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.

Friday, 30 December 2011

The Showmen - Fratton Park Portsmouth

As I have mentioned in another post, it is a commonly held view that those who live the mobile life are poor, uneducated lazy and unemployed transients.  But it simply is not true and those that call themselves showmen are a prime example.

We all know that atmosphere associated with the fairground.  The flashing lights, stomach churning rides, fairy floss and temptations to win a prize by throwing a ball through a ring or shooting at metal ducks hopping at the back of a van.

Those responsible for creating this experience call themselves showmen -and you can get a good view into their lives by watching the episodes of Fairground Attractions - a reality documentary shown on Channel 5.  The episodes can now be viewed on the internet at:
Fairground Attractions

These people live a nomadic existence, travelling around the UK, and all over the world during the summer months.  They invest huge amounts of money on their showground rides and hope for a decent return.  These rides can cost millions of pounds, and since they require a good deal of manpower to get them assembled at each site - these nomads have to employ people to assist with the business.

In the winter months they will retreat to their home base, which may be a park large enough to accommodate the mass of their show equipment along with their caravans.  So it was a surprise to see, this time of year, a show being staged at Fratton Park in Portsmouth.  Fratton Park is the football stadium for the Portsmouth Football Club.  The rides were assembled on a car park on the outskirts of the stadium.  The price of entry was a very reasonable 8 pounds and this included as many rides as your stomach allowed.  It was a cold, wet and miserable day - and in my view this is the best time to be at a fairground since there will be no waiting in a queue.  Into the old Transit van hopped my two girls and me and off we went for a day of showground adventure.  Here are a few pics.  Firstly my two girls trying to look cool with hands in pockets and distancing themselves from Daddy who is definitely Mr Uncool.


People will actually pay to go on this one.  Arghhh.

Want a whiplash?  Try the dodgems.

This ride left me feeling very woozy afterwards.  I had had enough but the kids were on for more.



Peace to All


Thursday, 29 December 2011

Christmas 2011

Last year Christmas was spent alone in my Ford Transit van on a camp site in Bexhill surrounded by snow. This year Christmas was spent with my two children in my four birth caravan on a camp site not surrounded by snow.  In fact the weather has been very mild this year.  I had prepared for the worse, but fortune has so far been on my side - no frozen water barrels and no snow whatsoever.

Space is always at a premium when three beings are cooped up in a small trailer.  The girls normally bring a small bag each with their clothes for the weekend and these, along with their various toys can be stored in the awning. For this visit there was no awning.  My ventura porch awning was quite an investment at over 600 pounds but apart from its storage value in winter, it is hardly ever used.  In summer it is great to have some shade and to be able to relax on a deck chair on the outside, even when the rain is falling.  But in winter I never use it.  Also it makes moving a real pain and so having taken it down a few weeks ago, I have decided not to put it up again until the summer months arrive.  The items I had stored in the awning are now stored in the Transit van.  Imagine that, to be able to use a camper van to store most of your belongings!!  For me this is great, to be free from all that tat we never use but equally never seem to throw out.

So this visit from the children was a bit of a challenge since they are staying over Christmas and the New Year celebrations.  They had a good deal more clothes to bring and also I had a fair number of presents to give them on Christmas day.  Storage space was going to be a challenge.  

The presents pre-Christmas were stored in the camper van.  I decided to keep the bunk beds up and I would sleep in the lower bunk and the upper bunk would become a super shelf for all their stuff and presents after they had been opened on Christmas day.  Also, the lower bunk would be used to store the duvets the kids required at night.  Here is a pic with the setup.




The sleeping arrangements worked well.  The L shaped lounge provided the two beds for my children and the lower bunk for myself.  No need to mess around setting up the double bed each night and collapsing it in the morning.

Christmas day was a fine day indeed.  I had stocked up with food and the fridge was completely full along with the pantry cupboards.  I cheated a little on the Christmas meal.  While all the vegetables were completely fresh, I didn't fancy roasting a turkey in such a compressed space and so the turkey meat came from  a couple of Christmas microwave meals.  The vegetables that came with these meals were thrown out as I didn't even think next door's hound could have stomached them.  The children thought the meal was fine, and so once again the mighty microwave proved its worth.

On boxing day I drove the kids west to the New Forest to see my Sister and two Uncles and Aunt and cousins and Aunt-in-law and Nephew also.  The Aunt's parents were there and they had visited us in Australia many years ago when I was a teenager - but I had no recollection of this visit.

This day refined a great Christmas and we had some real turkey and a fine walk and a great catchup with the family.  The sister offered to look after the children that night and return them to the caravan the next day.  And so I drove back to the trailer on the field and had some peace.  It's great to have the children but it's also hard work and this little respite was appreciated.

And finally a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all those who have been following the eccentric blog over the year.  I am sure 2012 is going to be superb and full of adventure also.

Peace 

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Absolute proof - caravan not cold

It was with great excitement that C and I opened the Christmas presents we bought for each other last night.  Yes I know, it isn't Christmas day yet but it's fun to break the rules every now and then.  I had got a Laura Ashley handbag for C and she was delighted with it.  And I too was delighted with the Samsung digital camera C got for me.  Unlike my car boot sale camera purchase - this one takes some fine photos.

I do like a gadget and more so if it is actually of use for something.  The IT Plus Weather station is a good example of a gadget that is very useful.  I have a radio sensor outside and this feeds back details about the conditions out there, and so I have some great data about the weather. It will tell me the humidity in the air and will form some sort of prediction about how the weather will turn out for the day.

This morning it is a very cold -0.2 degrees centigrade outside.  And is it the case that C and I are shivering at the edge of exposure like stranded explorers of the  North pole?  Not likely.  And here is the proof.


This photo, taken with my new Samsung camera, demonstrates that caravan life can indeed be comfortable.  The top reading is the outside temperature at -0.2 c.  The next reading is the humidity reading, which is low at 43 percent.  The next reading is the internal temperature in the caravan - and yes it is a very comfortable temperature at 22.2 c.  The next reading is today's date and the then the time.  You might notice next to the man the outline of a snowman.  Thus we have a prediction of snow today and this will be fun to be sure.  It is hard to imagine the reality of my relatives down under - whose skin would burn under the sun if it wasn't for the application of a thick sun block cream.

So the issue can be laid to rest at long last.  Caravans need not be cold in winter.

Hope you all have a great weekend.


Friday, 16 December 2011

Wet carpets

Few things are more annoying than walking across a wet patch of carpet with your socks on. Unfortunately the caravan has been suffering a water leakage and it took a fair bit of detective work to find out where it was coming from. The wet area was around the fridge and spreading to the back bathroom area so initially I thought it was coming from the fridge. I turned the fridge off and and placed an oil heater on the carpet as an attempt to avoid damp or delamination from occurring. But still the carpet was wet. An examination of the pipes in the kitchen and bathroom sinks showed no leakage.

Removing the fridge was a challenge. There are four screws inside that needs removing and a flu attachment behind that needs disconnecting and this involves removing the external air vents. The fridge is connected to a copper gas pipe and I didn't want to remove this pipe since re-attachment can only be done by a qualified gas engineer. I was however able to remove the fridge about half a foot and this gave me some view to the floor from the external vent outlet. I could see a puddle to the side of the fridge facing the kitchen sink. A closer examination of the red hot water hose towards the floor revealed this to be the source of the offending wet carpet. The jubilee clip attaching the lower end of the pipe to the upper end was loose. Tightening this solved the issue. I suspect the van now has some water ingress damage. I left a fan heater blowing at the area all night - hopefully this has dried the wood sufficiently.

