Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Great Pack Debacle

So here I am, sat on the freecycle sofa in a front room that is still full of boxes and things to be taken, on Monday evening, and with just as many questions left unanswered about the packing as I had on Sunday morning. Indeed I could probably say that I have many more questions than that simple, innocent time.
 
A putting bubble wrap around the extractor fan
A putting bubble wrap around the extractor fan
We were up at 8am Saturday morning feeling rested (I had slept better again) and I got started straight away on the task at hand which was to fit everything into Harrison. The first thing I started on was removing the hinges and handles from the doors of the kitchen units; the fitter had done a pretty good job packing the units up but these little details weren’t done and it was clear that they would both risk being damaged and take up more space than needed if all these bits were still on. I got them all removed while A headed to the shop to get some super strong black bags to act as additional packing around the unit packages. When she got back we finished off wrapping up the delicate items in the smaller bubbled bubble wrap and stacked it all carefully, ready for putting on the van.
 
How the back of the van looked in the morning
How the back of the van looked in the morning
The night before I had done a few bits and pieces in boxes in the space above the driver and then wedged the top of the desk behind the cooker to provide a bulwark against them all falling out. The plan called for the two seater sofa to go on its end next to the cooker and act as a continuation of this wall and A was a superwoman as usual and between us we managed to manhandle it from the front room and put it in place. With this done I slotted a few bits and pieces in the gap behind the sofa (like the all steel spade and a few of the packs of railway track) and then we were ready for the next step.
 
Strong woman with wood
Strong woman with wood
On the left, in front of the upright two seater, the place was to have the scaffolding planks stacked up as wide as a sofa and then to put the three seater on top of them. These had, as you know, been stacked up in the backroom on the Thursday evening by my work colleagues and now A proved once again her super woman status by carrying them through to me to put into Harrison. There were only a very few that were still so wet they were too heavy to carry for her and she did such a cracking job. Shortly after I took this picture she was getting irritated that I wasn’t ready to take the board from her. Ooooops.
 
Planks loaded its time for a brew and then the straps
Planks loaded its time for a brew and then the straps
It probably only took us about half an hour or so to get them all through though I forced a couple of rests. The strictest rule of the day was never to work too hard; to do what you could and then rest before you felt completely shattered. It worked in the main and we kept our energy up well. With the stack built, four wide and six high, I hooked on the straps which would be used to secure the sofa and fridge freezer which would be stacked on top next. We then managed to lift the sofa into place and finally A exerted herself to raise the fried freezer and position it on top of the sofa. We had to do this a couple of times as at first it was pushing the arm rests in a bad way so we took it off and put the backs of the sofa between so it would actually be resting on them and not the arms. This worked well.
 
Bacon and egg for me, peanut butter for her
Bacon and egg for me, peanut butter for her
By this time (9.20 am) I was starting to get a bit hungry so I went in to make a fry up. A wasn’t in the mood for a full bacon and egg butty so I made her some toast which she covered in a huge amount of peanut butter. We sat down with a brew and rested and ate with pleasure. We had reached a point where it would be nice to have Loz arrive soon but were not expecting him for another half an hour or so.
 
I look happy; I'm actually in pain
I look happy; I'm actually in pain
After the rest I felt good enough to make a start carrying the scaffolding poles round from the back garden to stack up on the drive next to Harrison, preparatory to loading them. A pulled Thomas out and across the driveway so I had space and then I set to. I did a load, then rested with a brew, then went out and did a load more and pretty quickly actually they were all out the front, in organised piles, and ready for putting Loz to get there to help stack them on the right hand side of the van. Towards the end of this process, after having had gorgeous clear weather all morning, it started to snow and shortly after that this turned to rain which set in for the rest of the day; not ideal packing weather and quite annoying as it would mean the scaffolding poles were soaked in Harrison. Never mind, there was nothing we could do about that.
 
Loz watching as I strap up the stacked items
Loz watching as I strap up the stacked items
I had been watching my phone but not that closely, to see if Loz has text, but when he arrived he said he had got lost and it was only then I noticed his messages. Stupid me, if I had seen them he would have arrived earlier and could have helped me move the scaffold. We set him straight to work passing a few boxes into the van to fill some gaps and then we dragged the two huge awnings for S and S and balanced them atop the fridge freezer before finally getting the straps and securing the whole lot against toppling over.
 
