Busy week at the PO

I spent the whole of last week sorting out the shop. Usually I spend my time doing Post Office stuff. I’m the Post Office guy. Lorraine did shop stuff. I didn’t enjoy the shop at all and resented it when it took me away from the PO stuff. But I decided this week to try and change that. So I was in the shop the whole week preparing for the new toy order that arrived on Tuesday. I moved things around, put sale stickers on junk, and worked till about 8 every night.

Friday and Saturday saw a lot of the junk selling and it was very satisfying. Even thought it’s selling at a loss, it’s satisfying to see it leave the shelves and at least keep the cash flow sort of running.

Lorraine came in yesterday and we managed to get all the new toys out.

The other thing I did was to start my eBay campaign. I really need to get stuff shifting but have always disliked using eBay, mainly because of the hassle and how clunky eBay can be. But it needed to be done and I’ve started so I just need to keep some momentum going. If anyone’s interested, the eBay handle is brodickpo

Here’s hoping for a good season and the possiblity of paying my invoices!

Brodick Church Fair

It was a good day today. Work went reasonably well, with the Co-Op coming in with their banking just before the time when it would have meant chasing my tail to close, although I did still end up chasing my tail anyway. But this isn’t about that, it’s about the afternoon. I got home around 2.30 p.m. (not bad for a Saturday) and Freya was ready to hop into the car and go back in to Brodick for the church fair. We got there around three and it really was pretty mince to be honest. It’s good for me to be seen at such things though, being, as I am, the subpostmaster and Freya enjoyed it and I enjoyed spending time with Freya. There were some silly games and they were reasonably fun, but the bric-a-brac or white elephant or whatever you call it, puhleese! Truly dreadful stuff for sale; to call it tat would be doing a disservice to the word tat. There was, however, facepainting, always a favourite of wee Freya, so we queued for all of about five minutes and then she got a snake painted on each cheek.

I told her she could do anything she wanted to do as it was daddy-daughter time and we were out to have some fun. She decided that she wanted to go to the swings in Corrie, the same ones that we visited a year or so ago when over on a recce mission and doubling as a visit with grandma and granddad. So I banged on Shostakovich’s 10th symphony (annoyingly playing in only one speaker cos my car stereo has decided that that’s how it’s gonna be) and off we went to Corrie. We spent only 10 minutes or so given that we had to go shopping after that and it was getting pretty late. Freya was happy with that though, but did say that she would have preferred it if Hamish and Mummy could have come too. Bless.

Between the church fair and the trip to Corrie, I popped in to the bike shop to ask about components and repairs then dashed home to throw both of Lorraine’s bikes in the back. We got a great bike seat for Hamish and fitted it to the good bike last week. Freya’s bike attaches to the back of the good bike so Lorraine has been taking Freya to nursery school that way, with her on her own bike being towed and Hamish on his wee seat on the crossbar. But, being the grumpy little sod that he can be, he decided the other day to resist the bike seat as he wanted to stay at the park and, in the process of his tantrum, he kicked the good bike over and it landed on the dérailleur . I had the bike man look at it today and it’s worse than we thought: the rear dropout is bent so that the hanging bit of the dérailleur catches on the spokes. The frame is aluminium (6061 tubing, whatever that may be) and the bike man was of the opinion that bending it back would snap it. So the good bike is now out of commission and I’m going to have to seek out a frame repair man to see if it can be fixed. As Mick Hucknall of Simply Red so aptly put it in the eighties, money’s too tight to mention and buying a new bike frame isn’t something that we can manage right now, so hopefully it will be fixable. It’s just one of those things, right? I’m sure we’ll laugh about it later, right? It’s just not very funny right now .

Anyway, despite that, it was a good afternoon and we both really enjoyed being together. Being a dad really can be the best thing.

What’s good in your life?

I need to blog. Not sure what this will achieve but maybe I’ll can look back on this period in a year or so and thank God that we got through it.

Life is hard. Too fucking hard.

