Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Winter Woes

As some of you may be aware, we have had a little snow in Scotland. Well to be honest we've had a lot of snow. Now Scotland is known for the rubbish weather, but this is ridiculous.



I've spend the past couple of weeks shoveling snow and ice. I had planned to switch the cars around and get Molly in the garage so I could get some work done on her. Oh the best laid plans... The quantity of snow is quite remarkable, I had a crack at digging Molly out but had to come in as it was getting too cold. I'm probably going to have to wait until the weekend now.

Snow Monster

I managed to get a set of (very expensive) winter tyres for the Skoda which really seem to be making a difference. While the people of the Lothians are spinning their wheels I am (so far) maintaining a little more control. Now I really want to try Molly in the snow, anyone got some snow chains or town and country tyres?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Bug in Snug Rug Shocker!

It's about this time of year I like to wrap up Jessica ready for winter. Don't get me wrong, she's not going to be forgotten about for the next 6 months. The cover comes on and off about 10 times between now and the spring. But what with weather being what it is, its best to get these things sorted sooner rather than later.

Oh and yeah its a spangly new cover from Just Kampers. Cool.

It even has some swanky zips at the front that lets you get in to the van when the cover is on. Cool or what?!

Also a large parcel arrived from Martin which included some lovely fibreglass panels to repair Jessica's tatty rear end, along with some nice new rear screen rubbers and some wiper blades.

Oh yeah and there is the new steering wheel. Ok it's not new but I have painted it!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Singing for her supper

Autumn is a time of change, rain and darkness. One of the big things is the garden activity. Basically the garden needs to be cleaned up before winter. Which is our case was a bit of a pain seeing as how I haven't tended the garden for about 3 years.

The other contributing factor was the impeding failure of the fence at the end of the garden, and the fact that the neighbours have just put up a lovely new fence. And ours is rotten.

So first things first. Find the fence. Not completely straightforward as it was lurking behind some very overgrown plants. A very pretty (but overgrown) Buddleja. Which, when it's well tended grows furiously and has beautiful orange flowers. Anyway that's sorted . Then there was the berberis which was making a break for it by working it's way through the dilapidated fence. Well that had to go . And finally the honeysuckle. It was a really mature plant with a lovely gnarly trunk but again years of neglect meant that it had to come out. That and the fact that it's trunk was rotten and it was holding up the bottom rung of the fence.

Of course, I needed a way to get all this stuff to the recycling centre didn't I?

Saturday, September 04, 2010


I often find myself cruising round the area, minding my own business. Now I must admit it's often in Molly so hardly inconspicuous, but then again sometimes I find things like this. A beautiful example of Vauxhall's finest, towing a Portafold fibreglass folding caravan if I'm not mistaken.
Then there was this thing. Says landrover on the front, but looks nothing like the forward control landrovers I've seen before. It'll be nice to see it out and about when it's done.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dear Sir...

I have been dismayed to see the increase in vandalism in the West Lothian area...

... is how the letter would start, if I were to write it. However I won't be writing it as I have something of a soft spot for some of the local Street Artists. Don't get me wrong, tagging and mindlessly daubing public spaces with paint don't do anyone any favors, but our local artists seem to have a pretty wicked sense of humor. Not yet Banksy, but they put a smile on my face..

This one one seems to be a recurring use of chalk, and what apears to be drawing round shadows of objects at various times of the day, unfortunartly the one I photographed does look a little unseemly. What I like about this one is that the artist keeps going, there are newly identified shadows all round the town every week.

This one makes me chuckle every time I see it.

Finally, carved into the filth on the back of the van I found some slightly less entertaining artwork. If you look closely you can just make out the artist's signature. It looks like M e g. If I get my hands on her...

Linlith Go Go GO!!!

A year or so ago I bought myself a trailer which I had intended to use to transport the awning and other stuff on trips away with the van. That plan never really came to fruition, the trailer has come in handy for trips to the tip though and has helpfully adorned the garden.

