Wednesday, 28 August 2013

A Glorious Day

I did some bits yesterday morning, arranged an MOT for the car pre-sale, made a list from the earlier blogpost about lists, re-listed the old fridge for sale blah blah blah, and then I went out, down to the beach.

I’d gone with the intention of taking some proper pictures with a camera, under the pier at low tide, however I’d left it just too long and the water was knee deep. Let me explain that: the tide drops by my eye around 10 feet at the foreshore, in total the tide drops between 5mtrs and 7mtrs depending on where the tide is in its cycle, but it also goes out a long way. This means that it has to come in a long way before it starts to rise. The water floods across the mud at a walking pace as mentioned in an earlier post, then it eventually hits the beach (which is held in place by the seawall and Groynes and does its vertical fill (Six hours and millions of tonnes of saline H20 pulled by the moon). The period at slack tide is relatively short, and I missed it; being one handed and in plaster I couldn’t risk the walk, so I walked the foreshore instead. I’m so glad I did.
First of all as per previous post I finally discovered how useful the phones voice recorder was, I discovered I hadn’t charged the cameras battery, and I discovered a little natural wonder I’ve never seen before.
Read on.
Mussel shells, they look like little asymmetrical boats with pearlescent innards. Floating in rings of algal bubbles they made a loose flotilla of pearly ships floating in on the millpond calm rising tide. It’s nice to still be filled with childish wonder. The heat of the day and the slop of water at the extreme edge of the tidal range foams the water gently, and then flows across the mud, and where bubbles meet loose upturned mussel shells they form these rings of bubbles and the shells float ... some float without bubbles but they are few and far between, the merest disturbance in the water sinks the little boats all heading for the shore. Forty six years I’ve been on the Earth and I’ve never seen this before.
Three days ago the weather was rough, three days ago the sea was the colour of tea, it lapped the sea wall aggressively, rolled up it like fluid fingers trying to reach the top, and then flowed down to meet the next band of waves, crashing into them creating rollers and peaks and foam and spray. But yesterday, the water beneath the little pearl boats was crystal clear aventurine green. Above, the clear blue sky was enormous and humbling. Far in land towards the city I could see the band of yellow that indicates the M25, and some smoggy looking clouds, but where I was, was all clarity and brightness.
The human made boats for some time sat on the green mirror surface of the sea completely motionless and reflected almost perfectly, their bright colours in stark but beautiful relief against the sky and water, beyond them two hundred yards away the beach huts formed a dotted coloured line curving in parallel with black line of dried Bladderwrack and other seaweeds that marks the tides various high points across the sand and shingle of the beach; the sand and shingle themselves formed dun, gold and speckled curves either side of the dry seaweed.

