If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Monday, 31 December 2012

Passionate

Lovely word, 'passion '.  Depending on the context, it can mean head-over-heels in romantic love, or blank-eyed and drooling with sheer lust, or even committed with a life-shaping intensity to an object or activity that is more important than life itself.  That's ignoring the religious meaning, of course, of the transcendental and redemptive power of sacrifice.  All pretty major stuff, I'm sure you will agree.

Which is why I get either annoyed or depressed (depending on my mood) when I see the word used as a marketing tool - "Passionate About Sandwiches" and the like.  As with much in the world of worthless corporate bullshit, once you are tuned in you see it everywhere.  I thought I had seen the bottom of the pit when I read the CV of an aspiring employee to learn that he or she was "passionate about developing social marketing tools in a business context", but I was wrong.  Deeply wrong.

We have a rest room at work with a sink, kettle and fridge.  In the absence of proper lockers, it's where I dump my bike gear when I am at work.  After a wet ride in, I can take over most of the room by draping my kit over every available surface, but normally I put the suit on a hanger and suspend it from a window sill - as you do.  Recently I have shared my windowsill with a jacket.



It's a corporate jacket, one of those supplied to 'guest-facing' staff to ensure that we present a coherent customer image, part of a suit which (from the size) has been issued to a diminutive female employee.  She probably leaves it in work, and travels to and from the workplace in something warm, weatherproof and, above all, not corporate.  It is the cheapest, nastiest piece of junk tailoring I have ever seen.  It is shapeless, thin and tacky, with a high nylon content.  So far, so unremarkable, but then I chanced to see the label on the inside.



Thus is the demeaning of a fine English word complete.  It's also a use of the word 'tailoring' of which I was previously unaware.

Anyway, it's the last day of the year and the first day of the rest of our lives, so we had better get on with it.  A Happy New Year to everyone who reads this blog.  I wish you and your loved ones peace and prosperity in 2013, while fully aware that this is merely an optative statement and has no transformative power over anyone's actual life.

Have a good one, and think of me at midnight when it all kicks off.

Seriously, all the best.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Christmas Break

I was working over Christmas, and will be working over the New Year, so the next few days are my Christmas Break.  I am going to spend a bit of time with D1 and D2, eat well, fall over a bit and generally have some fun time.  Back in a few days.

I hope you all had a most excellent Christmas and wish you all the very best for a prosperous and liberated New Year.  In 2013, may the skies be blue, the air warm, the roads dry and clean, and the traffic light.

Perhaps.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

The missing egg-slicer scandal

I work in the Tourism/Leisure business, and this piece was passed around recently, to an accompaniment of sighs and knowing shakes of the head.  I'm pretty sure it is a spoof, like the familiar 'insurance claim form' howlers, but it made me laugh - mainly because in my experience it is all too believeable.

From Thomas Cook Holidays - listing some of the guests' complaints during the season.

1. "I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts."

2. "It's lazy of the local shopkeepers to close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during 'siesta' time - this should be banned

3. "On my holiday to Goa in India , I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don't like spicy food at all."

4. "We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our swimming costumes and towels."

5. A tourist at a top African game lodge over looking a water hole, who spotted a visibly aroused elephant, complained that the sight of this rampant beast ruined his honeymoon by making him feel "inadequate".

6. A woman threatened to call police after claiming that she'd been locked in by staff. When in fact, she had mistaken the "do not disturb" sign on the back of the door as a warning to remain in the room.

7. "The beach was too sandy."

8. "We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as yellow but it was white."

9. A guest at a Novotel in Australia complained his soup was too thick and strong. He was inadvertently slurping the gravy at the time.

10. "Topless sunbathing on the beach should be banned. The holiday was ruined as my husband spent all day looking at other women."

11. "We bought 'Ray-Ban' sunglasses for five Euros (£3.50) from a street trader, only to find out they were fake."

12. "No-one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled."

13. "There was no egg slicer in the apartment..."

14. "We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers as they were all Spanish..."

15. "The roads were uneven.."

16. "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England it only took the Americans three hours to get home."

17. "I compared the size of our one-bedroom apartment to our friends' three-bedroom apartment and ours was significantly smaller."

18. "The brochure stated: 'No hairdressers at the accommodation'. We're trainee hairdressers - will we be OK staying here?"

19. "There are too many Spanish people.. The receptionist speaks Spanish. The food is Spanish. Too many foreigners.."

20. "We had to queue outside with no air conditioning."

21.. "It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy or unruly guests before we travel."

22. "I was bitten by a mosquito - no-one said they could bite."

23. "My fiancé and I booked a twin-bedded room but we were placed in a double-bedded room. We now hold you responsible for the fact that I find myself pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked."

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Out of the blue

I wouldn't ride a motorbike if I didn't think that I had the risks under reasonable control.  Part of my personal 'safety training' is to analyse every unforeseen or unexpected event to see if anything can be learned from it, and to put any lessons learned into practice in the future.  I do this with my own riding, but I also examine accounts of things that happen to other people, which is a kind of risk-free learning.

I don't like the term 'accident'.  Too often people refer to an event as an accident, when in fact there is a clear cause.  The word 'accident' implies that the event was unforeseeable, and that nothing could be done to prevent it (and therefore, crucially, no-one is to blame), where this is rarely the case.  When you break an event down into immediate causes (car pulls out), proximate causes (rider going too fast to take avoiding action) and ultimate causes (poor training, careless attitude, inadequate maintenance), you can nearly always find something that someone did wrong, and which, done right, could have prevented the 'accident'.  It's just a question of how far you are prepared to look.  Of course, as a rider you cannot control the road users around you.  You can't heal the functionally-blind Prius driver, or sober up the sales rep on his way back from a team-building weekend.  But you can anticipate their presence, and ride accordingly.  In other words, any accident should, in theory, be avoidable by a well-trained, experienced, patient and mature rider.  (I said in theory, and I am making digital contact with many tree-derived objects as I write this.)

And then something like this happens.
At least two people have been killed and another 11 injured after a plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Burma, officials say.
The Air Bagan plane was carrying more than 60 passengers. Two Britons are believed to be among those hurt.
It was on its way from the city of Rangoon to Heho airport in Shan state when it crash-landed about 3km (two miles) from the runway.
Reports say a fire in one of the engines may have caused the accident.
Burmese government officials have confirmed a passenger was found dead inside the plane.
A motorcyclist near Heho airport was also killed when the Fokker jet made its emergency landing in thick fog in a rice field.

What to say?  One minute you are riding along on your 125 beside your family's rice field, and the next minute you are hit by an sodding aircraft.  I am prepared to admit that this is one of those occasions when the rider was simply a helpless victim.

And, without wishing to make light of a sad story, what's the betting his last words were, like so many others have been, "Bloody hell, what's that Fokker doing?"

