Bikes.

My biking obsession is driving Wendy to despair. But I’m sure she’s sharing my joy, really. Deep down inside. Well hidden. Behind a smokescreen of rage.

Anyway.

I got that TL1000S after the Motorcycle News (MCN) review that basically said it will scare the shit out of you and try to throw you into the scenery.  Guess what? It scared the shit out of me and tried to throw me into the scenery. Oddly it’s not as much fun as it sounds.

It was just an awesome, full-on, loony machine. There was no ‘potter around’ setting. You were either committed or parked. It still sounds fun. In real life that’s great for dry, straight roads, terrifying in the wet at roundabouts.  It’s probably just me, never having had a race bike before, but it was just too much. Being a V twin 1000cc the power didn’t build with the revs it just kicked you in the arse as soon as you touched the throttle. I couldn’t feed it in. I was in two minds about it. I’ll never own a bike that awesome again, but if it’s that bad in summer, imagine riding it to work through winter? I was on riding on eggshells as it was. The tickover problem decided me. The (£60 p/h!) Suzuki specialist mechanics said it would need an engine strip to find the problem, possibly thousands of pounds.

I sold it.

I was going to sell my CB750 as well. Put it through the MOT before the insurance runs out on the 21st, and it failed. Of course it did. Back brake disc worn, pads buggered. Also advisory on chain. I remain in a state of flux over bikes, so I pulled the ebay listing, ordered the disc, (already had some pads) and chain and sprocket set and was going to keep it. I’m finishing off fitting it today when the rain stops.

Then I came across an MCN review of the Honda VFR750 from the 90’s.  “For many, bike journalists included, the best road bike ever built.”

Whoa!

MCN don’t mince their words. (My favourite being a review of a supersports bike “Goes like buggery. Just as uncomfortable.”) That is a breathtakingly audacious statement.

Apparently Mr Honda had the idea that a V4 engine was the future, rolled out the first generation of bikes, but they were flawed, “chocolate cams”, cams kept buggering up. So it was either scrap the whole V4 concept and accept brand humiliation or redesign it as the most wonderfully over-engineered, bullet-proof, benchmark legend ever to be built. Honda. Obviously they redeemed themselves.

MCN: “A Honda PR man once (fairly) famously joked that “I don’t care how much a VFR costs, it’s worth three times as much.” He’s not far wrong.”  “For a Japanese superbike, the VFR is about as good as it gets. Build quality is sublime, reliability… is total. Don’t let high mileages put you off: VFR head over 75,000 with impunity…”

So then I *had* to have VFR750, the ‘94-97 model with the sexy (MCN) “Ferrari-esque louvres on its side panels.”

I was looking to try it out and if it’s as wonderful as they say maybe get the new version (VFR800) some way down the road. Wendy, who is sick to the back teeth of me fucking about with motorbikes, said I should just buy the new one. I priced a 2014 (latest model) bike for £6,500.

http://www.motoplanete.com/honda/galerie/VFR-800-2014/13.jpg

I went so far as to arrange a loan. Then I bottled it. It’s one thing to run old bikes, buy and sell, possibly crash, but £6½ K for a bike I might not like?

I got a ‘94 instead. £1,400. The amount for which I sold the TL.

IMG_0636

After stepping off the TL I was a bit worried I’d bought a dud. Again. You have to wind the revs up and wait, and wait, and wait.

That was just adjusting to the V4 engine. The V twin was instant, uncontrollable power. This one will potter around at 30mph all day quite happily. Then you rev it and away she goes! I’m a convert. The thing about Honda’s is the perceived blandness. They aren’t seen as idiosyncratic, or quirky, they just do the job, quietly, efficiently, safely. After the TL I can now appreciate that. Two days into ownership and I was chucking it into roundabouts lower and faster than the TL. Because the power comes in smoothly and predictably and the brakes work without spitting you off, I can ride it properly. I had to tiptoe around the TL.

I’ve heard lots of tales of 100K plus bikes still going strong.

This one isn’t my final bike. The shocks need sorting front and back, and the previous owner had it professionally lowered. It’s a bit short for me. But this is definitely my final choice for model.

I thought I’d test out the claim that it was a 600 miles a day comfortable bike. On a whim I rode down to Camborne in Cornwall and back yesterday. 700 miles. She’ll chug along at 90-100 for hour after hour, effortlessly, then go like stink for an overtake. The tank is good for nigh on 200 miles before the warning light, (and it has a petrol gauge as well! First bike I’ve had with one. Brilliant for peace of mind.)

I wouldn’t say it was the comfiest bike I’ve ever had, the old Honda CX500 takes that prize, but it’s tolerable. After 700 miles I wasn’t in as much pain as riding the TL 100 miles. Also the TL only had a 90 miles (motorway) tank, about 80 miles commuting. Crap.

I probably did it wrong, to be fair. Here to Cornwall with one stop for fuel, wander around an hour, then one stop on the way back.

I would love the new model, but when you can get a 20,000 miles, fully sorted (shocks upgraded, brakes fettled, pristine condition) 1995 VFR750 for a fifty quid short of  £2k, good for another 80,000 miles, why would you?

So now the plan is to sort the CB750, MOT and sell it. Fit the brake pads for the VFR750, sell that. Buy a pristine VFR750.  Look smug.

