No, no MOT just yet but we are so very nearly there! Who else is tired of hearing me saying that? I know I am! But today Adrian was finally able to get the levelling done on the bus so fingers crossed it is ready for the MOT!

We had a panic a couple of weeks ago. We made the decision that we must be in Spain by my birthday (6 March – 35 – f***k). Adrian thought it might be a good idea to check what the ferry bookings were looking like, how far in advance we could book, if it was a 2 week wait or 3 week wait etc. We checked. No ferries to Spain until March 17th! We hadn’t planned to drive through France as, in all honesty, driving isn’t Adrian’s favourite past time! But we did find a ferry that goes to St Malo in France, which is only 7 hours 20 minutes to San Sebastian, the first major city in Spain we would be aiming for. Looking at the tolls and diesel costs it will probably be about the same as getting the ferry to Spain or maybe even a little cheaper. So panic over, we have a plan. Those ferries don’t seem to be booked up so we should be able to get one pretty easily. Phew!

But in actual fact we may not be in Spain by my birthday but we should have certainly left Essex by then. We are hoping to visit some friends on the way, in Portsmouth and possibly the Isle of Wight. But we are going to have to play it all by ear.

What else? Whilst we have been waiting for the weather to improve a bit so Adrian could get under the bus to sort the levelling and one of the waste tanks (e.g. no gailforce winds/ snow/ torrential rain), he got the generator sorted and a number of snagging bits inside the bus. Our fan is back up (forward thinking to hot summer days), plus a little bit of edging all around the kitchen and living quarters that has made everything look super neat.

And the weather has calmed down. The sunshine today has been great – it feels like spring is coming, everything seems lighter, brighter and more optimistic. Don’t you think?

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So, here we are at the beginning of February. And here I am writing another post just over two weeks since the last – progress!

Milo the bus with an early moon rising in the background.

How does time go so fast? Adrian and I realised it was two and a half years since our last holiday to Spain. Well, proper holiday. We did have a couple of days in Alicante, in January 2017, which was lovely. And a week in America when my brother got married in July 2017, but that wasn’t like a proper holiday. September 2016 was when we were last in Northern Spain, driving along the north coast, AirBnB-hopping through Galicia and Asturias. We are really ready for it now.

Frosty mornings coming into the boatyard this week. Luckily for us no snow!

Crazy patterns in the frozen muddy puddles in the boatyard yesterday morning.

The latest list Adrian wrote up on the weekend of the final jobs that need to be done has been quickly diminishing this week. Next Monday he should be driving the bus over to the MOT centre to see if it fits (the bus is quite high and whilst we can take off the cover to the aircon unit on the roof, that’s it, so we will have to wait and see.) If not we have another place we can take it to. Once the MOT is done, we really want to book our ferry. And actually start our next chapter.

It does feel close now though. We had a big family get together at my parents last Sunday which was lovely. It coincided with my mum’s birthday weekend which made it extra special. I also caught up with some friends, and Adrian and I together saw some other friends and their children, plus we visited my grandma who I hadn’t seen since last summer. I feel like we are doing the final rounds of seeing people before we go now. I still have even more people to catch up with but I should be doing that in the next couple of weeks. By then surely we should have a date? Who knows.

People always ask me if I am excited and now my answer is pretty much a no, just currently, a no. Not because I am not excited at all, but because I spent so long being excited that it fizzled out a bit, but I know it will come back – when we book that ferry, the final few days, the last few bits of preparation, the drive to Portsmouth … that is when it will come back. Adrian was saying how weird it will be when we leave, when we actually drive away from Essex and are heading to get the ferry. We will probably not be able to speak, we might even freak out a bit. What are we doing?! But then, we will get excited all over again and remember the shit days of plumbing and commuting and miserable hours of work. And remember why we are doing this.

It’s been a very quick couple of months since my last post. I feel guilty every time I think about writing – I know I should be but I don’t always have the motivation. I wrote some notes last week but it’s only now I’m wanting to expand on them in this post here!

We didn’t manage to get Milo back on the road until Christmas Eve. So it was about 5 weeks we were off the road, living in the boatyard. Truthfully, it was really hard. We struggled to keep our spirits up but we got through it!