South across the water towards Kent the Isle of Sheppey was visible, but the mornings earlier fog hadn’t cleared and so the grey shapes of the land and industry that marked it on the horizon were just a blur. At sea level knee deep in the water any land further than three miles would be invisible anyway ( Later when I was sitting on a bench on the seawall the land maybe as far as Margate became visible due to the elevation relative to the horizon. I couldn’t see buildings or more properly `settlements’ but the grey line I’ve come to recognise as North Kent was there reassuringly lending the estuary its proper perspective end to end. From my vantage point around midway along Thorpe Esplanade sat on that bench I could see a length of land referencing around forty miles end to end Tilbury to my west and east, to at least east Herne Bay.
Before I came out the knee deep water up onto the promenade, an onshore breeze ( stirred the millpond water to a green tea green, off-clear mildly muddied, but nothing like the sea of Saturday. Saturdays sea had the colour of the water I remember as a child, when the Thames was biologically dead (and we swam in it in total ignorance). The algal foam that was once tainted by raw sewage formed at the edge of the water, in that off white to sickly brown froth. I had to tell myself that the foam no longer carried human waste in quantity ... though after the weekends rains, it would have carried more than I’d like.
I noted as I walked that the water that had been the for edge of the previous tide was still trying to escape back to the sea in runnels through the sand, only to be met again by an coming tide to be forced back through those grains of sand again, as the sea tries to wash away the land and cover it, as it seeks dominion over its missing third of the world.
I walked with some Turnstones and Ringed Plovers for a distance, the little birds playing chicken with me; I walk to within three paces, they fly forward ten paces, I catch them up, they fly off again and so on. Until one brave soul stood his ground to within two paces, issued an indignant chirp took off and led the entire flock back a hundred paces or more to where we started our game and settled to poking around on the beach again. This is the way with these tiny waders behave from recent observations; each group has a range of maybe a 100 metres, and if you push them to the end of the range, eventually they up sticks and circle back to the beginning. 
This section of beach we have named the Residents Beach sitting as it does between the main amusements drag of seafront Southend and Thorpe Bay is a bit wild as beach goes, grasses and salt hardy plants form scrubby clumps and drifts, the gravely nature allows the larger plants to put down proper roots and to thrive (I need to identify the plants, all I know them as now are, the yellow, blue or mauve flowering plants). There are people spaced evenly along the beach in one and twos and threes all by my eye at an oddly even 12.5 radius or 25metres apart. It’s like personal beach space on a grand scale, and yet 400 metres west people sit cheek by jowl overflowing onto the wall in the absence of space to sit on the beach.
I’d only walked a mile and a bit, once in a while stopping to make a fake phone call and speak to my voice recorder. I sat on the sand for a few minutes to make my observations and gather my wits ... there is a lot to assimilate under such a huge sky. I’d noted the odd geometry of the beach and the natural world already, when I looked back the way I’d come I suddenly saw the man made stuff, the jetty’s, and groynes, the pole poking out of the last post of each groyne, with its little green Sampan hat marking (I believe) the safe bathing depth (it was these Sampan topped poles bristling in an uneven line that brought humanities works into focus). The little seafront buildings on perched half on half off the seawall, some of them restaurants, others sailing club huts or hubs and dotted evenly along the promenade, north, east, south and west facing open beach shelters (that seem often to be day beds for drunks sleeping of the mornings white lightning). Around the bigger buildings slightly denser populations of people were gathered (lots of mums and grandparents dealing with children from zero upwards off school for another few days, before the holidays end).

The pier beyond them and between the legs of the pier under and over its deck the twin chimneys of Tilbury power station appear, that I know to be 90metres tall, visible twenty miles east (before the land rounds Shoeburyness and the hills at the edge of the flood plain finally block the line of sight). Appearing by Tilbury’s edifice of power, by dint of perspective those massive gantry cranes newly installed at Coryton appearing two dimensionally north (relative) of Tilbury, though they are separated by a good three miles in a straight line in two directions, and finally blunted a little by the pier, the spires of Shell Haven and the domes and blocks of Canvey.
What I thought was my last surprise of the day was the appearance of a three masted ship with a raised Poop deck chugging up the river on the incoming tide in a way that no sailing ship could muster without sail, unless it had a deck full of men at oars ... or diesel engine. But there was one more surprise, I got the call from Paul regarding the Motorhomes readiness. It’s done, certificated, built, finished, getting in the way of Pauls next project, awaiting collection, preferably on Thursday.
I had to turn back, I sat to dry my feet and rub the sand from between my toes, take a huge slug of water from my bottle; that suggested I was really thirsty but too absorbed to have noticed while on the moved. Not a long walk yesterday as I’d needed a bit of a rest from all the long walks of the last week or three, but full of events, and most of the events happened in my head, observations, realisations, extrapolations. There is much wonder to be found where land meets sea, Ecotones, they wake you up if you’ll let them.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Technology What a Thing it is Two

Let me begin by telling that today is the first time I’ve walked along pretending to be on the phone, while actually talking to the built in voice recorder. I quite often compose blogs and scribbling as I wander. However it can be a pain in the arse to keep stopping to write notes, and for that matter to carry a notebook. Due to this inconvenience, often the words I conjure are lost. Being able to make these recordings is far easier. It’s why some time ago I bought a Dictaphone. However I can’t find my Dictaphone; I think it managed to get ditched in the lockup (this could be fatal for it, because I wouldn’t have removed the batteries, for everything else placed in storage I removed the batteries to save them from leak damage over time).

