Home Education · Travel

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

I’ve been a bit quiet here for a few days but rest assured that we are still here. A lot of our time and energy has been taken up acquiring our new bus that we are going to convert into our home. Our little puppy, Doughal, is blogging about it all over at TheLittlestHobo. We have two sleeps left until we pick the bus up and bring her home.

Other than the bus, we have been really busy with the run up to Christmas. We’ve attended Anna’s nativity play twice – she loves being on stage and her performance was hilarious. She lapped up every second of attention and generally enjoyed herself to the max. Elsa and Olaf have been busy making Christmas decorations and writing endless piles of Christmas cards. We took part in a Home Ed card exchange with nearly fifty other families, it has been an epic experience and the kids have thoroughly enjoyed receiving their huge pile of cards. Hopefully they’ll be enough wall space to hang them all!

The Man has only three working days left until his Christmas break, and I can’t wait. I love having him by my side, and we’ve got lots to do in the run up to Christmas Day. We’re still short of a few gifts for a couple of people, we’ve got tickets to see the Christmas Pantomime, there’s a local village to visit where all the houses decorate with lights and Christmas scenes for charity, and there is epic amounts of gift wrap to acquire and adorn the gifts with.

We decided not to have a tree this year due to the risk of mayhem that would be present due to the puppy and the cat. I can’t say that I’m not missing it, it seems odd not to have that shiny, twinkling symbol of festivity in the corner of the room. Maybe I’ll take the risk for a couple of days and put it up next week. I really do miss it. We helped my mum decorate her tree earlier today which really got us all in the right mood for the season. I’ve promised the kids that we’ll spend next Christmas in a place that gets snow!

Home Education

Some Of The Perks

Not being tied to school all day means that we get to take advantage of places when they are quiet, and the kids get to experience things that they would otherwise miss out on.

Today, for example, we popped out for breakfast at 9am and they made the most of the empty softplay area at the restaurant. Buffet breakfast and free play? It doesn’t get much better than that for an eight year old and a six year old.

Tomorrow we are going to see a local nativity play in a nearby village. I can’t quite understand why they are putting it on during the day but they are, and we can attend. We’re very much looking forward to it as the kids are really feeling in the Christmas spirit. Did you know, there’s only two Mondays left until Santa comes?! We haven’t even started gift shopping yet!!

Another local attraction is the temporary ice rink that appears in town for the Christmas season. It is heaving on a Saturday and Sunday, but thanks to our flexibility we are able to skate while most kids are at school.

Of course there are plenty of other perks, but these seemed very appropriate given the time of year.

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Travel

Making Enquiries

I have now spoken to the lovely Mike from Used Coach Sales twice, and although he doesn’t have anything suitable in stock at the moment, he has been so helpful and generous with his advice. He’s given me a few pointers in what to look out for as far as problem coaches are concerned, and he’s educated us about the fact there is a 4m height restriction on vehicles throughout most of Europe. We did not know this! We’ve left it that Mike will call me if he gets, or hears of, anything that would suit our criteria.

Earlier this week the kids and I were scoping out a coach that was parked outside Anna’s school. We were walking around the outside discussing what would be where on the inside. The driver returned to the coach and invited us to take a closer look inside. I’ve been on a coach many times before but I’ve never looked at them from the point of view of converting one into a home. It was good to get a real sense of the internal width and the headroom inside. The driver also gave me some tips on the actual driving of the coach and even informed us that it might be worth contacting his boss as he’s clearing out some of his fleet in the new year.

The budget for the purchase has also increased slightly as we’ve crunched the numbers again, and we have found some extra pennies to put towards that. Although it’s not increased by much, it’s enough to place a few more coaches within our reach.

It’s all getting very real now, and we’re very excited!!

Home Education · Travel

Where Did November Go?

