Bessy Boo

It dawned on me today that after some devastating news that I have never mentioned my k9 soul mate Bess in my blog.

Bess is a 16 year old border collie. She is not in good health and has struggled on for the last 3 or months. In 8 hours time she will be free from her pain and torment.

A dog who was so full of life and joy, recently reduced to the indignity of not being able to hold her bladder due to advanced kidney failure.

She stayed at the family home when I left 9 months ago. It was the best place for her and she was surrounded by love and care.

We got Bess as a very frightened rescue dog when she was about 12 months old. She had not had the best start and I very strongly suspect was mistreated. She would jump a mile if I moved my feet quickly. Someone had kicked her in the past, I have no doubt.

She soon acclimatised to being loved and being the centre of attention.

She was the best dog that I have ever known. Fearless yet so loving and needy at the same time. So smart too.

She has dodged a few bullets. Injuries, cancer and tumors. She never complained. Always up for a walk as soon as she could.

When I was living in the same house I would walk her everyday, often twice. No matter the weather. We would often be the only dog walkers out. Howling winds and torrential rain.

Our morning chats would sort me out. I would talk to her. Squat down and cuddle her. If I was not happy she would stay and press against me. If I was happy she would run off and dig a hole or just play.

She could run for miles. A 3 mile weekend walk for me would be a 10 mile walk for Bess. She would run so far ahead and then run back to me and off again. Always exploring.

I often claim to have no regrets in life … Utter bollocks. One regret is not buying a motorcycle and sidecar so that I could take her with me on a ride out.

Tonight I got the call that I had been dreading for a while. I went straight to her and cuddled her. Told her how much I loved her and would miss her. She knew.

Goodbye my beautiful girl. Thank you for being amazing and giving so many such joy.

The time is now …

Things can change quickly. 2 years ago we had just gone into covid lockdown. Just before then I had been scratching around Spain and Portugal as free as a bird. Plans of more travels, bike related business ideas, excitement in general.

The now is a very different place… Read back through previous posts to get an idea of how things have changed. The past is gone. A whole pile of lessons. The future … I once thought that I had an idea how things would play out. I was so very wrong. Just have to roll with the “now’.

“Regrets, I’ve had a few” … Sinatra. Don’t we fucking all Frank!. They don’t serve us however unless we understand why and change accordingly for the correct reasons. We will all be judged on our past, especially by people who have no desire to understand, emphasise or who are just full of hate.

I am accepting of change, in circumstance, in others and in myself. We have to change otherwise we are not growing. Change can be towards the negative however. Circumstances create stress, anger and resentment. Not a healthy place to be in, yet we all need to have a bit of fight in us. (My default mode when I was younger was to fight and be correct/heard … Egotistical prick. Much less so now. Either maturity or burn out )

Sunnier days are coming and I have a dilemma. I am spending time at a house with no place to keep a motorbike. I have been promised a very small lockup unit about 1.5 miles away, not walking distance before a ride to work. It won’t be available for a few months either. Not ideal but better than nothing.

The odd thing is, my sanctuary, my alone time, riding around in big circles with my head in a fibreglass dome, feels much less of a priority. I have no burning desire to escape for a few hours. I don’t feel I need to. A prime example of change.

It is not because that I can no longer just decide on a whim that I am downing tools and heading for the hills as my bike is metres away. It is something very different.

Also, although this might sound morbid and counter intuitive, when I am in a happy place, my own mortality becomes way more on my radar. Bikes can be dangerous, especially when sharing strips of tarmac with cagers who are distracted (I am one of them sometimes).

Of course this will probably all change when it is warmer, others are scratching around on their bikes. I have been here before. The voice in your head is not always telling you the truth. Now, I could happily sell my bike and spend the money on experiences … Yet I can see me wanting a bigger bike for traveling in the future. One of the many battles my over active, crazy mind has with itself.

