Monday, 29 October 2012

Plans B, C and D etc

From day one we had to have a fallback position in case something happened that properly prevented us from going travelling when we plan in March next year. I think on balance the fates have made it as tough as they can ... the bastards. And the date is probably slipping even as I type.

It was such a simple plan. Tidy up existing motorhome, sell house, have a positively Bohemian summer, a change of era Christmas and new year, stick two fingers up at the rat race for a couple of years, travel far and wide. Return wiser and with greater understanding of our fellow man ... also appreciate that while the land of foreign is nice and warm, south of Dover they are generally feckless indolents looking for hand outs and somewhere to nap ... or to fuck your missus while you’re scouring the bars looking for a good English Breakfast. I jest of course, I don’t eat English Breakfast in the land of foreign; I eat foreign so the foreigners can’t point their, Frog, Spic, Phlegm, Wop, Bubble or Dago fingers at me and say I’m not cultured or multi cultural ... init matey peeps (the management apologises for the narrators slide into abusive  names for the residents of greater Europe).

It’s not much to ask is it? Where in this simple to conceptualize, relatively easy under normal circumstances to execute plan was there a clause desired by any of the travelling parties, to make the entire enterprise as complicated, expensive and as mentally and physically draining as it has become? Did we assume too much? Did we forget we were in a recession? Or did we just invite all the bad luck in the world into our lives by dreaming a little bit bigger and brighter than people like us should (whatever “people like us” are)?

I’ve climbed a few of life’s mountains in my time, I’ve stared down some pretty harsh odds and some harsh times associated with those odds. And while at the time I may have twisted and writhed on hooks of mental agony and anger (multiple spinal surgeries, a horrific divorce from a vengeful harpy, almost without peer ... other deep shit). I like to think each time I’ve come out the other side a bit wiser and stronger. And with no small amount of time, I can look back and make light, almost see a retrospective cause and affect ... some may call that twenty twenty hindsight with rose tinted glasses (well they will if they ever read this and pick up on the phrase). And most important of all I’ve regained my sense of humour ... had I not? I don’t like to think about “had I not” it goes to places one shouldn’t contemplate very often, or for very long.

I think I’m tough mentally, and I know how to roll on the ropes, and Amanda is likewise tough in all the right places, but also has the one thing I lack in my makeup. Amanda can forgive herself her mistakes and move on. This is useful, because she can also point out that I’m beating myself up, and that I don’t actually need to ... after all nobody died ... yet.

Anyway enough of the maudlin; we had to have a plan B, a plan C, and a D, though in fairness C and D didn’t become official until September when we realised the year was running out.

Plan B
Rent out house in Essex, it makes no money but it loses nothing either (it becomes self sustaining in terms of mortgage and insurance). Move back to Somerset for cleaner air, slower pace of life. Wait for recession to pass, then sell house then go travelling. Plan B is the path of least resistance, it gives us back the breathing and planning space we lost to damp works both in the motorhome and the house, but does still have the disadvantage of moving us to Somerset in a state of unemployment and no guarantee of grabbing any kind of job straight away. So it’s a plan, but not as a good a plan as plan A.

Plan C
Sell house in Essex at lowest possible value to progress plan A (Plan A is “Go Travelling” ... it’s only once you look at the details its gets complicated). Plan C has a revision of the original: go travelling for eighteen months up to two years plan. Instead of going for two years, just go for one year, and don’t take a significant break in Cyprus for four months from October 2013 until early March 2014. Just go solidly for one year, but far more thoroughly in and around the Mediterranean coast of Europe in the relative warmth during the winter months, then in spring make a bee line for Norway for early summer. And finally back to blighty for the East of England leg.

