Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Recent Weather and the BBC's Reporting and or Panic Mongering

Do people forget that Autumn is the season of gales? Every year since the `Fish Episode', the same panic ridden bollocks. It's part of our annual cycle, it's how spores spread, seeds move around, it helps with the excision of leaves, it churns the sea and breaks up the weed to spread that seed, it knocks down the trees with rotten or inadequate root plates allowing regeneration, from herb layer upwards over subsequent decades. It intermixes the very air we breathe. 

I wonder what a year following a windless year would be like?

However the Beeb seems to focus everyone in on a two `highly probable (but unfortunate) in the grand scheme of things deaths', the fact that trees fell on train lines and houses, and the losses to the economy due to said infrastructure being buggered for twenty four hours, by something as unstoppable as the change of season.

Most tree falls can't be predicted with great certainty, but again those by train lines perched on banks are in the high probability zone. But lets not forget that people want trees by train lines and roads to stop the transmission of noise and improve a view. However seeing beech trees down, almost certain to have been old trees affected by Meripilus giganticus is a tell tale sign of ignorance and or poor inspection process. I saw the cut up trunk of one on last nights news with the typical discolouration of rot. That trees demise in these circumstances was highly likely, but slipped through the net due to poor tree management by a local authority. It fell on a church. I wondered as I looked at it how many times, in recent years people have seen the huge fruit of the root destroying fungi and marvelled at its size in total ignorance, of it eating the substance of the roots system, leaving it balanced by dint of its canopies weight pressing its mass down into the soil. For those that do: when next you walk the woods, see the fallen trees, and find the mythical `Tap Root'. There are very few trees with such a thing, trees hold to the soil with a web of roots that extend maybe an arms length into the soil, but as wide or a little wider than the canopy, the leaves feed water to the edges to a zone called the drip line, from where the majority of dissolved nutrients are extracted by a system of Mycorrhiza (mycelia-friendly fungus) that form a symbiotic relationship with the tree, extending the root surface area. and providing pre-digested nutrients to the root hairs, for uptake into the main body of the tree. This root system effectively binds the tree to the ground by Frictional forces.

However I digress. 

Why does the Beeb need to send some moron up in a helicopter at my expense to state the fucking obvious about the lack of trains on a trainline that is closed due to fallen trees and power lines? And why do we need some women standing outside St Pancras Station describing the scene of `no one fucking there?' ... er because no trains are running. And then finally linking the whole business of big storms and increased `Extreme Weather' to `Climate Change', that has itself been in abeyance according to some sources for maybe sixteen or seventeen years (when I say Climate Change in this context I mean an overall increase in Global Temperature) ... but fuck it, if the Beeb can re-brand Global Warming ... ahem ... why can't I follow their lead?

Hurricane season around the tropics leads to Autumn gales in the temperate regions and has probably done so since the end of the last Ice Age. Lets not bemoan this phenomena, instead lets run an Autumn Watch special on why this kind of event is essential for the natural world, that we are increasingly isolated from by virtue of technology and mind-set, due in greater part t othe news media `not having a fucking clue and having some other agenda to promote'.

Normal service will resume shortly.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Brean Down

There’s not a lot more to say about the days parked at Home Farm Campsite. It was wet, we were knackered and we think that four days in one place is possibly too long. We covered the same ground with being in one lace too long once before. For information: the place was the New Forest, fully off grid, no Hook-up, no site facilities. It was a great retreat for watching nature, we saw a Tree Creeper do its stuff literally four feet in front of us, and Woodpeckers doing Woodpecker stuff ten feet above our heads). However our friends went home after their weeks holiday and we’d ridden or walked all of the local rides or paths (without de-camping and driving anywhere else). The gloom under the pines became oppressive, and we got bored, plain and simple. We should have cut our losses and left, with two days still paid for, but hay ho you live and learn. Once we’d left the New forest and got to Charmouth the atmosphere changed entirely, we had sun, warmth, electricity and all mod-cons (read as local pubs) and would have stayed indefinitely as long as the weather stayed fine.

