Sunday, 6 March 2016

Hello again

Hi folks, just a quick update in case anyone is still there. Had a bad year last year, then got better at Dr Wolf's clinic in Hanover, Germany. Three months treatment and all seems to be well. Decided a complete change of lifestyle was in order to celebrate, so sold my flat, car, motorcycle, even my beloved B&O hifi, gave away everything else to charity.

After I paid the medical bills I had some money left, so am travelling with two suitcases and my LF. We've been in Hawaii now for 4 weeks on  a 3 months USA visa; laid on Waikiki beach, swam with green turtles and seen humpback whales close-up on Maui, now on the big island staring into the volcano (not at this minute, obviously) and bathing in hot pools. I'd like to post some photos but only have an iPad so not sure how to do that using Google blogger?

Hoping to get to the mainland sometime before the 3 months is up and ride a motorcycle - I did try to rent one here, but they don't use crash helmets (or any protective gear here); I asked the guy in the rental shop if he had a helmet I could rent, his answer was "no man, Harley guys like to feel the wind in their hair" . Duh!

Anyway, will try to post again soon, even if it's just to show you my awful taste in Hawaiin shirts! Aloha.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Kid has finally finished his Tuono cafe racer

A couple of  years ago my son told me he was going to turn his Aprilia Tuono into a cafe racer. My first reaction was 'why?', followed by 'why?'. Anyway, he had a design commissioned by a custom bike shop but decided it would cost too much money, so proceeded to strip it down in his garage to do it himself. 
Remember this photo from a couple of years ago?
 Surprisingly he managed to source a number of parts including a nice nosecone, had a guy fabricate a seat unit for him, started to put it together then decided to get a bike shop finish it off for him. It just got finished this week, so he sent over this photo. Looks nice, don't you think? I can't wait to see it in the flesh, maybe have a little race...............

Evidently that exhaust is 'fairly loud'

Thursday, 2 July 2015

A short note from Rome

I'm here in Rome for the third time in three months; after undergoing innumerable tests the hospital confirmed that my cancer has come back more aggressively, and spread to my bones and lymphatic system - which obviously wasn't what I wanted to hear! All the National Health system could offer was treatment to slow down the spread, which didn't seem like much of a treatment to me. I've spent some time researching alternative treatments, hence my visits to Rome.

On the positive side, it's warm and sunny all the time, there's every type of wheeled transport to stare at ( at least 10 million scooters, not all ridden by city gents in suits), and everyone I've met seems very friendly despite the slight language barrier, although many of them are starting to pick up English now! You can even get vegan pizza! How cool is that?

My health does seem to have deteriorated rapidly, but that may just be all the laying around in bed; whenever I do manage to go out for a walk I'm more like an octogenarian. Not to be beaten though, I've bought a motorcycle, the idea being that if I have one I'll have to get better and ride it. Nothing exciting, it's a K2 version of the Suzuki GSX1400, a little rough around the edges as befits a late night unconsidered e-bay purchase, my son has it at his place giving it a bit of a clean up (and riding it while his Aprilia is away being 'cafe-racered' - more on that Ill -conceived notion later).

So, I've got some photos of old buildings and scooters to add to the blog when I get home. Plus the boys cafe racer. Plus hopefully some good news about treatment; if not, I have another couple of possibilities to pursue before I give up and take the hospital treatment. Here's hoping my next blog post will be me out and about on my GSX! Take care!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

A biking weekend

With a whole load of health tests and scans coming up, I thought I'd prepare myself by spending a few days motorbiking; after all, it is the best way of cheering yourself up known to man. Being without a bike I'd have to hire one, so I hatched a cunning plan where me and my son would fly to southern Spain, hire bikes there and explore the beautiful Andalucian mountain roads. We flew down Thursday afternoon, a free flight courtesy of my air miles, and were picked up from Malaga airport and driven inland to Teba, where Mark runs a BMW hire business out of his villa - as we'd booked in the winter season he threw in free accommodation with the bike hire - result!

