By The Light Of Past Mistakes.

We’ve had a frantic few days. Well, mainly Wendy has. Obviously the first priority was getting the car MOT-ed before the insurance changed their mind, or we got pulled by the plod. Wendy has decided to own the problem of the car. Up until now she has driven it, I’ve had it serviced, MOT-ed, etc. Not, as it turns out, very successfully. Rather than be in the dark as to the status of her car, she’s decided to do it herself now. Which means she’s had to do everything for the first time, on her own (as I’ve been working) and stressed out of her head.

She took the car for it’s MOT. Because of Covid she wasn’t allowed to wait, as I usually do, so she had to go for a walk for an hour. When she got back, despite me having gone over every tyre for tread depth, every light,the wipers, horn, screen wash, fluffy dice (OK, no fluffy dice) it still failed. They said there was a dangerous bulge on a tyre. I hope that was on the inside, because I didn’t see it. She went home stressed and told me. I said if she took it to the nearest tyre fitting place (Kwikfit) she could get back to the garage for the MOT certificate the same day. They kept her there for an hour and 15 minutes. Still madly stressed. Which meant the garage was shut so she had to get her MOT the next day, still with some minors. A chip in the windscreen, and slightly damaged valves on the on of the back tyres. Rather than mess about we ordered a new set of back tyres to be fitted at home, and we’ve got someone coming around the fix the chip. The tyres were done this afternoon, the windscreen gets fixed on Saturday. That’s it then, the car is MOT perfect. Wendy has noticed the aircon is only blowing cool instead of freezing so she’s booked it in for a re-gas on Thursday. Then it’s a perfect car for a couple of years more. Wendy has bravely adopted the motto “Be scared, do it anyway.” All these new things are destruct testing that resolve.

The doctor upped her pills but, whether due to the pills or the bump and consequent faffing about, she’s feeling more stressed. She said one of the possible side effects of the anti-anxiety pill is increased levels of anxiety. I’m not an actual doctor, but I can see flaws in that medication regime.

I’ve had a hugely productive couple of days. After my ride to Chorley to work (40 minutes, lots of it at *cough* motorway speeds) I noticed the front end still didn’t feel right. It wasn’t falling into corners but it was starting to wriggle at *cough* speed. I was worried it had the potential to turn into a tank slapper and throw me off. I couldn’t leave it like that so I decided on a course of action. Drop the forks, change the oil to the thicker, more shock absorbing oil, check it actually had the upgraded springs the seller claimed were fitted, get the oil levels exactly equal, then replace the forks 9mm higher through the yokes, which throws more weight forward to settle the front end. That was my plan for Sunday. If it still felt wriggly I was going to buy a new set of tyres for £260+. I don’t mind spending that much when I have to, it’s the main bit of the bike that stops you from bouncing down the road, it’s worth whatever it costs, but the tyres that are on it look nearly new. That was upsetting.

I went to drop the forks out (after removing the side panels, mudguard, brakes, and front wheel, *sigh*). There are two bolts on each fork leg. One in the middle one at the top. I undid the middle one and the fork leg slid out. WHAT!? Some moron hadn’t tightened the top bolts at all after fitting the head bearings. Big speeds, hard braking, with one bolt standing between me and a face full of fork leg. That would explain the wriggle as well.

Oh. Dear.

Ah well, I wanted to do the jobs, and I had it stripped, so I carried on. I did the oil, checked the springs (it is the upgraded ones, yay!) and changed the engine oil and filter while I was at it. I put it back together and, after resetting the brake, and double and triple checking I’d re-tightened every single bolt, I took it for a test run.

It’s like a different bike. It leans neutrally into corners, doesn’t wriggle or shake, and inspires confidence. I think it must have been the head bearings, then the top bolts being undone. The other jobs are improvements that I wanted to do, but I think I had it fixed at head bearings.

So, that was brilliant. Normally mechanic-ing jobs are a series of disasters leaving the bike not much worse than when I started. This all went smoothly and got the result I was hoping for. And it saved me the best part of £300 on unnecessary tyres! Win!

This morning I was up early and spent most of the day in the garden. I’m ready now. When everything grows in, assuming we don’t get any hard frosts (nothing forecast for a fortnight, by which time we’re well into May) I’m almost that mythical place where the gardening is “done”. All I have to do is watch it all grow into a perfect display. Yeah, I’m fooling no-one.

