Archive for January, 2009

Jam tomorrow

I remember!

I sat down to update my blog yesterday with the intention of setting down the running tally for this bleeding driving malarkey. To get my class C (rigid/ class 2) license it cost me £2,163! Two thousand, one hundred and sixty three of Her Majesty’s pounds!

The original course (20 hours driving and a test, with medical, theory test and paperwork) was £849.

I’ve just paid out another £99 for this IAM course. So the running tally is £2,262.

I think I’ll wait until I’ve finished and passed my Advanced Motorist course before I go in for the C+E (artic/ class 1) course. If I could pass that first time it would ‘only’ be about another £850. Then I might need a digital tachometer course, a mere £35, and I would like an ADR course (hazardous materials handling course) which is about £500.

So, best case would be about £3,500. The word from the drivers at work is that Eddie Stobbarts pay their artic drivers less than £8 per hour!

However, get my C+E, get any driving job for the experience, then look (with the ADR certificate, which is valid for five years) for a job as a petrol tanker driver. This is the game plan.

I have printed off an advert from jobcentre plus. It’s for C+E driver, experience not essential, with ADR certificate for tankers. Agency work for six months, but it is £14.80 – £15.93 an hour!

I’ll have a slice of that pie, thank you very much.

I’m keeping the advert, and when I have the licenses, the ADR, and preferably a bit of experience with any artic I’ll be pestering them. Even if it is only a temporary contract with an agency, once I’ve got tanker experience on my CV, I’ll be pestering all the firms. I’m fair sure that at the end of that strike last year the government caved in and made it possible for the drivers to have big pay rises. I think the unions were saying it would put their members on £38,000 p.a., but the employers were saying it was more like £45,000. There are a bunch of oil refineries dotted all around here. Ellesmere port and Liverpool are both within commuting distance. For that kind of cash the Scottish off-shore oil fields are commutable.

Then maybe get my license for helicopters. How hard can it be? Bike, car, truck. Damn, missed a trick there, if only I’d have taken my cycling proficiency.

So that was one thing; setting up a running tally, and desperately hoping I can get a job that will pay for all the debt into which the training is putting us.

What else?

Well, I’ve been off for my long weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). It comes around every three weeks, but with the six day working it is the first I’ve had in ages. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

We nipped around Wendy’s brothers’ yesterday (Addo, on ‘my friends’). Wendy was talking to the Beth (Black Rose, ‘my friends’) who is a gothy like us, and Beth was saying she was glad she had gothy people around her when she was growing up to inform her taste. Wendy pointed out that Beths sister (Loretta, ‘my friends’) had us and her mum around her as well, but she’d grown up into playboy pink outfits. To which Beth sagely replied "Yes, but she went over to the light side." Lol!

That’s about it really. I must admit that in putting it down on ‘paper’ that stuff about how much this is all costing has me a little nervous. However, as I consoled myself in my nervous doubt about ever passing my class 2 with the thought of the driver at work’s lad taking five attempts to pass his test, I have to think that I tried a few years back to become an I.T. trained geezer.  I couldn’t get a career development loan so I couldn’t do it, but that was for about £3,000. Then last year at my Karate club one of the chaps who was a career I.T. geezer said he’d lost his job and couldn’t get another in the economic climate so was training to be a plumber.

This must be about my fourth (at least) attempt to better my job prospects (abortive I.T. training, ditto electrician, as above plumber, training to be a C.A.B. advisor with a view to a career, joining Asda as they were going to put me on management training, and now the driving) but having gained the class 2 license I have already succeeded in this one. Now I just need to keep going.

I’m going to ask that driver at work to get his lad to get me an application form for the class 2 job, I’ll keep my eye on the t’interweb for driving jobs to pay the bills and get experience, but in the meantime just stay at work, do my advanced driving, and take the artic when I can. I’m not looking forward to this year. It’s going to be more expense, the stress of the test (s) -an hour and a half test for artics-, then the hassle of interviews and blagging why they should give me the job when I have no experience, then the actually sitting in the cab, on my own, and setting off for the first time! Not looking forward to that with any sense of joy. But hopefully this time next year all of the above stress will be behind me, I’ll be wondering what all the fuss was about, and I’ll be raking in a decent wage.

Right, bed-time. Back to the toil tomorrow.

Live long and prosper,

Buck.

