Getting a quart into a pint pot

We are back on dry land and I am wondering how do you get a quart into a pint pot?

Plenty of space in this one!

We are once more in our cosy little park home in Warton and as I contemplate moving everything from here to our new home at the marina I am reminded of my first job working for Field and Trek, the outdoor equipment suppliers. Allow me to explain:

When I originally went to work for them they operated from two high street shops but carried a bewildering quantity and range of stock squeezed into a rabbit warren of basements, attics and rickety extension buildings. Every new delivery brought fresh frustrations as we were expected to pack items into already full shelving bays. I complained bitterly one day to the manager about the impossible task of putting twenty large tents into a space that was barely big enough for five. “Can you get just one more in?” he asked. “Well yes, I suppose so” I replied. “Well just keep doing that until they are all put away” he quipped. I have a feeling his words will be coming back to haunt me over the next few weeks and months.

About a quarter of our possessions are now on the boat and those that remain here will have to be severely whittled down before the final move. It’s going to take a good deal of ingenuity in terms of storage space on that boat to fit everything on board. Even then it can’t possibly work without another round of charity shop trips, Ebay sales and calling in favours from friends with large attics and garages. (Hint, hint) It’s going to be another hard lesson in working out just how little we need to be comfortable and content. There are plenty of existing ‘live-a-boards’ at the marina to prove that it can be done but when I look around at our furniture, books, CD’s, clothes etc., I am just a little bit daunted by the task and as for the shed, well I’m just pretending it’s empty for now!

Look out for the advert on Right Move soon:

BEAUTIFUL, COSY, MODERNISED SINGLE BEDROOM PARK HOME FOR SALE

Contents also available by negotiation.

I found myself sitting on the boat the other day looking into the galley and thinking, I wonder what’s behind that kick board under the kitchen unit? Before I knew it I was lying on the floor rejoicing at the size of the cavity I had discovered when the board was removed. I suspect there might be quite a bit of that kind of thing going on over the coming months.

Meanwhile, it’s back to painting, weeding and generally sprucing up this place with a view to a quick sale. Offers invited!

Any interest?

Ouch! That’s half a decent bicycle.

This is really an update of this earlier post about our gas supply saga. Read that first if you want the whole picture.

I am nervously awaiting an e-mail from our gas supplier in reply to my notification that they have been charging us 2.83 times more than they should for our gas. That’s a big multiplier when you apply it to a year’s supply of fuel. About £560 worth in fact. Ouch! That’s half a decent bicycle for goodness sake.

The reason I am waiting nervously is because when we moved house before Christmas we took the bold decision to go with the cheapest gas supplier we could find despite the fear of becoming entangled in some kind of ‘consumer tells of million pound gas bill nightmare’ story in the Daily Mail. Up until now we have enjoyed a perfectly satisfactory and very efficient e-mail relationship with the new people but what I dread now is an e-mail along the lines of: Thank you for pointing out the problem with your gas meter. We have arranged for an engineer to remove the unit immediately for safety reasons. Please arrange to heat your home by some other means for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately you are responsible for the cost of removing the meter …… etc. etc.

I’m posting this so that you can have a laugh at our gas supply/meter replacement horror experience but there is actually a serious point behind it which I maintain justifies my spreadsheet obsession. Here’s the story: (I’ll try and keep it brief)

We bought our 26 year old park home knowing that the old boiler and gas fire belonged in a museum of pyrotechnics and we would have to fork out for a new one. So before we moved in the plumber took out the old gas fire and back boiler and fitted a shiny new combi boiler. But he couldn’t get it to work. After much head scratching he and his mate concluded that the old gas meter might be faulty. The meter sits in a box buried in the ground outside the van which isn’t unusual on this park but the very high water table also means that it sits under water at times of heavy rain. Which I would imagine is quite unusual and probably isn’t a good thing. Anyway, National Grid kindly fitted a brand new gas meter which still lives under water most of the time but who am I to argue. It seems to work OK so maybe it’s a dual purpose domestic/submarine model.

The boiler now works fine, we are lolling around our park home in scantily clad bliss and everything is lovely until we get a bill from British Gas (the old supplier) for £900 for two days gas supply! That story is covered here if you want more background. Having sorted that out, we settle into cosy domestic heaven once again until we get the first bill from our new supplier and it’s three times more than expected.

