Unpredictability - Good for your health

Our modern life is based on organising an environment free from the unexpected. The house needs to be as stable and reliable as possible. The job as safe as possible. Nothing should break down. Nothing but what we predict, should occur.
This is the life of the zoo animal. Let's explore the life of the Nomad. Let's live the life of the Nomad.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas alone in the van

Merry Christmas Everyone

Every second year I have the kids for Christmas, but it wasn't my turn this year.  I had a few invites to spend Christmas with friends, but given the way my emotions work, I decided it would be far more pleasant to spend Christmas alone.  So I drove to Kloofs camping site in Bexhill.  I have been here before and it is a very beautiful place indeed.
Kloofs Camping site
When I arrived the reception office was unmanned, but there was a telephone.  Following the instructions I got through to the warden who wished me Merry Christmas and told me to just drive around and choose whatever pitch I fancied.  Ah. the joys of camping mid-winter in freezing temperatures when everyone else prefers bricks and a central heating.  I found a nice pitch with an impressive view of a field.  I am really starting to enjoy these very bad pics I get from my phone camera (was hoping someone would get me a decent camera for Christmas).

So I settled in for a relaxing Christmas day in my van all alone.  Now you might think I missed out on a decent Christmas roast because of this.  Well, nothing could be further from the truth as I prepared thoroughly for this day.  For dinner I had a traditional Beef meal.  The Birds Eye variety with homestyle gravy, potatoes, yorkshire pudding and garden vegetables.  This grand meal only cost me two quid from the local Londis store down the road.  Seven minutes in the microwave and no dishes to wash up. 

This rather impressive meal was followed by a packet of doritos with chargrilled red pepper humous dip.  Having finished this magnificent feast I really pushed the boat out and had a few chocolates from the Quality Street selection I bought my friend a few weeks ago - she left them in the van.

Having satisfied my appetite I sat down for the evening's entertainment.  I watched the following DVDs in the following order.

1) Into the Wild - about a guy that dies in an abandoned bus in Alaska.  I read the book by Jon Krakauer, which is brilliant, and the movie is very good also.  Worth watching.
2) National Lampoons Vacation - hillarious.
3) National Lampoons European Vacation - even funnier.
4) Fifty Dead Men Walking - I read the book last year and that was a good read.  The movie wasn't so good.  I only watched half of it.

Well today is boxing day and a sad day for me since it is the birthday of my ex girlfriend who passed away last year with the disease of alcoholism.  Poor Anne, who couldn't control the drinking - she would have loved  this van.  She would have happily lived in this van.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

For Better For Worse

This book, "For Better, For Worse" by Damian and his wife Siobhan (Shiv) Horner, is well worth a read for anyone examining the nomadic spirit potential in us all.
Damian and Shiv and their two nipper children, India and Noah, take their river boat, Friendship, down the French Canal system right down to the Med.
The writing reads like a diary with entries from Damian and Shiv alternating - so it's interesting to read how each partner summarise an event at the end of the day.
What's particularly interesting is how the two of them change during the course of the adventure.  Damian, a hard nosed advertising executive starts to relax and appreciate the significance of being a father.  Shiv learns the importance of letting go of the full-time mother role and letting Damian take charge of the kids.  She also shows considerable strength and quick thinking during times of crisis.  For instance when the boat Friendship breaks a leak she shoves towels into Damian's hands to plug the hole.
They almost don't make it - but I won't go into details as this may spoil the book for anyone thinking of buying it.
They have a website that you can use while reading the book
For Better, For Worse
You have to admire the bravery of this family.  To have given up the good job and nice house to live in a small boat sailing through a foreign country must have taken a great deal of self assurance.  Having worked briefly in the advertising business myself I understand the dog eat dog environment Damian had been living.  This adventure which this family completed really did change their whole outlook on life and it became apparent that a return to the old life would not be possible.
I got this book from WH Smith for £7.99.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Goodbye Norwich

The project finished yesterday, two days earlier than expected due to the client being unable to meet a security requirement of the software.  So it is on hold and I was able to return back to Hove.   Here's a pic of one of the main streets in Norwich.  I'm sure this will make my sister a bit homesick.  She happens to be in a land down under, where things are hot and full of thunder.

I really need to get a decent camera as I'm having to use my phone camera now after my other one seized with the extreme temperatures.
When I arrived home my flat was surrounded by fire trucks and smoke.  Darn it, thought I, wondering how long it would take to get a new passport.  But it was the pub next door on fire.  Ironic this happened after the smoking ban. 
Talking of which, I experienced some massive cravings while travelling back by train yesterday.  I did come close to buying a packet but thankfully this didn't happen and I'm now seventeen days clean from nicotine.

Next post will be a book review.  I just finished a book about a family that packed everything up and travelled by boat through France. 

