6 months since my last post, it’s time to update.
This week I got back the results from my April bone marrow biopsy. There have been no Leukaemia affected blood cells detected since January. But the important tests are the bi monthly bone marrow ones.
At diagnosis 85% of my blood producing stem cells were affected by the mutation which causes my type of Leukaemia. By December it was 3%. Unfortunately, between Liverpool Royal, and Guys, in London, they lost my February sample, so I’m running 8 weeks behind on results.
April sample result was no detectable mutated leukaemic stem cells. I need clear blood, haematological remission, and 3 undetectable bone marrow results, molecular remission, to be considered in remission. Next samples 31 May and last week July.
Im still receiving the experimental trial protocol involving arsenic trioxide infusions. Few side effects, extreme tiredness, my hair is totally white and I’ve got baby curls, but worst is peripheral neuropathy in hands and feet. Permanent pins & needles, total numbness in my toes and soles of my feet.
Mobilty is impaired and restricted. It may be permanent.
But I’m getting back to some normality. Went to Dublin over bank holiday weekend, theatre trip, and I’ve chaired a couple tribunals with two more this coming week.
Treatment continues until 6 July, then rehabilitation physio and 3 monthly, 6 monthly and, after 5 years, annual bone marrow biopsy follow ups for life.
All on the NHS. Truly a marvellous resource. My treatment will have cost £250,000 plus. Each chemo dose costs the pharmacy £1000, and I’ll have had 99 doses by July.
It's 9 weeks today since I was first admitted. I'm feeling much better. Still in Liverpool.,. Treatment going well. Drs pleased.
I've .three more days of chemotherapy before I'm discharged for 2 weeks on 29 November.
Returning to IoM on 2nd December.
Then on 14 December I start phase 2. That is four blocks of 4 weeks chemo twice per week with each block separated by two weeks break. So that's until end May.
The really good news is that apart from 5 days induction to phase 2, and monthly clinics in Liverpool, Nobles Isle of Man Hospital have agreed to deliver phase 2 chemo in their cancer day centre and are sending over a specialist nurse to be trained in the experimental trial I'm on which involves arsenic trioxide.
I'm looking forward to my own bed, the dogs, the Island, and doing a tiny bit of work.
Thanks to everyone for visits, good wishes, gallons of lucozade and lots of chocolate.
I've got weekend leave this weekend and I'm showing a friend from Bulgaria around Liverpool and the the weekend of 9/10 December Paul and I are getting our lives back on track and going to see Nutcracker in Edinburgh
Well here we are back home after Paul has had his op in London. He now looks good, no skull deformity and is feeling good. I have to say that all the years of paying health premiums have paid off. I am ashamed to have not stayed with the NHS, which I support,and believe in passionately, but the care he got privately was really superb.
He has been given the go ahead to fly by end of January, so his ski holiday is on. The Walton skull plate was synthetic, but the London plate is titanium, will he set off airport security scanners and how will we explain? This could be fun. Watch this space!
We also got to experience NHS A&E in a large south London hospital. Will never grumble about Nobles, ever again.
On the day of Paul's discharge he collapsed and became unconscious 3 times, once in the car on the way back to the hotel, once at the hotel and the third time, again in the car just as I arrived at the hospital doors to have him re admitted (at the suggestion of his consultant, with whom I had spoken).
I had parked, on double yellows, outside the private patient entrance, went in and asked for assistance. They had no porters specifically on duty, the ambulance men in the ambulances next to my car told me it was not their job to get Paul out of the car and into A&E as he had not arrived in an ambulance. One even suggested I should not have brought him in but should have dialled 999. I went to A&E 100 yards down the road, queued for 5 minutes to get to the desk, receptionist tannoyed a porter, but none arrived. Eventually she found a wheel chair and a hospital worker who pushed it to the car but told me it was not his job to help me get Paul, who was still unconscious, out of the car, into the chair or wheel him into A&E.
Eventually I prevailed on two ambulance men to assist in the car to chair transfer, then I was on my own, and was being harassed by the Hosp ital parking attendant to move my car. I had been on the yellow lines for 20 minutes and was blocking no traffic, so after wheeling Paul, who was just coming round, into A&E, I had to abandon him and find parking.
10 minutes later back in A&E Paul had disappeared. I found him in triage. I noticed that next to the triage station was a police office and outside was an armed police officer. Paul was wheeled into the A&E cubicle area. 50 cubicles, all full, nowhere to go. Paul was pushed into a suture room with two beds.
That is where and when we noticed the cameras, 5 of them, and the rifle mikes, four of them! Channel 4 were making a documentary on Kings A&E. A large Jamaican, bleeding profusely was then admitted to the room with a nurse, his partner, a junior doctor and a camera man, sound man and gofer, who had filming consent forms. (no we did not sign up!) The Jamaican had the broadest patois I have ever heard, and whilst being stitched related to the film crew how he had been "rolled by four niggah bruthas" for his wallet. I suppose it may make good TV.
After a scan, because the main worry was that Paul had started another hemorrhage, there were no cubicles or rooms, no NHS ward beds available, and private wing were trying to rearrange beds, it was a 3 hour wait in a corridor on the gurney.
Eventually a bed was found, but again no porters so Paul had to walk the half mile to the ward.
I will never again criticise Nobles, as long as I live.
Anyway, Paul had another two nights in and has been fine ever since. No bleed, the collapses were put down to wrong medicine prescription at discharge, low blood sugar, he had not eaten the night before or that morning before discharge, and peri operative risk. In other words he had been discharged too early!
I stayed at a boutique hotel on Camberwell Church Street, a 10 minute walk from Kings College Hospital on Denmark Hill. The area was fascinating. The ethnic mix was extreme. It was vibrant and for a manxie, quite exciting and certainly an eye opener.
Within the 400 yards from the hotel to Camberwell Green there were 12 different nationalities represented in the shops, restaurants and bars. Spanish Hotel and tapas restaurant, Lebanese kebab shop, Jamaican pattie and jerk take away, Vietnamese restaurant, Chinese restaurant, Bangladeshi restaurant, Thai restaurant, English Fish & Chip shop and two pubs, three banks and two estate agents, 5 Nigerian hairdressers all offering "easing" and money changing facilities behind windows filled with neon lights, a Polish delicatessen, an Indian corner shop and hardware store, a Jewish bagel shop. Other shops, cafés etc were clearly not English owned or run, but what they were did not matter.
More health worries and silly Spanish stories
Well this is intermittent, but I never meant to make it into a diary. I am surprised at the number who read, especially with my appalling spelling. I promise I do spell check work matters. I just haven’t got an IE spell check configured for the forum posts, that and losing a couple of teeth has given me a slight lisp, which has upset the voice recognition software.
So no I have not applied to be AG or Deemster. Nor do I wish to stand for election in September 2011.
I went off to Spain on my own in August, Paul did not feel like travelling. I was meeting 14 family and friends down there, from 2 to 80. I went down in the motorhome/ferry via Santander from Portsmouth supposedly. Got to check in and found I had the wrong passport so had to get a mate to fly mine down from IOM to Luton, so missed the boat. Eventually went via St Malo the next day. Extra 10 hours driving, but 16 hours less at sea so was not much later arriving, but was much more tired.
Had a great holiday. On way back the internal handle on the one and only door to the motor home went US and I had to lean out of the window and call people over to get them to open it from the outside!
Anyway Paul has been exploring options other than Walton. We have sort of lost confidence.
Yesterday he had a Walton check up, and on the Ben, just arriving at Heysham he collapsed again. Seizure and fitting. The boat crew were great and a retired nurse helped. The ambulance was there within 15 minutes and came on the upper vehicle deck. Paul had started to recover and refused to go to Lancaster and we all agreed I would drive fast, very fast, to Walton and they could scan him and check him over, as well as deal with his follow up consultants appointment . He is back on anti convulsants and has slept almost continuously since, but no new bleeds.
So now Paul has two options for his plate replacement, Walton in 6 weeks time or Kings College Hospital London in 3 weeks. That’s almost a year to the day since the first hemorrhage
I think we are going to London.
Any way the optimist Paul has booked his skiing for 2011 31 January to 14 February, got a helmet and a wifi helmet cam
I just want to see the end of 2010, annus horribilis!
