Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Dogs' New Mobile Kennel

We spent most of today sorting out bits and pieces for the new van.  We don't need a great deal as we can use a lot of the stuff we have on board the narrowboat, like cutlery, glasses, spare hook up line etc.

We have already removed the carpet from the rear of the van, as it was held down with press studs, but the carpet in the front of the fan is fitted with the furniture sitting on top of it, to reduce squeaks and rattles.  The only problem being that it's a beige carpet, and a recipe for disaster - plus the seating is beige material!  As you can see by the pic below, the boys were very much at home in their new mobile kennel.

We went out and bought throws for all the seating plus the bed, and clear carpet protector for the carpet in the front. We also had to go and buy a couple of gas bottles as they don't come with the van.

It is fantastic to drive, just so easy and light.  It's a bit big to go shopping in, but all good fun ... we just have to watch out for low entrances to car parks as it is just over 3.0m high!

We left the dogs on guard went we parked up ... Bombo guarded the cab whilst Sammie guarded the living area. 

It takes up just over 3 car spaces, so probably wouldn't be a good idea to go shopping on a Saturday!

It has a fair bit of overhang if parked normally ...

We got back to the marina late in the arvo, where we found that we now have a flock of sheep roaming around on the marina grounds ... they probably want to entice a few more Kiwi boats to stay!
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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Picked up The Motorhome

'Twas a 06.00am start this morning - the reason being that I wanted to take the dogs for a good walk as we were going to be leaving them on the boat all day.  I knew there was going to be a bit of hanging around when we got to Brownhills in Newark ... and they are not too good at that!

We had to get from Stone to Newark.  The first train was the 8.00am to Stoke, then change for the next train to Derby, which was the very strange thing below ... one self propelled carriage!

Next was Derby to Nottingham, then finally Nottingham to Newark. 

We rang Brownhills on approach to the station and they sent someone down to pick us up. The next few hours were spent going over the motorhome yet again, having a long free lunch in their restaurant and of course paying for the van, followed up with the chat with the Barclays Bank fraud sqaud (Indian Division) as to why such a large sum was going through in one hit!   No probs with the whys and wherefores chat, but trying to understand the chappie in the Indian call centre was hard going ... it took about 30 mins.  Then it was a quick spend on some bits and pieces, levelling rams, Melamine dinner set etc.  Finally a farewell to our very nice salesman, Jon (and handover chap, Graham) and we were on the road ...

It only had a quarter of tank of diesel in the van ... I didn't think they would fill it, I had knocked them down on the price, plus got a new tv installed in the bedroom, plus a two year (limited) warranty, plus 10 days free insurance till we get our own!

So we filled it up at the first servo.....gulp!!  Have to put some red diesel in it next time...(Joke)

It drove perfectly in pretty shitty conditions, it's going to be fun!

Back to the boat, the dogs had everything crossed ... they are such good boys, so I took them for a nice walk in the dark.

Tomorrow we will go shopping toget a calor gas bottle and also to try and find something to protect the motorhome carpets.  The rear carpets unclip so I can remove them, but in the lounge area they are fitted (and a lovely cream colour!) so I dont want to get them too dirty!

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Busy Monday

The storm didn't happen up here - we had a bit of rain but that was it.  We are very sheltered in our marina berth though so we don't get blown around no matter which way the wind blows.  It didnt wake us at all, but what did wake me was the fresh water pump running ... it had been running for some time, but more about that later.

First thing in the morning (9.00am!) I let the dogs out for a wee ... the resident swans were next to the boat so Bombo and Sammie were very excited, running around the jetty trying to catch the swans!  The next thing I heard was 'splash' and Bombo was in the water, which he hates.  He was in big panic mode when I grabbed him by the scruff and yanked him out, poor little bugger was shaking with the cold and fright.

Elaine stuck him in the shower and gave him a hot wash ...

We dried him off next to the radiator, he will live to chase swans another day ...

Next the pump....why was it running?

