Archive for July, 2012

Mixed fortunes.

After the hols last week I thought the works or the agency had got rid of me but it turned out they had just lost my number (along with their mobile.)

Sunday evening they ‘phoned me on the landline and ruined my chi. I was quite looking forward to having Monday off. C’est la vie.

Bright side being, A: it gave me some wages, B: it got me back into driving. You wouldn’t think I’d need a refresher after doing it daily for six months, but at the first island driving away from my works I found I was approaching at car speeds. Not good in a truck. Then on Wednesday I backed into a barrier. Total bummer.

It was a bay tight against a wall with a barrier running alongside it. I’ve backed into it when there was a truck parked in the next bay, making it REALLY tight, no problem. This time I had about three empty bays to drive across then swing it in. The barrier goes in for a spell, then stupidly, comes out again. I caught it on the come out bit. Totally gutted.

My confidence has taken a battering. I have to refocus, regroup and go back to basics. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

If you can’t see where your arse end is, get out and look. Don’t think you can judge off the visible side. Stupid.

I’ll see how it goes. Give it another week at least to get over my nerves then maybe apply for another job.

I am really torn about that now. I want to go to a better job because, well, it’s better, but I don’t want to make any mistakes while I’m new. But that is two accidents here (turning that mirror around was hardly a major incident, but it counts as an accident). I don’t like it. I’d prefer to run away.

Yes, I am freaking out. 

Not a happy bunny at all. Wishing I had a job that used my brain. Trucking is a great job when all is well but the slightest error and things go ‘SMASH’ and there is no undoing it. Why didn’t I study to be a heart surgeon? A job where you don’t get any complaints if you do it wrong.

 

In other news, the fitness side of things is really looking up. It was only five weeks ago (four weeks of cycling) that I started riding in to work. Admittedly it was with a bloody great painful rucksack, but my time was 45 minutes. I broke the 35 minute barrier twice last week! Chuffed.

I only managed four days riding last week. I found I had a flat as I was about to set off for work on Friday. I did a (relatively) quick inner tube change only to find the brand name (Raleigh) dearer tube I’d bought from a sports supermarket had a poxy small valve stem. It didn’t even poke through the wheel rim far enough for me to attach the pump. I was less than thrilled. I had to go in the car. In retrospect I am so glad it happened at home. If I’d have had an irreparable puncture on a long ride out and then found out the replacement tube didn’t work I’d have spat my dummy with some vigour.

Anywho, the important part about that tale is my minutes per mile stat has come down from 4 m/m last year when I was at my fittest, to 3m15s per mile. It’s only a sprint course, with no big hills but it’s undeniably quicker. Last year I settled for endurance, this year I want to build the speed as well. I remember as a teen that I rode everywhere in tenth gear, pumping the whole time, even up Frodsham hill. I recall my calf muscles were actually split into two distinct muscles. If I can keep pushing it, day in, day out, then I should be able to recover those honking great muscles. Get the muscles, piss the speed. That’s the plan.

 

Whilst I was on holiday gorging on clotted cream, pasties and rat poison I managed to put on five pounds. I’ve lost four and a half of them already. Yay!

 

Also I have had a hair cut today! At a proper hair cutting place. Go me! I think it’s about 30 years since I last did. I’ve shaved it off myself, had family to trim it, or just left it. They gave me a loyalty card. After I’ve had nine cuts the tenth is free. Unfortunately at this rate  I will be 315 years old before I can claim my free cut. Still, at that age a chap wants to look his best for the ladies. Here’s the result anyway. The same but shorter.

20120728_232640

Excuse the squinty, cock-eyed photo’, the flash on my ‘phone is fierce.

The tan, regrettably, is if anything, understated. Running in Cornwall and riding to and from work have ruined my undead street cred.

 

Talking of running, my final bit of fitness news is awesome! Though I do (modestly) say so myself. You know how I buggered my leg with those ‘natural running’ trainers and basically couldn’t run for six months? Before the holiday I did four, 10  mile runs. One of them I couldn’t complete, I had to stop and have a breather. The other three were the very limit of my endurance and willpower just to keep moving after 6 or so miles. The times were disgraceful. The three I completed averaged at 9m 16s per mile. They started off, the first mile or so, around the 8m/m mark, but petered off to a Peter Kay ‘dad-run’ by the end.

