Oh England, my Lionheart* or, falling in love again

There have been complaints…

That I am not blogging…

Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed writing the blog but, it was called, “Gandalf on Tour” and the clue is clearly in the name. Gandalf is no longer on tour. He is currently parked up on our drive having a well-earned rest and I kinda stopped blogging. Problem is, I miss it too. Not just the adventure but the writing too.

I would like to continue but I need to think how I will get round the blog title conundrum. Please comment if you have any suggestions. Before you do though please remember, I can’t change the name of the blog. I just have to think how my ramblings can still relate to the name without actually being on tour.

Anyway. I shall now bore you with activities since our return from North Wales to date(ish)…

First off, it’s Christmas and I LOVE Christmas. The instant we got back we bought a tree. It was up and decorated by the 2nd December. We [Read: “I”] have 161 Christmas songs loaded and ready to go. Mrs P has to suffer this 8 hours and 46 minutes of festive tunage pretty much on permanent loop until about the 6th of January.

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We love our Christmas tree

Christmas does however bring me to my first rant of the Christmas season.

RANT ALERT!

Mrs P and I went to buy a couple of Christmas cards for those special people in our lives, parents etc. We went to multiple card shops. What I’d like to know is whatever happened to Christmas cards that say, I don’t know, let me think of an example… oh yes. How’s this?

‘Merry Christmas’

Since when did all cards have to have an addendum to that of, ‘Sister’, ‘Brother’, ‘Mom & Dad’, ‘Second cousin twice removed.’? I’m not joking when I say that there was one that was for, ‘A great son and his fiancé ‘. What’s next, ‘To some nice people who I met on a cruise round the Mediterranean in 1997’?

Personally I just want to write inside the card something like, ‘To Rosie & Jim’. I like to think that they are intelligent enough to work out where they fit in my social circle or family tree.  I mean, are people’s so stupid as to think, on opening a card…

Rosie: “Look Jim, we got a card”

Jim: “Wow! Very exciting. Who could it possibly be from?”

Rosie: “I’m not sure, there’s certainly no clue on the front”

Jim: “Are there any clues on the envelope?”

Rosie: “Not a one.”

Jim: “Post mark?”

Rosie: “No, it was delivered by hand.”

Jim: What, just pushed through the door?”

Rosie: “No, it was handed to me by Kevin from next door. You know, he’s married to Sam.”

Jim: “Well, I’m blowed if I can work out who it’s from. Any clues inside the card.”

Rosie (Opens card and peers inside): “Just two names, Kevin & Sam.”

Jim: “Oh, I think it’s from our neighbours. If only they had bought a card saying on the front, in big gold letters, ‘To our neighbours.’ Then we wouldn’t have had to spend so much of our valuable time opening the card to read the inside. I shall put our house up for sale in the New Year. We can’t possibly spend another Christmas living next to such insufferable people.”

Perhaps the one about Son and fiancé is valid though. Particularly if said son is a bit of a playboy.

Needless to say, the cards with no relationship addendum were bloomin’ awful. I’m drawing cards myself next year.

RANT ENDS

I always draw a card for Mrs P by the way…

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Mr & Mrs P undercover at Christmas (Image protected by copyright)

Anyway, it’s not all been about Christmas (Yes it has), I applied for a few jobs and was even approached by a company who found me via LinkedIn. Unfortunately, they were offering a full time role and I don’t want to play that game anymore. I’m beginning to think that 25 days holiday a year is cruel and unnecessary). Contracts or part time from now on (says the man who has to pay the bills with hopefully not misplaced confidence).

Aside from this Mrs P and I have both been a bit lost, dazed, shell-shocked, bewildered and other adjectives that describe the sense of otherworldliness (I think I may have just made that word up or at least spelt it wrong) that one feels after such a trip. Please don’t feel sorry for me, I still don’t have to get up to go to work, I don’t get the Sunday evening blues and there is no mid-week hump to negotiate. We do have bills to pay though so…

Anyway, time for a change of subject I think before the blues descend again.

Mrs P and I are sulking a bit (quite a lot actually) about the greyness of England after being in Europe all summer and Spain was of course beautiful in the Autumn. Autumn is usually my favourite time of year in the UK but this year it was feeling distinctly grey, cold and wet. I needed to fall back in love with this sceptered isle, this precious stone set in the silver sea. Unfortunately I have been far from thinking it the envy of less happier lands†. 

Time for a long bike ride to remind myself what is such a big deal about This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England†.

With this in mind I set off for a 50 mile spin through, Berkshire, Oxfordshire taking in the Chiltern Hills. A cool, dry and windless, if somewhat grey, day saw me pedalling up through the town that boasts (Boasts!) Theresa May and George Cloony as residents and out towards Watlington in Oxfordshire. Lovely to have the roads to myself. Everyone at work.

Climbing out of Watlington towards the beautifully named Christmas Common I finally started to feel the love for England in December. The browns of the fallen leaves, the russet of the ferns that have died back meeting the almost fluorescent green of the moss along the bank at the roadside. There are myriad other shades of green across the fields and into the distance. From the lichen encrusted tree trunks to the dew covered grass. Oh, hark at me, I’ve gone all Thomas Hardy (I wish!). Anyway, it is beautiful. even if the myriad shades of green are juxtaposed by the odd flash of discarded crisp packet, Red Bull can and banana skin (stop throwing them in hedges they take YEARS and even decades to degrade!).

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There’s even a Christmas shop!

Enough from me for now. I’ll be back with more soon though.

Incidentally, show of hands, who would be interested in the travel stats? Mileage etc?

* Kate Bush (1978) 

William Shakespeare, Richard II

A rattle, a rumble, a big bill and a touch of Procrastination

 

Tuesday 20th – Thursday 29th  November 2018

As every good horse rider knows, at the end of a long day in the saddle a rider always look after their horse before themselves. With this in mind Gandalf, our trusty stead these last 4 months, was booked in for a once over within 2 days of our return.

