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VAN LIFE LOY – THE BUILD WEEK 4 AT KUSTOM REVIVAL

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I met Anthony Winter 19 years ago, the day we started a foundation course in Art and Design at Somerset College of Arts and Technology.. Or SCAT as we all called it. He had dreams of car design and already had a burning passion for reviving old VW’s, completing 4 years of work on a Beetle just before I met him, and I wanted to be an Illustrator. That’s us in a photo booth circa 1997.

NicNak n AntAnt is one of the most creative people I know. His work stuck in my head: The bicycle he brought to college painted like a Friesian cow edged all over with favourite song lyrics, the illustrated letters, the pair of polystyrene Lobster claws he made me once, the cool dude painting that was a clock (I think!?!?) in the final show, the camouflage jiffy gift bag I got through the mail for my birthday.. If camouflage is yellow and metallic purple!! And the passion for cars!

Nearly 20 years goes by, (somewhere in there my Dad builds his Mum and Dad a reclaimed pine kitchen that’s till going strong!) Ant starts his own business, Kustom Revival, specialising in everything from general servicing and repair, to complete nut and bolt resto’s. Engine and drivetrain conversions, bodywork repair & paint. Custom fabrication, interior work & everything else in between. 

Me? Well, most of you know what happened there… I did become an illustrator ‘til I realised how dull it is and went for my other dream, music! But all the while I’m holding on to another plan: To go back to Ant (when I have made enough money from my chart topping album!) and do a project with him. Maybe a Beetle, maybe a camper… When I started working on Luna I didn’t even think to involve Ant – It wasn’t a VW!  But as the technology involved got the better of me I realised I needed help. One day I dropped him a line and asked if he knew how to fit some gadget I wanted to install. ‘Yup’ he replied. Then I asked another question, ‘Yup’.  And another, ‘Yup!’

So that was it. Never mind that I had asked for tenders from 3 other companies. If Ant knew how to do this job, Ant was doing it. And how much fun it would be to catch up after so long! Even though it didn’t feel like that long – You know how it is, you don’t see folks for a decade but letters and emails, then later facebook and instagram, fill in the gaps.

Whilst I was in France Ant and I thrashed out what I needed electrics-wise and got on to ordering stuff sending most of it straight to his workshop.

I was so excited when I turned up as his workshop early Wednesday evening. Luna having her electrics done was one thing but catching up and working with Ant on my van was a little dream come true! Okay my album hasn’t (yet) topped the charts and it’s not a VW but hey, the manifestation of your desires don’t always look the way you think they will!

With some expert manouvering from me and Luna, and some jacks and kick skates from Ant we got my massive beast of a vehicle into the workshop ready to start work the next morning. Then we headed back to Ant’s where I met his wife Cindy and two adorable girlies. They kindly let me stay because we would be taking Luna apart: Wheels off, jacked up at angle, bed mattress stowed in proper VW campervan to protect it, bed slats rolled back for access to the electrics cupboard – She was not habitable! But that meant I got to know Ant’s lovely family and that was really great! :)

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Ant and Cindy’s girls aged 4 and 2 are super duper Frozen fans (of course they had a Frozen party once with a brilliant 7ft Marshmallow Man Ant painted) and so am I, so they wanted me to sing Let It Go for them. I was only too happy to oblige but whilst I have learnt that song to sing I hadn’t learned the guitar parts so one afternoon while Ant was working and I had finished my own jobs, I sat in the van and learnt the rest of the song for them. I left my capo in Ickford so I had to improvise a little with what I could find around the workshop, clamps to the rescue! I managed to give them a (slightly dodgy) 8am croaky version the next morning!

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We spent 3 and half days on the van in total.. When I say we, really I mean Ant did all the complicated electrics, opening up the engine, running wires underneath to the back and connecting my leisure batteries. Installing a 12v system, a 240v inverter system, and 240v mains hook up as well, connecting it all to my existing electric circuits. He also rewired my stereo to my leisure batteries so that I could use the stereo independent of the engine. I have been known to run a battery flat just listening to music!

Blog 5 KR Comp 1I wired a few sockets and switches but mostly I did other stuff like painting and fitting yet more catches and bits and bobs I hadn’t managed in France. Oh and I made sure that we had lots of tea, and breakfast!

Despite Luna being all upside down and wotnot, we still made use of her dining room – ‘Til I snapped the table in half using it as a day bed (the wrong way round) and had to repair it again. Doh!   

All the while we were working on Luna in the first couple of day there was this incessant cheeping.. A family of Robins had nested in the workshop and the babies were just beginning to take flight… I snuck up and managed to take this pic of young robin with crazy feathers sticking out the side of his head like trumpets (look very carefully).. And then they were gone, flown the nest and the workshop and all was quiet again.

