50

The day wasn’t one of our best. It began well enough. After two nights on a Narbonne aire mains electricity supply, our battery bank managed a night without dropping below 12V, 50% according to my AGM battery voltage chart. We may have shortened the battery bank life already, but to avoid reducing it further we need to stay as far away from 50% discharge as possible. That means either reducing our onboard electrical use or increasing our battery bank capacity.

We haven’t resorted to reading by candlelight just yet. However, I don’t think we can reduce our usage much more. To avoid running the heating system electrical fan, we turn on the heating less frequently. Cynthia doesn’t mind. She appears to be immune to lower living temperatures. A decade of enduring searingly cold Vermont winters has finally paid off. I’m not so robust. I often resort to wearing a fleece hat indoors, sometimes a goose down jacket too.

Other than the heater fan, our home’s main electrical draw is my MacBook car charger. It plugs into a cigarette lighter socket beneath the table in the Hymer’s dining area and draws a battery draining 5.6 amps. I used to leave the charger plugged in all day. The batteries complained bitterly. We’ve reduced use to two hours a day. Maybe the leisure bank will jump for joy and start behaving.

The day’s frustrations began as I was about to fire up our Honda suitcase generator for a few hours of essential battery bank charging. We were alone on several acres of empty aire. As soon as I stepped outside to pull the generator out of the Hymer’s garage, a French motorhome squeezed into a gap an arm’s width away from us. Not being able to run the generator because of our new neighbour was an annoying but easy problem to resolve. We could start the engine and move somewhere else.

The day’s real bad news started with a ten-minute walk to Peyriac’s post office. A new postmaster has been holding parcels and letters fee free for the last two months. On my latest visit, he had been replaced by someone more familiar with post restante rules and charges. I had to make a second trip to the post office, this time with my wallet.

I wish I hadn’t bothered. Our post included several parcels and two letters, both of them containing bad news. One was an overdue demand for the Hymer’s road tax. That problem was resolved by making a quick online payment.

We don’t yet know how to deal with the contents of the second and far more important letter.

It was from the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). Cynthia applied on 13th December last year for a permit to stay long-term in the Netherlands. The document was to inform us that her application has been refused.

We spent half an hour with an official when we visited the IND’s office in Utrecht to submit the application. He took a thick wad of photocopied documents from us, added them to our completed application form, bid us a fond farewell, and told us that we would receive the application result sometime over the next six months.

We used our English correspondence address for the application. The IND official didn’t mention the need for a Dutch address, which is a shame because that’s why Cynthia has been refused. At least that’s what we think is the reason.

Even though the application was made on a form printed in English, as was our interview in Utrecht, the IND announced their decision in four pages of incomprehensible Dutch. Google Translate didn’t help much at all. The decision was written in the kind of governmental legal jargon which would have been just as difficult to understand if it had been written in English.

We hope to speak to our case handler today. We can make two appeals. Our first appeal will be for a strong man to go to their Utrecht office to squeeze the testicles of the official who allowed us to submit the application with an English address in the first place.

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 50 comments
Mike - March 9, 2018

Hi there , with regard to your road tax , it is required for you to use the public highway in UK , and your not there. As it is now done online you can easily SORN once out of uk and buy again on the first of month if you plan on coming back that month. Some will say it’s illegal etc, but it’s a uk tax and no paperwork is available to check even if foreign police etc wanted to. I have my camper in France most of the year and have had no problems. Could be another £150 saved and put towards batteries. Have fun.

Reply
    Paul Smith - March 9, 2018

    It’s a valid suggestion Mike bit, given that we are only likely to stay in the UK for about two weeks to have some warranty work done in April and then another week in October to have the Hymer’s MOT done, how would we achieve the appropriate tax for just our time in England?

    Reply
      Jeannie - March 9, 2018

      Just tax it for the two months you will be in the UK.

      Reply
        Paul Smith - March 9, 2018

        I suppose that would mean declaring SORN, deSORNing the vehicle, declaring SORN again etc, etc. I’m getting a headache just thinking about it!

        Reply
          Dave Goodfield - March 9, 2018

          Paul. By law your vehicle has to be taxed somewhere in Europe at least If anything happened to your vehicle then the insurance can argue rightly that the vehicle was not taxed and therefore should not be on the road and insurance is null and void. Don’t forget that the vehicle can be seized and scrapped by law for those reasons.I know for a fact different police forces have access to different vehicle registries as well so you can be traced.

          Reply
          Paul Smith - March 9, 2018

          Thanks for the additional information Dave. I’ve fallen foul of the UK legal system too many times in the past to seriously consider not paying road tax.