Here’s the one I want. Whether it will still be there when I’ve got the cash is another matter. Still, one will come up again.

HONDA VFR 750 FS

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  • It’s got a full service history, the upgraded shocks front and rear, braided brake lines, the bigger screen and it’s not been lowered. So basically everything I want on mine.

    Pity it’s not red. Much as I love black for everyday things, it’s a scientific fact that red ones are faster. Wendy was unaware of the fact. Basic physics, that.

    Right, this is just me ranting about bikes. I have to tell someone and Wendy reaches for her gun every time the B word comes up.

    Later,

    Buck.

    PS, Fitted the chain and sprocket set (after ordering a new bolt for the front sprocket which snapped off rather than undo) and tried to adjust the brake which was seizing on. No joy. Tried to move the whole caliper across and that bolt snapped off. *blubs*

    I’m selling it spares/ repair. I’ve totally had enough of this shit. Also put the VFR up for sale with the brake pads unfitted. I’m not buggering another bike up up trying to fit them.

    *This* is why Wendy wanted me to get a new bike; so I can never touch it. She may have a point, actually.

    I’ve got both bikes up for sale, the CB750 has already sold, 4 days to go, just got to wait and see how high the bidding goes. Hopefully someone will buy the VFR750 as well. I’ve emailed the guy over the pristine one above. It’s a 19 day old advert, so I may have missed that boat. If so, it takes the pressure off at least. I’ll wait for the next spot-on one and bank the cash.

    TL1000S

    I know, another boring bike entry.

    I want to share the joy and terror that is my new beast.

    IMG-20170520-WA0000(1)

    I’ve de-badged it since that picture. Took off all the stupid ‘Relentless’ stickers and such. It looked like a boy racer’s Subaru. Seems you heat them with a hair dryer which melts the glue and they peel off, then use GooGone to wipe away the residual glue. Gawd bless the internet.

    There is still a problem with tickover. I’ve tracked down and joined a TL owner’s group, TLWorld, and found it’s usually down to to the Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) needing adjustment and the the air mixture in the cylinders need balancing. Something about throttle bodies, I think. The TPS thing is what it says, something that senses where the throttle is and tells the computer to throw petrol at the engine.

    It doesn’t look too big a job, but you have to strip all the fairing off. If I’m doing that I may as well service it as well, so I’ve got plugs, oil filter, air filter, and all the gaskets to the exhaust (which is still too loud, I’ve ordered some –second hand- genuine Suzuki TL1000s end cans as a last ditch attempt to quiet it down).

    I’ll service it, replace the exhaust gaskets, fit the standard end cans, adjust the tickover, set the TPS and balance the throttle bodies (or whatever that bit is called.)

    If it’s still cutting out then I’m taking it to the professionals.

    It’s a hazard to shipping at the moment. I was sat between the cars at the lights, revving up a massively loud bike like a boy racer just to keep it from dying, then I let the clutch out and it stalled. In my embarrassment I hit the starter, grabbed a hand full of revs and dumped the clutch, all in one motion. Wheelied away between the traffic. So not good.

    Another bracing moment was heading over Kingsway bridge. I shot up behind a car, which then put it’s indicator on and braked towards the pavement. Whatever. I swerved past it, accelerating. Police car in the middle of the road heading straight for me! Oops. Hit the brakes and the back end swung right out. The brakes are fierce! In a split second it slewed so far round I thought I was getting spat off. I lifted and straightened up just before, but my arse gave an almighty twitch, I can tell you.

     

    As I say, I’ve joined TLWorld. It’s the first owner’s group I’ve seen that host a list of “Fallen Members.”

    Pretty sure my last Japanese sports machine club, the Micra owner’s group, didn’t have a list of the glorious dead.

    I’m going to leave instructions so I can be added should my luck run out.

    It is such a beast. With the low speed problem at the moment, especially, she’s just screaming “MORE! MORE! RIDE ME, YOU PUSSY!”  the whole time. It’s a six speed box, easily reaches 70mph in 3rd. You can hit a comfortable 140mph and then change up a gear.

    Allegedly. So I’ve read. On the Autobahn.

    In unrelated news I also want an unmarked plod detector. I’ve just looked at the system. It works by detecting police radios which apparently beep every 3 seconds to make sure they are connected to network. Without decoding the signal, which would be illegal, it just registers that there is one. Nearly £800, if it can be fitted to a bike (I’ve asked) but the tories have just changed the law so plebs who speed will have to pay up to 1½ times their weekly wage in a fine. The maximum penalty remains £2k, so the rich are alright. Which is a relief.

    More than the fine worry, there’s the whole ‘losing my license/job’ thing. While I was looking into it I saw that Cheshire police have started fielding unmarked plod bikes specifically for persecuting bikers. £800 is a lot of cash, but it is potentially peanuts.

    Talking of money pit motoring, Wendy has got her provisional license. I’ve added her to my car insurance. I’ve got 9 years no claim’s bonus, we’re in our 50’s, for 6 months they’ve robbed us £504.40! On top of my insurance.

    And they’ve made me take off my protected no claims thing.

    Bastards.

    I had a massive week at work last week. I got the Bank Holiday (double time, and day in lieu) my sixth shift was 12½ hrs long (time and three quarters) plus 36 hours overtime (time and a half).