After the week of running every day up and down the coastal hills of Cornwall I did my first flat Warrington run today. I felt epic! I could feel that I could push it. I ended up doing the 10.3 miles in 1h 20m. That used to be my OK pace before I knackered myself. Or to put it another way, my very best time for 10 miles was 1h 15m. Today’s run was an average of 7m 50s per mile!  That’s nearly a minute and a half faster per mile than pre-hols!

Honestly, I am really, really happy about that.

The gods had to mock me a bit on the run thing though. My new trainers came on Friday whilst we were at work. The delivery guy didn’t leave them at a neighbours or in the blue bin or anything, just took them away with him, said he’d redeliver on Monday (presumably when we are safely at work) so I had to run in really old trainers. The pair I bought before the cowshit pair. Not a problem, they still work, just not as well. I decided to run down by the canal as it’s scenic and off road. Also because the cinder and dirt path had been baked for a week so would be nice and dry. About four miles into the run, at the point when there’s really no point in turning back, it suddenly started to bucket it down. Ace. I was soaked. The dusty dry path turned into a puddle-fest. My trainers were soaked and heavy in no time. Then it started to thunder. Whilst I was alone in the middle of nowhere. Super.  Still, a good run.

The way forward is try to run often, include lots of hills where possible.

 

As ever I’m sure there were loads of things I thought of during the week to include on here, but I’m damned if I can think of them now. Again. I’ll have to start taking notes.

Well, that’s all for now.

Later,

Buck.

Quick update

Turns out work haven’t got rid of me, the agency lost their mobile ‘phone and with it my mobile number. They rang me on the landline tonight, I’m back in as usual all week. Bugger. I was looking forward to a few days indolence.

It’s good in several ways though; it pays the bills while I apply for another job and it keeps my hand in so I’m confident for any assessment. Also it looks better applying for a job whilst in work, especially applying for a trunking driving job whilst you are doing a trunking driving job.

 

While I’m here I forgot to mention we saw a lizard/ newt/ whatever scurrying about in the road in Cornwall. About 3” long and black. It was quite exciting. I really need to get out more.

 

Also, last night I had just finished my blog. I was calling Wendy up to look at it before I posted to make sure she was OK about that one picture with her on it. Before she could look she asked me to sort the fuse box out as the downstairs lights had tripped. I did it in the dark. And turned off the circuit with the PC on. Lost the (completed) lot. I had to do it all again today. Tres miffed.

 

Anyway, Wendy’s trying to get to sleep and we are both in work tomorrow. Bum.

Later,

Buck.

Jollies.

Well, what a time we had and no mistake.

As I said last time, we booked a cheap week away in a caravan in Cornwall months ago, in anticipation of the glorious British Summer. Then it pissed it down continuously for three months. Hopes were not high.

By some strange miracle we actually had nice weather! Huzzah!

Cornwall doesn’t have a lot going for it in the rain. We had one day with a bit of drizzle, some wind, but the rest was sunny and lovely. We also had reservations about the site I’d booked. When we got the brochure that featured a bench as a selling point we were a tad concerned. We were looking forward at least to taking out pictures on the bench. There was no bench!

What is the number for the Trades Description Act people?

Devastated.

However, the site itself was small, well spaced caravans, under-occupied and the caravan was clean and fine. As opposed to one site we had to drive through where they were crammed together, looked old and dirty and had loads of riff-raff. And the view from the big window at the end of the caravan:

Cornwall '12 004

Wowsers!

We were a seven minutes run down a steep wooded path from the beach.

Cornwall '12

Cornwall '12 013

A fact I took daily advantage of with my runs. It was fantastic running down from the caravan, across a beach or two (depending on if the tide was out) then up the coast path over the hills. The best part of the running for me was the two days when I met extreme hikers. They were all togged out in stout hiking boots, serious trousers, all weather coats, rucksacks, etc. I was going the other way in trainers, shorts and a sleeveless top. At a run.

Well, it made me smile anyway.

The beach just below the caravan was good for swimming too. Not many tourists (damn their eyes!) a gradual deepening of the water and a lifeguard. Ideal. I only did one swim, but it was nice to have it there. I was putting it off as it’s my weakest discipline in triathlon. Well, in the top three of my weakest disciplines.

I took a holiday from my diet as well. I’ve put on 4 pounds but it was worth it! We found an excellent Cantonese/ Chinese restaurant (that by luck was also cheap) and an Italian restaurant that was sublime.

The downside to our culinary adventure was the Rat Poison episode. Wendy doesn’t believe it, but I think so.