Well it has been an eventful 3 months. Paul went to Walton and had his plate fitted. It was a plastic affair, not titanium, so no looking forward to setting off body scanners. In and out in 4 days. I went to Spain and finalised the farm and season prepared the apartments
I got back 30 April.
& days later Paul was at deaths door again, air ambulances to Walton. Infection had set in the plate was rejecting and pressure was building up inside his brain. He lost all co ordination and started to slur.
At Walton they thought they had detected an abscess in the centre of his brain and so on IV antibiotics he was kept in for 17 nights to ensure it wasn't. Fair enough they did admit the infection was s introduced at Walton on installing the plate originally and no it was not MRSA
Paul is not a good patient, he gets bored easily and frustrated when he is not told exactly what was going on. At the start he was being told but was forgetting. Then one afternoon a nurse at a shop half a mile away recognised him. He had gone for cigs and food. As he was sleeping he missed meals. So he sneaked out for take aways!
I went over every other day, mainly day trips on the fast craft, with car and dogs. The dogs kept him going. I have now notched up my 40th single journey this year.
Anyway he is back home now recuperating, has to wait another 4 months to have the plate re fitted, in meantime cannot fly and I am the only driver
On the bright side the extension is done and most things are back where they should be, just the fish to move to their new home and Paul's new office to kit out
No witty or funny stories this time, just relief to be alive
Paul continues to make good progress and to stay dry.
What will I have to blog about indeed.
We have builders in at present, I am taking the opportunity of adding bed rooms and bath room so we will end up with 3 receptions including a more defined dining area,a room downstairs which can be used as either a bedroom as we get older or a reception, with a walk in shower added to the cloaks and upstairs a new office for Paul and 4 large doubles all en suite.
Spain is done but the website eludes completion.
Next trip is to Walton to have a plate put into Paul's skull, then I am going to Spain to ensure all in order for season then a week end in UK doing Institute of Advanced Motorists training and test. As well I am aiming to fit in HGV or PSV here. The motorhome is 4,5 tonnes unladen, and I do have 7.5 tonne grandfather rights based on when I passed my test but I can get an insurance discount with the extra qualifications
So down to dogs and their ability to fly
We lost Noodle for half a day last week. She is clever. Knows how to work the rear windows in the disco. We had been to Ramsey for a lunch out and came home via Druidale. Got to Union Mils, only two dogs and one very open window.She had got out just after the Ballaugh end of the Druidale road. Anyway someone picked her up and took her to Ramsey police. We drove from Union Mills all the way to Ballaugh and back at very slow speed stopping and shouting every mile.
She seemed pleased to see us when located but I think the cops in Ramsey were sorry to see her go. Not much work done when an attractive playful puppy is tearing round the ops room playing.
So if you wanted the police in Ramsey on Friday and they were slow answering, now you know why
After admission to Nobles and air ambulance transfer to Walton neurological centre on two occasions with ten days, the second under life threatening circumstance, Paul has made a very quick and seemingly full recovery from his three cerebral haemorrhages and two seizures.
I spent the weekend with him. He has had visits from lots of friends and family
He has asked me to thank all of the people who have asked about him, thought about him and prayed about him. I too have had messages of support. Thank you.
He still cannot recall the events leading to admission or 48 hours after that. But otherwise historic and short term memory are good. He has fully recovered the use of left arm and leg and is having the 50 staples taken out of his head wound today. He is fully oriented as to date time and place and has told countless nurses and physics who is the queen of England
He has been in 4 wards at Walton in 12 days and has managed to get on well with nurses until yesterday when he went to have breakfast with his mate Tommy and did not book in and out properly. I tried to discuss discharge arrangements only to be told they were worried about his “non compliance” I grinned and asked did they mean he wouldn’t do what he was told wand made their ward look untidy, Yes was the reply, evidence of full recovery to all who know him, but of concern to the nursing staff who don’t
He will be discharged this week, not sure when, Wednesday or Thursday possibly and definitely by Friday. He has tickets to a concert on Saturday and wants to do Christmas shopping. I will tie it in with a trip over with a car so he does not have to bounce back and fro on the boats. We will be back here on 16th
There is one last thing, due to the large hole in his skull he will have to go back for a titanium plate to be fitted, that will be in new year
I suspect years of fun going through airports and setting off the alarm and then announcing he has a dinner plate in his head in pidgin whatever language is appropriate for where we are
I spent all yesterday with Paul
He has been moved from ITU to a high dependency ward.
He should move on to an ordinary ward Friday or Monday when they stop the blood pressure drugs
He is tired, but cheerful, fully compos mentis, and quickly recovering movement on the left. (he can lift and keep both left arm and leg in air for 30 seconds)
His speech is unaffected.
He is hooked up to all sorts of monitors and on drip lines for drugs and fluids. He is eating normally. His head swelling has gone down although he has a nice zipper line of staples on the right side of his skull. He is on nicotine patches and say he has no desire for ciggies
He now has clothes and his iPod and computer (but not on WiFi in this ward so no e-mails yet)
He is receiving lots of visits from family and friends and would welcome seeing anyone passing by Walton Centre in Fazackerley
I go back Friday for the week end and then I am booked over for the whole of the weekend after that. His brother Sean has been over for a week now, which is much appreciated
Paul has started keeping a memory book so cards and messages will be saved
Walton Centre Lower lane Liverpool L9 7LJ 0151 525 3611
not very eloquent, I know
I have commented upon my partners drinking and its effects on me and us from time to time
My last visit to Spain was railroaded by a drunken weekend so i went alone, nothing memorable apart from 36 hours storm tossed in the Bay of Biscay and I will post about that another time.
The Farm is finished, I have paid rates and I have a permanent electricity connection. The booking web site is in beta phase and we are nearly all go
The drinking got really out of hand when he started to fall over, down the stairs etc.
On 13 November he had a headache which stopped him moving, put down to drink by us both. Over the week end my attempts to get him to hospital failed, by stubborn refusal. Monday morning I called out the Doctor, I was frightened that light phobia and long standing headache might be meningitis. Within half an hour he was having MRI at Nobles and was flown to Walton with a brain hemorrhage.
Released on 20th he was still not well and I watched with concern as he struggled to get up, eat etc. He seemed to be deteriorating but again refused the Dr. This Wednesday I was so worried I tried to get him to go to hospital, Refusal.
I then discovered one of his mates had smuggled in a case of lager and bottles of wine and he had been drinking and not taking all his pills.
Yesterday we spoke at 07.00 but by 10.30 he was unconscious unwakeable and foaming at mouth. Ambulance called and he was once more in Nobles, another scan, much larger bleed and clot, life threatening, and then in air ambulance to Walton.
A three hour operation early hours today removed that clot, but instead of coming round he has had another bleed and is now on clot three removal
His adoptive mother has taken over as next of kin, I'm out of the loop. His family history is complex so when I have had information I have passed it on to others who care/have links. His adoptive father, who left the family when he was three , had a right to know. Mum in law refused/ His natural mother and brothers and sisters, who he traced and then fell out with over his drinking also should be told.
Dad was easy, sister less so. However i tracked her down only to be told his natural mother had died 4 years ago and they had thought it best not to tell him. Searching down to www.192.com
Life is shit today
I just wanted to get it off my chest
Just back from Spain
we now have the bolletin and the cedulla, nearly there.
Of course nothing goes smoothly, both the water and electricity have decided I need a new metre and that the electricity will need to be under grounded from the nearest sub station, 100 yards away, for which I will have to pay, water wants to re route the supply so it is in the road rather than under my garden.
We shall see how long that takes.
The place is really super, just one problem we have developed a damp problem in one downstairs corner, so builder now on that.
Trip down was difficult, Paul went on the rampage on the Bay of Biscay ferry drinking all night and refusing to get in the car on arrival. We were supposed to be sharing the driving. So I left him in Santander, he could get the boat home or catch a plane from Santander airport.
Two hours down line he called to say he had lost his wallet, robbed, and was stuck, so round I turned. He was sober by the time I picked him up, but we were 4 hours behind hand. I took him to the airport at his request bought a ticket, and then he refused to get out of the car.