Monday, 24 December 2012

Appropriate Seasonal Felicitations

I have copped a bad shift pattern over Christmas and New Year - 7 pm to 7 am, 23rd to 26th inclusive and 31st to 3rd inclusive.  Not too bad, really - lots of sympathy from colleagues, some of whom are female and attractive, a guarantee of a good break next year if I play the guilt thing right with my manager, and four clear days in the middle where I get to see daughters 1 and 2. Oh, and enhanced pay for working three Bank Holidays, which should get me a tank of fuel for the BMW with enough left over for two Mars Bars and a pint of milk.  I think it's time-and-a-half.  My employer's generosity is boundless.

I'm happy enough, and I hope you are.

Enjoy the break - if you get one - and behave yourselves.  All our very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

From Richard, Anna, Rescue Cat, Dagmar the BMW, Noname the XT, and the Spirit of Bonkers Dog.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Not a new problem ...



Am I as old as that?


Hmm.  Just had a seriously depressing moment as I realise that my age can now be measured in fractions of a century.  Thank you, BBC:
Half a century ago the UK was in the grip of a brutal winter. How did they cope then and how does it compare with now?
The terrible winter of 1962-3 has become a sort of legend, second only to the even worse winter of 1947.  I remember the winter of 63, but not that of 47, I hasten to add.  I was nine years old and can remember it well.  I used to walk to school (only a mile or so) and the snow was about two feet deep in my road.  It had a hard crust on top, and if you were careful you could walk on that, but if you broke through the surface, the snow was crotch-deep (for a small boy) and very uncomfortable.  As in the article, on more than one occasion I went to school on my sledge.  My Mum worked in the same area as my school, so a ready packhorse was available.  I didn't even have to push.

Happy memories.  Life went on, trains moved, things were delivered, shops were open, people got on with their lives.  Two specific memories that are still with me: one was my Dad putting a small paraffin greenhouse heater under the engine of the car every night so that it would start in the morning, and the other was waking up to find that the water in the glass by my bedside had frozen solid in the night.  The house was very cold (no central heating or double glazing then) but my bed had plenty of blankets and there was always a lovely open fire downstairs.  I don't remember suffering at all.

But 'half a century ago' ... centuries, that's history and stuff, isn't it?

Monday, 26 November 2012

Time

Sorry for the lack of posts in the last couple of weeks.  All is well, but both the desire and the opportunity to blog stuff have been lacking.  More on that another time.

Anyways ...

Found this on Reddit and thought I would share.

Time doesn't exist. Clocks exist. Time is just an agreed construct. We have taken distance (one rotation of the earth, and one orbit of the sun), divided it up into segments, and given those segments labels. While it has its uses, we have been programmed to live our lives by this construct as if it were real. We have confused our shared construct with something that is tangible and have thus become its slave. 

I have taken to leaving my watch on the bedside table recently.  If I need to know the exact time (for getting to work on time, mainly), I look for a clock. But for most of the day, and night, I seem to get by quite well without knowing exactly how many minutes before or after the hour it is. I eat, I sleep, I work, and so far the world hasn't ended. Time can be a tyrant.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Is this blog spamming you?

Recently, I have started to get a large amount of commercial spam in my inbox, which are redirected comments from this blog.  The recent post 'Whitesands' especially has attracted a lot of unwanted attention from the spambots. I am reviewing and deleting around 20 comments a day.  I know they are not appearing on the blog, as Blogger's spam filters are fairly effective, so thus far they are only an inconvenience to me - Unless You Know Better.

I'm very reluctant to reinstate that awful Captcha thing for all comments, as I know what a PITA it is from commenting elsewhere.  As long as it's only me that suffers the inconvenience I don't mind too much. But if it's bothering readers I will have to think again.

I generally request follow-up comments to be emailed to me whenever I comment on someone else's blog, and I have been getting a lot of spam comments from two other blogs in particular - JuliaM's Ambush Predator and Woman On A Raft. It would appear that event though the spam doesn't appear in the blog, the email notification system is working before the filter rather than after it.

If this is happening to you,  please let me know either here or by email and I will consider reinstating the dreaded Captcha.  I don't want to do this, but if it's upsetting my loyal readership (thanks, both of you) then I will have a think about it.

Thank you.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Whitesands

After a couple of weeks of lousy weather, I have taken a few days off and on Friday we were blessed with a superb October day.  Cool-to-cold-ish, but sunny and dry.  Anna hadn't been out for a while, so we got in the car and tootled off to St Davids for a spot of pre-Christmas-visit shopping and a nice lunch out.

I almost wore a cardigan (1).

We had to wait a while for the shops to re-open after lunch (St Davids is like that), so we drove to the nearby beach of Whitesands for a look at the sea.  The sky was stunning.



(1) No I didn't.

Guys and Gals

How's about this, then, guys and gals?
Now then, now then, now then.
And that weird yodelling thing he did.
Weird.

I met Jimmy Savile several times while working in Leeds (I was a hospital porter for a while), but only spoke to him once.  It was coming up to my Mum's 70th birthday, and my Dad and I (being lousy cooks) had ordered her a special cake from the local bakery.  It was to be decorated with an image of Guisborough Priory, which was the backdrop to all of their wedding photographs, and had a special significance to Mum.  We took a wedding photo to the bakery, they said they could do it, and a week later we went up to collect it.



As we were paying for it, into the shop burst Jimmy Savile and a young lady of about (I would guess) 20 years old.  He was in the usual ghastly nylon tracksuit, and she was wearing very little, considering it was October in the North of England.  Short shorts, a halter top and stacked sandals, if I remember correctly.  He did all the 'what's all this then' business, and when we explained he asked - no, ordered - the girl to go next door to the newsagent and get a birthday card.  He asked my Mum's name, wrote the card, and signed it with the usual 'Jimmy $avi£e' flourish.  Then he was off to another shop.  Working the dates back, this would have been early October in 1987, and JS would have been 60 years old.  He certainly seemed to have plenty of energy.  The girl seemed totally in awe of him, and obeyed his instructions instantly, but there was little affection between them.  I remember wondering at the time what the relationship between them could have been.  Paid assistant, young niece, friend, lover?  None of them quite seemed to fit.

I found the birthday card when I was clearing out my Mum's flat.  I still have it somewhere.  I don't think it will be going on eBay any time soon, though.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

F650GS - first impressions

I've had the mini-GS almost a month now, so perhaps it is time for a brief review.

First of all, I am happy with it.  The Yamaha was getting to the point where money needed spending on it (tyres knackered if not illegal, chain ditto) so the GS has taken over commuting duties.  It is living exactly where it is in this photo, uncovered, while the Yam has a waterproof overcoat and is quietly relaxing about six feet behind it. (Yesterday we had a brief sunny spell in the afternoon, so I whipped off the cover and took it for a short but athletic blast round the lanes.  It started first press of the button and ran well, so no sulks for being ignored.)