The trade off is that the equity from the property is going to have to be spent as support for the entire venture (minus paying back what we’ve spent from existing funds to pay for repairs both at home and in the motorhome ... it’s a chunk). However with plan C, there is unlikely to be the opportunity to get odds and sods of work to offset the cost, however the benefit is that all your time is your own. Plan C has merits; one that we maybe overlooked is that by doing one year of solid travel, we can leave later in 2013. The optimal months for late departure are end of April through to the end of May. This gives four months UK travel, four to five months Europe (including a drive down to Cyprus for a week or two break towards the end), and then a leisurely roll back up through Europe to Norway and then back to the UK for early to mid summer 2014, and then if we over run into late summer, early autumn and have budget for it ... who cares, we deserve it don’t we?
Plan D
That’s a combination of Plan B and C. And goes something like, rent house in Essex, it makes no money but it loses nothing either (it becomes self sustaining in terms of mortgage and insurance). Move back to Somerset for cleaner air, slower pace of life. The additional elements are, only work four days a week (I already do), and spend the three remaining days using Somerset as a hub to travel abroad in the UK.
I’m sure lots of people do Plan D, without all the upheaval we are putting ourselves through, and probably do it with only two day weekends, and all the other shite that goes with living pre-retirement. However in mitigation, I have to point out that the upheaval of Plans A and C actually buy a certain form of Freedom Plan D can only dream of. And both A and C have the obvious benefit of not spending money on fuel to do a journey twice I.E. going to a destination and then returning down the same route. Plan D isn’t travelling, it’s visiting in comfort ... not terrible but not the essence of adventure, and not contiguous or focused ... it’s fucking cheating and no mistake.

I can make the point (if it needs making?) this past weekend we travelled from Essex to Wiltshire and back, that is 298 miles all in, that’s £70 in fuel, only one stop (annual spooky party at our friends ... great showers, electrical hook-up and all complimentary). All well and good, but given that we don’t in an ideal world wish to travel more than thirty miles per leg of our journey, before stopping and exploring the locale on foot, on bike or local transport. 298 miles represents a potential eight or nine stops, or almost the entire length of the south coast (point to point, no wiggly bits). So you see you don’t want to come back on yourself ... it’s not efficient, dammit and that’s that.

What can I say, it’s not so much a wobble since last week, it’s more of a not knowing how things play out for the next four weeks that our first estate agent has left on their exclusivity, and then which way to jump following the end of that term. Right now we actually need to be a little bit pessimistic in spite of the move out of recession, hopes have been up, down and all around ... we’re ready ... nothing else is.

Oh I forgot Plan E
Win the Lottery or Premium bonds.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Trims And Wobbles