A week or so in to the bus being off the road I saw some cheap flights to New York so decided to book a last minute trip to see my brother, sister-in-law and my new nephew River. I am so, so happy I went. I felt bad going but Adrian insisted I went as really there wasn’t anything I could to help. I think it was the right thing to do- my parents were there at the same time which meant we could all hang out together and I got to meet my beautiful nephew who I fell completely in love with. I miss him now and not sure when I’ll him again!

Just before I returned from New York Adrian messaged me to say that we had a rodent on the bus. Some electrical cables had been chewed through and he had heard some movements late at night so he knew straight away. It was only when he saw the damage he knew it was a rat. Where it had been chewing through the cables, a mouse could have easily passed through (we figured that that’s the only reason they chewed the cables anyway, to be able to pass through). Anyway, we had a plug-in rodent deterrent that’s meant to emit a high frequency sound. Unfortunately, when Adrian plugged it in, it blew up! So, that went in the bin. We ordered one online and also found an app that gives off the same frequency, so ran that on our phones to deter the rodents away. It seemed to work. The new rodent deterrent has arrived now it just needs wiring in. Hopefully we won’t have another rodent chew through that!

Beginning of December also saw the fitting of the wood burner. The absolute joy of this wood burner knows no bounds! It has kept us so warm and toasty in the bus whilst it’s been pretty nippy outside. Average evening temperature is around 18/19 degrees. The coldest we have had outside was about -2, so we are pretty happy we can manage with cold weather! Smokeless coal has been amazing during the night keeping us warm. Our nest of a bed with blankets has also meant we have been super comfy.

As I mentioned earlier we managed to get the bus back on the road on Christmas Eve which was just the best Christmas present we could ask for! We spent the night on the seafront and woke to a beautiful sunrise. We enjoyed a cup of tea and a little wander before heading to Adrian’s parents house to help with cooking Christmas lunch. We had such a lovely chilled Christmas with family and friends. Since then we have hosted a few people on the bus for drinks and for food which has been great fun. We have been pleasantly surprised at how spacious Milo feels with more than just the two of us too, which is great. it really does feel like home now, especially since we have been able to share it with so many of our friends and family.

We are on the final stretch now. The bathroom is finally finished – I even managed to shower last week! I go to the gym most days so usually shower there but Sunday night I showered here and it was amazing! I think Adrian was pretty nervous about it, unsure if I would be happy with it! But it was brilliant. So, sigh of relief from Adrian 😅

Poppers and straps have been going up everywhere securing everything from our outdoor chairs to books, kitchen pots and pans to cupboard doors. I keep saying that Adrian seems to have got a bit strap-happy 😂 I think I’m the only one that finds that funny.

Oh and another absolutely joyful thing to have happened is that finally there are no more warning lights on the dashboard! There were a couple that have been bothering us and really needed to be sorted before we can get the MOT done (I can’t believe how fast that’s come around!) but finally all is fixed so we are super chuffed with that. Couple more bits to do but MOT should be booked in in the next couple of weeks.

And then… maybe at the end of the month we could be booking our ferry? Maybe. We will see. I have learnt not to plan too much or to get my hopes up. But sunshine, warm weather, recuperation time, we need you!

This week we had a bit of a disaster. The air suspension went on the bus as we were driving the bus back to its work station. and one of our underslung grey tanks got yanked half off. As we are working on the bus in a boatyard luckily they had the machinery to help pull it out of where it was literally stuck in the mud and get it back to our spot. This happened the moment it decided to start sleeting on Tuesday. But as the suspension was gone, Adrian wasn’t been able to assess the damage as he couldn’t get under the bus. We had to wait for the Boatyard guy to have some time to help lift it….

And despite wanting to get it done, it’s been so cold I don’t blame Adrian for not wanting to get under the bus. He had a massive fishing suit which he can wear over his work clothes but it’s still bloody cold. It finally got lifted yesterday and we were able to see it’s just one of the air lines and luckily not the suspension air bags. Hopefully it’s not too much work, fingers crossed.