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It got really hot while I was at the workshop which was great.. who doesn’t love a hot summer!? Temperatures in the van hit 29 degrees! But then I learned all the things in the van that needed heat proofing. Everything that had glue basically. All my sticky velcro melted in the heat and fell off. Even my satnav fell apart. The solution? I drove up to Scotland where the weather is miserable and reset it all. Lol. No seriously. I replaced the glue with suction pads. Much better.

Anyway… So now I have lights! And I can run my laptop and tv/dvd player and various other electric gadgets, the water pump is properly hooked up and pumping, which means fully running water. Oh yes, and my fridge! That means ice cubes… which means gin and tonic! Yaaaay!!! Though the tonic water was flat by then, not so yay. 

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We slightly under estimated how long it would take to do these works and ended up doing it in two instalments, working very long days, again! I didn’t mind. Ant’s workshop is in a beautiful location, (you saw the views right!?) where I stayed in Luna one night (awoken the next morning by the revving of a Ferrari in the neighbouring bodyshop), and I’m happy to get this done at all! Did I say two instalments.. We haven’t actually finished. I have to pop back yet to add the solar panel to the roof and enclose my gas cylinder in a special steel cabinet Ant is going to make me.

Anyway, injuries-wise um.. I think Ant managed not to damage himself (except for being overworked by me) but I had a run in with the door. Literally. This was my worst one yet, worse than falling out of the van head first. I sprouted a bump on my head that felt like I might be turning into a unicorn and the awful bruise on my arm raised a few eyebrows when people have asked what happened and I answered ‘I walked into a door’. But honestly, I did! Or more of a bounding leap. There’s even CCTV footage to prove it!

Anyway, I’ve had a fab time in Luna with her newly installed electrics. Lights, DVDs, running water, powered laptops and phones, extractor fans and icecubes! A proper campervan. What’s not to love?! I don’t yet know how long I can run all this before the batteries go flat. They are recharged from either the mains, the engine running, or the soon to be installed solar panel. I haven’t run them flat yet… and I watched tele for a long time last night! But I have do do a hell of a lot of recharge miles! ;)

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I am hugely grateful to Ant (this pic circa 2016) for all the work he has put in getting electric Luna up and running. This is a major milestone in the build, she’s become truly liveable and that’s really something. Really something. There’s a few things left to do and then… The Great Reveal!!!!

One last thing. If you are thinking of reviving a vehicle, or customising it, and you live anywhere near Horsham, go see Ant at Kustom Revival. I couldn’t recommend him highly enough. Really.

So.. til next time

Lots of love,

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Photo credits: Ant took the pics of me.


VAN LIFE LOY #6 – VAN LIFE GOES LIVE

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It’s 10am, I have just cooked myself breakfast, washed up and tidied the kitchen and settled down at the table in the sun to write this blog post. I have been van-lifing for about 2 weeks now… Give or take a number of days spent at friends for various reasons…

‘Soooooo?’ I know you wanna know, ‘What’s it like!?’

Well honestly I think this last 24 hours might be the closest I have got to what I would call normal life. And it’s awesome! But let me back track a bit and tell you about what’s happened since I left France.

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So after a long drive but a quick ferry journey from Cherbourg to Poole I landed back in the UK late Friday night and needed somewhere to park up. One of our favourite family beach spots has always been Studland Bay and I remembered seeing vans up and down the back of the beach so I drove over there to try my luck for a wild camping pitch. When I arrived I discovered that there were midnight to 6am parking restrictions. Doh! So that was out. Fortunately just after I’d passed Corfe Castle I noticed another van (just like mine) parked in a large lay-by at the side of the road, it’s windows glowing slightly. It was almost 11pm (midnight for my body still on french time) and I needed to stop. Views were no longer a necessity I just needed somewhere safe and fairly flat. The fact that the other camper was there, parked perpendicular to the road and well back, gave me confidence so I backed in beside it.

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At this point I hadn’t yet had any of my electrics hooked up and Lutine had smashed my gas lamp earlier that day so I lit candles and put them in glass lanterns while I got ready for bed. The cigarette lighter plug was still wired up to the water pump so I did have running water that first night to clean my teeth but that was it. I wasn’t yet happy with my gas set up so I didn’t try for the hot water as well. With curtains also still to be installed I only had my insulation mats to block the light so I put them up and jumped into bed. I was knackered and pretty much just passed out straight away.

The night was uneventful, I slept well and I was awoken about 7am the next morning by the sound of the other van pulling away. Up early I guess to go and grab a spot along Studland Bay. I took it kind of leisurely rising about 8am to go into Swanage. This photo is from my dining room.

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Aside from toasted tea cakes and coffee on the beach, my day was not to be spent lazing about on the sand. I had to get going for another trip down memory lane. I had a school reunion to attend that night in Honiton! So after a quick wander round Swanage town centre where I acquired some hooks and catches to install in the van, I set off. I admit, I only got as far as Corfe Castle. There was a lay-by beneath the ruins and it was too tempting to park up somewhere so picturesque for a while. So I pulled in to did some moving in type maintenance. I installed some of the hooks and catches and a carbon monoxide detector – Important, that!