Home Farm had a lot going for it in terms of its own facilities, the Spa, Bar, big pitches with hard standing, very clean showers and loos, launderette ect. It was convenient for access to Burnham on Sea and Brent Knoll, and had we not had a minor issue with a door ... ahem ... we could have driven off to some further afield attractions, but we stayed too long regardless. Unless a place has lots to explore on foot or on your doorstep, and public transport links, then two nights is enough, for a re-charge, exploration and a bit of maintenance.

When we did finally leave on Friday afternoon, we went to Brean Down, we think almost five years to the day, since  we went first time as a couple (likewise our walk to the top of Brent Knoll). It’s technically our anniversary week, we both forgot the exact date so we created an arbitrary day; the third Friday of October ... works for us. Always a Friday. What’s not to like?

Brean Down is fabulous, I won’t describe it, go see it for yourself or look at the Wikipedia link in the previous post. What I will describe is watching three scythe winged hawks (unidentified birds of prey), balanced in a roaring updraft, somehow perfectly poised so that the wind which was powerful enough to destabilise my walking on a gradient, held them dead steady fifty feet below where we walked. I was hypnotised, by them. I’d thought they were gulls when I first saw them, but the wing profile was all wrong. They hovered in the wind that runs unimpeded up the Bristol Channel, stirred briefly by the ridge of the Quantocks, before running flat across the estuary again into the near vertical south face of Brean Down. The entire body of air crashes into the wall of rock and gets compressed and turbo charged vertically, step back from the edge fifteen to twenty feet and there’s barely a breeze. But there in the torrent of air, are these three tiny lightweight predators of the sky, moving neither up or down, their flight surfaces twitching to maximise gravities down-force against the might of the wind ...  until eventually with the tip of a wing they leisurely banked and dove down the cliff face and out of site. Watching that seeming effortless display of aerial control, just made you want to be a bird of prey, even if only for an hour.

The nerd in me would love to have lit a flare at the foot of the cliff to see how the smoke was propelled upwards and at what point the battering ram of air being driven upwards was itself scythed flat by the main body of air running level from the far side of the bay ... I guess I’ll just have to use my imagination.

Watching the hawks display was the first of two spectacular avian acrobatic events of the day. On the walk back down of the hill I stopped to watch from six to nine crows perform a synchronised series of swoops, looping soars and dives in a niche of vertical bare rock the height of the cliff, that stands adjacent to the cliff-stairs that take you from the beach to the top the steep way. Crows appeared to join the display, then drop out and loop or hover before re-joining the central display team.

As I watched, I wondered why they were doing what they were doing? It had no point that I could see, they were a small flock being joined here and there by other crows resident to the area ... a flying parliament, up, down, around fast in the sheering updraft, and then looping out of the wind away from the cliff to fall in a dive, before re-joining the wind at the foot of the cliff, like surfers in the sea, or kids looping round, up and down on a slide ... I concluded that there was no point to it. They were just playing with the wind, it didn’t feed them, it’s not breeding season, there were no winners or losers, and all of a sudden as if one of them shouted time out, they just felt out their synchronised swim in the air and fell as a body to one particular telegraph pole, for a preen and a squawk.
It’s mushroom season. Given the harshness of the environment, and the exposure of the down, I’ve never seen so many species in fruit all in one place. In a wood I’d expect to see them, which demonstrates a lack of imagining and logic, and a subsequent learning. When you think about it, fungi fruiting at this time of year, releasing spores into the wind described above, being flung high into the sky and carried elsewhere ... It’s logical. A goat and cattle grazed cliff will have fungi, and it follows that fungal spores would have been driven in amongst the grass, brambles and bracken to create colonies that in turn seed the wind. I have no names for them, but Amanda has taken some great pictures.

We finished our walk on the easy path down, and strolled back to the van, had a brew and a roll. We scanned through Amandas Photos, some of which are dotted through this post (Brean’s one of those places that doesn’t do bad pictures,  that said Amanda has done it proud). After the late lunch, Amanda did Facebook ... very important for staying abreast of civilisation. I took a forty minute twilighting nap as I like to call it. It's the the place between REM and awake; the fuzzy area where the brain surfs the edge of dreamland, while being alive to the nearby sound of a child being ushered into a car by parents eager to be inside before a high velocity shower pummels them wet, or the squeal of a gate pulls you close to the surface world of consciousness for a few moments, before one try's to catch the tail of the ethereal dream stuff, that may have meant something if it hadn’t been disturbed, by fingers of noise being drawn through strands of dream smoke, breaking the tendrils and creating eddies.