A large amount of steel piled up
A large amount of steel piled up
After this there was a short break (quite early in the piece for Loz but I was ready for one after my exertions with the scaffold) and then we went back outside and we put the whole scaffold into the back of the van without taking a break. The weather was getting horrendous by this point and poor Loz (he is from Spain, and he lives for the sun) was stuck out in it getting soaked through passing up pole after pole. We worked very well together, however, and the stack was perfect once we had completed the whole job. It was exactly as I envisaged, including three of the black-sacked kitchen units filling the gaps under the poles. The process of putting the units into the black sacks had been ongoing while we were loading the scaffold as A was working away like a Trojan to get it done for us.
 
Very proud of having packed everything in Harrison
Very proud of having packed everything in Harrison
Once we had loaded all the scaffold it was time for everything else and we kept at it with the same routine of a burst of activity, then sit down for a breather. In one of these breaks we had cake (as promised to Loz to reimburse him for his time) and this was a really tasty way to rest. Things stacked in nicely and exactly as I had planned, with the bubble wrapped kitchen doors sliding between the edge of the scaffold poles and the side of the van exactly as I envisaged. The knackered old mattress top laid nicely over the top of those same poles and acted to support the bits of kitchen unit and other stuff that was stuffed down the middle of the van. We lifted the two single seaters on top of the mattress then I carefully put some of the more delicate items on them packed down with the cushions and finally the bookshelf was secured with a strap, the office chair was stashed in and we were done. Look at how pleased and proud we look. What an awesome achievement!
 
The tyre pressing against the bodywork
The tyre pressing against the bodywork
Very low on its suspension
Very low on its suspension
Everything fit in and there was even space for Rambo at the front. Harrison was at a very slight tilt from not being quite balanced but we had largely solved that by shifting some of the scaffold to the other side of the vehicle. It was only when I reversed him back towards the house so he wasn’t sticking out across the pavement that the big issue became glaringly obvious. I heard a really nasty squealing sound and pretty much immediately guessed what the problem was; the wheels were rubbing on the bodywork. This is not good; at any speed at all we would be facing two blow outs – they were touching both sides.

What a disaster.
 
Metal poles removed and van repacked; still too heavy
Metal poles removed and van repacked; still too heavy
The day turned from a “we’ve finished by 1.30 pm and fit everything in isn’t it wonderful” success into a sudden “Oh no what are we going to do!” problem. The whole point of buying Harrison was to take this scaffolding back with us and now it looked like we wouldn’t be able to. Or rather, it looked like that was ALL we would be able to take. I pulled him back forwards very carefully so we could lower the tail lift easily again and looked at it, then we went inside for a cup of tea; such an English solution but it really does help. After sitting staring at the wall for a bit I decided that we would just have to take the scaffold back out and the rebalance the wood across the floor and see where we got to. It took an hour to do this, with Loz passing the poles out and me carrying them to the back garden. Again. Afterwards we did the rebalance and found that with the sofa and fridge freezer the suspension was still very low and there would be no chance of getting the kitchen in.
 
I've eaten all the chocolates and now I've collapsed
I've eaten all the chocolates and now I've collapsed
And so it was quite a dispirited group who sat down for a rest inside and waited for the awesome lasagne to be ready. This lasagne was the second part of the promise to Loz in return for his assistance and he was a star all day; with the mistake with the load weight we would have been totally screwed without him; it was only getting so much done so quickly (and to be fair myself and A starting so early) that meant we had time to rearrange things before it got dark. I had been wolfing down chocolates all afternoon as my plan to finish early and relax all afternoon fell apart but the lasagne went down so very well even if I was too tired to eat a huge amount.

So we were left trying to work out what to do. We had taken the metal poles out and also the actual units for the kitchen with only the kitchen doors packed and still there was very little space around the tyres in case of bumps or potholes; a serious issue for the roads we would be driving on. There appeared to be loads of space above each wheel for the suspension it was just the actual body work curved round and across in above the outer tyre meaning the rub occurred. I had the idea of getting a hacksaw blade and cutting the fibreglass away inside above each wheel so there would not be a problem should the suspension compress but this felt like a bit of a risky proposition. Who knew but maybe this design of the bodywork was there to prevent you overloading the vehicle and, if it was overloaded, that could cause problems on the journey if we were asked to go on a weighbridge.

After Loz headed off I went into the bath and soaked in super hot water with loads of Radox muscle relaxant, a pint of beer, and a good book and stayed there for about an hour, topping it up every now and then when the temperature dropped. I really needed to do this. I was by this time feeling really foolish about the whole exercise. I had decided that we would have scaffold to take back and then gone and bought Harrison to take the scaffold back and then collected other things which we now wanted just as much as the scaffold like the sofas and the cooker and the kitchen and now it looked like the original plan, to take scaffold back with us, was a bust.

