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.

Monday, 31 December 2012

Ryde - Isle of Wight

Christmas day had passed and I was glad it was over.  Once again I had been living the solitary life and I had no inclination to indulge in the gathering that is your traditional Christmas experience.  For me these were days of long walks along muddy paths.  It rained almost continuously and I almost became concerned the caravan might float away.

My mind was at a low ebb and to shake myself out of it I decided to do something nomads like to do.  I decided on a trip.  It would be Ryde on the Isle of Wight.  I would take the van and so get an experience of taking the van on a ferry.  I wanted to do this in preparation for a future camping trip on the European continent.

I booked a decent enough hotel and also booked the ferry crossing from Portsmouth to Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight. Docking the old van into the vessel was fairly easy.  It was a bit of a squeeze but thankfully no vehicles either side of the van were scratched.

Ryde is a seaside town with a population of 30000.  It has some impressive beaches but you wouldn't be using any sun block this time of the year.  The sands are expansive and so at low tide a long pier is required to shuttle passengers over the beach.  The pier is the fourth longest in the UK.

After checking in at the hotel I took a wander around the town and snapped a few pics.

I was happy to find Pete Goss's book Close to the Wind in the book shop shown above.  

The wind blew with vigour and the air was wet with drizzle, but I did enjoy this stroll around the seaside resort town.  I was happy to be in a new environment and I could feel the frame of my being strengthening with each step and with each mile.  It is a wonderful thing for us nomads, simply to explore new towns and new villages.

I had arranged to meet a lady I had made contact with on an internet dating site.  I held a sceptical view about these dating sites, but I joined one at the prompting of my sister.  I had accepted being single as something permanent - given the nature of my life there was significant rationale behind this acceptance.

I met the lady at a coffee shop and purchased the drinks.  We sat down and chatted while sipping the coffee.  I let her know almost straight away about my strange life, living in a caravan mixed with various stretches of camper van dwelling.  There is significant prejudice around this way of life so it made sense to be upfront about it.  To my surprise she didn't flinch at the news and actually described it as "cool".  A strange term I thought for this odd way of living but I guess I wouldn't enjoy it if there was not something slightly chic about it.

After chatting with the lady a while it occurred to me that she was both attractive and intelligent and the conversation was rather interesting.  After the coffee we took a stroll around the town - so for me this was a second acquaintance with Ryde.  It was a pleasurable afternoon and we agreed to meet up in the evening for a meal in an Italian restaurant.

After the meal and taking yet another stroll around the town with the lady - an idea came into my mind that seemed to make some sense.  I thought to myself, if two people are attracted to each other intellectually, emotionally and physically then this must be a decent enough formula to a romance.  And so to my surprise this rather random meeting did indeed resolve itself into a romance which extended across the entire weekend.

The next day the lady took me in her car on a tour around the entire island.  We stopped at a couple of locations for coffee and some snacks and it was a very pleasurable day.  I was particularly impressed by a natural collection of protruding rocks known as the Needles.

Both a theme park and a restaurant were located here.  The rides in the park were closed but the tannoy fair ground tape was still playing.  So it felt odd to be prompted to take this ride or that ride when all the rides were closed.  Almost like being in a ghosted fair ground.  The restaurant was open and here we had lunch before continuing with our journey around the island.

The next day I drove the old van back to Fishbourne and boarded the ferry.  This was a pleasurable weekend.  I felt once again, my normal self returning.  It is a remarkable thing how sometimes the solution to a complex dilemma can be rather simple.  A simple trip across a stretch of sea.  A liaison with a stranger.  A stroll around a town.

Peace to All

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Derby life

It did take a few hours to drive the 180 miles to Derby, but the roads were clear and once again this old van gave me no mechanical concerns.  As reliable as a Swiss watch, this old Ford Transit van must be one of best investments in the last few years.  I had booked a pitch on a farm site with an electrical hook up and a view of grass and trees and a dark sky.  The winter season has began and it was no surprise finding myself the only camper on site.  There is always a feeling of intrigue and excitement when approaching time on an unknown site.  You will wonder at what the facilities will be like, or how your fellow campers will be or any other of the unknown there may be.

