Saturday 30 June 2012

First proper weekend

This is the first proper weekend we've had at our temporary residence.  It's been so hard to get things set up how we want them.  The first weekend Mick rushed off to New Zealand to see his mum (she's not doing terribly well unfortunately) and last weekend we went away to Barwon Heads.  With us being sick as well it's not been an easy start.

Finally now we've made progress.  Our "lockup" as we call it (where our households contents are stored) is finally looking properly sorted out.  We had stuff all over the place at the beginning.  The final 2 days of packing up our house resulted in those things being thrown into boxes, crates, bags or just loose in the car.  It wasn't a terribly organised couple of days and to have those things sorted out and properly packed away is a relief.

The small office at the shed is now all sorted with our fridge and kitchen table so we have somewhere for the bread maker and the slow cooker.  The guys also use it as their lunchroom when they're working here in the workshop so they have a kettle and sandwich toaster.

The larger office has been emptied of all the built in reception furniture, ready for painting.  We'll then have a clean room to use as a living room.  We won't know ourselves then!  The dinette seats in the caravan are ok for eating meals but are not comfortable for evening sitting. For the first time in about 15 years we're watching tv in bed.

At last... if we need Panadol, or a bar of soap, sticky tape, window cleaner, an envelope... we can find it!!

Friday 29 June 2012

Pick of the week - Parisian Star

We feel like we're getting a little better at sifting through the many boats for sale.  We've had so much useful advice from blog readers.  We appreciate it very much.  We have a long way to go so please do keep reminding us of things we haven't thought of.

Aqueduct Brokerage have my pick for this week : nb Parisian Star   This boat appears to have the dinette beyond the galley, with a door in between.  Our preference initially was to have the living, dining, cooking areas all open but with work in the back of my mind I don't think I'd mind this arrangement of the dinette being in a separate area.  There is no solid fuel stove so we would probably want to do something about that.  We like the blue exterior and the interior is nice and light.  The armchairs look comfy enough and the bed extends to 5ft which is perfect.

More importantly is something we're learning more about... electrics.  The inverter is 2kw which we've been told could possibly be a little undersized for running a washing machine.  But, there is also a 3.5kw travelpack so we figure we'd be fine with this.

No water tank size so we'd want to ask about that.  Good hull builder, fitter out who I've found nothing negative about.

So everyone... how did I do?!

So, from the advertisement :

Year: 2006
Style: Trad
Hull Builder: G J Reeves
Fit Out: Crown Narrowboats
Length: 57f t
Cabin Headroom: 6’4”
Draught: 2ft
Berths: 4
Original Steel Thicknesses: Reported as 10/6/4
Licence: December 2012
R.C.D: Compliant
Boat Safety: 07/03/14
Parisian Star, a well crafted high spec 4 berth boat. Built by well renowned boat builders Crown Narrowboats and G J Reeves, She would be perfect for a family as a liveaboard or for extended cruising
due to her comfortable interior and separate sleeping areas, high electrical specification and generous storage space throughout.
Insulation: Spray foam
Fit Out: Lined throughout in oak veneered ply with solid oak trim
Flooring: Carpeted throughout with cushioned flooring in shower room
Seating/Sleeping: Loose recliners in saloon area provide comfortable seating for two. Pullman dinette provides seating for 4 converting to double bed. Fixed double bed pulling out to 5ft
Cooking: Stoves 500dit cooker and microwave
Fridge/Freezer 12v Shoreline fridge with separate shoreline chest freezer located under the dinette on pullout rails
Washing Machine: Indesit
Galley Worktops: Marble effect laminate worktop with generous cupboard space underneath. Overhead cupboards provide additional storage.
Toilet: Vacuflush pump out toilet with 400ltr waste tank
Shower: Tiled shower cubical with chrome thermostatic mixer
Basin: Set into vanity unit providing storage
Engine: Beta Marine 43hp
Generator: 3.5kva Travel power
Gearbox: PRM 150 hydraulic gearbox
Bow Thruster: Vetus 55kg
Fresh Water System: Stainless steel located under bow well deck with water gauge. Filtered water tap in galley next to sink
Stove: No
Central Heating: Eberspacher diesel central heating with fin radiators positioned throughout
Hot Water: From engine and central heating system
Alternators: N/A
Batteries: 4 x 135amphr leisure batteries, 1 x start, 1 x bow thruster
Galvanic Isolator: Zinc saver II30A
Inverter/Charger: Mastervolt mass combi 2kW with Mastervolt battery monitoring system
230v: 13amp sockets positioned throughout cabin area
Lighting: 12v halogen down lights throughout with switch down lights in bedroom area
Gas: Bow gas locker holds 2 x 13kg gas bottles supplying cooker in galley. A Marine care gas alarm is fitted
Entertainment: JVC cd/radio with speakers throughout
Complete with full cruising equipment
Paintwork: Dark blue cabin with cream coach lines and light blue roof
Side Doors: Large side doors on port side opposite dinette area with internal fly screen on runners
Lockers: Bow lockers port and starboard including bow thrusters locker
Windows: Large windows throughout cabin area with large portholes in shower room and bedroom providing extra privacy.