These sort of things this time of year can be a challenge. I still have to reseal the air vents but at least the inside of the van is dry and comfortable again. In the past I would have called the landlord to come and fix the apartment.

Few things are quite so nice as being dry and warm inside a caravan while the wind thunders outside with the madness of insanity itself. And few things are quite not so nice as cycling through the wind and rain each morning and evening. It's a bit of an effort in the morning to leave the caravan. There is some hesitancy - the same sort of hesitation before diving into a cold swimming pool. But once on the bicycle and working the pedals I soon slip into that zone of meditation the cyclist enjoys. To be on the move, and to be one with the forces of nature, and to be balanced upright by the stability of gyroscopic wheels: it's all very good. My only concern this time of year is with drunk drivers. Alcohol testing vans are rarely seen here in England - so not all who pass you on the road are sober.

And the broken exhaust pipe on the Ford Transit van was replaced. The only place I could find to do this job in this area was a car service chain called Kwik Fit. I have heard some horror stories about this group but they seemed to have done a good job and have guaranteed the work for three years. This set me back 220 pounds but vehicles, whether old or new, cost money; as my sister wisely advised.

Peace

Monday, 12 December 2011

Weddings, Exhausts, Exhausted

For those of us lucky enough to have paid work during the week, and not have to work on weekends - the Saturday and Sunday are two fine days to be sure. Every now and then I like to have a weekend full of action and this helps me rid my mind of work and the general clutter of life - the clutter that can wear you down; specially this time of the year when the weather is turning as the clouds get lower and the temperatures approach freezing.

And so last weekend involved a trip to London, or an area on the outskirts of London to attend the Wedding blessing and reception of the youngest Uncle. The place was Harlington, near Heathrow which happens to have one of the busiest airports in the world. In a previous life, as a Global IT consultant, I spent many hours in this airport waiting to board a plane.

Regular readers will know that I threw away most of my belongings as a necessity when transitioning from flat dweller to trailer occupant. Thus I was in need of a suite. During the week I had taken a trip to a store called TK Maxx in a place called Waterlooville. TK Maxx sell designer clothes at reduced rates and if you have time to rummage around you can find some bargains. On my last trip to the USA I visited a similar store called TJ Maxx and I am sure they are one and the same retail company. The TK Maxx in Waterlooville was a bit of a disappointment, however I did find a decent Jacket to wear. Since the weather forecast for the Saturday was 4 degrees Celcius a good warm woollen jacket made good sense. Next door to the TK Maxx was a large clothing store called Matalan and in here I found a smart enough suite to wear.

The wedding was due to start at 4 pm on the Saturday and C had come to my caravan on the field on the Friday evening. On the Saturday morning the weather was indeed bitterly cold. On my job list was taking the awning to the caravan down - a task I have been putting off for a while, but a task that needed completing since I will soon be moving the caravan to a new camp site. I decided to delay this task until the Sunday, and get another task sorted. Christmas stocking present shopping for my two children. So we packed up everything for the weekend into the Transit van and drove to the nearest ASDA (known as Walmart in the USA). The rules were simple - five presents each for five pounds bringing the stocking present bill to a reasonable fifty pounds. The shopping session was fairly stress free and it's always a relief to get some shopping tasks out of the way - although I am sure C really does enjoy the shopping.

We then drove all the way into London and checked into a Holiday Inn hotel. Our room was on the third floor and we had a view overlooking one of the runways at Heathrow. This was great since I just love aircraft and I spent a fair bit of time staring out of the window as every couple of minutes some mammoth of a plane landed. I have spent so much time in hotels and in my last job was thoroughly sick of them - but now I was finding the experience enjoyable. To have a shower and not have to worry about the water running out - this felt very luxurious. The room temperature was a stifling twenty five degrees and since I am used to a much cooler caravan I had to cool the room using the digital climate control switch. The room had a huge television. I am not a television watcher but it was a pleasure to switch this on and gaze into such a huge electrical marvel.

My sister and her son and boyfriend were also staying at this hotel. We had ordered a taxi and at half past three we all got in for the one mile trip to the church. We made the classic mistake of not getting a rough quote for the cost of the trip before setting off. I was surprised indeed after spending a couple of minutes in the cab to be charged fifteen pounds - extortion. Reluctantly I paid the fee, although we made it clear this con-man wouldn't be getting our business again. It would have been nice to have dealt with this chap in the way he deserved, but who wants to create a scene before a wedding?

And so the Uncle married the woman he loved. To prayers, to music and to oaths of commitment - thus is the protocol of the wedding. How different is the wedding from the funeral!!! And even more different is the wedding to the divorce. I had had enough of funerals and divorces and so this wedding was something I could enjoy. I can only respect those that make the pledge and wish them every success with what lays ahead.

After the ceremony we walked a little way to a nice pub for the evening entertainment. There was a buffet and the food was delicious. The two man ban, one on guitar and one on banjo, that had also played the music in the Church, put on some great music. I must admit I do prefer this type of reception rather than the formal type where you are sat down for the three course meal and the endless speeches and the oil paintings and photographers.

My daugther Jessica has requested a mention on this blog. She is 12 and turning into a young lady. Last time she stayed with me I agreed to purchase her first pair of high heeled shoes. And it was obvious she was enjoying this reception as she mingled with the crowd looking tall and pretty in her new dress and shoes. The father felt proud indeed.

It was a great evening and as midnight approached our eldest uncle drove us back to the hotel. We discovered a basement section where a disco was in full swing and there was what looked like a company party taking place. There was more staggering than walking and dancing and it was amusing to be witness to this sort of thing - yes it's the time of year of festivity and great to see people enjoying themselves in this era of doom and gloom.

The next morning C and I went down for breakfast at around 8 and then back up to the room for a final rest before packing everything up to head back South. As soon as I started the van's engine I sensed something wrong - maybe it was a slight sense of engine smell in the cabin or a slight difference in the pitch of the engine noise. I put the van into gear and drove out of the car park and down the side slip road. There was a slight speed hump and after we drove over this there was an almighty rattling - it sounded like the bottom had fallen off the van. I pulled over to the side and got out to inspect underneath the van. The exhaust pipe, which looked fairly new, had broken away and was scraping against the road. Great!!!! It was very cold and C went back into the hotel for a second breakfast and coffee. I am a member of the Royal Automobile Club (RAC). I took out the premium membership which meant they had to get me back to my home address, or in this case, the camp site I was staying at. And so it is sometimes a good thing to pay a little extra for this type of insurance. Ten minutes after placing the call the mechanic arrived and half an hour later he had performed an operation joining the exhaust pipe back together with some holding pipe between the two severed ends. This was good enough to get me and C the sixty miles back to camp. I was very impressed with this mechanic and very thank full for having taken out the membership with the RAC.

After we arrived home I then decided it was time to take the awning down. So I began the back breaking task of pulling the pegs out of the ground - but then the rain began to fall. And inside the caravan a section of the carpet was drenched due to a pipe leakage. And then C discovered she had left her diamond watch and bracelet in the hotel room. Just one of those days where things would merrily go wrong. C phoned the hotel and to her relief the cleaners had retrieved the lost items and the hotel agreed to send them on. A couple of hours later the rain had stopped and so I could continue dismantling the awning. And if it took me a good six hours to erect this canvas extension, it was only an hour's work to get it down - nevertheless I was exhausted. Time then to get on the bicycle and get a Chinese takeaway and some supplies from the local supermarket. After this the rain's pitter patter against the caravan's roof recommenced and it was a cosy evening after which two exhausted souls got into a bed and promptly went out like a light.
 