When I got out of the bath A was asleep on the sofa and so I joined her and we started talking about our options. We discussed getting a trailer (I had decided on Friday night that if everything didn’t fit physically we would just get a trailer to be brought over when I drive on my own) but finding one that was big enough to take the scaffold poles and kichen units however we were still left with the fact the suspension was low and we’d need to cut out above the wheels to prevent blowouts at speed. Then the talk turned to the discarded plan to get a cherry picker and I realised that the attempt to avoid having another trailer had put me into a tunnel vision where I refused to consider all other options. I had a lovely chat with my parents on the phone towards the end of the evening and they told me the same thing, and while we chatted about the potential of them driving with me with the trailer it wouldn’t really work out as their time is limited and driving across Europe twice would mean that they’d only get about a week in between.

Today I searched for cherry pickers for sale in Bulgaria (as of today there were eleven on a well known website in the entire country) and then turned to Greece and I found one about 350km from the Old School and at a reasonable price. I cast around in my mind for someone who speaks Greek and thought of my mate Stu who immediately rang the guy and found he spoke English so I rang him back. It was a strange conversation where he refused to do a cash on delivery deal, but would be very happy to deliver if I came to have a look at it first. I have left it that I will ring him when we arrive and maybe drive over to view it then, with him delivering it as well.
 
The load waiting for Loz to help remove the planks
The load waiting for Loz to help remove the planks
So after all that it looks like I need to sell this scaffold I was so excited about and of course this means that the boards need to come out of Harrison; yet more packing is to be done. This evening as soon as I got back from the office we sorted out the kitchen units into the front room then unloaded the light stuff from the back of Harrison. Loz, bless him, is going to come past again tomorrow evening to give us a lift off of the planks and assist moving the sofa  and fridge/freezer again. Hopefully with all the scaffold out we can manage to get everything else in, weight wise, but if not I’ll just be left with some kitchen units to go into Thomas for my drive which is not a hardship; we’ll be focusing on the bulky items not the heavy ones tomorrow.


I’ll leave it there now and either update what happens tomorrow (today as you’re reading this) at the weekend or maybe if it is another saga you’ll get another “out of band” update this week. Aren’t you lucky lucky people.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Lots of activites with friends

What a week last week was! I know that every week has been really busy but last week took the biscuit. I hope the next two are a bit less busy but knowing me/us they will be just as full of stuff happening as the past ones have. I'm splitting this blog post up into two as the packing element deserves its own section (it was epic enough for sure) so let's try and go back to the beginning of last week and remember what happened.

Packing the most important things into a suitcase
Packing the most important things into a suitcase
Monday... I remember Monday. It was a day in the office working away and the beginning of the last week of working with Lee (which is a great shame). I don't really remember much about the day but the evening was super memorable in that we watched a film and then I got to spend 40 minutes on the phone to my oldest friend. He reads this blog regularly which was great to know, and remembered a fair few of the words I'd taught him the last time we spoke so "Well done Wardy!", and love to Ira. Other than that there was some progress made in packing as A packed a load more of her clothes into the smaller suitcase and I gathered together the jam jars and put them into small boxes with lots of bubble wrap around them.

Tuesday was curry day. We went to the place I had the Curry Cooking Course last year, with Kirsty (who did the course with me) and his Mrs. We were there a bit early, having driven and parked near our old flat and then walked very slowly across town; slowly as A's slightly tight hamstring had got much more painful over the past few days. We were shown to a table and finally managed to get a waiter to take our drink order (the first just shrugged and walked off when we asked for a beer) and after a while we were joined by Kirsty and Viv and settled down to the serious business of working out what we wanted to order. It was quickly established that this time we wouldn't order the brains which was a shame as I wanted A to try them, but the order that we put together ended up being amazing. We had five starters which we shared, and then five mains along with rice and naan and everything we had was amazing. It was a brilliant evening. I didn't take any pictures unfortunately so you'll just have to take my word for it.

