January 21, 2009

Welcome to the 2009 WOOD FAMILY FLOAT blog.

The theme for 2009 was announced a few weeks ago by the Carnival Committee…


So, the family put their collective thinking hats on.  Here’s what we discussed.

We checked out our DVD collection to get a few ideas, then we visited Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Musicals of all time list for more inspiration (I knew there must be a point to those endless C4 ‘top 100’programmes!).

Here’s our shortlist of ones that didn’t make the final cut:

  • Rocky Horror Show – Emma’s favourite, but a bit raunchy for us!
  • Little Shop of Horrors – hard to build the huge plant!
  • Miss Saigon – could build a helicopter, but a bit similar to last year.
  • Me and my Girl – my favourite musical…  Tower Bridge might be fun to create.
  • Summer Holiday – Very keen on building a double decker bus.
  • Barnum – great musical, but a circus tent may be tricky.
  • Showboat – but we’ve already done a boat.
  • Paint your Wagon – my mum’s favourite musical, we could do a wagon…
  • Starlight Express – hmmm… a train…
  • White Christmas – might be nice and bizarre.. snow machine…
  • Fiddler on the roof – a big roof?  too similar to our house float.
  • Oliver – great – but as the school is performing Oliver! in the summer, we’ll leave this to them.
  • Blues Brothers – my fave movie musical… but not a challenge here
  • Joseph – could build a big pyramid…
  • Chitty chitty bang bang – love this idea… but to build the car it’d have to look EXACTLY right!

That left us with their top three:

  • Wizard of Oz (best done by a school we think)
  • Grease (not much to build)
  • Sound of Music (hmmmm…)

Knowing lots of people who have been involved with Am Dram musicals for decades, I asked them for their input over a beer or two.  Their suggestions were similar to much of the above, so didn’thelpas much as I’d hoped.

Anyway, after much discussion, we’ve gone for:som

Emma‘s going to be the Julie Andrews figure in a lovely dress.

Timothy is going to dress as a nun (background work forhis Drama GCSE it appears).

Oliver is going to be an Austrian boy in lederhosen.

Dave is going to be a German Army Officer.

Joshua and Daniel are going to be German Soldiers, driving a… Tank!

Yup – we’ve decided to build a German military tank over the electric car chassis…  It will look ‘identical’ to this:


Now the fun begins…

I’ve got the timber for the frame from previous years.  As for covering it, I’ll either use the huge sheets of gold card from Spelthorne Resource Centre as in previous years or…  There’s two very large rolls of white canvas which have been dumped in my office car park for about 8 months.  I think I’ll see if they can be ‘liberated’ one day…  It will be stronger than card and lighter, and will hold the camouflage paint really well.

Something special…

Decided that the tank needs a gimmick.  Joshua and Daniel are dead set on throwing Fun Snaps out of the tank at the crowds.  This is a bit tame for me though.

Investigating to see if I can find a way to have the cannon on the tank make a bang.  I’ve got a box of powerful French bangers in the garage, but am anxious that I may fall foul of some laws about setting off fireworks in public.

Perhaps some theatrical suppliers provide safer thunderflashes?  Discovered which sells such items.  Scooted round the site and found it’s more technical than I thought.

Made an enquiry and got a reply back in a couple of hours:

“It depends on how bigger a bang you want to make!  But if you use Aerial burst you will have the sparkles as well.  You could maybe look at a Micro Puff which is wired or if it is outside, you could consider the smaller end of the battlefield  range.  If it is smoke and a bang you want then a maybe a starter maroon.  I would strongly recommend testing this option first of course.”

Looks like I may go for a few starter maroons…   need to keep an eye on the costs though.


Emma’s outfit will be from her rediscovered wardrobe (losing 3 stone meant she’s got lots of stored clothes to choose from!)

I’ll try and hunt out a cheap nun outifit for Tim, and lederhosen for Oliver… J&D will only need plastic helmets – they’ve got camouflage trousers and dark green t-shirts and,in any case, will be driving the tank.

My costume is trickier.  I’d really need something proper or it’d look ropey.  I’ll start checking out military surplus places to see what’s around.  I want to be an officer, not a mere squaddie!


Hmmm… this might be a pricey one, with the pyrotechnics, paint and costumes to get.

