DVD overload

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So, I’ve got almost 1700 DVD’s now and when I was reorganising the ‘loft’ the other day I realised just how much weight there is in them. Each folder weighs about 3.5 kilos and there’s 8 so that’s 28 kilos just in DVD’s!

So, as I have some saved electronically I looked at what it would cost to put them all onto a hard drive. I reckon I’d get on average 400 per 2tb drive, and they cost £60 each. I’d need 5 which allows some space for more DVD’s so that’s £300 for hard drives. Also I have to rip the DVD’s to a file and copy them over and if I did say 3 a day, it would take me over a year and a half to do!

DVD folder

DVD folder

Each hard drive weighs 170 grams so I am saving over 27 kilos in weight if I get rid of the disks once I’ve copied them. That’s a canny lot of weight to get rid of so I have decided to get on with it. I’ve bought the first 2 drives and have started copying disks, with 12 done so far this weekend.
It’s definitely the way forward although what the heck I’m going to do with my folders of disks once I’m done I don’t know!

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Electricians bad asses?

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I joined a Facebook group for electricians called Electrician Q & A. The perfect place to get some advice on issues with the batteries and inverter. Within minutes I had been called a spastic, then told to get fucked by someone else! lol
Most members appeared to be Australian and clearly didn’t want to help, they simply wanted to troll.
So, is you want electrical advice, don’t go to the Facebook group of Electrician Q & A unless you’ve got your hard hat on!

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The Paper Bridge

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I’d heard about a paper bridge being built in Grisedale as part of the Lakes Ignite Culture festival, so thought I would check it out. You can read the news release about it here.

Patterdale

Patterdale cricket ground

I had parked in Patterdale overnight so that I got an early start and got up at 6 am after yesterday’s experience and the sky was already bright but no sun, but it looked promising so I set off the 2-3 miles up Grisedale to where the bridge has been built.

I love Grisedale, it’s my favourite route to Helvellyn as there’s no through road so only foot traffic apart from the odd farm vehicle.

Grisedale

Grisedale

The walk was very pleasant as the sun came out a few minutes after leaving the van and with a strong breeze it made for lovely walking conditions. Jack of course was more interested in the sheep than anything else but he stayed close to the track.

You can see in the photo that the weather over Helvellyn was still dark and brooding, in fact several times I felt spots of rain falling but the sun from behind me kept the clouds at bay.

The Paper Bridge at the foot of Helvellyn

The Paper Bridge at the foot of Helvellyn

This is a longish view as I approached the bridge to give you an overview of it’s geographic location. Some people have loudly criticised the fact that it is 3 miles along the valley but the whole purpose of the bridge is to tease people into exploring places they haven’t been before. From Patterdale there is road for a mile or so and then a very good track the rest of the way to the bridge so it’s not like it’s hard going. The views are tremendous and who knows, it might encourage people to come out more and enjoy the lakes.

The Paper bridge

The Paper bridge

1 other person passed me on the way there and from a distance I saw him clambering about the bridge. It stands out a mile with it being bright red but the last hundred yards to it are sodden ground so by the time we got there Jack was muddy up to his belly. What a sight.

Yes, that bridge is made up of 4 tons of paper, the sheets compressed and shaped into an arch. Clever engineering for paper but for at least 1,000 years this is how bridges and other structures were made: no nails, no glue, no mortar, not even dovetail joints.

The Paper Bridge

The Paper Bridge

I took a closer shot here so that you can see the individual sheets of paper  even from about 60 feet. I’m not sure I’d call it art, but it certainly is an attraction.

I chose the right time of day too. Friends who took photos later on have crowds of people in which shows that as an attraction it has worked.

 

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Crash update

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What a run around. The one armed instructor who owns the car that ran into me didn’t answer my calls or respond to voice mail at all. I knew he wanted to settle cash and after taking the van into Camper NE they confirmed the repairs would indeed be around the £3,500 mark.  Although that’s a lot of money I still wanted to give him the opportunity to pay it if he wanted to but he still wasn’t answering my calls.
I phoned his company who he had not informed of the crash and when I called them again later he had clearly lied to them saying he had spoken  to me and arranged something about insurance, which he had not.
I felt like I was dropping him in it but what could I do?
I’m sure not giving insurance details is a criminal offence so I checked with the police who confirmed that was the case then left one more voice mail for him informing him that if he did not contact me I would report him and the police would visit.
Minutes later he rang…LOL

So, the upshot of the conversation was that he’d already informed his insurance company but not bothered to let me know and he then said “Our business is over now so I don’t want you ringing me anymore.” WTF?? I reminded him that I’d delayed my own calls to insurance and tried hard to contact him to do him a favour!
The moral of the story is, never do a favour for a one armed driving instructor!

Anyway, all is in order now and Camper NE say it  may be weeks before they get the parts they need as at 11 years old my van is ‘obsolete’ lol Once they get the parts it will take a whole week to repair so I’ll be lodging with someone for that period.
I hope it all goes smoothly.

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Crash, bang, wallop what a picture!

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Well what an interesting day. It started out pretty normal really, having a cuppa with my niece then starting work at 4 pm. At 5:21 pm though it all changed when a learner driver crashed into me!