I now go into spreadsheet design mania and start to monitor our consumption. It involves a slightly complex formula that converts units used into kwh and ultimately pounds and pence and we are even more horrified. We appear to be monopolising the North Sea gas supply! After two weeks of analysis, worry, shivering and looking like Scott of the Antarctic whilst watching Countdown we had another look at the figures this morning.

Ready for a relaxed evening in front of the TV

Ready for a relaxed evening in front of the TV

Gill very bravely suggested that perhaps I might have a teeny weeny error in my formula. I didn’t even flinch. I just smiled at her through my mortally offended pride and began to do some checks.  Finally, after studying our bills from our old house and the new ones from the new supplier we spotted the problem. It wasn’t so much an error in the formula, (phew) but rather a combination of errors on everybody’s part. It seemed that our new gas meter is metric, our new gas supplier thinks it is imperial and that tiny little detail represents an annual bill inflated by over £560!

There's the little blighter

There’s the little blighter

While I have been writing this I have had a reply from Andrew at our current supplier and it would appear that champagne might be in order. With the least possible fanfare he simply said, “Sorry, we have the record of your meter wrong. We’ll sort it out and amend your statement.” Or words to that effect. The Daily Mail are going to be bitterly disappointed. No drama, no fuss, just a simple, common sense solution. I am so relieved and more than a little flabbergasted. In fact I am so pleased that I am happy to announce that the supplier in question is Zog Energy and I would tentatively suggest you might want to check them out. (Other utility suppliers are available.)

So, what have we learnt from all this?

1.       Gas meters work under water

2.       New boilers really are very efficient if you give them enough gas to burn

3.       Plywood houses are quite cheap to heat

4.       British Gas wouldn’t be my first choice to organise a brewery based knees-up

5.       Zog Energy might be though and I would definitely go to the party

6.       And SPREADSHEETS ARE WONDERFUL!!!!

Pour me another pina colada darling and don’t spare the ice.

At last I have my focus.

Maybe more for me than for you, I feel compelled to place a full stop in this blog. A marker to move forward from after a fair bit of reflection on my part. I should warn you that it isn’t funny.

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At last I have my focus! After spending the last twelve months and more thrashing around trying to work out what the hell this blog is supposed to be about I finally have some answers. I have been reading advice from other bloggers and focus seems to be the one requirement of a good blog that everybody agrees on. Now, after giving it a lot of thought, I am finally making some sense out of what it is I want to write about.

It really is so very simple and it’s been staring me in the face all along. The blog started as an account of a life changing adventure when we decided to sell everything, give up our jobs and take off on a six month 4,500 mile cycle tour round the coast of Britain. But that was only how the blog began, not our story. This story really started several years earlier when we had one of those; late-night, second-bottle-of- wine, what’s-it-all-about type of conversations that ended with an agreement that we should never settle for the mundane and never stop questioning the way we live.

We have been focussed on those ideas ever since and that, of course, is what the blog is about. I may have gone off on some pretty wacky tangents at times but when I look back on all the posts and consider what I want to write about in the future it’s the same topic as that which forms a fundamental thread running through our lives.

I don’t think we ever had a road to Damascus moment but we have gradually moved from a focus on jobs, money and possessions to one that centres on free time, new experiences and living a simple life. It’s all about needing less rather than earning more. All the big events and decisions in the last few years have revolved around this including the bike ride, although we probably didn’t realise it at the time. The move to part-time, low paid work, and the recent purchase of the mobile park home are further steps along the way. There is a narrow boat somewhere on the horizon but that’s still a dream at the moment. Each event has led to less stuff, less space and a lot less money. It has also given us a huge sense of freedom and flexibility. It feels a bit like the first day of our big bike ride when tears rolled down my face as we rode the first few miles and I contemplated the scale of what lay ahead. The unknown emptiness of the next six months was exhilarating, like a long dark night just waiting to be filled with sweet dreams. (Ironically, it may well be possible to achieve a similar sensation by having unlimited money but that option was never coming our way.)

The blog is my attempt to provide some insight into what our chosen route involves. We don’t have a manual entitled “Nirvana in six easy steps- the simple life” though I expect there may well be one. We have no idea whether what we are doing is the answer but it’s an option. It’s not about knowing the answers anyway; it’s more about having endless questions. What if? Could we? Should we? We are just attempting to answer the questions rather than letting them hang in the air. It’s about not getting to the end of the journey still wondering what would have happened if we had taken that fork in the road.

A simple life

A simple life

So there is the focus for this blog. It’s about our journey trying to make the most of whatever time we have left. Just like everybody else I suppose. We’re not trying to say it’s the right way. It’s just our way.

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