Well, well, it's 2013. I wish you a Happy New Year and hope that 2013 brings you everything you hope it shall and more besides, but preferably only the best bits!
My site is going to undergo a transformation. This is due to a few things; 1. the program I use to maintain it, FrontPage is no longer supported, also the bloated code it produces (yes, I do know that it's not very 'tidy') is not universally compliant. 2. I have a new laptop (not using it right now) and I don't know where my disc is to install in on my new machine. 3. It's pretty much the same as when I first started in 2003, I think it's about time I put a bit more effort in. So the plan is - find a new editor that I like the look of, create a new home page - at which point many old links may become disabled, and then slowly covert all old material to the new format. Sounds easy huh? Well let's hope so!
I finally bit the bullet and have bought a new laptop, this one is over 6 years old and has been incapable of being used on battery power for a few years. It's done very well for what was a budget laptop then, and even now is not completely useless but it is too slow and too small for my needs, it's also still running Vista which, although I do feel is not as bad as some people think it is, it's not a great operating system. I've been looking at laptops for a couple of years now and been waiting for a good deal on good looks, functionality and of late good sound as I use my laptop to manage and listen to music more these days than ever before (I do still like to buy cds, I like to look at the sleeve and hold the packaging however I do tend to just rip them immediately and neatly file the cd away for safekeeping). So anyway, yes I finally saw a deal I couldn't resist; an ASUS Quad core laptop with Bang & Olufsen speakers, with plenty of storage, dedicated graphics card, Blu-ray and full HD, and all for less than £600.
I then had the decision of which operating system to plump for, after all Windows 8 is here and is as always receiving mixed reviews. Windows 7 I have used at work and is not really much different from the 'Windows' stable we all know and both love and hate with equal measure all at once. I read a fair bit about Win 8 and it wasn't all bad. One thing which intrigued me was that Win 8 seems to be less mouse orientated. I suffered quite badly years ago with mouse related RSI, and when I've had several days on the trot of heavy mouse usage it still comes back, so when I read that Win 8 is more dependant on shortcut keys I was keen to at least see if it could work for me, but of course I was also reluctant to be trapped into an operating system I didn't like. The solution was to retain Windows 7 as it was shipped and to also install Win 8 (which is currently available to buyers of new, Win 7 machines at a bargain price of £14.99) as well so I have a dual boot system, allowing me to choose which OS I want to start in.
The whole process is slow and painful - I've had the machine for about 4 days now but still am not sufficiently set up enough to use it for my usual day to day needs. Having two operating systems poses its' own hassles, programs that you want to use under both OS need to be installed twice. It makes sense to have a third, separate area for storage so you can link 'Documents' in both OS to the same location. Incredibly, email, which I thought might be hardest to do this with, has been remarkably easy - Mozilla Thunderbird is what I use for email and once you read the help info carefully it's very simple. Many programs are still not compatible with Win 8 so having the dual boot option is going to pay off - I hope!
It's that time of year again, Christmas is almost upon us. Time travels so quickly, a year feels so much less than 12 months. I don't believe it is simply part of the ageing process, I believe that we truly live in a faster climate than previously. Just look how much some people can cram into a day... we're all running on overdrive and we will pay for it someday.
I'm going to ramble a little today I feel, but you see that's allowed as this is my space, my little soapbox, yep, it really is.
My meerkat arrived and you know what? I enjoyed the run up and all the little fake emails they send telling you of Postkat's misadventures on the way to you so much more than the toy (which comes all the way from Peterborough!) I didn't get one of the ones I was hoping for but of course - it was free and the fun was already had, now I just need to figure out what to do with him!
This is traditionally a time of year when we should all be a bit nicer, take a bit more time and have a bit more patience, but of course in our world, we don't. We get so stressed out by all the shopping, the planning, the trying to squeeze it all in whilst working to. That's not what Christmas is about, or should be about. Christmas is about taking time out to visit those you've not seen for a while, sure you can give a few gifts, but you really shouldn't feel you have to, and more importantly, if you can't afford it - don't! Your true friends will enjoy the gift of your company and the fact that you are happier not spending than if you are frazzled to your wits end and now in debt. If they don't understand, they are not your real friends and you should remember that.
Children need to understand the value of money, that they cannot have everything they see. That something made by hand, with love, carries more importance than a 'plucked off the shelf with no thought' item. In reality Christmas would be better if we found a way to stop the gift giving and made it gifts of time instead. Time to visit friends and family, time with elderly people in your community who may be alone this Christmas. Maybe you have a skill that is useful to others - share it with a few people this Christmas, give the gift of time, time to listen, time to share, without the stress and strain.
Which leads me to the next item in my head; what is wrong with a society who thinks someone is odd for stopping to help a stranger? We should all help each other, whenever we can. If I see someone in difficulty and I am not on a schedule I will always stop and offer assistance. Often assistance is already on the way but people always appreciate knowing that they are not alone. On the odd occasion I have been able to help and this makes me feel great for being able to assist and makes the helped person feel good for knowing that there are people around who are happy to help and not just walk on by.
Of course in this day and age one does have to consider security, there are people out there who will pretend to need help as a ruse to attract good people for bad reasons, but I firmly believe these are the minority and if you use common sense and follow your instincts you can still keep safe and be helpful to others.