The lake at Teba from the castle
I wanted to show my son the A-397 that runs from the coast up to Ronda; Ride magazine recently recommended it as one of the best biking roads in Europe, plus I'd ridden some other great roads in the area when touring there a couple of years ago, so it was up early Friday morning, fuelled-up the bikes and we were off. Only to come to a stop just down the road as it was bloody freezing, so it was back to the villa to put on all the items of clothing we'd brought with us! Then it was off again to ride the fast sweeping deserted mountain road to Ronda - we were already in heaven, no traffic, no speed cameras, just hooligan bike riding! We had a stop in Ronda for a coffee, croissant and a pair of windstopper gloves from the local walking emporium as the Kid had only brought mesh gloves which didn't fit in with the single-figure temperatures.

Warm gloves!
Then we rode down the A-397; it was as good and exciting as I'd remembered, 20 miles of sweeping bends sprinkled with hairpins, all on a well surfaced, empty road. We stopped at the bottom, the Kid shaking with the effort (it was his first bike ride for a year, the Aprillia being stripped down for conversion to a cafe racer - but that's another story), but wearing a massive grin, as was I.

Happy bunnies - bottom of the A-397
The temperature was a bit higher down on the coast, so we rode down to Puerto Banus and parked alongside the multi-million pound yachts in the harbour, took the jackets off and had a drink in the sun.Then it was back on the bikes and a looping ride that took us back up into the mountains and back to the villa for the night. That was a tank of petrol well burnt!

Puerto Banus
Saturday dawned cloudy and damp so we decided to ride down to the coast again to warm up and hopefully keep dry, but it was not to be. No matter how fast we rode we couldn't outrun the rain clouds, the day consisted of riding till soaked, stop and dry out in a cafe, and repeat all day until we reached the small picturesque town of Tarifa, on the coast where it finally stopped raining and we were treated to a spectacular sunset view of North Africa across the straits of Gibraltar.After a massage and a nice Italian meal we slept in a little hotel right in the middle of town, only to be kept awake all night by drunken revellers. Never mind.

North Africa across the straits of Gibralter
Sunset over Tarifa
Sunday we had a fabulous, fast ride up the coast towards Cadiz, then turned inland through Medina-Sidonia, a picturesque white town where there was just the best section of road yet, freshly-tarmacked hairpin bends out of the village leading to fast, open sweeping bends all the way up to Arcos, then more of the same up to Olvera, where the road just got better until we coasted up to the villa in Teba, exhausted but delighted, another great days riding.

We'd saved the best for last, for Monday we'd planned out a route using Ride magazine's 'best roads of Andalucia' supplement, lent to us by our host Mark. Actually, it's hard to express just how fantastic the roads were. We started off riding from Teba to El Burgo which for me was the best road so far - imagine a giant boy scout tie-ing every knot imaginable in a piece of string, then that string becoming the road! The road is the MA-5400 from Serrato to El Burgo; then to add to the sheer ridiculousness of the ride, it got better the other side of El Burgo where it hugged the side of the mountain all the way up to Ronda; we then carried on to the fabulous A-372 to Grazalema which was so brilliant we turned around, went back and rode it the other way then rode back again up to Grazalema! Up there on the top of the world we could only look down the mountain in amazement, wondering what our last road would be like - Ride magazine reckoned our next road, the CA-9104 from Grazalema to Zahara was 'one of the best biking roads in the world'.
In Grazalema looking back at the A-372
As we turned off the main road and looked over the edge of the sheer drop down to the beautiful Lake Zahara that seemed literally miles below and saw this thin ribbon of concrete winding down, back on itself over and over again, I could only think " Fuck me, we're going to die!" Luckily we didn't, but it was a real buttock-clenching ride; the Kid seemed to enjoy it as he shot off on his VFR, whereas I pottered down on my Tiger like an old lady on a mobility scooter.I was just glad to get to the bottom in one piece.

What, down there?

