Archive for January, 2017

The gods mock me.

Well, it was all going so well.

I’d got over my bollock dropping of a few weeks ago. In point of fact, technically, I may not have missed a rota-ed shift. They got my shifts mixed up so thought I was working Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, so the Sunday was officially, mistakenly, my rest day.

That’s by the by, not a word said about it, move on.

So last week I got it sussed. 6 shifts, 65 hours, 2 weekend days (+20%), 11 hours 45 sixth shift (time and three quarters!) laughing all the way to the bank!

Happy, happy Bucky.

Then, on my sixth shift the news came through the company had been bought out. By a company that uses Stobarts for their logistics. Not just because they initially thought to have a third party logistics provider, but because they actually sacked off their unionised, well paid, driving division and brought in Stobarts.

Fucking super.

Things like triple time for bank holidays, time and three quarters for sixth shift, overtime at +20%, working past 18.00 20%, midnight- 06.00 +25%, everything that raises our wages from ok, to bloody great, all gone if we get Stobarts.

To say nothing of being treated well, never pushed, stressed, and never being treated like shit.

Nothing any of us can do. We just have to wait to see what happens.

I’m not optimistic. They only have to look at Stobarts driver, 29k max, then us, 44K possible, and rub their hands.

Ho hum. I thought I’d landed my job for life.

Shit.

So there goes the 50k retirement pad in Spain (even if Theresa the Appeaser doesn’t totally bollocks it up with Europe) and the 10K Triumph Thruxton. Not to mention the Morgan 4-4 I wanted for Wendy when she passes her test.

I mean, look at it:

Morgan

If you’re popping to Sainsbury’s for a loaf of bread, that’s the general utility vehicle within which you want to travel.

Practical, unassuming, modest, cheap.

Absolutely none of those things.

The one pictured might have issues as it’s *only* £18k, usually at least £10k dearer.

Talking of which, no sign of a rush to buy that, the doctors still haven’t even filled in her medical form from the DVLA. Bastards.

 

The Spanish lessons went tits up as well. Introduction to holiday Spanish, I was thinking, “Hello my name is Buck. One beer, please. Do you have the number of the British Embassy? Please don’t press charges.”

That sort of thing. The first lesson was just that. Well, the “hello, my name is” bit. The second lesson he gave us a list of Spanish sentences we’d never seen before two lists of words and wanted us to fill in the blanks. It wasn’t until the next morning I worked out the first list of words were pronouns and the second list were conjugations of the verb. (“Is”, I think.)

It wasn’t just me being thick, Wendy was baffled. Other people were saying “Sorry, I don’t understand any of this. Can you start again?”

It was godawful. I think it’s his first attempt at teaching Spanish. He’s a Spanish historian by day. He’s Spanish, he teaches history. I don’t know who’s.

Anyway, the home work was translating lists of food words and organising them into a menu. It was dry, pointless shite. I wanted conversational Spanish.

 

On the subject of learning, my sax is picking up. I get in at least half an hour most days. I’ve got past the embarrassment of playing it in the yard. I park as far away as I can from the other trucks, then sod ‘em.  The alto is still a hefty lump in my bag. I’ve got a 65 litre rucksack, (from my arse to my head) and it fills that. The sax, my satnav and a flat A4 folder are all that fit in the main compartment. I’ve got to squeeze waterproofs, painkillers, glasses, sunglasses, tools, electrical leads, etc into the side pockets. Less than ideal.

I was looking at a soprano sax after I saw a video on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vBl5S6CvOs

I had a cheapo Chinese soprano before but it was dog-whistle high and squeaky. Lots of obsessive reading later, I’ve found out sopranos are dear for a reason. They are absolute buggers to get right. Everything has to be perfect or the sound is hideous. Apparently you can get away with minor imperfections on alto and tenor.

The Bauhaus bronze soprano is considered bargain basement and borderline of what is acceptable.

At £650!

That’s the same bronze as my Bauhaus tenor. Which I love dearly. They say it gives it a more rounded, less shrill sound.

Lots more obsessive reading and window shopping later I came across another thing saying the embouchure (how you hold your gob around the reed and mouthpiece) is specialised to the soprano and you shouldn’t get one unless it’s going to be your main instrument.

I was in a quandary. I wanted small and fairly decent sounding, but it seems weird spending more on the workaday, means-to-an-end sax than on my main instrument.

Wendy had the good idea of renting. See if it’s workable.

After many fruitless searches I gave up on renting a Bauhaus, you either buy it or don’t play it. The only site I could find offering a halfway decent soprano was UKsaxhire.co.uk.

I started a conversation by email with Richard, the guy who runs it.

Me: I want a curved (small and portable) soprano sax.

Richard: “I am happy to rent you [curved soprano] sax but with the exception of [3k sax] they all sound horrible. If it’s just the size/ weight I have shaped alto cases for £25”  

Me: Your sales pitch needs polish.

After much too-ing and fro-ing, I went with his original suggestion and got the shaped alto case. The thing is, a straight alto is almost the same size box as my alto, and I way prefer the alto’s sound.  The case arrived today and it has made a difference to size. I was sceptical, but it has. And the ‘cheapo’, ex rental, case is *loads* better than mine! I had to stuff a dishcloth into the top of the bell to stop it from rattling around in mine, this one fits like a glove. Obviously if it’s rattling it could be damaging the keys.