In the meantime we realised the sensible decision was to not leave the UK until after Christmas. Even if it is a small fix what with everything else it will just be too stressful. But it’s ok – I think in a way we are both a bit relieved. Hopefully (ha ha!) the bus will be finished by Christmas and we can enjoy some time off before we go. Anyway, we will just wait and see.

It’s turned super cold here this week and our diesel heater has kept us warm whilst we are working and into the evening, even if it is a bit noisy. Which does mean we can’t have it on at night, so when we woke the other morning it was a cool 5.3 degrees! We are warm in bed but getting up to put the heater on is never a fun task! Adrian’s next priority will be getting the heating sorted – we have central heating, 4 radiators in all, and a wood burner to go in so I think once that’s done we will be pretty toasty!

And now for some brilliant news – my brother and his wife has a baby on Sunday! River Erwin Mistry – he is such a doll and I can’t wait to give him some auntie cuddles! Sadly they live in New York so not sure when that will be. But it will be soon, I can’t wait to meet him!!

Oh and the other most exciting (bus related) thing happened this week despite the drama… we now have hot water! No more boiling the kettle on the stove to wash up! Brilliant.

So ups and downs this week but we have managed to keep our spirits up. We have each other which is all that really counts in the end, right?

On Friday 2nd November, after weeks and months of work we finally moved on to the bus! The night before I stayed at a friend’s house as there were a lot of final bits and pieces Adrian needed to finish up and it was easier if I wasn’t here. That did mean he ended up working until midnight (!), which I felt horribly guilty about, but he got it done. Friday was spent cleaning and tidying and doing some finishing touches. We spent our first night on the road in Westcliff where we used to live (ha!). We had a couple of friends over who had not yet seen the bus and enjoyed an evening of chatting and drinking – it was so fun! The next night we went to our good friends’ annual fireworks party. They live in the countryside near Chelmsford and always have a big bonfire with loads of fireworks. Always a great night, always a late night. Our third night we stayed on the seafront, which was brilliant. Adrian got out our new Weber compact BBQ and used the BBQ point on the outside of the bus. I was sceptical about it when he first said he was putting a BBQ point out there, but I have to say, having a gas BBQ that is ready to cook on straight away is bloody marvellous. We do have a small charcoal one we will be taking with us and using, but for a quick set up this was a genius idea.

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We are now almost two weeks in and I have to say it’s been really brilliant. Driving the bus around has made Adrian even more confident with it. (Being a 7.5 tonne vehicle it takes a little getting used to.) It has also given us a chance to see what has worked and what hasn’t, what needs strapping or securing. We had one casualty, a bottle of balsamic vinegar, which came crashing out of the kitchen cupboard when I opened it. But apart from that, we have been pretty lucky.

— Small side note, one other casualty of sorts. A while ago we took the bus to Adrian’s parent’s house as his aunt and uncle were there and were desperate to see the bus. We had an aluminium splashback for the hob which when we drove off down the road suddenly came down with an almighty crash. Adrian stopped the bus and I jumped out off my seat to check the damage. Luckily the sheet had not damaged our beautiful walnut worktop, however the corner of it had made a small dink in the floor. Still, all in all not bad. So I wedged it down the back end of the bus and we carried on driving. We had planned to go to Ikea to get some things for the bus then head on over to Adrian’s parent’s house. When we arrived we had a few bits to unload before the keen viewers boarded. We had a lovely evening with everyone showing off the bus and talking about our plans and adventures to come. It was maybe a few weeks later that we realised we didn’t have the splashback anymore. We racked our brains trying to remember what we had done with it. It finally dawned on us – for some reason when we unloaded the bits and bobs at Adrian’s parents house, we propped up the splashback at the end of the driveway and left it there whilst everything else went inside the house! The next morning when we left, we loaded everything back on to the bus and left, assuming we had everything. Someone must have seen it and thought “Result!” and nabbed it from the front of the driveway. We felt pretty stupid, but hey, it’s just one of those things. We still haven’t replaced it, but I think we have an off cut somewhere we can use! —

So the last week we worked on securing some of the shelves and cupboard doors. Adrian designed a strap buckle for the shelves and had me sewing clips on to them. They look pretty neat and it means that we can strap stuff in when we are moving, but when we are stationery for any longer period of time they can come off completely and be stored away. And the wooden buckles he made look pretty cool. 

