Monthly Archives: August 2015

Back on the road again….

I travelled back down the motorways to the Midlands and spent a few days with my brother Mike, who once again was wonderful and helped me sort out lots of little niggling things as well as liaising with Martin the Metalworker who did a sterling job of altering the scooter lift and enlarging the platform.  When it was finished it was painted black to match in with Thebus’ back end, and joy of joys, I managed to locate a travelling cover in black rather than the bright, royal blue which had always offended my artistic sensibilities.  Everything looked great, all it needed was some final wiring and once again I could hit the road and maybe get to see some things before the summer finally disappeared.

The scooter platform was in Stourport and Mike came over before work the next morning to wire in the automatic lifting mechanism, then headed off back to his offices before the traffic.  There was only one fly in the ointment, and that was the wiring for the rear light on the number plate had rusted out and was beyond repair.  Mike could do nothing as nowhere was open, but I hoped that Karl, Sally’s brother might be able to help: so it was off to the transport yard.  Karl was a star and as soon as we had located the right part he wired it in and once everything was checked I was ready to start for Bristol where the four day Balloon Fiesta was being held.

This was something I which had been on my list of things to do for some time and earlier in the year I had contacted the farm just opposite the main entrance who open their fields during the balloon festival for folk to camp and park.

It had been touch and go as to whether I would make the Balloon Fiesta as I knew without a scooter I had no chance whatsoever of making it to the Fiesta grounds from the parking site. Then as the time drew nearer I had been uncertain as to whether to go at all as the weather forecasters prognosis had been dreadful – pretty much of a washout on Thursday, possibly marginally better on the Friday and Saturday and back to abysmal on Sunday.  The idea of sitting in the rain in a field for four days was not appealing, even with the use of the scooter.

The Thursday had dawned grey and pretty windy, another weather condition which made it likely the balloons would not ‘go up’.  But as the day drew on and everything was finally in place for me to travel it looked at least a bit more hopeful and I decided to risk it.  Karl finished the tail lights just after lunchtime and I wished everyone a hasty farewell and hit the road.

I am trying out a new Sat. Nav.  It is a specific truckers model, and has a larger screen, plus the lady does not sound quite so cross as Strict Lady, and is a little more chatty.  Mind you she still decided to take me through the centre of Bristol during the rush hour, which was interesting, but I must say I take these things more in my stride than in the past.

We arrived at the pleasant farm situated literally across the road from the Fiesta Ground entrance and at ten pounds a day to park I thought it was excellent value.  The Fiesta itself is totally free, and as the weather had improved again I decided to take the scooter up to the main arena for the first evening Mass Balloon Launch at six o’clock.

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It was fascinating to see the many and varied balloons being inflated.

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One was sent off early to assess the wind conditions as it was still pretty breezy and once he reported back the all clear was given for the ballons to take off as and when they wished and it was exciting to see them rise and be taken by the winds away towards Bristol

 

While I waited for the Night Glow I wandered round the largest funfair I think I have ever seen.  This was certainly one ride I had no intention of trying out!

 

As darkness begins to fall about fifty tethered balloons are inflated in the main arena and then perform a giant light show using their burners in time to music.  Just as I thought it was all over for the evening a huge firework burst in the sky from the ridge behind us to signal the start of a stunning fireworks display.

 

Once that was over I decided to head back – as if the weather, held I intended to return for the morning Mass Accent, which was scheduled for 6 am.  Finding my way back through the show ground and massive funfair in the dark it was quite easy to get lost, especially when one had to take detours round the massive queues for the public facilities.

Once back to the campsite I strapped the scooter securely onto his rack and hoisted it back up to travelling height – normally I wouldn’t bother if I knew I was needing it the next day, but I have heard of folk having electric bikes and generators stolen at rallies, and I was taking no chances.