Today I have to eat my once words “who needs a smartphone, all I need to do is make calls ect”? That has certainly turned out to be bunkem. I take pictures with the phone, and it's great for that (it’s only 5megapixels, but for Facebook, Twitter and here it’s fine). The pictures can act as cues, and often once a thread is picked back up I can re-live a walk, and re-discover my thoughts or words (as long as I make time to actually write them down ... I am working on that particular self discipline).
It may be limited, but I always have the phone, where quite often I don’t have the camera (because I’m a dullard), and now I have the phones voice recorder as well. I may have mentioned I have voice to text software, but I’ve never had time to train it properly (maybe once we are away that will change, if the phone files are compatible ... shouldn’t be too challenging with my previous background in IT ... ahem).
So just before I started typing I listened to my new verbal notes; eventually I stopped cringing at my dulcet tones ringing in my ears like a bad Dick Van Dyke impression, roughed up with a little vintage Mike Reid (the more relaxed I am the better I sound; also: note to self, make notes don’t try to write using speech, because that just sounds like an Eastenders extra trying to big up their role). Having listened through I grabbed out the key phrases and thoughts typed some words to start a post, headed it with a paragraph about the use of the voice recorder and then got caught up with the use of technology again ... and the spiel above ensued.
Over the nineteen months of this blog I’ve tried to find shortcuts, to deal with my shortcomings in written form, notebooks and carrying them, my terrible illegible scrawl, how my written words go from ten words per line at the start of a note, to four words per two lines by line three, and how to catch those fleeting thoughts that eventually end up here. I may have cracked it, Samsung Galaxy Ace and a hands free kit ... though based on battery consumption today I may have to purchase a spare phone battery, and I think we have no option but to find a dash mounted solar charging system.
Now I shall proof read this, preview it and hope I’ve picked up on all my other written short comings when it’s published, and then write what I actually meant to write before I went off on a massive tangent.

Spelyng and Gramer

Evry now and thin I pop in to the old pasts and have a re-red to rimind me what has gone bfour, and evrytime I do I find typos. And yet I proof read, spellcheck then have Amanda proof read, and then I preview the posts because the change from MS Word text to Blog format, with the immediate change in background and visuals always weeds out a few more stinkers.

I just re-read E-Cigs and Asthma from a few weeks back ... littered with typos. I think their must be Google Gremlins in the Bloggerverse, tinkering after I've published.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

A Little Re-cap

We started the blog eighteen months ago, to communicate with our nearest and dearest while we travelled (though in truth the first post was little more than me making sure I hadn’t buggered up the template, and could post pictures). It’s become our diary and electronic scrapbook, and a reminder of what a slog it’s sometimes been.

It has been a mission getting from there to here from the moment Amanda said she’d had enough of the joys of London to today. Including having our original motorhome written off in January 2013, a leaky house that required extensive damp and remedial works before we could sell it (this if you look back through the blog this was a one of number of nasty surprises 2012 early 2013 had for us), a damp and leaky motorhome ...that’s the one that got written off in January this year that had to be repaired and renovated in 2012, before we could even fully contemplate this trip ... which made the writing somewhat more painful, for all the time money and effort put in.

There has been depression, counselling, tiffs, spats, Conjunctivitis, Chest infections, work stress, hundreds of hours of overtime, evenings and weekends of “fettling” the original motorhome, keeping secrets from employers, dealing with the police (ongoing), insurers (technically ongoing), selling a house and moving into my brothers flat, unexpected and irretrievable expenses, purchase and conversion of a new wagon, and to ice the cake a suspected broken wrist.

However when all is said and done, we are here, we have both finished work. As of today Saturday 24th September 2013 we don’t have jobs. We had a brilliant week of au revoir’s then one big night of drinks and goodbyes (the management reserves the right not to publish embarrassing pictures of the narrator and the management being shit faced amongst a crowd of City of London teeny boppers on a Friday night) ... oh the shame.

Our old jobs and lives are history, our multi strand umbilical is slowly dropping all its connections ... I pictured the Saturn V rockets dropping their coolant and electrical feeds as I thought of these words. We aren’t off the launch pad yet have, but there is an imminence to lift off that is inescapable. The other visualisation is that of buying a new home off plans and then having to wait while it’s built before you move in ... pick the analogy you prefer.