We rolled out of Brean around 4pm, taking back roads across the levels towards Rooksbridge to spend some time with the Somerset Harrisons. We’ve been here for three nights now. We’re waiting for the super storm to pass.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Wednesday 23/10/13

We’ve been plotted up on a winter priced plot at Home Farm Camp and Tourer site (Somerset) for three days so far. It’s been wet, though yesterday we did get out to Brent Knoll: the village and then the hill. Said hill is 449 feet tall, was once used by Neolithic men as a settlement (followed at some point by the Romans, and then variously by the Angles, Saxons and Danes). It used to sit as an island in a shallow sea, until the monastery’s around Glastonbury etc made determined attempts to reclaim the land and drained what is now the Somerset levels.

From the summit you can see in no particular order. Wales (the south coast), Cheddar Gorge (entry point), Glastonbury Tor, Crooks Peak, The Bristol Channel, the M4 in all its shiny wet glory, the mouth of the River Parrett, Hinkley Point C Nuclear power station (much in the news recently), Brean Down, Steep Holm, Flat Holm, Weston Super Mare, the east face of the Quantocks and the west face of the Mendips (of which Brean Down is the extreme end).


I should mention that the end on Brean Down is another of those fascinating places around Britain that has been of great military significance until the end of the last war and a little beyond. Those of a nerdish bent will notice the fact that technologies such as radar, guided missiles, and high tech coastal patrol ships have rendered may of these fortified places entirely redundant (in fact if you think about it ... and I just did ... having fixed coastal defence is like putting all your eggs in one basket and then suspending a brick by string over them and lighting a candle under the string).The point if there is one (and I may have even made it elsewhere in the past), is that these places are linked by various individuals throughout history, Julius Caesar, Hadrian, Henry the Eighth, our unwritten pre-history to name a few. If there is a conciliation to these old military places being abandoned to the right to roam, the rigours of rough seas and the proof that almost nothing man made last forever, it is likely to be the fact that, we in post WW2 Britain are the safest, we've been (controversial statement time) since the Roman occupation.


All the above is very interesting. However you ask: How are you and Amanda doing? We’ll we’re alright, restricted a little by the weather, being ultra diligent about managing moisture and still learning the steps to the dance around each other in the galley style confines of the new wagon. This enterprise will become by degrees easier when we are no longer avoiding the rain, but I suspect that the weather traumas will be replaced by a lack of available resource traumas the further south we go; by this I mean water and electricity. Life is so much easier with Hook-up, on site showers a launderette and so forth.

We are a little pooped after yesterdays five hour trek from campsite to Knoll and back, interspersed with fierce showers and gusty wind, a very late laundry session, followed by showers and bed.

Today we were late up. We did a quick run to the site shop, grabbed a loaf, some beans (to go with our Bacon), and half a dozen 15amp bladed fuses (because I forgot the switch sequence again and popped the 12volt leisure battery circuit).

We are tired, a bit tetchy and a bit achy, complicated by the fact that Amanda banged her head a few weeks backs and appears to have:
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) or positional vertigo. is a brief, intense episode of vertigo that occurs because of a specific change in the position of the head. If you have BPPV, you might feel as if you're spinning when you look for an object on a high or low shelf or turn your head to look over your shoulder (such as when you back up your car). You also may experience BPPV when you roll over in bed. BPPV is caused when otoconia tumble from the utricle into one of the semicircular canals and weigh on the cupula. The cupula can't tilt properly and sends conflicting messages to the brain about the position of the head, causing vertigo. BPPV sometimes may result from a head injury or just from getting older. Information courtesy of: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/balance/pages/balance_disorders.aspx.

