Monday, 12 June 2017

There's No Place Like Ken!

Have got a very different change of scenery today!  Am writing this from a commercial kitchen approximately six times bigger than Ken.  It's our current refuge for a few days whilst we continue our mission to rid the van of mould and we are extremely grateful for it as I honestly don't know what we would do without it at the moment.  If you haven't seen the Facebook page over the past few days, we discovered last week that despite our best efforts to combat the damp, our sleeping area was worse than ever and the mould was growing at an alarming rate.  Black mould in the corners, grey fluffy mould over the wheel hubs, white mould behind our heads and some nice green stuff for good measure.

This is what we sleep on every night.  Despite drilling a multitude of holes only
a couple of weeks ago in an attempt to increase air flow, it's still not done enough :(

That sneaky mould just gets everywhere!  Like behind your headboard...

Yet more mould, with a bit of rust thrown in for good measure.  All the rust 
has appeared in the past couple of weeks and is caused by the condensation dripping
down and pooling at the bottom, where unfortunately our stuff is stored

It didn't put us in the best of moods I can tell you, in fact it was pretty darn soul destroying.  We had no choice but to resign ourselves to the fact that we were going to have to strip everything out of the van and paint the untreated timber.  That way, while it may not fully stop the damp or mould, at least it would stop it being able to work its way in to the timber and clean up would be as easy as a quick wipe over.  Sounds simple in theory but there were two major problems with this - one, it is currently winter and the air is bloody cold and damp.  You can hang your washing outside for days at the moment but it won't dry and it's the same with trying to dry paint.  This was a bed we were painting here, the only bed we had and the pressure was really going to be on to get it dry enough to be able to sleep on every night.  The other problem, which is just as serious if not more so, is trying to get the paint not just dry but aired enough to be safe enough for us to sleep in.  I haven't suffered from asthma in a long time but it can still be triggered off by random things such as wool, feathers and paint.  Still, we didn't really have a choice, we had to try.

Anti-mould stuff that doesn't smell of anything and seems to work, woohoo!

This is our under-bed storage with the lids taken off.  The mould and damp has
got in to all of these, so we had to spray them all before we could paint 

We traipsed off to Mitre 10 and spent almost a month's worth of campground fees on anti-mould treatments, paint and supplies.  A small price to pay to get the van up to scratch but it was still $270 I would much rather not have had to spend! The forecast for the next day was dry and sunny so we got to work.  I hate chemical treatments and we had tried clove oil several times with great results on the windows but not much success with the timber.  Fortunately we managed to find a pretty benign spray treatment which was harmless to both pets and plants so we sprayed all the timber with it and left it to dry before applying our first coat of undercoat.  We knew that we were cutting it fine with the drying time, even with the sun and brisk Southland wind but we had to make the most of the weather so had to keep pushing along.  You can't really leave anything outside later than 4pm here as the air starts getting too cold and everything will get damp again but luckily by the time 4pm came round the paint felt dry to the touch and we were able to put the bed back together.  That was an interesting exercise.  Despite being outside for less than eight hours, the three sheets of timber which made up the top of our bed frame had all managed to bow at both ends and we couldn't slot them back together!  Still, we couldn't do anything about it at that stage in the day so we made it up as usual and hoped that the weight of lying on it would help to flatten it.

Our wonky bed boards after their spray treatment! 

We were lucky enough to have been invited out for dinner that night so we left the van airing with the windows open and vacated for a few hours to let the air flow through.  When we returned later that evening, all seemed well and we couldn't really smell anything at all.  Great!  It was bloody cold however so we turned the heater on to take the chill off and tucked ourselves into bed.  It was around 1.30am when I awoke and realised I couldn't breathe.  It was a very frightening feeling!  I leapt out of bed, turned off the heater and literally hung out of the door in the cold night air, desperately trying to get my breath.  What the hell was I going to do?  I couldn't sit outside all night, for starters it was raining!  But how was I going to get through the next few hours in the van?  Fortunately the rain meant it wasn't as cold as usual and we were able to slide open our insect screens fully.  This made breathing more easy but when it was time to get up the next morning my throat was so swollen I could barely talk and my eyes had puffed up so much I looked as though I had gone half a dozen rounds with Mike Tyson.  Fortunately we had half a cucumber in the fridge to help cool them down! Bear in mind, this was only the undercoat - we still had two more top coats to go! The only good part was, that every time I was out of the van I immediately felt better - but it rained all day the next day and as we were forced to spend more time in the van, things got progressively worse.

OK so I wasn't QUITE as bad as Jocelyn Wildenstein - but it wasn't far off!

