Category: Life

Giant Steps

This is the start of my week off. I’m going to blog my attempts at bike restoration. The engine has had two winters of English rain and salt and is starting to look tatty.

First the other things that have been occurring.

I’ve just found out that Igloo, the primary agency for Hermes drivers, has lost the contract. As of the 3rd of July they are off site. This means all of us who are Limited Company drivers have to register with a new agency, Extra Personnel. Change is always a gamble. At the moment I’ve got my own truck (a 64 plate DAF) when they remember to save it for me, I’m getting regular work and at a decent start time. A sort of 08.00- 11.00 window. Mostly about 09.30.

I’m going to have to see if this new lot will stick with it. I’m not doing nights for a start.


My flute head finally arrived back, it is splendid. Should prevent my allergic reaction. Seems to blow free-er as well. Bonus.


I’ve gone back to calligraphy as well. Copperplate, which is *so* hard, and Gothic Blackletter which is hard but in a different way.



Copperplate is weird as you have to do ovals, at a 40 degree slant with hairlines up and squash the nib to make fat lines down. As you can see from my first attempts, bloody solid.


Early attempt at Blackletter.


What else? Ooh, finally sorted a bit of my garden into a a permanent feature that I like. I moved my acer last winter, carrying a back breaking amount of dirt in the roots, to try to minimise the stress and sulking. Seems to have worked.


I’m not so sure about everything else, especially the box hedge running alongside it, but the box circle with the acer sitting atop it is spot on. Now just got to wait for it to fill in. I’ve found a bit of box blight since the picture, when I was trimming it. Monty Don says you can grow through it just by giving a weekly feed of seaweed compost.

I’ve got a new T-shirt.


Today I went out to get a speaker for my ‘phone for the long hours I’m going to be spending in the shed. I put the washing on before I went out, came back to this:


Totally wasn’t expecting that.


I was caught up in an altercation on my run on Sunday, between some cyclists and a herd, 20 at least, of dog walkers. It made me think of martial arts again. And Lettie, my niece, was asking about weight loss martial arts. I’m thinking of doing Muay Thai (kickboxing). It’s not pretty but it is practical. The main selling point is that the traditional grading is by fighting people of other clubs. It’s like traditional boxing in so much as there’s a huge emphasis on fitness and lots of time in the ring, actually fighting. That is the one thing you don’t really get in other martial arts, a sense of real world confidence. You can spar and such, but you don’t know how well that would translate. I’ve been watching videos from the clubs, it’s boxing gloves and shin pads, but knocking the crap out of each other. And I know of one girl who’s husband beat her up, she did kickboxing and knocked seven bells out of him when he tried it again.

Wendy nearly died of eye-roll when I said. She thinks I’m determined to join every martial arts club in the world.



So, to the point, this week is about my bike. Taking my ‘getting there’ bike and tidying up the wear and tear.

Of course, Valhalla Bound is looking nice, but worn. I want to return the engine to this:


Yesterday, after an early dart, I cleared everything out of the shed and brushed it out, chucked down our old rug, and, after much sweating and heaving, popped the bike in. Today I followed the instructions. Tank off, seat off, exhausts off, side panels, air box, carbs, brake lever, foot peg, all the electrics, breather pipes, gear lever, clutch cable, sensor cables, final drive sprocket and chain, alternator, engine mounting bolts and engine brackets.


Then just lift the rear of the engine and pull it out to the right.


I was heaving with all my might and couldn’t budge it. I was getting worried. I couldn’t lift it enough to even replace the brackets and such. Couldn’t get it out, scared I couldn’t even get it back in.

I got my car jack under the engine (with a bit of wood between it and the engine, obvs) and jacked it up. It lifted a bit but not enough. Now I was really panicking. I tried three or four times in different places. As I was jacking the engine up it was lifting the frame with it.

I thought it must be caught on something, so I dropped it again, and had a mooch around. There was another bolt running through the back of the engine through the frame. Bastard. No mention of that in the workshop manual. I popped that out and, although it was still heavy as a bastard, managed to get the engine out.


Oh god, oh god! What have I done?

I started to wash off the oil and mud and crap but my plastic scratchy thing soon got clogged and I was just spreading it. I have some stuff that’s supposed to clean it up right nice. I’m letting it dry overnight then crack on tomorrow.

While I was working I heard a thud on the roof. A baby bird had run out of fly.


It spent 20 minutes getting it’s breath back then flew off.

Well, I’m committed now. Got to get the job done.

More as it happens.


Back in the saddle.

It’s been a while. I kind of stopped updating this because all I was doing was working and sleeping.

However, things are changing.

