Tuesday, 19 March 2013

134 RIP Leon Hall - Passed to Cat Heaven 18th March 2013 Aged 17

Sadly we had to take Leon to the vets yesterday and have put him to sleep. This post is dedicated to him.

Leon had been suffering for about a year with renal failure and his kidney's were  packing up. Over the year we have taken him to the vets several times, both in the UK and in Spain, and both diagnosed the condition.

You may remember in December he was taken to the vet in Spain and when we told him of the circumstances he said if we x-ray him and his kidneys show up dark then he definitely has the disease. That proved to be the case and he thought Leon would only last a few weeks.

We are fortunate that we have had him for a further 3 months. He did have another UK visit in January but he was so distressed at the vets that we decided the next time we took him there it would be his last as despite our selfish want's we would not let him suffer. The problem with this disease is that it is very slow and to decide when to take him was very difficult.

In the last couple of weeks Leon has been slowing down and becoming more clingy, whiny and being sick a lot. He was sleeping about 90% of the time (a symptom) but when awake he was attentive one day and slow the next. On Saturday he developed a large growth where his tail stump meets his bum and it was blatantly painful. This was our deciding symptom. Having promised ourselves that he would not suffer any further or go through the trauma of any more treatment we made the appointment.

We have had our hand forced to some degree by our upcoming trip to the USA but due to his condition (being sick all the time) it would not have been fair to any new owner to take on the burden and on top of this, anyone that knew Leon knows that he treated all other humans as though they had the plague and would have been in distress with any one else.

Once at the vets we had an hour or so's wait and this was in itself difficult as all the other pet owners were laughing and joking among themselves and we were both in tears. Once we finally got to see the vet he had a feel of Leon's kidneys and said that they were in a terrible condition and had no hesitation in going along with our wishes.

The injection was given and we were put in a separate room whilst we comforted Leon as he slowly fell to sleep.

I am a 57 year old ex-police officer and as I write this I am sobbing like a baby. Leon has given us such pleasure over the years and has been to places and done things few other pets have. Today we will bury him on Bob and Liz's land on the edge of a field. Leon was such a character who bought a lot of joy and sunshine into our lives.

We miss him terribly.

Here are some of the photos we have of him in various places:

Leon navigating in our motorhome

Playing on the open staircase at Mum and Sandy's farm

On the patio at our house in Hoddesdon

Stalking beside a lake in Finland

The Northernmost  point in Europe. The tip of Norway, 71 Deg North.

Beside a Norwegian lake

About to go exploring the river bank from a boat on the Norfolk Broads. Regardless of what method of transport we had, he would go exploring and always come back wherever we were.

Chilling out in the motorhome. He has just had his tail removed and his leg is still shaved from the injections etc.

This name plate saved his life when he was attacked by the Rottweiler, it was bent as though it had been hit with a hammer and nail. He was lucky to only loose his tail.

A typical pose for a cat that would adapt to any situation we put him in.

His favourite perch in the Land Rover.

Exploring a small park in Lithuania.

Southern Norway.

Whenever we went shopping or exploring this is what greeted us on our return.

At home eying up the birds.

Our last photo and one of the best. We took this knowing time was running out for him.

133 Preparing Wallace for the Americas

There was a lot of work needed to be done on Wallace to get him ready for the long pending trip.

This has been a long process that started soon after Wallace was purchased. The first things to be added were a better screen and a bracket to adjust its height and angle.
Then came extra lights, not really for night time use, although that is useful, but more to bee seen in the daytime. A stronger bash plate was installed as the original can rip a hole in sump if hit.
The crash bars were beefed up to protect our legs and the radiator. They also allowed us to hang front panniers later.
A larger set of Metal Mule panniers replaced the ones supplied with the bike. They are bigger and a lot stronger. They came with a rear luggage rack.

Wallace remained in this state for about 2 years and earlier this year, as stated previously, he was tuned up. The intention was to make the bike smoother to use and to stop it cutting out. This sadly is as a result of emission control laws to produce the bike in the first place. The tune up not only sorted the ride-ability but also made it into a very fast bike. I will need to play with it some more and de-tune it to improve fuel consumption. Very necessary for some countries with long distances between petrol stations.
The clever tuning bits are in the plastic bags. They have USB leads going to the under-seat area so they can be modified with our lap top.