The other idea I had was to hook it up to Molly for camping trips away. Of course this requires a tow bar (done that!) and some wiring... a bit more of a problem. Usually such things are simply a question of Scotch Locks and a length of trailer cable. However Molly has to be a bit awkward doesn't she. As you all know she's a change over model. After trafficators where phased out and before the modern orange indicators came in. She has a normal indicator stalk on the steering column, but instead of orange indicators, the appropriate brake light flashes (red) on the back as a turn signal. All this is achieved by a clever little relay on the inner wing. The upshot of this is that it would be a little tricky to get a non flashing brake light feed and a stand alone indicator feed at back. However I had a cunning plan. To take the hook up from the relay input. So I hooked up a length of trailer cable to the engine bay and away we go! Well it wasn't quite that simple. Firstly 3.5 metres of cable isn't long enough (4.5 metres is a much safer bet). I know because I have both lengths of cable in my garage and only one fits. Secondly, when fiddling with crumbly old wiring, just looking at something can cause functionality (such as say... brake lights) to stop working for hours. So the top tip there is to bite the bullet and, carefully dismantle clean and reconnect anything that looks like it might give trouble.

Anyway, I did all that, tested it with a lighting board so what was left to do? Oh yeah find out if Molly is happy towing a trailer or not. Time for a test drive I think!


Yeah OK.. it was a chance for a photo shoot. As it turned out, she performed impeccably, a little bit of a wheeze up some hills, but generally not too bad, the trailer was empty though.

In lieu of celebration (and the fact it is our wedding anniversary) we decided to take the family off to Linlithgow, for a wander round, feed the ducks, and a poke around the canal system.

Where's Molly?

We stopped at the chippy on the way home to grab the now traditional wedding anniversary fish supper and headed off to a local beauty spot to eat them. I say beauty spot, there did appear to be some more modern activities going on that simply enjoying the view. Anyway as we were parked up I noticed a little puddle under Molly - oh dear - split radiator top hose. Years ago such things would have panicked me, however today I simply had to get the hose I had in stock and fit it. That's what 20 years of Morris minoring does for you.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


The retro addiction takes many forms, one of which is how to substitute perfectly acceptable modern things for cooler (less practical) retro ones. One of the things highlighted as something we needed (while we were away in Kinross) was a wind break. Now these things can be bought for about £10 from Argos, but we'd end up with a floppy plastic thing which wouldn't be in keeping. So when this little beauty can up for sale on CommerVanFan, we had to have it.

Its a 1960's fabric windbreak, which wooden poles and even a wooden mallet for knocking it into the ground - I know a plastic one would be more practical in the British weather - but that's not the point is it? We were very lucky in that the chap selling it was going to be staying in South Queensferry on Monday night so we could meet up and collect it.

So for a bit of family time, I packed everyone in to Molly off for a trip to the seaside and ice cream (via the hotel so we could pick up the windbreak). Unfortunately, halfway there, on the motorway, Molly's stainless steel exhaust decided to part company with the silencer. I managed to lash something together with a bungee so we could (noisily) continue the journey.

The following morning I gave the Birmingham Morris Minor Centre a call (where I got the original from) and a new exhaust was winging its way to us. Unfortunately they don't supply stainless ones any more, but the mild steel one fits very well. Time to hit the beach and shelter from the British wind.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jolly Hols!

We have just been lucky enough to have a week's holiday. Now how does a classic car enthusiast relax? There is only one thing to be done - Road Trip! Now is the time to admit that after ten years of living in Scotland, we had never made it further north than Inverness. So we took a week and decided to head up north. The first stop was at Rosemarkie, a beautiful little camp site on the banks of the Moray Firth. The camp site is about 10 metres from the beach and was very friendly indeed! Another excellent feature of the place was the village pub the Plough. Real ales, good food and very friendly staff. Definitely recommended.

