Have Boat. No Paddle. Make Paddle. Have Paddle!

Another in the series of things we’ve built to improve our garden (ok, not so much the garden…), entertain Young Johnston and get us through lockdown! A paddle for a canoe!

Flat Space

I needed some. So I built some.

One of the things that has impressed me since I started building Bernie in a camper colossus is how people can squeeze even the tiniest table into their vans. I wanted one too! And after the now standard hours spent researching all the usual places (YouTube/Instagram/vanlife websites) I came with a plan.

It would be completely recycled. And functional. And easy to store away. So I used some old off cuts, nails and glue I already had and for the legs, I took apart an old camping table from a friends old caravan.

It folds away perfectly into a slot between the bed and the van wall, behind the cushion.

And after one table, I was feeling confident and wanted two other little flat spaces on the back doors. ***cue more research***

And so with some more off cuts, carpet, nylon string and a couple of teeny purchases (hinges and hooks), I set to it again.

I’m so pleased with how they came out. They are also fold away and are pretty sturdy. We’re there issues? Well yes, I’d meant them to fold up rather than down, but some dodgy woodsmanship knocked that on the head. But they still work. So now I have more space to put stuff and I’m really pleased with how they look.

Just need lockdown to end so I can test them “in the field”. And with phase one of the Scottish Government’s Covid plan coming into effect on Thursday, that time is surely getting closer.

Camping on our Doorstep

A second three weeks of lockdown has just been announced. So back to the van for the next job, making a midge net for the window. I essentially copied this idea: https://www.motorhomeplanet.co.uk/archives/4795

It seems to have worked really well, but we’ll see how it performs next time I can get further than the front door.

In the meantime we spent a night in the van as the weather was sunny and warm. We made homemade burgers and drank in the sunshine. The new awning worked a treat and This microadventure was an absolute treat.

Extra Shelter From the Storm

The lockdown is almost three weeks old. We can’t go out unless absolutely necessary. As a family who loves the outdoors, we stand and stare out the windows, dreaming of potential adventures.

But it would be wrong to say that it’s the end of the world. We have stiffened our upper lips and embraced what we can do, rather than tearfully sob at what we can’t. And we’ve remembered that we have so many reasons to be happy, even if our freedom is restricted.

We have learnt new skills such as how to create a remote teaching and learning environment. We have dusted off some older skills such as baking (there’s been a lot of this…). We have spent time as a family, which has been amazing (and only occasionally fraught!). We have taken our daily exercise around the village which has allowed us to get to know our new home and what it has to offer. Young Johnston learnt how to ride his bike just today! And we have another child on the way, due for delivery in July. (Although hopefully not by Ralph the Hermes guy who has been at our door almost daily since lockdown life began.)

We’ve built Sam a rocket den in the garden, made fires, drawn on the street in chalk and made elephants out of old milk bottles. Our spare room is now ready for Ralph to deliver our next package (a baby chair, not a baby!) and the house is cleaner and tidier than it has been for weeks.

And I’ve moved on to my next van project, an awning. Before I even bought the van, I knew it needed somewhere to sit, cook or shelter in outside. So here’s what I did.

Lockdown has meant I haven’t been able to test the awning anywhere other than in front of the house. The pictures would look so much better on a beach or other remote green space.

But it’s just after 8pm, and the clapping in the street reminds me though that we are in strange times, a phrase I’ve heard so often lately. As soon as we can go further afield, we’ll be off on a Bernie adventure. But in the meantime, there’s plenty more adventures to be had close to home.

Shelved

Tap….

Tap….

Tap….

Tap….

…multiplied by at least 50,000 this week. That’s the noise made as I tap on whatever device I have available, whether it be my laptop, iPad, my phone. As a teacher in a Scottish School, it’s probably safe to say, with a hint of understatement, that this week has been a bit different.