Probably something that I need to ponder after a few hours on a bike 😉

On a different note, I contacted a certain sales guy via Facebook who I mentioned in the below post. I sent him a link and explained why I had not been to thank him personally. The response “It made my day”. Lovely man.

Time to get wise …

Things can change pretty fast. Trying to control and plan is sometimes futile. One has to just react, like a ship sailing through icebergs … Did I mention that the captain of the Titanic came from my home town.

We also have zero control over people’s reactions and emotions … Again we need to empathise and manage these on the fly.  My family has seen some very big changes in the last few years aside from a pandemic. Thankfully it has bought us all a bit closer together in many regards. Amongst work, house renovation, my personal life etc. I try and see my children whenever I can. They need to see me as much as I need to see them. We need each other. We are all in unchartered waters … their views and wisdom help me make sense of things. 

I am seeing things and people in a different light. Actions not words  reveals true colours. 

I am often exhausted yet I find the energy to do the things that some would consider optional … Spend time on your own happiness. 

I have a calmness that I have never really had as a default. Why is this? Is it because the vast amounts of shit that I have faced has absorbed so much energy I have no anger left? Is because I have found my inner Zen and I am about to shave my head and walk the earth preaching my mind over matter mantras? It is obviously a no. We don’t run out of anger and I am so full of shit and have no inner Zen to teach about. 

We are shaped by the people who we choose to spend time with. They, often without conscious intent, influence our mood and views of the world around us. That is why I feel calm. I recognised this the other day when I questioned why the hell I was not getting angry at something that I would have previously flipped my shit over, reacted very badly and made things worse.

My old man had a similar experience. He, on occasion, was an angry soul and would have altercations or outbursts of rage. When he got to his 40s/50s he mellowed in a big way. Don’t get me wrong, he will still react when prodded enough with the wrong stick. It is not genetic however, his dad, “whacker”, justified his nickname until his later years. I will ask my Dad what triggered his epiphany like life change, it was stark, even to a younger me who had little emotional intelligence at the time.  

I have a mountain of stuff to do, yet I am lying in bed spending valuable time brain dumping my thoughts into a blog. It is important thing for me to do. I don’t care who reads this and if they find value in it, it would be lovely if they did, yet not the purpose. I need to observe my thoughts and actions and this helps me do that. It is also pissing down with rain and I don’t want to get out of bed. 

I am craving a sunny Sunday where I jump out of bed, look at Google maps and get out on my bike for a few hours. My obsession with bikes is waning slightly however. Just don’t have the bandwidth. Many unread magazines. I will try and follow motogp this season and embrace the new era of incredible riders. 

My IOMTT trip is still on, cut shorter than originally planned due to prioritising my time. I did initially book it when my head was in a “It’s just me now. Bikes and adventures” type mindset. I was never going to find love again … I love how the universe changes your hand when you try and plan long term. What a shuffle the last hand was. 

I get back from the IOM in the early hours of my granddaughters first birthday. An event to celebrate. It will be strange to see all fractions of a divided group of people (numerous separations etc.) in one place.

  Time to get up … 

Summer is coming … Following the rainbow

The thought of hot balmy days, mooching around with people who are fun to be with, is something to really look forward to. Forget about the bullshit for a few hours and soak up the sun.

“Calm waters never made the best sailors”

Life is changing pretty fast at the moment for lots of people that I know. Some very difficult times and challenges ahead. However, the direction of travel for most seems positive. It is worth noting, helping those that you can by being kind is good for your soul and receiving kindness is a lovely thing #bekind.

I need to get out on my bike again. It’s been cold and miserable recently. When life goes fast, go for a blast to slow it all down. No time to think about stuff apart from the next bend. Sanctuary and meditation in a crash helmet.

My motivation for work, DIY etc. has been waning. This is not because I am depressed and lacking joy in things, the exact opposite. I have much better things to do. I appreciate quality time with those that I enjoy.

