Monday, 29 July 2013

Progress Stardate 28713

On Saturday morning the alarm went off at 4am. The reason for waking up at this antisocial hour on the weekend was to ensure that we were out of the house for 5am. We needed to be out the house and on the road for 5am because I didn’t fancy a six and three quarter hour drive to Honiton. I wanted the leisurely 3.5 hours the TomTom estimates. If you are up at 4am, I can confirm that 3.5 hours, with two breaks to “let water”, is enough to get you the 210 miles door to door and the A303 is a pleasure like the Grey Havens from Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings, the doorway into the West across the sundering seas (though obviously the seas in this case are rolling fields of gold and green). The roadwork’s at Stonehenge become an utter irrelevance (but for the fact that the problematic right fork is now a soon to be turfed over scar where he old road has been ripped up and carted away ... and I used to quite like that route across Salisbury Plain ... however that is small beer compared to the advantage of the change both to Stonehenge and those trapped in the purgatory of trying to turn right across the plain when it’s busy, turn left off the plain to go west when it’s busy, or turn right off the plain to go east when it’s busy ... in essence if you needed (past tense the options gone)  to do anything but go straight east or west at Stonehenge you were fucked). The road works at the M25/M26 merge at Sevenoaks becomes a pootle through a civil infrastructure works exhibit with real diggers and men in orange monkey suits doing big stuff with big machines and lots of neatly spaced cones, and the M3 is that odd corridor (to me anyway) that speaks of heath and true forest to come further south in Hampshire and the New Forest itself, the M3 is the pre-amble lined with  gorse and pines and heather and grass and absolute change of landscape from the familiar to me Kent, Essex and Northeast Surrey.

The upshot of all this joyful babble about the ease of passage into the west, if you’re willing to wake with the dawn chorus is, that we went to see the progress on the motorhome at Paul’s invitation stroke order and to make some final fit decisions. As ever pictures speak a thousand words, so I’ll take a course of shut up tablets and post the pictures instead, and round off with a summary in a bit.

Summary. The moho has been lined, and the insulation finished underneath the ply, Paul was as unimpressed with the previous fit out as I was. I think in fairness the expression “horses for courses” fit’s. It needed to be fairly quiet and fairly warm and as an ambulance I’m sure it was. New skylights have been fitted. The bench seating is just mocked up for now. The background services (gas, electricity and water) are routed or have conduits to allow final fit. The upper cupboards are almost the finished article. One must admit the there is a lot of grey, however as with white rooms we shall add the touches of colour that make it home.  
A fifth window will be added into the sliding door, the rear windows slide open so if it rains they need to be closed. The window in the sliding door hinges out and will be right by the hob and cooker, ensuring Carbon Monoxide doesn’t become a problem in foul weather. The shower room is large with the loo and the shower tray forming as big a space as they can for freedom of movement, because there are three primary functions for this bus, outside of being transport, and they are if I’ve never mentioned them before:
1.       Eat

2.      Sleep

3.       Wash / Ablute (that's a polite way to say go to do bigjobs and wee wees)

Almost everything else, if not everything else is support for these three functions. For me the comfort comes in simplicity, ease of access, low maintenance.
We are not going to be one of the plush luxury land yachts that the high end builders stuff full of crap you don’t want to get dirty, or be overloaded with time saving gadgets ... that save you time to do “what”? exactly, you’re on fucking holiday. You’ve been programmed to think you need an in-built electric can opener, two sinks, satellite TV and  a Corby Trouser press ... alright I made up the Corby trouser press. But seriously some of the crap you see in high end motorhomes is just (in the narrators humble opinion) there for effect. And by blows, fritters your valuable diesel money away. This said, having stuck our heads in a high end unit at a motorhome show, and finding it just a bit too beige, and turning our noses up, we found ourselves being remonstrated with by some old duffer who was practically “knocking one out” with glee at all the shiny doodads and what knots in said exhibition motorhome ... each to his own ... a good job the covers were machine washable.
For me if you’ve had to make a double bed four feet wide, with one side cut off at an angle just below one poor sleepers knees, then you have tried to fit too much in and made a pigs ear of it ... or you’re catering to very thin people one of whom is very short ...

