in the very beginning was a scruffy van

I’ve been writing about the missing link in my retirement for about as long as I’ve been writing this blog and that’s quite a long time. I probably should have called the blog the missing link. In case you missed it it’s the idea that my retirement is OK, pretty good even apart, that is, from that one thing that would make it perfect. Pah, you say that cannot happen, it’s just not in the nature of things, in that life, as they say, is not a game of perfect, and certainly, from what we know of you so far, definitely not in your nature to regard your retirement life as all sorted out. Nope. But here I am again writing about that legendary missing link. Why you ask? Well because I might just have found it. Really? No, not really but you never know. Let me explain.

Admittedly this is not a new missing link, at least not in the sense that it relates to perhaps the biggest area of dissatisfaction, lack of exotic travel and this, you will recall, as a result of becoming a family of four, half of which are canine. It’s not that they don’t like to fly, they’ve never tried but rather that the cost – about £6,000 to New Zealand, for example, is prohibitive and then some. So we’ve confined our travels to the UK, so far at least. We do OK but the hills are still calling not to mention the valleys, and the beaches and even the cities.

So when the gardening business met an early (although not early enough) demise about a year ago I was left with, among other items, several lawn-mowers, wheelbarrows, strimmers, hedge cutters etc. etc. One of those etcs is a trailer for the back of the Land Rover which at the moment is being used by my farmer neighbour to transport fertiliser I think he said and the other etc is a van, A Vauxhall Vivaro van. For those of you who know their vans it’s quite a big one – Transit size if that helps. No. Ok, let’s just stick with big then, not much smaller than many campervans / mobile homes and larger than some like the classic VW Camper. Anyway the point is, and I’ve already hinted at this in these blogs, I have hit upon a marvellous scheme to supplement our travel portfolio.

Now some friends of ours have bought a brand new campervan for their retirement travel. Only thing is, it cost them £50,000 I think they said and, and this might be the point, I don’t know, but they don’t know whether they are going to like / use the vehicle. Are they really camp site people? The last time we saw them we asked and the answer was clear – we don’t know, too early to say. And that’s fair enough but not for us.

First up we don’t have £50K to spend and if I did being the somewhat dull person I am I am not going to risk all that money on a venture we very well might not like. So the perfect solution, convert the van we already have into, first of all, a very modest version of a campervan – very, very modest by comparison. I’m not quite sure what started me off on this project as I shall call it, this week but something did. My first tentative step along what might be a long journey even if the van doesn’t move much, was to order 3 sheets of plywood from the local timber yard with the intention of reflooring the floor. The plywood that is in there had taken a big battering from the gardening business. So that is the first job. Mrs Summerhouse is outside making a template for the cutting (she used to do things like this at college as part of her fashion design course – pattern making I believe it is called) of the plywood.

The cutting of plywood gave me the perfect excuse to buy another boy toy – a jigsaw. It cost quite a lot of money and didn’t even come with a battery, so it must be good. So far I’ve used to make a shelf for the cooking stove so it can be attached to the back door where Mrs SM (I mean whoever doing the cooking) can easily reach it. It’s well up to my usual standard of craftsmanship, i.e. it’s crap but cheap because I used bits of wood I’d saved for just such a venture. Bear in mind economy is everything in this project. Yes, I know the jigsaw was expensive but I can use that again – honest.

And talking of using things again, another positive of this scheme is that we already have quite a lot of camping equipment from our ill-fated back of the Land Rover tent adventure. We spent quite a lot of money although not fifty grand, on this project and spent precisely one night under that expensive canvas. But this means we have actually two camping stoves, two tables, four chairs, an air mattress, two sleeping bags and of course the tent itself that might, just might fit on the side of the van as an awning. I’ve been studying campsites and that’s what people do when they have vans, like ours.

So we’re going to keep it very cheap and cheerful to begin with. True I’ve already bought on-line (not arrived yet) a portable toilet. We won’t use it for number twos but the thought of having to get out of the van in the middle of the night – several times on a bad night – just doesn’t bear thinking about. Just number ones then. So apart from the plywood and the jigsaw and some shelving brackets, that’s it. We already have tins of primer for the inside which was something I started doing yesterday. So cheap*.

True, again, if I commit to buying a reversible / rotating twin passenger seat at nearly £300 then we’re into serious money but before I do that I have to remove the bulkhead and for that I need a special tool. Machine Mart here I come. I’ve got the special tool, it fell to bits – twice so not so special. After mucho blood, sweat and tears I’ve now removed the bulkhead. It wasn’t easy but at least the van is now on the way to its reincarnation. Watch this space.

*As well as the special tool I’ve also bought another drill (a man can never have too many drills) and a socket set and ratchet thing so not quite so cheap as it was.


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