Broken computer

Broken computer

There I was working away on the computer and minding my own business when there was an almighty bang, and the computer lifted in the air, dropped down onto the keyboard then fell onto the floor. Bye bye computer! You can see from this shot the keyboard missing a key, the legs were also broken off the back. The computer screen is totally shattered. It’s an all in one computer, not just a monitor.

I had been aware of the learner reverse parking around me for some time. It’s common practise on Team Valley trading estate for learners to practise all their manoeuvres and I’m fairly used to it however this one was distracting and I’ve no idea why. When I felt the bang I knew instantly what it was.

Broken bumper

Broken bumper

I thought initially her foot had slipped off the clutch, however I found out later that the car was an automatic so how she managed to ram me so hard when the instructor had dual controls I’ll never know.

You can see the broken light cluster here, and the red marks on the bumper denote where I had repaired the fibreglass last year. It’s split now everywhere where I repaired it and many other places too.

Broken van 2

Broken van 2

The metal strip above the bumper denotes where the floor is and that whole section is bowed inwards. If you look in this photo you can see that the compression of the bumper had also pushed in the wood structure behind it and folded and creased the aluminium skin. It’s not apparent but it’s also dislodged the gas locker. It’s the same on the other side, so that whole skirt and wheel arch assembly needs to be renewed on both sides.

There’s also a weather baffle that was ripped off and some other bits and pieces. I reckon it’s going to cost about £3,500 to repair.

When I went outside the learner didn’t seem that upset really, and the instructor who got out of the car was about 8 feet tall and only had one arm. He kept looking at the damage ans asking “What do you want to do?” I said “Well as you’re asking so much what is it you want me to do?” He clearly wanted to settle cash but when I said I guessed it would cost about £3500 in repairs he changed his mind and said he would ring me later with insurance details that he could not remember. Hmmm.

Anyway so I told him if he rang the next day I’d let him know an estimate of repair costs as I was headed up to a place that repaired campers then he could make his decision. He seemed happy with that and shook my hand with his left hand (the only one he had) and off they went.

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Fitz park parking in Keswick

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I mentioned some time ago that the Keswick football club was letting people park in their car park and charging £3 per full day by using an honesty box. Given the sheer greed of the local council’s parking fees I think this was a massive step forward and I use and pay for the parking there regularly, partly as it’s cheap, and partly as I want to let the footie club know that I support their decision, and of course any money can go to helping them out.
It’s not just Allerdale council, all of the lakes has disgusting parking charges now and I really hope more and more places like the football club offer their parking cheaply.

Another one to do so is Fitz Park Trust. Their car park is in fact adjacent to the footie clubs car park, accessed off Crosthwaite road. The same deal is to be had, £3 per day although you can pay for an hour and 2 hours as well. They have a proper pay and display machine there and apparently all money goes to the Fitz Park Trust to help look after Fitz park. Now, whether the council has set up this trust as a back door way of raising money for parks I have no idea, but the deal is good so what the heck.

Finally, the Pencil Museum has also opened it’s car park up to anyone for a fee of £4 daily. If you visit the museum and take your parking stub you can get £1.50 off the entry too.
There’s a large space of clean and flat waste ground next to the tarmacked bays and motorhomes tend to park there. Again for all day parking this is not a bad deal however like the other car parks mentioned, there is no overnight parking allowed.

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New solar panel

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As the solar panels I fitted last August have proven so reliable I’ve decided to order another one. My controller can handle about handle 390 watts which in all likelihood is more than I will get from my 4 x 100 watt panels as they’re never likely to work at 100% efficiency.
There’s space on the roof too for one more and then that’s it. So what the heck, judging by performance so far I’d say all 4 and all of the gear to fit them will have been paid for by the end of spring if not before, by not having to run the generator.
These are the panels I have:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Biard-Monocrystalline-Solar-Approved-Charging/dp/B008MZKKVE/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1427513391&sr=8-4&keywords=biard+100+watt

If anyone wild camps I’d suggest this is a way to go if you have space on your roof and some capital to spare for a few months.

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Trojan and other batteries

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As many of you will know I’ve had countless problems over the years with leisure batteries, mostly related to the fact I was ignorant of battery technology and use in the early days.
I bought 4 x 120 ahr lead acid batteries, then I replaced them with 6 x 110 ahr batteries, they got replaced with 5 x 85 ahr batteries, which were replaced with 6 x 80 ahr batteries, which were replaced with 2 x 240 ahr batteries. Oh yes, I’ve spent a fortune on batteries!

I also spent a fortune on fuse boxes, connectors, distribution boards, and cabling, several hundred pounds on cabling alone would you believe, as you have to have thick cabling to prevent voltage loss. I also attribute the early demise of my original leaf springs to the sheer weight of carrying batteries in the rear of the van. Currently the 60 kg Trojans live behind the front seats so at least they offer traction to the front wheels.

Anyway, both inverters I’ve owned have an alarm that sounds when you hit 10.5 volts, so often I would wait til the alarm went off then recharge. I never realised at the time that draining batteries below 12 volts actually damages them. The Trojans claim you can occasionally discharge right down to 20% of their total rating without damaging them although I’ve never tried that.

