Monday, 11 September 2017

Plus ca change - or something like that.

Nothing much makes it to these pagesthese days which is itself a very sad thing. This is not to say that life does not throw up challenges and things of interest. Just that life is not motivating me to write.

Maybe I am getting old, I am into my 6th decade - I still can't really buy that. Last week, on my way to a busy day in university I picked up  this radio 4 piece by someone my age talking about the limitations he faced and about aging. Perhaps it's a mind set, I was feeling a little below par myself I will admit. Leading a security team at a festival, up till  3.30 am chasing drunks round a field takes it out of you a bit, at any age. This age thing is a funny one, I was chasing people round a festival last year, noting that I seemed to have to wait for some of the younger ones to catch up.

Maybe that's just the healthy country lifestyle I lead, seems to conspire to keep me young.

Of course we have considered ending all that, Bethan has finally moved out, gone away with her current boyfriend. This was not a minor project, incredible quantities of gear emerged from her bedroom, it was like emptying the tardis.

But now she's gone and I think it's time we moved too. 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Into the gypsy lifestyle

I suppose it was all my fault. I should never have told Beth about the cheap caravan for sale locally.

We had a caravan years back and it was a jolly little base to use when doing festivals and such like so when I saw a cheapie on facebook I told Beth who went and looked (on Facebook) and pretty much decided to buy without seeing.

So it was that Newton the trusty T4 VW and I set off for a town an hour away. The caravan itself was up a narrow back line and, despite being for sale was surrounded by piles of junk. Climbing over this a cursory glance suggested stuff might be in order, cash changed hands and the fun commenced.

Task one was move the huge piles of junk, task two get the beast out into the lane, now, this should have been the stage where I began to wonder at the wisdom of any of this. 

The caravan was a touch massive and took 3 of us to drag into the lane. Hooked to the van it was a bit of a struggle down what suddenly seemed a lot narrower lane. The 90 degree bend seemed a lot tighter going out too. Just as things were getting really interesting 2 cars arrived, well, got to the top of the lane, saw it was blocked and decided to turn in anyway. 20 minutes of fluent profanity unhitching, heaving, reversing even more profanity and the show was back on the road.

I have driven Newton with over a ton in the back and, it drives pretty well. So about two miles later i knew the brakes on the caravan must be sticking. Pull over and check. Nope, the hand brake was off and the hubs were cool. Must be something else then. Looking at the van properly "something else" struck me, this caravan was positively huge, bigger than the T4 towing it, the brake was  massive size of the van!!

This was reinforced,if such a thing was needed, by my return to the dual carriageway. Eventually the van was coaxed to a speed approaching the national speed limit, then came  a small gust of side wind which normally would hardly cause the VW to flutter. The effect on the wheeled block of flats behind though was pretty spectacular  and set in train a series of lurches and slides that did what hordes of speed cameras have failed to do - reduced my speed below 50 and made pretty sure it stayed  there.

Pengawse hill should have been a real chance to test the stamina of the van, being both very long and very steep. Being stuck behind a tractor helped reduce the possible embarrassment, second gear it was all the way. The back road home was a chance to experience how wide and long the bungalow was and the drive a series of challenges of the getting large vehicles round tight corners and through narrow gaps type.

They say that first impressions count, having been parked for an extended time under a tree at some stage, the bungalow was finished in what might best be described as green slime. Something which  did not endeer itself to the management who was overall less than totally impressed with the new addition. There was a very strong suggestion that the bungalow should be immediately removed to somewhere far away and that management for one had no intentions of sleeping in it - ever.

With that endorsment ringing in my ears it was time to make a detailed examination. So far so good it had things like cookers and fridges and lights and a battery. A washroom and space for a toilet.

It was time to summon the daughter and set her to work. Armed with a bucket of bleach and a pressure washer, she was soon very pleased at the transformation. Serious reversing skills were deployed to get the van, through, what would be a decent gap if the object concerned was not bigger than the house is adjoined. So, the van is now safely parked out of the way down the side of the house, the management is slightly less annoyed and the hard work of sorting the van out can commence.

The festival gypsy lifestyle beckons.


Saturday, 28 January 2017

Showing some community spirit.....