    And just like that it’s disappeared.

    Still, at least it’s coming in. To rapidly go out. But better to have it going out than have nothing coming in.

    In Cornwall we were so desperately poor I was walking around with a safety pin in my fly because it was bust and we couldn’t afford a new pair. When you can’t afford a pair of jeans, you are poor.

    Right, bedtime.

    Later,

    Buck.

    Teething problems. Still.

    I forgot to say in my last post that my TL1000S has had the rear shock upgraded. That was the problem, apparently. Squirrelly back end, ECU dumping way too much power all at once, and tank slappy front end. I don’t know about the ECU but I doubt I’ll be testing the limits of the bikes performance any time soon. The front end did feel light, but if it scares me I have the steering damper. I can fit that. I saw an advert for one in Dorset, completely original. 6,000 miles on the clock, one owner for the last 20 years, original rear shock, mad ECU, no steering damper. I was tempted by the 6k, one owner, but thought it wouldn’t be worth buying a barely used bike if I was going to put it into a ditch before I got it home.

    So, my TL is quite the responsible choice. Go me!

    Once I’ve sorted the niggles. The new, “road legal” exhaust silencers arrived today. Yay for quickness and relative cheapness! I got them out of the box, looked down them, can see clean through. It’s just a pipe running down the middle with a slight bend at the end. They are slightly less deafening than the ones I want to replace. Super.

    I was having some major issues with that. I emailed the seller to see if they do any additional, actual working, baffles to kill the noise. While I was waiting I was back on ebay. My only other option seemed to be second hand original silencers. If that was still too loud, sell the bike.

    The seller got back to me. He’s said if I send him the baffles (baffles! My arse! It’s a slightly bent pipe that fits in the end of the can) he’ll modify them to quieten the pipes. For free. Really nice of him. I’m sending them off tomorrow, it’s worth a shot. God, I really hope that works. I need a bike I can ride.

    If not, second hand end cans, then …

    Also the number plate light is out. It’s not the bulb (LED’s) so I’m going to try to track down the fuse box (really well hidden), failing that, off to the mechanic. I panic in the face of electrical problems.

    If I can sort the noise and the electrical problem, put a jubilee clip on the air intake manifolds to stop them slipping off, and swap my mirrors when the new ones come, I’ve got a shit hot bike.

    Also I want to spend some time stripping of all the cheap “racing” stickers from the bike. But that’s just cosmetic.

    I can’t wait for it to be fully sorted. It’s an awesome bike to ride.

    I think as soon as the TL is 100% I’ll be selling the Honda CB750. It’s a sterling workhorse, but I can’t see me ever walking past the Widow-Maker to ride it.

    Right, just had to vent.

    Later,

    Buck.

    I *get* it!

    It’s taken me many, many years of wrongheadedness but I finally understand.

    All my life I’ve gone for bikes that look pretty; naked, air-cooled, poser chic.

    Today was my first proper ride out on the Widow-Maker. Plastic fairings hiding an ugly, water-cooled (admittedly awesome) V twin engine.

    IMG-20170520-WA0000

    Took her for a spin up to the Lake District, learning about the pains of sports bike riding on the way. My wrists! You seem to be supporting your whole, chunky-monkey, body weight on your wrists. I took the pressure off by supporting more of my weight with my back. Which then hurt my back like a bastard.

    Also, some fool has fitted this beast with hideously loud exhausts. My ears were ringing afterwards, even though I was wearing ear protectors the whole time. As soon as I got it home on Saturday I ordered some road legal end cans. Poor neighbours!

    So there’s the pain and the noise. Then I pulled off the motorway onto the twisty A roads of Cumbria.

    Oh. My. God!

    I’ve wrestled bikes around bends before now. Often. And some had some poke.

    Forget it. No comparison.

    She flicks from left to right through the bends effortlessly. Think about acceleration and you’re already there. Get nervous and the brakes have you. They could stop my truck, I think.

    The only thing is it’s ridiculously overpowered! I was doing 70mph (on the motorway!), thought it was a bit rev-y, (though only halfway to redline) so I tried changing up. I had two more gears! Also, even with my tenuous cornering, I could feel the front end getting light.

    IMG_20170522_114747

    Some good news about the end cans I was forced to buy to quieten the beast down. With my failing reading vision, squinting at my ‘phone, I thought it said stainless steel end cans, £244 for a pair, titanium, £249. For the sake of a fiver I ordered the snazzier ones. I looked again, on the PC, and it was £294.Bugger. Still a steal for what it is, but it’s purely to make it useable, I’m not *that* arsed how it looks. I emailed the seller (of both sets) on ebay and asked would it be possible to change my mind and get the cheaper ones. He consented and refunded me £81. Huh? Yep, seems he had a special deal on! Brilliant.

    There are a few niggles with the bike, very minor. One embarrassing one was it kept cutting out on tickover. The revs would drop below 1,000 and it would die. I was worried I’d bought a dud, but I googled it and the tickover is supposed to be 1,250 rpm. Found the knob, sorted it.

    That was after today’s ride. During the ride at every set of lights (or whatever) I was having to rev a stupidly loud bike like an idiot boy racer. I felt a right twat. Road legal end cans with the sorted tickover should cure that.