I also used to mix and match batteries: 1 x 120 ahr with 2 x 100 ahr batteries, and 2 x 100 ahrs with 2 x 85 ahrs. I never knew that this also decreases efficiency and longevity of the batteries. Often batteries would be part charged and then left for long periods. This was another thing that I never knew affected batteries lives and effectively breaks them prematurely.

So it is with no surprise that you’ll here I broke all of the batteries I’ve ever had. I recall being in Rouen and having to run the gennie every day to enable me to work. 1 set of 6 batteries actually only lasted months before starting to deliver much lower voltage, a consequence of being discharged too far on a regular basis.

The ones that lasted best were Elecsol. They were billed as super light as they used carbon fibre technology, and supposedly could be discharged down lower than any other battery with almost no damage, and remain discharged again, with no damage. In eventually broke all of those too.

When I learned about exactly where I was going wrong was when I bought the 2 x 240 ahr Trojan batteries. They’re massive with tons of lead in and are built to be reliable and withstand bad treatment. However I have treated these better than any other battery by never discharging them below 12 volts, never leaving them discharged for long periods, and always charging them fully instead of part charging them.
The fluid level dropped in them once when I forgot the check the electrolyte level when I drove to Italy, but it wasn’t low enough to damage the lead plates thankfully.

However, in the time I’ve had them they are now giving less performance than they used to do. When I first noticed this I was incredibly disappointed given the Trojans great reputation and their price, however thinking more about it though I realised that I’ve had them over 2 and a half years, and I did almost boil them dry, and they do get recharged every 3 days and at £550 or something, they come in about the same as the 80 ahr Elecsols which cost almost £100 each for 5. The Elecsols lasted about the same amount of time, although I treated them very, very badly. However, at the age that the Trojans are now, the Elecsols were effectively wrecked. On balance it makes me wonder if I’d treated the Elecsols well, I wonder how long they would have lasted?

So I probably need to think about new batteries but given that my solar panels help to keep the batteries topped up and it’s coming up to spring, I reckon I can safely leave the decision til late autumn and see what deals there are at that time.

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Alternator repair

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Coming back form the lakes I noticed the battery warning light flickering on the binnacle. I stopped and checked and the alternator was only putting out 11.72 volts grr. Luckily the battery was fully charged so I quickly diverted the leisure batteries to they would feed the engine battery and set off.
I phoned my favoured garage, GC Autos in Gateshead and he quickly had me booked in and a new 150 amp alternator fitted for £166. First class service from them as always.

I probably demand much of an alternator as I have a battery to battery charger. What this device does is it fools the alternator into thinking that the leisure battery is flat so that the alternator puts out it’s max voltage. The charger then checks that the engine battery is fully charged and when that’s done it starts charging the leisure batteries with up to 50 amps and 14.8 volts. So my alternator is working a lot harder for a lot longer than most.

That’s the second alternator and the van has done 130,000 miles now. The first one failed at year 2 and was replaced under warranty, so lets hope I get almost 10 years out of this one as well, especially given the work it has to do.

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Keswick visit

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I was out last night with some work colleagues so I decided to head to the lakes today. The weather was appalling with loads of snow and freezing wind. Nevertheless Jack and me got out for a nice walk around although he wasn’t too happy about his waterproof lol He hates having to wear it but as it was biting cold as well as wet I thought it best to protect him.

I notice there was a caravan set up in the place where I normally park. This is a thing I see all over now and as a caravan is a more established sort of setup than a parked vehicle, I know the council are going to be looking at that spot soon and either restricting who can park there and for how long, or charging for the spaces.
It’s sad that the odd few can spoil it for the so many, but I’ve seen this happen in so many places now. Aberystwyth was the last one to be controlled and whilst I hate that the council has put controls in place I don’t blame them. People were parking for weeks on end and sitting out on an evening on the pavement next to their vans, making barbecues and having tea and drinks with their friends.

A roadside spot isn’t meant  to be a campsite, it’s a temporary spot top park free so you can enjoy the locality. If you want to sit out on an evening and have barbecues, go to a campsite! So many motorhomers are fools to themselves and sadly they spoil it for everyone else who heeds the ‘unwritten rules’ of wild camping.
I do know of some alternative sites around Keswick without having to pay the ridiculously inflated car parking prices that the council set, but I’ll never share those sites online, there’s far too many mindless people out there now.

My simple rules for wild camping:

  • Never empty your toilet except in a designated place. It’s not only against the law, it’s pretty disgusting. How would you like 15 litres of week old human waste poured on your drive or in your garden?
  • Never put tables, chairs etc out on public areas. People have to walk past and to see someone making lunch or sitting reading on public pavements is just annoying too.
  • Never leave litter or other ‘household rubbish’, there are always bins available somewhere so carry your rubbish til you find one.
  • Don’t park opposite houses, someone lives there and they don’t want to see a dirty great van outside their window for days on end.
  • Never stay in the same place more than 3 nights maximum. Other people want to park and enjoy the view, move on, come back another time, share it out.
  • Don’t park on the kerb even if the road isn’t level. Lorries do this in laybys and not only is it destructive but it limits the pavement area anyway. Locals who take pride in their area just don’t want to see it.
  • Never run your generator or engine by the roadside. I’ve seen this in Aberystwyth on the seafront and when you’re out for a walk it’s an awful sight and sound. Go to a remote layby if you must, or have a night on a campsite and charge on hook up.
  • Don’t block access to drives, other roads, farm access gates or simply by parking on a narrow road and causing a bottleneck. It’s just plain selfish and you’ll anger people.