It’s been an odd couple of weeks. I couldn’t, without thinking long and hard remember what it is that we’ve been doing. And then it all came in a rush ... we fitted the new cab carpet in the motorhome, started tinkering with the motorhome door panels and door furniture and looked at the practicalities of fitting the felt in the engine bay and inside the doors ... had a day off and went to visit some friends over night.
The cab carpet was a big job requiring the removal of the entire seat pods from the cab floor, temporary removal of the hand brake mechanism and the removal of numerous bits of tread trim and under dash trim. It was a slog; I’d looked at it dozens of times in the last few months to get my head around the order of events, but it doesn’t matter how much mental breakdown you do; there will always be bugs on the day. Not too many bugs and nothing that deserves a special mention aside from the following line. Just the usuals’: nuts set solid by twenty years (not rusted just comfortably stuck fast), seized screws that required constant and gentle force until they were overcome by leverage (some minor rust but nothing WD40 won’t keep at bay for another twenty years), awkward wrist twists in tiny places, not having enough arms or hands between us ... daylight running out.
The results are acceptable, but I’m no car trimmer and the overall footprint of the cab is what’s made the carpet look good not my ministrations. What we have gotten out of the job is cab noise being deadened, and I imagine a certain amount of thermal insulation, though it must be said I preferred the easy clean surface left by removing the previous carpet. A carpet I now know was not designed or intended for vehicular use ... learnt a bit about carpets and their applications I have. I’ve also learnt that broken Scaphoid bones like reminding you of your previous carelessness every time you use a socket wrench in perpetuity. I think the job is finished, but there’s a little niggle in the back of my mind saying “now it’s all fitted take it out and have it whipped”, but we’ll see.
The door panels are different set of problems, for a start I can’t work out how to get them off. I know it has something to do with the pull handle that opens the door from the inside, and I will phone the Talbot expert Mike Chubb from No1 Gear and ask for some tips next week.  What I have discovered is that it’s easy to get the panels off up to the point that I need to turn them around the centre and pull them off completely. If I get this bit wrong, the door opening levers will be “fucked” (that’s a technical term widely used in many industries). I think on balance the panels will be a doddle to remake as complete units using new, hardboard and basic upholstery techniques, however there is an argument for thin ply which is easier to cut, round off the edges, and re-mount speakers to (the current hardboard requires additional plastic widgets for the speakers to screw into because hardboard isn’t very good with being screwed to ... hardboard also warps and shrinks ... which it has). The trick is to use the originals as templates and to buy new panel clips from here ... you can I swear, find anything on t’tinternet if you look hard enough. I then have to create new covers using the material we had our new cushions covered in, and re-use the vinyl sections from the existing covers and some nice new foam backing. As mentioned above I’m not a vehicle trimmer, but I reckon this job should go fairly well, because I’m actually not to bad with a needle and thread and the pattern is ready made, all tha’ts required is patience and a steady hand and few Youtube videos. I may have mentioned this elsewhere, but if you need to see a job being done, regardless of obscurity you will find some American person from some obscure backwater of the states that has felt compelled to share their knowledge with you. I shouldn’t mock, but some of the attempts at instruction are hilarious, but persevere and you will find knowledge, and you will be able to compare techniques which is also very useful. I have put my toe in this particular water already and discovered that my right angle outside corner technique would have buggered me up from the “get go” according to some fella from the American deep south who fixes classic fords.
Aside from door panels and carpets, there are a few more jobs to get underway, and in no particular order are:
·         New Brake disks and pads (front), they were nearly due at the last service, and we’ll get them done at the garage, I have noticed a tiny amount of judder on recent drives, indicating wear or warp (which by the way I diagnosed after watching a Youtube video).
·         New brake shoes (rear), same as the fronts.
·         Over cab storage solution (this is still in its infancy and cargo net may not be the logical choice having looked at what were are proposing to store up there)
·         Replace the stereo and the speakers (one of which is dead anyway)
·         Replace the scroll fan under the dash
·         Titivate the electrics under the bonnet (that’s clean and protect in laymen using contact cleaner, and in extremes re-making the contacts with new)
·         Re-seal the headlamps and clean them inside, the offside lens can with moderate force be removed by hand. I discovered this by accident when dealing with the front grill. I have a superb industrial sealant to remake the seals on both sides, and I get to brush out the 20 years worth of algefied crud that’s collected inside due to normal condensation penetration over the lifetime of the units.
·         Rub down an repaint the towbar, this is purely cosmetic
·         Finish the shower hose boxing in and wardrobe shelves
·         Miscellaneous other bits and pieces I find along the way
The problem I have now is time; suddenly I find myself working almost every weekend through November. I’m also working every morning from 6am (4am out of bed ... finish time is the usual) for at least the next six weeks. And evenings are dark now, I did wash the motorhome in the dark this week, but that’s about the limit for working in the dark. There’s forty four hours minimum overtime in those next four weeks, then add in the weekends and my arse isn’t going to touch the floor. It’s not like we don’t need the extra cash right now, I haven’t been this skint since 1999 (I know it’s this year exactly, because it’s the year I got divorced). I do have four days leave to take before the end of January that will scrape me back some time to do some jobs, however one has to bear in mind, inclement weather that can affect things like adhesives, ability to actually hold tools etc.
One has to ask: Where did the time go? Where did the year go?
We are allegedly off in March of next year, but there’s only two and a bit months of this year left, the house still isn’t sold, and I have the list above to complete. I’m trying to identify where we’ve wasted time, but just thinking about things now as I scribble I’m finding it hard to think of a time since April where we haven’t been killing ourselves doing something to progress the adventure or progress the saleability of the house either internally or externally.
The question then is: Have we been too ambitious with our targets? And I guess the answer to that is no ... At no point when the plan was first proposed did we anticipate spending the best part of six months and several thousand pounds re-vamping the dinning room extension to the extent that we had to. That’s where six months went, that’s where the budget went. We are on the back foot and four months looks like no time at all ... all of a sudden. It’s wobble time, we’ve wobbled a few times since we started, to not concede wobbles would be arrogant and rose tinted. At times like this you need wise words from someone long dead ... on a whim I’m going with:
“only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go” T. S. Elliot.
Fatigue, worry, doubt and not having a pot to piss in for at least four weeks, this is the low, I hope there is no lower. It ain’t that we can’t get back up, fuck it, I’ve been lower than this, as has Amanda, it’s just that you get to a certain age and climbing back up just feels like life is being vindictive.
Onwards and upwards.