The trip up to the Black Isle caused me a little worry. The road has lots of long, high speed hills, and the flat-out up-hill travelling caused a bit of a misfire. Now my classic car symptom diagnosis had me pondering. Misfires can be down to one of two things. Ignition or fuel. Jessica has electronic points, a new distributor, coil, leads and plugs - so there's not that much to go wrong there (nothing should be ruled out though!). The other option - fuel, does fit with the symptom. When a car is travelling flat out on a motorway, and then asked to go up hill, the fuel flow rate (which is already pretty high) has to go up again. Now this will test even the best kept fuel system, and Jessica doesn't have well kept fuel system. I took a look and the fuel filter needed a clean out and it appeared that the fuel economy device (poppet valve?) might have been stuck - I say might, as I had to collect the bits of the assembly from all round the engine bay after it pinged apart after I undid the screws. Once it was all back together we went for a little test drive, and all seemed well. Of course I was extra concerned about the fuel system as there were lots of hills and not very many petrol stations on the rest of our planned journey.

After a couple of nights on the Black Isle we decided on the rest of our route, to head up north, along the coast, to John O' Groats then along the north coast and to our second camp site at Durness.

The journey north took us along the coast, past Wick, however the route took us past Helmsdale and the notorious Berriedale Braes. While planning the route, everyone I spoke to warned us about this area and I ended up being quite anxious about it. Once we got there, it really wasn't all that bad. OK I had to knock it out of overdrive once or twice ;o).

A road with a run-off lane - I'm not scared...

Once that little molehill was out of the way, we continued our journey up to the town which is furthest away from Land's End. Lots of photo opportunities and three gift shops - who could ask for more! As we were leaving, a couple of Japanese tourists were looking round the van with interest, so I got a chance to explain to them that, no Jessica isn't a VW, yes the engine is in the front and she is rear wheel drive. Oh and they now have pictures of me in front of my van!

Of course John O' Groats is the most northerly tourist attraction in the Mainland Britain but as we know, you can go further (if you don't need tartan tea towels and fridge magnets that is). If you want to go north, then Dunnet Head is the place to be. Its rather nice to stand there looking south to John O' Groats.

The rest of the journey to the second camp site at Durness was bliss. It took us along some windy single track roads, which were very relaxing. The scenery was fantastic and seemed to change round every bend. The campsite is located at the top of cliffs, looking out over two golden sanded bays with clear blue sea. The sun was shining and provided perfect weather for playing by the sea, swimming and exploring the local caves.

We spent a couple of nights there before heading south again (well there wasn't anywhere else to go!). We headed down towards Lochinver to a campsite recommended by a friend, again through some gorgeous scenery. We did have to be careful about fuel though as the last time we had filled up was in Thurso (about 120 miles previously).

Commer on the outskirts of nowhere.

The site turned out to be lovely, but the weather prevented us from exploring properly. We did get to sample the excellent fish and chips from the on-site chippy though.

Lovely campsite - not so lovely weather.

The rain became pretty relentless, so we decided to head south and back home after what, we all agreed, was one of the best holidays we had had in years. I'm really looking forward to the next big adventure!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Once in a blue moon...

You get a couple of Commers all together in one place. This weekend there were 43 of them. Yes it was Commerfest, the 50th anniversary in honour of the humble Commer van.

Friday night saw us travel the 240 miles down to Yorkshire, to find the celebrations well under way. On Saturday morning, we awoke to an amazing sight, Commers as far as the eye could see!

Saturday night was the main event and Martin had laid on entertainment and a hog roast which all went down well.

On the Sunday, when everyone was looking a little tired we headed off in a massive Commervoy to Harrogate commercial vehicle show. This event was massive and 20 or so Commers made it, we were a rather impressive sight!.

Commervoy pauses for photos
Unfortunately, it was at the show that I discovered the only major mechanical hitch of the weekend. The petrol filler hose had perished, which means that after I had filled up the tank, it was slowly emptying itself all over the show field! Luckily I had a spare on in the van which Martin kindly fitted for me once we were back at his place. It was very strange that I had the part in the van and even stranger that I hadn't fitted it when I had the tank out a few months before. Anyway it was all sorted in time for the leisurely return journey.

