Europe part 1

Sometimes you meet people who change you. They might not play a life long role, however they shape your thinking, create memories or make you feel alive. Sometimes all 3. Nothing wrong with being vanilla, however triple choc chip with popping candy and amphetamines makes for a more exciting experience.

John had the ability to create unexpected utter chaos where there was calm. His sense of adventure led him to suggest that he, another close friend (TW) and I went inter-railing around Europe in the summer of 1991.

I sold my gold mk3 escort (even back then I oozed automotive style!!!) and emptied my bank account prior, however I was informed at very short notice, whilst working on a roof as joiners mate, that I needed to go and buy my ticket as we were departing in a matter of hours.

Packed some stuff in an army issue rucksack (friend in the military) without much thought. The rucksack was massive and adorned with a union flag I had cut from a navy flag.

Stoke Station at something past midnight so we didn’t waste even a few hours by setting off at a normal time.

We trekked across London in the early hours not realising that a train ticket to Dover allows use of the tube trains. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing.

Ferry to France and 1st stop Paris. The plan was to avoid main tourist areas after Paris and Amsterdam. Night train to Amsterdam. Traveling and sleeping on trains saves on accommodation costs … £10 per day to cover everything was not a lot of cash, even in 1991.

“Hi, I have just taken over Texas. Do you want to come and see the cosmos?” said a guy dressed in a toga outside the main station in Amsterdam. Whatever dude. Another time. We are not on the same trip.

We find a hostel bang in the middle of the red light district. Cheap … For a reason. Drop our bags and go on an adventure.

John had purchased a VHS video camera. It was the size of a small family car. He dropped it in carrier bag, ripped the corner off to expose the lens and filmed various ladies in door ways (who demand no photography) whilst giggling like 3 teenage boys who had never seen much of the adult world.

A few bars later and TW went back to the hostel. John and I returned a few hours later after a few more beers. Whilst getting ready to get into our bunks in the unisex hostel 2 Scandinavian girls came back and we made polite conversation. Whilst talking away one of the girls stripped down to just just her pants exposing her boobs before getting into her bed. Holy crap!!! John and I lay in bed giggling away like the children we were.

John had always maintained that we should carry US dollars and not bother with visas etc. as you can just bribe the officials, apparently… Via Berlin (flying visit – need to return) we reached Frankfurt an der Oder on the border of Germany and Poland. The train stopped and the officials came on board. “Passports and visas!!”. With a irreverent attitude John passed his passport with dollar notes inside. They looked confused. “Visa!!”. “We don’t have a visa but we are happy to pay for entry to Poland”, John said with a cheeky grin. They were very upset and our continued attempts to persuade them led the Guard to pull out a hand gun and point it in our direction as he ordered us off the train. It was late. We decided to sleep in a subway in the station and wait for a train in the opposite direction the following morning.

We started sleeping when a policeman with a big German Shepperd woke me by prodding me with an automatic rifle …
“Passport!”. I fumbled around … He stopped me, “I don’t need it. Hide it, you will be robbed for it”. Needless to say I put my passport between arse cheeks and didn’t sleep a wink thereafter.

The sequence of events are a little vague however I think we got to Prague next. We got to the town centre (not very commercial compared to when I visited just 6 years later) and I bought 3 hotdogs after changing our £10 each into the local currency. £3 quid each … no 30p each … wait 3p each!!!. We found a hotel that was about 3 quid for a 4 bed room with ensuite.

John had wet his jeans getting washed and it looked like he had pissed himself. He stood on the sink and tried to dry them on the lightbulb above … The sink came off the wall and smashed on the floor. Shit!!! Completely unfazed by this John grabbed the big book of train timetables and bashed his foot into a big red swollen mess. He sent TW to the hotel reception to tell him the sink had fallen on to John’s foot … He came and inspected and gave us another room after many apologies …

So out we went. First bar was like a shop with school tables. Pints were 9p and huge choice of one type of beer. Chalky but great. Spirits had similar variety and were about 4p for a big measure. Needless to say were getting our money worth. Then on to a club type place that served food. We were apparently supposed to keep what I thought were receipts. When we were due to leave they demanded these bits of paper. We ended up just giving them way more money than we probably had to but it was still next to nothing. I say all this but I was literally blind drunk.

Back to the hotel and John was no longer limping. He had forgot about his need to act injured. I remember getting back into the room and the video camera came out to do some early tech vlogging … I was basically naked and my excitement of the evening events was clear to see and committed to celluloid.

The following day we were went to spend the remainder of our cash before leaving. We came out the supper market with bags of food. Insane how cheap it was.

Somewhere on our way to Yugoslavia (not sure if this was the return leg or not) and we got robbed. I woke up in the night to pee and found my passport and bits other in the sink of the toilet. I gathered everything together. I had wrapped my bum bag thing around the arm of the seat where I had put my head. Someone had slashed thought the strap and cut into the seat. Some cash (other cash was hidden in various other places) and all my travellers cheques had gone.

