Thursday, 30 July 2020


I'm convinced the van inhabits a spatio-temporal anomaly. 

Whenever I go in it to do some work I lose something, which I believe is transported into another dimension or the interstices of space-time. Keys, screwdrivers, knives, drill bits - you name it, it disappears, only to pop up again later, but not where I left it. Some things disappear forever. I'm still looking for a knife I used to cut the straps from the new leisure batteries when installing them.

Yesterday a few more bits I'd purchased off eBay arrived - the leads for the inverter, a new external door latch and grab rails for a new, collapsible occasional table I'm going to make. The repair to the external panelling is complete and has been buffed to a mirror finish.

Later today we're heading off to our favourite haunt in north Devon for a few days, but keeping well clear of crowds. Usually there is only a handful of people there, as it's relatively undiscovered, so it should be quiet. Taking the 2 kayaks in the Chairman's patented kayak carrier.

I thought it might be unwise to have so much weight high up, but people carry kayaks on motorhome roof-racks, which are even higher, so it shouldn't be a problem.

My 2 boys will be responsible for the house while we're away. Boys? They're 22 and 20, for heaven's sake - I must stop referring to them as boys...

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

All Fixed

Managed to get some body filler yesterday, applied a skim to the fibreglass substrate I'd layered on, rubbed it down and made a new pretty picture on the van.

I was in Lidle and saw they were selling aerosols of white lacquer, so I bought a tin in the hope it would be the right colour - and it was. However, it's a bit on the thin side and so needed rather a lot of flatting with wet and dry paper due to a couple of sags that appeared in the paint.

Another coat later today, some rubbing down with some 1500 grade wet and dry to feather the repair in and then a light buff with rubbing compound and the repair will be complete at a cost of £20. You wouldn't know a huge gouge had been inflicted on it.

The cream stuff is just masking tape around the door handle, which also required some attention.

Next are the cam belt and 3 wheel bearings, the latter being no-urgent and advisory. I may even get the steel wheels sand blasted and painted - at £60 a wheel via a local contact in the trade, it will be worth it.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Embarrassing Manoeuvre

How embarrassing - I was backing the van out of the drive (which is very narrow andhas a tight, 90 degree bend)) and didn't spot an obstruction poking out from a brick pillar. Managed to put a couple of holes in the rear nearside panel when I hit an ornament hanging on the pillar.

Luckily I had some fibreglass matting and epoxy resin over from a repair to the tray of our composting loo and managed to effect a preliminary repair to make it watertight. Looks suspiciously like the lower half of someone's face.

I'll get some body-filler today, skim it over and sand it flat. I then need to source some Ford Alpine White and it should be as good as new. Having rebuilt several cars, I'm a dab hand with bodywork problems, so it's not a big issue. Could have done without it though.

Given the paint has oxidised and discoloured over time, I probably won't manage to get a perfect match without painting the entire panel. I may, however, put a decal over the top of the repair. I quite like this one - Bad Badger.

Those knowing the nickname Hay has for me will understand. It's a variant of a Banksy.

The awning end cap was rather tatty after 19 years in situ and had been severely attacked by UV.

Scrapped off all the crumbling and decomposed plastic with a knife, rubbed it down vigorously with several grades of wet and dry to get to a firm base and applied 4 layers of clear lacquer.

Good as new. My intent is to get everything on the van working 100% and back to the state it was when the van was built 19 years ago. It's amazing how these things hold their value if looked after.

Monday, 27 July 2020


Hay and I are starting to have a slight divergence of opinion as to what the motorhome needs to have in it.

She's coming up with crockery, pots and pans, cutlery, a box of stuff containing elastic bands, felt pads, pegs, etc. All the kind of stuff that's not really essential.

I'm being entirely more practical and suggesting a compressor, spray gun, sandblaster, 2 tonne trolley jack, circular saw, pneumatic chisel, jet sprayer - the kind of stuff that will obviously be needed on a daily basis in terms of converting it into a mobile tool shed.

Women, eh? Hay got her first AirBnB booking yesterday from a couple of Cotswold Way walkers, but it's not till September, by which time we'll be locked down again.

Sunday, 26 July 2020


We seem to be having a bumper greengage crop this year.

Not sure what the weather significance is, if any - we usually have only a handful. Same goes for the plums, which will be ready to crop within a week - we have an overabundance this year. The problem with our plums, however, is that the tree has some kind of disease that makes the plums susceptible to rot - one turns and within a short space of time the rot sips through the rest of the fruit, meaning we have to pick them all at once, before the rot spreads.

