Thursday, April 20, 2006

Building a float for the village carnival 2006

After last year's success (we built 'The Titanic' using a battery-powered Jeep as the base), we are going to enter the village carnival on Saturday, June 10th in 2006 as a family again.

(see the start-to-finish pics of last year HERE)

In 2004, under the theme of 'World Events over the last 100 years' or something, we chose the Lunar Landing... lots of bubbles from our bubble machine...

This year, we're not going to enter as a foot party but are joining the 'big boys' and entering a powered float. Competing against the village schools and organisations on their lorries won't be easy - we're using our car and trailer.

The carnival theme is 'WORLD OF SPORT'. We're not into sport so we're doing 'Armchair Sportsmen'... My mission is to build a living room on the trailer, so my four sons can lounge around and eat popcorn, drink coke and watch a soccer match on TV.

I'll add to this blog as and when I complete bits of the float. The carnival is on 10th June 2006, so watch this space!

APRIL 22nd

The power inverter arrived today.

This will let me run a TV and video, plus power an amplifier to make a bit of noise, at 240v from the car battery.

I hope 400w will be enough - as long as the video/TV work that's the main thing.

Trying to source some sheets of wood for the walls and roof. Here's my sketch of what it might look like...

23rd April:
Managed to get a load of sheets of board from my workplace that were unwanted. This will form the walls and ceiling - Must finish clearing space in the garage this week - building will commence at the weekend...

27th April:

Right... got the cast-off office dividers from the office...

Must do something about the tatty old trailer..

st May:
Been a busy bank holiday weekend... but this little lot only took an hour or so a day.

Must strip off the natty blue covering...

Time to build the frame of the living room.

Remembered to add a ceiling (in case it rains on the day!). Found some very light noticeboards in the garage that are the perfect size. Not going to change them at all!

Hanging lamp would look nice from the ceiling...

Better get the troops to clean the trailer.

Wallpapering time. Going to do the inner wall and the two support struts. Hmmm... why the wrinkles? Maybe they'll dry out. Probably won't. At least my living room walls aren't done this badly.

They didn't. Resorted to new piece of wallpaper, stretched and stapled onto the wall. Much quicker and less messy. Mental note to remember technique when dining room needs decorating. Repainted the wheel arches and slapped some white gloss on the ceiling joists. Forgot to wallpaper the vertical struts - next weekend's task.

Time to test electrical gear. TV/Video works a treat off old knackered car battery and the power inverter. Power amplifier far too powerful (but it is an outside PA amp pushing 200+ watts, so perhaps I was a bit ambitious) and activates cutout on inverter. I remember having a pair of power speakers from an old computer I found once. I wired these up and ran them off the inverter/batter, while the TV was playing a video and ran standalone radio through it.

It lasted for 3 hours before I got bored - plenty of juice left in the battery so this setup will last the 2 hours max needed for the procession etc. Also, the volume of the speakers is great. Found a pair of wall-mounted speaker stands in the shed - I'll mount these on the inner wall which, at present looks a bit blank (except for the odd wrinkle in the wallpaper).

I'm going to source a load of MP3s of popular TV sporting themes and will probably use my minidisc player to broadcast them as it's small and light and can pack a couple of hours onto a disk. Also, it's more repliable than a CD player playing MP3s in my experience. Tested the sound level and it's perfect through those amplified speakers.

Must think of what I'm going to do re signage and the car...

2nd May:
Got hold of two 'England' car door flag things for 50p each, plus a huge England flag for 50p from a local shop who was clearing out its stockroom, and obviously hadn't realised that the world Cup is looming and they could sell these things at a premium, not clearance price!

Plan to put our family and float names on huge boards hnaging from either side of the car, suspended from the roofrack bars. Not sure how to do the artwork yet... or where to get the boards from for free.

Got given some carpeting last night - nice blue carpet, will go well with the mini armchairs. Will fit it at the weekend.

4th May:

Sorted out a lovely homely picture for the wall and framed it - I spent hours learning cross-stitch to create it (then gave up and did it in Photoshop).

