Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Place Down Under

17 April

I need to write some words down now as life as Tash and I know it might hugely change over the next few days and I want to remember what goes on.  If the past few days are anything to go by they sure will be action packed!

With Tash being made redundant we decided to look at jobs overseas as well as within the UK.  One option to us was New Zealand, a destination we have long spoken about moving to and hugely appeals due to the lifestyle and work/life balance.

Tash seems to have a few very positive and helpful recruitment consultants on side, and numerous Skype chats have been had followed but CV's being presented ... but as yet getting nowhere.

Until Now.

Basically a Government Department in Wellington has failed to fulfil a position and having seen Tash's CV they are very positive about her.  So positive that they want to see her face to face.  Of course Tash has agreed to this, on the condition that they fly her over.  It then gets complicated because there are clients and recruitment consultants and all other parties involved ... but it has all boiled down to the recruitment consultant offering to book the flight and Tash going halves if she doesn't get the job and paying the full amount back to him (the business I presume) if she does get the job.

This currently leaves us in the position whereby we are rushing to get Esme a passport so she can fly out with Tash.  The next decision is to decide on the length of her stay as we don't yet know how many interviews Tash will have nor how quickly she will get an answer to this interview.  We suspect they will want her to start immediately if she does get offered the job which could even see her not board her return plane and actually stay in NZ.  Alternatively we might decide to give NZ a go anyhow, and Alfie and I will join her a few weeks later (so as to see my sister get married) and then see if Tash's redundancy payout will support us for long enough for her to find a job.

Craziness.  We are currently running around working out what to do in case she does go out and not return.  We need homes for chickens, the dog, the snake, the chinchilla and of course not forgetting destinations for cars and caravans!  Today is 17th March.  Her flight is potentially 27th March.  What a ten days this promises to be!

18 April

A quiet day on the NZ front today.  I guess it comes from recruitment consultants needing to go back to clients to get everything 100% confirmed before everyone commits. Tash has told Matt (the recruitment consultant) that she knows where she stands with regards Visas, and also plans are in place for Esme to join her with babysitting facilities already sorted.  Hopefully this will put people at ease who might have had doubts.

We ran up to see Larry in the afternoon to get him to countersign Esme's passport photo.  We have an appointment with the passport office tomorrow and we'll be getting a fast track 7 day turnaround passport for her.  This means Tash and Esme should be good to fly together anytime from 8 days time!

The next few days promise to be interesting!

19 April

Another crazy day today.

We awoke to the news that the interview has been confirmed, and the recruitment consultant saying "lets get this moving!".  He is due to call when he is in the office which could be anytime from now ... so I am typing fast!

This left us just a passport to sort for Esme, and we had the appointment booked for 4pm.  As Tash and I were checking we had all the documentation together and that the forms were filled correctly her phone rings.  Turns out its ANOTHER recruitment consultant, this time wanting to put her forward for a 12 month role in Hong Kong!  So now there are two potential foreign destinations for us!

We then realise Larrys signature was a few mm outside 'the box' and a quick call to the powers that be confirmed that this would make their machine explode and we would need to complete another form!  This left us running around to grab a form, grab another signature, and then fly up the A1 to Peterborough to go through the formalities.  This 7 day service we signed up for though now appears to potentially take 8 days as we were told Esme's passport would be with us by next Friday ... the very day Tash is potentially flying to NZ!!  It could become squeaky bum time next week!

20 April

Things are moving apace now.  The conversation with Matt (the recruitment consultant) went well, and Tash confirmed everything for him.  There are offers of car seats and various other things to make life easier for Tash whilst she's gonna be out there which is nice.  It was agreed she will fly out on the Sunday 29th April, the interview will be on the Thursday, and then her return flight will be booked for the following Sunday (6 May).  Following the call Tash sent details across to Matt for him to book the flights.  Its now just a case of waiting for confirmation ....

21 April

A quiet day today.  It's Saturday so we weren't expecting much to develop.  That said, Esme's passport arrived today - just 3 days after filling out the application that was supposed to take a week!  That's one concern well and truly taken off our mind!

23 April
With yesterday being Sunday we hadn't really expected any development, but I certainly hoped to awake this morning (Monday) to the news that Tasha's flights had been booked.  This would leave us in a position to arrange her accomodation and also babysitting for Esme.  Sadly this has not been the case.  I hope Matt has just been busy, but he hasn't replied to any of the the messages that Tash has sent him.  His Tuesday will start around 9/10pm UK time tonight so I'm hoping we might get an update before bedtime.