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Milton Earnest

I had been due to make the 170 mile trip up North to see my sister and her son, and so last weekend was the time to do it.  When your vehicle is over twenty years old these sort of trips are a real adventure.  You never know whether you will need to be towed to your destination - and just in case I do have a vehicle breakdown policy open with the RAC.  This costs me near to one hundred pounds a year.  But let's face it:  how often do you see a Ford Transit van broken down on the side of the road?  Hardly ever, and in fact most recovery vehicles are actually Ford Transits although of course they are rarely over twenty years old.

Well the trip up North was without advent and the traffic was mild.  The children sat in the back eating crisps and sweets.  I am the sort of father that insists on feeding his kids good wholesome food but I gave in and got these treats for the kids.  Some of the readers who know me personally will smirk somewhat at that last sentence, but really I do insist on feeding the kids well every fortnight when I have them for the weekend in my caravan.  Which reminds me - I just love taking bad photos and I struck gold when I purchased this PRAKTICA camera for six pounds from a car boot sale.  So here is a picture of the inside of my caravan from the back looking forward.


What luxury!!  Being a Nomad doesn't mean you have to live like a hippie - no, I enjoy a living space fit for the Queen herself.  Behind the door is a bathroom with toilet and shower - very useful when you have to combine being a Nomad with the hygiene requirements of also keeping a business contract going.

I had recently met up again with "C" - which was nice since we had split up some time ago and I had been living the life of the lonely singleton.  "C" was happy to come along also since she is a family centred person who likes to adventure out also.

It took a few hours to arrive at Milton Earnest.  There was no drive space for me to park my sizeable van, and so I parked it with the left wheels up on the grass on the side of the road so as not to block the road to other traffic.  It was great to see my sister, her new boyfriend and her son again.  We had our lunch and decided on driving to a nearby camping store - Go Outdoors.  As we left the house the next door neighbour came out with a look on his face as if someone had eaten his Cheezels (a delicious Australian cheese snack).  The poor chap was most upset about my van (he called it a "thing") parked with two wheels on grass - grass which did not even belong to him.  My initial thought was that the grumpy old man needed to chill, perhaps smoke some grass.  If it was my house I would have told this Nimby (Nimby = "Not In My Back Yard - a derogatory term us Nomads use to refer to anal house dwellers) to wind his neck in somewhat and get back into his cave.  But since this was my sister's place I went along with it and agreed the van wouldn't be parked with two wheels on the grass.

At Go Outdoors I bought for myself a stand for the water barrel I use - I am hoping putting it on a stand and putting a barrel coat around it may prevent the contents from freezing.  It is annoying that  the barrel needs to be positioned on the outside - if the inlet and boiler was on the same side as the door, the whole thing would have been inside the awning with less chance of a freeze up.  I think this is a design fault but I guess caravans are mainly used in the milder spring and summer seasons.

Now, whenever I am with my sister she insists on reminding me about how I made her childhood years a misery - and I do feel guilty about this.  It is not nice never to be able to beat your eldest brother at Scrabble or Monopoly or Chess or Checkers.  Well guilt is guilt so to feel a little better I had decided to take everyone out to dinner.  We went to an Italian restaurant called Mama Mia - and the food was very good indeed.  It was then back to the house and the WII games console system was out.  There was a dancing game they played and if one can imagine those tribal communities where the folks dance with spears and chant strange things around a fire.  It was a bit like that and rather embarrassing. I thought "C" was also embarrassed but she later admitted she wanted to join in as well.  After the dancing had worn the family down - they decided to put on a sports game and I tried out the table tennis.  Yes these things are very addictive indeed.

The next morning we drove the vehicles to the Harrold Country Park.  Here we had a nice walk around a scenic lake.  Once again, a good opportunity for me to use my dodgy camera.


And so it was then time to say our farewells and begin the long journey home.  The traffic was bumper to bumper much of the way along the M1.  There had been a pile up and it isn't a nice thing to see the scene of a crash.  There was an ambulance and many police vehicles and I hope no one was seriously hurt.

The trusty old van got us back home without "missing a beat" as the saying goes.  I have decided my next van must have power steering since I have been suffering tennis elbow all week.  It really does require some serious muscle to steer this van at slow speed.  Hope you all have a great weekend.

Peace


Thursday, 3 November 2011

Gypsy Girl and without Contract

WH Smiths is a general stationary and book store you will find on any English high street.  During my lunch break I will often take a look at the the new book releases and so it was a surprise, after recently reading a book called Gypsy Boy, to now see a book titled Gypsy Girl.

Gypsy Girl was written by an Irish traveller named Rosie McKinley, although a few pages in you read that this is a pseudonym: and in fact all the names are made up to protect the privacy of the lives discussed in the autobiography.

I have spent the last three days reading this book and this is because my contract has not been extended.  Not yet.  It is all a bit annoying since it is all due to a failure in administration.  As soon as the relevant forms are signed by the relevant managers, then the contract will resume.  So while it is nice to have had a few days without work, it is not as if I could plan anything special since I need to be able to cycle back into work as soon as the paper  work is sorted.

Now this book, Gypsy Girl, is a very moving and fascinating insight into the life of the Irish Traveller growing up in England.  A story about a girl whose throat was mauled as a baby by a dog.  Who grew up attending eight different schools, but only temporarily and so never managed to learn to read until her adult years.

And if you can retain some prejudice against the travelling community try at least to imagine a life of a gypsy girl that only wanted to learn to read and whose naturally inquisitive mind set her apart from her peers.  A girl whose grandfather died at 14 and whose father had an affair at the same time and whose mother took to depression and alcohol, leaving the girl to become the substitute mother to raise the family.  A girl that became a woman that married at 17 and had her kids and whose alcoholic husband regularly beat her black and blue.  And while she tried to save her kids from this atmosphere of violence and heart ache, ultimately the husband tracked the wife and the wife got the beating.

So it is a sad story and  the husband eventually died from the alcohol abuse.   Rosie, obviously an intelligent and strong woman, took some adult reading courses for travellers, learned to read and write, and also to become an advocate for the travelling world.  And in the end she found her non travelling man who treated her well and so, all things considered, in the end Rosie finds happiness.

And the story is not all grim and there are some very interesting and also funny aspects of gypsy life narrated.  For instance, and this was something I didn't realise, a good portion of the travelling world actually live in council houses.  After life where over a half a dozen folk are living living in a caravan, can you imagine what it must be like to be given a four bedroom house to live in?  It would be a pretty good feeling I am sure, except there was too much space and so the parents decided, for the first night, that the whole family was to sleep in the kitchen.

So again I can recommend an interesting book available in paper back so won't bruise your bank account at only 7 pounds.


Update - just found out contract is extended so it's off to work for me.  Have a great day everyone.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Last day of contract - will it be extended?

Hello Everyone
Today is the last day of this contract I have been doing since February.  So the question remains as to whether or not it will be extended.  It was only my intention to do this contract for a few months, but since it was so convenient I have continued doing it.  To finish work at 4 pm and cycle home and have the evening to myself - this is a great privilege for someone used to doing far more hours.

And it would be good if it was extended another three months to keep me going over the festive season for even a nomad needs money.  Yes the bills are still there - the van needs insuring, the rent needs paying and mouths need feeding.  So the contract may be extended or it may not and this is the plight of the self employed.  I do not mind this for the world of the uncertain is also the world of surprise.  And while we might fear what is around the corner - you never know - it could be something great.

So I wish everyone a great weekend and encourage you all to do something different and if you feel up to it - let me know in the comments what it is.

