Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Before & After

On Tuesday, 23rd September 2014 TP ferried me over to Arden Motorcycles in Alcester where I paid £970 for a very rusty Royal Enfield Bullet Electra X. Over the past seven months I have spent far too much money and far too much time taking the damned thing apart, replacing corroded components and converting her in to a Trials replica.

I had never built a motorcycle before and can report that I have picked up a few new skills and even made a couple of friends in the process. If I am honest;  I have found it quite an amazing experience as I have encountered the frustrations of parts that didn't fit and major components that needed replacing and then the gratification of mastering a new skill or locating and importing bargain priced parts from half way around the world.

Te project was, perhaps prematurely, declared complete when the bike was fired up on Tuesday and it will be interesting to see whether it passes the MOT at the end of next week. As I wait I found the time to take a couple of after photographs to allow a comparison with its original corroded state.
It didn't look that bad from a distance!
I can't wait to see how she rides.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

I miss it now it's gone

My cold is no better. In fact, I think it was worse today than it was yesterday. The consequence of this was that I really did not feel like applying myself to anything. I did what I had to do, but I really didn't want to.

Work is progressing reasonably well, although there are a couple of less pleasant activities that might land in my lap in the near future. There is not a lot I can do about this … just wait and hope that something of a higher priority turns up to displace them.

I didn't do a full day at work today as I needed to nip across the road to the local surgery for blood tests in the morning. I also finished early this afternoon and headed in to Redditch for an X-ray of my hip.

On my way in to Redditch I stopped off at Redditch Motorcycles and arranged to have the Enfield collected for a service, safety check and MOT. As usual, Chris was busy so it will be the back end of next week before he can come and pick up the bike. I mentioned that the bike might need some setting up and tuning as a new carburettor and exhaust had been fitted. I reassured Chris that the bike was a runner before disassembly but he didn't look convinced by this.

Later on in the day, after having my pelvis blasted with radiation, I was back at home with minimal levels of motivation. 30% had just returned from a physiotherapy session and TP had recently come in from college. I decided to recruit TP's assistance and finally move the Enfield from the Hall back to the garage.

This wasn't as arduous as it sounds. A coffer needed to be moved to the kitchen and there was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing to get the bike lined up with the door but, between us, we soon had her sat in the garage where she belongs. I then grabbed the petrol can and glugged a litre or so of unleaded in to the Enfield's tank. This was primarily to test the fitting of the fuel tap but, on impulse, I decided to attempt to start her …

… I kicked her over a few times to pull fuel through to the carb and to circulate some oil and then gave her a hard kick. Nothing happened. I tried again and, once more, nothing happened. On the third or fourth attempt there was the unmistakable sound of an engine trying to start. A couple of kicks later the engine fired and ran beautifully. I was absolutely amazed. I expected her to need some tinkering and adjustment to get her to fire up, but she ran with no intervention whatsoever.

I was delighted by this inaugural starting of The Shitter reborn, but there is now a large space in the Hall and, as it says in the title line, I do quite miss having her in the house.
Footnote: TP and 30% are already asking about my next project and the bloody petrol tap does leak!

Monday, 27 April 2015

Feeling old at the moment

As the months pass I have been feeling increasingly creaky. My left hip will no longer permit me to lift my left foot up on to my right knee.* My right knee twinges on a regular basis and my shoulders and upper arms are also giving me some trouble. I also regularly feel very cold.

For some unfathomable reason I have not previously visited the Doctor but today I finally made a list and wandered over to the local surgery … The Doctor didn't really say much. There was muttering about possible arthritis and an enquiry about which was the most painful joint.** I now need to have bloods taken and visit one of the local hospitals for an X-ray of my hip.

There is not much else to report for the day. Both work and puppy training went well but there is still no mention of Whiffler being promoted to the next class. This is somewhat surprising view of a) his abilities and b) the fact that Delilah, the Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen managed to make it in to the next class.***

My cold is no better and, as a consequence, I generally feel tired and lethargic.
* I now have to bend right down to put on my left sock
** The left hip
*** She certainly has her moments!

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Weekend round-up

On Saturday morning I realised that I had picked up a cold at some point during the week. I didn't feel dreadful but it is fair to say that I didn't exactly feel like doing much either. As a consequence my weekend was taken at a very gentle pace.

Saturday morning involved a trip to the supermarket in Alcester with 30% followed by a trip over to Golls at Pitchill on the pretence of checking out their bedding plants.  What we really did was wander around the tropical fish section and took great delight at finding half a dozen little tortoises pottering around a vivarium.*

It was good to see that the proprietor was still there as I remember him stood behind the counter more than forty years ago when I first kept tropical fish. He seemed old then and I was pleased to see him still  pottering around. 30% actually enquired about his age and he smiled and whispered in her ear** before lecturing us that taking to an armchair upon retirement was not a good plan.