Then into the warmth of Thebus – even though I had taken the precaution of thermal underwear two jumpers, a scarf, furry hat and thick lined gloves  – and it was August – I was still feeling the cold

Visiting Little Miss Phoebe

In between the ongoing saga of the scooter and its lift I travelled to Cheshire to meet Little Miss Phoebe.  I had booked into a caravan site some three miles from her breeders’ Phil and Olivia who had kindly allowed me to visit with the puppy

After my whispering to my lovely girl on her last night with me, when I wondered if she would come back to me as a puppy, and then the next morning there was an email to say a litter had been born I knew that I wanted her name to be Phoebe.  I suppose it may not be fair in some ways, but often girls are named for their mothers  or other relations.  There was a lot of heart searching but in the end I decided to call her Little Miss Phoebe.

The trip to Cheshire was uneventful, except for the fact I noticed a difference in my driving since having spent so many hours and miles on the road with Sally in a forty four ton, sixty odd foot arctic.  On one busy road where I had to cross two lanes of traffic from a side road, and though a country road it was straight, and being not far from Manchester the drivers were not hanging about.  I would have had to wait for a very long time for a sufficient break in the fast flowing traffic to allow me to cross both lanes when there was nothing coming, but taking a leaf from the lorry drivers’ book I pulled across – safely – but meaning that a speeding motorist coming in from the far distance would have to brake, as once I had crossed and entered his lane I would never get up to the speed he was going at (which was probably about 80 odd miles an hour).  He gave me a huge, long, angry blast on his horn before screaming past.  Now in the past (a) I wouldn’t have pulled out, and hence probably irritated the hell out of the traffic behind me, and (b) had someone sounded the horn in that way I would have been mortified and it would have probably upset me for the rest of the journey if not for the rest of the day.  And what did I find myself doing.  To my surprise I laughed.  I knew I was not the one at fault, and that my manoeuvre was safe.  And all that had happened was that I had annoyed another driver on the road – and guess what for the first time in my driving life – I didn’t care.

I arrived at the farm and pulling into the drive stopped to ask at the farmhouse.  No-one was around, but just then the farm owner pulled in behind me so I checked with him as to where would be the best place for me to park Thebus.  He pointed at an angled farm gate which looked a bit tight with the stone buildings as well, but said I thought I would manage if he would just watch the back end for me.  Looking surprised he asked if I was on my own, and when I said yes, he asked who was driving !!!

Still we made it in easily and as luck would have it I was to be parked up next to an HGV driver who gave me excellent signals so I could reverse neatly into my place.  Thebus causes quite a stir wherever he goes, and deservedly so, he is a handsome chap, especially now he has been restored to his former glory

Olivia and Phil kindly collected me from the farm over the next few days and I had a lovely time playing with the puppies and getting to know some of the grown dogs.  I am pleased to say they all seem to have Phoebe’s lovely temperament so I am hopeful for my little new girl.  That is not to say I am not a little anxious about how everything will work out for us both on the road, but I will trust to my good fortune and that ……  “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”

I have to say I am falling in love with her, and I hope she will feel the same way about me..

 

It was a pleasant stay on the farm up in Cheshire, and there was a regular turnover of travellers stopping over for a day or two to break their journeys.  One of the most unusual of these arrived lateish one evening and they were ready for the off next morning on their way back to Scotland from the Continent, but I had time for a quick chat before they moved on.  Apparently he had decided to build his own trailer years ago, and starting from scratch had designed it, then made his own moulds and after years of labour in his spare time it was completed and they had toured extensively in it over the last twenty years.  His only regret seemed to be that he had needed to part with his old towing car which had been exactly the same height and colour as the trailer.  What a nice couple, I meet some fascinating folk on my travels.  I wish I had been able to spend more time chatting with them.

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Then it was back to the Midlands to see if there was much (if any) progress on getting my scooter lift in use again.  Its surprising how little one can do in the UK with no ‘Disabled Badge’ when one is actually disabled.

The Ongoing Scooter Lift Saga….

