The quickest route to a relaxing weekend?

Straight down the Pacific Highway, of course. After a busy few weeks at work, Paul and I had been craving a quiet, relaxing time over the five-day Easter break. So I think we were both a little surprised to find ourselves not heading to the coast, but ensconced in a crowd of other frazzled couples being herded along the pathway at Ikea. A pathway from which there is no escape. No early exit strategy. Everywhere you look people are frantically searching for a little pink card that says ‘Move directly to marketplace. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200.’

Anyway, the plan was to look for a wooden work surface for the campervan kitchen. This was an about turn really; we’d always been keen to avoid the traditional pine look that you see in so many pictures of converted campervans, and were planning to use a pale laminate for the kitchen surfaces instead. But Paul loves working with wood, and was concerned that the interior was starting to look too white and sterile. I am inclined to think once we introduce the red cupboard doors and stripy seat cushions it’ll be hard to see any white, but I do quite like the idea of a solid wooden surface. Like one huge chopping board. So we’re hitching a brief ride on the pine-look bandwagon and have bought an Ikea Lagan worktop. It was almost 2.5 metres long, weighed over 30kg, and only just squeezed in the car (barely leaving room for my Ikea purchase: a single fluorescent dishwashing brush, which was looking a bit forlorn at the bottom of my huge yellow bag).

Paul’s cut two pieces of wood to fit each side of the kitchen and has given it about five coats of timber oil. He chose a Danish wood oil in the hope it would get along nicely with its Swedish wooden companion.

Wood before being oiled

In other news, Paul’s been doing some finishing touches on the cupboards and has boxed in the wheel arch at the back of the main kitchen cabinet, using the same laminated wood he used for the walls.

He’s also completely secured the toilet to the floor, which I am relieved about because I find it quite a comfy place to perch while Paul’s working, and as our driveway is on a slope, I was always in slight danger of sailing off down the van. Fixing the toilet was quite tricky, we couldn’t get long enough screws to drill far enough into the floor, and the limited space in the base of the toilet made it awkward to get the drill in to screw down. So Paul went underneath the van and used long bolts to drill up through the base of the van and through the floor, and secured the bolts with nuts in the base of the toilet.

Finally, the prize for this week’s most interesting photo surely goes to:

This is the steel box that Paul has resized for the gas bottle, so it will snugly fit our 2kg gas bottle rather than the 9kg one it was intended for. A bit of hacking and a lot of sticking has saved us sending the original box all the way back to NSW.

Earlier this week we had a bumper delivery from Caravans Plus which included a stove, kitchen sink and roof fan, so Paul’s going to tackle some of those this weekend.

A final word about gingham curtains

I’m sure there are plenty of craft blogs out there and I have no intention of turning this into another one. However, at the risk of confusing everyone who arrived at this blog having Googled ‘how to fit campervan cabinets’ (and alienating everyone else) I am going to indulge in one final post about my affiliation with gingham fabric.

A few weeks ago, I bought some beautiful red gingham material, which would be perfect for the quintessential campervan curtain.  Since then, I have been looking, unsuccessfully, for some upholstery fabric to match.  The stripy fabric that Paul’s so keen to use for the seat covers would clash horribly. Plain red fabric would work well with the gingham, but next to all the red cupboards might create an ambience more ‘brothelesque’ than would be desireable.  So I have reluctantly admitted defeat. There will be no gingham in this campervan. We have bought the bright stripy fabric for the seats and I am now on the search for a plainer fabric for the curtains.

So this picture is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it means I finally managed to thread the bobbin on my new sewing machine and produce something resembling a tissue case. Hurrah! On the other hand, it means that my beautiful gingham, which had so much potential, is destined to spend the remainder of its days protecting packs of Kleenex.

So put your orders in now while my bobbin is still in place. I have samples of gingham fabric in red, lilac, navy, black and lime green. How I ever thought lime green curtains would match red cupboards, I’m not sure.

Campervan paraphernalia

Now, at the risk of sounding like we’re taking this hobby one stage too far and becoming (eek) ‘collectors’, we have amassed some very cool campervan paraphernalia since we started the project. It’s inspired some lovely presents and quite unlikely birthday / Christmas / Valentine’s cards. Here are some of the things we’ve had recently:

Paul got this model kombi van from Jean & John, very useful to practise on before he started the real thing. Although actually, he just had to stick on the lights and add the wheels so we can safely say he’s progressed!

I love this book Alice bought us for Christmas. It’s full of gorgeous campfire feasts, blustery cliff-top walks and tips on how to forage for your own funghi. It remains to be seen whether I could ever summon up enough… well, camping spirit to produce a lemon and herb risotto with cubed gorgonzola in our little kitchen – can you imagine stirring a pan for 20 minutes kneeling down?? – and I must confess, I’ve already ensured we’ll always have enough storage space for a ready supply of nice clean, supermarket-foraged mushrooms. But it’s a fantastic book.

I really like this Christmas card. Obviously I’m the one on the right, not sure who the other lady is.

