Category Archives: Introspection

End of Empire State of Mind

Border crossingAdventureDog and I are on the move. We are migrating to Scotland, where the best roads are.

I try and keep out of politics on this blog but bad things are happening in the world. When I ride, I know that I ride as part of an international bikerhood, a family where no-one is judged on their religion, their sexuality or their country of origin. (Though we might judge you for your Power Ranger outfit, your inability to corner or your love of handlebar tassels. This is done out of love and affection and to tease you into acknowledging the error of your ways.)

I have chosen to live in a country that values its international outlook and its friends in other nations. And by happy coincidence, one which has fine whisky, music and rugby players. We move in two days time.

I’m sad to leave my house in England and the friends I have made here. It feels like the last 6 months have seen so many positive changes and new opportunities and I’m leaving before they really take root and thrive.

But I learnt a long time ago that state of mind is selective*.  I choose that all of the positivity and growth I have been blessed with will come with me to this new life.

This post is part of the February 2017 Brave, Bold Beautiful Blogger Challenge by desert-campingToadmama. Find out more here: Brave, Bold, Blogger Challenge.  I really enjoyed #29in29 and know that I need a kick up the arse to start posting again.

 

 

*Annoyingly I can no longer link you to the post, because the Telegraph has taken it down. But it was good. A great post, with all the best words.

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There are days I think I have a normal life…

ipad and then I plugged my iPad in to the desktop at work to download a couple of interviews. Judging by my pics, my life is 15 per cent work, 19 per cent dog care, 42 per cent engine fettling, with a side order of knitting wombs and going to see Lee Mead.

At least it’s balanced and diverse!

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Paying the price

And here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get out of
Going through all these things twice

Halfway through Season 4 of Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw faces a moment of terrible realisation.

Bad romantic choices mean she has to buy back her previously rent-controlled apartment.

She can’t get a loan. She doesn’t have any savings.

But she has spent $40,000 on shoes.

People who don’t wear tutus or oddly large corsages are supposed to suck their teeth and disapprove at this point, I believe.

I’ve taken a new job in a different city, and in order to afford it I need to sell my house and buy a new one without a mortgage.

If I hadn’t spent £300 a month for 18 months travelling to Scotland in an attempt to sustain a long distance relationship,

And if I hadn’t spent £3,000 on two clapped out cars to make it OK that he never got round to fixing my 2CV,

If I hadn’t had to spend another £300 having my bike brought home when it all went tits up,

I’d have enough in the bank to cover my mortgage payments for a year. And a  bit to cover legal fees and moving fees.

As it is, I’m now facing the stress of desperately needing to sell my house before I start my new life, and knowing that I now won’t be able to afford any of the houses in the “naice” part of town.

Somewhere in all this I’m sure there’s a life lesson.  At least Carrie had some lovely Manolos to show for her spending.

 

 

 

 

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Please tweet responsibly

 

Image

 

So I and the proprietor of the Northern Rest Home for Distressed Machinery are no more.

It turns out that you can’t express frustration with your relationship to 2,000 of your closest friends and followers on twitter without one of them showing it to him. What on earth is the world coming to!

After the ending of a relationship comes the terribly sad “getting your stuff back” period. I believe that for normal people, this usually covers CDs (though perhaps not any more, in this new world of downloads and Netflix), underpants and toothbrushes.

As my friend said, “only you could leave a motorbike at a bloke’s house.”

But she came home on April 1, bag and baggage, bringing a satnav cable, a drift for fitting fork seals, and a spare eyeliner.

Somewhere up north there is a rather nice Primus flask which has not made it home, because it wasn’t in the drawer that was mine to use. I will treat myself to a new one, for the new start.

I am glad the Triumph is home. i have sold 2Moos to Nikos, and so for all of last week I had no means of getting to work.

That is a boring reason to be glad she is home.

The real reason is that this is The Bike, and she is special to me. I chose her and bought her from new, once upon a time, a long time ago when I lived in a different city and had a different surname.

I bought the GS because my IAM Observer told me the Triumph was not the right bike for me, and I was foolish and believed him. Ruby and I had a lot of adventures but she is gone now. I bought the Africa Twin because I wanted to ride round the world, and because the person that rode it was a very talented rider and I thought it might rub off. I bought the Triumph because I thought she was the most beautiful bike in the world. I still do.

When my marriage ended these lines from TS Eliot were on my mind, because they caught the banality and the pain of the process.