IAM, I’m me

Hello, I’m back. I’ve finally come down off my ‘pass’ high, well, a bit. I’ve got the paperwork through for that IAM (Institute of Advanced Motoring) jobby, with the accompanying ‘How not to drive like a muppet’ book. Apparently it’s to teach you how to drive like a copper. I’m not up to the chapter on mastering a Masonic handshake whilst drunk, but most of what I have read so far is fairly obvious. Common sense and the basics you were taught in driving lessons. Just a matter of applying it at all times. So that’s looking promising. Doubtless my next blog will be entitled ‘101 things I didn’t know about driving’, after I take my assessment.

I’ve posted a new photo’ of Wendy’s new kit from the Dark Angel. Which reminds me; (as in the photo’ she’s stood on the new flags I had to lay) my bloody kick bag! I got it for about £20 off th’eBay but she who must be obeyed wouldn’t let me hang it in the spare room. So I had to buy a big bracket, (which doubled the price, with P&P) and hang it outside. Did that, as I mentioned in an earlier blog. When it stopped raining I went into the garden to kick the crap out of it. Only to find that for the correct kicking distance I had to stand with my back foot off the flags and on the muddy garden. Also if I did a front or back kick the bag hit the very abrasive brick wall. So I had to put that on hold whilst I went and got some flags, sand, and a smooth back plate for the bag (tripling the price of the bag!). Laid and fitted them yesterday, then kicked seven bells out the bag. Oh indeedy yes! That was fun, did some more today. My feet are all bruised and battered, and my hands a bit scraped and swollen, but it feels good.

I’m sure I’ve not mentioned what I came on here to say, but I can’t think what it could be, it’s midnight and the Wendster has to go god-bothering in the morning so will be making ‘STOP TYPING, NOW!’. sounds any second. So it’s beddy bo’s for Bucky.

Later,

Buck.

It’s a boy!

Wrong congrats card there, it’s actually a pass!

It was horrible as usual, an hour of pure stress and nerves. I drove up to Liverpool and I wasn’t too bad, I thought. I had yet another instructor taking me up there, a woman this time. She was OK, but she set the cones too close together when I asked to practise my reverse, so it was really hard and I made a balls-up of my first attempt. Not the way to inspire confidence. On the other hand, she did inspire confidence in another way. Instead of being there watching every move you make straight off the bat she said " the keys are in the truck, you take it round and reverse it into place, I’ll set up the cones."

I was waiting for her to come out and keep her eye on me but she didn’t so I drove off on my own. So that was good, first time in the truck for over a month and I was setting off on my own.

I drove it too Liverpool, and was OK, but by no means wonderful. Then I got there and found out it was Donna who was going to be my examiner. It was she who failed me the first time, with a record number of faults marked. She is supposed to be the easiest person to pass with though (Don’t tell her I said so) and although I made a few mistakes I didn’t clip any pavements, run over any pedestrians, or crash the truck. So by the end of that seemingly interminable hour I still wasn’t sure which way it had gone.

I was even more nervous because although she did take me on some narrow roads, and make me take the truck around some hideously sharp corners (where if you don’t watch out you swing the front end out nice and wide, start to straighten up, then the pavement juts out a bit and you clip it and fail) and presumably I did all the requisite exercises, but I felt everyone else took me on worse routes. I was thinking that if I hadn’t passed with Donna, on such a relatively easy course, maybe I really wasn’t going to pass, ever.

Then she said I’d passed!

She went on to tell me it was by the skin of my teeth (15 minor driver errors, 16 is a fail) but by that time I was beaming. She asked if I’d done any training since my last test, I said I hadn’t. She told me she would never take a test without practising first (fine if you have infinite cash) but that she was willing to look beyond how I’d done to how I would be in practise. She had felt safe and that the truck was under control the whole time, so I would be safe to drive and polish my technique on the road.

Although Donna is supposed to be the easiest one to pass with, I still think that a pass is a pass. The point of the test is to judge whether a person can drive a truck. Not whether given a few years of crashing into things that person would become competent.

I’m not trying to play down the (15) little mistakes I made (such as being focused on braking down and getting into the right gear for a stop at red lights, and as I’m changing down they’ve changed to green, so I was having to almost stop then start again, instead of flowing forward) but I don’t want to detract from my achievement either.

Anyone who has had to sit through a driving test knows it is about as stressful as  is humanly possible. An hour. One single lapse of concentration over a whole hour is all it takes. One mistake deemed serious and it’s game over.

