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.

Spain on the brain …

After coming to the end of long stressful hours for a significant period at work and needing to take unused holiday my fabulous wife says “why don’t you nip off on your bike somewhere?”

I thought that a week’s camping in say Ireland on my 20yr old CBR 600 f4 would be great. However the weather forecast looked very wet for the foreseeable. Hmmm Italy, cheap flight, hire a bike … ? Or take my bike through France to Spain …

So, it needed a back tyre, the brakes were shot (discs) and it needed a top box. That’s atleast 500 quid on a bike that is worth maybe twice that.

What to do? First thing, just book the ferry!! Then I can’t bottle it. Portsmouth to Santander return (I couldn’t be arsed blasting through France just to get to Spain; France was looking wet too). I didn’t realise I had to book a cabin, thinking I could just sleep on a chair; I had already typed in all my details and pressing cancel seemed like a waste of effort. Booked.

Next morning I called in the local triumph dealership to see what second hand bikes they had. Nothing of interest really. However, one of their sales guys got chatting and what a guy. He had been all over. Recently spending 6 weeks touring New Zealand, shipping his own bike over rather than renting; A 1978 Norton Commando if memory serves.

Anyhow, he asks what I had planned. Zaragoza, via a few Pyrenees roads, Valencia, Madrid. Take a little tent. “When you going?”, “In about 2 weeks, end of Feb” I replied. “Are you mad? It’ll be fooking freezing, don’t go near the Pyrenees. Ever been to Picos? ” “Where ?” … “The roads are the best in the world and it won’t be as cold. Don’t wild camp, though, there’s Bears and Wolves” His energy flooded out and the excitement in his eyes was a beautiful thing in retrospect. “Head to Portugal …” We shook hands and he said I should go back in and tell him all about it – maybe I’ll send him the link to this blog too.

I sat at work googling away. Always fancied visiting Santiago de Contestello (I’ll leave the weeks and miles of walking until another time). That’s about as far as I got route wise. I got distracted thinking about bikes.

I thought, 3k would get me a decent bike. However, I wanted something without loads of owners, reliable and soon! So off to Macclesfield. The home of Joy Division and a massive bike showroom, and I lost control. 4 hours later and I am riding a 2018 cb650f home (it already had a top box! Only a sad middle aged man would be excited about a plastic box on his bike). Bitter sweet feelings however. I never got the opportunity to say a proper goodbye to my CBR ☹️

My new friend