Today, we are taking a day off from adventuring, for the more relaxed activities of swimming and steaming in at the Home Farm Campsite spa: http://www.homefarmholidaypark.co.uk/

Luxury by eck.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Mishaps on the Way ... or Shakedown Shenanigans ... or If it can go wrong it will go wrong ...

And at the worst moment, in the worst possible place, with largest number of variables and threads to trace to determine why what went wrong, went wrong when it went wrong.
We left my brother for the last time on the 8th of October 2013. We dropped our last load of stuff at the lock-up and then drove to our friend’s the Essex Harrisons house back in Southend on Sea. It had been a long day, we were 98% ready for the road but we’d been run ragged for a few days and they offered a common sense solution and dinner for our first night out. It also meant we could hook up electric and try everything out in the sure knowledge that any emergencies could be dealt with ... or read that as we suddenly found ourselves unpinned and we took the easy option because we were/are still not quite ready to be out of our comfort zone, and the Harrisons are fine company.
Thinks get blurred after that.
We stayed on their drive for two days, fitted the new number plates with Euro symbols. From this you can assume that we got the Logbook back, and in a sudden flash of DVLA commonsense, it came back with two changes: the colour and the body type; both completed (contrary to the information from my earlier phone call to find out why it was taking so long). We just had to sort out the Tax Class change on the V10 form the DVLA sent in advance of the logbook, then tax the van and send the logbook and proof of tax back to the DVLA. It was a bit of a faff, but it means that we can pick up the logbook in person from the Somerset Harrisons, now we are in the west.
Before we left for our first nights in the wild, I had to fix an issue with the De-Mister fan that resolved itself with a little wire tracing to the `speed controller connector block’ being detached; probably during the stereo install (the weather had been so fine since the install that the issue went un-noticed for a couple of weeks). It was a bit of a faff but a relatively easy win. We sorted out a small void between the shower tray and toilet cassette that would allow the seal to break between them if they were put under pressure (in my humble opinion.  And finally I sorted out the going away toolkit and storage of said tools and odds and sods for potential odd jobs.
We put all flammables, adhesives, tapes various and sharps in the LPG locker which is fireproof (making sure not to block the `Gas Dropout holes). We fairly ruthlessly went through our kit and took out some more excess (this included everything we had duplicated in case we had guests ... they bring their own or go without). We connected to the Harrisons power and tested the Hot Water heater ... it worked. I then tested all the lights on mains power, with the water heater and blown air heating system on simultaneously  and blew a main fuse between the primary leisure battery and charger. However as we had mains power I waited until daylight to sort it out. Lesson learned. There are limits to what can be on, and what you’re charging. I also had to trace back through circuits because where I thought the faulty fuse was, is nowhere near, where it actually is. It was a bit of a faff, but visually following out all the various wires and fuses means I now know where everything goes and where to look if I break it again.
On the evening of day three, having been to the lock-up to dispose of the excess and get rid of the bikes, we went off to Wallasea Island just outside of Southend, to camp; that Wednesday if you’ve forgotten (as we would, had we still been living in a brick house with many rooms to escape to), was the day October woke up, stretched, remembered that it was supposed to be an autumnal month, and opened the heavens, blew some gales and tipped down rain for around eighteen hours solid.
It’s all been a bit up and down since.
The first night I discovered that the Gaslow Gauge has a very short span between Green, Amber and Red (signifying the gas has run out). I discovered this while cooking some rice. Fortunately we have the expedition cook-set, so we broke out the Camping gas stove did the rice halfway, put the pan on a cork mat, insulated the pan so it would stew in its own juice and got on with the chilli ... it was a bit of a faff, and a little embarrassing ... but to quote the Pope `Shit happens’. The expedition stove is a great contingency; without that it we would have had a long drive to the nearest chippy (there isn’t a bar or restaurant at Wallasea Island).
Losing the gas meant that the hot water heater locked out. I had to read the manual to find out what the light sequence meant, and it took a week to reset it, because I had other things to do. Wallasea has great showers, and wash up facilities. So I isolated the gas to the heater, and the light flashing was just a reminder that I had a job to do eventually. Resetting the water heater required a specific on/off/on/off switch sequence to clear the error; failing that it would have been covers off for a full reset. I managed it second attempt with the main switch sequence ... It was a bit of a faff. Lesson learned, and I know how if required to access the manual reset but hope never to have to.
So it rained on the Thursday. It rained without pause. We said at least half a dozen times that we would put on our waterproofs and go for a walk, but we didn’t. Instead we played `move the contents of the lockers around’, until we ended up with the same amount of kit we arrived with, but in places it could be got at ... and with room to spare. Who knew?  ... it was a bit of a faff but well worth the effort.
This took us to Saturday afternoon. We had to pack and leave for midday which was mostly dry or drying out. Once we’d packed up we took a walk alongside the River Crouch by the Wallasea Island Wild Coast project (link attached it would take too long to explain). http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/w/wallaseaisland/index.aspx