If anything stood out as something defining for this site, it was the proximity to a busy airport and the associated sounds of jets taking off and landing not too far above the camper's roof.  After settling my van into the pitch I made a mental note to bring my radio scanner on the next week, so that I could tune into the air traffic control frequencies.  The site was also quite dark - something I appreciate as light at night is a form of pollution.  It did mean wearing my head torch as I strolled around examining the facilities.  The showers facilities looked great, although I thought one pound for a five minute shower a bit excessive.  This did include, however, a nice electric blower heater to take the chill out of the air.

The next day I arrived at my place of work.  It was a huge manufacturing company and thankfully plenty of places to park my van.  I met up with my colleagues and there was the usual panic in the air since various servers were not working as expected.  Nothing here out of the usual.  The routine approach is to remove the stress from the air.  It is done by by asking a series of questions in succession to prove a level of know how necessary to remove the burden of a solution from the colleagues' shoulders.  This is how we do it - and it is nothing special but something that is learnt from many years in the field.

The thing is once this little technique is mastered, you become someone wanted in many places.  And so I get the call to return to London to look at another issue.  Incredible.  So the next morning I was up at 5.00 to get on a taxi to take me to Derby station.    The train into London was high quality and the trip very comfortable.

Disembarking at London St Pancreas station I was very impressed.  Much work had gone into improving this station since the last time I was here, a good eight years ago.  I was in a rush so this picture was taken on the run.  A bit blurry.

A day in London and a long trip back to Derby.  The taxi had to take a few detours due to flooding on the road network.  Into the van and into bed.

This morning I trek through the mud to the washing block with my pound card and get myself sorted.  On returning to the van I realise I need to get a shirt ironed.  There is no room for an ironing board in the van so I have to use the floor.  I had recently bought an iron from Tescos for a ridiculously cheap price - but it seemed to work fine.

And this is a little insight into my crazy life as it is; combining the hippy like existence of the van dweller with the modern world of the IT consultant. And now it is time for me to disconnect the Electric hook up and drive the ten miles to the great big office in the great big manufacturing plant. I hope you all have a great day.

Peace to All

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Endings and Beginnings

It would be a pleasant world if all our months were full of joy, success and creativity.  Unfortunately these last few weeks have been dark and depressing indeed.

The romance with the Swiss lady evaporates, or was put into suspension. This was all very depressing. To 'S', if you read this blog - I want to say thank you for the short but sweet time we had together.

And in this month of endings - I was expecting to hear back from some business in Switzerland I had spent several months trying to secure.  It was all going so well, and having had friends already working at the location - I was receiving the best feedback.  And it was all just to be a matter of time and I would be working in Switzerland.  Then the company decided for this role to use internal resources.  Hopes dashed.  I had even found an apartment in a place called Crissier.  It was a small little apartment but looked very nice.  It would have been a challenge for this nomad to be living in the bricks again - so as an escape route I had even located a camping site to pitch the camper.  This was all disappointing on an epic scale.  There still may be some options here though.  And I can feel a magnet pulling me once again to some continental work.

But it is not all doom and gloom.  On this day a former manager of mine, rang the phone and spoke of some very interesting work that is within a cycle commute from the van on the field.  Perfect.  So I am waiting to hear back about this.  If this falls through, then I will be loading that camper up once again, and taking to the open road.

Peace to All

Saturday, 3 November 2012


My Swiss friend has the DNA of the Luxembourger in her genes and since she had access to a vacant apartment we decided to drive from England to Switzerland and stop in Luxembourg for a couple of days.