So that’s it for now, we visited some good friends after our trip to Pauls', drank some beer, went to a splendid Italian restaurant in Burnham on Sea, slept over at said friends house, had a splendid breakfast and talked about our travel plans and options and then spent five hours coming back along the M5, M4, M25, A12, A130, A127 (to within 100yds of our current front door) ... redeeming features of these roads .... er um er, well they are roads, we’d be buggered without them. I think we totted up five hours on the return, weight of traffic, rubber necking fucking morons, and middle lane drivers (one of those three is my personal pet hate, and I shall be ever so glad to avoid motorways when we hit the road properly).

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Good Knackered

Good Knackered is where you get to when you have done a long cycle ride. We did eight miles approximately on Sunday ... eight miles isn’t that far at first glance on the flat. However add in some long gentle up gradients, a few miles along the top of a well worn dyke path, overhung with grass or just covered in cut grass that constitutes a field margin, and suddenly the friction co-efficient is all over the place, and the work being done increases commensurate with the variability ... then bolt onto that 31 degrees. The fact that you can wheel spin in some places where the grass lays flat is unnerving, because at those points gravity wants very much to exert it’s power, and on one side of the dyke you have 12 inch by 12 inch slabs acting as sea defence (which I discovered after watching Countryfile on Iplayer is being breached to allow the sea back in) this is about a twelve foot fall, and the landward side has an equally steep and deep, stubble covered bank, both of which would be a bugger to roll down. These hazards aside and the usual hazards from motorists while trying to find the section of path we were looking are worth the risks.

We found a national trail path on an OS map we bought so we could find footpaths, trails, and bridleways, just two miles up from us near a place called Sutton. Access to the path is found just before Rochford (conveniently next to a pub). The area covered is obviously large. However initially we were just looking for what was on the doorstep ... Taaaa Daaa, tick that box.
The section of path we followed itself follows the river Roach. The Roach from what I’ve seen is mostly a stream that then meets the tide, it’s not over long, not overly wide and even the tidal bits only deep enough by my eye to float a very shallow draught boat down. There is a marina at the Sutton end; a boatyard come fix it marina, not a posh yachts marina (which isn’t a judgement, just a fact). The marina has that quaint other worldliness to it, with a mix of speed boats, sailing boats and (I think) Inshore cockling boats (they look like miniature trawlers). The river itself runs east for a bit, then doglegs up and joins the River Crouch before they both discharge into the sea. Parts of this section of Essex coast is reclaimed land (mostly arable farmland), some salt marsh and mud flats (some firm and stable and some entirely lethal; such as the Broom Way). From north of the Blackwater to the Medway in Kent these rivers, inlets, islets and islands have been formed by man latterly, and formerly by the scraping erosive force of glaciers, and in-between the two the meandering of the various streams and rivers that help keep the channels flowing between the tides. They are the Meadway, Thames, Roach, Crouch and Blackwater and countless other small streams and tidal creeks, with names like New England Creek, Narrow Guts, The Fleet and so on, some of these creeks  and channels are manmade and maintained, designed to keep the reclaimed land drained .

We trundled a mile or more east along the dyke on the north side, you could  still see the boatyard through the heat haze, and a few distant houses but you find yourself in that enviable position of feeling like you are totally alone. You can see the high tops of the office blocks and blocks of flats in Southend, and you’re only maybe a two miles in a straight line east from the main road that took you north two miles out of Southend, but all the back ground noise is gone. The corn in the field is silently ripening; it’s at that stage where it’s every shade of green to gold (when one assumes the farmer wanders out everyday to guesstimate when he needs to get the combine in). The only indication of life aside from us are birds various, gulls, rooks (a rook on its own is a crow, and crow in a crowd is a rook ... one must learn the difference), Wood Pigeons, Waders various, Collard doves all sorts of small unidentifiable birds (I say waders various and unidentifiable because , I forgot to pack the binoculars again ... remembered a flask full of hot water for making tea and mini stove to bring the water back to the boil on a 31 degree heat day, forgot binoculars), I think Bellend sums it up nicely.