"Look at my bird!"
"Look at my bird!"
The very proud chef
The very proud chef
Smoked Turkey with apples
Smoked Turkey with apples
Slightly cremated carrots and parsnips
Slightly cremated carrots and parsnips
Stuffing on the plates waiting for the rest
Stuffing on the plates waiting for the rest
The magic moment of carving
The magic moment of carving
On Wednesday was the long awaited Smoked Turkey Fest which was originally booked for New Years Day and then a few weeks after that and both times put off by a lack of smokable turkey but finally the beast was defrosted and had been brined since the night before and Lee had set it cooking so when we arrived we could smell the smoke out the front as we were getting out of the car. As per usual we were a bit early but it was nice to sit and play with Tiger (the dog) and chat to Lee as he fussed about and did the final preparations. A had provided the stuffing which was cooking away and he was putting on potatoes for roasting, with the carrots and parsnips having been in with the Turkey in the Big Green Egg for the past four hours. Cat and Ryan arrived just after Vic got home and the party was complete so he served it up and wow what a feast it was. The carrots and parsnips were slightly overdone, even for me, but under the blackening there was some really tasty vegetable. Once we had finished eating we sat and chatted for a fair while and then, exhausted, A and I headed back home and slept like babies.

Lovely and huge lunch
Lovely and huge lunch
And so suddenly it was Thursday which was Lee's last day in the office. We went to the pub at lunch and again after work which was really great; we should have gone to the pub for lunch more often really and that is now a resolution for the next couple of weeks for myself and Loz. I ordered the Gammon and Rump but the pub was out of Rump so swapped it to a Cajun Chicken and wow it was tasty. It was also huge so I wasn't sure what I'd be able to eat later in the day. The pub is getting a new menu and the serving chap let us have a preview and it does look good; no idea when it will actually be released though.

Slightly lighter dinner
Slightly lighter dinner
At 4pm sharp I gathered Lee, Loz and Ralph and we made our way back to mine; the plan was to shift the planks which were in the back of Harrison inside into the dining area so Harrison would be empty for our drive down to my parents on Friday. It took very little time indeed with all of them helping and 20 minutes later we arrived at the pub for the second time. They only stayed for one drink as everyone was driving so A and I sat down to food (I only had a baguette as I was still stuffed) and as soon as we had finished eating we headed home. We were both so shattered that it was about 8pm when we headed up to bed and I fell asleep pretty much straight away and slept right through til about 8am.

Back room stacked up with scaffold planks
Back room stacked up with scaffold planks
Friday was work from home day as always and I had brought the tablet back with me to try and connect it and work with it directly for the first time. I was able to do this which was a great feeling and then I made some good progress towards actually putting an application together to run on the device. Three have been really terribly unreliable in terms of internet for the past two or three weeks and so I was having to connect through my mobile phone which was a pain. At lunch time I took apart the table and chairs which Cjc had given us, to make it easier to pack them, and we also shifted a few things around preparatory to returning on Saturday with the kitchen from my parents.

Mrs White Van Driver
Mrs White Van Driver
Dead on 4pm we were on the road in Harrison with A having taken the wheel for the first bit towards the motorway as she hadn't driven him before. She was great, as expected, and we swapped over just before we got to the motorway as planned. From there I drove and, apart from some bad traffic near the M5 junction, we made good time and got there for dinner which was an absolutely amazing slow cooked stew with four different types of meat and loads of lovely flavour. After we had eaten it was into the garage to look at the kitchen and try to get as much of into the back of Harrison as possible. There was rather more than we had envisaged but we managed to get almost all of it in that evening, leaving only a few bits that we wanted to wrap in bubblewrap to protect them, and the sink which still had the tap attached.

Rather a large amount of kitchen
Rather a large amount of kitchen
I did not sleep that night; I don't know why as I wasn't aware of my mind running fast in the way it does sometimes which prevents me from dropping off, Whatever the reason it was quite frustrating and I was pretty tired the next morning when we finally got out of bed for breakfast and then to go and put the last bits in Harrison. It was a nice feeling to look in the back of him in the morning and realise that there was far less stuff than it looked in the dark the night before. It fitted in on one level very nicely with nothing able to slide as we drove so I was happy to let A drive back which meant I could have a beer with lunch.

The group around the tables
The group around the tables
We headed over to the pub about midday and this time were beaten there by my Dad's brother. It didn't take long for everyone to arrive, after we had pushed lots of tables together into a big enough grouping for all of us, and soon the volume had risen as expected; it was a very merry bunch. I snapped a few pictures before the food arrived of everyone around the table apart from my cousin who had headed up to the bar but I didn't notice he was missing til just now. Oh well.

Two courses, and much enjoyment from both
Two courses, and much enjoyment from both
I ordered the Lamb Chops for my main which were very nice, if slightly over done, and then had a super duper chocolate sundae for dessert which was epic and totally worth while. This is the same pub we had the family leaving meal at last time and it was really nice to come to the same place, after we almost booked into a different pub due to concerns with the level of service here. It was OK this time and most of our food arrived close together, even though we had all ordered and paid separately.