I’ve been back at my running for a month or two and not buggered myself up. I went at it too hard, too fast, as ever and got warning pains in my legs. I decided to go back to basics so I’ve downloaded a basic marathon training plan. It’s a stage 2 intermediate one. The utter noob ones are walk/ run ones so no good to me. This is pitched at getting a former marathoner back up to fitness. Perfect. I started at the end of week five, with 12 miles as the ‘long’ run. I’m a week and a half in and have achieved some good results already. I will be up to 20 mile long run in 7 weeks. That’s as long as this plan goes, but the logic of it is two weeks increase, one week step back, I can carry on in that style for another few weeks until I’m up to full race distance. Then, when I’m fit enough and hardened, I can go back and start speed training and pushing the distance.

I’ve entered the Warrington half marathon and the Chester marathon, then I want to see where I am. If I could realistically get my speed up to a sub 3 hour marathon pace (a *huge* ask) I might enter next years Manchester marathon (flat as a pancake) if not I’ll do the Liverpool- Manchester ultra. 47 miles along the transpenine trail. Which is all old converted railway tracks and canals. Nice scenic day out.

The big problem is the November/ December working stupid hours thing. If you are doing 12+ hours a day you can only sleep after it. Both of the runs are in April. So realistically I can only commit to one. If I’m running 40 miles as 10 m/m to conserve energy that;s the opposite of running 20 miles at flat out 6.30 m/m.

I was just looking for the figures for that. 6.40 is a 2 hrs 55 min marathon.

Yesterday the training plan called for 4 miles easy. (I know! 4 miles!) Anyway I went out against a strong wind and I was doing 8.30’s (it said to run 60-90 seconds off your race pace, which, pitifully is only 8 m/m’s for me at the moment.) I couldn’t force myself to run it at 9.30, which is my bad. I turned around and putting the same effort in but with the wind at my back I did a 7.55! I’d broke the 8 minute barrier! I put my back into it for the last mile (again, I shouldn’t have. The plan is to get there slowly but without breaking) and did a 7.22!

In a few weeks I’ve gone from 8.30 being a tough pace to breaking 7.30. I’m looking at that 6.40. That is do-able. OK, I only did one mile, but I’m just coming back from injury and absence. Keep to the plan above, but I reckon that’s not impossible.


In other news I’ve quit my karate club, I just couldn’t make it. My shifts were everywhere, I missed two months due to the work and sleep no life period. Meh. And I’ve quit Facebook. It just annoys me.


Work has picked up to the point where I’m really glad they are having a sulk at me (I wouldn’t work Saturday. They arbitrarily cut the pay for Saturdays by £5 p/h after xmas rush. And that was the last Saturday I’ll work for them.) Long and short being they had me in Sunday, Bank Holiday Monday (flat rate, grrrrr) no work today or tomorrow. Screw ‘em.

More good news on the work front, Wendy has finally got her hours back. They had cut her right back to 18 hours a week, she’s now on 32, as of this week. That will make a huge difference to her wages, obviously.


Something else that had changed is my plan for that groovy car. The manufacturer finally replied and said they were selling them in the USA first, before hoping to expand. That was a setback. What finally killed it off was a tangential conversation about trikes, someone saying something about speed bumps. The groovy car has two outrider front wheels, a single central rear wheel. There is no way to get to our house without smashing it to pieces on a dozen speed bumps. So that’s dead in the water.


One odd thing that happened last week. I was out on a run when somehow I fell over. I landed on my side on the gravel, banging up my knee and elbow and driving my elbow under my ribs to wind myself. I landed heavy enough to send my baseball cap flying, even with my ponytail fed through the back of it.

I say it’s odd because I run down there often, before and after. There is nothing to trip over. And why didn’t I land on my hands? If you fall over you arrest your fall with your hands by instinct, or go into a roll. I have done that by instinct before. It’s unlikely, but I’m harbouring the suspicion I may have passed out. It’s only ever been when I’ve suddenly stood up before. Unless it happens again I think I’m best going with “freak trip” but still, odd.


The flute was a success. After a fashion. Portable, light. and musical.

Same fingering as a sax? MY ARSE!

And it’s not got a reed, you have to blow across a hole, they say ‘like blowing into a coke bottle’. It took me days just to get a note. I was moving on, overcoming the fact the fingering is just different enough from a sax to totally bugger you up, when I got a rash under my lip. It was a major rash. I couldn’t sleep due to the itching then it was weeping, not good at all.

I looked it up. I couldn’t understand it as it was silver (non-reactive) coated. It turns out silver only has to be 97.5% silver, the other 2.5% can be nickel or whatever. That is what causes the allergic reaction. Which can lead to septicaemia. Which can be fatal. Super.

I was looking up all sorts of work-arounds.  Solid silver headpiece (£130 for a £47 flute!) but no guarantee it wouldn’t affect me the same. I saw a gorgeous black hardwood flute with silver keys but the cheapest, from China, was over £600. I was tempted, but reminded myself this is just a means to an end, that of playing the sax.