The usual routine is I grow great looking plants (dahlias, gladioli, etc) that grow to full stature, look brilliant for 10 minutes then lean and fall over and have to be snapped off to make way. This year I’m doing what Monty Don said and buying some mild steel rods and bending them into big plant supports. 6mm diameter, 3 metres long. He said, “I got these for about £2 each”. I rang the local steel stockholder, as Monty said, and asked for 15 rods. “We don’t sell to the public, try this place”. I rang them. “Not got them but we can order them off the first place. That will be £68.”

Errrr, no. No it won’t.

I rang around a bunch of other places and have got 14 rods for £35. That’s more like it. I’m picking up on Wednesday. The trouble is they are uncut, so 6 metre lengths. I’m going to have to saw them all in half to get them in the car. I went to B&Q get a cordless (battery powered) angle grinder to do the job easily. Their cheapest was £70 plus another £40 for the battery. I bought a £6 hacksaw!

I’ve order a cheap, new, Chinese angle grinder, with battery, off eBay for £55. Literally half the price. It’s not like I need a cordless that often, but when you do (such as when I had to rent one to saw a jammed, toughened steel, lock off my motorbike) they are invaluable. I’m really hoping the £6 hacksaw goes the distance this time. It’s only 7 cuts. Surely it will be good for that?

I think my frantic activity has just been prevarication. I’ve been putting off getting back to bike training. I did that 20 mile run last week and my foot wasn’t good enough to do any runs after it, and the bike has just been so, so hard. I think it’s just due to lack of consistency. While I was off with my shoulder and bored witless I was riding 6 days a week. Just recently I’ve been skipping a week at a time. I have to get back into a regular pattern. I got back to it today. a 1½ hour ride, with 3x 20 minute sections at 85 – 95% of your max. The workouts are tough and demanding, but the bit where you fall down and quit is mental strength. That is why you need to do it regularly, to get your brain used to it as much as your body. I was 18 minutes into the second block and all my thoughts were “I want to quit now” keep going “I want to quit now”. Then the on-screen text said “Decide now, you are going to finish this block” and I replied “Of course I’m going to finish!” and just like that my brain turned around. Instead of ‘I can’t go on’, I was all ‘BRING IT!’ I did the 1½ hours then straight out for a 4 mile zone 2 (slow) run. I’m off again tomorrow so I can do another catch up ride.

….Saturday.

I got the steel rods. I was slowly sawing my way through them when the guy from the metal place took pity on me and came out with some bolt crops and just snipped them in half.

Wendy took the car for the re-gas. As is the trend, it didn’t go smoothly. They’ve closed the waiting area so she has to wander around town and sit in the bus station out of the rain. She was terrified she was going to bump into someone from work, and the bus station was freezing as they had all the door open for covid. It turns out the pollen filter was clogged to death on the car (it has a pollen filter. That’s news.) and the fan is only blowing feebly. So the next job is to sort the fan. They gave Wendy an auto electrician’s number, but frankly she’s had enough stress now, so I’ve rung up and arranged it for Monday, my day off. *Then* the car will be sorted. The windscreen guy came and did the chip today.

The other big thing is, predictably, I’ve swung around to wanting to learn the sax again. Look, it’s the coolest thing in known universe, it’s not my fault! I had the thought about a week or so ago. Well, more of an idea that I’d like to work towards it. The thing I could never master was the time. I just couldn’t keep a count when the music went to half or quarter notes. I decided the best way to attack the problem was with a recorder.

They’re cheap, quiet, and supposedly about the easiest thing to learn. If I can master ‘time’ I can start from scratch and hopefully learn this time. I have started to make inroads. I’ve got two very basic, 3 note tunes, (the first in the book) that I can just about count out 1,2, 1,2, 1 and, 2 and, 1, 2. etc (It’s 2/4 time.) As soon as I had my first success I was looking for a sax. So much for restraint. Wendy has been the voice of reason though. Or a joy sucking harridan, depending on perspective. She pointed out I only sold my saxes last year as I was too bad to continue and it was making me sad never making any progress. And that the sax is very noisy, and I need to train at least half an hour a day, whilst still being embarrassingly crap. All fair points and I will bear them in mind when finding her a care home. Tomorrow. In the meantime I’ve compromised. I had a look on Gumtree and someone is selling a student clarinet about 2 miles away. It’s the full set up, Google says it’s good learner kit, but old, so nice and cheap. Splendid. It’s got a reed (like a sax) so you have to practice embouchure (holding your gob right), the fingering is similar to a sax (I’ve heard) but a lot quieter, and it’s got a nice sound, so I actually want to learn to play it for it’s own sake. The seller is out of town until tomorrow, then it’s opening to Rhapsody in Blue all the live long day!