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Then I set off again down the rather gorgeous stretch of road that is the A35. I spotted a herd of 5 or 6 beautiful Fallow deer at the side of the road. That was pretty special. I had found out from Google that there was a great caravan supply shop in Charmouth so I heading there. I needed to change the regulator on my gas cylinder – To one that didn’t leak!!!

I have to say that the folks that run Dorset Leisure Centre couldn’t have been more smiley, lovely and helpful. I went back and forth to the van figuring out all the things I needed and nothing was too much trouble, and they had everything in stock. They were amazing! Really.

Sadly it was a huge contrast to another caravan shop, in Oxfordshire, where a certain member of staff had the most appalling attitude every time I went in there. In fact today I pulled in with the van hoping the shop would be manned by someone else, it wasn’t. She saw me, I saw her and I pulled straight back out. I didn’t even switch the engine off. If only she had realised how much money I have spent on this van, and how much business and free publicity she might have got from me if she hadn’t been such a cow! Instead I’m ranting about her online. To quote Pretty Woman ‘Big mistake!’

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Anyway… I when I got to Honiton I celebrated the now, safe, non-leaking gas regulator with a cup of tea hot shower! In Tesco car park! Classy. But it was quite amusing. Because of my privacy windows, the guy parked next to me, munching on his sandwich and sucking on his fag, had no idea that I was prancing about in a towel. He was totally oblivious. Haha! (sorry the pick is of the tea not the towel!)

I got ready for the reunion. The full works of course. Nothing less when seeing a bunch of people I haven’t seen in 22 years, most of whom previously thought me a crazy nobody.

It was a great night and for the most part my memories of being bullied and ostracized (which I concede I might have brought on myself) were replaced with an understanding of who everyone has become. We’ve all (well most of us) grown and changed and turned into someone different. I had some apologies to make and some to accept. It was a really amazing time learning all my old friends and adversaries a new. And wowing a few of them with the brand new campervan!

In fact I feel like the build with my folks in France, the visit to my favourite family places in Dorset, the return to my home town, seeing my old class mates and other old friends, and then later catching up with Ant (tell you all about that in the next post) has in some way re-set me. The last 6 months have brought so much emotional and physical upheaval that to return to my roots and remember where I started and who I was before all this, well, it reminded me who I am now and who I want to be as I start over again. It’s not that my memory is erased… But I feel grounded again. And oh how good it feels!!!

Anyway the night of the reunion was spent outside a friends house in a cul-de-sac. Very safe. Very easy. Then I drove back to Oxford for the mammoth task of cleaning, packing and finally leaving Bay Cottage. I wouldn’t call it Van Life just yet, I slept in the van but I barely ate or even showered cos I was working so hard. Strangely I felt more vulnerable there than anywhere I’ve stayed yet. Even though I know the village is safe and the van has been fine out there for weeks before, once I was in it I realised how fast everyone drives. The van shook with the cars that broke the speed limit and what a lot of them there were!

On the Monday I had a silly moment. I was tired, I’d worked really hard but I hadn’t eaten all day, I went to the pub in the late afternoon and had a few glasses of wine (I wasn’t driving). I got home, sat down in the van for a moment thinking ‘I’ll just have a little rest and then I’ll clean the bathroom.’ I woke up at 2am! The van and the house were all open! Fortunately it was all fine, but I scared myself. That kind of behavior is foolish and makes me dangerously vulnerable. So I have been much MUCH more vigilant and careful since. There will be no repeats of that!

By the time I handed back the keys to Bay Cottage the van was loaded down with junk again and needed a big sort out and a trip to the charity shops and the bins. I just about managed it, fueled by coffee and lemon drizzle cup cakes my friend next door made for me. I then drove straight to Ant’s workshop, Kustom Revival near Brighton to fit out my electrics.

And that’s my queue to stop. My visit to Kustom Revival deserves a whole post and this one is already reeeaaaaly long, if you’re still reading, thanks. It’s been a hell of a journey! And it’s only the beginning!!

‘Til next time, lots of love,

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P.s…. The Great Reveal as I like to call it where I show you the final thing is coming really soon so stay tuned!!! xx


VAN LIFE LOY #5 – THE BUILD WEEK THREE

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In the weeks running up to the Build En France I was researching and planning. I tried to decide as much as possible what I wanted in advance. I drew out a scale drawing of the van and endeavoured to fit in everything I wanted. I thought you might like to see my plan. It was a piece of graph paper that got scrappier and scrappier as I wrote notes and made changes. But this week we have pretty much built exactly what I planned.