I’ll give it a go but if it’s still too much I’ve told him to brace himself for me renting a curved soprano.

One tune I’ve learned the first bit of is Madness, One Step Beyond. I thought it sounded really good. Turns out he was a sax newbie himself so it’s really easy. Bonus. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-uyWAe0NhQ

I really want to aspire to playing this, but there is no sheet music, nobody has been brave enough to transcribe it, and I’ll never, ever, be good enough.  First for “cant-help-but-rock-out” exuberance, second for perfect, sublime, excellence.

https://youtu.be/R990oiRxy6U

https://youtu.be/bMwKtMUNtAE

If you’re interested in that sort of thing, Wendy pointed out that the drummer (especially on the first one) is some sort of genius as well.

 

Final thing is the pain and clicking in my fingers in the cold. The very thing that had set my mind to Spanish retirement. Wendy said, and I confirmed online that some arthritis conditions can be lessened or the deterioration slowed, if caught early enough. In a classic example of hope in the face of experience I went to the doctors. I’ve not been for about 10 years (except for compulsory driving medicals and the medical form for the parachute jump) because there’s no point. They never do anything for me. Tell a lie, I went for a sick note so I could carry on wearing my wide fitting safety boots.

Anyway, I went. The doctor looked at me and said it’s probably wear and tear now I’m old. Super. If it’s arthritis he could prescribe some painkillers.

I’m not in that much pain, the idea is that I want to avoid being in that much pain.

To be fair, they ruled out some things. They sent me for an Xray, all fine, then did a full blood analysis, not rheumatism.

The doctor today said “The results are all fine. Well done.”

I replied “Go me.”

So, seems I’m actually fine. I wish someone would tell my fingers that.

Whaddayagonnado?

Enough rambling,

Later,

Buck.

So far, so good, so what (again)…

First things first, seems my new job has strict policies on social media, such as tweeting or blogging using their name. So I won’t. Which is a shame because it is the best job with the best company, but rules are rules.

Last week I did two days of induction and started work. As I said I’m starting on a 6 month, temp- to- perm, 3 day  a week contract. They said that if I wanted more work I could request it in the overtime book, first come, first served, but usually always get a shift. I did my induction 2 days,but it was too late to request the following day. I booked the rest of the week and this week (around my rota-ed Sat/Sun/Mon) and got work on every day. 6 straight shifts. Then I legally had to take 2 days off.

So that has answered that question. Yes, I can make my hours up. Also they do overtime rate for anything over 45 hours a week, 1.75 rate for a sixth shift, up to treble time for a bank holiday, match your pension contributions up to 5% of earnings, company share scheme that makes a profit but guarantees your investment in case of share drop…Honestly, this is a golden goose that just keeps laying.

Plus all the standard stuff that I have been lacking on agency/ self employed such as sick pay, union, holiday pay (HOLIDAY PAY! I remember that!)

And, outside of the pay and benefits, the job itself is great. Supportive, helpful, not pressured.  I love it. After some of the jobs I’ve done…I’m never leaving.

My first day was a bit epic. I levered a post into position on my trailer, thought it had locked in place, took my hand away, then it sprang open and smacked me in the face.

IMG_20161215_165438 

It was only a scratch, but as you can see it bled a lot. I got a plaster and I was fine. I had to fill in an accident form when I got back “Time with company?” 3 days! Lol.

In other news, I’ve sacked off the flute. It was a portable means to an end. To whit, to learn the sax. But I just couldn’t get up enough enthusiasm to force myself to play it.  I’ve bought a cheap, new, alto sax (a bit smaller and higher pitched than my tenor and just about fits in my work bag.)

IMG_20161209_120806

I wanted to get the same brand as my tenor (Bauhaus). I struck lucky with that, I bought it by chance just before they became a respected brand and put the price up. But I’ve read good reviews about the alto, so I gave it a shot. I love it. Nice sound, very easy to blow.

By the way, it’s supposed to look like that, it’s “vintage”. *hard stare to camera*

I’ve been lugging it to work and playing it on my breaks. Sod’s law I’ve not been forced to sit around for hours since I started taking it, but even if I just play it for half an hour or so every day, it’s got to be for the good.

 

I’ve also been returning to running. I was going to wait for the new year, but I decided to focus my chi and get stuck in. Running, sax, etc.

This time I’m being sensible. They say if you’re returning from a 6 week or more break start with 4.30 walk, 30 second run, x6. Then 4.00/ 1.00, 3.30/ 1.30 etc. It absolutely sucks arse, but it’s supposed to get you back into running without injury. 3 weeks of 3 runs, then allowed to do 35 minutes run 3 times. Then increase by 10% a week.  If I get an injury after this I’m tracking the training plan author down. So bad. And humiliating.

I’d just crested the hump, got to 3 minutes running, 2 minutes walking, when I’ve been struck down in my prime by the lurgy. Man lurgy, so far worse than standard.

On my day off.

