Complete Surprise.

There have been a few things going on lately. One of which is my growing realisation that I bought the wrong bike. I wanted a tourer, something to travel back and to to work on, something to ride to races and have enough space to stash my kit, something I could do all day rides on. I got one. My bike is the perfect beast for doing all of that. But it’s been sat under the bike cover for weeks. I cycle in to work as it’s less than 3 miles away and it’s quicker and less fuss than going on the motorbike. I went to the bottom of Wales to pick up my sax on it, and it just felt like work. Mile after mile of chugging along a motorway. And despite all the work I’ve done to sort the handling out, it’s still too big a bike to be throwing into corners for fun. And Wendy is never going on the back, so what is the point of a tourer? I’m never going to tour.

I expect you can see where this is going.

You’re right!

I was actually at the point of thinking maybe I should give up on motorbikes. But I’m giving it one last shot. I’ve decided to get the bike I was obsessing about, and nearly got, before I got this one. The Triumph Daytona 675 triple. It’s a slim (three cylinder), lightweight, sports bike. The selling points are the engine is more torque-y that the more usual inline 4 configuration, and it has sublime handling.

I had the same engine in the Street Triple, it was amazing, but totally wasted on a naked, sit-up-and-beg bike. Very pretty though.

Actually, that is gorgeous. Wow.

Anyway, since then I’ve fancied the Daytona. And now I’m getting one.

JUST LOOK AT IT!

Wow and again wow.

It a 2009 model with 19,000 miles on the clock, full service history, and a grand cheaper than comparable bikes. The last makes me a bit nervous to be honest, but I’ve paid top dollar for a bike in the past, thinking it must be better, and I was basically had off. I’ve run the online checks, the mileage checks out, every MOT was a pass, only ever had two advisories (worn tyres and the shock losing some spring) . It looks immaculate. You never really know until you’ve run it for a bit, by which time it’s too late, but I can’t see anything wrong with it.

I’m picking it up on Monday. And, unheard of in the history of motorbike sales, it’s only 20 miles away! Woo-hoo!

The thing with the Daytona is it’s handling. It’s designed to be laid over in corners while giving it beans. It’s got zero luggage space, has an aggressive and not very comfortable riding position, and is in no way practical.

That’s the realisation I’ve had: I don’t need a motorbike as a practical tool anymore, but I want one as a fun toy.

Which brings me to work.

That’s the reason I no longer need a motorbike as a mode of transport. I’ve come to appreciate my job. Since Wendy said she was going on to half pay I’ve been trying to get the legal maximum of 5 shifts one week, 6 shifts the next. I’ve been at it for 3 weeks and so far I’ve only had one day I didn’t get any work. This is an agency job, it’s not the busy period, and I can smash full time hours whenever I ask for it. (So far.) It’s on my doorstep and they tell me my shifts a week in advance, with start and stop times. That is fantastic in any driving job, let alone agency. I’ve said it before, but at Bookers, which was the best driving job I’d had, you found out your next day’s shifts as you finished the current day, and half the time your run had changed by the time you got in in the morning. And you never, ever, knew what time you were finishing. I hated that. You’d get to nearly finishing time, think you were going home, then they’d give you another run. And there was always the suspicion that some other driver had refused to do it, so they were stitching you up. It was terrible. Some days I’m doing longer shifts now, 12 hours or whatever, but when you know in advance that’s the shift, you can get on with it. At first I didn’t like the job because sometimes I’d get sent out in a rigid, and there are some runs with several drops. Now I’m used to driving rigids I’m over my fear of them and actually don’t mind them. Also I’ve adjusted my mindset to the multiple drop days, I just get on with it now. The money is industry leading. The only other thing I had against it was the fact it was an agency job and I wanted the certainty of a full time gig. That’s still the case, but I reckon I could average more a year on the agency here, with some slack periods, than full time in virtually any other job.

I would never have left Bookers for an agency job, but it turns out it’s the best move I ever made. In short, I ain’t leaving. I still have an eye on Home Bargains, and I’ll compare if ever a job arises, but I just don’t see how it could match this one. In an ideal world the Royal Mail would take me on full time, but if I can get full time hours whenever I need them, it’s not so different.

Now we just need Wendy back to fighting fit and all will be well. She’s been on to the doctor, a different one who seemed to actually care, and they said she was on too low a dose, and her other pills can cause acute anxiety. Well, that’s super.

They’ve upped her dose again, after letting her suffer for the last 16 or so weeks, and hopefully she’ll start to see some improvement now. She’s been doing brave and stressful things to stop it getting any worse. She went to see her church chums for her birthday party. I’m assured it was just communion wine and all the male strippers were saved, so that’s alright.

Another surprise (as well as the motorbike) was a letter I received. My race number for a marathon on Sunday. WHAT? I thought I’d cancelled that when they moved the dates. I did, in point of fact. I was going to do it anyway. I went out for a test run last Sunday, did the 26.2 miles, but I was destroyed by the end. I was so done in. Stubbornness will get you a marathon, but it takes regular training to make it a fast one that isn’t pure hell. I did it in 4 hours 9 minutes. I was so done in afterwards I had to go to bed for a bit to recover. I was still going to do the marathon, but then I looked into it, it’s in Milton Keynes. 3 hours ride away. So I’d have to get up for 03.00 to get there. The final straw was when I noticed my finish time on Saturday: 22.55. At best asleep for midnight, 3 hours sleep, ride 3 hours, kill myself on a sub 4 hour marathon, then ride back for 3 hours in a total state. Nah. That’s stupid even by my standards. I’ll save my hoof for the 24 hour race the weekend after. Sensible, me.

