So, 15 seconds into my intense search for the Saxophone book I clicked on Craigslist in the USA, just to see what interesting vehicles were out there while Amazon was loading. Not sure how long I was searching Craigslist but it was a lot longer than the 15 seconds I spent looking for the book. Craigslist then led me to Tincan Tourist and an advert for a 1947 Flxible Clipper RV. I had seen these buses before (I'm no stranger to wandering the internet, dreaming of owning a classic American Vehicle) and thought they were the coolest thing I had ever seen!!
This particular Flxible looked in OK shape from the outside but with only 2 photographs on the advert, it could have been a complete wreck for all I knew. The ad did say that the bus had been stood for over 25 years and made no claim to the bus actually running. The only inside picture on the ad showed the dash of the bus with the keys in the ignition so I guessed they had tried to start it and failed.
I eventually closed down the computer that night and when confronted about the purchase of the Saxophone book (forgot all about that), made some excuse about being out of stock (sorry Christine!!).
Over the next few weeks I kept going back to the advert for the Flxible as it was re-listed several times with a part of me wishing the bus would sell so I could get this mad thought of me actually owning it, out of my head. In the end I decided to contact the seller by email with again part of me hoping the response would be "Bus sold, sorry".
The response was not that. In fact, of all the things the seller could have said, telling me it was his recently deceased grandfathers beloved bus and if it wasn't sold soon, the scrap metal guy was taking it to the crusher and that would devastate the family even further, was just the line to seal my fait. The problem the family had was the grandfathers house was sold and the bus was parked at the side of it with the new owners of the house demanding that the bus was removed.
12th April 2013
From an internet search, I found a restoration shop in California that was prepared to pick up the bus and take it to their shop. I paid my money to the seller and sat at home with everything crossed, praying that when the truck arrived at the grandfathers house, there would at least be something there for him to pick up.
26th April 2013
The first time I knew that my money wasn't in a Nigerian bank account was when I was sent an image of the bus being loaded onto the trailer.
The next thing to do was work out how to tell my wife what I'd done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
27th April 2013
Once back at the restoration shop, the initial inspection was pretty good. The high California mountain desert had been kind to the bodywork at least. There was only one area on the whole bus where rust had gone through!!
I had visions of all the dogs in the local park sitting down with their heads extended to the sky, howling in unison to the sound of Christines voice!! Of course, while this thought was going through my head, I was still mindful to keep my submissive pose, at least during the "Bulldog chewing a wasp" phase of Christines facial anger display!! Otherwise I could quite easily be taking nutrients through a straw for the next 12 months.
She did seem just as upset that I had failed to buy the Saxophone book I was tasked with doing in the first place.
I had been warned by the restoration shop that buses of this age are usually only held together by the lead paint so I was to prepare myself for the aftermath of a brutal sand blasting. Increadibly, the bodywork underneath was almost as good as the day it was made. I have since found out that even during it's working life, this bus had a fairly pampered existance. It was bought by the Utah Parks Company (part of Pacific Railroad) and spent it's life taking tourists around the National Parks.
7th November 2013
The next step was getting the bus primed and protected from the weather.
I think Bobs death certainly put things in perspective for me and what's really important in life. Since I was forced to retire from the fire service with a life changing back injury, I've had a "live for today" kind of attitude but even more so now!!
The restoration shop was looking to close down and I was faced with a decision - Sell the bus and at least cut my losses - or somehow find the money now and look to get the project completed before they closed the doors on Bobs shop for good ....................................................
Well, you only get one chance at this life so hold on to your hat and give it everything you have!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We decided to do Bob proud and carry on for as long as we could.
15th November 2013
Christine used to be a hair dresser when she left school so she has started to cut friends and neighbours hair, I've changed jobs for a slightly better salary, I've also taken a second job at weekends, we are selling everything we can at garage sales and on ebay (would never have dreamed of doing this before). And what really brought it home to me how the family has pulled together was at Christmas. Our twin boys asked everyone for money instead of presents (without us knowing) and then tried and give us their Christmas money which of course we refused but they put it in our bank anyway. Also, the twins are the most shy kids you could ever meet. They would never talk to anyone they didn't know or stand out in a crowd but at Christmas, they went to our local village, set up a CD player with backing music and played Christmas songs on their Saxophones in the freezing cold until they physically couldn't play anymore!!!! They got nearly £110 - about $150 that went straight into the bus fund - now that took guts to do that. We have also taken out the maximum loan the bank would allow us and common sense dictated we go for.