We returned home for lunch and then 30% and I took a walk around the Three Miler with the dogs. That exhausted me and I then fell asleep on the sofa for a couple of hours.

In the evening we had arranged to take Kathy H-R out for a belated birthday treat, so we collected her shortly after six and spent a delightful few hours at the Oak at Upton Snodsbury getting through three courses from their menu.

Sunday dawned and the cold was no better so I spent the morning inside attempting to finish off the Enfield. Most of my time was spent applying the vinyl decals to the tank, but tools were also taken back to the garage and an investigation of the speedometer unit revealed a need for a couple of new light bulbs.*** A trip to Halfords was required.

In the afternoon 30% and I headed in to Redditch for the replacement bulbs and also a quick wander around a couple of supermarkets. One of these was Tesco so we also availed ourselves of their car washing service and now have a much cleaner Land Rover.

Upon our return I took a lengthy kip on the sofa and didn't wake until close to six o'clock. I then returned to the Enfield and fitted the bulbs bought earlier in the day. All I need to do now is fit the petrol tap and pipe and get her booked in with Chris at Redditch Motorcycles for her service and MOT.
* We were both very tempted by a pair of these.
** seventy six
*** The main Speedo light and the neutral indicator light bulbs were blown

Friday, 24 April 2015

Catching Up again

It is Friday and I haven't written a word, let alone a few sentences, for the past five days. It is time to rectify this lax behaviour and jot down the week's comings and goings.

Monday - Exhausted
After a weekend of gardening it was nice to sit and rest my aching muscles in the office.

During the day I actually managed to find a free hour to fit the exhaust to the Enfield. It wasn't overly complicated. The exhaust pipe needed to be shortened by about 40mm so that the silencer would fit within the frame.  and I also needed to use a short mounting bracket to achieve perfect positioning. It looks very neat and all I need now is a set of AF Hex keys to tighten up the exhaust clamp.

Tonight was Puppy Training night and Whiffler performed really well. He is certainly one of the best in the class and I am starting to wonder about whether we might soon get promoted to the next level of ability.

Tuesday - Potential Disaster avoided
Tuesday was my idea of a living hell.

I caught the 7:50 from Evesham to Paddington and by ten thirty I was stood in the foyer of an exhibition hall at Olympia gazing out over an array of Telecommunications Providers' display stands. I spent the next few hours collecting as much free stuff from the displays and can report that the pen pot at home is filled to capacity with promotional writing instruments. I can also report that this year's gimmick is edible treats as nearly every exhibitor was handing out sweets or cakes to the passing hordes.

I have to be honest and say that I found it as dull as the proverbial ditchwater and left early in the afternoon using rumours of rail disruptions and temporary bus services as my excuse …

… and it was a good job I left when I did as the 15:52 out of Paddington abandoned me at Oxford just before five o'clock with no onward trains towards Evesham for two and a half hours. The station staff were pretty clueless but I eventually found myself ushered to a car park where, after a short wait, I was directed to a rather nice Mercedes taxi.

It is fair to say that snoozing in the front of a Mercedes is far more comfortable than a standard class seat on a train, especially when FIrst Great Western are paying the ninety quid fare.

Wednesday - Nothing to see here
Wednesday was just a long, hard day in the home office.

I am in the final stages of one project which means that I have acquired a raft of knowledge and information and just need to get the solution documented and the estimates calculated. A good chunk of Wednesday was spent on this documentation.

I also hosted a kick off call for a new project and was grappling with a multitude of facts and demands. It is fair to say this I haven't really got a clue about scope, solution or deliverables.

This was very much an IT Yin and Yang situation.

Thursday - St George's Day
First task of the day was to drop the Defender off with Mark at MP Trading. It had been booked in for a service and we also wanted him to give it a good look over to verify that we hadn't bought a wrong un. It came as a relief to learn that the only issue they had found was loose bolts on the rear prop shaft. It also became apparent that she hadn't been serviced as frequently as she should, judging by the state of the oil in the axles.

This evening we had been invited to the St George's Day dinner down at the local pub.

Since the completion of our garden wall and front steps we have received a modicum of positive feedback from friends and passersby. We have also heard that we were a topic of discussion at the most recent Parish Council meeting.

As we wandered up to the Pub we were greeted with a veritable onslaught of compliments about our recent building project. Every man, woman and dog wanted to let us know what a good job had been done and it became apparent that even if they don't know us by name we are the couple "with the poodles and the new wall".

The meal was a rather good three courses of soup, roast beef and apple pie and I managed to get myself on the outside of several large glasses of red wine … I slept well that night.

Friday - In to the Office
Yes, I needed a haircut and I had expenses to submit so I arranged a face to face solution review meeting and made an increasingly rare appearance at the nearest depot.

The day went well and I managed to spend a very sweary hour with the Director of the Customer facing service managers. He has an interest in one of my projects and it soon became apparent that much of the work I have just completed had been first done by him a couple of years ago.