Got to Barcelona arriving 6 hours late
2 nights later he was drunk overnight, with booze smuggled off the ferry, alarmingly I noticed that the psychotic behaviour is developing definite signs of schizoid problems,
Anyway we managed to have the rest of the week drink free and did all of the jobs and then flew home without incident
At Barcelona air side the only cutlery is flimsy plastic so you cannot take on board and attack aircrew and hijack the planes. The food was awful but the cutlery kept on breaking, hence the reference to George
Dad was an avid UK traveller with his motor home in the early days of the motorways, we lived near to the Preston bypass M6 the first bit of motorway to open in 1959. As we travelled thousands of miles we stopped for breakfasts or teas, a sort of special treat. dad was taken aback by the cost of the food, and he used to maintain it included the stainless steel cutlery. To our shame he built up a full collection of knives forks and spoons slowly by sneaking them out.
Forte reacted and withdrew stainless and replaced them with plastic, brought to their financial knees we were both sure, by G
Had the ghost of George been haunting Barcelona airport? A nice thought.
Ever since I can remember I have been interested in the theatre
I saw my 1st opera aged 8. Saddler's Wells Touring doing Wagner's epic with the ghost ship. Flying Dutchman
It was at the Opera house Blackpool. a roll of drums a change of lighting and the ship appeared out of nowhere on stage. I was hooked with the possibilities of what you could achieve with gauzes and lighting back and front
I never really acted, but I did start backstage at the gaiety and of course in those halcyon days all the old staff was there, the rain machine the storm machine and the thunder board.
My main annual job was to assist with the stage management of the easter Festival promoted by the Manx Amateur drama federation. We were led by Tommy McEvoy who had stage managed professionally and who was then working for Corlett Sons & Cowley but with an understanding that theatre came first.
Those Easter weeks we ate worked and slept in the gaiety. Not the nice warm gaiety of today but the unrestored cold and damp gaiety of the mid 1970's, at least to start.
Some teams helped, some hindered. Unlike any other festival, and there a re dozens on the circuit we in the IOM provided and built the sets as visiting teams could not bring their own which is the norm
I remember setting up the first set over Good Friday and easter Saturday slowly, then the play, then stripping out as the adjudication went on and getting in the team for the next night and at t least setting a back wall. The flats were 50 yeas old, top heavy 18 footers with an inch of emulsion paint.
For some people we would do anything.
A four foot mittell European director, Gerda Reddlich had us set the back wall four times one year. No a bit forward, no a bit back and so on we were in her thrall
about 1979 I was also part of Arbory players. The MADF has a hosting team with a local team looking after a visiting team. I was helping host Group Theatre from the East End
I met them at the boat and showed them where they were staying.
The Play was the golden Pathway Annual. I still have assigned programme . What a team, what friends we made. The team was based around a large East End family dad, mum, two daughters and son and sons in law plus friends.
Over the years they dis some wonderful ul theatre won the cups for best play actor and actresses. Most of all they were f un.
Their patriarch, Bernard died earlier this month. Its his wake on 30th.
it will never be the same again. I have the memories, do I go or not?
First, I do not do face book
Second I tried to do Friends Reunited
Third I am fascinated by how many people expect to have dozens of friends
I have recently had a time of reflection. My partners drinking and bizarre behaviour worsens and I am often on my own or in contemplative mood.
Recently I visited family and friends in the UK, and as a result some other older friends have contacted me
I have had odd reactions from them and my own reactions have been strange to analyse
last night Pam, an Anglo, Ugandan Indian I was at university with rang me. We talked for a long time. First contact in nearly 25 years. Married, divorced and son just done A levels, place at Manchester to do law. She was always someone I had regretted falling out of contact with. We are going to meet.
A week ago Jonathon, a school friend from primary school called. Ist contact since I went to university. He lived about 6 doors away when we were kids. Jonathan would in modern parlance be diagnosed as Aspergers, I am sure. But he has coped, married and widowed brought up a daughter. Never worked much, but hey he sounded happy. He now lives in Morecambe on the route to the boat. I really want to see him again and catch up. Jon is 1/4 Manx his grandmother was a Looney! From peel no less
About a month ago I went over to have work done on the motor home. I spent four days going around family and friends. Mixed bag of results or what?
Geoffrey, 85, welcomed me with open arms and we spent a greasy morning under his MG VA getting the brakes to work as it had failed its MOT. He hasn't changed in 50 years. Now on his own, but remarkably fit and well. When my mother died we spent happy times at Christmas and bonfire night at Geoff's. He had three children same ages as myself and sister. two girls and a lad. I popped in to see the eldest daughter in Rossendale, no personality thirty years ago, none now, husband worse, moaning how her dad was going to give everything to her brother and not her.
Next a cousin. My father was at school with her father and they grew up together, best men at each others wedding. Her dad has just died aged 90, Soliciting regularly to the day he died. He was a diffident profoundly honest introspective man, married to a daughter of an Anglo Indian Raj family. The house was always uncomfortable auntie could not relax or show affection. Woe betide any one who moved a cushion in the lounge. My cousin is a teacher and married to a solicitor. Intelligent. She moaned about an Indian moving in to her nice 1970's estate and how they would have to move as there would be an invasion. She admitted never having been to IKEA (too down market) and whilst she warmly invited me to stay for tea i disappeared. I couldn't have stood that conversation any longer. But I still like her and will see her again, just in smaller pieces next time
The I went to see Lorraine in Norfolk. Long trip for a two hour visit. Now fully recovered from her bereavement and we had a lovely chat. She really is my only actual close living relation in my adoptive family, sister and niece and nephew apart. The other uncles and aunts are remote cousins or close friends of my adoptive parents
I then called on my natural mother, half sister and her kids. I do like them but the relationship is false. You cannot make up for 50 lost years.
Finally to see parents of kids I grew up with, neighbours who are still there in Hest Bank. Again a warm glow and some later contact by the old friends
I am not sure but I think I am coming to the conclusion that it is the friends you make in early life who are most significant
The work is done, the division of the land from seven years ago is finished digitally and mapped and the lawyer rang me to say she had the new catastral reference.
I do not believe anything so I asked her to scan and e-mail. The town hall have registered their half of the plot in my name and are charging me rates on their office, so no go for the completion certificate and boletin and permanent supply.
I complain and wait. A new plan with a different catastral number arrives, it is my plot but the name shown is the people i bought off, who bought off the town hall two years before that. MMM.
Anyway I have the copia simple deed and the new plan and I send off to the regional office myself asking them to note the new owner. This I did, filling out the form in Spanish. It worked, back it came all present and correct
I have now paid the rates for this year, no back rates. €100 plus €10 per month rubbish collection and €10 per month water. so I can get the completion certificate next.
So nearly there
The completion certificate is next.
I went out three weeks ago, stunning. All the carpet is laid, the place is spotless. Outside the fruit trees were laden, lots of potatoes and onions and soft fruit and grapes. The greenness of the grass around the pool had to be seen.
getting there was tough however
My partner is alcoholic and just at the moment drinking hard again.
We were booked on the boat to Liverpool to get the morning plane to Barcelona. Wouldn't get into car. I decide not to go. Two days later partner agrees silly not to go, we get into car and onto boat. Stay at Crowne Plaza in old terminal. Wake up partner not in room; gone. Leaving a bar bill. I deceide to go back to IOM as I will otherwise end up with two cars in UK. Need to find out what is going on, settle all night bar bill.
By Saturday I am conscious that if I do not get to Spain I will waste the fare for boat from Santander, bringing back old Citroen we keep in Spain for some TLC. Fly out via Luton, taxi to farm, stay 3 hours pack car and drive to Santander, then 24 hours on boat to Portsmouth and drive to Liverpool for evening boat back, gone just 80 hours. wanted a driver to share with, Will want one again when i take car back. Volunteers?
As I have written to the authorities from my IOM address they now write to me here
A week ago I got a denuncia, a sort of Fixed penalty notice pay up or else but you can appeal. It was in Catalan and alleged that on the 3rd February 2008 I had put vegetable material on the ground by the bin and not in it.
Quick look at diary. I was in Court in IOM on 3rd Feb 2008 and 2009. Lucky that. Speak to lawyer.It will cost €250 to appeal and €100 to pay, so I pay. My Catalan is not up to appealing myself!
I just hope they have not identified me as a source of new local income
I think I have told you of the trouble we have had with electricity in Spain.
Well we have had more
We still only have a temporary supply. It is linked with a small building works permission. It was for two years originally.
last December I reminded the lawyer, who is sorting out the lack of a reference catastral or rates number, which is why we have no rateable value and no ability to have a full supply, which is a regional, if not autonomnal, matter and an administrative mistake, the builder and the architect that the build works licence expired in February and we would need an extension and then apply for an extension for the temporary supply
The local town hall planning is open two days per month. They missed the deadlines and ENDESA came along, moved the pole and consumer unit and disconnected the house on 15 February. Certificate for minor works extension was granted on 12th! but did not get to them in time.