Looking south across the River Roach the only other evidence of the living were the distant kite sails of kite surfers in Shoeburyness eking the last dregs of the slackening tide. It must be said though, that there are some diehards who follow the tide out to the deep water channel, which by eye must be two miles offshore (I assume in total ignorance that they must have a boat to bring them up the creeks, or that they just stay out there until the tide comes back in), I digress.

It never ceases to amaze me that you can travel such a relatively short distance from a populace place like Southend on Sea, that in itself is inundated with thousands of visitors every sunny weekend, and still find almost absolute solitude and quiet a short bus or bike ride away (to flip that coin I can see why some people would find the process eerie). For myself and Amanda the absolute absence of people is the reward, no distractions, an entirely new place to us, a landscape like others we’ve seen but unique in and of itself, new to our eyes, that selfish part of us that needs and yearns to see as much of everything before we fall into eventual decrepitude and death, to be amazed while we still can satisfied. Sounds morbid, but isn’t if you think about it the other way round, having the want and the means to achieve it and living in fear, and not doing it ... I said somewhere else in an earlier post “if you’re willing to shovel shit, you’ll always have a job”, so we go we lose all our money and have to walk home, better that than not going, not trying.

As I wrote most of the above on the Monday morning commute, I thought about that latter part of the day before. We got back to the flat at around 5pm, the sun was still high in the sky and the flat just wasn’t the place to spend the rest of the day, so we went out across the mud east of the pier following the near fully ebbed tide. The contrast between our 2pm and our 5pm couldn’t be more stark. We moved quickly through the heaving multitude along the seafront at Southend and out onto the mud flats.

That strip we call a promenade was heaving with people of all types colours and ages; groups, couples, gangs, gaggles and everything in between. We crossed the sand without stopping, hit the foreshore mud that had been churned by thousands of feet from the time the tide turned ... mostly children’s from the myriad impressions.

In front of us for two miles shimmering mud, rills of rapid runoff water, that for maybe centuries, maybe only decades have cut channels in the hard packed silt of the less well walked mud. In places these rills and streams form micro confluences; that in turn, turn into rapid and quite powerful runoff streams that could snatch an unwary person legs from beneath them ... not lethal by any means to an adult, however you would likely wear the abrasions from the encounter for some time.  The heat haze and the mist of evaporate blend the horizon into a mirage of blurred blue and blue grey, a mix of streams, huge inch deep silver blue tidal pools, and wavy ripples in the undisturbed silt. Among all this, the reason a fall in a tidal pool or stream would leave you looking like you’ve been mauled ... Cockles, Oysters and Mussels (I deliberately tried to avoided Alive Alive Oh here), beds like green and black islands strewn across a strange sea where we are giants. The molluscs are what provide the hard structure and stop you sinking too far ... around the corner heading north a bit to the Broom Way, you would only venture onto the mud with an experienced guide unless you could levitate.

On that seemingly far horizon were ill defined specs that could have been birds at two hundred metres remove or people at 2000 metres remove, floating in and out of the eye. We knew they were people, because when the heat haze settles or the objects move in a certain way, an indeterminate grey dot changes to red and white, or green and black, the colours of clothes. Whether the wanderers were bait diggers or those that followed the tide from first ebb to neap and turn, we won’t know, we turned west half way up the pier to go under it following one of the widest tidal ebb pools, where we discovered the power of hundreds of thousands of gallons of the remaining water running off the foreshore mud in tiny streams. Trying like Ping the duck to catch up with the main body of water before the tide turned back and swamped the mud again.

All this before us, almost as empty as the fields on the north bank of the River Roach, quietly empty two miles and bit north. However, from the promenade came the distant rattle and hum of the small amusement park, coupled with the screams and woops of the easily pleased, and the over loud noise of amusement arcades, trying to draw in mugs to play Penny Falls (nowadays Ten Penny falls), and slots, and time critical Shoot Em Ups, desiring a pound a play or replay depending on your previous skill or luck.
That stream of concrete, block paving and tarmac populated by the easily thrilled band ... the locus of attention of the most, while the few search for “far other worlds and other seas”.

