Monday, 28 April 2014


I was thinking the other day how European travel gives endless opportunities to revel in the smutty humour that we English love so much; in Holland for example,every day I pop down to the local village coffee shop for lunch, I have to walk through a small alleyway that has a large sign above -"Winkelpassage" - I can't believe that I still snigger every day.

This past weekend me and LF were in Hannover, Germany, as the taxi drove past the first road sign that said "Ausfahrt" I started giggling, this carried on the more signs I saw. Not forgetting the endless opportunity to start singing in a monotone voice " Bahn Bahn Bahn , on zee Auotobahn".
Authentic Japanese tea house (donated by city of Hiroshima) in Hannover gardens

Then there is the opportunity to confirm the racial stereotypes we have in our (my) head ( by the way I'm old enough to remember pre-PC days when you could say what you thought without fear of being prosecuted) ; I remember fondly the 'Costa wars' of the 1970's fought out at every Spanish hotel where German and English holidaymakers were staying - every morning at 5am the Germans would go down to the swimming pool and 'reserve' all the sun-loungers by placing towels on them,then return to bed.

A couple of hours later would see groups of Brits wandering around cursing as there was nowhere to sit, this would then escalate as the Germans finally turned up at 11am after leisurely breakfast to claim their places. I remember things escalating, voices raised, towels floating in the pool, "" expressions. Oh the fun.

Anyway, this weekend we were at a conference, and sure enough, Saturday morning when we entered the hall just before the start, here were hundreds of empty chairs, all with a little piece of paper placed on them with a hand-written 'reserved' sign. Oh how I laughed at the memory!

German Hi-speed train not going very fast - stopped again somewhere

Oh and by the way, I discovered that German trains don't always run on time, another urban myth exploded. On the positive side, there is nothing finer than relaxing in the town square on a warm spring evening watching leggy blondes weaving their bicycles through traffic, thin summer skirts blowing in the breeze.....

Anyway, this blog is supposed to be about motorcycles, so an update.... as Troubador foresaw, when I turned up at my local Triumph dealer they fell over themselves to give me a test ride on a Tiger 800. I did ride one last year and thought it was OK, if not exciting, but time and my dicky hip now makes it a
more attractive proposition, especially the taller XC version. The dealer also made me a fairly derisory offer for the Thunderbird, but I might just take him up on it to take away the hassle of selling it online. Hopefully, the next post should have some positive news.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Failed motorcycling in the Netherlands

So Stefan the taxi driver mentioned that he wanted to sell his wife’s motorbike, would I be interested?  He said it was cheap, so I said I’d take a look; he turned up one night unannounced with this goofy-looking bike, like a midget Harley that had been squashed. Anyway, I took it for a short ride but it felt quite strange, besides, it had a single seat with embroidered flames shooting out the rear, which Nikos will tell you is just not desirable.

Not the actual bike - but still goofy
This did, however, prompt me to look for a better bike, after a bit of looking around I found this great little bike shop out in the sticks, run by a father & son they had kept every bike their family had, plus accumulated an extensive collection of bikes, all for sale. Amongst them was a really nice Suzuki GSX1400, a bike I had lusted over for several years but never found a nice one. A little negotiation and the deal was done, it took a couple of days to arrange the bank transfer in Euros, but last Tuesday I turned up at the shop, complete with new kit, to pick it up. All we had to do was to register it, which was (allegedly) a five minute job, I had of course forgotten about the Dutch love for bureaucracy; in the UK we fill-out a form and send it off, here I had to go to the vehicle licensing board and produce a whole raft of documentation to prove that I live in Holland – documentation that I did not have. I then went to the town hall to get a resident certificate, but when they told me all the papers I would need, I just gave up. We talked it over, but with no other option they agreed to refund the money and I went away dejected.

Not the actual bike, but the same colour

This was the final spur I needed to bring the Triumph over to Holland, so last weekend I cleaned and checked the bike over, packed some stuff in the panniers and set off to ride down to Folkestone to catch the Eurotunnel train through to France, then up through Belgium into Holland. After 30 or so miles, my right hip seized up. I stopped to stretch, got back on, another couple of miles and agony set in. Another stop and the realisation set in that I wasn’t going to make it – damn you old age! I turned around and drove slowly home, no tears but a great depression, what if I have to give up riding? Happily, with a couple of days to reflect I’ve decided the solution may just be to find a bike that’s taller and more comfortable for me, so the Triumph’s up for sale on e-bay and the search is on for a good used BMW GS. Fingers crossed!