So for last two months no electricity
The only thing we have left to do is the fitting of carpets in two upstairs rooms and then the property is lettable as long as the builder has repaired the storm damage from new year which whipped the jacuzzi cover off and flew if 600 metre and the pool cover which tore in half and went a mile. and the permanent barbecue which had its chimney topple and as long as the gardener has completed the irrigation system
So off we go today, with family to do that. No electricity Monday, so emergency book an apartment in Sitges, just in case. Yesterday electric company turn up, install pole and fuse box and wires and connect up, so we can stay in farm, but no swimming. Solar panel heating depends on a pump, electric of course to heat the pool, so pool, is cold!
Lawyer says she has the certificate and number now, but I haven't seen it, and bet its as a restaurant, previous use, not as a house, if so ENDESA will say our re wiring does not meet commercial standards and they will not give a bolletin and so no power. I am learning to be pessimistic about how bureaucracy works in Spain for me.
Well I woke up this morning to the news of Jade Goody's death. She was brave for the last few weeks of her short life. Who would have thought that the idiot loudmouth ignoramus from BB would have come so far
I also awoke to the news a that a baby had had its life support removed by Court order and died
Both Jade and the baby have touched peoples lives, parents, family and the wider world
I wanted to share some memories of people who had touched me
Mark who died of Aids. He was a mess toward the end, in hospice, here and on his own. His brain was affected, the virus having crossed the blood brain barrier. He was lucid and then not. I occasionally took him out in the car and brought him home. I had known him 20 years, or thereabouts. I knew his mum step dad and sister and brother.
Toward the end he came home to my house for a few hours, wheelchair bound but bright, it was a good day. He was catheterised but needed a poo. I manged to get him on the loo and to get him off, cleansed and had his pants pulled up but the turn through 180 back in the wheel chair caught us both unawares. Over he went, over I went, both in a heap on the floor. What did we do, we laughed and laughed, about half an hour, maybe more, before he quietly said"its unfair, sex with just one man, one time and look at me. Come on lets get up." WE managed to get ourselves back up together. It was the only time he talked about how he became HIV and the last time he visited. But I shall never forget laughter the best medicine.
Then there was Tom, a set designer with a drama group in Northern Ireland, a visitor to the Gaiety Easter play festival. Tom taught differently abled child en arts and crafts. The play was Butterflies are Free about how a blind boy achieves freedom moving into a flat on his own. Tom had had one class produce tin butterflies and enamel paint them as badges for the cast and helpers. I was lucky to be given one. Tom died of a brain tumour aged 35. I still have the butterfly, 30 years on
Sometimes I hear a laugh and think of Mark, or I pick up the butterfly and think of Tom
It is the same with my father and mother there are sounds. smells, reminders, all of them pleasant. I hope I leave fond memories if anything should happen to me. I hope that you will too.r
Well it has been 6 months since I last blogged. I only ever intended it to be occasional, and so it is.
I have been a regular reader of Tom and Barbara’s blogs. I want to just say to Barbara that I hope Tom is in that better place and that you do meet him again. Thank you to both of you for enriching o my life.
Well off I went in September to my uncles funeral. Lovely do, beautiful flint church with thatched roof, a vicar who knew the man he was eulogising and a congregation where I, and my sister, 53 and 50 were the youngest. The church had a large charities board above the door showing endowments for the benefit of the village. My heart was uplifted by a 1630 donation the Laughter Charity. Obviously a surname, but how nice.
Funeral tea was in the church hall and provided by the WI. Again the youngest by 15 or twenty years.
So what have I been up to since then. I upset the mother in Law over Xmas, we had an invite, which was cancelled, re invited and in the end I said I wouldn’t go because it was about to be re cancelled. Families.
We were off to Spain Boxing day, all packed and ready for boat when Levi oldest dog has stroke. Cancel sailing and call vet. Vet says she will have to be put down so can we go to surgery following morning So we leave IOM 24 hours late. No space on Portsmouth St Malo for three days so go Dover Calais instead, lose our fare out on Brittany Ferries which with cabin was £400 each way. Get a single to Calais for £55.
Head off through France, stop off at an aire, a sort of off road park, where over nighting is allowed. Wake 05.00, someone trying to break in. Shout loudly, dogs bark, they sneak off. cannot sleep so set off south. The lock is now unlock-able from outside so we cannot leave the van anywhere. WE arrive at the farm to find the caretaker had put the CH on and it was warm and welcoming.
Next day unload motor home. We have taken down underlay and rolls of carpets for the upstairs living and bedroom areas. Help arrives and we get the living areas done.
Then Paul, and next me go down with flu, to shivery to do furniture removals and carpet laying so we sweat it out. I venture to Sitges and Barcelona go to Ikea and buy a new washing machine, all the while feeling like shit, then it’s time to go home.
Half way up France I get the text from IOMSPCo that due to adverse weather they are cancelling boats, we ring and are told its for three days. The van is huge and heavy and officially does not go on the Seacat any way. So we slow down, call into vets for dog jabs for passport. It’s exactly a year to the day since we last stopped by for same thing. Where is the other dog they ask, so we tell then, “ desole” the response as they delete her records from the computer.
Back in England we decide to do a family visit thing, My aunt and uncle in the East End, Lorraine in Norfolk etc some sites are open all year around with electric hook up, which we need as the leisure battery has failed.
Monday am I call IOMSPCo oh sailings resumed last night. Too far to go in too little time for Heysham at 14.15 but we get the Ben from Birkenhead at 12.00 mid night
We spent the first half of February in Bulgaria, me working, Paul and friends skiing, at Bansko, a new resort in Southern Bulgaria. The Bulgarians are nice, Bansko is super, less than an hour from Greece, but its only half developed and the credit crunch has hit hard. Still we had a great time until I got stopped with the duty free ciggies for Paul on my way back. Bulgaria is in EU, ciggies are cheap. I bought 1,000 duty paid for about £60, whistled my way through the blue channel. Stopped. Anything to declare? No, Sure? Yes Aren’t you off the Bulgarian plane? Yes Aren’t those Bulgarian Cigarettes? Yes, but I bought duty paid. There is no limit. Ah there is its 200 only transitional arrangements. OH. You can pay duty and VAT or I can confiscate. How much? £240 No thanks you keep them, enjoy smoking them!
Since then I have been having work done, a bigger drive to accommodate cars when clients call, a new home office, shed in the back garden and plans for the re shaping of upstairs to give access to the attic and four En suite bedrooms
In the meantime the Spanish electricity company has switched off my electricity again, about which I will write with more humour later
Well this last couple weeks has been a heavy time. I have been working, almost over time. I start a four week trial on 13 October and there are acres of papers and files. Nearly there but not quite. I am enjoying the cut and thrust but it does remind me of why I stood to one side.
On the family front I got news that my uncle by marriage died in September. As most of you will know I am adopted. My adoptive parents were each only children. I have an adopted sister and a niece and nephew. I found my birth mother a few years ago and have a half sister and a niece and nephew there. Relatives are few and far between
In my adoptive family I have only fairly remote relatives. I had a scutch of elderly and venerable great aunts when I was growing up. Victorian ladies, lavender smells, antimacassars. Most were spinsters or widows. Two or three had staff. I was to be seen and not heard, but indulged as the male for the next generation.
Lorraine (whose husband has just died) is my grandfathers brothers daughter. That means we share a common set of great grandparents. She is my fathers cousin and my first cousin once removed. She is a few years younger than my dad George and was in her youth a bit of a rebel, or so I am led to believe. She is mid seventies now. I first remember her in Liverpool at her evacuation home. Her parents lived in central Liverpool and sent her to friends in Aintree for the duration in 1940. My great aunt and uncle were killed in bombing raid in 1943 and by the time she was in her late 20's the family who had taken her in were all dead. So that memory is about 1960 when I was 4 or 5. In those days out of race season you could camp on the race course. Her kitchen window overlooked the camp site.