He was complimentary about the way I had approached this task and has agreed to help me with the hand-off back in to the Delivery Organisation … Result!

Friday was not, however, the perfect end to the week as I appear to have either caught a cold or be suffering from hay-fever. I woke with a scratchy throat and have coughed and sniffed my way through the day.

I escaped from the Office just before five o'clock and spent the evening in an exhausted state on the sofa … I am so glad that the weekend has finally arrived.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Absolutely Shattered

"We" had planned that 30%'s family should come for dinner this evening to celebrate her birthday, albeit somewhat belatedly. Therefore the plan for today was to get the garden as tidy as possible.

My first activity was to hitch up the trailer to the Defender and check that the towing electrics were working. I was somewhat surprised when I removed the cover from the ball hitch to see unblemished paint. The Land Rover had never towed anything prior to today. The electrics were all fine so I then set about loading the trailer.

I spent the best part of an hour loading up a couple of ramshackle constructions that had been used for rearing chicks a few years ago. These filled most of the trailer but I found room for half a dozen stumps that had been dug out of the garden last weekend. TP was up and dressed by the time I had finished loading so he was press-ganged in to accompanying me to the Tip to assist with unloading.

Upon our return we headed back out in to the garden after a quick cup of coffee. The next job was to relocate the three bulk bags of wood chippings. TP and I could just about drag them so two were relocated to the bare earth between the holly and yew trees. The third bag was emptied under the laurel tree and TP was left with a rake to spread the mulch.

After lunch the lawn was mowed and I then set about cutting the dead wood out from the base of the Yew. While I did this 30% set about pulling up the ivy growing along the bank behind our new garden wall. The result of all this activity was that I now had another pile of material for shredding.

The wood chipper was stirred in to life and the branches and stems were soon converted to small chunks. These were bagged up and TP was given a broom and directed to sweep the yard between the house and the garage. With everything neat and tidy, TP and I loaded the clippings and chippings in to the back of the Defender and headed back over to the Tip.

Forty minutes later we were back at The Pile and I was completely shattered. I summoned reserves of strength, managed to remove the cork from a bottle of Leffe and plonked my backside on the sofa for the best part of an hour.

The beer and the sit-down helped to restore a modicum of energy but none of us were particularly lively this evening as we sat down to a splendid turkey dinner prepared by 30%. It was lovely to see her family, but next time perhaps we need to do rather less in the hours before they arrive.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Now I just need to go to the Tip

30% and I agreed that I would avoid shredding any prunings this morning so that I did not disturb the clientele at the Hairdressers next door.

This wasn't a  huge inconvenience as we had plenty of other activities to keep us busy. My first job was to empty the remainder of the top soil from the one tonne bag that had been delivered on Tuesday. The soil was wheelbarrowed up to one of the beds I cleared last weekend, leaving me with a bulk bag to fill with chippings later on in the day.

30% and I then rounded up the dogs for a trip to the Vets for their annual booster shots. En route we stopped off at a Nursery to look at what bedding plants were available for our new raised bed. The Proprietor suggested that we leave it another month, as there will be a far better choice at the beginning of May … I never did say that I knew anything about gardening.

The visit to the Vets was uneventful although I have to report that the latest recruit at the practice is fresh out of college and not very impressive. She wass very unsure of herself and kept nipping out to consult with a more experienced Vet … hardly reassuring, especially when one is paying for the treatment.

Back at home I had an hour to kill before lunch so I recruited TP's assistance and bled the Enfield's front brake. I haven't bled brakes for thirty years or more and recalled the horrific experiences I had with a Mini I used to own. Its brakes were dreadful and despite repeated bleeding and replacement of slave cylinders I could never get rid of the sponginess. I wasn't looking forward to bleeding the Enfield's brake and my confidence was not increased by numerous tales of woe on the internet …

… However the job went really well once I realised that the one-way valve on the brake bleeding kit was hindering progress. I ended up just using a plastic tube with TP straddling the bike and providing brake lever operation. Twenty minutes later I had fantastic pressure at the brake lever and working brakes at both ends of the bike.

After lunch 30% headed off to the supermarket and I reacquainted myself with the chipper. After a long couple of hours I had filled another bulk bag with shreddings and had swept up the inevitable debris. I was exhausted but the job was done … There were no more prunings to chip, although 30% has already started pointing out other branches that could be trimmed while the machine is here.

I swear I will commit a dreadful deed if I see her with the tree loppers in her hands ever again!

Friday, 17 April 2015

Catching Up

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday have all been very similar. Definitely not similar in a bad way, I have just done much the same thing on each of these days.

On the work front; I finally found my mojo and have applied myself to my current batch of projects. There is nothing particularly significant to report. One has been submitted for re-pricing and on another I have started to assemble the cost case and solution documentation. This documentation is quite a formidable task and I am hoping to succeed where others in the past have not … we shall see!