I booked the Friday off work and we drove to Dover and boarded the Ferry.  After driving into the insides of the boat, we vacated the car and explored the vessel.  It was a cold overcast day, as can be seen from these photographs.

It was a choppy channel and quite interesting to walk on deck keeping balance as the ship rolled through the waves.

After arriving in France we drove for several hours, reaching our destination of Remich in Luxembourg, without any mishaps.  Our accommodation was interesting.  A very old building, once a convent, converted into a number of flats.  Our room was on the lower floor and it didn't take long to make the beds and get our gear sorted.  We had dinner at a restaurant around the corner.  This was a chance to examine the Luxembourger and I was impressed by their sense of presentation.  Nicely dressed, groomed and mannered to a fault - the Luxembourger exudes pride and elegance .  And the food was very nice.

In the morning we drove to a bakery with a cafe section and ordered breakfast.  It would be worth visiting Luxembourg for their food alone.  The breakfast, consisting of an omelette and bread and cheese and ham, was delicious.  My friend ordered a cup of hot chocolate which really did taste of the highest quality chocolate. 

The capital city of Luxembourg is known simply as Luxembourg city.   The weather was bitingly cold and thankfully I was able to purchase a jumper from a C and A store for a reasonable price.  Luxembourg is a country of wealth and the Luxembourgers like to spend their money on fine clothes.  You would want to save your pennies before embarking on a shopping spree here.  

We took an open top bus tour of the city.  

The bus driver supplied us with a headphone set each and we could plug this into the sound system and listen to an informative lecture on the importance of each of the buildings passed.  It was all very interesting.

After the bus tour, and walking through the streets, I was delighted to see a caravan camouflaged as a camera.

The next day we scraped the ice off the windscreen and drove the rest of the way into Switzerland.  And being October it was a surprise to be driving through a land of settled snow.

It is a privilege and a good fortune for this nomad to have added yet another country to his resume of places visited.  Would I return here once more?  Yes, without a doubt.

Peace to All

Monday, 8 October 2012

London - back in the Hot Zone

The assignment in Huddersfield had finally come to an end and so the consulting manager told me about another engagement based in the heart of London.  I must admit to feeling a little dispirited about this, since I had made it clear that working in London was something I did seek to avoid.  But now they were paying me for my services, whether I was assigned to a client or not - so I was obliged to accept the engagement.  To be under the orders again was something I had not clearly thought through before accepting this new role of the Associate Contractor - the role of the self employed contractor, on the one hand, and the as-if full time employee, on the other.  With me this could not sit with comfort but thankfully my contract is only till Christmas - and when something is disagreeable and only temporary, we can almost enjoy the situation: almost as if it was agreeable and permanent.  Also, it meant I could return home to my caravan each night and indeed this is a luxury for the consultant - even if your home is a cabin on wheels.   And next week my Swiss girlfriend will be in England – yes this nomad now has a girlfriend – and I shall be in a position to meet up with the Swiss lady every night for a fortnight.  So all this really is very good indeed.
And so I arose on the Monday morning from my slumber at the dark hour of half five.  The rain patted the caravan's roof as I made myself a strong coffee and prepared for the journey into the heart of one of the most important commercial capitals in the world.  I walked to the station and stepped into the train. Thankfully there were many spare seats and I sat down. 
As we approached closer to London these seats were taken, and then the commuters were standing.  As I sat there throwing my eye at this person and that person - observing the stress and the fatigue of a life whose grimace is the currency of the city commuter, I thought back on the changes in my life over the last year and a bit. 
No longer chained into this life of bills and conferences and queues and delays, I could at least appreciate that there was some worth in it all.  The caravan and the camper and a life with little in the way of the material - all this was both a reduced and an enhanced life.  It allowed me to see things from a different angle - and I was, to be sure, a much happier man.
And these were my thoughts as I commuted into the heart of London. Like a character in a Dostoyevsky novel I seemed to be both in the world and out of it.  As I shook the hands of those to whom I was introduced, as I looked into their eyes and held my smile, it was as if I was welcoming them into my world as much as I was being inducted into their world.
And I would like to leave the readers with some images of a life given to working in the centre of the city at the centre of the financial world.

