Work life balance …

The term work life balance has been used for a long time to describe how much of your life you give to work. Looking back over most of my career my life was dominated by work. 

Why ?

The need to provide all the things that we are led to believe make us happy, the feeling to make people proud, ambition are all very much typical responses, however fear plays a huge part in my view. Fear of failing, fear of disappointing people, fear of not confirming to the norm, fear of judgement, fear of not having enough money to survive or give dependants a stable environment, fear of letting others down. 

Some of the happiest people I know work a 40 week and once they finish they are done. No more thinking/worrying about work, their mind free to do what they want to. Hobbies, interests and quality time with loved ones. 

I see people who work less, earn less, have fulfilling lives due to outside work activity. 

I have worked in start-ups, with the dangling carrot of “doing well” if the company gets sold. Giving up the now for a promise of a “better”, more secure, future. The “doing well”, “being successful” typically measured in how much you earn, not how happy you are.

 Making yourself ill, missing out on your life, to achieve the status of “doing well” is utterly ridiculous. 

I want to ride and rebuild motorcycles. Travel. Go to gigs. Meet interesting people. I want to be able to speak Spanish, play guitar, learn to weld, build stuff, read lots of books, listen to loads of music while focusing on the music not thinking about work. 

I find very little time to do the things that I really want to do. 

We have had two resignations in the last 4 weeks from very senior roles. Reasons given, burn out and mental exhaustion. I don’t blame either of them. One is wealthy enough not to have to work. There other is a cornerstone in the company. Multi talented, mega smart and exceedingly hard working. 

 There is nothing wrong in wanting to do well, have an interesting job etc. however it is about balance. I have learnt this hard way. I am exhausted by work and find very little joy in it. 

I am the only person who can change this, either by changing jobs or by changing how I view it. 

Almost 3 months …

My new life, living on my own for the first time ever, is almost 3 months old. Initial impression is, it will be OK. When I started this blog I had no idea the title ‘Lone’ Rider would have such depth. Good days and bad days … Just have to roll with them I guess.

It seems way longer than 3 months; When your perception of time slows down it is an indication that you are more in the moment. Typically you are more in the moment when lots of things change as you are viewing things for the first time. Yet we all fear change to some extent.

So what’s new?

I have now moved out of the family home into a “doer-upper” that requires a shed load of work. More work than I had hoped but all I could afford. Subconsciously, at the time of purchase, I was scared of being lonely and lots of DIY was a long-term distraction. Also, I am rarely proud of what I do, yet I was of all the work I did transforming my previous house.

I currently have a chair and a small table to sit at and a TV in a big box as the lounge is not fit to inhabit yet. I am not in any rush, however it would be nice to slump on a sofa watching a film and have visitors round for a brew. 

The MOST exciting News (for a very long time) is that I am now a granddad!!!

Darcie Lou was born a month early in early June. My Daughter and partner have coped amazingly well, my wife has been great too supporting them as much as possible (living in the same house).

Darcie is the most beautiful and content baby I have seen since my children were babies. Although I am not naturally paternal (which saddens me), I find it amazingly therapeutic sitting and just looking at her in absolute awe at how fantastic mother nature is.

I cannot wait to watch her grow and for her to start talking etc. Amazing. Truly amazing.

A bittersweet situation as I am visitor in the home I was integral too and where my granddaughter now lives, and just dropping in is not easy given covid etc. It can be gut wrenching leaving after a visit. That drive home to an empty, currently unwelcoming house. That will change, I know it will.

With regards to motorbikes I have managed to get a few miles in thanks to sunny days. Many difficulties motivation wise, however a good ride is always brings benefit in the form of smiles and a mental reset.

Riding feels different now. Those Sunday morning rides to get away from it all … … and returning to somewhere that is currently a house but not yet a home.

I have built a large shed which more than adequate for weather protection and security. I had hoped to make one from wood but covid and brexit has hit timber supplies and cost. So a metal one, lined in plywood so limit condensation. Time will tell.

My project bike is not going to happen as time is short and motivation is very low. As a winter hack a road worthy bike is a better bet. As a project bike a more desirable bike is better starting point.  When time allows and I have the documents (lost) it can be sold on.

Hope anyone reading this is keeping well and safe.

