Thursday, 19 April 2012

Progress, Plans and Opinions

Paul the guy doing the repairs to the motor-home shell has completed the roof leak works. We have ordered and had dispatched the replacement goods for the kitchen and wet-room. Without detailing all the items and their specifics model No’s we bought a new fridge, oven/grill and hob/sink, and a few other peripheral items. However there will still be plenty for me to do when I get the motor-home back (hopefully sometime in May). I’m doing the actual shower fitting when I run in all new water pipes. I will then re-seat the external shell seal, this runs round the entire edge of the habitation unit on both sides. Then I have fit the new awning, change the table, replace the waste water tank and various other practical and cosmetic jobs I’ll detail as I go.

We’ve bought the material for the new soft furnishings and this has been delivered, so Paul's wife can cut the foam and make the new cushions. We expect with a minor modification to the backrest of one of the seats to reduce the cushion count from fourteen pieces to six, and we grab back the over cab bed area for storage. The question is: do I do neat cargo netting or actual cupboards? My head says elastic cargo netting as this allows air flow, and then turns what was once the bed into a bedding store… it also gives a great deal of additional standing room from the driving and passenger positions, and allows the forward air vent to let its light in. I may be overruled on the netting... but I think diesel price may eventually swing the argument back my way.

This brings me back to having things to do myself, now the leak works are complete. Motor-homes are designed generically, which is fine if you're doing what they are usually intended to do; which is in essence to take you away for a week or two, maybe a month or so at most in relative home from home comfort. However when you plan to condense your entire life into a box 17ft long 9ft high and a little over 6ft wide, and live in it for up to two years, you have to think long and hard about storage and longer and harder about whether your relationship is strong enough to deal with the highs and inevitable lows (but I won’t dwell on that now… it would be inappropriate without Amanda’s input).

So with the re-build issues in mind and storage and space utilisation being critical to both comfort and practicality, the finishing works that I want to do are very important and tailor the unit closer to what we believe our needs will be. We have effectively taken a five berth motorhome and removed two berths, while at the same time making the remaining three berths into one very large berth of: 1.85m by 2.10m. This big berth is important, because I mangled my back some time ago and need a lot of space to sleep, and despite the manufacturer describing the motorhome as five berths; we have never found the double beds comfortable for two, and subsequently when we go away, we usually sleep in separate beds. There seems to be a lot of bullshit in the design of motorhomes generally, and when we were at the Motorhome, Caravan and Camping show at the Excel in February, we were staggered by the amount of ostentatious fuel hungry, heavy crap that seems to be built into motorhomes… I’ve whinged about this elsewhere, and I may whinge about it some more.

We have removed the carpets to be replaced with thick plastic based flooring. We have had the bathroom re-built with just the wet area and toilet, this avoids duplicating the sink function, and after all; all the shower and sink waste water ends up in the same tank for disposal (the toilet is entirely separate and self contained). The question you have to ask you though is: why in a space so confined would you want two sinks? And especially when, if like us you frequent good quality campsites where you have both washing and washing up facilities, and in between times CLS’s where your own facilities come into their own and space becomes the absolute premium for comfort? And I guess that’s where my earlier whinge about modern motorhomes comes home to roost. Modern motorhomes seem to have borrowed far too many ideas from luxury day boats. Granted they are at first luxurious looking and comforting. However if you're a shit kicker who yomps across muddy fields, a fisherman covered in damp salty clothes and fish slime, or a mountain biker with a skid marks from tailbone to the top of your skull, then your Moho is not going to look pristine for very long at all... and if you have kids, well from experience they don’t take shoes off when entering building, so what hope when they are getting into a big car with beds and seats. Far from encouraging a new younger generation of explorers and travellers, they perturb people of our age (mid forties) and younger by virtue of the plush impractical furnishings and outwardly fine looking veneers. Our unit is 21 years old and looked and felt bigger inside than even some of the larger coachbuilts available as this years models, and that was even before I started paring it down, but I digress.

We have reduced the overall size of the hob sink combination because you get two burners instead of three on the new hob. That may seem counter intuitive but one of the burners is double the size of any of the three we had on the old hob. This clearly gives you a bigger cooking pan footprint, it means you can put the hob into a worktop area with more space around it, and as someone who spends a lot of time in the kitchen I am happy to bang the drum for elbow room ... also with bigger burners you can do more with bigger pans than small ones, especially if you can mount a steamer, or cook separate items within one large pan. The critical issue being that ideally you want good quality heavy pans with removable handles, so that you can transfer from hob to oven or grill, without losing the ability to close the door. If you can’t cook as well in your Moho as you can in your own home… well you might as well just bugger off back home.

For a few weeks things have been slow, but now they seem to have started to come together. It’s funny how plans start like this, as ephemera, pipe dreams, wishful thinking; fragile and intangible and want to disappear in a puff of impracticality, or straight up fear of the unknown. And who knows there may still be insurmountable obstacles, but today, right now there is actual tangible evidence that three months of talk is bearing fruit. I’ll leave it there for now, but I’ll be having to update a lot more frequently from here on in.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Hunting and Fishing

Things must be ramping up, two posts in the month so far. Last week saw me fettling with the stock of my sixteen year old bull-pup Falcon Pre-charged air rifle. Over time, 16 years by my reckoning, the stock has shrunk just a fraction. Over time this has allowed, a fraction of movement of the entire action (about 0.5mm) around a central fixing point. That sounds like nothing but take that 0.5mm of play in the barrel and then run it out over a twenty five metres, and you will find your shots going wide.