We have a home to return to eventually and a houseful of stuff (technically we don’t have a home for three months whatever happens). But right now, our primary financial feeds are cut, we don’t have jobs. 95% of everything we own or used in our previous lives is in a full size military green shipping container in the middle of nowhere Essex. We are on a block of cash that we need to eke out as best we can for as long as possible, and to supplement if at all possible with work we can get as we travel (fruit picking, bar work, campsite shit picker upper ... whatever). Underlying this is the rental income from our eventual home, though at today’s prices, that money would only just get us home.

This afternoon as I sit and type, mildly (but doubly) hung over from pre-leaving drinks leaving drinks, followed by proper leaving drinks, what we’ve done weighs  heavy with doubt and excitement. Our life in this temporary home is still relatively expensive and would chew through our limited funds like Pacman. We need to downsize into our wagon. We need to complete the items on the list in the earlier post, we need to complete the circuit, severe the final cords and begin the shakedown, before following the sun south ... hopefully as a far as Cyprus.

It doesn't feel brave, I think because we have a home to return to, no desire to be doing what we are doing now, and the horrible realisation that if we wait until we retire, we'll both be too fucked to do it anyway. We'll be here, on the blog, Facebook and twitter. We hope that people can get a blow by blow account as we go, so the experience is in some ways shared, and we hope some of our nearest and dearest can drop by as we go and meet us on the way and share some real bits with us.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Technical Difficulties

There have been a few formatting errors in recent posts. Probably entirely my fault, I would like to apologise to our reader ... it won't happen again.

I'll investigate the issue with Word formatting removal, copy and paste and why sometimes Word formatting remains and makes the whole blog look like the written version of Steptoes Yard.

For those that are interested:

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

End of Days

So here we are three working days left before we both leave our respected jobs and employers. We have so much to do.

1. MOT (car and motorhome)
2. Insurance (motorhome pre and post re-registration)
3. Valet a car
4. Sell a car
5. Re-home a cat
6. Move the furniture we brought from our old house to my brothers, into storage ... arrange man in van
7. Sort out our going away clothes
8. Make space in the lock-up by moving our garden tools into alternative storage (for the furniture above) this maintains walk in space)
9. Sell the old motorhome’s brand new fridge, charging unit, and water heater
10. Change addresses on existing documentation
11. Photo copy and maybe laminate documentation (twice minimum)
12. Obtain a new spare wheel for the new Motor home
13. Eeeeer Obtain the Motor home ... it’s still with Paul in Devon
14. Have new spare wheel delivered to Paul
15. Find out for sure if my right Scaphoid bone is actually broken (2nd September)
16. Sort out five new tyres (I was going to get a set of Alloys, but I’ve decided that’s a months diesel on vanity) tyres to be multi season just in case
17. Obtain the new Satnav unit
18. Make a list of all the forum users who’ve ever clogged up forums with utter shit, tangents, boasts, lists of shit they have used previously, seen, done and been to, despite having no bearing on the initial enquiry made by the poor bastard looking for “help” on the forum, and egg and flour them ... I would have said murder them in their sleep and nail them to their own front doors, but you have to be careful what you post on “T Tinternet” these days lest someone takes you seriously and calls the police
19. Prepare alibis for any murders involving motor home users where items of iron mongery, or modes egress and exit were involved
20. Make a list of contents for the purpose of insurance while on the road
21. Assemble the tool kit
22. Obtain minimal spares (belts, maybe and alternator and starter motor, a clutch, fuses, bulbs, bulbs fuses etc)
23. Obtain new number plates with Euro symbols
24. Sort out breakdown cover (probably AA on existing membership) ... there is that perverse part of me that thinks my being a member for the best part of twenty years will afford me good service if the crunch comes ... which if BT, O2 and Direct line are any proof of will demonstrate utter contempt for their long standing customers at the first sniff of trouble. To elucidate they all bollocks’d up their final payments at account closure time  and then chased for sums of money measuring less than £20 to Amanda’s and I’s previous address, tracked us down eventually to our new temporary address (which we provided them for final statements while still at the old address) and wrote snotagrams saying that if they didn’t get paid for their fuck ups they would move our “debts” to a collection agency ... because of course the previous reminders went to our old home. There is a word, but Amanda says I’m not allowed to use it on the blog
25. There must be one, I’ll re-read the official version of this list again when I’m not fried

Amanda said the last few weeks and days would be the most difficult in terms of breaking out, leaving work is the easy bit. She was right.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Broken Bones

I may have forgotten to mention that on the weekend of the 3rd 4th August I slipped on the seawall while standing up, thrust my hands back to save myself, and may have broken my scaphoid bone .

