A lovely book I’ve owned for a while, The Creative Family, recommends making gratitude a regular part of our days as a way to fill our creative cups. Although I totally agree with the concept (in fact, there’s more than enough research linking happiness and gratitude – this guy reckons sending 5 emails will do the trick), I just haven’t gotten around to implementing this in a concrete way in my life until now.
In undertaking this bus project though, we have been utterly drenched in the generosity of others. As a New Zealander, I’ve always felt that people do harp on a bit about the good old kiwi “Can Do” attitude, and about how friendly and generous we are. In coming back from living in Germany, however, I’ve been able to look at these adages afresh, and you know what? They’re true! They’re absolutely true. Given the chance, kiwis will more often go out of their way to help you than not.
In fact, we have received so much kindness from family, friends and relative strangers, that I’ve decided to post once a week about the people to whom we are grateful.
Gratitude #1: Grum
Graeme Frith, or Grummy, as he’s usually called, is a long time friend of my family. I’ve acted alongside him in the local plays here in Hanmer, he’s the father of my school friend and first pre-teen crush, Paul, but to be honest, in recent years I haven’t personally had much to do with him at all.
So when we decided to buy Liberty, sight unseen, from Whakatane, without the appropriate drivers license to get her the 15 hours and a ferry crossing back to Hanmer, I thought it a bit of a stretch of Mum to say that Grummy probably wouldn’t mind picking her up for us.
I made the phone call however, and sure enough Grum came back with “yeah, no worries”, as if I’d just asked him to pass the peas, please. He does enjoy an adventure though (he’s just about to spend a couple of years cycling round the world), and brought her down for us in one, glorious (if a little bouncy without seats to weigh her down) piece.
Since then, he’s also driven her to Christchurch for water tanks, and back to Amberley for electrics. Now Thomas and I have our heavy vehicle licences, so we won’t need Grum’s driving expertise anymore. His extensive knowledge of New Zealand, and all the wonderful, secret places to discover however… I think we’ll be calling on this man again before we hit the road.
Thanks Grummy for being such a generous, friendly, helpful, all round great guy!
I’m just reading a novel about a hundred year old person climbing out a window to escape into a more exciting life.
Reminded me of our bus floor. The Rimu for our floor boards came out of the woods at least about 100 years ago, and was then used as timber in the roof of the St Helen’s Homestead, which was built in 1917. We were so lucky that the current owners, who are restoring the place, have not just thrown out all that timber, and let us go through their wood pile.
Denailed and brandspankingly remachined, the Rimu is now destined to embark on a tour around the whole country – I can only imagine what it must feel like, covering so much ground after a lifetime of slumber.
All the way back in November we had went through the wood pile like bark beetles through bast fibres (yeah?) and salvaged about 150 linear meters. Taking out what felt like 5000 nails, but probably just was 500, and cutting out bad bits took the good part of two days. But it was so exciting, and fortunately family friend and carpenter Chris suggested getting them remachined at some outfit in Belfast (Christchurch) rather then planing and thicknessing them ourselves. And that was totally worth the money, which worked out to be about $1.70 per meter. It felt like Christmas, Easter and Nikolaus day had all rolled into one when I went to pick it up, all smooth, taken down to 15mm, and with tongue and groove.
Before and after
We couldn’t have been much more stokeder about how it all turned out. And, it was so much fun to work with!
Without much further ado, here it is:
Spot the difference? Right! The second one has that wooden door leaning against the back, instead of a piece of styrofoam.
How we got here
Our idea was to go for a bachy look, so it had to be wood. We quickly decided on white so it doesn’t feel heavy.
While at it, we also had to make use of the chance to add another layer of insulation and to lay the basic 24V circuits across the ceiling for lights. For a little while, our bus looked a bit like an airstream turned outside in.
Anyway, nothing a little grooved ply painted white can’t fix!
That’s the ceiling mostly done.
So finally, let’s talk Tacheles, as they say in Germany! To slowly catch up with the status quo, we’d like to show you the first steps of progress in our bus, up to where we’ve created a (not so) clean canvas.