At the end of each of these three working days I have headed out around the Three Miler with the dogs and then, after refreshment, I have become familiar with the workings of The Chipper. It is a fantastic tool and, by spending thirty or forty minutes each evening in its company, I have managed to shred two thirds of the cuttings we have accumulated. As I type this we have two tonne bulk bags* filled to the brim with chipped prunings. By the end of the weekend I expect to have filled a third with the remaining material.**

At the end of each chipping session I have been very tired and have simply drunk beer, dined and collapsed on the sofa in front of the TV.

There is not a lot else to report apart from a welcome telephone call from Kathy H-R who had some beef for sale following a recent kill. Friday evening included some minor butchery as I diced shin and divided an enormous brisket and pot roast in to more manageable joints for a family of three.
* These are the heavy duty, woven plastic bags with a loop at each corner that are currently used for delivery of bulk materials such as sand, gravel, top soil and hard core. They have a capacity by weight of one tonne and a capacity by volume of about one meter cubed.
** I then just need to work out what I am going to do with three cubic metres of wood chippings.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Misdirected motivation

If I am honest I had real problems applying my nose to the grindstone today.

The day actually started very early when a ton of top soil was delivered at a few minutes after seven o'clock. The bulk bag was neatly deposited by the new raised bed and I really wanted to grab a spade and start filling the bed rather than head towards the study.

A week's holiday and the initiation of a number of projects in the garden meant that I was not in the mood for work and would have much preferred to be focussing on the garden. This was not helped by the fact that 30% arranged for the delivery of a wood chipper at lunch time and I really wanted to have a play with that.

Reluctantly I opened my e-mail application and watched as my in-box updated. There was only one hundred and thirty unread emails and I soon deleted the junk and irrelevant, leaving me with a handful that needed my attention. None of these were urgent and consequently did nothing to engender any degree of motivation.

I therefore spent the day flitting between my laptop and the Enfield. The postman had brought a new set of exhaust studs and it was apparent that these would allow me to fit the Trials Exhaust. I just needed to remove the stubborn stud. I reapplied heat and WD40 and even tried some judicious tapping with a hammer and punch in an attempt to release the stud from the corroded embrace of the cylinder head. Eventually I committed, attached two nuts on to the stud, tightened them against each other and then carefully attempted to unscrew the stud. I nervously gave the spanner a couple of taps with a hammer and then applied some pressure …

… All the time I was doing this the repercussions of a snapped exhaust stud were front and centre in my thoughts …

… Suddenly there appeared to be slight movement. Had I freed it or had the fucker given way? I applied pressure to the spanner again and it moved a little more. There was no sudden lack of resistance that occurs when a stud snaps and I pushed on the spanner once more. It moved again and I could see that it was actually rotating out of the cylinder head. After a few more turns I had the stud in my hand. I was incredibly relieved to have won this minor battle with the Shitter.

I was then able to trial fit the exhaust pipe and realise that I would need to order a simple bracket to mount the silencer to the bike. A few minutes on eBay had one winging its way to me.

After the success with the bike I grudgingly returned to my laptop and did as little as possible* until I felt that I could abandon it without being seen to be skiving.

I then took a walk around the Three Miler with the dogs and returned to see that TP had filled the bed with the top soil. I therefore wandered over to the wood chipper, donned ear defenders and spent the forty minutes prior to dinner making a start on chipping the huge pile of woody debris that has resulted form our recent gardening activities.
* A forty minute conversation with my frolleague Lou helped significantly with this clock watching activity.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Back to work tomorrow

Monday was considerably less frenetic than the preceding weekend. This was probably a good thing as I had a multitude of aches and twinges after two days of lopping, digging and hauling.

In the morning I got on the 'phone and ordered a tonne of top soil to fill the new raised bed. Then 30% and I headed in to Redditch to make enquiries about the hire of a wood chipper and also to take a wander around the aisles of Tesco. We were back home by lunchtime and then headed around the Three Miler with the dogs.

After the walk I felt that I should continue with the garden so grabbed a spade and the wheelbarrow and headed down to the far end under the other Yew tree …  A few years ago, when we had the patio block paved, nearly a ton of sharp sand had been left on site.  I had bagged it up and abandoned it under the aforementioned Yew … today I spent a rather painful half hour emptying the bags in to the barrow, trundling it a few yards to the fence and then shovelling the sand in to the void between the new wall and the earth bank. It was a quick win as an eyesore has been removed and reused as backfill.

As the afternoon drew to a close I checked my e-mail and Hitchcocks had replied to my enquiry. The had sent out replacement components that should enable fitment of the Trials Exhaust. A consequence of this was that I now needed to remove the standard exhaust studs. The first of these was straightforward as I had only installed it a few weeks ago, however the second had been in place since the bike was built. I tried removing it by using two nuts but it did not want to budge.

