2016 – diaries

Now bringing you up to date, we are both 55 this year, our two children are getting married within three months of each other this year and my best friend is also getting married, so 3 weddings to go to!  these are busy & exciting times for us all.

Apologies as this is a long wordy blog and I’ve edited it!

We have been following Jason & Julie’s blog called our tour for some time now and it’s whetted our appetite. We never really had any definite plans about how and when it was going to happen, we instinctively knew that when the time was right we would know.

We are in a fortunate position of being mortgage free and we are looking forward to our next holidays and adventures in a motorhome.

Could this year be the start of something different for us, maybe new adventures in our lives? These things don’t just happen and drop in to your lap do they? Well……

April 2016

We were plodding along in life as you do when something changed and awakened us to thoughts and ideas that maybe we could do a European tour in a motorhome pretty soon.

Circumstances in our personal and professional lives had shifted and suddenly we had a sketchy plan of what we could do. I am a logistics professional and I was told that my job would only last for another 6 months until Dec 2016, although I’ve been through this many times it’s still a shock.

Almost two weeks later Cathy attended a meeting and was informed that she was potentially being made redundant this year, again another shock,  What should we do with our lives? What can we do? What could we do? What’s to stop us doing something completely different?

So throw in to the mix; ideas about future jobs, should we find new jobs, future income, our children get married, our house, where we like to live, where would we like to travel and explore, the places that we haven’t been to in this world, our financial situation, can we both cash in some small and I mean small pensions from previous jobs, me £2,200 (£1,100, £300, £800) and Cathy £6,500 (£5000 and £1,500) and what’s to stop us? We have both worked since we were 16, maybe we have had enough and want to change things around a bit.

So let’s consider all of this collectively, pensions, (Dave has a small monthly income from a pension but not enough to live on) payoffs, our house rental, our age, our health, are we young enough, are we excited – oh yes…… now the ideas were forming and gathering pace, considering options, thinking about choices, we kind of fell in to planning mode to make this happen. The house we felt was the biggest hurdle in terms of prepping for rental, you just don’t realise how much stuff you have tucked away here there and everywhere, we had a concern over the conservatory roof as well it needs replacing before we let the house out or sell, it doesn’t leak but its polycarbonate and starting to look tired. Also we were storing the contents of both of our children’s houses in our loft; our son was emigrating to Canada and earlier in the year our daughter moved in to her fiancé’s house; good job our loft is huge and part boarded but it was still full to the brim.

We didn’t realise at first, but we had shifted mentally to spending less on everyday items & asking ourselves do we really need to buy that? As we brought out stuff from the bottom of cupboards, wardrobes and trying to de-clutter we started to spend less as well, which is great as we need to save for a motorhome!

May 2016

Don’t you just love eBay! started selling anything and everything, if we hadn’t touched an item or used in the last 12 months it went on eBay! So the clearance began, eBay nearly shut down as I was listing that much every day! Where does all this stuff come from? Why do I never throw anything away?

Why do I need to keep all those nails, screws, special clips and fastenings in my DIY box, it must be a man thing as I can’t throw things away! We have 1 garden shed, 1 motorcycle shed, 2 lofts, a utility room plus all the normal wardrobes and cupboards etc to go through, the thought of it was daunting but we must tackle it somehow. Our tactic was to try and go through a room a couple of times a week until that room was completed. It is difficult making decisions about your worldly goods and being ruthless about keeping or releasing…… we quickly priced up some storage facilities and the shock of storage costs helped us focus on being clinical with our possessions. Our idea was to continue reducing our possessions & maybe only store the big stuff like sofa’s & tables that didn’t fit through the loft hatch! I mentioned 2 lofts well one would be for the tenants and the other one I would store all our possessions in the larger loft and making it secure, there that should keep the storage guys away from our precious £’s, it’s funny how when you focus on your money how much more you question and challenge your purchases, sometimes we say to one another, that’s equivalent to 4 bottles of wine or a tank of fuel, or a meal out on our tour! Now we are sounding like Jason & Julie! to quote them “every pound is a prisoner !”

