Category Archives: Other

Ring out solstice bells

It is the longest night of the year. Traditionally it’s a time for reflection on the year just gone, and a time for renewal and for faith in the future.

I think it is safe to say this last year has not been a resounding success. There has been a lot of darkness. I thought I was going home, to live in the place I always wanted to live, and to do an amazing job. These things did not come true.  Now I am back where I started, precariously housed, indifferently funded (thanks, taxman) and starting again. Again.

But there has also been light.  I lived in the forest, like Granny Weatherwax. Friends came to visit, and we ate cake, drank gin and looked for woodpeckers. I met some wonderful spiritual teachers. I walked with the dog  in an ancient grove visited and decorated by the Picts. Gordon gave me a shot of his sidecar and I bought a Jawa outfit for me and for the Wingman. If I may mix and match my spiritual traditions, the light shone in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.

The darkness keeps having a bloody good try, though. Last Sunday Dog and I went out to a pre-Christmas classic car and bike meet. At 40 miles it was our longest sidecar adventure to date and we did OK, if slowly. The tea was good, the sausage baps were excellent and I had a very niche chat with another lady biker about the challenges of persuading recovery services that your obscure vehicle needs taking home, not bodging by the roadside.

It proved to be prophetic. Half an hour later, ten minutes down the road, the Jawa choked and died. 2 hours later the recovery van turned up.

Lessons I need to remember :- always pack a golf umbrella. Buy WD40.

May I judge the chap from the classic meet who, on his way home in his little roadster, pulled over to ask what was happening but carried on when I said I had a fuel problem and was waiting for the wagon? I’m sure he had Sunday roast calling him home, but a nice dry car to wait in would have been lovely. “Thanks for coming, though,” he said, as he fucked off down the road.

Apparently the Japanese recommend a practice called ‘forest bathing’ for spiritual renewal. I was certainly well-bathed by the time Marcin arrived to wrangle the rig into the van and take us home. “It nearly didn’t go in,” he told his boss on the phone. ‘It’s a good job I’m a manly man.”

But now the sun is coming back up and life is renewing, again. There is a lot to look forward to, and many new connections to make.  Blessed be.







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RIP Olga Pronina

I hadn’t heard of this Russian rider, mainly because I don’t do Instagram, until news of her death broke today.

The usual muppets are out in force, saying that bikes are death machines, that she should have thought of her daughter before taking risks, that she should have toed the line and not drawn attention to herself. That death is somehow justified if you are a beautiful woman riding a motorcycle in inappropriate clothing. Though she did team her denim cut-offs with a back protector.

But she wrote this, about riding:

“Thank you for never failing me, for making my lonely nights better, for helping me to forget troubles of my life, for training my body and my brain.

“I am grateful to it for the sparkles in my eyes, for the warm wind blowing on my cheeks when my visor is open, for unbelievable excitement and a feeling of flowing in the air, for doses of adrenaline.”

“Thank you for gifting me freedom… and I know that I am not alone. There are thousands like me, those madly in love with their metal horses.”

It is unlikely that I will pose on an ice-ready Suzuki in a bikini and a smile. But I totally relate to Olga’s words.  Biking is freedom, and excitement, and not being alone.


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Ode to the Road

At first I was afraid

I was petrified

Just thinking I’d be broken down and stranded at the roadside

But then I spent so many days

In the garage on my own

And now it’s strong

And I learned how to keep it going

And so we’re off

To Applecross

I just pulled out to hit the road with a big grin upon my face

I should have done this weeks ago

Just sat down and turned the key

If I’d have thought for just one second

How much fun it’s going to be…

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Heave, Charlie mouse

It’s a sad day when you discover that beloved childhood TV was lying to you.

Mice have moved in to the 2CV. They are cheerully munching their way through the air filter.

I was led to believe that when mice took an interest in something they fixed it. Every little bit of it. Though they may stick it with glue rather than make a permanent repair.

So was I wrong to anticipate a transformed 2CV, Greased Lightning stylee?

Apparently I was.