How many of us are willing to invite a stranger into our home for Christmas? Not many. Yet we really should. Have you ever had Christmas alone? I have, a long time ago, it was OK, but it wasn't much fun. Are any of your neighbours going to be alone this Christmas? Work colleagues? Friends? Who can you help this Christmas? You will be surprised how much helping others is actually helping yourself.
I might be a sucker but I do love the Compare the Meerkat advertising campaign. Few marketing firms really earn their fees in my book (the brain behind the EDF dancing turd must be quietly laughing all the way to the bank) but these guys really did themselves proud. Aleksandr is such a loveable character, building on their initial success has been relatively easy in marketing terms.
Yes well that is supposed to be an animation from the meerkats but so far I can't seem to make it work. Perhaps Sergei needs to work a bit harder!
You can't help but smile at these little creatures, I had a soft spot for meerkats before the campaign even started so I was a pushover when it arrived. Of course I have claimed my meerket toy and wait eagerly to see which of the rogues I have been allocated!
In other news not a whole lot has happened, I'm in a bit of a low phase, not for any particular reason (unfortunately as these are much easier to deal with) possible just the onset on winter with it's dark days is not helping, although today and yesterday are glorious bright days.
Choi Kwang Do is going well, I have my little white suit - I so wish it were not white! I have avoided white clothing for most of my life as I can be rather clumsy, especially with anything that will stain! I am getting to grips with the basics and I seem to have a pretty decent right hook (or rear punchfor correct terminology). I find it good exercise and the people are really lovely which is very important to me. It's helping a little to make me feel a little more like I belong to the community too which I definitely need.
Time has trundled on once more completely unnoticed, sneaking past in the dark without its' lights on. Another birthday has passed, I have never felt my age, when I was younger I was always thought of as being older as I behaved so. I felt much older too. At times I feel young, others ancient and at times somewhat closer to the real number. I try not to get hung up on the number however I occasionally get thrown by just how fast whole years go by.
So, what's been happening? Not sure I can completely remember. Nothing bike wise. I should be ashamed of myself but actually I'm having a break. The GPZ is still a dead duck with no compression. I've not done anything about it. I'm conscious I need to but equally conscious it's not going anywhere, the problem will wait. More pressing perhaps - there's no doubt that the VTR battery will be dead. If nothing else I need to remove it from the bike before it gets completely killed.
My last employer in London has gone bust and closed it's doors for good. Such a shame, not just for my old colleagues who all lost their jobs but for their reputation, their presence since the 1800's and now nothing remains. We tend to think more of smaller businesses folding in times of recession, but the fact is no company is safe, the wrong decisions at the wrong times can spell the end (it's just a matter of when and how bad the end will be).
On a brighter note I'm trying out a new hobby; Choi Kwang Do. I looked at all the associations and clubs in my area and only two stood out as of interest to me. CKD and a local rifle club. The rifle club has not come back to me yet but I have had one trial class of CKD. My second is on Monday and then (unless something puts me off on Monday) I shall pay my subs and order my Doh Bohk (white suit). I like the ethos behind CKD, which is more about helping each and every student to be the best they can be than to push for students to compete with one another or to make the school look good by winning against other schools etc. CKD is derived from other traditional martial arts but is friendlier on the joints and is more geared to actual self defence. I'm looking forward to seeing how I do. Pil Suhng!
It seems to have been a very busy time of late. We've just come back from Scotland, we went up for a friend's wedding and had some of the best weather I've ever experienced in Scotland. The venue was beautiful, more like an English manor house than what you would normally expect from a Scottish estate.
I've made a couple of trips to Southend to see my very good friend who has recently been made redundant due to the firm I used to work for going down the tubes. Although I still try to avoid watching/reading the news on a regular basis (I find it far too easy to get hung up on what is happening elsewhere than what I should be concerned with) the current state of the economy cannot be ignored. More and more retailers and small, medium and even businesses we thought were relatively secure are running into trouble and going to the wall. I don't have the answer but I would say, where you can, when you can shop locally or at the very least shop within this country, put your money back into local and national businesses to secure others' employment. The price of fuel is quite amazing, I feel a Grandma moment coming on.. "I remember when..." but I do! I remember the outcry when diesel went over 65p/litre! Truckers brought the M25 to a halt, fuel distribution centres were blockaded, queues at petrol stations were miles long, many ran out and had to close until they could get rationed deliveries. I cannot actually remember if it did any good, obviously the prices went up anyway but at least people made a stand. Now we say "look at the price of fuel, we sigh, we tut, and we do nothing. I'm as guilty as the next person but I really don't see what we can do, our Government doesn't listen to us. It is far more interested in pushing through useless EU proposals to stop us modifying our vehicles from standard than trying to get us out of this grip of recession. I'd like to see a study of MP spending, not expenses but where do THEY spend their money (and they've got more of it than most of us), are they setting the right examples? Are they putting their money back into our struggling economy? But I am digressing and getting diverted from the task in hand!
