Still Tweaking!

Like all homes, I’m not sure Molly will ever be “finished”. We potter and shuffle and think of new things all the time. We’ve also been living out of suitcases for three months across five countries on both sides of the equator so we’re carrying some extra baggage. Some of it’s bulky (like Hitches travel bag which uses up half of Molly’s storage under the seats), the rest is smaller but all these extra things add up.

So we keep finding better ways to hide it and store it. Which means constant reshuffling, which can sometimes be interesting (but often boring).

I wanted one of those kitchens for Molly where everything hung on hooks. But in the end having ALL the crockery in a single soft basket seems to be the best solution. One single, non-rattling, non-sliding, soft-but-sturdy bag where if you need anything from a pot to a plate, the kettle or an egg ring, it’s in there:

It travels on the bed so it doesn’t go anywhere when we go over bumps, then sits on the counter when not needed, which is the easiest spot to access anything in it anyway. Then when you open the lid to cook or get some water, the bag moves easily back onto the bed.

Crocheting bags keep me busy as we drive and are going on the kitchen wall hooks instead of the pots. They are fun to make and I’ll show you more soon. They hold the cutlery, glass coffee plunger, glass wine glasses etc.

Oh, and I made a hanging fruit bag too so the fruit doesn’t bounce and get bruised. so today was about settling in to routines.

He makes oat porridge for me in bed each morning which is such a lovely way to start each day. The view never tires as it’s different every morning 😊

And that’s all before even climbing out of bed!

So far Molly is everything we hoped she would be and more. Belgium is absolutely AMAZING in ways I can’t explain! What a fabulous diversion!!

Another fabulous day, though Bertha’s not helping things and today was a particularly bad day 😢

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PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

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Bruges!

I think I’m going to have to post more regularly as things get so out of date so quickly! We woke this morning to a leisurely getaway from Nigel’s house in England, popped into the supermarket for some last minute supplies (more on that later), then drove an hour to Dover, hopped on the ferry, all without me even leaving Molly!

A couple of hours on the ferry with my blanket and hot water bottle and before we knew it we were landing in Calais, drove across the top of France, through to Belgium, and arrived in Bruges by 5pm!

Thanks to our Wild Camping app we’ll be spending the night along this canal in the middle of town. A short walk to the city square, the best waffles I’ve ever had, a local beer for him to enjoy by the canal with the harbour master (& new best friend) and our first night in Europe appears to be quite the success!

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PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

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Wild Camping!

I love many things wild. I think in some other life I’m part wild child, flower child, hippy even … to a point though. I’m not entirely sure where the line is though, but I love nothing more than sleeping under the stars … (except my health won’t allow it). So when I imagined a life in a campervan, I had visions of stars and forests and beautiful vistas… from the comfort of an AMAZING bed! I’ll put it out there now: I have a strong dislike for Caravan Parks. I think they can be fabulous for families and certain life stages, but the idea of another tent or caravan a foot from my door is not the same thing as sleeping in the wild (for me). I want to get away from it all, not have to listen to next door neighbour’s movies, drunken stories, children running around at 5am. I want to read and listen (and watch my own movies of course – but not bother anyone either).

So when I heard of wild camping I was even happier, but my very conservative other half was not so sure. Wild Camping to him sounded like hiding in car parks for the night and the police knocking on the window at 3am telling us to move on. I admit, I thought there’d be some of that too, which I don’t like, but I also thought of forests and beaches more.

But it turns out that it’s the best of all of that! Running country pubs and farms across the UK (and Europe) is expensive these days and there aren’t enough chimneys in any one village to support them any more. So they need to attract people from further afield. It turns out that most pubs in the UK are allowed up to three campers overnight in their car park. So why not bring in three extra van loads of people and in exchange for a clean loo, a place to park (often with a stunning view of farmland or rivers etc) they have their beer or even a meal, in your pub (or buy some of your apples).

Some farmers and publicans have taken it a step further and provide showers, clean drinking water to fill up tanks, others go even further and ask a small fee of just a few pounds for even more including electricity and more formal sites. There’s a whole world out there of campers, sites you would never know exist, fields, orchards, river banks…. with kind, informative, friendly fellow travellers and all the open sky, privacy, and room you could ask for, and much of it almost free!

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PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

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Trial Run.

It took till Friday (yesterday) to set off on our first “trial run”. We hadn’t decided to do one as such but this past week has been one of regrouping in more ways than one. He spent days researching security options for Hitch, much of which needed ordering online, and then we needed to wait, install, practice, fiddle, discuss, and so on.

Our dear hosts Nigel & Michelle were very patient with us, and poor Nigel came down with the flu. The autumn winds settled in at about the same time, and there was much work to catch up anyway (editing for me and schoolwork for him), so as they did their thing we hunkered down, battened down the hatches, and created a whole new level of relative security; light sensors, heavy chains, bike cover, and even a security camera.