That was my fourth hour of torture.

I passed, me!

So now I have to wait for the DVLA to return my license (with it’s shiny new entitlement to drive rigid trucks, a provisional license to train in artic trucks, and hopefully that  11 year old drink/drive endorsement removed) then I can decide what to do.

A  young chap at work was saying he, his brother, and lots of people he knows all went to the same guy for instruction and all passed with relative ease. I believe that would be possible. If I’d have had one of the two really good instructors I’ve been trained by the whole time I think I would have passed earlier. As it was I had every Tom, Dick and Harry that drifted through the company. To have one, good instructor take you the whole way sounds like the best bet.

I’ll inquire. My only reservation would be where he tests. I’ve had four tests at Symondswood, Liverpool, and have got to know the roads and nasty traps around there. A different test centre might disadvantage me.

So, in work tomorrow, find out how many holidays I have left, await the return of my license, and plan my next move. The main thing is I now have a truck license! No more training or tests for rigid trucks. That is under my belt.

Donna also said I would be best to take an advanced driving course (in the Micra) the skills acquired from which would be instantly transferable to truck driving. This sounds like sterling advice. A lot cheaper than truck training lessons, should polish off all the little faults I was picked up on and prepare me for the final big push; the artic.

I don’t know if I’m  happy to have the license or just relieved I don’t have to do it again!

Happy days.

Buck.

Groundhog day

Here we go again, test tomorrow! I’ve not been in a truck for about a month so I am in the self-doubt part of the unending driving test cycle.

The pattern is thus; self doubt, bad nerves and uneasy sleep the night before, tense, controlled panic before getting in the truck again, slowly relaxing driving to the test centre, hideous barely controlled panic as the test begins, resignation when I make a mistake and think I’ve failed, more resignation when I have failed, appraisal, then an unfounded optimism that I could easily correct those silly mistakes.

And repeat.

I have been battling with the thought that I can’t pass. I combat it with the thought that although the long established drivers at work may have passed in one or two attempts the test was easier then. Also the fact that one of the drivers has a lad who took his training and only passed it last year, on his fifth attempt. So although I may be struggling, it’s no more than he was doing and at the fifth asking he passed. Tomorrow is attempt number four for me.

I know what I did wrong last time, and I won’t fall into any of the little traps they have set before. It is possible. I just need a clean run. Once I’ve got the bloody license all will be well. I can run people over left, right, and centre and no one will bat an eyelid. Well, maybe not too many pedestrians, too often but you see what I mean.

Watch this space.

I have other stuff to relate but it will have to wait until tomorrow, can’t focus on anything but the cyclic nature of my worry and worry-combating thoughts.

Later,

Buck.

Moving goalposts

Hello again.

I was window shopping on eBay the other day, as usual it was stuff I hadn’t even considered I wanted prior to seeing it, but immediately realised my life would be incomplete without it. For instance a red oak bo (a quarterstaff). Although since seeing "Monkey" as a kid I have always had a desire to be able to whirl a  bo like a cheerleader on speed, I have never taken a lesson, would not know where to begin, and in all reality would almost certainly never be called upon to use such a skill if I could acquire it. Still I realised upon seeing it that I really needed a red oak bo. And worse, one item invariably leads to another (a black silk Kung Fu suit from China, must have!). Then I stumbled across a Chinese supplier of ‘cheap’ (still over £200) saxophones!

Suddenly I had a flashback to when I was about 20 years old. My ambitions in life were; to become a black belt, own a Harley Davidson chop (stylised customisation) and own and be able to play a saxophone like ‘Blue Lou’ in the Blues Brothers.

I’m 42 years old and I have finally started down the road to achieving my young dreams. The black belt (s) are only a matter of time and sweat. When I get a well paid driving job I will be getting back on two wheels, and it just so happens as well as being the loveliest bikes on the road, Harley’s are about one of the slowest. A chop being slower yet, so not as much danger to life, license and livelihood. And now I’ve remembered, as soon as the money starts coming in I’m going to get a sax again, and learn how to play the damn thing.

Sad in a way that two out of my three ambitions were manufactured for me by Hollywood! Bruce Lee (who followed on from Monkey as a martial arts hero) the unbeatable fighter, and Blue Lou, a long haired geezer who’s one laudable attribute was the ability to make a sax sing. This is coolness young person, emulate!