Something has been taking up a lot of my attention of late... a new car! Anyone who knows me will know that I am pretty uninterested in 4 wheeled vehicles so this is quite something. However I've known this car for quite some time and always had a soft spot for it. Michael and I bought a KIA Picanto back in 2008, and quite frankly it was really my choice at the time, so when Michael recently offered it to me for a good price as he need something with a bit more room I leapt at the chance to take over the Picanto. The years had not been entirely kind to Dixie (yes, it has a name!) so the first order of the day was to arrange for some minor body repairs. Fortunately I knew someone who could help; Steve Scott had the car whilst we were away, refinished the mirrors, touched up the bonnet and door mouldings where a Sainsbury's trolley had ploughed into the car (or so we believe as the culprit of course did not own up!), refinished one side of the bumper where a previous owner has caught a low wall, in short returned Dixie to a shining example of a Picanto. There are still a handful of deep stone chips to deal with, but these are scheduled. I will be doing a separate page with lots of pics to document the work done, but if you need minor or accident repairs to your vehicle give Steve a call for a free estimate, you've nothing to lose!
Not being 'into' cars (and I still maintain I'm not - it's a KIA Picanto, not a Lamborghini!) I've never really looked at all the things you can do to cars these days and there is a lot! I've considered alloy wheels, ECU remapping (might still do that), spoilers, go faster stripes and much, much more. My favourite idea is still to put a white stripe front to back, like the retro stylie Ducati monsters, put Ducati stickers on it, alloy spoked wheels and a fake 4 pipe exhaust on him and dress him up to be a Ducati car... Yes well I have always had a vivid imagination! One thing that I will miss from the Silver Ferret (my Saxo) is the stereo which plays music from a usb stick, so I have a new stereo ready to fit into Dixie, new wheel trims on way, new aerial, boot liner, mud flaps etc. Service parts have already arrived and Paul has done a service for me to bring Dixie up to date although we need to schedule some time to do the timing belt and fuel filter sometime soon. I must mention Fish Bros here, their parts department have been brilliant, original KIA parts at decent prices, very helpful and extremely patient. So if you need KIA parts, make you first stop Kia Parts Direct and email or ring Richard for great service.
So as you can see I am a little bit distracted with my car for the moment, but in a good way. It's such a comfy little car and yet roomy at the same time. OK, enough now.
The last time I was out on the bike was just before the 16th, to work and back I think. I caught it just in time before the battery needed recharging. I fear it might be borderline again now. I keep thinking about disconnecting the immobiliser to reduce drain, but it is a useful anti-theft device too.
I'm contemplating a couple of rants, one on PPI reclaims, about which I feel very strongly, and one on parenting, which is more positive as all parents have a great role model and access to great information and tips with Jo Frost (Supernanny etc) who in my view is a shining example of how parenting should be done!
The last two weekends have been literal washouts so when the weather seemed relatively stable for today we committed to join Panos and a few of the Dark Side members for a little run which was originally headed for Oxfordshire, we made such good progress however that the destination was extended to the Cotswolds where we lunched on a very fine carvery at Shipston on Stour. I was much, much happier today with the state of my riding. On the way back however I was getting too tired too quickly. The stamina I needed simply wasn't there. A good run is physically and mentally demanding and quite draining. Given I don't spend long hours at a time on my bike the only way to improve stamina is to do more, more, more and more. Of course the process itself is exceedingly demanding so it's quite a catch 22.
Even with the tiredness though, although I did have to slow my pace down I still kept decent enough lines and was tidy enough that I did not feel I was letting myself down. I was frustrated that I could not maintain the pace I wished, however in the interests of safety as my brain was too tired to process at the speeds I wanted I had to reduce to a speed my brain could deal with. When we finally made it back to Loomies at 16.30 ish I was more than happy to finally dismount and could happily have fallen asleep there. Fortunately the 30 mile trip home has enough little sections of interest to keep me awake for the last leg. I could now do with a day off before the weeks' work starts!
I had another day of learner riding yesterday in damp and semi-damp conditions. Took Andy out again for more practice, this time with radios. Radios do not always make things better, if for any reason you're not heard instructions may not be followed or if misheard instructions can be carried out incorrectly. They can be useful but should never be relied upon fully. The better, top of the range ones have less problems attached but still have their drawbacks.
When I was chatting with John down at Petersfield Motorcycle Training John asked me what I thought our (as riders) biggest enemy on the road was. We discussed it for a while and whilst I didn't agree with his choice the question has been mulling around in my head ever since. I have come to the conclusion that our biggest enemy on the road as any driver or rider of any vehicle is... ourselves. Without due care and attention we can become, lazy, complacent, cocky at the other end of the scale or even hesitant. All of these I believe can kill you. Sometimes another vehicle might be involved or not but each of these has the potential to get us into situations where we may not be able to get out safely. Which for me underlines my commitment for further training to ensure that I am regularly tested and assessed to ensure that I maintain a high standard from year to year.
Many drivers are able to maintain good levels themselves but I prefer to have my abilities compared to an existing benchmark. Whichever you decide, stay sharp on teh road, stay sensible and most of all stay safe!
