit on when eating.  Before I felt like a toddler when eating and I wasn't quite high enough to reach the table comfortable. Now the table:bench ratio can be made perfect.

Adding a simple but very chunky hook to the storage area near the main entrance to the living space means that my broom doesn't fall over every time I go out and bar my way as I come in. Grrr!  Hopefully it'll be man enough to withstand braking and corner turns when I'm driving too.  That's the plan anyway.  It's due to be tested out at the weekend when we leave our normal campsite for a birthday adventure.

I was also getting mightily pee-ed off whenever I tripped over Crocs, trainers and the like that we wear often and never seem to make it back to the Thule shoe organiser.    More of those inexpensive  black bungees that I use to keep my books secure  have provided a ready storage solution.  Simply wrapped around the passenger seat adjacent to the main entrance door they provide a place where footwear can been 'hung' next to the coats.

So my sanity has been restored.   Just a few simple measures have meant that those things that were driving me a little bit mad on a daily basis have been magicked away!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Muff with Buttons!

When I was shown these knitting instructions for a Twiddle Muff  yesterday I had to giggle.  There's too many double-entendre laden phrases in there for a puerile 'Carry On' inspired mind to ignore.  The concept is excellent though and thankfully  it's not about bejazzling with wool. People with advancing dementia can get a bit fidgetty. Snuggly muffs decorated inside and out(!) are thought to be a wonderful resource for providing tactile stimulation.

Staff at Exeter's Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital are asking people to knit Twiddle Muffs so that they can gift them to patients.  I can't knit for toffee so this blog post is my contribution to the project.  I'm asking anyone who can help to go ahead and use your imagination to decorate a Twiddle Muff that will help keep someone with dementia a bit more comfortable in hospital.  They often have a hard time in  such an alien setting.  Or knit one for a loved one or start a project to provide them for a hospital or care home locally.   I hope I've started something here.  Please show me the results if you take up my challenge.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Caravan Ahoy!

Salty Dog is hankering after a vintage caravan to do up.  I'm not a tow-er myself so have tried to put her off. But each to their own.  As she rightly points out a motorhome comes with the increased costs associated with running a vehicle; tax, insurances, servicing and she doesn't want all that.

On her behalf I went and had a look on Ebay to see if I could find something suitable and came across this caraboat in need of much TLC.  In spite of this it sold for impressive £499. Given Salty Dog's nautical bent I think it would have been just fine for her.
Photo: British Pathe

I wondered what a pristine example of this mad British intervention might have looked like. Help was at hand from Pathe news. You'll have to follow this link to see a short movie clip from the '60s demonstrating just how this dual-purpose piece of kit operated. Launching it, after attaching an outboard motor and some buffers certainly alarmed a few swans and old ladies.

Photo: British Pathe
I have to say that I'm dubious about its practicality.  The couple 'sailing' the vessel look distinctly worried.  It looks pretty rocky on even the flat, calm waters of the Thames and they look like they're trying to stay as still as possible to avoid capsize.  Even so the concept is pretty good.  And if Salty Dog manages to get her own caraboat I'm game to try it.  I'll be wearing my swimming cozzie though and will be ready to jump out of the window just in case!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Stretching Squash

It's been a weekend of studying interspersed revelry with Salty Dog both evenings to stop my head exploding from all that academic effort. Follow this link to check out the incredibly talented Land of the Giants, a Plymouth band that we caught in Newton Abbot on Friday. Their lead singer is unfeasibly cute. There, I thought I'd better get that in before I'm 50 next week and pass the point where it becomes totally unacceptable to  leer at men half my age!  Perhaps I'll take up crochet or some other wholesome hobby to wean me off the habit.  Oh, by the way thanks to all those that have expressed real or feigned surprise at my advanced age.  It's been appreciated by the woman who, in her deluded little head, still believes that she's about 21.

In order to devote as much time as possible to working on my assignment I cooked ahead. A butternut squash  was roasted very successfully in the halogen oven on Thursday night and I did a variation on the double recipe that I posted way back.  Half of the most  gorgeous variety of veg  known to man was eaten on the day simply adorned with grated parmesan and  lardons of bacon.  A tortilla sandwich filling was made with the rest.  I fried onion, carrrot, pepper, halved baby cherry tomatoes, chopped spring greens and a half a packet of cubed feta.  This was simply seasoned with salt, pepper and smoked paprika.  That did for tea for me and Salty Dog, who doesn't eat meat, on Friday night. More of the mix went into a tortilla parcel with the addition of some chopped chorizo for Saturday lunch..  And here was last night's supper.  The puree mix made a rather delicious side dish for some more chorizo and fried slices of halloumi.  As I might have said before I'm firmly in the camp with those who believe that vegetarian food can only be enhanced by the addition of pork products.  There's still enough other for a butternut breakfast.  I reckon it'll be great adorned with an egg.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Cat Man Do