We also finally added hooks around the bus. Hooks are any campervan enthusiasts essential! We have hooks in the kitchen under the spice racks for our mugs (and the hessian/ carpet underlay walls are great as there is no rattling of cups when driving), we have hooks at the end of the worktop for our pot holders, hooks behind the passenger seat at high level for coats and hooks by the double doors for hanging a hand towel and dust pan and brush. Endlessly useful, especially as I hate having things lying around! I am pretty sure we have a few more to come…

We also finally got our bin situation sorted. We are pretty serious about composting and recycling and when we get to Spain and set up our place we will certainly be using compost. We are also making a huge effort to reduce our plastic waste and recycle as much as possible. So having the bins in place will be a great help. They are just in between the inside and outside double doors. We may adjust how they are mounted as a board is going up for the wood burner on the other side but for now it works well as they are using dead space and they are out the way.

I managed to have a proper sort out of all our kitchen stuff last week too. We both love to cook and have lots of dry store goods as well as essential cookware kit. As space is limited I had to work hard to fit it all in. I have a feeling the large drawer under our oven might be a bit of a nightmare for Adrian (stacking and playing ‘Tetris’ with things in cupboards or drawers is not his strong point – not that it needs to be with all his other bloody skills!) but I am sure we will manage!

We did have some drama earlier this week – a leak returned to the bus. Right above our bed. We hope this time we have caught it. Adrian slathered half the bus roof in this flexible sealant stuff. We are hoping that sorts it, including the expansion and contractions and any travelling leaks. Fingers crossed.

I saw a good friend of mine this week who mentioned her boyfriend had looked up my blog. It dawned on me as she said this that it had been an embarrassingly long time since I had written anything. As she scolded me, I scolded myself and vowed to write soon. I then saw another friend later the same day who I spoke to about it and he just said, “Put a reminder on your phone, once a week, write a blog post.” So here I am.

Five whole months have gone by since my last post. How did that happen? Can I even begin to recount what has happened in those last five months? Do you want to know? Well, if so, read on. Get comfy, make a cup of tea and settle in as it’s been quite a journey.

Our flat going on the market in June started the ball rolling in saying good bye to it. Little did I know that just over three months later I would be feeling more than a little devastated to say goodbye to it! We sold the flat to a lovely couple from London; they were first time buyers and we were so pleased it went to them. It was so nice knowing that the place we had poured our hearts into (and Adrian had mostly toiled over for the last 7 years) was going to another young couple, just starting out on the property ladder, who were going to enjoy it and love it as much as we did. When the time came to leave, I really felt so sad. It was the longest place I had lived after my childhood home. It was the first place Adrian and I lived together. It was the first place we bought together. It was the first place we built together. It took me a few days to start looking forward again, but those few days when we said goodbye to it, I couldn’t help but look back and reminisce. Interestingly Adrian had the complete opposite reaction! He was relieved, happy and excited to be letting it go. Don’t get me wrong, he loved it as much as I did and it meant a lot to him too. But it was like a burden had been lifted for him. Adrian isn’t one to look back, he definitely likes to look forward. Which is a good thing, and certainly for me, as he pulled me back to the present and the future, of which we do have a lot to be excited about.

Whilst the sale of the flat was going through we had a scorchingly hot summer in Westcliff. July and August were tough. Adrian was working week after week on the bus, not yet ready for me to join him. I wasn’t working and had packed up as much of the flat as I could. I found those two months pretty difficult. Hot, bored, guilty – these were just some of the things i was feeling at the time. I have never not worked before, and I felt so bad that I wasn’t working or helping Adrian on the bus. But it was just at the stage where I really couldn’t help so I just had to leave him to it whilst he got a lot of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ jobs done. I tried to make the most of the time, going to the gym almost daily, cooking nice food for Adrian and brushing up on my Spanish. (Another friend reminded me recently I had lapsed on my Duolingo – totally busted on that one. Really must get back to it…)

 

September saw me finally working on the bus. Over the last two months I have been sanding and painting and sanding and painting. And repeat. Oh and some varnishing. And then more sanding and more varnishing. And a bit more painting. It is hard to get across how there was so much to paint and varnish! Hopefully when we have finished my handiwork will be evident. Adrian has been getting the gas working, building kitchen cabinet doors, fixing the outside hatch for the back of the bus, fixing the back up heater (which is currently the primary heater as the wood burner isn’t in yet) and painting the outside of the bus. It’s amazing how long everything takes. Plus we took a week off in October to move out of the flat which was ridiculous but necessary!

