The Simple Things

Last night I received a picture from Emma at The Gift Shed with a message telling me that I might want to go and buy a copy of The Simple Things Magazine :

The Simple Things Magazine Issue 13 with pictures of Splitscreen Campervan noses.

Issue 13 has a feature on camper vans, and the accompanying photo feature contains one or two very familiar looking noses, including our very own Ruby:

The Simple Things Magazine Issue 13 with pictures of Splitscreen Campervan noses.

Original photograph copyright Tim Gainey/Alamy.

Turns out that when Ruby and other vans from the SSVC were lined up at Stanford Hall, they were immortalised on film.

The article gives a potted history of the VW Transporter, prompted by the news that Brazilian bays will soon no longer be produced and has some nice photos to accompany.

It does suggest that splitty owners are elitist wankers who look down on drivers of newer VWs (this maybe happens a bit, but I will wave to *anyone* in the van, and don’t think we’re better than anyone else just because we have a split, but I personally would rather have a split than any other van, whereas I know people who feel the same way about bays) and that we all sneer at T25s (nope, love me a good Wedge) and Brazilian bays (again, no sneering, but not my cup of tea). But it also explains about Westies and Sambas for those who might not know (which included me 6 months ago!) and that love you end up developing for a large brick-shaped vehicle that uses up all your money.

Yes, we talk to our van. I say goodnight when we’ve put her cover on her. We pat her dashboard when she starts first time, or manages to get up a hill, like a clever puppy, and she will never, ever fail to make me smile, even when we’re jacking her up for the 3rd time in two days to hit her starter motor with a lump hammer. Everyone deserves something that makes them feel like that, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a barndoor, hi-top, samba, bay, wedge, T4 or T5, shiny show winner with lots of windows and chrome or a ratty panel van. Your van will always be the best, because it’s yours.

The Simple Things  issue 13 is available in supermarkets and WHSmith now. Unless you live in East Lancashire, where I would abandon all hope of finding a copy in Asda. Although somehow I walked out with this month’s VW Camper and Bus instead, which is no bad thing.

All opinions are my own. I have not been paid to write about The Simple Things, although if they wanted to give us a copy of that picture of Ruby’s nose for saying nice things, I wouldn’t complain.

First time reader?

Hello to anyone who might have just recently come across the blog, perhaps because they’ve just been given a wedding thank you with the web address on:

Photograph of a wedding invitation with wedding photographs and pictures of a red and yellow splitscreen campervan

So now you can see what we’re up to! Leave us a comment and say hello!

Wedding photos by the amazing and wonderful Susie Forster. Van photos by me, thank you cards from Vistaprint.  As always, all opinions are my own, and I haven’t been paid for any of them.

Dubs at the Castle July 2013

On Friday 19th July, Custard graduated from Edge Hill University with a Postgraduate Certificate in Specialist Primary Mathematics. Smarty pants. I also decided that I would like to travel to my graduation in Ruby, and then go to a VW show afterwards.

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We had a choice of two – CumbriaVAG or Dubs at the Castle. I chose DATC, because it was in Wales, and we were starting from near Liverpool, so I figured it wasn’t so far. Please note that my qualification was in Maths, not Geography. When we were 25 miles from Bristol, I realised how far south South Wales actually is.

Coupled with a two hour standstill on the motorway near Stoke, discovering that the heater is jammed open and pumping scorching hot air into the cab now that Rooobarb has replaced a missing piece of heater pipe in a bid to keep the starter motor cooler – oh yeah, the starter is still overheating, meaning that we daren’t turn the engine off whilst sitting still on the M6, as we know it won’t start again. Air-cooled engines don’t like not moving – the air-cooling bit doesn’t work so well.

By the time we stopped at Michael Wood Services 5 hours later, we could actually wring our clothes out, but decided a nice iced coffee from Starbucks would keep us awake enough for the remainder of the journey, and cool us down. The news that the ice machine was broken was actually met with an audible whimper from me (dairy intolerant, can’t drink the canned coffee from the fridge) and it was two very dejected campers who trudged back to the van to continue on our journey.

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The view from the Severn Bridge was pretty epic at sunset, but that did then mean we were trying to find Caldicot Castle in the dark. And the Sat Nav took us to the middle of a housing estate. And then I couldn’t get mobile phone signal to try and look for better directions. Rooobarb threatened to turn round and drive home at this point. We found the castle at around 10pm – I’d had a frantic Facebook conversation with the organisers the night before about what time we could turn up until, and they kindly said they’d keep the gate open until 11pm if needs be.

We were waved onto site, and told to follow the other vans, and that there would be marshalls around to point us in the right direction. Yeah, there weren’t. And in the dark, it was really hard to find a pitch that the van could actually fit into. And driving a lowered van around wobbly rough fields is no fun. I was now using my special “talking to children who have got very upset and are about to completely lose the plot” voice, perfected during many years of teaching, to placate Rooobarb. We stuck the van next to someone else’s pitch and hoped for the best, gave up on any notion of putting the awning up, stuffed all our crap in the front of the van and went to bed.