I am fairly made up today. I know I never give myself enough credit when I do something well, sometimes it's easier when other people say it and sometimes that makes it even harder to accept. I've had a copy of my BMF report sent through to me. I'm not going to put the whole thing up (too embarrassed and I'd hate anyone to think I just had a big head!) but there are a couple of phrases which particularly makes me lift my head a little higher; "has a really good attitude to towards biking and road safety" and "would be a good influence for new and old riders". The latter in relation to my possibly becoming a DSA trainer and the former with regard to my test ride. The former is all I have ever tried to be in relation to biking. I'm not sure my passion for my bikes and biking is explainable, some riders get the buzz from speed or the challenge of controlling a big machine, mine is much more intrinsic; tied into freedom, rebelliousness, nature even, being part of something bigger than you yet small enough to be a community, being different from the majority but the same as the minority, acceptance both of me by the community and by me of the restrictions of biking... sort of. I know that if I'm off the road for too long I need to experience it to get back to a feeling of rightness in the world. I know that when I get it right I am the most relaxed that I am (I'm not too good at sitting still with nothing to do). OK enough babbling, suffice to say, just for today.... go me!
Was going to head out for a ride today but although it's not actually raining here (yet) it's pretty manky out there so I'm told and given that I've had a long, hard week a lie in was much more attractive.
I've been out with Andy again, the wet weather having set his confidence back a bit we did an afternoon in the wet to try and dispel some of his concerns. I do get it. The wet can make you too paranoid to enjoy the bike and the road and the ensuing hesitancy and tiptoeing about can actually become a self-fulfilling prophecy and then you do end up sliding about on white lines, grids etc. We made some good progress, both on the road and in his mind I think. I've previously steered away from thinking about teaching others mainly as it can be a big responsibility if you take it seriously. Which of course those of you who know me will know I do (I take way too much too seriously).
So that leads neatly onto Wednesday. It was a bit of a dampish day but the sun did peek out here and there. I was nervous I will not deny that. I hate the word 'test' and whilst it matters not legally if I pass an advanced test, it matters to me. A 'fail' would become 'failure' in my mind and then, well let's just say I don't do 'failure' well. I do need to learn to accept failures but am not ready for that just yet!
John was great, a straight talking, funny, through and through biker. We did a lot of single track lanes, one of which saw us literally fording a massive (really massive) mini lake of a puddle. I was for turning back but ever the gentleman John went first so if one of us was going to disappear into a giant hole it would not be me. I had no problem in stating I wasn't too keen on just ploughing through. I will always speak my mind where my safety (and that of my bike) is concerned. There is a real concern when you cannot see the road's surface, you cannot tell what is or is not there. I think I started to relax about a third into the test, my constant preoccupation with checking that I was within the speed limits definitely had an effect on my ride. The test itself lasted about 2 hours. We stopped in Petworth for a pie and tea break, which I very much needed. Starting at 1 meant that although I'd had breakfast I was well and truly starving by 3! Not long out of Petworth I was informed that the test was now over and that I should proceed in my normal fashion back to Petersfield.
After a very short discussion with myself on just what exactly was meant by that and some slight concern that perhaps I'd failed it and therefore it wasn't worth doing any more, John then threw into one of his comments (one way radio) that I'd be adding the Blue Riband to my collection, I slipped the leash completely and we had a most enjoyable run back. A thorough de-brief followed and some discussion of a few points which had come up within the test. I would have marked me down on all four of the areas in question (which still would have been a pass) but John only marked me down on one.
We continued to chat and swap stories as bikers do. I am very taken with John's attitude to motorcycle training, believing very much in equipping new riders with as much real road skill as he can rather than simply teaching them to get through the DSA tests. Given my recent progress with Andy we discussed my maybe getting involved and looking to learn to train. I am not 100% sure I have enough free time (I know!) right now given all that is happening at work but I think I'd like to give it a go. Being able to pass on skills and seeing the difference you can make when you do manage to get through to the trainee is great. Watch this space.
A big thank you to both Panos, the ever amusing and certainly for me the biggest turning point in my history of riding and to John for a good day out, I'm sure he could tell by the grin factor which bits of the day I enjoyed most! To anyone thinking whether advanced training would be useful or worth it, I cannot recommend it highly enough and if you are anywhere in the South East, in my book there is only one place to go; Petersfield Motorcycle Training.
OK, let's see, first things first - I've booked my advanced re-test. Wednesday, 4th July. Fingers crossed.
This test will be slightly different - it's not a RoSPA retest - it's the BMF Blue Riband training. Panos has moved to the BMF training programme following frustration with politics within the RoSPA system. The decision was easy for me to change tracks - I have faith and trust in my trainer. All of the advice and training he has provided for me has done nothing but good, so I am completely happy to try the BMF system. Of course I won't be tested by Panos, that job falls to John of Petersfield Motorcycle Training. Only had a brief chat thus far with John but as with systems Panos speaks very highly of John and his skills so I am satisfied I will be in good hands.
Yesterday we had a full day out on the road. My mate Eri has recently passed her test and worked her way quickly through a 125, a BMW 650 and now she's already on a 1200 adventurer. Her fella, Andy is on a 125 waiting to do his DAS so he can ride his new Varedaro which we collected yesterday. What a great incentive, a lovely big bike waiting for you to hurry up and pass.
