I went to a poetry event last night. Now that I work in a bastion of intellectual elitism, I thought I’d better try and adopt some of the habits of my academic betters.
On a rather sultry evening, 5 student poets performed their compositions and Isabella Shaw was declared the winner by the extremely fabulous Benjamin Zephaniah.
Her winning poem, “Variations on the Westron Wind*,” opens like this:
“The stones remember me
Ay, in the pale and deathless hour
Between the sun’s setting forth and the sun’s return
The shape of my long hand
The taste of my heart interred.”
In the pale and deathless hour between the sun’s setting forth this morning, and about 45 minutes later than intended on account of not being able to find the paper part of my driving licence, I went to Norwich and the lovely people at Lind lent me this younger, fitter, and healthier version of Ruby to use while they check her over for damage. She’s taller, because after 36,000 miles Ruby’s back end is saggier than Winifred Hathi’s. The gearbox moves with a snick, not a kick. And she’s had a bit of lipo around the front.
Younger, fitter – but better? Well, the thing is that after all those miles Ruby remembers not so much the shape of my long hand – though I seem to have worn the handgrips smooth – but the shape of my lard-arse. Which is not quite so poetic. But it does prove that Ruby is the most Important, the most Beautiful, the most Magical Saggy old GS in the whole wide world. And I hope that she’s going to get a clean bill of health in the morning.
*The Westron Wind is a medieval fragment which is mostly about sex.
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I’m in Swansea about to head up to Ystradgynlais for Day One of the BMW Off-Road School – it’s going to be a lovely day weather-wise (not so sure about the riding, bit nervous about that!): the light has that quality you get first thing after waking in Paris or Murcia – the sun hasn’t quite burnt off the early morning mist so it’s bright but still soft, it’s quiet but there’s a rising background noise note from the traffic as other people start their day, and it’s fresh but not cold, and going to get warmer. In other words, a day full of potential…
Last night’s trip down was mostly full of BMWs. This morning I shall be looking for someone with a map of africa on their lid (passed on the M5) and someone with ally panniers but no stickers (passed on the Heads of the Valleys road, presumably still in training ;).
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Ruby and I are struggling to find our rhythm. If this was a new relationship we’d be at the stage where, instead of locking lips you bump noses, and instead of sliding elegantly under the sheets for some well-deserved Sherlocking you accidentally knee your partner in the gnarly parts, but those few, elusive moments when it all comes together make it worth persevering.
Today has been a classic demonstration that my mood affects my motor skills. Under the blue, if baltic, skies in the morning we had a fantastic time dodging the hazards in Hackney, doing an (almost feet up) u-ey to go south instead of north on the A10 having got turned round in the Home Zone, and cruising the deserted City. In the evening, large parts of North London snarled to a halt (I think Arsenal are playing). Every gap closed as I headed into it, the gearbox refused to slip into first and we kangarooed our way away from the lights in 2nd gear to the smell of burning clutch. Particular curses and opprobium on the Arthur Daley impersonator, who, when I backed away from attempting to squeeze between his beat-up Jag and a white van to my right, opened his door and ostentatiously checked for scratches on his paintwork. Both barrels of the Touratech spots to you, mate!
Then on the last corner before home we had a lairy moment on a manhole cover. Three cheers to the off-road day: I stuck my foot out, gave it some throttle (probably exceeding my 4k run-in ceiling) and we fishtailed our way back to balance.
The indicators are still giving me grief. A warning to London GS riders – if you see someone staring intently at your right hand, they’re not mistakenly trying to work out your marital status, it’s me, trying to see how other people approach this Gordian knot.
And I had forgotten how damn hard it is to attach a Baglux tank harness – hence the undignified lash-up shown in the pic! At least the duffel is colour-co-ordinated. If anyone’s done this for a 2007 GS, please send me some tips!
Proving Haylock’s First Law of Meterology, this was the view from the kitchen window this morning. Last Thursday, when I wasn’t collecting a brand new motorcycle, was bright and sunny. The universe doesn’t like to allow us too much fun in any one particular day.
