Uneventful journey back to almost Aycliffe (better than the way there following me mate who drove very quickly, had Topsy on two wheels on a roundabout, I'll not do that again!), when I thought the lights had gone to green so I turned right into Aycliffe, ahh nearly home... then the flashing blue lights appeared behind me, so I pulled to the left to let them pass, but they stayed behind me, eek!. Slowed to a stop and wound me window down, the conversation went as follows...
policeman - You've just done what I've done twice
me - what did I do twice
policeman - no, i did it twice you did it once
me - oh, what've I done once?
policeman - ran a red light
me - no no no, it was green! (starting to look panicked now!)
policeman - no it was red
me - (speechless)
policeman - it was green for straight on red for turning right (which I had)
me - (cue a couple of tears) oh no, what's gonna happen, I've only just passed my test, I thought it was green, I'm sorry (now in flood of tears)
policeman - (smiling) well, what's gonna happen now is you're gonna drive home carefully and not make that mistake again!
me - thank you orrifacer!
I then set off and reached 40 mph before I realised it was a 30 zone, oops, but he just overtook me and wagged his finger, so thanks to Aycliiffe police, as ever friendly and forgiving! And ever since then I always get a little wave when he passes, ahh.
So, jobs I've done so far
Two cab door weather shield/seals installed
Most of the exterior light seals replaced
The sliding door lock removed, parts replaced, rebuilt
The gas stove installed (only till the new cupboards go in, then it'll have to be re-installed)
One sun visor recovered
Brakes replaced by garage
Seat belts installed by garage
Various other bits of tinkering, like a spare set of keys!
Hmmmm, it's not much, at this rate she won't be completed by spring (mind you, I don't think Topsy will ever be finished - there's always another little job to do!)
Anyway, another DIY success for Topsy!
Oh, we finally got the drivers door seal on, it only took hours of work, I even messed around with body-filler stuff! Noise level in cab is vastly reduced (I can hear the kids now but don't tell them!), as is the draught, but it'll be harder for Mr R.A.C man to break in next time I lock the keys in!
THE first scheduled stop (not counting the brief halt in Stanhope for Rog to have a five min breather from supervising me driving, and where I did me seventeen point turn in the road!) was Killhope Mine which is one the the best museums of it's type - the kids got to search for their own minerals, and go down the mine kitted out in wellies and hard hat, and play with old-fashioned toys, and see a great collection of minerals and spar boxes, oh and lots lots more - and there was no interactive computers in sight! Killhope is great for a day trip from anywhere in the north east for adults and kids and is highly recommended by us all! (Belle and Babz found loads of bonnie crystals and Belle is now engaged in making her own spar box).
WE then drove back down the valley in Westgate where there is a great quiet basic campsite right next to the Weir of the Wear, with toilet and showers for Barbara and a five minute walk to the pub for Rog! One vw bus for the girls to sleep in - one tent for me n Rog (I will get around to putting the hammocks in!). After sunset we had the pleasure of watching very fast bats chase midges (of which several bit us - midges that is, not bats!) over the river Wear, and fish jumping out the water, and also one large trout (well nearly a foot and a half long) wriggle expertly over the weir. There was an owl somewhere near by, but even Roger's impression of an owl call didn't entice it into view!! And we saw the stars - lots and lots and lots of stars, it's great without light pollution - if only we hadn't camped up in front of the street light!!
BREAKFAST was a luxurious affair - we drove over the moors towards Teesdale, and stopped by a little river to eat strawberries and other goodies in the open air surrounded by nobody, the kids tried to build a damn, Rog went off for a little walk to a quarry, and I relaxed in the sunshine laid next to me bus .... a very nice time was had by all!