Had a discussion with Emma about whether to install a fireplace against the wall... I'm very keen. Emma doesn't want to overcrowd it...

Also, debating whether to have a standard lamp or a pot plant on a stand in the corner - I'm looking at a tall pot plant in the office which might like a weekend holiday...

May 6th:
Slight hiccup and no float building as Oliver decided to get a friend to sit on him on Friday evening, breaking his arm in the process... Oliver and I spent the night in hospital while he got plastered and I didn't (no bar in the children's ward).

May 7th:
Sorted out the mini-armchairs - we've had these for several years and they fit very well.

As you can see sort of, I also laid the carpet... matches the chairs very well!

As it was sunny, I got the trailer outside and dressed it up (with a stunt pot plant). Then, the troops wanted to try it for size - not Oliver though, as he was being immobile indoors.

The TV/Video and the speakers swivel out... the speakers are really loud, being powered by the minidisc player. The TV swivels in for storage.

I'm going to build a fireplace in the blank wall area under the shelf... Also, I'm going to wallpaper the vertical support struts and the outside of the trailer, as it looks a bit tatty.

The light didn't work at first - 40 watts - and kept tripping the inverter. Replaced it with a low-wattage energy saver bulb and it works! (I didn't get a professional electrician to install the wiring, so not sure how I'm covered legal-wise these days...). Nice to know that, with this bulb, we're being 'green' and environmentally friendly. Got to find a lampshade from somewhere now...

Still working on the signage for the side of the car...

May 8th:
Snaffled some huge white (A0 size) Foamex display boards from a skip near my office. The old printed display covering comes off easily and I'm left with large white sturdy plastic sheets on which I can create the signage for the side of the car. Whoopee!

(Like the slogan?!)

May 11th:
Perhaps I'll add some net curtains bunched by the back support struts. My chum Dave thinks I should... Mind you, he also suggested installing a chimney and using the leftover smoke pellets from last year (or redirected exhaust fumes).

Smokey chimney would be good, but as I’m driving and Emma’s walking with a collecting bucket, we can’t really do it! Building the fireplace this weekend... Might see if my electric camp fire works – should be low wattage/amperage... I’ve also got to test the whole thing to see if I need to vent the exhaust pipe anywhere, as I don't want to hospitalise the boys any more than necessary...

May 15th:
Some finishing touches, really...

Build the fireplace in about 5 minutes using some odd bits of wood in the garage. Printed up an A3 pic of a burning fire and some bricks artwork. Wooden surround looks a bit rustic, so I'll paint it...

There... used the leftover black paint from last year's Titanic hull, so no expenses:

Hmmm... needs something on top of the fireplace mantelpiece. Think we've got a poundshop carriage clock in one of the boys' rooms.

Made those signs for both sides of the car... The cut marks from the paper don't show up at all from 2m away.

Seems to be nearly finished. Going to use the lampshade from the downstairs loo as it's small (and free!). Also, going to hang curtains around the back two support struts and sort of bunch them artistically. Got lots of old material in the loft, so no cost there.

Slightly concerned that I've obscured the rear number plate now... would the village bobby nick me en-route to the parade or while we drive round the streets? Not sure if I want to risk it, although the newspaper discussion would be fun!

Just about completed, and with 3-4 weeks to spare! Will dress it properly next weekend and see what it really looks like (and need a test drive to see if I need to redirect the exhaust fumes. Had a thought that catalytic converters these days are quite effective so that may not be a problem... Not sure if it's the case with diesel though...

Sorted out a suitable video to play - I didn't want a 'football' orientated one, since we're all-round sporting armchair enthusiasts. After a bit of trawling around, I grabbed a peach of a one off ebay wchich purports to show clips of major sporting moments from the past couple of decades from soccer and rugby to motor sports and tiddly winks... 99p was a bargain (and I might flog it on there afterwards to get my money back!).

The curtains on the float look lovely by the way.

