This be the verse

cb5e7-img_0078Today’s blog challenge prompt is Mother.

I don’t want to write about my mother. This blog is too full of introspective navel-gazing emotionally incontient posts as it is.

When necessary I try to look back with kindness but mostly I try not to look back at all.

I had the good fortune to be led to Women Who Run With The Wolves, a book about how folk stories can teach us about our intuitive feminine nature – that wildness that is too easily trained away by mothers who want us to be good, to be quiet, to know our place. Dr Pinkola Estes writes about our vital need to have joy, to dance, to rejoice in our own bodies, and to find as many mothers as we require.

One of the stories in the book is Sealskin/Soulskin, a story originally from the Inuit Nation about how sometimes we need to step out of our everyday lives and go back to the well, the soul-place that feeds our spirit. You can read some of the story here, or the full story in the book.

For me, that place is the road. My father once told me that I “wouldn’t have got away with this if your mother was still alive.” I am quite sure she would not have allowed me to ride motorcycles. And I would never have discovered the gifts the road can bring.


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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Three pics you’ve never shared

Another really challenging topic from Toadmama! Three photos that I’ve never shared? I share everything! I’ve had a good search through my camera roll and it’s mostly the Lomax engine in pieces and photos of AdventureDog, because I truly dread the day his abused bones hurt him so much that I have to send him ahead of me into the dark. He is scared of the dark and I normally step ahead of him so that he can see it is OK.

I have picked these three.


32523684231_1a8eb39fbb_zThis is Winston, from Australia’s Black Dog Ride, having a day trip to Cambridge. Steve Andrews, the Black Dog Ride founder, has recently stepped down. He has done a huge amount to raise awareness of depression and suicide, and to get people talking about mental health. Winston is wearing his doggles because it is sunny and is about to tuck into a nice pastry. It was one of my last days in Cambridge.

 


31803300344_c95e08b1ec_zThis is Shakey and me in a motel after moving out of our last house but one, in order to move to the West Midlands for the job I have just finished. He is a big fan of Saturday night telly. We were about to move into a caravan parked in a commune. It was a tough couple of months but we were kept afloat by our amazing friends.

 

 

 


32646425895_760b008239_zThis is one of my amazing friends being Stunt Biker for a magazine feature on motorcycle camping. It was supposed to be me in the pictures but a few days before the shoot I fell down some stairs and bruised my arse rather severely. So Boffin volunteered to be my stunt double. It all worked out rather nicely as he is a much better rider than me and was able to take Roy the cameraman pillion for some video footage.


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 6: Your favorite motorcycle gadget/gizmo

32605228346_a1648869e8_zI’ve been thinking about this as I trundle back and forth to my new job.

When I underestimated the depth of the puddle I wondered whether the answer was Waterproof Boots. But they don’t exist. And fording dangerous water features makes me feel a bit like a real motorcycle explorer, though with the advantage of being able to dry my boots out on the office radiator.

Then I thought maybe the answer was heated grips. When I got heated grips on my Triumph I was able to extend my riding season massively. Until some scrote ripped the controller off the bike . If anyone has an old-style Oxford heated grips switch please let me know!

And then I decided that my favourite motorcycle gizmo is my coffee maker. When you can make your own coffee by the roadside you are truly free 🙂


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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#BBBC Day 4: Annual Mileage Challenge

This is easy – or, perhaps, more difficult.

I don’t set myself a mileage challenge. I have places I want to visit, and I do the miles necessary to visit them.

As this is a very short post, here is a link to another post about miles.


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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Less is more

stuffToday’s Blog Challenge Prompt is ‘your least favourite chore.’

Now I would have said, chain oiling. My excuse for a long time was that my bike had no centre stand so I had to get it done at the workshop. But if I’m going to be honest, and honesty is always this blog’s policy, it’s actually tidying up.

I have lots of excuses for not tidying up. I lived for a couple of years with a man who thought that tidying up was an expression of bourgeoise vanity. If I objected to his leaving wilted allotment crops – or, indeed, a bottle of piss for the compost heap – on the side in the kitchen I wasn’t asking to live in a clean home, I was pointing out that I was better than him and therefore had to be put in my place.

It is easier to leave things in a bit of a state than re-open those scars.

But that was near on ten years ago, and it is time to get over it. I had to tidy up the house after Christmas because it is for sale. It does look lots better without 2CV wings peeking out from behind the sofa and a thin layer of paperwork all over the carpet. It is soothing to live in a tidy environment and it’s much easier to get things done when I can sit at a surface and start a task without having to clear it of nuts, bolts and dog treats first.

