Goodbye to the Toon

The weekend was a good one, but a sad one. On the lead-up I got to see my grans, my aunt and uncle, my lovely little cousin (all Glasgow) and my parents (in Perth). Champagne was had, far too much money was donated and hugs were exchanged. Oh, and Wee Louise now has a PC to play with if her mum and dad ever let her near it.

Next stop was Newcastle for Phil’s stag do. I’m missing his wedding as he’s gone and booked it for while I’m away (I maintain he did this to keep the booze bill within manageable quantities) so there was no way I was skipping his send-off. The weather was lousy, but the night was good!

The original plan was to see the Scotland v England rugby match in Edinburgh, but tickets were too awkward to get hold of given their issue date, so we plumped instead for Newcastle United v Everton at St James’ Park. My last live English footie match for a long time… good job we won! Also, apparently the Scots egg-chasers beat the English so we picked the better fixture.

After being refused entry from one pub for having the gall to wear trainers (bouncers hate people who can run away when they’re trying to beat them to a pulp), we had a swift change of clothes and headed for a restaurant on the quayside. The name escapes me, but it’s the one where the Sunderland chairman was glassed a couple of months ago. A stupid incident especially given what a fantastic job he’s doing this season running the club into the ground in a superbly humiliating fashion.

Food was eaten, but I still don’t believe there was an Cointreau on that melon starter no matter what the menu claimed. Bar 38 was the next stop. Anyone who’s seen the film Goal! will recognise this from the outside as the club the lead character gets dragged to. Once you’re inside, however, it’s obviously a vastly different place! Still, they sold beer and had a whacking big plasma screen with football on so I wasn’t complaining. And the songs were all from when Phil and I were at school.

A quick hop to another bar saw us all peering suspiciously at brightly-coloured shots of Aftershock before necking them, shuddering and desparately washing the taste away with beer. Beer jackets were definitely required as we battled the winds and rain back to the hotel… and the resident’s bar.

I ended the night starting to work my way through the pick ‘n’ mix I’d bought in the afternoon before snoozing rather happily until well past breakfast time. A free lift was obtained to get home, and Caz pinched my spare freezer.

Courtesy of Freecycle I am also now “rid” of my food processor, weights, office chair and two beds. Everything’s just awaiting collection, and my house is virtually bare.

15 days, 11 hours and 2 minutes until I reach Thailand at the time of writing. Not that I’m counting.

Go to jail. Almost

Well, this is typical. I’ve not even left the country yet and I’ve had my first brush with the law. Yesterday I drove all the way from Bradford to Johnstone. This morning I drove from there to Perth. In total about 350 miles, give or take.

There’s a big roundabout at the end of the A9 at Perth. On it was set a white Volvo. With blue flashy lights. Containing three burly men in yellow relfective jackets who decided they wanted to pull me over and talk to me. It seems my van looked rather overloaded. Perhaps they thought I had £50million stashed in the back and had driven up from Kent. I don’t know.

They asked where I was going. “About half a mile that way,” I pointed. So, sensible as our lovely police force are, they drove me 3 miles to the local weighbridge at 60mph along a dual carriageway and around 2 more roundabouts. This as an alternative to 1/6 the distance at 1/2 the speed in a predominantly straight line.

In fairness, they were right – the van was slightly overloaded. By half a ton. That’s a UK ton, by the way. I know those American ones are different, in case any foreign readers get confused.

I pleaded ignorance. My mother will tell you that I am, indeed, very ignorant. I have almost made it my life’s missions to raise ignorance to an artform. I haven’t managed, but I don’t care. That’s how ignorant I am.

The thing is, I could judge the attitude of the people in the office I ended up in. The two police officers were scuffing their feet and looking almost bored, like they knew they had better things to do. On the other hand, the VOSA guy was somewhat smug in a “we’ve caught you, you ‘orrible little man” kind of way.

The conversation went something like this:

VOSA: What’s your permanent address?
Me: I don’t have one. That’s why I have just about everything I own in that van.
VOSA: So where were you heading?
Me: My parents’. They’re storing all my stuff for me while I go abroad.
VOSA: When are you going?
Me: Two weeks. I fly out on the 14th of March.
VOSA: And when are you coming back?
Me: *shrug* I don’t know. I’ve got a one-way ticket to Thailand and no real plans after that.