Part of getting our house ready meant we had to fix those jobs and tasks that I kept putting off, even though I am reasonable at DIY they just seemed to escape my grasp and attention, but now we have a new and exciting plan. A radiator needed fixing, the lounge door needed rehanging, a shelf needed repairing, the gas boiler and gas fire needed a service, the conifers and fruit trees must be trimmed before November and so the list went on. It was exciting in a way having a plan and a new surge of life and energy when there is something you really want to make happen. We have always had a world map on the wall in the conservatory and we always got excited looking at it and chatting about where shall we go, where would we like to visit, you know those great evenings when you are buzzing and full of enthusiasm over a glass of wine.

I knocked up a rough project plan with dates, I just love lists and crossing things off once done!

We re-adjusted our finances and tried to save, we are not long-term savers, but we had to start somewhere, after all we need to buy a van and to have enough money to live on for a while. We love the idea of generating a passive income somehow as Jason & Julie mention in their blog. However we are not in that situation yet, but we are sure we can travel on our small monthly pension and the rental income from our house. We need a financial back-up plan; what I mean is we need some money saved in the UK for emergencies and to live on when we come back.

June 2016

Well eBay is going well, the new conservatory roof has been ordered, not cheap, £8,000 for a Guardian Roof System and we have started clearing the loft, the small one was easy enough and done in a day.

We are a bit upset this morning as we take our son and his girlfriend to Manchester airport as they start a new life in Canada. It’s always emotional when families part like this but we hang on to the positive thought that we will see them again at their wedding in September (Toronto) and again when they fly back for his sister’s wedding in December (local to us!). The afternoon at home was a little subdued which is understandable.

We have decided on the model and type van for us and we look at eBay and auto trader for a Hymer B544  almost daily, hopefully we will find one will be right for us soon…. Got to keep saving though!

We are looking at everything we own and mentally pricing it up to sell! We really have got the bug to make something happen. We read others blogs regularly, they are thoroughly enjoyable, we create lists and remember tips, jot things down in our notebook, read recommended articles & books mentioned by other bloggers and websites.

This morning I was looking and researching how to set up a blog, I am not sure whether to start it now even though it is 6-8 months before we go. I ended up at wordpress.com. it seems ok, I need to decide when to go “live” with it, maybe after we have bought the van, maybe after we have started the journey? After we have rented the house out? Not sure yet. One thing is for sure it will not be as slick as Jason & Julie’s or Craig & Joanne’s Our Bumble but we can try.

Called in at dealers to look at a Hymer B544 on the way home from a 50th birthday party in Oxford. We are keen on this model but we needed to step inside one and get a feel for it, so we had a good look around inside to see how it would work for us. Cathy asked me to pull the bed down and climbed up, is it big enough for us? Can we get in to bed easily? Can we sit up in bed? It was good to try these things out, chatting on the way home it seems the priority for us internally is; bed, shower, lounge, diner seating. The bed is key to us, we don’t to make one up every night and we sleep in a king-size at home, we know you can’t get king-size in motorhomes and we will adjust but we have to make sure it isn’t too small for us either. So we go back on our iPads later that night researching beds, layouts, models, forums for other comments.

Had my car a Passat auto diesel valeted inside & outside today ready to sell on Autotrader and eBay, money is going towards that motorhome MH. Uploaded the photos and waited for the phone to ring with potential buyers!

23rd June 2016

Voted in EU referendum this morning on my way to work, there was a queue when I got there at 7am! I think there will be a massive turnout of voters today……

Update: The UK have voted to leave the EU with a record turnout of 72% and a 52/48% result to leave, I hope this doesn’t affect our touring plans!

Went to the Motorhome show at Stafford Show Ground, a first for us, we learnt a bit, chatted to a few people, looked at the accessories but the main aim was to look at van layouts and try a few, well we tried a Pilote with a drop-down bed, we tested the bed out and according to Cathy the bed ROCKS!…….. and not in a good way hmmm.. Oops that’s no good for us (Cathy gets motion sickness on boats and apparently it feels like a boat)  so we will cross Pilote off the potential list.

July 2016

Returned from our best friend’s Derek and Sarahs’ wedding yesterday, we had a great time in an old country house in Wales, the wedding was informal, relaxing, and friendly, we were so pleased for them who looked extremely happy and so much in love on their special day. We stayed for two nights in a safari lodge within the grounds of the country house, what a great way to spend your time before and after the wedding with lots of Prossecco, sunshine and your own private hot tub!