So we are all on a journey and I'm not sure if we'll get there but we are sure as hell going to try!!
Back to the restoration then. After the exterior was primed, we then had to look at the interior. Although the Clipper had been converted to an RV about 35 years ago, time had taken it's toll. I was desperate to at least keep some of the interior but on closer inspection, it was decided to start again.
19th November 2013
17th December 2013
At the same time I had the centre walkway in the bus widened BIG MISTAKE!!!! This involved altering the bus frame rails and that took over a week to get right (major expense).
Having a bucket of sand ready for when the invoices come in is a great help. If it's a big invoice and Christine sees it first, she normally says "Make like an Ostrich", then I know it's not going to be pretty.
5th January 2014
One of the past jobs where corners have been cut relates to the windows in the bus. The previous RV conversion left all of the windows in place and simply boarded over the window on the inside where the shower was placed and covered the window with reflective film on other parts of the bus where appliances and cupboards were situated.
I didn't want to spoil the exterior look of the bus by having some windows skinned over properly with metal but the restoration shop pointed out that if a window was broken or leaking from the seal, anything behind the window may have to be ripped out to repair it. So the offending windows have been skinned over properly and the interior layout has been planned so none of the walls divide or encroach on a window. This has made things very difficult as far as planning the interior but I think will be well worth the effort once done.
11th January 2014
I went to bed with the scene in "Alice in Wonderland" where the large room suddenly gets smaller, going through my head and dreaming that I would turn into "Dobby", the elf character from Harry Potter, if I ever took a shower in such a small enclosure!!
The following day I got one of the twins to type a message to the restoration shop asking them to lower the floor. That way I could blame my son for ruining our lives and remove myself from all responsibility :-)
As expected, lowering the floor was a royal pain in the ar*e!!!!!!
One of the fuel tanks was right under the section of floor that needed to be lowered (why me).
I swear the only thing I can remember doing seriously wrong as a kid was putting mud in a shoe box, setting light to the lid and putting it on the front step of Mr McKenzie's house before knocking on his door and running away. Yes, he did come to the door and stamp on the lid to put the fire out. Yes, he did have his best slippers on and yes, at the time we couldn't breathe for laughing but COME ON!!!!!!!!! I think I've been punished enough already.
For the record Mr McKenzie was not a nice man. He would confiscate any item that found its way onto his lawn and take great pleasure in destroying it in front of you as a message to go and play somewhere else!
It has cost as much to lower the fuel tank, alter the floor in the bathroom and fabricate several frames to accommodate everything as it did to strip the whole bus of paint and have the exterior primed. I'm never watching Alice in Wonderland again and If I ever see the kid that played Harry Potter, I'm going to shove that wand so far up his ar*e, he'll be able to use it as a tooth pick!!!!!!!
27th January 2014
I also had a dilemma regarding a crease in the roof line of the bus just above one of the windows. The restoration shop pointed out that this kind of decision was a close call regarding getting it fixed. Some people expect "Battle scars" on vehicles this old and some can't live with their restoration having such a noticeable dent in it. It was my call at the end of the day so I decided to get it fixed even though it involved some major work (The restoration shop don't do "Bondo" repairs apparently - that was me shot down in flames then!!). I would hate to have said leave it and then when the bus is finished, regret not having it done.
This didn't go down well with Christine!! - "Note to self - have a stock of flowers,chocolates and a list of other people to blame for next time". The problem I have being a male, now that Christine doesn't really say much about the restoration any more is reading the signs of disapproval. Women are so bl**dy complicated, however!!! I think I've found a way to measure just how annoyed Christine is at any given time. I've figured out that the more annoyed she is, the further away she sleeps from me in the bed at night. At this moment she could give David Blaine a run for his money as I think she has actually learned to levitate!! There's no way our bed is that wide:0)
The pictures below show the crease and not only the window skinned over but the repair of the crease. I think they've done a great job and I'm glad I had it done.
7th February 2014
I'm currently waiting for the bill to cover the installation of the services and main electrics to land in my inbox. The sale of the family car will help with that bill.
Christine is sleeping a little closer to me at night. I'm not sure if that means she is coming to terms with the restoration project or she has gone into attack mode and is preparing to strike!
I think I'll continue to play it safe for now - avoid scented soaps, sleep down wind and wear camouflage pyjamas :-)
22nd February 2014
Below is taken from the main bedroom and shows the back of the kitchen storage carcase. Splitting this space in two allows for a full length wardrobe in the bedroom as well as a shoe storage locker above.