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Life In Norwich

So I wake up Monday morning at 5.00 am and skittle around like a bearing in a pinball machine until the caffeine takes effect.  Throw a week's worth of clothing in the pull along case, order a cab to get me to Hove train station and arrive in Norwich at 11.00 am.
The train ticket cost me 190 pounds.  I always get a first class ticket because you then have a greater chance of getting a seat.  I have to work on the laptop while travelling, so can justify this to the finance department.  It's odd though, that I can fly to Switzerland and back for little over half this amount.  Norwich is only 180 miles away.  Nothing really worth noting about the trip.  I got off at London Bridge and went down into the underground and caught the Jubilee line east to Stratford station.  This station was grey and cold and it's all I want to say about that.  So I arrive at Norwich and get a cab to the client premises.  This is a big client by the way - has 30,000 computers so that gives you an idea.

It is always a bit nerve racking going into a new client's office for the first time, even after doing this consulting game for over five years.  Problem is you never know whether you will be working with great guys or a$$holes until you arrive.  I can normally tell within a minute of entering the office what it will be - a good gig or a nightmare.

The folks at this office are happy.  This means they are well managed - not too stressed and not too bored and HR has adequate weed killer for the bullies.  So since this is two weeks now without a cigarette and I couldn't be asked for the stress of working with the a$$hole brigade, I am very pleased to be working here.

At the end of the day I found a taxi to take me to a hotel that head office had booked for me - it's part of a chain.  This one happens to be an up market chain.  Rules are we require four stars, not below.  Funny thing is many three star hotels are better than four star hotels, specially if they are family run.
It was a half hour drive away.  It was a big old worldly type hotel surrounded by a big car park and next to a park and ride slab of asphalt.  No escaping this one for alternative evening entertainment without your own vehicle.  Checking in the hotel was much like checking into any other hotel, and that's a bit like being processed for prison entrance.  You are asked a load of security questions and required to give them a swipe of your credit card, sort of like taking finger prints - and lectured on hotel rules such as departure time and gym access times.  Thankfully I didn't get asked to spread my legs for additional inspections.

Entering the hotel room was as depressing as I thought it would be.  Geez, I can't believe some people take holidays in these cells.  I have included a bad pic to give you an idea.

Don't get me wrong, this hotel is as good as the rest of them.  It's just that I do not get along with the hotel lifestyle.  It's designed for safety, warmth and money extraction.  You can't even control how hot your shower water is.  They don't want you scolding yourself.  You cannot cook your own meals, they want you ordering below average food at the restaurant, for above average prices.  You can only open the window half an inch - they don't want you falling out or getting out without paying.

There's a little tray of refreshments and snacks.

Small packet crisps £2.00
Can of coke £1.50
Evian Water (1Litre) £3.50 (WTF??)
Peanuts £2.00

I sure hope the couple next door don't copulate tonight.  Or if they do, I pray for a quiet copulation.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Van gets edgy - a week in the hotel

When I purchased the van, the first thing a friend and I decided to do was drive her to Scotland.  We got there fine but the carb started playing up on the way back.  We limped it down the length of the UK.  A mechanic had a look and said the wrong carb was fitted, but he had made some fit adjustments and advised that it should be OK.  It was OK, until today.  So now I'm back at base checking out train time tables.  I need to leave for Norwich tomorrow morning and stay the week in a hotel while working for a client.  Yetch.  Some may think I'm lucky, but the view from a hotel window can't compare to the 360 degree view one gets waking up in a camper in a nice park.

I have the kids every second weekend.  Yesterday they were dropped off with me and we bundled into the van and went to a place called paradise park near newhaven.


It was interesting and much could be learnt while strolling through the museum sections.  Unfortunately my two girls, 6 and 11, are not interested in much to learn.  They wanted the play section.  Still it killed some time before I took them to the Honeybridge caravan park near Horsham.  This is a great park to take the kids.  They have a games room, warm bathroom facilities and a pretty decent playground area.  They enjoy the camping and it's all a bit of an adventure.

Coming back today was when the real adventure began.  The van lost power going up a very busy A grade road without a hard shoulder.  It was terrifying.  I got the kids out of the van quickly, and out on the side of the road.  Played around a bit on the engine and got it firing again.  So all back in and we got home in one piece.  Dropped the kids off at their mother's and started out towards Norwich.  Soon became obvious that this mechanical glitch wasn't temporary so had to return.

It's all a bit disappointing and depressing.  I will have to get the correct carb fitted.  Not sure how much this will cost me.  The real killer though is having to spend four nights in a hotel.  I was looking forward to being in my own space during this gig.

I might bore you with a few pics of the hotel room in the next post.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

A week in bricks. Day 6 without a cigarette

The rain melted the snow and so yesterday I was able to get away from the camping site.  One benefit of being trapped at this camp site for so long was that I was unable to purchase any cigarettes.  So now I have gone six days without having a cigarette.  This week I will be working for a company based in Malaysia, but working remotely: that is, working from home.  So this will be a change.  Then next sunday it's back to the Nomadic life.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Informing Employer - Hotel no longer required.

Today is the last day of my holiday.  For the past month I have been roaming around in the Van, which was purchased on the first day my holidays began.  My manager's administrator rang me up.  I have to do a weeks work in Norwich starting from Monday 13.  She needed to know whether or not to book the hotel from Sunday 12 or Monday 13.  The difference is whether I want to sacrifice half of the Sunday travelling up, or get up 5 am on the Monday and travel up.  I hate getting up early and I hate sacrificing half my Sunday so it's a no win situation either way.  But this is the consultant's life and mostly I will travel on the Sunday as the trip in itself can be enjoyable when you don't have to start work right at the end of it.