The apple trees also are groaning under the weight of their crop.

Think I'm going to have to prune them in the autumn - one is in danger of falling over the next time we have a high wind and I'm going to have to lop off half of it.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Fixings and Inversions

Work progresses on the van. I'm determined that everything in it should work as intended, or better.

Two of the windows had faulty stays that wouldn't allow the windows to remain opened - a major drawback in making stowing the kayaks into a one man job. I had bought 3 replacement catches, which all the literature maintains are easy to replace. Rubbish!

The catches are held in place with 2mm pins made from scrolled steel. The instructions say they can be removed with a small screwdriver or 2mm drill bit and simply pull out. Nothing could be further from the truth. It took me 3 hours to replace the first one, an hour to do the 2nd one - and only after I'd hacksawed through the plastic - and 15 minutes to replace the last one, having learned than a hacksaw is the only and fastest method.

Found a 1kW 12v DC to 230v AC inverter on Facebook Market yesterday and went into Bath to collect it. Nice piece of equipment for £85, which I decided to position as near to the leisure batteries as possible - which was on the bulkhead behind the driver's seat, in such as position that it doesn't interfere with the seat being slid fully back. I've ordered some cables which, with my luck, sill take a couple of weeks to arrive from China (I've given up on checking where eBay stuff comes from as, even when it says UK, it's still invariably China.

Had a minor setback with the 12v socket supply further back in the van. I had purchased a 12v 2pin to cigar lighter adaptor for a 12v travelling hairdryer I'd bought for Hay, only to discover that it went phutt on first use. At first I though the plug had fused, but there is no fuse in the adaptor and it's merely a socket converter. I then delved into the fuse cupboard and found the 5A fuse to the socket had gone west. Looking at the hairdryer wattage I calculated that it actually needed at least a 17A fuse. I wasn't going to replace the 5A with a 20A, as the wiring probably wasn't capable of supporting that amperage. Now the hairdryer works fine on the cab cigar lighter, so the natural conclusion is that the cigar lighter has a much higher amperage fuse (and hence more robust wiring) than the 12v supply socket - it is, after all, designed to operate a cigar heating coil. If Hay wants to dry her hair after a swim, it will have to be in the cab.

Friday, 24 July 2020


I'm constantly amazed at pronouncements that disinformation campaigns don't work. 

The two largest, Russian disinformation campaigns emanating from Russia in recent years have been concerning 5G spreading C-19 and propaganda against vaccinations. The UK has the highest percentage of anti-vaxxers in Europe and we all know about the 5G mast burnings. 

In addition to that, every trope pumped out by Brexiteers on Facebook, from non-existent paragraphs in the Lisbon Treaty to the imbalance of trade giving the UK all the cards in EU trade negotiations, is based on disinformation. 

A vast swathe of the British public is gullible, as evidenced by the fact we're leaving the EU at a time when we most need it and we have chosen an inveterate liar, charlatan and clown as our Prime Minister - a man so glaringly incompetent that, as Foreign Secretary, he was considered a security risk - no further evidence is required, it's self-evident.

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Job Done

Twin 110Ah leisure batteries fitted, seats back in the van and everything now works as it should. I bought some quick-release battery clamps, and what a faff they were - not worth the money. I had to dismantle 3 of the 4 in order to get them to work. A set is £11.99, which is rather steep for something one has to dismantle to get it to work. Didn't look at the packaging, but they were probably Chinese, despite being purchased locally in a car parts emporium.

Didn't use the conduit in the end - I merely taped the battery cables together for about a foot to stiffen them and fed them into the underfloor channel I'd made between the seats.

It transpired that the old 85Ah leisure battery wasn't even working and the 12v supply was being drawn from the 110Ah engine battery. I thought it was a quirk of the van wiring when I first noticed that the 12v supply only worked with the supply switch set to cab (upper position), rather than caravan (lower position), as all the batteries are actually in the cab area. It didn't help that the previous owners had never used the 12v leisure supply, as they always went to caravan sites and exclusively used the hookup, so they had no clue as to how the 12v supply worked. The manual is next to useless at explaining the setup too.

Another project I'm considering is to convert the 240v AC TV I bought for £25 to 12v DC, as most of them use DC internally anyway. It would save me about £100 on buying a 2nd hand 12v DC TV, but depends if the TV uses more than 12v for anything - some of them can use up to 30v for some peripherals. As I'll only be using screen mirroring from my phone to watch TV, it might be more prudent to simply use a cheap-as-chips PC monitor that has a 230v AC ~ 12v DC in-line rectifier and remove the rectifier, replacing it with a 12v plug.