Thursday 28 June 2012

A new niece

We have a new baby in the family.  Yesterday my youngest brother and his wife had their second baby - a little sister for Declan.  Her name is Edith Johanna (Johanna after our late father who was Johannes).  I don't have a photo because I can't go and see her - I'm still sick.  Hopefully by Sunday I'll be back on track and can go down to Melbourne to meet the new addition. Meanwhile I'll wait for someone to email me a photo.

Congratulations Jeff and Kate!

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Sick !

It has been a huge few weeks and now we've stopped rushing around but we're both sick.... still.  I think we've both allowed ourselves to get run down.  There is a couple of bugs making the rounds at the moment and we were prime targets.  Mick seems to have the tail end of a virus hanging around and I've been to the doctor today because I've now developed a chest infection on top of the virus.  A round of antibiotics and a day of rest tomorrow should make some progress I hope.  I'm hoping we can get back into some sort of routine with our temporary life. 

On a happier note, Mick's mum went home from hospital yesterday.  She's not out of the woods and there's a high risk of a further heart attack but at least she's in her own environment and sleeping better in her own bed.  A carer will come in four times a day to assist her with meals and bedtime as she's also been battling eye cancer and has very limited vision.  She's a feisty little lady and Mick said she sounded almost back to her old self on the phone.   It would just be nice for her to live her life out, however much longer that is, in her own home and in relative comfort.

Monday 25 June 2012

Weekend at Barwon Heads

We're tucked up in our caravan again tonight after a lovely weekend at Barwon Heads.  We both have a cold - brought back from New Zealand by Mick.  I was glad we were away with our sore throats and runny noses because if we'd been here Mick would have felt like he had to keep doing chores no matter how awful he felt.

We go to Barwon Heads for our birthdays nearly every year and stay in a lovely little converted boat house that overlooks the pier and the water.  We took our time getting down there on Friday, making a stop along the way at The Mill antique market in Geelong.  It was the most enjoyable hour or so wandering around looking at all the stuff.

The owner is a keen collector of vintage enamel signs, something that Mick also enjoys collecting but on a much smaller scale.  The signs on display at The Mill are not for sale but we love looking at them all - thousands, or more likely hundreds of thousands, of dollars worth of collection.  We've had a policy lately of not buying anything that we don't actually need right now (it'll only go into storage!) but we broke our rule and bought one small embossed tin sign advertising "Electrine Candles".  There were many other items we would have carted home with us under different circumstances but not now.  We haven't been antiquing for a very well over a year and it reminded me of how much we love trawling through old things like that.  It gives us something to look forward to when we return from England because we'll have a different house to decorate.

The weather was pretty awful on Friday so it was nice to reach the boat house and crank the heating up.  We had a delicious dinner at a little deli after a walk along the beachfront (rugged up with coats and scarves of course).

On Saturday after breakfast at the restaurant on the pier, we went for a drive along the Great Ocean Rd to Apollo Bay.  I wanted to make a stop at Wye River, where I'd spent many childhood holidays camping on the foreshore.  It's changed of course.  Waterfront property is absurdly priced in Victoria now and modern waterside houses have cropped up all over the place.  The general store has had a trendy facelift and the caravan park on the inland side of the ocean road has also changed beyond recognition.  It's very pretty!

We then did something else from my childhood - something that has also changed beyond recognition.  Just a few kilometres past Wye Rive is Kennett River.  On our annual camping holidays we would go for a drive in the evening up the road behind the caravan park there to look for kangaroos and koalas.  It's easy to see kangaroos in the wild in Australia (they jump out in front of your car if you drive in rural areas!) but koalas are another matter altogether.  They are particular about the type of gum they eat so you don't find them just anywhere.  Mick had never seen a koala outside a sanctuary so I thought it would be a good thing to do.