Quality family time
Quality family time
One of the best things about the meal, apart from seeing my cousin who I hadn't seen for years (and is in the background of the pic of Nan with his daughter) was seeing my Nan. She's getting very close now to 95 years old and is still going strong. It was great to sit with her and have a chat about the coming year and our plans for the renovation and she said how proud she was of what we are doing. I was also pleased to help her from the pub to the car after the meal as everyone headed back to my parents for a cuppa.

Not much space to move at all
Not much space to move at all
We stayed about half an hour then it was into Harrison and on the road as we had things to do when we got back that day before the Big Pack started on Sunday. A drove all the way and was again perfectly fine so we're very comfortable with the journey in Harrison and swapping the driving. When we got back we straight away started unloading the kitchen and stacking things up everywhere in the house. By the time we had done this we barely had anywhere to sit and just went pretty much straight to bed.

And that is where I will leave this update as Sunday is due one all of its own. That'll arrive tomorrow, sorry for the delay.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Another week passes

Last week’s blog ended, unusually, being written on Monday but I’m back into my routine of sitting down with the laptop and tapping away into a document so I can publish this tomorrow morning using the internet in my office. For some reason this week feels like it has been really long and sitting at her parents’ kitchen table typing away on my lunch break last Monday feels like months ago. A lot has happened this week I suppose and that will do strange things to your perception of time.

So last Monday, after I finished work, we were in the car and off to go past her Nan’s for the last time before our evening flight. We picked up some chips from a fish and chip place in town which weren’t that great sadly and had a good time drinking tea and nattering before it was time for her mum to drive us to the airport. The flight was not very exciting but was short and once again being in 1A and 1B was such a pleasure. Just to be able to not rush around to get to the gate and then have the leg room to stretch out and finally to be first on and off the plane; worth every penny. The bus to take us back to the carpark arrived relatively quickly but it was completely rammed; we only just managed to get on and a few people who were waiting were not able to. It turned out of three buses one had broken down so they were short. Everyone on the bus was really pleasant and kind to each other and helped each other out to disembark despite the crush so it was not a bad experience really. We were home within an hour of landing and after a brew hit the sack.
 
A bit of a blurry picture of a macaroon
A bit of a blurry picture of a macaroon
Tuesday felt like Monday to me and my boss and two colleagues were in another office so it was just myself, Lee and Ade. Lee had made everyone macaroons for the day before and at my insistence he had saved some of me and A. They were lovely, with a really dark chocolate filling. I took one back for A who wasn’t so keen on the filling but liked the actually macaroon. This is a particular obsession of Lee’s and he goes on about trying to make the perfect macaroon so it was nice to finally taste one of his attempts that he was quite pleased with.
 
Weathered Class 150 in First Northwestern colours
Weathered Class 150 in First Northwestern colours
I had received quite a lot of deliveries over the weekend while we were away and one of them was the Class 150 in First Northwestern livery which I had ummed and ahhed about buying. It came without a chip in it, but had a space for one, so on Wednesday I got back from work very excited about getting the chip fitted. About two minutes later I went back to the sofa, frustrated. The body of the loco is fixed on with three screws which is fine until you find out that none of your screwdrivers are small enough to reach down to them. I spent the next two hours looking for a specific screwdriver set for taking apart locos and then gave up and ordered a jewellery set for next day delivery.
 
Lovely pie with a lovely message
Lovely pie with a lovely message
Dinner was outstanding on Wednesday (when isn’t it outstanding, actually?) as we had some mince to use up and I had no suggestions then A came up with the idea of a pie. The pastry was lovely and the filling was amazing but she didn’t make enough for me to take in to work the day after as I was planning on a pub lunch with Lee. Anyway the pie deserves more words than I have given it, particularly when you look and see the little heart shape and “Made With Love” picked out and just about visible post baking. I had seconds and was completely over full but it was worth it.
 
Putting books into boxes
Putting books into boxes
The pub was great on Thursday having hoped to have gone on Tuesday with our boss but been let down to only go to the cafĂ© round the corner. I chose the hunters chicken this time while Lee had my usual of Gammon with double egg. It was nice to get out of the office and actually take a lengthy lunch break. That evening while I was reading A got a box and packed up the books. This weekend our plan was to do as much packing as we can so that next weekend, when we get back from my parents with Harrison full of kitchen, we are ready on the Sunday to do the full load. Lee cannot now help on the Sunday however Loz has said he’ll come over so we do have a bit of additional muscle to help out.
 