After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing the week before (one minute we were working in school, the next working from home) we found out at 7pm on Sunday 22nd March that the schools would indeed be closed to all staff and pupils. With a pregnant wife and son at home, it felt like the right decision personally, even though it meant classes across the country taking place in chatrooms rather than classrooms. As my class of P4s had been on Glow and Teams all year, using these online platforms wasn’t such a massive culture shock as it could have been. But the situation was still completely alien. Learning remotely, at home, with a teacher and peers you couldn’t see. I tried my very best not to sound like Mother speaking to Dallas in the film, Alien, when recording my daily class message.

The alien theme continued when the Prime Minister announced on Tuesday that he was placing the country into lockdown. A curious place, usually spotted in big budget Hollywood films, where you can cram into a tube train but you can’t drive.

It’s been a week where every single person across the country has learnt something. About themselves, about their kids, their teachers, remote learning, or about virus control. Why does it take a national emergency for us to take learning seriously?

With all that in mind, life has been well and truly shelved for the time being. So I spent my day away from the keyboard talking to Bernie. Building shelves.

Building Bernie’s Bed

It’s always more interesting to look at how a child sees something. I’ve spent hours/days/months looking online and speaking to friends to find the best way to create Bernie the mini camper out of the Arnold Clark ex-hire van I bought back in August. Some of the builds I’ve seen have been painfully impressive. Young Johnston’s ideas were…..different.

Drawing his plan with him was probably the most fun I’ve had in months. He was articulate, engaged and full of very funny ideas about what would make Bernie the perfect mini camper. The teacher in me liked the giant tick and hoped it wasn’t a blood sucking version. Including a fire to burn me on the bum when I least expected it was a typical Young Johnston thing to say, but in this context it really tickled my funny bone.

I set to work with two competing ideas. The Instagram perfection version, all smooth lines, bright surfaces and usually with a stunning sunset in the background. And the plan I drew, with utmost precision, but probably way beyond my skillset.

With my measurements in hand I bought all the timber and bits that I thought I needed and set to work. I’d seen one film on YouTube that was my guide as I set off, cutting lengths of planed pine and screwing them together to create a basic frame, with added wood glue for extra muscle.

Even by this stage I was proud of my efforts. Size looked good and it seemed fairly strong. Next I had to find out how my storage boxes would best fit underneath. After trying a few options, I plumped for this layout.

And with the storage boxes in situ.

Next up I cut the slats for the solid section. And then created the frame for the pull out section.

And then added the slats for the pull out section.

You’ll notice two slats are missing. My calculations for what I would need were just ever so slightly wonky. Unlike the final frame! Which I’m pretty proud of. The final test was to make sure it would fit in the van, which it did.

I used some braces to screw it to the van floor.

And added these clips to stop the pull out section from moving when on the road.

Finally I had to add the cushions, kindly donated by a friend with an old caravan. My original measurements were made with these cushions in mind. I’m not a fan of the orange, but Kirsty is going to re-cover these for me at some point.

And all set up, ready for the road!

I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve achieved, with a lot of help from others like Kirsty, Young Johnston, The King, Rich and the many bloggers and YouTubers I’ve been stalking. I’m no DIY guy. I think Kirsty might expect a bit more from now on though…. And as for the wee man’s original ideas, there is no room for a police station, but for me, this is definitely worthy of a giant, big, fat tick.

There have been less outdoor adventures lately due to all the insulating, carpeting and bed building. Let the outdoor adventures recommence.

Peddling Pitlochry to Perth

The first of my of my 12 official microadventures of 2020. (find out more at my previous post Clearing the New Year Wreckage)  Although, having overestimated what I was capable of, it took most of the day to cycle the 48km from Pitlochry to Perth, rather than a few short hours, so more of an adventure rather than a microadventure. But I became very close friends with my velocipede and it was a great way to see more of the Perthshire counrtyside.

I wouldn’t normally cycle without a bike helmet. But when I left the house, I took my son’s helmet for some reason (his head is big but not that big) and by the time I realised I was at the train station…..

And if I wasn’t sure where my perineum was before this trip, I definitely do now. Ouch.

And check out the film below….

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