Who are these ‘people”, My family. My children and granddaughter. My friends (small network). My …. Big drum roll … Partner.

I am not one to discuss my private life, especially not on social media, however this is blog is pretty low key and anonymous.

I will refer to her as TK. We met online. Those apps are horrendous (I only used one). Lots of people trying to promote themselves with a few words and photos only to be swiped away like someone choosing home decor.

I was almost ready to call it a day after literally a few days of curious scrolling. Then I saw a very pretty lady with a cheeky smile. Her profile was honest and not superficial. I sent her a message thinking it would be ignored. It wasn’t. Weeks of getting to know eachother followed, where I flatly refused to meet her “I came looking out of curiosity, not to actually find a date …”. She laughed at me, still does. Anyway after talking for hours on text and being completely intrigued by her, we nervously met.

I was gobsmacked that someone like TK would even like me, nevermind want to see me again. Anyway … Almost 4 months later here we are, seems like so much longer.

I annoy her. I know that I do. Apparently I talk a lot and ramble on. Me?!. Wow!! 😁

I don’t believe in fate. I do believe in coincidence and making your own luck.

TK met two of my children a few weeks ago on the basis that they would ask to do so when they are ready, not forced upon them. It went well (see previous post). Child (adult) number three is playing a gig next week and we are both going to watch. Very excited. TK will also meet a very close friend. No concerns here. I have discussed them both at length with each of them.

Although not a biker, TK, is willing to go on the back of my bike. Her suggestion not mine. I tried to put her off. The responsibility of taking a pillion is a big one to me. However some exciting times lie ahead, bike related or not.

Lots of adventures beckon. Enjoying the now.

Inner peace and the jigsaw puzzle that is life …

I have had a few conversations with various people about this recently. The old me would always be ready to fight and argue until the issue under discussion was exhausted and the other person probably as frustrated as I was.

Through lack of emotional energy, self preservation and the realisation that I need to make my happiness a priority, I am slowly changing my approach (in some instances, it is far from a constant).

Recently something came to light that annoyed me, yet I didn’t engage and appeared quite calm. Most people that I spoke to said that they would be fuming and actually were on my behalf.

The outcome to everything should not be to feel frustrated, angry, upset etc. Yet our initial reaction typically achieves just that.

Reacting angrily to said situation would have been inflammatory all around and made the situation worse. I am slowly learning to not fight every provocation and that in doing so, is not weak but actually the opposite.

That said I did lose my patience on a work call recently and swore at someone for being rude. I was correct to do so in this instance. The result was an apology.

The next layer of this is I guess understanding that others may react in anger or whatever negative emotion yet you can make allowances for them and show understanding and empathy. They are not wrong, they just do things differently and may be in a totally different headspace.

It seems that some of the inspirational quotes that appear on your social media timeline are not bullshit. Inner peace is something truly worth focusing on, IF you need to.

Anyway enough of my virtue signaling zen nonsense for now …

Yesterday was a big day for me. I introduced someone who is very important to me to some of my close family, who are also very important to me too.

My nerves and anxiety prior were natural yet not justified. It was a beautiful occasion and I am so grateful to all for being themselves and making it such a lovely thing. It was all fine and very reassuring, although reassurance was not required.

My daughters response afterwards bought a tear to my eye. Her genuine happiness in seeing me happy is something that I will cherish forever.

It is like lifes jigsaw puzzle is becoming clearer.

I have some big stresses in my life at the moment, yet the people that I choose to talk to instill so much calm in me. A few words in a text message or call can sometimes be enough to create a smile or remind you what is truly important.

The beautiful thing is that said people are mostly oblivious to what they do for me. I hope that I do the same for them sometimes.

A lovely tribute

So we met at the crematorium and paid our respects to a legend that the world is worse off without.

Soon after we gathered in a near by pub. Lots of photos showed and stories shared. One thing is for sure, John was very much loved. He touched the heart and souls of those that knew him best.

