Monday, 26 September 2011

A tale of two quandries

The first quandry I faced yesterday - join one of the bikers' protest rides against proposed EU legislation, or go to a classic car and bike show/autojumble in deepest Essex at the picturesque village of Battlesbridge. The show won, although I did have second thoughts as I was filling up the Triumph at a petrol station on the M25 motorway when a Harley-rider came over and spoke to me about the protest ride. The thing is...I'm not convinced that riding slowly along motorways in a large group causing congestion is the way to persuade the EU not to bring in anti-biking laws. It is a perfect way to piss-off all the motorists whose goodwill I depend on when riding my bike....

Anyway, a couple of hours ride got me to Battlesbridge, and I have to say it was an excellent event. A huge field full of autojumble stalls; classic bikes, classic cars and a few hot-rods too (Essex has a large number of American car fans); hot dog stands; beer tents; fat tatooed Essex birds; a live band, my dear there was so much to see and do!

Nice cafe racer

Very impressive

One for Bobskoot

Trident looked like my Thunderbird except for the siamesed exhaust

Best of both worlds?

Love the burger-eating biker

One for Affer

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
Eventually I got jaded by it all and set off back home. Unfortunately, the Sunday afternoon car drivers were clogging up all the nice twisty roads, crawling along bumper to bumper so I ended up back on the M25 motorway which was a fairly unpleasant experience; turned off down the A1 through North London to join a grid-locked North Circular road, fought my way across west London and arrived home hot and exhausted.

The second quandry I faced today. I started my new job in central London, travelled there on the tube, had a normal sort of first day, got on the tube to come home, and it was packed. Sandwiched-in between a fat smelly bloke and a couple of  schoolkids shouting at the tops of their voices, as I looked around in desperation for a seat I spotted a couple of empty seats at the other end of the carriage. Not stopping to reflect on how this almost-impossible state of affairs could exist, I fought my way along the carriage and claimed one of the empty seats, As I sat down, triumphant, I realised that someone had thrown up on the floor. It smelt worse than the fat bloke I'd been trapped against, but...and here's the quandry...if I could put up with it I could sit all the way to my station, 25 mins journey away.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

A pleasant Sunday ride-out

Must be exciting riding on the road with that fairing

Complete with fresh oil stains

Immaculate Zed

Unusual Honda - seems to be an American model
The forecast rain didn't materialise today, so I decided to go for a little ride-out on the bike; no particular destination in mind,  I set off out of town towards Surrey. I battled the traffic and the windblast on the M4 for a short while then turned off and spent a pleasant couple of hours pootling around those leafy country lanes lined with old cottages that make you feel like you've gone back in time. Stopping for petrol I recognised the little village of Effingham as being not far from Box Hill, so that became the day's destination. Box Hill is a local beauty spot and attraction for walkers. It also boasts a big car park with a cafe selling burgers and mugs of tea, so is a popular meeting place for bikers. When I pulled in there were about 60 bikes, mostly modern sportsbikes, although there were a couple of customs, and a few old Brits. I got accosted by a couple of old geezers who were there on bonnies, so we formed an ad-hoc Triumph club and spent a pleasant half-hour chatting about bikes and life in general and that girl over there with the tight jeans.. Very pleasant. When I left I rode back via the A3 through Kingston; getting home I realised the little jaunt had lasted 4 hours and 120 miles. An excellent Sunday, although now I've got to iron a shirt for work tomorrow... I miss LF at times like this.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Another day off work...don't tell

Somewhere in a corporate office, an accountant decides that the 750 million US dollars budgeted for a new oil production platform in the North Sea won't give a good-enough return to the company shareholders for the next couple of years, so he cancels the job. Result, fifty guys in the design office where I'm working got instant dismissal last Friday. I got two weeks notice 'cos I have to write a close-out report.

I woke up Monday morning and thought "fuck it, the sun's shining, I'm not going in to work today - what're they going to do, sack me?". So I had a stroll around my neighbourhood, took a couple of photos, visited a couple of cafes and just chilled out. I wandered 'round the back entrance of the church, hadn't noticed these old weatherbeaten carvings before.

Back Entrance Local Church

 Walked over to the park and noticed the leaves were changing colour, autumn must be on it's way.

                                               The deer were getting frisky, too.

Took a photo of this weird-looking fungus in front of an ancient shattered oak tree (oh yeah, blogger now won't let me import photos rotated so you'll have to crick your neck to see this one properly. It's also banished my list of followers, and lost my profile. Could be worse...)