In the end I stumbled across an Albanian guy on ebay. You send him your headpiece and he coats it in a wood of your choosing.  A wooden lippiece should cure my problems.  It’s been about 4 weeks already though. 3 weeks getting there, a week for him to make it, now I have to wait for the royal mail carrier tortoise to plod back with it. If it still blows the same when it finally gets back here that should do it.


I’ve booked a week off at the end of May and ordered shit loads of stuff. I’m going to take my bike apart, whip the engine out, clean it, strip it down to the pistons, then respray the barrels, head, and engine. And clean off the flaking lacquer off the engine covers, strip them down, polish them up, and coat in a fixer. Also, while the engine is out, I’m going to de-rust the frame and spray up the corroded bits. And strip and repaint the swinging arm. And strip the paint off the forks and polish them up. And remove the gaiters. And tart up the exhaust.

Then sell if for scrap when I can’t put it back together again.

That was a joke.

I hope.

By the way, I’ve renamed the bike: “Valhalla Bound” got some gothic blackletter lettering to that effect. I’ve just remembered, I took the bike for an MOT. I was really worried it wasn’t going to pass with the meatier exhaust on. I was dreading having to spend £400 on a standard exhaust just for tests. But it sailed through. A few minor things, headlight beam too high, brake light not showing for front brake, the blue lights. I disconnected and reconnected the brake (fixed) and unplugged the blue lights for the test. And that was that. Job’s a good ‘un.


Whilst I’m going to be off for a week I’ve booked half an hour in at the tattoo place to have my Sisters tat re-inked. Running in the sun last year has bleached some of it. Bah. What’s the point if I can’t show it off?


Also I’ll take the opportunity to get an eye test and some proper readers.


I was on about going back to Bookers, but I’m torn. I’m making shitloads of money here. In the long term, if I can get taken on at Bookers it’s the way to go, loads better job, treated decently, full time (holiday pay! Yay!)  and better money. But I’ve just got my 2015 tax return. I made £27K in 2015. If I go back to Bookers it’s going to be a big pay cut (as less work, less money per hour) in the short term.

After this week off I think I’ll try again. Wendy gets a big pay increase this month, that should cover it.


Finally, as I’ve obviously not got enough on my plate, I’m going to do a parachute jump in the summer. I wanted to do a solo freefall, but your options are solo static line (like in the old war movies where you jump out of the ‘plane and a line pulls your ‘chute out) tandem freefall (you get a bit of freefall but are basically a passenger) and instructed freefall (you pull your own ‘chute but have two instructors holding on to you all the way down giving you instructions.)

All have their drawbacks. Static line has no freefall. Tandem you are just a passenger. Instructed freefall is twice the price and you are have two people hanging on to you.

I’m thinking static line. 6 hours training, jump the same day. It’s the stepping out of the ‘plane bit that’s going to be the big buzz, anyway. Especially as I’m scared of heights. Whaddayagonnado? I’m not letting fear cramp my fun.

I should be able to squeeze in a “VALHALLA, I COME!”  at some point. Or I want my money back.

Feast or famine. I say nothing for two months then can’t shut up.

OK, enough is enough.



The only thing I knew how to do…

..was to keep on keeping on. To quote Bob Dylan.

I’m over my sulk about the bike. There’s always tomorrow. And now I’ve got my new exhaust and I’m back to riding again I love my bike again.

One thing I have taken from that Triton, and a professional W650 chop, is to get ‘velocity stacks’ (bellmouth intakes) for the carbs. I’ve had to order them from the States to get the right size, I’ve also got some bigger jets for the carbs. When the bellmouths arrive I’ll fit them and sort out my my jetting once and for all.

Bike’s looking like this at the mo:



Or, back in the 60’s



The change of intakes from cones to bellmouth won’t be that noticeable at first, as those black plastic side covers mostly hide them but I want to fabricate flat, polished aluminium, inserts to fill in the triangle made by the frame (under seat, down from shocks, up to back of tank). That will keep the battery nicely hidden and expose the carbs and intakes. Also ditch the plastic.

I’ve a feeling that Sexy Bastard (the bike) is always going to be a work in progress.


Work has been my other obsession of late. Seems to be a week of crap, three short shifts, then get battered for a week. I’ve had enough. I was off for 3 days this week and I’ve spent them mostly trying to find a job. I’ve applied for two, not got an answer yet, registered with another agency (that was a bust) and I’ve bookmarked a local company. I keep checking to see if they are advertising for drivers as they won’t let you put in a speculative CV and application form. Some random guy I got talking to at work said he’s starting on the 23rd.

£12.50 p/h, guaranteed 40 hours minimum, full time job, 06.00 start. It doesn’t get much better than that.

My game plan, through want of option, is to stick at Herpes until I can get a real job. The agency with which I registered today were promising lots on the advert, but can only give me one day at a time, £11 p/h. Ideally I could take days with them when Herpes didn’t want me, but I never know in advance.