Compared to the Sprint, the GS is ... well, totally different, and no comparison could be very meaningful.  It is the comparison with the XT that I am most interested in.  What I wanted was a kind of super-XT, one that retained the virtues and character of the Yam while addressing some of its shortcomings.  In that, I think it is a success.

It is faster, by a small but useful amount.  Where the XT is happy at 60, strained at 70 and struggling madly at 75, the GS will pull along at 80 quite happily.  I've seen 90 on the clock sitting bolt upright (remember, I have only commuted on it so far) and there was more to come.  Where there is a big difference is in the low-down torque.  The best way to make the Yam go is to launch it fast and short-shift until you are at a cruise.  Big revs get you nowhere - wide throttle openings are the key to rapid progress.  With the GS it is the reverse: let the revs build quickly, keep it over 4,000 rpm, and it lifts its skirts and motors along very nicely.  To be honest, I prefer the instant shove and huge engine braking of the XT, but the GS is so much more civilised that perhaps the trade-off is worth it - certainly for a longer journey.



Comfort, now I have the taller seat, is good, and it's really quite a pleasant ride.  It's quiet, a little inoffensive, and just gets on with the job.  Handling is rather strange compared to the XT, but the built-in luggage is a blessing.

There's more to say here, but I am at work and things are starting to happen around me.  The day team will be here in a minute and I mustn't be found bloggerating.

More in duke horse.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Another day, another IAM poll ...



This one's on parking (specifically parking on private land, and the legalities thereof) and forthcoming changes to legislation pertaining to it.

More a check on who's up to speed with the proposed changes, rather than a survey of opinion, but you're welcome to have a go anyway.  No need to be a member, ect ect.

Poll is here.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Backup strategy

Request for help from the Geek community.

Last year, I lost about 6 months' worth of photos and other stuff when the hard drive of my little Acer netbook died on me.  I had a lot of help and offers of assistance from readers here, and I thank you for that (you know who you are).  However, when I weighed up the material lost (none of it world-shatteringly important) and the hassle and expense of retrieving it (proportionately large), I decided to go with the flow, accept my fate, give in to karma, and forget about the damn thing.

I started using the old Medion (Lidl special) laptop that I had retired when I got the netbook, and that served for a while, but then that one started getting a bit flaky, so I decided to push the boat out and get a new one. Hey presto, one Toshiba laptop from the bargain basement at Curry's*.  It's, er, OK.

I had managed to back everything from the Medion onto a 640GB external drive which was, even without the missing six months, quite a bit of stuff.  And after a lot of messing about (Windows Backup doesn't like you changing computers, apparently, and treated me as an impostor), I backed all that up onto the new Tosh.  Then, as if by magic, the external drive started clicking and whirring, and the next day it was unreadable.  But I have all the files, thank your deity of choice.

So I now have a working lapdog, and I have just bought a Western Digital 2TB external drive.  Everything from the Tosh is safely backed up onto that using the Win7 inbuilt backup software, and I can relax - for the moment.  But now I am thinking - what if the WD drive gives it all up?  I'm wondering if I might get another WD drive and alternate backups, so that at least one is always almost-current.  Or keep backing up to WD1 (as it were) and have a routine of copying everything from WD1 to WD2, say weekly?

Then it occurred to me that someone who reads this blog - either of you would do - would surely have a better idea.  Better backup software (although the built-in Windows program is very easy to use, a key thing for me), and perhaps a better system of using two external drives?

How do you do it, O men and women of the interwebs?

* Actually Currys, but I couldn't bear to write that.  Hang on, I just did.


Saturday, 8 September 2012

Vanity Plates

Personalised numbers, cherished registrations, call them what you will.  Vanity plates is what they are.  The impulse to have your name or initials (or, even worse, something 'funny') in your car number plate is surely born out of a desire to show off slightly, to mark yourself out as 'special'.  Back in the days before they were available for sale, there was something slightly awesome about a person who had tracked down a vehicle (probably and old banger), bought it, and then transferred the number to his or her own car - often a Jag, for some reason.  Jimmy Tarbuck's COM1C on his Rolls was the most famous example.  But now, anyone with more money than sense can have virtually anything they want on their vehicle, and the rarity value has gone.  It is now merely chavvy.

Having said that, I regard it as a bit of harmless fun.  One day a few years ago, when I was feeling flush, I bought a pair of plates for Anna and myself.  The same single letter and low single number, and then each of our initials.  They are not particularly flash, and I don't feel guilty about doing it, although I regret it now.  Not so much the mild 'look-at-me' thing, as the fact that they make buying and selling a car much more expensive and bureaucratic than it needs to be.  (And it makes stealth operations in a place like rural Pembrokeshire almost impossible.)  I have mine back on the market, but of course in a recession a personalised plate is probably the best example you could find of 'discretionary spending'.  No-one is buying.

Some can be very amusing.  The local bed shop with D1VAN on their delivery vehicle is one (already posted here).  Some are even impressive.  If I ever saw G1NNY or DAV1D or N1GEL I would be moved to smile and tip my hat - well played, Sir or Madam.  But then you get the numbers that are 'supposed' to look like letters.  The local Jaguar dealer had a demonstrator with the registration B16 CAT (and a carefully-placed yellow fixing screw to make the '6' most definitely a 'G'), which was OK, but then you get into things like K3LLY or S4LLY, and the whole thing is starting to move away from reality.

Then I saw this while cruising aimlessly around eBay.  I really don't get it.  At.  All.  Click to engorge.



A great plate for an alien from the planet Tharg called J9MXA.  For a human called Jemma, no.  Even using all the 'rules', it still only reads 'Jgmxa'.  Think he'll get £500 for it?  Unlikely.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Gentlemen, be seated!

The GS comes as standard with a very low seat.  At 780 mm from the ground, it's positively subterranean.  Older readers may remember that one of the main reasons for selling the Bonneville was the seat height.  I could sit at traffic lights not only with both feet flat on the ground, but with my knees bent almost at right-angles too.  It felt like the time when I sneakily tried to ride one of the kids' tricycles (come on, we've all done it).  It felt like a toy.  The GS was the same.  And the seat on the GS was, in addition, profoundly uncomfortable, at least for the unique contours of my bot.  I managed a 50-mile ride on the second day I had it, but when I got home I had to unfold myself from the bike and couldn't walk straight for an hour.

See the shape of the scoop?  It looks very comfy, but in fact you are sitting on a slope, and you have the choice of either a) sitting back and feeling like you are constantly sliding down a hill on your bum, or b) sitting forward and getting a serving of crushed nuts on your 99.

Looks comfy.  Isn't.

Fortunately, there was also a more off-road oriented version of the GS called the Dakar - louder graphics, taller suspension, higher seat, not for midgets.  The seat on the Dakar promises an extra 40 mm of height, and the two are interchangeable.  So I went to the recommended source (Motorworks in Yorkshire) and bought a Dakar seat.  It arrived and was fitted yesterday, and it's much better.  There is a lot more foam padding, so comfier for the old derrière, and it is noticeably higher.  The knees are grateful, the hips don't complain quite as much, and you can see over cars better.  No long rides yet, but I can see this being good for 100+ miles at a time, which is really all I need.  By that distance, my brain is ready for a rest and a stroll in any case.

