Thursday, 3 December 2009

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Give us a brake

The second man called Arthur to work on Althea this year arrived a couple of hours ago and after returning to base to get heavy duty sledge hammers he had her wheels off in no time. It turns out that the drums are fine and the pads aren't too badly worn but a couple of the cylinders are leaking and one is stuck. I had a moment of dread when it looked like I was going to have to source new cylinders but a call to the man who will be relining the brakes confirmed that he can refurbish the cylinders too. I have decided to have all the cylinders and all the pads done.

You can just about see that the windscreen rubber seal has been replaced too. It's lovely and dry now but Boris and Ken the two spiders who were living in the cab have moved out. Maybe they will be back in the spring...

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Althea gets winterized

After failing her MOT due to bad brakes she's been parked up waiting for the mobile mechanic to come and remove them so I can send them of to be relined. It's getting cold now so I spent some time emptying the water from the kitchen storage and pump to avoid damage when it drops below zero. I also drained the cooling system and replaced the water with water and antifreeze mix.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

A weekend of worry. Update.

I just got a call from National Windscreens. She's done and all is well. I can't believe how anxious I've been about this.

I'm waiting for a call from the MOT guy now. So there'll be another update shortly.

-- Post From My iPhone

Saturday, 31 October 2009

A weekend of worry.

So I'm on a tram in Croydon now having just dropped Althea off to have her front and rear windscreen seals replaced. If she survives that she goes accross the road on Tuesday for her MOT. I'm very worried about all of it.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Legs 'n' Coils

The Land Rover clutch pedal spring I had ordered arrived so on Saturday morning I decided to pop it in. I had no idea if it would work or not but I guessed it would be close enough. I was right and it went in easy and works perfectly. I took the bungy off the clutch pedal.

I also decided to have a quick look at the new weird problem which came about as a result of my accidentaly puting the engine battery in backwards. Now the on light was coming on when the key was removed and there was a 120 ohm short somewhere which was flattening the battery over night.

I took about an hour to trace it to a short on one of the unused dials and at the same time replaced the light bulbs behind them.

I thought while I was at it I'd try the original driver's seat I bought months ago. It took about 4 hours to unscrew it from the base plate and screw it in position. This involved a lot of hammering and a few bruised and broken nails. All the while my resident spider Boris sat waiting patiently for a thin and wretched wasp to ensnare itself in his sticky spiral. Even though Boris is growing I have been wondering if he was getting enough to eat so it was nice to know he might have a meal soon. It can't be that bad a place to live as since then there's another smaller spider moved in next to Boris.

I watched for a while hoping to witness the moment of capture but looked away for the wrong two seconds. When I looked back the wasp was parceled up unable to moved. Boris didn't save it for long. In minutes it had been sucked dry and dropped from the web.

I evetually got the seat into position and after much puffing and panting had it as low and back as it would go.

Either this van was designed with people whose legs are both on the right hand side in mind or for those with detachable ones. I was very nearly stuck there and could imagin the laughing firemen cutting me loose. There is no way at all that the original or in fact any proper seat is going in there without shrinking or raising the steering wheel and/or moving the whole seat position back.

I took it back out. Maybe one day I will have it re upholstered and turned into a chair.

The original BMC seat belt I had bought from a boot sale didn't fit either. It was about 2 feet too short so I took that out and put the Volvo one back in.

So why legs 'n' Coils? Well here I am writing onto the World Wide Web about springs, cobwebs, a spider and leg room.

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, 27 September 2009

No such thing as a quick fix 2

It turned out that the thermostat housing itself was cracked and though it was only losing a few drops at a time, that was enough to empty the cooling system in a very short time. I bought a brand new replacement part from eBay and spent Saturday morning installing it. I had to smash the old one with a hammer to get at the valve inside and in doing so discovered that underneath the oil and dirt it was made out of green Bakelite.

This morning we found a really nice boot sale in Chorley wood where I bought a pair of unused 35 year old BMC seat belts and a huge chrome spot light for her. Toby and I met a guy who has a music promotion company, is an avid vinyl collector , plays keyboards and lives round the corner from Toby too. i had another of those days where everyone wants to stop and have a chat about Althea and was quite happy to do so.