A week to go …

In one weeks time I will, hopefully, be in my new home. A 1950s 2.5 bed semi. Lots to do on the DIY front, slightly overwhelming but all manageable, time and cash permitting

The biggest issue is the lack of garage, needed to house my my motorcycle and tools etc.

In my simple mind a large shed would suffice in the short term. Little did I know until a few days ago that there is a national shed shortage. Many people having office sheds or leaving commercial property to set up shop in a cheaper alternative, having increased demand. Even the materials to build your own are in short supply.

A garage build seems like a long way off, so I think the only sensible thing to do, if a DIY shed build is proving difficult,  is to remove the dining room window, put patio doors in its place and use that as a garage. Not ideal, however a viable option. I suspect house insurance will not cover for such shenanigans.

This is the scariest adventure for as long as I can remember. A path taken out necessity rather than desire. The great unknown, no turning back, not a temporary experience. Need to get my big boys pants on and suck it up. Nobody is going to come and rescue me.

Me, a pile of books (I intend to start reading), clothes, tools and my bike. I even bought tires and grips (old one disintegrated) for my mountain bike as I intend on pedalling to keep me occupied.

Although, when money allows, I will buy a TV, I am not planning on getting a license. The reasoning is not just political (Biased BBC is managed by significant Tory donor), but that if I cannot watch live TV (licence does not just apply to BBC channels!) I won’t use it much and do something more constructive instead. I am not convinced of my own will power on this yet.

I spent more time buying a weekly food shop in the supermarket than I did looking at this house and it is by far the biggest purchase I have ever made. I am sure there are lots of things to do that I am currently unaware of. Needs a new roof too.

I have no idea how people get by in other parts of the country where housing is significantly more expensive. I can easily imagine mortgage/rent being at least half someone’s take home pay.

So the next chapter is a mere page turn away. Eek!!!

What a difference a year makes …

12 months almost to the day that I bought a my new bike ready for my mini adventure to Espanol. I have never been overly attached to anything material. The experience and adventure of riding has always been the ‘Thing’ not the bike itself (Same with most other things – I much prefer the experience of the journey and destination over the stars above the door of the hotel, the quality of the media over the size of the screen or speakers). However I do really love my Honda. I really miss her at the moment too. Lock down and sub zero temperatures have limited any excursions.

The day that I bought it I was in a rush to get home as it was my good friends 50th B’day party that night up in Liverpool. I rode it home thinking the different riding position felt very weird and I almost had reservations. Will I get used to it? etc.

That night my family and I (less the eldest one as he was working at a music venue – remember them?) headed to Liverpool. I had a few beers to ‘relax’ (reduce my social anxieties that I hide very well). I met my friend’s sister in-law, his wife’s sister, for the first time and only time (I may have met her at the wedding, however booze gives rise to bleary memories). Loud, seemingly care free and full of energy, and a really good laugh. Unbeknown to me she had just got the all clear from cancer. I learnt this week that she had passed away from another cancer aged only 54. Life can be so frigging cruel!!! I feel so sorry for all the family and friends.

For myself, the last 12 months have been turbulent. Giving up booze was in hindsight the best and most well timed decision that I have made in a long while. I am actually quite impressed with myself (I do mention it more than I should and probably bore people to death. I am sure a drunken me was way more annoying however). Covid and lockdowns have been the backdrop to almost everything. My mental health suffered big time (still far from great, however manageable mostly). Family issues and the breakdown of my 23 year marriage have been so very difficult. Devastating in fact. Money and work stresses. However …

My daughter is going to be Mummy!! Which inevitably means that I will become a Grandad!!! All very strange to even imagine but a magical thought.

I have found a house that I am trying to buy. It is not my dream home by any stretch (no picturesque cosy rural pad with a babbling stream and a large barnlike workshop or a house with sea views), however I am sure with a bit of extreme DIY that I can make it my own. I have never before lived on my own for any length of time so I am very nervous and anxious. However, for all the sadness that precedes such an event it is will hopefully be the start of happier times for everyone.

One thing that it does not have is a garage. So I will have to build something for my bike and numerous tools as a priority. As for the other stuff like something to sit on, sleep on etc. I will have to rough it for a while. Minimalist shabby chic, not to be confused with a crack den, will be the unintentional styling. I have plenty of pictures that invoke happy thoughts and memories for the wall which will hopefully influence my mood in a positive way.