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Reasons to be cheerful

17015704_1869520966626435_7181847006457450365_oSo I crashed and burned on the big beautiful blogger challenge. In February I had to move out of my first digs into new digs, where I am really happy but there was a certain amount of awkwardness in carrying out the flit and it is not trivial to move four motorbikes, a pushbike and a Lomax.  Then I had to go home to finish selling my house. If I’m honest, I’m finding the new job a bit of a struggle so evenings are either spent keeping up with tasks, sleeping or weeping.  Then the back tyre on my daily commuter went flat. Then I left my phone in the office. Then Hortense simply refused to start. Given that she has trundled up and down the M6 far more times than a 1980s girl with a 600cc engine should be asked to, and mostly without complaint, a small rest cannot be begrudged to her. But it meant I missed a social weekend with friends that I was looking forward to and it also meant that when I had to take the back wheel to Cupar Motorcycles yesterday for a new tyre in the biblical downpour, we had to do it in the Lomax.

As I peered into the spray and enjoyed the bracing sting of the rain on my face, I did my best to find things to be grateful for.

  • I successfully took the wheel out of the frame so the tyre could be changed. That was good. I am grateful for the skills I have built up, and for my friend in the north who gave me a step by step guide. I’m also grateful that my new landlady hasn’t complained about me doing it in the greenhouse.
  • I still had one vehicle that worked, even though it was uncomfortable and Shakey was extremely unimpressed to be sharing his seat with an 18-inch Suzuki back wheel.
  • I live close to a good motorcycle shop. So I didn’t have to travel very far in the uncomfortable conditions.
  • I also live near a good tool shop that was open at 8am on Friday morning when I remembered that the spindle nut is an odd size and you can’t get a socket onto it because the exhaust is in the way.
  • My house sold without problems apart from a late intervention by Storm Doris flattening part of the fence.
  • I live in a warm cosy flat which is very lovely to return to when you are cold and damp!

So I’m sorry about the failure. I tried hard but didn’t succeed. Story of my life at the moment!  But I have friends who help me and the sun came out today, so there is always a bright side.

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.

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#bbbc Day 5: A Hard Lesson

I’m really struggling with this topic. Riding has taught me many lessons. It’s taught me that you don’t brake hard on a damp road near a farm depot, or you will end up on your arse underneath a Triumph. It’s also taught me not to overtake erratically driven Hyundai hatchbacks, because then you will end up on your arse underneath a 1200 GS on the A1, and they’re a lot heavier.

But it also taught me that when you need help removing a large motorcycle from your lap, the universe usually provides a burly farmer to do the heavy lifting. Or, should you require assistance returning your Africa Twin to a vertical orientation after dropping in your garage, a cheerful Polish passer-by will stop,  help, proffer his phone number and offer to drop in on his way home to make sure you haven’t done it again .

I am not sure these count as hard lessons. A hard lesson sounds like it should be wisdom painfully won. Though the A1 is quite painful when you hit it after hitting the side of a Hyundai.

The hardest lesson to learn? Sometimes you have to go home.

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.


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Northern Lights

Over the last couple of years I have become fascinated with the history of Orkney. As background for a feature I was working on, I asked Twitter friends to suggest books which were firmly rooted in a real landscape. As well as the magnificent Alan Garner, whose fiction shaped my youth, friends suggested Graham Swift and George Mackay Brown. So I ordered Magnus, and then Greenvoe, and finally Vinland. These novels bring the islands to vivid, patient life, and I learnt not to read the blurb after the book jacket gave the end of Magnus away. I suppose the end would not have been a surprise if I knew anything about the Orkneyinga Saga, but this was my first foray into the complex history of the islands. I’m glad I had learnt this lesson before tackling Greenvoe as the ending of that story is truly shocking when you don’t know that it’s coming.

I wanted to visit for myself and walk in the footsteps of Ranald Sigmundson, the quiet hero of Vinland. I tour Scotland in September most years as part of the Round Britain Rally, a navigational challenge, and I’ve been to Shetland for the Simmer Dim rally, but it was still a big adventure, especially as the Lomax had wanted its engine rebuilt for the third time in three years before we set out. I am hoping that 2017 will be the year that I don’t have cylinder heads on my kitchen table.

The Wingman didn’t like the dog cage on the evening ferry from Aberdeen so if we go again, which I hope to do, we will go by road to John O’Groats and take either of the short crossings,  to St Margaret’s Hope or to Stromness, and we will have longer than three days to spend there.