I slept in her last night and once again got a lovely night's sleep. It got really cold in the night but as long as I kept all the vents shut, blocked off the gap under the door, stayed under the duvet I was warm. I'm looking forward to the winter now and experimenting with how cold/warm she is.

Here's a picture of Boris the spider. He's been living in Althea's cab for about 5 weeks now.

And here's a picture of Plum at the boot sale.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

No such thing as a quick fix

At about 10am I started the little job of replacing the damaged top hose. It's now 3:30 pm and I've just finished. Finished that is as long as the job I've done holds and I wont be able to test that until tomorrow when the silicon seal has cured completely.

The replacement part is a Ford Transit top hose but of course the part it's replacing isn't. Or at least that's the way it seems. I managed to persuade the new one on after quite a bit of puffing and panting but it certainly isn't much like the one that came off.

Good old Gaffa Tape. I was as surprised as anyone that this repair got us home.

While I was there I thought I'd have a look at the leaking thermostat housing and worked out that it doesn't need replacing but that there is a gasket missing, or some kind of sealant. I put everything away and headed off to Catford on the bus. The Mazda is overdue for its MOT so I couldn't take it.

You can see the sealant in the photos it's the blue stuff.

Tomorrow I'll fill her up with water and run the engine for a while to see if there are any leaks.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Althea in the mix

Click here for DFTram's Big Chill Radio set.

Df Tram my set from big chill radio (live dj set at big chill festival 2009)

thanks to paul noble ! and thanks to morris too who u can hear speaking during my re-edit of his famous "autumn leaves" remix

Df Tram
hehe Thanks a lot Mike! we were trying to call you from the radio that morning and morris said "hey we will just announce it over the radio " so you can hear morris' say a message for you and althea during "autumn leaves" in the mix

that was funny!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Althea gets some new storage and a sauna

I too her out for a drive yesterday and the radiator top hose burst filling the cab with steam on the A30. I patched the hole with gaffa tape, filled up the radiator with water and we limped home. The steering is very loose and the clutch pedal is need of some attention again too. She has her MOT coming up next month so its definitely time to get the oily rag out again and get under.

As I was headed to Croydon to get a set of drawers and some magnetic storage jars for her, a man shouted from another van going the other way, "I learned to drive in one of them!"

She now has a lovely set of 16 drawers and 15 magnetic storage jars with see through lids. The drawers were a bit loose so I stuck strips of the soft half of velcro on the sides to stop them falling out on corners and it works a treat. I now have somewhere to keep all the plates, cups, pans and lots of other things that didn't have a proper home before. There's also a bit more horizontal surface now too.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

They came from the West

Some months ago I started chatting with the boyfriend of a friend of a friend who was in the same Gmail thread group as me. This is a group of people who are mostly from Second Life (which I hardly use nowadays) who keep in touch via a group email.

Craig, turned out to be a brilliant photographer with a wild imagination and superb sense of humour. His girlfriend at the time, now wife, Mysianne turned out to be another brilliant photographer with a wild imagination and great sense of humour but with a good singing voice and stunning good looks too.

We have fun planning a trip across the USA in Althea where we will pretend to be a band and play gigs in roadhouses and bars along the way. The idea is we play as badly as possible but with confidence and an air of intelligence that will have people doubting themselves rather than our abilities. It will also be part of the plan to change the name of the band at every venue a) to add to the mystery and b) to ensure that word of the crappiest band in the world doesn't get there ahead of us.

The whole mis-adventure is to be filmed, blogged, filmed, photographed and eventually written up into a book by all of us.

So anyway the two of them have been here for a while as part of their big British/French adventure honeymoon. While they were with me they stayed in Althea.

They have gone back to Wisconsin now but here are a couple of snaps and a video to get on with. I know they both follow this blog so a big Hello to you both from Althea and me, til next time.
Their version of the Deep Space Nine theme on Kazoos

Craig's expression as I ask a cyclist who has just darted across the front of me as we are moving why he "Wants to die?"