We woke up in the morning to this view:

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And were mightily relieved to find that we hadn’t actually parked in a dog toilet the night before.

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Although we did have to roll the van forward 6 feet to avoid a giant hole in the ground right next to the cargo doors.

Before our neighbours woke up, we had got the awning up and cooked breakfast. Marvellous. Things were looking a lot rosier after a good night’s sleep and a cooked brekkie!

We went off for a wander around the show – and were very pleased to find that despite driving for 73 gajillion miles* after getting on site, we were actually reasonably close to the main arena, having gone around in a bit of a circle.

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Splitscreen icecream – utterly delicious!

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Camper Coffee Co. – Rooobarb declared this the best coffee he’d ever tasted.

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Early Bay display.

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Autojumble.

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Tempting!

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And if there weren’t enough things to look at in the show and trade fields, there was the superb setting of the castle to explore.

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The Saturday night entertainment was superb, with great bands, and ample refreshment provided by the Welsh Cider Wagon.

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Sunday morning brought the Show and Shine:

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And then we had a quiet and sunny journey back, with a brief stop near home for coffee and fuel, involving a “jack it and whack it” starter motor related pit stop, and we met some people with a Bay, who were similarly chuffed to get their van restarted after filling up!

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It was a great weekend, and a good show, although a show guide given out at the gate would have meant we would have had a better idea of what was going on. Also, it was a very long way away, but that can only be blamed on my appalling geography! Definitely worth a visit if you are nearby.

Limebug Open Day July 2013

Those lovely people at Limebug had an open day, with hot dogs, a show and shine and, of course, the opportunity to peruse and buy from the Limebug shop. The sun was shining, so it would have been rude not to. It was also Ruby’s first appearance in a show and shine line up, and it was nice to stand back and listen to people saying nice things about her, and in some instances pose to have their photos taken with her!

The pictures speak for themselves really:

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Camper Jam 2013

When going through the VW show calendar for the year, we saw Camper Jam and figured it might be good for a laugh, and wasn’t too far away. I can safely say that the show was the highlight of our summer so far. I’m hoping another show will top it, just because if something can be better than that, I will be a very happy camper!

Rooobarb picked me up from work on Friday afternoon, everyone cooed over the van (apart from 9 year old boy who hadn’t been collected yet. 9 year old boys are hard to impress.) and we set off, stereo blaring, sunshine blazing. All good. We were most amused that the blue and white split that I’d taken to stalking along the M65 was two cars ahead of us as we left Accrington, but he left us for dust on the motorway!

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We got to Sandbach services, and decided to stop for a comfort break. I wander back out to the van, considerably more comfortable, Rooobarb goes to turn the engine over, and nowt. Nada, zip, zilch. I experience a wave of panic, given that our last starter motor induced troubles involved a call out for the RAC and a fraught journey to Accrington but Rooobarb kept his cool, jacked the van up and used the conveniently stashed lump hammer to give the starter motor a wee tap whilst I turned the key. One tap, and success! We were on our way again, after about 20 minutes spent fannying about with the jack.

We could tell when we were getting closer to Weston Park, as we began to join in impromptu convoys:

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We arrived in good time, found a place to camp, met up with Sarah from VW Camper Curtains to collect our lovely new cushions and curtains (more on those later) and the nice man from Lightning Leisure who had some replacement awning clips for us, ours having been put in a really safe place. I put the new curtains up, whilst Rooobarb got the awning clips and somehow managed to come back with some Mooneyes dust caps from Limebug as well and then we put the awning up. This was our first go of the awning for real, and it went up a treat. I decide to celebrate:2013-07-05 19.57.04

Whilst laying in the awning celebrating, I hear a voice say “There’s stalking, and there’s stalking, this is getting daft!” and lo and behold, I finally meet Sean, the driver of the blue splitty, who has pitched up about 20 feet away from us! We had a bit of a chat about the buses, and no mention of a restraining order was made. All good.

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If nothing else, this was great, because someone in that group had put up a Lancashire Rose flag, which gave us something to aim towards when we were trying to find Ruby!

Dinner was cooked (already we’re faring better than we did at Vicky Farm, as we have an awning, hot food and have not had to bugger about in the dark trying to get stuff sorted) and then it was off to bed, whilst listening to the Grease tribute band sing through their set. Twice.

We awoke the next morning to bright blue skies again (seriously, I ended up putting my sunglasses on to go wandering in search of a loo) and after a cooked breakfast, we ambled off to the ukulele workshop, led by the Bridgnorth Ukulele Band. This was brilliant fun! Lots of people playing simple tunes on ukes together:

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They ran several workshops during the weekend, culminating in a huge performance on the Sunday. Their site has lots of easy to play songs available to download, for free. Hurrah!