I am not superstitious, however the house number is 8, which is considered good luck in some cultures and is also a positive in many religions. The last 3 characters of the postal are the same as a house we have previously lived in. The road opposite has the same name as a US state I once lived in and an adjoining road has the same street name as where I live now (for almost 20 years). All very coincidental but fun to think that the forces that we do not understand are at work 😉 .

So much change, good and bad, happy and sad. Completely unpredictable. I never would have thought that I would be writing a blog about my musings. It really helps however. Anonymous as it is, it does feel like that I am getting stuff off my chest and able to rationalise these crazy times that we find ourselves in.

Take care. Enjoy the now.

Shots Fired!!!

Where do I start?

The US, the home of capitalism is falling apart it seems. All my suspicions over what an abhorrent and dangerous man Donald Trump is had now been confirmed, yet he has a strong following … willing to storm the Capitol with an intent to harm others and “take our country back”. Idiots.

In the UK our government are equally detestable, but just divert money to their friends and enjoy starving the poor, particularly children and not paying nurses and other key workers anywhere near enough. Whilst the daily reading public scream about extreme left and their soft socialist visions.

Anyway… My cousin is apparently looking at our family history and called my Dad to inform him about his findings…

My great grandfather worked as a shotfirer in the coal mines. He was killed when 2 shots failed to fire and when he inspected them they detonated. His was wife, my great grandmother had a breakdown and went into an asylum never to come out. My grandfather was about 6 months old at the time. Basically orphaned.

I am not sure who raised him, however when he was older my grandfather too worked as a shotfirer in the mines. However when my dad announced he was going “down the pit” he was most upset, in the knowledge that it was a dangerous place to work. My Dad obviously took no notice and did it anyway.

My Dad then went on to see an average of one death a year for the 9 years he was down there. He talks about it on rare occasions and it clearly had a massive impact on him. One of the few times I have ever seen him upset is when talking about the bad memories he has of that time.

You may ask WTF this has to do with motorbikes etc. Well in this crazy world where we are bombarded with all manner of things and the stresses of the modern world get all too much, I personally yearn to get on my bike to switch of from theses thoughts. Yet currently, weather and covid have limited how much I can ride. My cravings are getting strong.

So, if coping with my life stresses is so difficult how the hell did coal miners cope with the daily threat of death?

My grandfather was probably 5’5″ and about 9 stone. Yet he would drink his own body weight in ale regularly and fight men twice his size if they upset him whilst doing so. His nickname, Wacker, was very apt.

My Dad, not a big drinker in comparison, but did have temper his youth.

So drinking, fighting and general raging was their way to cope with the stress maybe (although many miners were different I am sure), rather than sitting on a lump of metal capable of twice the legal speed limit with a tank of fuel between your legs.

I think the point I trying to make is modern life and inescapable capitalism is crap. We are busy, stressed and unhappy. Yet we are extremely well protected from the risks of old, with a standard of living that would have made us look like royalty compared to say my grandfather.

Regardless of how crap modern life is at times however, I believe it is healthy to remind ourselves of what previous generations had to endure and be grateful that we are not at risk of death whilst filling the printer with paper.

2020 What a Year!

Well as 2020 draws to a close in a few weeks it is only natural to reflect, especially given the events.

Covid has certainly shown many people in their real light. People looking after the vulnerable and being so very brave and selfless (I am so grateful for such beautiful souls), yet others being utterly selfish beyond comprehension. The latter coming from a place of ignorance I am sure. Compassion for your fellow humans is not difficult. However with a government that has demonstrated how self serving and inhumane it is then it is not a great example.

There is reason to be more upbeat however. A vaccine is now being administered and Trump will soon be out on his fat orange arse. We just need the UK to come to it’s senses and get the current government out (and a vaccine for Stupid). I really think once covid is behind us that we should riot. Peacefully obviously. These public school folk need a wake up call.

On a personal note it has been a very turbulent year. Some very bad times, yet as with most things, the Yin and Yang of life, there has been some truly joyous things. 2021 will certainly be very different for me and my loved ones. Life is a crazy ride sometimes; A roller coaster that would not even pass the most relaxed of safety standards.

The Isle of Man TT races is cancelled again for 2021 and that could mean the end of an era for some (John McGuiness for one). 2022 will be a party no doubt and I have every intention of being there.

