Month: September 2012

Bah.

After my last entry, saying how I’d banged that reverse in without breaking a sweat, the rest of the week I made a meal of it. I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t working. On Friday I watched as another driver set to it. I was reversing the trailer down the middle of the road, swinging the arse end up to the posts and trying to wriggle it in from there. He drove from the far side of the road and swung the back as wide as possible. He was more or less lined up whilst still eight feet from the posts. Loads of room to straighten up and correct without worrying about hitting anything. I’ll try that tomorrow.

I’ve got the directions in my head for both drops now. All I have to do is crack that reverse. When I’m confident about that I think I’ll be applying for a new job. I’ll be competent in all respects of the job then. I mean, I can get it done now, but I want to be able to bang it in first go, knowing that the side I can’t see is not going to hit anything. That’s still my biggest problem, having the confidence to back in at an angle.

This is brilliant practise for that. I have warehouse lads to shout if I’m going to hit something. Ideal. That is the game plan, then; crack this reverse, apply for new job.

I want one because the hours on this one are shite. I ended up finishing at 3am twice last week. That’s not good if you can’t sleep so well in the daytime. And there’s the problem with it being a ‘self-employed sub-contractor’ job. I’ve still not paid any taxes and have no idea where I stand. I fear next April is going to be horrific.

 

In other news Wendy has caught a vile bug. She was off sick on Friday, spent all yesterday throwing up and has moped about the place, ghastly ill, all day today. Now I think I’m coming down with it. This is far from ideal as it’s my trails half marathon (up the stupidly steep hills around Rivington) next Saturday. Bugger.

 

I am all kitted out for Winter cycling now but I’ll not be riding in until I feel better. Not even feeling properly bad yet, just weak and hot/cold. They had a special in Aldi on Thursday. All cycling gear. I got a shedload. I turned up at 8am, on a workday, (having got up especially after little sleep) and by 8.02 (when they finally opened the doors) there was a queue outside. I was caught out last time when Lidl had a special on. By the time I got there, two hours after opening, it was mostly all gone. This time I was prepared. My mate on Twitter tipped me off that it was coming in.

Just look at the goodies! Winter cycling tights, waterproof jacket and trousers, socks, gloves, winter coat (x2, the red and blue) and two long sleeve Autumn/ Spring tops (or under the Winter coat layers.)

It was a bit of a dear do, but they are all such bargains that I couldn’t resist. The winter tops are £45+ each elsewhere, £15 at Aldi, the waterproof £30-50, £15. The tops £30 each, £10…

My game plan now is to get rid of this bug, let some air out of my front tyre so I’ve got some grip (it’s slipped out a few times in the rain, most unnerving!) take off my tri bars until Spring (wider hand positions, more control in case of front end slippage) and take off the clip-in pedals and replace them with  the toe-clip ones the bike came with. That way I should have all the kit to cycle to work through the worst of the weather, have some grip and control, and be able to get my foot down if I’m about to fall off. Armed with all of that I have no excuses.

All that kit, if it does enable me to ride in every day, is the best economical investment ever. I’ve been driving in (as I was being lazy and it was pissing it down) and it’s costing about £46 in ten days in petrol! OK, that included a run to Rivington and one to Frodsham, but bloody hell it’s a dear do.

 

Talking of investments, did I mention we had to bin our old DVD player? I pre-ordered the DVD box set of The Avengers (Marvel comics films, not Steed and Mrs Peel) as we loved Avengers Assemble so much. It’s another brilliant success by Joss Whedon. Well, it’s another brilliant film by Joss, the other brilliant work he’s done has not been that much of a success. Anywho, we got the box set, Wendy set to watching it while I was at work, and it was sticking. I assumed it wouldn’t be a brand new DVD so looked at a replacement player. I saw we could get a blue ray player for under £70 so we’ve upgraded. Bloody spiffy bit of kit. Apparently as well as (obviously) playing blue ray discs it automatically upgrades the quality on DVD’s. Cool. Now we need a blue ray film to see if it’s as life-changingly marvellous as they say.

 

Also, but this very day, I’ve ordered a new computer! Finally!

Mandy and Luke gave us this one years back. They said it was old and needed upgrading then.  I’ve been covetously eyeing a replacement for a while. Whilst Luke was staying with us it became painfully apparent how old this one was. He could burn off a disc in 20 minutes or something, this blighter was taking 3 or 4 hours. There are big files called .MKV files that people use  increasingly as they hold more detail but which this PC can’t run. My ‘phone can run them. That’s sad.

So I’ve bit the bullet and bought a Chilliblast Obsidian computer. Chilliblast have won PC Pro’s best stack award for the last 3 years so it should be good. It’s only the basic model, without the monitor it’s costing £466, but as Luke said, whatever I get will seem a million times better than this old beast.