I stick to my own wild camping rules rigidly and I take pride in the fact that I can enjoy my particular lifestyle without irritating or inconveniencing anyone else.

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Dabs drops me in it now!

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Jeez…hard on the heels of the Western Digital drive saga, Dabs have now dropped me in it with the two drives I ordered from them!
They were sent to Inverness Post Office, but the post office ‘lost’ them so they had to be forwarded to Washington when I got down here.

Then I find they are the wrong drives, they are desktop instead of portable. Desktop ones plug into the mains whereas portable ones run from your USB socket.

I phoned Dabs to complain and they say say I ordered the wrong ones,  I say I didn’t but I can’t prove it cos the page I ordered them from has disappeared from their site!
So now they say I have to pay over £20 postage to return them and the postage for new ones to come out.

Thanks a billion Dabs, I will never shop with you again.

 

**Update: I sold the two drives and bought a new one from PC World who had the keenest price on the one I wanted. Job done. :)

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Tubular ching ching?

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Some clear plastic tubing.

Some clear plastic tubing.

Forget tubular bells, lets hear it for Tubular ‘ching ching’. That’s the sound the till makes when the hardware store in Keswick racks up an incredible £5 for 1 metre of this piece of clear plastic tubing. I actually drew a breath when she told me the price at the till, and I was so stunned I forgot to make a churlish face and say “Crikey!”

This is to try to make filling the water tank easier, you may remember that my fuel tank spout idea didn’t work, so maybe this will, wish me luck!

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Keswick

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Keswick

Keswick

My friends are up in the north for a funeral, so we decided to meet up and spend the day in Keswick as I was over here anyway. Although it was cold the sun was out and we enjoyed  walk around the lake almost to Ashness bridge before having to turn back.
That’s one of the beauties though, you don’t have to have a specific goal in mind or target to reach in Keswick. You can go for a walk and enjoy just being there no mater how long you walk for.

Catbells

Catbells

There is often a great sunset in winter as the sun goes down over the Newlands valley, lighting up Causey Pike and Catbells.

I recall some years ago taking 2 hours to get up Catbells I was so unfit. I still struggle now but there’s no question of not being able to do it. The views are amazing from there, I think it’s time I was back up it again soon.

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Post office woes

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The Post Office in Inverness luckily does Poste Restante so I’ve had a few items delivered there. The last things to be collected were the two new portable drives I am going to use as replacement for the exiting backup drives, which are now too small. I picked a parcel up which I thought was them but on returning to the van it wasn’t. I checked online using the tracking number and it appears the drives were delivered 2 days prior.
So I rang and asked where my parcel was and after a brief discussion was told that the parcel would be sent to the Washington post office as I would be there by Tuesday, and someone would call me today to confirm.

It got to late afternoon and no-one had called so I phoned the number I’d called the day before and got some shop called Pandorum in Inverness. How odd! I found another number which said I needed to try another number and then had to try a third, as none of the constant robot number pressing menus had the option I wanted. Finally I had to ring the complaint line, it was the only way I could get to speak to a human.

When I did, I was told that post office’s number is ex directory. Why do they do that? Anyway I spoke to the really nice lady that had given me my parcel yesterday and she had my other parcel there. Quite why I wasn’t given it I don’t know but as I am due in Penrith in the morning and had travelled to Glasgow last night, I was not able to go back and pick it up. No worries the lovely lady said, we’ll send it on but it will cost you £17.30 for insurance, tracking, signed for and 48 hour delivery! HAHHAHAHAH

Apparently after 18 days if I did not collect it would be returned to sender so I said do that cos no way am I paying for this when it was your office’s fault I wasn’t given the parcel. At some point she finally decided she would post it on and they would pay for it.
Why does life have to be so difficult lol
I swear the post office is one of the worst organisations I have to deal with and when I use to sell stuff on ebay we all called it Parcel Farce cos they would lose or damage a full third of all packages.

Lets see if my drives actually arrive at Washington.

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The mouse bites back

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Exciting times!

I bought a computer almost a year ago from PC Specialist and it’s been faulty in several ways since a month or two after I got it. At the moment I have been over 3 months without a DVD because despite 3 texts and some emails all stating it had been sent it has not and they have even said to me now that they have no intention of sending one until I send the old one back. I offered to do that 2 separate occasions right from the start but at the time they said no it’s not worth it.

One of the long term problems that they could not resolve has been sorted. I found a resolution whilst tinkering one day and it was oh so simple in retrospect.