Peace


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Gypsy Boy and Butlins

A couple of weeks ago I decided on taking the kids to a place called Butlins in Bognor Regis. Butlins can best be described as a chain of expensive holiday camps designed to keep families entertained. If you visit one of these places you will be able to enjoy many activities included in the initial price.

For example, there will be a Splash Waterworld where you can scare yourself going down a variety of water slides. Or you could imagine yourself to be in the sea itself as the pool magically creates artificial waves - or rather, artificially creates real waves.

There will also be a series of activities the children can participate in, such as playing football, or watching a dance show or trying their skills at archery. In addition there are a number of fair ground type rides and if you are lucky you won't have to wait too long in a queue to get on the ride.

As for myself I had decided to take the opportunity to read a book titled Gypsy Boy while the children enjoyed the facilities of the resort. This book is written by a Romani gypsy called Mikey Walsh - a gay man that had to leave the gypsy world since homosexuality leads to persecution in this close knit world.

Since being caravan bound myself, I have on a few occassions been called a gypsy - mostly in jest. Ofcourse, living in a caravan does not make me a gypsy - for the term in itself relates to a number of ethnic groups to which I do not belong. Mikey Walsh is a Romani gypsy and in his book he describes the life as it is - growing up as a child in the Romani gypsy clan.

It is indeed an interesting book and the narrative paints a picture of a tough life for a gypsy boy. Both the gypsy boy and the gypsy man must be prepared to fight and to win a fight is noble, and to lose a fight is dignified. But to run away from a fight? Now this is a disgrace. You can't help but hold some sympathy for the small boy expected to bare knuckle fight with a boy twice his size. So poor Mikey, not being a natural fighter, had a fairly bloody upbringing as his father and many other boys walloped him to the ground on a regular basis.

Now with Dale Farm being in the news I was interested to probe the reasons for gypsies themselves being persecuted and stigmatised - since it is unusual in this politically correct world for an ethnic group to be so openly frowned upon.

One article I read on the internet suggested a somewhat Marxist interpretation. The argument was that employers prefer to have more workers than required living in the area of the workplace since this results in reduced working wages. Thus employees began to hate gypsies since their arrival decreased their working value, while employers also took offence since the gypsy community could simply decide to leave an area - resulting in a higher worth to the remaining workers. I find this argument a bit far fetched since even in the booming years gypsies are still stigmatised.

Another commonly held view is that gypsies make their money in a dishonest manner. Mikey describes working with his father resurfacing driveways. His father would offer to do the driveway for ten pounds, to which the home owner would agree. After doing a shoddy job that wouldn't last a light rain shower, the father then tells the home owner he must pay ten pounds per square meter - and it's not his fault if the owner didn't understand the origial quotation. And maybe this accounts for the common view point but I doubt the majority of the population has been swindled by a gypsy.

Now I remember many years ago our history teacher speaking of the Jews, and how they kept themselves together and how this in itself could create suspicion which would result in anti-semitism. And Mikey himself makes it clear that the gypsies see themselves as a special race and completely discourage any association with the outside world - people they call Gorgies. I believe herein lies the origin of gypsy persecution and distrust since this too is true of cults also, in general. To consider one's group extra special, and to avoid contact with those on the periphery of your group - this can only make outsiders suspicious also.

Well, I am no sociologist and maybe the gypsy is hated for all of the above and many more reasons. I would recommend this book and if it is a little unbelievable in places it is nevertheless still very interesting.  As for Butlins - not my sort of thing but the children love it.

Monday, 19 September 2011

When a Nomad would prefer not to travel


I remember a time, not too many years ago, when life was fresh and life was born,  and decisions were made as to the name of this new baby or that new baby.

Then some time ago the Uncle who, like me, worked with computers  - well he passed away as a tumour consumed his mind.

And then the Aunt that enjoyed her cigarettes - she too passed away as the tumour consumed her lungs.

And then the sister of a girlfriend called my number and spoke of death.  On this day of days, not more than a couple of years ago, it seemed that all perceptions of life altered, since death can make a mockery of the mockery of life.  The girl that drank the wine that destroyed the liver - well, she too was lost to this world. This woman, at fourty three, with her curly blond hair and a genius for art, left us all; and she could have given much that would have been superb, to this world.   Today and everyday it pains me knowing this lady died, after everyone had given up on her, completely alone in the dark shadows and the cold winds of grave despair.

Then the wife of the Grandad passed away as the tumours consumed her bones.  Auntie Bee she was called. This woman was in a class of her own.  I would have rather eaten at her table than at the Queen's own table given the choice.  But it's true the Queen won't be inviting a homeless gypsy like me to her table.

Last week the Grandad himself died also.  This seems hardly possible for the great old man was never supposed to have left his post.  He was the Grandad - and none of us would ever have given him permission not to be the Grandad.

Thus here I am in my fourth decade knowing that people will be born and will learn to walk and learn to talk, and a few score years later, will fail to walk and will fail to talk.  And it is true the Nomad is one for travelling, but some trips he would rather not have to complete.  Tomorrow's trip - the funeral of the Grandad in West London, is one such trip I would rather not be required to make.

Peace

Monday, 22 August 2011

Holidays and Family


Last week was booked off work for a little holiday with my kids. There were many activities from swimming to fun fairs to cycling - a great week for a father to enjoy some time with his kids. It is hardly unusual these days for a child's parents to be separated or divorced and most severed couples can come to an agreement about the children. For them, to see both parents, or rather, to receive the love of both parents can only be a good thing.

And does an adult need a family? What happens when a man walks out into the world alone? When a man ventures out and lives in foreign lands and learns foreign languages and adapts to foreign cultures - does he leave his family behind and become something else? Twenty years ago I got on a plane and left everything I knew behind. And if I can look back through those years I can see the narrative of the black sheep learning something of the world and learning something about himself. And if there was a fair bit of heart ache along the way there was also some brilliance a bit like seeing bats flittering around a tree.

The bats really did fly in circles around the heat of the massive fire our eldest uncle created when he set match to cardboard to leaves and wood. After seven long years I took my two kids to see cousins and aunts and various relatives from my father's side. So too did my youngest sister fly from the other half of the world to meet up in the New Forest in a house with a huge garden. Thus it was a couple of days where family got together and swam in a river of memories and enjoyed the company of kin.

There was no way I was anything like an insider here in this pool of shared genes and nor was I an outsider. I kept my counsel as is appropriate and held my head high and shared with the family some of my life experiences and listened as the dark passages of time illuminated with the story of their lives. The uncle that toiled hard and created for himself this huge house and garden in the forest. The sister with her little girl who spun the hoola hoop effortlessly. The middle sister always in the middle, with her son that burst the balloon. The cousins that sat at their sewing machines creating what their minds imagined. All these relatives building for themselves a place on this planet worthy to be called a home. I held no feeling of embarrasment or envy for being the homeless one amongst this clan of high achievers. Like the expeditioner I had simply decided to take my eyes away from the man in front so that a different horizon became my destination.

When this nomad got back into his old van and began his journey back to his caravan on the field - a tear or two was given to the severed familial ties and to the lost world that had temporarily came into the focus of his consciousness. And so too did he laugh at his lot and the absurdity of his life. If he pledged anything to the future it was to recognise and maintain what he had become but also to include in his list of camping sites the driveways of those who would choose to host this man with his rusty old van.

Peace

Monday, 15 August 2011

Nomad's tip to drastically cut tax bill.

It's a tough life being a nomad and money is always a concern since we live on the edge of society.  Here is one tip for nomads and aspiring nomads to help get their finances in order.

