Monday, April 24, 2006

Das Boot

Had a curious phone call late morning last week. A foreign sounding chap had heard [from who I don’t know] that I was wanting to sell my boat. Since this was technically correct I could’nt really say no. I told him that I might be open to offers.

It’s all to do with my downsizing. I have so much stuff that I want, no need – to get rid of that I will consider any decent offers on just about all of my stuff. Definitely up for grabs is the catamaran, since lugging it up and down the beach is such hard work by myself, that any enjoyment I might be getting whilst out on the water is tempered by the realisation that I will be totally spent by the time it’s back in the compound.

I’ve already started shedding stuff like surfboards, in that I know I only really need the longboard and mat to have as much fun as I want in the waves.

The boat though. That’s another issue. We’ve been together a long time, 15 years now and I’ve put a lot of work into keeping her going. Having said that it is quite an expense and taking a decent holiday abroad and having the boat on the water is almost more than I can afford in any one year. So she might be for sale, but not at any old price.

Well I met this character at lunchtime, and we rowed out to the boat. Turned out he was german, living locally and wanted something to potter around in. I pointed out that a Soling was’nt really a pottering about sort of boat, and took a bit of skill to sail. He reckoned it was ok. I told him that the boat had been on the water all winter and so would look a little frayed round the edges, there were all sorts of little non-essential jobs to be done…

He looked her over and then turned to me and said, in a very firm sounding way “I’ll give you £200 for her. Not worth more”… If he’d offered £2000 I might have taken it, but £200 was just plain insulting and I told him so. His reply was [more or less] “take it or leave it”. We rowed ashore in silence. I returned to the office. An hour later he phoned again and reiterated his offer. £200. Same answer from me. Half an hour later another call, with the same offer. I asked him what bit of ‘No’ was he having problems with. Unfortunately such wit completely passed over his head, but this time he said “£250”.

Now he genuinely wants the boat, I can see that. Only problem is that he’s not willing to pay for it. I might want to sell, sometime and maybe at a lower price than the £2K that would be my absolute rock bottom at the moment… but £250 is just taking the piss.

I await the next call upping his offer by a dizzying 75 pence!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

It’s happened again!

A couple or so weeks ago someone came in to look at some microfilm fiches of old planning permissions. No-one I knew. A little later I was walking past where she was and I suddenly realised that I did know her, and she was in the same year as my friend Sarah when they were in school. I did remember her. Sort of. I remembered who she was friends with. And I remembered, somewhat hazily [well it was a while ago] that she suddenly was’nt at the various parties and pub gatherings wher you’d find me and her friends. Not that I really knew her at all really. I’m not sure if I ever spoke to her even. I was a callow youth in those days, so she just dissolved away into the mists of my mind. Anyway, I was doing other things, getting involved with other people, surfing a lot, finding my place in society. Working hard at being a total surf-bum and ne’er do well.

Anyway back to the point……..

So I said hello, and after she was done with her search we got to talking [I even tried to get her to take that rayburn away!!!]. Anyways she said she ‘might’ just be interested and she’d call me if she was. [the rayburn! Nothing else]

A couple of weeks went by and no word and of course in the meantime the rayburn problem had sorted itself out [check the mega clearout thread]. I didn’t think anything more about it at the time, but I did mention it to Sarah, who remembered her from school although she said that she’d heard nothing for years, apart from the odd snippet via acquaintances. Anyways I bought her up to date from what Sian had told me and, Sarah, as I left asked if I was going to be in contact with her again? My response was a shrugged ‘I dunno’ . I had given her my card and my home number but had’nt the temerity to ask her for her’s [doh!]. No. It just had’nt occurred to me to ask for her number………

……..Jeez how totally oblivious to opportunities had I become? Easy question to answer. Unless she had a large neon sign above her head saying ‘shag me now’ I was unconscious of any interest from the other person. Sad eh? Or even worse, someone might be friendly towards me [because people can be, even in this day and age] and I totally misread it as being ‘a little bit more than interested’. Yep you guessed.. I’ve become one of that band of inept geeks, acne ridden youth, model train collectors and sad middle aged men with no dress sense and an unhealthy interest in silicon enhanced ‘models’……- a social inadequate ……………….