This new business is great; I’m really enjoying the work, enjoying being an employer, enjoying the respected position in the community, enjoying being part of a community that I want to be a part of, enjoying the day-to-day challenge and the feeling of a good, honest day’s work at the end of the day.

But we’re skint. Rooked. Nae cash. No moolah.

Lorraine is working all the hours that she can. I get home and am too tired to do anything but reheat my dinner, eat it and go to bed. I haven’t properly played the guitar for maybe a year or so. When Lorraine manages to meet a deadline (usually by working well into the night for the last few days) she either has another deadline looming for the next batch or has to clean the house as it gets into a dreadful state when nobody can do it because nobody has the time. And on top of that she’s dealing with eBay auctions for cards for the shop, putting them in cellophane bags, printing labels to say what the message is inside.

We came to Arran because it’s beautiful place but we never get out to see it. We haven’t been out together since Hamish was born (he was two this week). Even when we’re home we don’t really see each other. Lorraine is fucking exhausted but keeps on going and won’t quit. She looks dreadful. There’s no joy in our lives and we’re not sure how we’re going to make ends meet financially and whether we’ll be able to keep the business going long enough to make it profitable.

Have we made some dreaful mistake? I try and be grateful for all the things that we have: two healthy and happy children, our own health, a roof over our heads. Then things happen like a stone flies up off the road and lodges itself into the gap between the windscreen wiper and the bonnet. So when I try and work the wipers, they don’t move, and I keep trying, thinking that they’re just stuck, and the motor burns out, and we’re left with a 400 quid bill. How is that fair?

I listen to music and am moved as much as I always have been; I feel the urge to play and get excited. I get home and am too fucking tired to do anything. I pick up the guitar to play but it’s no good. I have to go to bed. If I get to bed after 10 p.m. it’s late and I’m tired the next day. Between 9 and 10 and I’m okay. At work I forget it all because I’m doing the next thing and then the next thing and roll through the day and quite enjoy it, but what’s it all for if, when I get home, I’m too fucked to do anything, I don’t see the kids, I don’t see my wife and she’s burned out and stressed and hating herself for having no patience with the kids and feeling like a failure because the house is dirty and there are boxes everywhere and the kids aren’t eating very well?

Oh, fuck knows. Maybe I should just put on some NIne Inch Nails really fucking loud and try and block it out. As Lorraine keeps telling me, worrying about it doens’t help. Yeah, I know. At least I’m not drinking though, eh? I’ve found a great bunch of recovering alcholics here and although I don’t get to many meetings, I still make a few and thank god that there are meetings here and people I can turn to.

Back in Lux we had a decent income and did see each other, although at the time it seemed that we didn’t, but compared to now we most certainly did. But we were never really happy, me especially, living in a foreign country where we didn’t really fit in. Now I do fit in and I love that to bits, but it just seems that there are too many sacrifices. I’m working my bollocks off and the business may be breaking even if I’m lucky.

But I guess this is what we expected, at least for the first year and possibly second and third. Maybe I should just stop fucking whinging and get on with life. As the great John Lennon said, life is what happens while you’re making other plans. My wee girl cuddled me while she fell asleep tonight and told me that she loved me. That’s what I should be focussing on, right? I’m not the drunk, fucked up dad that I might have been (and was for the first 18 months of her life). And I’ve also got Beppe. So I’ll leave you all with a Beppe tune, the one that I just tried to play, and ask you all (hood only, of course) to give the tune a wee listen and, as you listen, sit back and think of what’s good in your life and I’ll do the same.

Ave Maria
Beppe Gambetta


Volumatic Omal Counteasy review

I’ve been researching money-counting machines for the past week or so and it’s very frustrating how hard it is to find real-world reviews of these things. In fact, it’s often hard enough to find prices. I guess shopping for non-consumer goods online is not quite as easy as it is for your consumer goods.