We’ve had such a busy month, we’ve hardly noticed it passing by. Anna started school, and with that came the inevitable bugs and resulting illness. We have all battled through a nasty cold and a vomiting bug. That was the best part of two weeks gone, with not much to show for it. Anna was a trooper though, and never even suggested that she should stay home from school. I know myself, and I would have kept her home in a heartbeat if she’d asked.

On a positive note, we have also become regulars at the cinema (we’ve been three times this month!), and we’ve enjoyed some unseasonably good weather over the last few days. This means we have been able to stroll around the park, feed the ducks, and explore nature.

The plans for the bus are also coming along. We’ve picked out the carpet we want, and the oven/hob that will suit our needs. The kitchen will be bought, as opposed to custom made due to budget constraints, but we are more than happy with the options available to us. The savings for the bus purchase are on target, and we should be ready to purchase by the beginning of March at the latest. The Man has been designing the bunk beds because he will be the one responsible to making them. I’ve spent a lot of time watching YouTube videos and reading blogs about other families that live fulltime on buses. It’s good to see what mistakes they made at the beginning, that we will now hopefully not make because we are aware of them. I’ve even learnt how to get the coach out of mud, thanks to the Us In A Bus blog!

School-wise we have learnt a lot about autumn and the changing seasons, and we have been studying up on all the places we want to visit. The kids are getting more and more excited about the bus and the traveling life that comes with it.

Christmas is just around the corner and we haven’t even started buying gifts yet. December is going to be another busy month! The kids have given us lists longer than their arms, but with the loss of space we will be encountering, we are struggling to gleam suitable ideas from their lists. We want to be throwing away things, rather than acquiring more, but how do you do that without ruining Christmas?!

December will also bring (hopefully) my intensive driving course which will give me the right category on my licence to drive the bus. I can’t say I’m not a little nervous about this part of it, it’s been a long time since I took a driving test. If I don’t get it done in December, it will definitely be in January. I’ve found a local company that offer the intensive course over four days, with the test at the end. The price seems competitive against other companies and the reviews are positive. You can’t get much better than that.

 

Drawings · Travel

Developing A Hobby

I have a few hobbies already, I mostly concentrate on crochet and knitting. For years I have wanted to be an artist of some kind. I watch my husband create amazing things, and I watch on with envy. I don’t have the type of brain that can create something from nothing. That’s why knitting and crochet work for, there is a pattern to follow and no imagination is needed, and yet I still get to make something.

I have been looking for a new hobby, something that is easily transportable and doesn’t require specialist equipment or dedicated space. After all, we will soon be living in only 25-30sqm of home. It dawned on me this week that drawing could work for me. The pattern is there, if I draw something I can see. I get to copy and yet still create. So yesterday I chose a photograph of my daughter to draw from. img_1328

This is the result of my first ever attempt at drawing.

I’m quite pleased with it. It’s by no means perfect, and I haven’t managed to capture her “essence” in it, but for a first attempt I think I did ok. All I needed was one pencil and a piece of paper – it doesn’t get much more minimalist and transportable than that.

Travel

When Travel Becomes The ONLY Option

It is currently looking as though our main source of income is going to be extinguished. This is the income that allows us to pay the rent each month, and keep a roof over our heads. Without this source of income, we would rapidly find ourselves homeless.

We’ve looked at all the information, and crunched yet more numbers. The best case scenario is that we should be ok for four months. After that, we will need to find an alternative place to live – one that doesn’t cost anything!

Buying and converting the coach must happen now, or as soon as possible. Our hand is being forced and we’ll have to use the credit card for the initial purchase. Luckily we have just been given a six month no interest period of our spending. There’s the silver lining!! Once we are out of the house, and into the coach, we will have surplus income (as well as the security deposit from the house), and the credit card will be paid off before any interest can accrue.

Who said you could afford to travel?!

Travel

Itchy Feet

We want to start our adventure, and we want to start now. I am constantly surprised by how much The Man seems to want this to happen. I really thought I would have to convince him, and then keep persuading him as he found obstacles to put in our path. That’s what normally happens when I have crazy ideas. But not this time, I honestly think his feet are more itchy than mine. It’s an exciting change in him!