It was good to be going back to basics and in a way looking at someone else's riding for a change rather than my own. We headed up to Newlands from Dorking during which being in the lead I had to adjust my style to suit the slowest member. I did have higher expectations of the little CBF125 and I must admit was tempted to take it for a spin myself to see what it could achieve... managed to restrain myself though. After Newlands it was obvious that a blat down the 24/29 to Whiteways wouldn't really work, and so I took us through Albury, Chilworth, Black Heath, Shamley Green etc out to the back of Cranleigh. At this point I took a chance and put our learner out front on a quite technical stretch to see how he coped. The exercise proved useful and I set another the other side of Loxwood, this time with a bit of instruction in counter-steering. The grin and pleasure which shone out of Andy's helmet at the end of that stretch showed me I was bang on with my feelings that he was making corners more work than they should be. I put him up front again when we turned off the 272 for Adversane and he was already putting his new trick into action.
After a tea break back here in Pulborough where we watched the morning's proceedings which Paul had recorded on his new GoPro we headed back along the 29 and 24. Being more straight, fast roads it was obviously going to be harder for Andy to feel like he was keeping up and making progress, however he did really well and really came into his own when I let him through to take the lead again before Ockley.
All in a great day was had all round. My new levers are spot on, so much more comfortable for me than the standard one, I wish I'd swapped them years ago now!
Well clutch lever arrived, um, Thursday I think. I fitted it that evening. Seemed to work fine, sometimes there's a little click when you pull it, almost as if the pin is catching somewhere, but I don't see how/where and it doesn't seem to affect the function so I think all is OK. All in very happy with my purchase, £40ish all in and they look pretty good and work well.Met up with Panos yesterday at Petersfield for a mock test. I was worried beforehand as sticking 100% to all the rules, all the time is hard for me... but I did fine and should not have worried nearly so much.
The day was not all in my favour however as we then set out for a 'proper' ride. Nothing would gel for me. The bike and I may as well have been in different counties for all it would have mattered. We certainly weren't working together. All in, the remainder of the day was the worst riding I have done for years. Paul joined us for lunch and we had another little ride heading back down this way where I gave up and left the other two to carry on a bit further.
Now to be fair to myself (which I am not often) my worst riding is still not at all bad, but given I know full well I can do better, much better, I find it extremely frustrating. To top it off I find it hard to get over a bad start and things often go from bad to worse, rather than improving as time goes on. I need to find a way to drop my 'clangers' behind me on the road, go back to basics, slow things down (in my head) and refocus.
Still waiting for correct clutch lever to arrive (bank hols are great except when you want to receive post!) and for the nice weather to come back. Got the Ferret (my car) washed the other day, looks much more respectable (inasmuch as an old Saxo can) now. Still a bit of a shed, but a cleaner shed now!
Just popped into Pulborough to buy some local wine for my boss's birthday. We are surrounded by vineyards here in Sussex; NyeTimber, Stopham and Nutbourne are all within throwing distance with Upperton, Lurgashall, Bookers, Ridge View and Denbies all a short ways away. I will endeavour to try them all and see what they are like.
Well I did a lot of writing yesterday (see Points of View), some of it fairly serious so let's keep this one a little bit lighter. I'm on a bit of a musical journey at the moment, I've always been able to enjoy different kinds of music throughout my life, and even now some days are Barbra Streisand days (yes, really). I don't seem to get the same enjoyment from opera or classical currently but maybe that's because it's at the opposite end of the spectrum from the sort of thing I tend to listen to most today.
Paul introduced me to fairly shortly after we met. I had no idea music had progressed so much or that such tools were available to musicians and listeners. Sure I'd tried the various radio platforms which are designed to expose you to different artists but usually similar to those you already prefer. SoundCloud is free to listen only users and musicians can get a lot from a free account, with different paid account levels to get even more benefits.
The idea that young talent can produce something so polished in their bedrooms, get it out onto the web, get it heard, get real feedback from such a cross section of listeners and maybe even get their stuff heard and onto mainstream radio within a few short months is amazing, and great! The amount of music I have downloaded from SC and listen to almost daily belies the adage 'nothing in life is free'. These musicians are giving away their work for nothing more than your time - listen to it, comment - if you wish, and tell your mates.
Just some of my favourite artists from SoundCloud (in no particular order):
For anyone who doesn't "get" electronic music of any kind, maybe leave off the links, but still try SoundCloud, you can find music from every genre, there's a surprise around every corner if you have the time to find it, purely vocal, chill out, banging beats, rap, etc. If you can name it, you can find it there - even a few things that don't even seem to have names yet!
I still like to buy CD's. Some people only download music now, I like the hard copy, I like slotting a CD into the player and waiting for it to spin up. I use a usb stick in the car usually, sometimes my phone, at home my mp3 player still gets used when I'm in the bath. A plug in speaker of some kind is a must with portable devices, you need to hear tunes without the tinny quality which is almost unavoidable with small portable devices. Sure, it's never going to be the sort of quality you can get from a good home system, but it will at least let you hear the different elements of the tune which the artist spent so long trying to perfect.