After three days and nights in the van we could take no more.  I could barely function and it seemed that we were just going to have to stop our renovations and put up with the mould instead; anything was better than this.  Fortunately for us, Bevin the caretaker took one look at the state of me sitting outside gasping for air and came up with an alternative.  He said he would open up a room in the pavilion for us and we could set up our bed on the floor.  That way I could keep working during the day while Gareth finished the painting and we would have somewhere to sleep at night for as long as we needed until the van was fully aired and safe enough for us to go back to.  There was just one condition - I wasn't allowed to set so much as a big toe in the van until he and Gareth said I could do so!

I was sad to leave our little van behind but so very relieved at the same time.  The only alternative we would have had other than to stop painting was to put Minnie in boarding kennels and go and stay in a motel for the duration of our renovations and both of these would have cost a fortune.  Being the amazing bloke he is, we have also managed to save heaps by being able to borrow some of his tools to take care of several jobs, rather than having to buy them, as well as have all the space we need to do all the necessary work.  He has even given us a free lockable shed space for Ken so that Gareth can finish all the painting under cover and get it done and aired quicker!  Seriously, he deserves a medal.

Minnie is as bemused as we are at having so much space - 
but she's made herself at home anyway

And so here we are!  It feels very, very weird being in such a big space and is taking some getting used to.  For starters it is incredibly cold and despite having three heaters and a dehumidifier just for the one room, none of them make any difference whatsoever as it's so big.  Compared to how easy it is to keep our little van warm, this is easily the coldest we have been since living on the road.  As I write this, I'm tucked up in bed in the middle of the day, fully clothed complete with snow jacket, beanie, thermal vest and two pairs of socks and I'm still freezing.  Unfortunately I can't type in gloves or I'd have those on too!  In comparison when we're in the van we're usually in t-shirts or a singlet!  I had completely forgotten how hard it is to heat a normal size living space.

I also used a regular stove yesterday for the first time since February.  It's funny how you forget things like what element settings to use and suchlike, I couldn't get over how quickly my rice came up to the boil yesterday!  I'm also not used to being able to wash my hands in the sink rather than have to use hand sanitiser or baby wipes and keep going to grab those instead.  At least I know I'm not alone doing things like that; Bevin confessed yesterday that after travelling around in his motor home for a while he got so used to having to make a cup of tea by having to boil the kettle on the gas hob that when he went to visit one of his children he went to do the same with their expensive $120 electric jug and melted both the base of the jug and made a mess of the ceramic cooktop!

We also have a microwave in here, which I'm about to go and try to remember how the hell to use to heat up my lunch instead of using a saucepan on the stove top.  It's really nice to have a little basin to clean my teeth too!  We have a sink in Ken that we can use but normally I go off to the public bathroom so we don't fill up our grey water tank so fast.  Minnie finds it very exciting being able to toddle off and get her own drink whenever she wants rather than having to go out and get one, or us bringing her one!  And making the bed is a hell of a lot easier when you don't have to climb all over it to do it.

But incredibly grateful as we are, that's where the novelty ends.  I miss Ken terribly and can't wait until we are able to go back to our little home again!  I actually find having so much space rather daunting, it's far too big and not cosy like Ken.  It's also amazing how much more stressful I find being in a bigger place.  From the moment we moved our stuff in I felt compelled to rush around and play house, finding a place for everything, but even with all our worldly goods inside it doesn't even take up a quarter of the room.  I also feel as though I constantly have to clean because in a bigger space you make more mess and use more things.  In Ken we can't really have any mess because there isn't the room, every bit of rubbish we make is constantly being removed and our little benchtops are always tidy because they have to be if you want to have room to do anything.  I imagine it must feel downright bizarre to most people reading this, I mean who on earth would rather have LESS space and LESS things?  As it turns out, we do.

What a view to wake up to!  We get to enjoy scenes like this all the time

I'm sure I will discover even more differences as the days go on, we're only on Day 2 after all!  But one more thing I have noticed that I miss is being closer to the weather - the weather of all things! When we're in Ken we always know what the weather is doing and when it's nice you always want to spend as much time as possible being outside, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.  In here however we have no idea what it's doing through the frosted windows.  It rained all night last night and we didn't hear a thing; we were amazed to get up this morning and find the road was flooded outside! There's nothing better than being able to spot an amazing sunrise or sunset from Ken's window and jumping outside to really be able to experience it.  It makes me sad to think how many I missed all those years living in a house while I was too busy cleaning or watching My Kitchen Rules.

We love you Ken!  Hope to be back with you again soon <3

Over the years I have owned four houses and have downsized with every one I have bought.  Even so, I never dreamed I would get so attached to living in a van!  I guess at the end of the day, home is where - and what you make it!


  1. Oh I do hope you get things sorted out soon, your health is so important, and some things can be very nasty.
    You don't want to risk your health through being too stubborn to seek refuge over winter.
    take care

  2. Nice article and thanks for sharing your knowledge. I really appropriate your views.

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