All of this means that we are now working to a different schedule; we plan to start in six months instead of eighteen. Once we have Christmas out of the way, I will book onto an intensive driving course (1 week) so that I can get the licence I will need to drive the bus. Once I’ve done that, and passed the test, we will buy the bus. Converting the bus should take a month or so, around The Man still working. By the beginning of April we should be ready to start traveling.

I am incredibly excited, and I have been researching possible routes through Europe. We have to be constantly aware of how big the bus is, as some places will not be accessible with it. We will park the bus in suitable locations and then use the car to get around. Every week we will move the bus 50 miles, or there abouts, and find a new spot to explore from. France is very well equipped with free aires where we will be able to access water and sewage facilities. We have discussed the possibility of using campsites on occasion when we fancy a little extra luxury – hot shower, anybody?!

Last week I read a blog post all about a family that had travelled through France, using the book Wild Swimming France. I can’t for the life of me remember which blog it was on – if it sounds like yours, or you know which blog I mean, please let me know and I’ll post a link. I’m sure the family spent several months travelling Europe before settling somewhere else. I’ve read so many blogs lately! Anyway, I’ve bought the book and I plan to use it to figure out a nice route, off the beaten track, for us to follow. The idea of chasing beautiful swimming spots is highly appealing, especially if we are travelling away from the coast.

Right then, time to start the solid planning. Six months is not that long!

Travel

East Sussex, England

This is our home county, so it seems only right that it’s the first county review that we do. It’s currently mid-November and we’ve only just had the first storm of the winter. The weather is generally milder in the south-east than in other parts of the UK, and we see very little snow in these parts. Last winter we had one snow shower but it didn’t lay. Be mindful of the wind and rain though, and make sure you come prepared if you are visiting out of the summer months. The whole county is steeped in history, and is home to the famous 1066 Battle of Hastings, and numerous Cinque Ports. Remnants of the past can be found in many places from the ruin of Hastings Castle to the Rye WW2 pillboxes, not to the mention dinosaur fossils that were recently found in Bexhill.

Our favourite parts of East Sussex include Rye, Hastings, and Eastbourne. We are also rather fond of Battle and Camber.

 

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Mermaid Street, Rye

Rye is a beautiful town, built on and around a large hill. The famous cobbled Mermaid Street leads you from the quay to the High Street, where you will find a lovely strip of local shops and eateries. Carry on uphill to the church and the Gun Garden for stunning views towards Rye Harbour. The kids can expel some energy in the play park at The Salts, just remember the wellies if it has rained because it gets quite muddy. For a lovely classic takeaway fish and chips, head to the chippy on The Mint, it’s the best one in town. Once you’ve got your lunch, wander down to the quay as there are plenty of places to sit and eat – watch out for the seagulls!! The easiest place to find a parking space is on the outskirts of town at Gibbet Marsh Pay & Display, it’s then a short walk (passing over the train line) to the quay.

 

 

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View from the West Hill, over the Old Town, towards the East Hill

Hastings is a more traditional seaside town. To the east end you will find the Old Town, which is where the amusement arcades, The Stade Park, crazy golf, and trampolines are. Take a stroll down George Street for a real Old Town experience. There are also two venicular railways here, one on the West Hill and one on the East Hill. Either hill will give you stunning views of the Old Town but their other offerings are very different. The East Hill Lift takes you to a golf course and walking access to The Fire Hills. On the West Hill you can also see the modern area of town, and you can visit The Smugglers Adventure, The West Hill Cafe and a nice play park. You can wander down to the main town from here, or follow the steps back down to the Old Town. Back on the seafront you can walk through the underpass to the west, and you’re in the modern bit of town. This is where you’ll find the shopping centre and big name fast food places. Hastings is full of things to keep you entertained; Smugglers Adventure, Underwater World, The Source Park, Hastings Museum, Fisherman’s Museum, Miniature Railway, and The Pier. The cheapest places to park in Hastings are Priory Meadow Shopping Centre, Priory Street Car Park (Pay & Display), and the underground car park at Carlisle Parade (Pay & Display) – these are all signposted from the seafront.