          Reply
          Alan+Cranford - March 9, 2018

          Dave, I think you have an extremely valid point. In Los Angeles, CA groups of low income/no income homeless people have resorted to buying old travel trailers and motorhomes and using them as permanent residences in certain areas where there are no parking restrictions. The City of Los Angeles has taken to seizing and towing those who do not have valid license plates causing the “home owner” to become homeless once again! OH… I just LOVE government!

          Reply
      Mark - March 9, 2018

      Are you just bringing Van back to Uk for an MOT , why not have any work done in Europe, under EU law any vehicle has to be registered in the Country after 6 months anyway. It’s probably worth looking into because you will find your Insurance might well become invalid if vehicle not properly registered

      Reply
        Paul Smith - March 9, 2018

        You make a good point Mark, and it’s one we need to address. Just another hurdle to overcome when wandering through Europe without anywhere to call home!

        Reply
      Mark - March 9, 2018

      We have friend here in Spain who kept car Insured and registered in U.K. but had had the car in Spain for 6 and a half months, in had a small accident the Insurance Company refused to pay out £4500 the bill.

      Reply
        Paul Smith - March 9, 2018

        Another point well made, although I’m pretty sure that our insurance is valid for being permanently out of the UK. Maybe not if the registration is incorrect though.

        Reply
          Dave+Goodfield - March 9, 2018

          You need to check with insurance company. Most insurers allow 90 days insurance cover driving abroad without incurring extra costs, exceed 90 days continuieous use abroad and policy is null and void.

          Reply
          Paul Smith - March 9, 2018

          I checked carefully with many insurance companies Dave. Saga was one of the few which would allow us to be out of the country for a full year.

          Reply
          Mike - March 9, 2018

          With respect to insurance only, you may want to check out Worldwideinsure.com

          Reply
          Paul Smith - March 9, 2018

          This appears to be travel rather than motorhome insurance Mike. Do they offer vehicle insurance as well?

          Reply
          Mike - March 12, 2018

          Sorry, you are correct. They do insurance on car and motor home rentals rather than personal vehicle insurance. I guess that you are probably looking for the latter. My apologies

          Reply
          Paul Smith - March 12, 2018

          Thanks for the confirmation Mike.

          Reply
      Andy - March 9, 2018

      You can buy six months tax the month you’re in England then apply online for a refund for whole unused months which is returned to you as a cheque. Hope this helps

      Reply
        Paul Smith - March 10, 2018

        Thanks for Andy, but could I justify claiming ‘unused’ months when we are living and travelling in the motorhome pretty much full time, even if the vehicle is in mainland Europe?

        Reply
      Mike - March 12, 2018

      As long as you have insurance and mot that is valid , you log onto uk gov website and pay online and tax is valid straight away, then before end of month after leaving uk log in online and SORN and they send refund check to vehicle logbook address.

      Reply
Jeannie - March 9, 2018

Oh dear!
Jeannie

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Mark - March 9, 2018

Using the sworn statement really is stress free, each winter we go away and leave the car in The garage, when we come back we just spend 1 minute on line and are good to go. Plus a couple of hundred quid to the good.

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Mark - March 9, 2018

With regards to residential status, we have friends currently staying with us from USA here in Spain, they flew into Madrid don’t have any Visa just showed passports and waved in, passports not scanned suspect nobody knows they are even here. Perhaps just keeping your heads down might solve a lot of issues, if you don’t ask then you can’t be refused

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    Paul Smith - March 9, 2018

    If only our life was so easy Mark. France and Spain are fairly relaxed at their borders. The Dutch are more obsessed with rules and regulations. Cynthia wants to return to the USA occasionally. I don’t know why. Maybe she was dropped on her head as a baby, or maybe it’s the host of close friends she left behind to travel with me. The fear is that she could fly from the Netherlands and not be allowed back in. We know that there is a good chance if she was refused entry into the Netherlands, she could then try and land, and probably succeed, in France. But what if she couldn’t? All this officialdom is a pain in the backside, but it’s important for Cynthia’s peace of mind.

    Reply
      Mark - March 9, 2018

      Hi Paul for many years we had the same problem when we visited Florida each winter, we tried every which way to stay longer, but no way around it, just an idea rather than freeze in Europe every winter why not try Florida for winter 6 months then Europe 6 months in the summer all problems solved

      Reply
        Paul Smith - March 9, 2018

        Apart from the fact that we have two large dogs to cart around with us and the fact that Californian born and bred Cynthia would rather give birth to a fully grown gorilla without anaesthetic than stay for a day in Florida, we would love to spend our winters there.