This day will go down as by far the most expensive invoice day to date (double the previous record). Covered the computer up with a table cloth, came back an hour later and the electronic copy of the invoice was still there. David Copperfield made Elephants and Las Vegas dissapear and I couldn't even manage 864KB of data!!
I think my stress levels are affecting Bingo, our Blue Fronted Amazon Parrot. The last time he got stressed was when we had guys in to decorate a couple of rooms, including his. Bingo decided that as we hadn't consulted him about the wallpaper choice, he would strip the entire room even before the decorators van had pulled off the driveway.
Government cuts bring havoc to Britain’s roads!!
The UK Government has been using recycled tarmac from other parts of the motorway network to re-surface damaged roads after the winter weather reduced some carriageways to a minefield of potholes.
However, this has confused vehicle satnav systems to such an extent that one unfortunate motorist who was trying to find his sister’s house in Glasgow, Scotland, followed his satnav instead which indicated he was actually on the M1 motorway just outside London. The poor motorist drove 269 miles in the wrong direction before running out of fuel.
More importantly, new images have come through of the restoration progress. I decided from a very early stage that the paint design on the bus when I bought it would stay. But, the main blue colour was of course a little washed out with years sat in the sun so I needed to try and find a suitable colour to hopefully reflect what the paint might have looked like when it was first painted.
A nice guy off one of the RV forums has a lovely Corvette and I figured the colour of this Corvette was just what I was looking for. The car is Nassau Blue or Bright Blue depending on which GM caltalogue you look in and seemed perfect.
As the images downloaded of the Flxible with the base coat of Nassau Blue, my first thought was - "$h*t, that's blue!!!" which of course it is.
My second thought, and this is where my Mancunian upbringing kicks in was "There's no way on this planet I'm going to just drive this past customs at the dock without any fuss"
I realise that the overspray on the windows and roof isn't helping and once the white stripes and bottom paint are added, the blue will be broken up.
Forgot to mention, I've started a facebook group and have been very honoured that people have taken the effort to join. If you like the blog and just want to find out a little more about Flxibles around the world then please join my group, you're very, very welcome.
Also, not sure if I've said this either but thank you to everyone who has taken time to read this blog so far, I find it very theraputic to be able to share our story. It doesn't take the guilt away for getting my family into this mess but for some reason, my whole family feel like we have people we've never even met, wishing us well.
6th April 2014
Didn't start well this morning, Sam left his dirty underwear outside Kieran's room knowing Kieran wouldn't even step over the offending garment in case Sam's germs launched themselves onto Kieran's flesh!!!!!!!!!! In revenge, Kieran stuck the end of Sam's favourite pen in his own ear, having witnessed his brothers nasty habit of chewing on the end of his pens on many occasions. Again, the first we knew was the almighty row that ensued and all this before we've even had breakfast.
Opened up the emails when the kids had finally gone to school and Gerry the restorer had sent through three fresh images of the Flxible. These images are probably the first where I can actually see what the bus is going to look like and to say I'm pleased is an understatement!! Even Christine seemed to like the results (I'm basing that assumption on the fact that she didn't start the next sentence with "why didn't I listen to my bl**dy mother all those years ago...........................)
There is still a lot of work to do on the outside with the main thing being the dark blue pinstripe to match the original design. Money again is an issue with the very last and final loan running out quickly. On average now I'm sleeping about four hours each night and have started to have a re-occuring dream of having some kind of nasty animal (Crocodile, Wolf etc.) hunting me down and the whole dream is about me either trying to kill it or geting away from it!! I'm sure it means something but hopefully it will go away with time as I need some decent rest soon.
Haven't added anything to the blog for 6 months (sorry). I just haven't been able to face even looking at images of this bus. The sense of guilt, every time I think of what a mess I've got my loving family into, churns my stomach. Nothing is happening with the restoration shop and everything has gone quiet. It's been impossible to get any information from the people left at the shop and although I have communications to suggest that the project is almost complete, I think the reality on the ground is very different.
I got a message from Lisa, Bob Rowsells daughter this week. I'm hoping that things will start to change but it's not looking very good at the moment. HOWEVER!!!, I've spent all of our life savings and got the family into more debt than we've ever been in, so until there is literally no way forward, I'll fight with everything I have to see this through.