But I digress.

Sarah’s response: ‘Oh, you’d like her. She’s interesting’

Sooo…… anyways it’s a couple of weeks later and I came home from doing the garage clearing thing, and checked my phone [1471] cos I’d forgotten to put the ansafone on….. I was selling the pinkfish and the guy was due soon to fetch it, and he might have called whilst I was out. The number that came up was’nt what I expected ………in fact it was’nt a number I recognised at all…. so I dialled it out of curiosity more than anything, I had’nt a clue as to who’d be on the other end. Lo and behold it was Sian, who had just phoned to say hello, but of course I thought it was about the stove which was now somewhere else. Turned out she was’nt so much interested in the stove, but me. A fact I missed, due my total inability to see the obvious.
But with my lightning fast reflexes and quick thinking I phoned her back about 30 minutes later to see if she fancied heading up to the Vic for a pint. She did. And for once I also had the wits to write down her number so that I could contact her again……just in case we hit it off. [yeah right]

Fast forward a few hours…..Well we arrived at the Vic and it was busy. Very busy. Before long it could have been described as ‘heaving’…….. yep, it was band night, a fact that should have registered a bit earlier due to the mound of guitars and ‘band gear’ in the corner. Since I was driving I was rationed to a single pint for the evening. We decided that a retreat to Sian’s for coffee would be the best and so with raised eyebrows and an enquiring look from my god-daughter Chloe [who ran the Vic] we departed.

Now all of the above had taken place through the medium of Welsh, a language I speak pretty well, up to a point. Work and dealing with the public is one thing, putting over my thoughts, desires and opinions is another entirely. If I’m all tongue-tied and somewhat monosylabic in English when I’m trying to communicate with someone I like, then just imagine what it’s like in another language. It’s my natural shyness. Now I know there will be those who might just read this and think ‘what a load of bollocks’ but it’s true. I find it quite difficult to get to know people. I do get tongue-tied and reticent, unless I’m getting enough feedback from the other person. If I’m not I put it down to disinterest by them and then – horror of horrors -I overcompensate and go into babble mode. When that glazed look comes upon them I know all is lost and I might as well get me coat.

But once the ice has been broken and conversation flows freely then I get comfortable and things progress apace. But this just kicks in problem no.2 – the ‘I like you but I’d rather we were just friends’ bombshell………. You know, the bit where you had been thinking that maybe this might head into more-than-friends territory and then you realise that you will forever be lusting after this person only to have to stand on the sidelines whilst others get the glory, but you will always be there to pick up the shattered pieces of her life after the dog that he is buggers off with her best mate [who you also failed with]….. [!!!!]

But I was’nt getting this from Sian. For a start I had’nt had any great expectations of a fine romance [well she did say she phoned me because she was bored]. So as a result we talked freely about ourselves, in an almost abstract way and got on really well, like we were old friends that had found one-another again after many years………then I went home, with Sian saying she might pop round sometime the following day.

I was kinda hopeful I suppose and as Sian’s life revolved around working for a fortnight and then having a fortnight off, any future relationship [nooo! not the R word! Not yet. Too early, too conformist, too sad] would probably suit me. Take it easy, take it slow. Keep it uncomplicated and free from demands and compromises. I had a life that I was pretty OK with… just check out my musings on the subject elsewhere in this Blog.[click on February 2005 - going solo] Yes, it would be good to enrich it with someone else, but I’d seen too many abject failures - some of them mine, for me to want to do the whole ‘R’ thing. And I never take rejection very well. Not that I get mad or violent or anything dramatic like that, I just withdraw into my shell and wonder what it was that I had done, or not done, to deserve being discarded yet again [sniff]

Best scenario – for the time being anyway…. We enjoy ourselves whilst we are together, be honest with one another, lead our separate lives otherwise and if and when it runs out of steam, then we revert to being friends or strangers.