Decided to sell a family tent.  We got given it some time ago and thought we may possibly use it one day.  However, we never even put it up!  We won’t go camping as a family I doubt – we prefer more solitude, privacy and quiet than camp sites offer and the boys get enough camping opportunities through Scouting (and Tim would rather stick hot pins in his eyes than sleep in a tent!).

We put it up for sale on Ebay last weekend and already have 41 watchers, although no bids.  We’ve started it at £100 so should hopefully get around £150.  A local couple are visiting this afternoon to check it out, with another two couples coming on Saturday…  £150 should cover the costs easily.

Having had some people coming to look at the tent and loving it, and we’d had two offers of £125 and £250 cash for it, we decided to add a ‘buy it now’ feature… for £300 … with 1 day to go, we’d got 70 watchers but no bids.  Anyway, woke up Sunday morning to see that…

We sold the tent for £300!

That means we’ve got a healthy sum to spend on the costumes and special effects.  I’m going to budget £100.  I’m going to donate some of the cash to the Scout Group and we’re going to put the rest in our family’s ‘Jolly Fund’.

Lady came to collect the tent and quite liked it.  She’s a single parent with two very small children… she seemed nervous about how she’d put it up on her own when I showed her how to do it.  I pointed out that if it was too hard, she’d get her money back on Ebay easily next year!

Anyway, our Paypal Account now has £300 in it… the boys are buying a couple of things for the Wii so they can all play games at the same time (yikes – four steering wheels for a mega-car race!) – good for them to see the benefit of selling the tent.

Just been told by the builder that he’s starting work in 2 weeks time.  We’re getting a lean-to shed demolished and replaced with a double-sized garage.  This will cause a slight upheaval, in that I’ve got to empty the shed and find homes for everything, just when I wanted to start thinking about the float.  Plus point is that if I dump most of it, I can build the float in the new garage!   Must tell the neighbour that we’re building again…  Turmoil is inside too, as the builder is digging up concrete floor in the living room, laying central heating pipes underground and replacing/moving radiators.  Emma will obviously want to redecorate…  camouflage green perhaps?

Oh, here’s one of the rolls of canvas I’ve yet to liberate from the car park…


The builders have arrived!

Lovely big new garage going up to right of house as you look at it.  Neighbours not complaining – it helps that the builder’s wife is their niece!

I suggested to Emma that we don’t put anything in it for a while as it would make a brilliant workshop for me to build the tank in.  I’m very persuasive you know.

Therefore, we’re going to put the shelving in and move the stuff into it as soon as we can; take down the big tent in the back and I’ll build the tank outside as last year.

Found someone who has a nun’s outfit for Tim to wear.  Hopefully it’s not a leather/latex one.  I’m also slightly nervous about me wearing a German soldier’s uniform but I guess as long as I don’t use any nazi insignia it’ll be okay!  I have visions of war veterans flipping and attacking me – honestly, the tank is going to by 100% realistic!

We’ve got £90 in the float fund.  We had a reality kick while watching comic relief; plus a girl at work is doing a run for Breast Cancer – since the money from the tent sale wasn’t really ours, we decided to let others benefit.  Also, as it was sitting in the PayPal account it was very easy to donate.

Am going to start measuring up the tank over Easter… and hopefully liberate that roll of canvas in the car park (it’s still there, but has moved a bit).

Trying to source the bang effect for the tank.

Found this which would be great…

£30 for 12.  Trouble is, I think I’d then need to add wiring and will have to pre-wire all 12 and use 12 separate electric igniters, which would double the charge (pun intended).

Researched the legalities and it’s all a bit scary as these are all professional things.  Also, I note that you’re meant to use a ‘boom box’ to prevent shards of plastic hitting the audience, or pay extra for ‘non-fragmenting’ versions. hmmmm…

Might experiment with Plan B:  find my box of small but loud French Red Bangers, ignited with a lighter.  Easy to pre-load, no fall-out, bit of smoke and loud bang.  Firework law allows letting them off during the day and by me… not sure about the public place bit.  I can’t really see any problem as they are only small bangers, and if anyone complains I’ll not set any more off.  Besides, they won’t technically be fireworks but a Military Tank’s Cannon shell – don’t think that’s covered by firework law.

Plan C, by the way, is a water bomb balloon with talcolm powder in it, shoved down the cannon and burst with a pin.

Plan D is Daniel shouting ‘BANG” every now and then.


Bah – sometime tidied up the car park and the canvas roll has been disposed of!