29th November 2014
Our beloved Damon Daybreak RV has now sold so one of the two huge loans I have, has been paid off. This means that our bank account can finally break even each month with some careful management of the finances (obviously, Christine now looks after that side of things.......can't think why!)
6th December 2014
Still nothing from the USA regarding the Flxible Clipper restoration. I'm not sure what the next step will be as there is no money to fund a trip over to the States. Plans for Christmas are going well and we are looking forward to spending time together as a family.
The New Year will see a more agressive "All or nothing" attitude to getting this mess sorted. I'm hoping for much better news next year and who knows, maybe the completion of the restoration!!!!!!
17th May 2015
In the last 3 years, I've seen human behavour from either end of the spectrum!! Confiding in certain people that I retired from the fire service with a serious back injury and now have a "live for the moment" attitude, should have told them that my desire to get this bus restored was genuine and a kind of rehabilitation exercise. Unfortunately, those individuals saw it as opportunity to take me for every penny I had in the belief that I must have received a large payout from the fire service (They clearly don't know just how good big industry lawers are in the UK).
Well, I've now experienced the complete oposite in human nature to those low life reptiles. There is a husband and wife, living in California who decided that enough was enough and took it upon themselves to rescue the bus, at their own expense. They have shipped the bus to a new yard where they are sure I will be well looked after and my dream of restoring this bus will become a reality. They refuse to take any payment from me and what makes this so remarkable is that they are complete strangers to me and my family. If it were not for their wishes to remain annonymous, I would be shouting their names from every roof top. The only thing I can do is hope they read this blog one day and see just how grateful we are for their extraordinary kindness!!!!
18th May 2015
The bus is now at the new yard and being finished by Rod Lingren (At last, someone's name I can actually mention !!). Rod comes very highly recommended and has vast experience with vehicles of all shapes and sizes going back a long way. Despite paying people a hefty kings ransom in the past to get the bus finished, there is still masses of work to either put right that has been poorly done or start work that was paid for and should have been done, but wasn't.
First job has been to make a cover for the bus to protect the unfinished paint job from the California sun.
We should really think about giving the bus a name but I'm not sure what name to give it. I've asked Bingo our parrot and he said "Bingo" . But he said the same thing when I asked him where the keys to the car were yesterday and again last week he answered "Bingo" when I asked him who was at the door, so I don't think he's taking this seriously!!
Although the settee's in the front of the bus initially looked good, it was pointed out that the seat backs were far too high and came over the top of the window line. Also, Rod the guy who is finishing the restoration, found that the seat backs were far too upright even after the back was lowered and needed altering.
Now they look much better !!
Sorry I haven't been keeping up with the blog. Not a great deal has happened with the bus recently but in the last week, work has started on getting the underside cleaned and treated to protect the Flxible from the UK weather (when it eventually gets over here). Rod is using a high performance enamel to treat the metal work and timber but it must be a very messy job to do.
As I turned around to talk to the gate guy, he was already in his van and reversing away from the house!! Guess we'll have to manage manually pulling the gate closed for now. At least until we find another gate guy.
6th August 2015
Can't believe we are on a summer holiday in Spain. Didn't spend anything on the faulty driveway gate so we still have spending money saved and this feels just how it used to be, normal!!!! Watching Christine and the twins around the pool reminds me of our pre-bus days when the last thing we needed to worry about was money.
I used to be the tallest and strongest in the house but the balance of power is changing. Although i've been in denial, Sam and Kieran overtook me in the growth arms race some time ago. Official weigh in was just before we came away and i've shrunk by almost a inch to 5'11", Sam is 184.2cm (6'1/2") and Kieran is 184cm (6'). I suppose all parents feel the same about their children but I just can't tell you how proud I am that our boys are growing up into really decent human beings (if a bit too tall).
The day has been great and really relaxed but back in the apartment in the evening, the atmosphere just didn't seem right. Through social media, Sam found out that his girlfriend had dumped him, waiting until he was out of the country (God it's tough being a parent sometimes). Sam hasn't taken the news well at all. Although they had only been seeing each other for a few months, Sam was crazy about her. I hate it when you're not in control of the situation or able to just make it right!!
Rightly or wrongly, we've decided to let Sam sort this out. He has to be able to deal with this in his own way even if we disagree with how he goes about it.
8th August 2015
It's been a rough couple of days but Sam seems to have sorted things out with his girlfriend (for now anyway). His mood has picked up and we're going down to the beach.
