Suddenly the world seems such a perfect place...

Floss dog in the snow :)
I often wonder why my emotional state is so bound up with the state of the weather.  But days like today make me so happy that I am made that way.  Today was the first snow day of this winter.  We had a completely unexpected 1.5 inches of snow overnight.  I am not one of those snow haters, and snow is sufficiently rare around here that every time we get some I am still so crazily excited by it.

I love the feeling of opening the curtains in the morning and feeling that hit of delight like a child at Christmas.  I love the sound of the fresh powdery snow crunching under your feet. I love how different everything looks, its like everything is interesting again.  Everything is new.  Everything is worth a second glance.  I love how my dogs are filled with the infectious pure joy of existence.  And most of all I love the light, how bright and clean and dazzling the world suddenly becomes.
Snow rekindles my love for England.  And it rekindles my hope like nothing else.  It makes winter a little more bearable.  The picture is of my other dog Floss, who acts like an innocent excited puppy in the snow despite the fact that she is an elderly and quite neurotic rescue dog.  On the downside - it may completely screw up my plans for visiting this van tomorrow.

Research Research Research!

I have been doing a LOT of van research recently.  Mainly because I am one of those sad individuals who like to completely overkill in the planning phase for projects.  Also because I actually know any research has to be a good thing right!

So I have been reading, and googling, and thinking, and doing more googling, and MORE googling!  And this is my wish list so far:

For the van - I am looking for a VW T4 diesel for about £2000.  Trouble is I REALLY want a LHD, and they are not exactly easy to find.  Next step is to look into getting one imported.

And inside...

  • Pop-up roof - this is going to cost me about another £2000 which I hate.  But I really think its worth it as I can sleep up there and standing space will make the van a lot more livable in
  • Swivel seats - apparently to fit these to the Transporter you have to detach the handbrake and shorten the handbrake cable.  Boo hiss.  I might just do the passenger side if this proves to be too tricky or too expensive
  • Electrics - power points and lights.  I know nothing (and I mean NOTHING) about I am really dreading this part.
  • Gas cooker.  I think I will probably just try and fit a camping stove rather than a real kitchen type one.  But I havent looked into the feasibility of this yet.
  • Cupboardy type stuff.  I want to get a secret compartment with a safe in made to put valuable stuff in.  Also need storage compartments for water containers and gas cylinder
  • Insulation - apparently you need to insulate the walls and the floor.  I think I will just do some kind of vinyl floor covering once the insulation is down

And what have I decided Im not having...heating, air con (which I will most likely live to regret), a sink & water pump combo ...and some other stuff I cant think of right now.

So whats next?  Well more research for one!  And this weekend I am going to look at a done out T4 camper - to steal ideas on layout and get a feel for what it is like to drive etc.  Im hoping Im going to love it.  I might go and look at a few to get as many ideas as possible.

And keep looking for "The One" - the sooner I can get it safely into my garage the better!  I am psyched to start work (and also terrified)

A Rave Review

I have decided not to do a full kitlist from my recent Greece & Turkey trip (and yes I know I said I would) for the following reasons:
  1. I have unpacked...and I dont remember what I packed.
  2. My selection of gear is not based on it being the "best" or even necessarily the "best deal" - so I dont feel competent to preach about what people should be using.
So how do I select my gear then?  Well I believe there is a healthy balance that you can attain between quality and cost.  While I am on a very tight budget - I dont think you should necessarily buy the cheapest item you can find on the market if it means you are sacrificing on quality.  My number one requirement is that an item does what I want it to do - and that is prioritised over cheapness.  There is also the time factor to consider, just because I know I can find a better deal elsewhere doesn't mean I can always justify the additional time it will take me to find it.  So basically  I look for the best compromise between a quality, cheap and readily available purchase that comes as close to my requirements as I can find.  And my top tip - do your research so you know exactly what you require.