Ta da! See I can do it when I try. Only a few days have passed and I am here again. Don't get used too it as I can't guarantee I won't get sidetracked again (and again, and again) as I usually do. It's the Jubilee weekend and the weather people have got it wrong again, it's not lovely, it's grey and dull, dull, dull! It's probably not cold out there but it's nae very inviting either.
I've been reading some of my old emails and posts this morning. Unwise on some as there is a lot of emotion in some of the things I post, but equally it's made me laugh and brought back some memories I'd completely forgotten (must remember to find the pic of me with Chris Walker, especially now he has finally won a race again!)
Not made any headway yet with the GPZ, he's just sitting quietly waiting in the corner of the garage, silently rebuking me for not either washing him (really is quite filthy) or dragging him out and trying to find out what's wrong. Sorry little GeePee, not got the motivation right now but I will, soon.
It's been good for me to get back on the VTR. I decided I needed to sort out the levers though. One of my biggest moans has always been that the clutch biting point is so wide that it hurts my hand to have to change gear too often. Yea, yea, I know you can do clutchless changes and I'm sure plenty do on big V twins, but not me. On a cabled clutch it's no biggie to adjust the bite point at one end of the cable or the lever at the other to find a comfy position, however the Storm is a hydraulic system, and I don't know if the bite point can be adjusted (yes, I could find out, but if you know me at all, you know I am a bit lazy) but certainly the lever adjustment is limited.
I've hankered after a set of cutback racing levers for a long time but they are so expensive it makes your eyes water to think of it. So when I saw a set of nice looking shorty replacement levers on ebay for less than £40 I was pretty excited.
OK, the red adjusters might be a bit chavvy but if it improves the ride I'll be very happy. They came quite quickly and they looked pretty well made, unfortunately they sent me the cabled version of the clutch lever so I couldn't fit that. I have fit the brake lever though and that is great, looks pretty good and makes single finger braking a breeze. They are sending me the right clutch one so will update when that does come.
I'd like to find something to make the throttle more comfy, my glove tends to ruck up in my hand and combined with my sometimes "death" grip make make it uncomfortable for long journeys. I know you used to be able to fit wrist rest type cruising throttles so might look for something like that as I only ever use about a quarter to a half turn of the grip, it's that responsive.
I'm feeling pretty verbose of late so feel either lots of updates coming or maybe a couple of rants or just witterings whilst I let whatever it is drain from my mental system...
Oh wow, look, I did it again! How long is that? That is so bad! I really have to try harder. Where does the time go? When I was a kiddie my Nana always said it was a sign of getting old when time flew faster, well by my reckoning I've been old for a long time!
Not sure where to start so let's just ramble on a while...
Bikes: GPZ has no compression currently. We were out with Panos (my old RoSPA tutor) for a good old run before Easter, all was well, going nicely when I noticed the oil light flashing. Now I had seen this once before in the previous month, but it only seemed to be an issue if I was pushing the bike really hard and asking a lot of it. Oil levels when I checked it the first time were OK, not fantastic but OK. Topped it up and it was fine till Panos & I were out. I finished the day fine in spite of the worrying light, but then again time got away and Easter hols came along and being busy ended up leaving the GPZ in the garage for too long. Went to start it - zip compression. The starter motor is on the way out too. So all in all it's in my bad books for now, need to spend either some time on it or money and not having a surfeit of either right now, well I'm sticking my head in the sand an hoping the problem goes away... (well it's worth a try for now!)
VTR was out of MOT so did that last week, tyres were low but legal, after a few rides and commutes they were lower still so got a new pair yesterday. My favourite tyres, Bridgestone Battleax 020 are out of production, having been replaced by 021 and the 023. A double jump up was too much for me so I plumped for the 021 as a happy compromise. They're about 75% scrubbed in now, another commute will finish them off. Feels weird being back on the VTR again so often, in a good way, but weird. It's an exciting bike to ride but can be hard work too - not to ride, but to be comfy, there's not a lot of padding in the seat and the standard clutch lever makes my hand hurt over time. I have developed a bit of a death grip on the throttle which I need to sort out before it gives me RSI. I've ordered a set of shorty, adjustable levers so am hoping this will help a bit.
My jacket buttons have been rubbing the tank, usually in cold/mucky/bad weather I wear a waterproof jacket over everything which protected it. It looked like it was rubbing down to the metal on one part so I have put a cheap and cheerful new tank protector on. It's red and glittery and not at all what I was looking for but I got it for a fiver, pretty much half price so I guess it can do the job for now, as and when I find something more fitting... well I can fit that then!
I'm kinda looking forward to the extra miles on the VTR, it's such a responsive beast, and the extra power can be really nice, so I'm pleased to make it's acquaintance again and hopefully my confidence on it will soon be as high as the GPZ.
Car: My "Silver Ferret" as it's called has so far done me OK, I picked it up for £650 in December of 2010. OK, I'd had to spend a little on it, new brakes, new exhaust, at least one new tyre and it now needs one or two more but other than that it does OK. The battery went flat once when I left my usb stick plugged into the stereo for a fortnight without using it, but in spite of the AA man telling me I needed a new one for sure, it's still going fine (provided I remember to take my usb out!).