Early November, our pristine schoolbus arrived in Hanmer, in, well, pristine schoolbus condition.
As a bonus, the bus came with a baby already in it. We kept the baby, but we took heaps of other stuff out, first of all the seats. Everyone and their dog was happy about that.
Step by step, the pretty, polished bus became quite ugly and dirty, and our hearts hungry for a clean slate.
Hang on in there! The next post will be about new things inside the bus!
lots of progress has been made since the last post, but before we get into the nitty and gritty of things, pretty before/after pictures and such, a little explanation about the name of the bus and blog first.
All house buses in New Zealand have names, some clever, most of them cheesy, so we started discussing a name for ours. This is like naming your child, so it’s not an endeavour lightheartedly taken. ‘The Road Home’ was featuring for a while, but somehow it didn’t feel personal enough.
Back when we were living in Hamburg, one day we were walking along the Landungsbrücken, when a street name sign jumped out at us, and a decision was made there and then: “Große Freiheit”. Reasonably cheesy, considering it’s one of the more touristy places in Hamburg, known as the street where The Beatles became famous. Reasonably obscure though if, just for fun, you try and google the name (and that ‘ß’ letter is definitely weird). Interestingly, mostly red light district references come up for that, and not pictures of open roads, rolling hills and wind in your hair. I love it though, as it connects back to the place I’m from and the city I often miss.
We deemed traveling around New Zealand with a big “Große Freiheit” in the front would feel weird though, so we tried translating it. After some soul searching I came up with the name “Liberty the Great”, which sounds much better than, say “Humongous Freedom” or even “Taking the liberty”, and is also giving a nod to the very gifted singer “Emmy the Great”, so that was settled.
“Liberty the Great” will hopefully see the light of day on the front of our bus in beautiful script soon. Hannah noticed some pretty sign writing in the area and we may be able to track that person down.
“Große Feiheit” will be stuck somewhere in the front there too, but smaller and inconspicuously placed. Oh, it will be groß!
Strange. Two months ago we bought a bus and planned to blog regularly. Somehow time has passed us in the fast lane and we’re straggling behind. But we’ll try and make up for lost time, and write about what happened so far.
We got a bus late October from Whakatane, and were lucky to have a family friend drive it down to Hanmer Springs for us. It was so exciting to see the bus for the first time, and I immediately fell in love with it when seeing its potential. My mind set to work when I stepped inside in Palmerston North to pick up some of our stored belongings along the way. What a great first journey to let your ideas meander around the bus, build up interiors and wash them away again. A beautiful spot on the coast just north of Kaikoura was a worthy setting for the maiden sleep.
All excited we set to work early November and started gutting. Taking out seats, air conditioning ducts and unit, handrails.. All of a sudden there was a big pile of junk outside our bus and I started wondering how much more will have to get ripped out before we can start assembling our home.
I’m amazed by how many people were happy to offer their help, be it providing expertise in the area of car mechanics and electrics, parts for the interior, or just general tips and contacts for further help. Good old New Zealand, eh?
The long 5 week waiting game started when we had to get the bus down to Christchurch to get water tanks fitted (hasn’t happened yet, for reasons I’ll elaborate on later), and then to Amberley for a basic 24V system layout and the proper installation of seating. Ah, how fun to research requirements for safety belts, self containment certificates, HT driver’s licences, gas installation, and to wrap your head around car electrics, chargers, batteries, solar panels, plumbing, and general bus mechanics. A huge learning curve, and a test at times to fit it all in with settling back into New Zealand life and keeping two little awesome kids happy.
I was overwhelmed when we finally got our bus back in Hanmer a day before Christmas, and we could finally continue our work on it.
So here we are, two days back into it; we’ve ripped out the middle door and will build a locker in the previous space of the steps, and have started preparing the grooved ply and insulation to attach as our ceiling. Next steps after that will be more locker spaces, figuring out water tank spaces and dimensions, laying the Rimu floor and covering the internal walls.
Hawke’s bay’s nicest beach. We’re definitely coming back.