The Diary of an Isolated Salesman

Stories of the Covid-19 lock-down from a small-time salesman and his dog

Page 2 of 2

Day 16, Wednesday 8th April

Another day looking out the window, today we have something very welcome to look at. Rain, not enough yet but it is trying. The only one not excited to see the rain is Lola, she can’t understand why she can’t go out and play. I have tried to explain to her about the nation’s cleanest home completion but she having none of it.

I have a busy day ahead of me. A little data reassigning work, which should numb the brain gently and a good amount of customers to contact. I get the boring bit out the way first before I start on the phone calls. I have said before it’s a great time to be salesman making phone calls. People are stuck in their bubbles and want to talk and I like to talk, so it’s a perfect storm for me. I am not selling too much, but generally there is a fair amount of interest and anyway I like a chat.

My days are getting somewhat settled now. I am still waking up fairly early, I have always been a bit of an early riser. Once I have assessed if Lola has any interest in a walk or not, I have a read of the news. I like to keep abreast on what is happening in the UK as well as here. I still have a lot of friends and family in the UK and first thing in the morning is generally the best time for me to call or message them. After that I will have a little start on my Blog, it sort of evolves as the day goes on; but I normally wake with some sort of idea as to what I am going to write about. Then its work. Jacinda calls lunch break at one, so I have a listen to her for half an hour to find out the nations state of play. Then back to work or my blog depending how productive my morning has been. Today I have been kept busy all day so I am behind on my story telling.

One of my blog followers asked about my Spanish travels and if I had visited Montserrat, well we have and you should to. It truly is a magical place, but not for the faint hearted as you will read. For those that don’t know Montserrat is a mountain top monastery in Catalonia, Spain. Situated atop an unusual rock mountain, it is very popular among Catalans, and Catholic pilgrims who come from far and wide to see the Black Madonna.

Montserrat

Montserrat

We had been told that the only way to get up to Montserrat is via the cable car. It’s not or at least it wasn’t then. You can take the funicular railway or even drive up to the top. But we went for the cable car. A 1930’s cable car that whisks you four and a half thousand feet up the mountain in about five minutes. It promises spectacular views and it doesn’t disappoint, if you can keep your eyes open.

Montserrat Cable Car

Montserrat Cable Car

My girlfriend, not so keen. It had been her idea to come, but this wasn’t the pilgrimage she had been think of. Frightened wouldn’t have even been close to describing how she arrived at the top. Spending the rest of the time we were up there clutching her water bottle and rock wall where she sat with equal and unyielding pressure. I had time to scoot around and see the sights, it was early when we got there but I have been told the queues to see the Black Madonna can be over an hour long at peak times. I was in and out in a few minutes. I have said before I am not a religious guy, but the statue and whole area defiantly had a feel about the place that I couldn’t begin to comprehend to you. We wanted to listen to the midday Salve, a boys’ choir based at the Benedictine abbey Santa Maria de Montserrat and maybe walk around the peaks. But all of this is way off the agenda, all my girlfriend wants to do is leave. This is making her worse, because she knows the only way down is the same way we came up.
I don’t think to this day I have ever mentioned to her the carpark.

Day 15, Tuesday 7th April

Here we go again. I have woken up thinking about selling and the immortal words of a really great salesman I used to work with ringing in my ears “my name is #$@%& and I used to sell cars”! When it was all going wrong for him this was his coping mechanism. He’d sit in the corner play on his phone and mutter these words to anyone who would listen. Annoyingly enough it always worked. Each time he would bounce back, every month he would be in the top group of sales staff. This is a two hundred plus units a year retail salesman, but his paperwork was shocking! Not just bad but shocking. Customers would turn up to collect cars that hadn’t moved from where he had parked it after the test-drive. The service and valeting department would be constantly fighting with him as he tried to sneak his surprise jobs into their respective busy schedules. But what this guy could do was remember people. Most car salesmen remember cars. Honestly I have lost count the amount of times I have sold a car in the morning and the customer has popped back in the afternoon to ask a question. I’ve greeted said customer listened to the question, thought I will dodge this and retorted back “certainly sir and who was your salesman?” To be met by the finger being pointed right back at me “YOU”!
But my guy he could remember everything, wife’s name, dogs name. What they were having for dinner that evening and this ability to relate and schmooze with people was what was selling him the cars, but he had to work much harder to keep them in bed than he did to sell them.
There is a point I must go back to. The great valeter/groomer debate. In the UK the guys that wash your car are valeters, over her in New Zealand they are groomers. But groomers has a completely different connotation where I am from. To this day it still brings a smirk to my face as I join the dots in my mind, I will let you do the same.
All this thinking about salesman and car sales get me think about a few of the classic sales I have pulled off over the years. I remember one very fondly. One afternoon a mature lady came on to the forecourt and pretty much walked down one of the rows of cars, pointed at a gold coloured golf we had and said I’ll have that one! This in salesman vernacular is called catching a wallet. The customer makes a decision so quickly their wallet comes out so fast it nearly hits you. Some would argue that I have made a career out of these sorts of deals and I would put my hands up to say I have had my fair share of luck over the years. But for every gimme deal there are those that you have to really work for. So anyway, I have whisked this lovely lady into the office to do the paperwork.
At this time I am still relatively green to the world of sales, this lady is buying the car of that there is no doubt. But I have also not long done a training course that taught me the importance of the test-drive. So I virtually insist she drives the thing, its clear she’s not keen but I sell her the idea that I will drive down to an empty carpark and she can do a lap round there, all will be well. This is when I learned one of life’s lessons, if they don’t want to drive, fine, take the money. You can always mickey the paperwork later if your company demands test-drives. We kangarooed across said carpark at a greater rate of knots then I was comfortable with. Only managing to stop on the other side as I knocked it out of gear and yanked on the handbrake, the hedge was approaching much faster than I had a liking for. She on the other hand appeared quite satisfied with her efforts and I was only too glad to hear she didn’t need to drive it back to the showroom.
When the day came for her to collect her new car and she arrived with a younger man, who after all the paper work was completed drove the car away. I sold this lady a number of cars afterwards and always the same story, point to a car, do the paperwork come back in a week to collect. I’d learnt my lesson, no more test-drives. The really odd thing was it was always a different lad who arrived with her to do the driving. Oh and I never saw her driving a car again.