Now i'm a great believer in being part of the community and putting stuff in not just taking. So sufficiently long ago for this story not to implicate anyone (last summer) the Penole crew were off to do a bit of helping out.

It wasn't a big ask, moving a couple of marquees that were being hired out for a party, an hour max, we were told. What could be simpler -lots of things, as it turned out.

15.30 up we rolled at the storage unit to a scene of chaos.  our leader had not really sorted things out. Various bits of tent were everywhere, things stored in the back of the shed having to be brought out to try and work out what they were and then shoved back in again when they were the wrong bits. Everything being at the far end of a storage container with a portable stage between it and the door. Remarkably it only took  about an hour of sweating swearing and getting inaccessible bits out of the back of the unit and we were ready for the off.

Brilliant timing,  said our leader he had arranged to drop off the tent at 5 PM.

But he originally said an hour, still never mind all we had to do was take it there and drop it off.  What could go wrong...

So on to a flat grassy site we wandered and it was five o clock and there were going to be four people there except there weren't.

Our leader seemed not at all phased or surprised which made me feel a bit err suspicious.

They were obviously setting up for a serious party, the garage seemed to be full to the roof with beers and spirits.  

Anyway, how long can it take to put up two tents, not long. Except these were monster marquees. Still it could not take that long could it?

There was of course a trip back to base to get the bits our leader had left behind

In this time frames were built clad in canvas, with alot of straining lifted in the air fitted with sides and sort of  pegged down.

3 1/2 hours  later, awash in sweat, we had finished.

At this stage I did sort of note that this was quite a windy spot and the weather forecast wasn't brilliant and the tents were a bit exposed. The tents weren't that well secured to the floor either These were all thoughts that went round in my head but, hell, it was only going to be an hour a lot of hours ago and I wanted to get home.

So the weekend came and the weekend went, this morning we had a few plans, none of which included tents and, the phone rang.

Would we be able to go and take the tents down, would not take long.....

ERH, NO, we were busy, someone else could do it. There wasn't anyone else, every time our leader asked for help with the tents no one was available.  Now that was a real suprise....

So rounding up everyone who did not have an excuse like going to work, off we went.

Time to take down some marquees!

Well no, the wind had delivered a scene of carnage. Tent positioning had not really been thought through and reading between the lines this had been a bit of a boozy party and when the wind came up no one really noticed or thought to close the doors till both marquees collapsed.    

This was really serious, one marquee was way from where we left it and all the canvas was gone.

The other was partially up but out of shape. With the wind due to rise getting the canvas off it and down was an urgent priority.

Things were moving and creaking in a not very encouraging way. Time to get the panels off the frame then, except the roof this could only only happen from inside the tent. On a scale of safe - this wasn't good.

So unpick the sides, up rolled our leader, hmm, if he clobbered that joint apart, being inside it at the time,  the whole marquee would drop on my head. Whack, down it came. I was right.

With the wind increasing by the minute giant rolls of flapping canvas were folded and dumped into the trailer as another team set about dismantling the frames.

Now, if some of the bits of tent were needed fo another job that day, logic suggests this would be an ideal time to sort  out some bits. No everything went into the van in one huge mess

So other end came the announcement, this mess of poles had to be sorted  into their various types so some of them could be transfered to another trailer to go back out again.

Lets make this more complex shall we??

Think I might be busy next time......




Friday, 25 November 2016

A weekend of quietness

Now weekends are a time for planning for peace,well unless you are fostering. But fostering was very years ago so a few things needed sorting quietly.

First job, reset the sliding side door on the V4 T4 van, checking the Haynes manual revealed that this was a very simple little job, looked like it would take 20 minutes at most.

The management was off subduing some jungle  and at 09.30 with her going up the drive it was time to break out some tools.  I  think her job over ran a bit so, it was 13.30 or so when she came back down the drive to be confronted by daughter Bruce, me, with trolley jack, crow bars,wedges and a 10 lb sledge hammer. I suppose really she wasn't to know, so when she observed " just started then" I should not have replied in quite the way I did.

Peace eventually descended well after a fashion. When you live in the sticks, there are certain jobs that need doing regularly, like cleaning the flues. Logically these are jobs for the summer when the fires are out and you can leave windows and doors open to dissipate the ensuing clouds of debris. 

