Monday, 16 July 2012

Being a Cheapskate

I think that sometimes I am perceived as a bit of a cheapskate.  I rather prefer to think I like to get value for money, better still, something for nothing !.  

For instance take parking fees.  I avoid them whenever I can.  I reckon that by judicial parking throughout the year i can save about £300 easily.  By parking my car on the edge of a town and walking that extra 500 metres it is easy to save £2-3 per visit, particularly when you live in Cornwall where the charges are frequently extortionate.  But I extend this principle to buying things as well.  Now I have mentioned previously that I enjoy auctions and car boot sales and the bargains that can be had.  Well I will not stop there at looking for discounted goods.  

If I believe that the price of an item is excessive with built in high profit margin I will always ask for discount.  Now there are some places you just can't do this such as the high street multiples but there are many you can.  Furniture shops, bed salerooms, some electrical retailers, tyre, battery and exhaust centres for example. If in doubt you can give it a go. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

Now recently one of the "bargains" I purchased at a boot sale were several items of Piquot Ware.  The upside is that they were very cheap and the downside was they had seen a lot of use, probably in a cafe somewhere.  For those of you who don't know, Piquot Ware was a range of cast and polished aluminium/magnesium alloy tea and coffee pots, milk jugs and sugar bowls that were very popular in the 60's and 70's.  They are now seeing a resurgence in popularity with their "retro" design helped by the fact that the manufacturers still make them albeit they are extremely expensive.  A tea pot for instance is around £150 !.  I have three coffee pots of two different designs, a sugar bowl and a milk jug, all obtained for just £20.  However I do not think I will realise much of a profit it their present state as they need a couple of decades of scratches and tarnish polished out.  And so to my current project and my renovation plan !.

I realised from the outset that hand polishing would not suffice. When I looked at bench polishers it seemed even the lowest cost was in excess of £40 and that was before buying the necessary polishing wheels, etc.  Then I remembered my 35 year old Black and Decker two speed drill was made to go with various attachments and I was sure one was a horizontal drill stand.  A quick look on ebay revealed a couple had sold in recent months but they were rare as "rocking horse s**t". 

After a couple of weeks of searching I was beginning to believe my only option was to buy a bench grinder when lo and behold I saw just the item I required at.............wait for it...........a boot sale!.  Only the item wasn't just the stand. Black and Decker had made it so it could form part of a wood turning lathe and the seller, a trader, had the whole thing for sale for £15.  Now you might think this would be a bargain but remember, i'm a cheapskate.  I offered him £5 and he said he wouldn't go lower than £10.  Not to be outdone I waited until I had been around the whole sale a couple of times then returned to his pitch and offered him £8 saying it was all I had (I had £50 float in my wallet).  He scratched his head and pondered. The whole thing was about a metre long, covered in grease and grime and still had a filthy greasy drill attached.  I said how many offers did he think he would get for such a heavy greasy item.  I asked him if the drill worked and he said he didn't know. I went for the kill............  I emptied my trouser pockets out and I had exactly £7.80 in loose change.  I said this was his last chance as I was about to leave; it was £7.80 or nothing. He capitulated !.  

I wrapped a paper hankies around the bits I held and struggled back to my car.  On my return home and following cleaning, further investigation revealed that not only did the drill work fine but it was two speed and a switchable hammer drill to boot.  And the one tool I didn't have at home was can guess..........yes a hammer drill !.

Since then i've purchased an aluminium polishing kit on ebay and have polished my first coffee pot. What a difference. They should look like new when i've finished.  So that's my current home project.  And in the garage i've a very nice lathe for when I decide to take up woodturning as new hobby !. As I said, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Auction Day !

Well today I indulged another of my hobbies............buying at auctions.  One of the first things I did following my retirement was attend an auction.  It was something i'd always wanted to do but never had because auctions are nearly always held on weekdays and holidays were too precious to give up for such events.  Anyway, I never had that much spare cash in those days, not that I have now mind you.  The first purchases I made were lots involving pottery of various sorts. Job lots, boxes of miscellania, etc., mainly from house clearences.  Anyway, I got lucky.  I resurrected a seven year old ebay account and some innocuous pieces I bought turned out to be worth "a few quid" I realised there was money to be made.

The interest in pottery of all types developed. The more auctions I attended, the more pottery I bought and the more I had to research it before I sold.  Profits I made I ploughed back into not only buying more pottery but into expensive reference books to further my knowledge.  I got good at identifying makers marks from memory, particularly studio pottery marks.   This led to my starting a studio pottery collection with a focus on pottery from Devon & Cornwall.  And so now my collection is valued at well over £1,000 and growing.  Today I acquired another eight pieces. most of which will be sold to recover their cost but I think a couple will be finding their way into my collection again.