    There are a few other things. The right hand mirror has been smacked at some point and won’t stay set. Ordered a new pair.

    There are a few allen bolts missing out of the fairing. It’s a 20 year old bike. You can buy them on ebay.

    Even with the teething niggles it’s an awesome bike.

    I finally get it. The cafe racers of the ‘50s and ‘60s have become an aesthetic, but it is for this they were aiming. It’s like the Americans calling indicators ‘blinkers’.  Blinking describes it, but indicating is what it does. A cafe racer was just a poor man’s attempt at a modern sports bike using the agricultural hardware of his day. I’ve missed the point all this time. I was hooked on the looks of the previous generation’s sport bikes without really seeing them for what they were. I wanted a blinker not an indicator.

    Further insights if I should survive the learning curve.

    Later,

    Buck.

    Widow-Maker

    I know, right? Immediate interest.

    I have had a moment of epiphany. All my life I’ve judged bikes by their aesthetics. How they look and sound. Over the last month or so I’ve completely changed my criteria. What about a bike that does bike things? Goes like stink, brakes, leans right over in corners?

    I was looking at the Suzuki SV650. It’s not pretty.

    suzuki_sv650

    It’s a 650cc V twin, so it has lots of torque and grunt. It’s water cooled and fuel injected so no messing about. And the best thing about the ugliness is, it’s occurred to me that while you are doing the death-or-glory business, you’ll never know what it looks like!

    Also, being a V twin, just by changing over the exhaust you get a glorious sound.

    https://youtu.be/x75_q8qjvmo

    I was all set on getting rid of my bikes and buying one of these. They are quite old now, and were budget to start with, so you can get a good one for £1,800.

    Then I stumbled across a review saying the standard dismissal of them as scaled down TL1000S’ wasn’t entirely true.

    Really? What’s a Tl1000S?

    This:

    TL1000S

    OK, it’s got a bikini (half) fairing. And it remains ugly. But with added plastic ugliness.

    But what does it do?

    Here is someone opening one up. Don’t worry it wont take up many seconds of your life.

    https://youtu.be/5183T5TX1po

    That’s actually the TL1000R, the sanitised and sanity-ised version of the TL1000S.

    But you get the picture.

    I was reading up on the original, TL1000S, beast, Suzuki’s snub of the Ducati V Twin sports bikes, on Motorcycle News:

    “The Suzuki TL1000S is a motorcycle which has become the Freddie Kreuger of biking.”

    “will always retain the ability to scare the pants off you occasionally.”

    “The rear end starts moving, plus the front end of the TL1000S is liable to flap about as the sheer grunt lifts the front wheel. Result; one scared rider, and possible excursions into the scenery.”

    “barnstorming motor, even today, with 125bhp ready to kick your arse within two seconds of opening the throttle fully.”

     

    Obviously this all sounds like a hoot. But I discounted it as they said the insurance was group 16 out of 17. Just so I could say “You’ll never believe what they wanted for insurance!” I did a mock quote.

    £155 p/a, fully comp, parked on the road.

    WHAT?

    The bikes are only £200 dearer than the SV650, the insurance is £20 more, and they are ridiculously scary fun. It’s a no-brainer.

    Apparently when they first came out they immediately gained a reputation for tankslapper crashes and one person died.Supposedly they sorted that out with steering dampers and better mapping of the fuel injection But they are still referred to as Widow Makers. In fact, you can google “V twin widow maker” if you forget the bike’s name. The bright side being, they are cheap as chips to buy! And possibly not as lethal as reputed. Possibly. More on that story later. Maybe.

    So now I just have to sort my pretty bike and my winter hack out. The W650 was running fine when I put it away for the Winter, come to polish, MOT and sell it and the bugger is only running on one cylinder. Well, 1½, maybe. Bastard. Changed the plugs, pulled the carb jets and cleaned them, checked the floats, changed the petrol… buggered if I know.

    Which is another factor in my complete about face. I want a bike to just get on and thrash. I’m through with dicking about with them. It was a bad habit I was forced into when I was too poor to have an option. Screw that.

    Anywho, that’s my latest obsession.

     

    In other news the saxing is really coming on now I’ve got a decent one to practise on. And I have a blow most days at work.

    Also my fitness is slowly getting back up to scratch. I did a fair fast (by current standards) 10 mile run, then backed off a bit for fear of injury, yesterday did a half marathon (13.1 miles) at a slow pace. It wasn’t easy, but I’m not broke today, and that’s about all that counts.

    Right, best get to bed. I’m getting 5 days/ 6 days every week, but the start times mean I’m getting up at 04.00- 06.00, by the time I get in and sit down I just want to sleep. I was so tired yesterday I was actually considering giving up running altogether. I sucked it up and did a half instead, but it was a genuine choice. Rest (from running) today, small one tomorrow. If I could focus my chi enough to do small runs most days I’d soon be fighting fit. Ho hum.

    Later,

    Buck.

    Mixed Messages.

    Work is being weird. I got my contract, a few days later Tesco’s bought us out, so we were scared of being replaced by Eddie Stobarts drivers. Then last week, less than 3 months into my 3 days a week, 6 month temp-to-perm contract, they asked would I be interested in a full time contract.

    Hell yes!