As I am sat here, writing my wittering’s I am watching my wife systematically dismantle the house, cleaning it within an inch of its life and put it all back together again. Mostly in the same order, but not entirely. I am not sure if this if for my benefit, some sort of cleaning demonstration. Or if this is boredom at its highest-level, but what I am doing is making myself look the busiest I can. All of a sudden I have a lot more very important emails to send and customers to speak to. I have already heard rumour of a requirement for me to vacuum and mop the floors again! It was four days ago I last did this, I know I wrote it in here and I’ve checked. I am worried there is some sort of national tidy home competition and the wife is going for gold.
She just announced she had a panic on as she thought she had run out of Mr Sheen but found another bottle at the back of the cupboard!
Fortunately the living area is now cleaner than it’s ever been in its life and she’s headed off to clean bedrooms. I am worried though, there is a look in her eye which normally means I have done something wrong. The sort of something wrong that all husbands do but have no idea what it is. The sort of something wrong that can result in a monumental argument and tears. All you know is at the end of the argument, is that it all your fault and you have been a bad husband; but what it is you have done or not done will remain a mystery. Pray for me, I think I am in trouble.

My little VW is coming along nicely, but I am not brave enough to build anymore right now so there may be a delay. The feather duster is out now!

VW 1

Kitchen is in

VW

Day 14, Monday 6th April

Two weeks into this! I wonder what you have to have done to get a two week prison sentence. On that note, what happens to all those criminals on home detention, sporting those snazzy ankle bracelets? They are having it easy. The old judge sentencing home detention, will have to up their sentences. We are all doing porridge right now.

I am up and working, or at least trying to. There are no emails, banter or otherwise.
So I am going to do what I am doing best right at this moment and write one more email to all my clients and friends who have been enjoying my utterings. It’s time to launch my blogsite proper, it’s been up online for a little while but it’s taken me some time to get it looking and working right. It’s still not perfect but it will give me something to focus on in the coming weeks.
I need to thank all those that have had sneak preview and the feedback I have received. It’s still work in progress so please do all continue with your feedback and ideas. Big thank you to my little girly, who has sat long into the night sorting out my mess of an original website. I can’t take all the glory for this, sometimes with technology you need to reach out to someone younger than you to show you how it works.
So here it is; The Diary of an Isolated Salesman is born. What started as a few emails to my client base has turned into this. An all-consuming collection of my journey through lock-down, thoughts, ramblings and general tomfoolery. I hope you enjoy it. It is only existing for two purposes, one to keep me sane and give me a small purpose in these unusual times and two, to make you smile. I am not trying to write some award winning literary piece. Or make my fortune, although all contributions greatly received. All I want out of this, is for whoever reads this to smile and to share those smiles with their friends and family. Send a link of my blog to anyone you can think of who needs a smile, I hope it helps pass even a small part of the day with a grin.

Work can’t last for ever and despite a few promising leads to work with no one appears to be in a buying mode today. I tackle a bit more of my campervan build. It’s coming on nicely, but I don’t see it lasting eight hours even if a do try to limit myself to a few stages a day. It’s lovely to see it coming together and I love how the engine bay is looking.

Back of a bus 1

Back of a bus

After lunch I have a little mission. A friend of mines boat is in the marina and he would just like me to check on it. I hope it doesn’t need anything more technical than that. Despite having lived pretty close to the water all my life, boats are a mystery to me. I have discovered in my life I am pretty good looking at the water but not so good on it. Anyway Lola gets the nod and off we trot. This boat is completely on the other side of the marina to me, so Lola is going to get an extra-long walk today and as a special treat the wife is home today. So we have a proper family outing.
Its glorious up here, the sun is beating down on us and life couldn’t be better. I do love to look at the boats, if I peep between the houses I can just about see the masts of the yachts from my deck. One day I will have a house with a proper water view, but I need to sell a few more motorhomes before that happens. So for now I will be happy where I am.
My mates boat appears to be floating the right way up and I send him a couple of pictures just to prove it. Only I can’t quite remember which is his, I have only been on it a couple of times; so I have to send him an arty shot of the whole pontoon. I must have got the right pontoon as he’s happy with the results.

Marina View

Marina View

Form here we wander out to the top of the marina to look at the fishes. If you’re very lucky you can see allsorts in the water, but I like to see Stingrays. Today I am lucky, just as we turn the corner to walk alone the bank backing on to pontoon Z there is a beautiful and quite large ray just cruising along. He glides with us as we walk the full length of the pontoon towards the ferry terminal.

Stingray

Stingray Stingray

Day 12 & 13 the weekend

Second weekend in and I am questioning; when does the absurd start to feel normal? Already I am noticing that my sleep pattern is affected. I am definitely drinking more. More worryingly I have started noticing things in my own home. Things we both do, but I have never before had much time to give it any thought.
Now I have loads of time and am noticing the oddest things. First off, we have OCD. I have decided the wife has got it worse than me but we both definitely have traits.