        Reply
Alan+Stock - March 9, 2018

A friend and myself decided to go grape picking in France years ago. Now my friend was a bankrupt. That was when it lasted 3 years or so. He new the law well. He never committed any criminal offence. Like he told one of his lady friend’s when she ask what he did, he told her he legally robbed banks. He would borrow with no intention of ever paying anything back, he got car’s this way along with building materials etc. He owed 240 thousand when they tracked him down. He moved out the house he had a mortgage on. He had bribed a building society manager to get the money for the house, and kept up repayments with a flooring company wich never paid any tax or vat. He had done a lot of camping in Europe, mainly France when he was with his family. The one thing he would never do was not to have insurance or tax on his vw campervan. He was stop in Germany once without tax. He was really bollocked by the cop, he knew he had no tax, and told him that it has to be taxed in some European country. He let him go, but he could of ended up in a cell.
I personally would take risks abroad, I will probably be living fairly simular to you Paul, this coming winter. But remember my mate, he never worried about a thing, but he always taxed his campervan. We drove down to Spain, and he always had a coke can full of beer on his lap. I know it is wrong and I would not do stuff like that again. But I was 25 years younger then. All the best. Alan

Reply
    Paul Smith - March 9, 2018

    Point taken Alan. Anyway, I’ve paid tax for the next twelve months now, so it’s all academic.

    Reply
Neil - March 9, 2018

I’m sorry that’s really bad news about Cynthia, cant you get a Netherlands address somehow and apply again, I know a dutch girl there who may be able to help if push comes to a shove.
Neil

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    Paul Smith - March 9, 2018

    Our appeal will focus on providing enough information to prove that we have spent all summer touring the Netherlands either on our boat or in our motorhome. Going down the address route will be much more difficult. Dutch homeowners are taxed according to the number of people living there. Because of that, they aren’t keen on allowing their addresses to be used as addresses of convenience.

    Reply
      Ray+Wright - March 9, 2018

      Paul
      I’m going to ask a stupid question I know but are you and Cynthia actually married and she issued with UK citizenship?
      The reason I ask is because my wife’s son move to Australia in 1999. A more rule obsessed nation probably doesn’t exist and unashamedly rascist at that. He was working on a Work permit as a chef and after a time in Queensland met an Aussie girl and married her. Later, after a baby arrived they divorced. He, then a high flyer in the IT industry became an Aussie citizen working for the government in a quite senior IT role. Being a citizen now means he cannot be deported.

      Reply
        Paul Smith - March 9, 2018

        Yes we are and no she isn’t Ray. We finally married in Arlington Vermont after first attempting the ceremony in Scotland and then in Denmark. Getting married was the easy part. We would then have had to part with thousands of pounds to even apply for permission for Cynthia to stay longer than the six months allowed by US citizens. We decided that the money would bring us more pleasure invested in European travels than swelling the UK government coffers. We’ve been right so far.

        Reply
Ray Wright - March 9, 2018

Paul it must have been a huge disappointment when the news came but in all fairness would you have received the same response if you were pottering around the wilds of Canada? We are all citizens of the world but when it comes to moving to another country it becomes a very different matter!
If you want to be depressed even more, just think about the awful consequences of Brexit, the worst decision the ill educated people of Britain have made in their lifetimes.
As someone who is looking to live on the continent of Europe in the next few years I am all to aware of the consequences. Holland for example does not allow dual citizenship under any circumstances and the other members of the EU will no doubt be taking a hard stand on Brits trying to live on the continent following our governments demand for a ‘pick & mix’ choice of demands recently.
We, (you and I) may well be asked to leave as well & only offered a standard 90 day visa.
Good luck to you all.
Ray

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    Paul Smith - March 9, 2018

    Thank you for those encouraging thoughts Ray. Sad thoughts, but I know you are right. I suppose we need to make the most of the time we can spend here before either or both of us are kicked out. All I can say is that the last eighteen months over here have been fascinating. Long may our interesting life continue!

    Reply
Alan+Cranford - March 9, 2018

Try and find a “business agent” – often they also do taxes for foreign companies – and see it they can [for a fee] provide you with a physical address and receive any government communications on your behalf. This is common in a half dozen or so of states in the US…. I know US laws are different but it is basically low cost compared to other alternatives… For years, living without immigration, in Mexico I have used a private post box in Calexico, CA as my “home address” – even the US and California governments has accepted it without any issues. The only problem I encounter is contacting any government via internet… comes up with a Mexican ISP address and I am “locked out”…. solved that with a VPN which I can move from Los Angeles to Miami to London upon need… costs me $10 a month and now I get the US version of Netflix, can watch all my NASCAR races… money well spent I say!

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    Paul Smith - March 9, 2018

    I’ve searched and failed to find such a business agent Alan. You need an address, and you need to prove that you are living there. The Dutch government asks for enough information to avoid any possible doubt. We should be OK staying on our current course; providing enough documentation to prove our waterways wanderings last year.