    Even if it all goes tits up when the merger finally shakes out, at least I’ll have a year (say) of full time and a better contract when the axe falls. 

    To clarify, I’ve not been offered a full time job, just asked would I be interested as there as some coming up. Even if I’m at the front of the queue for one of the jobs I might not want it,it could be nights or something. I want a full time contract but not that badly. I can get 5/6 day weeks on days as it is.

     

    We (I say ‘we’, I mean me) had a spending spree which we are now paying off. I painted the bedrooms and made a right mess of the carpets. They were the cheapest we could find when we moved in which was 11 years ago so I wasn’t that arsed. Until I priced the replacement. £180 for underlay, £750 for carpet, then a Dyson as our generic hoover was crap, £220 for the car MOT and repairs, a few other outlays, suddenly shitloads of debt. All of that seemed to happen at once, but I wasn’t bothered as I’d landed my super job, then Tesco’s, now it’s a flat out race to pay it all off, just in case.

    One bit of debt I’ve added was totally the right thing to do.  I was obsessing about the soprano sax as it’s small and portable, then I got the smaller alto case and it made the alto a better proposition. But that cheapo, own brand sax I had was inconsistent. It kept squawking on the A note. I could play A, move up and down a few notes, come back to A and it wouldn’t play. I tried a stiffer reed, a different ligature, (the device that holds the reed to the mouthpiece)  loads of different embouchure positions, still patchy.  Bad workman and all that, but it wasn’t happening on the tenor. I read some more about Gear4Music and the reviews were not kind. “box shifters, not a music store” in other words they just ordered it in from China and shipped it out to the customer. No checks, set up, etc. Pig in a poke.

    I started looking around and found a 10 month plan on a new Yamaha alto. It’s a learner model but the reviews say it’s so good they are wondering why people would spend twice as much for the intermediate. The thing was, I was getting frustrated with my cheapo and not playing it. If I got the Yamaha I knew the problem was all me being crap. Wendy encouraged me, so I got it.

    I was selling the cheapo on ebay but I wanted to hang on to it to try a side by side comparison, to see it it really was worth the extra.

    The Yamaha arrived and blew perfect straight out of the box. The sound is, well, incomparable. I didn’t even bother to blow my cheapo, it wasn’t even a question. The sound is so good I’m thinking of getting a Yamaha tenor, when everything else is paid off, to compare it to my beloved Bauhaus (then sell the inferior one.)

    Which is not to say I’ve suddenly stopped being crap. It’s just I’m crap on a way better instrument now.

     

    The weather is warming up so I’m going to strip the paint off my replacement W650 engine (dropping the back-breakingly heavy bastard out of the frame. Again.) and repaint it. Clean everything up, polish it to with in an inch of it’s life then get it sold. That will put us firmly back in credit again.

    Talking of motorcycles, you know I pointed out the Triumph Speed Triple as an example of a godawful ugly, watercooled, lump of an engine? Guess what? I’m thinking of getting one. They are the original class of “hooligan bike”, naked, powerful, purposeful. They go like stink, mostly on one wheel, handle and stop. If you change your criteria from how it looks to how much fun it is, it’s a shoe-in. And, as they’ve been out for ages, you can pick and choose a good one for a quarter of the price of the Triumph Thruxton.

    Anyway just a quick catch up as it’s my day off. Getting another 6 day week in.

    Later,

    Buck.

    PS, editing the day after, just remembered Storm Bastard Doris. It hit the North West today. I was riding in to work, lashing down rain, blowing a gale, 80, banked over into the wind, when I hit a puddle/ lake the whole width of the lane. I’d been riding through the rain all the way in so I didn’t worry, then the front end started juddering and skipping! On a bike you can handle any amount of rear end locking up and sliding out, not a problem, if the front goes the first thing you know about it being in shitloads of pain. It probably only lasted a second or two but that is an eternity when you are in the fast lane, 6 foot from the crash barriers. Crash barriers are posts to hold up a car level metal barrier. Or, for a sliding biker, lethal posts planted every few feet.

    Needles to say, I shit bricks. Sod all I could do about it, just cling on and wait. Somehow I stayed upright. So that was me wide awake by the time I got to work. As they say, what doesn’t kill you just delays the inevitable.

    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.

    Boots and bikes and jobs.

    Last time out I was ranting about that fake Harley from China. I got as far as trying to input the bank details for the cash transfer before I got cold feet. The address they gave me wasn’t the bank address. So I looked on Google Earth at the factory address (as much as you can in China) no signs. Then I did a search of the company, no reviews, no comments. nothing. Finally looked into the site through which they were advertising, “SCAM! AVOID!”

    Oh.

    They sent me pictures of bikes in crates and such, but all of the above was just enough to make me err on the side of caution. It was a wonderful thing they were offering, and cleverly packaged, and just vague enough to let your lust for the bike override your common sense. It’s possible they are actually making knock off Harleys and I’m missing out on my dream ride, but I’m not risking it.

     

    Also I was suffering with the W650 rebuild. I rebuilt it, got it running, went for a spin, but one cylinder wasn’t firing right. That should have been an immediate warning sign in retrospect, but there are so many simple things it could also have been. I was ruling them out one by one when CRACK! What?