Sian will probably read this now and have a fit…………………. :)

Friday, April 07, 2006


Stuff, loads of it. I collect it

I had been aware of it for some time and I had to do something about it. What I did was rent another garage to store more stuff.

Now as I may have intimated earlier I have a lot of stuff, acquired over the years and usually for nowt. Stuff that might come in useful. Stuff that has filled my house and one garage to the proverbial rafters.

So when I got word that the tin garage in which I stored 90% of this surplus was to be demolished to make room for much needed starter homes, I made sure I had somewhere to store the stuff I really wanted to keep. This was in August 2005. I moved some stuff over in dribs and drabs and then, just before Christmas I got the notice to quit. It was’nt all bad, I had until the end of March so I simply moved the moving up a notch. Loads of stuff went to the skip, new owners and the other garage etc.

But some stuff was going for sale, like the rayburn range, the antique dealers roofrack and the 1898 mortising machine. I was’nt going to use them, but I sure as hell was’nt going to consign them to a scrap heap either. They were also big, heavy and awkward so I was’nt going to move them to the new place, just to have to move them again.

January February and March came and went and everything else was chucked, moved and otherwise disposed of, but the ‘big 3’ did’nt go. Now we are into april and essentially I am squatting, but hope is on the horizon. The local recycling / refurbishment group have agreed to take the rayburn and I’m hoping they’ll move the rest too.

So here’s hoping that I can report shortly that I have managed to reduce my personal mound of stuff to something approaching manageable size. I tell you it will be a major relief.

Then all I have to do is start on the next lot! .........................................

Well they came and took the Rayburn and some of the old furniture, but not the mortiser or the doors. So it’s a trip to the waste collection point for me, tomorrow most probably.

Is’nt life exciting!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

California – the last bit.

It’s been a while since I was there, but I did promise I would complete the saga, so here it is. Better late than never as they say…….

Sitting at my table having my fries and burger at Capitola Beach I had decided that I did’nt want to go surfing ……..

“Strangely enough I did’nt really want to go in, I’d come all this way to travel, and do a bit of surfing , and now I was’nt bothered. It was as if all the motivation had dissipated into the Californian sun.”

I had obviously reached that point in my trip that I always seem to get… a sort of ennui, a wanting to lie back and be lazy, or to have people I knew around me, or to get a move on and get on that flight home, back to routine and security, or just to friends and family or maybe I was just suffering bthe pangs of loneliness in a foreign land… I’ve thought about this oft-time and put it down as being the point where you stop ‘being on holiday’ and start ‘living there’. It usually happens to me around day 16 of any extended trip. You’ve been there, done that, and now you are counting down to going home. It was a feeling I’d had before whilst in Utah, the others were out at work and I was left to my own devices, but no car, therefore nothing much to do except chill out and read. What I should have done was set up some sort of excursion for the last day or so, such as a side trip to Yosemite or up to the Napa valley….. but I had’nt, just a date to meet up with Daniele and to help her sort out her exhibition.

So.. I made some rearrangements, and decided to stay at San Luis Osbiso for a night so, and then head south to Jalama and maybe to Santa Barbara….. On the way I called in at Morro Bay which I liked, a lot. It had an honesty about it that I found refreshing. It had a ‘proper’ harbour - tourists notwithstanding, where real seafood was being unloaded. It also had a decent small surf shop where I bought a new pair of slaps, my old ones being close on 30 years old [yes, they last that long!]