We still jump a little when someone passes Molly a little close, …or a leaf rustles, but I guess that’ll pass in time.

We hope we didn’t overstay our welcome, but Cat didn’t appear to want us to leave which was heartwarming!

So with Hitch secured nicely to his spot on Molly’s back and round one of the renovations complete, we hit the road yesterday and made for the south coast and the British cousins.

A quick camping shop stop at the very end of the British camping season was a brilliant last thought idea which yielded 2 camping chairs, some melamine crockery which looks like gorgeous pottery, and a much-needed kettle. It wasn’t quite the colour I’d choose normally but it does look better in real life and I quite like it. I’m looking forward to trying it.

Twenty-four hours with the cousins in their gorgeous cottage finished off the week perfectly. Molly and Hitch were very happy on the level street out front, and we slept like logs. We also forgot to take people photos there was so much talking to be done.

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Apple Crumble with the last of the apples from their own tree rounded off the week perfectly.

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PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

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Upgrade Mark 2

So Molly started out life as a commercial vehicle. @VanscapeLtd found her for us, stripped the insides, and built a basic fit-out. This was done from afar and constituted her first upgrade. We chose Vanscape mainly because their fit-out has a full sized double bed option which could potentially be a game changer for me. Believe me, this is a rare thing in the camping world, and they did an amazing job. I elected to have some of the doors not fitted, as my bed will be an almost permanent set up and I won’t be able to open them with the bedding on.

We collected her on Wednesday, then on Friday drove to good friend Nigel’s for a few days of R&R and upgrade round two.

I would have preferred no window here behind the driver side, as it’s not really needed and the alternative for me would have been a kitchen wall. But I didn’t have a choice, this was the right van to get, and it came with a window here. So, as soon as we got to Nigel’s, I locked it shut, put up its thermal blinds, and asked Nigel for his thoughts on a backing board.

Low and behold, he produced a gorgeous piece of blonde plywood from the corner of his amazing garage, and over a good many hours of very careful work, we (mostly Nigel actually) produced this:

I’d arrived prepared with some basic fittings from IKEA, and the kitchen really started to take shape on day two, despite the rather stressful night in between!

Nigel’s such a patient man! But also a truth speaker like myself, so he very kindly worked with me and my ideas but said NO when they got out of hand somewhat, …and lovingly suggested alternatives which produced these gorgeous copper “towel racks” on the high cupboards:

I’ve still got a long way to go to finish Molly’s fit out, but in the meantime, I’m very happy with the progress so far!

There’s a fine line between the kitchen on the left and my “Office”/bed on the right, but I’m trying to keep them a little bit distinctive. More photos to come as we tweak again…

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PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

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STOP! THIEF!!

That’s not quite what I thought I’d shout if I caught someone stealing, especially 6 inches from my toes, on the other side of the glass, but I like to think I’d scream something! But nope, at 1am when I awoke to a couple of cartoon type cat burglars trying to steal Hitch from the back of Molly, I just angrily bashed my knuckles on the window!!

Thankfully, both criminals, dressed completely in black (were those beanies or balaclavas?), got such a fright they ran! I watched them run all the way down the road and around the bend, as fast as their legs could carry them!!

I took this photo only about 8hrs before the incident, just as the sun was setting, as the men did their thing and admired both Hitch and his perch (super strong bike rack that cost a bomb from Thule; “Look how clever this bit is”, “check this fancy doo-dad”, “ooo I love that feature…” and so on…

I wasn’t entirely convinced. It looked too simple to me. I worried over the last few days that someone would take a liking to Hitch and either steal him or damage him trying to.

He’s no ordinary bike you see, he’s the result of years of love and dreams and plans and experiments. He’s very, very special to him, and while I roll my eyes, I also know the importance of this relationship.

He’s not happy I’ve named his bike, and I didn’t mean to, but once we picked up Molly, named her, and the bike was firmly attached to the back, that was it! Every view of or from the back window has Hitch in it:

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He’s hitched a ride on each of the seven international or cross-continental flights we’ve taken over the last 10 weeks. He’s a pain in the butt like you can’t believe! The bag is huge, fragile, uses up a good chunk (if not all) his baggage weight allowance and the helmet, shoes etc eat into much of mine. We’re one of those rare couples where the wife gets the leftover baggage space and the husband uses up most of it.

I rarely see my own bags loaded on or off a plane but so often we see the bike bag because it has to be loaded separately.

Here are Hitch and his bike bag from the plane both in Rome and London in the past couple of weeks.

So many times the poor wheelchair pusher sits & waits with me as he frantically searches (in a panic usually) for this monster of a bag when everything else is unloaded and it’s nowhere to be seen.