    Stripped the engine down again, seems the timing was slightly out. One of the valve heads had snapped off, buggering the cylinder head (£800) the piston and rings (£200) and the valve itself.

    IMG_pistonIMG_valve

    Then a professional rebuild as Wendy would not take kindly to me killing another one…. Shitloads.

    In the end I found a second hand engine, swapped them over and Bob’s your uncle.

     

    In the meantime though I was thinking about what someone had said at work, why are you paying all this to refurb your bike? Why don’t you just get a cheap hack to run through winter?

    I saw someone advertising a 1992 Honda CB750 for £950 or offers. Thought, what the hey, offered £850. Guy took it!

    IMG_CB750

    Nipped down to Cardiff on the train and rode it back. As you can see it’s no looker, but after a few days, and adjusting my riding style to proper inline 4, I love it so much I’m keeping it and selling the W650!

    The exhaust was a botch up job, not really for that bike, and way too noisy so I got a new one.

    IMG_ newexhaustIMG_newexhaust2

    Then the rear shocks (top picture, with the piggy back cylinder) started leaking. Badly.

    img_shockoil

    So I got the shocks above. Dirt cheap off th’ebay. There was a reason for that. They are utterly shit. Either kicked you out of the saddle over every bump or so soft you weaved in corners. Bought a proper pair. They look the same as the ones above but without the black cowl. The difference is startling. Or rather the startling stopped happening. It just goes, and corners, and stops. Anything else is too much excitement.

    The front brakes need bleeding and I’ve bought some lower handlebars, but basically that’s it. It’s just a fun, reliable, cheap beast. Goes like shit off a stick but only good for about 125mph, so not too crazy.

     

    I got a gig at Maritime in Trafford Park, Manchester. Bloody long shifts, 11 hours was an early dart. Plus it was a 06.00 start so I had to get up at 04.45. Then an hour’s commute per day. That was the worst bit. To get home down the M62 from Manchester, in rush hour, was suicidal. I was riding along at speeds of up to *cough* 70mph through slow and stationary traffic, in the rain and dark and I got to thinking “if anyone moves I die.”

    And it bothered me.

    50 years old, is the answer to the question: “When do you stop being a reckless dickhead and start being fearful?”

    I nearly slowed down.

    That was one of those things where you are just delaying the inevitable. I was going to die, it was just when.

    Anyway, I sacked it off and went back to thrice damned Herpes. It’s a shite job but it pays well (until January when they cut the rates again) it’s 1.8 miles from my front door, and at least there is work in January, the Maritime one was only until xmas. Then good luck finding a new agency job until April.

    My plan was, sod it, I’ll stick it out at Herpes and keep my eyes open for my dream job. I bookmarked their jobs page and signed up for email alerts. Back at Herpes two weeks when I got an email alert!. I applied immediately. The thing is I’ve applied 3 times before while I was working there and not heard a peep. Imagine my joy on Thursday when they rang me up and arranged an interview for Wednesday! Woo-hoo!

    It’s only a 3 day contract to start, on 6 months temp to perm, but I’ve talked to drivers there who are on the same gig and they say there’s no shortage of extra shifts. Anyway, whatever they offer me, it would be a foot in the door and I’m taking it. There are 5 jobs on offer. And they’ve called me for interview. I’m scared to get my hopes up, but I want this so bad.

     

    The other thing happening of excitement to me, and no-one else, is boots!

    I have been making do with Rigger boots, sort of leather, steel toecap, wellies. The idea being that they are tall enough to keep my feet dry under my waterproof trousers on the way to work, then something I can wear at work without having to carry a change of footwear. It’s never been an ideal solution, they get soaked if it’s really raining and because I have to get a size up to avoid the toecaps crushing my feet, they slop about. Now they have broken down so they stayed wet for a week.  I went looking for work boots and saw they had goretex lined boots nowadays. Your feet can sweat and breathe but liquid water can’t penetrate. So I looked online.

    Look at these bad boys!

    IMG_workboot

    Well, bad boy, but you get the idea. Gorextex lined, so totally waterproof, wide (I can get my actual size), composite toecap which is lighter, warmer and stronger than steel, and German, making them good for invading Poland, should Trump so decide.

    While I was looking I also saw the British army now does goretex, cold weather boots. In three different width sizes! No more foot agony! I bought a pair, which means for the first time in a decade I can have boots that are my size. Twice.

    IMG-Armyboot

    But what the very hell? In my day soldiering was about the unnecessary suffering. Warm, dry, comfortable boots? That’s molly coddling. The squaddies of today will be so comfy they won’t even want to die.

    Yoof of today. *tuts*

     

    Here’s a quick twitter roundup. It’s not as much fun lately as everyone is bogged down in politics and the rise of fascism. But here you go:

     

    Nippy this morning. Colder than Tory compassion. Car’s as white as a UKIP poster.

    "Just accept it, you lost, now get over it" said the person waving a confederate flag

    Notice in works canteen "nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m possible’." And now I must kill again.

    That’s me 3 for 3. Decency and common sense means they won’t vote for pig-shagger Dave, Brexit, Trump. I’m like mystic fucking Meg.

      More American cultural appropriation. All fun and games until the black Labrador gets a burning cross in its kennel.

      Kennedy: forgive your enemy but never forget their name Lincoln: leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump I have never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke.