Example number one:

Cupboard steps

Cupboard steps

Here in our pantry cupboard we have a little set of shelves, I guess so you can see things better. Who even knew these little shelves were a thing? Where do you get them? And more worryingly, how much Almond essence do we need? I have never knowingly consumed said Almond essence but we have a lot of it in here.
My wife does have previous for these little shopping mishaps. She very rarely takes a list and likes to freestyle her way up and down every single aisle. This is how supermarkets want us all to shop as it inevitably ends up with stuff we don’t want and stuff we already have. Previously it was mint sauce that she used to procure at every opportunity. Honestly we had so much at one stage if word had got out to the farming community, the sheep would have been so nervous we wouldn’t have had one within a hundred miles of us.

Example 2:

Can line up

Tin Can Parade

Another pantry shot with all the tins beautifully lined up and facing front. She could get a job stacking shelves anywhere, but seriously do we all do this or is it just us nutters? I am not immune, I have a beer fridge that I do take great pride in stocking up well and making sure all the labels face out. But this is different. Its glass fronted to start with, so everything is supposed to be on display and looking good. That and it’s my little bar. I like to have folk round for a game of pool and a beer, it needs to look good it adds to the pub atmosphere.

To stop myself looking in more cupboards I am going to start my LEGO® build.

Out the box

15 Bags of Fun

So this is what you get out the box of a new LEGO® set, fifteen bags of wonder. It’s been best part of thirty years since I played with LEGO® and I am not afraid to admit I’m a little bit excited. I resist the temptation to tip all the bags out in a pile in the middle of the table and set about my task. Who said OCD?

Back of a bus

Back of a Bus

About an hour later I have the engine in and the back of the bus taking shape. I am going to try and eke this out over a few days. Google tells me that it will take eight hours to build and there are one hundred and fourteen steps, so my stopping at step fourteen seems appropriate. I am pleased with my work and decided it’s the weekend and I should have a beer, sit in the sun and read for a while.

Ordered Fun

Ordered Fun

I break off my reading to make a start in dinner, I am craving another curry so before too much alcohol is consumed I make a start on my famous chicken curry. Back in the day my family were all in the hospitality business and at one time or another we all had pubs. My brother still has a pub; it’s a proper village pub with all the usual attributes of an English boozer. A real local’s pub, always a friendly welcome. Loads of pub teams and always something going on. This is my only gripe about New Zealand, you don’t quite get the pub scene. I am still looking but I have yet to walk into a pub over here and be able to instantly start up a conversation with whoever at the bar, or just get that instant relaxed homely atmosphere you find in a British pub. I will keep trying though.
Anyway the point I was making is that I can cook, I don’t do it so much now as I probably should. But the kitchen is not a mystery to me. My own pub, (which with hindsight was far too large for me to run) during the summer months would average over a hundred covers per service. And an ever popular meal on my menu was my curry, which I am trying to replicate now. Only like everyone else I guess I don’t have all the ingredients. I have no herbs, am a few spices short and no mango chutney. But it makes no matter, it will be a variation on a theme. I even knock up a few naan breads.

The wife eventually returns home about nine o’clock. She works twelve hour shifts but inevitably these are more like thirteen or fourteen hour shifts. Even in normally times I can count on one hand how often she gets away on time.
On that note, let’s spare a thought for all our health care professionals who are risking their own health and wellbeing to help others at this difficult time. Each day the wife goes to work and a great many other husbands, wives, sons, daughters, and partners just like her. Running the real risk of Covid-19 contact. Even outside of these unusual times, these guys put themselves on the line to help you. So please remember this next time you don’t think a loved one of yours is getting the care they deserve or you don’t like the cause of action that has been presented to you. You are welcome to question the pathway you have been offered but when you resort to abuse and violence, all sympathy to your situation is removed. The stories I have to listen to will never be retold, but if you’re the one spouting abuse or swinging punches at one of these tremendous health care professionals, its time you took a long hard look at yourself.

Another day in paradise. Its Sunday, the wife has a well-deserved day off and the clocks have gone back. So we all have an extra hour today to fill. The boss is filling it by sleeping so as I have been told I have to leave my computer alone today, I will take the opportunity to write a little of my nonsense now before she gets up.
Generally speaking I am an early riser. So utilising my time wisely I have managed to get the floorpan of my little dub done, even done a bit of tiling! I am miffed with myself though. I stuffed up putting the number plate sticker on. Its squint and I know I will always notice this.

VW Floorpan

VW Floorpan

I am also in a silly mood and am remembering some of the other places we went in Spain. Peñíscola! This wasn’t a planned trip, not that too much of our travels were. But when a child like me is driving along and spots a sign that could be a little bit rude we are off to take a look.
Peñíscola is a coastal town in eastern Spain. It’s known for beaches like Pebret and Norte, and its historic old town. It also has its own 13th-century Castle, Peñíscola Castle. I have to take a look I have already in my mind’s eye decided what it should look like.
Sadly the castle is not how I imagined it, it is fascinating though. It has a massive Templar Knights influence and history. The current form of the castle is essentially that developed by the Knights Templar, who planned to develop a kingdom centred on Peñíscola and best of all the basic Templar core of the castle remains intact. So much so Peñiscola became Meereen, the northernmost and greatest of the three great city-states of Slaver’s Bay in the recent Game of Thrones series.

Peñíscola Castle

Peñíscola Castle

Peñíscola Castle 2

Peñíscola Castle

Day 11, Friday 3rd April

Despite being home alone, I am still work orientated. I am up dressed and ready for action, when it dawns on me there is no action. Despite that I still go about checking my emails, it’s a bit like a lonely old man walking out to check his post box every morning; only to discover a few leaflets. Today I truly am an Isolated Salesman.

