The Van!

The beast is finally complete, my first van project is done.

It is entirely "built not bought", not because I'm trying to keep it real, but because the off-the-shelf stuff didn't really work for how I want to use it.

I wanted a side-bed so that the full length of the van would be available for bikes/boards/sheets of plywood. The bed needed to be permanently up, I wanted the stove and sink to be at the rear but not hinder the entry/exit and for everything else to be as simple as possible to keep the van flexible.

It was important that it still worked as a van and I think I've got there. I'm very pleased with it.

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The final steps were done this weekend. I had a fella come round and fit the windows I'd bought and I finally fitted my additional battery and split-charge system. So there will be plenty of power when I'm parked up somewhere, certainly enough to charge iphones, run the sink/lights and radio for a week without fear of the van refusing to re-start.

I can highly recommend getting a professional to do the windows, it's the kind of job where practice and attention to detail really pays off! As for the split charge system, that's the only job I did myself that I wish I'd got someone else to do. The wiring is straightforward enough but again it's the details of actually fitting the second battery under the bonnet.. especially when you're re-crimping cables that need to carry 300+amps... You can't do that on the cheap with some shitty soldering!

Anyhow, looking forward to the third trip away now that it's fully formed and the windows are in, luxury!

Fitting the Flettner

The van is nearing completion!

Last night I fitted an air vent, which I was a bit undecided about because I'm not entirely convinced that one is absolutely necessary.

So why did I take the plunge? I'd spent so long in going over the pros and cons without making a decision I was really annoyed with myself, so after a small glass of wine, I threw caution to the wind and went outside with my drill and a jigsaw. Christ!

Turns out that I should make more decisions like this because the result is excellent, and the vent is happily spinning away on the roof extracting air, you can properly feel it.

Only time will tell if it has a measurable effect on the condensation in the van when it's full of damp walking-gear but I am hopeful.

It will be good practice for cutting some windows in anyway!





My New Pal

Here's my new pal. Ace isn't he. 

I hope he likes camping and running about, because I made him have a wash earlier and he didn't like that very much.

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Google Chrome

Google Chrome is going down the bog a little bit which is a real shame. It is by far the quickest browser going and it is arguably the most secure, but like some of Googles other products at the moment it is losing some of it's appeal.

I've always loved the way that the big G does things. Form following function, minimalist tools that work brilliantly alone but also integrate seamlessly with other Google tools. Case in point, the Search homepage. Other case in point, gMail.

Parking the odd exception like the supremely complex Google Wave, their tools are generally awesome, have zero learning curve and occasionally include really positive game changing features.

Over the last few months though, some odd decisions seem to be getting made around features and UX.

Lots of small annoying things are creeping in across the estate.

Take the "new tab" page in the Chrome browser. there's a big grey bar across the top of it that states "for quick access, place your bookmarks here". I don't want bookmarks there, in fact I don't have any bookmarks but I can't get rid of that bar. It looks stupid and every time it opens up... it asks me.

Google Plus is another one. It has looked like a jumble sale for some time now which we are all used to, but it is features like "YOU MIGHT KNOW THESE PEOPLE" that make it unusable. There, centre stage every time you use it is a list of 50 people you've never heard of, that you can't remove, that Google want you add as friends.

Chrome again now, there is a very annoying feature called "desktop notification" that again you cannot switch off. It is a festering little icon in your system tray that pops up now and then with some kind of alert. The best thing is that when it has nothing to tell you, you can click on it and it will say "there is nothing to alert you about". So why the hell is it there at all?

Either they're fiddling with their suite of tools because they've peaked in terms of layout, design and innovation or they've made the decision to just do more stuff that drives up adoption and money and they're willing to sacrifice the design and usability for it.

Some actions are definitely deliberately vague.

Take the sign-in page you're presented with when you first open Chrome. It looks like the gMail login, but actually signs you into the Chrome browser. This then syncs your history, open tabs, bookmarks and logins by default. It's all a bit shady and you'd never notice because it does pass-through when you visit a Google site and signs you in automatically...

Anyhow, off the back of some of these annoyances I dumped Chrome a few weeks back and switched to Safari, which is super integrated with OS X and iOS, which are currently the best platforms for me. Safari doesn't fly at work where I use Linux/Firefox... but it's not a bad idea to separate those two lives anyway.

I guess after a long while of being very happy with the tools I use, I'm diversifying a bit.. never pays to have all your eggs in one basket and definitely don't be afraid to change!

 

 

 

The Amazing Snakeheads

I've been listening to this album a lot recently, thoroughly suggest checking them out.

It is called Amphetamine Ballads and the band are The Amazing Snakeheads, original British music, go support it.

They play London on 14th May. You may check them out over at Domino or listen directly below.

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New Job

I lived in the middle of London for five years. During that time, although my head-office was but ten minutes stroll away I worked daily with my clients at their offices. 