This is clearly an issue, but there won’t be a full diagnosis until second X-rays on the 2nd of September. In the meantime I’m in plaster from wrist to elbow, as scaphoid fracture has to be assumed.

There may be a minor change of plans and timings depending on the outcome. More later when typing isn’t such a chore.

Worse things happen at sea ...

Friday, 9 August 2013

Flood Plains, Dykes and Estuaries.

This is a photo post, the pictures were taken last weekend 3rd and 4th August. The Saturday pictures are the beach and along the Southend and Westcliffe seafront, where a pleasant lunch was had, the V2 Electronic Cigarette passed the beer test, and yet again I was amazed by the enormousness and clarity of the Thames Estuary on a sunny day.

The Sunday pictures are a walk from Leigh on Sea to South Benfleet heading west along the dyke that separates the tidal waterway “Hadleigh Ray” (the name of the waterway from South Benfleet to open Thames Estuary, that discharges a little north and west of Leigh on Sea behind “Two Tree Island), from the arable farm land that parallels the estuary from Leigh to Benfleet (via Hadleigh) north of the Dyke. Followed by the return walk back from South Benfleet, north of the Railway lines and arable land, via Hadleigh Castle back to Leigh, taking in the views from above the flood plain.
Westcliff to Shoebury


Above and below, the start of Thorpe bay
 Leigh, Benfleet, Leigh
This image may help: the two large white lines, one along the south edge by the creek, and the other (slightly obscure) inland are the paths from which the pictures were taken.

Inland to Hadleigh
Towards benfleet
Towards Benfleet the industrial stuff is part Canvey Islan refinery and part DP World London gateway the newest port on the Thames, yet to be completed;
 As above but with the lower slope of South Benfleet in view.

 Above and below Hadleigh Ray 
 The return path away from the creek

The path back to Leigh takes you uphill for some breathtaking views east and west; above is towards London, you could just about make out Canary wharf and the Shard, below towards the Isle of grain and Sheerness in Kent.
Amanda pointing the way home
 The DP world site is worth a look at. There are some interesting facts and figures, and videos to make it easier to understand.

Monday, 5 August 2013

E Cigs and Asthma

Some of the post below has been extracted from a comment on another blog I follow and read . I have a guilty secret: I smoke a few too many fags. Not that many, usually only two or three a day, however that can stretch to ten or more if I’m out and I’ve had a beer. And this is a problem, because I do like a beer ... and a few G&T’s. So while I’ve tried to completely quit smoking lots of times, I’ve never been able to stop the habit completely.

