Unpredictability - Good for your health

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

Sunday, 18 March 2012

A year on wheels

It was on a Sunday one year ago that me and the two daughters took a last stroll around the two bedroom flat, located on a Brighton beach front, that had been home for several years.  Or rather, it had been a place to return to on weekends since then I was a business nomad.  Working away during the week and returning to base on the weekend.  The children would stay every second weekend.  The decision to take to wheels was not taken lightly.  Worn out with endless disputes with the lettings company, the energy companies that couldn't even work out what energy meter belonged to my flat, and various other agencies that charged for a service they couldn't provide.  At one point one room was unusable due to a hole in the roof caused by water damage - the building management agency taking way too long to sort it out.  And hemmed in like chickens in a battery farm.  Neighbours living wall to wall - curtain twitching, nosy and fearful: I had had enough.  And for all this I was paying a premium, saving little and working like a horse - it all had to come to an end.

And so it did, as I woke up one Monday with a strange notion of becoming a caravan engineer.  I phoned the company I worked for and gave notice to the termination date.  I wrote to the lettings agency, again giving the termination  date, with some stern repercussions that would result if my deposit was not returned in full.  Three days later I was offered a contract to provide my computer skills as a self employed freelancer.  This was to last three months and the idea was to begin the caravan engineer course after the end of the contract.  But the contract was extended, then extended again, then again, and even now I am doing this contract until the end of April.  And if my previous job could involve seventy hours a week working away from home - this freelancing contract means I complete my fourty hours per week, and can return home by 4.30pm every evening.  Returning to a caravan on a field, where my neighbours are industrious and happy, living an alternative lifestyle.  The caravan engineer idea, alas, will never eventuate.  There would be an investment in various gas fitting and electrical courses and would set me back a fortune - and the work would be seasonal and the remuneration could not match that which I enjoy as a freelance computing engineer.  In retrospect I was burning out.  Now I am re-energised  and happy to continue with the profession I have mostly enjoyed doing for the last fifteen years.  But I will retain the self-employed status for to be a permanent employee is not something I can do gracefully. To work and to earn - free from company politics and managerial work assessments: this is the way for me.


Tuesday, 6 March 2012

What difference a year makes.

Today I paid my credit card bill in full.  I owed a few hundred pounds and I was keen to get that balance down to zero.  After making the transfer via the internet banking portal, I thought it would be interesting to see what my credit card debt amounted to this time last year.  Wait for it - Three thousand whopping pounds!!!  The interest charged alone was fourty pounds for that month.

I have encountered a bit of stigma for living in a caravan.  If I had purchased a live-in boat instead, such prejudice would not have come my way.  But not only have I completely paid my credit bill off, I also own the roof over my head.  No mortgage, no loan - complete ownership.  If I chose to disclose to someone that I live in a caravan - and sense the eye looking down the nose, I only have to consider the options given to me having no mortgage chain around my neck.

For instance, if I became tired of the roof over my head, I could simply go down to the nearest caravan shop and exchange it for a different one that very day.  No selling chain, nor mortgage deal, no real-estate fees, no stamp duty - just a simple transaction no more complicated than buying milk from the supermarket.
Again, if I considered that my location was no longer ideal - then I can simply hitch the trailer to my van and seek a more ideal location.

But so too can I understand why a home that sways in the wind is not for everyone.  For families the space of a house is so very important.  And ofcourse the house is a great investment - a legacy to leave to the children or a future sale to pay for a comfortable retirement.  And also there is the prestige associated with house ownership.  The house is the man's castle, as they say, and for those more tightly integrated into the societal matrix it is important to own something that demonstrates your financial success to friends, family and even foe.  Indeed, whilst driving C's brand new Ford Focus last weekend I myself could feel the allure of being seen in public in such an expensive and luxurious vehicle.  But all these fine things come at a cost and I am happy to forfeit them given that life is so very short and my will is straight and clear - to be happy enough with my life so that I can enjoy the company of loved ones and friends.  To be free from stress and duress. 