Oh, one other thing, seeing as my poppies aren’t going to be brightening the shady part of my garden for the next 4 or 5 years (if they ever germinate, a few weeks now and not a sausage) I got to thinking about hostas. I saw one I really liked but even for a tiny little cutting plant they wanted about £12 on eBay.

I tracked down a cheap mixed bunch containing the one I wanted, got to checkout then a message popped up “After 30 years of supplying the UK we can no longer do so due to Brexit. We’d have to ship more paperwork than plants.” Super. Brexit just keeps on giving. That will be “cutting the redtape” and the “sunlit uplands” then.

Anyway I finally got a selection. Some crackers in it. I’ll either have a gorgeous garden or the fattest slugs in the UK.

A few bits of Twitter and I’m done. There was this, which in a sane world would have been the end of Bozo and his government.

Some random stuff

The hero the country needs right now

A nice snap of the light through the trees on my way to work this morning

I showed restraint

Missing mutt

And a philosopher I follow mused about Harry Potter and philosophy

Right,

later.

Buck.

Childbirth.

I’ve often heard that the only reason women can bear to go through with childbirth a second time is that they sort of forget about the unbearable misery of the first time.

I’m fairly sure the same principle applies to motorcycle mechanic-ing.

The front end on my bike turns in weirdly so I ordered new head bearings from the States. They arrived last week and I rang my local bike garage to get them fitted. He said because of the backlog from lockdown it was going to be the end of May at the earliest.

Meh.

I looked online to see how hard the job was. There was a video of a mechanic showing how to do it on a Kawasaki. He said you could buy a bunch of specialist tools, or you can do it without, then showed you how. It looked like an bit of an ordeal, but do-able. So on Sunday, forgetting past misery, I set to.

Everyone agreed it was a faff. To get to the job you have to strip the fairing off, take the front mudguard off, the front brakes, the front wheel, the handlebars, head thingy and risers, and the forks. Undo a bolt at the top of the stem, take out the two nuts and a washer then drop the stem. *Then* you start. Inside the headstock are two cups that the bearing sit in. Obviously these have to wedged in beyond any danger of movement. Which means extracting them is terrible job. Not to worry, said the video, inside the headstock are two grooves in the barrel so you can just place an old screwdriver in there and hit each side until it eventually drops out.

Nope. On the Kawasaki there are two grooves, on the Honda it a smooth barrel with zero purchase for hitting the bearing cups. Oh very dear. The bike stripped down to this and no way to proceed.

Luckily at some point in the past I had bought a toughened steel rod to bash stuff out with. What I had to do was beat and bend it into shape then grind it into a thin blade at the end using the angle grinder.

Not big or clever to look at, but that was the difference between me carrying on or being stopped dead. And blubbing like a girl. Then it was just a matter of hitting it with a hammer. Repeatedly. Again. And again. And again. Forever.

Eventually I got the cups out. I bashed the bearing off the stem, which was supposed to be the hardest job but was comparatively simple. Then just to beat new cups back in. Again on the Kwak it looked a simple job. On the Honda the brake pipes run under the headstock so there is no room to swing a hammer.

It took me all day. I started about 10.30, finished about 19.20. I’ve bought some fork oil and seals and I was going to do them while they were out of the frame but I was getting weak and tired and so, so cheesed off. I just wanted the job done. I took it for a test ride on Monday and everything seems to be working. That was a bonus. I wasn’t sure it was going to work. On my next days off I’ll do the forks.