Lorraine qualified as a teacher in the middle 50's but found English class work boring. She worked for Cunard and P&O running education on the Aus and NZ routes for migrant children then she went to Trinidad and Tobago to work for Shell who ran an expats school for workers on the tar lakes. back in London she answered an advert for a governess to an American diplomatic family to coach their two daughters for entry into the US equivalent of Eton or Harrow and when they went back with one in and the other too young to sit the entrance she spent two years in New York and Washington doing the same. I have the Kodak camera I was sent as a present one Christmas.
Wherever she was she sent regular cards and presents. Multiculturalism was not high on the agenda for a young boy in Morecambe in the early 60's but I had colourful Caribbean T shirts and a steel drum. I was the envy of myself, if not my friends. When she turned up on leave she had a triumph TR5A. Imagine how I felt when that stopped outside school to pick me up!
From US she went to India and Pakistan, I think on a years pilgrimage/tour, maybe hippy dom. I have three wonderful model elephants. Then her last post Malaysia in the last days of the British presence in the far East, as a teacher at the RAF school in KL and then in Penang. That is where she met Bruce who was a captain in the air force. They married and he was decommissioned back to the UK.
BY this time my mum had died. dad was a great single parent. But home life was dull. Bruce and Lorraine had never had a house, they bought and furnished afresh a la Conran, instead of a black old style BT phone they had a trim phone, a B&O stereo, G plan furniture. You get the picture. I loved their house and her.
They retired to rural Norfolk, got involved with dogs and couldn't leave them to travel, then Bruce became ill, he couldn't travel anyway. We wrote, phoned and I called to see them. Any idea how awkward Norwich and beyond is? Especially from IOM.
Recently I had helped her get on line. She was sinking under the strain of 24/7 care for Bruce who after heart attacks and mini strokes had gone on to Alzheimer's. We got in Norfolk Social Services who got him up and put him to bed and took him to day care twice a week and gave respite every three months for a week. Any way he died whilst being moved so we had to have a PM and enquiry and waited to hear if an inquest would be necessary. No it is not, so off to funeral on Thursday. can you do Norfolk and back via any airline in a day for a 14.00 funeral, cremation and brief appearance at the bun fight. Not likely. Wednesday evening was full on the Steam Packet. Any way all sorted, but with what patience Lorraine has borne it all, what dignity
At the same time i got an e-mail asking if I was the same John Wright who lived in Hest bank as a child, went to Bolton le Sands school and knew a Helen N.... . Someone I had not seen or heard from since I was about 7. We have exchanged messages, its strange how it all comes flooding back, names and people who I have not thought of in 45 years. Her father a copper, her mother our lollipop lady, teachers, surprisingly one still alive, our contemporaries, parties, pets
I am so glad I have a vivid memory. If I ever become affected by Alzheimer's or a stroke and cannot communicate please someone switch me off. In the meantime both Bruce's death and Helen's e-mail have enriched my life with all the memories that have rushed back.
I am a fan of the IOM. I have a motor home. I belong to a motor home forum. I always push the IOM as an ideal destination. Here is my guide for a recent visitor (July 2008)
well you may miss the scooter festival and you definitely miss our national day 5th July, but held on 7th, due to the week end, but you hit race week for the Southern 100 motorbike races.
Arrival day I suggest you stay on the Marine Drive just south of Douglas (along South Quay and then up Douglas Head Road), and then make an early start. I suspect that a clockwise trip may be best.
Douglas has a Tesco and an M&S. There is a really good fish & chip shop, the Chart Room on North Quay at Quines Corner and a fresh fish restaurant in Victoria Street next to the library. here you will rub shoulders with the stars who are over for filming. we have an active film industry.
The beer is good, Okells local brew and Bushys a small independent. Bushys pub in Douglas is the Rovers Return and they do hearty grub.
There are good restaurants and cocktail bars in Douglas, you may bankrupt yourself at Ciappellis but according to A A Gill it is the best Italian outside London
In the morning double back into Douglas and go south via Old Castletown Road going to coast at Port Soderick and Port Grenaugh before going to Castletown, Georgian Square and C15 Castle, go to Derbyhaven, Fort Island and Langness. Light house there owned by Top Gear Clarkson who has fenced off an area and upset the locals, he says they look through his windows. Back to Castletown. If there is a race or practice you are stuck and cannot go further South. watch out for angry locals busy wire cutting and trespassing with dogs, angry Clarksons with guns and of course seals.
In Castletown there is a spot by the railway station with two pubs. The larger one does good lunches and the smaller one, The Sidings, latterly the Ducks Nest, after the architect Mr Duck, has a range of guest real ales
Once racing over follow road to Port Erin and Port st Mary, detour down to Pooylvaaish to see the quarry where the stone for steps for St Paul's London comes from, turn left through farmyard as you hit the sea. Return to main road by backtracking and at farm go straight ahead instead of right. Rejoin main Road at bottom Fishers Hill and travel along coast as far as you can go. This takes you to Port St Mary. From there return to the cross roads you came to from the coast road and turn left to Sound and Cregneash. Our lands End. brilliant views over to Kitterland, the calf and a racing tide, look out for sea birds and seals. MNH visitor centre and quite good café for lunch or Cregneash café. Cregneash is an open air museum of a crofting/fishing village, worth a walk around. At Cregneash turn left and go over the Howe to Port Erin. Road is steep, half way along is the Meayll Hill stone circle, a mini Stonehenge.
Port Erin, good for a sunset and trips on boat to Calf of Man, take picnic, nothing but birds when you get there, on route see seals, dolphins, harbour porpoise and basking shark.
I can think of nowhere to stay, wild or other wise, in the deep south however there will be a field at Castletown full of bikers in tents, just by the start line. The alternative is back to Douglas or on to Peel and a nice municipal site with hook up.
There are two or three inlets with roads immediately north of Port Erin then take the Sloc road to Round Table. Cronk ny Arrey Laa is on the left. Hill of the break of day. here the old timers kept watch for the glint of sum on the herring shoals and waved flags to direct the fleet.
There are side roads down to the Coast at Niarbyl where there is a pub and a MNH visitor centre and café and Glen Maye where there is a pub, the Waterfall. Watch out for the Dalby Spook, a talking mongoose.Then to Peel, round the harbour to the castle, good ice cream tea and crab baps at the breakwater kiosk. If you go into the castle watch out for the moddy dhoo, ghost of black dog. On Way back stop on the bridge at the top of the harbour, look upstream and on the right is a small factory where Peel 3 wheel cars with 50cc engines were made in the 1960's. Just landward is a kipper smoke house stop to buy the best kippers in the world or for hot kipper baps if you didn't eat at the harbour. Go inland to St Johns to see our thing, parliament hill dating back to 979 and where on 5th July our parliament still sits open air and the new laws are announced in Manx and English. Think about our place names. The language is Manx, closely related to Erse and Scots Gaelic but many are pure Norse. This shows the importance of our Viking ancestry. Snaefell, snow mountain Tynwald, parliament hill, Foxdale, fossdalr waterfall valley, Laxey, laksa, salmon river. The Isl of man was a Viking kingdom from about 900 to well into the early 13th Century, originally Mann and the Isles, ie the outer Hebrides.
From Peel North take the coast road, even if not staying go to the beach at Glen Wyllin camp site. The coast north is now sandy deserted and either crumbling sand cliffs or dunes. There is wild camping at Smeale and a semi organised site at Sulby Claddagh. The food and drink at Sulby Glen Hotel is very good. I'd camp at Smeale in preference to the Claddagh, suffers from boy racers a bit. Alternatively go to Point of Ayre our John O Groats. The sand has given way to shingle and a fast current. Plenty of places to stay.
From Point of Ayre you can see salt workings and gravel workings and a wild life reserve all next to our ex tip. The views are north to the Mull of Galloway. Coming up the west coast you may have seen the Mountains of Mourne between Niarbyl and Glen Maye and in particular Slieve Donard.
As you go south via Ramsey, you will see the Lakeland fells, even barrow and the nuclear plant. Ramsey has faded glory and a 1970's Mediterranean apartment block south promenade, desecration in the name of progress. On the Mooragh at the north end you can stay on the grassed area if you get a permit from the Town hall. There are always a few members of the IOM Motorcaravanning Club parked up.
South of Ramsey go via Maughold and go to the coast at Port Cornaa. Go visit Maughold church yard to inspect viking crosses. At Laxey drop down into the old village and harbour and be sure to go see Lady Isabella, she is the biggest water wheel in the world and you cannot miss her majestically turning.