We can’t afford it. Which is to say, we don’t have the money in the bank, it will have to go into the authorized overdraft thing, but what the hell, if I’m working nearly 60 hours a week (and I am, goddamit!) we’ll pay that off in a week or two. Then it’s got.

Everything bought that I want/ need. I have running kit, cycling kit, and wetsuit (I need some new trunks, admittedly but that’s not going to break the bank) and I’m in next year’s Outlaw.

We have a decent telly and blue ray player for Wendy to indulge her O.C.D., and now I’ll have a spiffy new computer to indulge my obsession. Yay!

Talking of which, my favourite tweets for the week have been;

“Children are heavy sleepers. Paint their faces to look like each other for fun and existential terror.”

“Me: Your shoes are on the wrong feet. 4 year old:…. Me:….. 4 year old:… Me:…. 4 year old: I don’t have any other feet. Me: fair enough.”

Then there this all over Twitter; the caption was “Who would have thought two hula hoops in a cup of coffee would be so beautiful?”

Twitter couldn’t let it rest there so the riposte was “Who would have thought that two hula hoops in some hair clippings could be so beautiful?”

 

I love Twitter.

 

Oh, the other news, I got my police report back, “No live trace.”  So I’ve had to email the coppers for whatever details they can provide, when I get that back I have to chase down the courts for crime, sentence, fine, date, etc . Then I can apply for an interview in London at the American embassy. If they clear me I can send away to the Canadians. And pay between $200 – $1,000 for them to do the paperwork!

Hassle.

That’s all the exciting news for now. Best go and pat Wendy in her illness.

Later,

Buck.

New job.

Just a quick one. I had my first crack at my new run yesterday. I went to some hideous one horse town on Friday, end of the M65, Barnoldswick, Lancashire. Tight as buggery getting in, stupidly tight crossroads to turn down, scary tight bays. It seems that is going to be a regular feature on my new run. I didn’t do it yesterday, (Monday) but I heard them saying that I was to take returns there today. Ace.

My truck driving instructor gave me a tip, he said if you see a railing on the pavement on the corner of a turn it’s a visual clue. It’s been put there to protect pedestrian. ie, it is so tight there is a good chance your trailer will mount the pavement. The crossroads going into Barnoldswick has railings on all four corners. And re-enforcing stumps before them.

It is tight.

You have to drive in to the oncoming lane, take all of it, and then swing in. That *just* gets you around the corner. To add to the fun there is a cop shop on one of the corners, so there’s no getting away with a hit.

So that’s fun.

 

The run I was told I was doing, and that I did yesterday, was set off from Irlam, run down to Crewe, pick up a trailer and take it to Cowley, Oxfordshire, then come back.

I was thinking it wasn’t going to last long as a job. I couldn’t understand why you would pay someone to start in Irlam, run down solo (without a trailer) to Crewe (an hour’s wages and diesel) before starting the run. Why not just get someone from Crewe to do it? If I have to take returns up to Barnoldswick first that makes sense.

 

My first run yesterday, then. I drove into Crewe, (I went there on Friday as well, so that was easy enough to find) and was told to shunt a trailer onto a bay as they were going to put my load onto a different trailer. OK, fair enough. I picked up the trailer, drove around to a bay and was just about to start to back on when I saw the main transport manager had come out to watch me. As it was my first run for him I thought he’d come out to assess me. The skill in artic driving is 95% in the reverse. No pressure then. I reversed it on in one, then took a little shunt to straighten it up a bit. Not too shabby.

It turns out they have a H&S system in place there, whereby someone from the office has to physically unlock the bays when the trailer had been made safe. ie, when the driver’s keys have been handed in, or in this case, when I’d dropped it and pulled away from it. He wasn’t there to judge me. D’oh!

That went about as well as can be expected. Which is to say; it took me about an hour just to get out of the yard. Then a quick tootle down to Cowley. Because the M6 from Irlam to Crewe was so congested I was really up against it, trying to beat my tacho. By law you have to take a forty five minute break after four and a half hours driving.  I got into the site with about eight minutes to spare and then they said I had to back it into the warehouse. They have two doorways cut into the side of the warehouse. There is enough room to back in, but it’s not what you’d call comfortable.

The bitch of it is; you can’t drive forward, get it straight and reverse in. You have to start your reverse on a two lane road at 90 degrees to the doorway. They had trucks parked on the road as well. *sobs* When I was driving out there was just enough room for me to get my trailer level with the posts then put it on full lock. Getting it reversed in was … challenging.

Especially as I was against the clock. I did it in about three minutes. As you can see from the pic, there was stuff to the left and right of the straight-reverse position, so I couldn’t swing wide and straighten up inside the warehouse.

When I got out (and finished shaking) the guys were saying that it was bloody good driving, apparently that was the harder of the doors (thanks for telling me!) and they’d had drivers take fifty minutes to get in.