Be wary of arrogance Finch be wary of judging the throng, wish instead they had yours and Amanda’s eyes.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Surfs Up

Evocative phrase that one up there in the title space. I’ve never surfed, however it is one of those fall off a board things that I can still have a go at, as opposed to skiing, snowboarding and especially skateboarding ... windsurfing’s out as well because of the lumbar strain.

From the two previous posts, it’s easy to see how you get caught up in the woe and ignore the good times. For instance while the last six weeks have been especially hectic at work and at temporary home, I’ve not said a word about going out cycling in the evenings, weekends away at friends, or that three weekends out of six we’ve been on the beach, swimming in the tepid sea (not warm, but definitely not cold) and during the heat wave we have been ditching our gear as soon as we get in after work and going straight down to the beach to swim. The fact that there’s none of the usual English reticence at getting in the water is due to the temperature and is; I theorise, a combination of fresh water outflow down the Thames that’s warmer than the sea, and the fact in the estuary the tide flows shallow across firm tidal mud flats and these act as a heat sink when exposed to the sun for a good few hours. These warm mud flats  then transfer their heat to the water as the tide comes in shallow at a walking pace ... however I may be talking bollocks ... you’d need to catch a high tide early morning when the waters come in across the mud in the dark to test the theory ... or ask one of the old folk at Leigh who swim early when the tide is right.

We’ve been cycling and walking in both east and westerly directions, juggling my brothers DIY jobs and going to the pub on a regular basis I actually feel fit for what seems like the first time in a long time. Being fit and active is a great mood booster and depression deterrent. Not being fit last year, and remembering it play heavily on my mind that “Oh fuck I’m out of shape, getting older, so getting fits going to be an absolutely FUCKING ENORMOUS mountain to climb this time”, is not a good place for the brain to be. I can see it through the lens of hindsight ... all I could see last year were mountains of one kind or another. There is a very good  argument that being a bit vain is no terrible thing, even and especially as you get older. 

It’s also worth mentioning with regard to travel, mode of travel direction of travel etc., that it’s good to vary your route habits even on regular journeys. Apparently there are only so many neural pathways and processors in the brain to deal with things like travel and navigation and which cheese is best, so when you vary your route you make new discoveries (even if you’ve travelled the path before but at a different time). This causes an emotional response akin to pleasure and activates the same receptors in the brain and releases endorphins. Just think about the saying “variety is the spice of life”, and suddenly the science fits the wives tales. And all that was required to prove the wisdom was a few million watt’s of electricity, thousands of hours of scientific research, and lots of Guinea Pigs willing to have their brains scanned, lifestyles and habits dissected, to understand the bio-mechanics of the “how and the why? of “variety is the spice of life.

After last years miserable weather that played well to our Damp Works nightmare and kept us indoors and “on task” (that’s a boardroom bollocks phrase if ever one was), but at the same time did nowt for our Cardiovascular fitness. This years weather is playing well to our absence of tasks, now the motor home is away being fitted out, and the back breaking work at my brothers is done (I may mention more about this later but to be fair it’s done as far as I can go, as of the day I started writing this post).

 An almost absolute absence of tasks after having lots of tasks, does leave one feeling bereft of tasks, this can cause anxiety. And as the saying goes (not strictly but close enough) anxiety leads to fear, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hatred and hatred leads to the dark side ....mmmmmmmm.

Fortunately in this regard I have an Amanda, and I’m sure I’ve said elsewhere “everyone needs and Amanda”, she is the Yang to my Yin, the light to my dark. Glass half full with room for some Vodka. Amanda’s the one that suggested the sea swims after work, I was reticent, afraid of the cold, of having to walk home in wet clothes, because someone nicked what we leave on the beach. I never used to be afraid of stuff. A little too much bravado has gotten me broken bones, torn ligaments, stitches, nearly drowned  ... more than my fair share of time on NHS waiting lists waiting to be mended. And suddenly I’m all “oooo it’s a bit late, it might be cold, there may be a shark, or a whole poo that’s still recognisable”. That’s depression and self doubt that do that to a person.
One of my greatest fears over the last eighteen months (and I mentioned this to my counsellor), is that the poison in my soul may infect Amanda, and then we would both be doomed. That sounds dramatic doesn’t it, but think about it: how many relationships fail, because one person is on a downward spiral and doesn’t get help? And the other half just gets dragged down in the eddies, and the only resolution in the end is to separate.