Naturally, we hadn't done that so, a few weeks back we swept the flue for the Rayburn, a messy old job that turned into too. Of course out main stove is only ever woodfired so the flue would contain far less sooty type stuff. Nevertheless some 6th sense made me decide to empty the living room, not a stick  of furniture or fleck of rug remained when I started to dismantle the flue. This was to prove one of my better calls, pulling the flue generated some ash and cinders, a fair old bit of it infact. Breaking into the Green Goddess Fire Engine hearth kit to clear the chimney triggered a series of deluges of black powder that filled the room with a fine black mist and buried the hearth in a huge pile. The vaccum was abandoned in favour of a shovel and  a big debris bag. Then came the vacuum and the steam cleaner and eventually all was restored.

Flue rebuilt and, wow, we have a warm living room and a warm house with the heat controlled.

Over all a good call, rest of my life in ruins, but hey ho... 



Thursday, 3 November 2016

The Brittany Ferries chainsaw massacre......

BF have offered some pretty good deals this year and with finances looking less sick we took advantage in full. Came a quiet weekday and, delightfully  organised we set off bright and early. The exchange rate is now everything a brexit voter deserves so as confirmed remainers  we were fairly unhappy with how few euros our pounds had bought us.

It's not just the Euro of course, with fuel prices on the up our usual pace had been reined in and the VW was travelling at  relative snails  speed to eke out the litres or diesel.

Arborism was the name of the weekend so the van had been packed with shovels  strimmers , my big felling axe, not to mention my stihl  chainsaw which was earmarked to do a bit of tree felling.

With all these goodies on board we arrived in time for a meal before rocking into the ferry terminal with time a plenty to spare. Things soured from the word go, into the check in and the lady was not smiling. The vehicle was not accurately described on the ticket she said. This was the same category I had used since 2011 I replied, multi purpose vehicle - which it is. The category was for MPV's and 4x4, this was a VW transporter and therefore a camper van, she said.  The most popular 4x4 is a Discovery and that is both longer and higher than a T4, I countered. No, she replied,the T4 had to go in the van and camper category, (which are classed as higher and longer and thus cost more). During the summer, I countered, the T4 had actually been parked on the elevated car deck, as it is pretty much the same size as a large car. This debate was going no where so, accepting that fact and the information that the van was now "on the system" and any further attempts to cheat would be severely dealt with, on we went.

Into security, there was obviously some form of heightened expectation.  A far larger security squad than normal, milling round as vehicles came into the security hall. Extra numbers did not mean extra checks and soon it was our  turn. Up strode the team. Was this our vehicle? Asked the head honcho. Resisting temptation, I confessed it was. Had we packed it ourselves? Of course. Was everything in it ours? Yes. Were were carrying any weapons? Before I could say a word, the management mentioned we had a chain saw. There was a collective gasp, the whole crowd tensed up and moved  back a pace. I'll show you, said I, hopping out of the cab, opening the side door and emerging with the saw. This was not the right move, this lot were getting seriously alarmed,  thank goodness management mentioned the saw, had I  turned round holding the big felling axe we were also carrying there might well have been a laundry bill....

So like international terrorists we were duly  escorted out of the security shed   and plonked in a corner well away from the public. There was some debate about whether we should be allowed to board at all, us being international terrorists and all. The head honcho came over, demanding to see our ticket. Didn't have one, said I, boarding card, but no ticket.  handed her the boarding card,  this wasn't a ticket, quite right says I, there had to  be a ticket said she, don't have one, said I, again. Urgent radio messages to the terminal produced a relaxed looking member of BF staff. She rolled up, explained that the security leader needed our reservation number and didn't know where to find it on a boarding card. Shame she hadn't asked me, said I, I could have showed her how to read a boarding pass myself, in retrospect this was not the right thing to say to head honcho in front of BF staff.

Soon after this we were released to wait to board, with heavy duty anti terrorist protection attached to the  vehicle    (red sticker on the windscreen) and assigned a lane dedicated to international terrorists, well OK,us and  the other guy (they caught him  with a hedge trimmer).

 The police were called over to guard us and at least had the good grace to look  slightly  bemused by the whole  affair. Eventually, we were loaded, and again it was a special area of the car deck under the beady eye of the security cameras.