Just the advisory wheel bearings and cam belt to replace now. I discovered that the water pump isn't driven by the cam belt on the Fiat Ducato, so there's no need to replace that as a package.

We were going to take the van for its first outing this weekend, but the weather forecast has put paid to that. Probably just as well, given the cam belt needs replacing.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Power Mad II

Ditched the idea of the Nissan Leaf power pack as too expensive and decided to simply go for two 110Ah leisure batteries - one under each seat - to replace the existing, single (and totally inadequate) 85Ah battery under the driver's seat.

Having the leisure batteries under the cab seats is, in my opinion, a major design flaw, as once in situ they're, to all intents and purposes, totally inaccessible without removing the seats. Even putting a Multimeter on the terminals is a process requiring the expertise of a contortionist in possession of tiny, Trump-sized hands.

Managed to remove the seats (which are extraordinarily heavy) without any issues and got a better look at the layout, which showed there is a channel under the floor that's designed for feeding battery cables between the seat spaces, but it was filled with foam rubber. I force-fed a length of 20mm poly piping through the gap to force an entry and act as a conduit, but had to split it lengthway in order to accommodate the three, heavy duty extension cables required to go through it.

Below is the driver seat arrangement.

And the passenger side with the end of the conduit just poking through.

Overview from the rear with one lead threaded.

Three cables? Yes - the two batteries have to be rigged in parallel to create one, huge 220Ah  battery and the connection to the 12v system has to span the whole rig, positive of one battery to negative of the other, else the battery replacing the original one battery rig would end up taking most of the load. That means three cables going to the extra battery under the passenger seat - a positive and negative for the parallel circuit and an extra negative to span the two batteries for the complete feed circuit to balance the load. The corresponding positive terminal on the battery under the driver's seat also requires two cables to be attached.

Batteries are ordered and I'm simply awaiting delivery before completing the rig. I also have my eyes out for a 1kW inverter and a suitable 200W solar panel for on-the road top-up. A self-steering one that tracks the sun's bearing and elevation when the engine is shut off would be ideal.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Power Mad

I've been trying to figure out how to improve the motorhome's off-grid access to power, as it's highly unlikely we'll ever be using campsites with access to a hookup to recharge the batteries. Campsites just aren't our thing.

I started off by wanting to install two 110Ah leisure batteries instead of the single 85Ah one I have. This required me removing the cab seats, as the current leisure battery is under the driver seat and the 2nd would have to go under the passenger seat. It also involves putting connecting cables under the floor of the cab between the two locations - not something I'm keen on doing, but a necessity.

I also looked into the addition of a solar PV panel, but that's quite costly if done by an automotive electrician.

Even with all the above, it's still a faff for what amounts to only 2.46kWh of power. Ten times that would be ideal.

I then wondered what other, non-conventional technology (for a motorhome) is available as a store for electricity with which to operate off-grid. It wouldn't even matter if it took days to recharge this power source and, in any case, I have vast amounts of solar power for free at home.

It suddenly struck me that the first generation Nissan Leafs are having their 30kWh batteries replaced, as they no longer have enough oomph to run the cars for the required miles, yet they're more than adequate as storage devices for motorhomes.

You can get 2nd hand Leaf batteries for around £275 on eBay. They weigh-in at around 190kg, which is the same as two additional passengers, and the Fiat Ducato is made for 4 people. The battery would need to be slung under the motorhome in a metal cradle, between the cross members, but once charged would be sufficient to run my home for a day, let alone a motorhome for a week. Charging could be effected through the standard EV home charger cable, or even at motorway service stations or supermarkets that cater for EVs. How handy is that?

A Solar PV panel of around 200W could keep it topped up in summer, when the sun shines, but a 30kWh battery (less, when you consider the reason why it's 2nd hand) would still be enough for an entire weekend and more and wouldn't require topping up much.

My research told me that a company has actually manufactured a pop-up trailer tent that uses old, Nissan Leaf batteries. It's called the Nissan X Opus, but looks hideous.

One fly in the ointment is that the Leaf''s battery delivers 24v and not 12v, but that's easily overcome by stepping it down with a voltage regulator.

Some more investigation is required. Luckily I know some people who are experts in this field and I own a slice of their company.