Down by the river in the afternoon, a small boat cruising up towards Richmond town;

I walked back up over the hill towards home and took this photo of the London skyline; thats St Pauls Cathedral to the left; London Eye in the centre and that 'wonderful' new office building in Canary wharf "the Gherkin" to the right of centre - St Pauls is 10 miles away as the crow flies.

Went back to the half-empty office today; glad I took that day off!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A weekend riding a France

A bit disappointed with last weekends aborted trip, I decided that what I really wanted to do was ride my Triumph down long straight traffic-free roads, drifting around long sweeping bends in the sunshine. A quick look at the weather forecast made me realise that wasn't going to happen anytime soon in England; a quick phone call to the helpful folks at Classic Bike Provence and I'd booked two bikes for the weekend, plus a hotel. I then booked a couple of flights to Marseille, told El D Jr. that he was going on a bike trip, polished my helmet and packed a bag.

We had an atrocious flight down with Air France (never again) and finally arrived in St Remy de Provence Friday tea-time (unfortunately our bags wouldn't arrive until Saturday). However, the sun was shining, the temperature was hovering around 34 degC and the welcoming Sarah had our bikes waiting ready to go.

Bike and Sidecar outside Classic Bike - for sale but I'm not sure what it is...Royal Enfield?

Red Ural combination inside Classic Bike
Luckily, we'd carried our helmets on the plane, so Sarah lent us a couple of lightweight jackets and we were off, cruising down the aformentioned long straight roads. We turned off the D99 and took the uphill winding road to Le Baux de Provence, an unbelievably romantic village perched on a mountaintop - the roads were definitely testing, particularly a tight left-handed hairpin that went on and on seemingly forever.

Le Baux de Provence
After an hour or so we rode back to St Remy, found our hotel, booked in and showered before going out to find somewhere to eat. St Remy was a picturesque little town, all honey-coloured stone buildings with painted shutters, blue or green or red, all faded by the sun, with romantic little cobbled streets and charming bistros. Unfortunately I'd come with 'the Kid' so we just wanted a meal and a few drinks and perhaps a little light conversation with beautiful, sophisticated French women. Well, two out of three ain't bad as Meatloaf used to say, so we wandered back to the hotel replete.

"The Kid"
Saturday morning saw us back at the bike shop - I'd originally chosen their BMW R850 as being more suitable for my lanky frame, but decided to swop it for their T100 Bonneville, nice and light for all that bend-swinging we were going to do. The ever-helpful Sarah gave us a map and outlined some routes, lent us some wet-weather gear "just in case" ( a definite case of local knowledge triumphing over tourist optimism) and we set off for....anywhere. We rode fairly aimlessly around Provence, taking any little side road that took our fancy, then when we got tired of really tight bends it was back onto the 'A' roads for some faster sweeping bends. Heaven.

The Old Man
What we did discover was that one picturesque medieval town looks much like another; Arles, Nimes, Avignon, all had that run-down, scruffy look, ancient ruins, rats running over the feet of diners at the outside cafes. Still, we fulfilled our aim of riding, pausing for coffee, riding some more,, etc, with the highlight being a cafe/betting shop in Carpentras where the Kid first encountered a typical French crapper "that's disgusting, it's just a hole in the floor..and there's no paper..and nowhere to hang on to!" I explained that's why the French invented perfume, to cover up the smell of shit on their hands and clothes and he seemed quite happy with that.

Bull Ring at Arles
Saturday night we had another great meal and some drinks in a little bar in St Remy where the Kid took a (drunken) shine to the dark-skinned waitress, I was just happy to get back to the hotel and bed as I was knackered from the amount of riding we'd done.

Cottage at the hotel
Sunday, however, was a bit of a disaster. It started with a thunderous downpour complete with lightning that woke us up, then it rained...ALL DAY. Man, I could have stayed in England for this! To make matters worse, our hotel, booked for us by Classic Bikes, was a wonderful, romantic hideway, small cottages set in grounds overshadowed by huge fig trees and other perfumed plants - with no T.V to "spoil the ambience" which would have been fine if we'd been on a dirty weekend but for The Old Man and the Kid......we ended-up compensating by over-eating and drinking with a couple of naps thrown in. It finally stopped raining around tea-time so we got the bikes out and bombed around until dark then ate even more, more drinks in the bar of the tatooed get the picture.
Hotel Cat

Monday of course was beautiful, hot and sunny and perfect for riding, the clear blue sky etc etc as we remarked as we dropped the bikes off and headed back to Marseille and another awful flight to London. All in all though, it WAS great riding, a bit of fun if pretty expensive.