Van Plan sml

Week three here of the build has been a bit different. Sunday evening, Jill and her husband Pat and her mum Shelagh, folks we used to live next door to waaaaay back when I was a kid turned up with their Hymer campervan (and Pat’s guitar) to stay for the week. I haven’t seen them since the day they got married 20 years ago! But you’d think it was only yesterday the way we picked up where we left off. There was chatting and drinking, and laughing and jamming! Musicians and campervan enthusiasts – it’s difficult to shut us up!

It’s also really rather handy to have a proper functioning campervan to study at this stage as I try to understand and match certain systems.

Anyway, there are now just five days to go for us to finish the build.

Monday I got bought stain and then prepared the floor boards while Dad fitted the rest of the units. After that I laid the batons and insulated the floor in the living area which is actually beginning to look liveable!

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Tuesday. Dad and I laid the main floorboards in the living area. Then we built (and I stained) the drop down seats for the dining room. We also created the table and sunk it’s socket into the floor. That was exciting – gaining a whole dining room! This is Jill trying out one of the seats before we put the table in.

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Wednesday I finished off the carpeting and did a bunch of stuff while Dad was off viewing houses that Jill and Pat were interested in buying. When he got back he installed the remaining parts of the shower cubicle and waste pipes. Here’s the shower floor going down.

IMG_4120When he finished for the day I got on to painting stuff, it’s easier with him out of the way. Except that it was nearly midnight and the lights made the white paint glow bright in the darkness attracting lots of flies to get themselves stuck in my fresh topcoat. Doh!

Thursday Dad finished off installing the gas cylinder. And then made the door and installed for the shower while I fitted all the other door handles. When I ran out of jobs to do I started moving some of my things in!!!

We did a whole heap of other little jobs but it got really intense. Our days got longer and longer, and our sleeps got shorter as we approached the deadline so I can’t remember what happened when anymore.

That evening we had a little party. A barbeque with neighbours and friends, both English and French. I got the van out of the hanger, tidied her up a bit, added some soft furnishings and put her on show for the guests several of whom brought me moving in gifts and cards. Ahhh! As the evening faded out we sat around the brazier and Pat and I played guitars and sang ’til the stars came out. Around midnight I retired to spend my first ever night in the van! It was really lovely, lit with my gas camping light and some candle lanterns it was really cosy. In the morning Mum tried to raise me with a cup of tea but she couldn’t wake me. My alarm clock woke me and there was Mum outside tapping on the window. I guess that insulation really keeps the sound out as well as the heat in.

Here’s how the bedroom looked friday morning just before I left complete with Mum’s contribution, curtains for the store.

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Dad and I got on it early Friday morning because we still had shelves to build and install plus a few other small jobs like another angler grinder moment cutting down the draw runners from Chris old desk to fit in the van.

IMG_4236Chat Noir Lutine had a naughty moment, just as I was about to put up the full length mirror she went scampering through the van knocked the mirror over and took out my gas lamp at the same time smashing them both all over the floor. – NOT HAPPY JAN! 

I told Dad over breakfast on the last day that I needed to leave at 12:30 to catch the ferry. At 12:32 Dad screwed the last screw into the final lock and I gave everyone rather hurried but emotional hugs, took one last look at the glorious french countryside (above), then I jumped in the van and set off for home!!! I was overcome that we’d actually achieved what I intended in under three weeks! Amazing! My father really is a remarkable man, incredible patience and incredible talent. He has worked so hard and done a really beautiful job on my van. Thank you Dad!!! And thank you Mum for the support you gave us during that intense time. :) xxx

The last (fuzzy) screw!

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Couple other things… Injuries!? I made reference in my last blog post to a fellow Dad knew who managed to cut his fingers off with a band saw. Fortunately nothing like that has befallen us. The worst it has got for me was tripping on the step and falling head first out of the van with a bucket of paint – it landed upside down in the mud. I landed knee first, so big bruise, and chest next, on a pot of Polyfiller on top of a leisure battery. It caught me square in the chest I hung suspended for a moment whilst I worked out how to right myself. Dad caught his finger with the air compressed nail gun.. and I also smashed my thumb a couple of times trying to force a very reluctant nail through some carpet. I have a big blood blister and a blackening nail to show for it.

Oooooh! One other thing to mention is that Van Blanc finally has a proper name. Van Blanc wasn’t totally doing it for me. It’s alright as a surname but it’s a bit impersonal. I knew I’d stumble across the perfect name sooner or later, and I did! I have decided to call her Luna. It works for me for several reasons… Firstly, it’s the name of the kitchen we installed, that’s what made me think of it. Secondly the van generally has a white/grey colour scheme throughout – very lunar. I’m a big believer in/noticer of the influences of the moon on our energy – moon woman. Then there’s the illiteration – Luna and Loy. It’s also a nod to those who think I am mad!!! So Luna Van Blanc she shall be named.

