Tuesday, 27 May 2014

A Spring awakening - and all that's happened in between

As I watch the rain sheeting across the fields from my window, I don't feel very much like packing for going camping, so I thought I'd take a few minutes to update this blog first. It's been a while - sorry.

So, what's been happening in Bertie's world since the last post?

We were really pleased with the way the Amazing Spaces Christmas episode turned out. The filming in October was lots of fun, even though it felt a little bizarre being all tinselled up on Halloween. We were then asked to go to the Christmas Party, held in a yurt in Surrey, for the final filming for the show. The best thing about that, was being able to meet so many of the other people who had featured on the series, as well as being able to see the crew again. We spent a fair while chatting with Emma (Lunafloat), Adam (Big Green Bus), Rew (Landrover coctail bar) and the lovely Max (Reestore) - and the children very much enjoyed the indoor play area at the venue!

We weren't expecting to get such a big slice of the eventual programme, but it was cool for us to see the way they'd recut the original footage and mixed it in with some new bits to give an update. Hope you enjoyed it too.

And then we put Bertie away under his cover, and tucked him in for the winter.

We decided it might be fun to go and collect our Christmas tree in Bertie this year - but when we piled in (wearing the obligatory antlers) and fired him up, sadly we encountered the same old
problem with no fuel, no spark, no vroom. Cold and wet are not the friend of an old engine. So we tucked him away again.

The new year has seen a rather major change in our family, which has meant that Bertie has been a bit neglected for a while. In February we adopted a little boy - so now 'a family of 6 and a dog' are a family of 7 and a dog. This isn't the forum to write much about our adoption journey, but in a nutshell our thinking is that lots of kids need families and we have a family to share, so it makes sense to bring those two things together.

We have, therefore, been rather busy changing nappies, making baby purees and picking up soggy rice cakes from the floor - and Bertie has been waitng patiently for us to get back to him.

Meanwhile, spring has sprung here in the countryside - as the view from my bedroom window (on a sunnier day than today!) will show you:

And so now, May half term is upon us, and the baby is a little bigger, and we're ready to head off on another adventure.

Our friend Toby came round and sorted the engine issues for us, at least temporarily. The wonderful Rob Kitchen (from http://www.norfolkclassiccars.co.uk) is away in Africa working on a rally, so Bertie's long-overdue major overhaul is still a few weeks away - but for now he goes, which is good enough for me!

We have been making a few little adjustments inside Bertie over the past few days (having had all winter to do it, clearly we shouldn't have left it to the few days before going away, but there you go). We now have new curtains across the rear doors and the connecting door to the front cab. This gives us privacy in the rear of the van in the evenings when the lights are on - and should result in fewer unsuspecting campers being flashed as we change for bed! I have hung them on net curtain wire, so all that is visible in the daytime are a couple of eyelet hooks in the wooden trim at ceiling height, and then they can quickly and easily be put in place at night. We have a drawer in the kitchen cupboard, and are intending to put a couple of shelves in there today too - pics will follow once done. And generally he's been cleaned and cleared and prepared, and tomorrow will take us on another adventure.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

London bound

We had a very random out-of-the blue phone call on Friday afternoon, asking if Bertie would be free to come to London on Monday to appear on the 'Alan Titchmarsh Show'! George Clarke was a guest on the show, promoting the Amazing Spaces series, and they wanted to be able to show one of the builds from the series to add some interest to the piece. Since most of the projects are either too big (double decker buses), or fixed in one place (houses/beach huts/tree houses etc), Bertie seemed the logical choice...

I must admit to never having seen the programme... or actually knowing that there was such a show ... but it was very flattering to be asked, so we tried hard to find a way to be able to say Yes.

Jonathan was working, and knew he couldn't take a day off to galivant around the country in Bertie, and there was no way I was happy to drive by myself all the way into and through central London - so we placed a quick call to Jonathan's lovely parents, and managed to organise child care and an extra driver with the one call...