We turned off behind the caravan park and there were a heap of tour buses parked there!  The road was crowded with Japanese tourists!!  They were all busy pointing up a tree and taking photos so obviously they'd spied a koala.  We nudged our way through the crowd in the car and drove further up the road and away from them.  There was a long section of road where the trees were absolutely stripped bare.  I had read about this some time ago that koala numbers were more than the local area could handle, despite their endangered status.  We continued on and the condition of the gums improved.  Before long we started spotting them - a good 6 or 7 in the short stretch we drove.  It was a shame I didn't have my camera with me because my phone doesn't take the best photos.  A couple of them facing away from the road were busy chewing on their gum leaves and the one that we got the best look at was doing what they do best - sleeping.

We had another peaceful night and a relaxed start to the day today.  It will be back to work tomorrow after a lovely couple of days away.  Just what the doctor ordered.

Photos :
The Mill at Geelong
Barwon Heads bridge
View from the boat house
View from the boat house
Koala at Kennett River

Saturday 23 June 2012

Pick of the week - Rowanberry

We like this one!  It would definitely be our buy for this week.  The only thing we're not too big on is the burgundy paintwork but that's no big deal.  The layout works for us and it looks like there would be
enough space where the washing machine is to make a little desk area.

Wish we were there this week to buy nb Rowanberry with ABNB

Any comments on the builder or fitter?

Price: £57,500
Length: 60ft 2in
Builder: Colecraft Engineering
Fitter-out: Barry Cousins
Style: Trad
Year registered: 2006
Certification: BSS to 2014

Engine: Beta B43 diesel
Bow thruster: Vetus 12V 55kgf 4hp
Plating: 10/6/4
Last out of water: 2010
Water tank: 120 gallons stainless steel

Headroom: 6ft 3in
Fit-out materials: Ash faced ply panels with dark hardwood trim ceiling & hull sides, diagonal tongued and grooved ash boarding to cabin sides

Insulation: Spray foam
Berths: 2
Berth sizes: 6ft 6in x 4ft 0in perm double, can be pulled out 10in to clear the cabin side
Fridge: 12V 4cu ft combined fridge freezer
Washer/dryer: Indesit automatic washer/dryer
WC: SaniMarin electric flush wc to remote tank
Shower: in quadrant cubicle with curved doors
Cooker: Stoves 500DIT drop-in gas cooker

Water heating: C/heating + engine + 230V immersion heater > calorifier

Cabin heating: Hurricane diesel c/heating > rads, s/f stove

Mains 230V: Landline, 3000W inverter, 3.5kVA Electrolux engine driven alternator

Other: Glazed cratch with zipped acrylic cover. Lots of storage in the galley.



Friday 22 June 2012

Transferring money from AU to UK

Things didn't quite go according to plan with transferring our money to the HSBC account we've set up in the UK.  It was mostly my own fault but as it's turned out it has worked in our favour.  On Tuesday I went to the branch where we set up our accounts.  We filled in a telegraphic transfer form to have the funds transferred from out Australian HSBC account to the UK one.  I got to the branch at 3.35pm only to discover that the cut off time for TT's is 3.30pm.  I left the completed form with the very helpful staff and they would ring me the following morning to tell me what exchange rate they were offering.  We could then decide whether to go ahead or not.

The next problem we encountered was that I filled in the form for the exact round amount that we had sitting in the account.  There was no money left to pay he fee of $25.  I intended to transfer some extra into the HSBC account that night, hoping it would be there in time for the morning phone call.  My brother and his wife took me out for dinner when I went to stay with them and when we got home I was so tired I went to bed soon after.... forgetting all about transferring money to HSBC.  Next morning when the phone call came, it was with the problem of the fee again.  There is no HSBC branch outside of Melbourne and I couldn't go down there again for the sake of a $25 fee - I was at work!  It would have to wait another day. 

I decided to have a look at what rate HSBC were offering that day for internet transfers.  The guy at the bank had shown me how to do it - by setting up a transfer and just cancelling it when the rate comes up rather than accepting it.  There was one thing he'd forgotten to tell me - you have to choose an amount in GBP, not in Aussie dollars.  My mistake meant that no rate came up and the $10,000 that I'd typed in as the amount was sent off to England!  I emailed him but it was not possible to cancel it.  Even worse, there was now $10,000 less in our account so the problem with the form was a whole lot worse.  He suggested I just transfer the money in smaller lots each day (to keep under the threshold for daily transfers) and when it was all sent he would refund the all but one of the transfer fees. 

Next day I decided to check what rate (yes, again) they'd give me and compare it to Ozforex before agreeing to his suggestion.  I wasn't going to do it this way if we couldn't get a good rate.  At least at the branch there was some room for discussion.  I logged into Ozforex and got a rate and set up a transfer on HSBC (using GBP this time).  The rate was better than Ozforex so I went ahead and processed the transfer.  Now I just have to do this a couple more times and we'll be all set.  Happily the exchange rate has crept up in our favour over the last week or more.