OK, so no cigarettes for a long time for me.  258 Days to be precise.  I used to smoke a packet a day and each packet was roughly £6.50 each so that amounts to saving almost 1700 pounds alone in just over eight months.  That is a little more than I paid for my beautiful, but old Ford Transit campervan.  No nomad is complete without a solid reliable campervan.  Given that 88 percent of that cost is purely taxation - I have reduced my tax bill by £1475 pounds.

In addition I no longer need to waste time, and money going to the Doctor for my ventolin inhaler since I no longer need to use one.  Also, I can wear my clothes a little longer since they no longer stink like an ashtray after wearing them a few hours.  So my washing costs are reduced.

Thinking of quitting?  You know it makes a lot of sense - as well as cents!!!

Friday, 12 August 2011

An Update

Hello Everyone

It sure has been a while since my last blog entry. Reading back through my posts over the past year it almost seems like there could have been some unconscious force going on in my brain. To have chucked my job in, to have got rid of all my belongings, to have given the keys back to my landlord. To have lived for a while in a Ford Transit van. Madness. And yet now I am more than happy with my lot - with this caravan with its own shower and cooker and fridge. With the porch awning outside where I can store the kid's play equipment and the microwave and a little table and chairs.

And this contract that I started that was only to last three months. Well it was extended another three months, and again another three months so now I remain in gainful employment until the end of October. So the mobile caravan mechanic's course has been put on hold for a while but it is still my intention to complete this course and try my hand at a new occupation. Now it is true that life is full of little surprises and one such surprise for me was the enthusiasm for IT that this new contract has reignited in me. To spend more than a few weeks at one place - and to get to know the folks you work with; to feel part of a team. And to implement a solution that improves the way those around you carry out their daily work - all this is good and leaves you feeling proud and valued.

Now, since I am working in one place each day now - it occured to me that I could both get fit and save some money at the same time. So I purchased for myself a mountain bike. Each day I cycle five miles to work and five miles back from work and this amounts to an hour's exercise each day while I save the train fare I would normally pay. I am the stubborn sort so even when it is raining I will get my hiking water proofs out and cycle through the rain. It is not pleasant, but a victory to be sure when I arrive at work. Already after a couple of months of this cycling I have noticed my body is stronger and getting fairly lean. I have always enjoyed exercise but a couple of years ago, while skiing in Switzerland a little too fast for my ability, the balance was lost and the body tumbled and the knee was broken. The knee injury takes many months to heal and I was unable to run but the consultant suggested I could cycle. And indeed he was correct since the hour's cycling each day has no adverse effect on damaged knee.

In this blog of mine I am able to see that many people from many parts of the world have read my postings. I wonder what the readers think about the events of the last few days in England. The vandalism and the looting and the violence - shocking news broadcast around the world. How is it that in the poorest parts of the world where people struggle to find enough food each day to survive they can still live within the rules of their culture - yet here, where the youngsters have their phones and their handouts and their bricked accomodation and their parks and libraries and all those good things - how can they commit such despicable acts of destruction? I have no answers to this question but can only feel proud of the police and the government and the citizens that got together and showed great strength and courage to bring everything back under control.
Peace

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Could you live in a caravan?

I doubt there are many people who have not spent at least some time in a caravan - or trailer as our American cousins like to call them.  There is a certain sort of paradox concerning the idea of living in a caravan.  On the one hand they are seen as a great idea for a holiday and many will spend thousands of pounds on one and use it a few weeks of the year.  On the other hand, there is some stigma surrounding those that live in caravans full time.  So they are good enough to spend your holiday time in, that is, your valuable time, but not good enough to live in.

Now as I sit here writing this blog it is raining and windy outside.  I know this to be the case because I can hear the rain against the body of the caravan and feel the wind as the body of the caravan blocks its natural flow.  I have a porch awning attached to the side of the caravan and this too will flap and creak in the wind and also cause some minor turbulence to the caravan's static state.  My life in this caravan feels very rich in that I have a sensory experience with the weather outside.  There is more light in my space and more air since I can keep the ceiling window open and wake to the beams of natural light in the morning.  This is why I now find it difficult to sleep in a house.  Surrounded by bricks I feel too detached and the air lacks the freshness I have become accustomed to.  So this is something I enjoy about life in a caravan and I could also list many other things that make it a better life for me.

And there are other things about this life that others may not like, although they do not bother me at all.  You see those reports from undeveloped countries where folks carry a pot on their head to the local well to fill up. No tap with instant water for them.  It is a bit like that for me.  I have the taps, but the water comes from a 40 litre barrel which I have to roll to the communal tap once every few days to refill.  My toilet is the cassette type and when it is full a red light comes on and I need to remove the cassette and empty the contents in the chemical waste drain.  Now I can see how this would sound disgusting,  but really it is not.  The contents have neither the colour or smell of urine since we add a toilet chemical to the cassette container.  Also the rule here is no defecation in the cassette toilet - you will have to go to the communal toilets to defecate if you want to stay with me in my caravan.

So while there are some aspects that might make the idea of living in a caravan not too appealing, I do not think this justifies the stigma it seems to have.  I believe there is a common view that caravan dwellers are lazy and do not work.  This is a falsehood.  Where I am staying at the moment, the full timers all work and pay their taxes.  In fact, my neighbours are a very industrial group of people with many skills.  There are electricians, plumbers, nurses, engineers and many other trades and professions.

And neither is it the case that the full time caravanner is poor.  One of my neighbours has two houses which she rents out for her income.  There is indeed, a paradox at the heart of the stigma attached to living in a caravan.







.  

Sunday, 15 May 2011

An Easter adventure

When I was a Global IT consultant I was never really in a position to enjoy the weekends.  I was either
1) Exhausted from the week's intense work effort and travelling.
2) Needing to spend a good portion of the weekend preparing for the next week's work, as well as having to travel out on the Sunday to wherever I would be working.
3)  Both of the above.

Now, since my ex wife divorced me due to various faults in my character, the arrangement is that I have my two girls, 7 and 12 every second week from Saturday morning till Sunday evening.  Looking back I now realise that this was not quality time at all.  My working situation meant I had to sit the girls in front of a TV or computer while I carried out my work duties, or I was simply too exhausted and tightly wound to appreciate the joys of fatherhood.

Now things are greatly different and since I am now a real nomad, I like to make every weekend stay with the kids a nice little nomadic adventure.  I like to ensure that the time spent with the children is good time indeed.

Thus on the Friday morning I drive to Brighton to pick the girls up and then drive all the way to a place called Milton Ernest near Bedford.  This is a journey of around 130 miles and it was to spend a few days with my sister, her boyfriend and her seven year old son.

The journey was not too bad, and as usual the M25 was stop and start much of the way.

I was very impressed by the beauty of this place, and so we took a walk along a nice river.


This was followed by a frolic in a very nice park nearby and then we had a great BBQ cooked by my sister's boyfriend.  This was the first time I had met my sisters new boyfriend and he is a bit of an eccentric and a fine fellow indeed.

My sister also is a bit of an eccentric - and so she decided she should show me her telescope and how the rings of Saturn can be seen through it.  Luckily it was a cloudless night so many hours were spent looking into the universe at the glittering stars.  I do enjoy this sort of thing and it always leaves me in a philosophical frame of mind.  And so we watched Monty Python's Life of Brian afterwards.

On the Saturday we drive to a place called Ringstead.  We take the bicycles with us and cycle a very enjoyable route in the countryside.  I was particularly interested in the many canal boats.




It would be a dream of mine, to live in one of these fine boats.  I am sure they are quite expensive both to buy and to pay for a mooring spot but it would be a grand life to be sure.

