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.


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.


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.