Another mechanical fly in the honey smooth ointment of life was my pushbike. A while ago I bought a power meter.There is a built in power meter on my indoors bike trainer, but I’m not sure that’s reading right, which is why I wanted to fit the proper power meter. It just looks like a normal pedal arm with a round lump on the inside, about the size of 3 stacked 2ps. The lump is the clever bit that measures the strain on the pedal. I fitted it, turned the pedals and realised the fancy under-frame break arm was hitting my even fancier power meter. It was only a gentle hit, but if I was doing that thousands of times an hour it was soon going to smash my power meter off.

I went on to Twitter to ask the cyclist’s for advice as I couldn’t seem to google an answer. The answer, as ever, was expensive.

It’s a specialist brake that I’d never heard of. It is the very last word in brake technology, the ultimate rim brake, but the selling point for me is that it runs the cable through the centre so there is no arm sticking out to hit my power meter. I saw a shoddy one on eBay and bought that.

But the standard brake fits on the front of the bike, on one bolt. You need a special adapter to mount it on the two bolts of the underframe mount. Of course you do. So then I had to buy a new one, with all the mounting equipment, from the States. It arrived the other day and I’ve tried it. In principle it will mount now. So I can at least put the shabby brake under the back wheel where it’s out of sight and mount the pretty new one on the front where it’s visible.

I suppose I should say it’s not just about an accurate reading on the trainer. I could probably have lived with that. I certainly would have looked for a cheaper and easier option. But the training is all working towards a race. You build up so you know how much power you can sustain for the race distance. The power meter is the only way you can know you are hitting your target on race day. And having the best brakes you can get is never a bad thing. Especially if I’m planning on doing a hill triathlon.

Work has been good. After they asked me did I want a 14 hour shift and I said 10 hours is enough for me, they have been giving me shorter shifts. 8, 9 and 10 hours. That suits me. And I got 5 shifts last week, so all is well. I had one blip. It was a nightmare. They sent me to a drop I’d done before, I had the satnav on but I missed one turning. The satnav rerouted and took me a different way. At first I was fine with it because I’d been down that way before. Then suddenly it had me out in the sticks. Eh? I kept going, but it was smaller and smaller roads and the satnav kept trying to take me down single track roads. I kept refusing. It kept rerouting me. After me refusing to take a double deck (16′ 2″) trailer down a single lane road for the 4th time it started going mad. About half a mile ahead was a 13′ bridge! Oh no! I got out and ran to the bridge. Just before it was a road to a farm or something. I had *just* enough room to drive into it, but not enough room to swing around. I had to reverse blind back into the country lane. I got away with it without crashing and had to take the previous road. That lead me through a tiny village, then out onto a single lane road. I was proper panicking. My trailer was smacking into trees over the road, I couldn’t turn around, I didn’t know where I was and any moment I was expecting to meet someone coming the other way. Or a bridge. Or anything. I finally managed to pull up over a farmer’s drive. I got out and was shaking with the stress. The natives came out to gawp at the moron in the artic with a double deck trailer. They said I’d missed my turn. The farmer woman went down the road behind me to guide me as I backed down the single lane then reverse into an equally tiny single lane so I could do a three point turn. While I was pulled up I checked my satnav. The Royal Mail had given me the wrong postcode.

Royal Mail.

Postcode.

*weeps*

That was the most stress I’ve ever had as a driver. Over the course of 10 or so years driving I’ve had one low bridge, once on a single track, lost quite a bit, a few blind reverses out into the road. To have them all happen, one after the other, was just a nightmare. At one point (when I saw the low bridge ahead on a tiny country round) I stopped, took my glasses off, and literally had my head in my hands. Character forming.

I’ve been hanging on with this blog until we get a resolution to yet more stress. Outside our house we have two parking spots, and a bit of road so our neighbours can drive past. The neighbour straight across from us sometimes parks on the road bit instead of their parking spot. Usually it’s for better access while they clean the car or whatever. It made it a pain trying to get into the parking spot when Luke’s car was outside. Yesterday they parked it there then forgot about it. Wendy realised after dark that it was her mate’s birthday and the mate wouldn’t get a card in time unless she ran it around. She hopped in the car (without paying enough attention) did the usual reverse/ turn to back out of our spot and … BANG! Smacked in the door of the neighbours car. The Mini once again got off with a scrape. Wendy is still not right with her stress, that was horrible for her. She had to knock the neighbour up to tell her. She was really good about it, but Wendy was nearly crying. In fairness, it’s that neighbour who’s kid scraped loads of patterns into the paintwork of our car with a stone. She’s probably a bit relieved to have got rid of the guilt. Anyway, Wendy had a bad night. They exchanged insurance details this morning and Wendy called it in. That should have been the end of the matter, but the insurance asked “is the car in MOT?” Wendy said yes. Just to be sure she went on the government website. The MOT ran out in November. The don’t automatically send reminders anymore and oddly the garage hadn’t sent us one either. Wendy’s booked it in at the earliest possible date, which is on Friday, but now she’s got to ring the insurance back in the morning. Worst case is they say “no MOT invalidates your insurance policy”. I’ve done some looking online and I don’t think that will happen. I certainly hope it won’t. But until she rings them we don’t know.