Sunday, 9 September 2012


It was a return to Switzerland for the final few days of my holiday sabbatical.  There is something very comforting about Switzerland - a synthesis perhaps of the order, the stunning nature and a people blessed with intelligence and an appreciation of rules and governance.  I always enjoy a trip to Switzerland.  This time the lady I was staying with suggested I take a trip to a lake in the canton of Fribourg called Schwarzee.  This was to be a pleasant hike, only taking an hour but with some stunning views.

It was a surprise indeed to look up and see this dragon staring down with glowing red eyes and spitting water.

I was surprised to encounter this camping site.  You can see that the holiday homes are wooden chalets rather than the typical static caravan encountered in British camping sites.  There were various caravans and I could see that some of these were residential.  Even here in Switzerland, there will be nomads enjoying an alternative living environment.

Now in this blog of mine I have discussed various aspects of life as it is, for the nomad.  One thing I have not discussed is the dressing requirements for this sort of life.  As you can imagine, it is a pointless thing to invest in expensive designer clothing.  It is better to wear clothing that is tough, does not require ironing, will expel mud easily and is easy fitting.

And the lady of the house, in which I was residing put her eye to my dress sense and decided to take me shopping.  This was an interesting experience for me.  Being generally the master of my own time and maker of my own fashion regime - to have the Swiss lady walk around picking jeans and shirts and jumpers off the shelf.  Well this feeling was very unusual indeed.

As I stood there waiting for the lady to return with another size and item - as I stood there with another guiding the things in my life: I could see in my mind's eye a life that was changing.  This life of mine, the life of the solitary nomad; I could see all of this changing and changing for something special indeed.  I do not know what in my life's journey altered to make all this possible - but if life can seem full of angst and stress at any given moment; I can suggest a view to look beyond the despair.  Change and despair and change and joy - in this trajectory through life all is possible.

Peace to All

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Majorca - a week in the sun

I had agreed to take my two daughters, and my eldest daughter's best friend to Spain for a week.  I had previously been to the island of Menorca and also the Costa Del Sol.  And to use a well known saying - they offered "what was written on the can".  Sun, sand, water and heat.  This party of ours demanded plenty of hours of swimming and baking in the sun.  As for myself, I prefer to get about and do some hiking and also plenty of reading.  The holiday consultant recommended Majorca and so this is where we went.  I could see the potential for hiking on this island since our resort in Cala Bona was surrounded by interesting hills.  Here is a view from our hotel room.

Being responsible for the children, I could not really do any hiking.  I would walk around for half an hour or so in the morning before the children awoke.

The flights, both there and back, were to be early flights - 6 am.  So it was a very early start for us last Sunday morning.  Now the wakening of the children, or rather the difficulty in doing so, was to be a recurring theme throughout the holiday.  For myself, there is no problem since I cannot just lie in bed half awake.  I will eagerly jump out of bed and get moving.  But it was different for the girls.  I would resort to all sorts of tricks to get them out of bed - switching the lights on and making plenty of noise.  I decided not to hire a car - and so for most activities booked we would have to get on a coach at a specific time.  On the Thursday I had booked quite an expensive outing to a theme park called AquaLand.  We came rather close to missing this because of the wakeup factor.  I had booked the hotel on a half board basis, so breakfast and evening dinners were included.  Still, on some days it would be close to 10 am before I was able to get the kids out of bed.  When you have prepaid for food, you certainly want to make sure it is eaten.

I was very impressed by the hotel.  It was called the Catalonia Consul hotel.   The place was kept immaculately clean.