I could hear the valve blowing off on the calorifier ... I lifted the engine room floorboards, the engine room had a few inches of water in it and water was pouring out of the relief valve, no big problem as the automatic float switch was being activated and pumping out the water.  The water pressure should be 30 psi  so I fitted a pressure gauge to the top of the accumulator, it was reading nearly 50 psi ... no wonder the relief valve was blowing off!  Obviously the pressure switch was knackered on the pump, so rather than mucking about with the switch (plus the pump was the original and 5 years old) I decided to fit a new pump.  Guess what, I had a new one on board but it was a different make.....

....but no major probs swapping the fittings over.   The new pump is a 40 psi model but I knew you could adjust the pressure quite easily.

Old Sure Flow on the left, new Johnson on the right.

There is a large hold in the pointy end of Caxton, and the pump is fitted next to the water tank ...

Sammie decided to give me a hand to fit the new pump ...

Job done, the pump is much quieter than the old one and it was a simple job to adjust the pressure to 30 psi - thanks Sam !

The next job was to talk to the motorhome dealer and insurance company, so we can pick it up tomorrow/  We then got onto Trainline to sort out how to get to Newark from Stone ... 4 different trains that's how!

We then went to Midland Chandlers and bought the first of this year's supply of coal, £9.00 a bag - bargain!  We also bought some new bog blue, for the boat and the motorhome ... they both have exactly the same dunny!

It was then spend, spend, spend at Dunelm Mill buying bedding and bits and pieces for the motorhome.

Then a quick stop at Aldi to get a few bags of kitty litter and that was it ... it was dark at 17.00 hours....aarrgghhh, hate it!

Tomorrow we pick up the motorhome....woohoo :)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pre Storm Weekend in Macc

We went to Macclesfield for the weekend, we were due to leave the marina Saturday morning and come back late Sunday arvo.

The biggest storm ever in the world is due Monday morning so Elaine cooked up some drugs Friday night, so at least we would be happy if we were to become shipwrecked. 

In reality she was starting on a new batch of soap, so at least we would be clean should we be stranded for weeks on the boat ...

Saturday in Macclesfield Elaine went to a witchcraft festival (Mind, Body, Spirit actually ... El), whilst I took the dogs for a good walk then watched the Aussies flog England in the Rugby league world cup, which is bit of a joke because only about 3 countries play it ... hardly world material, mind you that beats the yanks with their world series rounders baseball.  How many countries play in that???? ONE! .  

Sunday morning we were up at first light for a breakfast meeting with some of Elaine's old school friends, two of which are now living in Nhulunbuy Australia and were back in Macc for a holiday.

Elaine with her old school friends ...

Me and the boys ...

Afterwards we went for a walk around the world famous (In Macc) Treacle market.  It was actually quite good with some really good stuff.  The black pudding stall had sold out as the northerners had bought it all up in preparation for Monday's Armageddon.

There was a big doggie get together outside the coffee shop ...

The breakfast meeting ended up around lunchtime so we went to the pub for a swift one before we bade farewell and wished them all good luck and hopefully we will see them again if we survive Monday's onslaught.

We got back late Sunday arvo to the boat.  I left Elaine to do the final checks inside the boat and stash everything away that could be flung around the cabin.

I took the dogs for a walk through a wood close to the boat and enjoyed my last few hours in this wondrous country. 

I got back to the boat and boarded up the windows, set the storm anchor, rechecked the mooring lines and fitted a couple of extra bilge pumps. 

We decided as this would be our last day that we had better go out to dinner, so where would you go when its all about to end ... we went to Weatherspoons for the Sunday roast!!!  Washed down with a couple of pints of Guinness (just to cushion the shock).

We put on the TV when we got back to the boat to check the latest forecast to see how long we had left, bugger me, a film was on....The Perfect Storm!!! No Kidding.

Farewell readers its been a blast ... so long and thanks for all the fish! 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Working on The Dream

The dream is still alive ... we are living it, we are just changing tack and overcoming a few obstacles along the way.

On Monday we were going to Newark to test drive the motorhome, but the weather was atrocious, and as they say never buy a car (motorhome) in the rain, we rearranged for a test drive on the Wednesday.