Rod sent through more images of the underside of the bus painted. Second invoice coming through but that's OK as we've got it saved. Rod seems to sense the pace at which I need to go and up until now, things seem to be working out OK. Still thinking about what to do regarding the previous restoration shop and all my money they have for work that hasn't been done. I'm sure I'll find a way to legally get back at them but for now, I'll just have to wait.
11th August 2015
I've had an idea to start a very small company for some time. After selling most of our stuff on eBay to pay for the bus, I got the bug for running a small business from home. I think both Christine and I were surprised just how easy ot was to sell the item on eBay, pack it and ship it out the next day. Unfortunately, we haven't really got a clue what type of business we want. Over the next few days we are going to brain storm ideas around the pool to see what we come up with.
It would help a lot if we had a separate, small income coming in as well as my salary. That second big loan could eventually be paid off early.
15th August 2015
Coming to the end of our Spanish holiday. We have had such a normal, relatively drama free holiday that I think it's the best one we've ever had. Deep down I know it's just been a fairly plain, simple break but to see my family chilled out every day, doing whatever they want has put the biggest smile on my face. I am without a doubt the proudest father and husband in the world right now.
I know that things will take a few years to get back to normal but once the loan is paid off, I really think we can re-group and plan for the future. I don't think there is anthing that can upset me at the moment.
18th August 2015
Back in the UK now. When the taxi pulled up outside the house, everything looked OK. One of the twins opened the porch door and the smell hit you like a freight train. It was the smell of damp and that wasn't good. Infact my heart sunk but no one else seemed to notice the smell or at least they didn't say anything.
We opened the inner front door and the smell just got worse. Everyone noticed it now and an"Oh my god" from Christine when she stepped into the kitchen, confirmed my worse fears, we had a leak while we were away. What did I say about nothing being able to upset me!!
22nd August 2015
It's my Birthday!!!!!!!!!!!
Because of the leak, a surprise birthday party for me was cancelled. Never mind, just spending the day with the family would be enough. Unfortunately, our children are teenagers and keeping a tyrannosaurus rex confined to the house would be easier than keeping the kids from seeing their mates!
We did get a takeaway meal for us all in the evening and that was great. I even managed to enforce a NO PHONES rule while we had our meal but only just.
29th August 2015
We've.................sorry, I've decided on a small business idea we are going to try - Spice blends and BBQ meat rubs. Why? well, I've been interested in cooking since I was a little kid and with my father being a military man all of his life, I've travelled quite a bit and sampled lots of different cuisines. For a few years now I've been making my own spice mixes and turning that passion into a commercial venture just seems a really natural thing to do.
When I was about 7 years old, a family came to live on our street and one of the kids in the family, Darren, became my best friend and he's still my best friend today!! For some unknown reason, when we first met, he thought I was Italian and insisted on calling me Da Malat. The more annoyed I got, the more he called it me and as with most things, the name stuck even though it's nothing like my real surname. So, I've decided to call the spice company - DA MALAT - even though my wife hates it. I've already ordered foil packs, a heat sealing machine, plenty of spices and labels.
Over the next few weeks I'm going to mix a few spice blends and hopefully have at least 6 different recipes to package and sell. First thing is to design a logo and maybe, this venture might be the break we're waiting for.
10th September 2015
Our Spice and meat rub company is starting to take shape. I've already perfected a couple of spice blends and three BBQ meat rubs. Most have been taken from traditional recipes that go back over 100 years. The company logo has been done and I like it a lot!!
I also want to provide cooking equipment as well to enhance the appeal of the business. Spice shakers have been really difficult to source as I wanted the ones with air tight lids as spices quickly lose their flavour if exposed to the air for any length of time. I'm also learning new skills like producing water slide decals for the spice shakers and waterproof product labels for the foil packs. Everything will have the DA MALAT logo on it if possible.
All of this driven by an overwhelming desire to get our bus finished. We will do whatever it takes now and even with the flooding set back, it just makes more determined to try even harder!!
5th October 2015
Just found out that there are quite a few bits missing from the bus including the rear bumper!! Everything was there when the bus was delivered to the first restorer so that means they have either sold the bits or threw them away. This is a real problem as parts are really hard to come by. Also, I paid the previous restorer $1,000 to get the exterior light fittings, side mirrors and bumpers re-chromed but none of this work has been done. Those people owe me thousands of dollars but I've got no way of getting it back at the moment. I won't let this drop though, I can't afford to.
