A lot has changed since my last blog post. I started a new job working as a learning support assistant in a secondary school, so ages 11-16 rather than 4-11 which is what i was used to working in primary schools for the past 8 years. Its not actually that different, the students are all taller than me, swear a bit more, but other than that its pretty much the same.

Our daughter also finished school, attended prom and hung around the house all summer readying herself for college next week. Our son turned 18, he’s now working full time in the kitchen at the local pub which suits him well for now. He went off to Reading and Leeds festival after we got him tickets for his birthday. I also dragged him along to the annual Beautiful Days festival.

So, Beautiful Days was as beautiful as ever but very wet this year! The original plan was to go down in the bus but it wasn’t ready. So Dan stayed behind whilst I slummed it in a tent. I shard the experience with my 18 year old son and 26 year old nephew. It was a completely different experience going with those guys and we spent a lot of time in the Bimble Inn and the rave tent! Next year we will be in the bus for sure (I hope), feeling snug as little bugs!

The conversion is going well with all 3 solar panels on the roof alongside a roof vent, roof fan and satellite dish for the WifFi. When the sun was beating down throughout June and most of July, Dan was using all his power tools without having to plug into mains electric!

All the wiring inside is done for lights, speakers, water pumps, stereo systems, USB ports and the like. The plumbing is good to go and we’re waiting for the kitchen sink and shower to be fitte. We fitted the kitchen worktop yesterday and its looking great! Toilet also arrived yesterday so Dan has taken it up to the bus this morning to see how it looks and fits. The Rock-n-Roll bed has been ordered which may take up to 6 weeks to arrive as its been custom made for the bus. We are desperate to just get away in the beast now. We need to get it passed as a camper van by the DVLA first though…

Our other super massive news is that we sold our house! We are currently renting in a cute little village just up the road from our old place. In other exciting news we have brought a flat in Brighton to AirBnB. We are hoping to use the flat as a base for when we are travelling full time in the bus. So our next mini project is to make the flat beautiful so people want to stay there! Phew! Busy, busy, busy. you can now see why its taken me a while to write this blog!

Our animals have always been important to us and at one stage we had about 40! Coming to our house was like coming to a petting zoo. I should have charged!

It all started when we first got together. A friend of ours turned up one night with a cat that needed re-homing . His previous owner had died, so we took him in. His name was Ug. When the pub around the corner from us started specialising in fish he absconded. The pub ended up with a permanent fixture, a food stealing cat who became a bit of a mascot. Ug lived to the ripe old age of 21.

Around the same time as we got Ug, the same friend turned up with 2 kittens, a black one we called Blackie (named after Dan's teddy bear when he was a child) and a tabby we called Kitzie. They both travelled from home to home with us until we settled in Sussex. Blackie went missing one day, he must have gotten hit by a car. Kitzie lived until she was 19 and died in her sleep sunbathing in the garden. I still miss her. She was my familiar. Everywhere I went she wasn't far behind. The only time she went missing was for 5 days after my son was born. I think she was most upset with me!

Our crazy dog Bramble lived for 11 years. He was half Bernese mountain dog and his dad was so massive that when he jumped up to say hello to Dan, his could put his paws on Dan's shoulders (Dan's 6ft 2inches). It was like hugging a bear! Bramble was lovely but naughty. He would often escape and be found rolling in silage at the neighbours farm! He had 2 major operations. Once he raided the bin whilst we were out and ate a smashed jar of mayonnaise complete with broken glass. The second time he ate a ball of garden twine. It wrapped itself around his guts and he nearly died. We were heartbroken when he did die and he is hugely missed.

Dan took a lot of persuading to get another dog. Six years of persuading. In the end he capitulated and we have a lovely rescue dog called Apollo, he is half Jack Russell and half Norfolk Terrier. He is my shadow, a dog version of Kitzie actually.