The food was fine, the hotel room's view stunning, and the swimming facilities kept in good order.  There were plenty of activities such as water aerobics, darts, and billiards throughout the day to keep the kids happy.  The pool area also had a kiosk serving good food at a reasonable price.  The sea view was really appreciated, along with the terrace.  In the evening I could sit down and read my book while the kids did their own thing.  Here is another view from the terrace.

Just a side note on the reading material.  One of the books I read was titled "Black Box - Inside the World's Worst Air Crashes", by Nicholas Faith.  This was a fascinating insight into the work of air accident investigators. If you do decide to include this book in your holiday reading list then please do read it while in transit on your twenty year old charter plane - it simply adds another dimension to the reading experience, and more so indeed when the plane hits some turbulence.

On the Monday I booked a Catamaran experience.  The girls were not initially overjoyed with this, but once we got under-way they soon got into the spirit of things.  It was relaxing and nice to view underneath the water from inside one of the catamaran's side hulls.

It was also nice to view the coast from the sea itself.

At one point the Captain stopped the ship so that we could all enter the water for a bit of a paddle.  The ship had two slides allowing easy access to the sea.  As for myself, I am a bit of a diver - so enjoyed catapulting myself from the ship's side, head first and arms outstretched.  When you learn the art of diving, you never loose it.

The ship also half entered an interesting cave.  We all got our cameras out to capture the moment.

As previously mentioned, another booked excursion was to AquaLand.   The was an hour's drive from the resort.  

I enjoyed some of the many water slides on offer.  And really the weather was so hot, it was great to be able to spend the day in bathers cooling off when required in one of the many pools.  For the most part however for me the time was spent finishing off the second book I had taken way with me.  "Tales of the GYPSY Dressmaker" by Thelma Madine.  This is not the sort of book I would normally read, not having a great fascination with dresses - but I do find the Gypsy culture fascinating.  And this book offered a great insight into the meaning of the wedding in Gypsy culture.  The writer herself has had a fascinating life - having at one point been sent to prison for claiming benefits while working.  The experience was so traumatic she decided to turn her life around completely.  So she made her dress making business a complete success and is also a television celebrity since the "Big Fat Gypsy Wedding" series was produced.  I have never seen this programme but have been informed it is worth watching.

The return trip was rather exhausting, having to be up at 1.00 am.  We flew back with an airline called Orbest.  The flying experience on these charter flights is very different to the business trips I am used to.  On the flight to Majorca, the passengers actually clapped the captain for the landing.  For the passengers, ofcourse, a flight is a rare thing in this instance, and the whole experience was very interesting to them.  When you take a typical trip where the plane is full of business workers, there is little that is different from taking a train trip during midweek peak hours.  It was quite a shock arriving back in Great Britain.  Without the heat and the sun, and with the cloud and the cold - we all had to endure that depressing feeling of life returning to the normal.  But for me, still having another week's holiday, I could start thinking about the next trip.  A return back to Switzerland.  Yes there is a good deal of travelling for this nomad on this holiday sabbatical -  but what is a nomad, if not a traveller by nature?  

Peace to All 

Monday, 20 August 2012

Switzerland - the mountain and the lady

At just over 2000 meters high Hochmatt is a good deal higher than any mountain you will find on the British Isles.  The alpine route to the top was magnificent.  Rated for climbers only, but on such a fine cloudless day with plenty of heat in the air and little wind, this was something exotic indeed for the seasoned hiker.  Without crampons, ropes and axes, such a climb during winter would be very dangerous indeed.

My guide on this mountain was a lady I shall call "S".  Having spent many years in Switzerland, and indeed a resident of the country, she was familiar to many interesting mountain hikes in the Alpine region.  In the past she had guided me across the base of a famous mountain known as the Eiger - perhaps the most memorable hiking trip of them all.  So she was the perfect guide to commission for this little adventure, and being a best friend also, meant slipping the big daily rates some guides will charge.