Bugger. I’ve come over all knackered. Finish this anon.




Right, weeks later. I got my bellmouths. They looked great. I tried many different jets (seat off, tank off, side panels off, disconnect wiring, intakes off, engine breather filter off, free carbs, flip them, take off bottom, unscrew jet, replace, put everything back together.) I have gone from a dread of messing with my jets to being able to strip and rebuild the whole bloody thing in about 25 minutes.

All to no avail. Online it says if you are OK off the mark but lacking top end put in bigger jets. Poor bugger was getting to 5,000 revs then just strangling. Standard jet is 118. I tried, 122, 140, 142.5, 150, 155… nada.

I tried them with the K&N airfilters then with the bellmouths. So many strip downs and rebuilds. Not a sodding sausage of difference.

In the end I gave up and went around to a bike mechanic. He said “it’s a vacuum carb, unrestricted air flow buggers them up, they just flutter. Go home, refit your standard air box and jets. Try that.”

Guess what?

I upped the idler jet, but the main jet is back to bog standard 118, and suddenly she revs into the red and I’ve gone from a gasping 80mph to 120mph. Allegedly.

OK, it’s not the look that I want, but I am so happy! I thought I’d killed my bike, nothing was working.

And massive kudos to the bike mechanic. He could have told me to bring it in, with the standard air box and jets, and charged me hundreds of quid. And I would still have been happy just to get my bike back working again. I mean, I’ll try most jobs if I’m told what to do, it’s that knowledge that is so valuable. He dispensed it for free. What a bloody good egg.

The trouble was getting the carbs back into the airbox rubber gaiter things. It took me hours. You get one side in and the other pops out. It had me raging. I ended up punching the airbox in rage. Luckily it’s solid Japanese build quality so I just popped my knuckle and didn’t damage the bike.


In other news, work has suddenly turned the corner. Now I’m getting enough hours that I am glad to get the odd day off.


Also I’ve seen a groovy car/ trike. It’s supposed to be retailing at $6,800 brand new. I’ve emailed them to see if they are importing it to the UK, if it will be road legal here, and what it would cost. If it’s not too much more I’m going to order one. It is so cool.


2 seater, (one behind the other) 900cc, can crack the ton, 84mpg, and utterly groovy!

I’ve also asked if it’s going to be a manual gearbox. At that price I don’t expect they’ll be going auto. Also, being a central driver seat them driving on the wrong side won’t be a chore. Possibly have the controls on the wrong side, but I can easily adjust to that. The only initial downside is the fact there’s only one door. I’ll have to get out ever time I run Wendy to work. Which, apart from shopping, is the only time I really use the car. There is another wheel sticking out on the other side to the front wheel, in case you were thinking it was like an outrigger canoe.


I haven’t been training for nearly 6 weeks as my cunning plan, to do shorter runs, with sprint sections in them, quickly turned into fast runs with faster sprints. Within a week or so I’d buggered my achilles tendon. I always go at it too hard too quickly. I have very unrealistic expectations of what I can do and don’t accept my body not doing it. So I was resting the injury and, as I say, work has been pretty hectic.Two weeks ago I did, 14 hours 45, 13.30 10.30 (part timer!) 14.15 and 12.30 in a 5 day week. No time to do anything but sleep and work.

I’ve actually had a whole weekend off this weekend. So I rebuilt my carbs (again!) and did some gardening yesterday, today went out for a deliberately slow run. Which turned into a 10 miler. I think I may have got away with it, injury wise. Proved the adage that running is 90% mental. The other 50% being physical.

It was quite a mental challenge, 10 miles after 6 weeks off, and at my new porky weight of 12 stone 1. I started my diet today as well. Because of my fatitude they online calculator reckons I burned 1,265 calories shuffling my fat arse around for 1 hour 36 minutes. I’m trying to be positive and think I “ran” for 1:36, straight off the bat, rather than say “It took you *how* long, lard arse?”

Right now, speed on the run is not my friend. I have seen an ultra I wouldn’t mind doing, Liverpool to Manchester down the TransPenine Trail. 47 miles of converted old railway lines and canal paths. I’m only 37 miles off cracking that!

It all depends on work. If I can fit consistent training in around it.

Also, for work, I had the brilliant idea of a flute. Apparently the same fingering as a sax, so practice my sax on a small, portable instrument. Selling them brand new, in a hard case, from China for £50. What’s not to love? I got one and went to crack off a few tunes. HA!

Totally different embouchure.  Instead of sticking it in your gob and controlling the reed vibration with stiff lips, you rest the pipe against your bottom lip and blow over the hole. Not into it. It’s a bastard to get right.

Still, something to do in the long hours I’m waiting at some drops.

Right, today has taken it out of me, I’m off to bed.