We have another update from our CEO today, so that at least for now this gives me a little purpose. The message is clear, it a tough time for the business globally not just New Zealand. There are plenty of other staffs in the same situation or worse than myself. It’s bleak but it is where we are. He does try to put a bit of a spin on the other revenue forms we are exploring and there is certainly hope there, at least for the short term. So buoyed by this speech, I am about to turn myself into a domestic god! My darling wife has left me a less than subtle note to vacuum and mop the floors. Honestly you would think I spend my days on my arse writing this and playing PlayStation!

Clean Floors

Floors suitably wet, Lola gets another late morning walk. It’s her little paws that make most of the mess, so she can keep out for an hour while it dries.
Here’s a top tip for all you blokes reading this; when you have done the job you have been detailed to do, send the misses a picture. It’s a double whammy, not alone will you get the plaudits it will also wind her up nicely. As I am sending her this very picture, I am already hearing her telling her mates. “Will you look at this, he washes the floors and I get a picture, I’ll start sending him a picture off all the jobs I do around the house that he thinks the fairies do!”  It tickles me every time and the best bit, they never say anything. You might get an “oh you’ve done the floors” or something like that. But never is the other conversation mentioned.

Day 10, Thursday 2nd April

I am still up and awake at the normal time and as if by default check my work emails. It doesn’t take long, it’s all gone very quiet. The normal banter emails have gone, no new updates or enquiries. Nothing. Lola is going to get a longer walk today.

To brighten my day I am back thinking about my travels again. When I left you last time we were just heading back into the south of Spain.
We bumble along the coast for a while, even stopping for another unsuccessful fish attempt. Now I never report to being a great fisherman and don’t really know what I am up to, but I have always managed to pull in at least one mackerel off Budleigh Beach. I travel for about three months around the coast of Europe and catch absolutely nothing.

J. R. Hartley I am not

J. R. Hartley I am not

My wife has just peaked a look at this picture over my shoulder to expel the words; “you’ve still got that bloody shirt!” And it’s true I have and I like it very much. If I still had the shorts and my fishing rod I could re-enact the photo for a modern day interpretation. Where do I find a lighthouse?

Next on the route is Seville. Seville is the capital of southern Spain’s Andalusia region. It’s famous for flamenco dancing. Major landmarks include the ornate Alcázar castle complex, built during the Moorish Almohad dynasty, and the 18th-century Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza bullring. The Gothic Seville Cathedral is the site of Christopher Columbus’s tomb and a minaret turned bell tower, the Giralda.
It’s hot, like 40 degrees C hot. The van needs a drink and so do we, so we leave the van steaming away and head out to explore. First up we quite literally stumble upon, the Plaza de Espana. I am always of a mind to follow the masses, if you see a big group or sometimes just an individual walking with purpose they are more often than not off to see or do something interesting. So there is a throng of people heading through this doorway and now us, tagging along. Worried for a moment that we may have just walked into a university we continue our path through this building out into the most amazing square I have ever seen. My picture doesn’t really do it justice, the fountains and tall columns are exquisite. The tiles on the floor mesmerise the eye. What you can’t quite see in this picture is the colours. Not just the reds and yellows you can pick out but the blues too, particularly on the bridge.

Plaza de Espana

Plaza de Espana

From here we head across the city to look at the Seville Cathedral. Neither of us are particularly religious but we do like to look at bit of architecture. Another bonus of these old places is they are generally quite cool on the inside, have I mentioned it’s hot? Seville Cathedral is absolutely massive, I learn that it’s the largest cathedral in the world and I believe them. It also has the most spectacular tower. The minaret turned bell tower, the Giralda. What I really remember is the series of ramps winding around the perimeter of several vaulted chambers at the tower’s core. These ramps were designed with enough width and height to accommodate animals I guess to carry more building equipment to the top. Even as a ramp it’s quite a climb and as you near the top it does appear to get stepper and narrower. The view is worth the effort.

View from Seville Cathedral

View from Seville Cathedral

We mill around Seville waiting for the heat and the traffic to die down, the van is drinking more water than diesel in this heat, so I want as clear a run out of the city as possible before I have to break out my spanners again.

We’re back on the coast for a few days and I re-enact the famous Daniel Craig swimming trunk picture, as you can see the results are uncanny. For all those unsure, I am the one on the left.

Me and Daniel

Me and Daniel

Day 9, Wednesday 1st April. April Fools

By now we have heard from our CEO and senior management team. There are going to be some tough decisions to be made and like I have said before I am realistic enough to know I’m not immune from this. My manager is quick to organise a team meeting for later today and I dare say individual meetings will follow; difficult times.

Not feeling like work, Lola gets a surprise late morning walk. I’ve said before, she’s not normally right keen at this time of day. She’s an early morning or late evening walker; thank you very much. Today; perhaps she senses something is different, but off we trot without even the slightest objection.
It’s surprisingly quiet about. A young family trying to teach kids to ride bikes, whom the sight of a small dog bobbling about causes a small accident. But it’s all good they are on the grass and tears are soon washed away. Lola couldn’t be less interested in all the commotion and I have the perfect two meter excuse for not getting involved in the crying child. The rest of the walk passes without incident. It’s been a great opportunity to clear my headspace and just what I needed at this time. I even feel like a little work now.

And so with as much dignity, comfort and support that can be afforded in these situations. All but a few essential staffs are on twelve weeks leave. No work, nothing to fill my days with…..
It’s an odd situation, because I saw it coming. I had only been talking about it this morning with my wife. I had laid out exactly how Thl would act, but now it’s here and I am looking at their actions straight in the face, I still can’t believe it. Not so much the business decisions, I get that. But how in just such a short space of time the world has changed. How a relevantly simple thing as a flu has sent the world into this perpetual spiral of despair. Borders closed, countries on lockdown. Who in their right mind would have thought we would be living through a plague of such biblical proportions.