25 April
No news for two days has had me starting to think that this opportunity was going to fall down before it got going.  But after 48 hours of silence Tash had an email from Matt last night saying that the hold up was due to Fronde (the company) trying to negotiate Tasha's rate with the Government Department (the client).  I presume this rate is the rate that they can bill at as opposed to the rate Tash will be paid.  Either way, for the moment all we can do is sit tight and plan accordingly.

This is still a massively crucial week for us in terms of employment though, even if this NZ opportunity does stall.  Tash had an interview with KPMG on Monday, has an interview with Centrica on Friday, applied for another NZ job on Monday and is waiting to hear back about an opening with Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong.

26 April
We're now into Thursday, and over in NZ their working Thursday has finished.  Again, no updates have been received so it looks less and less likely that Tash will fly this Sunday.  If she does, she sure isn't going to get much notice.

The only other development we've had is that her interview on Friday has been cancelled.  The job has already been given to someone and so the position no longer exists.

27 April
Well this week certainly hasn't gone the way we expected!  The latest update Tash has had is that all jobs have been out on hold and they have suspended interviewing people.  Who knows the level of truth behind the tale, but it certainly means Tash won't be boarding any planes this weekend!  What with that, the cancelled interview and no news from the Cathay Pacific/Hong Kong opportunity the week has kinda withered away into something of a damp let down, a bit like the current weather.  Still, on the flip side she had the KPMG interview on Monday which we're still waiting to hear back on and also found another three NZ jobs which we applied for yesterday.

29 April
So today is the day Tash was supposed to be boarding a plane but as we already knew this isn't happening.  I have pondered about what to do with these recent entries - whether to junk them as they aren't particularly interesting or to post them as the do still document our first real flirtation with emigrating.  Seeing as you are reading this you can assume I opted to click the 'publish' button - a decision I took because although this opportunity hasn't flowered it certainly won't be the last time we look to get a move to NZ happening. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Puddles + Wellies = ...(Big Bang 2012)

I guess that any blog entry about Big Bang should be about stunning bugs and slammed buses ... but not for us this year!

It was Rob's birthday today and so with our diary becoming clear we decided to head up to Santa Pod to wish Rob a happy day.  Any excuse for a beer!

The forecast was poor and the weather outside looked pretty miserable but we set off in the hope the Pod would once more have its own contrary weather system in action.  We arrived and it was dry.  We made our way down to the Fuellers Bar and it started raining.  And it didn't stop. 

And so while Tash and Esme took cover

Alfie made the most of the opportunity to test exactly how waterproof wellies really are.

He must have run around jumping (and occasionally falling over) in puddles for over an hour, but he had a grin on his face from ear to ear.  Much like this ...

And when it all gets too cold, too wet and too miserable? DO-NUTS!!

Like Father Like Son

I always remember playing with Matchbox cars when I was a kid, and little diecast models still fascinate me today.  I realise I must have been fairly lacking in the imagination department as a child, cos whereas most kids probably had their cars flying off to space, defeating Decepticons and running away with She-Ra I just drove mine around and made car parks.  Perhaps that's where Alfie gets his OCD tendencies from?

Anyway, with my car parking past it gave me great pleasure to watch Alfie doing this the other day!

And yes, he does have cow print nappies!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

VSCC Spring Start 2012

Ever since we partnered our first Retro Rides event with the VSCC (5 years ago now!) I have always kept an eye on them and their events. There's just something about seeing proper old school pre and post war machinery being thrashed so it screams for mercy that you can't quite put into words.

I learnt on Twitter a few weeks ago about the VSCC 'Spring Start' event, and most notably that it also featured the Historic Grand Prix Car Association whose cars I have long wanted to see race in anger.  To be honest I thought you needed to be at an event like Silverstone Classic to see them, and as a result I figured that entrance price would be somewhat astronomical.  Upon further investigation though it appeared entrance was just £10.  That was me sold, the appeal of 50's and 60's Grand Prix cars was so strong I was even happy to miss the Villa home game!

We managed to get up and out at a good hour and arrived at Silverstone before 11am ... I love that moment you step out the car and just smell RACETRACK!

A walk through the pits revealed the awesome machinery, and I was loving the chance to get so close to such automotive rarity .... which included Stirling Moss' 1961 Monaco winner!

The pit garages really were a petrolheads dream, and there was simply too many gorgeous engines and too much stunning engineering to be able to photograph it all!

There was a lot of tinkering going on, with these mechanics clearly looking for an air leak on their Cooper T53.

 I had arranged to meet David and so we took the opportunity to sit down and watch a little of the Quali session until he arrived.

Once he joined us we took an early opportunity to grab some food, which gave David and I the chance to get some RRG planning sorted.