All this time I was trying to arrange for a suitable lift for my new scooter.

I can’t remember if I posted a photo of my smashing (hopefully not literally) scooter, if not here it is

When I first purchased the new Scooter I carefully measured the wheels and it would just fit onto my existing scooter lift, plus according to the manufacturers it weighed very little more than my old scooter, so I happily thought there would be no problem.  When it arrived I checked by driving it onto the lift – which at the time had been removed from the back of Thebus whilst he was undergoing his facelift.  No problem it fitted easily as my measurements had predicted.  But when the scooter lift was in place on the back of Thebus those little nuances which are not immediately obvious came into play.

The scooter lift is designed to kick back as it rises from the ground, so the vehicle being carried has better ground clearance.  But on the other hand when it descends to its full extent the vertical shaft inclines slightly forward of perpendicular.  Add to that the fact that the new scooter has flashier out-swept handlebars and the less than an inch clearance for the wheels became a clash of the handlebars with the shaft, meaning that it was next to impossible to drive the scooter on. But drive it on I did, but when it was strapped into position and the motor began to lift it I felt it was straining at its limits.

No one seemed to manufacture anything suitable no matter how hard I looked so it seemed upgrading and altering the existing was the only way forward

Not feeling confident, and wary of being a danger to other road users the scooter and lift were transported separately to Sally’s as she thought she knew someone who could help.

Our first approach met with little practical help.  They hadn’t time to do anything, but would sell me a hydraulic jack and the necessary fittings and wiring which they said was the only way to do the job as they assured me the motor and screw mechanism for this piece of equipment were unobtainable.  The prices they quoted for the hydraulics seemed high, so another contact was asked to enquire about hydraulic rams.

This seemed to take far more weeks than I expected, and in the end proved abortive as the size of the ram would have needed to be enormous, plus the fitter seemed to think I would need at least two – one to take it up and one to take it down.  So it was back to the drawing board – but where exactly, and how.  Fortunately once more ‘brother’ came to the rescue.

He located the manufacturer of the existing screw mechanism, ordered one for me, removed the existing one, adapted and renewed it, so then it was just adjusting the carrying platform.  Why does anything involved with lifting scooters seem to be so problematic.

Wot a Plonker!

I had been staying with Sally for a while and had wanted to give her something nice for her birthday, but all suggestions were refused, until I hit on the idea of getting something for her brother’s birthday (just one week later than her’s) which Sally could share in, and I guessed she wouldn’t say no for his sake.

They are very close with only just a year between them and both take after their mother in looks, being tall and athletic.  In fact Karl is 6ft 7 ins tall, which is very tall indeed.  When he was younger and wilder (well a little wilder) his driving antics got him into trouble on many occasions, and eventually resulted in a five year ban for driving whilst disqualified, a ban which is still currently in force.  Driving is his life and his world, and I remembered the rally car over at Wolverhampton and wondered if I could book them both some off road driving to give him the opportunity of doing what he loves most.

Now most of the places I approached instantly dismissed him as being too tall – and those that hesitantly agreed, then backtracked when they found out he was currently disqualified.  But after some hours on the phone I got through to Silverstone and somehow (oh foolish me!) imagined that I was booking a track day for them both at Silverstone.

Sense should have told me that the Silverstone Rally School was a Rally Track and not a Race Track, but as someone totally disinterested in sport of any kind (other than when I played badminton to keep fit back in the 1970’s and 80’s) this meant nothing and the penny didn’t drop

I was keen that they had as much driving time as possible and the afternoon was booked so it was just the two of them driving.

All was good, except that I had it in my head that we were all going to the Silverstone Track for the day, so we all imagined it was to be a track day.  And when we arrived at the course I have to say I was more than disappointed, and though they didn’t show it I think they both were too.

In the event I like to imagine they both had a good time, and as I say at 6ft 7in and banned from driving I was quite lucky to get anything, but it didn’t stop me from feeling a real wally.