Thursday 21 June 2012

A weekend of rest

Our routine has well and truly gone out the window.  Things we didn't need to think about before have suddenly become important to consider.... everything from choosing what to cook for dinner (using our very basic cooking facilities), to carting a bag of rubbish with us to work or to visit someone (we only have an industrial skip for rubbish and don't want to put food in it), to remembering to take our water container to fill when I go to work (we've bought new water tanks but Mick hasn't had a chance to set them up - and it's pouring rain today!).  Many things will get easier once there is time to set things up better but for now we have to persevere.

It's been the most exhausting month of our lives and we're both so tired.  They had the office so over-warm today that I was worried I'd fall asleep!  Mick managed to pick up a cold on the plane when he went to NZ so he's not feeling the best. 

We both have our birthdays in June and instead of buying each other a present we usually have a weekend away instead.  This weekend has been booked since before Christmas and as it's turned out the timing couldn't be better.  It's just what we need - a weekend of rest at the beach.

Monday 18 June 2012

Getting back on track

Mick came home from NZ yesterday and I must say it's nice to not be on my own out here.  His mum was very glad that he flew over to see her.  She's lost her zest for life and is worn out with the whole thing.  It's been a tough couple of years for her.  We'll have to wait and see what happens from here.

We spent the afternoon sorting out some of the many things that need doing to make life more comfortable while we're living in the caravan.  The microwave is in it's final spot in the kitchen, Mick repaired the lid of the benchtop storage hole, the stove and oven are hooked up to a gas bottle and we cooked our first caravan dinner last night.  The caravan is now more stable with blocks under each corner so we don't have to live with the rattling and swaying when we walk around.

On Saturday I went to buy a couple of things and bumped into Tracey, the lady who has bought our house.  We had a coffee together and a great chat.  With many quirks around the property I'm sure we'll have more coffee chats before we leave for the UK!  Mick's a real perfectionist and with that house being the place we intended to spend the rest of our lives he had set up lots of little things that people don't ordinarily bother with.  There's a lot for Tracey to get used to.  Chances are we'll be neighbours in a couple of years (assuming we come back to live in "the house up the road") so it's nice that I can imagine us being friends.

Friday 15 June 2012

Not part of the plan

In the midst of trying to sort ourselves out at the caravan and shed we've had things turned upside down.  Mick's mum in New Zealand had a heart attack and he's rushed off to see her - on my birthday no less!  On Wednesday night, after hearing the news, we had been thinking he should go and after another phone call from his sister yesterday morning saying they feared a more major heart attack could follow we decided to book flights.  A few hours later he was on a plane.

So, last night I spent my first night alone in the caravan after going to my mum's for dinner at the last minute.  Thank goodness for mums when you are deserted on your birthday.  Tonight I had dinner with our neighbours.  I have lots to do tomorrow with sorting out the enormous pile of stuff that we dumped in the little office in the shed.  The more major jobs will have to wait until Mick gets home.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Living in a caravan

Last night was our first night sleeping in our temporary home - a caravan!  It was a bit sad because I had to take our 4 chickens to be adopted by the lovely people in the local pet supply store.  They'll be going to live with some of the chicks we've hatched over the years (now grown up of course).  I know they'll be well cared for but it was very sad to be handing over my girls.  One of them was our very first hatched chick and she's nearly 9 years old now.  I'll really miss her. 

Today we went back to the house to pack up the last bits and pieces and to clean the house from top to bottom.  We're both so absolutely exhausted and very, very glad the moving is over.  There is a lot of sorting out still to be done as the last few days we've just been dumping stuff in boxes, bags and crates and piling it up in the old office at the shed. 

So here we are on our second night in a very cosy caravan.  The bed is our own mattress so at least when we go to sleep it feels familiar.  We also have a lovely clean, newly freshened up bathroom.  Pity it's such a distance between the two! 

Tomorrow is settlement day and we'll feel we have well and truly ticked off a major item on our list.

Monday 11 June 2012

Accomodation on arrival

We've been thinking about where we'll stay when we first arrive in the UK.  We've had a couple of kind offers from people we know to stay with them.  But, we've decided we'll book accomodation for the first two weeks and hire a car for the first 3 weeks.  It's unlikely we'll find a boat and have it ready to go within two weeks so we may need to take up the offer of staying with a friend after our two weeks accomodation is up.

