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Archive for the category “Travel”

Mobile and Connected

This weekend, I’m away in Dorset, hoping to spend some time relaxing and writing, getting some of the stuff out of my head that’s been resident for way too long.

I’ve been to the particular place I’m staying before, and knew they had a semblance of internet connection (albeit through a 3G Dongle thingy) but when I got here, I found it’s not working properly. (It’s on EE, and because they’re shitheads, there are mega-issues when there’s no remaining data on the device. That’s a post for another day)

So anyway, while I’m wanting quiet, I do still need connection for a range of things. As a result, I went into the nearest town, and bought a MiFi device of my own which turns out to be working pretty well. Considering the location (in a valley, with next-to-sod-all anywhere nearby) I’ve got enough of a 3G signal (blipping up and down to a single bar of 4G) to keep things connected and fine.

It’s meant that as well as doing some writing, I’ve also been able to do some outstanding work stuff that needed completing, and all that usual stuff.

Indeed, it’s doing well enough here that I’ll continue using it, and be interested to see how it works in other places I go to over the next few months. Ain’t progress/technology interesting?

An Expensive Week – Part Two

Following on from the whole car kerfuffle last week, I’ve made a decision – it’s time to get rid of the Saab. It’s been decidedly iffy this year, and with the latest issue, I just can’t rely on it when I need to. I’ve still got a thousand-ish miles to do by the end of this month, let alone the stuff for the rest of the year, so need something I can trust will get me from A to B without the need for recovery, garages and the like.  Basically, that’s it.

The Saab no longer fits that bill, so it’s time for it to go.  I know I still won’t qualify for a car finance agreement etc., so it’s been a case of sorting out a transfer of funds from the savings account. It means a fixed budget, and see what fits that bill and those funds.

I spent some of the weekend looking at new (to me) cars, and have one sorted, to be collected on Wednesday.

It’s a diesel Kia Ceed, so fairly crap. But it’s only 70,000 miles, and came in well under budget. I’ve wangled a service and a year’s MOT out of the dealer, as well as a parts guarantee for a year (or 20,000 miles, whichever comes sooner)  The deposit has been paid with a credit card, which covers me under Section75 for the full price of the car, should it turn out to be a lemon. (That’s something I didn’t know ’til recently – so long as you pay more than £100 on a credit card, S75 covers the whole amount, not just whatever was paid by the card) In short, I’m as covered as it’s possible to be.

In all, it’s not a bad deal. The price is good, and having checked further since, I reckon it’s going to be saving me about £100 per month. Yeah, per month.  The road tax is £30 for the year, rather than the £25 a month I was paying for the Saab. (It fell just outside the newer emissions regulations, which I didn’t know at the time I got it) and the insurance is £30 less a month.  With the reduction in fuel costs as well – diesel vs. petrol, and so on – it stands to be a significant saving.

Then there’s what I got for the Saab – I took that back to the Saab garage on Monday, transferred the ownership, and basically got back what I initially paid for it. It’s still cost me money over the three years, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it could have been.

I’ll see how things go with the new car – I’m not expecting lots from it, just to be reliable and to do what it should. It’s going to have a busy couple of weeks once I’ve got it, including longer runs to Dorset and Manchester, so by the end of the month I’ll know more about how it fits my requirements, and hopefully that it’s generally reliable.

Reduced Insomnia

During the week in Cornwall, I slept better than I have in absolutely years – to the tune of about 2 hours more sleep per night. It’s the first time since I started recording my sleep times with the Fitbit that I’ve had more than four hours in a night – and it happened all week.

So, it looks like the possible cure (or at least improvement) in my insomnia is :

  • Move to Cornwall (or somewhere with equally remote areas)
  • Walk at least six miles a day
  • Sleep in a house miles from anywhere, in absolute pitch-black darkness and silence.

At the moment, none of that is massively feasible. But in the future, it may well be. I need to look at how things work, what I do and what I want to do, and how to get to where that kind of plan might be possible.

So, that’ll be fun.

Home From The Holiday

So, after a week in Cornwall, I’m back in the land of the living.  It’s been a good week away, with a lot done, and a lot of thinking out of the way. (Still more to go on that score, but it’s been good)

I’ve driven over a thousand miles in the last seven days, visited a bundle of places, had a great time, and even managed to build up some sleep.  (That’s one of the things that needs some thought for the future, but it’ll take a while)

A rough itinerary of the last week is :