Here's the old one:


... and here's the new:

Mmmm.  Arse says 'thank you'
I've measured the new one against the old, and the distance from the footrest to the lowest part of the seat has gone from 500 mm to 540 mm - exactly as promised.  You probably lose some of that in the extra squish of the thicker foam, but the improvement in comfort and position is significant.

The old seat was a rather pleasant orangey-red, which I thought went well with the black bodywork, but the all-black appearance of the new seat is quite funky in a different way.

Now, whether to sell the old seat, or keep it 'just in case'?


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Richard's Five

Intrigued by a challenge from the biking blogger Fuzzygalore:

One of the biggest challenges for bloggers is how to highlight older content. Just by the nature of the basic blog format sometimes what we see as our own great posts don’t get enough action. How can we tell people that there is something pretty awesome they might’ve missed? Well, the best ways that I’ve found so far is… shamelessly pull stories out of the archive and link to them.
so I have decided to give it a go.  Here are five of my favourite posts.  Probably not the five best, or the most popular*, but five that meant something to me and that I was pleased with when I hit 'Publish'.

1. Camping Taxonomy
Probably the one I most enjoyed writing.  Based on many years of camping (and more lately caravanning), a summary of the people you are likely to meet, and who to avoid, and why.

2. My New Hero
A chance meeting and conversation with a remarkable man.  Sadly, no photos as I forgot the camera that day.

3. Jolie-Laide
Regular readers will know of my touching and probably ill-advised love for my scabby old Yamaha XT600E.  There are too many posts detailing its talents and shortcomings, but this one is perhaps typical.

4. And thinking ...
Two-and-a-half years ago I owned a Honda ST1300 Pan European.  It was too big, too heavy, 'too much bike', and it had to go.  To show that I never learn from my mistakes, there is an almost identical post much more recently where I describe my decision to sell the Sprint because ... well, 'too much bike'.  I'm hoping the XT's current partner (a BMW F650GS) is the Goldilocks bike - 'just right'.  (To explain the odd title of this post, the previous post was entitled 'Just thinking ...', and was a picture of a Harley Sportster.  Draw your own conclusions.  SonjaM will appreciate.)

5. Motorbikes and Motorways
Musings on the suitability, or otherwise, of two-wheeled transport on the nation's main arteries.

H/t to SonjaM for the link to Fuzzygalore.  (I confess I hadn't read this blog before, but it's going in my reader from today.)

*My most popular post by a mile was this one, a brief comment on the 80th anniversary of the British Highway Code.  Over 10,000 page views for this one.  Duh.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Mobilised

Here's the culprit:



One motorcycle immobiliser, made by Meta Systems, model M53T, fitted to the mini-Beemer at three months old, in September 2004.

I don't like alarms and immobilisers for bikes.  Give me a big, tough chain and a disc lock any day.  Let's dismiss alarms first.  They don't work.  Any vehicle with an alarm sounding is merely an irritant for everyone in earshot.  No-one pays them the slightest attention any more.  They assume it's faulty, or the result of a gust of wind, and they walk on by.  Experiments have shown that it is possible for two men to physically lift a parked motorcycle into the back of a white van, on a crowded street, with the alarm shrieking away, and no-one will do anything at all about it.  Especially if the van has 'Mick's Motorcycle Repairs' Dulux-brushed on the side.  So there is  no point whatsoever in having an alarm on your bike, except perhaps if you have to park it on the street outside your house.  You will know the bike is being nicked, but you are then faced with the choice of staying indoors like a wimp, or going outside and getting killed.  I'd rather remain ignorant, thanks.

Immobilisers should be better, and insurers do like them. You stop the bike, take out the key, and walk away. 45 seconds later, the immobiliser self-arms, and no-one can start the bike.  Not ever.  These things are so fiendishly complicated that it takes a PhD in Applied Electronics to even touch the wires.  Er, no.  I have just removed the immobiliser from the GS.  It took me three hours, and most of that time was spent in taking off the bodywork and air filter housing to get at the wiring, something I had not done before, and which was accomplished with a Haynes manual in one hand and a can of Blackthorn in the other.  To someone who has done it before and is both familiar with the bike and quick with a soldering iron, and I would reckon 15 minutes, tops.

And they go wrong.  Oh yes they do.  Bike forums are filled with horror stories of bikes with a myriad of mysterious complaints (mainly, It Doesn't Go) which are cured by ripping the damned immobiliser out.  And what if the immobiliser goes faulty while you are riding?  This one cuts (or, rather, cut) the 12V supply to the fuel pump and coil.  Imagine being in the middle of a fast corner, on the edge of the tyres, and suddenly no power.  On any bike, you are in a heap of trouble.  On a big single, that's you upside-down in the hedge, that is.

But, worse than that, this one at least was a complete pain in the arse to use on a daily basis.  It came with a little fob which attached to the key ring, about the size of a USB thumb drive.  Here was the procedure if you wanted to actually go anywhere:

  1. Press the brake pedal.
  2. Wipe the fob across the bodywork over the hidden sensor.
  3. Put the key in.
  4. Start the bike.
Sounds not-too-bad, although I wonder who, in the concept meeting at Meta Systems, thought that putting the rider through that rigmarole every journey was a good idea.  In reality, it was more 'entertaining':
  1. Put key in ignition out of habit.
  2. Remember and remove key.
  3. Bike on side-stand, so ready to mount from the left.
  4. Remember the brake-pedal gimmick and go round to the other side.
  5. Press brake pedal.
  6. Ask self, was that hard enough?
  7. Press brake pedal again.
  8. Hold key-ring so that little fob thing is sticking out.
  9. Drop key-ring, take gloves off, retrieve, try again.
  10. Wipe fob against dash plastics.
  11. Wipe fob again much more widely and vigorously, as uncertain of exact location of sensor.
  12. Return to left side of bike, ready to get on.
  13. Put key in ignition and switch on.
  14. All dash lights come on.
  15. Press starter button.  Nothing.
  16. GOTO 4.
After three days of this, the death warrant for the immobiliser had been signed and passed to the Praetorian Guard. Today was my first free day in two weeks, and out it came.  Here's the corpse:



I'm not going to go into detail here about how I did it, for obvious reasons.  But let's just say that with some basic tools and a bit of common sense it was a pretty easy job.

I'll make an admission here (and see if anyone shouts "me too!").  I've been messing about with bikes and cars for over 40 years, and I'm reasonably confident that I know what I am doing and don't make major blunders.  But every time I do something that involves crippling the vehicle (by which I mean, if I get it wrong it won't go until I swallow my pride and take it to a proper bloke) I still have a moment of apprehension when everything is back together and I press the starter for the first time.