Been hunting down costumes.. got my eye on German Soldier outfits from army surplus stores for about £40 (our float fund is fine, thanks to the trailer tent sale).  Need a hat and boots too though…

Went to the Ascot car boot sale last Sunday for a quick recce prior to possibly attending as sellers next Sunday (we’re going back to Hounslow instead).

Had a major find: got a virtually brand new full-length grey German officer’s greatcoat with epaulattes, detachable silk and fleece lining, and shiny buttons for £10 – perfect! (It looks a bit like this.  I don’t.)


Also, got a great German navy white top with blue sailor neck thingy for a fiver.  Oliver’s going to wear this instead of lederhosen.  Brilliant finds.  Oliver will look very cute… as will Tim when we track down a nun costume.  The seller had some hats but slightly too small… may go back in a few weeks.


Nabbed a brilliant pair of my size almost new black German jackboots off Ebay for £15, have to collect from Slough on Thursday to save postage.


Nobody in the UK wants to sell bangers.  Bah.  Found a website overseas that seems to sidestep the rules a bit and will ship to here…  Got an amazing range – just need to work out the safest but loudest ones.  The smallest ones are 7 Euros for 50…  Best avoid the ones marked ‘Danger’.


Started on Saturday by visiting Spelthorne Resource Centre.  Brilliant place – They let me have a huge roll of material, similar to that which I didn’t get from the car park, to cover the frame.  I also got a few litres each of brown, green and white paint (all free).  A big tube for the cannon plus lots of round black mousemats which should make great tank wheels.  Also, some great corrugated card for the tracks.

In the afternoon, I got the boys’ 15-year-old electric Jeep out and started work…


It all went quite well really!

I also ordered some cheap helmets for J&D to wear in the tank (which they can now see out of to steer!

Tim’s Nun’s outfit arrived – we bought a second-hand one on Ebay for a few pounds… still easily within budget!

The German soldier’s hat arrived too – great!


Now to find the bangers…

Another idea…

Seeing as we only actually have one Von Trap child and there were originally sevenwe’ve come up with a cunning plan…  I’m going to see if I can make a yoke for Oliver to wear across his shoulders, with cardboard cutouts of three kids either side.

I’ve done a picture for a base… now to make the darned thing I guess…

Sound of music best x

Sunday 17th May

The boys Slapped the first coat of paint on the tank.  It’s brown to start with, as that’s the free paint I got from the Resource Centre.  The green camouflage will go on this weekend.

Need to sort out the cannon mounting next.. hopefully the explosives I ordered from France will arrive soon so I can test it at the weekend.

Made the singers thingy mentioned above.  There’s a brilliant free site called which lets you print huge versions of any pic – we’ve used it before and it’s brilliant for big posters of your favourite poster/pic…  Go and do one for yourself!


Then it was just a case of sticking the paper onto card and cutting the outline.  It’s suspeneded on a piece of wood which I’ll attach to a belt for Oliver to wear.

Big debate currently is whether Tim, as a nun, should have a chest… he says no, as he doesn’t want to look silly(!).


Covered the tank… have to make the top bit too…


Daniel and Joshua start painting.

DSCF3607So does Oliver, despite his newly-broken hand…


Made a quick visit to the Resource Centre at lunchtime to grab a bit more paint, and return some surplus fabric.

Camouflaging almost complete… top bit done too!

Big weekend – going to mount the cannon and test the bangers!

Monday 25th May

Did some more sorting out over the weekend…


Added the wheels – round mousemats, courtesy of the wonderful Resource Centre… saved me a lot of cutting out circles!  Cannon is a Resource Centre carpte tube.

I have put material wadding down the boys’ end of the cannon to stop smoke etc coming back and glued a CD over the end, to stop anything flying out when the bangers go off.

Also added corrugated card (bulk sheets of Costa Coffee cup wrappers from the Resource Centre.)


Also added two boys to see if they fitted – success!

Tested the cannon… VERY loud… and it blew the CD clean off the end about 5m away!  May need to sort this out…
See the movie of it in action HERE.


Found some strong wire mesh and bolted this to the end, wrapping the edges in Duck Tape…  nothing’s going to fly through that little fella!  I’ve drilled holes in the cannon so I can preload the bangers with just the fuse showing, to make it easy for me to set them off en route.  This actually seems fairly safe really.  We shall see… Must remember to not travel too close to the people in front of us…

May 31st


Sorted Oliver out with the Von Wood family siblings…  seems to balance okay.  They’re almost in proportion to him!