Once you’ve seen the benefits of counselling, and having your brain part rewired (you do the re-wiring, but you have to do it via the mirror of memory), you can genuinely start moving forward again with optimism. I’m done now, it’s still light my gear is ready for when I get in, the tide is high, it’s ten to eight and I think we are swimming in about twenty minutes.

Sunday, 14 July 2013


In the previous post I implied that we weren't the happiest couple in the world and things weren't always rosy. That's incorrect we are generally a very happy couple, who get on each other nerves in the normal way, but are by and large very happy ... except where ironing of my shirts is concerned ... we need a new ironing man even if it's only for a few weeks. Who'd have thought ironing could be so contentious, I genuinely thought women loved all that White Goods tomfoolery, after all that's why Amanda got a new iron for Christmas ... who knew?

PS: if there are no more posts following this one ... it's because my dissembled body parts are being washed out to sea on the ebb tide. :-)

Friday, 12 July 2013

Time Waits for no Man ... or Woman

Here we are, several days after I finished writing the last post, which I then sat on (partial mitigation will follow) ... it sounded like miserable depressive workaday whinging and a bit too personal. Then after a bit of thought, I decided that it would be fundamentally dishonest to say that we are off on a two year jolly because we are the happiest people in the world and everything is always rosy. Yes we have picked ourselves up dusted ourselves down and started all over again, through the woes of damp indoors, leaky motorhome, followed by it being written off.

However it would be a great big whopper of a lie to say we haven’t both been casualties of the last eighteen months.

In March I think I had to go to the doctors, I felt rundown, low and out of sorts, I filled in a questionnaire, because the symptoms I was describing had no physical manifestation ... to whit; my flu like symptoms were ghostly ethereal stuff and the only medicine that would treat them would be the Prozac kind, or having a few sessions with a counsellor. I was depressed, I knew I was depressed when I booked the appointment, but I didn’t say I was depressed to the receptionist until I was pressed for a real symptom.
It’s a mark of how depression is viewed by the medical profession that the receptionists tone and manner changed in an instant to positive “you need to see the doctor and quick”, the same day in fact. So that was March, and with all things NHS (unless you’re admitted as an emergency), I’ve had to wait for a counsellor, because the Prozac route was one I didn’t want to take. In the meantime I was given some very good self help stuff to be going along with. Clearly self help stuff is unlikely to help with severe depression, but for me a few key thought processes looked at, and turned upside down, with a bit of practice had a real effect.

1. Tell yourself a different story: Or put in the real world, life’s given you a beating, you’re expecting life to give you a beating, you tell yourself life will give you a beating, you go and look for the beating life is expected to give  you ... you get a beating off life ... this one just runs and runs. Tell yourself a different story. There are examples in this blog, like when we were dealing with the insurance company, I expected the worst of the worst, and we had a good result in nice simple steps, from assessor, to the value agreed for payout, to the sale of carcass of the old Moho, and purchase of the ambulance.

2. Don’t set your expectation too low.

3. Ask yourself will certain things matter in six months, next week, a day, in half an hour? Clearly being in debt and facing repossession matters all the time it’s an issue, but there are systems in place to help you, if you can pick yourself up long enough to get to them. However someone seemingly being off with you at work, or dropping a full shampoo bottle on your foot in the shower, even running out of milk or finding the breads gone mouldy ... or there isn’t a loaf in the freezer when you thought there was. This isn’t the Lord God almighty being vindictive ... it’s just “shit happens, deal with it”. When you’re depressed the “deal with it” bit can become so much bigger an issue than the event that kicked off the episode, in a series of episodes that have a massive cumulative effect. That seemingly ignored nod from a colleague in a corridor feels like an impending, disciplinary, a fight brewing yaddah yaddah yaddah, as opposed to; they are as busy as you and their mind and eye were elsewhere.