In Switzerland, the hikes tend to be easier to follow since various code flags will be painted at milestone points along the route.  Providing these are not covered by snow navigation is very straightforward.  At the start of the hike "S" took us on a shortcut which involved a scramble up a very steep hill face.  At one point the only way to keep going was to crawl through the trees gripping one branch after another.  Another group from below observed our progress and when they later passed us, cast praise on our extreme alpinist skills.  There was perhaps some humour behind this praise.

You can see, at about half way along the route, the stunning views- a feast for the eyes.

This gully was very steep and we rested half way up under some welcoming shade.

To get to this stage involved some very steep hiking, and with the 30 degree heat, this was very taxing indeed.  Here is where the real fun begins.  A stretch of boulders followed by a steep rocky trail with sheer face drops on either side.

 And after three hours of exertion, we arrive at the summit.  You can see the sheep hiding from the sun.

Hochmatt is located in the canton of Fribourg.  My history contains various connections to Switzerland, having lived and worked in this picturesque country for quite a few years.  And Fribourg?  Every nomad will have in his resume of places visited - somewhere that can't be put to rest and nor can it be confronted for one final last time.  So Fribourg remains what it is - somewhere this nomad avoids and doesn't avoid.

And of-course the reason is the crystal and the crystal is the woman herself - the guide.  Is it folly to look back into the past at an affection derailed by circumstance and by diminished luck?  I decided to look back; and if the future's focal point wandered like a kite in the wind - I could at least envision a connecting line between the two of them.  This time I held the woman's hand and it didn't flinch.  And so for this weekend at least, the quiet solitude of this nomad was laid aside.

And soon another adventure begins.  The plan is to be taking the children to an island located in the Mediterranian sea - Majorca.  Sea side holidays are really not my sort of thing, but it is for the children.  With all the heat, the sea, the sand and the pools - hopefully the children will find all this enjoyable and worth while.

The daily Hike

When your abode during the week is a camper van, it is a good idea to engage in some activities that will take you away from this confinement.  For me, surrounded by the stunning Pennine landscapes, hiking seemed the obvious thing to do.  Hiking is great.  Some of the benefits:

1) Relieves the stress of the day in the office.
2) Burns off calories and helps keep the weight down.
3) As with all activities, there will be a fitness and health dividend.
4) It is less stressful on the body's bones and tendons than running; and providing the route taken is not too adventurous you are unlikely to encounter any mishap.

Some hikers will never repeat a hike, but for me, situated at this campsite in Marsden - a great five mile hike was right on my doorstep.  Pule Hill. And I repeated it every evening. Here are some pics along the path.

The cross is a memorial to the soldiers that served during World War 2 with the Duke of Wellington's West riding regiment.

There are several air shafts along this hiking route.  Underneath the hill run four tunnels, one of them being a canal tunnel.  If you follow the route down from this cross you will come to the Standedge visitor centre and you can explore the tunnel by taking a tour.

Standedge Tunnel and Visitor Centre

And now my time in Huddersfield has come to an end.  The contract was extended until the funds were depleted.  There is some relief to be free of the great Northern trip every weekend.  The nice thing about working with computers is that there always seems to be more work around the corner.  The client of the consulting company offered me a contract.  And it became an option to move my caravan to Huddersfield and completely relocate.  But the contract was only verbal and there was a failure in the administration.  Meanwhile the consulting company asked me to work for them as, what they call, an "associate contractor".  This means that I work as if I am an employee, but still retain my contractor's rate and self employed status.  So now I have ongoing employment, and even when not assigned to a client, my rate is still paid.  On the other hand, I have to go and work wherever I am needed, within reason.  There is a possibility I will be working in Scotland.  I am hoping this will be the case since there is some great hiking to be done there, and I have always found the Scots to be a fun and friendly people.  I will soon find out where my next assignment will be.  But now I am free from the commitment to work for three weeks.  My holiday time begins and there are some nomadic adventures planned.

Peace to All