There had, in the last week or so, been some rumblings, the odd, or should I say an odd, knocking noise and some potential steering issues.

How bad can it be?

It’s probably nothing. Right?

This is how bad it can be…

Poor Gandalf

It turns out that the loud bang we heard one evening whilst parked up in a campsite was not, as we suspected, something hitting the pop-top roof but, was probably the rear suspension coil snapping. I told Mrs P not to eat that last pain au chocolat.

Here’s how it went…

Mr P to nice man at the garage: “Well, that’s the steering issue sorted but, what about the funny knocking noise?”

Nice man at the garage: “Ah, well sir, that’s your engine mount bracket flange that is…

(Now, there is a possibility I am not using the precise. or most technically accurate terms he used but, for all my knowledge about motors, he might as well have said this word for word)

…It’s worn. Probably what’s causing the noise sir. Oh, and your turbo injector doodleflap seal is leaking. Your spondulix levels were a bit low too but we topped that up for nothing.”

Mr P (head in hands): “How much?”

Garage man (licks end of pencil and starts totting up the cost): “Broken suspension coil at.. and you’ll need ’em both doing of course. Can’t just do one. Doodleflap seal, spondulix…”

Mr P : “Hang on. You said you sorted the spondulix thing for free.”

Not so nice garage man: “Well, we did but, the spondulix joint obviously needs rebalancing and the Arbuthnot loop must of course be galvanised. So, all that, plus labour… add the tax. Take off the 0.0001% discount because you’ve been keeping my family holiday funds topped up on a regular basis and that comes to… Lemme see… arbitrary figure, multiplied by 7, divide by 0.5 and that comes to.. Hang on… seventeen plus 12, carry 2 and.. £897.55 please sir.”

Mr P : “£897!”

Hateful man: “And 55 pence. Yes sir. Cash or card sir?”

Ouch!

That’s a painful bill for the P family. I have now been out of work for 8 months and Mrs P has not worked since July.

Only one thing to do…

…Procrastinate.

A few days of decompression before the inevitable search for paying work begins. We go for a walk near Christmas Common in the Chilterns for a start.

All terribly autumnal

And, since the idea of actually starting the process of looking for work is… what can I say?… daunting, unnerving, horrifying even (Mrs P is suffering from similar feelings), perhaps a further week of procrastination is in order.

So, off to Wales for the Alpine Club AGM and dinner. I shan’t go into the event in too much detail apart from to say, it was an odd affair. Guest speakers talked about their lives of crime (!?) with a serious lack of remorse. Their invite, it seems, was all part of  an attempt to ‘inspire’ the younger members. Go figure. Add to that the fact that 2 out of 3 slide shows were poor (one was excellent). Positives; great food, great company, well run AGM.

A few, not terribly successful,  days of outdoor activities ensued…

Some cold walks,
An abandoned climb…
A cold night or 3 (+3 was also the temperature inside the van)…
Some serious reflection…
A few brief moments of clarity…
And more rain than we saw in 4 months.

So, we ran away home. To procrastinate further, in our warm house, in front of the log fire. I don’t think we are acclimatised yet to the British winter. 

Reality Bites

Friday 23rd November 2018

We have been home for a whole 5 days.

It’s quite a shock, living in a house, sitting in a bath (that’s where I’m writing this), watching TV even sleeping in a real bed.

Here’s some interesting observations for you.

Living in a house – Living in the van I always knew where Mrs P was. She was either right in front of me or right behind me. Technically, she was also always in the way but, we got so used to living in each other’s pockets that she was, in reality, never in the way. Our 2 bed house is pretty small but I can now go up to an hour without seeing her. It is quite disconcerting

Sitting in a bath – Ahhh! Need I say more?

Watching TV – It’s winter, we have no money, there’s not much else to do. I’m enjoying the adverts. After 4 months away they are all new and all Christmas related. I love Christmas

Sleeping in a ‘real’ bed – We bought a new bed shortly before we went away. The bed in Gandalf is way more comfy

Clothes – I had been looking forward to just wearing something different. Something stylish from my extensive collection of tatty old t-shirts. However, nothing fits. If you want to lose weight just go away for 4 months with no fridge, exercise every day and, hey presto, I lost around 9 lb or 4kg. Mrs P lost around 6 lb or 2.7kg.

Leaner but not meaner. Quite laid back actually

We weren’t exactly packing timber before we left so, to regain some weight Mrs P has suggested an intensive regime of pumping iron or eating pies. Well, we can’t afford pies so it looks like it’s back to the gym.

Health – Not a days sickness in 4 months. No injuries (Mrs P says I can’t include my cut finger even though I had to have a plaster). I shall talk more on this subject (health, not the cut finger) in the future but, briefly I had some aches and pains before I was made redundant and all just miraculously went away. The same applies to Mrs P. This is not a good advert for sitting in front of a computer all day long. Even my posture has improved.

Looking good Mrs P. Easily capable of launching the ship in the background and 999 others

• Next steps – We still don’t know what We want to do but we have worked out what we don’t want to do. More on this soon.

We are breaking ourselves back in to reality slowly. We’ve been cycling, hiking and checking out the gym. We haven’t yet looked for the dreaded work.

I REALLY missed my bike and my cycling buddies

Tomorrow (Saturday 24th November) we are off to North Wales for the Alpine Club Annual Dinner (yum!) and AGM (yawn!). We are staying on for a day or two and hope to get some climbing and walking in. We will then travel slowly home visiting friends and family along the way.

I will try to write more for the blog for those rarest of rare creatures who have told me they will miss my ramblings.

Watch this space…