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

Category: Uncategorised (Page 1 of 2)

Still Playing Golf

Many of you have messaged me notes of support and asked what I am doing with myself now. More often than not asking about my Blog, so I guess its high time I answer all those questions and post a Blog at the same time.

For the most part I have been playing golf, I have shaved just over three shots off my handicap. Still not playing as well as I’d like but making progress and moving things in the right direction.
I have been lucky to be off over the Christmas holiday period, it’s meant a lot of my friends have been off work too. This has allowed us to travel about and play some of the other fine courses in New Zealand.
Omaha Beach Golf Club was until recently a personal favourite, it’s a links style course and reminded me a little of a course I used to play back in the UK. It also has the benefit for me, for the majority of the course at least; to be safe on the right-hand side. Those that have played with me will know that I can on occasion suffer with a bit of a slice! So, having the safety net of space out to the right is a real bonus for me. I was putting together a nice round until the seventeenth; this has a large lake to the right and despite being relatively straight off the tee all day, it was never going to last!
My new favourite however, is Waitangi Golf Club; its like two courses in one. The front nine is a parkland course and the back nine more approaching a links style. And the views, well they are something else. Right know if I could only play one golf course for the rest of my life this would have to be it, but I have a few more to check out so I will keep you updated.

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Waitangi Golf Club

In my new found retirement I have been promoted to house husband! Not a position I have actively applied for, but it appears that despite my wife quite happy for me to take a break; its not all about the golf! So now I am chief cook and bottle washer. I am not to the Olympic style level of cleaning that my good lady can reach; but I appear to be holding my own with little complaint. I am fortunate that I can cook better than I can clean, so as long as the house looks respectable and dinner is on the table when she gets in, I can get away with it.

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Lola is loving having Dad home, although she is getting older, she’s loving the extra walks. I do however think she is grateful sometimes when I go out to have a bit of quite time. As soon I as pulled the computer out, she has assumed the position by my feet, its like nothing has changed. Well for her at least. But this weekend she is on respite, one of our dear neighbours is looking after her and we are off for what I expect will be a very drunken weekend catching up with friends in Tauranga. We have enjoyed a couple of great weekends away exploring New Zealand and this weekend I am sure will be no exception.
I am hopping this will be the perfect warm up for our maiden voyage to the South Island. It’s amazing to think we have been here for well over three years now and our only trip down south was a flight back from Sydney that got diverted to Christchurch, as the weather made it too bad to land in Auckland. I will always remember this trip, not only for the hair-raising landing attempts in Auckland but the comradery and support of our fellow passengers. We had exited the plane at Christchurch Airport and despite repeated reassurances that we would all be put up in hotels; as we stood around awaiting further instruction the doubt that this was going to materialise became more apparent. We were clearly not the first plane to get diverted that day and looking around it was obvious that blankets were already beginning to be handed out to our fellow stranded passengers. The ground crew were repeating their reassurances that hotels would be found but the tone was clearly changing and the looks on the faces of the crew told the story all to clearly. This is where we got lucky, remember I am the nice guy who likes to talk to everyone. Behind me is an older couple who had clearly missed what had just been said and overhearing their concerns I turned around to reiterate what was said adding my concerns on the availability of hotel rooms and pointing out the blankets that were clearly being banded around. My wife was trying to find us accommodation but we don’t know one end of Christchurch from the other, fortunately our new friends do. Within moments this lovely couple had booked a two-bed unit and was whisking us away via taxi. Clearly saving us from a night on the airport floor. Judging by the next morning this was exactly where most of our fellow passengers had spent the night.
I will always be grateful to this couple. But most of all it underlines what I am about; be nice, talk to people. One day you will be surprised where it gets you.

When the Fun Stops Stop

I am back in isolation again. Sometimes it’s not till you step away from something you can see what you have been doing. What I have been doing is breaking myself.
Throughout lockdown I had been working as you are all aware, it was a nice distraction from what was happening. Since we have entered level 2 and now level 1, I have been in the business at least six days a week, working long hours to try and catch up. Working to deliver all the vehicles that were unable to be handed over pre lockdown and selling a good number of motorhomes too. Demand has been higher than we could have imagined. I am sure the border closure has something to do with it but I am also sure that Kiwis are now more than aware that our little island is safe. Why risk traveling to Europe say, when you have not explored your own back yard. New Zealanders have always been great travellers and I am sure they will be once again, but for now it will be closer to home.
All of this has built pressure right across the business. From the offset we didn’t bring all our staff back from discretional leave; how could we rightly see how the business demand was going to be. Equally we cannot see into the future, so business decisions had to be made on the perceived business performance of the next few years. Consultation, job loses, restructuring and all the time whilst we try to continue service delivery. A service that is selling more vans with less staff. It had always been the case that we would allow a fortnight from point of sale to check everything, add any accessories, service, WOF, and valet the vehicle ready for collection. Demand has been so high we are already outside of this SLA and are trying to manage client expectations, please be patient. We are less trying to do more; we are all feeling the pressure but making unrealistic demands will not help. Add this to our existing customers who want service work done and you can see the fight we all have.

I personally am big enough to stand up and say I am broken, both physically and emotionally. I need time away. But it’s not time away, I still have customers calling, texting or emailing questions. Threats to cancel deals if their van is not prepared first and for the first time in my sales life, I can honestly say I don’t care. I have to put myself and my colleagues first, our own health is more important than your holiday. I am sorry if you read this and don’t like this sentiment but I am drained.

Months back I tried to right a piece on the emotion of sales but it upset me to much so I deleted it, now is the time for me to try again. I hope it will explain what we are all feeling right now.

Sales is an amazing thing; when you are selling you can’t go wrong. Everything you touch seems to turns to gold. You are riding an emotional high, your energy levels know no bounds. You are enthusiastic, bubbly and energetic; a real pleasure to be around. But when it goes wrong and you can’t buy a deal, all the self-doubt and disbelief creeps in. You feel tired, you start blaming others, yourself, and it feels everyone is against you. I have always tried to rationalise it like a sinewave, you have to take the highs with the lows but if you can concentrate on the mean average you will be ok.
It still never quite works. As salespeople we are chasing the highs, it’s hard to explain but when you get it right there is a buzz to be had from it. Maybe we are addicts? Probably in a way we are; but for every high there must be a low. That I have always managed. A good Sales Manager will help you with it to and I am lucky I have had some absolutely amazing ones over my time. Sometimes it’s just a chat, to remind you what you can do, sometimes there will be a deal bubbling in the back ground that will be thrown your way. It’s an amazing thing how one sale breads another and suddenly you are back in the game. But this time it is different, selling isn’t the problem and that’s what I’ve been struggling to understand. Get the customers in front of me and I can put on the game face and perform. Only the drug isn’t working, I am not getting the highs anymore. What I am getting is the feeling of pressure pushing down on me, the more I sell the greater this pressure gets. It’s almost like a heavy dark blanket is thrown over me. I can feel it now as I write this, my arms are heavy, I have a pressure on my head and the emotions are building within me. Yet the joy of a sale is what I chase? For the first time in my life, I have had to step away from something I love doing for the good on my mental health: there I have said it. I can admit I am struggling and the more I write the less I understand why. Everything I have done in my sales career has been about winning, about chasing the deal. Now I have deals a plenty and all I have is this darkness over me.

I am sure you can understand why I have been struggling to write this piece and why now having laid it all out why I can’t make sense of it. My hope is by doing so it will give confidence to others to not suffer in silence. As salespeople we might have the perception of being scum but believe me it’s a skill and not everyone can do it. But inside we are all the same and we all suffer to greater or lesser extents with our emotions.

I will take a moment to thank all of my customers and to the RVSC staff that tried to help me. For now, I will take a break. Spend some time with my wife, little dog and friends. I am sure I will pop up in sales in some form or another next year, like I said despite everything it’s a drug for us and even if I do say so myself, I am quite good at it. But for now, I have a golf handicap that needs some serious attention. I also have a blog I have been seriously neglecting.

Here we go again, Thursday 13th August

A place we all hoped we would never see again, a journey we thought travelled is back. I guess even our team of five million can’t defeat this pandemic as it sweeps the world and whilst I am sure we all feel the same disappointment to be back in lockdown, perhaps it was unrealistic to think we wouldn’t be again?
We all did a fantastic job first time around and I strongly believe the actions we took were correct. Now sadly we have to hunker down and start over, hopefully for not so long this time; but with the news of a Mount Albert Grammar School student testing positive this morning, sadly I am not so sure.
What I do know is togetherness is the only way to defeat this terrible plague, acting as one is our only chance. Sure I didn’t see myself back at my dining table writing to you all. I had already started planning what ‘The Diary of an Isolated Salesman’ would look like in a post Covid New Zealand. I have plans to reignite it in a new guise; but for now that is on hold while we all settle in and work together to be again the darlings of the world media in defeating Covid for a second time.

The only one happy about the whole situation is Lola, despite her attempts to drag me out of bed at half past five this morning. To be fair to her this is the normal time I take her out; but clearly she didn’t get the memo that I would be home and the need for such early walks wasn’t required. I managed to keep her at bay till about seven, but it was clear by then if we didn’t go soon I would have more cleaning to do than the already detailed list my darling wife had left me. I did question if I had been entered into the World Covid Cleaning Olympics? This was met with a very blunt outburst that I won’t repeat here.
So we are back to the start, Lola is very happy as she has her Dad all-day. Wife is working and I am here talking to you all under the guise of homeworking. Don’t get me wrong I do have plenty to do. Sadly these motorhomes don’t sell themselves. I have a long list of customers already bought, that will need updating on what is happening, whatever that is? Despite being at Level 3 I still have ambitions of selling a few vehicles. Business is still very brisk and despite this small blimp of a lockdown I don’t foresee anything changing in that regard.
Kiwis have clearly embraced the idea that travel outside of New Zealand is off the agenda for the foreseeable future and the opportunity to explore their own back yard seems like to good an opportunity to miss. I have to say I agree with them; ‘The Traveling Isolated Salesman’ seems like an excellent idea to me.