We found a place that would reissue the travellers cheques but we needed a police report. Sounds easy enough. We find a bus and get a bit lost. A lady who spoke good English asked us if we were ok. We explained and she escorted us to where we needed to be going way out of her way. She had a very sick daughter and English Doctors had saved her life. She was passing on her gratitude. The kindness of stangers!!

We found police HQ and joined a queue. A very militant guy interviewed us and asked us what was stolen and we told him. He said without anything physical (e.g. a camera) being stolen, then he could not issue a report. We were in deep shit. John was not having this. He spied where others who had left the interview rooms were going. So we went that way. Joined another queue. We were asked by another person what was stolen. This time the list included a 35mm camera. A report was typed up and passed to us. Jesus that was easy. As we went to leave John decided to let militant dude know we had beat the stupid system … In he marched waving the report. The cop pulled out a hand gun and pointed it as us and started shouting, “English Bastards!!”. We ran like hell. Out of the station and on to the street. John howling like a crazy man, TW and I nervously laughing.

In memory of …

In the article included in the previous blog it mentions the purchase of an RD200DX which I purchased from an absolute legend and very good friend, sadly no longer with us, who I will simply refer to as John.

Although I got into bikes before I knew John, he was a fellow bike lover. I met John aged 16 at sixth form college.

John went to the same school where my mum worked as secretary for a while. I asked her if she knew him. Her eye roll and delayed grin summed him up. The maddest person I have ever met, yet most people could not help but love him.

Over the first year of college I got to know John, amongst others (who remain to this day my best friends) really well. College parties and drunken antics. They were plentiful.

The following year at start of college we were no longer the newbies and that had an injection of confidence.

The first week saw John and I holding ice-skating style score cards up as the new females walked passed. I seriously cringe about this now, it was truly shocking, however it was never meant to offend anyone (if it did I sincerely apologise, you were all worthy of a 10 😉).

Then came red nose day. A few pints before lunch and John tore a large red nose off a car grill and hung it over his … Man bits whilst dropping his trousers in the middle of the common room. Just because it was funny.

As part of the red nose day there was a jelly eating competition that we entered at the last minute, organised unexpecting college teachers. The whistle went and John just started throwing as much jelly as he could until it was just chaos. His infectious hysterics were magical. Teaching staff far from impressed.

John was a big fan of the band The Doors and introduced me to them. Around this time Oliver Stone did a film about said band. The college was gifted a very large film poster of the doors in the common room. John wanted it.

During the day he put wet toilet paper in the window locks of the common room. That night, I drove him up a dirt track at the rear of the college. He opened the windows, unscrewed the perspex holding the poster and made his way back to my car, with the caretaker in hot pursuit. He dived in and I sped off at stupid speeds in a cloud of dust. That poster adorned his bedroom wall thereafter.

The chronological order of these events eludes me, however we went on a trip to Liverpool university to get an idea about university life.

Let’s just say John was not sober. During our wanderings around the city John, who had longish hair went into a barbers, grabbed a fistful of hair on top of his head, and asked the barber to clipper around it.

Not content with a number 1 John asked us, a group of teenagers, to shave around his new Hari Krishna style long hair bit with BIC razors … Of course we did.

The following day at college he was reprimanded and forced to wear a wig until it grew back and some normality was resumed.

The day we left he decided he was going to car surf on my car roof. Covering the number plates with paper, John climbed on the boot/roof and off I went … Across the rugby pitch. Applying the handbrake whilst turning ensured John got off the roof before we got to the main road 🤣

That summer, John, another close friend and I headed off traveling. Insane times were had. I will leave that to another day as I am struggling to stop laughing and hold the tears back in equal measure.

A long time ago …

I was reminded the other day, whilst chatting to a good friend, that I once wrote an article for small motorcycle publication. Over 19 years ago apparently.

I was a regular reader of such magazines as it was just ordinary people talking about their motorcycling shenanigans. A welcome change from the journalist with the latest bikes at their disposal.

What an awful job those guys had … Forced to ride around on say an RC30 or 916, in exotic locations, get photographed doing mad stuff and then writing about it. I hope they were paid handsomely for enduring such a torturous job.

Obviously I kept said magazine so I could reminisce in years to come … Like now

You will have to zoom in to read the words due to my poor editing skills. Or just scroll down a bit …

Anyway, what’s been going on?

Sunny days and the Honda has been scratching around the Peaks and Wales. I mostly end up at Matlock Bath eating chips. Motorcycling gladiators need a modern diet to keep on top of their game.

The weather has turned wet and grey so the excitement has been now curtailed in the main it seems. If only I had a house load of DIY to do and a demanding slave like job to keep me occupied.

Editing skills perfected …

Until another time. Take care. The sun will shine again. When it does, make the most of every bit that you can.

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.