Tuesday, 7 November 2017

PhotoBucket

When I first started posting on the web I found that I sometimes wanted to post a picture / photograph, as on this blog and then later when I developed my website I need to post even more photos. After a good search around I decided upon PhotoBucket which offered photo hosting for free. Then after a few years they introduced charging.

So I bit the bullet and started paying a modest annual fee. Then the hits on this blog and the web site meant that I hit band width problem with PhotoBucket, and the annual fee went up.

So again I bit the bullet and paid the increased (but still modest) annual fee. I correctly maintained my account registering changes as they applied, including a change of email address.

Yesterday I received an email from PhotoBucket advising me that I have 30 days to upgrade my account. While I find the new charge rates unpalletable what has really got me is that since I changed my email address they have obviously been sending emails to my old (dead) email account. How and why this final notice got through I have yet to determine but the fact that over 2 years since I made the change on my account PhotoBucket still haven't updated their systems.

So do I again bite the bullet and pay the increased charges at x3 what I am currently paying? No! I have a whole shed load of work to do but I am setting about moving the PhotoBucket hosted pictures and photos to another host site and leave PhotoBucket to shut down my long running account. And I have lest than 30 days to do it....

Sunday, 10 September 2017

All change - cars

Mrs C decided that she wanted to change her car in August and finally found a Kia Sportage KZ3 1.7 CRDi that she liked and decided to buy. First off she intended to trade her Peugeot 207cc against the Kia, but we finally decided that a much more sensible financial solution was for her to trade in my Mazda6 and for me to pay her the difference between it and the Peugeot which had only 29,100 miles on its odometer while my Mazda6 had 104,500 miles under its wheels.

And so the deal was done. Sue is loving her new SUV while I am having fun in what was her, but is now my, Peugeot 207cc. All my mates rib me about me driving a "hair dresser's" car but I've found that a cloth cap fits the bill and generates amusement as Dave and I found when we were caught up on a drive down to Nuneaton by a couple of young ladies in another steel roof convertible (we were both driving roof down).

So the Mazda has gone and is sorely missed but the Peugeot is proving to be good fun and generates smiles, which is more important.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Holidays

We love our holidays, always have, and 2017 is turning into a good year...

March - we flew out to Geneva, picked up a hire car and drove to Pubier which was to be our base for a week of touring Switzerland and France. Blessed with fine weather we had a great time.

May - this time a long haul 12.5 hour flight with our friends Sue & Norman care of Malaysia Airlines to Kuala Lumpur followed by a short 2.5 hour flight on Vietnam Airways to Hanoi, the start point for our adventure. Ha Long Bay cruise with a night on board was an antidote to the madness that is Hanoi and worth the 3 hour (each way) minibus drive. Next up, a flight to Da Nang and a minibus to Hoi An for some rest on the beach and round the pool with evenings exploring the Old Town and it's eateries, tailors and lantern sellers as well as the street markets. Another flight and we are is Saigon (don't try and be PC and call it Ho Chi Minh City, it won't endear you to anybody) to conclude our time in Vietnam as the next flight takes us to Siam Reap before our final internal flight to Phnom Penh. I'll post more details at a later date....

September - Already sorted, a break in Madeira to just chill and relax with our friends Carloe & Giuseppe. Bring it on.

SIPP Update

Its is nearly a year since my last SIPP update, so what has happened?

Well overall the situation has not changed much, but the news is not good. The IFA that advised me to move all my 'little' pensions into one SIPP and then on the subsequent investments has been barred by the FSA (Financial Services Authority) / FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) from operating as an IFA so at least he won't be bankrupting any more in my situation.

So, I have had to engage another IFA who is trying to help me out but it is a complicated situation and is going to take a long time to unravel. In the meantime more of my investments has gone bust, ceased trading or have had to undertake considerable restructuring, which means that my original 'investment pot' of £176,000 is now worth in the region of £55,000. My question therefore to the FSA / FCA is this... "Who the hell are you protecting?" Certainly not the small investor like me. From where I sit it looks like the organisation is protecting those that run off with and/or misappropriate funds to line their own pockets at the expense of the small investor.

I'll stop there for now, I'm too angry to finish this post for now....