After that, it was off for a wander round the food stalls:

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The Green Bay Cafe

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Chilli Gone Barmy

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Lulabelles

And then a mooch around the copious amounts of traders – the website proudly boasted over a mile of trading stands!

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Slightly Sheepish

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Panels

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Spray paint and airbrush artists

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CoolFlo Vintage

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Busmeister VW restorations. That hi-top shell was getting a lot of attention, but it’s not a for sale, it’s a current resto for a client.

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Yes, yes we were!

Sunday was the Show and Shine, and there were plenty of wonderful things to look at:

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Now that’s patina!

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI loved everything about this van.

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This Devon Moonraker was all original.

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Betty Blue made another appearance.

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWe like stickers. Everyone knows that each sticker adds 1BHP.

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A Dirty Weekender Adventure Van

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See you next year Camper Jam!

 

Deva Dubs and Rods

We took a day trip to Shrewsbury in the car to look at some dubs. The weather was scorching, and it was a bit expensive for a day ticket given the traders who were there, in my opinion, but a good day was had nonetheless! Gutted that we missed out on Rocky Horror themed partying the night before though.

Lots of lovely Beetles to look at:

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And some that really displayed their owner’s tastes:

The MK. 1 Golf Owners Club had some cars that were very much to Rooobarb’s taste:

As well as some more modern VWs:

And of course a collection of air-cooled vans:




And some special guests made a flying visit!

Yeah!

The Rise and Fall of Ruby Woo

So, after buying Ruby, we asked around on the SSVC forum to see if anyone knew her. After all, there are a finite amount of splitties in the world, so it stood to reason that someone on the forum might have owned her previously. Also, she came with an SSVC sticker in the windscreen, so we knew her previous owners had been members.

We soon had a message from Glenn, who bought her in 1994:

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He told us: “I bought the van in 94 from Spencer Ballis, it had suffered from a 70’s camper conversion complete with devon pop top and long bay window style windows, so that lot was first on the list to go, Spencer kindly had the gear box with the reduction boxes re-built before I bought it, I bolted up a Kadron equipped 1641, lowered it on polished Porsche Fuchs and tooled around it it for the next few years.”

Here’s another picture of her at Run to the Sun in 1997:

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And more photos with friends’ buses from around 1986-87:

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This picture shows the reason for Ruby’s previous name – The Mambo Bus!

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Ruby with pop top, and the owners of the bus behind her also came and said hello in our thread.

As well as asking on the forum, I also wrote a letter to Marc, who restored the bus and sold her to Pat who we bought her from. We were made up to get a reply from Marc and Nikki, who sent us some brilliant photos of her restoration.

Before:

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She was in need of some TLC. Well, welding actually. Lots of welding.

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All stripped down and ready for rubbing:

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Rusty parts cut away:

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New parts welded into place:

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In primer:

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Being resprayed:

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Gearbox:

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Steering rack and bits:

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Engine:

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So, wow! In some ways she has changed so much, but in other ways, she is recognisable straight away as the same bus. We’d love to see photographs of her in her earlier days. We’ve contacted the DVLA to see what other information we can find about her. We know from her M Plate that she was due to roll off the factory line on 14th February 1967, was light gray and was destined for Ramsgate. She was first registered in the UK in March 1967. I wonder what she did before she became a camper?

Do you have a bus with an interesting past?

Are you one of Ruby’s former owners?

Let us know in the comments!

Stanford Hall 2013

Malc over at Bandwagen has really captured the feel of Stanford Hall in these photos. Great blog.

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On Sunday Alison and I made our way over Stanford Hall for this year’s annual show which is organised by the Leicestershire and Warwickshire Volkswagen Owners club. I usually take my beetle to display in the Historic VW line-up but, this year we decided to bring my Audi A3. Last year’s show was one of many which fell fowl of the appalling weather being postponed to later in the year. By the time we got to Stanford Hall, at about 10.30 am, the show was in full swing and looked to be busier than ever!

There were lots of great VWs for sale including some nice, early stock examples, along with the lowered and custom cars which are always in plentiful supply. One of several which caught our attention was a very straight and original split screen pick-up which was a fresh import from Ohio in the US.

The concourse…

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Shining Star

Unfortunately, because of the aforementioned starter motor issues, we didn’t get to shine Ruby up the way we’d hoped. However, when we got back from Stanford Hall on the Bank Holiday Monday, we had a few hours before she needed to be back in the garage, during which Rooobarb got handy with a range of Autoglym products and some muscle.

Rooobarb’s guide to making a shiny:

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First of all, jetwash the van to get all the dust and road dirt off.