There was some significant relief involved in getting off the ferry next day, obviously we got stopped the instant we were off the ferry. You are carrying weapons, said the controller, no we have a chainsaw, said I. He laughed, stepped forward and removed our international terrorist sticker before any Gendarmes or  Customs spotted it and we were subject to another carnival. Out of the terminal and away we went.

The rest of our day passed without drama well, not quite. I was relaxing by planning how to rewire the house when the levels of swearing outside started to increase exponentially. The management was having a moment. The object of her wrath was the strimmer. Now, this is a bit of a controversial item as, a little while back, our strimmer declined to function. This was a big deal as gardening contracts meant the need was immediate. Having been dispatched with   old strimmer which needed overhaul, but with instructions to bring back another as the need for strimmers for gardening projects was as I said, immediate. At the machinery place I  had two options, buy a new replacement (as instructed) or a more powerful model, second hand.  Using my judgement (not recommended)   I overruled instructions (aka as "death wish") and bought second hand. This strimmer has always therefore been "controversial". Now miles from any support it was declining to function, this was a major issue and undoubtedly down to my poor decision making skills. A significant rant was well in progress, never worked right, always been temperamental, should never have bought it etc. In retrospect asking the management whether she thought it might run better with the ignition switch  in the "on" position was not as quite tactful a question as it might have been.  Soon the sound of furious strimming was heard around the house.

Lunchtime arrived all too soon, time to nip into town. Our chosen Restaurant, trois marchands does 4 courses for € 11.50,  a  bargain! The menu was set and today's main was beef tongue in Madeira sauce, maybe try somewhere else then. Out of town for the next place and no menu at all!! So upstairs we trooped and sat down. The main was, err beef tongue in Madeira sauce, but  the fish starter was superb and a cheese she had never encountered before gave her something to add to the take home shopping list. Also of course is the featured little old lady. Now she is a bit of a fixture and with a couple vin rouges inside her she launched a voluble assault on the character of  "les  anglais" against whom she obviously has quite a grudge. Le Patron, who knows we are pretty fluent rushed over to appologise and say she was harmless. No problems, said I loudly, I wasn't English, I was Welsh and here views on Les Anglais as neighbours  were pretty moderate compared to mine. Went down well that did...

On with the excitement and back to the garden. Our little house is in a minor hamlet and two of the immediate properties are derelict, with a hint of dodgy dealing it seems both have now been sold onwithout ever coming on to the market. I suspect the old lady who owned them has died  with no  immediate family and someone had bought them as a job  lot on the quiet, through the Mairie. A local arborist had been contracted to clear the back garden of the house next door which he had done by dumping a most of the cuttings in our back garden! In actuality, he was good as gold even having the good grace not to laugh openly when I felled a 30 foot Oak - the whole point of bringing the chainsaw!

With much clearing and chopping and stacking complete, it was time to head for home.  The van at this stage being pretty well loaded and pretty soon it was clear all was not well. Something in the transmission was making a serious noise, a terminal noise  in fact. The very last thing we needed, a breakdown. So on we limped nursing the van up to the coast. I was pretty convinced we would not make it but, no, somehow we got into Morlaix then Roscoff. Bonus; driving like a hearse, the fully laden VW recorded a very frugal 40 mpg.

So there we were,eyes down, look in, into the ferry terminal, I don't think anything could have prepared us for what came next.  The terminal was on a heightened alert state on the look out for dangerous international terrorists, just like us. First cordon was the gendarmes, they had obviously been briefed, as we clanked to a halt three of them approached the van: black uniforms, shades, flack jackets and pistols. One was different, he had a proper  assault rifle and he was obviously quite prepared to use it. I instructed the management to move very slowly and put both her hands on the dash board. This was a proper bathrooms moment. You have a gun, barked the first one, in French. No, I  have a chainsaw, I squeaked. Show us, he commanded, very slowly I got out and moved round to the side of  the van, opened the door and pointed to the chain saw. Relax all round, close door  back into van.

Into the reservation booth, hand over the old booking card. Some clicking on the computer, a frown. You have a gun, said the  concerned looking lady, no, I have a chain saw, said I. She didn't want to see the chainsaw but she popped out of her booth and we soon had some more international terrorist stickers on the windscreen.