In 2007 I went to Egypt on my own over Christmas (I was single at the time). On my return I got a chest infection (I may have picked it up out there and transported it back, it may have been entirely coincidental or just the extreme change in weather. I tried to ignore it, but it got worse and worse and in the end, being an asthmatic I was in real trouble. I was issued with a puffer far in excess of my need “Seretide”, for long term use (in my opinion) but ideal to get me over the hump; being the infection, and negated the need for oral steroids, which is the usual treatment for chest infection in asthmatics.  
What has this got to do with travel plans?
Well smoking, it’s smelly expensive, and bad for your lungs, and it would mean that the inside of the new Moho would invariably have the faint whiff of fags about it eventually.
The infection in 2007/2008 winter was the beginning of a spiral of decline in my ability to breathe that resulted in 20010/11 winter “Reverse Spirometry Test”, revealing COPD that’s Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or Emphysema in old money. This you would think this would be enough to kill the smoking habit deader than a Dodo. But you would be wrong, because Nicotine is addictive in ways that other drugs can barely imagine, and normal NRT “Nicotine Replacement Therapies”, have consistently failed to get me off tobacco, despite an almost desperate desire to do so.
I’ve seen E-Cigs about for a couple of years, but never thought of making the investment, mostly because I’ve been in (this is my own made up syndrome) “I don’t really smoke because I only smoke two fags a day, and working in the city of London is like smoking twenty fags a day so my two fags a day are having a negligible effect on my health, despite my previous diagnosis of COPD” or IDRSBIOSTFADAWITCOLILSTFADSMTFADAHANEOMHDMPDOCOPD for short ... I have been in I smoke denial for some time.
With the trip coming up, smoking had to give, and in the last year alone I’ve tried maybe a dozen times. I get two around seven days with the Nicorette inhaler (which I hate), or with those vile little mint’s and a beer night comes up and immediately the requirement for 12.5 grams of Cutters Choice tobacco comes up. Which I promise myself I’ll bin the remainder of, the next day, then don’t, then spend the next week or so trying to find and ideal day to stop again ... this just runs and runs.
Then a two weeks ago Mr Neal Asher ScFi author whom I follow on Facebook, clearly decided to give up the fags, and started posting stuff about E-cigs and I sat up. He was doing the research legwork so I didn’t have to. This meant that I could jump across a few links and find my own information without going the E-Lites route, which my dad has gone with very variable results, along with a few people I know at work, who now just smoke again. I didn’t realise there were lots of brands and types, I didn’t realise that there was vapour that provides the medium to carry the nicotine, or that that “sense” of smoking that gums, mints and inhalers don’t have, is present in spades with an Electronic Cigarette. However because Mr Asher had done all this legwork, I just needed to do some simple lunchtime reading, read a few reviews (I watched a couple of Youtube videos as well), and made a decision on what to buy.
I eventually decided to try the V2 E-Cig  from V2Cigs
I got the Red flavour cartridges (this is basic tobacco) with my V2 battery and few odds and ends using their economy starter kit. It’s a game changer, if you read no further than this, then know right now that an E-Cig could be your way off of standard tobacco products, more so than any other NRT product out there.
I can taste the tobacco taste, of the E-cig. I couldn’t taste the smoke from standard cigarettes anymore, and even though I'd only fallen back to one or two fags a day over the last year, my sense of smell must have been affected far more than I imagined. The world is suddenly a smelly place again.
We did the Leigh to Benfleet and back again, walk yesterday 7.4 miles approximately. The uphill bits on the way back were that joyous breathlessness as opposed to "oh fuck I'm going to die" which if I’m honest has been dogging my heels this last year or so. And if even more truth is known, smoking has been a constant source of stress, during a period of depression (this one just runs and runs as well, the cycle; feel down, need fag, smoke bad, need to give up, giving up smoke makes feel bad, need fag etc etc). It's only been a couple of days since the V2 Cig turned up, I'm truly gob-smacked at the results. Bit of cough in the morning, but I think that's the clearing out of the lungs that follows stopping smoking. My asthma pump just living in the bottom of my bag, not the booster before an ascent or a bike ride to ward off the demons, and an Amanda who isn't complaining about stinky clothes and ashtray breath.

One or two puffs on the E-Cig can be enough I've noticed to stop the cigarette craving dead in its tracks. it's on demand, at need, available. And in a Piano Bar on the Seafront on Saturday evening, in the covered area (where smoking is banned) I asked if it was ok to use the V-Cig? And the guy said “all ok and thanks for asking”. I may be alone in this, but the E-Cig, bridges the ford that other NRT don’t in drinking situations. I bet I’m not alone in reckoning that many people who find it hard to give up fail at the beer test, my personal experience is that with and E-Cig you can pass that test with straight A’s. It would be good to be Nicotine free totally (I think), but right now I have the breathing space (literally) to not stress about smoking, and that’s a first for a long time. 

Friday, 2 August 2013

It's Later Than You Think.: Coming Out the Blogger Closet!/

Coming Out the Blogger Closet

Given the fact that Amanda and I had to be a bit secretive with regards to work and our plans, this blog has never been exposed to our social media tomfoolery. Now however we can do as we please. So this post is just going up to test how it interacts with Facebook and Twitter.
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