Anyway, I had narrowed it down to a choice of two friction counters, picked mainly because the site that featured them was reasonably well designed and modern with good images, good descriptions and _prices_. As we count mostly used notes, the machine has to be robust and a must-have feature is that it will pick out a rogue tenner in a batch of 20s.

Choice one is the PCP BC130+. If you can find a review of this unit anywhere online, you’re a better web user than I! The other choice is the equally-priced CTCoin Dolphin 200. Again, reviews anyone?

The first model does all sorts of fancy counterfeit detection AND has 2D size detection, so it will pick out rogue tenners in the 20s. But the geezer I spoke to on the phone said that the Dolphin has more of a track record and should be more robust at dealing with used notes. I then spoke to someone else at the company and _he_ said that the PCP one is the better machine and that if it weren’t robust, they wouldn’t sell it.

The long and short of it is that I decided to try a weight-based machine first and see if that would do the job. I found a Volumatic Omal CountEasy on eBay for a reasonable price and bought it. It arrived today and I gave it a quick run through. The machine is next to useless for counting notes. The new Bank of Scotland 10s and 20s (the ones that look like euros) throw it completely. Yes, I can calibrate it. I even got in to the advanced settings, recalibrated it with a 500g weight, calibrated it with packs of notes and still it would not calculate a single pack of either tenners or 20s.

Add to that the fact that Lorraine has just lost her job and so we can’t afford a 300 quid friction counter and you’ll see why I’m not a Happy Bear today.

The Omal does count bags of coin accurately so at least it will be usable for that if the eBay seller won’t take it back, but 130 quid to count a few coins is a bit much. It was for the notes that I need it and, for that, it’s hopeless.

So, if anyone out there is looking for a review of the VOLUMATIC OMAL COUNTEASY, let the Google spiders come forth and do their spidering of this post, so that potential buyers can do the right thing and steer clear of this useless machine.

Brodick Post Office

I’m putting an ad in a brochure in the next week or so and the tulips outside the Post Office were looking their best so it was great timing for taking my D70s down with me on the Bank Holiday Monday and seeing what kind of shots I could get.

I thought some of my hood and my family would like to see a pick of the shots to see what we’ve done with the place and how it’s looking after three months of hard bloody work.

Hats off to my good lady wife for amazing work in ordering stock and figuring out where to put it all. She’s done a really great job and I’m truly blessed to have her on board in this venture. I think we might just make it work!


Posting from the Post Office

Got broadband at the Post Office. WooHoo!

Still not got time to post much though, but at least I’m connected again. Those were a hard couple of disconnected months there. 


Missing Vox

Since moving to the Isle of Arran and staring our new lives here, my techo life has changed dramatically. I used to spend hours reading blogs, reviewing hardware, doing Photoshop courses, etc. Now I’m having to run a Post Office and shop and I just don’t have time any more for any of that good stuff. I’ve played guitar for probably no more than a couple of hours in total since getting here three months ago.

But that’s the way it has to be.

It’s been tremendously hard and it continues to be that way. We used to be fairly well off, with savings in the bank and enough disposable income to satisfy my impulse buys of hardware and gadgets. Now the savings are gone, the bills are piling up and I’m having to make do with the old CRT TV that came with the house we’re renting (not that I have time to watch it much anyway, so I guess it doesn’t matter really).

This is us about to get on the ferry last month for a trip to Ikea to buy some display cabinets for the shop.

But having said all that, I was walking along the main street in the village and people were saying hello and how are you and I really felt like I belong here in a way that I haven’t felt since leaving home a long time ago. We were never particularly happy living overseas, I especially, and so although it’s so hard sometimes that I feel like we’re not going to make it, deep down I’m happier than I’ve been in years. I love the challenge of taking on this new thing that’s so overwhelming at times and the job side of things is starting to get easier. I think I’m a decent boss, at least I try to be, and we’re slowly making the business our own. Lorraine has done brilliantly well ordering stock and we now have two display cabinets in the window with a decent range of teddies (from cheap-n-cheerful to designer) and a range of Island Porcelain (locally made hand-crafted wildlife in porcelain). I’ve also got a display cabinet full of guitar strings but the word has yet to spread as I’ve not yet managed to get out and play. There’s quite a vibrant folk scene on the island and nowhere to buy strings. Just got to get out and play some and meet some players. Soon, Camuel, soon.