From there its back to Douglas.
On the trip to the Calf there are three deserted light houses to look at, about a 3 hour walk from Harbour. In Peel the House of Mannanan telling of our Viking history and the seafaring nature of the Manx. At Laxey get a tram to the top of Snaefell, there used to be a café when you get there but take a flask and your own sarnies, please. From Douglas take a trip on the steam train and go to the Manx Museum. If there is a show on visit the Gaiety theatre, one of the best preserved Matcham C19 theatres in the British Isles. During the day they offer back stage trips.
Other places to go, things to see
St Peters Onchan where Captain Bligh got married
Maritime Museum Castletown
Grove Museum Ramsey c19 wealthy house well preserved with good tea rooms
Rosa's for lunch or high tea
If open in Douglas go round our parliament buildings. WE have a strange tricameral system where the lower house, the Keys and the upper House, the Council sit together as Tynwald Court.
If not then the old house of Keys is in Castletown and open daily
Of course make up your own itinerary, nowhere is far, you could go to Peel day one and base there returning every day. There is a lot more. On arrival, if not too late go to the Tourist Office in the sea terminal for maps and booklets
Hope I haven't spoilt it for you
I know these entries are sporadic. I am amazed any one ever reads what I have to say. Anyway I felt the need for a catch up, today, now. No idea what prompts it, but here goes
I have not been out to Spain very much this year, been busy at home and I have had jobs to do. I have a four week trial starting 13 October so lots of preparation and I have been working for a client in Bulgaria on and off.
I have had a coupe, of short Spanish trips, suffice to say that all is done now apart from snagging and after the trial I intend spending more time down there. It really is a gorgeous place, in a most amazing locality.
There was a break in earlier in the year, they managed to pull out window bars and then got in and opened the doors from inside. What got taken, well, an industrial bacon slicer, a new, but plumbed in dishwasher, the Dyson, but they left Henry(!) 4 TV's with built in DVD players and one sky box, plus my old Praktica SLR and its lenses and a VHS camera and a mini DV camera
I now have heavier duty window bars, iron bars across each door and a burglar alarm with a loud noise and flashing lights, that will frighten the buggers off, It connects to a local service centre and I pay an extra fee so that if there is a call out they send armed security guards.
I managed to replace all of the camera equipment on e-bay for less than £250 and I have now replaced the other stuff. All the builders have to do is replace a door and two windows which were badly damaged plus paint the outside of the jacuzzi with teak oil.
Any way clouds and silver linings, the gardener, who discovered and reported the break in offered the services of his dad as key holder and regular visitor, he offered the services of his wife as meeter and greeter for guests and cleaner and sheet and towel changer and then we did a deal about the allotment. They live in an apartment in the nearest village, about 5 miles and he misses his garden so he is now growing veg. I provide the seed/stock, he grows three or four times what he needs and I and my guests can pick, within reason.
Upstairs needs underlay and carpets but that apart it is ready for lets. The website is in development and I am about to sort out the broadband access by satellite at reasonable band with and cost and VOIP compatible.
I have become a traveller, a Romany, gypsy and am benefiting from an EU programme to bring Broadband to travellers. Its called ipCopter and is on the Greek Hellas sat and the equipment is by Alden of France. I am having it fitted on the motor home and the farm so I will be able to work whilst travelling and abroad. There is a big dish, 90 cm which tunes in automatically to 39 degrees east then a router and a wifi unit. I pay about €70 per month for telefonica broadband and a landline in Sitges at the apartments. The satellite system is €700 for a year or €500 for 200 days over 2 years. all sorts of packages and you can buy top up.
Bulgaria, what can I say. Strange schizophrenic place, with its own Cyrillic alphabet but most adverts in English. Impossible to get around as you cannot read any signs. Very hot in summer and cold in winter. Very cheap. Charming people, wonderful country side. Sofia has enough to justify a weekend break, just, and is served by easyjet and BA and Bulgaria Air. The suburbs are dire, depressing and still run down. Taxis run on empty, but only because they have been converted to LPG and so the tank level indicator does not work.
There is a huge sex industry and night clubs of the sleaziest sorts with gun toting door men
I had dozens of business meetings, you go by taxi or they send a car for you as it really is impossible to go anywhere when you cannot read street signs. There is a huge corruption problem, a Russian and local mafia turf war and there are kidnappings of members of rich families. It was only after my third limo trip that I twigged that the big black Mercedes had extra thick metal, and glass, they were armoured and then I noticed the shaven headed driver in armani shades and tee shirt and snappy suit a had a bulge, not a pleased to see me bulge but a padded out area below his left nipple, so did the next one, and the one after that. On one journey as we got into the office he removed his jacket and yes there it was holster and automatic.
I got to the coast at Varna and up to Sunny Beach. Sunny Beach is like the worst Costa ten or fifteen years ago and is invaded by Brits and Russians with the Russian having the upper edge. They run about 90% of the local building operations and apart from the horrible all day English breakfasts and wall to wall estate agents it is a 10 mile long unregulated building site. 3 miles in land Fort Noks, the biggest builder of them all is throwing up apartment blocks with one bed apartments from €30,000.
So back inland to Bansko a new ski resort. What beautiful country side. Nice development. In a valley basin there are three developments based on original mediaeval towns. One a ski resort with great facilities, quiet in my visit, I stayed at the 5+ star kempinski for €60 per night and was one of only 5 guests, one other being my local driver translator. Next village has chosen golf, three new courses with housing. One Woosnam designed course and then a third is selling spa treatments with some nice looking hotel/treatment complexes.
Bansko is less than an hour from Greece, Turkey and two hours from Sofia. There is a decommissioned military airport being converted to civilian use.
What else does it have, well as well as winter sports there is trekking kite ascending, fishing, horse riding, a narrow gauge railway. The villages in the hills are mixed ethnic/religious, Bulgarians and Muslims, each village with an orthodox church and dome and a mosque and minaret. The fields are like alpine upper pastures, wooden buildings and cropped by hand with sickles and scythes. I couldn't work out which were Christian and which were Muslim, they all wore black scarves to shield from the sun. The kids were all along the road side with grandparents, toothless grannies in black with black shawls and scarves. Selling wood strawberries, bilberries and honey and jam plus wild mushrooms. Idyllic
I have to go back a few times over next 12 months, I shall enjoy
And finally to the Manx front. Well I have swapped my Smart car for a new Fiat 500 to tow behind the motor home and I have had another adventure with locked cars. This time I was locked out.
My partner loses keys, give my partner a set of keys and the set gets deconstructed and then lost. I have an anal attitude to that. Our doors only lock with a turn of the key. If I lock inside I want a key in the barrels in case of fire so I can get out. each key set has the keys for that car, a house key a garage zapper, etc. I had friends in Summerland. Sometime in June the landrover set went missing, never to be found. £100 replacement via dealer from Germany. I didn't order because I hoped they would turn up. One morning I had to deliver some files to Mount Pleasant. Took the dogs. Returned to car to find lights flashing, dogs on dash board and they had hit the lock door button. The keys were in the ignition. I tried to persuade them to play games to jump onto the seats and then back onto the dash in the hope that struggling claws would hit the button and open. They looked at me as if I were totally stupid, which at that moment I felt. I went into the new government library, did they have a tool kit, could I borrow a hammer to break into my car. Geoff the librarian said, no Mr wright, we don't know its your car. I rang the police on 63 1212, after all not a 999 matter, no reply 20 minutes. Went to nearest office. Asked for hammer, was loaned one without question and proceeded to smash window. No one stopped me, no one called the police and it took me five goes
New key, £100, new window £87 and fitting £120......... Dogs........partners.......idiot for leaving key in car!
Well here we are, Spring 2008. Just back from 10 days in Spain. The farm is now finished internally and I have an improved but still temporary electricity supply. The apartments are now open for the season with their new decor, kitchens and bathrooms. Bookings are good.
Over summer the outside of the farm is being done up, a decking around the pool, a shade veranda on both patios and a pool solar heater and cover and finally a Jacuzzi. Then that is it.
I hope over space of next six months to become a registered foreign (EU)lawyer in Spain and from early 2009 to spend more time out there advising expats on Manx, Irish and English law, wills etc, pensions and offering a mediation and arbitration service among the ex pat community
I was at the farm house day times only last visit and now all the frustrations are out of the way I recall why I bought it.