Now we have one mad cat named Lenny, the dog and a pet snake called Jake. At one stage we had dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, stick insects and a tortoise! In fact the kids at school started calling my son Noah.

Our daughter will have the cat when we move into the bus full time. The dog... well he will have his own bespoke travelling compartment!

At the moment the bus is a sea of white waiting (perhaps) to be muralised but I’m not sure. To quote Tolkien’s character Gandalf the Grey

‘I liked white better,' I said. 
‘White!' he sneered. 'It serves as a beginning. White cloth may be dyed. The white page can be overwritten and the white light can be broken. 
In which case it is no longer white,' said I. 'And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is, has left the path of wisdom.'

Is it better to leave the bodywork well alone? I don’t know if I can do that though! The bus had three large windows either side and two will be filled in where the bed is going to go and one will be filled it where the bathroom is going. This will be done by the original windows and the rubber seal being taken out and then replaced with large sheets of metal which will be fixed to the outside. This won’t make the bus look very pretty. To get a spray job done to repaint will cost upwards of £3000, this is not an option!

I have been an artist for as long as I can remember. As a child I was a chronic asthmatic and spent long periods at home having to take it easy which was very frustrating! To alleviate the boredom I would draw, anything and everything but people were my favourite subject. Over the years I have successfully sold my work, painted large scale murals in schools and colleges and currently specialise in paper-cutting (see my webpage). My paper-cuts use one piece of paper and are all hand cut. I have had commissions for weddings, christenings, anniversary’s and just because. People love my paper-cuts of iconic figures and I was lucky enough to give one of my favourite musicians, Jeremy Cunningham, his paper-cut in person.

Jeremy Cunningham is the bass player from the English punk/folk band ‘The Levellers’ and I have been into their music since they first appeared in the early 1990s.

After presenting him with his paper-cut he very kindly showed me around The Medway, The Levellers recording studio in Brighton’s Kemptown. He was very generous and the whole experience was great. I continue to produce all sorts of images for paper-cuts but my most popular (and my personal favourites) are images of people.

In the bus Dan is making a table which will have a hinged lid so I can take my paper-cutting business on the road. The vehicle has to have a permanent bed, sink and table for it to be classed as a camper van by the DVLA. At the moment the floor has been stripped and we are busy trying to decide where to put the gas and water tanks and the batteries. The bus has to be ready for the summer. I’m quietly hoping it will be ready for the summer solstice which is also our wedding anniversary-June 21st (but don’t tell Dan - pressure!!)

Glastonbury 1990. The Cure were headlining and it was my first major festival. I was 16 years old and seemed to have a nose for trouble! Glastonbury is a massive commercial gathering in the tiny village of Pilton, Somerset, England. Its been going since the 1970s and the first ever head-liners were T-Rex. There's usually about 135,000 people ready to get their grooves on these days and its incredibly commercial, with many mainstream acts topping the bill. A far cry from its humble beginnings. I went with my mate Natasha, pitched up and partied! On the night The Cure were headlining, we made sure we were at the front for the best views. Unfortunately this meant I got completely crushed by thousands of people , I was lifted up out of the crowd and I was separated from my friend. Ending up in an ambulance back stage I was joined by a friend I hadn't even known was at the festival and he accompanied me to Bath hospital. Poor guy-I ended up having a cardiac arrest brought on by a massive asthma attack , had an out of body experience, then shocked back to the land of the living! A very dramatic start to my festival experiences!

It didn't put me off and I have been going to all sorts of festivals ever since including IOW, V, Love Supreme ., Green Man and Womad (those are the ones I can remember). Now I prefer the smaller non commercial festivals which promote local business and musicians such as The big green gathering, Chidfest and Beautiful days.

When I was a teenager there was a massive New Age Traveller movement which I became immersed in. Hundreds of free festivals would spring up, trying to be one step ahead of the police. Everyone would pitch up, a makeshift stage would appear and the partying would commence. The police were often aggressive and unhelpful in the extreme. Nothing illustrates this more than The Battle of the Beanfield.