Day 10 Level 2, Sunday 24th May

It’s been a while since I have had the time to write. Work is flat out and I don’t think people understand how hard we are all working with limited resources. We don’t have enough staff numbers to open seven days a week, but as we have so much work myself and my sales colleague have been using the weekend time to deliver vehicles. The abuse we received yesterday from the general public was unbelievable. I won’t go into the specifics but let me be very clear. We are all working flat out, it’s not unusual for us to be fielding phone calls and answering emails late into the night. I can’t remember the last time I had a proper day off and I am not alone in that statement. Please be patient, as of next we should be back to some sort of semblance of normality. But for now we are just head down, bottom up; working as hard as we can to deliver the service you all require.

Today is a special day, today I have a round of golf booked with a dear friend I have not seen since all this lockdown stuff began. I have slipped and checked and answered a few emails but now my phone is going in the draw until tomorrow and once I have finished this little piece my laptop will be following it. Today is about friends, golf and maybe a beer after. I am not expecting either of us to be setting course records. Last time out I shot a very embarrassing ninety-nine. But I know we will have fun, the slightly overcast weather won’t dampen our spirits. Today will be a good day.

I have a wonderful story of a motorhome sale to share with you, for reasons that will become clear later I can’t write the story quite yet; so I thought I might tell the tale of my greatest sale and possible the greatest customer. I have changed a good deal of the information in this story to protect the identity of said customer, but the crux of it is all true.
Back in the day I was working for a large dealership selling brand specific vehicles. As a good salesman I would work my database and speak to customers I felt could benefit from an upgrade. I had a lovely chap we will call Dave that had a small car that he used for his daily commute. He was desperate to change and we would talk, email or text regularly about his car and how it was time for a change. Dave became a bit of a mate, we would chat about all sorts of stuff.
He knew he had to change his car; it was rotten. The heater had long since given up, it was using water and fuel in equal quantities. The drives side window had fallen out of its fixing and was now stuck open about two inches. In short it was old and needed to go.
Dave was keen to upgrade, just by a few years to get something that worked. But every time I found him something, his wife would find something else to spend the money on. It was always amazing things to, foreign holidays, a new kitchen once it was a swimming pool.  I was never quite sure if this was just something he said to keep me from pestering him or what was genuinely happening. But like I say it didn’t matter because he was like a mate now, so we just chatted, laughed and moved on.
One day we had taken in a lovely little manual car that was right up Dave’s street. I took a few pictures and emailed him the information. Also taking the liberty of sending him some pictures of a sporty little number we had for a bit of fun. The sporty beast was in a completely different price bracket but I thought it would be a talking point.
Anyway; with about an hour Dave is on the phone asking why I had sent him the pictures of the sports car. Turns out this just happened to be his dream car and could he come down to take a look. I was really thinking he just wanted to have a look, maybe a drive to get it out of his system. Then we could talk about the little cheapy I had for him.
Quite the opposite. Once Dave and seen it and driven it he was more smitten than ever. A long chat with our business manager and with a bit of finance Dave could afford his dream; the car was his.
We had a little bit to do on the car to get it ready for him so we agreed he would collect it in a few days.
The next morning Dave is on the phone, saying his wife has gone mad at the idea of such a car. Midlife crisis and divorce had been banded around, but anyway not to worry he was going to have the car whatever. I didn’t think this was his smartest move and mentioned the little car was still with us but that didn’t matter, he was having it and that was that.
Roll on the next day and I have the mother in law in the office shouting and going that I can’t sell him such a car. Her daughter is going to leave him if he does something so selfish and stupid. She takes a look at the prospective new car, rants some more so I show her the little runner I had originally tried to sell him. Much happier with this option she starts trying to negotiate on the car on his behalf. Not wanting to get into this conversation I tell her I will do the same deal on this car as he got on the racer. The same deal incidentally was what was on the window, but she seemed happy and was off home to tell the daughter what was happening. I called Dave and he told me not to worry, the dream car was coming home with him and that was that.
It goes quite for a couple of days, then out of know where I get a call from Dave; “do I still have the little cheapy?” Without batting an eyelid and more out of fun than anything else I say “we do, do you want to buy both?” Yes he does and this is why Dave became the best customer ever. The plan was he would use the cheapy for his commute and the sporty number would live in his mate’s garage for weekend fun. This guy has a pretty expensive motorcar hiding in his mate’s garage, on a good bit of funding that his wife knows nothing about!
The day comes to collect; Dave drives down first thing in the morning in his old banger, swops to his new runner and tells me he will be back in the afternoon with his mate to pick up the other. The afternoon comes round and like a Cheshire cat Dave appears with his mate to pick up his new toy. As I watch him drive away I turn to his mate and ask if he thinks he will get away with it? “Oh definitely” he says, “she never found out about the motorbike!”

Day 1, Level 2, Thursday 14th May

I have said before that I wake up knowing what I am going to write. I have also recently mentioned that I am struggling to find time to write. Well it appears having been laying in bed for a half an hour, writing this out in my mind; four o’clock in the morning is the time to write my ditties!

First day of level two. What a result for New Zealand. In what is basically six weeks, we appear to have put a hold on the spread of this horrible virus and maybe, just maybe moved in the direction of eradicating it here in Aotearoa. This is only a hope, team New Zealand still have a way to go, but the goal line is in site if we can stick to the rules; we got this.
So far so good, for what I have seen by and large people appear to be doing just that.
Auckland traffic is no way near back to normal. The morning rush hour is still noting like it has been previously. On day one of level two, traffic was notably busier than previous days but nothing like my normal commute. This gives me heart that peoples and companies are continuing to promote working from home. Sadly, this also might be a sign that the fall out of Covid 19 has started impacting people’s jobs already. Unhappily although both our true, I suspect the latter is more prevalent. Companies have to adapt to the new New Zealand and what this might look like going forward nobody really knows.
Its easy to see that tourism will be down for some considerable amount of time, the Trans-Tasmin bubble could help but it won’t replace the global tourism we previously enjoyed. The knock-on effect of this will shudder though the whole New Zealand economy. Business need to adapt now, change their model or they won’t survive to see the recovery of not only this beautiful country but the global economy as a whole.
We probably don’t even have a quarter of our staffs back on site and sadly post consultation I doubt we will be back to a full complement. Nobody will be immune. Just because I am working now it won’t preclude me from the risk of job cuts. Thl have been clear, we need to adapt to new times and they are right. But this change will impact many I am certain.
On the flip side of this potential doom and gloom, it will be a fantastic time to get out and explore your own backyard. We haven’t just opened the doors and gone back to life as it was before; but even on day one there is a feeling of determination from our customers to get out and start enjoying what this country has to offer. We concluded business on a couple of vehicles and there is a feeling that it will be alright. So, if your thinking of getting out and seeing a bit of New Zealand, now will be a great time. All our beauty spots will be quieter than they have been for years, travel will be easy and you will be doing you bit to help the local economy. Do get in touch, I know a guy who can help find that motorhome to make that dream happen.

Other exciting news from day one of level two, is I have had my hair cut. Like many it was well overdue. I normally sport quite a short hairdo and if left to long it begins to curl back into my ears and get quite lush and heavy. If left any longer it takes on a wire wool type quality that is best avoided, so I was thrilled to get an appointment and I was also buoyed to see how well it was being managed. We are all doing the necessary contact tracing; this will be the norm for a good little while I am sure and these guys were no different. But theirs was all managed though a app. You book your appointment time, pay a deposit and it allows you in real time to see how your appointment time is going. Sure, they were running late, well good I am glad they were. They were busy and by half past five by the time I got there you could see these lovely ladies were tired. Ambitions of working till seven pm, it was going to be much later than that by the time they caught up and finished all their bookings. I couldn’t have been more pleased, to not only see them back working. But being so busy and yes predictable enough they were busy; I am sure there are many people with mops like mine that need a trim or worse home attempts that need remedying. These ladies are going to be busy enough for a few weeks to come and they need to be. No income for six weeks, they have adapted the business model from a hundred percent walk-in to online booking service and its worked. Sure, a couple of tweaks but this is day one, nobody gets it right straight off the bat. To watch them in their masks, cleaning down after each sitting changing equipment, contact tracing. They were going to be alright, so get out there and support your local barbers or hairdressers. The Barber Depot gets my vote.

Sadly, throughout the days optimism and excitement to get back to normal, there is always a dark cloud.
A great man has left this mortal coil. A man that will be known to a great many residents of Whangaparaoa, his charisma, charm, whit will be remembered fondly. A born entertainer, the genial host with most; providing many a pub quiz and much more besides. He leaves a wife, family and more friends than I think he will ever know. My thoughts and good wishes go out to all effected by this terrible and untimely loss and I will leave you with some immortal words that he may have burrowed from another great and now sadly pasted entertainer.

“You don’t get anything for a pair, not in this game“.

Day 48, Sunday 10th May

Keeping up with my blog is becoming a real challenge. It probably only takes me a couple of hours to rattle off some of my thoughts and memories, but finding those few hours is a real challenge.
Work is super busy; I am generally there for about seven thirty and still banging away after five. Couple that with the forty minute commute each way and by the time I get home I have had enough for the day. That and the wife gets a little sniffy if I don’t at least talk to her for a bit. But today on this beautifully clear, sunny autumnal morning. Wifey is at work, Lola is sleeping in the sunshine and I have some time to catch up with you all.
It’s funny how this has grown, I just stated it out of a whim, a couple of silly emails and the want of something to do during lockdown. Now I miss it if I don’t get time to write.
I have even started formulating what an Isolated Salesman might look like post Covid. I have some ideas but sadly despite everyone’s good work we are a little way off normality yet. Whatever that might look like? I don’t think it will be the same county we left nearly six weeks ago, or at least not for a good while yet. I suppose it does give us the opportunity to change. In my experience change is always for the greater good despite what it might feel like at the time.
Back in the UK I had the unenviable role of working with a team managing organisational change. The service I worked for was being transferred to another organisation. TUPE applied but even so there was a lot of worry and angst from the staff. There were redundancies but on the whole those who transferred across were happy.
I am sure in the coming weeks and months companies across New Zealand and the world for that matter will have to relook at their business model, a lot has changed in six weeks and will continue to do so for a good while yet. Those that don’t change and react to these new times will fail. Now is not the time to open the doors and think it will be business as usual, it won’t be and not for a long time to come. The decisions and choices we make now will define our futures.
Thl have been very open in talking about this, it’s already very visible that there are moves a foot to transition the business into a different direction. Foreign tourism will be a very different beast for a good time to come, and I am sure will no longer be the main driver of the business. How it will look is for smarter people than me to figure; I have my thoughts, only time will tell how accurate I am.