We encountered a very nice play park and the sun was out and there were many people out enjoying this good weather.  As I sat down with my sister and watched the many families rejoicing in this great life, I felt a sense of connectivity which was rather an alien experience to me.  For too many years I have been the loner touring here there and everywhere.  Always on the move and always alone, even when with my family - always on the outside looking in.  So this felt good, to feel part of a social space for once.

In the afternoon we go to a massive camping store called Go Outdoors.  I just love these sort of stores, and the kids were able to do some indoor rock climbing while us adults had a look at the wares on display.  The evening was spent at an American themed diner and the food was very filling and very tasty.

On the Sunday morning we take the kids to a swimming complex in Bedford.

http://www.oasispool.bedford.gov.uk/

This was the first time I had been to a pool with a wave that was created every ten or fifteen minutes.  Great fun, and there was also a very fast water slide.  I felt like a kid again myself, as I swished around this tubed slide.  In the afternoon the kids were treated to the usual chocolate egg hunt and then it was back into the old van and a longish drive to a hotel in Horsham.  Unusually the M25 was free of traffic in the afternoon.  Very unusual indeed so I asked my daughter to take a photo with the phone camera.


The hotel was very nice and situated right next to a great park



So we have an enjoyable few hours playing on the swings and taking in the sounds and sights of a delightful English park.

The next morning I took the kids for another play in the park and we had a game of 10 pin bowling before heading back to Brighton to drop the children off with their mother.  And so this too, is something I am thankful about - to be able to enjoy a little nomadic adventure with my kids and family.  To be, the father as I want to be to my kids - I feel very fine about this.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Stuntman

There are men of such human superiority, that just being in their presence will make the 
hair on the back of your neck stand to attention.  One such man I had the honour of 
meeting a couple of months ago on a campsite.  It was a stunt team - men that live a nomadic life at the edge.  Entertaining people in the most dangerous way.
The teams vans had their website address advertised and so I visited their site at the 
time.
http://scottmaydaredevil.co.uk/


I went up and spoke to the stuntman and he told me about the tricks he performed.  He 
offered to leave free tickets for me and the kids under the windscreen blade of my van 
before he left.  He never left the tickets.  Maybe he knew he wouldn't be around at the 
time I could take my kids to see his daredevil show.  Blasted from the canon,  the net did not raise, and the body bounced and the man was dead

This post is in honour of a very brave nomad.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-13197157

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Caravan



Last Friday I had decided on buying a Bailey's four birth caravan.  I was in two minds about this as in some respects it is another anchor, albeit a nomadic anchor at least.  But there were some practical reasons for this purchase.

1) It would be ideal for when I have the kids every second weekend - having to rent hotel rooms is expensive and I simply do not like even the best hotel rooms.
2) While I am still doing an office based 9-5 job, there is a comfort factor in being able to have a shower in my own property each morning - rather than having to use the communal facilities.
3) "C" also wanted to experience the nomadic life, albeit in a part-time sort of way and offered to put over a quarter of the price of the van.  What is more, "C"'s daughter and partner also have a hankering for the camping life.  This project involved stepping out into an uncertain world, and wouldn't have been possible without the help of such people so it is good and right they share in the project's dividends.  Infact, looking back on it all this has indeed been a team effort and I have learnt one important principle - when a project is important to you, and you communicate your project with belief and joy, others will also be enthused, and want to join in and help.
4) It means I can have my belongings away from my van.  Taking my van anywhere, while it contained all my belongings was always a little unnerving when I had to park the vehicle and leave it unattended for a while.  Also, sharing the chalet on wheels with those that have helped, means the amount of time it is left unattended will be minimised.
5) If the van needs to be away at the mechanics for repair work, I still have the caravan to sleep in.


So the caravan was purchased last Friday.  I was fascinated by the water system.  I lived a while as a kid in a van and this simply had a manual pump and no hot water.  This one had its own full water boiler system.  Problem is it wasn't working.  The water pump is a 12 volt submersible apparatus which you dip into the outside water tank - called an aquaroll, and this is connected to a coupling device on the outside of the van.  Inside the van is a switch panel and you flick a switch to provide power to the pump.  So this was switched and then we had flowing water, for a while.  Turned out the water was flowing out underneath the sink and through the caravan.  This was due to an old water filter breaking apart.  So this was replaced and then we had the water flowing, but no hot water.   Again examining the boiler system and the technical manual I realised another switch needed to be turned on, and a pressure knob turned a few times.  Still no hot water - turned out there was no fuse in the switch.  Found another fuse in the heating system switch and used that, waited 20 minutes and then there was nice hot flowing water.  But the aquaroll tank seemed to empty rather fast.  More troubleshooting and so it appeared the water pump coupling end was leaking water as well,  Tried fixing this, then gave up and bought a new one.  Perfect.  From one 40 litre load of water "C" and we have managed to.


1) Shower twice.
2) Drink lots of coffee.
3) Complete general cleaning duties.
4) Tooth brushing and general body cleaning activities.
The downside to this luxury is that you have to empty the waste water container each day and fill the aquaroll each day, but this is a ten minute job.  


And here we are - home being where the parking brake is applied.  Initially I had envisioned base being an anchored boat in a marina but for the time being this is impractical.  So base became a caravan in a camp site.  



The van goes into the mechanics next week for a service and a safety check - it's an old vehicle and I do hope it can be fixed to pass the test.

Just a note to all the American readers of my blog - I believe in the USA you call a caravan a "trailer" so I hope this resolves any confusion.

Peace to all.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

New Experiences

Last weekend was alot of fun.  My girlfriend, lets call her "C", met me at the station and we had a great night playing darts and taking in the caravan life.  There was a caravan club rally at the site, and my normal view of green grass was replaced with a view of at least thirty club vans.  I was expecting a rowdy evening but it was completely quiet.  I guess the weekend campers really just want to get away from it all and enjoy some peace and quiet.
The next morning I went to the site's cafe and got two bacon sandwhiches - delicious.  It was "C"s birthday and for some reason "C" couldn't stop eating all weekend.  The weather was lovely and warm and we spent the morning and afternoon relaxing, sun baking and reading - and "C" spent it mostly eating.
I had no desire to drive this weekend so we got the train into Brighton late afternoon.  We then smartened up and went to the Greyhound racing stadium.


http://www.brightonandhovegreyhoundstadium.co.uk/

I have never been to such an event before and found it very interesting.  We had tables booked and a three course meal, again, delicious.  I placed a few quid on each race and actually won slightly more than I gambled.
I am not an avid gambler as I find losing money fairly depressing, but I really did enjoy this new experience.  You can also take children into the stadium so I will definetly add this to a weekend activity next time I have the kids.


The next morning we went to a car boot sale in Carden.  Again this was something I hadn't done before in the UK and I found it fascinating.  All those people gathering up their little used belongings and turning them into a bit of cash on a Sunday morning.  There was a food van so I bought "C" another bacon sandwhich and a tea, since she was hungry. Since I found this car boot sale so interesting we decided to go to another one - this was on top of the car park at Brighton Marina.  Brighton Marina is one of my favorite places with so many things to do.

http://www.brightonmarina.co.uk/


The only thing I purchased was a little photograph of Stonehenge, as seen from the sky on a snowy day.  Living in a van I can't really collect things as I used to do.


After this we had a nice meal with another friend at a restaurant/Inn in Fulking - you have to be careful how you say that.  The food was great and I had gammon steak with bubble n squeak and egg.  