We are going to spend a week in a cottage at Stoke Bruerne and a week in a farm cottage near Nantwich.  I've printed out a map of the centre of England and marked where many of the brokers are.  We chose the accomodation locations to give us good access to as many brokers as possible.

On the home front... we've had the busiest few days of our lives!  We're both complaining of sore backs and we're both so tired we can barely get out of our chairs at night. Tonight is Monday night and we're planning that tomorrow night will be our last in this house.

Mick's made up a base for our bed in the caravan, all the big furniture has been moved and today there was a huge quantity of odd bits and pieces to move.  They were all the things that are difficult to pack or that I would need again next week.  We're left with the television, a chair each, the dining table and two of the chairs, and the mattress from our bed which we've moved in front of the fire in the living room.  How nice to be sleeping in front of a crackling fire.

Saturday 9 June 2012

Recipe - Best pumpkin soup

Ingredients (serves 6)
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, white part only, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1kg peeled pumpkin, diced
  • 1 large potato, peeled, diced
  • 1 litre chicken stock 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sour cream, creme fraiche, or cream to serve (optional)
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over low heat, add onion and leek and cook for 2-3 minutes, until softened but not coloured. 
  2. Add garlic and spices and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. 
  3. Add pumpkin, potato and stock and bring to the boil. 
  4. Turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. 
  5. Allow to cool slightly, then blend in batches.
  6. Return soup to pan, season and add a little more nutmeg if desired.
  7. Stir through a little sour cream, cream or creme fraiche to serve (but it delicious just as it is).

Friday 8 June 2012

UK bank account - tick!

Today in the mail we got our UK bank account Visa cards and a cheque book for the account.  Now that will come in handy very soon - we have a deposit to pay on accomodation and they don't have credit card facilities.

So HSBC came up with the goods, just as they said they would.  The account is open, the cards came to us here and there's nothing more to be done.  I'd definitely recommend it to other Aussies wanting a bank account in the UK.  Well worth the $200 fee to not have to do anything more.

Thursday 7 June 2012

One week til settlement

I've been attempting a blog entry for several days now but never got beyond the first sentence.  It's been so busy! We have one week from today until settlement of our house.  It certainly will be the end of an era but we haven't really had time to think about it.  We've done nothing for weeks now except packing and moving but there is still a long way to go.

The house is looking a bit sad now.  The walls are bare of pictures, and all the things that made it our home are slowly being taken away.  I sure hope Tracey, who has bought it, can see beyond the bare walls and turn it into her own home.  Even outside looks totally different.  There's no dog kennels or outdoor furniture and even the rusty farm stuff is disappearing.

Meanwhile Mick's done a wonderful job setting up a bathroom out at the shed and now it's finished.  He does get a bit silly about things sometimes.  The shed had separate mens and ladies toilets.  The ladies had more space so it was chosen to become the bathroom - there was room to put a shower.  The door has a small black plastic sign that says "Ladies" but whoever stuck it on there didn't get it quite straight.  Mick's decided he can't cope with that.  He sent me to Bunnings (a mega hardware store) to find a new sign that says "Bathroom".  They didn't have one!!  He made such a fuss over that crooked sign that in the end I ordered a new sign on Ebay.

Sunday 3 June 2012

Pick of the week - Shaman

This weeks pick is another from ABNB - nb Shaman.  We don't have much time for narrowboat browsing because we're too busy packing!  This week we only looked at those that came by email from brokers.

The utility area at the back of this boat really appeals to us.

Price: £57,000
Length: 60ft 3in
Builder: Heritage Boats of Evesham
Fitter-out: Heritage Boats of Evesham
Style: Semi-trad
Year registered: 2004
Certification: BSS 2016; RCD issued 2004

Engine: Isuzu 38 Diesel
Bow thruster: None
Plating: 10/6/4/4
Last out of water: May 2012
Water tank: 118 gallons integral tank

Headroom: 6ft 4in
Fit-out materials: Beech finish throughout

Insulation: Spray foam
Berths: 2+2
Berth sizes: 6ft 6in x 4ft 0in permanent double with pull out extension

Fridge: LEC based 4cu ft 12V; 2cu ft 12V Coolzone freezer
Washer/dryer: Candy Aquaviva 1300 washer dryer
WC: Tecma electric flush wc to remote tank
Shower: over bath with curtain/doors/screen
Cooker: Country Leisure hob, eye level oven and grill

Water heating: C/heating + engine > calorifier

Cabin heating: Lockgate 2000K diesel stove and Eberspacher boiler > rads

Mains 230V: 3kW Sterling pure sine wave inverter; 40A Sterling charger

Other: One owner from new, selling to change lifestyle.