And the rewards of careful shopping? end up with an amazing incredible wonderful product like Vibram Five Fingers (I have the KSO in black) at 20% of the retail price.  Good deal, great product.  I literally cannot recommend these shoes enough - if I didnt live somewhere so cold and wet I would literally wear them every day of my life.  They are super comfortable, your feet feel fresh and unrestricted in them and they are actually the best conversation starting item I have ever possessed.  By miles.  These things bring people joy!  They are super versatile, from boat trips on the Bosphorus to wandering the marble streets of Athens to hiking down death-defying vertical rock faces in Goreme they never let me down (which is just as well or I wouldn't be here!) Downsides - if there is water on the ground your feet WILL get wet.  And they do smell.  Which sucks.  But they are washable so all is not lost.  And no disadvantage can ever outweigh the indescribably natural way of movement and intense connectivity with your surroundings that they provide.  I love them.  

Putting my trainers on to go back to work was truly painful.  I miss my silly shoes!

I got some frogs for my tropical fish tank the other day.  They are super cute and they are doing a great job of distracting me from my grandad's funeral which is on Monday.

To Amsterdam And Back?

I got a letter from the source of evil that is my bank offering a free cruise ticket to Amsterdam if I go and sit through some stuffy stifling meeting with some vapid vampiric salesman trying to squeeze me for every last penny I possess.  This is pretty tempting - as I need to go and have such a meeting anyway.

And even though the free ticket would actually save me very little money - it still feels like a good idea.  I have looked into this cruise company before...been like "oh yeh thats pretty cheap I should do that" and done absolutely nothing about it.  But if I had a free ticket...I'm damned sure I'd go.  I hate that I'm like that - incapable of making myself get out there and do things that I would do without a second thought if I only had a little incentive.

But this is me...and I would like to see Amsterdam!  Think I might go pay a visit to a certain bank tomorrow

I put a load of my holiday photos up...enjoy.  And I found a blog design I like better.  Its still not quite right though.

The most beautiful sound

I am back. I miss Istanbul.  I miss the smells, I miss the light, I miss the energy, but most of all I miss the sound.  The sound of the call to prayer.  To me, even though I am a Western Christian - this is the most beautiful sound in the world.  It fills my mind with peace and soothes my soul like a summer's day, a starlit sky, a lover's touch.  All that is still good and pure and timeless about humanity is reflected in that sound.

I love it.  It is one of my requirements for my future "home".

I am not glad to be back.  There is death in the air.  Sitting down to write was an effort today.

The Geography of Bliss

Have finished my holiday reading material...which is bad as its not the end of the trip yet...but good as it proves its a great book.  Recommended by the guru on all things that is Tynan, The Geography of Bliss is a superb travel book by journalist Eric Weiner.  The basic premise of the book is that he visits countries that are supposedly extremely happy and those which are unhappy in order to try and establish the common factors necessary for happiness.  I wont spoil the book so I wont tell you what he finds, but it is a witty and incredibly readable different take on an old theme.  Definitely worth a read.  Got a few strange looks and attracted a stalker for laughing out loud at the book in Ankara train station...but thats another story!

Anyway he went through all the standard ideas about happiness being related to family, community, trust, money as well as some more interesting ones like and expecting to fail.  However one of my key ideas about happiness wasnt mentioned in the book - which actually really surprised me.  To me, the basic prerequisite for happiness is acceptance.  All the other contributing factors are meaningless without it.  Which is why not all rich people are happy...although money is a contributing factor to happiness.  They may be rich but they still do not accept their lives. 

And by acceptance I dont mean you should expect the worse and let people walk all over you.  Its more an attitude of living in the present and accepting life as a gift without any other desires or requirements from it.  Happiness is not having the perfect is seeing your life as perfect just because it is yours. 

Hmm...actually I guess my view is kind of similar to Eric's Thailand chapter...Happiness is Not Thinking.  Maybe I should make Thailand my next stop - I guess I might fit in well there.

Today Im kicking back in Athens waiting for my Mum to arrive tomorrow.  Didnt get a Greece stamp in my passport...gutted!

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