Work: I really enjoy my job, we're really busy, just expanded so there's been a lot to do and oversee. Things are starting to settle down again now thankfully.
Home: Things are going really well there too, Paul and I have passed our first year without any major hiccups and I'm hopeful that things will continue in a similar vein.
The sun has started to show itself so with a bit of luck and a following wind we might just get a summer this year which will be good for the bikes and me.
Ok, I think it's about time I did an update. It's always very hard when there have been major changes in my life to know what to say and when. I spend a lot of my time worrying about the feelings of others, and the rightness & wrongness of things. Yea, I know, I worry too much. I'm working on it. My life is a work in progress. I'm not sure at this point if it will end up a masterpiece or a mere daub...
Here goes, in November I asked Michael for a 6 month separation. We were neither of us happy and yet we didn't know what to do. I think I made the right choice, the idea of a separation was less final and for me certainly seemed less painful than a split. It gave us both time and space to realise who we were, and still are, and what we were becoming. Finding someone to spend your life with is incredibly hard, on paper Michael & I should be perfect for each other... but we're not. We are however, still friends for which I am so thankful. As I get older, in fact, as I find friends who really matter, I appreciate them so much more.
I moved out on my own to Capel, got a second job in the local pub, kept busy, played a lot of Battlefield. I re-established my relationship with myself and my bikes. I regained a lot of confidence I thought I had lost. I even did a naked photo shoot. Yep, I did. You know what... I'm even tempted to share it, although I suspect that is unwise... but here's one.
I met some new people, made a few mistakes, gained some more memories and even tried internet dating... EPIC FAIL!
Then one day I saw someone in my rear view mirror, and, well the rest is history (or his story, da dum!). Suffice to say, Paul & I are having a lot of fun. A fellow biker, enthusiast of the world at large, a Scotsman and a thoroughly good guy. We move to Pulborough next month to embark on a new chapter in both our lives. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit nervous, had no doubts, but equally, she who dares, wins... or at least tries! Change is a scary thing, but without changes in our lives, we can't change and grow, and if we don't change, we stagnate and from my experience that's not so pleasant.
Well there's been a lot happening in the the last 8 months, most of which I shan't go into just yet, but I did need to put a note up about my Monday. A mate of mine recently took a new BMW S1000RR out for a test ride which resulted in him getting an invite from BMW Motorrad to a special customer day up at Silverstone. I managed to tag along, and as one rider didn't show yours truly got to take his place out on track on the S-thou-RR.
Well, I admit I've been a little snobby in the past about BMWs, lets face it, they ain't pretty, they are reliable, do the job they were intended for but don't tend to get one excited and do tend to attract the um, more responsible type rider... all that could be about to change for BMW as the S-thou is pretty, as pretty as a GSXR1000 or a ZX10, in fact if you don't like green it's probably prettier. When I saw it on the road I didn't recognise it as a BMW, wasn't quite sure in fact what it was, but it could sure move!
I had a fair amount of trepidation heading out on track, after all it wasn't my bike, and I am not used to supersports style bikes. Yes, my VTR is 1000cc but it's a different beast altogether, plus I know him pretty much inside out and know how he's likely to behave (or not). This was kinda like getting to know a frisky animal, learning how to get the balance just right to ensure that everyone knows who's boss. My fears were pretty unfounded though as once you get used to the super responsive brakes and a feather-light throttle there doesn't seem to be much you can do wrong. It happily accepted my bang it down a gear and use engine braking style and it gripped the track incredibly well. I had expected a bit of skittishness especially in the early stages as I got to grips with it but no, not a single foot wrong. I did miss the back brake lever a couple of times so am not sure if that's set up for a bigger foot or it was just me. I struggled to see where the side stand was at a stop as I was pretty much tip toe. Ride height can be adjusted I am told although I don't know how much. The bike was surprisingly comfy, albeit I was only on it for 20 min sessions. There's all kinds of buttons and gadgets, didn't really pay attention to those and left it in Sports mode throughout.
Following the sessions we both had the honour of a pillion ride with Niall Mackenzie, former Moto GP racer who now works for Visordown magazine and does track instruction with Focused Events (who were hosting the BMW day). Wow! That was definitely something to remember, I didn't have a single safety worry as he's quite simply a fantastic rider but it was a "brace & grip" session for sure. I found myself lifting off the pillion perch as we accelerated along the back straight and reckon I may have limited his lung capacity in my grip! Would I do it again? Hell yeah!
All in all a great day was had, wonderful hospitality, friendly people (looks like BMW are a good company to work for), fantastic venue and a pretty impressive bike! Huge thanks to BMW, Focused Events, Niall Mackenzie & especially to BMW dealer; Chandlers of Brighton, without whom I'd never have had the chance in the first place.
In other news, I also had another new experience today... I've been having some problems with my left shoulder, which was damaged in my last big accident. Primarily I think due to my laziness I've lost a lot of the strength that was built up in physio following my recovery which has left it a bit on the weak side. I've had few heavy drumming sessions (hmmm, have I mentioned African drumming here?) which have pulled some muscles which has basically meant that the shoulder rotator cuff muscles are weak and inflamed. Can be pretty painful at times and as my physio hasn't been able to loosen the muscles at the top of the shoulder she suggested acupuncture. Not being afraid of new things or needles I said why not...