Day 8, Tuesday 31st March

Last day of March. I have had quite a busy day speaking to my customers and being IT support for my colleagues. Tomorrow we have a big online meeting with our CEO via Microsoft Teams, so I have spent most of the day talking the guys through downloading/logging into the system. It will be carnage tomorrow so we have a little meeting between us all to prove it works. My boss does try to make some points and set out tomorrows agenda post the big meeting, but it quickly disseminates into a Mothers Union meeting. We have tours of people’s houses, some light hairdressing to watch and general chat; which is a real laugh and probably just what we all need. Tomorrow will be a different day.

Tomorrow’s meeting rather than the international calls to the entire workforce we have had previously, is directed purely at New Zealand Sales and Rental staffs. With as I understand it calls to other departments continuing throughout the day. The irony of it being April Fool’s day has not been lost on me, I have the distinct impression tomorrow is not going to be a good day for a great many of the Thl team.

So for a little light relief from the potential doom and gloom, I am going to introduce my next big build! Well big ish. My darling wife gave me this for Christmas and I had been saving it for the depths of winter, when we go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. I don’t cope well with this time of year and thought my build would keep me going. But know I need a distraction so out it comes.

LEGO Splity

LEGO Splity

According to LEGO®; this authentic camper van is a replica of the classic Volkswagen Camper Van from 1962. Every iconic feature is here! On the outside, the terrific detailing includes ‘V’ shape three-way colour split at the front, rounded roof and window frames, opening ‘splittie’ safari windshield, opening doors, iconic pop-up roof with textile curtain surround, roof rack, rear side air intake vents and lots more! The detailing is equally impressive on the inside, from the authentic VW air-cooled flat four cylinder boxer engine, front cabin bench seat, gear stick, angled dashboard and iconic spherical speedometer, to custom LEGO® features like folding rear bench seat, folding dinette table, closet with mirror and even a painting!
For everything I have read the 1,332 pieces will take about eight hours to assemble, so I am going to limit myself to an hour a day to prolong this a little and hopefully show you some interesting build pictures along the way.

Day 7, Monday 30th March

Back to the grind, it’s definitely been an odd sort of weekend but I guess every one of us can say that. I do have a little bit of work to do today, a couple of fairly warm leads to work with and set about my duties with enthusiasm. I genuinely do love what I do, like I have said before I actually do see it as just chatting to people and I do like a chat.
What’s really nice for a salesman is generally speaking at this time people are happy to talk to me, which does make for a refreshing change.
Come the afternoon, I’m running out of people who I can genuinely call without getting myself added to some nuisance caller list. So thoughts turn back to my emails that are now forming themselves into some sort of serialisation diary type thing. I have really enjoyed writing these extracts, I am not sure where it’s going to take us if anywhere but it will be fun while the ideas keep coming into my head. Some of the amazing feedback I have been receiving has been truly inspirational, thank you for taking the time to email me it really does mean a lot to me.

As I’m sat here starring out over the roof tops, dreaming of leaving the house for further than a walk with Lola. My thoughts wander back to my VW email and my travels around Europe.

I am sketchy on dates but it would have been early June 2008, myself and my then partner set out on our voyages. Not to long after these travels we parted ways. We are still civil and speak from time to time, both of us are now married so it was probably the best thing all round.

I won’t give you full tale of our travels as it took us a good few months; but over the next few days/weeks I will offer up a few of the highlights for me.

Our travels start with great aplomb. I have left the cooler plugged into the van battery. So we are pushed off the ferry by a team of very aggressive looking dock workers and jumpstarted off a nearby forklift. It won’t be the first time we have battery troubles on our trip, but it doesn’t exactly set my girlfriends mind at ease. Needless to say we do a fair bit of driving to charge the battery before we stop again.

La Rochelle. La Rochelle is a coastal city in south western France. It’s been a centre for fishing and trade since the 12th century, a maritime tradition that’s reflected in its Vieux Port (old harbour) and huge, modern Les Minimes marina. The old town has half-timbered medieval houses and Renaissance architecture, including passageways covered by 17th-century arches. It is a beautiful place to walk around and take in the history and architecture. As is Nantes which is a little further North, we take in Nantes on our way though from our ferry drop off at Roscoff.
From here we wind our way through Bordeaux, following roughly the west coast of France in to Spain.

La Rochelle Harbour

La Rochelle Harbour

From here we deviate a little from our plan to follow the coast. Northern Spain has an area called Basque Country. Basque Country is an autonomous community in northern Spain with strong cultural traditions and at this moment they and the Spanish government aren’t seeing eye to eye. So we give them a bit of a wide berth and opt to shoot a more central path towards the west coast of Portugal.
Now the west coast of Portugal, (or at least it was then) is a pure unspoilt wonder and best of all there is no one there (how ironic that I think the best thing is that there is no one there despite the fact that I am stuck at home, craving company). Or at least that was the case twelve odd years ago. Go prove me wrong, its stunning; a little windy as its facing the full brunt of the Atlantic but aside that I could have stayed for ever. But it’s a little early in our explorations to be setting up base so after a few days we move on.

Windswept and interesting

Windswept and interesting

From here we wind our way down the coast, do the touristy bit in the Algarve and cross the border back into Spain.

Day 5 & 6 the weekend

This is pure novelty for me, having worked in sales for so long I can’t remember the last time I had the whole weekend off. The whole weekend but absolutely nothing to do.
Anyway; where ever I have worked and whatever day it is, as soon as I finish my shift before my days off, in my mind it’s my weekend. Be it Tuesday/Wednesday or whatever I treat it like a Friday and what do we like to do on a Friday when we finish work? Go to the pub.
Being the proactive chap that I am, I have arranged a group video call with some of my friends from the motor trade in our virtual pub. We chew the fat for an hour or so over a few beers; chat conspiracy theories, ask when this will all end and general talk the sort of rubbish blokes do when left to their own devices.