On Tuesday we had a few chores to do, but our reward for shopping at Aldi was to meet Ray and Diane from NB Ferndale for an 'early doors' drink down at the Swan.  Diane presented Elaine with a 'happy hat' which she bought in  Paris ... Elaine is now very happy!

Back on board the good ship I slaved away on the laptop whilst Geoffrey slept by the fire.  Elaine had a kip in the chair with Jaffa asleep on top.  Sammie slept upside down in the other chair.  It's all go on this boat.

Wednesday was test drive day but Elaine felt very crook so we cancelled again but after a few phone calls to the ever helpful NHS we were off in the car to Macclesfield.  She was sorted very quickly and felt a lot better so we rang the dealer in Newark and said we would be there in about 2.5 hours.  The dealer by the way is 'Brownhills of Newark'.  It was a lovely drive through the Peak District on the way there.  We arrived at the dealer, which is the largest motorhome dealer in the UK, and were greeted at the door by a chappie with a clipboard in his hand ... 'Mr Macey I presume' ... Christ they must have have been tracking us!  He was the the handover technician and spent the next two hours showing us how everything worked on the van.  The van is second hand so I didn't know really what to expect, but it was fantastic, and in as new condition.  We were stoked.  Elaine's favourite bit is the electric step!

I forgot to take the u-beaut camera to the dealership so the photos are from the phone.

The salesman stayed out of the way until Mr Handover was finished, by now it was 17.30 well past their home time.  Mr Salesman came along and asked us if we liked it.  'Love it' was our reply. 'OK then I need a bit more of a deposit from you then we will get it ready to pick up next week'.  'No probs', says I, 'apart from the fact that I haven't driven it yet and I am not buying it till we go for a spin......'
Autotrail Delaware

'No worries', he says and off we went.  It drove like a car, and with the optional big motor pulled really well.  The handover guy came with us, he reckons they are good for over 85mph.... woohoo white van man in the outside lane of the M1 here I come!  When we got back it was a quick chat with Mr Finance to sort out the bigger deposit.  We finally left the dealership at 18.30 and had another long drive back to Stone ... we grabbed fish and chips from the local chippy and crashed out on the boat knackered.

I had done a fair bit of reading about Brownhills and they didn't have a particularly good name, but most of the reports seem to be a few years old.  We couldn't have been treated better, although 'to be fair' the test of the dealer is usually down to how he treats warranty problems, which hopefully we will not have any of.
Watch out we are coming through

Thursday was a nice sunny day so it was a good day to do some work on the boat.  I touched a few small paint chips, then it was out with the electric buff that I had borrowed from brother Russell ... what a great bit of time saving kit, I managed to get one side done - the swans came to have a look and were impressed.

Not bad for a 2008 boat , check out the reflection.....facing the bow....

....and the stern.

I was just about finished polishing and was getting ready to knock back a beer or two when Elaine informed me she was having a relapse and was feeling very unwell, so we were back on the phone.  Ten mins later we were back in the car and heading off up to Macc ... even with rush hour traffic we made the appointment with 10 mins to spare.  The mighty C3 Citroen performed faultlessly, we are so glad we bought a car when we took a berth on the marina, it would have been a nightmare without a car.

By the time Elaine was sorted it was getting late so we stayed the night at El's dads house.  We had 3 big fat Pizzas for dinner whilst me and Burtie polished off a nice bottle of red ... I also had a swift one down the pub whilst waiting for the Pizzas. 

We woke to a rather dreary day in Macc ... these two old dears walked past dressed in their full wet weather gear.  Elaine and I looked at each other.....Spain is looking good!

Back on board the boat today, I carried on polishing other bits whilst Elaine made soup, biccies, juices and prepared to start making up a new batch of soap.

Tomorrow we are back up to Macc for the weekend to meet up with friends.  We should be picking up the motorhome next week sometime, just got to find some readies ...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Boudoir Blogging

It is raining so hard outside, that we have decided to stay in bed later than usual (!) and catch up with emails, banking and the most important of all, do the blog and catch up with the goss on facebook!  Here is the weather today ...