    Reply
      Alan+Cranford - March 11, 2018

      On my first trip to China – with my wife – another school complained to the government our “new” school hired “foreigners” [School under two years old are forbidden to hire foreign teachers]. My “work permit” [looks like a university diploma!] was from the parent company about 700 miles away. Myself and two other teachers whom I hired where detained by Chinese immigration officials and sent to Hong Kong immigration for a hearing…. scary times!! After 6 days of “investigation” we were given “tourist visas” for one year, multiple entry. Each month I had to accompany the owner to the local immigration agency where he handed over [they did not close the door to the bosses office once] two stacks 6″ high of CASH for the next months visa! My next boss, as I was not over the age to be legally employed in China, paid US$1,000 [in US dollars] a month for me to work and be in China. Each month I had to go to a central police station and fill out my residency …. even though it did not change… and guess what.. they showed up one night to check! Wonder what my neighbors thought when 6 police officers showed up at my apartment!!!

      Reply
        Paul Smith - March 12, 2018

        The Netherlands is a little more corruption free than the China you had to endure Alan. I don’t think that a 6″ pile of cash, even if we could find one, would go down terribly well at our local IND office.

        Reply
Steve Craig - March 9, 2018

Hi Paul,
sorry to hear the news. To cut things short, I had the same problems in Germany 30 years ago (got married in the end).
I would advise you to go the formal / legal way. The dutch are just as mad as the germans about formalities and proof of residence (P.o.R).
There are so many problems which descend upon you, if you don’t have this. Here are a few I have experienced:-

1) NHS – when you become a permanent resident of another country, you are no longer covered. To get medical insurance in the Netherlands (which is very cheap and top class), you will need P.o.R
2) Driving licence expires after a year – new application in N.L needs
P.o.R
3) Anything you need from the authorities P.o.R even taxing a car^^

The list goes on and on. I know many dutch live aboard boaters and even they have massive problems with this. They pay private people for a postal address (50€ /month).

The proof of address is not recognised by things such things as electric bills – as it is in G.B. You actually have to go to the council and fill out the forms with tenancy agreements. This is o.k. if you live in a marina which has registered live aboards with the council. Many of them have not.

Once you have got it, you should have no further problems apart from Boris and his crew 😉

Best of luck!

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    Paul Smith - March 10, 2018

    Thanks for some very useful information Craig. I am well aware of the difficulties faced by Dutch live-aboard boaters. We have made friends with a few. They have told us about paying private homeowners to use their address for postal purposes. The most straightforward option is for us to rent the cheapest Dutch property we can find to use for official purposes. We would struggle to pay the property rent each month though. I suppose we could always move into the property, sell the boat and the motorhome, get a job and forget about an itinerant life in Europe. It’s an option, but not one either of us would be happy with.

    Reply
      Alan Cranford - March 11, 2018

      Could you rent the property, declare your address, then sub-lease/rent it out to recoup your rental cost or most of it?

      Reply
        Paul Smith - March 12, 2018

        That’s a possibility worth looking into if all other avenues lead to dead ends.

        Reply
Ian r - March 10, 2018

Hi paul, sorry for your dissapointment. We have ours too. British Immigration will not grant Rini another 6 month tourist visa this year. She must wait 15 months since her last visit, so i,m alone again on Alchemy for 6 months from April to October. Not a happy situation. Its frustrating to follow the rules when illegals just seem to walk in.

Have you given thought to alternative locations eg France, Belgium or Germany, even Poland or Hungary? They are connected by the waterways.

Cheers ian

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    Paul Smith - March 10, 2018

    That must be hard for you Ian. How does Rini feel about you leaving her for six months to cruise the waterways network without her?

    France is the next best option for us. If our application fails in the Netherlands we will probably have to move the boat to a French marina which will allow us to use their address for the application. I think 2018 is going to be a very busy year.

    Reply
      Ian+r - March 16, 2018

      She’s not a happy bunny about it but there’s not much to be done about it, save marriage, and she hasnt asked me yet !
      Having invested in the canalboat lifestyle and a car sitting waiting, as well as medicals and an old mum to look after, we have to get on with it. Luckily her grown up son lives with us in Bali so she has company and security. Cheers. Ian

      Reply
        Paul Smith - March 17, 2018

        Marry the poor girl. You know it makes sense. Half the fun of a narrowboat adventure is sharing the experience. I very much look forward to your stag night on Alchemy!

        Reply
justin hayward - March 10, 2018

Infuriating. Drive to Asia, people are welcome here. And it’s full of opportunities.

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    Paul Smith - March 10, 2018

    The grass is always greener on the other side Justin. I’m sure there are many aspects of living in Asia you find frustrating. Overall, our life travelling through mainland Europe is pretty good. We can appeal against the Dutch government’s decision, and we will. Our case handler has told us that all we need to do is prove that we spent last summer cruising through the Netherlands on our boat. We’re in the process of gathering invoices, receipts, links to my blog posts and photos geotagged by my iPhone and copying six months of online bank statements. The application process is infuriating, but it will be a worthwhile exercise in the end (we hope).

    Reply

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