Inevitably the temptation has been to buy other items at auction apart from pottery.  Thus I have gradually found myself bringing home antiques as well.  Miners lamps, treen, Newlyn copperware,  ships lamps, brass clocks,  soda syphons,  cloisonne vases, razors, powder flasks,  cigarette boxes,  an atoscope (you'll have to look that one uplike I did !) , a plessor (and that one !) have all featured as purchases.  

Auctions alone were not enough and so I progressed to boot sales as a source of goodies to be sold at a profit or in the case of pottery to be added to my collection. There really is some good stuff to be found at boot sales.  Trench art pieces have featured twice as purchases that have produced handsome profit.  I have found that where pottery is concerned, joe public either as a buyer or a seller does not have a great knowledge where modern contemporary ceramics or studio pottery is involved. This has been greatly to my advantage.  One piece I bought for £1.20p for example is worth between £90 -£120 !.  Long may this situation remain.

I found that I was building such a surplus of funds that I was able to finance the purchase of all the equipment I needed to start my most recent hobby of canoing. 

I started the buying/selling with a £100 float, now long since repaid and so it turns out that both my pottery collecting and canoing have in effect been self financing.  Not only that but i'm having a lot of fun on the way.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Making the Best of the Weather

Well another week has gone by with yet again rain, rain and more rain but i'm trying to make the best of it.  The sun came out on Wednesday evening so I picked up my new rod and reel which were Xmas presents from my wife and gave them an airing.  Drove the short distance to Charlestown and went out on the west pier to see if I could bag a mackerel, spinning with a lure.
No such luck.   I didn't stay longer than an hour because quite frankly it was a little chilly with a firm sea breeze and I was getting bored.  The telescopic rod was light and easy to handle and the reel silent, the line wrapping on the spool very evenly.  So full marks all round.  I can't throw my old rod away mind you, after all I have had it 47 years !.  The old reel will go in the bin though as it is corroding at the edges.

Now today, the sun came out in the morning and a visit to Charlestown with my grandson Jack revealed the sea was very calm with only a slight swell so I decided that this might be an opportunity to test the sit on kayak on the sea. So off I went to Caerhays beach (Porthluney Cove as it is more correctly known) in the afternoon with the aim of a paddle along the coast to the harbour village of Portloe.

Oh I wish it were as easy as that.  Everything takes so much time.  There's the kayak to get out of the garage, unstrap from the trolley (i'll come to that in a moment) and tie on to the roof bars.  Make sure i've got wetsuit, boots, cag top, gloves, helmet and towel packed in my holdall and put in the boot.  Then the spare mobile and money put into a waterproof pouch. Paddle placed down the ski way in the centre of the car.  Bottle filled with drink clipped into the holder on the kayak. Trolley put into the boot (yeh yeh I said i'll come to that in a minute).

Then after arriving at the beach there's the kayak to take off the roof and put back on the trolley  again ( know what i'm going to say now don't you................).  Then the struggle to put the wetsuit on. Now mine's a quality one but it's just so damn harder now i'm older (and more horizontally challenged).  Boots on, buoyancy aid on, cag on, gloves on, helmet on. Paddle out of the car, holdall back in boot, lock car. Put waterproof pouch in hatch in kayak after putting car key in it.  Ready to move.

Now I did mention a trolley didn't I !.  Well back in the days when I canoed and surf-ski'd I would just carry the canoe or ski to the waters edge. On beaches such as Caerhays or Polzeath on the north coast, if the tide was out this could be quite a walk with +20KG over my shoulder.  But I was younger/fitter/had hair then.  Ah-ha but nowadays  they make little folding alloy trolleys to sit your kayak on and tie down so that you can wheel the blighters down to the waters edge.  Another expense of course, and not cheap at sixty quid but boy do they save the arms and back.  Quite frankly without it I doubt whether i'd make it to the water.  

So of I went wheeling my kayak across the several hundred metres of sand to the water.  Then when I got there I unstrapped it from the kayak, took the wheels off, folded it up and put the whole shebang in a 30 litre waterproof bag which I then secured in the rear compartment of the kayak. Job done, ready for off so you'd think.  

Oh bugger.  I still had my varifocal spectacles on.  I'd forgotten to put my contact lenses in before I left the house.  f****!?#!!**$*%!!#!!!!!!.  Nothing else for it, I wasn't going to risk the loss of £350 spectacles; I had to go back to the car where fortunately  I had an old pair of single vision specs and a sports headband stored away as a back up.  So off I went, leaving the kayak near, but not too near, the waters edge, swapped my specs over and returned.  Felt like I needed a rest and a lie down but I hadn't started yet !.