On a lighter note the opening up of golf courses has been a blessing. We can only play in our bubbles, I have been able to go out on my own and hide the embarrassment of what five weeks without swinging a club brings to my game. I was never Tiger Woods but right now I am worse than I have been for a long time. Hopefully at level 2 I will be able to get a couple of lessons and try and get my game back on track. Either that or I will have to take Lola as caddie/golf ball retriever.

Austria, my second favourite place in the world, you can all guess my first. When we left Italy and the lakes we headed north towards the Dolomites. The Dolomites are a mountain range located in north-eastern Italy. They form part of the Southern Limestone Alps and extend from the River Adige in the west to the Piave Valley in the east. The plan was for us to drive through the mountains to Austria. This truly was one of the most spectacular drives of my life and it would appear one I have very few pictures of. This drive is real Top Gear stuff, winding roads, hairpin bends, amazing scenery and the biggest bridge I have ever seen.

Heading for Austria

Heading for Austria

First we wind our way out of Italy and into the Dolomites, the scenery is breath-taking. I have never been a skier and often wondered why people chose to throw themselves down a big mounting in the freezing cold. Especially when you can go in the summer months and experience the amazing greenery. The green hews, the flowers, this vistas, all quite stunning and I am sure not the same when it’s all cold and white. The idea was to drive the five hundred odd kilometres on one day but we weren’t prepared for how stunning it would be. Remember my old adage if you see something interesting stop, well we stopped more than we started. It got to the point where we simply had to drive past interesting and beautify looking things or we may well have been seeing snow in the Alps. Then we came over a small rise and looked down into the Brenner Pass.  The Brenner Pass is a mountain pass through the Alps which forms the border between Italy and Austria. It is one of the principal passes of the Eastern Alpine range and has the lowest altitude among Alpine passes of the area. This one hundred percent is where you are going to find Purple Cows. In case that reference didn’t cross the international divide, Purple Cows with it’s traditional cow bell was how Milka chocolate was advertised. Seas of purple cows in Austrian meadows eating the finest pasture and producing the finest milk for the best chocolate. That Milka was a German company was lost on the Austrians, they lapped it up. Next time you watch skiing on the telly and you hear the cow bells you will know where it comes from. Milka have been a massive sponsor of Alpine skiing for years.
I digress, we were at the border. These where the good old days of free travel around Europe, we had crossed many countries boarders and seen no one. Perhaps an abandoned hut would signify you had crossed but that was it. Austria wasn’t much different, only in their case they had a little place selling Vignette stickers. These stickers record that you have paid the road tax that allows you to ride on the motorways. There not a lot of money as I remember and we definitely needed one, we are still on track for the Europa Bridge. The Europa Bridge or Bridge of Europe is a 777-metre-long bridge carrying the A13 Brenner Autobahn over the 657-metre Wipp valley just south of Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria. The bridge spans the Sill River, and forms part of the main route across the Alps. The longest span between pillars is 198 metres. It also hosts a 192-meter Bungee Jump, the fifth highest in the world. I won’t be trying that. I will however be negotiating our little VW along six lanes of motorway to Innsbruck, there is a downhill ski jump I want to see.

Day 40, Saturday 2nd May

Apologise for being a little lax with my posts of late. I am back in work now and like many businesses I am sure we are winding back in slowly. We have only bought a few staffs back onto site to begin with as we gage need and demand. That and as responsible employers Thl wanted to minimise the risk of our extended bubble. Despite not having a large number of customer contacts we have all been super busy. We have a huge amount of vehicles to delivery and very few staffs, we can do it but it would be fair to say we are all spinning a lot of plates right now. Our online store continues to be busy and vehicle sales are picking up too, Thl will be fine. We might look like a different operation once we come out the other side but we will keep going.
Anyway the point I was making about my lack of postings in my blog is I am shattered. I am spending upwards or nine hours a day, organising jobsheets, communicating with customers, sourcing and checking vehicles. Along with stock checks, more spreadsheets than I care to remember and all the while trying to sell a couple of motorhomes. By the time I get home I don’t want to speak let alone look at my computer. Don’t get me wrong I love what I do and do feel very honoured to be back in work. But I am glad it’s the weekend. I dare say I will still have a few emails to deal with and I know I have some clients to speak with but right now, it’s early; I have my coffee and I will spend a few moments speaking to you all.

The world cleaning championships must be nearing the results stage. I came home the other evening to a very excited wife. As well as the normal plethora of cleaning, polishing, dusting and floor scrubbing. Today’s adventures of the mop and bucket had taken an unusual turn.
I had barely stepped through the door when I am excitedly whisked into the kitchen. “Look at this” she exclaimed and my head is thrust into the dishwasher! “I have cleaned it”. Now I have to admit it did look very clean, but I have always considered the inside of the dishwasher to be clean. I mean it gets a good coating of soap and water once a day when it does the dishes. Giving it an extra little clean had never crossed my mind. Little Miss Olympic cleaner however had done a number on it and was very pleased with herself.
As I am straitening up I catch a glance of her smug little face and with a nod she says; “yup and I have done the washing machine too”!

One of my friends was asking me about India and if we had seen the Taj Mahal. The answer was of course yes. You cannot in my opinion go to India without seeing it, especially if you are so close.
We were lucky enough to travel the fabled golden triangle. India’s golden triangle is a tourist circuit which connects the national capital Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Taking in the most amazing countryside in between. From our base in Delhi we headed first to Agra, home of the Taj. The idea was to travel down, spend the night in a hotel and go see the Taj Mahal first thing in the morning. The Taj Mahal is open from sunrise to sunset every day except Friday, but the absolute best time to go is right at sunrise. So this is our plan, we want to be there just as the sun is coming up.
We have booked a little treat for ourselves in a rather nice hotel. After our long journey we settle into the comfortable surrounds of the bar, enjoy a drink and peruse the dinner menu.
Our early night is rewarded with the most beautiful building I think I will ever see. You approach the Taj through a vaulted tunnel, for want of a better description; through the outer wall and into the gardens. At the end of this tunnel is two very large wooden doors, which are swung open at sunrise. It’s a real breath taking moment when out of the darkness you are greeted with pure brilliance of the Taj. The serenity and beauty of this place I really struggle to put into words. You really really must go.

Taj doorway

Taj Doorway

Taj

Taj Mahal

We also have here another examples of Indian’s loving to have their picture taken. We had done the touristy bit, re-enacted the famous Princess Diana photo. Walked the gardens, been inside the Taj and where just walking around the perimeter of the Taj itself when we stopped for another picture opportunity. My wife sits herself on the wall with the Taj behind and I snap a picture. Just to her left I can see a little girl in a beautiful blue saris. She clearly wants her picture taken with my wife so I usurer her in. My wife is happy and I snap another picture. Then her sister comes into view in another brightly coloured sari. She wants in on the action too. She sits herself down the other side of my wife and click another picture. Then we have a third sister, then a mother and to follow a farther and another elder gentleman I took to be some grandparent. Each time they would take up position to have their picture taken. We ended up with a chain of seven pictures, showing the growth of this Indian family around her. I thought it was hilarious, my wife less so. The best bit was when we got home. We started looking back through the pictures and there was this procession of changing expression on my wife’s face. She goes from all happy smiley to somewhere between uncomfortable and very annoyed. The last is one of this chain is my favourite pictures, but sadly I am not allowed it in the house and certainly not to be posted in here.
From Agra and the Taj we head to Jaipur. Jaipur is the capital of India’s Rajasthan state, more commonly known as the Pink City. Tomorrow we will go and see the Amber Fort. But today we will experience Jaipur and Hawa Mahal or the Pink Palace. Made with the red and pink sandstone, the palace sits on the edge of the City Palace, Jaipur, and extends to the Zenana, or women’s chambers. The original intent of the lattice design was to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life and festivals celebrated in the street below without being seen, since they had to obey the strict rules of “purdah”, which forbade them from appearing in public without face coverings. This architectural feature also allowed cool air from the Venturi effect to pass through, thus making the whole area more pleasant during the high temperatures in summer. Many people see the Hawa Mahal from the street view and think it is the front of the palace, but in reality it is the back of that structure. Either way it’s a stunning piece of architecture. We spent the afternoon exploring the city and then retire to our digs. Slumming it again we have found ourselves an original Jaipur palace. Purportedly once stayed in by Bill Clinton. I find this a little hard to believe but it is an experience and as it’s out of season so we have it all to ourselves.

Naila Bagh Palace, Bill Clinton

Naila Bagh Palace, Bill Clinton

Naila Bagh Palace

Naila Bagh Palace

Day 36, Tuesday 28th April

The morning of level 3. It’s got the feeling of first day back at school to it, you’re all in luck though. Wifey has already gone to work and Lola is no good with a camera, so I can’t do the obligatory ‘first day at school’ picture on the doorstep. I have cleaned my shoes though, you’ll just have to take me at my word on that. I am not sure what I am expecting, I have got a message from the boss that traffic is heavy. So I am guessing more than a select few essential workers are making the journey to work.
It’s an interesting point, this makes. How do you determine who can and can’t work under Level 3? Do I need to be in work? Quoting from the Employment New Zealand website it tells us “Businesses should carefully consider what activities are absolutely necessary and how to safely operate based on their individual circumstances”. Pretty ambiguous. Clearly employers have a duty of care to their employees. They have to protect their employees within the workplace; but what if you know your employee is the single only breadwinner for a family of five. Without their income the kids can’t eat, where does your duty of care lie then?