But yes, I do miss my blog time, my hobby time, hell, just the chance to veg out for an hour. Now it’s home at 8 or 9 then into doing the books, the wages, the orders, or whatever else needs doing. Some nights I get home at 7 and wind up in bed at 8 with the kids.

Both the kids are happy here and are growing, oh how they grow. We forced ourselves to take half an hour out last Sunday and do the 2-minute walk to the beach (yes, I should count that particular blessing every day) where I got a few shots of the family.

I remember how I used to feel the need to make sure that I was caught up with my RSS feeds every morning and enjoyed doing that when I was supposed to be doing other things like work *cough*. Now I actually am having to work really hard  and I haven’t logged on to Google reader in months. I guess it’s history for the time being, as is Vox pretty much, which is a shame as I often find myself wondering how my ‘hood is getting on. Perhaps it’ll even out in a few months’ time, once I’ve got into the rhythm and can afford a bit more time out, so if y’all just bear with me and hopefully I’ll be back Voxing a bit more often again.

@ontheprowl – not sure if you’re reading this but I’m still digging your mixes
@stevebetz & greywolf – my book chums. Still not listened to the fourth GRRM and probably won’t bother until all books are released. I hate to wait and forget too easily.
@venus – hope you’re keeping up with the weight loss. Sorry I’ve not been keeping up.
@cat – hope you’re hellish nightmare is getting less hellish and less nightmarish.

Greetings from Arran

Well, we made it… just. It’s been one of the hardest weeks of our lives and I never, ever want to go through it again. Having an 18-month old makes everything so much harder. Plus we had too much stuff. And all the lost weekends when people would invite us round during the only real packing time we had meant that, even after staying up the whole night before leaving, we still couldn’t do it. Lorraine left with the kids on Tuesday morning at 6.15. It should have been 6.00 and, thanks to the Tom Tom, we missed the train in Arlon. Thankfully she still made her flight, but barely.

Then I was back to the apartment to wake my brother up and try and get everything into the neighbour’s garage. My brother had slept from 3 a.m. so got a good 4 and a half hours. I, on the other hand, hadn’t slept at all and had been up and down to the garage all night long, all 43 stairs, carrying box after box. The landlord came round about 10 as scheduled and by this time I was close to collapse. Just the exhaustion, the stress and not eating properly at all. I ended up laying on the kitchen floor while my friend, whom I’d called in for some urgent help, tried to communicate with the landlord for me. He ended up having to call his wife to talk to the landlord on the phone to interpret into the landlord’s native Italian. We agreed that I was going nowhere that day – I wasn’t fit for anything. Then we decided that my brother would still be able to make the ferry and take the cat, providing we could get the cat out from behind the kitchen units. If he couldn’t get her out, he could still make the ferry but then I’d have to get the ferry too, and have to take our car, which means we’d spend a fortune and not be able to leave the car behind to sell it (because the Brits like to be different and drive on the other side, have different electrical sockets, different currency, etc.) Anyway, we knocked the bottom panel off the cooker and managed to get the cat out, get her to the vet’s before the 11.30 deadline (she needed tick and worm treatment between 24 and 48 hours ofin the UK – not easy to arrange).

So, with my brother departed, I went to my friend’s house and collapsed for a few hours. Then back to the apartment to see the mess and start shifting it all to my friend’s. We did about half, then I started sorting it the next morning to see what to throw, what to ship and what to bring on the next morning’s flight. Another dear friend of mine met me at the apartment at lunch time and we got the rest of the stuff to our friends. Then she fed me a really good meal at her mum’s and we went back together to sort out the rest of the stuff. Then a trip to the recycling centre with all the stuff we were not taking or shipping and then back to box up what was left ready to ship.