Mind you when Karl got out of the Subaru Impreza with its throaty growling engine after the first lap of the twisting course he did have a big smile on his face – in fact until then I hadn’t realised he had quite so many teeth.

The first lap each was with the instructor driving, and then they took it in turns.  Sally seemed a bit nervous at first, but once Karl seemed to be getting the hang of ‘drifting and sliding’ round the corners and hand brake turns her sibling rivalry took over and she ran over to the car with a “my turn”.

At the end of their driving afternoon which lasted for well over two hours Niner and I had the opportunity to be taken round the course ourselves.  Niner – who had earlier that day had dourly said “If I can’t drive myself I won’t have anyone else drive me round” – had by now changed his mind and went quite literally for a spin, and coming back said it was the best ten pounds he had ever spent.

I was not keen, thinking that the springing of the car and seat might jolt my back too much and do even more damage to it than I have managed in the past, but everyone insisted, and in fact the ride was quite comfortable, although a bit hairy – but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it.

For some reason I managed to leave my camera behind, and though both Karl and Sally have promised to send some they never materialised, so you will have to make do with a very short clip I took on my iPhone.

Perhaps I will have to book a track day at Silverstone.  I certainly won’t be over the height limit, but no doubt they have a minimum height as well – so you can actually see over the steering wheel!

Keeping Me Busy

Sally and Niner knew how dreadfully upset I was at the loss of my beautiful Phoebe and did their best to take my mind off things by keeping me occupied one hundred percent of the time, and I really do mean one hundred percent.

One morning I was up at five minutes to two to travel with Sally taking a load of steel for a portal framed building needed onsite for the builders seven a.m. start in Yorkshire.

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Then Sally found a ‘backload’ for us and we spent the entire fifteen hours of the lorry driver’s day doing what lorry drivers do.  Fascinating for me, as it is so far removed from my normal existence.  The only bad part about it was arriving before seven in the absolute confidence that all builders have the ‘makings’ with them – in other words the equipment for brewing up a hot cup of tea – only to find this must have been the only building gang in the country not properly equipped for the job.  I was really, really cross.  I had been looking forward to that cup of tea for hours.

We went collecting steel from various docks using a lorry mostly used by one of the regular drivers who was off sick.  The cab was certainly interesting with its collection of full sized skulls, a Dream Catcher and a furry Shrek, plus the inside of the cab was fully lined with quilted red leather, even the floor.

 

At Southampton (I think it was – the journeys flowed into one another and became inextricably meshed)  I watched an American Yacht sailing into harbour, presumably after crossing the Atlantic.

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What a wonderful achievement for the crew if that was what they had done, and looking at them gazing round at the scene I really feel they must have.

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I lent Sally my Chinese Sat Nav with its inbuilt Lorry Programme.  This served us well for our various journeys, though having managed to arrive in a small backstreet in order to deliver to the stores of a builder’s merchants it warned us we were ‘off piste’ so to speak.  This was fine as we were only a couple of hundred yards from out destination so we had no difficulties getting there, but to reset it for our next call meant we had to accept that any and all routes were acceptable.  This turned into a nightmare journey in a sixty odd foot articulated lorry, and we were rushing for our next drop.  Down increasing narrower and twister lanes we went, to be eventually confronted with a bridge with a right angle approach and exit.  Had it not been for the fact that a previously lost lorry had demolished part of the brick parapet wall on the exit bend we would never had made it, and as it was the rear wheels of the trailer were knocking rubble off the edge of the road into the canal beneath.  But thanks to Sally’s splendid driving we made it back to normality, but sadly too late for our last call.