I realise you’re probably itching to see proper PROPER photos but I didn’t get chance in France or in the crazy house move that followed and I am now parked up in the Kustom Revival workshop where we have dismantled stuff and made a mess while we fit electrics! So more to follow in the next couple of posts!!!!

Right.. time for me to get back to helping Ant with the electrical installation!

‘Til next time,

Lots of love,

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VAN LIFE LOY #4 – THE BUILD WEEK TWO

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So it’s the end of week two! Or the beginning of week three… I can’t really tell. The days are merging into each other and it’s all becoming a blur! We have been building this campervan for two solid weeks now with only one day off! It’s really taking shape and although there’s still so much to do, the end is almost in sight! At least I hope it is because come Friday I shall be heading back to Blighty whether we’re finished or not!

After the euphoria of getting started last week I confess, this week has been a mixed bag. We’ve had some highs and we’ve had some really low lows. Dad and I have been working flat out, starting early and working till quite late each day. It’s been um, testing.

On Monday, after a trip to the builders merchant for piping and the like, we started the week with plumbing! First we brought in the 105 litre water tank that I got from Tanks Direct in the UK and stabilised with a frame work built off the bed frame above. Then we used some neoprene reinforced plastic piping to connect it to the pump that I also brought with me. We ran pipe work down the side of the van to supply water to the water heater, shower and sink. Doing all that took Dad virtually a whole day!! When I have a mo I shall dedicate a whole post to the plumbing circuit. In the weeks running up to the build I spent ages figuring out how it should all work but it was frustrating and pieced together from various other folks sites. I wanna tell you exactly what I did where cos I know that’ll be helpful to a whole bunch of you.

During the moments Pa was engaged with plumping and I hadn’t much to do I had a look at my dead locks. Being a girl alone in a van I decided I needed some extra security and so I bought Heosafe internal/external deadlocks for all the doors. I worked out how they work and fit together, and then I fitted three of them. It turned out to be pretty easy. There’s still one left to fit. It needs modifying because it won’t fit round the new windows. We have all we need to do that.. we just need to find the right moment. Anyway. I feel a hell of a lot better for having all those extra security measures in place.

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On Tuesday (after another trip to a different merchant) we decided to test the water system. We hooked up the pump to the van’s cigarette lighter socket and filled the tank up with water. And hey presto! A pressurised water system! That means when you turn on the taps water comes out! That was a serious high point! Running water! Unfortunately first time round a couple of joints leaked but it didn’t take long to fix that.

So Tuesdays task for me while dad was working on water was to wire the lights. I wired all my LEDs and tested them, again with the cigarette lighter plug… My electrics are being done by a professional when I get back to the UK but the cigarette lighter plug gives me enough power to know if I have at least wired them correctly.. Which it seemed I had, till I came to wire in the light switch and then what had worked before suddenly didn’t work anymore. I then spent ages rewiring and double checking everything ’til I eventually realised I had blown the fuse in the plug! Doh. Not because I had done anything wrong but just because the cigarette plug wasn’t built to run a whole lighting circuit. Such a rookie error that I didn’t figure this out until I had re-wired it in every possible combination!

By Wednesday Dad had had his head in the shower cubicle for days. With all the plumbing it requires.. not to mention fitting the fiddly ridiculously shaped walls it was taking a while to take shape and it was draining his energy. But he managed to get most of the basic stud work up and to line it with white plastic sheeting that I’d also sourced back home. As way to make it feel like progress was really occurring I started carpeting the walls wherever I felt it necessary. I really went for it and managed to do the whole bedroom. With the shower cubicle in as well the van felt immediately different. I’m very blessed that not only do I have my father’s workshop to use I also have access to my mother’s sewing room which has an 8ft x 4ft pattern cutting table on which I cut my carpets. I also pilfered some of Mum’s pattern paper to use to help with making insulations mat’s out of the space blanket off cuts, for all the windows.

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Mum and Dad’s adolescent black cat Lutine, who hangs out with us in the van or the workshop most of the time and who really deserves a blog post all to herself, has provided much comic relief this week. She absolutely loves the carpet and crawls into the roll at any and every opportunity, or supervises the cutting process (see video clip) or she just finds a piece to sit on… Or scratches the recently applied carpet back off the wall – That wasn’t so funny! At one point she even used it to claw her way up onto the roof of the van where, after she’d enjoyed being queen of the castle for a while, she realised she was stuck (for the second time this week) and needed help, in the form of a large timber bridge, back to the ground.

Thursday.. I can’t remember exactly what happened.. I was knackered. Oh yes, I think we went shopping again. This time doing a MAJOR shop! We bought the kitchen!! And pretty much everything else we needed. The pound collapsed after Brexit and the whole shop cost me 20% more than it would have the week before. That was super annoying to know. As soon as we got back to the van we got on to fitting it. We started to make speedier progress because.. well off the shelf kitchen’s are meant to be built pretty fast. While Dad focussed on the kitchen I insulated and built the floor under the bed in the space that will be the boot. Major encouragement factor hit with the installation late Thursday evening of the sink and the hose head tap set into what used to be Chris’s desk!!!