Although the media have always banged on about Harley’s being cool, it was being given a lift home on a friends bike that sold me on them, and indeed motorcycling.

Hmm, more worldly desires. Things are looking challenging in the Buddha field.

My bracket (from which to hang the punch/kick bag) finally arrived this morning. I ordered it on the 29th of December. I was waiting patiently, as I was under the impression it was coming from Scotland, and the racial stereotype says all Scots will be drunk throughout the whole of December. It got to the 5th though and I was getting a bit miffed. Then I went back on the website and discovered it was coming from Staffordshire, and the geezer running the firm speaks English, Urdu, and Punjabi! Now that’s a whole other kettle of fish! The stereotype for Indian / Pakistani chaps is one of industrious service. I wrote an email and it arrived the next day. I suppose my order had been lost in the holiday season.

So I spent  a few hours today sorting out the garden so I could hang the bag, and wandering around B&Q wondering how in hell I was going to construct an  awning to keep the bag dry. In the end I gave up, I think I would have had to resort to woodwork, at which I am slightly better than breathing underwater.

So much ado about very little. Still the frame is up, and holds my weight, so when it stops raining I’m ready to set to kicking.

I’m off to TKD tonight, so I’m not too disappointed about not getting to kick it today.

Right, offski,

Buck.

New Year, same ol’ same ol’

Here we are again. Another new year. Everything changes but stays the same. "Change is the only constant."  "Have you always thought that?" To quote from the genius of Iain M. Banks.

2009! It only seems like yesterday that Prince was anticipating the millennium and saying "tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1999."

*looks around the internet, sighs. Remembers when all of this was fields*

And,… we’re back in the room! Sorry, senior moment there.

So, first of the new year. "How did the last year rate in the grand scheme of things Bucky?" I hear you cry. Not so bad actually.

’07 was a hideous year, anus horrible-us, so to speak. Everything was poor, Wendy had all those accidents and was in and out of hospital then lost her job, I had to quit my training for CAB, leave my job and start nights, then was laid off. I was then working nights for an agency at not much more than my hourly rate at Asda, and without the security of a real job. All in all the only upside was that I gave up the beer. And stuck to the martial arts. I am not at the original club I joined, but I went straight to a different flavour of martial arts and have maintained the training.

I didn’t do so well with the meditation. The interest in Buddhism that it sparked has remained though.

Also I was taken-on full-time at work which, after the debacle of the freezer, has proved a boon. It has given me security, a wage that pays the bills, and the incentive to train to become a HGV driver. Whilst not rushing unduly I am making progress towards that goal.

The other ‘onward and upward’ theme of ’08 was Wendy’s. She has given up the beer with me, sorted out her medication (and not had a seizure all year! It  had got to be every week or so in the nadir of ’07) and has returned to the Citizens Advice Bureau. Only as a volunteer, but in a proving-herself-hale-and-hearty capacity.

So, to summarise, ’07 sucked bottom, but large. ’08 has been a slow but steady progression. We are not in the same league as we were this time last year, not even the same sport (to steal from ‘Pulp Fiction’).

As for ’09; I’ll pass my driving test (s) and get a massively well paid job, (then hopefully be able to pay off the debt accumulated in paying for the unending lessons) Wendy will be back at CAB as a paid advisor ,(which won’t harm our finances any) I will be getting another four belts at Taekwondo, at least three in Wing Chun Kung Fu and I really need to start going to the Buddhist temple in Manchester.

Right here, right now my job’s OK (I was overly sensitive last time I posted. Now the boss is back at work it’s all reasonable.) I have finally got over that tendon/ muscle issue in my shin (first days training today for about a fortnight, and I’ve not stiffened up that much. Still doing turning kicks at head height!) and now I have a 5′, 100lb punch/ kick bag! As soon as the hanging bracket gets here I will be having big kicking fun. Oh, we are back to normal at work now as well, so five days a week, which means I was off today after all.

As for new years resolutions; it’s just to keep on doing what I’m doing. (TKD, Kung Fu, training every day and trying to get my driving licenses.) The only other thing is to get to the temple in Manchester and get back to my meditating. Buddha wants me for a sunbeam.

So that’s it. Like a karmic yo-yo we’ve slammed into the very depths of badness and are bouncing right back up again. With what we’ve learned there is no ceiling to our rebound. We are approaching escape velocity (and are still too geeky!)

I wish the same for any and all who read this.

Happy 2009 to us one and all.

Buck.