The Kong Wobbler, bright red and huge
The Kong Wobbler, bright red and huge
I’d put a large order into Amazon for the final things we need for the journey (thermos flasks, fuel for the cooker etc) and while putting that order together I’d added some toys and things for Rambo. I thought I’d get two kongs as he destroys them very quickly so I picked a red one and a black one and never thought anything about one of them being called a “wobbler” until I opened the box and saw what it actually was. It is huge and will probably hurt a lot to try and kick but hopefully he will have fun with it. He is a spoiled dog, he really is.
 
Tiny screws and a DCC chip fitted
Tiny screws and a DCC chip fitted
The jewellery screwdrivers had also arrived so I took ten minutes around lunch to make sure they worked and they were perfect. It took a bit of fiddling to get the body off the loco once the screws were undone but actually fitting the chip was a doddle. I put it all back together and then waited for the evening when my mate Bob was coming over with a load of locos and his rolling road so we could set up the Z21 controller I had bought and make sure it all worked. For a while I was tempted to go and buy a piece of hardboard and actually lay an oval of track but the rolling road was a better idea, particularly as I have no soldering iron to make up a power feed to the track with. He arrived on time and I helped him carry in a stack of boxes and we were able to have a get it all set up really quickly, but with his own controller which he had also brought. He has some locos with sound on them and they are great; eventually maybe I will do that but for now the fact that a sound chips is five times as expensive as a non-sound chip is just too steep for me.

A had made an outstanding lasagne for our dinner and when she carried it through to the dining room then turned around and put her coat on and went to the pub, leaving us, we were very amused indeed. Suffice to say we ate our way through over half of the lasagne before heading back to the living room to hook up my equipment and check it all out. While I was doing this Bob was pleased to borrow my jewellery drivers so he could put a chip in a Northern Rail Class 150 he had bought recently as well so that worked out. Everything worked well first time out of the box with the Z21 and the app on the tablet I bought and now I need to get a soldering iron and either set up an oval or get some rolling road of my own so I can bed the loco in. One thing that was a really pleasant surprise was he had brought a loco to give to me as a house warming type gift for the school. It is a steam loco and has a chip in it already and it will fit in with the idea I have had to have an independent section of track with steam locos on it as if it were a holiday attraction. I’ll stop geeking out now, ok?

I had to try and cut the transfer to make them fit
I had to try and cut the transfer to make them fit
When Bob left he dropped me at the pub where I had a pint with A which was very nice; it is a very friendly place. We were both pretty tired so we didn’t stay long and walked back in the rain to get a cup of tea and then bed. Saturday morning was a lie in but even though we stayed in bed as long as we could we were still up and about by about 9. Sadly A had work to do over the weekend which was rubbish for her so I left her to it and went and finished the Red Arrow kit. This only involved putting on the transfers but I had a lot of trouble with the triangle on the underneath. There are vanes on the bottom of the wings and the transfer was supposed to go over where they are however it would not fold over and sit flat. I worked it out in the end and carefully used the scalpel to cut each transfer so it went around the vanes. It isn’t perfect and there was a little tear when I cut the first one but from a distance again it is fine. I will now package this up very carefully to go over to Bulgaria on this trip.
 
Piling boxes up ready for the pack next weekend
Piling boxes up ready for the pack next weekend
The rest of the day was taken up with moving things around in the dining room, then stacking boxes up there, and finally taking the big desk down in the office. I put the freezer outside to defrost and actually accidentally left it out over night; thankfully there were no little creatures in it when I took it out to the shed today. Most of the boxes in that picture are actually full of trainset stuff; nothing like collecting huge amounts of stuff just before you’re leaving the country again.
 
The clothes rack slides back into its box
The clothes rack slides back into its box
The final task was to start clearing the dressing room which included taking apart one of the clothes rails we bought to move here with. It all just about fit back in the box it came in, with a lot of tape and a bit of swearing. All we are left now to pack is some glassware and other bits from the kitchen and her clothes. All of this will be done before next weekend so they can go into Harrison on Sunday.
 
Emerald Green (Revell: 61 Humbrol: 2)
Emerald Green (Revell: 61 Humbrol: 2)
And so to today. A was still typing away on the long file that was taking longer to complete than she had expected. The sun was out and it was a lovely day so I set myself up on the dining table with the new kits and decided I wanted to make the Sea King. I pulled all my paints together and started to sort out what I would need and realised that I had bought paints for the Concorde and the Air Ambulance, both of which are Revell and the Sea King kit was an Airfix which used different numbering for the colours. I will now have to source a couple of Humbrol paints with which to complete this kit but fortunately it came with some paints so I have been able to make a start anyway.
 