 

 

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Eastbourne Pier

Further along the coast to the west, is Eastbourne, where the town signage welcomes you to The Sunshine Coast. It’s a fab place to grab fish & chips and have an amble along the prom. The best chips are to be found at Qualisea on Terminus Road, where you can sit in or takeaway. Be warned: it’s very popular! The main town is built around the shopping centre and train station. The seafront is sprawling but flat, and there is a lovely pier to walk out on to. Head eastwards along the prom and you’ll find a couple of museums and the main park; there’s even a paddling pool for the warmer weather. In the summer months there are quite a few events on along the seafront, our favourite is Airbourne. The cheapest and easiest place to park is at the multi-story in Junction Road; it’s pay-on-exit with a maximum charge of £3.50 per day (closed on Sundays). Be warned that larger cars won’t fit into the Armadale Shopping Centre car park – we have a Fiat Doblo and it’s too tall to fit!

 

 

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Battle Abbey

Heading inland from Hastings, is Battle – of 1066 fame. The Abbey is worth a visit and we highly recommend the cakes at Bluebells just opposite the Abbey. If you fancy something a little more crazy then head to Skarlett’s in Old Ladies Court and check out the milkshake menu (not for the faint hearted, or diabetic!).  The Memorial Halls on the High Street often has events on, and it’s a nice town to have a stroll around. You won’t need too much time here, 2-3 should cover most of what is on offer if you stop for lunch or cake. English Heritage members get free parking at the car park next to the Abbey (obtain a token from the Abbey shop), and there’s plenty of Pay & Display parking at the car parks on Mount Street and Market Square.

 

 

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Sand dunes at Camber

East of Rye, and almost out of the county, is Camber. This is the only sandy beach in the whole of East Sussex. It’s an extremely popular spot on sunny days and thousands of people flock here. There are beautiful sand dunes lining the beach but not too much in the way of amenities. Remember to pack a picnic unless you want to pay a small fortune for a portion of chips! A word of warning: if swimming in the sea, avoid the enticing looking calm waters between the waves. These are rip currents and will drag you out to sea. Stick to the parts where the waves are breaking, use your common sense, always watch the kids, and you’ll be in for a lovely day at the beach.

 

East Sussex also has an abundance of countryside and woodland that is just waiting to be explored. There are plenty of choices when it comes to walking routes, and you’re always sure to find a lovely pub where you can have a nice cold drink and a rest. The train connections are not great around the county, and buses are expensive and slow, you really do need a car if you want to visit all that East Sussex has to offer.

Home Education · Travel

Renewable Energy

For the last couple of days we have been pouring over the numbers and trying to work out what equipment we will need in order to produce and store the levels of electricity that we will be using. There have been a lot of calculations!

We think we’ve got it figured out now. Initially we will fit three 150w mono-crystalline solar panels to the roof of the coach. These will then charge two 130ah(c100) leisure batteries. In addition, we are also going to build a wind turbine, or two, to make the most of the bad weather days.

Our calculations show that we will only use about 0.5kWh of electricity per day. Our only electrical use will be for minimal lighting, phone charging, and the electric fan in the oven. The two batteries, combined, will hold the equivalent of 2.7kWh of electricity. Bearing in mind that you should only really use 50% of the power in a leisure battery, we would have enough electricity for over two full days without adding any solar/wind charging back in. In the event that we have no wind and/or not enough sunlight for two days, we will have a back up diesel generator to charge the batteries. On top of this we will have emergency wind up lanterns. The diesel generator is not ideal, but it’s good to have a fallback plan.

There are other ways to make electricity but, so far, the methods we’ve come across are very expensive for the amount of electricity produced. Most of them also rely on heat/fire, and our only source of this will be via propane, so we may as well use the more effective/efficient diesel generator.