Rod, the new restorer is working on all of these issues to try and get them resolved. He's finished cleaning the window surrounds now and is working on the exterior lights.
22nd October 2015
We've had some serious problems at school with the twins. Both Sam and Kieran have been bullied at school in the past but as they get older, the level of violence and threats of more violence are getting to the point where we need to involve the police. I blame us as parents for putting them in the spotlight with their music. We have always encouraged them to do well with their saxophone playing, even pushing them to perform in front of the school at talent shows and Christmas. This appears to have given them a reputation as "teachers pets" and the idiots have singled them out as targets.
As a dad I feel helpless and want to sort these kids out but I'm the only bread winner in the family and these idiots know that I can't touch them without finding myself in jail. However, if I feel that my kids are in real danger, I'll do something about it and to hell with what might follow. I'm starting the twins at my local gym to build up their strength so at least they can defend themselves long enough to get away is anything should happen. Sam and Kieran don't want to go out anymore due to the bullying but I'm hoping this is only temporary. Not sure what the police can do but we've had no choice but to get them involved.
4th November 2015
Some of the most hard to get parts on the bus are probably beyond saving so I'll be spending the next few weeks trying to source them from anywhere I can. The "Ray gun" lights as I call them will definitely need replacing so if you're reading this and know where I might find some then please leave a message, I'll be extremely grateful for the help!!
19th November 2015
The plumbing lines are being put into the bus while spare parts for the lights are being sourced. Rod is using a product called PEX as it's a lot more versatile than conventional plumbing materials and gives a certain amount of insulation to the pipe work. Although I'd already paid the previous restoration shop for this work, I'm going to have to count this as a loss along with lots of other jobs I'd paid for but haven't been done.
Rod has sent over a rough sketch of the plumbing layout for the bus. Due to the lack of room under these vintage machines, the space for the fresh water tank and black water tank is really tight. Hopefully everything is going to fit OK.
15th December 2015
As the bills roll in for the bus, the urgency to get the spices company venture underway increases. As I've stated earlier in the blog, my idea is to run a small family business from home to try and part finance the bus project. The spice company idea fits well with me as food and especially herb and spice blends is one of my passions and I think that things always work out better when you have a passion for it.
I've been testing different blends on friends and family and also talking to suppliers. I've also passed a food hygiene exam and carried out some product testing. One of the main tests has been to pack the spice blends in their foil packs and place them in a chinese steamer over a low heat. I have been looking to see if the packages let in any moisture but all passed with flying colours.
I've also compacted the foil pack overnight using weights to see if the contents pack down or still run free. I refuse to use nasty stuff like anti-caking agents used by large volume manufacturers and so this has been a concern. What I found was that spice blends with a high sugar content such as some USA BBQ rub recipes did compact together so I've abandoned those recipes and to tell you the truth, I'm much happier putting less sugar in anyway.
The website isn't perfect but for a novice website builder, I think I've done OK for a first try: http://damalatspices.wix.com/damalat-spice-blends
Let me know what you think!! Just got to get the eBay shop sorted.
20th December 2015
We don't have any wiring diagrams for the bus. This hasn't been such a problem up until now but I'd love for the original buttons and dials to work but there are so many of them!! Again, a search is underway to see if we can locate a user manual for the Flxible.
22nd December 2015
This is probably the last update from Rod before Christmas. The kitchen unit was made all wrong by the original restorer but Rod has managed to work with the carcass at least and has now fitted the oven and hob in place. I think he's done a really great job with what he had to work with.
24th December 2015
Well, it's Christmas Eve and work has stopped on the bus for this year. We've managed to keep it together over the last 12 months and even found a liitle spare cash to get the twins a couple of presents. To be fair, they hadn't even asked for anything this year.
We received requests to make up Christmas gift hampers for the spice blends and that has kept us busy and brought in some much needed revenue. I've recieved a lot of offers of money donations to help us with the bus from around the world but I'd never dream of taking a penny from anyone. The spice company lets me raise much needed cash through some honest hard work and that makes me feel a million times better. As I've said before "I got us into this mess so I'll get us out of it"
1st January 2016
Happy New Year!!!
I'd love to say that I have a really good feeling about this year but I think I said that at the start of 2015 and look what happened there. All I know is that I'm going to fight for everything and never give up on our dreams. It's the twins exam year and their last at secondary school so all our efforts are going into making sure they study hard and get the best results they can.