Luckily Lisa knew exactly who to blame.

I’ll update this tomorrow, with the result, before I post.

Oh sweet relief! The insurance have said it doesn’t affect the policy! That would have been awful. We’d have had to get the neighbour’s car into a proper dealer and pay full dealer prices for a new door and wing. Wendy would have had her insurance cancelled, and have had to get new insurance, to ticking the boxes “Have you had an accident? Have you ever had an insurance policy cancelled?”.

Also the doctors have finally got back to Wendy and agreed to double her dose. Hopefully that will sort her stress out.

Something else has happened since writing the stuff above. I’ve been getting gritty, itchy eyes recently. I thought I had something in them but it kept happening. I asked Wendy to have a look and my eyes are swollen with red lines on them. Suddenly it dawned on me. The grow light for the propagator! I’ve given myself welding flash. I looked up welding flash and sure enough, all the symptoms, causes “strong ultra violet light”, welding, tanning lights, etc. D’oh! It’s like sunburn to the eyes. Can cause infection, cataracts and blindness. At least I now know that the UV plant light works.

And work have rung me up and asked if I wanted a shift tomorrow, but as there’s no work in Warrington can I travel to Chorley? I said OK, then looked at the shift. 45 minute ride each way and a 12 hour shift. Meh. It pays the bills.

The only other thing is my gardening phase.

I’ve bought a some plug plants

And some seeds.

The cactus dahlia have all started sprouting in the cold frame, and I’ve got the seeds for the grannies bonnet and Himalayan blue (and white) poppies on the go. All of which are supposed to be shade tolerant so I thought they’d brighten up the top of the garden under the window this summer. Then I watched a video. The poppies take 4 to 5 years to flower! OK, maybe not this summer.

That’s about it.

Here’s some twitter stuff then I’m out of here.

I had a binge on demotivational posters. I don’t know why but they crack me up.

Then there was some random amazing pottery.

A twitter chum was moaning she couldn’t do her 20 mile run due to injury so I took up the slack. This was 15 miles in. Not too bad. Slow, but not too much foot damage.

Duolingo trolled me

Salt. Wounds. Duolingo.

Some Dinos

And random twitter.

Later,

Buck.

Good Days!

I went for my jab on Monday. That was a slick affair. In and out. A few people online have had a bad reaction to it. Not as bad as, say, choking out your last breaths on a respirator, but not pleasant. I had an extreme reaction to the malaria jab in the army and that was awful, but this time I was fine. Wendy had a sore arm and a mild plague weakness the next day, which went with painkillers, so nothing to write home about. Lisa was dog tired. I didn’t even get a sore arm. The next day I had a headache all day and felt sick, but I get that quite frequently anyway. So either I didn’t get any reaction or the reaction was no worse than a headache day. I’ll take that.

I was working on Tuesday and I got a run to Bristol. That was a nice day out. I was riding in to work in the morning without any gloves moaning “I may lose digits to frostbite”, in the afternoon I was Darn Sarf, baking in 23C moaning “no human can survive in this heat!”

On Wednesday it was still quite warm, lockdown is lifting, and I was off, so I took my new bike for a spin up to Workington (top of the Lakes on the coast).

