Raising Rants to the Level of the Professional

Archive for the category “Travel”

MOT – Passed

The car passed it MOT with no problem at all. Needless to say, I am very happy with this news.

I had been getting a bit stressed about it, as I hadn’t heard anything from the garage by 4pm. In fairness, they’re normally pretty good about letting me know if something’s going to be expensive, so I knew it was likely to be OK – but all the same, it was a bit worrying.

Anyway, I called them just after 4, to find out what was happening. And all was well – it was just that the garage had forgotten to call me. Bit annoying, but far better than “Oh yeah, we had to do a load of work, here’s the bill”

As it turned out, it passed with flying colours. One advisory (an out-of-balance parking brake, of all things) and that’s it.  I’m quite surprised by this – it’s a Y-reg with 125,000 on the clock, after all – but pleased.  And considerably better off than I was expecting…

What Kind Of Year Will It Be?

As regular readers know, I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions. It’s partly my knee-jerk response to the whole “Everyone else is doing it” ethos, which means I won’t. But also New Year is just an arbitrary day for making plans – and I tend to do it from birthday to birthday, for no better reason than that it’s an easy day to remember as a start/finish date.

Anyway, with that said I do have plans for 2015. Sometimes plans work better on a calendar year instead of birthday-to-birthday – although there’s also a couple of ideas and plans this time that would also work better to a fiscal year, April to March. But for the sake of argument I’ll stick (for now) to my usual resolution/plan structure, while also acknowledging the whole 2015 thing.

What I won’t do is go into reams of details – I know what I want to do, and I’ve got most of it written down in to-do lists and the like – but it can all be summed up in four key points, which can be summarised as:

  • Create More – includes writing, photography, and web-based work/business plans
  • Do More – includes activities, day trips, longer weekends, and perhaps even a holiday or two.
  • Save More – working to rebuild finances, build up some backup savings, and restore the credit score.
  • Weigh Less – the goal is to lose another two stone in 2015, which is what I also lost in 2014. So it’s feasible.

And that’s “it”. Obviously there’s details, sub-plans and sub-goals in there as well, but they’re the key points. They’ll do me for now.

I’m hoping that 2015 will continue in the positive direction that started in the last quarter of 2014.  I’m quite sure there’ll be some hiccoughs and roadbumps along the way – that’s realism rather than cynicism, my life is never a truly smooth process – but with any luck at all it’ll be a positive year, and lots will get done.

And if not, if things go wrong, then I’ll just do what I can, and keep on in the same way as I had to with 2014.

But I do hope that 2015 is positive and constructive. That’s the intention, at least. But we’ll see.

Travel Costs

Currently, I’m in a dilemma about a bit of travelling I’m doing in April. (See, told you I was feeling all organised)

Come the end of the next contract in mid-April, I’m treating myself to a weekend up in Edinburgh. It’s not a proper ‘holiday’ as such – but it’s a break, and it’s something I want to do. I haven’t been up there since the days pre-D4D™ and I want to go back.

The dilemma is about the method of travel. Looking on Google Maps, it’s about a six hour drive – on a good day, with no jams etc. A Friday afternoon/evening is not going to be a good day.  So I’ve also looked at train times/costs – and they actually pretty much balance out.

The full journey will be pretty much two refills of the fuel tank, which’ll be around the £65 mark each time. The train, looking at current prices, will be £120.  It’s close enough in price to make no real difference – even less so when I also factor in car-park costs – and the timing is much the same for a direct run.

I haven’t done a long train journey in ages – really not since doing the regular run between Manchester and Bracknell – so it’s pretty tempting.  Plus it’ll give me the opportunity to look out the window and appreciate the views without the hassles of driving – and perhaps even the chance to write more.

It’s just that whole “Paying the train company to do it”. I don’t know why it’s an issue in my head, but it is. I’ll figure it out and make a decision, it’s just annoying at the moment.

Bath DayTrip

Continuing on from the last couple of day trips, this weekend I decided to go cross-country, and head to Bath. Still a two-hour drive (although the trip from Park&Ride to city centre was another twenty or so) but no coast. I lived in Bath for a period back before D4D™, but haven’t been back there since, so it was interesting to see what’d changed and so on.

I’d also decided, as part of the Solo Dining project I wrote about yesterday, to go and visit Grillstock in Bath and have one of the burgers that I’ve been interested in, but not got round to trying (because they’re only in Bath and Bristol)  So that was part of the plan, but really it was more about visiting Bath in general.

The drive was pretty rotten – it started with fine weather, but got progressively wetter as I went on, but that wasn’t going to stop me.