First day back at work done, what a day. Thl have got there monies worth from me today. The site was predictable quite but still plenty of jobs that needed catching up on and completing.
The highlights were predictable, seeing my friends and colleagues again. What a blessing I have had to be able to just hold a simple conversation with someone other than my immediate neighbours. I am sure as we move forward into level 3 we will see more people attending the site, by appointment only of course. But for now I will enjoy catching up and the company.

I have held back from the need to rush to McDonalds, the queue this morning as I went to work was incredible. I will be the first to admit I am not a great fan of Ronald and his burgers but clearly a great many Kiwis are. Why is a question for another time? But it just goes to show we crave most what we can’t have. Me I am still hanging out for that curry, but I can wait till the end of the week for that. It got me thinking, what are we really missing being stuck in our own homes?
We have had a crack at cooking various different meals, with mixed results. Even so aside my curry, food doesn’t seem that important.
I have enjoyed getting out in the car today, but I have spent many an hour behind the wheel so the novelty of that has worn off long before now.
Company has been an obvious miss, but with all the social media and video chat that is available I can hardly say I have not been speaking to anyone.
I realised what I missed most is the sea, by that I mean looking at it. It has been proven many a time that despite living near the sea my entire life; I am much better looking at it than on it.
When I have something to think about or I just want some me time, a walk or even just to sit and look at the sea has been something I have always done. I know I live quite close to the marina and I do like to look at the boats, but it doesn’t have that same relaxing rhythmic motion the sea has.
As a child I can still hear myself saying to my late mother “go see sea” and as the years rolled on we would both enjoy a walk by the sea. If it was belting it down with rain, coupled with thunder and lightning; that would be so much the better.
So that’s it,  what I have learned is I miss the sea and company the most. Oh and I miss my Mum but I didn’t need lockdown to teach me that.

Day 35, Monday 27th April

Today is a great day, for two very good reasons. First off congratulations to my crazy cousin and his long suffering wife for the birth of their first child. A beautiful baby boy, weighing in at 7.78lbs. Mother and baby are doing well. I am certain by now the baby’s head has been well wetted and I am sure the rest of the family are as delighted as I am with the news.

Baby Stiling

The second piece of good news doesn’t compare in the same way as bringing new life into the world, but for me it’s important. Today is the last day of my lock-down sentence. I am to be released back into the wild; or at the very least I can go to work. For thirty five days I haven’t left the house for anything more than exercise, tomorrow I am a free man.
Free might be a strong term, Level-3 restrictions hardy make it a holiday camp. But I can go out and see that life exists outside of my bubble. I can have a little drive along the peninsula, enjoy the views like I have done many times before. The views that for the good of the population have been deprived of me. In fact deprived probably isn’t the right word. Nothing has been deprived of me; of any of us. Each one of us has made this sacrifice for each other and have done so willingly for the greater good of their fellow New Zealander. We all deserve to be very proud of what we have achieved, but sadly the fight has not yet been won. I know tomorrow I can leave this house, but with that comes a great responsibility. We still have responsibilities to keep each other safe. We must continue to stay in our household bubbles whenever we are not at work, school, buying the groceries or exercising. There are a great many things that we all miss; but now is not the time for complacency.
To put into context what we have achieved, I will give you an example. Roughly speaking Ireland holds many similarities with New Zealand, in that it’s an island nation and the population is similar. Ireland had its first case on 29th February it took until the 27th March for the county to go into lock-down. Us on the other had had our first recorded case on the 28th February and went into lock-down on 21st March. The alert level was initially set at level 2, rising to level 3 on the afternoon of 23rd March. Beginning at 11:59 pm on 25th March, the alert level was moved to level 4, putting the country into a nationwide lock-down. The swiftness we have all reacted has undoubtedly saved lives. I don’t hold to the argument of foresight, many countries had the same chance as us. Strong leadership, brave decisions and working together got us to where we are now, don’t spoil it.

As of the 25th April the current numbers for each country are:

Ireland:                  Confirmed cases 19,262            Recovered 9,233            Deaths 1,087
New Zealand:    Confirmed cases 1,121               Recovered 1,142            Deaths 18

Please think about these stark numbers as you begin to think about returning to some sort of semblance of normal life.

Day 33 & 34 another long, long weekend

I am trying hard not to work today, this is the only day I will have with my wife for a while. Not that we can do much, but sometimes it just nice to be in each other’s company. Or at least it was a few weeks ago!
It’s started off great! I have sorted out a problem with our online delivery schedule, which we are building for all the motorhomes we have due for collection. Despite lockdown we have still been taking orders and now it appears everyone wants their vans at once. The boys in the workshop are going to have a busy time of it. I have spoken to a couple of my customers and cleared my emails. This will be it for today, I am going to go and get a good bit of vitamin D and some exercise. I’ll let the boss decide where we are walking to, when she eventually drags herself out of bed.

The far reaching of blog continues to be a source of amazement to me. I know, I know a good few people dotted around the globe and I guess you have read about a few of them. But the messages I am getting from people I don’t even know is amazing. I can’t say it enough, thank you all for your support. I really don’t know where this journey is going to take us but stick with me for the ride and we all find out together.
My blog has also revitalised my connection with friends and family. I will be the first to admit I am not great at keeping in touch. My excuse is I spend all day talking to people, so by the time I get home I can’t be bothered. The latter is probably truer, that and I have my Facebook PA to keep me abreast on what everyone is up to.

We have had our walk, Lola is sleeping on the deck in the sunshine. Wifey has her head in a book and I am going to create some culinary delight for dinner. Just for a change it’s a curry. I am really missing a curry and hope our favourite curry house will be operating under Level 3.
It’s amazing the silly things you miss. Food is right up there, but just going to work and socialising, as sad as that sounds is probably my biggest miss.
I am also missing my golf, which will be allowed in some form under level 3. You can only play with people in your bubble. So there will be a mass of single players out there from Tuesday. There will be no pins either and cups will be turned upside down to avoid contact. It won’t matter, I am desperate to go out and play; not being able to putt the ball in the hole and lack of score a card will be the least of my worries after 5 weeks enforced break.
Curry prep is done and just in time as our afternoon is interrupted by a few neighbours coming for a social distancing drink. These little interludes have always been fun, I am seriously considering putting a bar on the fence line of my property and making it perhaps a monthly event. Our garden faces out from the house towards the street it makes sense to use ours as a base. If people are kerbside you can see them from the majority of the street. That and we like to be social, if the occasional beverage has to be consumed we will suffer that too for the greater cause.
This particular interlude turns into a real laugh. These I think are the best of times, no plans, just a few friends enjoying each other’s company. Nobody wants to go, it’s a great release for everyone. Coats are on, people are wrapped in blankets; aside me I am still in my shorts and T-shirt. I keep telling you, you don’t know what cold is. But it’s dark and we haven’t eaten, fortunately I just need to put some rice on, warm through my curry and knock up a few naan breads. I can do that under the influence of a couple of beers.
Full of the warming glow of curry and beers, we lazily watch a bit of TV before it bedtime. Here we discover we have committed a school boy error. Sometime this morning my wife stripped the bed, but between dog walks, curry making, social distancing beers and now it has all been forgotten about. Isn’t this the worst feeling ever, you’re all tired, comfortable and nicely dozy. When you discover you have to get busy again. The student days of sneaking under the duvet are gone, we have to make the bed.

Day 32, Friday 24th April

So this is a surprise, somehow I have got my little page of utterings onto the list of Top 100 New Zealand Blogs & Websites 2020. Number 39 no less! I am a bit taken aback by this, these little thoughts and wittering’s of mine have only been born through a combination of boredom and a misplaced addition to my email list. We will see how long I can stay on this list, probably until they ask me for money I guess. For now I will bask in the recognition.
I must admit I am really enjoying writing these works, they are taking over my day a bit; but I must confess I am loving it. I am buoyed by the fact those of you reading The Diary of an Isolated Salesman are clearly enjoying it. I don’t know what it is you like, but clearly an Isolated Salesman holds some interest. It’s a massive thank you to all of you for taking a few minutes out of your day to read my considerations and recollections. As long as the ideas keep coming into my head I will keep writing them.

Today is another big day, today is Lola’s two year New Zealand birthday. Lola was the first of us to become resident, also the most expensive! This is one of the first pictures we took of her when we picked her up from quarantine.

Lola NZ Day 1

Lola In New Zealand Day 1

Now for some work. With the imminent arrival of Level 3 there is a lot of planning in the background as to how the RV Super Centre can operate under these restrictions.  Along with a plethora of online meetings, emails, spreadsheets and other documents, it also means there is a lot of customers waiting for their new motorhomes that need to be spoken to. I have a lot to do all of a sudden and a relatively short time to do it in. Busy just how I like it.
As a light interlude from all this we also have our regular update from our CEO. These meeting have been excellent. An honest appraisal of the situation we are all in, what the plan is and how we will implement it. Jacinda has had my vote for the way she has kept us all abreast on what is happening, but Grant has been right up there. Fresh from as positive a spin as is possible in times like this, it’s onto the phones.
By about four o’clock I am running out of steam. Everyone who can be spoken to has been spoken to. All data sheets are up to date. My diary looks a bit of a mess, but I can sort that out another time. I have been inside for too long, it’s a beautiful day and its time I woke my little pup from her laze in the sunshine and took her for a walk.