Nicely chilled from a couple of beers, I am quickly reminded that I am still alone in these 4 walls. Lola shows no enthusiasm for a walk but will be dragged out anyway, I need to at least to see other real people. It’s a pleasant surprise, there are a sensible number of people out and about enjoying an evening stroll. By and large all keeping a sensible distance but happy enough to wave and say hello.

Contact.

So now I am quite chilled, I have found a couple of funnies on the telly to watch and eased the top of a nice bottle of red. Content in my own little world. Until the wife calls! Now we are lucky enough to have two bathrooms so for the foreseeable future I am in the ensuite and she gets to use the main bathroom. All uniforms etc. are stored in there and washed separately, regularly. All sensible stuff. There is no getting away from the fact that the chances of her having Covid contact are greater, so for as much as possible we are keep things separate. So here’s the cracker, now she is worried about the bedding! It’s like quarter to 10 and she’s lucky I am not already under the duvet let alone thinking about doing a full bedding change. But being the dutiful husband that I am off I go, nicely warmed by the earlier beers and a good slosh of red, I’ve got this. Stripping the bed is no problem, all straight in the washer. Well not all of it, I am not a heathen. For a bloke I am fairly well domesticated and can not only recognise the difference in colours when loading the washing machine, I know which end of the vacuum cleaner does what and I have been known to cook the odd dinner. Dusting still remains a mystery though.
Anyway the bed is stripped and now I am looking for a new set of linen. Now from my limited experience of the order of things, woman like it all to match. But mine doesn’t like to help this task by keeping each set together, oh no no no. We have different boxes for sheets, duvet covers and pillow cases, so now the hunt is on. I don’t really care what it is as long as it looks the same. After much sifting I find a set that looks like it fits the bill, only to discover now I put everything away again that this set isn’t your normal button up or pop together set. No I have managed to pull out the only set we have with little tassels on that you have to tie you duvet and pillows into, the faff begins.
I’m done the bedding is clean and all tied nicely with little bows, I am hoping there will be extra brownie points for that. I have had my shower. The program I wanted to watch has long since finished, I am off up that wooden hill to Bedfordshire.
Now I always like a clean bed and fresh bedding always seems like a treat every time, so I am ready for this. I have lifted off the fancy little tasselly pillows that I know from experience are just for show and not for your own personal comfort. Just as I am reaching for the bedside light I spot it. The bloody pillowcase on my side is different to the other! Too late, good night.

Saturday the wife has a rare day off and we end up doing all the practical stuff you have to do when you have days off. We’ve cleaned, vacuumed, washed. I thought the place was pretty tidy but apparently no. I also get growled at for not doing the ironing which is now building up. I try to explain that although I’ve been at home, I have been working. It’s too late for that game though, she has read my diary!

I dodge the ironing a little bit longer by taking us all out for a walk. New Zealand is a beautiful country and I dare say you could walk almost anywhere and be astounded by nature. But up here we have nature and a golf course. The course is closed sadly but this does mean that like many other folk are doing, you can take advantage of some outstanding views and walks. I listen to the wife wittering on about the state of the health system and what will be the next stages, should the worst happen; while I play a round of imaginary golf in my head and Lola checks the hedges for the golf balls I will inevitably lose.

Made it to the golf course

We have planned a curry night, normally we like to treat ourselves to a little Indian indulgence of a weekend. If you ever make it up this way we are lucky enough to have one of the best curry house I have tried in New Zealand just around the corner from us, but we are trying to keep it a bit of a secret so please don’t all come and once.
I am gearing up to start preparations for this Indian banquet when the idea of a gin and tonic is presented to me, I mean what harm can it do? Its mid-afternoon the suns out. We have a very sociable garden to sit it, go on just the one! I should thank at this time the purveyor of said gin, you know who you are. We are very grateful and it’s very good. I don’t think the wife will be quite so grateful in the morning but tonight it’s the best thing ever! As always it’s never just one drink, especially when the neighbourhood spot as and join us for a social distancing drink from behind the fence. Maybe over the garden fence drinking isn’t so bad after all.

Social distancing drinks

Social distancing drinks

Sunday, amazingly enough tippy toe nurse has got up early for work. Last night’s gin showing no lasting effects. It also appears we have a new rule in this house; one up all up! So once my beautiful clodhopper wearing wife finally winds her way out the door and away, I am wide awake. The only one who appears to be immune to all this is Lola. When it all gets too much for the old girl she tucks herself in the back of our walk in robe and this is where I find her. Doing her very best sleeping and showing no signs action at all.

So now I am up. It’s still dark so I spend a bit of time writing this. Prior to popular belief this doesn’t come naturally to me. Talking rubbish, no problem; I have made a career out of that. But when it comes to writing it, I am not so sponny. I have never been tested but over the years I have come to consider myself slightly dyslexic. I came from the school years where dyslexia, ADHD and a like were not recognised. If you had a problem and the resolution couldn’t be beaten into, you sat at the thick table! Now I suppose with hindsight I never really sat at the thick table, but I got pretty close a number of times. This I think is why I couldn’t wait to get out of education. Over the years I have had plenty of opportunity to go back and do different things and each time it’s been met with the same reticence. I didn’t enjoy it first time around when I didn’t have a choice, now I have a choice so keep me away! Please don’t get me wrong further education has its place just not in my life. I watched with absolute amazement, pride and ore as my wife complete a Law Degree through the Open University. Five years of pure determination earned her an LLB with honours and I couldn’t be more proud of her. But that’s her and not me, we are all different and we all cut our cloth a different way.