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BUT… Friday.. Um, well I’m not too proud to admit I had a really, really bad day. So much so that Dad banned me from the work shop for a while for my own safety. He told me of a time when he’d held a man’s hand when the guy had severed his fingers using a band saw and he wouldn’t let me endanger myself that way on that day… So that really slowed us down and we both felt the strain of the tasks still ahead of us. It felt like far too much in far to short a period of time. I spent a lot of time out the back of the workshop staring at the view.

Workshop View

After lunch I accepted that maybe carpeting, holding stuff and handing over tools was all I was good for that afternoon and progress sped up again.

Today and yesterday were much, much better days. We had some massive encouragement factors from having almost entirely fitted the kitchen and the units/cupboards that are to make up the wardrobe. It’s looking like a real camper van now!!

So here we are, the end of week two.. About to launch into the final straight of the French part of the build. This is what the kitchen looks like so far, along with a little section of the shower. It’s not actually blue. that’s just the protective film on the plastic!

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Dad has done a truly amazing job this week! And so has Mum, not only in looking after us workers but also making me curtains for the store at the back. I’ll feature them next time when there are hung.

Now it’s gone midnight and I’ll off to get stain for the floor in the morning so I can spend the day prepping the floorboards so I really better get to sleep.

See you next time!

Love,

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VAN LIFE LOY #3 – THE BUILD WEEK ONE

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Well what an eventful week it has been! I arrived at my parents’ place in Brittany, France on Monday with my van (Van Blanc) and all my worldly belongings. The intention is to build my own custom camper! My dad, master joiner Stephen Loy, has a workshop here and he’s helping me create it. This is where we are working on the van for three weeks, in the hanger that adjoins his shop.

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Before I left the UK I emptied the van of everything so this was the blank canvas we started with… It’s a bit dark in the hanger so we hooked up some lights and got to work!

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The very first thing we did was level up the van (apparently everything is easier if the floor is level).. and go shopping! On the way to Brico Depot, the French equivalent of B&Q, we chanced upon a camper van shop that sells a heap of stuff we needed. It was like camper van heaven. They seemed to stock everything from tiny clips to brand new sixty thousand euro all singing all dancing campers – I wasn’t tempted, not quite my style, too much old retired couple and not enough cool tiny house. See my van Pinterest board if you want to know my influences. But we stocked up there, got space blanket insulation (23 layers!) from Brico and hunted high and low for just the right ceiling boards – That was day one!

Muti Image 1On day two Dad used an angle grinder to rather dramatically cut a big hole in the roof of the van and fit the vents while I routed grooves into the ceiling boards – We tried three different shops and I just couldn’t get the kind I wanted so I made them in the end. I am by no means the skilled craftsman that my father is but he has taught me a fair amount over the years, I used to work with him making kitchens and windows from scratch to earn money while I was at uni, so I am not entirely without skills.

Next we decided where all the electrics would go and placed the wires. Then we lined the ceiling with the space blanket and started fixing up the boards.

On the third day we finished fixing the ceiling boards and I filled any holes and detail sanded as necessary while Dad started to insulate the walls. When I was done with the ceiling I joined in with the insulating. I couldn’t believe how the van swallowed up a whole roll of rock wool and then some fibre glass that Dad had lying around. Lastly we re-fitted the ply lining that I took off the day I bought the van, and then dashed up to the house to shower off the itch from the fibre glass – Ugh I hate that stuff. Oh we also used up two cans of expanding foam.. for a while there Van Blanc looked like it had been attacked by green alien goo creatures! :D

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Having observed others creating self-build campers I have been surprised at the order in which we have been doing this build. Usually it seems folks do all their insulation, all their wiring, all their carpets etc. But Dad, being a strong believer in the encouragement factor decided that he wanted to do things that made it feel like progress was swift and rewarding. He applied this strategy from the beginning and so I was very excited that next he wanted to build the bed while I painted the ceiling! These were things I thought we’d do much later but they really were a massive boost of encouragement cos they looked great and made it feel like the van is really becoming a camper – The bed is also the point from which all the other measurements for the installation begins so it’s pretty important. That picture of me above (looking all workman-y sans make-up avec sawdust and paint blobs ;) ) was taken at the very end of the day when we had the immense satisfaction of testing the mattress – Lying down after two days of working on the ceiling, oh it felt sooooo good!

Come day five progress slowed a bit. We were both getting tired. That and we’d decided to move on to fitting the shower cubicle which is pretty complicated stuff (given there are almost no properly flat/straight lines in the van). I never cease to be amazed at the wealth of knowledge my father has, that he knows how to undertake all this stuff! Let me state right now that if it wasn’t for all his experience, expertise and his properly kitted out workshop, I would not undertake this challenge. It’s a DIY camper yes but DIY with a pro! Although like me, he’s never actually done a camper conversion.