But also I can never say never to living in a house again.  There is a land in Wales called Snowdonia where I spent many hours climbing through snow and ice up various mountains.  This land is stunning and it would be a dream to own a house in this part of the world.  And maybe one day this humble nomad will achieve such a dream, although he will, to be sure, always have a camper-van parked in the driveway ready and waiting for, to use a term commonly associated with that great actor Steve McQueen - to be ready and waiting for the Great Escape.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Isle of Wight

After a fairly harsh few weeks of winter weather things began to improve.  C had recently bought a brand new Ford Focus and what better way to celebrate than to shuttle across a few kilometers of water to an island named The Isle Of Wight.

This island has a total land mass of 348 square kilometers and a population of 140,500, although I have no doubt there have been a few deaths and births since wiki was last updated.  As we began the journey to Portsmouth harbour it became clear that this nomadic vehicle was a class act indeed.  Barely could I hear the engine or feel the road.  Like being in a space capsule Ford had effectively created an isolated climate where the outside world could be a dome like television.

Although these modern cars are not for me, I was nevertheless greatly impressed.  How many times do you get to drive a car with this many miles on the speedometer?

I love a first and this was the first time I had entered a ferry with a vehicle.  It is amazing how many cars they can pack into the ship.  After you have driven across the ramp and into the innards of the ship you are advised to exit the car and go upstairs to where the cafe and seating is.

The interior had seen better days, which added to the charm of this top level viewing zone.  I have spent too many hours on various forms of transport - trains and planes mainly.  Always I would feel like a contained wild animal in them since I could neither walk around or have a cigarette.  Thankfully I quit the nicotine well over a year ago.  I liked it here in this ferry since there was plenty of space to walk around and you could even go outside and have a cigarette on the viewing deck, or in my case, go outside and have a passive cigarette on the viewing deck.  On this point I am pleased to announce that C has recently given up the smoking, and now she gets by with those patches that feed nicotine into the body in a controlled manner.

We arrived at a port called Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight and drove to our Premier Inn hotel located next to a quay and only a mile away from Newport town.  Our room was purple as most Premier Inn hotels are, and we had a nice view over a stretch of water.  I was particularly impressed with this aquatic nomadic home.

It was then time to partake in the nomad's favourite activity - exploration.  This time I hopped into the driver's seat of the new Focus and drove us to a seaside town named Sandown to the east of the island.  There is something strange about a holiday town in winter.  It is as if the town has gone to sleep - into hibernation storing up energy in preparation for the tourist madness of the summer months.  This place had a stunning beach and the inevitable amusement pier.

British folk will spend a fortune going to France or Spain or Italy - yet here on their own doorstep exist comparable beaches.  Surprisingly the pier was open, although there were few punters for the many fruit machines.

After this we drive back to Newport and take to foot and explore the town.  It is a pleasant place and we have that feeling of being on foreign soil even though this is a town as British as they come.  We had lunch in The Castle Inn which is, apparently haunted - a photograph being taken of a hanging ghost in June 2006. You can see the creepy photo here.

Castle Inn hanging ghost

Thankfully we didn't see any ghosts although the place did have that cold feeling about it.  This was probably due to the owners not lighting the open fire more than anything else.

The evening is spent having a three course meal in the restaurant next to the hotel.  This was included in the hotel rate and very good value indeed.  And so was the full breakfast next morning - although C was sorry she hadn't followed my lead and ordered the poached eggs.  She had decided on the fried selection in the buffet section and I don't know about you, but a hard yolk doesn't cut it with me.  Indeed I felt sorry for C and was almost going to offer her one of my poached, but I couldn't bring myself to do it - far too tasty to give away.

We decided to leave a few hours early.  Arriving back at Fishbourne there were no other cars waiting for the ferry.  Since we had booked a later shuttle, the man said we could go on standby but would have to forfeit the later reservation.  No cars in view so I considered it not a problem.  Half an hour later the park was full of cars waiting to board and we were nervous we would be stranded all day waiting for a position.  But we did manage a place on the ship - and we were greatly relieved.

So that was my weekend and it was a pleasant break indeed.