Which is nice.

I woke up in the night feeling like shit. Super.

So no run.

 

A week or two later…

I gave the run/ walk thing two weeks then sacked it off and did the 45 minute run.  I’m supposed to be be taking it really easy and not pushing the pace as I up it by no more than 10% long run, 10% overall weekly distance.  I may have been pushing the pace. And I upped it by 20%. I tried patience, it took too long.

Then I got a warning pain. Bugger. So rested up for a few days with ibuprofen and compression bandage. I’ll get there.

 

Work is great. Except I dropped a huge bollock.

I’m on  a 3 day contract, 6 months, temp-to-perm. I just have to ask and usually I can get whatever extra days work I want. I was putting lots down, then when I came to review the previous week’s work, I realised although I’d had three days off, none of them were consecutive. The law states I must have a 45 hour break one week, but can reduce to a 24 hour the next. I’d had Wednesday off that week so thought I was clear through until Tuesday, Saturday afternoon I realised I wasn’t legal for Sunday!

My shifts are Saturday, Sunday, Monday so I had to ring in and duck a shift. Shit. That’s never happened to me before, damned sure it will never happen again, but trust me, the first month of probation and I do that.

Work were really good about it, I just worked Tuesday instead.

 

In other exciting news (to me) I have been window shopping for a new bike. I thought I’d picked a winner. Honda are doing (probably) the last air cooled (so, pretty) finned engine before the EU regulations consign them to history. As of now, (January ‘17) EU4 is a legal requirement. It has reduced emissions by 94%, which is obviously a good thing. But by 2020 EU5 kicks in and air cooled will be no more.

So Honda have looked to their laurels and recreated the CB750 (The Bike For Which They Invented The Word “Superbike”, The Death Of British Bikes, etc) but as a modern retro. It’s now 1100cc and not at all sporty. But oh so pretty.

17YM CB1100 RS

17YM CB1100 RS

The critics are saying it is overpriced, overweight, underspeced and underpowered. I was just loving it’s look and the thought of chugging around on a bike good for 100,000 miles.

It was compromise though. I went off the W650 because of it’s lack of performance compared to my CB750. Here I’d be paying top dollar for another pretty but sluggish beast.

Then I came across the fact that Triumph have upgraded the Thruxton. It’s now a 1200cc, liquid cooled, weapon. My previous objections to the water cooled Triumph’s was the engine was ugly. Goddamn ugly. If you are buying a naked retro it’s for the looks. Triumph (who obviously read my blog and value my opinion) have upped their game.

Here is the Triumph Speed Triple.

Triple

Amidst the overall ugliness, particularly observe the engine. Smooth and ugly.With a huge radiator.

Compare that to Triumph’s Thruxton R:

2016-Triumph-Thruxton-1200R3-small

2016-Triumph-Thruxton-1200R5-small

Yes, it’s water cooled and fuel injected, but look at the engine fins! Marvel at the fake carbs! Look quite hard to notice the radiator, completely fail to spot the water reservoir!

And they’ve not stinted on performance. Fancy upside down forks, high tech rear shocks, monster brakes and 97hp!

My W650 is 50hp, the CB750 is 73hp. This beast is 97hp! In a retro twin!

All of the reviews are a-gush with praise. Google some of them, the youtube vids are a hoot.

This one is worth a watch for the riding technique alone.  https://youtu.be/jdq_cZN8nbE

In no way reminiscent of anyone I know. *cough*

Some mad Asian geezer testing it out against a sports tourer, 1400cc, plastic rocket.

Basically this is the bike for me. It’s a cafe racer so it looks gorgeous. It has a sports pretention set up with top spec forks, shocks, and brakes so it handles properly. It has 97hp, a 0-60 of 3.2 seconds, a standing quarter mile of 12.5 seconds, 115mph. Which is 0-banned in about 10 seconds. That’s enough grunt for me.

It’s just lovely. Also, as an aside but still sadly a consideration, I won’t have arseholes saying “Is that a Kwak in disguise?” It is exactly what it says on the tin, a modern Triumph retro.

Here’s a snippet from one review to give you a flavour of the praise:

“Its most impressive engineering feat is that it has made nostalgia a reality. This is a love letter to British superbike history, the burbling parallel twin bursting with character, the communicative handling, and the responsive brakes, without the leaks, creaks, and kickstarts of old.

This is not a trip back in time, but to a parallel dimension where the Bonneville never became retro, but became the standard.”

Now I just need to crash save. These buggers only came out in 2016 so there are no cheap old ones. That is going to be my summer bike, as soon as salt goes down it’s back on the CB750.

IMG_CB750 (2)

That’s the plan. Now to make the shitloads of money. The W650 is going as soon as the fair weather bikers come out of hibernation, that should put 3 or 4K towards it.

 

The other thing is *drum roll* we’ve just done our first Spanish lesson!

Woo-hoo! Bloody terrifying when the tutor got us trying to do the “Hello my name is.. what’s your name? How are you? See you later”  bollocks. Embarrassingly bad, but that’s how everyone starts. Getting over the fear of making a total arse of yourself is half the battle, I suppose.

Laters potatoes,

Buck.