I would give so much to be able to give him a hug right now. Hopefully the love shared today will reach him in some way. I know he was not one for sentinel nonsense, however he would be so honoured to have seen the love and respect that he received today. He bought together people that had not seen each other for a long time and that in it’s self is a lovely thing.

Pat, John’s Mum, paid for the first round and TW gave a beautiful speech that had me fighting back the tears (which I saved for when I was I at home).

I sat with Hannah, John’s niece, who was 4 years old, when John passed, and talked her through many photos and stories and she laughed with so much joy in her heart. An uncle she never really had. However , she clearly had inherited John’s love of chaos and adventure.

Dave, John’s brother, was also intrigued, by some of the many stories that were shared.

It is difficult to imagine anyone who would attract so much love after being gone 20 years. John was that man. I an absolute legend in so many ways.

I have privately sobbed today. More than once. However, what an absolute privilege it was to know John and his friends. I often feel that I need to move on from the level of grief that I have. However, on reflection why the fuck should I? Grief is just love that you can no longer transmit to those that are no longer here. I am content to break down and hold my head in my hands and sob every now an again.

Hold those that matter most very close to your hearts and let them know how much they mean to you.
It is not the most masculine of things to do on traditional values, however it is about fucking time that we forgot those ridiculous stereotypes and openly showed our love.

Peace out x

30 and 20 years ago … and a rant

30 years ago today (5th December), I crashed an Austin Mini, which I had rebuilt from the chassis up, into a telegraph pole.

I spent all summer welding, repairing, engine refurbishment, modifying, painting etc. Then, on route to my first official date, with a girl I would marry and have 3 wonderful children, I skidded on black ice, losing control, although I thought I had saved it, hit the kerb, went airborne and bang.

I recall a friend at the time, the passenger, shouting me. I looked up through a seemingly crystal clear windscreen. The iced up windscreen seconds before was no longer intact. My head had gone through it. Blood covered my left eye. I panicked thinking it would catch fire as I couldn’t get out.

The passenger was incredibly lucky that he got thrown clear. His legs would’ve been crushed if not. The passenger side door pillar now residing where the gear stick was.

I remember kicking at the door, swearing. Then I was in the ambulance. No other memory.

A passerby who was going to the pub we were meeting in saw my car. The rumours spread that I was dead. After getting stitched up at A&E and getting home, John arrived (escorting my date and her friend to my house – he was a gentleman). First thing he did was rustle my hair. A cherished sign of physical tenderness. I yelped, I had numerous cuts from the windscreen beneath my ridiculous Manchester style mop top.

Next week it will be 20 years since John passed away. We, a few close friends, are marking the occasion. Gonna be a tough day, but looking forward to seeing my friends. Been way too long.

20 years is a long time. Time heals, however I am still troubled by John’s passing. Firstly, I did not give him the support that I should have. I was living away and had started a family. It is a shit excuse. I should have made more time. I have beaten myself up for leaving such a troubled young man to fight his issues without the support that he needed. It was cowardly of me.

Secondly, he died a tragic death. Jumping in front of a HGV, surviving short term on life support. That is a truly horrendous way to depart the planet, where he felt he could no longer exist. What were his inner most thoughts? He was a tortured soul. Was he seeking peace or angry at his situation.

We cannot change the past. We can only move forward and learn the hard lessons that will hopefully shape us and make us better people.

Society conspires against us being better however.

We (generalising) strive for material wealth. Show our success, our blessed life, on social media to massage our egos. Utter bollocks.

People are dying crossing the channel for a better life and some people see this as an invasion. Vile bastards trying to stop the RNLI from rescuing them. Open our arms and welcome these poor folk who have seen more tragedy than we hopefully ever will.

People sleeping on the streets whilst we worry we won’t get the nicest food in Tesco for our Christmas dinner, which we will scrape a significant proportion into the bin.

People are taking their last breath because others are bored of covid and convinced that a vaccine is there to steal their liberty. Boys died in the trenches to give them the freedom they enjoy now.