Next came some of the comfort bits. First was an air bed type seat cover that spreads the load of our bums out and stops hot spots at the pressure points. More commonly called "Monkey Butt".
Then we added some electrical connections for heated jackets and gloves. At the same time an electrical supply for the lap top was installed in one of the panniers.
Under the seat is where all the new electrics are for the heated clothing and power supply for the lap top. I also made up a steel cable in a plastic tube so we could lock the helmets on the bike if we went anywhere.

Next was the need for a backrest for Karen. As we had removed the big back box which she used to rest against, we needed something to replace it. I asked Bob if he had any ideas and he suggested a car head rest. Genius. He also knew where to get a suitable one. Enter the crashed Post Office van head rest. After a bit of cutting and welding it was all in place and ready to go.
Last but not least was installation of some soft front panniers. Bright Yellow !

The air cushion seats (like a mini LiLo) are under the sheep's skin seat. Also is Karen's back rest courtesy of the Post Office van it came off of.

And the big yellow bags hanging on the panniers.
 We have ordered a stronger shock absorber for the rear and we hope to collect that in early April.

Monday, 11 March 2013

132 Scotland and Ongar

Whilst we were in Scotland we had an invite to attend the local village 'Burns Night'. Mum and Sandy were already going and two people had dropped out. It was a posh affair so we had to go out and get some new togs and appropriate Tartan ties etc. It was a great night and it was hosted by the guy that bought Mum and |Sandys farm, Jock Roam. The only small glitch was that the tickets we were allocated had also been given to someone else but that was soon sorted out. It was a brilliant evening with pipers and a burning haggis being sacrificed !

Something we discovered whist here was the need for an American Visa. We had assumed that the 90 days we were allowed without one would re-start every time we re-entered the USA from Canada. We were wrong, Doh!
An electronic application and  £200 later we had arranged n interview at the US embassy in London for next week.
Our stay in Scotland came to and end and we had had a wonderful time. Mum and Sandy are still getting to grips with their new place but the stress of moving is now in the past.

A slow drive in Gromit back to Bob and Liz's place and we set up camp in their garden (again), this time not in the sheep shed but just outside it. The new caravan was extremely comfortable compared to the old one but it took a while to get all the systems up and running. Once done we settled in nicely and set about preparing for our upcoming trip.

Our per-arranged trip to the US embassy went well and  our visas were granted. It was strange getting on the train to go back into London after all this time. It's still crap. The Passports/visa's arrived a couple of days later.

We got Wallace back from the tuners and after paying a small fortune for the tune up, Wallace was like a missile. The difference was incredible. It was very quick but crucially, it was smooth at low speed which is what we need.

Next on the list was the inoculation merry go around. As we were going through the Amazon, the list of jabs was like a small phone directory. At least our arms thought so. We have had 5 each so far and still have 2 more to go.

We needed to buy some new bike gear and attended the Excel bike show in Docklands. We bought 2 new helmets, a couple of heated jackets, some soft panniers and some bottle carriers for the rear of the panniers.
Once home, it was a marathon task to set Wallace up for the long trip. The headed clothing needed wiring into the bike and I also added a 12v supply to one of the panniers to charge the laptop whilst on the move. I fitted a few switches to turn off the microphones and another to turn off the communications system. I also installed the soft panniers to the front of the bike. It started to look like a barge. It was massive but looked real cool. Or so Benjamin thought as he asked to be picked up from school to show off to his mates. It worked. When I was at his school kitting him up for the trip home all his mates were swarming around and a Maserati car drove by. One boy pointed it out and I asked which he would rather be going home on. Wallace won. Ben was made up.

Another problem that reared it's head was our driving licenses. Liz had seen an article somewhere stating that an international driving permit was required for America. A trip to the post office revealed that Karen needed one and I needed two, an extra one for Brazil !

Whist in the UK we decided to bully Trula into getting her driving license. She sorted out her theory test and once that was out of the way, she booked a practical for the 6th of March. Fingers are crossed. After many bullying....er I mean driving lessons, both from me  and her instructor the test day arrived. I took her for a short lesson beforehand and then a bacon butty at the Cornish Cafe in Harlow. It was then all over bar the tears and I drove her to the test centre in Penny - as named by Rosie, our 1996 blue Ford Fiesta. Trula drove the last couple of streets to the test centre and reverse parked into a bay. Ten minutes later, she was off and beyond help.
The expectant father paced up and down and 30 minutes later I watched Trula drive back into the centre. My fingernails were getting shorter till I saw her lean over from the driving seat and give the tester a big hug. Phew ! Turns out he was also a retired Met Police officer. :)

Well done Trula. First test and only 2 faults. At least she did not give me a hard time for the bullying.