All refreshed from our walk, I thought I might tell you a little more about our Europe trip. When I last wrote about it; I had just had a bit of a parking mishap and we were heading north into the Alps very much tails between our legs.
When we had left Nice we had thought our travels were over, but after a few days relaxing in the mountains we realised things weren’t so bad. Sure we had a shower curtain where are back window once was, but aside that we were good.
From Nice our original plan had been to drive around the coast to Italy. We hadn’t bothered too much with a road map, as long as the sea was on the right hand side of us we were going the right way. Now we were off-piste, we had to dig out the map. After a bit of study we realised we weren’t too far from Mont Blanc. Just to be clear, we’d seen it often enough; it’s a pretty big mountain. What I mean is the road we were on would take us right through it and into Italy. Not our original route, but the whole trip had always been pretty fluid.
You have to climb a fair way up to the Mont Blanc tunnel entrance and the van didn’t like this much, we had to stop to let the steam from the engine condense back into water before we made the last of the climb. That’s the beauty of old VW’s there is always something to keep you on your toes. Once through the other side we didn’t need to worry about overheating anymore. We had left blistering sunshine to emerge in torrential rain.
The plan was to travel a little further into Italy but the weather was horrendous so the first sign of a campsite we were in for the night.
After a few more days bobbling around we headed towards the lakes. These are spectacular features and a real pleasure to see. Como has got some real rugged beauty, although the drive is pretty nail-biting. We drove up the inside of wishbone, remember we are in a right hand drive car on left hand drive roads. I am looking at the cliff my girlfriend the oncoming and overtaking traffic. The Italians are mental when it comes to driving, whatever is in front of them is a target to be passed and where and when they try to overtake you is anyone’s guess. Oh and if they can’t pass because say its only single lane, the horn is there to remind you that you are still in their way.
We spend a night near Como then head for Lake Garda.
Now remember I said before, if you see someone who looks like they know where they are going, follow them. Well the same is true for campervans. We were just cruising about looking for a way to get down onto the lake road and hopefully find somewhere to park up for the night. When out of know where this little camper shot out in front of us and took the very next left across the traffic and down a small road. I was on him like a shot. It was a bit never raking, because he was going quick; to quick really. That and there is always the worry that he might just be going home, but he looked to me that he had some purpose so we tagged along. Just as we were beginning to think it would come to nothing we pulled on to what was effectively a building site. All nicely terraced out and scattered nicely with motorhomes. We had indeed pulled on to a building site, but after I had chatted to a few of the other campers it became quite apparent that the builders didn’t object to us staying as long as we were away and gone before they returned Monday morning. Should be no bother it was Friday afternoon, we had free camping and from where I managed to get us into you could trough a stone into Lake Garda if you wished. Saluti.

Lake Garda Campling

Lake Garda Campling

Day 31, Thursday 23rd April

I have been relegated to the garage. Four odd weeks I have been stationed in either the corner of the lounge or more recently the dining table but today apparently my wife wants the room back. I haven’t really got to the route of why she wants me to move now, but I am a pacifist and see no need in an argument. I can sort of understand. We have an open plan kitchen/lounge/dinner, so I guess if I am there on the phone making a lot of noise she can’t really do much else. But why it’s taken so long to reach this conclusion is another question?
Anyway I pack up my laptop and move. I am heading to the garage, it’s the only other table we have in the house. I say table, it’s a bar leaner. Which I am sure isn’t going to provide the most ergonomic working environment and it will come with other distractions too. See I have a little bar in my garage. Unless I get myself a classic camper I won’t ever be putting a car in here so I thought what better than a beer fridge and a pool table. It was already carpeted out when we bought the place so it hasn’t taken much to turn it into my little bar. A friend of ours even bought me some coasters one Christmas, so Andrews’s Bar was born.

Andrew's Bar

Andrew’s Bar

I am still debating with myself installing a telly, I guess when we get some sport to watch again I might put one in. But for now it has everything I want, a little sanctuary from normal life. Just what a bar should be. Only it’s not so much fun on my own. It great when friends come round, we get the music on, have a few beers and a laugh. But right now it’s not the same. Lola is rubbish at pool, she just wants to fetch the ball not pot them. There is only so many games you can play on your own.
Incidentally it wasn’t till I got to New Zealand that I rediscovered my love of the game. We were living in Newmarket at the time and a chance visit to the local Doolan Brothers Bar rekindled my love.
On a Thursday night they have a pool competition with a hundred dollar bar tab as the prize. We were in having a drink one day and I saw the sign and said to my wife “we should do this”; it will be a great way to meet a few people and could be some fun. I still remember her looking up and asking if I can play pool. Strangely in the thirteen odd years we had been together she had never seen me play. Now I am not great, but I can hold my own and as luck would have it I get better the more beers I have.
What I didn’t tell her; is that growing up as kids I can’t remember not having a pool table of some sort and obviously us getting involved in pubs, pool tables were always around us. Annoyingly my little brother was always better than me, proper miss spent youth that lad!
Anyway I have a bit of form but apparently not played for a lot longer than I thought, doesn’t matter there will be beer and that’s the best confidence giver you can find.
Thursday comes round and we go to the pub and sign in for the competition. There isn’t a huge crowd, but still twenty odd playing I guess. Its straight knock out and away we go. Now these trips to Doolans did exactly what I had hopped they would. Brought us into the community, made some great new friends and won a few beers along the way. I don’t think I won it on my first attempt, but I might have done. I have certainly won it a few times since, but either way we always had a cracking night in there with Scotty and the gang.

Drinking Voucher

Drinking Voucher

Win or lose,
We’ll have some booze,
If we draw,
We’ll have some more.

Was pretty much the moto for the evening and we always succeeded in that.

Day 30, Wednesday 22nd April

I am worried my body clock is changing. I have always been an early to bed early to rise type of guy, but now due to the lack of activity I guess? I am having trouble sleeping. So I’ve taken to staying up later, reading or occasionally watching rubbish on telly. The rest of the household appears the same. I am up and working, Lola has not even showed her face and the wife. Well I guess she has an excuse, she didn’t roll in till about five this morning. So we won’t be seeing much out of her till lunchtime. It’s a funny thing, I am still getting the mental stimulus; between writing this and working, I am probably spending more time at my laptop than ever. It must be the physical excursion I am missing?
Now my sporting days are well behind me. I used to be quite a sporty kid, never really excelling at any one sport but always in the school teams. Played a bit of club rugby, swam at club and county level, I even fluked my way into the county four hundred meter trials once. Like I say never particularly stand out but always there and there about. Fast-forward to the present day and what do I do? In normal times I play golf, quite badly but I love the game. I try to play twice a week, it’s easier in the summer months obviously but even through the winter I can normally manage at least one round a week. Interestingly on the 14th April New Zealand golf moved to the World Handicap System and I dropped nearly three shots off my handicap! This is the single best gain on my golf ever and I haven’t even swung a club!
The question is without my golf and the physical side of my work what am I going to do? What are any of us supposed to do? There must be plenty of others in the same situation? Lola likes a walk; but they have been getting further and further as I try to burn off more energy. Even she now is looking a bit wary when we step out the door. Running is out, I probably couldn’t get out the end of the street without causing myself some mischief. I started doing a few press ups and sit ups each day; but I will be honest I was disappointed with how few I could do. Each day I would add one more to the total and I guess you have to start somewhere but even then it felt embarrassing. So having considered my options very carefully, I will stick with walking the dog and she will have to like it. I am going to aim for Okoromai Bay today.

Okoromai Bay

Okoromai Bay

Day 29, Tuesday 21st April

It’s a rather dull and rainy day. From my little outpost I have not much to look at today, even my neighbour across the way who always appears to be able to find a job to do hasn’t been in action today.
The same lack of action seems to be true of my customer base today as well. It appears now the dust has settled on our extended lockdown and the realisation that even at level 3 not much will change for most. The initial euphoria and optimism has died down. I still have a good deal of interest from customers in purchasing motorhomes and as a team we are still securing vehicles for individuals. It just appears today the wind has been taken out of peoples sails. Strangely enough though, for all the people I have spoken to today. Not one has disagreed with the decision to stay in lockdown. Sure they would all dearly like to get back to leading normal lives, whatever that might look like after this. But each and every one has recognised their sacrifice is for the greater good of the country. Aren’t New Zealanders great?

So what to tell you about today? Well first off a little house keeping. I have neglected to tell you my LEGO® VW is finished, if I am honest it’s been done for a while but I have found more exciting things to tell you about.

VW Done

VW Done

However now it’s done I have done a little research into my next little project. I have said it before but LEGO® has really moved on since my youth. Do you know there is even a LEGO® Taj Mahal! Five thousand and twenty three pieces of it. I don’t think that is for me but it did get me thinking about our trip to India.
Back in 2012 little Miss Facebook is doing her bit and keeping in touch with all her friends when she chances across an old school friend. I won’t tell you how many years it been since they had seen each other but they parted ways when they were about twelve. Fast forward a good few decades later and guess where he is? India. Now this guy is super smart, I know some clever people but this guy is another level and cracking fun with it. Loves to travel, loves a drink and especially happy talking about breaking wind. If it wasn’t for the brains side of it; it could be hard to tell us apart.
But at the time I didn’t know any of this, in fact neither did my wife really. All she knew was that he was in India, the contract he was working on was ending soon and if we could get a visa we had the opportunity of flying out, catching up with him and his lovely lady and seeing some of this most amazing country. So not being people to stop too long and think about things, this is exactly what we did. I don’t think it was no more than a couple, three weeks and we are on our way to Delhi.
They meet us of the plane and we are thrown straight into the throngs of Indian life. It is an amazing attack on your senses. The speed everything moves at, the colours, the sounds, the smells, everything. If ever you get the opportunity, go. I am sure I will not do this remarkable country justice in these few paragraphs and to be fair we only scratched the surface. One day I will get back and explore some more.
How did I know I was going to get on with this guy so well, simple? From the airport we did a little tour around and back to their apartment to drop of our cases and freshen up. He shows us in, to our room, all of that. Then takes me off to show me the kitchen. Just behind the kitchen door he has stacked two big cases of Indian beer. Stating; “I know you like a drink pal so I got some bits in for us, I have some Indian wine for you to try too”. This was the start of a blossoming friendship. We have travelled all around the world to catch up with these guys and every single time has been an experience to remember.
We have a week to pack in as much of India as we can and we have some very experienced travellers at our disposal to show us round. So before we have time to say “Jet Lag” we are off again. We do a whistle stop tour of Old Delhi, The Red Fort and Jama Masjid. There is no hanging around with these guys, they know we are only here for a short period of time and are going to cram as much into it for us as they can.
Next day we are off to see Gandhi Smriti. Gandhi Smriti formerly known as Birla House or Birla Bhavan, is a museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. It is the location where Mahatma Gandhi spent the last 144 days of his life and was assassinated here on 30 January 1948. It is fascinating, the whole place has a quiet aura about it. Nothing grand, a place of peace and contemplation. From here we got to Raj Ghat, a memorial dedicated to Mahatma. It is the black marble platform that marks the spot of Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation. This place differs from Gandhi Smriti, in that it is teaming with people. All making their own pilgrimage to this sacred place. It’s here that I get introduced to one of India’s favourite games. As a rule, it appears Indians love to have their photo taken and if they can find a Brit so much the better. But is word is put out there that we are the next Posh and Becks, it goes mental.