The surf was running strongly and I still had no urge whatsoever to go in. I wandered around Moro Bay for a while and had some lunch, and then set off towards SLO [or Slow as everyone else called it] only 20 miles distant. Booked into the nice little HI hostel [$10 a night]. It was warm in SLO and so I wandered down the street looking for a cold beer which I found in a quietish pub. But not for long. SLO is a College Town, and as such the evenings were student orientated, even on a Sunday like this……… so after a while I moved on…… the Firestone Grill which everyone said was ‘amazing’.

Well amazing I’m not sure of, but busy…….. it was thronging with peeps all queuing for their meals. It did’nt take long for me to ascertain that this was another burger and fries place, but following the first rule of eating in a foreign land ie ‘eat where you see a lot of locals eating’ I joined the happy throng. Ordering a plain burger and fries with a side of onion rings and garlic mushrooms, I waited. 10 minutes later I was handed a large sack, which contained on inspection - a burger, and 3 mountains of the other items. I could have fed a family on what I had here. Finding a quiet corner I opened stuff up and it only took a few bites for me to realise I had ignored the codicil to rule 1 “ excepting in the the US of A where joe public would’nt recognise good food even if it was fed to him for free”

I could’nt eat more than a bit of each, greasy and tasteless all in one go. I mean what do you have to do to garlic mushrooms for them to a] not taste of mushroom or have a mushroom texture and b] not taste of garlic either! I’ve never eaten a MacDonalds [ever] and if they are sub par compared to this place they must be very bad indeed. I binned the lot and was alarmed to see a homeless guy dive right in, rescue the sack intact and make off with a gleeful look on his face. He must have had me under surveillance just knowing I was a Brit who would be unable to eat a smidgeon of my mega supersized portioned meal.

On returning to the HI I received pitying looks from the resident staff, who gave me a ‘we’d have told you about that place if only you’d asked’ sort of look and offered home brewed root beer [ghastly] and carrot cake, [very nice] in recompense.

The following day [a Monday] was to have been taken up with driving down to Avila and Jalama, but the ennui was back [if it had gone at all] and I felt down, and a little depressed. I decided there and then to abort my exploration of the middle coast and head back to the bits I knew and liked around Monterey.

Calling in at Morro Bay one last time, I decided that this was one place I’d return to if I had the chance, and maybe spend longer in the area [there were some places further out I should have taken a look at, they would have cured me, but I missed out on them] using Morro as a base…

Driving back down Lighthouse Avenue in Monterey was just like coming home and I stayed for a day or so, taking in another trip around the bay, looking for whales [without success, again] before moving up to Santa Cruz and negotiating the road system from hell like a pro.

I stopped in SC for another couple of days, and met up with Peter Capaldi from Swaylocks, whom I’d met in Big Sur. Had supper with him and his wife Pat, and very nice it was too. That night it rained, the first of the trip but I was zonked out at the SC HI… in a room of my own! The following day dawned bright and rain washed and I went and spent an interesting morning/lunch at the University field museum on the outskirts of the City, looking at sea urchins, abalone, sea otters and dolphins. This is where a lot of the Monterey aquarium work is done, away from the hordes.

Wednesday night came around and I found I had various others sharing my penthouse with me, including a penniless surfer who’d been sleeping rough around SC for weeks, but needed some quality shut eye. Transpires the local constabulary had been having one of their periodic clear outs of all the whackos, winos, wierdos and bums [of which there were many it had to be said] out from SC. Many had moved down from SF, presumably for the sea air and invigorating atmosphere. Actually SC is much sunnier and warmer than SF or Monterey. Unfortunately they hoovered up homeless students, surfers and people just passing through too. A couple of Swedes turned up and then a lady in her 50’s who seemed ok, until around 1 am when she suddenly decided to fire up a laptop and start rehearsing her song and dance routine. Ethel Merman she was’nt or rather she almost was…….. she was a ‘performance’ artiste… a term which to me usually equates with pretentious and crap. We managed to persuade her that 1am was’nt a good time to rehearse and would she please ‘Shut the fuck up!’ cos some of us wanted to sleep please. Luckily she went off and annoyed someone else, who and where I don’t know, because she did’nt come back until around 8.30 the next morning.