Friday, 5 October 2012

In Other News

We went fishing for the first time in months last Sunday. I used my new rod that I got for my birthday way back in MAY. I caught a nice baby Cod, and we both got mugged by crabs. We put the fish back to fight another day. It was nice to have the time spare at last.

On another plus; instead of losing rigs to rock and weed, we both landed rigs with swivels and leads still attached, and being the pair of pikey’s we are J I bought them home and untangled the good bits and added them to our fishing box.

And then to complete our day of foraging and fishing, I brought the air rifle out of its hiding place and finally showed Amanda how to use it ... and you wouldn’t believe it ... she had one flyer (that’s a pellet that goes wide) and the remaining four in a really acceptable sub inch grouping. Very steady for a first time, we were both very pleased.

PS: Apologies for the face ... it's the only one I have.

Nowhere Week

It’s been one of those weeks, where nothing has happened and nothing has gotten done. In the Motorhome there lies a roll of noise deadening felt from here: and a role of carpet from here: (same place obviously just different pages ... we picked the very dark navy blue for the cab). The noise deadening felt is for inside the engine bay and bonnet, and if there is enough I will add some to the rudimentary hard rubber stuff inside the door metalwork.

A week or so ago I replaced a broken window winding handle, and got eyes on with the issue of renovating the decor panels on the inside of the doors. This requires those little plastic retaining clips because the ones on the motorhome are twenty years old and brittle. However if thee seek, thee shall find: These guys are primarily for the automotive industry direct, however as long as you are willing to buy packs of x50, when you may only need x20, on balance your going to save yourself some time. And I have found without exception so far, that if you are willing to stick a sample of what you want in the post to these people they will come back with and exact match or as near as damn it match, and advice on how to make it work.

For instance, the cab door seals on the motor home are shot, after a bit of trawling I found these guys Even Peugeot don’t make the door seals for our cab anymore, so we had to find a next best fit (if you’re interested it’s the ETS1472 that we settled for) 9 metres of it.

Why then if I have all this stuff lying around waiting to be done, have I not done anything? Well I’ll tell you why: Pesky fucking germs is why. We are both run down, a bit skint and weary. It’s been a tough year since February. I know this because I looked back through the blog this week, from the first foundations post, through to Septembers last post, and re-read the rollercoaster that’s been the last eight months. While I reviewed I added some pictures, tidied up some grammar and spellings that got missed despite quality control reading everything in Word, Blogger and Blogger preview pane ... you would be amazed at how each view actually highlights issues such as “were and wear and where, or than and that” in the wrong places, but spelt “spelled” write ... right ... so spell checker doesn’t highlight them, but all the same they are the wrong forms of the word. I think it happens because I’ve been writing something else somewhere else and a particular form of a word is lodged in my forebrain (that’s a metaphorical forebrain by the way ... I have no idea where the brain actually caches its frequently used words for the auto complete function when typing).

Back to the plot; germs have laid me low, when I’ve not been coughing like a championship cougher, I’ve been sitting on the sofa drinking hot tea to sooth my aching neck and feeling sorry for myself. I’ve been looking out the window at the weather and watching the leaves on the Lime Tree turn yellow and scatter before the wind (really it’s just a week since most of the leaves were still green and still attached).

So the wind has blown and it’s been bright clear blue for an hour, and then dark and drizzly for an hour ... the weather is confused. I’m lacking energy and motivation, and I chide myself that if I’m too ill to go to work, then I shouldn’t be outside cutting carpet and messing around with high temperature contact adhesives under the bonnet.

Is the week a total loss? No. I’ve written several thousand words of the book that I’m writing, and I’ve made backups both to external hard drive and USB stick of everything important, I’ve tidied the blog, and posted pictures where appropriate. And now I have rationalised everything and thought it through writing this piece. I don’t like being under the weather it compromises your sense of self regardless of achievements under duress.

Until next time then, ttfn.

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