Being paranoid about snapping the stud I applied a few squirts of penetrating oil and heated the stud with a butane torch but it still resisted. I squirted more WD40 at it and decided to leave it overnight while I went away to research Loctite freeze and release spray.

As our Easter holiday draws to a close it is fair to say that there have been some very visible changes here at The Pile and it looks like we are going to have a very busy Summer tidying up the garden. A shed had been mentioned as a possible new addition to the garden. 30% also managed to get the flights booked for our next holiday so our post holiday blues have been somewhat dissipated by the fact that we know we will be heading to San Francisco on 20th August.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Weekend round-up

The past couple of days have been spent in a full scale assault on the garden here at The Pile.

On Saturday I extracted the lawn mower from the garage and completed the first cut of the season. With the lawn looking somewhat more controlled, the tree loppers and chainsaw were broken out and the two piles of prunings at the back of the house were considerably enlarged. A thin but tall Hawthorn was removed from the bed near the Holly tree and, after some severe pruning by 30%, I cut out the bulk of a leggy Elder that was pushing its way up through the aforementioned Ilex.

I then swapped the chainsaw for the loppers and hit the Laurel hedge that sits on the bank above our newly laid wall. This was long overdue for a pruning and I must have taken three to five feet out of the top and sides of it. We are hoping that the pruning will encourage it to thicken up at the base where it is rather thin.

As I chopped and hacked 30% and TP assisted by hauling away the trimmings to the now massive piles  of debris at the back of the house. 30% eventually saw the wood for the trees and decreed that a wood chipper needed to be hired as we had way too much to burn.

I also took the chainsaw out and performed some gentle tidying around the base of the Yew where it had got somewhat battered during the recent construction work. Some of the lower branches have been scraped and scarred and but I am hopeful that they will recover over the growing season. I also had a go at the huge Christmas Tree in the corner of the garden, removing the dead boughs and thinning those that overhang the lawn … when we re-stock with chickens we will be able to reach the run without getting soaked by it.

Feeling somewhat jaded I decided to take a run to the Tip. This allowed me to sit down for forty minutes and I also managed to dispose of three broken garden chairs and the lawn clippings.

As the afternoon waned 30% headed off to the supermarket and I settled to a task that had been niggling me occasionally over the past week … Just before we headed off to The Gower I attempted a trial fit of the exhaust pipe on The Enfield. It was not right as the pipe projected too far beyond the flange and consequently the nuts could not be put on to the exhaust studs …  I spent the spare time drafting a mail to Hitchcocks attempting to describe the problem and asking for guidance.
I am hoping for a quick resolution to this problem as I only need to bleed the front brake, fit the tank and attach the exhaust before the bike is theoretically ready for its MOT.

I then put thoughts of The Enfield aside, showered and changed in preparation for an evening spent at the Village Hall helping Kathy H-R celebrate her seventieth birthday. We felt quite honoured to be invited and had a lovely informal evening drinking and chatting with our friends from the village … at one point I volunteered to pull the neck on VI's evil bastard of a Light Sussex cock as he is getting far too aggressive for VI to manage.

I was thankful that it wasn't a late night after our busy day and I was in bed the right side of midnight.

I made an early start on Sunday and was out in the garden just before nine o'clock. A spade and axe were the tools of choice and the morning was spent removing the stumps of several shrubs along with the Elder I cut out yesterday.

The plan is to clear the beds along the left hand side of the lawn, level them  and lay turf. We are hoping that this will give us a more spacious and light garden that can be easily tidied with the lawn mower.

30%'s Mum and Dad joined us for lunch and a viewing of our recent projects. We had a pleasant time chatting and it was nice to sit for a while after the strenuous activities of the morning.

In the afternoon the chainsaw made another appearance and the peculiar dwarf conifer at the base of the  holly was cut out. I was then able to prune the holly and this has made a remarkable difference to the garden. It already seems so much more open and light now the beds to the left of the lawn have been cleared.

If I am honest I was exhausted by this hard work and my shoulders and back were starting to twinge as the afternoon progressed. My last exertion was to help TP who had done a sterling task of removing hardcore from the base of the new raised bed at the front of the house.

From that point forward I pottered, completing a few final tasks before collapsing on the sofa. I was absolutely knackered and almost too tired for the glass of red wine 30% proffered.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Home again

There is not a huge amount to report for Friday. The morning was spent packing up the car and giving our holiday home a quick clean. By eleven o'clock TP and JN were making their way up the cliff path* and were we taking one last walk along the beach before saying goodbye to our host Bob.

Our return journey was via the M4 rather than the Heads of the Valleys road and after one hundred and thirty miles we pulled up outside The Pile to find Hayden tidying up. He had just about finished and the new steps look fantastic. His stone work for the raised bed is less impressive but I am sure it will look fine once it has been planted up and I have grown accustomed to its somewhat crude courses.