      Collins named ‘Brexit’ their word of the year. If they had any chutzpah, they’d make its entry solely this… Brexit (noun): Brexit

       

      UK completely unprepared for snow for 10,438th winter running

      [during a huddle in a crucial ice hockey match] ME: Ok listen up guys [all the other players look at me] ME: Is….is anyone else cold?

      The Tories just quietly privatised an NHS organisation employing 90,000 people

      Last night, I went to a gig where a man sang an earnest song about his girlfriend’s gap year in Ethiopia, and now I hate all music.

      America right now:

      Calls to get tougher on benefit abuse as Mum on state handouts gets £369m to do up her house.

      For anyone interested, The Queen’s commercial property portfolio (worth £12b) generated £304.1m profit in 2015/16.

      Britain just passed ‘the most extreme surveillance law ever’

      Theresa May’s plan for the UK seems to be about expanding access to mass surveillance while limiting access to marmite.

      That’s right, Hucknall – I sent every one of Kate’s Simply Red CDs to the charity shop. Every. Last. One.

      We Rate Dogs had:

      This is Yogi. He’s 98% floof. Snuggable af. 12/10

      I shall call him squishy and he shall be mine, and he shall be my squishy. 13/10

      We normally don’t rate marshmallows but this one appears to be flawlessly toasted so I’ll make an exception. 10/10

      Meet Baloo. He’s expecting a fast ground ball, hence the wide stance. Prepared af. 11/10 nothing runs like a pupper

      Twitter. All the wrongs you can write.

      Herbal Essences perhaps??…

      Any update on Farage’s million bigot march? For the sake of patriotism they should hold it on cliffs of Dover. Then march towards France.

      The Twitter experience perfectly encapsulated in two tweets

      The animals gather to hear GOD’s word: THE 7 DEADLY SINS ARE GREED LUST PRIDE lions: "shit" ENVY WRATH SLOTH sloths: "What the actual fuck?"

      IMPRESS people with your vocabulary by describing stuff and things well.

      STRESSED OUT? Why not try flashing the vees and swearing at people?

      NASA. No need to look for water on other planets, there’s fucking loads right here on Earth.

      After Article 50 triggered

      Theresa May promises Nissan undisclosed sweetener to keep their North East car plant in the UK:

      What do we wante? Vikinge Hamsters! Whanne do we wante them? WE SHALL FILL OWER CHEEKE POUCHES WYTH GOLD AND GLORYE!

       

       

      Later.

      Buck.

      Update…

      I couldn’t post before so I’ll just add rather than start afresh.

      I forgot to mention the floor. My click together plank flooring experience to date was a 5’ x 3’ section at the bottom of the stairs. And that took me ages. Wendy wanted a replacement for the grotty lino in the kitchen. She had seen some tiles, about a fecking grand’s worth of tiles! I was less than enthused but what the hey, I buy bikes, she never buys anything. Then she saw the same distressed looking effect on those plank things at B&Q, £279 for kitchen, bog, and adjoining bit.

      On it.

      IMG_20161001_195450IMG_20161001_195739

      IMG_20161002_193456IMG_20161002_202400

      Then I had to pull the doors off to plane them. I felt like a proper grown up by the time I’d finished. Being a grown up sucks arse.

      The worst thing is, I think it’s minging. It just looks dirty. As much of a pain in the arse as it was to fit, if Wendy decided she wanted a nice floor I wouldn’t be arsed ripping this one up.

      Jumping for joy?

      Quick update.

      First off, my dream job at the Co-Op.

      It turned into a nightmare.

      The hours are great, the money was great, they treated you great, but all the stores were on the very edge of what is physically possible. Previously my satnav would say “turn left” and I’d look into a tiny back street, lined with cars, and think “jog on” and find the proper way into my drop. At the Co-Op that is the proper way. I had to go down a street stopping and folding car wing mirrors in all the way down as it was the only way I could fit. I was a nervous wreck. It got too much and I quit. *sigh*

      That was on a Saturday, I signed up with an agency for a postal driver job on the Monday. They looked at my history, Stobarts, would you work there again? Absolutely not. Next? Meh. Bookers?

      What?

      I joined 3 agencies earlier in the year trying to get back in there. Not a sniff. That is the best job I’ve had, but I’d kind of given up on it, as I thought they must have stopped using agency. Here it was, serendipitously being offered! I said I’d love to go back. Said I was available from Wednesday. They ‘phoned me that night, saying they had a shift at Bookers Tuesday, did I want it? For Bookers, yes. That was that. 5 days for the last 3 weeks. They also do Herpes, so I’m thinking I may have dropped in perfect here. If there are days when Bookers don’t need me I can do a shift at Herpes. This means I can afford to wait it out until they finally give in and take me on. Then it’s megabucks. £40+K.  For a piss easy job, no pressure, no deadlines, great attitude towards driver error. My first or second shift back there they sent me to Birkenhead. It’s tight as buggery. You have to drive into the yard, right up to the wall, spin it around on full lock (which kicks the back end out and a few drivers have taken out the fence it’s so tight) then go back out and blindside in around a corner. After the Co-Op it was a walk in the park. But in screwing it tight around one of the leads from the truck to the trailer must have snagged and it ripped out. I ‘phoned it in. They called me a dick, had a replacement sent out, not a word said when I got back. No forms to fill in, no investigation. Shit happens, don’t do it again. Now I take my lines off before I go into the yard. Sorted. The only thing with this job, as with every other driving job (not Co-Op) is you don’t know your start or finish times day to day.