At that point, the police started talking to each other. I overheard “waste of time”, “pointless” and “not worth the effort”. The VOSA man started to look a little perturbed. He looked at the police and they simply told him it simply wasn’t worth their time to pursue it.

As I was leaving the country indefinitely and so soon, they were a bit stymied. It takes 4 weeks to generate the paperwork. In the case of a foreign national in a similar position, they would place them in custody until a rush job could be done on the paperwork and for the sake of a co-operative Brit who’d done nothing worse than slightly *cough* overloading a Transit van they felt that jail time was far too heavy-handed.

Without their co-operation, Mr VOSA was pretty much toothless.

I was given a release which allowed me to drive my Transit-van-and-a-half worth of possessions to my folks’, and instructions to bring it back for checking once it was unloaded, which I duly did. About 4 hours later.

Now, I could be wrong but I really got the feeling that Mr VOSA was seething underneath. I have a feeling someone was on a quota. He did, however, seem to take great delight in informing me – several times – that I’m now on a Register. Dum-Dum (and indeed)… Dummmmmmm. Let’s face it, there are worse registers to be on than one listing people who’ve put too many boxes of books into a Tranny van. I am not psychologically scarred, though any monetary donations towards a pre-emptive session of counselling (or hard drinking) will be welcomed.

I am, however, proud to say that in 32 years that’s the closest I’ve ever come to going into jail. It’s almost embarassing that it’s for something so inane. If I ever do get locked up, I want it to be for something really worthwhile. Maybe having too large a spoiler on the back of my chav-mobile, or flicking my windscreen wipers one time too many for the prevailing conditions.

Time to switch the cynical mode off and sleep mode on. I don’t know why I’m bothering to go abroad when there are so many thrills and adventures to be had here at home.

Going, going…

Over the last 2 nights, Chris has been helping me shift large boxes of utter rubbish that I should have thrown out years ago. Kim’s inherited most of my furniture and I’m currently tucked up in bed at my aunt’s in Johnstone with a van outside containing virtually all my worldly possessions.

With Chris having to go home (to a mad wife who couldn’t get the electric working) due to a dodgy stomach, I had to load the van myself. This was the world’s largest and heaviest game of Tetris. You know what it’s like trying to get everything you’ve bought into as few shopping bags as possible? Like that only with added muscle strain and spinal injury.

Fortunately, though 2 hours later than I intended, it stayed as Tetris and didn’t degenerate into a losing move in Jenga. There are a few things that didn’t fit, but Chris has foolishly … erm … kindly offered some loft space. He’s also welcome to use all the power tools that I’ll be leaving with him. My comfy hemispherical chair, though, won’t fit anywhere so it going to head tipwards when I get back.

I have now visited both grandmamas and my ickle cousin Louise (pics to be added once I take some). Next stop is Perth to see the parental units and play another game of Tetris (Orthopaedic Challenge version) trying to get all the boxes into their cellar.

Nearing D-Day

Monday night. Tonight’s aim is to get virtually everything I need for a 12-to-24-month trip into one large and one small rucksack. And I’ve not bought the small one yet. 20kgs into the big, and 7kg (plus laptop) into the small.

I really hoped to get this done yesterday, but I squeezed in quick visits to see Suzy and Tony & June after leaving Viv’s. Miraculously without a hangover. Must try harder when I get back, Viv!

Chris is coming over tomorrow to help me get everything boxed and to get that which is already boxed out of the loft. On Wednesday, the fool… erm… lovely chap is back over to eat more of my burgers and help me move furniture to Kim’s in Leeds. Then to fill the van with the boxes we moved on the Tuesday night.

Essentially, at that point, I will have nowt in the house except one bed, one sofa-bed, a smattering of food, and two cats. And hopefully, all my stuff for travelling including my tickets…

Panic, folks, is now gnawing at the bottom part of my belly. Slightly left of my belly button. Though it may be appendicitis.

Just to make things easier…

If you have a shufty down the right hand side you can now “subscribe” to this blog using Bloglet. Whenever I post something new, you’ll get an email sometime later that day with the first smidgen of the post in, and a link to the blog. No spam, no adverts, no fancy HTML emails, just a little link so you don’t miss anything!

I’ll be adding RSS feed once I can find a neat, tidy place to put the link!