After this it was back to Chichester for a relaxing night alone in my van.  I have been thinking, since my long term goal is to start a business fixing caravans, that it makes sense to buy one.  The site has some for sale, and I have spotted a smart pageant moselle four birth model.  I might just put this on my shopping list.  The kids too, will enjoy spending their weekends in such a cool caravan.  

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A weekend to relax

It was with great excitement that I met my girlfriend at the station on Friday evening.  On Saturday we drove to a very nice camp site on Hayling Island.

This island is situated on the south coast of England, has an area of 30 square kilometers and a population of 17,000.  It is accessed by driving across a short bridge and I believe there is also a ferry service.

The campsite we stayed at was very beautiful indeed.  We had a corner pitch with a view of a tidal creek to our right.



And a fresh water lake to our left.


A beautiful swan stood guard between the creek and lake.  I fed her some bread, which she seemed grateful for.


The sun was out and the weather warm indeed.  We took a wander around the area.  This is a delightful island to visit and I was wearing a smile all day.  I feel blessed to be having such a grand life at the moment.  Someone recently told me the life I am living is their dream.  It is easy, all too easy, to seek your dream and find out it was nothing but a mirage. For me, this feeling of happiness is very precious, to be sure.



Peace to all.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Two significant happenings.

Last Sunday was significant to me for two reasons.  The first significance was handing the keys back to the estate agent, or rather, posting them through the estate agent's door.  It was a very busy weekend.  I had the girls again this weekend so my task was to ensure everything was taken out of the flat, while keeping the kids happy.  I decided to do as much of the evacuation as possible while the kids were asleep, so again it was an early rise for me.  It seemed a shame to be throwing food away, but I had offered it to friends and there was still a fair bit left to put in the bin.  Mops, buckets, dusters, cups, plates - into black bags and into the communal bin outside.  I was given a coffee machine by my girlfriend some time ago, and it was a shame to have to throw this out as well - but it too, went to where the rubbish ends up.

This weekend, I could feel my temper getting shorter - aggravation in my head.  The work load of the past two months was having an effect.

1) Overseas project assignment
2) Change of job.
3) Flat evacuation.
4) Nomadic transition.

There was no break between finishing one job and starting another - and I wouldn't recommend this when you also have to organise a complete lodgings and living transition as well.  In retrospect I should have taken a week off work to get the house clearance completed.

By 4 pm Sunday everything had been removed from the flat - either thrown out or put into my van.  It was then time to say goodbye to the apartment, which made me quite happy but the kids were upset to be seeing their weekend play zone for the last time.  I took the kids back to their mother, and walked around the corner to the real estate agent's shop.  I placed the keys in an envelope, opened the slot in the door, and slid the envelope through.  The envelope dropped to the floor inside the shop.

HOMELESS

I got into the van, with all my belongings in the world, and drove back to the Chichester camp site.

The second significance of March 20, 2011? - It was my birthday.  Fourty three and totally free.

Peace to All.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Ramblings in a campsite

And so it was that last week I spent from late Sunday till early Saturday in the van in a campsite.  My girlfriend came and stayed with me on Friday night and this was great.  We seem to have given up on just being friends since we miss each other too much.  I returned to the mostly empty flat on Saturday morning where I stayed most of the weekend with my two girls.  Since there was not much stuff left, they brought blow up mattresses to sleep on.  The kids saw this as great fun, and indeed it was - a game of camping in an apartment flat.  Again, the weekend was spent cleaning and sorting through the stuff  the removalists had not taken.  Item such as plates and magazines and various bric n brac were put into black plastic bags and thrown into the communal rubbish bin.  This was a bit naughty - but needs must as they say and I needed to get the flat ready for evacuation by next week.

Yes next Sunday - the last day I have the flat, and at the end of the day I will slip the keys into the landlord's post box.

So late on Sunday I put vehicle keys into the ignition and drove back to Chichester.  The engine was running roughly.  After five minutes I decided what to do. I pulled over to a side, popped the bonnet open and replaced the fuel filter.  This fixed it.  At some point I need  to get the fuel tank cleaned out.  I have also had a big problem with the engine stalling at traffic lights.  It took me sometime to figure this out but with the help of various internet forums I got to the bottom of the issue.  I replaced the fuel cap.  Now that was a cheap repair.  The old fuel cap was not letting enough air into the tank.  These old vehicles are the best - you can actually fix them yourself.

This week I am in another campsite in Chichester.  I have paid up a full 28 days and so where I stay, at least when I don't have the kids, is something less I have to think about.

There is a bungalow at the front of the park where I entered to pay the bill.  I was greeted by a British bulldog with a rubber ball in his mouth.  He obviously wanted to play throw the ball, but for some reason wouldn't let go of the ball for me to throw.  I tried several times to get him to drop the ball but there was some sort of short circuit going on in the canine's head - and obviously a joint short of a bone.  I am not a natural animal lover and lose patience quickly with dopey dogs, so gave up and handed the money over to the warden.  She handed over the receipt and I took a walk around the park.

There is one van with a Union Jack flying from a mast and a sign post pegged into the ground with the words "The Pensioner's Pension".  On the continent they call a hotel a pension so I guess this translates to "The Pensioner's Hotel".  It made me chuckle.

So here I am.  My van is parked on grass with the front facing a pitching area the size of a football field.  There are no campers there in front, only caravans behind my van. So I sit in the front seat and stare out into what, in the dark, appears to be complete nothingness.  I listen to the radio.  I listen to TalkSport as I always do.  They mostly talk football.  The pundits take up a position on this football player, or that manager, and the debating gets so heated it makes me laugh. I like these guys, that have the courage to talk to hundreds of thousands of listeners.  These broadcasters, whose job it is to entertain, are very brave people in my opinion.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

A Nomad has few belongings

Moving home is such a headache.  All those objects you accumulate year after year - they have to be hauled out and moved to the new home.  For me this particular challenge was slightly more challenging than you would expect.  I didn't have a home to move my stuff into.  I figured I had a few options.

1) Try to sell as much stuff as possible and take everything not sold to the recycling depot.
2) Just take everything to the recycling depot.
3) Hire storage space somewhere for my belongings.

The problem with the first option is lack of time to do this.  I do not have a partner I can ask to sell my stuff while I am at work.  Well actually I sort of had a partner, but we agreed this weekend to just be friends - and I guess we were just friends all along.

The second option seemed feasible.  I am not really attached to all these belongings, with the exception of my books.  I have hundreds of books, and they certainly are not going to fit into my van.  I very rarely read a book twice so why keep hold of them?  I do like to have books on display.  Someone once said a room without a book is like a body without a soul.  Or something along those lines.  Well, I decided a dozen or so books in my van would be fine, It would be a case of one new book in, and one of the old ones out.

I dismissed the third option.  I hired storage space when I worked in Europe and indeed this is convenient.  I decided I could live without the books.   So everything except that which was not required in the van would be gone.

I asked around and found a few guys who were prepared to give up a Saturday or Sunday to help me haul my stuff out of the apartment.  I could use the van to transport the stuff to the recycling depot.

But I didn't think it possible to get this job done in one afternoon. I decided to hire a house clearance firm to take my stuff away.  I am sure they thought they were on to a winner, and indeed they were.  I paid them two hundred pounds to take all my stuff away - and some of this stuff they themselves will probably sell for additional profit.  And good luck to them for whatever profit they make - these men are hard workers and I really admire someone prepared to do a hard day's work.

But I wasn't going to give it all away.  I estimated that the kitchen floor space was about the same size as the vans floor space.  So the stuff I wanted to keep was placed in the kitchen. The kitchen was soon full.  I just had to be ruthless, and just keep things that I had to have - clothes, laptops, tools, important documents etc.