Yep, snow-capped mountain

Glad to get to the bottom and the Lake Zahara
The anti-climax of the trip was the ride back to Teba; during the day the wind had got stronger and stronger, the last 50 kms were across a wide open landscape covered with windmills, the wind was so strong we were constantly being blown across the road so we finished riding along at 50kms/hr being overtaken by 16 wheeler trucks. Terrifying! Then we got a lift down to Malaga airport and the come-down of a flight back to cold damp England. I'm still grinning though at the memory of that last days ride. Brilliant!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Great wall and the Forbidden palace

So my work colleagues thought I was mad, planning a trip to see the Great Wall of China during the winter; however, knowing how unstable my life has become lately I thought it better to go while I could - sure enough, as soon as I got back from the trip there was a message from my doctor saying I had to return to the UK as soon as possible for some treatment. A boring 12 hour flight with BA saw me arrive back in London last night; here's some photos of last weeks trip. Apologies for the poor picture quality, Beijing was cold, misty and polluted, the sun never showed all weekend and it snowed Saturday night. Despite that I had a great time!
Section of wall

Watch tower

Knackered but happy

Frozen waterfall and lake

Out for an evening stroll and snack

Bugs on a stick - yummy

Whole birds on a stick

Plenty of choice - as long as you're not a vegetarian!

Electric scooters with added plastic fake exhausts - why?

Good runner, needs a little TLC

The Forbidden Palace

A maze of courtyards

A bit of light entertainment
Hazy view of the Palace complex with frozen moat in front

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

A day out in Shanghai

I had a day off last Sunday, so, along with some work colleagues, I visited Shanghai, the largest city in the world and home to 25 million people – most of whom seemed to be walking towards me as I made my way along the riverside towards the Yu gardens and Temple of the gods. 

The Bund

It really is the most amazing city, the ultra-modern skyscape of offices and hotels contrasting with the narrow streets of the old town. My colleagues and I dined out Saturday night in the French quarter, which wasn’t very French but full of expensive western designer shops and up-market restaurants.

Allegedly - the tallest building in the world

 While I explored on Sunday they all got drunk in one of the expensive hotels along the Bund; I have to say my preconceived notions of what communist-run China would be like have taken a big knock – this place rivals any big western city, everyone appears to be well-off, new western cars clog the streets (Audis and BMW’s the most popular), fighting with millions of electric scooters and cycles, all of which disregard any apparent rules of the road including traffic lights or any kind of common sense. It made a nice change though from the little town where the shipyard is – I managed to eat in a couple of vegan restaurants, even managed to get some fresh fruit!
They still do bustling alleyways

Temple entrance


?chinese writing

Spotted on a scooter handlebars



Monday, 1 December 2014

A brief update from China

So it's not possible to connect to the Internet via Google from China as the government evidently isn't happy for reasons I don't understand, so I've been incommunicado until today when a colleague told me about an app called 'hide my ass' which gives a false VPN address (whatever that means). So far I've only got it on my iPad so no chance of downloading pictures yet - I'm hoping another colleague may help with that, although to be honest the place I'm in is such a dump there's not many interesting photo opportunities apart from the daily fatal accidents on the road to work - I've stopped looking out of the bus window now as its too upsetting.

For reasons I don't really understand I'm now working in a shipyard on the Yangtse river opposite Shanghai in southern China. It all started when the news came through about dear bobskoot passing away; I was attending a funeral for a close relative when I read the sad news, and made an instant decision to pack up work and go home to England. Unbelievably, the day I got home my 93-year old Mother had a heart attack and was rushed to hospital; I spent the next few weeks looking after her. She's a tough old bird though, and soon recovered. I spent a lot of time thinking about my retirement and what to do with myself; it seemed like time to stop and smell the roses before it gets too late, if you know what I mean? However, reality soon set in; within a month I had to sell the Tiger to pay some bills; I also had a clear-out and sold some unwanted stuff on e-bay, but realised the only way I could make it work was to sell the flat that me and LF share, and go on the road with the proceeds. Which obviously she didn't think was a particularly great idea. Plan B was to go back to work for a while to try and save some cash, but with global oil prices dropping like a stone all new projects have been cancelled and most of my friends are sitting at home out of work. Then an old friend phoned and said he was running a job in China and was in desperate need of someone to talk to, did I fancy it? So here I am.

I may have made some worse decisions in my life, although I can't recall them; time will tell.