With hunger kept at bay and the racing about to start we made our way to Copse Corner and watched the first few races together.  With a plan of action for the years show David then choose to hit the road and with Esme shortly needing a feed it was left for Alfie and I to take in the the last few races which included the Historic Grand Prix classes.  The noise was phenomenal, as I hope this video captures!

Highlight of the day for me was the 1.5 litre Lola Mk4 which sounded immense as its 1.5 litre engine screamed out of Copse!  Sadly I didn't manage to get a shot of it whilst parked up in the pits because it looked every bit as good as it sounded!!

The fantastic thing about the VSCC is the huge mix you get of massive power in vehicles that are as heavy as a small battleship pitched against much less powerful machinery but being as nimble and as light as a hummingbird.  So heres the Napier Bentley - all 24 litres of it!  Check the annotation on the engine cover!

And these are two GN machines, a GN/JAP Grand Prix and the GN Thunderbug.  Two very different approaches to a similar idea but both that stop you dead in your tracks!

I actually had a nice chat with Richard Scaldwell who owns the GN/JAP.  He was tinkering with his clutch as he said he was having some issues with it.  Quite surprised to see him worrying about this after his race I asked him if was due back out again for one of the later races .... no, he wasn't, he needed to fix it to drive it home!!  He drives it everywhere apparently, including trips through Europe!  I do like people like that!!

As the HGPRA race came to an end the threatened showers started to arrive and so Alfie pulled both of our hoods up and we made our way back to the car to meet up with Tash and Esme and hit the road.  The day was summed up perfectly by one of the race winners who, when interviewed after winning, reported it was 'bloody good fun!'

A wonderful day was then rounded off in the evening with Alfie saying his name for the first time and Esme rolling over for the first time!  Just if every Saturday could be like that ...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

An Easter Like It Used To Be

This year Easter was spent much like how it used to be ... Good Friday wandering around Wheels Day at Rushmoor Arena near Aldershot and the Saturday at Santa Pod for Easter Thunderball.  Back in the days when Tash was racing Easter was always spend this way, except we'd be at the Pod all weekend long!

This year we had arranged so my friends Lisa and Matt at Wheels Day.  I went to Uni with Lisa, and they live close to Aldershot so its an ideal time for us to catch up ... even though it had still been some four years since we last met up!  Their daughter Holly, who was a newborn back then, was now a full freckled young girl and now there was the new addition of Anna who was born just days apart from Esme!

Thankfully the weather held at Rushmoor and we had a lovely day together.  Alfie adores playing with older kids, and Holly was an absolute sweetheart with him offering to take him on rides and most importantly being prepared to run around like a lunatic for ages on end!  And here's the proof, video AND pictures!

 As always there were some lovely cars on show, and it was just nice to be able to meander around and let the cars provide the background as opposed to the focus of the day ... I guess that's what having kids does to you!?  There were still a number that stood out and really demanded your attention, one such being The Monkeys GTO (real or rep?).

I missed a perfect photo opportunity though.  I managed to photo this Joey Ramone tribute on the rear of someones yank, but it wasn't until about half an hour later I realised Alfie was wearing his Ramones T-shirt!  Would have been a cracking photo with him grinning 'chheeeeese' next to it!

Ammie joined us at FTC that evening so as to be able to join us for the trip to the Pod on Saturday.  The forecast was a bit suspect, but the Pod always seems to have its own little weather system and so we choose to take a gamble and have a nice day watching howling V8's!

Upon arrival (and being robbed of £25 per person!) we made our way to the bank to watch a little racing and enjoy some fish and chips!  They were much needed as there was a real chill on the bank - Alfie even willingly wore a hat!

Sadly all too soon the weather turned, and with light drizzle falling the action stopped and so we chose to wander down pit lane.

There were some awesome cars in attendance, and many that I couldn't wait to see turn a wheel in anger.

Sadly every time the track nearly dried the weather drizzled again.  The precipitation cleared the air, and by the time the track was ready to go again at about 3pm both Alfie and Esme were feeling cold and so we were forced to head for home.  A real shame, especially as I had been really excited about the day for a good number of weeks, but it just wasn't to work out for us.

Thankfully it worked out for our friend Andy Frost who's Pro Mod Vauxhall Victor was to become the fastest street legal car in Europe!  Just check the video!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

March 2012 at FTC

Its another one of those occasions when I'm so far behind with my blogging that its time for something of a picture dump and a catch-up!

This is largely caused due to Bill and I fishing on the 17th where I tried out the HD video setting on the 'point and click' Canon I had recenly purchased.  Now into April I still find myself trying to edit the numerous video clips!