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Festinho Boo

"Festinho boo" by Booclick on


Shared via AddThis

On Thursday last week I got a call from Morris asking if I fancied "a little charity festival in Suffolk." On Saturday at around mid day we were on our way. Once through the East London traffic we had an uneventful journey and were soon in the grounds of Kentwell Hall where the festival was being held. We had the usual runaround for passes etc and Morris decided it would be a good idea to leave Althea where she was in the "Boneyard" rather than tru and find our way to the official campsite. This turned out to be a stroke of genius as we were parked a few yards from the main stage and had our very own security guard. The bass from John Hopkins set shook the van very nicely.

It was a small but high quality event, Morris knew everyone and I met the same people three times independently of each other. Echascech were superb and reminded me of Spooky a lot. John Hopkins was also superb and his music reminded me of what planets crashing into the sun must sound like. Morris played from 02:30 in a gingerbread house in the woods to a good and happy crowd and a few people came back to Althea for a few drinks afterwards. The next day we watched Music From The Penguin Cafe.

I missed my chance to go and have a drink with The Swingle Singers which would have been very strange considering that they are the same Swingle Singers from the old days.

We both had a lovely 36 hours and after dropping off a guy we gave a lift to in Bethnal Green, we stopped off at Brick Lane for bagels. Morris, Althea and me are all done with festivals for the year but next year we'll be at it again for certain.

Greeeeeen Maaaaaaan

Having been hurried up to buy a ticket for The Green Man festival by Craig, Mysi and their friend Will I jumped on the www and snapped one up for me and Althea. It wasn't long before it was clear that I was the only one who had and that I was faced with the choice of going alone or trying to sell my ticket with one week to go. I decided I would go alone.

It took forever to get there thanks to the windiest hilliest roadworkiest road in Wales. The clutch pedal spring broke on the way down so I had to come up with a quick fix.

Getting there late meant I was positioned by the parking staff, in a prime spot on a corner near all the facilities and where Althea could be seen quite clearly and enjoy the attention. I set up camp, grabbed a programme and planned my weekend. I got chatting to my neighbours who turned out to be Martin Carr, one of the acts, and an ex Boo Radley.

Althea got plenty of attention from fellow festival goers. Here's one taking some snaps

A couple of passers by stop for a piccy

I wrote Greeeen Maaaan on the side of Althea which got changed to Greeeeen Vaaaan after a day. I saw Noah and the Whale who sounded just like Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, I saw The Woodenships who sounded a lot like Hawkwind and were brilliant. I saw Hawkwind who were brilliant. I saw Jarvis Cocker in the crowd and I think I made him a bit nervous by bounding up to him saying "Jarvis," a bit loudly as I did. "I just wanted to shake the hand of the man who wrote Common People," I said, and did so.

On the Sunday I found a man selling some very bizarre objects from Indonesia and bought a bag full including a thing for keeping cock fighting spurs in, some drinking glasses that look like they are made from melted bottles on a bonfire and a sort of wooden monkey with a Mohawk hair do and a face where his genitals should be. I also scrounged his personal supply of Badger Balm.

I seem to have rediscovered my talent for finding money. Over the past few weeks I have found over £35 and most of that at festivals. Green man was the most lucrative with £16 being found in the grass around the site.

The Green Man was a superb festival with a lovely atmosphere and I will certainly be going again. Much like the Big Chill the rain stopped as it started and started again as it ended. The mountains either side seemed to hold back the weather and the site is just the right size without too many hills. Food was good, loos were clean and security were friendly. I really enjoyed being there alone for most of it but it would have been nice to have been able to share some of it with someone too.

Some rockabilly played on these unusual little toy home DJ thingies. Needless to say I want some.

Small boys entertain the crowd with a crazy dance to the above tunes.

Big Chill part 2

We spent a lovely Sunday afternoon with Selina and her pals drinking Pimms, eating plenty of barbecued stuff, then some melted marshmallows with melted chocolate made a whole new kind of mess.
Selina entertains us all with inflatable boobs on her head

Selina is a big fan of the Banana Bread Beer like me so we finished off my supply. Later I snapped a little girl playing with an umbrella which I think is one of my best ever photographs.

by the time we were ready to leave on Monday morning Morris and Dylan had been playing all night and well into the morning. We caught some of both their shows on the radio as we packed up, emptied the waste water and loo etc. Eventually after a few phone calls and some waiting around we were all aboard and off. In no time Morris was fast asleep.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Chills, spills, noodles and thrills

Althea at The Big Chill

It has been a very busy few weeks which is why this entry has taken so long to appear so many apologies but here goes.