Needless to say the rest of the day was taken up with unpacking the car and settling back in to the domestic routine. Eddie seemed pleased to see us after being left in charge for the past seven days.**

In the afternoon we made a token start on the garden by creating a huge pile of branches that need to be either burnt or chipped. These were a combination of 30%'s recent pruning activities and those that had been blocking the drive after being left there by Hayden.  We can now get a car on to the drive but the washing line is now virtually inaccessible by a head high pile of prunings that must be ten or more feet in length. ***

This Summer's project is to tidy up the garden and it is a task of Herculean proportions. It is also likely to be fraught with creative differences as 30% and I have quite different approaches to the garden. She thinks that I just want to cover everything with concrete whilst I think she tends to arrange deck chairs on the Titanic.

Hopefully I can get her to see that you need a clear design and structure before you start to plant.
* With three dogs and all of our luggage there was no room for the boys but, at least, they didn't have to lug their bags the mile back up to the Post Office where TP's Fiat was parked.
** He was checked on daily by frolleague Deb who lives just round the corner.
*** a second, similarly sized, pile is now sitting on the paved area between house and garage.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Our last full day

It is fair to say that 30% has a bit of a thing about Rhossilli Bay …

… now I am very fond of it and more than happy to walk out along it's splendid sandy arch or take in the splendour of the views from up on the headland, but I don't have a "thing" about it. I really like it there and appreciate it's beauty but I do not have any overly significant emotional attachment to it …

… getting back to 30%'s thing, it came as no surprise that she wanted to spend the last day of her holiday with another visit to Rhossilli beach. The plan was that we would spend the morning at Pwll Du, take lunch at the cottage and then head over to Rhossilli.

And that is pretty much how things panned out. In the morning TP and JN headed up the valley for a walk and 30% and I spent time pottering at the cottage and taking a short walk along Pwll Du beach with the dogs. Lunch was eaten al fresco and then we loaded up the Defender and headed across the Gower.

The weather today was, again, fantastic and Rhossilli didn't disappoint. After the hike down from the headland we wandered perhaps two hundred yards across the beach and then had it virtually to ourselves. The dogs were let loose and we wandered a mile or so along the sands. TP and JN had brought a tennis ball and baseball bat and the the dogs were exercised, acting as canine fielders for the boys. A good strike would have Whiffler charging across the beach for a hundred yards or more to retrieve the ball.  As the afternoon came to an end we headed back up the steep path and dropped in at the Worms Head Hotel to rest our legs and take refreshment.  After an hour sat in the sun we headed back to Bishopston and stopped off at The Joiners for a fabulous fish and chip supper before heading down the lane back to Ship Cottage.

We really couldn't have asked for a better "last day". We had great weather, beautiful views, exercise and rest and fantastic food.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

A good walk spoiled

Wednesday 8 April 2015

30% decided that we should walk up through the valley this morning and eat lunch at The Joiners.*

I had tried to dissuade her from this walk earlier in the week as I suspected that the path would be absolutely filthy. Unfortunately my wise words were ignored and, instead, she preferred to take council from a stranger with a grubby dog who claimed the path was fine. 

Within half a mile we were encountering areas where walkers and livestock had turned the path in to ankle deep mud. I was not impressed ... Having spent the Winter walking filthy lanes the last thing I wanted to do on my holiday was walk thorough more crap. 

Also the nature of the path was not great for 30%. It was narrow, rocky and twisted and turned through tree roots, ruts and quagmires. At present 30% is not too steady on her feet and this was far from an ideal walk for her. 

For every hundred yards I walked 30% would cover about seventy five and I was having to stop every few minutes to allow her to catch up. It was a bloody nightmare as I could never maintain any rhythm to my walking with this stop start arrangement. 

I should also point out that no maps were consulted prior to our departure so we were reliant on the sign posts to ensure we were headed in the right direction. 

After about an hour the path was barely visible as it followed a steep boulder street dry stream bed ... Hardly ideal terrain for 30%. We eventually cleared this obstacle and came to a fork in the path. One branch was signposted Bishopston but seemed to lead away from where we needed to go. Another sign pointed up a steep flight of stone steps but gave no named destination. 

I left 30% to catch her breath and climbed the steps to see if I could see any signs of civilisation. After a couple of hundred yards I could hear voices and see power lines. I retraced some of my steps and shouted a report to her lady ship. She came up the steps to join me and we soon found ourselves at the top of the valley. 

We crossed a couple of paddocks, passed a farm yard and an extreme dollop of good luck had us 50 yards from The Joiners' front door. 

It may have turned out alright but, just as easily, we could have been dealing with a broken ankle in an impenetrable valley. 30% has to get a more realistic view of her current walking capabilities. 
* TP and JN planned to drive down to the Mumbles for a couple of hours and would meet us up at the pub. 