India Pic

One of my Indian family

I worry that there are pictures of us adorning mantelpieces right across India. My friend and instigator thinks this is hilarious. He’s right, but what a pain it was at the time. We meet school children, families, baby’s it all going off. Meanwhile all I can see in the background is my new mate laughing himself silly, he did manage to compose himself long enough to take a few good photos. My favourite is the guy who clearly didn’t want to speak but fancied a photo anyway.

India 1

Papped

We eventually escape from here and go have a look at Humayun’s tomb, a sort of red sandstone Taj Mahal. It did in fact create a precedent for future Mughal architecture so the Taj does bare a lot of resemblances to it. From here we head back to the apartment. I have convinced my new friend that he should watch the finial Manchester United game of the season. Back in 2012 the season is finely poised. It will be a Manchester club that wins it, but which one? I am a Liverpool fan and we have had a terrible season, so I have no interest in who wins and am openly supporting injuries.  So for the title we have Sunderland v Manchester United and Manchester City at home to Queens Park Rangers. On the final day of the Premiership all games are played simultaneously, City were top of the league, ahead of Manchester United on goal difference. However, a Wayne Rooney goal away to Sunderland gave United the advantage. A 39th-minute goal from Pablo Zabaleta, his first of the season, put City back on top at half time. In a dramatic second half Djibril Cissé equalised for Queens Park Rangers in the 48th minute. Shortly after, Joey Barton of QPR was sent off for elbowing Carlos Tevez; on his way off the pitch, he kicked Sergio Agüero, attempted to headbutt Vincent Kompany and squared up to Mario Balotelli. Classic Joey Barton and a real help with my injury supporting. Despite the numerical advantage, City went behind after Jamie Mackie gave QPR the lead in the 66th minute. As you can imagine, we are pulling my mate of the ceiling at this stage. As time wound down in both matches, it appeared that Manchester United would win the title with their victory over Sunderland. But Edin Džeko equalised for City in the 92nd minute. While United players waited on the field at Sunderland for a possible trophy presentation, Manchester City’s Sergio Agüero scored the game’s winner in the 95th minute to clinch the title on goal difference.
All I can hear from behind his hands is “Dirty Cheating Bitters”.

India 2

Game Over

Day 28, Monday 20th April

Big day; I am certain everyone in New Zealand has got themselves in front of the TV or other Medias to listen to Jacinda and Dr Bloomfield. This has been one soap opera I have taken to. The degree of information and openness; and the willingness to give that information has been very refreshing. In my opinion both have been excellent leaders in this unique situation.
It’s very clear we wouldn’t be in the situation we are in without some very big and brave decisions. Making the call to put us all into lock-down was massive but ultimately proven the right one. I am certain the conclusion to keep us at level 4 for a few more days was equally as difficult a choice.
We as a nation have been asked to make some massive sacrifices and done so without complaint. We have done this not so much for ourselves and not just for friends, neighbours and colleagues; but all New Zealanders as a whole. We love our country and we love our people, now more than ever is the time to go that extra mile. In the great scheme of things we have sacrificed so little to save so much, one last push New Zealand; one last push.

Off my soap box now, I have no political agenda for my work and certainly don’t want my utterings to take on that form. So I thought I would tell you about my great love of music and how one piece of music I have carried throughout my life.
When it comes to music I will listen to anything; classical, blues, funk, punk, ska, grunge, I will listen to it all. I even like a bit of acid jazz from time to time. That being said I won’t be fobbed off, if its rubbish it gets turned off. My big loves are rock, grunge, brit-pop, indie, basically if it has a guitar in I am happy. But my one piece of music I carry with me is quite different, but you need the whole story to understand.
In my late teens I worked in The Victoria Hotel in Sidmouth, only washing up. Or a plate technician as I put on my early CV; but here I made a great many friends, close friends that I still have to this day. When I look back, the times I had at the Vic were some of the most fun times of my life. We were all young, not really thinking about our futures. Enjoying the present and having a great laugh doing it. The weekend was our time, I was at college doing an engineering diploma at the time so only working weekends. But every Friday and Saturday night without fail we were out in the hot bed of sin that was Sidmouth.
Going out with hotel staff is always fun, you sort of take over a pub on mass and wherever the hotel staff were doing their drinking was the place to be. Within this group was a core of us, the Ken squad. Five blokes that for reasons barely explainable would call each other Ken. The best bit was we always knew who we were talking to or about. Those on the outside looking in would get very confused about it all but we would be having great fun. We even had our own drink, Ken or Heineken to the uninitiated. At that time in the UK we had Heineken Export or Ken Sport to us.
Most evenings would start the same, we would nip into town to check out the local off-license for bargains. Pick up a takeaway and back to the hotel.
The Vic had its own staff accommodation block, lovingly referred to as the Annex where most of us lived. I say most of us, not me I was still a boy and living at home with my folks. But Friday and Saturday was our time, so out would come my sleeping bag and a night on Ken Lee’s sofa was ahead of me.
Every evening would start in much the same vein, munch whatever food we had. Drink the bargain beers we had foraged and play Mario Kart. Myself, Ken Lee and Ken Andy all in the same room. Lee had a bed, it was his room after all; and as Andy paid something towards it he had the other bed. Only he had to put up with a leaking water pipe and me throwing myself through the window at the end of the night. I didn’t get a key as I didn’t pay anything towards the lodgings so if I hadn’t come back after the others I would have to climb through the window and launch myself into the middle of the room, finishing with a sort of parachute roll and a bang into Kens bed if I got it wrong.
Each evening as we headed into town we would sing/hum this same tune and to this day I still associate it with all the great times I had with my friends. Only now I have another reason to remember this tune.
Before I tell you about that I need to recognise the two other original members of the Ken Squad. Ken Si and Flash. Flash sadly was taken from this earth too soon, so I will take a moment to remember friends laughed and lost. Next time you see a lone black sock, it will probably be his.
So we move forward a good few years, I can’t work it out exactly but its best part of twenty years and I am still carrying this silly little tune with me.
We move forward to the proudest and happiest day of my life. Our wedding day. I have always said I never wanted to get married and I never wanted kids. So I get a ring and inherit a child! I am proud of both in equal measures. I always felt I would make a terrible Dad but I got my girl at about the right time for me. She was around 12, all the screaming and poohing years well behind her and articulate enough to explain her problems. The perfect daughter for me. Every time I talk to her she amazes me with something else, bright, intelligent, good looking. All the things I’m not. She has forged her own way in the world and I could not be prouder.
The wife on the other had! I jest. As you might have gathered by now we have a very fun loving relationship. I absolutely adore my wife. Now is not the time to go through the list of troubles and tribulations she has gone through. But every time without fail she has triumphed. There is absolutely nothing this woman can’t do if she puts her mind to it. For that I will always be in awe of her.
She is also easily led by silly people like me to do silly things on big occasions. This is how I got the most beautiful, intelligent and wonderful woman in the world to walk down the aisle to this silly tune that reminds me of all the fun times I have had. Only now it reminds me of all the fun and all the love.

Wedding Cake

Wedding Cake

Oh and the tune, well what did you expect?

Day 26 & 27, The Weekend

When you’re looking around for something else to clean, even Lola isn’t safe! My wife is still on course for the international cleaning world championships. I have never felt we live in a dirty house, quite the opposite. But this is getting beyond a joke, I am forgetting what fresh air shells like with the stench of bleach/Dettol/polish and whatever other mystery products she has wafting about the place. At the moment she is being entertained with some ironing, but this won’t last. The floors have got a mention again and I have been detailed to clean the windows. Honestly whatever the prize is she is going for; she better win or I will never hear the end of it.
Now it is Lola’s turn, she has gone from having a little nap by my feet to up to her ankles is bathwater in no time at all and it would be fair to say she is less than impressed with the whole performance.

Lola Bathtime

Lola Bathtime

She has seen all this before though and knows the game. What she does is shuffle herself towards the plug and stand on it. We have one of these plugs that pops in and out with a little pressure. The pressure say of a small dog who doesn’t want a bath. So if you not careful all the water is gone and you are left with a very wet, soapy and nonplussed dog. She manages to perform this trick twice before we succeed in getting her clean. Again not that she was dirty before, but if you’re going to win the trophy you can’t let anything go to chance!
Now the next game begins. Drying said soggy dog before she shakes. This is an almost impossible task and from experience the best thing to do is wrap her in a big towel, pick her up and run outside before the inevitable happens. This time she manages to wriggle free and does her best shake right up the wall across the TV and half way across the sofa. Second time around she is outside before she has time to think about it. She even manages to pull off her butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth pose.

Lola Fresh from the towel

Lola Fresh from the towel

Now everyone and everything is cleaned to within an inch of its life, the wife settles on the sofa to watch some of her rubbish. I have time to write a bit of my nonsense and Lola risks coming back to sit by my feet.