It was 3rd April, it was 25 degrees, the sky was blue, the daffodils I planted at Christmas were in full bloom and it was so quiet. An eagle soared over head, there was a jay in the trees as well as many smaller birds, all nesting in the boxes I have had put up, a dragonfly flew over the cisterna, so did swallows and martins.
A fox barked, distinctive. The dog started rolling in something, smelled it, yes fox droppings, pungent. There are dozens of foxes and wild boar in the surrounding hills, plus pheasant, partridge and quail.
From far away a distant melodic clanking started to impinge, it grew louder. Within half an hour a flock of sheep and goats with shepherd and two dogs passed within 50 feet and then dwindled away into the distance, their bells long audible after they had disappeared from view.
What more could i possibly want?
About two years ago I decided I no longer wished to work 60 or 70 hours per week. I decided to work from home, restricted hours, on a few matters for a very few clients. I also decided to buy a farmhouse in Spain.
I have been working part time from home now for 2 years. I have all the technology including satellite internet to allow me to work any where in the world.
Yesterday I got the small works consent to allow renovations at the farm house I bought in Querol Catalunia in July 2005. I needed the consent because without it I couldn't turn on the electric!
The electric was on when I bought. I just transferred the DD over from the old owner to my bank account. In theory every new owner has to have an inspection and a cedulla issued allowing supply for another 10 years. This is true of water and electric and gas. It is to ensure the old owner was not a rabid DIYer and has not rendered the place dangerous. In a land where many live in apartments it's a good idea.
BUT the bureaucracy is overwhelming and the temptation is to cheat. So you just tell the utility to take the money out of a new account, the bills arrive in name of ex owner but so what.
All was well until the ex owner fell out with the estate agent about the level of commission deducted, 5%. He then checked to ensure no bills in his name and had the supply terminated.
Water was fine, it is pumped out of a well, very hard but cool and 10 Euros per month. Gas is large bottles, we have 10 of them.
Next week we get electricity for the first time in 18 months!
There have been frustrations on the way. To start off my blog I am going to post some of the stories.
Well, here we are again. Thursday 3rd January. I get out from under the covers. I check the radiator, still warm! Good. I go into the bathroom and turn on the shower. The water runs cold, very cold. No sign of it getting hot.
Deep down realisation sinks in. I’m in Spain, in the farm, on my own, with no gas for heating or hot water and an intermittent supply of electricity that trips if I plug in the kettle. I had made the two 35kg gas bottles last a week. The Gas company, despite many calls had not delivered on the 27th. Never mind, today is Thursday, delivery day, they will deliver today, I thought.
May be I had better explain. For three years I have been doing up an old farmhouse in Catalonia. Its actually in Tarragona province, in the hills, 5 miles from the nearest village. For 2 years we had been handicapped by the lack of electricity supply, work was slow, but we had bottled gas, 10 big bottles and pumped water from the well and a sewage digester big enough for Ballabeg.
After 6 months with electricity on a temporary jury rig, all the work was done. Just finishing off. My partner and I had driven down in the motor home, arriving 20th December. The idea was to spend Christmas and New Year doing the final jobs, installing new lights, all the towel rails. Shelves, loo roll holders, mirrors etc and the cupboards in the new kitchen, plus do the same in the two apartments in Sitges where the builders had been beavering away for the last two months making reformas, installing new bathrooms x 4 and kitchens x 2.
First shock was that the builders, having promised that one was finished and the other nearly done were only ¾ through one and ½ way through the other. On 21 December the entire Spanish building industry shut down until after 6 January (3 Kings day when presents are traditionally given).
We knew at once on arrival that setting up the apartments for summer lets, checking the inventory and making up beds was a waste of time. My partner quick as a flash booked a week in Andorra, only 100 miles away from 28 December with sibling and siblings friend. I decided to stay at the farm, I hate winter sport with a vengeance, I always feel cold, miserable and wet and I cannot ski and have no wish to learn.
We had a good Christmas, found all the British Christmas things, turkey, chipolatas, force meat, sprouts. Not had a British Christmas lunch for several years. On arrival the gas went off after 24 hours. The Butano is in banks of 5 with a turnover switch, which is not automatic. I rang Madrid, the ordering is centralised on a free phone number and they have English speaking staff. I ordered 5, for delivery 27th. I switched over to the second bank of 5. All was well. With guests we put on the radiators full, we were testing the system, checking all worked and heating the farm after three years of standing empty. 27th morning the gas ran out, never mind, we had two spare full cylinders. I rang Madrid to increase the order to 10. Any way partner and other two were leaving for a week, on the following day. I could live in one bedroom and turn everything else off. I even managed to down load the English instructions for the Honeywell timer and thermostat. All I needed was a warm room in the evening and hot water. As we had two kitchens, one gas and one electric all would be well.
That of course ignored the electric problem. The supply is temporary. Effectively we have a three phase supply to the house, but it is switched off at the transformer station 50 feet outside the back door. Instead of that working we have a temporary meter and fuse board, trip switch consumer unit and then an extension cable into the house connected up on the consumer side of the meter.
The extension cable is too long and has a join. If it gets hot, or damp, it blows the trip switch. On a cold but dry and sunny day it allows us to run a washer, tumble dryer and the dishwasher plus lights, a kettle and the TV. Switch on a cooker ring or plug in the motor home and bang. On a wet day we get lights and TV and even plugging in the kettle switches off the power.
The building work is done, the electricity installation is checked and approved but we haven’t got a rateable value allocated so we cannot get a permanent supply. In theory we needed the número catastral for the phone, gas and water plus the rubbish collection, we managed to wangle those, but not Mr Electricity. I have gone to the office in Vals four times now. They are not interested. Only if I have the correct bit of paper with a number. I can have the temporary supply for ever, but I cannot upgrade.
I have applied to the provincial tax office for a number. Twice. They lost my first application! The last application was in August, still no progress. OK I don’t pay rates, but I’d like to, and I’d like a full electricity supply, please.
3rd comes and goes. No delivery arrives. I go out to buy bread, on way back pass the delivery lorry on the road. Get back, try the cylinders, all make that horrid clanging noise signifying empty. The “””””””” didn’t deliver!
My partner ‘phones. Arriving back that night. I warn about the heating and water situation. Still with the motor home back I can plug in and we can have hot showers and watch telly in the warm of an evening, powered by gas or electricity.
Still I had put up all the light fittings, 20 of them, three kitchen cabinets had been put together and wall mounted, in the main kitchen I had installed another 20 metres of stainless steel shelving and I had managed to put together and then affix to the wall in three bathrooms, all the cabinets, mirrors, shelves and loo roll holders and towel rails any one could want . I had bought an electric floor polisher and polished and coated all the tile floors, moved furniture and put down rugs.
I felt virtuous. I had even sorted out the problems with the Sky boxes and we had English TV in both living areas and all four bedrooms. I had fitted the rails and shower curtains and among the junk in the shed found and cleaned and restored and fitted the internal shutters for most of the downstairs windows.
Friday morning I shout at Madrid. They have no explanation. They say descuple por las molestias , forgive us for the inconvenience. And promise a delivery that teatime. It does not arrive.
Saturday the brother in law goes home with his ex army mate. They grumbled about the cold non stop.
Realising that there was no point waiting to try and do something in the apartments the following week we set off home early on Monday via the B and C roads of Spain and France, stopping in villages in the Pyrenees and Gascony for coffee, cakes, and menu du jour lunch and supper.
Back to Spain in March to sort out the apartments in time for Easter lets, Just have to miss the Carneval lets!
14th January I check the answer phone service for the farm. An angry madrilleno has complained that there was no one to sign when they delivered 5 butano bottles on the 9th and that there had better be someone there on the 16th when the next 5 get delivered!
Well in July I was feeling I was on the downward slope to enjoyment of my Spanish dream
I now feel even nearer
Two years ago my partner lost driving licence, Drink Drive. So I have been driving up and down to Spain on my own. Now has new shiny licence and passed test so can share the load and drive all other vehicles.
We have a fleet. motor home, smart to tow behind, I have a Disco 3 to tow the trailer then there is a Citroen in Spain so we don't have to hire, an Audi TT for fun, a Fiat van for partnerswork and a motorbike.
Finding insurance for a convicted driver on the motor home has been a nightmare, but I managed it yesterday and partner passed test.