What I should tell you is why she ended up doing said degree in the first place.
First of all my wife is a Facebook addict. You’ve read about me calling her my Facebook PA well its true, but she’s not trawling through endless tosh (well not all the time). She uses it to keep in touch with people and not just keep in touch, speak to. She has an absolutely massive friends list and I bet she talks to best part of them at least once a month. It might only be a little message on a post, but she is in contact. So when its school reunion time, she’s the girl to organise it.
Now this is no mean feat, at this time we are living down in the South West of England, she was dragged up just outside of Manchester and at this present time is working in London. So as you can imagine, it has its challenges. But with the help of a few of her old school friends, little miss hundred miles an hour gets it done.
The big day arrives, we’re all crammed into a room of the local working man’s club. With a cracking bar, bit of a disco, buffet and a draw. Everything you need for a night out in the North of England.
As you can imagine the drinks are flowing, everyone is catching up with everyone. I end up having a long conversation with a bloke who is convinced he used to sit next to me in maths and generally everyone is having fun.
I leave my new best calculus buddy to consider his next equation and am just pottering around looking for someone else to talk to. Generally speaking everyone knows everyone else but there are a few partners of classmates mingling round the edges so I head off to chat with my brethren. I talk to a few and end up talking to a nice German lady, we’re only talking rubbish. The normal polite chit chat people who don’t really know each other make at these forced social occasions. When out of nowhere her husband appears, I don’t know him. He doesn’t know me but it’s very clear he doesn’t like me talking to his wife. It an odd arrangement as the whole purpose, or at least for me of going out to these sorts of places is to talk to other people. Anyway it’s quite obvious this is a man of some substance, his whole demeanour is different to everyone else I have spoken to that evening and it’s at this very moment my lovely wife choses to wobble into view. Now there is a golden rule with my wife don’t argue unless you 100% right, it’s probably true for most wives but with mine its 1000% true. This guy clearly didn’t know the rules of the game or didn’t care and I think it was probably the latter. But proceeded to tell my wife she had wasted her education and would never amount to anything. Spouting “you always wanted to be a lawyer but you’re just a nurse”. This to the lady that has worked at the very highest level of nursing. Anyway for one of the few times in my life I have my mouth shut, I can’t see how this is going to play out but I don’t want to miss it. Then it comes an explosion of white wine, adrenalin and fury that would change the next five years of both our lives. The immortal words from my wife’s lips “Just a F@#*ing nurse and what the hell have you done with your life, your just a glorified pharmacy worker, I could get a law degree if I wanted” and so it’s decided. In a working man’s club in the North of England my wife is going to do a law degree just to prove a point!
Oh and our “glorified pharmacy worker” works for a multinational corporation that develops medical devices, pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods. She knows how to win a fight my girl.

Day 4, Friday 27th March

The day that broke the camel’s back. One little email, well three I guess. A misplaced addition to the contact list and now I am writing a diary!

The day started well enough. I am getting used to the late rising and even Lola appears to have worked out the code. A quick shower a lap of Whangaparaoa with the dog and I am ready for anything! Well what I am really ready for is a cup of tea, we Brits can’t do anything without at least half a gallon sloshing about inside us. I answer a couple of emails in timely fashion so everyone knows I am up and about and pretending to be working. Then we have a livestream Teams Talk, Q&A – COVID-19 update from our CEO. These chats for the CEO aren’t unusual and I will be honest I don’t normally bother. But these are different times, I need all the information I can get. If there are redundancies around the corner I want to know about it before it slaps me in the face. As you can imagine, attendance is at an all-time high and not just from the New Zealand team. Thl is global and this effects all our sites from USA to Australia, UK to New Zealand. There has already been staff redundancies in the States but no plan for the rest of us yet. I am not short-sighted enough to think that there won’t be job losses brought on by Covid-19 and am realistic enough not to think I am above all of this. What I do know is that I can only do what I can do and what I do is talk to people. So after sending my latest email that is exactly what I do.

Email 3:

As we hunker down for the long hall, my mind has drifted back to my own motor homing history. Or more precisely campervans. Not many of you will know but I have a deep love for old tutt, more precisely old VW tutt. I have been lucky enough to own and be involved in the restoration of a good number of these iconic beasts. What you guys know as a Kombi is in my world very different. These vans are all VW Type 2’s the Type 1 is the VW Beatle, back in the day VW kept naming things very simple!

The iconic split screen like the picture below, is easily recognisable and the first of a long line of great vehicles. The very early ones (1950 – 1956 I think) had the barn door (double opening doors to one side).

Splity

The van below is a good friend of mines, who bought it blind online after too much beer; but that is another story. It is however quite a rare 1963 Sundial. In this picture sporting the rat look it is now probably three quarters its way through a ground up restoration. Once finished it will be a show winning vehicle I am sure and I am very much looking forward to seeing it when I am next back in the UK.

Sundial

The old girl below is a more modern T4 (I say more modern I think it was a 1992), this beast battled it way round Europe with me in 2008. We travelled pretty much the entire coastline anti-clockwise before we came to Italy where we turned north to take in Austria, Germany, Luxembourg and Brussels before all the botched repairs began to take its toll. I managed to get it back into the UK before the head gasket blew in a most spectacular fashion about 20 miles from home.

T4

I still dream of one more of these busses, but it’s a specific one. I want a 1968 Early Bay window deluxe. These where only built between 1968-71, just before I left the UK I found one but sadly the rust had taken too much of a hold for it to be viable for me to repair. These for me are the epitome of VW busses and one day I will have one just like this.

T2

I would love to hear tale of your motor homing history and travels and if anyone should know of such a van please do let me know. I have one more big build left in me, in fact I have two but I will share that with you all later.

Stay safe and if you have any questions or queries regarding your own motorhome or even your next one I am here for you.

Oh and if you think you’ve got it bad, now we have no water!