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Whilst still at the jetwash, use hot shampoo and then rinse again with clean water.

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Then use Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner with some kind of microfibre wash pad to rub each panel down and remove any stubborn dirt.

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Then, using clean water and a clean pad, rinse the shampoo off.

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Once you’ve done that, use a Meguiars Microfibre Drying Towel to dry the van off.

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Then, the fun begins.

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Apply a coat of Autoglym Resin Polish, following the instructions on the back of the bottle carefully; start with small circles and finish with longer straight lines to prevent swirl marks. Leave to dry and then buff off with a microfibre cloth. Do this twice.

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Now, using Autoglym Extra Gloss Protection and a microfibre applicator pad, apply the sealant to each panel and allow to dry (which takes about 30 minutes, weather dependent). Buff off, using another clean cloth.

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Next – to the windows! Apply Autoglym Fast Glass with a microfibre cloth or kitchen towel, allow to dry for a few moments and take off with a clean cloth. Do this both inside and out. If you and your camper buddy do this at the same time, you can also amuse yourselves by pulling faces through the windows, and spot bits that the other person has missed. Don’t forget to do your mirrors too.

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There are many products out there that are designed for cleaning car interiors. Custard is a big fan of Pledge Wipes as you don’t have to wash a duster out afterwards, and they smell very nice. Ruby smells lovely inside whenever you get in her, thanks to Custard’s overzealous wiping of every flat surface.

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For upholstery, we both recommend Autoglym Interior Shampoo, applied with a nail brush, then wiped away with another microfibre cloth. Ruby’s vinyl came up a lovely bright cream after a bit of attention with a nailbrush, and the cloths came away filthy as it brought out years of camping grime.

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A neighbour came out and offered to treat our tyres, and discussed the best way to renovate Ruby’s tired alloys. Watch this space.

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Finally, climb in, go a for a cruise and enjoy all the admiring glances!

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(Warning, your shiny van may now attract people who want to kiss it, as it is so gorgeous.)

Retailers have apparently reported a marked increase in the amount of car detailing products sold over the past two years, with Halfords noting a 70% increase the amount of specialised cleaning products they sell. Some of this is put down to people keeping their cars for longer, so wanting to keep them looking good, as well as wider availability of specialist products online.

This clip from You and Yours, originally broadcast on Radio 4 on 20th May 2013, explores the world of car detailing and meets some of the people who love to keep their cars looking like they’re about to enter a Show and Shine.

How do you get your van looking shiny? Let us know in the comments!

All opinions are my own. I was not paid for any mentions of products. I just really like Autoglym, Meguiars and Pledge Wipes. Clean freak.

Stanford Hall 2013

We arrived at the Hall, parked up with the SSVC display and then went for a good look around:

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Starter motors – seen enough of them this weekend!

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We were blessed with sunshine, and after a wander, went back to the bus for a cheese and ham sandwich (so good!) and a pint of cider:

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We made a few purchases, including an awning to replace the ill-fated gazebo, a purple bay magnet for a friend, a new shiny VW badge keyring and an ammo box and stickers:

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Which has become the new storage container for our food in the van. This weekend was somewhat of an experiment – finding out what worked for us in terms of storage and what we needed to take with us. The first night was a real revelation for us – the van was absolutely packed with stuff and we had nowhere to put it. If we’d had an awning, I think things would have been much easier. Also, the awning would have hopefully been easier to put up, and more resilient than the gazebo. We also decided that modular storage would work better for us than random carrier bags full of food and clothes. Hence the suitcases, the cooler and the ammo box. It looks neater and it’s easier to pack things in the van with less gaps.

We were also foiled by the weather – I packed for cold – jumpers and DMs, and ended up in a vest top and flip flops – with sunburn. So I think next time I would pack for all eventualities, but not so much. Did I need three jumpers? Probably not. Did I need suncream? YES.

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Since Stanford, our awning has arrived, which will make storage and cooking much easier. The rain and wind on Friday night and Saturday morning meant that we didn’t cook – as we don’t want to cook inside the van and make it greasy and smelly. This meant that we were both very hungry and grumpy! Also, getting changed inside the van was possible, but did require some acts of contortion, and taking it in turns.

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New awning!

The awning seems massive – but hopefully when in a field rather than a school hall, perhaps not so much. Since Stanford, Ruby has also had her rightful start motor refitted, and new window seals from Custom and Commercial, which will with any luck mean that the rain stays outside where it belongs!

Alas, our campervantures over the next few weeks will be sadly limited – Rooobarb has just had his cruciate ligament reconstructed – so no driving or camping for him for a while. Hopefully though, the sunshine will manage to overcome the inclement weather (I got hailstoned on during the school summer term charity jog for goodness sake!) and this summer will be one of sunshine, good tunes, sunny evenings, cooking outdoors and, of course, cider.