Tonight is my staffs’ redundancy party. The business I work for is closing its UK operations down and transferring the work abroad and we are being made redundant over the next few months. So tonight is the last time that we will all be together before one or two of us start to leave. Met at the Hollywood Bowl, great fun bowling, a meal at Chiquitos and drinks afterwards at Coast to Coast, taxi’s home – after all the company is paying! We had a great night.

Had a dental check up at the dentist today and enquired about being removed from the dentist’s patient list if we don’t use the dentist for 12 months? No problem as long as it’s no longer than 12 months between our visits, something else off the check list.

The Passat has been sold, good news, now I will then use my son’s Yaris as he has emigrated to Canada now.

Cancelled the continuous payment for car breakdown recovery, another one ticked off the list!

I am trying to finish painting the kitchen, well it looks grubby now next to the recently painted conservatory!

Each month I am saving £50 of our salary in Premium Bonds, each month I check hoping for a big win to pay for the tour and buy a motorhome! Been doing this for about 5 months now and guess what we haven’t won a bean! Never mind there is always another chance next month……..

eBay sales have slowed up as we have sold the big higher value products, now we are down to selling water jugs, coffee mugs and jigsaws! We had two new cheese graters so we sold one, then two days later ours broke so we had to buy another one back off eBay! You have got to laugh at yourselves, haven’t you?

You can sell almost anything on eBay if it is photographed properly and described fairly, last week someone was selling a Hymer Motorhome in Australia, hang on a minute, no it’s not in Australia, it’s just the photos are upside down! Unbelievable! Tried to turn my ipad round the right way to view it but the photos kept rotating but always upside down! Might give that ad a miss!

Cathy and I have been doing a lot of reading of others blogs, looking at internet sites trying to figure out what we need to do to make life on the road as easy and as pleasurable as possible; Our Tour ,Our Bumble, A Life In The Slow Lane, Charlie the Chucklebus, & Europe By Camper, The World Is Our Lobster, these blogs have superb practical information, a fantastic level of detail, tips, where to stay, etc in reality they have done all work for us, they have lived it, done it and their advice is invaluable, so a massive thank you for your input and info on your websites as it reduces our risk of making silly mistakes, hey listen, we all make mistakes and learn from them but why not listen & learn from others that have done it? Makes sense to me.

We are truly indebted to you all.

We wanted to get a feel for another type of MH layout, so we visited a dealer at the weekend to look at a B584. We dropped the bed down with the salesman and we climbed in (not him – us two!), we did not like the movement again,  What do we do now? With the chap, we started looking and testing different bed options in other vans. So what conclusion have we arrived at? I am sure nearly everybody who wants to buy a MH goes through this but we can’t find the MH that meets all our requirements;

  • No longer than 6.5m for manoeuvrability and parking
  • A lounge area that I can stretch out on/in – a bench seat of about 6ft
  • A picnic style dining area & set up
  • Fixed bed or a drop down that doesn’t rock
  • A cab that gives a good driving and visibility position, with headroom height and a 180-degree view
  • A bathroom with a separate shower of reasonable proportion
  • LHD

We think the B544 or B584 meets most of our needs/wants but the issue concerning the drop down and getting a good night’s sleep is very important to us.

We were set on the Hymer but the bed issue has thrown us off kilter. Now I am thinking about adapting a Hymer bed, could I design a clip or locking mechanism that keeps the dropdown in place and prevents sideways movement? if this could be done we would be looking at Hymers again? I called an independent motorhome engineer (Mike at DMR Doncaster) to ask this very question. Mike was very helpful and made a fantastic suggestion which I am going to try out very soon, if it works I’ll let you know.

That night we went back to the drawing board, Cathy researching all those MH blogs and forums whilst I trawled through the Autotrader & eBay looking at every van layout! Why do the adverts omit the driving position in the description, so frustrating….. got to click into the adverts to find out! After about 2.5 hrs we gave up, we will try again another night….. time to open the wine!

It must be the hottest day of the year, Tuesday 19th July, a mini heatwave reaching 35 degrees in the southwest it only reached 31 in the North West! Too hot to sleep, we are wondering how we will get on sleeping in a MH in Europe at those temperatures?