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

A surreal walk at Oxwich Bay

Tuesday 7 April 2015

This morning dawned bright and sunny and we all sat out in the sun to eat breakfast al fresco. 

TP and JN decided to take a drive in to Swansea to explore, leaving 30% and me to our own devices. We decided upon a short walk along the beach, so gathered up leads, poo bags and a tennis ball. 

By the time we had got our collective arses in to gear, a fog had rolled in and very little could be seen of the beach, cliffs or bay. We spent thirty or forty minutes throwing a ball for the dogs before wandering back to the cottage. 

We pottered for the remainder of the morning and lunched at the cottage too. In the afternoon we headed out to Oxwich Bay for a walk with the dogs. As we drove along the headlands we emerged again in to bright sunshine but dropped back in to the fog as we pulled in to the car park. 

Surprisingly there were quite a few families sat out on the sand in a fog so thick that visibility was limited to twenty yards. It seemed a bizarre thing to be sitting out on a beach with views restricted to a surrounding grey curtain a few yards out. 

We wandered away from the populated portion of the beach, out along the line of the dunes. Within a few minutes we were totally isolated, walking on firm damp sand in a bubble maybe fifty yards across. We could see nothing; not the sea, nor the dunes or the sun. It was just us and the dogs in this monotone bubble ... It was very surreal. 

We walked as far as the small river that runs out across the bay before turning back. As we reached the car park the fog started to clear and we were rewarded with a view of the western end of the bay as we sat with a coffee in front of the snack bar. 

We arrived back at Ship Cottage a few minutes after TP and JN and learned that their visit included the Swansea Museum and castle as well leching at the local young ladies!

Their evening was taken up with beer and toasted marsh mallows by a fire on the beach. We just collapsed by the fire in front of the TV. 

Monday, 6 April 2015

A close shave

Monday 6 April 2015

The plan for today was that TP and JN would wander along the cliff path to Brandy Cove for a swim. 

Late in the morning they headed off with wetsuits and towels. We arranged to walk up to meet them later on and then head up in to Bishopston for lunch at The Joiners. 

As noon approached we rounded up the dogs, locked up and headed out in to the bright sunshine. There were many walkers out enjoying this fine Easter Monday and the dogs had to stay on their leads for most of the time. 

As we wandered along the cliff path 30% stumbled, lost her footing and fell from the path. With my hands occupied by the  dog leads I was unable to catch her and could only watch as she rolled down the steep hill toward the sea. Fortunately she caught in a gorse bush after a couple of feet and was able to get back up to the path with only a few bruises and a loss of dignity. 

The worrying thig was that if this had happened a few yards further on there would have been no gorse bushes to slow her fall and she would have fallen fifty or a hundred feet to the rocks below. It was a close shave and she was lucky not to have been seriously injured or worse!

I think I need to find a way to broach the subject of increasing her fitness, dropping a few pounds and to get a better grasp of her walking abilities. 

A few hundred yards later we reached the cove and there was no sight of TP. We eventually made contact and found that they had gone on ahead to the pub. We walked up to join them and enjoyed beer and gourmet burgers in a very sunny beer garden/car park. 

With our hunger and thirst sated we headed back down the cliff path to Pwll Du, pausing en route to pick up ice creams for pudding. 

The rest of the afternoon was spent lazing at the cottage where I apparently snoozed for a couple of hours. 

Sunday, 5 April 2015

A birthday and a bit of an adventure

Today was 30%'s birthday and, after a very leisurely start, it was decided that she would like to celebrate by taking a walk along Rhosilli beach.*

The weather on the beach was superb and despite it being Easter Sunday there was only a few dozen people on the sands.** We had acres of space to walk and throw a ball for the dogs. 

We probably strolled a mile or so before turning and heading back to the path up the cliff. Up at the top we found a seat on the hotel's patio and lunched looking out over Worm's Head. 

The afternoon was spent back at Pwll Du taking it easy. I may well have spent an hour examining the inside of my eyelids. 

During the afternoon we attempted to ascertain TP's whereabouts. The plan was that he would drive down this afternoon in the company of JN and join us for dinner. 

The reality was somewhat different. They left home at four in the afternoon and it took them four and a half hours to travel the one hundred and twenty miles to Swansea!

They were tight lipped when questioned about navigational errors but as the evening drew on it became apparent that they had had a few adventures.***
* it was also decided that her gift would be to spend Easter week 2016 at Ship Cottage ... I had better get that booked before someone else does. 
** walking with three Standard Poodles has made us something of a carnival attraction and we could not go far without being accosted for a chat, compliments, a stroke of the dogs and even the occasional photo
*** A detour via Cardiff City centre, a wrong turn on the M5/M50 roundabout and a viewing of a bridge that looked like a lifting bridge, but wasn't, all slipped out as they chatted ... Christ knows where they really went!