We went to a local pub for our tea, and to be fair the meal was nice. Fish and chips. Cornish fish is always better than up here, but they had an really tasty herby batter for it. Very nice. However, I made some quip about the service being slow (that they must be catching the fish) that was overheard. When I ordered pudding the barman went into the back and brought it out. He went back into the kitchen then we heard (presumably) the chef saying “Oh my god! No!” The chap came out and tried to take the pudding back, saying it was treacle pudding, not sticky toffee pudding. I thought it was a massive over-reaction and ate it anyway.

Then I started to feel ill. I had to go to bed early as I was feeling so sick. Then I had to get up in the night to be sick. You’ll recall I don’t drink, so it wasn’t that.

I think the guy thought he’d sort out the gobby Northener with the addition of a soupcon of rat poison. It only makes you throw up, so no harm done. Wendy disagrees.  Either way, we didn’t return to The Rat Poisoner’s Arms.

The other thing about that place was a car parked outside. Look at this for cool:

20120716_191520

Crank handle at the front and everything! It was fully legal and functional as it drove off shortly after we arrived. Presumably so the driver could go and get his stomach pumped.

We did some touristy stuff, such as visit St Michael Mount. When I did my (failed) Cornish triathlon last year we were based in Marazion, just across the causeway from it, but never went. This time I thought we should make the effort.

It was lovely.

 20120720_152213Cornwall '12 049

Cornwall '12 083 20120720_152332

We had such a nice, quiet, relaxing time that Wendy is actually entertaining the idea of us moving back there. I’ve always wanted to move back, but Wendy has her job that she won’t be able to move with (mostly small, volunteer based C.A.B.’s in Cornwall) and her church that has loads of her family in it, so was reluctant.

It would mean me realizing an earlier ambition, that of getting a driving job with a national employer, such as the Royal Mail, then getting a transfer. I did a quick search on the jobsite for HGV drivers in Cornwall. Of the three that actually state a wage (as opposed to ‘meets minimum wage’, ‘dependent on experience’, ‘to be discussed’) there were two day jobs at £8 per hour, and one nights job at £400 per week (best case £8.33 per hour as it was 48 hours or more as needed!)

That was for now, in all of Cornwall. Given that your native Cornishman would probably give preference to a local lad/ lass that is not encouraging. I changed to location to Warrington, days £9-£12 per hour, nights £12-£16 per hour.

Talking of which, because I had the audacity to have a week’s holiday after my six months, five days a week, for my latest job the company or agency have not got me back in next week.

Sod ‘em.

The good news is that the job for which I was going to apply upon my return from our holiday is currently recruiting! Yay!  That is the £9-£12 per hour job (£9 p/h for the first 8 hours each day, £12 thereafter, typical 10-12 hour days. Sundays all at £12 p/h etc.)

So I’ll be applying for that on Monday. I’m tempted by the money on that nights trunking job though. The trouble with that is; 1, I never see Wendy as it is, 2, there is a massive increase in the number of driver fatalities due to RTA’s amongst night drivers. Trying to sleep during the day around here, with the yappy dog and yappy kids about to start their Summer holidays, in sunlight… Then going in to work knackered and driving all night. Not good. But a lot of cash. Say £13 p/h average, 55 hours a week… that’s £715 per week.  The day job would be about £540. Minus four hours, fifteen minutes for breaks, usually.

Well, I’ll apply for the day job first, but if not immediately successful I think I’ll have to go for the nights job. Bloody hell that’s a lot of cash. I’d have to put the rest of my life on hold, it would just be work and sleep, but that is serious money.

I’d guess, at say 20% stoppages, take home £430 days, £570 nights. Shit.

Well, we’ll see. 

 

BTW,the reason there are no pictures of Wendy is ‘cos she has forbidden me to post pictures of her to the internet until she’s wretched and skinny again. If that’s what makes her happy. Belson chic.

I just look the same;

Cornwall '12 032

Or even more windblown bad hair day:

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So that’s life as is. Great break, want to move back, currently unemployed, fatter and more rat poison resistant. Oh, and all the running and damnable, unrelenting sunshine has made my face all red and peeling. Ace. And the running through mud and cowshit has ruined my trainers. Good. They have been crippling me since I got them. Finally I can justify buying a new pair.

That’s all folks.

Later,

Buck.

Revision.

My exciting plan to buy a cool car has suffered a set-back. Or three.

The Midget is still cool. In a dinky sort of way. I mean, look:

Midget_13549

I started doing some research and narrowing down the options and discovered the model I wanted was a MKIII, (1275cc, 1966-1974) really good nick, under £4k.