A credit for a cancelled channel crossing into the EU will be used at the earliest convenience. Into a land that we can no longer say we are part of. Many voter’s tricked into deciding the future, predicated on lies.

So where will I go?

France by default. Spain (Madrid and the Pyrenees) or maybe Italy and the Alps. I am not making too many plans or dreams just yet.

The CB500S project will most certainly be sold as spares as I do not foresee my time, enthusiasm and energy being available. It does not owe me much and I am sure eBay will return most of that.

I will no doubt write a whole list of things that I want to do in 2021 and will very likely not get to do many of them. We should all have goals and dreams however.

One thing is for sure, the adventures and experiences will undoubtedly be 2 wheels related and filled with joy and memories. There has been enough heart ache and nightmares.

Whatever the event, however painful, I do believe one should always look for something to learn from it.

Joni Mitchell once sung “That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”. Bob Dylan “The times, they are a-changin’ “. However, none more apt than the following, from my yet to be released song “I am utterly lost, my head’s in bits. My life is a toilet and I’ve got the shits. A flush, a wipe, these days will surely pass. Stand tall, don’t look back, shake that fecking ass!”. It may need work, especially for radio.

2020 has changed the filter through which I see the world. For the better? I really do not know yet, it is early days.

All the best for 2021!

World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World suicide prevention day.
2020 has been particularly hard for many people. Advances in technology and global capitalism are in general not making us any happier.

Social media distorts reality. People living ‘their best life’ and bombardment of tragedies. What you follow becomes an echo chamber to the point of overload. There are also strategic high-level shit going behind all main social media sites, just be aware.

Statistics show little correlation between suicide rates and wealth. A slight trend to equatorial regions having lower rates, but not much else besides the society that you live in, age group and gender, based on my very limited research.

Men still battle the macho expectations and feel weak opening up about issues. “Big boys don’t cry” was a common mantra when I was young. The British fighting spirit! Suicide rate in soldiers does not support this mindset sadly.

Many don’t want to listen to people ‘just being miserable’ and getting dragged down; self preservation. Completely understand this and you yourself have to be in a good place to help others. Statistics show that helping others makes people happier.

It is human nature to feel depressed at times. Go with it. However feeling hopeless, a burden, trapped, living in fear of not able to provide, not seeing joy in things, constantly comparing to others, guilt etc. is not a sustainable way to live. Many hide this and appear fine until they are not.

Just because, in whatever state you get yourself into, you are convinced that there is no way out, there absolutely is!. Happiness is not stuff, jobs, houses, cars (motorbikes excluded), clothes, how you look in an Instagram picture, what others think of you. It comes from inside and your perception of the outside.

Taking time to look after your head is not selfish, far from it. Taking time to ask others how they are and actually listening is not being nosy or risking your own happiness. Asking others for help is not weak but one of the bravest things you can do. Please be brave.

Be kind to others. Their actions may be reflective of a troubled soul that needs some kindness to help it heal.

That black dog…

It has been a while…

The trip to the Isle of Man was obviously cancelled. The trip to France obviously cancelled. The work on the CB500 has come to a halt. Too busy and no motivation.

Work is like a long drawn out disaster movie most days. Glimmers of a plot twist and a happy ending are fleeting at best. A very unhealthy environment to be in.

My mind has been really struggling to find anything positive in anything. There have been some very very dark days.

It is so very hard to explain. So many good things, so much to be grateful for. It could be so much worse. The black dog does not care. He will steal those happy moments from you, rich or poor, healthy or sick.

The stresses of a global pandemic, working for company that is being drip fed money, difficult home life and a being on the receiving end of a corrupt government, just got too much. So is it even depression or a culmination of circumstances?

Having people to talk to and a much needed hug is a massive thing that some do not have. I you are offered a hand of support take it. Do not be too proud or embarrassed. Those that offer the hand often understand more than you think.

Earlier this week I learned of the death of someone who I didn’t know well but knew enough to know she had a heart of gold. She truly did. Her legacy, besides some very famous songs with her vocals on them was an outpouring of sheer love from her friends and fans. What a fabulous impression she made on so many people.

This is what life is about? The bonds you make with people, how you make others feel through acts of kindness and support.