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Coffee at Caswell Bay

Saturday 4 April 2015

It was something of a rude awakening when 30% roused me in the early hours of the morning. She was concerned that one of the dogs needed a pee and it was muggins here that needed to shrug on a shirt and jeans and escort them down to the beach to "perform".

I was soon back in bed snuggled under the duvet, but wide awake. It must have been the best part of an hour before I dropped off but I then slept through until nine o'clock ... a serious lie-in for me. 

After a leisurely breakfast we decided to walk the cliff path along to Caswell Bay, stop for a coffee at the cafe there and then return to Pwll Du. 

The weather was glorious and we were soon regretting bringing coats and sweat shirts as the sun shone down upon us. The cliffs and hills were ablaze with the yellow of gorse in full flower and it was so nice to see colours after the drab tones of Winter and early Spring. 

We walked at a leisurely pace and had soon completed the mile and a quarter to  Caswell. As planned, coffee was drunk at the cafe before we headed back to Ship Cottage. 

We then had a decidedly lazy afternoon. A kip was taken on the sofa and a short walk to the bay was taken but we were soon pouring glasses of wine, lighting the log burner and tucking in to sausage and mash. 

It would have been perfect if I hadn't had to endure the final episode of The Voice ...

... and 30% thinks I watch shite TV!

Friday, 3 April 2015

A week away

Friday 3rd April

The plan for today was to spend the morning getting our shit together, have lunch and then head off down to the Gower. 

And that is basically how the day panned out. We took a leisurely, almost casual, approach to packing that comes from familiarity of what is needed for a week at Pwll Du. There is no need for suit cases or soft luggage as the car can be parked a few feet from the door to Ship Cottage and shopping bags are far better suited to this task. 

During the morning we were visited by Jules and later by BMS and SMS who all came to wish 30% Birthday greetings and to hand over gifts and cards. 

Hayden also arrived and we talked through the final jobs that need to be completed as he he should be finished by the time we return home from our week away. 

A late lunch was eaten and it was no more than twenty minutes work to load up the Defender. TP was given last minute instructions* and the dogs were put in to the car. 

It was half past two and we were finally setting off. The Defender was superb on the motorway and it's sixth gear makes cruising at seventy enjoyable rather than the deafening experience of the Td5. 

Within an hour or so we had crossed the border in to Wales and were making great progress. As we passed a sign post for Abergavenny I has a nagging suspicion that I should have turned off.  I asked 30% to turn on the Sat Nav and it was at this point we learnt that it's battery was flat and that the Defender's 12 volt outlet wasn't working. 

The net result of this minor hiccough was that we travelled to Swansea down the M4 rather than our more usual route down The Heads of the Valleys road. 

We arrived at Pwll Du shortly before five o'clock and negotiated the rock track down the side of hill to the bay. I had forgotten how steep it is in places but we were soon at the bottom and fording the river before parking up outside the cottage. 

It was so nice to be back here and our familiarity with the accommodation meant that we were settled in within minutes. The log burner was lit, beer was poured and steaks were soon sizzling in the pan. 

It really doesn't get much better than this. 
* He is working over the weekend and wildly travel down to join us on Sunday. 

Thursday, 2 April 2015

I'm not doing anything else today

It is far to say that the past three days have been somewhat jam packed, as I attempted to complete domestic necessities and tie up loose ends at work before leaving for a week at Pwll Du.

I haven't had the energy to write a journal entry since Monday so here I go with a quick summary of Tuesday through Thursday* ...

… Tuesday morning started with a trip in to Redditch to drop Whiffler off at the Dog Groomers. I returned home and spent the rest of the day head down at work. There is nothing else to report apart from the fact that I managed to put the second coat of paint on the Enfield's seat bracket.

Moving on to Wednesday; I tidied myself up and headed in to the nearest Depot. I had expenses to submit and I also needed to scan and email a form to my manager, These activities are far easier to perform using the MFPs at work so I spent the day head down in the Office. All in all it was quite a productive day and I even managed to knock up a cost and pricing analysis for one of my projects … it may be of use if the shit hits the fan while I am away.

Back at home I managed to find the energy to complete an evening walk around the Three Miler with 30% and the dogs and I also managed to fit the seat to the Enfield.

Hayden also turned up and we now have the first three steps constructed that will ultimately lead to the front door.

And so to Thursday … I spent the day ensuring that all of my projects were progressed as far as possible and that my team mates knew what to be working on whilst I was away. In the minutes I had spare; milk was purchased from the village shop,  tea was made for Hayden, 30%'s prescription was collected from the Surgery and the dogs eventually got fed around five o'clock in the evening.

A set of rubber mats arrived to protect the Defender's carpets and these were installed a few moments after I reached the point of exclaiming "fuck it, I'm done".

I have had a busy couple of months and I am definitely ready for a break.
* There ain't gonna be a lot of detail as I have already sunk a beer and Tesco** curry
** Filling and always disappointing