Inside the cordon, in  the terrorist lane and over came the internal security, no guns and far less scarey. You have a gun, no I have a chainsaw, show me. Out came the device again. Once again the chainsaw was looked at, yet, nothing else in the van got serious scrutiny.

Eventually, into customs, up went the warning hand. You have a gun, no, I have a chainsaw, let me see.... Stihl 261 - good chain saw, said the customs guy.

Finally on to the ship in a clatter of dying drive shaft, into  the segregated bit of car deck reserved for international terrorists like us. Rest, relax, Plymouth would without doubt be something special.

When we got off the ferry there was the usual line for immigration, but no Apache helicopter clattered overhead, no battalion of marines stood by  in battle order, it must have been the SBS weekend off and the tactical weapons team must been away dealing with a serious case of  bad  parking. The international terrorists  clattered through immigration in bemused amusement and headed for home.

Well we tried to,  20 miles up the road the VW was sounding like it was about to destroy itself , something mechanical was about to get out and walk, I pulled into a garage forecourt and phoned the RAC, it was now just short of 21.00. By midnight a recovery truck had arrived to collect us at a garage 30 miles away.  A surreal phone call ensued where the recovery driver was asking us why we were broken down where we were rather than where he was, with a strong implication that  this was our fault somehow. He then threw his rattle out of his pram and said he not driving any further and  was going home and leaving us there. This sent me scuttling to phone the RAC who said they would phone me back and didn't. But, shortly after, another recovery firm called, to say, they were on their way and indeed they were soon on the scene and recovery commenced, or rather didn't as by now all their drivers were out of hours so we were recovered to their garage,given a car and told to drive home. By 05.45  bed was a very welcome place and a lovely nights sleep was what I needed, gave myself and extra hour before waking up at 08.30 to find the devastation that had gone on at home while we were away.

That will wait for another day.....  






Saturday, 26 March 2016

After the sun has gone in

If I were frank i would admit this has been a tough old year. A year meaning 12 months not the time since January. The last couple of years has seen fostering peter out as herself and myself being a bit assertive and a long way from daycastle has been enough to stop us getting used (and abused) by the fostering service.

About March we put in our application to work in a totally different field which would of course leave us potless till the money came in. After the most long drawn out process ever, our application goes to panel next week. We might even be earning money by the end of the month.

This has not been a matter of small  consequence we have survived pretty much a year on next to nothing. I've been off doing festival work (and much fun was had if truth was known), local security work has happened and lots of training has been done.

All in all a jolly old time but one where money was outrageously tight. he freezer has been run to within and inch of empty and some quite intriguing food combinations have been poured out on plates.

Everyone has been feeling the pinch meaning those food combinations have to exclude anything on Tallies can't possibly eat list and take account of Bruce the Vegan.

Bruce  reduced the issue somewhat by clearing off to El Salvador to build something which had bought us 12 weeks grace. She is however back Wednesday and we will be back to normal on that front.

I have been pretty amazed with our resilience really and we just need a couple more weeks to allow finances to normalise. Normalise meaning we can pay our bills. Eat, maybe even vanish across the sea and forget things for a few days.    

Thursday, 24 December 2015

twas the night before Xmas.......

Twas the night before Xmas and all through the house it was bloody Bedlam!!!

Out this morning filed with dread and into town. Surprisingly light traffic, into the cash and carry hoover up some things on short date. on to Aldi where all the fresh meat was reduced by 50 percent. Tesco turkey crown 12 pounds Aldi 4 pounds - sorted: big lump of turkey, a free range stuffed chicken and change out of 7 quid. 

Then it was on to Tesco, my had things woken up since we arrived in town, Mad Max in the car park, Close Quarter Combat in the aisles.

Glad to get home but no peace even here, full on Xmas cooking with Rayburn running flat out. Red Hot Chilli Peppers on the Stereo.

Funny though as I sat here, I started to look back,  last year i was working, bringing up someone Else's children. As I was every Xmas as far back as 1998. That year I was a hotelier, and I had worked every Xmas day since 1992. That year I was a residential social worker and I had worked every Xmas day since 1986.

Going to be a strange feeling, not working Xmas day. Won't be quiet though, I think we have a total of 17 people here. Starting to wish I had taken that security work. Wonder if i still have that blokes phone number....