Have you ever noticed that with some people of an ‘artistic’ streak [singers mostly] are wont to break into their art at the mere mention of it. This one was no exception. One of the Swedes, no doubt trying to mend fences after giving her the bums rush the night before, made the mistake of what her act was. Without hesitation she launched into a rendition of – what? I don’t know, but as I watched my companions eyes glaze over, I made my escape.

Coming back into SF I called by Daniele’s studio, only to be told she’d gone over to the east bay and would’nt be back until tomorrow. Great. I’d come back early to help out and she’d buggered off for the day. Muttering dark threats I went and booked in at the HI at Fort Mason overlooking SF harbour and bay and spent the day wandering… something I’m good at. I was back in the ennui state again, and I found myself getting ready to leave, ditching stuff I did’nt want or need, packing the board away, having to buy another carrybag, because mine was’nt large enough. Friday came and went, but I caught up with Daniele and had supper with her where she gave me a charcoal sketch she had done and that I’d coveted the last time I was there. This was a large piece 5’x2’ and so we had to roll it up [in a Chinese restaurant no less] and find a tube. It was typical D.

Saturday morning was my last day and I was going to be flying out that evening, car back around 4pm. I spent the early part of the day out at Baker beach and then Ocean beach, just hangin…….. then after lunch over at the open house exhibition at D’s studio. She was on a high having sold a few paintings for several hundred dollars apiece. I wandered around and decided D’s stuff was among the best there, which pleased her. Then 3pm came round and it was time for me to make my goodbyes once again.

I ditched the car at the airport and staggered into the international departure area with my now not inconsiderable gear. Preparing for the worst I approached the desk only to find no queues and a surf dood to take my board off me. ‘I’ll take care of it dude. And I’ll make sure my mate takes it off the plane at the other end’ Wow! [and he did too!]

The flight was on time, the food was Ok, the films were ok, and I fell asleep somewhere over Canada and woke up just as we came in over the Outer Hebrides. Magic!

Checkout went ok, customs did’nt bother me, I even found my bus, eventually. It was 1pm Sunday 23rd of October, and I was’nt going to get home until around 10.30 that night, because of railway timetables, line working and all the other things that make travelling by rail on a Sunday in the UK such a long drawn out event.

I was back at work the following day, sort of. Rolled in around 11am and spent the rest of the day going through stuff. Around 3pm I crashed but made it home before I fell over.

Thus ended my fourth California trip [my third since 2001]. Will I go back. I’m not sure. Other places beckon, such as New Zealand and Patagonia. Both require a different MO I reckon.

NZ is so far away that if I go I want to be able to make the transition from tourist to live-about. So that means 6 weeks to two months, at least. Maybe even a whole year and do it properly. That means packing in work [no problem in itself, I’m ready to retire tomorrow J] Maybe I’ll leave it a while until I rearrange my life, off load all my acquisitions and downsize materialistically.

Patagonia has other problems and I suspect doing the independent traveller thing is going to be nigh on impossible what with my total lack of spanish and all. Although they do speak welsh there. Maybe a group trip would be the best way, although it will probably double the cost.

I would also like to take a look at Alaska, and at the other end, Antarctica…… whilst there is still time. India, the far east, Oz, Africa don’t really interest me any more. Not that I’d turn down a chance of a free trip though.

Also one has to face up to the reality that confronts us. Air travel is artificially cheap and causes great damage from an environmental standpoint. One can offset this by carbon banking ie planting trees that in time will sequester carbon dioxide, thus keeping things carbon neutral [having planted or caused to be planted some 200K trees over the years I suspect I’m ahead of the game. In my opinion, the cost of long haul is going to go up dramatically over the next ten years, short haul where there are alternatives such as the train will be taxed out of existence.

So the message is – get your travelling in soon, otherwise it may be unaffordable.