We had a pretty quiet weekend for a change.  I decided to light the fire, not because it was cold, but because I had repainted it a while ago and the paint tends to stink a bit on the first burn and I didn't want to stink the boat out on a cold winter's night.  I was out of practice because it took two goes to light it ... it worked a treat though we had all the doors and windows open and it was still like a furnace in the boat!

On Saturday evening Elaine's brother, Trev, paid us a visit bringing with him heaps of boaters gold....wood!

Sunday was a pleasant day so we took the dogs for a walk up the Downs.  I went for an early doors drink down the Swan with Ray and Diane from NB Ferndale ... the pub was quite quiet, they had a plethora of freebie bar snacks and the two fires were raging away.  Very cosy!

When I got back to the boat I lit our fire for the first time proper this season, but it was still a bit too warm so we had to open the windows and side hatch to cool the boat down again!

We then spent a couple of hours on the net looking at property in Spain, because we had watched 'A Place in the Sun' earlier, which was filmed in and around Arboleas.  It looked lovely and a bit more scenic than the lunar landscape that we visited last week.   (Was that really only last week?!!!)  We also checked out the Australian property market which is going off yet again, if we ever do go back we may be able to afford a single garage!

Spanish villa in Arboleas yours for £125,000 ...

One bedroom flat in a rather grotty looking block close to where we used to live back in OZ ...£245,000 ...

The only similarity is the blue sky!!

We are not writing OZ off as a destination that we may return to but it certainly won't (can't) be Sydney.  It is such a shame that I didn't buy a place when I was over there last year, I probably should have upped my offers, I just didn't think that the prices would carry on going up ... hindsight and all that.   

Back to the present, we were going to test drive the motorhome today, but it's just too wet to give it the going over with the fine tooth comb! 

I really hope they get some rain soon down under to try and quell the bushfires that are raging away, its bloody tragic.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

NEC Motorhome and Caravan Show

Yesterday we took a trip down to Birmingham to check out the motorhomes at the NEC Motorhome and Caravan Show.

It was a very, very big show but being a weekday it was not that crowded plus there were no ankle biters, so we could have a good look around!  We were virtually sure we wanted an Autotrail  as they are made in the UK and are sold in Australia, so we would be able to get parts or sell it on should we go back one day.

The first thing we spotted when we walked through the entrance was a brand new VW Kombi!

We spoke to a lot of motorhome dealers, who all rated the Autotrail range very well, plus we spoke to the head of Autotrail to find out the difference between a UK and an Aussie spec van... not a lot really apart from the price  The same van in Oz is about £30,000 more expensive!

So the Autotrail Delaware was the choice, next thing was to find a good low mileage unit as we didn't want and couldn't afford a new one, plus there is a long waiting list!

The thing we liked was that it had a fixed island bed plus plenty of storage.

Elaine in the captains chair ...

Such a nice bed ... no more crawling over each other to get up!

Long story short we found a good low mileage unit (as in 11,000 miles) which we put a deposit on subject to inspection and test drive. Talking to one of the dealers he said we should check the cooker and shower etc for wear and tear because even though it may have low miles it could be because they drove it to Spain and back a couple of times but lived in for months on end.  However our dealer assured us it is mint, but he is a used car salesman!

So it will look like the one below but will be all white, plus it has the higher horsepower motor and a extra bed over the top of the cabin, in case we have visitors.

Once we had done the deal we headed for the exit door but before we got there we had a look around the Lodge type places that were on display.  I didn't know what to expect, but they were fantastic!  We really liked this one, all up the cost including all the furniture as displayed plus installed on site was £170,000.  The park levies were about £4000 a year, it wasn't a  Park Home it was Dream Lodge.  They are holiday homes though, so you don't seem to be able to 'live' in them as your residence (bit like a narrowboat!) ...

Just lovely ...

And oh so cosy ...

So that was the end of the show for us!  I would have to say one day wasn't long enough to see all the offerings, we didn't get a chance to check out the 'shit and glitter' stands at all.

Now don't forget folks if you want to buy a very nice narrow boat, Caxton will be on the market in 6 months or so, ready to go for next summers cruising....get your offers in now :-)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Return from that Place in the Sun!

Well, we are back from our travels now ... the main reason for our visit to Spain was to look at property and get a bit of a feel for the place.

