Inseparable

I’m on my own. Just for a night, but it is unusual. C and I were both in the Army for a while, and then she took on the role of camp follower (and Army wife – which is a job all of its own) when Rebecca was born – and I pursued my career. I was away a lot – not as much as some of my pals, but enough for it to surprise non-Army folk. After 25 years and with more nights-out-of-bed than I care to remember, we jacked it in and I became a school teacher. Pretty much since then we’ve been inseparable, other than a couple of trips to Sierra Leone with the school and a few other v short breaks.

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West coast of France a couple of years ago. Missing it right now…

It’s worth interrogating that. Most of you, I guess, spend most of your time at home. And if you live with someone else, then it’s likely that you’re rarely separated. But … chew on this. How about you pick the person you’re closest to and then live with them cheek by jowl in a very small tin box for three and a half years. That’s a long time in a small space. How would that work for you?

Well, that’s what we did until last Christmas.

C and I are both biggish characters and, whilst they won’t admit it, I’m guessing our pals thought it would never last. But it did. And we did more than just survive. And whilst it’s fun to be in our small house (with Doris parked outside), we’re still planning long trips in her. And we look forward to that. (Next is half term – starting a week tomorrow. Yippee!)

So, why am I alone? Well, C’s gone down to Godalming to pick up Mary. They want to watch the wedding together. Me, whilst I absolutely support having a Royal family – providing they’re not playing It’s a Knockout, getting messily divorced or generally being idiots – I couldn’t care less about who’s getting married to whom, and where and how. No, I shall be in the garden looking to get a patio laid. and it looks like we have the weather for it.

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Mmmmmm….

For the record, and to finish, after work yesterday I drove to Farnham to see a Deputy Head who I am mentoring – and then back again. It seems likely that I might be getting some more work at that school. And, just now, I had pasty and beans. Yummy, Since C had a cholesterol shock last month we’ve been on pasta and grass. So I was allowed a treat with C away. It’ll be short-lived. Tomorrow I’ll be eating my own body weight in salad – or similar.

Till the weekend!

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Maybe, just maybe

Me and my mate mate Richard popped over to France yesterday. I know, I know. How lucky are we? The original plan was to buy some booze (for non-Europeans, the UK taxes its alcohol as if it were luxury goods – why would our government want us to relax and have some fun?) for Jen and James’ post-wedding bash down south. But that party has been cancelled for complex reasons, we had a weekend planned with Richard and Caroline, and I had a ferry ticket burning a hole in my pocket.

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a Caliasian bromance

C decided that she would stay in Dover (where R&C live) as another friend of ours, Rosemary, was also down for the weekend. The three girls could spend the day tearing up herbs and pulling the legs off small animals and then throwing everything into a boiling cauldron. Rich and I, on the other hand, could drive to France, buy some booze and have a day talking rubbish at each other. We managed a day of nonsense, but there was no sign of a pot of stewing magic juice when we returned. They’d obviously destroyed the evidence.

Rich and I did have a great day. The two of us are like a couple of old women (have I insulted you lot enough already?) and talk and talk. We covered everything and it was fab to have some bromance time with a very old pal. Interestingly as both of us approach 60, one of the topics was ‘what are we going to do with our remaining heartbeats?’ It’s a good question, and whilst it doesn’t occupy every waking second of my day, it looms large now more than it ever did.

What do you do? It’s funny, but a cliched ambition of ours was always to buy a place in France – somewhere where the weather is consistent (unlike here) and you don’t lose three and a half hours of your quickly evaporating time in a carpark driving south of London to get to Dover. And about now we could absolutely realise that ambition. If we wanted we could smell the onions, feel Mrs Sun burning at our knees and hear the waiters’ disdaining retorts when ordering an espresso. If I close my eyes I can smell the chlorine in the pool – and not hear the sound of the M4/M5 junction, which is a constant soundtrack to our current life in north Bristol.

So why aren’t we doing this? Why haven’t we put stuff on the market, packed up all of our gear in an old transit van and buggered off into the sunset, leaving a trail of unburnt diesel for others to miss us by?