Had friends round yesterday who are entering as a foot party... when they phoned in to register, the guy on the other end said "you'll be okay, the wood family aren't entering as a foot party this year." Methinks the time was right to change our approach.

Received the carnival programme through the door at the weekend... seen that there are nine proper floats entered... from the two local schools, the Scouts, the football club, the pre-school amongst them - they are all on lorries and are always very, very well done! Our tiny little trailer is going to look a bit pathetic among them - hopefully we'll be at the front, between the foot parties and the lorries so we don't look too rubbish. Oh well - it's been fun creating it! (one of the good by-products was that as the trailer is in use, I couldn't be cajouled into doing endless runs to the dump for Oliver's Scout's new HQ ground clearance project last weekend!)

Realised I need to make a sign for the front of the car... tonight's job I believe.

I also need to put the brickwork paper on the outside wall at the front of the trailer - that's Saturday's job.

31 MAY:
Had a surprise visit last night from the nice chap in charge of the Floats. He explained that, since we were a 'big boy' and parading with the Lorries, we were technically classed as a lorry and therefore had a set of Health & Safety guidelines to adhere to... Aaaarrrggghhhh! Well... here they are:

(the police, eh! Better comply...)

There isn't enough room on the trailer for Emma to sit, so we can't follow rule 1... I showed the chap the float and thought it would be okay. I doubt that the boys will jeapordise their safety - they're quite well house/trailer-trained.

Yay! We pass on this front - the sides of the trailer are perfect!

Yikes! We've only got Emma to walk alongside (when she's not pretending to be on it). Hadn't thought about manoevering the thing... hope my trailer reversing skills are up to scratch! Might see if my in-laws would be willing to walk alongside...

Emma has a very loud shouting voice, so no problems there. Nice to think that my car door is now classed as a Driver's Cab. We did, however, practice last night - me sitting in the car with the window open and Emma slapping the door three times... seemed to work, although it was easier and quicker for Emma to say "Stop, Dave," - beside, she could give me a kiss too.

Seems fair enough to me... also protects us from being boarded by pirates (we've got the police on our side remember: "as required by the police")... reminds me of the pre-film from 'Life of Brian' when the Accountants' building roamed free on the 'High Accountan-sea"

No problems there... however, I note there's no rules about outsiders throwing stuff onto the trailer - last year, poor Oliver kept getting coins lobbed down the chimney onto his head!

Does that refer to me too I wonder?

Bah! Looks like the boys will have to stick to Coke then...

Seems fair to me... although three lines before the end... "It is only a matter of time before an accident occurs" - this makes it seem that there is definitely an accident planned to occur... I hope it isn't arranged to coincide with our appearance. They are very organised, I'll give them that - planning fireworks, stalls, ice cream vans, accidents...

I asked if we could go at the front of the lorries and behind the foot parties, since we'd look pathetic crammed between two articulated megabeasts. This can't be done, it seems, as the village First School lorry is to be accompanied by 30 children walking, so they must go at the front... I guess we'll be behind their lorry. At least I got a promise that we wouldn't be stuck at the back... which WOULD look pathetic! Hearing how the lorries are all doing it seems like there's no need to prepare the mantlepiece for a tropy... but we're having loads of fun making the thing and it'll be great on the parade!

Downloaded the 'World of Sport' font ('Amelia') yesterday (for free) to make a sign for the front of the car...

JUNE 3rd:
Checked the video out... well... It would do, I guess... but it's about 10 mins of sporting highlights interspersed with some bloke banging on about whisky.

Fortunately, BBC3 are broadcasting a 1 1/2 hour programme tonight featuring the top world cup goals ever, 'in a non-stop montage' - sounds promising. will try to remember to set the video.

JUNE 4th:
Yay! The programme was perfect! 90 minutes of non-stop goal action!!!

Timothy is primed to have the TV broadcasting the England v Paraguay match (kick off 2pm; Procession starts 2pm) if the reception is okay. If not, he'll zap onto the video.

June 5th:
Emma said I needed to sort out the horrible blue outer wall of the float...

