Monday, 3 December 2018

I opened the Christmas crackers early this year .....

A man walks into a chemist's and says "Can I have a bar of soap, please?"
The chemist asks "do you want it scented?"
The man says " No, I'll take it with me, thanks"

The police arrested two kids down our street yesterday.
One was drinking battery acid, the other was eating fireworks.
They charged one, and let the other off.


Wednesday, 21 November 2018

The Best and Worst of the Birmingham Bike show

Just my luck, I thought a mid-week trip up to Birmingham to see all the new bikes - including that Triumph Scrambler I've been lusting about - would be nice and easy, no traffic. Hah! Torrential rain and sheer bad driving saw the M25 closed due to accidents, and my 2 hr journey turned to 5 hours. I'll be honest, I was in a foul mood, then had to pay £30 to get in - no senior discount. But then I saw this little yellow Vespa and just had to cheer up!

Back in the day - feet turned out a must.

After a little look around I headed over to the Triumph stand, full of anticipation, ready to sit on that new scrambler and ask questions before ordering one. I was slightly underwhelmed to see the bike in the metal, the paint schemes were a bit boring and to be honest, it looks a bit of a big old lump. However, not to be dissuaded, I spent time looking around it and asked the Triumph salesman all about it - and he wasn't the slightest bit interested in talking to me.

Looking bored
So I wandered off and spent time looking at the rest of the show - but feeling a bit disappointed.

No idea what this was!

Moody lighting - to disguise the boredom?
 Then I came across the CCM stand, and those little bikes look good! Hand-built in Bolton, Lancashire, fitted with a little 600cc single made by Husqvarna, they were just so nicely put together.
CCM Spitfire

Cafe racer

Now thats what I call a fairing - two girls behind it having a chat

New Indian 1200 Flat Tracker

Weird styling from long ago
 After wandering around a bit more I found myself back at the CCM stand looking at their bobber. Now I like the idea of the bobber, having a great interest in old Americana, but the reality is that a giraffe-like Englishman just doesn't fit on one. But I sat on it anyway, and it was comfortable (ish).
CCM Bobber
 Then I met Reggie, a lovely little Lancastrian who works for CCM assembling bikes. We chatted for quite some time, and he showed me all over the bike, we discussed every detail. I got so enthused by his obvious love for the bikes and the company that I put a deposit on a bobber!!

So now I am in a bit of a quandary; the sensible part of me says cancel the order, either stick with the Tiger or get that new scrambler (even though the salesman was a twat). But the romantic in me says get the bobber, open-face helmet & zip around looking .... well, probably like a giraffe on a moped!

What do you think Sonja? You usually have the best advice for me.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

A postcard from Kazakhstan

So....Kazakstan. A big empty place. I believe the original inhabitants were nomads, travelling and living in Yurts. Then, fairly recently, oil was discovered in the Caspian sea. Now the country is coming into the 21st century..but slowly. As I found on my train journey down to Tengiz, the oil camp on the south-east shores of the Caspian sea, there's a whole lot of empty space.

View from a train - unchanging for 4 hours!

 When I got to the camp, there's also a lot of nothing, a desert with pipelines and refinery plonked in the middle of it.

Pipes sand and flowers!

Home sweet home ?
 The accommodation is pretty basic, but then we work 12 hour days, 7 days a week so there's not exactly a lot of free time.
Luxurious - no!!

 Any free time I got I spent playing with the local wildlife!

After a month in the camp I swore I wouldn't go back, but after a 4 week break I got asked to go back but stay in Atyrau, a city on the north bank of the sea. A lot more decent than the camp, I'm staying in a proper hotel this time and doing normal office work, so I can handle that for 4 weeks.

Renaissance hotel with mosque behind
 I actually get Sundays off, so make a point of getting some exercise by walking along the river bank. That's the Ural river, which (allegedly) marks the change from Europe to Asia - I have to say it all looks pretty much the same! There are the new prestige buildings built by the oil companies sitting alongside new 5 star hotels, just along from some pretty basic dwellings for the locals.

Europe on left bank, Asia to the right.

 As you can see, I've been lucky with the weather, its drifting through autumn now so the temperature is reasonable. They actually get extreme weather here, ranging from 35 degC (95F) in summer, to minus 35 degC (minus 31F) in winter, when this river freezes over two feet thick ice and the locals drive their cars along it!!
 My experience here has been reasonable, helped by living in comfort this time. I'm pretty sure the locals would be happy if we foreigners weren't here, but then that's the same in every oil town I've worked in - Aberdeen in Scotland being the worst!!!
Europe, allegedly

proud to be an oil town
 So only another 10 days and I'll be home to London. Then its a quick trip up to Hanover, Germany for a weeks' treatment, then home to start packing and organising my next trip. I've decided to blow half the money I've earned here on a nice long adventure to central America - the other half of the money is reserved for that new bike I promised myself! Happy days!

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Ooh all excited! New Triumph Scrabler 1200 announced

Unfortunately I couldn't go to the preview at London's Excel centre as I've succumbed to greed and come back out to Kazakstan for another month - but this time I am definitely going to get a new bike when I get home, and I think this is it! Pictures off the internet today.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

The Kop Hill climb, 108 years and still going strong

Early Sunday morning I wheeled the Tiger out of the garage for our first decent ride since I got back from Kazhakstan. A quick blast around the M25 motorway devoid of traffic, a stop for petrol and breakfast, within 2 hours I was riding around the picturesque Oxfordshire contry lanes heading for the Kop Hill climb.

The first year a race was held up the Kop Hill in pretty Princes Risborough was 1910, motorcycles only. The following year, cars joined in. The course record for a car was set by Count Zborowski in his 8-cylinder Bailot, climbing the narrow winding hill course in 26.8 seconds. Then in 1925, Freddie Dixon rode his highly-tuned Douglas motorcycle at 81mph from a standing start to smash the record. Unfortunately, at that same meeting, a spectator refused to move off the course and was hit & broke his leg. This resulted in the RAC removing the racing licence from the Hill Climb.

Nowdays the cars and bikes still run up the hill each year, but as a 'parade', no racing allowed. Mind you, this is the second time I've attended the event, and some of the participants definitely give it their all!

There is an excellent and eclectic mix of old & newer bikes, along with every make and model of old car you can imagine, with a few new supercars thrown in. Mix in with food and drink stalls, a fairground for the kids, and some car clubs & car manufacturers stands, and its a great day out for the mechanical enthusiast. I spent the whole day there, and just standing on the start line watching and listening to the mechanical mayhem as the cars and bikes blasted off the line (well, some of them!) brought a massive smile to my face!

Day over, I weaved back through the traffic on the now crowded motorway to get back home, feet up and read the Sunday paper. If only every day could be this good !! I'll post some photos below to give you an idea of the eclectic mix of vehicles there.