I think the stress of losing Phoebe had left me open to some sort of virus.  I developed a terrible cough, and each morning woke with a headache – something I am not normally plagued by.  I wondered if it was going out in the lorry and not having sufficient fluids during the day.  So next time I went with Sally I took three litres of my favourite water – Badiot.  This was fine but one of the other problems with being trapped in a lorry is that not only does one not have the opportunity for a drink as and when – one doesn’t have the opportunity for the other thing either.  Especially when rushing from job to job against the clock.  And I still woke with a headache next morning!

One day I went with Sally for a couple of early morning drop-offs of huge loads of steel, then as a little afternoon job we carried on to a canal basin, when Sally oversaw the loading of a barge onto the back of our trusty lorry, then off down to somewhere in Hampshire where it was floated off for its new life.  What an incredibly capable and energetic girl she is.

With my days suitable crammed with trips in the lorry, farm stuff such overseeing farrowing pigs, and taking a piglet to the vets as it had been born without a ‘bum hole’ as Sally put it; driving in an escaped bulling heifer before it reached the main dual carriageway; sorting out newly hatched chicks; to helping move someone in/out of their house; and organising a huge chalet to be moved down the tiniest, twistiest  lane imaginable.  And I was not to be left to mope alone in the evenings either.

We had barbecues, and nights out including a Reggae evening when I surprised everyone by donning a Dreadlocks wig and bright pink straw hat, plus pretend spliff. We went to the strangest garden centre complete with a forlorn bar and sad captive animals, including what I would guess could well be the world’s fattest Racoon, and just glimpsed what might be the world’s fattest Rottweiler.

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We had a wild evening in with one of Sally’s young relatives which turned into a karaoke evening with the hairbrushes, hair dryers and a red plastic rose in a vase, doing double duty for microphones.  Etched on my brain is a picture of Sally – in full flow – scarf wrapped round her head a la Jackie Onassis, complete with dark glasses, black cycling leggings, and pink nylon net tutu – balanced on her back on a dining chair – legs in the air, cycling franticly and singing at the top of her voice into a hair brush.

We drove to the golf club – Sally and Niner on their all-terrain four by four, complete with nine year old Paris holding onto the handlebars and Niner on a cushion on the boot rack, hotly pursued by me on my mobility scooter.  We certainly turned heads when we arrived it the club-house, where the notice as the door sternly proclaimed – No Muddy Golf Shoes – which  Sally, in her shorts and muddy farm boots, cheerfully ignored with a “Well they’re not golf shoes – are they!”

The assembled party of ladies, clad in long gowns and politely clapping some awards which were being handed out, did look slightly askance.  And when, having had a snack and tried to sell the Catering Manager some eggs we set off for home again I think more than a few eyebrows were raised.

On the way back I tried to race the three of them and they said all they could see was a cloud of dust, and me holding onto my straw hat with hair flying in the wind.  Apparently I got up to fourteen miles an hour on the downhill slope.  Fortunately it was a private lane!

I was taken to Bingo again, and this time it was my treat instead of them paying for me. I elected to have an electronic board rather than the printed lists.  This is Bingo for Dummies.  Basically you don’t even need to look at the numbers.  You just press the little electronic pencil anywhere on the board and if the number is called it automatically checks it for you.  This had a big advantage.  While I went to get us some drinks, Niner took charge of my board and won me £11.  But even better later in the evening I won £400.  I am not by nature a gambler and thought this money could be well spent on something we might all like to do.  And I had the perfect idea – a balloon flight.  Sally’s Birthday was looming soon and I thought this would be ideal.  But reverting to former principles I was not to be allowed to pay and although I booked the tickets I paid only for my own and Moon’s – Sally insisting on paying for herself, Niner, and her father and brother.  Her mother firmly refusing to leave the ground in a non-steerable cat basket held up by a lot of hot air!

Before I booked for the flight they implied that it would be a short wait for places, but in the event one has to book weeks and weeks ahead, so I will not be able to write anything about it until later.  That is if there is a ‘flight’ on the day and time booked.  Apparently one has to phone after 2 p.m. to be given times and details, and that is only if the weather conditions on the day are suitable!