4. There is always an end to things. When I separated from my first wife, things were reasonable between us until she found out I’d met someone else three months after our split, and that I’d taken our son with my then girlfriend’s son to a park to feed some ducks and play one fine January day. The next day I found a restraining order accusing me of violence towards my son, and then over the next five months the accusations just went from worse to worserer and worserererer. It was pure unadulterated hell for twelve months, but somewhere deep down I knew things would work out, because I knew I’d done fuck all wrong. I knew there would be an end, I wasn’t sure where that end would be, I was frustrated by a legal system that tied itself in knots, I was scared when I was interviewed by the police and I hated the Social Services department (and still do), for their ineptitude. For information social services will be about for a long time, letting Baby P’s die, while telling you that contact with your child is unadvisable as its upsetting the mother, despite the court order that says you have joint custody ... there is a word, but Amanda says I can’t use it in the blog). Some days you’re high as a kite, because a judgements gone your way, others you feel like cliff diving from Beachy Head, BUT and it’s a big but, I knew the truth would out. It’s one of those times when that grain of hope is all you need to know there will be an end. And if you look you will always find that grain, and if you can find someone to help you look after the grain of hope, or keep an eye for the end with you, you’ll get there, and as one door closes another will open.

These simple brain/mindset re-programming techniques worked for me, and I have an Amanda to keep an eye on the grains of hope, and to look for the light at the end of the tunnel.
I have four sessions left with the counsellor and I have this blog to write out the issues, and that is something else that helps. In writing it out you can find your contradictions and knots and untangle them ... it’s therapeutic, and if even one other person reads this and gets a clue, then all the better.
Summer has finally decided to turn up, and  we still seem to be in a perpetual state of busy; weekends away, odd jobs, research including: tyres (multi season or normal and winter), insurance, breakdown cover, VOSA inspections, European driving laws, how to avoid toll roads, which book on European driving laws to buy? Quite large odd jobs at my elder brothers, selling our old car (which I found out by squeezing the search parameters really tight is actually worth quite a bit more than I thought because of its six speed gearbox ... who knew)? All of which comes with a certain stress, an anxiety of the unknown. However we have chosen a path, we have decided to do this thing. We could bail out and just move to Somerset, get part time jobs and do discovery on weekends. We can always come back ... and there’s the grain when things look bleak or mental ... we have a choice.

Digression: We’ve just trundled into Leigh on Sea on what has become our usual train, the early morning sun is ever so bright, there is the merest hint of heat haze and mist, the mud flats are glistening green, blue and grey and the little boats sat on the mud in bright colours all pointed the same way make for a glorious picture foreshorescape ... as does the salt marsh beyond. We have now experienced many variations of the tidal range, today’s is absolute low tide, and Friday last week I trundled into the City of London past the second highest tide of the month.

There’s another grain ... being in the present. Be where you are when you are. Be flexible for the future, because you don’t hold all the answers, and no one expects you to ... and if they do, that’s their problem.
I think this done. We have a way to go, and a lot to do, so posts will be sporadic or absent for a month or so, but hopefully, once we’re done there will be posts about scenery, and things seen with pictures attached.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Reason For All This Upheaval II

I’m sitting on a train bound for Grays (in Essex), after a day at the office. I’m in the quiet zone which for reasons known only to the god of the 16:55 from Fenchurch Street is never quiet; some turd somewhere is inducing early age deafness with a personal stereo I can hear from a minimum of ten feet away, maybe more ... that or my hearings great. At least three people have had or made phone calls, with the obligatory look into everyone’s faces to indicate their defiance of the tacitly agreed rule that mobiles aren’t allowed ( though it’s sign posted on around nine panels per seating section and the carriage is half empty as are all the “make as much noise as you like carriages”).