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I’m not sure. Maybe because we’ve just finished three and a half years on complete freedom living in Doris – and have had the benefit of waking up in several warm countries where the waiters aren’t rude and Mrs Sun just as prevalent. Maybe we secretly like it here? Close to friends and family. Within easy reach of B&Q and never far from ordinariness? Maybe we’ve been Bohemian and now want to be Bristolian?

Maybe. Maybe not. It might be my current state of mind – which is flat and lacks peaks and troughs. It may be that the teaching thing is so overwhelming that there isn’t room for original and maverick thought? Or, maybe, just maybe, we’ve found a niche with our little house, big motorhome and ridiculous scooter?

Maybe.

 

 

 

His Trumpkiness

Well – that’s me. I’m done with this teaching lark. Two kids in detention today and I could have dispatched a couple more. What makes 11 year-olds so bolshie? Why am I not scary enough to get them to do as they are told? OK, so I don’t raise my voice. And I have yet to deploy the taser I have in my pocket – although I have seriously considered it. (Only joking; in case there are any lawyers reading this.)

Actually it’s not as bad as all that. In fact it’s much better than it was at the beginning when I was cycling to work in the dark and facing off most of the classes. Now I don’t dread the confrontation, the fight(s) (I can’t remember if I told you about that?), the constant ‘sit down’, be quiet, listen!, that’s enough…etc, and the emotional turmoil of not consistently reaching the brighter kids in the class. It’s not fair on them. But I do feel as though I am getting through. Checking their books today does show that there is a lot of good work going on. Phew.

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wish we were back in Scotland now. Oh, hang on, what about the midges?

And what about His Trumpkiness? Pulling out of the Iran deal. Paying off a porn star. Writing his own doctor’s certificate. Firing most people. His wife living with her parents (allegedly). And, and… The thing is, we are tuned out now. He can pretty much say and do as he wishes and, because it’s all lost in the other rubbish, we don’t wobble. Pulling out of the Iran deal is just wrong. Everyone, apart from the Israeli PM (but including his national security adviser), is saying that Iran is holding up its side of the bargain. There are international monitors who are saying this is so. Obama came out on Facebook last night and made an intelligent and impassioned appeal in its favour. But Trump is determined to undermine everything Obama has done (check out when Obama ridiculed Trump at the WH Correspondent’s dinner – that’s when he decide to run and that’s what’s pushing him to dismantle Obama’s legacy). And the Iran deal is the latest. The fact that, for the forseeable future, no one will want to enter a treaty with the US for fear that they will pull out, does not seem to bother the man.

Sorry, but he’s an idiot. On so many levels. If I were not working on the day he’s coming to London, I would be in Whitehall holding up an appropriate banner. I would. Why should a man who cheated on his third wife just after she had given birth to their son deserve any less? It’s not right that we are giving him time of day. He doesn’t deserve our respect. And he certainly doesn’t have mine.

Harrumph. It’s been one of those days. I hope yours has been better…

Mrs Sun, welcome back

Well, how about that then? Mrs Sun has decided to pay us all a visit at the same time that we are not working. Blow me down. Whatever next? I don’t want to count my poultry, but I understand this may be the way it is for a couple of days.

And we’ve been lucky enough to enjoy the upturn in weather with some good friends. First, on Friday night Kenn and Mikki popped over for supper. They were the first of our friends who have crossed the threshold of our very small bolthole and we think she handled it rather well. On the menu, other than something C knocked up, was discussion concerning a trip in 2021 along the Silk Road. Kenn and Mikki are all for it, and so are we. We all agreed that there were a number of obstacles – such as family commitments etc, but you only get one go at this, and C and I are certainly not getting any younger.

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IN terms of a vehicle, whilst I was thinking along the lines of a 15 year old Toyota Landcruiser, which is the aid agencies’ vehicle of choice. Kenn was thinking smaller. Like a Suzuki Jimny, or a Toyota Rav 4. Whatever, we’d look to put a tent on the roof and beef up bits and pieces. It all sounds like a great deal of fun, and, if you’re happy to find £6k or so, we reckon we could give it a real go over about 4 months. We’ll see.