I was talking the other day about my Europe trip and how I wasn’t fussed with France. It’s not really fair. France has some beautiful places. The biggest problem with France for me is the French. Now I must say I have met some lovely French people, I have even worked with a few; but by and large the French have an arrogance I can do without. They will stand and let you struggle through your best high school French only to respond to you in perfect English. But if you chose to try and speak to them in English they will have no comprehension of the language. For me they appear to want to go out of their way to make life difficult for you. I have many examples of this but here is just one.
We are in Nice visiting my girlfriends brother, now his French is pretty fluent; ours not so. Anyway we have had a tour round the old city, which is fascinating. Ride the train of shame as her brothers dubs it. The train of shame is one of those little tourist trains that is really a tractor with some sort of false facade to make it look like a train, that ferries tourist around the city looking at points of interest. Now we had an honouree local who had been working as tour guide for a good few years so we had seen the best of what Nice had to offer but what this did, eventually is gets you to The Castle Hill Park. This historic hilltop park offers dramatic city and ocean views and is well worth the trip. You can walk up to the park but taking the train seemed like fun. Anyway we had a nice day in Nice and headed off to our campsite. Camping close to Nice, at least back then is limited so we car going to stay on a campsite just off The Grande Corniche, this is a glorified car park but the views are magnificent.
The Grande Corniche is one of three different routes following the mountainous stretch from Nice to Menton and creating one of the most dramatic and inspiring views in Europe. All of them are carved into the mountainside. The other two are Moyenne Corniche and Basse Corniche (sometimes called the Corniche Inferieure). Basically top middle and bottom. All are spectacular drives, you will see them featured on car adverts a lot, I think even Hitchcock filmed something here. It is truly spectacular scenery and because of this scenery very dangerous. Tourists are all rubber necking the view and not watching where they are going.
Our plan in the morning is to drive to Monaco, have a look around. Then come back to meet her brother in Nice. No problem, we are up early head out along what I think was The Grande Corniche but I remember one hundred percent. It is truly an amazing drive. We hit Monaco mid-morning and I managed to navigate the van around part of the famous Grand-Prix circuit. Knackered old VW’s aren’t meant for GP circuits but what you don’t appreciate from the telly is how narrow it is. Nelson Piquet famously likened racing round the course to “riding a bicycle around your living room” and having driven only part of it on open roads I can see where he is coming from. We park up and do the touristy bit then head back to Nice.
The plan is to put the van in a secure multi-storey carpark and have an evening out in Nice. Kipping back in the van if we can if not we will go sofa suffering at her brothers. I pick a spot in the corner of the carpark that I think we will be ok to sleep in and back the van in. What I don’t see is the massive air-conditioning unit poking out the wall about head height. So now we have no rear window and a lot of glass in our bedroom!
I discover quickly that I know more French words than I thought and even my girlfriend has become somewhat fluent. Here is where the French arrogance comes to pass. I know I have ballsed up, we all make mistakes and I am big enough and ugly enough to put my hand up for mine. So I head off to look for some security guard or something. What I really want is a broom (le balai) and maybe a box to put all the glass in. The less then helpful security guard gives me the world’s smallest dustpan and brush. We have a bigger one in the van!
Meanwhile my girlfriend has been on the phone to her brother who arrives to help the situation. He talks to the guard, who despite being spoken to in his own language still appears anything but helpful. So we have no choice, I am sorry to report I kick out what is left of our back window in the car park and scarper.
I am thinking it not so much of a drama, I have international insurance so a quick phone to my insurer gives us an address in Nice to go to. We have a French speaker with us, no problem. I forget the name of the company but it is one of those big multi-national franchises. They bring out a procession of people to look at the back of the van. There is the traditional sucking of teeth all tradesman seem to do when they think they can make a bit more money out of you. Then one by one they start giving us reasons they can’t do it. We don’t have the glass! Yes you do that’s why we are here, my insurer spoke to you and we drove here specifically as you had the right glass. Ah well it’s a bigger job than we thought! The glass won’t fit as there is a small buckle in the frame. This buckle was there pre accident and that bit of glass fitted perfectly before I rearranged it. But it doesn’t matter, my insurer speaks to them over the phone we speak to them face to face. As we overcome one objection they find another. We are caught in a French arrogance and unhelpfulness circle. If they just said, look its four o’clock we don’t fancy the job right now, could you come back on Monday? That would have been fine, I could have lived with that, but all they wanted was to get rid of us. So in the end we left. No big night out in Nice, we couldn’t risk leaving the van so open. We had to improvise. Duct tape and a shower curtain, style improvisation. I am sad I can’t find a picture of this because we did a cracking job. None the less we left Nice and headed North into the Alps, thinking our trip was over.

Day 25, Friday 17th April

Wifey has the joy of going to the supermarket. I like to go to the shops and just at the moment I would like a little ride out anywhere. But it makes sense to us for just one person to leave the house and as she is out and about anyway with work it might as well be her. The report back is its very quiet, no queues. Shelves by and large well stocked. Flour still seems in short supply, when did we become a nation of bakers? Aside that everything she wanted we got, I even got a treat. Every now and again I like a little pastry. The swirly jobs with the raisins in, Danish I think they are called. Anyway one of those is always gratefully received. The supermarket has obviously cottoned on to the idea that people may want little indulgences like this and bundled them together in a big bag with other niceties in. I am sure they will argue it’s about people contact or something like that, I don’t care. I have a Pain au chocolat now too. It’s going to be a great day.

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

Work is really picking up pace. The thought that we may come out of lockdown soon has appeared to have given people renewed confidence. That and I am sure people are thinking they won’t be having a foreign holiday anytime soon, best we explore our own back garden. What a beautiful back garden it is too. I have only been here about two and a half years and in that time have pretty much only gone North of Auckland. I see a great opportunity to get out and about and discover what else New Zealand has to offer. Feel free to message me any recommendations.
The South Island is right up there for discovering when it warms up a bit. We did go to Christchurch once by mistake and were confronted with true Kiwi compassion. We were coming back from a long weekend in Australia visiting friends and to say it was a bit blowy when we tried to come into land in Auckland was an understatement. The pilot, obviously some sort of daredevil did give it a couple of goes; but we were coming in sideways. A landing in those conditions would have been a miracle and I didn’t need to test out the emergency exits. So we are diverted to Christchurch. The airline promising to find us all accommodation.
Once we get airside it is quite apparent we are not the only flight diverted that evening and the strain on the faces of the ground crew said it all. At the first mention of blankets I knew a plush fully paid hotel would be out of the question and that’s when we got lucky. Remember I am the nice guy who likes to talk to everyone. I had been chatting with a nice couple, little bit older than us and struggling a bit to keep up with what was going on. What they weren’t struggling to keep up with though was technology, that and the fact that there was no way they were bedding down on the airport floor for the night. Straight on the web, booked a unit with two double rooms and we are cordially invited to come with them for the evening. I am still grateful to this day. Our first time pitching down in a city we didn’t know and the good faith and nature of a Kiwi couple we had never met before came to our aid. If ever I was in any doubt that a move to the other side of the world was a mistake, the compassion and hospitality of this wonderful couple sealed the deal. So remember, be nice and talk to everyone, you never know who you are talking to.

It’s really wet and windy up here today, very much more autumnal than it has been and Lola doesn’t like it. She is a bit of a softy really, as much as she wants to go out when stood at the door with the options of a walk the anchors are firmly deployed and off back to her bed she goes. As for any loud noises, it straight into her cupboard to hide. Normally I can coax her out, but not today. Today for Lola will be a day spent mostly on her own, until about six o’clock when we sit down for dinner, then I all of a sudden its play time!

Day 24, Thursday16th April

I am a bit late with this post, sorry. Thursday was a busy busy day and in the end I just ran out of day to write my wittering’s.
Yesterday I suffered a bit mentally, but today I am back on form. Calls are flowing, productivity is high. I even secure a few deposits. Today I am loving being an Isolated Salesman. My head is back in the right place, I have a clear plan and I am actioning it.

Even Jacinda’s one o’clock briefing, which I am sure has become part of everyone’s lives right now; offered a little hope. In the great scheme of things, I am not sure Level 3 will feel much different to Level 4. I might be able to go into the business for pre-arranged handovers of vehicles but I guess everything else I can do from home. It’s clear the shop side of the business won’t be able to open normally, but a click and collect facility might be an option. I only speculate, these decisions will be made by more senior members of the team than me. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, all be it just a glimmer.

Lola gets her evening walk. We have been discussing her wellbeing, I know she is getting on a bit. But there should be plenty more go in her for a good few years yet. It’s almost like she is missing her own space now. There was a piece on Seven Sharp which I caught about our pets suffering from anxiety separation. I say I caught, I watch TV by proxy. Whatever the boss has decided to watch is what I have to watch. Anyway, I don’t think Lola will be suffering with any anxiety separation post Lock-Down. I think she is waiting for us to go back to work so she can get back to lazing in the sun without disturbance.
She has become a proper funny little thing. Given the choice she will stay in her bed till about ten ish, then she will have a little potter about the garden, bit of a drink and some breakfast. If I am typing she will stay with me but if I am on the phone, she bogs off back to bed. She even comes to have the occasional little sneaky look. She will peep round the corner at me and it’s almost like she is disappointed that I am still there, so off she goes back to bed. Normally when you come home from work, we are greeted with this rush attack of wagging tail and bouncy dog. When the wife comes back from shift, at best now Lola might get up and peep out the bedroom door. I think she needs her own space.

Lola 2011

My favourite Lola pic, about 6 months old

The real reason I had no time to write anything last night, was Thursday night is quiz night. Back in the normal world, we meet up with some friends and attempt the quiz at the local bar. Yogis Bar and Eatery. When all this is over, make sure you support these local business. Types of business like this is what brings the community together and after this is all over it is exactly what we will need.
In light of the bar obviously being shut, a great friend of mine has seen fit to create his own virtual quiz. It’s a combination between a Zoom meeting and Kahoot quiz and it works great. We can all get together, safe in our own little bubbles. Have a drink, a chat and a laugh, interrupted only by the occasional quiz question. We are nowhere near winning; we did have a victory for the Brits against a strong South African contingent on Saturday but that was a fluke. Normally we are mid table mediocrity. No chance of relegation, but absolutely no chance of making the play offs either.
It’s a cracking night, the quiz its self is all over by about nine. But we stay chatting and drinking for a good while after. It is absolutely what we need in situations like this. If you can’t go to your friends, you friends have to come to you; well virtually at least.

