I am still chuckling about it

Spring is almost here, well it is if you listen to the Met office but officially spring starts on the vernal equinox which this year happens to fall on March 20th. The Met office which likes to keep dates in simple order decided that spring started on March 1st but as lunar or astronomy records have been going for far longer than the Met office, I like to use the old system. No matter I digress, the weather is warming up and hopefully I will soon be out in the garden and attending to all those jobs that require seasonal attendance. Work on the outside of the house should recommence as well.

I recently discovered my garden shed was becoming damp. The problem was traced to rain water falling off the roof and onto the brickwork. A simple solution seemed to place guttering around the edges of the roof to divert water away. All well and good, but the guttering needs to be placed on a fascia board that has to be screwed to the brickwork first. Not a big problem but the walls have to be pointed before the woodwork goes up. Again this is not a huge imposition but it does require warm weather to stop the pointing from freezing and dropping out. However before any of this can take place the roof itself needs sealing with a bitumen like substance and that does require warm weather. A relatively simple job with a simple solution has now turned into a large multi part task that can only be completed when the elements allow. Roll on spring!

It all seems a far cry from last years Halloween and bonfire night; the weather was crisp and the company fantastic. All of the usual suspects turned out in fancy dress for the Halloween party in the grounds of Chateau Ghastanbury. Most of it is a bit of a blur as I was on medication for pain relief and I had been out of hospital for a mere few days, but the photos show I had a good time on both nights and I was well looked after by everyone who turned up. A big thanks to everyone who went to the effort of dressing up and the evening resembled something from a hammer house of horrors film set and the cast of the rocky horror show.

That show reminds me of the time at Christmas just gone when I became an inadvertent cross dresser. Bean Counter had bought me some silk underwear for travelling as the properties of silk make riding a bike for long distances far more comfortable and much more practical than cotton. As I came down the stairs a couple of days after Xmas clutching a small pile of laundry for the washing machine BC asked me why I had her knickers in my hands. I asked her what she meant and she said I had her knickers with my pile of laundry. Looking down all I could see was a pair of black silk underpants along with some socks. Apparently the underpants were knickers right down to the frilly lacing around the edges and they were not mine. It would appear I had picked up the first set of underwear from the clean pile I came across that was clean, about my size, the right colour and looked vaguely like my own. Hopefully I won’t get her stockings and my socks mixed up or I will be auditioning for the part of Dr Frank-n-Furter.

To keep me on the straight and narrow I gave up alcohol for lent after having a final blow out on Shrove Tuesday. Roger Moore, Sophia Loren, her mum and BC were in attendance. It all started swimmingly and then the non stick frying pan decided to stick. Pancakes that should have flipped did not. I made the decision that as the frying would not work for me then it must personal and I would make sure it would never cock a snook at anyone ever again. After a few beers I took the pan into the garden and flattened it with a very large hammer. There is something completely satisfying in destroying something that refuses to do what you want it to do. I still hark back to my period of technic cleansing when my PS3 ended up in the garden pond. Expensive? Yes. Satisfying? Completely and I am still chuckling about it.


An expensive learning curve

It feels as though I have made a full recovery after my jaunt into the wilds of Yorkshire. I have however discovered that a lot of my equipment is hopelessly inadequate and so within a day or two of arriving home it was time to hit the credit card where it hurt.

The first issue to address was my sleeping arrangements. My sleeping bags were too light and my sleeping mat was too thin and not fit for the purpose of sleeping on cold ground. I ordered the VSS or Vango variable sleeping system consisting of two purpose built sleeping bags of different weights and designed to fit inside of each other if the temperature really drops. To compliment this system both sleeping bags can be fitted inside a waterproof and breathable bivi bag to stay dry. I have not purchased the bivi bag yet but an ex army one should do the job nicely. I also ordered the Exped down air mattress. This was not cheap but the blurb said it should keep you warm down to -12c. It is certainly comfortable.

The next issue was heating and cooking. A tap has been fitted to the fuel line on my bike and this should allow me to draw off fuel to my petrol stove which was used properly for the first time shortly after arriving home. The only addition to this bit of kit was to order a purpose built kettle as an uncovered pan of water takes far longer to boil in cold weather. I also ordered a very small lantern that runs off cheap T lights. This should provide a small amount of heat as well as a limited amount of light that will be supplemented by torches anyway. Being in an enclosed and spill proof casing the T light can be left on even when I am not in the tent.

My mattress cost around £100 and the two sleeping bags were approximately £45 for the pair; the bivi when it becomes available should be around £50. It sounds a lot but I have justified the expense in this way. A night in bed and breakfast would cost me a minimum of £20 a night if I am lucky so after a mere ten nights under canvas, in any conditions, I should have made my money back on them. The cost of the fuel line alterations plus the kettle and lantern was around £45 pounds. Again the cost of this outlay should be recouped in a small amount of time by cooking my own food and drinks instead of relying on cafes and bars.

This new kit has produced its own problems. The sleeping system while not heavy is bulky and I have to think long and hard about my luggage. I am keeping my existing soft panniers but I am hoping to replace my plastic top box with an aluminium one. I have also ordered an Ortlieb rack pack to fit all of this new stuff into and it will sit on the rear seat of the bike secured in place with a Pac safe.

Apart from the steep learning curve the main thing to come out of the trip was the discovery that my new satnav, a Garmin Zumo 660, is fantastic. I bought this at the beginning of the year and also purchased at the same time a headphone kit that enables me to hear the instructions from the lady who lives in the satnav. It took me door to door and I was even able to listen some tunes on the built in MP3 player to relieve the monotony of the motorways. How I ever lived this long without one of these babies is a complete mystery. I still maintain that the Garmin Quest is the single most useless piece of kit I have ever bought but the Zumo more than makes up for it. Sadly the quality is reflected in the price and at over 400 quid for the GPS and a further £150 for the coms system, it is not cheap but I will never leave home without it again!