On June 1st 1985 a large convoy of New Age Travellers tried to drive to Stonehenge to celebrate Stonehenge Free Festival. There vehicles were blocked from escaping by a huge force of police. In fact they were met by 1300 police officers to their 600 travellers, including pregnant women and children. The police attacked and witnesses from the press saw pregnant women and children clubbed by truncheons. The police smashed apart peoples vehicles, these were these peoples homes! 16 travellers and 8 police ended the day in hospital and in 1991 a civil court judgement awarded 21 of the travellers £24,000 in damages. The police were shown to have used false imprisonment, damage to property and wrongful arrest. The money awarded went on court costs as the judge would not award them legal costs. Musicians have written about these horrific events including:

I did go to quite a few free festivals including Torpedo Town which was just a few miles up the road from my folks house, which meant nipping back with a crowd of people to grab a shower and a sandwich. On one memorable occasion my mate in his little VW camper ended up leading a huge convoy of travellers onto a country park somewhere around Winchester. The brew crew were the people to avoid at all costs with their crazy eyes and even crazier dogs!!

In the end a lot of New Age Travellers ended up in Europe or Ireland. The town of Dumanway in County Cork has a big hippie congregation, settling down and raising families. Finally having some peace from the law. Not being penalised for being non conformists.

Nowadays festivals are fairly middle class and everyone has grown up and brought there children along. Have to say that one of our favourite festivals in Beautiful Days in Devon. It still hold the vestiges of the 1990s and everyone is friendly and up for a good time. It is totally uncommercial and its fast becoming an institution.

Next stop is the Burning Man in the Nevada Desert, USA. This is the big one-unlike any festival we have been to before. The focus is on art and sharing ideas. Their philosophy is that everyone brings something to the festival , be that helping at a circus workshop, Djing, or wearing the most outlandish outfit you can. When you leave the desert nothing must be left behind-leave no trace-is the mantra. Shame we cant take The Happy Bus with us! An American cousin to The Happy Bus- the have a nice day bus maybe?

- Lamp

Snoopers paradise in Brighton Lanes is great for the magpies amongst us. You could go in there everyday of the year and still spot something different. A few weeks ago we saw a great little spotlight which could be easily adapted to a 12 volts, it has a nice steam-punk vibe to it, but we walked away. Trawling the web for lights we came to 2 conclusions; 1- there are no nice light fittings to be had and 2 - lets go back to snoopers paradise to get the spotlight. The cabinet the light was in was the number 63, so the man behind the desk duly opened it up and we became proud owners of our new bedroom bus light. It will be positioned above the pillows in our bedroom compartment.

Mid February and the sun was shining in Brighton, people were walking around in t-shirts and the whiff of spring (and other smells), was in the air. We popped into the reclamation shop whilst we were wandering and found a cast iron fence post, perfect for our bus table leg. Beautiful stained glass windows were propped up against the walls, tempting, but not for just yet. Strolling through markets filled with bric-a-brac we spied a 1960s cocktail chair which was the perfect size to go in front of the wood burner in the bus. After haggling over the price we struck a deal and with our bargains went home.

I first visited Brighton to go on an Anti-Vivisection march with my brother and his mates, I was about 14 years old, bolshy and leading the parade with a (precocious) battle-cry! Brighton had been a 2 hour drive from my home town and I didn't go again until I met Dan. A van, a mate, Dan and myself went off to watch Kangaroo Moon at the Concorde. On the way back we slept next to Chanctonbury Ring (which is a hill fort based ring of trees atop the South Downs way) squashed together like sardines as it was so cold.