Grabbed a bargain on eBay and bought a Kindle Fire HD, I wanted one for all our travel books, Rough Guides, Lonely Planet etc. Our other Kindle is an old version and doesn’t support colour or graphics so we will keep that one for our novels.

Day spent at work with business auditors for the year-end stock count as the closure approaches, how exciting – not!

We had a great weekend celebrating my 55th birthday, watched the new Jason Bourne movie last night at the cinema and tonight we have got friends and family coming for a few drinks and a meal (Michael, Jayne, Degs, Sarah, Sally, Dan.) They all stayed over and slept somewhere in the house and then we all had a cooked brunch together before they go home. We love family parties and it will be hard for us and our families whilst we are away – t’was a great weekend!

August 2016

Read the short book, Funding Freedom by Jason & Julie of Our Tour fame, I have read it before about 3 months ago but I read it again, I really am keen on this passive income principle. However our situation is that both Cathy and I are “potentially at risk” that’s the phrase that the HR depts like to describe this difficult situation, i.e. “potentially” both of us are being made redundant before Christmas. Now we have reduced our outgoings considerably (and saving in earnest) but we are mentally balancing this; should we go on tour or should we get another job for a year to save & invest towards a passive income, urmmm, we still can’t decide. There are positives and negatives for both arguments, if we went on tour we can’t raise/save any money to invest for passive income…… here we go again. We make our minds up and then we change our minds again, arghhhh what shall we do?

We won on the NSI premium bonds, how much, how exciting….. (we save in here for two reasons, quick access to our money and a chance of winning every month – no interest paid), well we can celebrate tonight on winning £25!

Chase up my small pension pots yesterday, it’s like the pension companies are actually affronted that you are asking to withdraw your money! they make it long winded and difficult, they ask why, and when, have you taken financial advice, all the usual stuff gets asked, please jump over here, so we jumped over there, do that, we did that, do this, ok when? are you even sensible or mature enough to be allowed to even ask for it 10 years earlier than they perceive you might “need” it. It took about 2 hours of hitting the phones and writing emails to start the process off, settlement dates are approx. 21-28 days away. The amount over four small pension pots we will use for our trip to Toronto for our son’s wedding in September.

Despite hours of research and viewing on line you can’t beat looking at motorhomes at the dealers to determine what might work for us. So the latest on van layouts and beds, we have read all of those motorhome blogs over the last 2-3 weeks trying to glean as much info as possible about van weights, MPTLM, Maximum Technical Permissable Laden Mass, MRO, Mass Running Order, payloads, van lengths, fixed beds, over cab beds, drop down beds and seating areas. Yesterday went to dealers to try the beds and various layouts, well what was the outcome you ask? All of the drop-down beds we have tested over the last few months move sideways too much for Cathy, So we have finally concluded that drop down beds are no longer a requirement – now then, that decision changes a few other things; fixed beds and long bench seats moves us up to longer length vans something we are cautious about as we want to be able to drive into towns and villages without worrying about parking or manoeuvering, also cheaper for tolls and ferries. The word compromise keeps appearing so once again the priority list moves;

  1. Fixed bed (preferably at the rear and not above the cab as the roof is too near and we can’t sit up in bed)
  2. Lounge crash out area (ideally two bench seats, one could be a short one)
  3. Vehicle length 6-6.5 metres, preferably nearer to 6 metres .

Sometimes see vans that we would be interested in only to find they are RHD or they are too long at over 7 metres

Only 3 weeks left until we fly to Toronto for our son’s wedding, quite a lot of our family in the UK are going to be there as well, it should be brilliant time for us all. Need to buy a suit though, off to the Trafford Centre tonight. Cathy is so well organised she got her outfit about 7 weeks ago!

Well we certainly contradict ourselves! We are looking at a Dethleffs motorhome now with a drop-down bed…. Saw the ad made a few calls about the bed and went to view it in Northants area about 140 miles away. I put some foam blocks in the car boot as I wanted to test the wedging the bed against the cab frame. We tested and loved the comfortable bed and the size, it’s one of the largest we have tried at 6’3” by 5’ wide plus it dropped very low almost our knee height, really easy to climb in and out – impressive? it certainly was!