When someone hitches a ride… well, it’s such a pain. So Molly and Hitch are now the team, our wheels for the coming 6-week journey from Devon to Malta through Spain, France and Italy, and now we nearly lost Hitch because he brags, he thinks he’s special and stands out just a little bit.

I haven’t even taken a proper photo of Hitch on the back of Molly yet. Last night was night 4 in the UK and therefore Molly, and night two at our dear friend’s home. The guys had don’t all the fancy checks of the new Thule bike rack that was supposed to be super safe. This is the top part of the bike rack which has a lock and huge grip and nothing can be broken. It’s the secure part. It bolts to the middle of the frame of the bike.

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Then just to keep it from falling off, each wheel sits on the railing across the bottom of the rack and is held in place with a simple yet strong rubber tie. At the bottom of this picture, you can see the buckle. It has no lock.

At about 1am I awoke with a fright at a metal on metal sound not unlike bolt cutters cutting through bike spokes or a lock. Before I was awake I flew to the foot of the bed and pulled back the blinds. Hitch was there as always and there was no one to be seen. But I had a really bad feeling and my heart was racing. I felt hot too, so I stood on the bed and opened the side window in the raised roof. He lay sleeping beside me and didn’t even flinch as I bothered and moved about.

I lay down and eventually I must have drifted off to sleep because the next thing I knew, the exact same thing happened; I flew out of bed to the bottom of the bed and pulled back the blinds, convinced someone was stealing Hitch.

But this time I saw two men, completely dressed in black, pulling and cutting away at the bike. Stupidly, I didn’t say a word, I just panicked and bashed on the window. Thankfully, that they ran, and the way the road unwinds down the hill, allowed me to see them all the way to the bottom and far away. I grabbed the sleeping body beside and shouted “They’re trying to steal your bike!!

I had visions of all kinds of damage, and in the drunken stupor of panic at being awoken from the dead, he fumbled for clothes and shoes and keys and whatnot and raced outside. We were seconds away from losing Hitch. The unbreakable Thule lock was off completely, and of the two straps at the bottom, one was completely hacked off, and the other was about halfway there.

The irony of it all is, once they’d beaten the “bulletproof” top bit, all they had to do was open the buckles (yellow arrow) at the bottom of each wheel in 2 seconds, and the bike would’ve been theirs. But stupidly, and ever so thankfully, they’d spent anywhere up to twenty minutes hacking through the straps (green) instead, and it was this snipping and twisting and pulling which alerted me to their presence!

 

He gathered up the bits and put Hitch safely in the garage, but our hearts were pounding and we really were too afraid to simply roll over and go to sleep again! Are you kidding? So he locked up the garage while our fabulous guests slept, made us each a cup of tea, and we sat in bed with the blinds open, watching for the bad guys to return.

It seems silly in daylight but in the dark of night, our hearts racing, we couldn’t think straight.

“Are we in danger?”

“Are they coming back?”

In the end, we realised the Police were the best option for all kinds of reasons. This is a dead end street and we already watched a car drive slowly by… were they watching and waiting for us to go back to sleep? Police would show we are serious and that there’s a presence around. So we called 999, gave all our details to the operator, and two of Britain’s finest showed up thirty minutes later.

They were really supportive and kind. We’re pretty sure the bad guys won’t get caught. I was awake for about 3 hours, today I’m absolutely exhausted and my knuckles are bruised, swollen and very, very sore.

In the light of morning, I kid you not, all there was no evidence other than the broken bike rack, but the cat had left these perfect cat prints…. It’s been sunny all day and as we head for bed again, they’re still there….

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

Main email group:
Team Tortoise:
Team Hare:
The Editing Team:

Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

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@JPeaSmith

The Bit I Hate!

savingpng-5All I want to do is write, and read, and have conversations over tea. I don’t want to edit, or gather up support, or beg people to sign up or share or get involved in interviews.

When I open my email to find requests to write for The Mighty or the EDS Society, or to feature somewhere (watch this space, there are a few those coming up), I love it! They’ve come to me, they know what they want and need, and they choose to have me there. But when one of my books come out (this is my second), I need to take time away from editing (which I also don’t love), and write emails, and write posts, and beg… it’s awful!

In the “olden days” Publishers would do that for you. Now even with the most important publishers, should you get a contract, built into that contract is how much you also have to do your own legwork, gather your own support, and build your own team. Ugh!

So this week I’ve hidden from most of it by doing the other important work of editing, editing, and more editing… and playing with paints, pens, and voila! I have two brand new book covers!

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PS: I maybe shouldn’t have made it sound that easy! There’re four weeks of work in those babies!

PPS: If you’d like to sign on anyway, and get involved, sign on for one or more of the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

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