Sharon and I spent six hours giving Althea a good scrub inside and out. Most of the time was taken up with getting 40 years worth of mold off the roof. I parked her next to the the garage so we could stand on the garage roof and use a combination of bleach, mold remover and stiff brushes to do it. It was about two hours in when Peter the caretaker came and took me to one side. There had been a complaint from a resident. Apparently my shorts (large and long and baggy with no cleavage showing at all) were offensive, her cat was frightened and we were wasting water causing her much distress.

After getting Althea looking wonderful we packed deck chairs, portable loo and some other stuff and set off. We were to pick up Mixmaster Morris and Dylan (DFTram) at The Big Chill Bar in Brick Lane just after midnight. The minute we set off it started to rain. Not polite English rain that sprinkles a layer of freshness on the roses, nor was it heavy summer rain we get in the UK now and then to wash out a wedding or bring a barbecue to an abrupt end. This was a downpour the likes of which is rarely seen in these parts. In minutes the streets were rivers with a vertical tsunami the old testament would have been proud of.

Althea being what she is has no heaters or demisters so I had to drive across London with the side windows down so I could see out of them while wiping the condensation off the windscreen as we went. Eventually we got there and after a little messing around we met up with the guys. The decision to stop off for bagels was a no brainer so minutes later we we headed for the bagel shop on Brick Lane where we bagged various bagels before finally heading out to The Big Chill.

It wasn't long before I was driving a van full of sleeping people down the M4 and thanks to Morris's idea about wiping washing up liquid on the windscreen I could see out.

We arrived at the festival site at 04:45 just as dawn was breaking. I dropped MMM and DFTram and we headed off to find our own campsite.

The Big Chill was wonderful. Lots of hills, not much mud as the sun came out the first morning and baked us until the moment it ended, when the rain returned.

* The Green Man weather was identical. ie it rained like hell until it started then blazing sun and more rain the moment it ended *

Gong were fantastic. Orbital were very Orbital and Chris Cunningham twisted our melons very nicely.

Mixmaster Morris and Dylan

Little Monkey enjoys the sun

Daevid Allen invites us to "have a cup o' tea"

On the Saturday night a slight interest in noodles I had been nurturing became a bit of a desire then a craving. I spotted a sign saying "Noodles" and made a B Line (or is that Bee Line?) for it. I decided from the menu that Chicken Miso soup was the one for me and placed my order. The young man at the counter showed me a cardboard box with noodles and veg in it and explained that the soup and meat or veg of my choice would be added to this. I assumed that this would all be delivered in a cup or bowl and agreed.

He then proceeded to pour a ladle full of what wasn't even Miso soup into the cardboard box, throw a sliver of cold chicken on top and present it to me. I held the box with the dilute gravy running down my arm and looked at him a little surprised.

"We've run out of cups." He said
"Right," I replied, handing over the £6
"And we've run out of spoons too," he said handing me a fork.
"Hmm ok", I said taking the wooden fork and stabbing at the cold noodles made a hole in the bottom of the already leaking box so even more of the luke-warm gravy that wasn't Miso soup ran down my arm.
He handed me a straw, "So you can drink the soup with this."

I managed to get one inch of Chicken and half a sip of disgusting soup (gravy) into my mouth. I took three steps and there was a dustbin...the new home of this terrible experience. I dumped the whole lot and made my way back to the comfort of Althea.

I personally would have stopped serving soup once I had run out of cups, spoons and soup but I have no business acumen. All I have is a conscience and that's no use in business is it?

Coming Part 2...the people of TBC...including Babies, Banana Beer and Balloons

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Greeeeeen Maaaaaan

Just a quick hello to all the people at the Green Man festival who are stopping to say hi, take pictures and generaly admire Althea. We are both having a great time and I will be adding proper entries for this and the Big Chill as soon as I get home.

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Baby boy and Bath time

From Croxley we headed straight to Bath to see my Cousin's new baby Leo. I've never been there so it was a new experience for us both. Unable to find a level spot to park on we ended up taking the cushions out of Althea and sleeping on the floor in the flat instead.