We bought a van! ( Mid August).

Please see the Pogo pages to continue reading the story and oh what a story it is!

September 2016

Cathy called the estate agents yesterday  regarding house rental to arrange an appointment in a few weeks time after we return from Canada.

We are flying to Toronto on Friday 2nd Sept 16, we will be there for a week before the wedding, planning to see the sights including CNN tower, aquarium, Rogers Centre stadium for a baseball game, waterfront exhibition & Niagra falls.

Our families from around the world starting arriving for our sons wedding in Toronto , we had a fantastic time with everybody, a stag do, a hen do, axe throwing competitions, CNN tower, aquarium, air show, exhibition, Niagara falls, large family meals, and course a big wedding.

It was a lovely wedding held in the centre of the city, at one of the oldest buildings in Toronto, the Gladstone Hotel, a great day in a historic building, a great setting. Groom and bride looked so happy together. Cathy and I were quite emotional which is easy to understand, but we are very happy at the same time.

We have been home from Toronto for a few days now and the estate agent came today, he gave us an idea of the potential monthly rental figure, we were pleasantly surprised. We talked it over that night and we are going to do it! The photographer is coming next Friday to take the necessary house pictures and we will be ready to rent it out once we decide on a date. The date is dependent on a number of things like Cathy finishing work, as yet no date as the Company she works for are selling the Company and the dates keep changing, our daughter’s wedding in December 2016 .

Called SafeGuard Insurance again seeking clarity regarding unlimited mileage, unlimited travel days in Europe and breakdown recovery in Europe for MH that weigh more than 3500kgs, no problem they confirm it’s all in and covered.

Just need evidence of my current car insurance from our insurer to mirror the NCD on to the new policy, needs to be done with 14 days.

Printed off the motorhome packing check list from ourtour.co.uk website, it is very comprehensive and makes our life a bit easier.

Visited our good friends in Prestatyn for the weekend, they had some great news about selling one of their houses at last, so we celebrated with Champagne…. hic!

At work we are processing returns, there is not a lot to do, I am getting bored quickly when Sanjay says “ Boss, why don’t you go and start writing your blog!” so here I am! Hit the internet and rang around for self-storage quotes. We have recalculated that we need a 150 sq ft storage unit, again such a variety of types of storage and prices ranged anywhere between £1,625 – £2,450 for the year, be careful as some charge per week, some per calendar month and some per 4 weeks, some give discounts if you pay 6 or 12 months in advance, my advice is to shop around, consider security, condition, etc, some were in old mills and factories, some were not watertight, some were in shipping containers, some were purpose built on ground level, visit the facility and have a look around.

October 2016

Visited my parents in Doncaster, good job we did as Daves’ dad had a very bad eye infection and as soon as we saw him we whisked him off the A&E dept. ……. he has Opthalmic Shingles!!!

The following weekend we went to a Charity Black Tie & Dress evening raising money for the Woodlands Hospice in Fazakerly Liverpool

December 2016

Today is 3rd December our daughter’s wedding!  it was a superb and fantastic occasion, two young people in love and so happy together, The joining of two lovely families, it went really well & the whole day just flowed. My speech, what speech, nervous? who me no! – well it was a great day surrounded by warm, large and loving families.

My Ops Director came to Bolton (from London) this month and we had a staff Christmas lunch together at a Tapa’s restaurant, a nice gesture.

I’ve (Dave) only got a few weeks left now before the business closes and I become redundant, not sure whether to get another job or take a couple months off, Cathy thinks she could be finishing in May? what to do?  It’s possible that I might need a knee operation soon, so it might be best to have that done whilst I am unemployed and whilst we wait for the motorhome. Our plans are now not aligned at all due to the motorhome repairs (see Pogo pages) so we haven’t got a date to start our adventure, we can’t therefore pick a date to rent our house out, we can only make sketchy plans but now everything seems to be dragging along slowly. In fact, we haven’t got any plans, we are in limbo…

I will be made redundant on 31st December 2016, and still no news on Cathy’s redundancy date either.

We decide to  have a good Christmas and to not think about our plans for next year in to much detail for a few weeks.