So, I have done a little bit of research and have found a company that is happy to pursue them for my debt, which is the cost of buying it back off me, and an hourly rate for all the time I have spent either without the use of it or trying to fix it.

I’m quite excited because I’m fed up of companies who think they can do as they like and there’s never any comeback on them so wish me luck!

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Sly, deceitful. Yes, Western Digital.

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I bought my new 3 tb hard drive, I would dearly have liked Seagate but Western Digital was the only one around at the time. However after buying it with 7200 rpm on the side I was curious as to why software reported it as only 5400 rpm.

I went to a WD support site and was told:

Moderator
Trancer
Posts: 2,852
Registered: ‎01-26-2011

Re: My new 7200 rpm hard drive reports as only being 5400 rpm

Welcome to the Community.

These are the specifications for the WD Green (WD30EZRX) hard drive family:

http://www.wdc.com/global/products/specs/?driveID=927&language=1

As you may notice the rotational speed is not listed as 7200RPM, but rather as IntelliPower. This means the hard drive will only spin up to 7200RPM when the device is under heavy load while decreasing its rotational speed in non-demanding circumstances down to 5400RPM. This is because the WD Green family of hard drives was designed for power-saving and low-noise above all else. If you would like a WD hard drive with a constant 7200RPM ratio, then I’d recommend the WD Blue and/or WD Black hard drive families.

Please click the star icon to the left to highlight helpful posts, and click on ‘Accept as Solution’ under post options for the post that solved your issue. This may help someone else.

Well, that sounds like a sort of good idea I think, but on the box it clearly says 7200 rpm, not Intelli power or whatever, and they should sell you what you ask for. I think this is sly marketing and deceitful of Western Digital.
I really wish I hadn’t had to buy one of their drives, and this has just reconfirmed that I despise them as a company and still have issues over losing 5 years of ‘everything’ following 2 hard drives crashes!

Now, what’s the number for my therapist?

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Ohhhh Driver heaven!

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I can’t quite believe it but…I’ve fixed my computer!

I’ve been trying to fix the driver problem on my computer for almost a week now. I’ve failed at every attempt although I’m not entirely sure why as it’s a pretty straightforward process. I was starting to run out of ideas though but I have loads of useful programs downloaded over the years and I was looking through them when I found one called DriverMax. It is from 2003 so it’s ancient in terms of computers but nevertheless I installed and ran it. However after scanning my computer it tried to go to it’s online database then crashed. Out of curiosity I checked and they do have a website still and there is still a driver program on there and it is still free!

So I downloaded the new one installed it and scanned and sure enough there was my network card. The one that has been giving me grief for nearly a week.

I clicked the download link and it installed the driver it had found for the network card and suddenly, in the window I had open of device manager, the network card began to operate.

With baited breath I unplugged the phone, turned on the wireless hotspot and waited…suddenly there it was…LIFE! Well, INTERNET anyway lol but WIRELESS internet!!
I am truly overjoyed lol

If anyone has a driver problem you’d best start here…
http://www.innovative-sol.com/drivermax/

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My life

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It’s 02:37 in the morning. I’ve been up doing stuff and watching Wild with Reece Witherspoon, and messing on Facebook, and I let the dog out for a quick wee.

I’m in a lay-by right next to Loch Ness. It’s pitch black and as quiet as the grave apart from the rushing water sound as there is a waterfall right next to me on the rock wall. It flows into a sump then under the road and into the loch.

It’s so peaceful and so nice and I go to sleep and wake up in places like this and it reminds me occasionally when I need it why I live this life of adventure. It’s definitely not an easy life at times but neither is anyone’s. However it’s the best life I’ve had and I can’t imagine living any other way now.

I was speaking to a work colleague earlier, she’d like to begin a relationship with me but as I said to her what do I have to offer, living in a van and travelling around most of the time. She’s a lovely woman, very pretty and smart and I’d jump at the chance of a date normally but this life I lead transcends such things. I think I’d have to write a whole novel to try and explain what I get from it. Even after 8 years I sometimes find new things myself.

I think I titled this blog correctly, it probably will be the last great adventure I’ll have in my life.

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Movie night

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Been working all day trying to get this computer sorted but nothing I do can fix it yet. Not known anything like this in my 35 years of messing with computers.
So I’m settling down with a movie called Wild with Reece Witherspoon. I know nothing about it except she’s a hiker.

A salad sarnie, a movie and a JD. Life’s simple pleasures eh?

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The Nutcracker Suite

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I was walking the dog along the river bank in Inverness this afternoon when I passed a large building which turned out to be the Eden Court centre which houses amongst other things a theatre.  There were adverts for the last night of the Nutcracker suite.
I first saw this in 1993 I think it was with a then girlfriend who worked at the Newcastle on Tyne Empire Theatre. It was an appalling performance sadly.

Anyhow I popped in on the off chance and remarkably they had a cancellation so for £23 I got a front row ticket in the balcony. The perfect seats if you ask me.
https://www.eden-court.co.uk/whats-on/shows/the-nutcracker-1
What a brilliant, beautiful stunning performance. Magical sets, beautiful costumes, excellent dancing, faultless music and a great audience.
That’s pretty much what I really needed right now too so an excellent night right at the right time.