And so Richard and I set off for London at half eight yesterday morning. It was cold, and a bit rainy, and we were pretty apprehensive. To be honest, I didn't sleep too well Sunday night. Having only driven Bertie myself for about 5 miles ever, and with Richard never having been behind his wheel, the prospect of a 200 mile drive was a bit daunting. Not to mention the fact that we've never taken him more than 75 miles away from here!

I took the first stint behind the wheel, and quickly remembered how heavy the steering is, how tricky it is to keep him going straight (he has a tendency to drift to the left, and a distinct disinclination to be corrected smoothly), and how interesting changing gear can be. We had an issue with him cutting out

at low revs a few times, but sometimes he idled just fine - which kept me on my toes at roundabouts
and junctions!

Richard took over the driving before we reached London, and I am very grateful that he did all of the central London section, not something I really enjoy even in a normal car. It was a lot of fun pootling past the Olympic park, the Shard, looking across the Thames at Tower Bridge etc, and seeing Bertie reflected in all the plate glass windows :)

We caused a bit of a stir when we arrived at the studios - it seems the health and safety people weren't terribly happy at the prospect of allowing him into the building. The first question was how much fuel we had in the tank - but since his fuel gauge doesn't work, I wasn't really able to give a very scientific answer to that! I also couldn't be too scientific on the answer to the question of how much he weighs - no idea at all!

However, once we had jettisoned our petrol can and gas bottle, we were grudgingly allowed to proceed.

Getting Bertie up the ramp, and around some tight corners, into the scene dock behind the studio was pretty hard work - I was literally hanging on the steering wheel with all of my weight to try to turn him, with the tech guys laughing at my inability to drive... slightly humiliating :)

Still, he made it in, and then was pushed from there into position in the studio, for us to wipe him down and pretty him up... We got a great reaction from most of the crew, some of whom had seen him on Amazing Spaces, and some who hadn't.

The filming was fine - it's a number of years since I've been in a TV studio, but I loved the buzz and seeing how the live shows came together.

George and Alan did a great piece about the series, and a good section inside Bertie, talking about his great design (smug me) and beautiful interior (thanks Awesome!).

It was good to see George again, and he and the crew were genuinely thrilled that we had made the effort to come down.

The journey home was fairly uneventful, though long, and we made it home about half 10 - I am still exhausted!

Well done Bertie - 205 miles in one day, and still looking stylish ;)

Friday, 1 November 2013

MOT time...

I can't quite believe that it's been a year already, but the MOT is due on Bertie. We decided to take him back to the same garage as last year, Wooleys. They remembered him from last time, but hadn't been aware of the TV programme. They were impressed by the difference in him though!

Jonathan did the honours of driving him carefully on to the ramp so they could do the test, and stayed in to show off the lights etc. Apparently it was a bit disconcerting being raised and lowered on the ramps...

Anyway, in contrast to last year's big bill, this year he passed straight through with flying colours (or at least, no advisories!)... And so we're set for another year.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Jingle bells, jingle bells ...

We were asked to do a final day of filming for the 'Amazing Spaces' show, for a small section in the Christmas special episode. So - today we have been pretending it's Christmas!
Tinsel, stockings, warm spiced apple juice, gingerbread, carols and lots and lots of fairy lights... It's been a lovely day :)

Holidays are here again!

It's only been one night, but we feel like we've been on a proper holiday...

This crazy half term week looked like it didn't hold any opportunities (or decent weather) to get away in Bertie, so we had consoled ourselves with putting a couple of day trips on the calendar. However, our schedule for the next couple of days changed suddenly, and with the St Jude storm blowing itself out pretty quickly in our neck of the woods, we found a tiny window in which we could hit the road.

I booked a campsite at the third time of trying - the first was closed for the winter, and the second sounded a little unsure about 6 people staying in one small van and suggested we try elsewhere! We checked the directions on the net, found the relevant page on the Norfolk map, chucked some clothes in a bag, duvets in the seat boxes, dog food in the rear storage and clean water in the tank, and we were off...

The site we chose was the wonderful 'Whitehall Farm' in Burnham Thorpe: http://www.whitehallfarm-accommodation.com
A complete stab in the dark, but it turned out to be absolutely perfect for our needs. A lovely quiet field with countryside views, short grass and very few bumps, almost no other campers, clean and adequate facilities, and only £14 for us all for the night. Can't ask for more than that!