And when it does fire up, I'm back to being the 14-year-old who was given a Triumph Tina scooter (total wreck, no bodywork, hadn't run in living memory) and made it go.

Yee-hah.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Signs of the Times

Looks astonishingly bad value.  Who would go for this?  Only the very desperate.



At least they spelled 'Centre' right.

Then they ruin it with the ghastly word 'instore'.  Oh well.

Friday, 31 August 2012

... and Another Door Opens

In my last post, I talked about the reasons that made me decide to sell the Sprint and get something 'less'.  Some of you were kind enough to comment positively on my reasoning.  Well, thank you for that, but I am not sure you are right.  For all the justification, it was more of a gut feeling than anything else.  The bike was fast, far faster than I needed - where can you realistically use 155 mph on modern roads? - and far faster than was good for my licence and long-term health prospects.  It was heavy, top-heavy, and it had a poor steering lock.  The riding position was supremely comfortable, but the semi-crouch focused the mind on the tarmac rather then the journey.  In short, I always felt that the bike was dictating the terms, and it ought to be the other way round.

My local bike dealer had just gone into administration, so the avenue of a part-exchange against something different was not available any more.  So I put the bike on eBay.  I set a reserve of £2250 to insure against giving the thing away in a slow market, and settled down to watch the auction.  It made the princely sum of £1500 by the end, so no sale.  I put it on again with a buy-it-now price of £2450 and the 'make me an offer' option.  It ended a week later with no sale and no offers.  Not even silly ones.  I put it on for auction again and even removed the reserve price, but ... I get ahead of myself.

During this time I had been scanning the web for likely replacements and had called a number of traders.  None would offer more than £1200 for the bike - and that's in part-exchange against a more expensive bike, not the buy-in price.  The general message was that sports bikes, and sports-tourers like the Sprint, couldn't be given away.  No-one wanted them, and everyone wanted the kind of bike I was looking for.  Enough dealers said this to me that I think there must have been a grain of truth in it.  I was getting a bit disheartened.

In the listing, I stated that I was interested in a smaller, more versatile bike, and wondered if anyone had one they wished to sell to me, "all within eBay's rules, of course".  I was hoping someone would contact me and offer a trade.  On the very last day of the listing, about 9 hours before the auction closed (with over 100 watchers, and bids to £900 or so) I got a message from someone wanting to do a straight swap for his BMW F650GS.  That was a bike I had not considered.  I'm not a fan of the beaky, chunky big Beemers (to me they look all wrong), and I had transferred this attitude to any modern BMW.  But I asked him to send me a photo (we were on email, not eBay messages, by this time) and it looked good.

I spent the next hour frantically Googling anything I could find about the little GS.  Everything I read sounded positive, and when I got the details of the package from the other chap (basically, full BMW service history and a full set of BMW luggage) I decided to go for it.  We agreed he would Paypal me £50 as surety, I would pull the bike from the auction, and I would return him his £50 in cash when we exchanged.

The following Friday he rode it down from Shrewsbury in the lashing rain.  I liked it straight away, he loved the Sprint, and the deal was done.  Either he didn't know the value of what he had, or he was an extremely generous person, but the deal was very favourable to me.  The Sprint's market value was, by all accounts, around £1200.  I reckon the BMW is worth twice that, if not more.  Condition isn't perfect, but it's pretty good.  It has a full set of services stamped by a BMW main dealer, BMW panniers (including liners) and topcase, engine bars, hand guards, heated grips, tank bag, and a huge lever-arch folder full of receipts, old MoTs, the original owner's servicing and inspection records, and an official BMW compact disc with all the servicing schedules and procedures.  Oh, and a Haynes manual.  As this little lot was going to be my discretionary spending for the next year-and-a-half, I count myself very lucky to have landed this bike*.

I gave him the Sprint with a full tank of fuel to get him home, and he absolutely refused to take the £50 we had agreed.

I'm still pinching myself.

* The bike also came with an immobiliser fitted, of which more in another post.  Grrr.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

One door closes ...

So, after an excellent trip 2-up through France and Germany, why did the Sprint have to go?  I suspect the reason is as much psychological as technical.  I've always been a bit of a grasshopper, jumping from one idea to another without much logic or planning.  Sometimes, a bike just stops being 'the greatest' and becomes merely a roadblock on the way to the next thing.  I think the Sprint was a victim of that thinking.  Perhaps if I could change my car for something completely different at a cost of a few hundred pounds, I would change that more often, but that's not really possible, and nor is it in any way interesting.

Two things sealed the Sprint's fate, and again they have nothing to do with logic.  One was the minor tumble I had on it a few months ago.  This made it very clear that the Sprint was a pretty heavy old lump, and having to ask for help in lifting it back on its wheels made me feel that perhaps it was just too big and heavy for me.  And, illogical though it is, once something like this has happened it dents the confidence just a little.  The bike is never quite the same again.  The second was the bike's oil consumption on the Europe exploit.  More on this when I get to posting the rest of the holiday snaps, but one litre of precious fully-synthetic per 1000 miles travelled is not acceptable in my book.  To be fair, this mileage included some high-speed autobahn motoring, 2-up with luggage, at speeds of between 90 and 120 mph; and oil consumption during normal use was negligible.  But it raised doubts in my mind, probably groundless, about the long-term durability of the bike.

I was already considering moving it on, and the lightbulb moment came when I took a trip up to North Wales for the day to meet up with Nikos.  Riding up in the rain, I realised that I hadn't considered taking the fast, comfortable Sprint for a moment: I just assumed that, for a fun ride, the XT was the obvious choice.  Like the massively-capable (and just plain massive) Pan European before it, the Sprint was in danger of becoming a driveway ornament.

I started to draw up a kind of mental checklist, trying to focus in on the kind of riding I do, and the kind I want to do more of.  The wish-list that I came up with looked like this:
  • Ability to cruise at ~70 mph
  • All-day comfortable
  • Able to take a light pillion along with full luggage
  • Upright riding position and easy frame geometry
  • Able to tackle light off-road riding
  • Robust and able to take a few knocks
  • Mechanically/electrically simple and owner-repairable
  • Reasonably light (max about 200 kg dry)
  • Fast enough to be fun.
The XT is in the right ballpark with a lot of these requirements, but is a bit lacking in some areas.  I realised that what I was looking for was a kind of super-XT - similar in concept, but just a bit bigger, faster, more comfortable.  I started to draw up a shortlist.  The ones that made it through to the final audition were:
  • Yamaha XT660R or XT660Z Ténéré
  • Kawasaki Versys 650
  • Suzuki V-Strom 650
  • Honda Transalp
  • Honda Africa Twin (the classic choice - probably too old to be practical, but I love 'em)
Ones that almost made it were older airhead GS BMWs (heavy and long in the tooth at the price I could afford), Triumph Tiger (on closer inspection, a Sprint with wide bars and tall suspension), and Yamaha's TDM850 and 900 (logical but didn't spark any lust in my heart, and therefore likely to be back on the market within the month).  The Sprint was (despite it's clumsiness-induced attack of acne on the right-hand side) still a good-looking bike and in full working order, and I hoped it would raise about £2300.  I could probably add up to £1000 on top of that for the right bike, so I was looking at bikes in the £3000-3500 area.  Parker's price guide for bike no longer exists, so the asking price was a bit of a shot in the dark, but I based my estimate on what I had paid for it a year before, and took off a bit of depreciation and a bit more for the gravel rash.  I had made a few improvements and put new tyres on before the Europe trip, and I thought that price was a fair one.