The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker

SCOTTISH BALLET – THE NUTCRACKER

EMPIRE THEATRE

SCOTTISH BALLET

Choreography: Peter Darrell, featuring original scenarios by Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa
Music: Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Original Philip Prowse designs reimagined by Lez Brotherston.

Crafted for Scottish Ballet by Peter Darrell, the company’s founding Artistic Director, a famous story teller and incredible dancemaker,
this Nutcracker will create magical memories for a new generation. Over forty years after its premier audiences once again have an opportunity to share this production with families and friends.

After a fun-filled Christmas party full of magic and celebrations, young Carla falls asleep and dreams that she helps the Nutcracker Prince to defeat an army of giant mice. She is rewarded by a visit to the glittering Land of Ice and Snow where snowflakes come to life, sparkling as they dance, then onwards to the magical Kingdom of Sweets – the enchanted Realm of the beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy.

Peter Darrell’s magical world of The Nutcracker has been reimagined by Olivier Award winning designer Lez Brotherston, adding sumptuous layers of plush Victoriana and traditional festive fare to the original 1973 production.

The Scottish Ballet Orchestra accompanies live, performing the world famous Tchaikovsky score.

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Water carry on…

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The main fresh water inlet on my van is a hole in the side of the wall with a lockable cap. It goes in about 2 inches, then a hose much like a hoover hose turns 90 degrees and goes down into the main fresh water tank. This short hose is ribbed like a hoover pipe too so when I am trying to fit the hose down the hole, it catches on the ribs and as the run is so sharp, 90 degrees, it’s a real struggle every time to get the hose in. The hose must be in properly otherwise the water just comes straight back out.

So I had this idea. You know the flexible spouts you got for fuel canisters? I had one of those so I cut it short and put it inside the main hose. However after a few tries it was clearly too stiff and narrow and was more hassle than enough. So I decided on a piece of the hose that is used for the drains in the van. It’s still slightly ribbed but much smoother than the existing one so I went off to find some and I came across a hidden gem. Highland Camper vans just outside of Inverness.

I went to see them and they had some small seals for gas hoses, I’d been looking for these for ages since that awful Caravan Clinic lost one of mine. They also sold me a metre of that drain hose and a tube of Sikaflex which is in fact quite hard to get hold of. I’ve got none in and every camper should always have a tube as there is nothing else quite like it either for adhesion or leak fixing. They even ordered a new rail for the bike rack as I’ve bent mine.

I was reversing one dark rainy night and a tree came out of nowhere and ran straight behind me! TUT (Which reminds me I must get another light to fit as a reversing lamp cos the one on the van is next to useless)

Anyway Highland campers rang me 2 days later saying my rail was in and yes of course it was a couple of £’s more than you’d pay at a big chain, this is the Highlands. But you know I won’t pay too much for stuff so I felt it was very reasonable.

They impressed me by their small but well targeted stock and the ability to get things at short notice. If you’re in the Highlands pop in if you need anything:

Highland Campers Ltd t/a Highland Campervans
Kerrowaird Farm House, Dalcross, Inverness IV2 7JQ Scotland
T: +44 (0)1667 493976
E:

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Mountain bike and his coat of ‘no’ colours

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Something else that suffered in the storm was the cover on my mountain bike. It was a Halfords one for £20 and by far the best bike cover I could wish for. However there was no way it could withstand the 113 mph winds especially as it already had tears in from where I’d reversed into trees. And walls. And gates. And lamp posts. Anyway…I went into Halfords here but they only had the cheap but good covers meant for bikes sitting in the yard or whatever. But I found a huge cycle shop called Tiso’s in Inverness and they sold me a cover for £20 which I thought was a good price til I got it back to the van and found it was cheap rubbish.

Honestly, you know those plastic tarpaulins you get from the £ shop? They’re useful for many things, this cover is literally 2 of those, laid on top of each other and 3 sides stitched. I am not kidding they are a total and utter piss-taking rip off. I really can’t find any way I can return it as it is what is says on the package, a plastic tarp rain cover for a bike.

Biggest load of shite I’ve ever spent £20 on and Tiso’s brand themselves as all things to all cyclists with an aim for quality and customer service. BOLLOX!! Anyone selling this shite should sell if for £5 as a budget option to those who want a stopgap cover.

I did manage to get it on the mountain bike, although it’s perfectly square shape doesn’t help and means a lot of space is wasted. Also because of that the bike pedals, chain bottom and almost half the wheels are exposed and anyone with a mountain bike knows what salt spray can do to a bike. It’s going to have to do until I can find another Halfords one, which covers the whole bike. Or any cover really which is not just cheap shite plastic bag.

Tiso’s I won’t ever buy anything from you whilst here because if you sell this utter crap as the only bike cover you sell, then what other cheap crap have you got for sale?

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Damned leak

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The rain has been almost non stop here for nearly 2 weeks now. And I went into the wardrobe for something and there it was, a leak. Really bad too. So bad that my brand new, never used Canon printer was actually so full of water that I had to put it in the sink to drain out before throwing it away.