I didn’t start off as a Quiet Zone snob, it just happened a I realised the benefits of thinking space; be that reading thoughts, or typing thoughts ... or those strange micro dreams at the edge of sleep proper, where the combinations of sounds and maybe the motion, what you had for breakfast and the last thing you consciously looked at combine to cast you momentarily into a void of misheard conversation far from reality, places disturbingly (when you awake) better than where you are or where you are heading ... to whit work. Going home though is a piece of piss set your countdown timer and chow down on that half hour solid doze.

When I got on the train I found a sandwich bag full of piss, some empty drink cans (beer and soft drinks) and a load of spit and snot at one end of the carriage on the floor. This is clearly some rebels attempt at “ownership, making their mark, causing upset, having a laugh”. I’m not sure; if an animal pissed in a corner I’d understand. The bag of piss being discovered at some point will cause the train to be taken out of service, so either the cleaner between trips turned a blind eye at turn around because it was so close to full rush hour, or the cleaners don’t run through at this time of day ... selfishly I didn’t report the piss bag because I didn’t want to get stuck in the city because of a cancelled train.

I’m into the last thirty six “working” days of working for my present employer. It’s sixty days give or take a few hours until the 1st of September, when we hope to start the month long shakedown of the motorhome in Kent, before we bail out of the UK and head south with the sun. It’s days like today that remind you why you’re going.

Escape, re-evaluate, explore, live, risk for pleasure.

This carriage stinks, musty and warm like the piss smell has followed me. It hasn’t, it’s just a state of mind smell, induced by the enclosed space and the raw disgust. I should have changed carriages completely.

The office has been full of woe because of the ongoing nightmare that is off-shored IT services. Our once colleagues jobs out-sourced to numpties who know in essence Fuck-all, and get away with it ... and who by turns offload their shit back on to us, when their skill sets don’t meet the required levels ... so very frequently ... someone saved some money somewhere, to pay someone else some extra money from the money saved from somewhere ... er ah eer ummm. But that is about the size of things, the little people getting fucked with a P45 and a cheque, while a few elites and shareholders maintain a dividend. Bend over grin and bear it. But not anymore for a while!

The politics, the stress, the arguments, the constant "well if you don’t like it leave", mentality that has been all pervading since late 2008 early 2009. The feeling that fifty years worth of employee rights have for the last five years or so been expediently walked over like eggshells someone high up in the ivory towers, eventually got sick to the back teeth of the sight of, and decided now is the time to wade in stomping with glee.

Don’t get me wrong some of the those employee rights were utterly abused, and global companies with global products and services should be able to operate globally, however the net effect of throwing the baby out with the bath water for the sake of "margin", has been a step too far in the opposite direction. People need hope and people need a reason to work to pull themselves back to prosperity other than “well it’s been a breeze but we’re in the shit and we need you to throw yourself on this sword ... may hurt a bit, possibly ruin your life your childrens life and result in divorce ... but lets not forget the greater economy ... and the share holders, now don’t make a fuss just ... er um er kill yourself. Jolly good”.

Escape at some points seems like a petty reason to get away (even with the above). To escape the rat race, the commute, the unhappy faces of my fellow passengers, the sleepers in the morning and at night ... whom this last year or so I’ve joined more frequently than I would like, or like to admit.

Neutral or sad faced people worn thin by work eeking out a few minutes sleep to ensure the evenings labours, fun or routine get sorted before bedtime and the next iteration of the misery, of 9 to 5, five days a week, before the all too short weekend comes round again. And you can feel human again for a few hours ... because that’s all it is ... a few hours ... one hundred and sixty eight per week, at best you get forty eight to yourself and maybe sixteen to twenty of those (if you are lucky) being awake and yourself.

PS: The bike needs a rear cassette and a new chain

PPS: I started writing this a week ago.