Lots of people idolise celebrities. Some who have done nothing besides being gifted a ‘perfect body’ (defined by media) and managed to get a place on a reality TV show.

People’s bodies should not adhere to some bullshit stereotype. Beautiful bodies include those that have endured child birth, cancer … Scars of lived experiences, sacrifices, heroic or traumatic events etc.

We should idolise the people that save/change lives, firemen, medical/care staff, compassionate leaders. Not egotistical attention seekers

Life is an odds game. The lottery of birth being the first hand you are dealt. How you look, your chances of a good education, a healthy and safe upbringing.

What the hell has this got to do with John? He understood the world and had lots of compassion. He didn’t worship celebrity … Recalling when we saw Robbie Williams in a local night club and John casually spat beer towards him as said wannabe pop star was seeking the attention for an ego boost. It sounds horrible of John in hindsight. It really wasn’t. 😁

John rarely wasted his time in front of the TV. He wanted to be out, doing stuff.

I am not pretending that I am some kind of saint. Christ no. I am however saying I have, like many others, got so much room for improvement. Navigating this capitalist centric world is tough. Mental health, providing, the need to be perceived as doing well etc.

We measure ‘doing well’ on mostly material things … House, cars etc. On that scale I am far from doing well, although my salary/job title would perhaps say otherwise. We should be measuring doing well on our ability to make a difference and our happiness levels.

On that note, my grand daughter is visiting for the first time this morning and I have lots to do (my house not been remotely suitable for visitors. One room is almost habitable… Almost and I have 2 hours!!!) These are the moments I must and will cherish.

I promise I will cover bike related shenanigans soon!!

Europe part 2

We meandered through eastern Europe, if memory serves, next stop was Bucharest.

We found a small holiday park with cheap apartments which had a swimming pool. We got food on the site and had a few beers.

I remember having a tantrum over something and grabbed the train timetable book and said to John and TW that I would go the rest of the way (When I say ‘way’, we had no route planned at all) on my own. After about 5 minutes of swearing at each other we resolved our differences and drank more beer.

What are 3 boys supposed to do there after? A swim in the darkness and skinny dipping obviously. The locals thought we were all a bit mad. Yup, they were not wrong.

After that we headed for Sofia. Arriving at the station I was desperate for a sit down on the toilet. I barged through crowds of locals asking for dollars/pounds to exchange on the black market, to find the toilets. Stand-up style toilets with saloon doors … great. I had just started squatting and some local stuck his head over the top of the doors, “Dollars?”. I am usually very polite, however I was really looking forward to my much needed poo in peace and so replied with a simple, “Fuck off, I am trying to shit!!”. My face may have looked angry given the rear end struggle and he left.

I don’t recall much about Sofia, eastern Europe all merged into one for me. Beautiful buildings, people struggling to earn a crust and the most natural looking females. No make-up, no bling, just an air of coolness and style.

From Sofia, we headed to Istanbul. My god!! I felt like Indiana Jones. It was amazing. Mosques lined the sky line. We found somewhere to sleep and headed off exploring. We went into one mosque and took off our trainers at the door, being totally respectful. Seconds later I spun on my heals as some kids were attempting to steal my adidas running shoes. They dropped them and ran.

We decided to get a ferry to Bandirma and then a coach to Cesme, a local holiday resort. We found some cheap accommodation and dropped our rucksacks. A short walk into the town, some food and bottle of Raki. As we wondered the streets and harbour drinking neat raki from the bottle (I remain this classy even today), the locals were advising us to drink the raki with water. We knew best obviously. Once that was gone we found a bar on the beach, drank some more and danced on the sand. I imagine that Club Tropicana was a similar experience.

On leaving we figured that going over a large hill/small mountain between us and the hotel was shorter route than walking around it. Up and over we went. Blind drunk, we met a guy with donkey and TW asked him for directions. John and I laughed and carried on.