Harrison is now fully dressed
Harrison is now fully dressed
I managed to drag A away from her desk long enough to help me finally fix the flag up on the back of the cab in Harrison. We used a staple gun and this was good enough to hold it firmly in place. I was also able to put the phone holder together and before we leave on Friday I’ll stick my cable tidies around to keep it all under control for the journey. It really is getting very close indeed now and I think this is starting to sink in quite firmly. This afternoon I went upstairs to wait for A and fell straight asleep for an hour without meaning to and right now she is dozing on the sofa next to me.


So what I am going to do now is finish typing this and then sit and read for a bit before heading to bed and hope that, unlike last night, I can actually sleep and don’t have to come down at midnight to read some more and drink whisky in the hope it will help (which, incidentally, it didn’t). I have finished my Travis McGee series after 21 books and so am now casting around for my next book. If the next one I find is even half as good then I will be happy.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Taking your retirement early in chunks

Today I am in no mood at all for writing this blog (too much on my mind with my day job and other things) however I know that if I don't I will be really upset with myself. So here I am, lunch break just beginning and I'm going to try and bash one out for last week in an hour. As it were.

As usual I cannot remember last week at all. Things did happen, which will probably come back to me as I type and ask A for reminders. The main thing about last week was the day job entering an incredibly stressful stage which has really affected my whole week. It is only four weeks now until we're on the way back and this means that my options are massively limited. I have to keep earning now and ideally I should be trying to negotiate for my remote working when I eventually go back in June. I'm feeling the pressure of everything though.

Finally eating the Bounty
Finally eating the Bounty
On a lighter note I finally ate the Bounty Bar which A bought for me all those weeks ago. This happened on Monday and it was momentous enough an occasion for me to get A to snap a picture of it for me.

I had a load more deliveries come through for the trainset this week and also S and S's yoga mats were delivered. The packing is going to be done and completed in two weeks time, on the Sunday after we go to my parents for the meal with my Dad's side of the family and also to pick up the kitchen. Before we head down that weekend we'll need to have Harrison emptied and so I need to work out where the planks are to be stored. I was hoping they would fit in the shed but they are an inch or so too long. This means they will have to go into the dining room and be stacked up there; the house will be quite crowded with both three piece suites in, and the planks, and all the other boxes which we are collecting to take back. I hope I can manage to get some help for that Sunday else it'll be a really tiring day for me.

Flowers starting to appear in our garden
Flowers starting to appear in our garden
My parents had spotted over the weekend that some snow drops were starting to flower in our garden. I walked home on Tuesday thinking I would like to take a picture of them and found that A had already been out that day with the camera to do so. Great minds and all that. The garden continues to be a real bonus of this house and more and more I find myself staring out the kitchen window watching the birds come down to feed on the crumbs that we put out for them.

Other than being stupidly stressed due to work I have spent a lot of time reading the past couple of weeks. The title of this blog refers to the series which I am deep into right now. It is written by a chap called John D MacDonald and has a character called Travis McGee who works when he runs out of money, and then retires to cruise on his boat and enjoy his retirement while he can. This really struck a chord with me this week and weekend as it is exactly what I am doing; I will work when I have to but otherwise I want a simple life that I can enjoy before I get too old to be able to enjoy it. Anyway, I'd recommend the books - I'm onto about book 12 now and they have yet to become repetitive to an annoying level.

A with Pip
A with Pip
Thursday night I was picked up from work by A and we headed over to the airport for our flight to Belfast as the weekend of "meeting the folks" had come round. The flight was easy and short and priority boarding was excellent as always and we were picked up by her parents and the dog for the drive back to their house. Here is A with Pip jumping all over her and being very excited to see her. Pip was very friendly in the car but when we got to the house she herded me inside with a lot of care; she's a funny little thing but very cute.

Dawn chorus of Crows
Dawn chorus of Crows
Friday morning the alarm call was unnecessary as the crows from up the hill come coursing down to gather on a tree across the road and shout and scream for half an hour before heading out for the day. To be fair I much prefer that way of being woken up and I headed out with camera to get a quick snap shot, with the moon behind. Of course just as I did this they all started taking off so the picture isn't the best. This has been the alarm call every morning during our visit. I was working from Belfast on Friday and so sat at the dining table all day while people came and went around me. We went out for lunch in town at a pub which was really nice and the portion was so large I had no desire to eat anything else at all until breakfast the next day. We headed over to A's nans on Friday evening for a little while which was lovely; she's a great woman and made me feel very welcome as well.