Addendum 12/7/13: The cleaners do walk through at 5 minutes to 4pm.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Decision Made Odds and Sods

This will be a snippets post. First of all, as a follow up to the last post, we’ve decided that folding bikes are too expensive or too small and not robust enough for what we intend. So we won’t be wasting any more time on that matter. Instead I’ve booked my bike in for its long overdue strip down service. I need brake blocks, the back wheel is out of true and needs jigging to get it right (there may be a case for two new wheels, as the brake wear grooves round the rims feel almost smooth, it’s been doing it’s thing since 2004). The crank bearings are just at that point where there is a tiny amount of play forward or delay (it’s one f the two) before the pedals engage. Other that that I’m in Evans hands on the 8th of July. Between now and then I think some Muck Off and a redundant tooth brush is in order.
After mine has been sorted out, Amanda’s Rockhopper goes in. It needs a rear wheel true, a tweak to the hydraulics for the disk brakes and that’s about all (she’s only had it since 2009, so it’s practically new). There may be a case at some point for Semi slick tyres ... but to be fair there’s a stronger case for a quality high pressure stirrup pump, so increasing and decreasing tyre pressure is less of a chore (I may have mentioned this before but the side benefit of a high pressure stirrup pump is it can charge my air rifle).
As a consequence of the decision not to buy folding bikes, we’ve had a minor redesign of the motorhome. The garage has gone; without the bikes there is only the need for rear access either side of a central aisle. We claim back bed space, which was another part of the “folding bike compromise” that wasn’t ideal. And we still have some rear access lockers under the bed for “dirty or outdoor gear”. Paul also pointed out that with a bit of cushion removal and the strategic placement of an 8x4 of ply across the bed area, the back of the van stays large enough for small moves, and while we won’t move the lockup contents our selves when we get back from travelling (we’ve decided to use a removals company eventually), we could still conceivably move a sofa or bed with relative ease.
We’ve reigned back some of the works we were going to do at my brothers; he wants to sell, therefore the task is to make the place presentable, serviceable and practical in as short a time as possible and then sell it. It’s not the best decision ever, but it gets him out of a hole and on to the next chapter in his life. And who am I to stand in the way of that?
Amanda and I have to get my old Golf serviced ready for sale, because it will become an issue in fairly short order if it’s still hanging around at the end of September.
On matters of moving things on my cat of fourteen years is proving hard to re-home. The younger one is on her way to good friends of ours this weekend coming, but Pern ... well Pern is Pern and she needs the right fit, or some poor human somewhere will lose an arm below the elbow … I must say she’s fine with me … it’s everyone else she hates.
I’ve returned to researching this that and the other in my spare time. However as per previous post; forums really are a pain in the arse. Take A frames for towing a car. I decided to check out costs and perceived or real increases in fuel consumption and legislation. I Googled various questions to see what would turn up. Needless to say there were lots of answers and lots on forums ... of those lots two threads provided good information the rest were utter bollocks. One in particular that got my goat started with a really good set of information and stats, was then hijacked by some bellend who decided to play  “The previous answer is bollocks I know better”, and continued thus for 8 pages, even after being slapped down with AA figures immediately following his fatuous comments.
Fortunately once you have pin pointed what looks like good anecdotal evidence, you find that the actual phrasing of your question may be the issue in getting quality information. Subsequently in finding the right way to ask the questions using “technical terms”, you get exactly what you want in terms of statistical information. The mean average additional fuel consumption appears to be from 5% to 10% depending on the type of roads used. However there are plenty of anecdotal notes from the experienced who haven’t used the scientific method who quote figures around the 1mpg extra mark. The variables obviously include towed vehicle weight, road type ect ect ect, but the figures above roll in all the time across a variety of forums, including stock car racers, caravan haulers, not necessarily, the point you started looking, but once extrapolated out, you find you're comparing apples with apples.
I have discovered that the tow bar and vehicle mods are not horrifically expensive, and a used Smart (the original) can be bought for as little as £600 ... suddenly a run about doesn’t seem quite so far out of reach, but we’ll see if it’s something we could use in our second year, if of course we make it to a second year.
Other items being looked at daily for pricing include:
Small camping stoves for day hikes and bike rides
Portable BBQ’s though again, it's one of those "takes up space, weighs something, not going to be used all the time" things, that you could probably do without.
And all sorts of other odds and sods … the trick is of course, not to go mad, or there may not be room for us with all the gear packed in the van. And as an opposite of things you can do without. There is ever the argument for making things as luxurious as you can, because it's an extended road trip, not a test of your survival skills.

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