TW hit the hay and John and I took my tape player and got on to the flat roof of the hotel. Looking at the stars, listening to the Doors I would imagine, we passed out. I woke with a jump. My legs were over the edge of the roof and a fall far enough to do some very serious damage was below. I sobered up fast, woke John and we got back to the room. The hangover the following day was crucifying. The locals smiling at as if to say, “we knew best!!”

We got back to Istanbul. I was here that I called home to find out my A-levels results. Not bad for 2 years of having a good time and winging it.

We then headed across the Greek coast to Thessaloniki. I had some serious bowel issues by this stage. White, cold sweats, red hot sun, carrying a very heavy rucksack and diarrhoea. Stand-up style toilets and a jug of water as the flush was not a great experience. Death seemed unlikely, however I was not in good shape. I had to last what seemed like hours on a bus to a coastal resort without letting my bum cheeks relax. I made it.

We camped (the only time used the tent that we carried around for a month) on a site a few strides away from a glorious beach and spent about 4 days chilling, we needed it. We got healthy sun tans, swam in the sea and enjoyed the views. Although I have no idea where my photographs are, I recall one of John, sat on the sand in his shorts, with his scrotum hanging out, blissfully unaware.

I decided to try my hand at windsurfing and water-skiing. The latter was hard, however because my Dad used to water-ski I thought it would be much easier … wrong. The former took me a while to get going, but once I got the sail in the right place I was making good progress. After a few minutes I turned to see where I was. Oh shit!!! I could not even work out which beach I had come from I was that far out. I dropped the sail and sat on the board.

About 5 minutes later the windsurfing guy and a young lad came out on a pedalo. I jumped on the pedalo and the young lad effortlessly took the windsurfer back to the shore. I have never attempted to try that again. John and TW thought it was hilarious, obviously. I had watched Jaws as a youngster and knew I was probably minutes from being eaten.

We ventured back through Yugoslavia and got robbed again on the train by some Italians who, with the help of a some Scandinavians, we tried to apprehend them. We were chasing them down the train when the emergency brakes were deployed and they jumped off the train and legged it.

Next stop the Alps!!! We stopped in Geneva, spent our entire daily budget buying a sandwich and a can of coke for lunch. We did not hang around. As beautiful and as important as Geneva is internationally, it was not within our price range. Chamonix the next target.

We decided that we would get a small train part way up Mont Blanc. We got off the train and walked further, until reaching the base camp at early evening. It was full of bearded men in Berghaus jackets, who looked at us as if we were not worthy. Trainers, shorts and t-shirt might not be ideal for climbing Europe’s highest mountain, however it was a last minute decision, so cut us some slack guys. We asked if they had any beds and they didn’t. We skipped back down the mountain a little and found a goat hut. It was shelter to some extent.

It was terribly cold, however John and I had big bulky 3-4 season sleeping bags and TW had his thin green rectangular sleeping bag which he claimed had been designed by NASA and reminded John and I often as we stuffed our bulky sleeping bags away every morning. I awoke to the sound of TW shuffling around. I looked up from my warm sleeping bag and saw TW rummaging around putting on every item of clothing that he could, he was freezing. I laughed a lot!!!

We got to Calais and slept in a park if I recall. We had no clean clothes and looked a bit road worn. We thought we deserved a treat. Finding a swanky restaurant we went inside. The waiters tried their best to ignore us. Rudely so in fact. John hated snobbery with a passion. He got out a load of notes from his bag and waved them in the air and sure enough a waiter came running over, only to be told, “You can fuck off, we are going where we feel welcome”, or words to that effect.

We headed back to England, into my home town of stoke and went straight to the pub (before going home). Had a good night out and a certain AW, brother of TW, got his manhood out in a chip shop. He was drunk and had clearly missed me more than I had appreciated.

Life was never quite the same after that summer. Travelling, sleeping rough, living life.

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.