“This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.”

Although I am sad to be single again, this time I am not broken. The return of The Bike is the beginning of a new cycle, and once again Eliot has it, perfectly:

 

“We shall not cease from exploration,
and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.”

 

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I must go down to the woods again

Einstein may have said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. The internet seems fairly clear on the attribution, but the internet also thinks that it was Marco Simoncelli who said “you live more in five minutes on a bike like this than some people do in a lifetime” when I’m pretty sure that was Burt Munro, or at least, Antony Hopkins as Burt Munro in The World’s Fastest Indian.

I am on holiday. Holidays are for having fun and trying new things, so I have booked two days of off-road training with the very lovely Jim Bryant of Enhanced Riding.

Readers with long memories will recall that 4 years ago I booked two days of off-road training with the BMW Off-Road Experience.

I didn’t enjoy that terribly much.

I hoped this time would be different.

I want to take part in the VINCE next year, riding the trails in the Spanish mountains. I want to go on  social rides with my local TRF branch, who organise regular outings as far afield as Devon and the Peak District.

Group training gets away from me very quickly – my learning curve is more of a flat line – so I thought that learning on my own would get me started and soon I would be trundling round the dirt with grace and power.

But of course, that was bonkers.

“Why are you so hard on yourself?” asked Jim.

Because ten-year olds can do this. To get used to the bike, Jim asked me to make a big figure of eight – left round a tree, down a gentle slope, right round another tree, back to the first tree and repeat. Four hours later I’m still trying to manage the left turn. On day 2 I could do it sitting down but couldn’t persuade myself to stand on the pegs, which is also bonkers because I was quite happy last week standing up on the lanes behind my house. We never got onto riding up and down slopes or bumping over obstacles.

I hate myself on days like this. It is, I think, a mental block. People talk about having a mental block when they can’t think of a name, or find their keys. This is something different, a huge, visceral, and absolute refusal.

Turn the bars and look where you want to go.

No.

Stand on the pegs so we can do this properly.

No.

Try.

No.

It is my mind, it belongs to me, and yet it will not do what I want it to do.

This is disappointing.

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“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

I am at home “under the doctor” after coming down with a chest infection. I blame being coughed on by a small child but it might also just be the inevitable consequence of trying to do everything.

Since I have no energy to ride, I have been doing a little time travel instead. Like @HerLifeStory, I am an enthusiastic diary-keeper. When they’re full, I chuck them in a box, and very rarely open it.

Many people tell me the past should be left in peace. Like dogs, we should kick over the shit and move on. But I think that, maybe, if I could retrace my steps, I could avoid the detour through the woods which ends in the guts of the bad wolf awaiting rescue from the woodcutter. As a good feminist, I believe that I must stand on my own two feet, and then the involvement of a man who is good with a chopper can only be a bonus.

So I look back, to the days when I was taking on the world and having a brilliant time. And some things at least haven’t changed. On New Year’s Day 1987 I was working out how many shifts at £7.70 for 10 hours it would take before I could afford a bike.

“In two years it might get me a second-hand one. And if I get one I’m off. There’s loads I want to see. The Orkneys. Hadrian’s Wall. Bath. Stonehenge. York, London. Cornwall, Glastonbury, Silverstone, Herstmonceux, Nottingham. 
Paris. Venice, Corsica, Greece. The Parthenon. Crete, Ypres, Romania, Red Square, The Steppes, Denmark, Iceland, The Orient Express. 
Houston, NASA, Brazil, Kenya, Egypt, the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Great Wall of China.
Singapore. Tokyo. The Grand Canyon.
Australia.”

When I did get 700 quid together I bought a car. So there’s one step down the wrong path! But I have my bikes now, and when I look at that (incredibly random) list, I’ve already covered a third of it. Some on a bike, some on the train, some in a Ford Capri and one on a yacht.

Though I’m really not sure why I wanted to go to Kenya, or Singapore. Maybe I need to go and look, then I might remember.

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If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

I have been gardening. Gardening is difficult territory for me. I used to love it and be good at it. Then I moved from a house to a flat and gave my tools to my sister, who had a house with a garden. When, after some bad life choices, I moved back into a house with only my clothes, (most of which I was too fat to fit into), my books and an armchair, she did not return the favour. I know that gifts are not given with bungee cords attached, but I felt let down nonetheless.