BMW also like to torture you by making you fill out innumberable forms in triplicate while sitting next to the shiny bike you are buying but not yet allowed to play with . The free coffee doesn’t really compensate for the mental torture. Reading the small print after signing (oops) I am a little peturbed to find that I have agreed to keep the bike clean. Given a choice between riding and polishing, there’s only ever going to be one answer…
Buying some gnarly parts (extra spotlights at the front – truly magnificent, lit up every piece of hi-viz for miles) meant that panniers have had to wait for another pay day, but I am rapidly changing my mind on this after breaking the habit of a lifetime and riding home with my work gear stuffed in a rucksack. Hate it. Can’t move on the bike properly, the straps flap about and it makes my back hurt. Maybe I can sell a kidney on ebay or something…
Anyway – here she is. Being something of a diva she wanted to pose at Ally Pally in the hope of being talent-spotted by the BBC and signed up to the next Charley Boorman adventure. The fact that it was dark made no difference.
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Ewan and Charlie on Jonathan Ross last night to plug Long Way Down – great double act as ever but they should have had Claudio the cameraman on too, he was the secret star of Long Way Round, riding rings around the stars on his tiny mongolian trailie.
I’m looking forward to the series on BBC2 but I can’t believe they did the trip without a huge amount of help. Surely no-one can get through Sudan from top to bottom at the moment?
Charlie said that everyone in Africa was friendly and welcoming. I think that was just him – I have a secret crush on Mr Boorman, he seems to be one of those people who just loves other people and thrives on company. Unless he’s camping, when he seems to get a bit tetchy. I hope he’s doing some more tours of BMW dealerships – I saw his Long Way Round show at BMW Park Lane and he was great.
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The collective noun for a group of mountains is, of course, Wales. They are my mountains and I get very upset when other bikers arrive – especially when they sweep past me in the villages because I’m observing the speed limit like a good citizen and then they can’t pass a white van half a mile down the road. London riding may not be much good for handling small twisty rural roads – though Wales is giving me lots of practice on them – but it does teach you how to overtake White Van Man (as quickly as possible because the smaller they are in your mirrors, the safer you are!).
The collective noun for a bunch of BMW riders I am less sure about – I pulled in for petrol in Mallwyd, Snowdonia to a filling station swarming with GS Adventurers – at least 30, maybe more. The one lonely car driver looked deeply uncomfortable and others simply drove on. Is this an image thing – bearing in mind that a shiny new GS costs on the upside of 10 grand, I don’t think this was a group liable to erupt in violence! – or maybe they were just too worried about manoeuvring to the pump without causing a very expensive domino race? ! The GS boys were off to ride through some fords. I’ve done a couple to get to landmarks on the other side – the first was nice and easy, the second I took a bit quick (overconfidence!) and nearly came to grief, the current was much faster than I expected and nearly had the back wheel from under me. No idea how we got to the other side – I think the bike took control and saved itself! Anyway, I think the collective noun for GS pilots is probably a Gore-Tex, given that the majority of the throng were wearing their Ewan-and-Charlie approved, all-weather adventure suits.
Today was mostly about riding down very tiny back lanes. I remain suspicious that Dave the Disorganiser doesn’t actually prepare the rally on a motorcycle at all but in fact drives some huge Humvee-type ATV – “road less than four feet wide with a giant stripe of crap down the middle, leaving a strip of tarmac only just wider than a tyre? No problem!” When I was riding round these in Pembrokeshire in the morning looking for Dewi Emrys (the landmark remained elusive until I turned round at Fishguard and tried finding it from the east, from which direction it was surprisingly easy – see Rule Two) I consoled myself with the thought that once this landmark was found, the rest of the day would be on B-roads.. But no! The road to Flounder’s Folly is even smaller and narrower, and if I hadn’t been waved at by 2 rallyers coming back down it on their giant Honda, I’d have given up. Because I have promised the bike that this year, I am not going to drop her on some gravel-strewn backwater and have to rope in passing dog-walkers or house renovators to rescue us.
Then just to finish my spine off, the road to the hotel was a mile of corrugated concrete. I think I still have all my fillings but tomorrow I am having a day off to count them.
Today’s photo is of the Welsh coast nowhere near anything to do with Dewi Emrys at all.