Once upon a time there was a girl called Christina who loved cute, old caravans. (They’re so “cubby house like” with their mini sized everything…)
Christina had 3 young sons (one who loved guinea pigs, one who loved dress ups and one who loved reading Charlie and Lola books) and a lovely husband, and they lived together in an old weatherboard house that they had renovated and now fitted them perfectly…everyone had a bedroom, but there was no room for Christina’s crafts, and they often took over the dining room table.
One evening, midway through 2013, when Christina was looking at vintage caravans online (do you realize the irony in that sentence?) She came across an ad on eBay for a gorgeous vintage caravan. There was only one problem- it was in England, and she lived in Melbourne, Australia! It was only 2000 pounds and was completely decorated with a Cath Kidston (one of her favourite designers) touch! It even included a tin of biscuits with the sale! Sigh. She was so serious; she looked into shipping it over. Another 3800 pounds. Bigger sigh. Then Christina shared the idea over the phone with her sister Wendy who lives in Qld one night, and Wendy instantly replied. “Oh you could SO do that yourself!” So, began the search for My Little Caravan…in Australia.
Christina suggested the idea to her husband, Anthony. He looked a little nervous. He saw Christina’s idea of a “renovator’s delight” becoming a “paddock bomb” in their already small backyard! However, it wasn’t very long before he was laying a slab of concrete for the future caravan. Christina decided to ask for long service leave from her job as a teacher for term 1 the following year, with the mind of settling the youngest son into his first year of school, and pottering around renovating the caravan (that they hadn’t yet found!) Instead of going away on the glamorous overseas trip- Christina decided to spend LSL money on a vintage caravan. Now to find it!
In August Christina took her youngest son, Luke along to look at a van in a used caravan yard. She’d seen this van on the Internet and they’d wanted $4985 for a 1960’s Franklin brand van. 15ft. Beige stripe around the middle. Not exactly as cute as a button- yet! But she thought she’d talk to the yard anyway.
The lady at the yard said the van was gone and there wasn’t anything else really. She took Christina’s number and said she’d keep her eye out for any that came in. But she did take her way over to the back of the yard and showed her an “oh-so-broken-really-old-and-unloved” van. Everything about it was smashed or dinted or falling off its hinges. Great. Big. Sigh. She’d need lots of vision and know how to do up that one. This was definitely the paddock bomb that her husband had been so nervous about… The lady suggested that I use their caravan mechanic to do the work for a couple of thousand (they wanted $500 for the van) and it could be done at the park, and then she could tow it away complete!
Christina tried to look at it with new eyes. She and Luke went over to have a long look and a think. Could she really do what was needed for only a couple of thousand?
While Christina was standing there, a bearded older guy came over to her, looked either way and said “You looking for a little old caravan love?” He was Phil The Trailer Man.Who fixes trailers at this yard. He was fixing a trailer nearby. Apparently his wife, was looking to buy herself a newer ‘pop-top’ that would be more practical for her camping needs, as she struggled with the annex that attaches to her current van, but is really a two person job.
Phil and Rosie’s little caravan was a Viscount Ambassador from the late 60’s and she’d want about $3000 for it. It was in top condition (for its age)- he being the fix it man had made sure of that. So he gave Christina his wife’s mobile number and she agreed to call her on the weekend.
Christina was very excited. As soon as it was a civilized time on Saturday morning, Christina called Rosie and arranged to see her the following Thursday. Young Luke was sick or she would have gone sooner! They said they weren’t planning to advertise. It was hers if she wanted it.
Thursday finally arrived and Christina and Luke drove to look at the van! It wasn’t a bubble of rounded cuteness that Christina had envisioned- but it was the perfect size to work in her small garden as a pretty craft studio/girl cave. She was in great condition, and had the same wood laminate cupboards as Christina had in her bedroom as a little girl in the 70’s! There were two single beds down one end with a bedside table in between. A table hinged onto the bedside table and went in between the beds. The owner had even repainted the stripe recently- pale blue! One of her favourite colours! She loved it, and decided to name her “new” caravan, Mabel after her fondly remembered Nana, who was born in Liverpool in 1924.
As soon as Christina finished teaching for the year in 2013, she began her renovation of the interior of the caravan. Cleaning and dusting and loading up with her favourite collections of bits and pieces…heavily influenced by Cath Kidston…and the Charlie and Lola books she’d read to her children…all the while thinking and letting ideas brew as to what she could create in here with her crafts. This caravan was going to be unashameably feminine, and definitely a technology free zone. No ianything allowed!
Christina had lots of lovely like-minded friends, and they had beautiful daughters. These daughters started asking if they could make things in the caravan too. How could Christina refuse their cute little faces? Her teacher side surfaced and she thought of how she could open up Mabel one Saturday afternoon a month to make things with like-minded children and share a sweet afternoon “Charlie and Lola” style tea. (Yes, there would be pink milk!)
For all of 2014, this continued. Crafternoons became a once a month ongoing event, and then in April, Christina was asked to host a birthday party for a friend’s 9-year-old daughter. That was fun!
They played old school games that Christina had enjoyed as a little girl, like elastics, and hopscotch and quoits and hula-hoops! They enjoyed fun with a photo booth, and of course made beautiful things in Mabel. Afternoon tea featured sweet little signature cupcakes and milkshakes, and everyone took home the custom designed gingerbread cookie…that was decorated to look just like Mabel!
Before she knew it another year was over and it was summer holidays 2015. Time to do the final job to complete the caravan. Painting the outside. This proved to be a very big job.
Christina sanded and sanded and sanded and sanded all of the original paintwork off. Good-bye flash! Her lovely husband gave up his one week of holidays to work very hard on preparing Mabel to be repainted also.
Christina’s oldest son, had a good friend, and that friend’s dad enjoyed restoring old cars. He kindly offered to help guide the paint job and do the final topcoat. What a help that would be!
Eventually they were finished. The hardest part was choosing the final colour…and design. To keep the flash, or change it for a thick strip around the window. It felt like SUCH a big decision! She took it to Face book and asked the people there…they were evenly split! At this stage, she still hasn’t decided on the final design. That’s in the next chapter…along with grown up classes…maybe she could call them “Crafty Summer Sunsets”?