The bad life choice also loved gardening but he was very bad at it. He believed that if you wanted to transplant seedlings, you could pull them all up and leave them to dry in the sun while you wandered off and did something else, before putting them back into the good earth. He wondered why nothing grew in our garden. Any attempt by me to explain how things could be done differently was just proof that women were uppity creatures who should know their place. It took me far too long to realise that my place was without him.

I have been in my own house for nearly three years. Because of those bad life choices I have not been financially able to go to a garden centre and re-equip myself. So, slowly over this time I have accumulated garden tools from Emmaus. You do not walk into Emmaus with a shopping list. You go and see what treasures are there on any given Saturday.

My new, old tools are substantial, and rusty, and cost less than a fiver each. I now have a hoe, a rake, a spade, a shovel and a hefty fork. The weeds know their time is short.

I like their continuity. Some days I think it would be lovely to have been able to go out with a shopping list and a trolley, and come back and fill my shed with New. But, when I venture with fear into the garden to dig up the weeds, I like that my tools were held in someone else’s hand first.

Gardening is important to me, though you would not believe it if you looked over the fence. I am not used to freedom. I am good at digging up what should not be there, but the idea that I can positively choose what to grow in what space is, on some days, terrifying. Putting plants in the ground is going to be my first step towards making my own choices.

In her memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, Jeanette Winterson writes about her recovery from a suicide attempt.

“What made it possible was the sanity of the book in the mornings and the steadiness of gardening in the spring and summer evenings. Planting cabbages and beans is good for you. Creative work is good for you.”

I am not writing the book yet. That will come.

But this is a post about gardening lurking in what is supposed to be a blog about motorcycling. So I will add that for the first time since passing my test, I rode this week in jeans and jacket bought off-the-peg from the women’s half of the room. (Actually, I didn’t buy the jacket. It has been donated for an adventure yet to come.) The right tools for the job make life more comfortable.

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I have everything I need

I’m not generally a fan of moving with the times. A glance in my garage should make this rather clear. So when it comes to psalms I prefer the rolling complexity of the King’s English than the simple language of the Good News Version.

Except for Psalm 23. “I shall not want” sounds like things will be better in some uncertain future. Or a statement of determined self-denial.

As I drive my car round this UK through this snow-bound hell that is supposed to be spring, I take stock of the equipment I have loaded into the boot. I have warm clothes. I have jump leads. I have coffee. I have in-car-entertainment, though it goes into fits of randomly pausing the CD to provide moments of reflection. I have warm feet, gloves to wear and a Scottish Rugby beanie to keep my brains in my head. I have a shovel in the boot. I have a dent on the bonnet, but that is a different story.

I have everything i need. Right here, right now.

This is a good place to be. Although the car looks like it is about to be baked with a salt crust.

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Give it up for Lent!

I have, of late, lost all my mirth. So I am going to go on a quest for it this Lent. Lent starts tomorrow with pancakes, which are undoubtedly a Good Thing, and ends at Easter with the Annual Rally Start Event, which is also a good thing, though where it will be remains a mystery at present, and participating will require me to buy at least two new batteries.

In between there are 40 days, in which it is traditional to give things up. The Pope has already shown the way by giving up being Pope, which seems to be taking things a little far.

I think I have already given enough things up. I am going to try taking things up instead. I would like to do things that make me happy, but apart from eating pancakes and riding motorcycles I am not sure what those things might be any more.

So I am going to devote Lent to trying things to see if I enjoy them. There are constraints on this quest. Things can’t be expensive, illegal or life-threatening. But I think that still leaves scope.

If you’d like to nominate something for me to try, you would be very welcome.

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Awful news

For the second time in my life I have logged into Facebook and discovered that someone I like and admire very much has unexpectedly died.

Few details are available but it is reported that Kevin Ash has lost his life on a BMW launch in South Africa.

I would not presume to say that Kevin was a friend of mine but when I was still a Telegraph blogger he took the time to chat with me about writing about motorcycling, which made me feel immensely valued.

After my Telegraph role came to an end we exchanged occasional jokes on Facebook and Twitter. I suppose that doesn’t sound like much, but it made me feel like “one of the gang”, like a real motorcycle writer. It would have been very easy for Kevin to look down on me – I’m really just a blogger who gets occasional freelance commissions – but he was kind and generous. The world is a poorer place without him in it.

  • The photo is from Kevin’s Facebook account. I hope he will forgive the breach of copyright.

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