After a quick launch I could see the water was not as calm as it had been earlier and there was a strong onshore/crosshore breeze.  No worries. The kayak proved to be very stable and I lit out towards Portloe, keeping about 100 metres offshore to avoid the heavier swell which had also built from earlier.  I soon realised that Portloe was a little too far with the headwind I was paddling into so I settled for West Portholland Cove as a final destination. Portloe would do for another calmer sunny day when I had more time.  I returned after about an hour and a half on the water.

So the trip was not quite what I was aspiring to but an excellent test of the kit on the sea for the first time and all in all I am well pleased with my new plaything.  The trolley, although an extra hassle factor, was nevertheless a great success and did what it was supposed to do..... save me from physiotherapy and appointments with chiropractors.  All I need now is some of those balmy calm summer days we used to have when I would get too hot in the wetsuit and would have to bale water over myself with my helmet in order to cool down.  Aah.....those were the days...........

Thursday, 5 July 2012

A New Direction

It's been some time since I started this blog and it's really ceased to be a blog because I haven't been blogging !.  Well i've decided to take this in a new direction now as things have changed since I last wrote.
For one thing, I no longer repair computers, least not for reward.  
So this blog will no longer focus on technology but rather will take a broader view on the things that excite, concern, worry, annoy and otherwise stimulate my brain on a day to day basis. 

To begin in this vain I will tell you of a recent trip I took out to enjoy my new hobby, canoing.  Well it isn't really new in the sense that I used to canoe with a club but stopped doing so about eight years ago, some four years before I retired. I also used to surf ski, bodyboard and snorkel fish but just stopped doing them in my later employment years. I never owned a canoe and sold the surf ski I had but kept all the other essential watersports gear, wetsuit, buoyancy aid, etc.

Then earlier this year I saw canoists out on the river near where I live and it brought back the great memories of the times I had when I was "on the water" in sea and on river.  Now I am not the fittest person there is and age is taking its toll, particularly because I admittedly get little excercise except gardening. However I am still healthy and with the exception of occasional muscle aches and having to wear spectacles for long distance I saw no reason why I couldn't get back on the water again. So I started looking at canoes on the web. To my surprise I found that the sport has changed in the past decade with the prominent availability of affordable "sit on kayaks". These can be fitted with removable seats and have no cockpit, the canoist simply sitting in a depression moulded into the polyethylene body of the canoe.  Just what I was looking for. They are very stable, unsinkable and if you fall out on the water, it is comparatively easy to get back on, particularly if you have no one with you in another canoe.

So the decision was made and soon after I located the exact model I wanted, second hand on ebay. I also bought a new paddle, a folding trolley for those longer hauls down to the water and some waterproof bags for carrying stuff with me on any trips. A check on all my old watersport gear came next and although donning my wetsuit was a bit like putting a cumberland sausage into a chipolata skin, it still fit reasonably comfortably.

Now I used to wear contact lenses when I undertook watersports but hadn't done so for years so next was a trip to the opticians to determine whether I could return to using them. I didn't want to get lost on the water and have people saying "he should have gone to Specsavers" !. The news was good and I was given five pairs to try out and thereafter I can buy a pack of thirty pairs for £22 which for daily use will last me many trips. Job done.

My first trip was last Wednesday from Golant slipway on the Fowey river here in Cornwall to the Bridge at Lostwithiel.  A fairly ambitious journey (14 kilometres round trip) for a try out, but in for a penny, in for a pound !.Weather was calm with sunny intervals and I was going up-river with the tide, the plan to be a Lostwithiel at high tide then return with the tide again. I met a couple of other canoists who launched just before me. They had sea kayaks but had decided the river was the better option on a day where fog was prelavent.

There is nothing quite like the peace which can be found on some of our Cornish estuaries. At one point I just sat and heard........nothing...... No bird sounds, not even a distant car or the gentle put-put-put of a boat on the river. The only time I have ever heard such silence was at the bottom of a 1000 metre shaft in North Yorkshire. Wonderful.

There was drizzle on the way but I was working the paddle and with my cag top and buoyancy jacket over my wetsuit  I was quite warm. The tide was high enough to beach below the bridge and lunch was obtained from Lostwithiel Coop. The other two canoists did likewise and I got chatting to them sitting on the picnic benches. The gentleman canoist (the other was a lady) said he was 83 and had canoed much of his life. And there was me quietly wondering whether I was too old to take up canoing having not even reached state retirement age !.

Having listened to TV reports and read the newspapers recently, who the hell wants to die in a rest home. Take risks and feel alive. So now I have my answer. Feel the fear and do it anyway. That's my new direction and we'll see where it takes me.  I'll continue this blog from time to time so those that readers will know i'm still alive !.