As far as the bus goes, I'm hoping that a lot of progress is made and if the spices venture does well, we'll have extra revenue to get the bus finished sooner.
19th January 2016
Some really good progress to report on the bus!!
All of the window surrounds have been cleaned and polished. The windows have been assembled using new rubber and all back in place on the bus. Rod has done a great job and it's that kind of detailed work that will make all the difference to the finished project.
- The twins went out in the freezing cold to busk and earn their first pay cheque !! Still can't believe they did this. It definitely showed maturity beyond their years.
- Christine didn't divorce me (can't believe that either)
- We learned how to sell on eBay, even if it was almost everything we own.
- We really appreciate the simple things in life and don't buy anything now just because we desire it. That has to be a massive plus for us.
- Bingo, our psychotic parrot finally realises that he doesn't have to be the centre of attention all the time.
- Although we were close anyway, I feel the bond between Christine and myself has become a hell of a lot stronger. Things got so bad at one point, our marriage could have easily fell apart very quickly. Instead, this extremely stressful and very dark episode in our lives made us close ranks and feed off each others support. Don't get me wrong though, I certainly know just how lucky I've been. When I read about families splitting due to stress, I know full well it could have easily been us in the same situation.
- We've got to know some incredible people during this journey. I've lost count the number of people who have offered their support and even send financial help !!! Even just taking the time to read this blog has lifted our spirits during times when we had almost given up. I have never met a lot of these wonderful people but I'm hoping that I will before I die.
- We have a new business !!! Not sure our dream of starting a family business would ever have got off the ground if it wasn't through financial desperation.
Got an email from Rod this week regarding the paintwork on the bus. Like quite a lot of other jobs I'd paid the last restoration shop to do, the paintwork on the bus is incomplete. Namely the front passenger door hasn't been done. Rod thinks it was painted but got damaged somehow and had to be stripped. You can see in the image below, taken after the bus was rescued from the last shop.
30th April 2016
I thought I'd update on the spice blends and meat rubs business. As stated earlier in this blog, my plan to get finances for the bus restoration could only come from us. Guilt is a very destructive emotion and although I could have easily raised the funds through pledges alone, it would have been the end of me. My self inflicted punishment for dragging my family to the point of bankruptcy has been to work hard to raise the funds myself.
That self inflicted punishment has resulted in our first family run business, DA MALAT Spice Blends & Meat Rubs. It isn't turning a profit yet if you count the stock I've had to purchase but every single order that we receive puts the biggest smile on my face that you could imagine. What makes me even more proud is the way all of the family have got behind it and chip in where needed.
I phoned home the other day from a business trip to Scotland and Christine told me that Kieran had come in from school and insisted on packing an order and taking the package to the post office for delivery to the customer. He even came back and filled in the ebay feedback form for the customer. We now have 9 spice blends on our private ebay account and would like to open an ebay shop in the next couple of months. We could start a shop now but I insist on trying out all of the spice blends we sell using various cooking methods and that takes time.
At the moment we have the following blends:
Chinese Salt & Pepper Spice Mix
Texas Ranch BBQ Rib & Steak Rub
American Diner Spice Mix
Carolina Slow Roast Rub
Doner Kebab Spice Mix
New Orleans Tasso Rub
Southern Fried Chicken Spice Mix
Tandoori Masala Barbecue Spice Mix
By far the most popular is Chinese Salt & Pepper Spice Mix, the kids are addicted to it !!
12th December 2016
Almost all of the exterior lights have been refurbished and are now back on the bus. Certainly gives a good impression of what the bus will look like when finished. Some of the original lenses couldn't be saved but Rod found some replacement on the internet.
Hasn't been a great deal going on with the bus over Christmas but Rod has got quite a bit completed in the last few weeks. A lot of the old heating pipework needs to be repaired or replaced and that has been the main focus recently.
12th March 2017
The spice company had it's best month for sales in February. It's still only making small profits but everything seems to be going in the right direction. We have been asked by a customer to produce a turmeric based spice blend that is said to have significant health benefits. Apparently turmeric is an ancient remedy to combat the onset of some forms of cancer?? We've blended turmeric with garlic powder, onion powder, ginger and black pepper. Even if doesn't actually have any health benefits, it tastes great and is selling OK (we don't make any medical claims when selling it).
Our twins have started to get more involved in the spice business which is great. Hopefully, one day it may even turn over enough money to give them a salary (and make them less financially dependent on us!!).