Paul bought this one. He clearly has very unrealistic expectations high hopes for our future campervan exploits.

In need of a(nother) day off

I’ve decided that maintaining a blog is actually a great way to chivvy you along with whatever project you’re blogging about, just so you have something to post. Unfortunately, no amount of chivvying is going to increase the likelihood that any of our suppliers will open beyond the hours of 10-4 Mon-Fri so we can actually visit them. Paul raced back from work yesterday to see a cabinet maker who could potentially supply all the wood we need for the campervan, only to find he had already closed grrr. And as we have barely worked a full week since early December due to various public holidays and natural disasters, a day off is not looking very likely. At this rate I’m going to have to start on the gingham curtains so I have something to blog about. Is gingham surfer chic?

12 grey bus seats sitting in a garage

In its previous incarnation, the campervan was used by ABC Childcare in Western Australia to ferry children around, and as such, was fitted out as a 14-seater mini-bus. When we bought the van, the owner kindly removed all 12 rear seats, and they’d been cluttering up our garage ever since. Originally destined for the tip, they were actually in near-perfect condition so at the last minute I thought I’d try them on eBay. I couldn’t imagine there’d be an active market for 12 old bus seats (retro dining furniture anyone?) but to our surprise, they attracted a lot of interest almost immediately. We had 8 people watching on the first day, and for an eBay virgin, this was most exciting. Admittedly, most people only wanted to buy one, but I thought there would be even less demand for 11 old bus seats so we held out, and pretty soon someone bought all 12 for $350!

The couple that came to pick them up had also converted a campervan and were about to drive it to Perth (they had to be there in 8 days – eek!) when their son decided to join them, so they needed to fit an extra seat for him.  They were planning to relist the other 11 seats when they returned, but at least they’re now out of our garage, and we can put the money we made towards our gourmet kitchen (i.e. the grill).

This was how the van originally looked with all its rear passenger seats (carsales.com.au)

 

Waiting for a home

The Queensland floods

This post is not strictly related to the van but being a Queensland blog, I can’t neglect to mention the devastating floods that have affected much of the state in the last few weeks. And it does explain why progress on the van has stalled recently.

It had rained almost non-stop since November, a trend which continued over Christmas (when we were overseas and facing our own weather dilemmas in the form of blizzards and dysfunctional airports) and, if anything, seemed to intensify in the new year. Brisbane rain can be fairly ferocious so we hardly even left the house some weekends. Last Monday there was flash flooding at the train station, and I had to roll my trousers up to wade to the platform. Suede pumps were not the best choice of footwear that day.

And yet, despite this, we still had no inkling when we arrived at work last Tuesday that we’d be evacuated within a couple of hours. This is the wet season after all. But our office block is opposite the Brisbane River, which was rising quickly and threatening to burst its bank that afternoon. It all suddenly felt quite dramatic as people crammed onto the usually empty 11am train out of the city to check their homes / round up cattle and, in many ways, to make the most of half a day off. Because I don’t think we realised at that stage how quickly it would escalate into something so prolonged and catastrophic. By the time I got home, most TV channels had constant news coverage – which then continued for several days.

Brisbane river suburbs (Brisbanetimes.com.au)

 

Riverside apartments (Brisbanetimes.com.au)

Thankfully we live well away from the river and at no risk of flooding. Of course, thousands of people living in the inner Brisbane suburbs and out west in Ipswich, Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley were not so lucky. Sadly, there have so far been 20 deaths with more people still missing, and billions of dollars’ worth of damage. The enormous clean-up effort has now started and has seen thousands of volunteers turn out to help – the community spirit has been immense.

Paul returned to work  last Friday, but  my office block is not due to reopen til 24th January due to extensive flooding around the electrics in the basement.

Central business district (Brisbanetimes.com.au)

 

Usually the prospect of two weeks off work would be fairly appealing, but it’s been a strange time. We registered for the volunteer effort straight away, but they have been so inundated (no pun intended) with people offering help, we haven’t been contacted yet. Living 30km outside the city also means we can’t just walk out with a mop and bucket and get stuck in (although I did drive into the city yesterday to try just this and felt a little conspicuous walking around a neighbourhood I didn’t know with my broom!) So we’ve offered support to friends where we can, and will turn out for the community clean-up day on Sunday. In the meantime, we’ve tried to stay cool (because the sun has finally appeared and it is roasting!) and keep busy at home. Somehow, just relaxing outside with a book hasn’t seemed right when people just down the road are still sweeping mud out of their homes, so, in sympathy I suppose, I’ve cleaned the house from top to bottom (I felt that should even include the oven), decluttered the wardrobes, sorted through 3 years worth of uni papers, had a cosmetics audit and a handbag amnesty and taken bags of stuff to Vinnies.  It has been quite therapeutic. By next weekend, most people will have returned to work and I can justify tackling more ‘normal’ activities, like focusing back on the van. And maybe lying in the sun for ten minutes.