Thursday, 12 January 2017

On reflection - 2016

The start of a new year is the time to look back and review the year just gone. I have to say that 2016 was actually quite a good year for us and our family. My change of job at the end of 2015 was a leap of faith but 2016 proved it to be the correct move at the right time and it has worked out better than could have been reasonably expected. Holidays, we enjoyed more than a few. Pitlochry in March followed by Zante and Ibiza later in the year and Sue went to Iceland on a hen do at the end of November.

So now we are booked for a short break in Geneva (tourist and touring) in March and a two week holiday to Vietnam & Cambodia in May. Probably fit in another week somewhere in September if the money holds out. We have two weddings to go to in the same weekend at the end of January and goodness knows how many miles I will drive for UoD and where my job will take me.

So we wish all family, friends and colleagues (past, present and future) a happy and prosperous 2017. Here's hoping it is a great year for us all.

Changes in the "Bike" world

So with the new year 2017 now well and truly with us the effects on motorcycle manufacturers product line for the year have been revealed with the Euro 4 laws coming into force. As usual most manufacturers are taking the opportunity to rationalise their line-up, dropping the poor sellers. The full picture can be read in these two articles on BikeSocial:

BikeSocial: In Memorium and BikeSocial: Rest in peace

According to the first of these 2 articles it is a surprise that the VFR1200F, Honda’s great hope just a handful of years ago, is being killed off. Well EXCUSE ME but if you check back in my blog to when it was released in 2010 you will see that I dubbed it "the bike nobody wanted nor asked for", and so it has turned out. Good initial sales quickly tailed off and it just never proved as popular as the Blackbird that it replaced. So, no, I am not going to dance on its grave but I am not going to mourn its passing either. Might just raise a glass to the Suzuki Bandit (both 1250 and 650 versions) as it passes into history because unlike the VRF1200 the Bandit (RIP) was iconic, a real world motorbike for real bikers with a strong and loyal following.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Motorcyclist fatalities

Motorcyclists account for just 1% of total road traffic yet account for 19% of all road deaths.

Well yesterday I drove a minibus into central London and as a motorcyclist I was gob smacked at the antics I saw. Had one "biker" get seriously upset with me when I inadvertently went to make a lane change not seeing him in my blind spot even though I was being especially vigalent with my mirrors and peripheral vision. Many of the riders I saw were simply "suicide jockeys” preparing to become donors, just hope they have signed up to allow their organs to be given to someone who will value them more than they do.

Friday, 1 July 2016

SIPP update

All my working life I have contributed into whatever pension scheme was available to me through my employer thereby taking advantage of employer contributions on top of my own. Then a little over 5 years ago I was engaged by an IFA who came highly recommended through a number of personal recommendations. However, after following advice given and making recommended investments things started to unravel. The main investment turned out to be a scam and the next biggest investment in Verdant Australian Farmland turns out to be semi-barren drought plagued land returning a total of Aus $240 over the 5 years I've had it - I'd have got a better return leaving the money in a current account.

Mentally I've written off this loss of over £80k, but at the same time I've engaged a legal team to seek compensation or recover whatever monies they can. There are no promises and my hopes are on the pessimistic side of reality and reality is that I will be doing well if I recover 50% of that figure.

Meanwhile, I am still enjoying my driving job with University of Derby, the free time it allows me, the income it provides (not what I've been used to but keeps me off the homeless list) and the opportunities that not working 9am - 5pm provides.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Driving for a living

Well I have now been driving for a living for a little over 6 months and it is going well. So far I have driven virtually new cars from a Fiat 500 to a VW Sharan 2.0 TDi. The new Vauxhall Zafiras are an eye opener, so much better than the previous model, with the 1.4 twin turbo being a gas guzzler (at 34mpg) and the 1.6 CTDi being a much better bet at 48mpg while delivering roughly the same performance on the road. I'm not impressed with the lower powered versions of the Ford Fiesta but the ones delivering over 100bhp seem to move well enough.

Getting away from the cars, the mini buses are my favourites. Vauxhall Vivaro 9 seaters in basic format are disappointing as they don't have cruise control, pasking sensors or air con and even if up-spec'd to include those features their interiors ar all rubber mats and very workman like while the equivalent Ford Tourneo is a much nicer place to be with a decent stereo, carpets and better noise deadening.