Then, yesterday, we popped southwest to see James and Sheron. They live in deepest, darkest Devon – but it’s well worth the effort. They have an old, traditional thatched Devon long house with a couple of paddocks. James (inspiringly to me) has built a barn, a shed-cum-bar and a enclosed and windowed wooden gazeebo. The weather forced us to eat outside and we had a fab time talking about the same old stuff we always talk about when we meet up with old pals (James and I have known each other since we were 16). This morning we walked with the dogs, popped to the pub for a drink and then grabbed a wrap that Sheron had knocked up before heading northeast…

…where we picked up Doris from the doctors. The awning looks well and truly sorted (fingers crossed), but, and I could have guessed this, the company had not put any diesel in her – even though the MD had agreed to do so (I’m not sure that I should be paying for the privilege of taking her to south Somerset and back). The guy who handed over the keys told me that the bowser was empty, so having handed her over with 2/3rds of a tank, I picked her up with just a 1/4 of tank of fuel left. Now I know it’s not a great deal of money, but you know what? I think they should try a bit harder. I really do.

Back home we stripped her down inside completely as the next job is to give her a thorough Spring clean. I’m going to remove all of the internal panels and look for any leaks or issues whilst C gets her rubber gloves on. She’ll be just like new when we finish.

However, first I’m keen to get started on knocking down a 4-brick high wall in the garden and refashion it so we can have a decked area at the back of our huge garden (sarcasm doesn’t travel well on a blog, does it?). I need to knock some of it down to understand the size of the problem. That’ll be fun – and that’ll be tomorrow’s job. Hurrah!

Trike!

So, it’s D+2. And, I hear you ask, how’s the trike? Well – I’ve only put her down twice. Which is quite something considering she’s got 3 wheels. In my defence she does weigh 230 kg and with me and C on it she’s quite top heavy. Both of them, I hasten to add, were static drops. One, however, was when C was on the back. What we must have looked like, goodness only knows. But no damage apart from a dent in our pride.

The madness is she has a spoke locking device where the front spokes lock so you can actually sit on the bike without putting your feet down. For me it’s one too many operations for my ageing brain to manage. Having ridden a moped for three years, day-in, day-out, it was always a simple ‘foot-down’. But with all of us on it, that’s not quite enough – sometimes. Anyhow, I’m learning. I’ve been out on her every evening and on Monday we did manage to cycle all the way to Jen’s and back (a round trip of 70 miles). It was cold but workable. It will be (will be) fabulous once we’re abroad.

Which raises the next question. How are we going to carry her? She’s too heavy for the garage (max of 150 kg), so we’ll have to tow her. Then there’s the choice of a standard motorcycle trailer (which is long – on an already long vehicle). Or we could go for a side-entry trailer – which is shorter, but still a naff to reverse with. Finally there’s a trailer called an ‘easy lift’. This secures ‘fixed’ to the tow bar (we haven’t got one of those yet), and mechanically drops to the floor. You push the bike on and then pump it up, sticking on a pair of castor wheels to take the weight. This then becomes a rigid box on the back with twisty wheels. It’s v short and the twisty wheels means that, to all intents and purposes, all you’ve done is extend the length of the van – there is no danger of jack-knifing. In terms of cost all options (new) come in just over a grand (deep breath). We are, as they say, considering all options.

I would hope we could have something sorted before we go to Spain in October. We’ll see. As you can see from the photos, she looks fab. And that is the case…

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this was taken when we were upright…

Work continues. I’m managing. And we’re all learning something in my classes, even if I am frazzled at the end of the day. Ten weeks to go. Part of me wants, at that point, to pack up Doris, rent out the house and go back to being a nomad. Proper work does that to me – you know? I think it’s about being in an institution all my life. Bounded by rules and expectations. Our 3.5 years in Doris’s 1 and 2 (3.5 years – that’s a long time!) was hugely liberating. I miss them. But, I’m pretty confident that we’ll keep the middle ground – bolt-hole and a van. Oh, and a trike. Mmmmm – could be fun.