Then I hit the snags. Even the bigging-it-up adverts were talking about ‘rolling restoration’. ie, never out of the garage and a money pit. Also they were saying that really they need to be kept in a garage. Whether that’s to prevent the rain getting in through the old canvas soft top or to stop them dissolving into dust (or both) wasn’t specified. The thing is, when you start bringing that sort of thing to the equation I begin to reconsider. I think it’s a cool car, but I want a car I can use. And I don’t have a garage. If it’s just going to be a posing, second car, (with a surprise garage attachment) it leads me to ask a more central question; “What am I thinking?”

When did I start considering a cool/ fun CAR? If it’s not practical, is a money pit, and a symptom of my ongoing midlife crisis then it has to be a motorbike.

No-brainer.

So it’s back to the Kawasaki Bonnie clone. Just feast your eyes on this:

Kwak Bonnie

As someone said of an earlier Japanese clone; “as near as you can get to a Triumph without pushing it home at night.”

This is no longer true, as the rebooted, modern, reliable Triumph do their own Bonneville. Ironically the new Triumph is accepted as a reliable brand because they took a Kawasaki Ninja engine apart and used it as a blueprint. So I’ve read, anyway.

The thing is, if you are buying a retro bike it is obviously for the looks. The performance is going to be tepid, the aerodynamics are tits, the riding position  is unsheltered and, at any speed for any time bloody uncomfortable.

This means you are buying a bike on the aesthetic alone, if you take reliability as a given.

Why then, Triumph, are you fielding this:

Triumph Bonneville, 2009 model. Source: Kevin Ash. No picture credit required. For use only with related editorial. 

To the untrained eye the bikes might look similar so let me list the woes; observe the mag (magnesium alloy) wheels. Ughh. Cast a disdainful eye at the forks and notice the lack of gaiters (the rubber ‘Nora Batty stockings’ things). Where also are the rubber tank pads? What the very heck is that travesty of an exhaust end-pipe? Finally, and most importantly, what is that lump of crap you are passing off as an engine? It is an ugly, radiator cooled (as opposed to proper air cooled) offence to the eye. *pass the mind-bleach!*

They (Triumph) have done a nice stylistic makeover with the cafe-racer Thruxton;

Triumph_thruxton

It ticks the cafe-racer aesthetic boxes; dropped handlebars, rear-set footrests/ foot controls and seat hump.

All of this was so that your working class Johnny could change his motorbike from a sit-up-and-beg riding position standard bike into a lay across the tank, speed-demon, cafe posing hero machine.

You have to state this is purely an aesthetic nowadays. I expect a 250cc race replica plastic-fantastic pocket-rocket could blow it out of the water.

But let us look at the the Thruxton again. Spoked wheels, check, chrome mudguards, check, drilled out support stainless steel piece by the rear set (nice touch!) check. Triumph badge in 50’s/ 60’s style, check.

Exhaust. Fail. Engine. Fail.

The lesson here, then is that cafe racer is a cool style. So why not buy a Kawasaki and put dropped handlebars, rearsets and a seat hump on it?

It doesn’t have the Triumph badge is all. We’ve already seen that the latest incarnation of the Triumph company’s success is based on Japanese engines, so why not abandon the pretence?

 

I’d like the original Bonnie, but as we’ve seen with the Midget, you are starting off from a bad place (British built with stone-age tech) and then adding 50 years of decay.

So, my midlife crisis (Engine based, sub-division) has a new focus. Or rather it has returned to an earlier one. It will be mine.

Whilst not exactly my cup of tea here is a stunning Kwak cafe racer;

Cafe Kwak

Seat hump, (I’ll say!) gaiters, peashooter exhaust, beautiful engine with kickstarter (kickstarter! Tres bleeding cool!) hub rear brake. Oddly he’s put some ugly downpipes on the exhaust and left the footpegs/ controls up front. Each to his own. But it shows what you can do with the right engine. Look at that (probably faux) pushrod casing! (the chrome pipe up the side of the engine.) Class.

Also, the Kwak has done the decent thing and got the engine the same as the original. Internally, I mean. Most Japanese four cylinder bikes fire four little bangs. ie, cylinder 1 (250cc) half a rev later, cylinder 3 (250 cc), 2, 4.Or some such. What you have then is a smooth, even power delivery which just spins up faster and faster. The old fashioned British twin had none of that. Two cylinders, both pistons going up and firing together (BOOM! 750cc right in your face) and a massive flywheel to spin them around again. I remember Les gave me a lift on his one time, the kick of power is brutal. Gimme!