Spare towels, shirts, coats everything had to be taken out and I found a laundrette to wash them all toute suite. Of course the wardrobe itself was soaked. After an inspection it was clear what had happened. When I was sheltering from the 113 mph winds on Skye I parked in the lee of a tall wall beside some pine trees. I was barely bothered by the wind but I recall a scraping sound as a branch tickled the roof. I think one of them must have hit the gas flue and made it loose and so there was  basically a large hole in the roof for 3 days in pouring rain.
Still, at least I know what it was and it was fixed easily, simply tighten the locknut up and make sure the rubber seal was making a seal on the roof.

That part of the roof has leaked on and off for years now ever since Isatlan messed up when fitting that accursed satellite dish. The last time it was fixed was back in 2012 when I was last in Scotland and I wondered if that was the last I’d know of it lol

Cue that dehumidifier…sometimes things just happen for a reason eh?

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Pets at home without their food!

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I have to LOL at this. I’m running out of food for Jack and he does like the James Wellbeloved turkey and rice, so I log on to Pets at Home in the small hours to make sure there is a store in Inverness and that they have some.

They sure have, collect at store, £43, thank you very kindly I don’t need to think about that anymore.

That is, til I get to the shop the next day to be told by a staff member “Oh you have to wait 3-7 working days for delivery.”
I replied I didn’t want it delivered, I clicked on collect in store and paid by PayPal.
“Yes” she says “Sorry about that but, it has to be delivered to the store from our Coventry warehouse.”

We’re standing next to 2 pallets choc full of James Wellbeloved, 15kg of Turkey and Rice. “There it is” I say, “just give me one of those please.”
“Sorry sir, I’m not allowed to as it would come out of our stock without being paid for, as you bought yours from the online branch of the company, which has a different system.”

What. The. Very. Fuck.

OK so after a long discussion with the staff member who I have to say was fabulous all the way through, I didn’t go to the Terms and Conditions on the website and read that I was buying from Pets At Home Online and not Pets At Home the geographical store. If I had read that fine print I would have found out that not only does it take 3-5 working days to deliver to the store of your choice, but it can take up to 7 days for the Highlands which is classed differently to the rest of the UK.
Despite the fact they have hundreds of bags of James Wellbeloved 15kg Turkey and Rice, I can’t have any unless I pay for it again. But, if I want to do that and collect my bag when it is couriered all the way from Coventry to Inverness, despite them having hundreds of bags here already, then at least I’ll have double the amount so doggy won’t go hungry…

You know when I experience utter stupidity and incompetence like this is makes me think of Woolworths, and JJB sports, Jessops and HMV. These stores have not the faintest clue about common sense and are so arrogant to continue in their way of trading even when it’s shown that they are in fact incompetent and stupid that it’s no wonder they eventually fail. It’s total and utter pandemonium and I despair when I think that whoever makes these rules is actually able to vote and procreate lol

So, if I do run out of Jack’s food I can walk right past the 2 full pallets of James Wellbeloved on sale in Pets at Home, pick up a small bag for a tenner just to keep Jack going until my bag gets couriered all the way from Coventry.

The moral of the story?
Online companies which were born online are generally started by modern progressive people who know what they’re doing and they just work, without any real problems but with the ones that do crop up being resolved quickly. They’re not about the customer, they’re about the bottom line, but to get that bottom line the processes they have are slick, clean, well thought out, efficient and….customer friendly! Hance why I buy from Amazon over and over and over again.
Store based companies who move online are often managed by total fools who ‘think’ they know a lot about retailing because they did it in college, but in fact haven’t a friggin clue what they’re doing and in fact it’s usually the worst paid, shop floor staff who realise things are ridiculous so, next time you want some James Wellbeloved Turkey and Rice, DON’T whatever you do go online to reserve it at the store, just go to the store!
Pets At Home are about as home on the internet as men are on Mars! lol
WOOOOFFFF!!

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Weather or not

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The weather is still awful and the power is still out on the whole of Skye and an awful lot of the mainland too.  There’s absolutely no value sitting there as I’m wasting time doing bugger all, so off I popped to Inverness for a variety of things I need anyway.

On the way the weather turned even worse and I saw some skid marks in the snow exactly like I’d done some years ago: they skidded slowly to the wrong side of the road, then as the driver (obviously a lorry) corrected it skidded the other way. I was just thinking that he must have been shitting himself as I was when that happened but he managed to get himself straight I noticed a few hundred yards or so later.
Then I turned a corner and there he was, double log trailer, lying on its side in the ditch. Oops!

It took a while to stop but I reversed back and he was sitting by the cab so I got out and asked if he was alright. He said yes and he seemed it but said it would be about an hour before any recovery would come. I told him to come inside and get a cuppa but he refused and said he was fine, which was ridiculous as it was freezing, snowing and blowing a houly and he’d just totalled his hytt and trailer. I said come on, people act funny sometimes when they’ve had a shock, just sit with me and have a coffee for 10 minutes.
He said in broad Scottish accent “Och I act funny all the fucking time so you’d ne’er know if I was in shock laddie!”

I decided he was right so I left him to it and went on my merry way.