Moving up to the 12, 15 and 17 seaters - most I have driven have been based on the new Ford Transit. Most have air con and the larger engined ones producing 125bhp are pokey enough for most situations and have a lovely gearbox. Handling is better on the ones with twin wheels on the rear axle but even without they are comfortable enough. I'm told that fuel consumption is roughly 27mpg but they do have a thirst for the AdBlue additive. The only feature I'm not impressed with is the anti-stall which regularly does exactly the opposite, cutting in and stalling in the most inappropriate places (often roundabouts).

And then there is the VW Crafter that is roughly 6 years old and is nearing 100,000 miles. It has had a rough old life and the driving experience reveals it's age. While the engine is strong the gearbox harks back to another age. Think Dennis 'crash' gearboxs and you're not far from the experience, which isn't a nice one. It has a low 'crawler' first gear and should normally pull from stationary in 2nd gear, but I have found it safer to use 1st and then short shift into 2nd for best results. It's a rattly old bus and frequently needs attention to keep it on the road (it is by far the least reliable bus on the fleet) but I do have a bit of a soft spot for it despite everything.

While the 9 seaters can be driven without a digital tachograph (Driver Card) anything bigger requires one. Obtaining one was straight forward, quick and painless. Getting used to using one is a bit hit and miss. A couple of times I have left it in the minibus at the end of the job and had to make a trip to fetch it back and return it to my wallet. And of course, you have to observe driving hours rules which can be a pain. Still, it adds a bit of spice and interest to those longer trips. Day trips to central London in the 9 seater is quicker on the dreary motorways but urban driving has to be done outside the bus lanes and is therefore a pain. In the bigger minibuses the motorway sections are a drag at 100kmph / 62mph but urban driving using bus lanes is a boon, except for those that are marked 'local buses' which for me are a no go area.

Jobs have been pretty plentiful with February through to May being good but I'm never going to get rich doing it. June has been a bit quiet but July and August are looking as if they will be very quiet with jobs few and far between - only time will tell but June and July together aren't looking as good as May was, hence no blog posts since April as I was kept pretty busy. Still, at least I get more "me time", which I will cover in a later post.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Whisky

Up to now I have steered clear of detailing or expanding on my fondness for whisky, which extends to whiskey and bourbon. What's the difference I hear you ask? Well whisky (without the 'e') is produce of Scotland while whiskey (with the 'e') is produced anywhere outside of Scotland while bourbon is distilled from rye not barley.

Dalwhinnie 15yo and Aberlour 10yo

One thing I will make clear - I am not a whisky snob! I simply enjoy whisky, some more than others. All Scotch whisky has to have been aged in the cask for a minimum of 3 years and after the oil industry whicky production and sales are Scotlands biggest cash earner.

On the left, Auchentoshan American Oak - interestingly, no years aged data.

The pictures above show some of the brands currently on my shelves and which will be on the receiving end of my attentions over the next few months.

End of March, another milestone

How cool is this? Suzie treated me to a week in Pitlochry with the family in a rented bungalow which we used as a base for walking, touring, distillery visits and plenty of good eating to celebrate my 60th birthday.

Back home she then treats me to a birthday meal with friends and family, after which we go back home for the final celebration, birthday cake and champagne. On the top of the cake is a picture of me taken while tasting the whisky in the Blair Athol Bells whisky distillery in Pitlochry...

My photo on top of my birthday cake - that's cool!

Time to cut my birthday cake and share with friends and family...



This birthday was totally unlike my 50th birthday - I did not want to be 50, I was a bear with a sore head for the 6 months up to my birthday. Suzie treating me to a Fly-Drive dream holiday on the west coast of the USA did sweeten it and of course, I survived, thoroughly enjoying our trip across the west side of America (Pheonix to San Francisco the long way round). However, I didn't have any issues with being 60 and enjoyed every minute of the week with the family and the time with our friends.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

After the shed

The next project has come and gone. Our ensuite bathroom has been deconstructed, remodelled and rebuilt by professional plumber and bathroom fitter Craig Smith. As agreed, to keep the cost down, the final touches, painting and fitting of accessories were left to me to do. Might publish pictures later.

Next up is to finish painting the kitchen as I have done the ceiling and gloss work (that is matt white ceiling and gloss white doors, frames and skirting boards. I've also done most of the walls with just the area around the window and the bit behind the radiator left to do.

Next up was to be the utility room. Then it would have been the rockery as that needs serious attention but last night a reversing lorry demolished part of the garden wall out the front so that will probably take priority over both of those projects. It never ends.