You cannot possibly be the best version of yourself for others unless your inner core is happy and content. This often relies on others to an extent (reciprocating of support to fellow humans), however typically the buck stops with you. Self care is not selfish, it is imperative.

If riding a bike, being creative, having some chill out time, exercise etc. are vital ingredients to a more content you, then unselfishly they have to be a priority. It is difficult to justify such things when we are so busy with work etc. yet that is the time when it is most important.

So, forget all the social media ‘living your best life’ facade. Life is tough sometimes. When it is, look after yourself and do not feel like you have suppress unhappy feelings. If people are upset by you feeling the strain then that is a clear signal that they are not who you need at that time.

If you need to prioritise yourself and say No to others do not feel guilty. Get out and give your mind the hugs that it needs in whatever way works.

A different route

74 days. 74 days without booze if I exclude one night a few weeks ago. I didn’t see that as a fail. There are no rules. It was confirmation that when things get a bit too much alcohol is not the solution.

Real people, family and genuine friends are the comfort you need. They make time regardless of their own shit. Their support is what will see you through a rough patch not Gin. Hold them close, they are a rare.

Never say never however; I am quite enjoying not drinking. It was a compulsive thing. Habitual. I am more relaxed in my thoughts, generally. Less anxiety. More positive. I am not committing to any future. Just appreciating now.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still stressing about stuff but my reaction is less frantic (apart from one stand out anomaly, which was atypical in circumstance). The whole corona virus is distorting reality however so I have no idea what is normal currently.

My thoughts are rarely about booze anymore, although they sometimes were a constant distraction e.g. “A what point can I be sure I don’t need to drive anywhere so I can have a drink”. I was not drinking heavily on a daily basis, but too much regularly and to excess on nights out and weekends. Any excuse. I did not feel hungover, however now I feel more awake. I guess, it is similar to someone realising they are becoming overweight before the seemingly inevitable morbid obesity is reached.

WTF has this got to do with bikes? The decision to find sobriety came half way through a bike trip. Would it have happened anyway ? May be at some point, but definitely not that point in time otherwise. I have also found the motivation since to start a project bike.

The dangers of motorbikes are often discussed (rightly so, they are dangerous), however, the benefits rarely get a mention.

Stir Crazy…

The lockdown, although essential, is a strain. It is a strain listening to lying politicians, watching idiots flout the rules and just living in a surreal environment.

Worried about your family, vulnerable loved ones, your sanity, your income. This is on top of all the other things that sometimes cause a traffic jam on your motorway of thoughts. On occasion, multiple vehicle pile ups. Mental health issues were rife before covid, now they are ubiquitous.

To cope with anything stressful and consuming I have learnt that I need a distraction. Luckily I am still working, however that is stressful and something that I need actually need distracting from. Besides much needed family time I have started turning a knackered old cb500s into something different.

I got it well over 12 months ago. It was cheap, however I didn’t realize how knackered it actually is. A winter rat bike was the obvious use.

Let’s be honest they are a cracking bike for commuting etc. however they have the looks and character of an ugly thing that lacks character.

Not dissimilar to the one below, albeit with level of ‘patina’ typically found on motorcycle salvaged from a sunken car ferry. I never thought, or felt the desire, to take photos of the actual bike before I started dismantling it.

Pretty much everything is shot. Does it even run? The carbs needed a clean. Rebuilt them and put a car battery on it. It started on the spray can and then ran under its own steam before revving to 5000rpm of its own accord and getting very hot (exhaust header glowing). Air leak.

After convincingly myself it is salvageable, and I can sell a lot of the bits that I don’t use, I started the strip down.

Lots of looking at other bikes for inspiration. The answer is some kind of a flat tracker type thing. Budget is tight so a bit of creativity required.

Engine is out. Swing arm next.

I am looking forward to seeing all the project bikes that people have been working on during lock down. I am hoping lots of apocalyptic Mad Max style bikes.

However, the time is now! The sun is shining and my commute is definitely a 2 wheel one today! Another activity, albeit now restricted to purely commuting, that helps to keep the darkness out. Just need to drag an old Honda engine out of the way to get my other bike out.

Take care and keep each other safe. “Back to normal” may be a way off yet, and ‘normal’ was not necessarily that great. One positive is that I hope many will realise that the future is never certain and life is very short.