Got to mount the stereo on the tank somehow – nobody is willing to lug it around!

One week to go…  hope the weather holds up or the poster paint on the tank is going to run (unless I spray hairspray all over it to fix it).

Measured the tank.  It’s too big to fit neatly into the trailer – aaaaarrrgggghhhhh!  Emma said she’ll sit in the back with it, although that would mean there’d be no room for the tank itself, which sort of negates the point I guess.  I’m sure I’ll be able to sort something out next weekend before we set off.

Charged the battery up – decided to use the Chrysler’s old 12v one as I won’t be able to change the proper car ones en route.  This did well last time – and I checked the electric car still works!

My costume fits a treat!


3rd June… nearly there!

Received the programme forthe carnival – we’re down as the only family group entering… but dozens come out and enter on the day!

Checked the weather… the current hot spell is drawing to an end (phew!), although scattered light showers are vaguely threatened for Saturday… but doesn’t look like it’ll be in our area.  I’ll decide on the morning whether or not I’ll spray cover the tank’s paintwork to protect it.  Cool would be great!  A bit like me, really.

Picture 3

Warned my neighbour, Bob, that we’re test driving the tank on Saturday morning down our lane… I’ve a feeling he may lay in wait for an ambush or something… might remove the mesh from the cannon if he gets a bit feisty!

Must remember to collect Emma’s borrowed guitar, and mount the stereo on the tank…

Friday 5th June

Tomorrow’s the big day…  weather is turning though.  Saw one forecast online that said Heavy Showers, so decided to use BBC weather instead as they only claim Light Showers.  The Met Office has just revised its forecast.  Bah – the only showers are due at 1pm, exactly when we start!

Picture 1 Have got some emergency ponchos in hand just in case, although I’ll be fine in my lovely coat!

Still must sort out the stereo…

Saturday 6th June


10.50am.  Bah.

Pouring with rain all night and still drizzling now.

Checked tank paintwork. Not waterproof.  Boys will get filthy and paint will run.

Nipped off and bought Amy Winehouse strength hairspray and coated paint with it… may keep it from running.

Covered top of tank with clear plastic film, as this is where J&D will most likely rub their arms and get mucky.

Sorted out huge clear dust sheet to cover tank before judging.

Measured tank to make sure I can get it out of the back room.

It’s too big.


Lots or rearranging to do now to get it from the back room, through dining room and out via conservatory into front garden and trailer.  Plan B was to invite whole of village round to view it in the back room.  Emma not too happy with that one.

Saying that, Emma is surprisingly upbeat!

Borrowed guitar case from niece Helen (ta!) for emma to hold, and sorted out strap for stereo for Emma to carry.

Sorted out tuck basket to strap in car… there’s lots to finish off building at the start so I need a toolkit with me too.  Because of the rain I can’t do it all in advance.

Rain’s eased off since I started writing this.

Ensured von Traps are glued and taped waterproofly(?).

Hope my explosives still work…

Well… must finish now – next post after the fun!


It’s raining.  Loaded everything onto the trailer/in the car and went off to the start point.  Set up the tank in the rain and covered it with the plastic sheet to protect it.


Fortunately, the rain stopped at about 1pm, so we all got our costumes straight and we built the tank.


Judges came round and we posed for various photos for the newspapers and friends… tested the bangers and they were brilliant!


5 mins to go and disaster struck – for some reason the electric car doesn’t work… electrics completely broken – checked everything but no go.  Dashed to car and grabbed rope, made tow rope and collared father-in-law Ken to pull the tank around the 2 mile circuit!  He was a star!  Tim was blinding as a nun and really got into the part well – totally unemabarrassed when his mates from school saw him… he told them it was either a nun or leiderhosen which convinced them he made the right choice! Emma carried the music and sang along merrily, despite Joshua shooting her repeatedly.

Joshua and Daniel took turns to steer the tank, while the other strutted alongside with me shooting people.  The cannon was a great addition and surprised onlookers.  Oliver and his cardboard siblings drew loads of laughs too.  A great parade with some brilliant floats – Oliver!, High School Musical; Grease, Jailhouse rock, South Pacific, Jungle Book and many more…

Into the parade ring on the Rec for announcement of winners.  Our friends and neighbours had done Chitty Chitty Bang Bang so well we knew they’d grab the trophy this year.

But we were wrong – WE WON!


(and apparently I was rather too scary for some people!)