It took an evening of making snooker cue chalk dust, then carefully covering the under surface of the Inter-mount block (on my rifle that’s the bit that holds the barrel, cylinder and the scope rails all in one) and then rubbing the Inter-mount gently but firmly against the inside face of the stock to find the high points.

Once this was done several times, to ensure all the high  spots were visible by virtue of the absence of chalk dust and the glazed appearance of the timber where the Inter-mount block had created friction, and everything else was covered in a fine green dust, I had to gently rub the high-spots away with a very light sandpaper, and very light touch; while avoiding sanding any of the edges of the inner groove where the action should sit square.

When the stock felt tight against the Inter-mount, I applied a light coat of specialist stock oil to the inner face of the stock to encourage the timber to swell a little and to form the tight seal between the stock and it’s Inter-mount. And finally the stock was sat overnight to dry before final tweaks and re-mounting of the complete action and scope.

All that remains is to borrow a Black and Decker Workmate and do the re-zeroing of the scope… though I’m in no real rush, what with other activities going on. Once the rifle is zeroed and I’ve had some field target practice, I will add the rifle to the inventory of travel kit, and items that need to be covered by insurance.

The air rifle, the fishing rods, a proper shrimping net and a few foraging field guides will join us on our travels and hopefully they will all be put to good use feeding us.

It all sounds quite novel and romantic when you write it down like that, but the facts are, that if you set out in the morning or the evening to hunt bunnies for the pot, you had better be ready to fail and have bought a pack of bangers and a packet of Smash in the event of a hunting failure. Likewise with fishing, shrimping and even gathering plants, there are no guarantees.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Getting Ready: The Tangents.

When eventually we leave the safety of home and home comforts, other than the Aluminium and polystyrene walls of the habitation unit of our motorhome, we intend where possible, legal and fun to try and forage for ourselves, both on the flora and fauna of our land and sea. And now without the flowery language; a bit of fishing, shooting and picking of herbs etc. In part this will help to save some pennies, (though we would hope never to be that poor), and of course it brings you a little closer to the land and sea you’re exploring, and adds extra dimensions to the overall adventure.

To this end, a week or so back we bought some very basic fishing rods and reels (from these people ) and went out to practice the art of salt water fishing down near where we live on the tidal Thames at Tilbury. Now many years ago I did fish the inland waterways near home, and experienced most of my first forays into camping and sleeping outdoors in that environment. Amanda on the other hand has never fished with rod and line. So guess who blanked and who caught? That’s right on Amanda’s second cast she came up with a small Flounder, I was very pleased for her for the reason regaled below.

I remember being invited to go fishing once a week by a fella who lived up the road from us, my mum had said I wanted to go fishing, and as he was an Angler, he volunteered for the task. Then once a week for the next four weeks or so we sat at the same spot and didn’t catch a thing. Frankly I was losing the will to live and the desire to fish. Then one evening (usually a Wednesday as I remember) I caught my first fish; a Roach, . And from that moment on I was hooked. However until that moment I was just about sick to the back teeth of sitting by the Lea Canal at the junction of the Hertford Union canal in Stratford catching nothing. Eventually the fella (Phil) if I remember correctly moved away, but by that time I had got all my own gear and fished for several years with a group of mates. Once we all left school our group broke up and, I took up hobbies like SCUBA diving, walking and more serious trekking and a bit of air rifle hunting (more about this later).

Since then fishing hasn’t really been on my agenda; but many is the time in the last four years since I moved to Tilbury that I’ve cycled past the guys that fish down by Tilbury Fort, and thought “I fancy some of that”. And so it would appear that in the making of our trip plan, I have fulfilled a side ambition, and introduced Amanda to the joys of tangles, lost fish, tall stories, and slimy cold things that won’t stay still while you try to take hooks from their mouths.

Given the relative success of our first trip, we went out again last Friday morning the 6th of April, on the rising tide and bagged ourselves four Whiting before cycling home as the tide started its ebb and the clouds started to fill the sky; up until that point we had been facing into bright sunshine for the best part of three hours, and we both caught fish. All things being equal a very good morning. And then home to start on the serious Easter jobs at home to get the house ready for sale or rent (we still haven’t decided, and it will depend on the market later this year).

The point of this post? Well I think it’s about a coming together of many strands of life, as the plan firms up. As things start slowly to gel together and the idea feels more and more like something concrete as opposed to a pipe dream, you suddenly find that things you have paid no heed to for decades, were stored like savings earning interest in your deep long-term memory. Things like how to tie a hook, that once upon a time drove you mad with frustration, or how to disgorge a hook, and even how to fillet a Whiting; which I learnt from an ex girlfriends dad on the only other occasion in my life that I had fished from the beach. I say beach, I mean the sea wall towards Jaywick East of Frinton in Essex, but even that memory of filleting your own fish and how to do it stuck. At an appropriate time, those memories bubble to the surface imbuing one with confidence. Maybe this post as with others is also about confidence, and finding those reserves you’ve subconsciously stored away for yourself. Anyway enough for now, fishing is back on the agenda. Things are coming together, and for that I am glad.
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