The Ultimate Relationship... and the Earth Collective


The Christmas period has been challenging. Not because the festive season is a non-event for me living on wheels, but because of relentless technical challenges and associated stress.

After reading some 40 documents on the Portuguese visa application process (a combination of online research and a treasure trove of information provided by friends who are already resident there), I felt I had a reasonable idea of what was involved and the order of work. Prior to doing this, it looked as if I might have to go to Portugal to do part of the process - inconvenient, to say the least. However, I found a workaround, so that I could undertake the whole process in the UK.

This meant surrendering my aim for a minimum data trail (something I have worked hard at, in the last few years), as I would need to get a police certificate, provide full financial information, finger prints (of all fingers), an eye scan and more. But the opportunity to live abroad, and the Earth Collective project, are worth it.

My blue bike parked by a stone wall on a bridge, with lough beyoud
Tried and tested therapy!

So, the first task, was to apply for a tax number, then a bank account. Both took the best part of a day and needed chat support for every question, as the information requested was ambiguous, documents wouldn’t upload, the ‘next’ button wouldn’t work, and so on. Nothing less than utter persistence was required. The police report came next, and this presented a different challenge. Namely, the form had to be downloaded, completed and submitted in Microsoft Word. But having just changed my operating system to Linux, I no longer had Word. The only solution was to use a public computer in the local library. This took three visits to work out and ensure I had all the right information at hand. As I clicked the submit button on the final visit, the computer told me I had 10 seconds left in the session. I didn’t know access was time limited. A close call? I prefer to think of it as divine timing?

I have also been trying for over a week now, several times a day, to get an appointment at the consulate in London, but none are available. I had no idea Portugal was so popular. This is required to submit a very long list of documents and to surrender your passport. The meeting can be anything up to 6 weeks, and the visa can take two months after that. So, I am unlikely to set foot on Portuguese soil until March, if things go well. The experience thus far, confirms how dysfunctional bureaucracy is, these days. It grinds you down and stifles change for all but the doggedly determined. Thankfully, I am that.

Another blow has been the realisation that, from a tax perspective, it isn’t sensible to take the mothership to Portugal. So I will have to bite the bullet and find a doting new owner for her and the beloved Merc truck. Not quite what I had in mind. This also means finding someone to stay with, or somewhere to rent in the UK, in the time between selling and leaving. And buying a van to transport my possessions and the bike across the sea. I think, when I get to Portugal, I will buy a motorbike to get around the tiny rural lanes, which are not dissimilar to those in Ireland. Nomadic life, is about to take on a new meaning.

On the mechanical side of things, challenges are ongoing. Having solved the long standing battery issue (‘Needs Must’ blog), another problem occurred on Xmas eve when garages were closing for the holiday season - naturally! One of the rear indicators wasn’t working. Probably a blown bulb, I thought, not urgent, though hand signals were required on a trip to London to visit my brother on Boxing Day. The following day, I found a mechanic to investigate the problem. Seemed like it was a loose connection. The indicators worked for the next day, or so.

By New Year’s Eve, lights or combinations of lights, were coming on randomly when the ignition was switched off, and staying on for 8 or 9 hours. I was concerned this would drain the battery, which meant taking the Merc for a spin at regular intervals to keep it topped up, until I could get to a garage between Xmas and New year. Of course, when I did, it was fine. No problem anywhere. The good behaviour continued, albeit briefly.

Yesterday, meantime, a different issue occurred. I noticed a few drips of water coming from the boiler outlet pipe on the mothership. I thought nothing of it and tightened the stop valve, which broke in my hand, causing water to rush out. I turned off the pump and it stopped. But I wouldn’t be able to use any water inside and, furthermore, I had arranged to leave the campsite today. Extremely annoying, as the stop valve had been a stiff for a while and, at mothership HQ on the recent service, I had asked for it to be replaced. It wasn’t done. Instead, I was told it just needed easing. At least I had the foresight to ask for a spare. So, I was now faced with the tall order of finding a caravan mechanic to come to my rescue, immediately. Miraculously, I found a lovely father and daughter team who came to the site, and the job was done and dusted in five minutes. Phew! What a relief.

So today, I was up bright and early, aiming for a 10 o’clock getaway. Hitched up, route planned, food and drink at the ready, one last item needed to be ticked off, which required the help of a passer by (who turned out to be a lady walking her dog), to check the lights on the trailer. You guessed it, big fat nothing! I tried a variety of protocols. Nothing. I consulted a fellow caravaner – nothing. So, I phoned mothership HQ and asked for advice. They suggested a few more things to try. Nothing. As a last resort, I phoned yesterday’s knight in shining armour, and asked if he would help me again. With the clock ticking, as I needed to get to my destination before dark, he tested the connection in the unit. Fine. Power from the Merc. Fine, which meant that the issue had to be somewhere between the two. Another call to mothership HQ revealed there was a mystery box, hidden under the bumper of the Merc, which was part of the towing apparatus. Turned out, it was full of water and the circuit inside was completely corroded. Furthermore, this was also the cause of the Merc lights issue, a few days earlier.

The net result is that a replacement unit arrives tomorrow, and the saint who is the mechanic will return to fit it. But as it will be too late to travel, I have resigned myself to being grounded at the current location for two more nights. Exasperating, but not life threatening.

After unhitching and unpacking, a feeling of agitation persisted, so I did what a gal with a mothership does, and took my bike out for a darn good thrashing. Hard exercise is a tried and tested method for putting me back in the groove. Full leg power for 22 miles did the job. So, all is well in my world...for now.


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