Stop Press: The Nissan Leaf battery pictured above is only one of 48 cells. Expensive.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

A Productive Day

A productive day yesterday. TV strapped into position in the van using an old, leather belt, and it's operational, using my mobile phone's screen-mirroring (no Firestick), so I have all the catch-up services, Netflix and Amazon. It works just fine off the 300W cigarette lighter inverter and uses no more than 48W.

Proof of concept as regards stowing the kayaks in the van was proven feasible - I can easily put two kayaks in the roof space, with room to spare for the wind surfer. Access from the cab to the accommodation is only mildly compromised when travelling.

Made my best Greek yoghurt yet by using the thermal capacitance of the slow cooker for the incubation.

New covid face shields delivered. A pack of 6 is £11.99 on eBay and they're the best protection for myself and others - no virus can get through a film of plastic. They beat cloth face coverings, hands down. as there's no fogging of my specs and I can both eat and vape in it.

I reported a local instance of overnight fly tipping to the council. I note in a recent newspaper article that a Bristol home owner who paid a fly tipper £80 to dispose of his household rubbish was fined £1,000. He was identified from paperwork in the rubbish.

Still have to figure out how to get the kite yacht fixed on or in the van; however, I'm well pleased with the jobs accomplished thus far.

Friday, 17 July 2020

It's a Gas

Here's a useful titbit of information - France is the only country in the world where wearing a face covering is both illegal (burqa) and mandatory (facemask).

Got myself a refillable AutoGas cylinder for the van. A 10 kg cylinder weighs in at £175, delivered.

Went to a Shell petrol station nearby that is supposed to sell AutoGas, but they've stopped doing it, so went a bit out of my way to Gordano Services on the M5 - at least it's good to know there's an AutoGas emporium there for when we head to Devon or Cornwall. Now I need to find one on the M5 north, although I know there's one in Stroud.

As you can see, it cost me to fill it is £12.11 as opposed to paying £40.50 for a 10 kg Calor refill of propane. So, after 6 refills it will have paid for itself. Being made of a polymer it's far lighter than a steel cylinder and you can see how full it is, which is a distinct advantage over a metal cylinder.

I'll keep the 6 kg propane bottle as a backup, as the cabinet will hold 2 bottles.

Next is to figure out what size solar panel I require. We have no problem living on 12 volts, so we only need something that can keep the leisure battery topped up after daily usage. Going for some huge panel that requires an inverter would be overkill, as well as expensive. Also, it would make sense to have a ground-mounted panel. Firstly it can be aimed more accurately, and secondly there's no need to have a panel on the roof when driving, as the alternator will keep the battery topped up. I'm thinking that 80-100 W monocrystaline panel with a voltage regulator, retailing for around £150, would be the ideal size.

Thursday, 16 July 2020

A Van-tastic Idea

Had a great idea yesterday for carrying the kayaks and the windsurfer in the camper. The noses can be pushed into the Luton and a plank spread between the shelves would support the less weighty rear ends. This allows us to pass under the kayaks while en-route to a destination, rather than tripping over the damned things whenever we stop to make a cup of tea on the road.

Two small blocks screwed under each end of the bar ends prevents it from sliding sideways and coming loose. The kayaks can be strapped to a bar on the back edge of the Luton base where the ladder attaches to prevent them sliding backwards under acceleration, not that the van has much of that.

When not in use the bar can be slid fully forwards to butt up against the Luton, where it's out of the way.

Had the ladder that's used to climb into the Luton been 6 inches longer, it would have made a perfect brace. In fact, I may make a new ladder specifically for that dual purpose.

On another issue, the pool / pond sprung a leak yesterday. Hay managed to find it - a corner seam in an area she was working on the day before. Thankfully she managed to plug it, but adding water to replace the lost water (a couple of feet) will alter the chemistry of the pond and will, in all likelihood, result in another algae bloom.

Work on it progresses, despite Hay thinking she's either strained an intercostal muscle, or possibly broken a rib. She has one more side and a corner to bag and gravel for marginal plants and then it can be filled to the top. Then the landscaping will commence and the planting of the tumps.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Collective Individualism in a VC10

Took delivery of the campervan yesterday and am looking forward to modifying it with all manner of gizmos to make life on the road more luxurious. Saw this adaptation of a VC10 engine housing into a trailer and thought it rather cool, if somewhat bijou. Would be perfect as a campervan trailer for all the sports kit we take on holiday, and the Daytona...