We then drove back to Tilbury for an evening of beer and carousing with our friends the Smith-Wells of Essex. We parked on their drive, made up the bed and then socialised.
On the drive to Tilbury, I saw out of the corner of my eye a silver flash. I looked down and to my left and saw a drip mark on the floor. I felt ill seeing it, because it meant water was above the headlining inside the cab. However to cut a long story short it turned out to be condensation. It did however mean that I didn’t want to head back to a campsite until I knew what was going on. We texted the Harrisons of Essex to see if we could park on their drive again, so I could do the required investigations and any repairs required. I checked the three original ambulance aerials, and GPS node and they were fine. Then I dropped the cab light cluster and a desert spoon of water fell to the floor. And that was the extent of the `alleged leak’.
There is a space between the headlining tray and the roof of the cab that has no insulation. Fortunately Lance had some sound deadening foam and I have a spare tin of high temperature contact adhesive for jobs like this. I lined the roof inside and stuffed insulation into all the frame voids around the cab the same as I’d done for the rear habitation area. I also cut slivers and tacked them to the inside of all the trim panels. It was a bit of a faff, but there are two benefits from this: 1. Moisture can no longer condense on painted metal, run down the headliners support frame into the light cluster and “shock horror” the `Central Locking over-ride switch’ (a design over-site if ever there was one). 2. The main cab noise has abated almost completely; there is nothing for engine noise to resonate against, our voices are now completely clear to each other and the stereo which was great before is now ... I think the word is `EPIC’!!!!!!
The cab condensation issue wasn’t the last of our troubles.
Read on, the Auxiliary belt hadn’t been replaced when the clutch was done, we hadn’t been charged for it so it was just another visit to Benchsound. So on the Tuesday we dropped the moho back to Benchsound (I could probably change the belt myself but just didn’t have the confidence in getting it correctly tensioned to take the chance ... I did however ask them to get me a spare just in case it comes to it). And by feeling the tension and observing the play I’ll know how for next time.
Belt replaced, we chased Toomey Vauxhall to find out if the second electronic key fob was ready, and lo and behold the delivery time had stretched from 3 to 5 days to 7 to 10 days. I was to say the least pissed off. I knew what I was told when we put the deposit down, but what can you do? Whining wouldn’t make it appear, so we had another night on the Harrisons drive. And fine company they are ... one feels as if they would quite happily let us live on their drive in perpetuity.
On the drive back from Toomey’s I heard that familiar tictictictictictictictictictictictic coming from a wheel that indicates an object being stuck in the tyre tread. You always hope it’s a bottle top or a stone. However late that day I looked the tyres over and found an 8mm bolt head flush with the tread on the nearside front wheel. Fortunately the tyres are new and the bolt was short. It had holed the tyre but not catastrophically. So in the drizzle and wet I had to jack up the van and do a tyre change (those tyres have only been on for six weeks). It was a bit of a faff, but now I’ve used the jack and wheel removal kit (very neat and clever ratchet design ... makes up for the shit headlining support), so would be confident roadside ... you must find the silver linings.
On Wednesday evening (this brings us nearly up to date) I called Toomey Vauxhall, both the key and the fob where in, and went to get the key programmed on Thursday morning. Thursday afternoon, after lunch one final time with the Harrisons, we left to drop some papers and a laptop at my parents and then proceeded west to Trowbridge and the Hardy-Smiths of Wiltshire.
You couldn’t make the next bit up.
We drove 139 miles round the M25 and M4 to within 100yards of our final destination to get fish and chips because it was late. I turned off the engine and did a bit of waiting while Amanda went to the chip shop. And when she came back I turned the ignition key and ... you guessed it; noting happened.
After checking the obvious: immobiliser fuse (we just had a key programmed to it that day), the battery was charged (we have the meter built into the habitation controls), and the main fuses ect. I concluded that I wasn’t sure what was buggered between key and starer motor, and that in the dark I’d be hard pushed to find out. So I called the AA ... to discover my membership (auto re-enrolment is enabled) had lapsed at renewal last year. I was cross, I have had to re-join and get an additional charge for the call-out, and the AA can provide no explanation as to why they didn’t collect their money (investigations will continue on Monday).
In any event the AA man turned up  in what can only be described as record time (fifteen minutes at the longest). I listed the symptoms and we concluded that it would be the Starter Motor at worst. As there is a cab LED that would indicate the engine immobiliser being buggered. I knew the new starter motor (just not the how), but that’s why you have the AA. He found a disconnected live wire due to an over-size Bullet clip from the battery (remember that sometimes lax NHS maintenance contractor I mentioned before ... prime example of `bodge it and leg it’). It’s likely had a new starter motor at some point and when they re-made the ends they used the wrong connectors, and stored up trouble, in the form of movement leading to corrosion of the clip.
Now here’s the funny bit: the wire had been disconnected by a falling torch that one of the Benchsound engineers had left in the engine compartment (poor old Benchsound lost a torch). At some point after we left my parents, we had been over speed humps, dislodged the stuck torch, it hit the wires as it fell and pulled the corroded connector off, the torch then came to rest on the exhaust where it mostly melted (good torch as well ... gutted).