  • Saturday 24th Sept – Head down to Oxford to meet the friend I was going with, then down to Truro. A four-hour drive door-to-door from Oxford (about 5½ from home). Having made good time, an exploration of Truro city (and their Cornwall food festival)
  • Sunday – visiting the Eden Project. First time I’d been there, and found it thoroughly interesting. Well recommended
  • Monday – visiting Newquay. Another place I really liked.
  • Tuesday – down to The Chocolate Factory, a craft-based place with a whole range of different things, including (unsurprisingly) a chocolatier, but also galleries, glass maker, jewellers etc. Then on to St Ives for an explore (including seeing a seal in the harbour) and then back to Helston to meet up with other friends.
  • Wednesday – Lost Gardens of Heligan.  I’ve been here before (about ten years ago, admittedly) and it’s grown and improved significantly since. Again, thoroughly enjoyable, and a lot of walking
  • Thursday – St Mawes and Falmouth – two more places I’d never been before, we went down to St Mawes, and got the ferry over to Falmouth. It’s somewhere I’ll go back to, and want to explore more, although it was full of bell-ends on the actual day, but I suspect being a bit more out-of-season, or earlier in the day, and it’ll be better.  St Mawes is lovely, a much smaller place, but somewhere I could happily stay for a proper visit
  • Friday – Wheal Martyn China Clay museum, which was interesting. I didn’t know the history of china clay in Cornwall, so it made for an interesting morning. Followed up by a visit to St Austell (frankly, never again – it’s like the retirement village of The Damned) and then a much better visit to Charlestown, which is really pleasant and attractive – another place I could happily stay longer.
  • Saturday (today) – Driving home, again via Oxford. Another good run, four hours door-to-door to Oxford, and then onwards to home.

As well as driving that 1,000 miles, we’ve walked about 40 miles all told, visited a bundle of places, and had a good time.

I’ve got a bundle of stuff lined up now for the next three months, as well as a load of stuff to think about for the future. Next year’s looking interesting already.

Still Not Moving

Come November, I’ll have been in my current house for 4½ years. For me, that’s pretty scary – it’s already the longest I’ve stayed in one house since I left home.  (For long-term readers, I lived in Manchester for longer, but that was split between three houses)

I’m also now signed up for another year, so that’s even scarier.

As I’m sure I’ve said before, my current location (between Milton Keynes and Bedford) isn’t my dream place by any stretch. It’s suited my needs, but that’s been more by luck than judgement.

There’s been two key reasons for staying here (and a subsidiary third) which are pretty simple to explain.

The main reason is how easy it is to get away from here. I’m on the crux of two major roads – the M1 North-to-South, and the A421 for East-to-West. Plus I’ve got two easy rail routes for London and the like. It opens things up for social and fun stuff, but also work-wise, gives me a lot more variety/locations than I would’ve thought.  (Of course, the irony is that for two years of that, I’ve been working from home, or on my shortest commute in decades!)  An hour’s drive (which I still consider as an ‘easy’ commute) covers a massive distance – and a two-hour drive covers a huge dollop of the country.

Secondary to that is that I simply haven’t found anywhere that I more want to be.  There’s some places I’d move to, but there’s no real desire or urge to do so. (Also known as the “Yeah, it’s nice. But…” verdict)  Previously, there’s usually been a good reason (or at least a reason) to move, and at the moment there’s just not. So I don’t bother.

Connected to that is also the increase of credit-checking when it comes to new rental agreements. I don’t think it now would cause me any great problems, and my current landlord would provide a decent reference  – but equally, if I don’t have to test the theory, why bother?


So here I am, and signed up ’til November 2017. No real plans to move – and even more bizarrely, I’m actually OK with that.

Holiday Thoughts

As I said before, I’m away at the end of the month on a break to Cornwall.  And as usual, it makes me do a bundle of thinking.

I am, I totally acknowledge, utterly shit at taking proper holidays. Always have been, and I suspect always will be. I want to do more of it and see how things go, but it’s about balancing that with work and so on.  I need to be stricter with myself on it too – there’s two options really.

Basically, I either book dates at the start of the year so they’re a fait accompli, or I’m stricter with myself about taking holidays between contracts by forcing a delay on looking for new ones by taking time between jobs.  Honestly, I don’t know which option works best for me, so that’ll be something to work on next year.

As it is, I’m just seeing how stuff goes this time. I want to see how everything works out with this break. There’s been a fair amount of preparation going on, as I’ve said before – but it’s also about seeing how I feel with taking the break, and also how the cats handle it.  This week away will be the longest they’ve not had me around, and I want to see how they deal with it, and with my return.  They’ll probably be OK, but if they descend into vileness and retribution, I’ll have to rethink.

So all told, it’s going to be a bit interesting. I’m looking forward to it, but also somewhat anticipatory. It’ll be interesting to see how it all goes.

A Sort-Of Slowdown

This is the last of my properly busy September weekends – next week I’m driving a lot, but it’s not properly idiotic. Indeed, even this weekend is a bit more sensible than the last few – still busy, but with a big dollop of domestic sorting, rather than being out’n’about quite as much.

Mind you, that doesn’t mean it’s sensible – indeed, it’s just the finale of a fairly mad week.  I’m back in London today and tonight, for food and another theatre visit.  This week I’ve already been to the cinema after work on Monday, been to see friends in London on Tuesday, and to the theatre for Little Shop of Horrors on Wednesday. Safe to say, I’ve been busy, and got a lot done.

After this, it’s a bit quieter.  The coming week is less frantic (well, until Friday) and the rest of the year, while busy, isn’t quite as hyper as the last three months have been. Indeed, I’ve still got things booked for pretty much every week, but it still feels like a kind-of slowdown.

Note, I’m not complaining. It’s been a hugely busy and hectic year through my own decisions, and I’m enjoying it loads, but some quieter time is also sounding pretty bloody great right now…

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