Anyway, we installed the water tank, built a shelf for the water pump and built a couple of shower walls. Then we planned for tomorrow’s trip to Brico and the installation of the water system… I’ll share photos of all that next time. For now the work in progress kinda looks like this! :) IMG_3839

Today we took a day off. It’s my parents 41st wedding anniversary and so went to a market by the sea, had lunch in a restaurant on the front, went for a stroll along the beach in the sunshine before getting a sorbet on the way back. It was glorious! If you want to see photos of all that too, more (different) photos of the build, and the day to day bits of this project and visit to France check out my Instagram.

So now I am off to bed it’s an early start tomorrow. We’re plumbing!!

‘Till next time.

Love to you all,

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BEACONFEST 2016 – WHAT A VIEW!

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I took a short break from all the packing and moving this weekend and joined the band to play BeaconFest! So I thought you might like to see a few pics? Above is the incredible view from the top of Watlington Hill. It feels like gigging in the clouds   And below is a snap by Steve Gunn of us in full swing playing Past To The Past (if the position of my capo is to be believed?!)

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 It was great. Here we are post gig looking happy and fuzzy as we bounce along with all our gear, in the trailer of a quad bike… Because that’s how your get to and from the stage at Beasonfest!

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I want to give a massive shout out to Ryan, Che, Phil and Pete for another great gig. Thanks y’all!

Pour next band gig will be at Towersey Festival but if you can’t make that, don’t worry I shall be announcing some non festival band dates soon!

Love,

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VAN LIFE LOY #2 – TIE ME DOWN I’ll GO WILD

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I have a theme song for my Epic Adventure! The first time I heard this song is resonated like crazy! It’s a freedom song and well it’s kinda how it’s been lately.. I got ‘tied down’, I didn’t much like it and I went a bit wild! I am such a big fan of Jack Savoretti. I hope I bump into him on my travels. Personally I favour the full band album version though! And here I am wild and free, somewhere between Ickford and a new life…

So driving to France with all my stuff in a van might not seem that epic as Epic Adventures go but I haven’t ever done it before and as with most stuff one hasn’t done before there’s usually some fear. I have overcome the fear of driving this big thing in recent weeks but now there’s a new set of fears. Mostly rediculous and unfounded, they are: That I’ll load everything, all the parts for the conversion, all my furniture and all my possessions into the van and it’ll be so heavy it won’t move! (I have been having dreams that the police pull me over and weigh the van! ) And if it does move I’ll get to my friend’s place where I’m staying the night before I sail and all my stuff will be stolen while I sleep, if I sleep. And if it’s not stolen then the weight of it all will sink the ship! Or security will make me unpack it and leave a bunch of stuff behind… And don’t even get me started on driving this beast on the wrong side of the road and navigating hours of French roads alone!?!?

The reality: The van is full and heavy… But it moves and as soon as Chris mentioned he’d left bananas to rot on the kitchen window sill for weeks I totally forgot about the load and drove like a normal person, my fear of the van not moving now replaced with a fear that the rotting bananas would damage the window sill paintwork! We went back for the bananas.

I got to the south coast no problems, slept well in an incredibley comfy bed, all three alarms worked and I woke up at 5am to find that the van and it’s contents were exactly where I left them. Phew. Getting on the ferry was clear and easy. Initially security did want to search the van but took one look at my pile of stuff and changed their minds. Haha.

And as for driving in France well that was a piece of cake, you just follow the flow, until I got to the last few miles and a long steep down hill straight stretch with oncoming traffic in both lanes. A car overtaking another vehicle confused me about which side of the road I was supposed to be on just as the weight in the van caused me to pick up speed but I was watching the oncoming traffic hoping they’d move in time, and *flash* off goes the speed camera… Never got done for speeding before. Crazy really seeing as I spent the whole journey slugging along pretty slow cos we’re so heavy! Ah well, lesson learned.

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I’m here now, I conquered all my rediculous fears and I’ve gained a van cat. Now I must sleep for tomorrow we begin… Once we’ve emptied the van!

‘Til next time

Lots of love,

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VAN LIFE LOY #1 – LET THERE BE LIGHT!

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My original #VanLifeLoy post caused quite a stir! So much more than I expected. I was quite overwhelmed by the responses I got, such enthusiasm and encouragement! And my website never had so many hits! So now folks are asking all the time how is the van conversion coming along!?!