Brighton started life as fishing village, became a health resort in the 18th Century (where it was prescribed by doctors to drink and bathe in the seawater) and is now officially a city. One of its most famous buildings is the Royal Pavilion Brighton Museums, which was built by George VI for his mistress Mrs Fitzherbert. History tells that he became so fat that he had an underground tunnel built between the pavilion and his stables so the public couldn't see him! Brighton continued to be popular with the rich and famous, the industrial revolution and the railway network brought hundreds of day trippers down from the big smoke to sneak a peak at Queen Victoria and her family.

The Royal Pavilion was used in WW1 as a military hospital and admitted 6,085 patients in its time. In June 1916 the sounds of guns firing from The Battle of the Somme were heard around the city. Brighton is famous for the 'mods and rocker' rumbles along the seafront. There are some great photos of this slice of history at the Brighton Museum as well as a model of the famous chain-pier whose oak pile stumps are still visible at low tide.

The plan is to sell our self build and move to a flat as the kids base whilst me and Dan go off adventuring. The eclectic, bohemian and open minded attitudes of Brighton are why we are drawn to it, that plus all the terrific restaurants. Our only problem, when we live there, however temporarily, is where are we gonna park the bus?

Work is moving on apace but it does sometimes feel like we’re wading thorough treacle. Both the skylights have now been blocked off and the satellite dish is going up this afternoon. I'm looking through the minefield of stabilising legs and jacks as the swaying motion of the van is making us feel a little seasick!

The temptation to do a quick bodge job is only slight, Dan is a perfectionist and would only end up taking the van apart and rebuilding if he felt something wasn't done correctly. Luckily our experience from building our house is helping.

Where we live now is a pretty hamlet in East Sussex in the middle of open countryside. We brought an old prefab bungalow as soon as we saw it 19 years ago. It came with nearly 2 acres of land and stunning views over the hills to the sea. We wanted the good life, growing our own veg, keeping pigs and chickens and raising our children in a rural idyll. We were lucky, our children were born in the little rickety prefab which was held together with gaffer tape and willpower before we got planning permission to rebuild on the same footprint as the bungalow.

It was the end of an era, old Cecil Honeyset, who (and his mother before him) had been born in the hamlet 80 years previously remembered the prefab arriving after WW2 to house farm workers and the families. He was a character Cecil, he was always popping up to say hello and knew and wanted to know everything in a 5 mile radius! Telling us storeys of when he was in the home guard as a young man not old enough enough to fight in the war, he had discovered a German spy, in the field opposite us, radioing the enemy. Another great yarn was that during the war a massive gun had set up in the village trained on Eastbourne pier, if the German army had invaded then the gun would have been fired! Luckily this had never happened, so on VE day the British army put a blank in the gun, set it off and shattered every window in the parish!

Cecil was well into his 80s when our house was being built, he walked over everyday to see how we were progressing, not quite giving us his seal of approval but always with a twinkle in his eye. The house is timber framed and constructed with I-beam technology which enables wide expanses of space without lots of heavy timbers. There is no central heating as the house is so well insulated with a kind of mashed up recycled newspaper, it looked like a giant Swiss cheese as the insulation was blown in. We have a wood burning stove for heating and hot water and solar panels. The wood for the frame was sourced from sustainable woodland in Scandinavia. Our house ended up being delivered on a massive lorry like a giant flat pack from Ikea!

The 4 of us lived in a mobile home for the 10 months of the house build sharing a small space with cats and stick insects which my son was obsessed with at the time. It was a squash and a squeeze, the toilet froze in the depths of winter but it was so great, we loved our miniature home, feeling more connected with the outside world and the coziness of small space living.

The house has been built for 8 years now and it has been a great experience designing and building it ourselves. To be truthful I don't know if we would do it again. Saying that, the van build is just a mini house - it has a lot of stuff you would have in a normal house such as water heaters, tanks, gas and a loo! This is another steep learning curve as we want our new home to be able to cope with being off grid if we need it, it wont be much of an adventure if we stay in manicured camp-sites every night. We are old style grungy hippy's after all, just need a few more creature comforts in our old age!