Domino effect

No going back

No stopping now

This weekend Gill and I travelled to Gloucester to see her side of the family for the last time before we depart. I’m not sure whether it is to do with the distance involved, or the fact that it took up a whole weekend, but for some reason it has taken on an importance in my mind that makes it very significant. It’s like the beginning of the end of the final preparations. If that isn’t too convoluted. You know those rows of dominos that you set up as a child? The ones that all fell down in sequence once you toppled the first one. Well that is how it feels. Like we have knocked over the first domino and now nothing will stop all the others from tumbling.  On Sunday we will be getting together with some friends for a farewell party and then my sister will be coming to stay. She will be our last overnight guest in this house. The following weekend we are visiting another friend for the final time before we leave and so it goes on. Each occasion like another domino tumbling and leading inevitably to the next one. The flaw in the analogy is that, unlike the toppling dominos, there are frustrating delays between each event. I’m impatient. I want all these moments to roll together into a seamless continuum that takes us up to April 26th. Fortunately there are plenty of things to do in between these engagements to keep us occupied.

Over the course of the next week we plan to do our first full packing session. This involves gathering all our clothing and equipment for the trip and packing it into our ten bags to go on the bikes. Yes that’s five bags per bike. Two rear panniers, two front ones and a handle bar bag each. The purpose of this exercise, so long before we go, is that it always reveals last minute things that we need to buy, mend or adjust and leaves us plenty of time to do it. I’ll take some photographs for those of you who have asked us how we intend to carry everything on the bikes (and for other cycle tourers who just like to see other peoples setups, geeks I suppose). It’s also a chance to check that the weight distribution is reasonably even and to re-familiarise ourselves with what goes where. This is really important as there is nothing more frustrating than having to delve into three panniers in succession in order to find an urgently needed piece of kit when the weather suddenly changes.

On a more tedious level it’s probably time now to start talking to the service providers about terminating our various contracts with them. I did start to look on line to do it but of course their web sites only cater for people moving from one home to another. As opposed to weirdos who plan to put their homes on their bikes and pedal off into the sunset. No doubt some of the conversations on the phone will be tortuous. “Address you are moving to?” “There isn’t one, we are travelling.” “But we need your new address for correspondence.” “We won’t have one, we will be in a different place every night.” “Oh that’s a bit difficult, I’ll just put you on hold a minute.” Yadda, yadda, yadda. I can’t wait.

My next blog post will probably be a rant about the intransigence of one or other utility company.

Life in a box

Time to start packing

Time to start packing

It’s hard to imagine how something as dull as a cardboard box could feature so heavily in somebody’s life but it certainly has in mine. I was looking at a pile of them sitting in the corner of our living room and I started to think about the significance of this humble container.

It started, as it does for so many children, when I got access to a large empty box for the first time and a whole new world opened up to me. Suddenly I had a space ship, a car, a house and a castle to play in. If I could only persuade my sister to crawl inside I could make it into a prison! Later, once old enough to handle such things as scissors and glue I found I could construct pretty much anything from an old cardboard box. Admittedly none of the aircraft flew very well and the boats didn’t fair too well but the fun was in the making.

At the age of sixteen I became political for the first time in my life and joined Shelter. Inspired as I was by the thought of homeless people having to sleep in cardboard boxes in shop doorways. I got myself a badge and set about changing the world. That particular revolution didn’t last too long because none of the girls I fancied at the time were interested in protest marches or shaking charity tins on rainy street corners.

It was also around this time that I started my job. For four years I worked Saturdays and holidays in a local supermarket. I spent half my time taking things out of cardboard boxes and stacking them on shelves and the rest of it working at the checkout putting the stuff back into boxes for customers. I became aware that I had a bit of a skill in the form of spacial awareness. I would scan the pile of shopping on the checkout then carefully select a suitable box from the pile in the window. My day was made when the customer looked at the box as they often did and said, “you’re going to need a bit bigger box than that young man”. I would smile politely and then perform 3D Tetris wizardry as I placed the last packet of biscuits smugly into the final space in the jig-saw. Touche posh shopping woman.

Declining the supermarket manager’s invitation to make a career in retailing I left home and moved to the first of many homes of my own. Cardboard boxes were involved. In my adult life I have lost count of the number of boxes I have packed and unpacked with my modest belongings in the process of moving house. I doubt I’m alone in putting some of them unopened into the loft of the new house, only  to take them out again several years later to move them to another roof top spidery lair.

The twist this time of course is that we won’t be unpacking any of them until at least next autumn. We’re hoping there won’t be too many boxes to pack as we are paring down our belongings to the bare minimum. It’s all part of the plan to ensure that should we stumble blindly into another rut when we return it will, at least, be a different sort of rut. A rut less cluttered, and therefore easier to get out of again.

I do wonder where this association with cardboard boxes might end. Which gives me an idea.

Life in a box

Life in a box