Well today was the first session, I had 3 traditional needles, one in the meridian line in the hand for pain in general, one in the occipital nerve, back of the head area and the rest in various bits of my shoulder. Some pretty strange sensations but not unpleasant. Back again next week for more so will see what happens.
Wow, 9 months on. I am a lazy thing. Actually no, more like I get obsessed by one thing and everything else goes by the wayside I think. Let's see then, where to start...
Firstly I am currently very much addicted to my Xbox and the Battlefield game series, especially Bad Company 2. Yes, yes before you all say "video games" and shake your heads, try it. I have never really played games much until now. In fact I hi-jacked Michael's xbox at Easter and he couldn't get a look in so had to buy me my own recently. I admit I am going a little bit overboard but it's also nice to behave like a kid and just play all the time! It's also far more social than I had ever imagined, I have some great groups of pals to play with now, here in the UK, over in South Africa, & in Finland. In fact am slowly learning Finnish. Siirry minua! (Go me!)
Not getting much bike time apart from commuting, gaming isn't helping that. Am using the VTR more. Had it serviced locally recently, new battery, chain & sprocs etc. Running very nicely and it's feeling good to be on it more. GPZ is behaving beautifully, in spite of a young woman reversing in to it recently whilst it was parked. Fortunately no damage other than steering knocked out of whack, easily sorted. I haven't been doing any real maintenance either (gaming does that to you) but am actually starting to miss getting my hands dirty so might get the proverbial finger out soon.
We went to away to Madiera in July. A very nice place to visit, much more tropical looking than I'd imagined. Incredible how the tiniest bit of land is utilised for crops. The weather there is nice and steady, not too hot (I get grumpy in extreme heat) but very warm with a lovely sea breeze never far away.
The girls seem quite happy in their corner of the garden and produce enough eggs to keep us and several of the neighbours stocked up. They can be a little noisy at times when they decide they want some attention but otherwise are quite simple and easy to please.
I'm going to go through and put some more pics up too, last pic of me is from 2006! Wow. Still I'm sure I don't look much different.
And again, I have let it slide, although I think a little bit on purpose if I'm honest. It seems like data overload out there right now, Facebook, twitter, this site, that site, join this, join that. I think people ought to start putting the brakes on just a little. Where's the time to live, love and have fun. Sometimes we just want to be ourselves and be a bit different. You won't find me on FB and the more people I get saying I should join the more I will dig my heels in. If someone wants to find me, to connect with me as opposed to upping their friend numbers or including me in a general status update they can find me here and get in touch. I don't want every Tom, Dick and Harry wanting to be my "friends" I want to meet real people and form real relationships.
Anyway, speaking of relationships, the new members of the household moved in on the 13th June and are now pretty much running things. Poppy, Lily and Daisy are our ex-battery hens. Spurred on by Jamie Oliver and Hugh F-W last year I started to look into keeping chickens and or course saving ex-battery hens sounded just like something I wanted to do.
I didn't really know what to expect from keeping poultry but our girls are great, they have such differing and interesting personalities and they are so entertaining to watch, even when they're not really doing anything! Of course I spoil them rotten, they have such an easy life, fed like queens and kept in the manner they are now truly accustomed to! I'll put some pics etc up soon and perhaps some more info for poultry enthusiasts.
On the bike front, the GeePee is misbehaving slightly now the cold has come, either the solenoid is on the way out or maybe the starter motor as its a bit hit and miss starting just now. If I slip it into gear and roll forward until it "bumps" the gear it will generally start then after a couple of tries. I meant to check the connections today but didn't get moving in time. I also need to look at the wiring on the headlight as its cutting out when the front end dives on the brakes. For now I just avoid heavy braking in the dark!
Wow, I think this is one of my longest lapses! Sorry to those of my more regular visitors! I guess it's a sign of how hard things have been for me. Things are changing however. I've made a career change, I'm now working in Guildford 4 days a week doing something very much different to my old job, much less stressful, and less demanding.
The commute is much easier too, just a 20 min blast down the A25. I've had some more bike (read GPZ) trouble... of course. He was suffering from a leaking head gasket and drinking coolant, that's been fixed now. I've got the obligatory exhaust can held together by a series of jubilee clips and (yes!) biscuit tin lids, but over all he's going well. I had to get a new battery for the VTR, leaving it hooked up all winter was NOT a good idea.
Prior to starting the VTR after all that time we did unhook the plugs, push it around the yard a bit in top gear (to get the oil moving over the main parts) sat on the starter button for a while (again with plugs off) before reconnecting the plugs and off he went first go. It was nice to be out on the VTR for a while (whilst the GPZ was being re-gasketed) however I'm a bit wary of using him to go to Guildford.... a. for the risk of being caught speeding, b. for the lack of carrying space (have to look a bit smarter these days) and c. we have a nasty semi kerb at the edge of our car park. I just need to grow about another inch for the VTR to fit better.
I am hopeful of getting some more miles on both bikes this year, the GPZ will have less commute miles but it would be good ti have some fun too.
We're expecting some new arrivals mid June... so stay tuned!