This is my final weakness in my driving. I’ve mastered the blind side reverse, backing on to bays (ha! We laugh at backing on to bays!) now it’s just the ninety degree reverse. It’s having the confidence to put your arse end in when you can only see one side. Now I am going to get nightly practice. I was saying to Wendy, if I believed in such, it’s like I’ve been given the daily blind side reverse to do until I mastered it, now I’ve been given practice at my last weakness. 

There was a run for Stobbarts where you had to do a ninety degree reverse into a parking bay with no room to straighten up. I simply couldn’t do it. I was going backwards and forwards, sweating and flapping, getting nowhere. One of the other drivers ended up getting out and talking me back and even then the driver in the bay next to me had to pull out to give me more room to swing in. That was about December-ish. Last night I banged it in.

Now there’s just the small matter of doing it every night. Without ever getting it wrong. No pressure.

I say my final weakness, there is also the small matter of being terrified of finding anywhere new. With the help of my truckers map, satnav and ‘phone satnav I can do it no problem. It must just be a residual terror from the Stobbart days when I was really shit and flapping. God that was a shit time. If I’d have had any realistic option then I wouldn’t be trucking now. That was like a barely controlled panic attack the whole time. Horrible, horrible.

Well, once again my ‘just a quick one’ has bloated out.

Later,

Buck.

Hmmm.

Strange things are afoot at the circle K, to quote the philosophers Bill and Ted.

It had got to Friday morning and I thought I’d better start looking for other jobs. I rang one at Asda, early starts and good money but not ideal as the hours were “8 – 48” per week. If you got one shift  in a week you’d be broke, then there’s the hanging by the telephone… less than perfect but I rang anyway as they were desperate for drivers, shifts and times to suit you. No-one answered the ‘phone. *sigh*  

Still not too arsed, loads of jobs about. One would take me on, however poor the pay and conditions. Some advertising “meets minimum wage.” Not exceeds, meets. For a class 1 driver. Cheeky bastards.

I went in Friday for my last shift and the guy who was in charge of HDS (Home Delivery Service, not that that’s important) before they moved it to another site, (taking my job with them, bastards!) asked me if I was available next week. I said I was. Would I like to do a different run, starting in Irlam at 1400, pick up in Crewe, down to Kent, get tipped and reloaded, back to Crewe, trailer swap then back to Irlam.

Shit hours, 1400 till probably 0100 –0200 ish, but it pays the bills. I said I’d do it. I asked if it was just for the week and he said, “No, it’s ongoing”. Hmmm.

 

In several respects this is fantastic news. I don’t have to worry about money, or dicking about with agencies calling day and night wanting you to start at an hour’s notice, and, most importantly, if I’m doing the same run each time I only have to find it once. They sent me to two different places on Friday. I really don’t like it. It’s the only way I’m going to learn, but it is nerve racking for me. One of the new places was Crewe, so I only have to find one place and I’m set up for as long as this contract lasts.

 

The down sides are not inconsiderable though; for one I’ll not see Wendy from Monday morning until Saturday morning. Sorry, apart from a few hours on Wednesday, her day off. If I’m cycling in and back I’ll need a shower before bed, noisy at that time in the morning with Wendy trying to sleep. It is not much fun for me, either. I’d much prefer an early start, early finish. Then there’s the training. I can’t do swimming lessons in the evening as I’ll be working them all.

 

Needs must.

 

There is a local swimming baths that opens at dinner time. If I re-join Warrington tri club (and actually attend this time) they run a Saturday swim with a qualified swimming instructor, perhaps he could train me. So I could get lessons at the weekend, apply stuff learned during the week.

I’ve sussed a nice course for the bike ride. Instead of wasting energy on a 70 mile ride with only one lap of the evil hill ascent at Rivington I’ve plotted a 20 mile lap that is just the hill, up and down, and the ride back to the start. I tried it out yesterday. It’s do-able. I left it a bit late going, and I wanted a run as well, so I only did one lap, then a run up the hill and back down. Enough to get you sweating. If I go early  and start with, say, three laps and a run I’ll soon be up to speed.

Today I did that 20 mile run from just over the swing bridge on Walton drag to the top of Frodsham hill and back. My legs felt pretty good. Considering I’m only four runs away from 10 milers. I’ve done three 13 milers then last week a 50% step up to 20 miles. Once you’ve done it, less is, well, …less.

Still a poor time, 2:47.09, but I picked the pace up several times going up hill. That’s good.

 

Still not got the report back from the coppers, so no movement on the Canada front. They are giving Wendy problems over her passport. Want proof of name changes.

 

Strange days indeed.

Right, I’m knackered. If anything interesting has happened in the week my brain is not recalling it.

Later,

Buck.