So I asked her to send me the work address.  After a quick search using the UK Camping and Caravanning club site, of which I am a member, I found a site open this time of year, with EHU (Electrical Hook Up) only five miles from the office.  So I sent her the details for her to book.

She thought this was pretty cool.  She will book the site next week for me.  No doubt she may wonder why I would rather stay on a caravan site costing 15 pounds per night than stay in a four star hotel at 150 pounds per night.

I have not had any negative reaction to my preferred form of accommodation yet.  In fact the general reaction seems to be a request to join me camping sometime.  Maybe I am not the only one questioning the brick and mortar lifestyle.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Second Post - December 2. The van and the layout.

The objective today was to head back to base and sort out a whole lot of admin stuff then head off somewhere else for the weekend - although I had not decided where I would be going.  Thing is, there was no way I would be getting back to base.  The following pic demonstrates the logic.

 Having no form of transport, apart from my feet, I head off for the nearest village.  The nearest village was Dial Post.  Sure that is weird for a village name, but this is England.  England is the capital of humour remember.  No doubt there existed a post where you dialled something, at some stage.

 No shops in the village at all.  Just the Crown Inn pub.  I took a pic but it had a car with the reg plate showing.  I thought about editing the pic (the car was not my own), but it seemed a whole lot of effort.  I am sure you can just google the pub and get an idea.  Nothing really interesting about this pub except that it seemed to be completely packed.  Unusual for a Thursday afternoon in a village without any other commerce whatsoever.  I guess since it was snowing a whole lot of people couldn't get to work so had to work from home.  Or better still, take the family to a village pub where your boss is not likely to catch you, haha.

Ok, so now back to the gist of this post.  "Apple Tree" asked me about the configuration of the van.
Here is a view from the front of the van, from the cockpit to the back.  This is configuration one with the back seat folded down to form a double bed.  Whenever I take my girlfriend away with me the double back seat is folded down like this to form a double bed.  The bed is comfortable but I purchased a foam bed cover, which is about two inches thick to cover over this.  With the foam cover, the double bed is absolutely dreamy.
Do you notice all the orange wires in the left hand window?  This is the electrical hook up cable.  Initially this was on the ground covered in snow.  I sort of reasoned that if the snow melted then froze, then the cable would be buried in ice and I would have to cut it to get free.  So I have raised it above ground.

Now here is a pic with the back seat in its' normal position.  You can imagine that this position is good when I need to transport more than one other person.  So for instance when I take my two kids somewhere, one will sit in the front with me and one strapped into the back.  But also, when I am away in the van by myself, this is the configuration I will use, since I have far more ground space to live in.
 But where do I sleep?  Well, the van has a cone head attached with about three foot of head room.  I call this the penthouse, and I just chuck a duvet in and sleep up top.  Here is a pic taken from the back of the van towards the front.  I sleep up above where that green cushion is.

Here is a pic from the penthouse, so to speak.  The area I will sleep in when alone, rather than downstairs in the seat that can be converted to a double bed.

So you get the idea I hope.  This van only cost me 1600 pounds.  It was dirt cheap, but is also very comfortable.  You can spend 70000 pounds on a motor home.  But why spend so much?  Spend that much when you want a hotel on wheels I guess, lol.

Ok, so what did I buy to make life a little more comfortable?

This is what I purchased.
1) Microwave Oven.  Very important for heating pre made meals and heating water for coffee and tea.
2)  Foam mattress cover - get a good night's sleep.
3) Plenty of disposable cutlery and paper dishes - save on the washing up.  I know it's not environmental but I spent 10 years without a car so deserve some leeway, lol.
4) A good torch.  Most important item to have for sure.
5) Plenty of puzzle books to keep the mind active at night.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Hello members of the websphere and welcome to my first post on the Nomadic LIFE

For the past five years I have been doing the work of a consultant.  This means I am required to visit the client wherever the client may have their working office.  This means that I have spent time travelling all over the globe but mostly all over the UK.  Generally a job will last a few weeks, although sometimes it can last up to nine months.  I have an apartment in Sussex which I stay in when not on my working travels.  I might spend about two months of the year in this apartment each year, sometimes more and sometimes less.

So my life has been mostly spent in hotels over the past years.  The hotel life can be seen as luxury living - it isn't.  If you rarely spend time in a hotel, a stay in a four star hotel may seem very glamorous and you will enjoy the cooked breakfast and not having to make the bed and the mini-bar with nice drinks and chocolates.  Spending month after month in these environments is completely another matter.  They are simply luxurious prison cells.

So I bought the van.  I wanted it cheap and versatile.  I will be replacing the hotel with the van wherever possible.  I will be blogging about the places I am staying and the hurdles I am facing and the thoughts I am thinking.  Hope you enjoy the blog.

Today I am based at a site near Horsham and it has been snowing.  The views around me are spectacular.  Here are some pics.