One has to say at the moment when the engine failed to run I felt ill (theme developing here). It was a bit of a faff. However if you look on the bright side, it couldn’t have been better timed. The wire would have gone at some point because the connecting clip was oversize and had corroded. The lost and ruined torch exposed the fault when it fell, I also discovered my AA cover was up the spritz, and the man from the AA replaced both of the worn cable ends to the starter motor, and we were back on the road in under an hour with a hundred yards to drive, and finally because we were in a car-park in a motor home we just sat down and ate our dinners while we waited.

 So now we are residing on another drive. I’ve fitted Amanda’s door pocket and some blanking grommets in the rear doors. And we’ve had a lie in this last two mornings, I didn’t wake up until 10.30am Friday morning, Amanda closer to 11am. It’s been a fortnight of high drama, intrigue, heartbreak (melodramatic cobblers), and highs. We’ve popped our tyre change, electrics, gas and water fault cherries, now we just have to get across the channel without sinking the ferry.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Thank Yous, the Cast List.

During this long journey from February 2012 to now Wednesday, 16 October 2013 we have been supported and encouraged by a plethora of people, mostly friends and family, but clearly some trades as well. They have all contributed time, materials, knowledge or loaned ears to be bent when things went awry. They have propped us up when we’ve been down, encouraged when we’ve doubted ... pointed to our over ambitious aspirations and grounded us, and in doing so, have in numerous instances saved us some cash. Without them we would not have kept going ... so when `They’ ship our murdered corpses back from the land of foreign, defiled and abused pre and post-mortem here’s the list of names of those who can be blamed for delivering us into the hands of the cannibals on the southern side of the English Channel.

Mr Adrian Smith: Finance Director ... and Mr Smiths Secretary; Mrs Smith (I may not live to cross the channel at that line there). Mr Smith also consulted on Moho poo routine and how to chill.