The challenge will be to keep this up in my new house! I have read most of Marie Kondo’s really quite stern book on the topic this weekend, as I have no wifi (this is why this post is late). We nearly fell out when she wrote about tearing pages out of books – meaning they can’t be donated but must be thrown away – but thankfully she doesn’t advocate this any more. Some of her ideas are a little extreme, but two of her suggestions are really liberating. One is about considering the true purpose of any item. I used to feel obliged to keep every birthday, get well soon and good luck card I ever received. She says the purpose of the card is to convey the message. Once you have read the message, its purpose is complete and it can be thanked and recycled without guilt.  The other is about keepsakes and mementoes. I have a bad memory and like to keep ticket stubs, theatre programmes, postcards and other physical manifestations of past experience.

She writes: “It is not our memories but the person we have become because of those past experiences that we should treasure…The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.”

Her main recommendation is to have much, much less stuff. She says that discarding must precede tidying, and that when you have done it properly, you will come to a point where you have the perfect amount of possessions.

This makes me think of my magnificent Great Aunt. As I head into my new life in my new country I have with me her teddy bear, brand new in 1918, and her demonstration of how to live a happy life as a single woman. She moved from a large detached house in a Surrey village into a sheltered flat. Even though she must have had to give most of her things away, she kept enough key pieces that her tiny flat held just as much of her personality as the big house had.  Sherry and slightly soggy crisps were still served out of the corner cabinet, and afternoon tea was still wheeled in on her vintage trolley. She lived with less, but it was still a big, happy life. That is a good way to be.

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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 ToadMama.com.

Prompt:  A special memory from 2016

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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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Sometimes looking cool is better than being comfortable

l1060667c“You two are brave,” said the bloke getting out of the daffodil yellow Lotus Europa lined up next to us at the Bicester Heritage Sunday Scramble. That we’d followed in from the M40. In the rain.

It had perhaps been a little optimistic to take an open-top car 40 miles in January to a classic motoring event. Hortense would have qualified just as easily for the special Old Stuff parking zone, with her roof, heater and windscreen wipers, and we would have been less damp and cold. But she is my daily drive and so it would not be as exciting.

It would also have been OK if Temporary Wingman had realised that it was a Lomax day, that when I said we’d take Hortense if the weather was bad a forecast with a mere 30% chance of rain didn’t qualify, and so he should have brought his bike gear. A one in three chance – not bad odds. “No, it means that it will rain for one hour in every three.”

Oops.

But in four weekends time the Lomax is going to have to migrate to Scotland and I needed a test run, as our last outing was the run home from Orkney in September. Temporary Wingman, who we shall call Daniel Cleaver for now, for reasons you would understand if you saw him, did seem rather hopeful when the starter was turning and the engine was dry, but when I build engines I build them properly and with a cloud of white smoke there was no turning back. Other than to remove the battery charger and try reversing again.

l1060670cYou know you’re heading in the right direction when you have to give way to a beautiful big Bentley at the roundabout and line up behind it to get your barcode scanned. The Scramble takes place at the former Bomber Command base of RAF Bicester, now home to lots of specialist motoring and aviation heritage businesses. If I want to get Hortense’s front seat covers repaired, there’s a shed for that. And one for radiators, and one for race tuning, and a whole hangar full of cars draped in calm grey covers. Impressively, Mr Cleaver and the other chaps lined up by the viewing window could identify them all by the shape of their rears.

Highlights for me? Other than having someone to look at stuff with who doesn’t get distracted by sausages, it would have to be the beautiful early H-Van, hopefully not destined to become a crepe wagon, and a spectacular German race car called Fafnir. Oh, and the small boy who said “Your car is cool” as we set off for home. In the sunshine.

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Back at the NEC

I am big. It’s the show that got small.

Though in fairness it probably hasn’t. It’s just that there wasn’t very much to grab me this year. I am not in the market for a new bike, and barring a lottery win or the invention of a pillion pal for dogs, won’t be for some years. I don’t need a new lid. Well, actually, I do need a new lid but I’m not prepared to risk a repeat of the Getting My Head Stuck in an AGV experience. And I have Big Hair today. I am too fat for any new clothes and I would have bought a courier bag but there didn’t seem to be much in the way of luggage or touring gear this year. Maybe I missed it.

What was strongly in evidence was encouragement and advice for new riders, which was great to see. Those of us who got a full licence after 25 minutes of lapping the town centre without falling off are a dying breed. We need to help new riders through the insane hurdles the government has inflicted upon learners in the name of safety or riding will go the way of the sedan chair.

More than 30 years ago I had a poster of a Kawasaki on my wall and a glossy A5 booklet about learner-legal Kawasakis and the Star Rider training scheme under my pillow. So it was with nostalgic joy  I discovered that Kawasaki has launched Kawasaki Rider Training Services this year, a one-stop shop from total novice to full licence, via a UK wide network of approved training schools.  There’s even a discount for NUS card-holders.

I also had a lovely chat with Duncan Gough, who is an expert on travelling in Spain and has written a small book on travel writing. I always have in mind when I set out that I will do some sketching along the way but never do. So I shall take Duncan’s advice: “All you need to do is make a start.”

 

 

 

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