I came across the term 'collective individualism' on TV the other day and pondered on what it actually means.

At first glance it sounds like some term a social scientist with more time on his hands than most would have come up with to make bollocks sound academically intellectual - rather like liberal Republican, or active ennui. I can only find one Google reference, and that's to do with Health and Safety. Answers on a postcard.

Talking of the tension between collectivism and individualism, I wonder if we're going to see a return to individual offices, rather than open plan, when it comes to office space in a post-Covid working environment, especially with the 2nd wave predicted to be much worse than the last?

Monday, 13 July 2020

White Van Man

Well, a compromise was reached. I wanted something humungous, but was prepared to slum it in something around £5k if it was to be a smaller campervan. Hay wanted something more conservative in size, but well appointed and reassuringly expensive in the £30k to £40k area, which I saw as a waste of money for a depreciating asset.

In the end, we went for something at £12.5k that was adequate for all intended purposes, except getting the Triumph Daytona into it; however, a towbar and a small trailer would solve that. The kayaks and wind surfer can be loaded through a window and there's a bike rack for 2 bikes.

The huge job we saw in Wales was appealing, but the bloke selling it was obviously a keen enthusiast who had changed everything from the original spec into something more adapted to his style, resulting in the instructions for every item of equipment being inside his head and not written down anywhere in a manual. Added to that, when he started it there were plumes of smoke emanating from the exhaust for several minutes. His explanation was that it hadn't been started since March, but if you're selling something and have someone to view it, you at least ensure it's all in working order. Alarm bells were ringing.

The one we eventually chose was a more modest 2001 affair with 39k on the clock, needing nothing more than 3 new wheel bearings (advisory and non-urgent) and a new cam belt (due to the age, not the mileage). Everything else was in full working order. Asking price was £13k through a broker. I offered £12, fully expecting to settle for £12.5, which was the price we eventually agreed on. It is worth that to us.

The oven hadn't ever been used and was like new.

One thing I want to investigate is a gas bottle that can be refilled at petrol stations serving Autogas for cars, as exchanging gas bottles - new for old - is a licence to print money. They're not cheap, but worth it. I also want a 300W solar panel. I might rip out the cassette toilet and replace it with an organic, sawdust version (see the image below) in the interests of eco-friendliness, greater range and phenomenal water saving (we have a lot of experience with composting toilets).

The model above is manufactured by a company revelling in the name of Strumpet and Trollop, with this particular device going under the appellation of The Angel.

A diesel powered space heater wouldn't go amiss either. They're readily available for under £100.

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Sweatshop on Wheels

The horsebox we saw yesterday required too much work for the price being asked and the campervan we were due to look at had already been sold, so we're back to square one.

I tried to convince Hay that I was more than capable of the DIY required for the horsebox, but she remains of the opinion that my DIY ability was gleaned from the Tommy Cooper School of DIY, which I thought rather cruel.

Today we're looking at a large and well appointed campervan in Tredegar and a smaller one in Gloucester. Watch this space.

Personally, I prefer the first one in Tredegar (top photo).

In another development, the government wants to push ahead with the creation of some 10 Free Ports across the UK - something we could have done while in the EU, but thought better of because of their dubious value while we were members of the EU.

These Free Ports would attract businesses through a combination of lower taxes and a relaxation of planning laws. What's not mentioned is that they would not create new jobs, but would merely siphon jobs from surrounding areas due to tax breaks and because, for all intents and purposes, they'd be legally outside the UK, employment laws would probably be watered down too. In a worst case scenario, already established businesses would relocate to the zones and pay significantly less taxes than before, without generating any additional economic activity and employment - they would, in effect, become offshore tax havens and sweatshops. 

To work at all, they require a trade framework. The UK is set to lose the best trade framework it has ever had, so new trade deals need to be negotiated that more than make up for what will be lost before a Free Port can be of any value. They only overcome domestic import tariffs and do not forestall import tariffs in your export markets.

Saturday, 11 July 2020

Neigh, Neigh, Thrice Neigh

Got an appointment later this afternoon to view this little beauty about 15 minutes away in Inglestone Common - a 3 horse job.

£14k asking price, which seems eminently reasonable for a 2000 Iveco with 53k on the clock. The owner wants a smaller one. The private plate isn't included in the sale...

The main concern is whether we can get it into our field, as it's a tight turn into a 10 foot wide gate, which could feasibly be widened. We do have another 12 foot gate, but it means driving over part of the garden.