And the special memory? Rounding the corner to the end of the road on Sanday’s north coast to find a wide beach of spotless white sand, bordered by bright green grass and dotted with yellow flowers.  Probably the most beautiful picnic spot in the world.

This post is part of a month-long writing prompt challenge: Brave, Bold, Blogger Challenge (BBBC) 2017 hosted by Kathy at

Prompt:  A special memory from 2016


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supervisorWell – that was a roller coaster weekend. I’ve had it set aside for a few months as Lomax MOT preparation – Hortense and Scabbers are both unroadworthy at the moment and the Triumph has no MOT so if I can’t get the Lomax through I’ll be reduced to my CG125 for all my transport needs.

It’s been a long process. We had two days in Norfolk last month so that the splendid Alexander of the eponymous 2CV workshop could replace the front wheel bearings and kingpins. I have the Special Tool for kingpins but live in fear that I will get them out but not get the new ones in. Alexander fought them all day and reported that Bill the Bodger had done some unusual welding and peening on the old bearings which made removing them rather heavier engineering than normal, but that all had ended well.

Next on the list was the seatbelt clasp. Last year we sneaked through with gaffer tape and a miracle. This year I had bought a splendid new three-point static harness but worried that I’d get the seat out and fit the new belt but not be able to get back onto the rails. The Traction Engineer dropped in to help. The job involved breaking several Dremel parts and a drill bit but now it’s not just Shakey that can clunk-click every trip.

And all that was left was valve clearances, points and timing, oil changes, and handbrake adjustment. And bodging some brackets onto the front wing as I think ‘bodywork dropping off’ would lessen my chances of passing. These days, these are easy jobs.

It was a good day for fettling. Shakey supervised. And when everything was back on the car and the tools were tidied away he crouched down to go under a low bar and did something awful to himself. When he’s hurt or scared he runs for a cuddle. And he was very hurt. We went to the vet for a morphine jab, and in the morning we went back to the vet as soon as they opened because he was crying with pain and I was crying too because I couldn’t make it better.

He was whisked away for methadone and x-rays with a warning that I should think about having him put to sleep if the pain couldn’t be brought under control.

If it had been our last trip in the Lomax it would have been a lovely one, with the sun freshly-risen and the flowers along the verges nodding as we passed. But it is not time yet to say goodbye.

The vet called about 3pm.

“How did he lose his leg again?”

“He got run over, I’m told”

“It’s just that he’s got six bullets in his body.”

Not content with beating him and abandoning him, some scrote in Portugal took pot shots at him with an air rifle.

He’s also got a slightly dislocated hip and arthritis in his back legs and spine. This happens when you are a front-leg amputee.

When we were in Norfolk waiting for the Lomax to be fettled we met a pair of Border Terriers who were friends with Baldrick. Poor Baldrick had his front legs munched off by a big Staffie and he has a cart from Eddie’s Wheels. We had a chat about wheels at the time but I filed them in the ‘maybe later’ spot.

Waiting at home for the vet to call was awful. I am never at home without Shakey. Occasionally I will be away at work and he stays with friends, but that’s added up to less than two weeks in since he came to live with me. He is my wingman and we do things together or we don’t do them at all.

Driving him back from the vets I realised the time for wheels isn’t later, it’s now.  But 700 quid is a lot of money for me these days. Why not pass the hat round, said friends. I thought about it. You can call it crowdfunding, or kick-starter, or GoFundMe, but at the end of the day it’s all begging, isn’t it?

As kids we weren’t allowed to go Trick or Treating or carol singing because it was just begging. Sound of mother spinning in grave. But she was wrong about a lot of things.

I checked in with a couple of friends. Don’t be daft, they said. He needs the wheels and people will want to help.

And in less than one day he has a full piggy bank and will be measured for his wheels at the weekend.

I write quite often about how I am blessed in my friends. Today has been another demonstration, if proof were ever needed, that despite all the horror that is surrounding us in the news at the moment, it will always be outweighed by love. Thank you.

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When worlds collide

imageI am capable of standing in a motor factors and selecting the right spark plugs for a variety of engines. But it would seem I am no longer capable of choosing a foundation without experiencing the blind panic of Father Ted in a lingerie department.