Mum, Dad and baby are all doing very well. Little Leo is being an easy child at the moment which helps a lot. Sharon thoroughly enjoyed having a tiny baby to hold for a few minutes.

We had a good look round Bath and a posh meal in Browns and left the next day.

Stay on the path and don't eat the mushrooms

After a day to recover we headed back out to Croxley Green this time. Toby (Mr Plum), Ru (Mrs Plum), the dogs and cats would be our hosts for a couple of days. We listened to music, ate curry and went for walks in the damp green English countryside. On the Saturday night we played an impromptu Ocelot gig in Rickmansworth with no rehearsal. I was on a strange kit with strange brushes and had drunk a little too much beforehand. For the first two songs the bass wasn't plugged in and I was very crap. But after that we warmed up and were OK. The girls all got very drunk and on the way home I tried to figure out which Italian restaurant it was that my parents had met in all those years ago.

Next day we went to Serratt and had lunch in the Cock Inn. I found some edible mushrooms in the church yard but couldn't identify them satisfactorily enough so we didn't eat them. We found a sign on a tree a long way from the path that you have to walk right up to to see which said "stay on the path".

Althea meets Donna and gets a new heart

At last I was on holiday. Sharon was here and we were about to spend a couple of weeks roaming around the country. First stop was good old John the mechanic to get the fuel pump replaced. Donna is still standing in his yard so the two ambulances met for the first time. We left Althea with him and a day and a half later she was done. He already had a spare pump which he let us have very cheap and the whole job cost a fraction of what I was expecting to pay.

Not only does she take hills more confidently now but she starts "on the button" every time now. No more flattened batteries and melted cables. No more having to park facing down hill and pump the fuel to get her going.

We got to spend a couple of days with Ed and family again. Sharon and Xander fell in love which I expected would happen but soon it was time to pack up again and head back to London.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Shake yer booty

Just got back from a test run to the local boot sale. The newly set up clutch works a treat. Must remember not to drive in my sandals though. Bought a nice dab radio which I might cover in green fur. Made it up the hill in 2nd gear for the first time.

My newlywed American friends say they want to stay in Althea when they come.

-- Post From My iPhone

Saturday, 18 July 2009

A stitch in time

Thanks to the clutch cable being badly adjusted (another corner cut Chris and Mucker) the old clutch gradually wore away and cost me £500 to replace. I spent about an hour today with a drill and a couple of spanners and set it up properly.

At one point I had released the tension on the cable and discovered the lever that attaches to the clutch was loose and rattling around. A phone call to Arthur the clutch man reassured me that it was normal and I soon had it back in place.

There were two positions for the pedal end of the cable retainer, one too loose and one too tight. I drilled a hole in between them and with a few little tweaks it was perfect.

The kit I bought on eBay was unnecessary after all but I'll keep it just in case.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Birthdays, blown up bass bins and blinded boys

On Saturday morning I loaded Althea with the amps, furry speakers, a pair of backup speakers, mixing desks, cables, lights and bubble machine and headed off to DJ at Jilly's 50th on Mersea Island. Althea drove better than ever with her new clutch and prop shaft all the way to Mersea Island which took us about two and a half hours including traffic avoidance. The leaky fuel pump meant that she still struggled a bit on long hills but nothing like it was and we averaged 55mph all the way. At 67mph she started to wobble a bit but it felt more like a wobbly wheel than the new prop shaft. The engine is sounding much healthier now it is working properly and not just spinning wildly with no resistance. I even passed a few trucks on the way up hills too. It was delightful.

I set up the sound system at the venue and decided to use just the furry speakers. I had left the sub unit at home due to the age of the buildings I was worried about doing structural damage. By 5pm I was playing tunes from the vast library of 70s cheese I had downloaded (by request I must stress not by choice).

There was a very nice woman who came and sang a few songs but apart from that I played pretty much non stop (barring a few momentary computer freezes) for 7 hours until midnight when thanks to my horribly over driving the poor furry ones they gave up and died. I'm pretty sure I can fix them so I'm not going to worry.

Earlier I had fused my Mackie mixer too thanks to a dodgy mains extension but again I'm not worried I know what's wrong and it can be fixed.