I’m thinking next year. Spring thereof. Then the real test begins; have I finally learned enough common sense to not get banned/ crash? Everyone says my driving has changed beyond recognition since I’ve become a trucker. Slower, more patient. Also I am pretty careful about speeding (on the motorway). Excessively. The amount of unmarked police cars I’ve seen since I’ve been trucking is not true.

It’s not the crashing and dying bit that bothers me (never really has) it’s the loss of license/ livelihood should I survive.

 

So that is how I am currently filling the void where my soul used to be. With wanton lust for for a Kwak cafe racer.

 

In other news I did four days (bicycle) commuting to work last week. With the runs scheduled for the weekend I thought I’d best set aside a day for rest to recuperate. They say that’s the hardest bit of training, forcing yourself to take time off. As it turned out it was pissing it down (for a change) so I found it quite easy. My other thought was that would be the day I’d appreciate it most, as then I could dash home and start my weekend early. Ha! Once again the gods mock me. I was waiting for an hour and and a half for a trailer before I could even start, the motorways were bollocksed because of the rain and all those mamby-pamby want-to-live-for-ever sorts who slow down just because they can’t see for spray and are scared they are going to die (GET A BUS, YOU MORONS!) then when I got to my last drop their computer was down so I was waiting four hours and twenty minutes for them to load me. I ended up scraping in at just under a fourteen hour shift. Joy.

Yesterday (Saturday) I was pretty knackered then. In bed for 2.30am, sprogs out making a racket by 7am. I ended up just beating the garden into a semblance of order. My first proper gardening this year. The grass was so tough I couldn’t do it with the shears, I had to sharpen my bayonet and hack it down. Trimmed my box hedge and made started to topiary-ize some box and a bay. It looks tidier now.

 

Here are some things that popped up on Twitter for your delectation: 1, The Higgs Boson. As you know it is the missing link the scientists have been looking for, a proof of their other theories. The so called God Particle because of it’s importance to said theories.

Dilbert on the subject:

Dilbert

 

Then there were the Yanks (I assume) on Twitter when they announced they had finally discovered it:

god

You shouldn’t laugh. But I did. Cruelly and vindictively. God-squadders. Not a brain cell between them.

 

Also someone posted a link to some images to restore one’s faith in humanity. Random acts of kindness. There are kittens if you want to check out the rest of it. (Here: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/4dHAbS/www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/pictures-that-will-restore-your-faith-in-humanity?sub=1627910_374866 )

The one that got me was number 20, some guy going into the sea to rescue a dog that had fell in off the pier. The woman’s face. *chokes up, slaps self*

Drownt rat II

drownt rat

 

To clarify my earlier posts, I’ve not yet applied for that other driving job. As soon as we get back off holiday I will be doing. I’ve got regular work so I’m not too stressed either way, which is better for me. I don’t like assessments, I get too nervous. If everything is riding on the outcome that doesn’t help. This would just be an improvement, not all or nothing.

If I can get a regular trunking, morning start, better paid job then so much the better. But it’s not the end of the world. I can pass assessments now. I have regular work. I can do the job that is expected of me. Before I started this particular job none of that was true.

So the plan is: jolly hols, new job, spend a stupid amount on next year’s Ironman Bolton (This years was £425. For a race! I’m not buying Bolton. As opposed to £225 for the Outlaw, Iron-distance triathlon.) Hmm, looking at that I’m asking myself is it worth it? It’s a bit tougher bike course but really you are paying for the brand name. After I’ve just been railing against the uselessness of buying the Triumph badge. That is ugly and overpriced. Ironman is just overpriced. And I’ll only be doing the brand name event the once. Hmmm. Food for thought.

I digress though. An Ironman (brand name or generic) the Lakeland trials marathon, keep training for my end-to-end and take swimming lessons. Make ridiculous amounts of money, pay off the last bit of the card, save a couple of grand, buy the Kwak and cafe racer it. Plan.

Oh, before I go, have a giggle at this: it’s what happens if you go on to a roundabout a bit too fast in a truck. I laughed ‘cos it wasn’t me. (look behind the red Honda)

 

Truck oops

Apparently you can roll an artic at 12mph. A cheery thought whenever you feel it tipping in to a corner.

Offski.

Later,

Buck.