We have a busy couple of days coming up. Pals of ours Kenn and Mikki are coming for supper on Friday. He’s my Army pal who just took a bike from London to Freetown (I bet he didn’t put it down…and his has only got two wheels).  We’re going to discuss driving the Silk Road (Venice to Mongolia) in two 4x4s, possibly in 2020. Now, that’s something to look forward to!

And then on Saturday we’re off to Devon to see James and Sheron (more Army friends). Back via the motorhome people to pick up Doris – they tell me they’ve fixed the awning. I hope so…

That’s all from me. I hope you make it to the end of the week intact.

A perfect day planned?

D-1. That is we pick up our Piaggio MP3 trike tomorrow. A perfect day. New bike, two new helmets, a day off and, why not?, a drive to Jen’s in Gloucester possibly over the old Severn Bridge, along the Wye Valley, across the Severn up north and then down to Jen. C will knock up a packed lunch and it will be a lovely day.

Except. Tomorrow the temperature in Bristol is going to be 4 degrees. And there is a 100% chance of rain. Brilliant. Just what we needed.

What is wrong with this country? It’s been a constant 7 degrees all weekend. I spent Saturday morning with a school near Farnham interviewing sixth formers, looking at student leadership possibilities. I was accompanied by a young woman from a different company. At the end of the 3-hour session I escorted her to her taxi. We waited in the car park for five minutes and then I waved her off. Without wanting to display panic, I waited for the taxi to leave. And then I jumped in the car, turned the heater up to full-blast and roasted myself back to Godalming. I was that cold.

But, the BBC tell me it’s going to get warmer towards the end of the week. Well, let’s hope it sticks around for a bit.

We had a lovely weekend in Godalming with Mary. She had lots of interesting visitors and C and I caught up with old pals and met new people. It was great. Mary even had the heating on!

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mmmm. Might need to take the stickers off that.

You’ll want to know that the BBC have sent me a very nice, but ultimately negative reply reference Unsuspecting Hero‘s screenplay. I’m not surprised, but I can’t hide my disappointment – thankfully we’re picking up our new toy tomorrow and have a lovely day planned enjoying the British countryside! Oh. Oh, well. That’s not going to happen. Bugger.

Am I bovered? It sounds like it, but in reality we’re fine. I have to say I’m really looking forward to finishing work in mid-July and having the freedom to do my own thing without the constraints of a timetable. And, if I let myself go, I’m v excited about having the bike (and C is!) – we hope to use it to explore a lot of the local countryside. And maybe by our late autumn break to Spain we’ll have a towbar and trailer for the bike. How exciting is that?

Blog time…

Oh, goodness – it’s Wednesday. I’d better write the blog. But, what to say? I’ve been to work and there isn’t a great deal of enjoyment there. Actually I covered an English lesson today (Year 10) and the topic was ‘short stories’. As opposed to just throwing up the provided powerpoint presentation, I was able to add some colour to the slides. I really enjoyed that. Otherwise, it is a bit of a drudge – some teaching interspersed with some crowd-control. Ho-hum.

Books? I’m still waiting for the BBC to come back to me ref Unsuspecting Hero‘s screenplay. They did say ‘by the end of the month’, which gives them three working days. I allowing for the fact that they are a public organisation and will, pretty much, stick to their word. We’ll see.

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we had the in-laws round for Sunday lunch. A lovely day!

Doris it as the doctor’s getting her awning fixed. This afternoon when I got back from school (on my knees – bless me), C and I went for a walk. On the way back in we both agreed that the uncomplicated life of living fulltime in Doris still has its draw. I think the weather, which, having had our summer is now already having a go at the budding plants, adds to the attraction. It’s madness. Or Doris calls due to a combination of work and there is still a lot of decorating to do. Anyhow, as we can jump ship any day after 24th July, what are we worried about?

And, don’t start me, US politics? What is going on? Did you see the Macron/Trump interaction? What was Trump doing brushing dust off Macron’s suit? Is there no sanity left in this world? And that’s not even dipping into the quagmire of stuff that’s going on there. The world is close to coming of its hinges…

At this point – I think tiredness and hunger has got the better of me. I’ll sign off for now. Sorry it’s short – and enjoy the rest of the week.