I am going to a Posh Dinner on Saturday. Fortunately the Posh Frock still fits, and I have no doubt of its poshness since I bought it in Marlow to go to a dinner with the Lord Mayor of London at the Mansion House. But I haven’t had to wear a full face for about 18 months.

I used to wear the works every day, because the day I didn’t was the day the BBC would request a motoring spokesperson to say ‘something must be done’ in front of a camera every half hour until the news agenda rolled on. That doesn’t happen these days. And I spend a lot more time outdoors so I couldn’t just buy my old colour and run away.

A kind lady in a white coat on the Clinique stand took pity on me and now I have a full Girl Kit again. The last time I bought a full kit, I tested it out in the Groucho Club. This weekend it’s for an outing of Eastern Bloc vehicles. I’d say exotica but I think that might not be correct. Anyway, that’s three stealth boasts in one post so I will stop now.

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We’ve got ourselves a convoy (not really, officer)


The Lomax meets the Lancaster. Photo by Pete Kent

I’m a very law abiding person but I feel terribly guilty whenever I see a police car. My sins have found me out and they are coming for me. So itwas a nerve-wracking moment when a panda car (they’re not called that any more, are they!) pulled into the car park where the Bomber County Cannonball had assembled, in thwarted hope of an ice cream, to have a word.

I don’t think we were doing anything illegal – but in a week when Harlow Council had been awarded an injunction banning groups of two or more motorcycles travelling in convoy, it’s difficult to be sure.

Whatever was said seemed to do the trick and he trundled away. Maybe he just wanted a closer look at the cars. It can’t be every day that a Ferrari, a Porsche, a Caterham, a Lotus, an MG that looks like a shark and the magnificent Chavalier are seen in rural Lincolnshire. Oh, and the Lomax.

I was supposed to be at a gig but had to cancel for political reasons. Clearly this was a sign from God, as Neil Motospeed sent out a tweet about the run at the same moment I was wavering about rearranging my leave. Still spaces left on the Cannonball, he said.   Sounds like fun, I thought. Sounds possibly like the Lomax might not be the right vehicle though..

Not at all, said the Cannonballers. Come along.

So on a sunny windswept Cleethorpes promenade, I introduced the Wingman, stuck my Cannonball stickers on the car, so that the police might more easily identify us, and got cut up at the first roundabout by an old bloke who had no understanding of the Highway Code.

It’s a few years since I’ve had to concentrate quite so hard on my cornering. During the One of Our Old Farts is Missing Tour I spent my days frying my brain and my tyres trying to keep up with Graham, and I was only giving away 150cc (and about 50 years of riding experience).

In Lincs, even with both hamsters running full pelt I’m guessing the Lomax was a good 1200cc down on the next smallest engine on the run. We could keep in touch through the corners but as soon as the roads opened up the big beasts would roar away. It was fun trying though, and we covered the beautiful bends around Cadwell Park that we used to play on with the HRT crew.
Bomber County Cannonball 2016
The morning was all about the twisty tarmac and the bright blue skies. Just before 1pm we pulled into East Kirkby Aviation Centre, where the NX611 Arvo Lancaster ‘Just Jane’ lives – not just to look at it but to line up in front of it for a monster photo-opportunity and also to see its engines fire up for a taxi run across the airfield. It’s impossibly moving to hear the engines start and to imagine a whole squadron of them heading up into the dusk. The average age of a Lancaster crew was 22 – some were as young as 16. These days we don’t trust lads that age to be in charge of a motorcycle, which doesn’t feel like progress.

From the museum the Cannonball headed more placidly towards the Pyewipe Inn and a celebratory dinner. Sadly the Wingman had to wait in the car but he seemed quite happy chilling out in the garden beside the canal with the occasional treat.

I’m always proud of AdventureDog, who made lots of new friends and wore his doggles for a few photos – but at the end of the day I was also proud beyond measure of the Lomax. We’d run with the big boys and not disgraced ourselves. It’s probably the hardest day’s driving it has endured since the rebuild, and it was absolutely flawless.

*Both of the awesome photos on this post are by Cannonballer Pete Kent. See the rest of his Bomber County Cannonball pics on Flickr.

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