I got there early – indeed, the first bus in from the Park and Ride – and wandered around most of the city centre, which turned out to be really pleasant.

bath_weir_landscapeDue to the time of year, it got pretty busy, but I spent most of my time avoiding the majority of people – I wasn’t interested in shopping, so didn’t have to hit those bits too hard, thankfully.

edward_the_peacemakerEven better, I got to wander around bits of the city I hadn’t seen before – in my previous time there, I’d more been focussed on getting from train station to home, and didn’t really get to explore the place that much. It wasn’t a great time in life, but there we go, I could’ve done more.


And as for that burger from Grillstock, oh hell yes, it was worth it…

The Lockjaw burger from Grillstock

The Lockjaw burger from Grillstock

Solo – Holidays

As has been observed on here many times, I’m shit at taking holidays – and time-off in general, really. This isn’t something that’s related to the bankruptcy etc. (although it’s made it even less easy to do over the last couple of years) as much as it’s related to being a contractor, and to being chronically disorganised. And of course, to being single.

As a contractor, you can’t help but realise/recognise that time off on holiday is bloody expensive. It’s not just the cost of whatever you decide to do, it’s also the fact that it’s a week you could be working – and contractors don’t get a leave/holiday entitlement. So effectively it’s even more expensive, because not only are you paying money out for the break, but you’re also aware that it’s a week of money you’re not earning.

Even for someone as non-materialistic as me, that makes it into a significant dollop of money. Made even more so by being a sole wage-earner, and thus entirely self-reliant for finances.

The other side (for me, at least) is the whole thing of being single. I don’t care that I’m going to different places on my own, but it’s more about the simple knowledge that it’s still ‘just me’. I’m fully aware this makes no sense to anyone else – and I’m hard-pushed to explain it in writing – but there we go.

I suppose some of it is that – unless, I guess, one goes to a B&B/Hotel – I’m still doing the cooking for myself, doing what I want, going where I want, and it’s not really all that different to how things are anyway.

I’m aiming to look at all this a bit differently in 2015, and to take off on a couple of breaks, but also to disappear off for weekends etc. One of those is already organised – a break to Edinburgh in mid-April, when the next contract finishes.  It’s ‘only’ a weekend, but will also involve a couple of other things I want to do in the area, and I’m actually really looking forward to it. Plus, of course, being ‘just’ a weekend, it doesn’t lose me any working time, which makes things a lot easier to bear.

I’m looking at some others too – some for new visits to places I know and haven’t seen in a long time, and others for completely new areas/places, which should be fun.

Brighton Images

On Sunday, I trolled off down to Brighton for the day. I haven’t been there in years – the last time was a flying visit five years ago for an interview, and before that it had been a number of years too – but realised it’s just about the same distance as Felixstowe is (they’re both a two-hour drive time) to get to, so what the hell.

I don’t know Brighton as well as I should, and so having a wander around was also appealing. It’s on the list of ‘places I could re-locate to at some point’, so seemed like a worthwhile explore – and I was right on that score.

Being December, it was pretty blowy and chilly – although less cold than a December Sunday would suggest – but that’s never bothered me all that much. I lived by the South Coast for a couple of years before, and have no real issue with cold. That was the flat where the freezer shut off because it was colder outside the freezer than inside it, and where more than once I woke up with frost on the top of the duvet. Sunday, by comparison, was almost summery.

Brighton Beach

As it turned out, the weather made it ideal for what I actually wanted – waves, and the sound of the sea on shingle beach. Walking along one of the groynes/piers (not one of the Proper Piers, but the little jutty-out ones) was a joy, just for getting out to be where the waves were hitting the beach.

Brighton Waves

And then the sun came out, and it was even better…

Sunlight hits Brighton

All told, I think it’s a place I’m going to go back to a lot more in the coming year. It’s an easy run, and I think I could really get to quite like the place.

There’s others still on the list too – something I’ll be writing about at some point this month, I’m sure – but yeah, Brighton is definitely now more of a destination, and pretty high on the possibility levels too.

Two Hours

Over the last couple of weekends, I’ve looked (again) at just where I can get to in a two hour drive from home.  As has been said before, I live between Milton Keynes and Bedford, so I’m sat right between two decent North/South access roads (The M1 and A1) as well as vaguely decent cross-country connections with the A428 towards the West, and the A14 to the East.

What this means is that a two-hour drive covers one heck of a lot of the country, and I decided to have a look at just how far (via use of Google Maps, and their route predictions) I could get in each direction.

Two hours North takes me up to Sheffield, and South gets me to Brighton. That’s a total distance of 225 miles top to bottom.

Two hours West gets me to Bristol, and East gets me right across to Felixstowe and Aldeburgh – roughly 234 miles in total.

The area within that circle comes out as roughly 43,000 square miles (if my maths about area in circles is correct) or 111,000km², which in terms of the UK is just under half the area of the UK as a whole (going by CIA’s Worldbook figure of 243,610km²)

Not bad, all things considered…

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