Well.. The big news this week is that Van Blanc now has windows!!! Just in time for this glorious weather. So while I had a lovely breakfast in the sunshine in Witney on Monday, a fabulous local company called Express Windscreens spent the morning installing 4 windows. All are privacy glass which means it’s pretty difficult to see in, unless it’s dark and you leave the lights on, as a friend found out to his embarrassment! Hahah. Anyway, one of the windows, the one I intend to be beside my kitchenette, has a opening panel. The windows have made quite a difference! Firstly it’s much lighter in there, secondly the view has improved (obviously!), and thirdly, I can now see out the back when reversing. Dunno how long that will last once I have fitted the curtains n wotnot but for now it’s great. And I have got quite good at reversing this beast – Nailed a 3-point (and the rest) turn in a tiny tiny carpark last week, pre-windows! Fist punched the air – Go me!

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And that’s about it really, except for the ever increasing pile of parts cluttering up my dining room. I have a spreadsheet so that I can keep a kind of checklist of all that I need to acquire and how much it’s all costing. Once I have completed it I might share the check list, you’d be surprised about just how much is needed! But slowly I am collecting everything I need. I have a cooker, water heater, sink, shower tray, toilet, mattress pillows etc, work tops, fridge, lights, batteries…And a heap more stuff!

I popped in to Ikea and got some blackout blinds and a few other bits and bobs but mostly I’m getting it online… It’s delivery central round here! I want to do a really high quality job so a lot of the components are new but wherever possible I am trying to source things second hand, or re-purpose what I already have… Like for example a desk we decided we didn’t need anymore. After spending ages trawling the net and the showrooms looking for a nice wood worktop that wasn’t going to be to big and heavy and not finding much, I realised that the top on the desk was perfect, as are several other parts of it. It saved me some money and saved the desk from the tip. I have some great ideas for how to use it’s various parts.

Anyway, that’ll do for the moment… Now that the water heater arrived I am off to the Caravan shop down the road to chat about water systems and maybe buy a pump!

‘Til next time

Lots of love,

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SPOTLIGHT ON SHOWS : THE DRAWING ROOM

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SATURDAY 11th JUNE 2016

This is a really special little gig, properly intimate at The (quirky arty) Drawing Room in Chesham – worth a visit just for that! They have hosted many a breaking artist.

I shall be performing songs from my new album and sharing some stories. There will also be other artists to watch on the night. Yay!

Availability is limited so book now and come early to avoid disappointment. Tickets are £25 which includes a home cooked meal! To book email richard@the-drawingroom.co.uk

Hope you can make it along? It’s going to be a really lovely evening! :)

Love

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Photo credit: Steve Greenhough.


AN ANNOUCEMENT – VAN LIFE LOY

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Okay… I have an announcement to make – I’m undertaking a new ‘challenge’!

You know how I like a challenge! If not, well, previous challenges include: Becoming a full-time muso!! Writing 52 songs in a year and posting them all on Youtube, creating a proper album of the best ones, taking part in dance competition Strictly, converting my entirely undeveloped attic into a home studio myself, a 40 day fast (Yep, no food for 6 weeks – let’s not go into that!), and living overseas, to name but a few.

So the latest one (the craziest yet) probably seems like a sudden and impulsive idea. For the most part it is, but it’s actually been bubbling away for a good few years… All the years I have been ‘on the road’ as a regularly gigging musician, all the times I have read about ‘Free Range Humans’, all the moments spent gazing longingly at the Instagram photo of folks already living the life.  But also there have a few other contributing factors…

After the intensity of creative output that was the song challenge, and then the quiet fallow period of turning those songs into real records to make an actual album, then came the breakdown of my personal relationship and the inevitable change of dwelling… I have reached a place where I just can’t bring myself to pick a room and a town to ‘settle down’ in. I am itching for pastures new, some adventures and a hell of a lot of shows to promote my new album!

Yes! I have bought myself a panel van and, with the help of my parents, I am converting it into my own ideal camper (challenge one) and then I am going to take it touring around the UK and Europe (challenge two)! And then maybe swap my van and do it in North America (challenge three). And of course, as with every challenge I undertake, I shall blog it and vlog it as I go.

It’s been a few weeks since this idea seriously took hold and just a fortnight since I bought the van. I have slowly been telling my close friends and family what I am up to and quite to my surprise, everyone think’s it’s a great idea! I honestly thought I would meet with a lot more opposition, scepticism and naysaying but no, it seems the counsel think this is just the right plan for this phase of my life. Oooooeeee!!

I confess I am not entering into this lightly, I have fear… Especially of announcing to you all so publicly that this is what I am up to. I feel I am making myself pretty vulnerable, but I take my lead from the great Amanda Palmer who rather than fearing strangers and strange places, instead threw herself headlong into similar such adventures and found that the people and the world around her stepped up to catch her and help her, rather than take advantage. I trust that my experience will be the same. Besides, the more of you that know about it, the more of you there will be to look out for me along the way!

You can follow my progress on all my social media channels of course! #VanLifeLoy

So here I am, right at the beginning with an empty van and idea… Let’s get this show on the road!!!!

Love,

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