She then fed me another good meal at her mum’s after we’d shifted all the boxes for shipping to her parents’ garage. And we were done! I flew out at 11 the next morning, got the ferry to Arran that night and have been here since Wednesday night.

The whole ordeal has taught me two things, one is that I love my wife, and the other is that friendship is one of the most valuable things in life. I really could not have done it had it not been for my two friends in my hour of need.

The new house is nice but full of old furniture and we have to try and fit around it. So far it’s working out but it’s taking a long time. And now that we’ve got all the furniture pretty much where we want it, I can’t even start unboxing as I’m heading out in a few hours for two weeks’ training on the mainland. It’s quite frustrating. Still, I guess it’ll work out in time. I have to learn how to be patient.

And so ends my first post from Arran. It really has come to pass!

Notice Day

The day has finally come when Lorraine hands in her notice at work, so I no longer have to make my Arran posts neighbourhood only! We were waiting until the very last day with bated breath to see if Lorraine would get her year-end bonus before she handed in her notice. We’re kind of relying on it for the move you see and it would have made things difficult if it had gone wrong. So you can imagine my elation on checking the bank today to see the bonus had gone in! A mere few hours before she gives her letter of notice to the boss!

 Everything is falling into place. We have to be out of our flat by 1 January so the packing will need to move up a gear after the weekend. It has been difficult because our weekends are filled up with farewell visits to friends and that’s really the only time that we can get any proper packing done.

We’re staying at a friend’s after 1 January and leaving Lux on the 7th. My brother is bringing a 7.5-tonne truck over on the ferry from Rosyth on the east coast of Scotland to Zeebrugge in Belgium, leaving on the 3rd and arriving on the 4th. Then we leave on the 7th, arrive on the 8th and then go straight to Arran to our new rented house. It’s going to be hectic, no doubt stressful and difficult but ultimately worth it.

I then have two weeks’ training in Glasgow from the 14th and I take over the Post Office on the 30th. The dream is getting close!

Quick update on the Arran move

Just a quick one as I haven’t written about the move to Arran in ages and I know that some of my hoodies were interested.

I start the new job at the Post Office on 30 January. That’s the day we take over the business. I’ve got two weeks of training in Glasgow before that. We’re moving from Lux on 7 January. My brother is bringing a 7.5 tonne truck over and we’re doing the move ourselves. He’s bringing it from Rosyth (Scotland) to Zeebrugge (Belgium) on 3 January, arriving in Zeebrugge on 4 Jan (it’s an 18-hour crossing). Then we pack the truck and leave on 7 Jan to arrive in Scotland on 8 Jan and then the ferry to Arran on the evening of 8 Jan. We’ve got the house on Arran all sorted out pretty much. I got the phone line installed (that was fun, trying to get that done when nobody was in the house – thanks to our soon-to-be-new neighbours it worked out). Next thing is to choose an ISP (I’m going with one of the Entanet resellers as they have no restrictive fair-use policies and plenty of bandwidth and a good reputation for 20 quid a month). Got to order a phone and a modem and some filters.

The au pair is also sorted out and has booked her flights. A nice French girl called Rachel. She’s staying until the summer and we’ve almost chosen her successor (a German speaker).

I’ve scanned LOADs of paper into my SnapScan and shredded. We’re selling/chucking lots of stuff. Some boxes are already packed. We just got an Epson V750 scanner to scan boxes of old photos so we can chuck them. Freya is enrolled for nursery.

Now we only have a few weekends left and they are filling up fast with farewell visits. It’s tough as that is the only time we can properly pack anything. Just one of those things I suppose.

Lorraine STILL hasn’t handed in her notice and will not be doing so for a few weeks yet. We’re worried that it would jeopardise her end-of-year bonus so we’re leaving it until the last possible minute (20 Dec, or Dec 20 for our American readers ;)). So this will still be hood only.

Hamish has awoken. I’d better go. Not long to go now and we’re getting excited!