On the day we arrived we investigated the pool and the beach ... and forced ourselves to have a drink at the beach bar !

On Friday morning we were met at our hotel by Will Norris of 'Town and Country Spain' for a guided tour of the area plus to show us examples of what we can buy for our money.  We met Will at the 'A Place in the Sun' Show at the Birmingham NEC a couple of weeks ago/  Will knew that we wouldn't be buying for at least 6 months or longer but still gave us half a day of his precious time with absolutely no pressure, just good facts.  He is a really great guy too - thanks, Will !

Will showed us around the general area plus we went inside a couple of villas that were vacant.

We liked this one, which you could buy, including all fees etc (plus it was fully furnished) for about £150,000 ...

Three bedrooms, private pool plus plenty of parking for a motorhome ...

There are loads to choose from, in all price ranges ....

The further from the coast you go the cheaper they get.  This one was 15 min drive to the beach. To be closer to the beach you pay a premium.

So now we have a good idea of what is available but we will look at a few more areas ... another time !

On Saturday we went for a drive to Mojacar ... the roads are amazing!  They are absolutely deserted and in pristine condition.  We could not believe the money that has been spent on roads, hospitals and general infrastructure.

Mojacar is in two parts ... the first part we visited was on the hill slightly inland

Very Spanish....probably because we were in Spain.

This is the outlook from the hill!  Now I thought Australia was barren in the outback, but it just doesn't compare with this ... it's like Mars ... not pretty at all like England, just so harsh. Then again we wouldn't want to live out in the barren part!  The other part of Mojacar was by the beach which was a lot more pleasant.
Outlook from Mojacar

We had a good look about the beach area of Mojacar and headed back to La Zenia, where we were staying.  This is one of the streets by our hotel ... it is deserted because the villas are owned by very, very wealthy Russians, Spaniards etc. and are only occupied in the summer months.  It reminded us of  Port Isaac in Cornwall which we visited last winter ... it was deserted because the houses were all holiday homes, meaning the village had lost its heart and soul. 

We had a nice mini break though, the hotel we stayed at sits right on the cliff top ...

Also, the beer was good and cheap...

We arrived back at Manchester last night - funnily enough the 'Desperate Housewives' (referred to in our previous post) were on our plane ... although this time they were all very subdued ... but very, very brown!  The head slapper wasn't with them, probably cooling her heels in a Spanish cell. We spent the night at the cheapo £39.00-a-night airport hotel, in Manchester, again.  It is such a great hotel for the price, with everything you need in place.

Elaine had an appointment in Manchester this morning hence the night's stay in the hotel ... it saved going back to the boat last night and then driving up to Manchester again this morning.

This afternoon we drove back down the M6 to Stone ... we passed these huge brand new Terex dump trucks on the M6.  There was a hell of a tail back as they hogged two lanes so all the traffic including the trucks had to overtake on the outside lane.

We picked the dogs up from the kennels this afternoon ... poor old Bombo just wouldn't stop crying ... he misses Elaine so much!  We keep promising him we won't leave him, but needs must sometimes.
such a happy Bombo boy ... what a big smile

In the early evening we picked up the cats ... who are all still going strong ... much to the relief of the cattery owner.  So, we are a 'full team' again this evening ... all the animals look very tired and I think they will sleep well tonight.

So in summing up our trip, we loved Spain, especially the weather and beaches.  We didn't like the barren interior and some of the 'urbanisations' were a bit too 'suburby' for us ... but we have a lot more planning and checking out to do ... we may even rent for a while anyway, just to be sure.

So now we are back in the land of reality!  Without going into any greater detail, Elaine is going to be spending the next six months or so undergoing treatment at a hospital in Manchester, which is why we will be staying aboard Caxton, moored at Aston Marina.  The NHS have been absolutely amazing at every level.  Elaine's GP has run her 4 times to see how she is and the Specialist Nurse at Macc has called her several times to check on her ... she even rang her while we were in Spain ... for no other reason than to check that she was OK.  The people in Manchester have been brilliant too ... nothing is too much trouble and they have been so helpful and supportive.
What a system!