We were back in time for the rugby on Friday night and sat and watched England beat Wales (cue massive celebration) which made me very happy indeed. I had to be slightly reserved as Pip wasn't ready for my shouts and punching the air and didn't really like it. Saturday morning there was no chance of a lay in as we were up to go shopping then meet up with A's nan and mum for breakfast in town. Scrambled eggs on toast with bacon went down very well chased by tea and then we were off back to the house to relax before the Ireland game. I was supposed to be typing this up but it never happened and I just read. The games on Saturday were slightly less exciting than the England game but I watched them both until we had to leave for our meal in the evening.

Meet the family
Meet the family
This was at the local and was very nice; I had been told about the special (sirloin stuffed with bacon and onion stuffing) and so I had to go for it and it was a good choice. Once again I was over-faced and managed to finish it all however I could not get any dessert down me at all. After the meal we headed to the other bar and the sixth Guiness took me past the point of wanting to sleep and when I got home I was in bed and sparko pretty much immediately.

Looking across the clearing of the hill fort
Looking across the clearing of the hill fort
Ancient road between two fields
Ancient road between two fields
Sunday was our lay in and I took advantage of it, though I couldn't really sleep after A got up and lay there reading and dozing and reading and dozing. When I finally got up I found that the weather was lovely and A wanted to go for a walk so off we went, up the road and up the hill to the place where the crows sleep. There is a hill fort at the top which we made our towards; it is incredibly well preserved with steep banks and a deep ditch all the way around. It is incredible to think that this was lived in a thousand years ago.

Misty Mountains of Mourne
Misty Mountains of Mourne
When we got back to the house for breakfast we sat for a bit and then headed back out for a drive. The weather was so lovely that neither of us wanted to sit around. A drove us over towards the east coast and the Mountains of Mourne which were just beautiful and as lovely countryside as you'll find anywhere in the world. We wound our way through country lanes for quite a while enjoying the scenery.

The sea between the dunes
The sea between the dunes
Eventually we reached the coast and parked in a large grassy flat area with a cafe next to it, then made our way over the boarded path through the massive sand dunes towards the beach. We were all wrapped up warm but the sun was actually quite strong and so I removed my scarf and undid my coat to cool down; what a lovely day to have in early February.

Dozing in the sun
Dozing in the sun
We walked along the the beach, which was half sand and half stones, for a way dodging people and dogs and then got to a place where A decided she wanted to stop so we went up to the edge of the dunes and sat for a bit. After a while I lay back and dozed as I was pretty tired and A sneakily got a picture of me. It was really relaxing to lay there and if there had been no other humans for miles it would have been even better as the peaceful sounds of birds and surf were continually interrupted by shouting kids and barking dogs. Oh well.

A dead jelly fish
A dead jelly fish
There was one particularly annoying family group stood by the edge of the water just near us who had a badly trained dog which kept harassing any other dog that came past. They were kicking something just in the water and eventually we saw it was a dead jellyfish. Stay classy, people. Kick the dead creature. When they finally went away A went to get a snap of it and said it was huge so when I finally roused myself I went to look and she wasn't wrong.

Fortresses along the coast
Fortresses along the coast
We made our way slowly back towards the car and went into the cafe for a drink and a bite to eat. As we were waiting to be served a walker came in to tell the staff that a lady had slipped and broken her ankle on the stones. This caused quite a stir and an ambulance was called. It also slightly delayed our service but no matter. Once we had eaten and drunk it was back into the car and we took a lovely scenic route along the coast towards Belfast city. All the way we went past old fortifications and towers that would have protected the land from invasion by sea. Every one is better maintained than anything I've seen in England. We stopped several times to take pictures and admire the buildings. As the time got on we headed towards Belfast as we were meeting one of A's friends for the evening. I dozed off the car and felt much better for it; I think I hadn't realised just how stressed and tired I had become with worrying about work.

We had some food in a pub near where A used to live, having been driven through some of the less pleasant areas of Belfast including seeing some of the murals from the troubles that are still there (though one had been vandalised which shows that things have certainly changed). Dinner was nice and the evening was even better; it was great to sit and chat for a couple of hours with such old friends of hers.

And so now it is Monday and we're flying back to England in a few hours so I'd better wrap this up and publish it. Thanks for reading.