The sheer number of documents I had accumulated was phenomenal.  I was up at three in the morning going through them all, shredding all but that which I definitely needed to keep: exam certificates, tax and identity documents.  I finished the filtering process at 8.00 - so it took me five hours going through all this.  It was very strange, going though all those documents and the memories that came back left me somewhat emotional.

After the guys finished their hauling I got into the van and drove to a camp site in Chichester.  And it is here on the camp site that I write this blog.

So it's all done.  My being is separated from my belongings.  I am one step closer to the honour of wearing the badge of the real nomad.

Peace to all.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A new job - and in my van again

Last night I drive the van to a campsite in Chichester - about an hour's drive.  The site is very busy due to it being the period of school holidays at the moment.  It is however, still very quiet and peaceful.  My van, being twenty years old, is definitely the oldest van on site.  Either side there are expensive mobile homes, but I don't care - I am happy to be here, with everything I need to feel relaxed and comfortable.  Also, the Ford Transit Mark 3 is a class act, in my humble opinion.

I do not have a shower in my van, so it's important that the site's showers are clean and give out plenty of warm water.  Here they are so nice I could spend an hour under the spray.  I have the shower in the evening rather than the morning as this is always been a preference for me.

I wake up this morning at 5.00 am as I usually do, then quickly fell asleep again to be woken up at 7.00 by the alarm on my phone.  During the night I had to turn the heater off as it was simply too warm.  But there was a definite nip to the air in the van.  I switch the heater on and heat water for coffee in the microwave.  Ahh, that first coffee in the morning is heavenly.

I get ready and walk around to the nearest station - a ten minute walk at most, and get on the 8.13 train to my destination in Havant.  It only takes 9 minutes to reach my destination station.  The office is a fifteen minute walk and I enter the building, get my pass and begin my first day.

The atmosphere is so relaxing.  My previous job, playing the role of the consultant, was always a bit on the hectic side as there was always the imperative to get the job done in a short period of time.  I seem to get on well with the other guys.  They are mostly dressed in jeans and t-shirts, while I still wear the trouser and shirt, though without the tie.  Maybe next week I will turn up in jeans - wow that sure is laid back.

I finish at 4.00 pm and get the train home.  I microwave a chicken curry and make a decaf coffee.  The radio is on and the life is good..  That was my day and I enjoyed it to be sure.  How was your day?

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Last day at work

Busy.  So so so busy.  I fly back last Wednesday, arrive home Thursday afternoon and sleep all day.  I travel into the office in London on Friday for my last day of work.  After spending almost seven years working for a company the last day can be emotional.
There was a good amount of admin type work to get through, timesheets, expenses etc.  My workmates got me a Hayes caravan maintenance and servicing manual - which is great and very touching that they thought to do this.  I have a chat with the CEO - a man of great intelligence and a great business head.  He lets me know that I am welcome back anytime in the future.  That fills me with some pride, knowing I have done a decent enough job.
I hand in my laptop and phone, say goodbye to a few more people and walk out of the door.

FREE to start a new life.

I take the circle line to Victoria.  Coming off the train, and heading up and through the turnstiles I am greeted by the sight of a mass of people queueing to get down into the underground system and make their way home.  My first reaction is to reach for my phone and take a photo, but realise I have handed the phone in. What bravery of these people to endure this day after day after day.  Why do they do it?  Probably a whole range of reasons and I am sure many enjoy it, though it's hard to believe since the faces look miserable.

On Tuesday I start my new contract.  Three months in one place and this is sweet indeed.  After this I will book the caravan servicing course.

There is indeed a lightness in my spirit and that great feeling one has when the past is laid to rest and a fresh new world awaits.

I wish everyone a great weekend.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Sunday in Connecticut

I awoke on Sunday fairly early and had breakfast and headed off to Bradley Airport.  There is an aviation museum there I wanted to see.  For some reason I thought it opened at 9.00 am, but in fact opening time was 10.00 am.

http://www.neam.org/


The car park was empty so I made good use of the icy conditions by spinning the car around a few times and generally doing things you are not supposed to do when you are a middle aged man that should know better.  After this I drove to the local Walmart and purchased six spare fuel filters for my van along with a multimeter and petrol cap all for only 42 dollars (26 pounds).  Apart from being so cheap what really surprised me was being able to purchase such items at what is, in essence, the equivalent of Asda in the UK.

Anyway, by the time my shopping spree had ended it was after 10.00 am so I headed back to the museum and paid my entrance fee.  The girl serving wanted my zip code, which sort of made me giggle and I guess it's not often she has to enter a UK post code in the computer.

The first exhibit that caught my eye was a Norden bomb site used during WW2 and I possibly in the Korean war as well.


Although the information card next to this proclaimed it to be a highly accurate bombing device, I read later on the internet that in fact the British tried it and concluded it was next to useless.
Here are a few more exhibits that caught my eye.

A beautiful F-86F Sabre



A Grumman F-14B Tomcat


A Kaman HH-43F Huskie.  I have never seen one of these two rotor helicopters before.  This eliminates the need for a tail rotor.


And here is a beautiful DC3 - the commercial aircraft that bought flying to the general population


I spent a good couple of hours in this great museum.  Heading home I couldn't help thinking about how remarkable us human beings are, to be able to design and build such amazing aircraft.  Unfortunately such contemplation resulted in a lack of concentration and I found myself driving on the left side of the road - normal in the UK but highly dangerous in the US.  After this I pulled into the nearest dunkin store for a coffee and rest.

Already I am getting homesick.  On Thursday morning I will be on English soil again, and this is something I really am looking forward to.


Sunday, 13 February 2011

Saturday in Connecticut

The guys where I am working suggested I drive to the town of Essex in the Middlesex county (with names like this you can see why this is called New England).  They assured me that I would see several types of Eagle.  It's also one of the few American towns invaded by a foreign power - Britain as a matter of fact.  The drive took me about an hour and the general impression was one of whiteness and coldness.  I stayed mostly in the nicely heated car and simply drove around taking in the scenery.  I guess it was too cold for the eagles since I didn't see any.

This pic gives you an idea - it's a lake frozen over.


On a Saturday in England, at least where I live, driving on a Saturday is hectic with the volume of traffic.  Doesn't seem to matter when you drive here in Connecticut, the roads are always fairly light on traffic.  Driving, in other words, is a real pleasure - as long as you do not mind driving on the wrong side of the road.

Getting back to the hotel I watched a bit of television, which is a novelty to me since I don't own one at home.  American TV is what it is, and doesn't do much for me to be honest so I decided to drive to the nearest Barnes and Noble book store - 9 miles away.  I love these book stores.


They are massive.  Once you have found your books you can sit down in the Starbucks located in the store itself, and have a coffee and read.  A great way to spend a bit of the late afternoon.

Some people have asked me about American food.  I can say that anyone who loves food, as I certainly do, will just love the good old US of A.  Food is everywhere.  I fail to see how anyone can go hungry here.  And it's cheap as well.  My hotel is next to a Dunkin store - they specialise in donuts, but having tried their coffee I've since become addicted.  Also I love the Fritos mild cheddar cheese sauce you can get here.  It's so addictive I find myself dipping a finger in during the night for a quick fix.  Here is a pic of my favorite US foods discovered so far.


The Hershey's chocolate beats any Swiss chocolate I've tasted.  The Slim Jim Beef 'n Cheese is a great calorie topper.  The Pringles are not specifically American I guess, but taste superb with the Fritos sauce. 

Right, time for Fritos cheddar fix.