"Thank you" and some pictures

First off, thanks to everyone who bought one of the tour shirts. I flogged 16 of them (and still have one size small spare!) which raised £24 (plus Gift Aid) for the RSPCA. Hopefully there’ll be some more to donate later today as I’ve asked my work colleagues not to bother with a leaving present and to give cash instead. Well, I’ve just packed two rucksacks – I don’t have space for anything else!

Also, JanetyJanet has posted a few pictures from Cardiff in her Yahoo photo album. They’re mainly of Anni, LELI and me playing with Ed.

iechyd da!

And Cardiff bites the dust as the UK leg of the World Tour draws closer to the end.

Thanks to Alison, Anni (and LELI), Andy and JanetyJanet for showing up, and apologies accepted from Jo (illness) and SFG/SWMBO (household emergency) who couldn’t make it.

Oh, another “thank you” to Sharon for checking out the football scores. Stuck in the land of egg-chasers I couldn’t find so much as a TV in a shop window with the results on display.

This was actually the hardest of the “pre-flight” trips to make as it means parting with my pussy cats. Anni has volunteered to take them on board while I’m away and within minutes of the furry felines arriving I think she knew she’d made a good choice. Look after them well – they’re the single most valuable thing I’m leaving behind!

Cats are great when they’re loose in a car. There’s nothing better for removing stress at 85mph than a cat asleep on your lap. Partly because it just feels nice, and partly because you then at least know they’re not wedged under the brake pedal.

It was great to see Alison again as it’s been a few years since we caught up. She’s very good at help when you’re shopping! Don’t even ask how much I spent – my credit card is still weeping inconsolably.

JJ is as mental as her blog comments would have you believe – mad as a bag of peppered badgers. My one piece of advice to her would be to stay well clear of anything with too many E-numbers. She’s bouncy enough as it is without them!

Advice to anyone – never try and be my best mate in a pub just because you can read my name on the back of my shirt. I don’t know you, I don’t like you, and shouting at me when I’m trying to have a conversation is not going to put you in my good books. Being a Brummie was never going to help, either. However, fleeing the drunken hoardes did allow Andy to show us where the TARDIS was plonked for an afternoon and JJ to go “wow” and pretend to be impressed.

We had dinner in Nando’s, where the staff only tried to poison me once with a raw chicken burger. The replacement was slightly warmer. Public houses were visited, but we ended up in Metros as it’s about the place in Cradiff without a dress code and two of us didn’t have daffodils to use as buttonholes so none of the other clubs would let us in.

Andy and I stood and watched the tail end of Tron on the tellies while everyone else acted sociable (sorry about that) before it ended and we realised there was a bar with cheap prices before midnight. OK, actually I realised there were cheap prices before midnight when the round I bought at 00:05 was about 4 quid dearer than the previous one, despite containing one less drink as LELI had gone home.

Andy himself was the next to retire, and I confess I was absolutely bushed having been up since about 6:30 that morning. We retired back to Anni’s and crashed out after trying to engage in sensible conversations for some time.

For the last morning, I woke up with Ed snuggled under my arm. I’m going to miss the little sod. A lot. Even KK was pleasant and didn’t try to eat me. At least I know the pair couldn’t be in better hands.

Anni managed to eventually prise my hands off the cats and I set off homeward via SFG/SWMBO’s to drop their exclusive tour t-shirts off. And to play with Boris the insane bouncy dog.

Next stop was home… and a subconscious search for cats running up to greet me. Ah well. I’ve moved into Kim’s until the end of the week (another thank you!) and have a trillion (ish) things to do before Saturday morning.

The next update will likely be from London next week!

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.