It does everything it says on the tin. Comfy, 46 mpg at a steady 90 (allegedly) with lots of big overtakes. 160 miles to the tank. It has an old fashioned needle fuel gauge which was in the red and I was panicking thinking I was running on fumes in the middle of the sticks. When I looked up my tank capacity when I got home I still had another 3.3 litres, (which is a fifth of a tank) or 30+ miles, left. So at the speed limit you can say it is good for 50mpg and over 200 miles to a tank. My old bike (which is a 600cc compared to the new one’s 1000cc) was 28mpg when I got it and screaming for fuel at 100 miles. I bought a power commander and that put the mpg up into the 30s, but it still wasn’t good. The one thing I did notice is the front end isn’t as confident or planted as you’d normally expect on a Honda. I’ve ordered a new set of upgraded head bearings from the States and bought some thicker fork oil. There’s a local garage that will fit it for me cheaply. Other than that the CBF1000 forum said you can drop the forks a smidge and put spacers in to make them stiffer. I’ll try all of that then maybe fit a steering damper if that all fails. Not big jobs, but if you’ve got a very powerful bike, that’s also a chunky monkey, you have to feel like the front end is planted.

Yesterday, Thursday, this was a happy sight, after 5 months.

A proper shame for Luke, but he’s still hopeful of a less terrible outcome. Now I can get my bike out without having to go into next door’s spaces and dodge cars. Wendy, who’s been wriggling into a tight gap when the neighbours park across from us, was going to park her Mini across both spots, diagonally, just for fun.

Also yesterday I finally got my pushbike back from the shop. It took him long enough, (to be fair my bike has a stupid cable design that made the job really, really tricky) but he has done a good job of it. My bars are wrapped and the cables have tensioners in them now.

I got that back, fitted the damage limitation flat pedals and got it all adjusted. Then I went for a short, easy, run, as set by Trainer Road. My first since that impromptu marathon. My foot has held up, so this is the way forward.

Today I got back on to the Trainer Road doing the bike. My first go for a couple of weeks. An hour, easy. It was still hard work though. Now I build again. So I felt good about that.

Then the guy came about the bike. I wasn’t looking forward to it. He asked me to hold it for him a few weeks ago, and he’s seemed like a decent guy at each step, but I’ve been seriously messed about before now. But that went great. He turned up, looked at the bike, I told him to take it for a spin, he came back, paid for it, job’s a good ‘un. If only every sale was like that. Full asking price, no haggling, no messing about. Just turn up, confirm the bike’s as advertised, pay, go. Perfect.

So now, when the banks open, we can pay the loan off and be debt free. For the first time in forever. We’ve had money coming in, and for a while we were saving with the share save thing, but we always seem to have some loan on the go. This will be novel.

The agency stuck to only giving me 2 shifts this week. That’s unusual. I have to have a final day off next week for my hospital appointment, but they’ve given me shifts on the 4 days I’m available. Which will be at pay parity and off emergency tax. So that should be a good week. They are obviously not trying to punish me by not giving me work, as I got a text today saying you are working until 20.00, there is another run after that, until 23.55, do you want that as well? I had a look. I’m already working 10 hours, they were asking me if I wanted to work 14. No. That could too easily have one thing go wrong, run over 15 hours, then I’d be stuck out for the night. Plus, and I can’t stress this enough, I totally don’t want to work 14 hour shifts.

I’ve started on the garden as well. I’ve dug over that compacted mud next to the shed so I can sew a wildflower mix. I’ve ordered some tomato seeds and some echinacea/ coneflowers. I like gardening at this time of the year. When life is coming back to the garden after the miserableness of winter. Getting everything started and planted. Then it’s all weeding, and slug killing, and more weeding, and pruning, and aphid killing and yet more weeding, and I lose interest.

Forgot to say, in the good news front, the doctors have finally got back to their proper system, Wendy got her appointment and had a telephone consult with a doctor who was really interested in her. He said the pills typically reach full effect in 6 to 8 weeks, (she’s on week 6) so he’s arranged a follow up call in 2 weeks. Fingers crossed they will kick in and Wendy will be fighting fit again within a fortnight. But if not, the doctor has already arranged the next appointment, so that’s a lot of stress off of Wendy.

That’s about it. It’s just been a good day, and as I come to look at it, a good week, so I thought I’d record a positive blog while the mood lasts. I’m sure normal service will be resumed for next time.

A little bit of Twitter.

I don’t know how accessible these running jokes are for non runners but they are very good so I’m putting them up. Ultra marathon’s are anything longer than a marathon.

Later,

Buck.