We were luckily enough to be offered somewhere to stay just a few minutes down the road from where we are working at the bus after we left the flat. A women we know has a house nearby and out the back an annexe with a bedroom and bathroom, a kitchen of sorts (no cooking facilities but our little camp stove has been very useful), with washing machine. This has been super handy for us, not to mention a bargain. We have been there for about 3 weeks and although this weekend we should be moving on to the bus (!!!) we will keep renting the annexe for another week or so so we can use the bathroom and washing machine whilst Adrian finishes off the bathroom and the hot water on the bus.

 

So where are we at with the bus? Well, as I said we should be living on there by the weekend. The living area is basically finished, we just need to have a mega clear out and clean up, and finish a few final bits. Then it’s just the hot water and bathroom and wood burner to do. The bathroom is mostly done, so shouldn’t be too bad. Hot water may be a little longer. But we are feeling fairly relaxed and optimistic which is good.

 

And although our original set off date was May and it is now November, we still have not booked our ferry to Spain. We will soon though, so hopefully we get a little bit of warm weather soon. Maybe we will just chase the heat and keep driving south until, we get some. Feel like we need it now!

 

… our flat is on the market. I say ‘just like that’, like it was a quick thing. It really wasn’t. Years of work and months of more work and planning have taken us to this day. I can’t quite believe it is here. But this is it. We are well and truly on our way to building a new life. In all honesty it is pretty scary all of a sudden.

I will back up a bit and fill you in on the last couple months. I left my full-time job at The O2 at the end of April. We celebrated 10 years together, 3 years married in May. I finally got round to changing my name officially to Vickers! I have been selling stuff on Ebay and clearing the flat and we did a boot sale a couple of weeks ago.

Adrian, as ever, has been working hard on the bus, but also on ‘finishing’ the flat. We bought the flat in 2011 – a ‘do-er up-er’, which over the years Adrian has transformed into this home that we love today. When we got it nothing had been decorated  since 1968. Old carpet, old wallpaper, the most ridiculous kitchen set up and layout. Some walls came down, Adrian plastered the entire place (which is a lot, he will tell you), re-painted all the walls, fitted skirting boards, picture rails, made bespoke blinds (!), fixed the electrics, installed a new bathroom and a new kitchen, built a workshop in the garden… And it has basically been finished for ages but those last few little bits, those things you think ‘we’ll get to’, just lingered for a long time. But once we decided we were selling, we knew they had to be done. We whittled down the list to a few essential fixes and last week, Adrian did it. He finished the flat. I helped where I could but I am not gas certified, or a carpenter, or an electrician, etc, etc. But I am pretty handy with a paint brush and roller so basically I did a bit of that.

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The original photos from the brochure when we bought the flat in 2011. Adrian saw it’s potential – needless to say I wasn’t so sure! The price was low and the lease ridiculous (956 years!). But thanks to Adrian’s vision, we got ourselves a right bargain. 
The flat as it is today. 

But it was Adrian who really did it. I can’t really begin to describe what it means. How hard it has been. We have both struggled these last few weeks for various reasons. And it is still going on, but Adrian juggling to finish the last few jobs he had booked in, finishing the flat and doing up the bus, whilst trying to keep a smile on his face was not easy. But he did it. And he is still doing it, and it is all for us. For our future, for what we want to do. And, as I said, it hasn’t been easy, but we have the same vision, so we have worked through it together and supported each other to get to here.

Anyway, I won’t apologise for the soppy post because Adrian deserves recognition and I wanted to dedicate a post to him, because I love him and I think he is amazing.

 

 

 

 

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