March was the month Tash officially became unemployed, but it also meant it was another lovely month we could all spend together as a family.  Both she and Esme were discharged from hospital, with Tash being told her heart was fine amongst rumours spreading through Bedford hospital that Esme might now be in line for a role in the next Michelin advert!
The start of the month was nice and warm and I took the opportunity to get cracking with the garden.  It always seems to go that I spend March and April working in the garden, and then once everything is planted and summer arrives I just enjoy what we've got until the following March rolls round.

To be honest the raising of the beds in the garden would have been completed a while ago but for my drill going MIA at the Gathering in August.  Since using Bills cordless Bosch I knew I had to go cordless and treated myself to a new toy from DeWalt.

I set about cutting, drilling and nailing the scaffold boards in place alongside the path outside the barn.  Following that I sorted the placement of where the step was going to locate.

And of course Alfie was close by to lend a hand suring up the location of some crucial nails.

Over the next few weeks I laid countless kilos of concrete outside the barn to level off the path and raise the path to within a few inches of the step - giving me a suitable platform for the gravel.

I'm lacking photographic evidence, but the gravel is now down in place and it all works a treat!

Meanwhile, Alfie has enjoyed chasing chickens...

Harry has enjoyed laying in the sun ...

and with the chickens frequently enjoying freedom in the garden Harry has become best of friends with one of them.  Seriously, he even lets her peck at his back!

and when not cuddled up with a chook the poor dog had a two year old trying to show his love!

Come the end of the month I'd removed the old smashed caravan window, and had hoped to have a plastic replacement sorted by the end of that week.  Sadly I was quoted close on £100 and so thats on hold at the moment.  I either need a cheaper quote or else I'm going to get a sheet of 4mm plastic and do it myself.

Of course Esme is groing up fast, hitting 4 months old during March!  Her personality is really starting to shine now, and her face simply glows when she smiles.  Its wonderful to see her with Alfie too, its so clear to see how much the adore each other.  She simply can't take her eyes off him, and he loves to give her kisses and help where he can by replacing a dummy or giving her a 'ssshhhh ssshhhh sssshhh' when she's upset.

Oh yeah, and Sherlocks happy to be home and feeding well!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Stevenage Start of Summer Specials 2012

I spoke with someone last week who is also planning a long ride this summer, from London to Paris.  He mentioned to me about a ride on the weekend from Stevenage, the middle distance being 120km/72 miles.

I had a look on Google and checked the route, and found that the ride in question was the Stevenage Start of Summer Specials - the 120km being called the 'Ugley Nasty' as it goes through the villages of Ugley and Nasty.

Now whilst the thought of doing my first properly organised 'touring' event really appealed to me I was very aware that due to yet another cold I hadn't been on a bike for nearly three weeks and 72 miles was nearly 20 miles further than my current longest distance.

By now it was Thursday but I decided I'd go for it, the weather promised to be sunny and 15 degrees so a great day for a ride.  I wanted to spin my legs over on the bike before attempting it, and so managed a 20 mile ride on Thursday and then a 25 mile ride on Saturday.  I spent a good deal of time trying to work out how long the ride would take me, and I decided to aim for 5 hours which should represent a steady ride for me. 

Come Sunday (25/03) I was at Fairlands Valley Park for about 9:30am, and managed to get myself through the various queues to get registered and acquire the necessary paperwork - including directions of the route!  I managed to get away with the 10:40am group and planned to try and tag along with a group of riders who I thought a) were about my pace and b) knew the way!

I managed to find a group of four who seemed to be at a similar pace to me and hung onto their coat tails till the first check point.  I got my card stamped and had a quick chat with the group of four and we set off once more.  As we closed in on the second check point I had dropped just a few seconds behind the group but still felt really good.  The third leg really hurt me, a few steady but long inclines had me off the back of the pack and my legs really started aching.  I decided to click down a chainring and just enjoy being out in the sunshine.  I needed a few stops to check the route and stay on track but I made it into the third check point just about 5 minutes behind the group I had been with.

We all left for the finish together and my legs felt great again.  I was with them the whole way home and we were cruising most of it at over 18 mph.  Once back in Fairlands Park I checked my time.  The clock on my computer said it had taken me 4 hours 52 minutes, and when my card received its final stamp I was told I had completed the ride in 4 hours 45 minutes!  Either way I was dead pleased and couldn't resist getting myself a certificate and a badge!

Once home I was greeted by something even better though!

The event was listed on the Audax website, something I wasn't familiar with before the weekend.  They have loads of long distance rides listed on their website and I'll definitely be doing more in the future, it really was a perfect way to spend a Sunday.

For anyone interested, heres the map of the route.