Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Let Down By UK Contractors Again!

We have been putting the house through some much needed updates and refurbishment. We had it built in 1984, and haven't done much to it since. We have installed two new bathrooms, a new kitchen, and a new back fence amongst this work. One last job we decided to undertake was to improve the driveway. Over 30 years it had sunk considerably, and we also now would like to increase its width.

In order to do this we embarked on the usual methodology of inviting specialist contractors to attend and quote. We did this during May this year - 2016. Some showed an interest, then didn't attend, another attended, spent an hour measuring up, left and we never saw him again. We ended up with two quotes, but one of those companies did not publish their address details on their website or quote - just an 0800 telephone number. This immediately caused suspicion of who I might be dealing with.

We awarded the work - not at all cheap - to a local company who had a professional looking website, and had 80 4.5* - 5.0* reviews on a review site that says it always checks the reviewers are genuine by verifying their details before publishing their review. This contractor also published his business address. He pointed out that he had work already booked in that would last 6 months, so could only start our driveway to our agreed specification within his quote, on the 19th September. We agreed, as being busy also seemed to confirm a reputable company.

The 19th September arrived with no sign of the contractor - he apologised and said he had been very busy, but would start work the next Monday the 26th. That came and went with no sign of a start. This time his digger had broken down! Unfortunately we now had an appointment in London, and I informed him he would have to start work on our return - to which he replied he would have our drive completed for our return home **ALARM BELLS**.

Undeterred, we went ahead, because our very good neighbour agreed to keep me informed about what was occurring while we were away. It transpired that the digging out had been contracted out, and his brief did not match the depth required for our agreed foundations. I rang my contractor again and put this to him. His excuse this time was he had farmed our whole job out to a "friend". He was sacked on the spot, as it then became apparent that our driveway was scheduled to be laid on no foundations at all other than what was already under the existing drive, and which we had discussed at length back in May were not suitable as the old drive had sunk. So what do you do when faced with a mess like this.......

Research the way it should be done and do it yourself!

The digger contractor had done a very good job - so we started from there. I used internet calculators to ascertain what materials we required to do what was needed and ordered 10 tonnes of MOT hardcore, 3 X rolls of geo-textile matting, 6 X Concrete border slabs, 40 brick blocks to be used to segregate the drive from the service strip, 2 X bags of cement and 6 X bags of sand. We got to work.

One of the tools I needed for this job was a compactor whacker plate. As my job would take some time, I decided against hiring and plumped for this at just under £200.....

Click here to view the Evolution Hulk Electro compactor plate.

As it turned out this machine is brilliant at what it is supposed to do, and at the price, a bargain.

The foundations were put down in layers, compacting between each one. Half way through the brick and concrete slabs were set in, before completing the foundation layer, compacted solid.

When this was complete 4 tonnes of red granite aggregate and 1 tonne of green granite aggregate was purchased to finish, again whacked in once spread.

We are very pleased with the results of our labour, and at a fraction of the cost the driveway "specialist" contractor wanted for what would have been sub-standard work if we hadn't been vigilant. How long did this take us? Just one week all finished.

I have said it before when a marina "ripped us off" with so called specialist work that later being found to be sub-standard resulted in the loss of our narrowboat - if you want a job done properly - DO IT YOURSELF!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

September Travels.

For September we had planned a 10 day visit to Rock, Cornwall, my ancestral home county. All my traceable ancestors prior to my grandmother came from a small village near Hayle and were copper and tin miners. When the mining industry collapsed in the mid-1800's much of the Cornish population emigrated to find hard rock mining elsewhere. They went all over the world to find work - Australia, USA, South America, Mexico and South Africa. There are communities today where you can still find Cornish pasties on the menu in the most unlikely places.

However, my ancestors answered a call from the coal mine owners of the Lancashire coalfield who were at the time trying to beat a general strike, and my great grandfather was brought up to Manchester as a child where his family mined coal. In fact, looking on censuses of the time there were whole communities of coal miners who were born in Cornwall living next door to each other all the way along streets of Northern terraced houses.

Nowadays my younger brother owns the most beautiful holiday rental property in the now very upmarket village of Rock and this is where we spent our holiday. We have been many times previously, but it was completely refurbished for 2015 and is now extra special. It's location is excellent, being only 1 mile from the beach and ferry to Padstow, next door to a delicatessen, Spar grocers and classy fish and chip shop, and next but one to a fabulous bakery store and family butcher.

Best of all it is located within a short walk to the very lovely Pityme Inn [click name to view their website], which we visited every day before evening dinner for a pint or two of St. Austell Tribute hand pulled draught pale ale.

We drove down a week last Thursday and arrived home today after having the most beautiful warm sunny weather more or less every day of our visit. We met friends there who own a brown Labrador, and this whole area is so dog friendly it is almost unbelievable.

We took the passenger ferry Black Tor from Rock Beach to Padstow, and without a lie, nearly every visitor there had a dog in tow. All cafes and coffee shops welcomed them, and fresh drinking water for them was provided everywhere.

The Rock to Padstow ferry on Rock beach collection point £4 return, dogs free.

Rock Beach - dog friendly of course
Towards Quarry Car Park, Rock and the ferry.

Our beautiful bungalow at Rock.
There is a lovely beach front cafe in Rock called the The Blue Tomato [click on the name to view their website]. We called there for morning coffee and cakes last Sunday morning, and as well as our own, the waiter presented us with a menu just for the dog! This contained various flavoured dog chews, at just 30p. Unbelievably, when our lattes and cakes arrived, the dog chew was also served with a serviette on a plate. All very impressive.

The fabulous Blue Tomato Cafe at Rock
This customer also thought it was brilliant
The view from our table at The Blue Tomato
During the week we visited Padstow, Falmouth and Port Isaac, which is the village just 5 miles up the road that hosts the locations for the popular TV series Doc Martin. Also on the menu were lots of lovely coastal walks.

Padstow Harbour

The streets of Padstow
The River Camel Estuary from Padstow
Padstow low tide ferry point
Falmouth Main Street.

Port Isaac (Port Wenn in Doc Martin)
Doc Martin's house is in this view.
Port Isaac
Port Isaac
The sea entrance to Port Isaac
Another lovely visit was to Polzeath beach, a beautiful surfing beach which is also popular with a certain former UK Prime Minister, as can be seen below when he again visited in August this year. This image was published in national newspapers all over the world. My image - sat in exactly the same spot is only published here.

David Cameron sat on Polzeath Beach
Me sat on Polzeath Beach 3 weeks later
A fabulous holiday was had by all, and it is no wonder that Cornwall is such a popular holiday destination. The "visit Cornwall" website might be useful if you fancy a visit yourself.