AND now we're back from the weir on the Wear where we were at (say that quickly after a few pints!) and I think we're all agreed that Topsy is the best thing we've ever had - excellent for the girls as a changing room after falling in river accidents, and great at just trundling steady away up and down the hills - though I have had her up to 60 mph, I much prefer cruising round at a modest 35-45! Also, we went all that way to see nature at its best, only to find a sparrowhawk in me own back garden! Next week a new adventure, but we don't know where as there is no plan! Well, there's a plan to write a list of things we might need, like insect repellent - we were hopelessly unprepared as always!
ps - I'd like to say thanks to the chaps at Homeplan DIY (Greenwell Road, Newton Aycliffe, DL5 4DH 01325 312037) who even at this early stage of my slow Topsy interior project have been an invaluable source of knowledge, materials, tools and very good advice, especially when it comes to camping stoves and gas bottles, connecting the right two things together!! So, THANK YOU, from the camper van girl... who can now enjoy a cup of tea anywhere!
EEK! Yesterday I drove me Topsy for the first time - a very brave Roger sat in with me, and we crawled along in first gear for a few minutes ... finding second gear turned out to be not quite as easy as I thought, and finding 3rd was just as traumatic ... but 4th was ok, I think I'd started to get the hang of it by then!
SO, after a quick detour to drop off a friend I set off towards Keith Bingham's vw emporium in Thornaby, in a 32 year old vwehicle, with my L plates on, so apologies to anyone who was stuck behind me! By now I'd got the hang of going up through the gears, but going down through the gears was proving to be different gravy entirely, 4th to 3rd is fine, and 2nd to 1st is fine, but as yet I can't for the life of me get it from 3rd to 2nd, so at every junction I was having to come to a complete stop from 3rd and then going up from 1st! But all the folk on the roads seemed to have patience, and most folk smiled and waited for me to sort me little self out whenever I stalled it (which was a few times!) and didn't seem to mind too much that I wasn't going particularly quickly on some of the back roads ... Roger did get a bit concerned a few times, but as I said, a near crash or nearly going off the road doesn't count!! However, she's not been on two wheels on any corners yet so I've yet to push her to the limits of her capabilities! (hopefully I'll never have her on two wheels - that's more Roger's style!)
ANYWAY, I loved driving Topsy, it's quite strange being such a new driver who's learned in a nice friendly modern car to driving the idiosyncratic quirky Topsy, but the feeling is great, the steering is good, the view is fantastic, in fact it's just as hard but even better than I thought it would be - me little dream was a good one and I'm so pleased I've got her, but I will be going somewhere quiet to practise that gear thing, I'm sure I'll get the hang of it eventually ....
(The vw emporium was excellent, and thanks must be said to the guy who owns it, Keith, he talked me through exactly how to put seat belts in, and he managed to find me the two hammock bunks I need for the pop top roof, so this week I'll start drilling me van
.... and a while later I heard the unmistakable sound of a vw, and was very surprised to see another great looking van pulling up outside - Boris had brought Gareth, and he and his lovely sweedish import were nose to nose with Topsy! It was strange to see two fantastic looking vehicles in this quiet suburban street!
Also yesterday we took Topsy to meet the local vw mechanic, Norm, and took her to the Cobblers pub (a fine and dandy establishment which comes highly recommended by me - well, I know folk that work there!)
SO, not much work done on Topsy yet (none), but next week the door seals should come (me first diy van job!), and we may have got the seatbelts by then and could possibly have a clearer idea on what we'll eventually do with the inside... But we're still brimming with enthusiasm (but thankfully the purple fur idea has been dropped, phew) (and if you click on the picture and look at it close up - you'll see I wasn't lying about selling the kids shoes!!)
IT was the most money I've ever spent in my life so I felt a wee bit dizzy after handing the cash over and signing the documents, it took me a good couple of hours to get over that one! There's only one seatbelt in the back so unfortunately my daughters can't join us on any adventures yet!! Though we should have another one fitted shortly ... Roger stalled it a couple of times on the way home :-( but it seemed to drive fine when he got the 'hang of it'. I failed my driving test this week, but the L plates will be going on her sometime today, or tomorrow, and I'll have a little tootle around the industrial estate away from proper traffic!.
BUT this morning the dizzyness is gone - there was no regrets as I woke up to look out the window at the lean green travelling machine (nor did I have any regrets the previous twenty times that I looked out of the window to check on Topsy, but I'm sure that I'll only check 19 times tonight!)...
SO, that's all the news for now, but there will be developments over the next few weeks!!
From Zoe, Barbara and Belinda