So I decided to lay some bricks... well, brick texture (found on Google Images) printed out on A3 paper and staple-gunned to the wood. Time taken: 5 minutes!

Pinched the lampshade from the downstairs toilet. Nobody's spotted it's missing yet! Bulb still not working when all other electrical things are on - my friend Peter suggested running a 12v bulb (or trying the low energy one) striaght off the car battery. I'm still anxious about draining it! another friend, Ian, who has a caravan and has followeed this blog with a vaguely apathetic degree of interest, cunningly suggested simply wiring the light straight up to the lights on the trailer itself... sounds like a good idea Ian - ta!

Rigged up a powerful aerial on the roof of the trailer. Joshua and Daniel spent half an hour on Saturday morning sitting in the armchairs watching cartoons on CBBC while I was working on the float! "It's like an outdoor living room" said Daniel. Yes son, that's the idea!

Just about finished! A neighbour, bob, popped round to find out what all the noise was about (I was testing the sound system!). Bob helped me last year by providing a huge van to transport the Titanic to the procession start. He seemed impressed, and helped me try to sort out how to affix a sign to the front of the car without obstructing the radiator and wrecking the bodywork.

Anyway, J&D made themselves at home! On the movie below, note the 'lovely' artificial pot plant (taped to the stool) - a present from my late mum and one for which we had hitherto not found anywhere suitable to put... she'd have approved I think!

Must remember to gaffer-tape the TV to the stand, and sort out a system to stop the stand swiveling around when we turn corners or go over bumps!

Realised the car is filthy (we're saving water, see). Will empty the water butt on Saturday morning for a good clean before the parade!

And here it is with almost everything working (and minus two other sons)...


June 9th:
One day to go... slightly nervous about how small and silly our outdoor living room will look against the big articulated lorries but oh well - in for a penny...!

Decided to probably re-record the music tracks... The original plan was to use my sporting themese but I don't think many people will recognise them. Also, since we are now hopefully going to be watching the LIVE footy match (England v. Paraguay) and, if no reception, the video of World Cup goals, I think I'll broadcast a load of upbeat footie anthems instead: Three Lions; Vindaloo etc. HMV in town is knocking out a 20-track CD of these for £1.99 so I'll go and get one at lunchtime. Again, can e-bay it afterwards and get my money back if it's rubbish!

June 9th, Lunchtime update:
Bought the CD... looks great!

Here's the track listing...

Weather forecast is 28 degrees C... bit worried about the heat, although boys will be in shade (I've got air con in the car ('cab')... poor Emma will suffer though! Anyway, Saturday morning I'll look at installing a fan in the trailer, as long as the power is okay.

Bought an 8 litre water dispenser today (branded 'England') for just £2.99. That filled with ice and water will keep the boys cool on the float... and it'll look good! Oh, and the shop threw in an England Air Horn too - they'll hear us coming!

CARNIVAL DAY: Saturday June 10th.

Temperature 29 degrees... J&D washed the car with me and I tested the electrics and sorted out the signage. The front one went on easily, using the number plate screws!

Popped Emma in the trailer for the drive to the start point to see what wobbled.

The TV stand fell off the wall so I had to dump the trailer at the start and nip home to get a screwdriver and some extra long screws. Sorted it out and we were ready...

I was right... our little trailer did look tiny compared to the lorries! We were slotted in between the huge Youth Club lorry and the Scouts' enormous thing. Emma kept assuring me that size wasn't important and it's what you did with it that mattered. How reassuring...

during the 45 minutes before the procession set off, and whilst the judging took place, we were, for some reason very popular. Might have been something to do with our TV broadcasting the footy live! There was a great cheer when the Paraguayan did an own goal putting England 1:0 up! Our local MP spent a lot of time hovering around our float after kick-off...

Joshua nodded off halfway round (as last year... and the year before!)

And how did we do? WE WON the trophy for MOST AMUSING FLOAT!

YAY!!!!!!! goes on the mantelpiece rather well, don't you think?

Roll on next year!