Day 23, Wednesday 15th April

Today starts off much like yesterday, I still have plenty of the database to go at and get on the phone as soon as I can. Only today it’s not happening. I am still making my happy happy phone calls but for whatever reason they are not going down so well. In normal times I would go and do something else, but these aren’t normal times. I haven’t got the opportunity to nip out onto the forecourt and speak to someone, or even have a little shuffle around of the vans. It’s only me and my computer. The wife didn’t get home till about four this morning so is having a lay in, before she does the same sort of shift later today. I have no escape. Today homeworking isn’t so much fun.
I fight it through till about lunchtime, when I break off to cook up a quick chilli. As much for my sanity than anything else. But it does insure wifey goes to work with a hot meal inside of her. I glance at the one o’clock briefing, but even that isn’t grabbing me today. Sometimes being an Isolated Salesman is no fun and today is that day. I am sure it’s just in my mind but I need an escape. Lola who had been fast asleep on my feet get a surprise walk and I call it a day. When it’s not happening for you, you are better off stepping away. So that’s what we do, lots of steps.

Rather than bore you with my mental instability I thought I would start on another of one of my motorhome adventures. On my European trip we are just about in France and I am not so keen on France so we will come back to that. More exciting than France is Canada!
I am very fortunate, I have family in Canada who have as luck would have it have a RV sales, repair and rental business based in Lockport, Manitoba. Styling’s RV LTD, look them up. Great guys and a fountain of knowledge and a great base to travel from if you want to drive the Trans-Canada Highway. Well at least some of it, Canada is a big county!
One thing before I start on my journey. My Canadian family’s business is Styling’s RV LTD, but our surname is spelt Sti not Sty. There is a very simple explanation for this. Like a great many Stiling’s before them; they have got fed up with explaining how to pronounce our surname. Spell it phonetically and put it above the door seemed the most sensible cause of action to them. I am also hoping I will be able to tell who is reading this by their future pronunciation of my surname.
From our base is Lockport we are effectively going to travel form Winnipeg to Jasper National Park. Along the 16 through places like Saskatoon and Edmonton. Then down through the Icefields Parkway to Banff and back along the Trans-Canada Highway to Winnipeg. About a three and a half thousand kilometer round trip, which sounds a lot but for Canadians this is a weekender. We take a little longer.

Bigfoot

Bigfoot

Our home for this trip is a Bigfoot. A real beauty of a motorhome that aside me chipping the windscreen never missed a beat. Some may look at this as large, we turned down the bigger one. The bigger one was a bus, pull out sides the works. We were very happy in Bigfoot and I am still very grateful to my family for allowing us the use of Bigfoot for our trip.
Oddly I can’t remember this trip as vividly as I can my European trip, perhaps it’s an age thing? So I won’t give you a blow by blow account of the drive, more some of the highlights of the journey.
So in no particular order; if you ever get the chance, go to Dinosaur Provincial Park. Dinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located about two-and-a-half hours’ drive east of Calgary in a small place called Drumheller. The park is well known for being one of the richest dinosaur fossil locations in the world. Fifty-eight dinosaur species have been discovered at the park and more than 500 specimens have been removed and exhibited in museums around the globe. We had a bloody good look around and couldn’t add to this.

Dinosaur Provincial Park 1 Dinosaur Provincial Park 4

Dinosaur Provincial Park 2  Dinosaur Provincial Park

The scenery is spectacular, as I hope these few pictures show. You can camp pretty much next to these views and it is well worth a couple of days just exploring the walks and soaking in the history of the place. Not far away is the Dinosaur Provincial Park Visitor Centre, which features exhibits about dinosaurs, fossils, and the geology and natural history of the park. It is fascinating, you could lose a good day just looking at everything they have found.

Day 22, Tuesday 14th April

Back to work today and I have a huge amount of our database to contact. So set about it with great earnest. Some salespeople despise prospecting and if it’s just for the sake of it so do I, but when you have a clear message and need then it’s great. I mean I get paid to talk to people.
Making the call is the biggest psychological barrier you have to get through, once you’re on the phone its fine. If you spend to long looking at the inquiry or thinking about it you will find more reasons not to call than you will to call. So in my eyes it’s simple, head down and get on with it. By lunchtime I am more than halfway through and running out of steam. I do like doing it, but it is a little bit ground hog day after a while. There is only so many ways you can ask the same questions. The trick is; in my mind to make every conversation fresh and personal. I have worked in plenty of places and sat in plenty of training sessions that will tell you their script is golden. ‘Stick to this boys it will sell you plenty’!
Rubbish; people buy from people. If you don’t build rapport, a relationship, then they will buy from anyone or worse anywhere. I want my customers to buy from me. I want them to remember me, not necessarily the company I work for, but me. The biggest compliment you can get as a salesman is a referral from an existing customer. It means you have done your job right. I like to think the conversation goes something like; “where did you get your new motorhome from?” “Andrew, I’ll give you his number”.
For that reason I don’t use scripts. Don’t get me wrong, I have a few. I have even written a few, but for me they are guides. It’s all good to get you point over, but don’t follow them to the letter. People aren’t stupid, they will ping a scripted sales call or one from a struggling salesperson straight away. So don’t bother, talk to them like you know them and make friends. It’s an easier call all round, you come off the phone feeling buoyed by the whole thing and hopefully your customer does to. The next call is even easier.

So that’s my day, I break off at one to listen to Dr Bloomfield and have a little lunch.
If ever there was a man for the job at hand this is the man. A true public speaker who genuinely knows his subject inside out. I am not too sure about the others who get a go when Dr Bloomfield and Jacinda aren’t available, but these two I can relate to and be confident with. They have sold themselves to me, much like the rest of the general pubic I guess?
He does read his points from a script but most of what he says I get the impression is from the man himself. Watch him next time, particularly how he answers the questions. Honest, genuine, he’d make a good salesman.

In an end of day debrief with my boss we get on to the subject of mystery shoppers. Now I know everyone needs a job and feedback is a great learning tool. But these people are parasites! Waltzing around car dealerships wasting salespeople’s times so they can go out for a jolly in a nice new car and report back how badly you did at trying to sell it to them. I have never liked these people; I know it doesn’t show!
I have always argued that each customer is different and the process to sell them a car or whatever, is different every time. So what’s the point of Mr or Mrs Mystery-shopper coming round to check you have met all the requirements? It’s as irrelevant as the criteria you have to meet. Sure there are certain things you kind of have to do to sell anything, demonstrate it and ask if they want to do buy it for two. Now this might sound flippant but you would be amazed how many sales people don’t ask for the business. But then there are other things that are outside of your control. Spoken to within five minutes of walking on the forecourt! There are two trains of thought on this too. Do you leave the customer alone to browse or do you jump on them within five minutes of them arriving. Each customer is different but the criteria for mystery shoppers is the same.
Anyway I digress from the story I was going to tell. The story of my first ever mystery shop.
Still relatively new to the motor trade I had just started working for Honda UK. I hadn’t been with them very long and was still learning the ropes so to speak. I had a lovely little desk at the back of the showroom, where I could survey all. And n this fateful day I was watching our assistant sales manager (ASM) trying to juggle his customers. I have always hated this from any salesperson, you can only deal with one customer at a time and as soon as you try to do differently it goes wrong. What our dear ASM used to go was collect all the internet leads and pop them into his diary. The rest of the sales team would be scratching around but he would have appointment after appointment. Today was no different, he had picked up a walk-in customer knowing he had a pre-booked test drive at the same time. The rest of the team were busy and I was just happy to watch this unfold. Now our friend the test drive was getting very agitated, with hindsight more so than a normal customer. Consequently after about twenty minutes of floundering around said ASM called on me to take the gentleman out for a test-drive.
Now honestly I had been with Honda about a week, I knew all the cars but when it started getting down to the minutiae I had no idea. So I go fetch the car, I can still remember it. A 2.0ltr CRV SR 2WD Auto. A nice car but probably a little underpowered for British roads and certainly not the best on fuel.
Now, we had a strict, salesman drives first policy. For good reason, not only where we on a particularly busy road. But the highest point of agitation for the customer is the first three minutes of the test-drive. So if that’s the case I would rather be driving than them.
My friend wasn’t having a barn of this and if I am honest I didn’t put up much of a fight. So off we go, more points already lost. I am doing my best to get the guy back onside, talking about anything but the car. He was a drummer so needed a big boot, tick for the CRV. I am chatting about music. What style does he play, all of that? But he keeps trying to talk about the car. I have learned now; generally speaking people like to talk about themselves, they are proud of what they do. When they don’t be worried, it’s either a robbery or a mystery shopper. Anyway I am all new to this, I am naive. It’s at this very point he jumps in with what is a very simple question, one of which I have all the answers to now. But not then. So he says “what’s the fuel economy like?” To this day I don’t really know where it came from but in reply to this very simple question I chose these immortal words. “Fuel economy? You won’t get passed many petrol stations in this!”
What I didn’t tell you about mystery shoppers is that they are like spies and have a little cameras pinned to their tie or wherever. I have learned now to look carefully, I may in later years have leant across the desk to address the tie directly to ask if they would be buying the car today?
But not this time, I am still green. So back to the dealership we go. I offer our friend a coffee. There is points for that, so a small reprieve. Pass him back to the ASM to try and work his magic on what I can only imagine was a disastrous situation.
A month or so had passed and I hadn’t really given it any though. Or at least until I could hear my sales manager roaring from his office behind me. He was watching my first screen play. It would be fair to say I had some explaining to do, but the ASM took the brunt of it for not managing his time better. I got let off with the immortal words, we all get one bad mystery shop.
It turns out he had been caught once lounging against a car in the showroom. When Mr Mystery-shopper had asked him about the car he slid the brochure across the bonnet at him, telling him “all the information is in there, come back and tell me which one you want”.

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