The biggest stress of the night was when little Max managed to burst a glow stick I had given him, right into his eye. The scream he let out was far more spine chilling than any I have ever heard especially as when he looked up there he was with one eye glowing bright yellow, and it went on for a good twenty minutes. His parents washed it with water but still he screamed. The paramedic arrived and washed it then put Vaseline on it and he was fine. Even though it said suitable for 3 years plus on the box I will not be doing that again.

Young Max enjoys a sticky chewy thing the next day

Next day I replaced the furry speakers, set up the system to run remotely controlled by my iPhone and we waited for "The Trafalgar Tarts"

This was one of the funniest things I have ever seen. The preamble was all about how without Tenalady (for older ladies with bladder problems) and powerful pain killers, all this would have been impossible. Then the dance started a little loosely and descended into chaos. I wished I'd had a video camera. Will have to get one asap.

It won't be long now before I have a few weeks off and there's The Big Chill in the middle of that too. Maybe I'll treat myself to a video camera of some sort soon.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

She's Back!!!

I am sitting here filthy and wet having just put the new prop shaft on in the rain and dark. I took her for a spin down to Dulwich and back and she's great. She still struggles up the hill but not as much now and I think once the fuel leak and clutch cable are done that will be a thing of the past too.

I am one happy blogger

Freudian fun

The new prop shaft arrived yesterday and it looks very professionally done. It has the Ford Transit engine UJ on the front and the Morris UJ on the back now so I have removed the adaptor plate from the gearbox. The prop shaft guy said this might have been the source of the problem as it didn't have a centering pin and could have allowed shaking.

I have just returned from Clerkenwell Screws and Nuts where I bought some fresh nuts and bolts and tonight I will screw it all together, in the dark, wet greasy road. Hopefully the next post will be about how good it felt to drive Althea again. But regulars to this blog will not be holding their breath.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

"Give me a lever and I can move the world"

I wonder if Archemedes knew that one day I would be laying underneath Althea with my legs sticking out into the road thanking him for inventing the lever. It has been a day of serendipity and friendly neighbours.

Yesterday I crawled underneath and tried to get the bolts that hold the prop shaft on loose. They were hard to get to, rusted in and it wasn't long before I had given up and decided to cut and drill them off instead. That was when I realised I had locked myself out and had to get Peter the caretaker to climb in through my window. I'm sure we looked a sight.

This morning I went to the hardware shop to buy metal drills and goggles and came back with some special sockets for removing rounded off nuts and a length of steel curtain rail instead. I decided to have another go.

At my garage I met the neighbours who are having a 90th birthday party in the grounds and they thanked me for lending them a couple of plastic chairs. Someone mentioned that they had forgotten the covers for their gazebo and I loaned them the covers for mine. The frame for which was destroyed at Glastonwick this year (see post not yet posted) but I kept the covers just in case.

As I started the job the man who has the garage near where she is parked offered to lend me allen keys and electricity. I took a couple of 8mm allen keys off him and destroyed one of them.

I decided I needed something like a traffic cone to put in the road to stop cars running over my legs and found one about three yards away on the pavement.

I tapped the 8mm allen socket into the first screw and slid the curtain rail over the ratchet spanner handle and pulled with all my strength. Something had to give. Either the screw would break, the curtain rail would break or the spanner. There was an almighty clunk and bits flew everywhere. I expected the worst but found that the screw had turned. I worked out a system of moving Althea very slightly to position the next screw and after three more of the same the front end was off. The back was very similar apart from having to use the thing for getting rounded off nuts off with.

While I was doing all this a 60 something woman came and told me how much she loved "that old bus". She told me how much she loves the movies and collects the posters. Sher told me about all the places she's been to to visit the locations and how many times she's seen Titanic. She talked about how if she had been a bit younger she would happily live like a gypsy. It's so nice how the community seem to have adopted Althea. She really does bring out the best in the nice people and the worst in the not so nice.

The prop shaft is now in the garage. I am filthy but very happy. By next week hopefully she will have her new one and I will be able to take her to get the fuel pump and clutch cable sorted.

Below:mucky me, the gazebo and the prop shaft,