Later at Inverness I popped into Aldi and guess what they had? That’s right…a small, 12 volt dehumidifier! What’s the chances hhahaa

Sadly I went to Halfords though and they had none of the bike covers I’ve had off them for the last 7 years.

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Lights out on Skye

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The promised weather has arrived on the Isle of Skye. The rain wasn’t really bad, but the wind is pretty wild, and the lightning was amazing. However one of the lightning shows was actually a sub station going out or something cos all I can see where I am has no lights.

I’ve parked behind the Co-op shop to try and avoid direct blasts, but even so the van was rocking so much that the monitor fell over and broke the foot off the keyboard. It’s quite unnerving as even though I’m sure the van won’t blow over it’s tilting to silly angles.

Photo of outside with no lights on

Photo of outside with no lights on

Anyway I opened the window to take a picture to show you how dark it is…

 

*Edit:*  I heard a noise outside and saw one of those tall steel posts beside the garage fallen down. As I looked a huge recycling bin came blowing past me spewing books all over the place! The other end of the car park to where I was was in a right state when I had a look, recycling bins blown around and smashed open. Stuff was blowing still and I got hit on the shin by a ladies purse! I ran to catch it but it was empty lol

So, I’ve moved off up the road beside the Youth Hostel as it’s screened by trees and at the moment it doesn’t even feel windy.

Weather map

Weather map

My friend sent me a screenshot from a weather site, the red blob appears to be over the Hebrides where I am….Force 12!

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Neist Point

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I got here ok, I actually came to Malasaig which is across the bay from Neist Point. But you get a lovely view looking across at the spit of land with the lighthouse on that juts out into the sea . I got a few shots last night then stayed over. The weather was amazing, the grill would not toast my bread because the draught coming in was so cold it would not let the grill heat up! lol

Neist Point

Neist Point

So, pretty much all I got was this shot on the morning which was not really what I was looking for.

However I had a drive around but the weather was so bad there was going to be no picture taking today so I found a garage and booked in to get the coolant checked for winter. I’m sure it needs topping up.

I was back to work tonight (Boo!) so I parked up near Portree and after the garage in the morning I’ll see what the weather is like. Wish me luck!

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Skye is awesome

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After Christmas I decided to just keep on going. So I travelled over to Falkirk to see the Kelpies

Falkirk Kelpies

The Falkirk Kelpies

which you can see here. They’re the most amazing thing, costing £7 million to build and standing 60 metres tall. I got there late as they’re not at the Falkirk wheel as I thought but the Helix park a couple of miles away. I’d just shut the door of the van after taking photos when the lights went out so nicely timed.

 

Glen Coe

Glen Coe

I then went over to Rannoch moor as it’s one of my fave places and is on the way to Skye anyway. I was lucky enough to catch a deep hoarfrost, but no snow. This is as you leave Rannoch Moor and head down into Glencoe village. I came back the next day and stayed 2 days waiting for snow, but all I got was rain :(

 

Loch Garry

Loch Garry

Never mind I carried on stopping the night here and there, this shot was taken at Loch Garry. I tried to capture the moon lighting the Loch but it was bitterly cold and blowing a gale so I didn’t do very well. I’ve decided I need a new tripod but as it’s going to be over £300 I may have to wait a few paydays lol…or sell a kidney!

 

Castle Moil

Castle Moil

The weather was appalling and I stayed up a night to get some first light photos at Kyleakin. This is a shot of Castle Moil which some of you may remember I’ve been to before. I used the Hitech 10 stop filter on this, a slight colour cast but nothing too bad, however once I’d fixed the cast I decided to make it a little bluer as it looked nice.

My hands were so numb here that it was actually a struggle to put the gear away and I somehow managed to lose my cable release tut.

Never mind worse things have happened to people and tomorrow I’m off to Malasaig.

The Isle of Skye is indeed quite awesome and no-one should miss out on a visit here.
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Merry Christmas!!!

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It’s Christmas morning, and this is my 8th Christmas in the van now. I decided to leave Bamburgh and come north and I am now sitting in view of the Forth bridge in Fife. I hope this weekend to get some photos of the new bridge construction before moving to Falkirk for more photos of the wheel.

The van’s old problem of non-starting is back again *sigh* I turn the key and it flat out refuses to start. I can try continually and it may or may not start eventually, and over the years there’s been no clue as to what causes it. However my fire works great, the fridge appears to be working and at least I am moving again.

I hope you all have a fabulous Christmas and Santa is kind to you :)

 

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Solar panels are ‘wow’

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I installed my solar panels 17 weeks ago today. 3 x 100 watt Biard panels on the roof.
Normally I’d recharge batteries with the gennie once every 3 days and it costs a tenner in petrol for the gennie each time.
So, 17 weeks is 119 days, that’s 40 times I’d have charged the batteries in that period, meaning, £400 of petrol.
However with having the panels, I’ve only had to charge the batteries using the gennie 5 times in that period, that’s £50. So I’ve saved £350 in petrol in that time.
The panels and all the associated bits cost just under £700, so in that 17 weeks I’ve already saved half the cost of them.
Wow is all I can say.

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