We pitched up (after a short quibble about the prevailing wind, direction of the slope, distance from the one other tent etc) and then walked the couple of miles along country lanes to Burnham Market, the nearest small town (large village?). Sandwiches and cakes from the bakery, eaten outside on the village green in the late autumn sunshine, were just perfect. The smaller children found the walk back a little too much and needed to be carried, and it was almost totally dark by the time we made it back to Bertie, but it was a lovely excursion.

Once back, Bertie came into his own as we quickly warmed up with the stove on and hot drinks and then dinner cooking. Games of  cards around the table together passed the rest of the afternoon, then a meal of lemon chicken (well, quorn!) and rice... The electric coolbox is perfectly adequate for our needs at the moment, and I'm very glad we didn't invest the time and money into installing a real fridge.

After tea we read some stories and played another game, and then J took the children off to the toilet block while I rearranged the furniture ready for bed. We decided to change the sleeping arrangements this time, after some issues last time. The two little girls were in their hammocks again, but the older two took the places on top of the kitchen, and Jonathan and I made up the whole double bed below the hammocks for us. This was a much better option, espcially for Jonathan, as it meant that he could stretch out fully in bed, and sleep much better.

We were really toasty warm, and left one of the roof vents open for ventilation through the night. It did rain overnight, but we stayed dry and warm, and all slept well.

After replacing the tables for breakfast the following morning, it was time to make our way home again. It is just so fantastic to be able to pack up in 10 minutes, turn a key and be back on the road... Campervanning is just the best!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Great feedback, and another trip out

We've had so many lovely comments from friends, family and strangers too... Bertie is getting lots of new twitter followers too :)

Here's just a few of the comments:

@MpbEunos: After showing the family @bluemooncamper on George Clarke's Amazing Spaces, it has been decided that it is the best thing ever! I need one!
@DomesticMrsH: Wow did you see @GCAmazingSpaces last night? You really should check out this stunning project @Bluemooncamper #creativespace
@bethtow: @MrGeorgeClarke @Bluemooncamper such a clever use of space - love it!
@melly_mel101: @Bluemooncamper what a fantastic holiday camper van! well done, he's beautiful!

@MrGeorgeClarke: Bertie the Ambulance is one of the cutest and inventive projects I've ever seen...what a lovely project for a lovely family #amazingspaces

On Saturday we went into the city to do some shopping, and I had five separate people come up to me during the afternoon to say how much they enjoyed the programme, and to compliment us on Bertie. Crazy, being recognised as 'someone from the TV'! One guy even shouted down a crowded street, "Love your ambulance!"!

Bertie took us to the woods on Sunday, doing what he does best. We had a lovely walk in the forest with good friends, finding a rare couple of hours of sunshine. And then we all piled into the back of Bertie for hot chocolate and biscuits... Perfect Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Amazing spaces, amazing day :)

It's been a crazy, bizarre, tiring and very wonderful day!

Jonathan was up at first light again, off to the paper shop in the local village, to get a copy of the Eastern Daily Press - and here is the article:

Short and to the point (!) but a lovely photo.

Twitter and facebook have both been buzzing all day with friends and strangers alike excited about seeing Bertie on the first episode of the new series of 'Amazing Spaces' tonight. The day also involved lots of normal stuff - toddler group, shopping, housework etc - alongside the craziness.

We took Bertie on the school run for the first time this afternoon, so our children could show him off to their classmates and teachers, which was a lot of fun. Then, at the prime drive-time slot of 5.50, I did the first radio interview of my life, on BBC Radio Norfolk. It felt like a blur, and I probably should listen again to find out exactly what I said, but friends and family said I came across well :) It was an added bonus to be the 'and finally' story on the news bulletins at 6pm and 7pm too!

It was pretty cosy on the sofa this evening as 9 additional friends and family members arrived around half 7 to join us to watch the programme.... And at 8pm we were on!

The show is just soooo fab anyway, and we were really happy with the way that Bertie came across. Very, very pleased. I expect we'll be watching it a few times over the next week :)