Over those years that meant three different commutes. A five hour round trip to Surrey on tube/national rail, a three hour on the train to West London and a slightly shorter one, also to West London.

After that I moved my ass to the green green county of Hertfordshire and I drove to work every day. This took an hour ish and allowed me to drink a cup of tea, not worry about the weather and develop an unhealthy addiction to the Today Programme and PM.

Anyhow, I'm now actually working in Central London, full time and my commute is down to a blissful 50 minutes (and I still get the Today programme on my stroll to the station in the morning).

All a bit backwards isn't it. I'm the furthest away from work I've ever been (30+ miles) but it's the quickest it's ever taken me to get there. Finally working in SE1 when I moved out of here two years ago.

I like going into London every day, it feels great, but even more than that I like leaving it and going back home!

Text me if you're around for a drink.

 

 

 

 

 

Vanlife

I am back into #vanlife proper now, having done a touch of self-building to the T4. My bed is in, the kitchen sink/hob has arrived and the unit to house it is being built!

trial run

As soon as the bed was up I went for a test-run up to the Scottish Highlands to do some camping because... Well I wanted to get away to the hills but also what better way to understand what to build next than by trying it out.

It is phenomenally easy to buy stuff for Volkswagen Transporters, there are thousands of accessories. You can look online and find some seats on a sliding rail, have them fitted, get some windows stuck in then have a kitchen unit built for you and then the job is done.

You could go wild buying stuff but none of the things I looked at really worked for me.

Typical conversion 1

Typical conversion 1

Typical conversion 2

Typical conversion 2

Most of the ready-made kits block off access to the rear of the van with seats, then take-up the whole length of one side with cupboards, leaving no room whatsoever for other stuff. Imagine owning a van but having to put a bike rack on it, or not being able to pick up a sheet of ply or plasterboard or a wardrobe. Useless

You need a comfy bed, a stove to brew up on, somewhere to put drinks and eat your breakfast from and then somewhere to hang wet gear. After that, some kind of storage that hides out of the way for clothes, hiking paraphenalia and food, then you're ready to go. 

Well, sort of. That might be a bit bare minimum even for me, living in it did reveal some other amenities that the modern gentleman shouldn't be without. These include some additional lighting in the back, some curtains, a couple of USB charging points and a radio with a line-in for an ipad. Also a vent, because it got quite steamy in there brewing up with the doors shut in the torrential rain.

It was definitely raining

It was definitely raining

Yep. It's wet.

Yep. It's wet.

Anyhow, I'm glad to say that the beast is coming on in leaps and bounds and will soon be ready for a grand reveal....

You won't forget my name again

I once bumped into someone that I had only met a couple of times before. It was at a Christmas party and we'd both had a few drinks.

"flettttttttch!" He yelled and came over, talking to me, and I had no idea what his name was. I knew his face, where he worked, who for, how long for, what he did and even how good he was at it, but I couldn't place his name.

I didn't ask him because it was a noisy work Christmas party and we were just talking bollocks but then eventually out of the blue he goes "you can't remember my name can you" and I replied "no mate I'm afraid I can't".

He made a bit of a deal about it, told me what it was and then proclaimed in a very smug voice after presuming  he had embarrassed me enough "you won't forget my name again after that". 

Well lesson one here is that guess what, I haven't got a clue who you were anymore, I only remember your face and that you were a dick about it.

Lesson two? Remembering names is important to people.

VANLIFE

It's been a wee while since I had a vehicle I was massively excited about, but earlier this month, I got another. 

I have liked all the cars I've had in the past, because they were all acquired for different reasons and were right for me at the time, but looking back, how many got me really EXCITED? I'd say 318iS, Mini Cooper S, 635CSi and now my new ride:

Pimp my ride it's a VW T4 Van

Pimp my ride it's a VW T4 Van

An old Volkswagen van. It is a splendid beast with a whole 88bhp, so quite a deviation from the sub 6.5 second (to 62MPH) rule I've stuck to over the past few years, but the van is none the worse for that. 

My first van.. nine years ago

My first van.. nine years ago

It was a bit less slick

It was a bit less slick

I loved this van too.

I loved this van too.

This isn't actually my first van. I briefly owned one around nine years ago, in fact I lived in it for some time when I was working in New Zealand. Although the trusty Toyota Hi-Ace was quite a mean machine at the time.. it's nothing like the new one which is on another level in terms of fit and finish.

So why a van? If you have to ask I'm not sure you really know me. It's the perfect vehicle for me. Walking, camping, riding bikes, the occasional bit of snowboarding, going to the tip and fetching big stuff from B&Q. 100% awesome.

I'm truly into vanlife now, and will be keeping the beast for some time. So watch this space for upcoming roadtrips. First thing? Scottish camping roadtrip very soon... I better get it kitted out quickly.