Day 3, Thursday 26th March

Like I guess most homeworkers I realise I have been playing at it a little bit so I make a concerted effort to speak to my customer and explain where we are as a company. This last till about lunchtime when I hear the PlayStation calling me. The PlayStation by the way is my equivalent of panic buying. On Tuesday I think it was, the wife and I have a ride out to pick up a few last minute essentials. My essentials are a new games console to keep me amused and two boxes of beer, for similar amusement. It’s fair to say I am much more accomplished on the beer than I am the PlayStation but it does while a way a few hours in painful irritation.

After my so called lunch break and a beer to settle the frustrations, I do complete my calls to my clients and even find a customer who may look to put a deposit on a motorhome to secure one of the last of this particular model. Feeling a modicum of success I treat myself to another celebratory beer.
Those that know me best will testify that I do like the occasional beverage. But now with all the time in the world for a drink, the wife at work and only Lola to entertain I understand that it’s not the drink that I enjoy most but the company. Company that has been taken from me.
Now I find myself franticly trawling Facebook looking for people to talk to. My UK friends are still sleeping and my Kiwi friends all appear to be having fun with their own families, it’s tough for an Isolated Salesman. I do reach out to one of my neighbours who like me has an outgoing personality and as it turns out a distinct loathing of being kept in doors. He joins me for a beer and a chat over the fence, keeping ourselves the prerequisite 2 meters apart. But it’s an odd arrangement, both of us seeking company but neither of us satisfied to have it over a garden fence.

Day 2, Wednesday 25th March

I am trying to embrace the idea of homeworking and rather than just sitting on the sofa with my laptop on my knee I set up my own little office area in the corner of the lounge. It’s not the most comfortable place to sit; on top of a chest of draws but I convince myself that work isn’t supposed to be comfortable, so email the team to show what I have done. If you look closely at the picture you can even see one of the team waving back from her home office.

Email to the team:

Good morning All,

All set up here to, pretty close to the tea bags and even closer to the bar 😂

Me

My home office

Keep in touch guys, it’s going to be a long old drag.

I also send another one of my now infamous emails

Email 2

So last day, as we step over the threshold of our own front doors for what could be quite some time.

Thank you for all the lovely feedback from my previous email, it means a lot to hear from you all. I am sure over time these little messages of support and good wishes will come to mean even more. But please if you don’t want to hear my utterances drop me a line and I will cease and desist.

For all those wondering about Lola; she is a 9 year old collie cross springer. No longer a pup as many of you thought but still as lively as ever. I have been waiting many years for her to slow down and I get the impression I will be waiting a good few more yet. A couple of pictures of our early morning walk, Lola likes to go out early and being the responsible parent it minimises our risk of contact too. Sorry no pictures of Lola this morning, the sharp eyed amongst you may spot her in the second picture speed testing rabbit’s 😁

Sunrise over Shakespeare Parkview out towards the city and Rangitoto

I will leave you all to you finial preparations, please keep in touch and stay safe.

Day 1, Tuesday 24th March

So first up to confuse everyone, day one for me was Tuesday 24th. Following on from Jacinda’s announcement Monday that New Zealand would be moving to Alert Level 4 at 11.59pm Wednesday 25th Thl as a group made the decision to close RV Super Centre with immediate effect and for all but essential staffs homeworking would take effect.

And so it begins, the Government have spoken. An action plan against Covid-19 has been initiated and us as good citizens must stay at home. In any other circumstance this almost sounds like a dream scenario but not for the “friendly bloke who likes to talk to everyone”. I thrive on social contact. I am pretty good on the phone or with an email and even do the occasional Facebook posting. It is occasional to, I have my own Facebook PA (the wife) who gets very upset if I have beaten her to the posting of whatever it is we are doing. But take people away from me and I don’t like it. So now I have this to try and keep my sanity, but maybe not yours!

This really is how all of this came about; I write a little email to all of my customer and inadvertently manage to add my manager to the group. I don’t notice she’s was in the chain of email so after about my third utterance I get held up on some pedestal as some communication god. The rest as they say is history.

Email 1:

I am quite sure motor-homing is not at the forefront of your minds. The decision to close all unessential services will obviously impact a great many of us, not least the RV Super Centre. The RV Super Centre is now closed to the public. All staffs like myself are in self isolation and in a work from home scenario. During this time I will remain available to you via email or mobile phone if you have any pressing queries or concerns. I am sure as the days and weeks drag on a social chat will also be very welcome.

The only good to come out of this is my little dog Lola thinks all of her Christmases have come at once, having Daddy home in her mind is the best thing ever.
Lola

Biography

Before these tails start its probably best you understand a little about me. First up I am a pom, I count myself very lucky to be living and working in New Zealand but without my beautiful wife I wouldn’t be here. Startled as you maybe to hear this, friendly bloke who likes to talk to everyone isn’t on the skilled migrant list, but a nurse is. So while the better half is out doing her part to rid the world of Covid-19 I am here like all of you climbing the walls with just a small dog for company.

Going back to that point “friendly bloke who likes to talk to everyone” is exactly how I see myself. I will never been that clever salesperson who can twist your words or that smarmy sort that can bamboozle you with science and get you to the place where your grateful they are letting you buy their product. Over my years I have worked with some really great salespeople and don’t get me wrong I know how to ask the question, but for me; having a chat enjoying other peoples company has brought me the same rewards as the other type of salesman I have described and it allows me sleep at night.

So why motorhomes? Put simply; it was time for a change. I have been selling cars for many years, mostly Honda but other franchises too. I landed a job with Honda New Zealand almost as soon as we got here, love the brand and the company but sometimes you just need a new challenge. So a chance contact via LinkedIn put the opportunity of selling motorhomes in front of me. I love traveling and motor homing as you will read so it seemed a logical next step.

Newer posts »