Mrs Simone Smith: Soft furnishings, Common Sense and Hard Stares Director ... her secretary is a bloke and he’s rubbish ... he knows this ... he doesn’t care.
Mr Lance Harrison VSOP, BO, TB, STD (Hons): Heath Robinson Engineering director; fixer and verifier of electrics, structural integrity and many other tweaks conforming to proper engineering principles consultant.
Mrs Zoe Harrison: Estates Shakedown Director: Chair of pre-flight, habitation shakedown and accommodation committee. We’ve been living on the Essex Harrisons drive since we left my brothers flat (apart from two nights out at Wallasea Island) to cure in no particular order: Nearside tyre puncture, suspected cab leak, removal of items we thought we’d need, loss of 12volt systems, water heater lockout ... that lots a blog on its own.
Mrs Sarah Harrison: Common Sense and Hard Stares Director Western Front. Chair of pre-flight, habitation shakedown and accommodation committee 2012 various dates.  Currently engaged as, mail forwarding and communications consultant.

Mr Andy Harrison: A spade is a spade and don’t let those (that word I’m not allowed to use in the blog) take the Mickey out of you director. The maker of that Stalwart of the Empire;  the Sunday roast and acerbic comment.

Mr Graham Wells: Built Environment Renovation director ... not only knows his spades from his manually activated earth and aggregate manoeuvring tool, but also knows how to use a Kango, a plasterers hawk and trowel and a myriad other highly specialised trade tools and secrets for when part of your house becomes a swimming pool all of its own accord.

Miss Clare Smith: Owner and manager of Mr Wells, and their children Tyler, Tess and Tamsin,  who loaned us their dad for what seemed like many weekday evenings and weekends during 2012.

Mr and Mrs Finch Senior, for not being the pain in the arse parents can be. Ma Finch for her haberdashery stash and seamstress skills, Pa Finch for helping us to line the various rooms of the Tilbury house after we’d destroyed the place in the name of `progress’.

Mr Peter Finch: Air Commodore, for plumbing services rendered in the name of `progress’ ... not bad for a man who spends most of his life ferrying the wealthy in a flying taxi ... well someone has to do it.

Mr David Finch: Paradoxically (and only he will know why), temporary accommodation and box set director ... though some things in box sets should be in that place where the US Government put the Arc of the Covenant at the end of The Raiders of the Lost Arc, to baffle archaeologists and historians of the future.

Miss Claire Finch: Box set intervention counsellor. Provided normal telly when eight straight series of Red Dwarf, induced nosebleeds, fits and the feeling that someone in the BBC felt that adding a woman to the cast was required to bring balance to the force ...
Miss Alison Polyviou-Shine: Sunshine in winter consultant.

Mr Paul Studley: Blackdown Conversions. Refurbished our motorhome which I still pine for, and built us the new one when the original was destroyed, all round fair player, and knower of things (also knows his spades from his manually activated earth and aggregate manoeuvring tools) ... as a footnote, the moron that destroyed the first motorhome is now being very careful with his soap holding technique while enjoying his own sojourn at her majesties convenience ... for a year with a three year driving ban. Compensation would be nice for all the out of pocket losses, but as he’s unlikely to be paying it from his own funds, we can live without it.

Mrs Lynn Studley: Blackdown Conversions. Maker of cushions and seating, who battled with our industrial seat covering material, not once but twice.
Mr Garry Lees and Co: Garry Lee Panelcraft, for turning our un-ambulance like white ambulance into a very ambulance like yellow van, that doesn’t leak and looks handsome with its black trim.

Mr Marc Wood: Alarming Entertainment, CD, MP3, Bluetooth, subwoofing tweeterising Basebinned stereo badboy who turned the Moho into a Moho Disco.

Ray and the boys of Benchsound Vehicle Engineering,  who have overhauled thirteen years of tick box servicing by whomever the NHS contracted to do their servicing ...  sometimes not very well.

MB and M Motors for MOTs; Tyre changes and minor electrical works, when a certain over keen DIY’er managed to short all the vehicles main and signal lights ... ahem?

All the people we worked with over the last six and three years respectively ... who thanks to their various foibles and states of harassed lunacy assured us that leaving the rat race was the right thing to do  ... before the urge to do a Reggie Perrin became too strong or the urge to acquire an Uzi 9mm became stronger.

And finally thanks to everyone that’s wished us well on our way, organised mad nights out in Old London Town ... Jennifer Chung and the ladies of the LODC.
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