       

      I’m still battling with the bike. I rebuilt the engine (nearly bust my back humping the damned thing back in the frame) and refitted everything.  A job made a lot worse by my prevaricating over starting it because I was scared of the job. I got it all back together, reinstalled all the electrics and turned it over. It turned fine but didn’t start. I checked for fuel, (yes) sparks, (yes) right spark plug lead to right spark plug (for timing, yes) bugger. Had to be the timing was out. I took the cylinder head back off (all in-frame from now on, YAY!) and turned it over. Valves not moving. It was that thrice damned bevel drive. I was scared of that before I started, never having dealt with one before. After a bit of examination it turns out the shaft that drives the bevel (that operates the cam shaft) had fallen down. This is down to a circlip. While refitting I tried to put it on a wider part than that for which it was intended and prized it open too far. I was already aware of this and ordered the part as soon as I buggered it. I’ve been waiting for it to be sent from Germany, who, it transpires, had to order it from Japan. As soon as that arrives I strip the top of the engine, fit it in the right place, with the timing set again, and job should be a good ‘un.

      I hope so, because whilst window shopping for a cheap winter bike (told a guy at work about my woes trying to tart up the engine after winter corrosion and he asked what I was doing riding a nice bike in winter, why didn’t I get a £500 winter bike?) I’ve stumbled across a Chinese website. They are selling clone motorbikes. They get a popular model of bike. tear it down to it’s nuts and bolts and slavishly copy every last detail. Then they set up a production line of Chinese made, *very* cheap clone bikes.

      They are doing Harley clones. The Heritage Softail Classic is £16+K from Harley. The clone is £2,480, brand new, in a crate, shipped all the way from China.

      Hog

      I want it so bad I can taste it. This could be perfect for me. Even the fakeness could be a positive. It looks like too much of a lump to get down between the houses to our garden and a real Harley would be stolen before I’d got my leathers off if I left it on the front. I’m going to get a laminated sign saying “This is a fake, Chinese copy, £2,480 brand new off (website) so don’t bother nicking it, it’s not worth shit” , or words to that effect.

      My plan was to add it to my my collection but Wendy, perhaps not unreasonably (bloody unreasonably!) says as I can only ride one bike at a time, and we are still in debt, I have to sell my bike to buy it.

      Bah.

      This means I have to finish this rebuild, polish it all up and flog it. Double quick time.

       

      The other big news is I’ve finally got my parachute course done.

      I finished work stupid o’clock Saturday morning, had 4 hours kip, then up and drove to the Lake District (right next to Morecombe bay). I was there from 08.30 until about 16.30 doing the course and finding out all the interesting ways I could die. The main thing we learned on the course was that it’s a waiting game. For students the wind speed has to be 15mph or lower with ground visibility (no clouds below 3,500 feet) and such. In short, we weren’t going to jump yesterday. So I had to do another 160 mile round trip today. I was sat there waiting from 09.15 until about 14.00 then they called us  out. We went up, I was last man out. They got the first 3 out then more cloud came in so they aborted. Landed. Gutted.

      About 16.00 we had another go. I was quietly confident that I could do it. I’ve faced death quite a bit and don’t let it deter me. Then it got to my turn. You’re sat on the floor, facing a roller door which the instructor pulls open when the plane is in position. You look out and it suddenly gets very real. Then the instructor says “FEET OUT!” and you slide into the doorway, a hand on the door frame behind you, one on the lip of the opening upon which you are sat, one buttock hanging over the edge.. Which is really frightening because you think you are just going to keep going and fall off. Then he says “GO!” and taps your shoulder and you have to push yourself off, into the void.

      As I say, I’ve faced death quite a bit. Riding through two overtaking lorries at 120mph, sitting listening to bullets going off in the fire in front of me, crashing every bike I’ve had, going to war, etc etc. I’m not trying to say I’m heroic, “stupid” would work equally well, I’m just saying fear and possible death don’t stop me from doing things. With that in mind, sliding up to the aircraft edge and pushing myself out, I was fucking terrified.

      I surprised myself with the level of fear. I was wondering, as I sat waiting for him to open the door for my turn, whether I could do it. I was so scared I thought I was going to bottle it.

      I didn’t. But all my drills went to shit. Leap out, star shape, head back, count “ONE THOUSAND, TWO THOUSAND, THREE THOUSAND, ONE THOUSAND, TWO THOUSAND, THREE THOUSAND, CHECK CANOPY!”

      I pushed off, then next thing I was being snatched back by the static line to my ‘chute and then my ‘chute opening. When shit started making sense again I was back on the ball. Checked my chute, did the drills, steered it in nicely. But for that 1 or 2 seconds I totally lost it.

      Absolutely terrifying experience.

      If the weather is nice I’ll have another go next Sunday, see if I can get it right!

      You are not allowed to take a cam up with you so no pics, but it was a hell of an experience.

      Right, bed. I’m bollocksed. 20 mile run tomorrow.

      Later

      Buck.