It might have been, but the market didn't agree with me.  More on that in the next post.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

New Arrival

Became resident at Nowhere Towers last Friday.

BMW F650GS, 2004

A spanking good deal, which I will relate in a later post.  There's been a lot of bike-thinkery going on round here in the last few weeks, and this is the result.  I am very pleased with it.  More anon.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

What would you have done?

Long-time blog commenter Zaphod sent me a mail describing a dilemma he faced recently.  He was asking (rhetorically) what he should have done.  It reminded me of a couple of situations I have been in (one almost identical, last year), and I thought I would post it to see what others thought.

Here's what he sent ...
___

I was driving home very late at night, on a country road. I'd passed cats in the road, a few rabbits of course, a deer, and even a fox. What's next? Just round a tight blind bend, I found two cows broadside on!

It took a fraction of a second to dismiss the tired-driving-hallucination hypothesis, but I did stop in time. (I wasn't that tired, but I've known it to happen.)

Now what? Is this a 999 situation? I don't know the number of local Plod. And cows are a serious hazard, they've got less road sense than rabbits and they mass a lot more.

I did the 999.

Rough location, (road between X and Y). No, I don't know the name of the road, but there's only one road between X and Y. No, I don't know whose cows they are. My name, address, DOB, (?)

She didn't seem very interested. I said, "Look, I'm gonna stay with them for a bit. I've got my lights and hazards on, they're wandering along the road. I'll stay til the cops show up, or if they go back in their field I can maybe close a gate?".

15 minutes later they wandered into a field, but it didn't have a gate. I rang again. "Update, they're in a field opposite a farm entrance with the name Z on the gatepost. But if I leave they'll come out again."

Another 15 minutes, I got bored and went home.

I don't know what a cop could have done, but they've got access to more resources than I have. I wasn't gonna knock on a farmhouse door at 3:30am, a hippie in a transit van. They probably weren't his cows anyway, and farmers are notoriously shy of visitors, (and have shotguns).

Should I have stayed? I'd still be there? The cops never got back to me. Maybe the city girl on the 999 phone thinks that cows are of a size to fit in a burger? And as fast as squirrels?

___


Well, what would you have done?

The world according to the Daily Mail

Courtesy of JuliaM, this brilliant bit of animation.  I will be singing this all day, I fear.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Another day, another IAM poll ...

It's green for a reason


This one's a doozy.  Eco driving - the questions are so full of assumptions that I didn't know how to answer most of them.  Road Tax (sorry, VED) - should it be lower, higher, or the same?  Is the Congestion Charge a good thing, or a very good thing?

And have you stopped beating your wife, Sir?

Have a go, anyway.  You don't need to be a member, etc., etc.

A Grand Day Out

A few months ago, I was in email conversation with Nikos, and it was decided that, as we were bloggers of a similar age and had a similar passion for two-wheeled things, we should meet forthwith in what is delightfully known as 'meatspace'.  Finally, today, we made it happen.  Meatspace being, for the occasion, the Little Chef in Dolgellau, which is approximately half-way between our two residences.

I set off bright and early, in the cold and foggy Pembrokeshire drizzle.  The XT was the weapon of choice today (more on that in another post) and I had a damp but pleasant ride up the coast and through the mountains to Dolgellau.  100 miles, give or take a few, which is a decent distance on a bike designed for tracks and trails. Nikos was already there (I had somehow missed his bike in the car park) and we discovered that we also shared a love of strong coffee and a loathing for the usual watery Little Chef offering.  Nikos bullied (nicely) the serving youth into bringing us Americanos "with a double shot".  I have no idea what that means, but it was the best cup of coffee I have ever had in a Little Chef.  Then we tackled a couple of mega-breakfasts.

Nikos and the Invisible Beemer
The conversation ran around bikes and potted life-histories, and the joys and pitfalls of running a blog.  It turned out that, despite coming from very different backgrounds (I am plain Yorkshire; Nikos is of much more exotic stock) we shared a number of life experiences.  Details are, of course, confidential, but there was a lot of nodding and 'yeah, me too'.  It's always reassuring to find one's experiences are shared by other, apparently sane, people.

We decided to take a run up to Bala and back over the mountains on a favourite road of mine.   My promise to Anna that I would be 'back by three-ish, maybe' was certain to be broken, but the day was improving and it would have been rude not to take full advantage of the sun and the drying roads.

Just follow me.  It'll be OK, honest ...

Little and Large

The spectacular Arans
I left Nikos heading East and tried to find a pretty way home.  I must have had a bad attack of men's I will not look at a map syndrome, because I ended up way past my turning (when I pulled off the road, it was in defeat, mate) and eventually went home by a very circuitous route.  However, by this time the sun was baking hot and I had to stop by a quiet roadside to strip off all the thermal linings and layers.  I rode home with jacket half-open and visor half-up, which is about right for mid-August but was still a surprise.

On the road between Newtown and Llandrindod Wells I came across this remnant of someone's ruined day:

Dead FireBlade - "Rider Failed to Negotiate Corner"

I hope the rider was OK.  The absence of a cheap bouquet sellotaped to the forks suggests that he survived it.  The scrapes on the road and the furrow ploughed into the grass verge tell what happened, although I am at a loss to explain how anyone could have lost the bike on a gentle corner.

Back home with a severe case of Trail Bike Bottom and John Wayne Syndrome.  280 miles covered, and the XT managed an average of 64 mpg, which I can't say I am displeased with.  Another blogger met and befriended; some fabulous scenery clocked, and a day out on the bike.  Nikos even generously paid for the breakfasts (thank you again, Nick).  Not bad, all in all.


Monday, 30 July 2012

Back!

Two weeks without a post. That's poor, really, isn't it? Apologies for my absence.

Anna and I went away for a few days in the caravan and had a great time. We stayed just outside Llandovery, in an area I have sped through on many occasions but never stayed to explore.  Although it's just an hour from my front door, there were lots of places I had never been or even heard of.  It's good to get to know your own neighbourhood every now and then.