A big thank you to Martin and Karen for organising such a wonderful event.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Suite you sir.

As some of you may know, I have something of a retro theme when it comes to cars. The retro-ness often leaks into the house. As with many retro activities, timing is important, the best way to get the best in retro stuff is to do nothing but sit and wait. A few years ago, a friend of mine was clearing out his house and had an old bedroom suite to get rid of, not good enough to make the charity-shop cut, but too good for us to pass up. It turned out to be a slightly tatty walnut veneer set with wardrobe, drawers and dressing table. Well, since then it has languished in various rooms in the house, covered in junk. This weekend, after a ten year residency the suite has finally been reunited in it's rightful place - our freshly-decorated bedroom.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

High Hopes...

Well last weekend the family toddled off to Fuerteventura for a week's basking the the sun, eating cakes and generally having a Summer holiday. Unfortunately, being a grumpy old man and ginger means that such a trip away would be absolute hell for me - I know because it was last time, and the time before, so rather than spoil their fun - they went and I stayed. So what was a chap on his own to do? Yeah you've guessed it, get in his camper van and head for the hills. Van + Man + Mountain.

As it was just me, there was no need to rush, so I took a leisurely drive up through the Trossachs to Glen Coe.

The plan for the Friday was to head up Bidean nam Bain. Now this was the first time I had gone hill walking on my on my own so I was a little trepidatious. As it turned out I needn't have been so worried. The mountain was quite tame.
Intrepid explorer?

That's Ben Nevis that is.

The route down, once I was off the main ridge, took me through the Lost Valley where some people allegedly once hid some rustled cattle. Well that I think someone was pulling someone's leg there. It was a bit of a pain with two legs and proper boots. No chance with 4 hooves. It was a remarkably beautiful place though.

The raging torrent which was rushing down the valley was an amazing sight (no chance for hooved animals)

Picturesque river. Just before I fell in!

There's a Commer in them there hills.

Once I was back down, tired and very very happy, I headed back to the camp site for a well earned shower and bottle of Pinot Grigio - a perfect end to a perfect day!

The following morning it was time to head home, so obviously I took the long route via Oban and Loch Fyne, and of course the oyster bar - rude not to!

Old van in Oban

Monday, June 28, 2010

Boating sunday

So where did we leave it? Oh yes, Jessica had scored an MOT and was basking in the sunshine. Well Molly did stirling work and passed her own MOT a few days later which made me very happy. It also got me thinking about how annoying it is to have two MOTs on the same day (funny at first then not so funny after the first year or so). Maybe I need to delay one or other of the fleet to save my nerves and put some of the enjoyment back in to the summer. Saying that I could always get one of them done early maybe? Anyway to celebrate Molly's sucess me and the kids toddled off to Musselburgh in Molly for a sunny day out and to meet up with my friend Nathan. Musselburgh is renound for a number of things, like horse racing and being an "Honest Town" (whatever that is). But for people like me, the big attraction is the Lagoons. These small man-made lakes are aparently a way of disposing of ash from the local powerstation, however they also serve as an excellent venue for water base activities for the people of the Lothians. When we arived the place was packed with canoeists and dog walkers (swimmers), so we squeezed in and launched our boat. Yup the old boat made it on to the water for proper run. Once I had set it up properly (of course I had the first go - I helped build it and I am the most grownup) Megan and Rory took it in turns. Rory wasn't that keen, as he was more interested in the tiny frogs in the lagoon. Megan however went for it in a big way. As you can see from the photos, the boat was nothing more than a white dot for most of the run. It was so sucessful in fact that it had to be rescued by a passing canoist when the battery ran out!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Win loose

Jess has an MOT! But Molly doesn't...

Jessica failed first time round with a misaligned headlight and a leaking exhaust, that was quickly sorted. Molly has some similar niggles, but she can't get retested until Tuesday.