Late blogging today. After a rather annoying computer glitch which meant I couldn't access the university computer system this morning, I'm studying at full force.  And it's a day that's rather too gorgeous to be sitting at my laptop. Bah!  If I do anything else it'll be something outside and not screen based.  So, I'll be quick.  Here's a little cartoon that made me and Louis laugh the other day.  If I remember past feline friends correctly I think it captures cat behaviour perfectly.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Flamingo Mk.1

I'm a bit premature in showing off the results of my printmaking course but too excited by the results to keep them to myself. After I've come out of my last two classes the chemicals flowing through my brain and body are akin to those that flow whilst in love.  Pah! Who needs a man when you've got a pile of art materials!  When I confided in the people at work that this had happened they said that I was mad.  Maybe I knew that already.

Anyway, I started to cut this flamingo last spring when I was recovering from knee surgery.  The pose on one leg was supposed to be a very simplistic metaphor for my own situation.  I was pleased with the bird but couldn't get the background, cut on a second piece of lino, right. So, like many other of my craft projects this particular picture was put on the back burner.

Now Simon, my tutor at Exeter's Double Elephant Print Workshop is excellent and enthusiastic.   And patient for I am one of the messiest buggers on earth whilst in the throes of working.  With his help the other students have made some amazing pieces using a wide range of wacky techniques that have included using photographic bits and pieces and magic black dust.  After a brief foray with monoprinting in the first session, I've stuck fast to my linocutting for that was what I wished to develop. With Simon's help with design and technique I've come up with a print I'm proud of.  This isn't the final version though.  The beak isn't quite right.

Friday, 20 March 2015


Ages back when I showed off my internal motorhome makeover Frances asked for a picture of the outside, just to make sure that it wasn't a Tardis. Well, it's late in coming.  I had to clean before I did that, a tortuous job I'd put off for a long time.  It involved a major argument with Louis who was supposed to be helping.  Instead he sloped off halfway through and hid in the toilet to play on his Kindle leaving  me sitting on the roof cold, grubby and wet  whilst  waiting for fresh hot water.  Words were said some of which might have been swearier than you'd expect a mother to use in the presence of an eleven year old.  However we made up and the job got done. So, today I've come up with a goods, a tour of the outside of the very gorgeous Klaus the Knaus.  The exterior features may not be quite as pretty as his gorgeous interior but there's lots to see. Here's the cab - very useful when I want to up sticks!  If this hasn't happened in some time and the main battery is as dead as that skeletal dodo that we saw in Brighton, I trickle charge by running a wire from the leisure battery which usually powers bits and pieces inside.  That does the trick and within twelve hours we can be off.
Lots of my fulltiming counterparts erect awnings and then pack them full of stuff.  As this was an exercise in living with less AND I want to be able to move when I want to with ease I've decided not to do that.  Here's the sum of my outside storage.  My bike is under its special cover made for the job.  Underneath the green tarp is a spare European gas bottle, a bike rack and my Lafuma lounger, that will earn its place with me through through warmer months.

Here's the storage compartment that runs under the back seat that can be accessed from inside too.  It holds all sorts of gubbins; hoses, camping table and chairs, a barbecue, the windy thing for my awning, buckets and bowls for cleaning.  As you can see it can get messy quite quickly.

There's a folding bike rack on the back and a ladder so that I can climb onto the roof to argue with my son.

And here's what's up there.  A solar panel that allows me to wildcamp without a hookup and not have to worry about having no lighting.  The thing on the far left is a satellite dish that I've discovered needs some TLC.  Maybe it's why the TV doesn't work at the moment.  I need to get a man onto that.

There's a little cupboard where my toilet cassette fits snugly.  I'm going to have to empty it in a minute.  I push the big yellow button at the front and it then slides out.  The tube on the right shows how much flushing liquid I've got left.  That's filled by pulling out the arm thingy attached to that white box at the top and unscrewing the lid.  The disinfectant stuff I add to the liquid is the same blue stuff that I use in the main toilet.

A humble washing up bowl that collects waste grey water, not anything that goes down the toilet I hasten to add.  It's just the stuff that goes down the plug hole after washing up and from bathroom ablutions.  Nothing really yucky.

I connect to mains electricity when I'm on sites here.  There thing on the right is a vent from my gas boiler.  On a cold morning like today atmospheric steam emits from it.

And here's a second outside locker but this one cannot be accessed from inside the van.  It contains my propane supply used to cook, for the central heating and hot water system and to run the fridge when I'm not on a hook up.  As Klaus is German there's an adaptor for UK bottle connections. They can be a sod to change. The green thing at the top is where I top up my clean water daily with a watering can.

So there you have it, a further look around the tiny versatile space that I call home!