Since I have been back, it's been work, work, work -of the paid and unpaid variety.  For the last 12 months my workplace has been undergoing 'restructuring', which is a nice word for turmoil. Where we had a team of around 20 a year ago, we ended up with four in March. Funnily enough, the workload didn't diminish - in fact, we had extra work piled on us. Some good people got the message and left for other jobs. Many of the rest (the old, the dim, the grumpy) were made redundant. Suddenly, we were undermanned, and the requests started pouring in -

"Can you work a couple of extra days to help us out?  We're short-staffed."

"No shit, Sherlock."

There's no overtime as such, just 'extra hours' paid at the normal rate. But work is work and income is income, so we got on with it.  The normal pattern would be four 12-hour shifts in a row, followed by four days off.  The four days of work is fairly punishing, especially when it's night work, and especially when you are not as young as you used to be.  But we have all been working five and six days in a row, just to keep things afloat.  And of course those extra days are taken from your days off, naturally, so the old system doesn't get much time to recover.

At home on my days off, there has been a garden to keep in check, and chores to be chored. All in all, I haven't had much time to get on the computer and write.  And if I had, what's to say?  The economy seems to be going down the toilet even more rapidly than ever, Cameron and Osbourne never fail to disappoint, the whole country has gone Olympics-mad (if we are to believe the media) or have given them a massive 'meh' (if we are to believe our own eyes and ears).  Wars, famine, pestilence, misery - and that's just Nowhere Towers.

I haven't told Anna yet, but the Sprint has gone on eBay.  I've decided that it is not for me. Nothing wrong with it, but every outing becomes a blur of passing landscapes and snatched overtakes, and I think I am getting a bit old for the leaning-forward riding position and an engine that only makes sense at illegal speeds.  I'm going to change it for something smaller and slower,which can also do a bit of exploration of back roads and trails rather than murdering kilometers on the superslab.  I had a great time with D2 in France and Germany, but we agreed afterwards that it would have been even better if we had done half the miles and stopped twice as often.

Oh well, back to work now. Break's over, back on yer heads!

More soon. Thanks for your patience.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Bizy Backson

... a Winnie-the-Pooh reference, for those who care for these things.

I have now got four days off work in a row, and I am going away.  Anna hasn't had a proper break all this year, and I am suffering biker's guilt over my foray sewer le continong avec D2.  So last night I prepped the caravan, and today we are heading off.  Not far - just to the edge of the Brecon Beacons - but far enough away to unwind and have a bit of a self-indulgent period of drinking, eating, sleeping, playing silly games, and generally having a laugh and re-connecting.  Places such as Aberglasney and the National Botanical Gardens may well benefit from a visit, as may the local hostelries and chip shops.

In other news, my 2012 weight-loss programme (didn't tell you about that, did I?) has today achieved a major milestone.  I won't tell you what it is, but in metric terms it's like having a birthday with a '0' on the end.   I feel pretty good about this.

Back in a few days.  Play nicely.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Quote of the week

Thomas Sowell:
In the political language of today, people who want to keep what they have earned are said to be "greedy," while those who wish to take their earnings from them and give it to others (who will vote for them in return) show "compassion."
The full article is well worth a read.

H/t Counting Cats

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Motorcycle theft - please help

A biker in London had his bike stolen recently.  Frustrated with the lack of police action, he put up his own website, http://www.motorbikethieves.com, with CCTV pictures of the perpetrators. Have a look at it here.






I sympathise with the loss of the bike (a Triumph, too!), and I feel lucky that where I live there is very little crime of this sort.  I also agree wholeheartedly with his anger at commentators who say that it's his own fault for not locking the bike more securely.  You should be able - should be able - to park your bike or car anywhere with the keys in, and find it unmolested when you get back.  Just like a woman should be able to go out wearing a short skirt and not be raped.  Blaming the victim is something the Left do so well - as long as the victim isn't in an 'approved' group.  Anyone of a Libertarian bent will find a lot to agree with in the biker's remarks.  (Another thing to annoy the independent and freedom-loving - the Police advised him not to put the website up, as it may "interfere with the investigation".  What investigation? he might be justified in asking.  But typically, the citizen is again advised to remain passive and powerless, while the 'authorities' get busy with doing very little.  The power remains with us, Sonny, and don't you forget it.)


Good luck to him with his website and I hope someone shops the scum who stole the bike.  Not that I have any faith that anything would happen if they did, mind you.


H/t to Gareth Owens, on whose blog I found the story.


Sunday morning chuckle

From a bike forum I read:


h/t to Welshrob

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Dogs, balls and water

I was sent these images by a work colleague and thought they were worth sharing.  According to the introductory text, they were taken by a 'famous photographer' in California, with a 'high resolution' underwater camera.  Hmm, typical interweb attribution, but I think the images speak for themselves. What intrigues me is the way that so many of the dogs look like those weird deep-sea fish that were the stuff of childhood nightmares when I first saw them in a copy of National Geographic at the age of about six.

Here you go, click to enlarge.  Bonkers Dog would have loved this.


















Things you always suspected about Tony Blair No. 1

The Daily Mail seems to have an insight which it manages to share with us in the most subtle way.

Here's the headline:
I would like another crack at being PM says Tony Blair

Here's the address of the linked page:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2165612/Tony-Blair-admits-I-like-crack-PM.html

So now you know.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Parish Notice

I'm afraid I am back to work tonight.  The night shift isn't what it used to be.  In the old days, before the 'restructuring', I was managing a team and could usually find a bit of time during the night hours to catch up on webular activities on the office puter.  These days, I am out in the dark and doing what I used to manage other people doing.  It's not bad work by a long way, but it does mean that access to the interwebs is severely limited.  And during the day, I will be asleep.

Probably no posts for a couple of days, is what this means.  I haven't forgotten you.

Who said bikes don't have personalities?

Anyone who has read this blog for a while (both of you) will know that I am very fond indeed of my scabby old Yamaha XT.  Bought as a disposable drudge bike to save a pristine Ducati from a muddy commute, it has become my keeper and vehicle of choice if the distance is under 50 miles and the expected speeds modest.  I've serviced and repaired it, and made it convenient and reliable.  There's a lot of me in this bike, and it has outlasted four much better and more expensive bikes that turned out to be just passing through.

It photographs better than it looks


Obviously, it didn't catch the selector's eye when it came to the Big Europe Trip with D2.  Not fast enough, not comfy enough, not stable enough.  200 miles on the autobahn would have left us crippled.  D2 and I were sitting on the floor on the Eurotunnel train to Calais (as you have to), watching the Sprint rock gently to and fro, and I was musing about leaving the XT behind.  I explained how I had put it in the garage out of the rain, and would give it a special treat (new oil, perhaps) and a pat on the tank when I got home.  She understood, mainly because she is as soft in the head as me.

Today, I washed the flies of 1800 miles of highway off the Sprint, took off all the temporary mods I had made for the tour, and put it away.  I rolled the XT out ready for the work run tonight, and decided to give the valve clearances a check.  I've noticed the beginning of a rattle, and I wanted to use the clever little gizmo I got off eBay that makes turning the tappet adjusters easier.  I applied my 17mm spanner to the left-hand exhaust valve cover, and ...