Went out to Spain 1st week November. Cleaning up farm after builders. It realy is done, a bit of decorating and a snagging list but liveable. Still only got a jury rig electriciy supply as still don't have the valor catastral or rateble valuse and number to sort out a permanent supply. Amuses me two ways, have to switch everything off and pull plugs. Otherwise it trips. So no washing and kettle boiling and vaccuming at same time! Of course other resaon for fun is that I am the Chair of the Rates appeal tribunal here! Just issue myself one!
The builders did such a good job we commissioned them to renovate the apartments which we let out in Sitges, all new bathrooms, 2 a peice and new kitchens plus white paint everything else.
We are off for Xmas and New Year, to oversee the finalisation of all the work and to check inventory and ensure deep clean before the first lets for carneval in February 2008.
The farm has had fruit trees planted and the pool and jaccuzi installed. There is a sprinkler system from a cisterna fed by an underground spring. Planted apples, pears, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries. Also a huge soft fruit cage with strawberries and reaspberries plus some eglish fruit rhubarb, the gardener had never seen before and they do not do thornless balckberries in Spain. Other things as well, olives, mature walnut and almonds, quince
To put in yet are oranges, lemons, limes, kiwi. Also a herb garden and a vegetable patch. Must not forget crab apples.
We have 36 grape vines as well. I am on look aout for a second hand domestic grape press and a couple barrels fr fermenting
As we speak the gardener is planting some feel at home plants, daffs, tulips, snowdrops and crocuses. Well its 2,000 feet up and cold in winter. We get snow. but it less than an hour to the Cosat Garraff and Costa Dorada
Any way 2008 looks good, more trips, relaxation out there.
Both apartmnents are available via the web site and the farm direct from me, can be split so its either two two bedroomed units sleeping 6 each or one four bed unit sleeping 12. It has air con, CH and wood burning stoves, thre bathrooms and two kitcjens and living rooms.
Of course the trips are all traumatic when I go. This last time we arrived at Caen port to check in, with thre pasported, chipped and de loused dogs. Refused boarding, Vet had used wrong pills for ticks! Bugger, night in hotel, find early vet, get correct stuff, then wait 24 hours before alowed to board. Got on boat 36 hours late, next two Steam Packet sailings full! So ended up home 48 hours late
partner thouroughly pissed off demands to be set down at nearest airport, Birmingham obliges. I travel lots for work so know there are no Saturday evening flights, sit in car park smugly waiting a downcast return. After an hour I give up and drive to friends in Runcorn. Partner there on settee having caught taxi at cost £200, got card bill today, and charged it to my card!!!!
I'm off tomorrow to have work done on my motor home.
I use it as a mobile office and for getting too and from Spain. It has all the toys including satellite broadband.
I bought it about a year ago, my 50th to me present.
Have had lots of work done since then. The attitude of suppliers is amazing. There are some good ones and some really bad ones. The main dealers are worst. The whole business is over charging, overcharging, overcharging with poor service. They all send their sales teams to shows which happen weekly all summer and monthly in winter, so no one ever takes responsibility for anything.
I bought from Browhhills at Hymer UK in Preston. The Hymer UK main dealer and sole importer. The sales staff were so dis interested. I was looking at an £80,000 van. It was a 2006 model, by then the 2007 inventory was coming in. No one returned phone calls, no one returned e-mails. In the end I got an IOM dealer to contact them and negotiate on my behalf. WE agreed I would pay £70k delivered to my door and he would take his profit and all expenses from the amount he got below that price. He let slip he made £2,500 after shipping and transport.
When it arrived there were problems, which I and local dealer sorted out. I also went back to Brownhills for service and some work. Talk about expensive. They know I was coming from IOM, on arrival I was told parts not in, I had booked four weeks earlier.
I'm back again this week end. Some idiot tried to turn left through the side of the thing. Well it is 30 foot long and 10 feet high and they just didn't see it in broad day light on the inside lane. We both stopped, but before I could get details the police arrived, ascertained no one hurt and told us both off for stopping on the hard shoulder and the other driver fucked off without giving details.The damage is minor. It is not an insurance job, for a number of reasons. (Huge excess to keep the premium low, being one and not wishing to upset a 75% unprotected NCB the other, break even is £1,000) I took it in for estimate on my way to Spain on 13 March. Told them I only wanted limited work, and it was not an insurance job. The estimate was for £4,000. They had added every scuff and scratch, with an oh the insurance will cover it. I refused. I got a re estimate. 20 April I booked it in 9 July was earliest. I reminded them there was warranty work. A cable controlling the front passenger seat hydraulics, had parted. Please replace. A week ago I checked all parts were there. No cable, they could not get a cable. I suggested they got on Easyjet and went to personally collect or rang the manufacturer direct and had it sent DHL at my cost. No, have to order from main German supplier who goes to factory where they are converted who go to the actual manufacturer, no direct ordering allowed. Estimated delivery another 6 weeks and longer if holidays get in the way. All it is is a bit of bike brake type shielded cable, they wanted £158 before ordering it, that was why it was not there. They had forgotten it was warranty work.
Tuesday I am going to little man in Warrington. He fitted my air con and my satellite TV system. One air-con unit has failed. He has got the replacement and he chases me to check when I will be over to see him. He is also installing my self bought 12v DVD player in the back bed room, all for free. I have commissioned an alarm system and a security lock to be installed as well, because I want to let him have some paid work. What a difference.
Wednesday I was supposed to go to a firm in Newark who fitted a top range radio, CD, DVD and SatNav system with a Blue Tooth hands free in January. They also put in an automatic self levelling jack system so that the motorhome does not shake when parked up. It almost walks on 4 legs, eerie.
They did not supply any instruction books, I have been chasing since. On Thursday they told me that if I came down I would only be given an A4 internet download, well I did that the minute I found out it was missing, so not much point. I also want a spare remote for the self leveller. I asked at time of installation, it was promised, still not received. I was to collect that, but no, it still is not in. £120 they want and I am willing to pay, but where is it. Final point and real reason for going down all that way is that blue tooth unit has been wrongly installed. It pairs and registers, but that is lost when ignition is turned off. any way I am having that done locally for £40, cheaper than going to have it done under warranty.
I should have known, installation was a pain. I got back after two days in January to be told they had not got the blue tooth in stock, and I would have to return. They claimed to have hunted high and low. I had noticed a Halfords 500 yards down road, went, bought, and then they fitted, why they couldn't have done that is beyond me.
Stupid thing is they are nice, they do lots. I want a a semi auto selection box and cruise control fitting, but I'm now terrified of letting the vehicle near them, also I want EFOY battery chargers, they work as a continuous generator running on Ethanol, quietly topping up the huge leisure batteries. £20 ethanol lasts a year. But will I get the whole kit, and if not how long before I do and how much of my time will I waste sorting it out.
I thought motorhoming was supposed to be fun.
I have a C3 Pluriel parked in my garage space in Spain.
It is great in the sun, roof down, and handy for nipping around. It also pulls our trailer, but it is cussed
On our November trip the car would not start. Garage man started with jump leads. We asked should we follow him to garage and get new battery, but he told us to drive around. After an hour we stopped in a side street. The lights went off, proof the battery had not recharged. Sighing we reached for the door, it wouldn’t open. The default position in power failure is locked. Windows are electric as well. We tried to break a window, to no avail. It was 9.00pm and dark. Eventually a man walking his dog came over and we were able to slip the key out through a small gap between the window and rubber on the frame. He opened the door manually from outside. We now carry window hammers in all vehicles!
Even better, In February I bought the kitchen units at IKEA, had a trailer to put on back of car. parked in IKEA underground, came back with trolley load of units, no trailer. Some shit had disconnected it and taken it.
Left my disconsolate partner with the furniture and went to the nearest B&Q equivalent. Bought new trailer. It was to be an hour whilst they bolted it together, so I went back. We were fed up, so we risked leaving the kitchen units in IKEA underground. Got to B&Q, well Bauhaus really, and there was a problem. My bank had refused my card! Now I knew there was nothing spent on it. It was obviously one of these computer has detected odd pattern of use, you have spent €2,000 at IKEA and another €700 at Bauhaus, but yesterday it was 45p at Douglas Shoprite, theft alert.
SO embarrassed I rang the card issuer, no problem instantly corrected and card went through. Got hitched, back to IKEA and guess what, the stuff was still there, not that we could have cared less by now. Any way packed up trailer and so to bed!