CRACK.

The cover fell away, leaving the threaded part of itself in the engine.  I really didn't use much force; it must have just decided to take that moment to fail.  Here's the outside bit:



and here's the hole it left.



Of course, any attempt to start the engine will result in a massive gush of oil all over the front wheel, so the bike is temporarily bedridden.  Fortunately, the threaded piece left inside came out with fingers only.  Even more fortunately, there was a guy selling two of them, today, right now, new old stock, on eBay for under nine quid the pair, including postage.  I BINned and paid in a flash.  It'll be back on the road in a few days.

So the Sprint had to come back out of the garage and will be doing daily duties until I can fix the Yam.  This has caused further issues (a dash to Halford's to get some more oil, owing to the Sprint's vast appetite for the stuff and a dry dipstick on return to British soil), but that will be for another post.

Then I realised: the XT is sulking.  I took it to town yesterday to get a few things, and it felt distinctly out of sorts.  I checked the tyre pressures when I got back, and I had 18 psi in the front and 17 in the back, compared to Yamaha's recommendation of 22/33.  I fixed that one, but obviously that small bit of attention wasn't enough.  It wants the whole nine yards - tools out, cup of tea, oily rags, time, care, and money spending.

Drama queen.

Love it.

BBC standards again

I don't think the BBC bothers with proof-readers any more.  When the nation's broadcaster (and self-appointed arbiter of fairness and impartiality) lets something like this through on its website, old gits like me who were educated in the 60s will notice:
He said this month was set to become one of the wettest June's on record.
Look, Mr BBC man, that's a possessive apostrophe.  The June's what?  Its days, its nights, its weather?

SIMPLE RULE:

If you can reverse the word order and use the word 'of', you need an apostrophe, immediately after the word in question.

The book of the boy = the boy's book.
The curls of the girls = the girls' curls.
The (what?) of the June = what passes for literacy at the BBC.

I learned this in, I think, Junior 2 at the age of about 8.  Point is, so did the other 29 in the class I was in.  And many of them were not Mastermind contenders by any means.  The teacher taught it, we practised it, we got it right.  And I still know it half a century later.  It ain't hard, folks.

I think what has happened here is that the writer has written 'Junes' (quite correctly) and then thought that it looked odd, and added an apostrophe because, well, because.  Words that end in vowels sometimes do this to people, although it's usually things like 'radio's' as a plural of 'radio', which look a little odd on their own.  I think it comes from a fear of getting it wrong, which is OK for a ten-year-old, but laughable in a professional employee in the media.  The correct form, 'radios' looks a bit like it ought to be pronounced 'rad-ee-oss', and I can sort-of forgive this one.  Similarly with decades, where a lot of people write 1960's.  Not necessary, but understandable.  But 'June's'?  Pfft.

SIMPLE RULE 2:

A straightforward plural does not need an apostrophe.  More than one boy, 'boys'.  More than one scenario, 'scenarios'.  More than one June, 'Junes'.

___

Really sorry about the flooding, folks.  Bucko has some 'live' photos that bring the message home.

Friday, 22 June 2012

BEF12 Day Two

I am a cheapskate.  This landed me with an interesting conundrum at the start of the trip.  For one, as I was taking a satnav I didn't think I needed detailed maps.  I had a 'planner' map of Europe, which covers Donegal to Sankt Petersburg and Nordkapp to Sardinia on one sheet, and I invested less than a fiver in an A5 spiral bound road atlas for keeping in the map pocket of the tankbag.  First mistake.  Secondly, I don't like paying road tolls, especially at the start of a holiday when you don't know how your Euros are going to last.

When we left the charming and characterful F1 Hotel in Coquelles, I asked Jane (as I call the TomTom, from the rather strict and posh Head Girl voice that is my favourite, mmmm) to take us to Nancy.  The plan was to get some serious road miles done on the first day, and then amble back though Germany and Belgium at a more leisurely pace.  Jane asked me if I was happy to pay a toll to take her 'fastest' route.  I told her not to be so silly.  After all, the French autoroutes are all built next to the N roads that they replace, non?  Many times I have bowled along an almost deserted route nationale for nothing, while the frantic autoroute traffic screamed by a kilometre to one side.  OK, she said, I will take you there.  Follow Lille.



So I did.  We must have been going a couple of hours when I realised that the cars all had Belgian plates, and all the place names were strangely ... Belgian.  I stopped and checked the route, only to find that the 'fastest' route to Nancy avoiding the péage took us to Namur in Belgium, then down through Luxembourg and back into France close to Strasbourg.  As we were almost in Namur by this point, we pressed on and had lunch there, in order to reconsider.

And I had a dago.  Yes indeed.  We ended up at a sandwich-bar kind of place, where all that was on offer were dagos.  I asked what they were (in French - luckily this wasn't a part of Belgium where this is a criminal offence) and discovered that a dago is an 18" baguette with a ham (or similar) filling. Un jambon, then.  We had one of these each with a drink, and decided that as we were getting pretty close to Aachen - a potential end-point of the trip - we would simply reverse the direction, go clockwise, and head for Aachen that night.

Aachen is lovely.  We found a cheapish hotel opposite the station (thank you, Rough Guide) and made enquiries.  The owner was charming and helpful, and suggested - without my asking - that I should park the bike on the pavement outside Reception, where it would be in view all night.  That sold it to me.  The rooms were a bit more expensive than we had hoped for, so we opted to share a twin room.  I had anticipated this as being a potential problem.  She is my little girl and we are family, so of course we can share a room.  But she is also 24 and has a life of her own, and I wanted to respect her privacy.  But finances demanded that we shared that night, and it didn't cause any problems.

Bahnhof Hotel, Aachen (cheap rooms round the corner)
We spent a very pleasant evening in Aachen itself, wandering round the sights and stopping at a pavement restaurant for some beers and a pizza the size of a dustbin lid.  

Massive, just massive.  And tasty.

This is just a cake shop.  A proper cake shop.

D2 snaps the Rathaus
Afterwards, we wandered around some more and ended up - funny, that - at a place that appeared to sell ice-cream 24/7.  I'm not a great fan of ice-cream (unless at the beach on a hot day), but D2 persuaded me that it would be a fitting end to a fabulous evening, so we indulged.  I can now inform my readers that my favourite food in the world is Bitterschokoladen Eis - ice-cream flavoured with dark, bitter chocolate which does a dance on your tongue and then caresses your taste buds to a petit mort of exquisite delicacy.  Forget your Rum 'n' Raisin, your Pistachio, your MintChocChip.  This stuff was unlike any ice-cream I have ever tasted.

We went to bed early, ready for a early start, for tomorrow was scheduled for the Rhine Gorge, which promised to be a spectacular run.

Apparently, there was some kind of football match on

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