I got my sax back from the repair guy and he’s done a brilliant job. I’ve had to ‘modify’ (saw a bit out of) my brand new sax mute as it was fouling the keywork. Grrrrrr. Anyway, it works really well, the sax in the mute is about as loud as the clarinet, which is not at all offensive. I’ve not actually had any time to play, with work and such, but I’m all set up for when I rest my hoof until it heals at the end of the season.

I’ll have to get some pictures of the garden. I’ve put a bunch of plants in. The shade area is going to be sorted when it all grows in. And I have plans for a cottage garden down the bottom.

Right, that’s enough rambling. Bed.

Later,

Buck.

Questionable Decisions.

A few things either aren’t going to plan or are taking too long, at the moment.

I got that sax the had been “recently serviced” from Wales,and I’ve had to immediately put it in for a £350 complete overhaul. Not only the expense, but because of the Covid backlog he said it would be 3 to 4 weeks. It’s been a fortnight and I’m sick of waiting. I was reminded of Professor Henry Higgins’ observation on the Welsh (from Pygmalion/ My Fair Lady)

Another poor decision was booking a week off work. I thought as Wendy was off I might as well take some of the holidays I’ve accrued and we could have some time together. Then, at the last minute I thought we could book a mini break. Ha! I’d booked the Bank Holiday Monday off and then the kids were off on holidays. The UK is on the international Lepers List so everyone has to holiday over here. Everywhere wanted stupid money and the motorways are clogged. Idiot. Ah well, we did a lot of local day trips, Arley Hall and that deer place and such.

I got some gardening inspiration from Arley. I’ve never like rhododendrons, big, ugly, waxy leaved bushes with blousey purple flowers. We went about a week or so after the prime display, I’m guessing, but every bush was festooned with flowers. And they were all in the shade of the trees. Ah, the penny drops! Then we saw some azaleas. Smaller leaves, smaller bush, masses of flower sized flowers, still in the shade, and massively scented. Perfect for the shady spot at the top of the garden.

They didn’t sell them at the garden shop at Arley so I had to track them down and order off the internet. They like ericaceous soil so I’ve prepared a hole, now waiting impatiently, again.

Also waiting on my hostas. I bought a batch of 10 roots, supposed to be of named varieties. they grow fairly large so I’m going to have to rearrange the ones I want to keep when I know which is which. But so far the foliage looks pretty much the same. Either solid green, or a contrasting edge. No sign of the two for which I bought the collection. Hurry up! I want to get everything dug into it’s final position.

Something else is Boris. I was looking down the garden a few days ago when I saw something moving about. It was a dirty great rat! I wasn’t bothered, just a big mouse with bad PR as far as I was concerned. Then Wendy saw me watching it and freaked out. She was convinced it was going to scale the wall, leap in through the open window and scurry across her face while she slept, just for spite. I tried to talk her down, but she was adamant they are evil vermin. I looked them up and apparently they carry diseases, some of which are lethal to humans. Oh, fair enough. Obviously I called him Boris. I did what it said on Gardener’s World, boarded up the under shed access and removed the water bowl I leave out for the birds and such. He didn’t take the hint as I saw him the next day.

For Wendy’s peace of mind and the common good, it’s bye bye Boris.

I got a natty air rifle and practiced my marksmanship.

Then got a flashback to ‘Nam (you weren’t there, man!)

And what do you know? I’ve not seen hide nor hair of Boris since! Typical! I’ve told Wendy to make a sound like a wounded carrot to lure him in, but nada. Ah well, Wendy’s calmed down, and if he returns it will go poorly for him. And, I forgot to say, the air rifle is the cheapest one I could find that was full power. The fact that it looks cool is a bonus. Times have changed, when I was a kid you could buy an air rifle from a catalogue, carry it around on your back, shoot your friends, and no questions were asked. Now you have to buy it in person, with ID, (in Scotland you need a firearms certificate!) and if you take it down the canal, for instance, it’s “armed trespass” and you can get five years, same as with a real firearm. I’m not sure if it’s an over-reaction to the terrorist threat or they are just legislating against me and my childhood mates.

The other thing that is not going well is my training. Because my foot still reacts badly to prolonged use I’ve not been able to do any sustained endurance training. My 24 hour race is in less than a month. I did another 33 mile run yesterday, trying a few new things. I set out to do a 12 hour session. I thought I’d see how far I could get. The idea was to do the 9 minutes run, 1 minute walk, until I could no longer sustain it, then lower the ratio until I was just power walking. I came into the house for a pit stop at 33 miles and my foot was misery. I can’t train to get the fitness for the big race, so I’m basically going as I am. It seemed like I would be suffering and causing damage for no good reason, I might as well save it for the day. On the bright side, I managed to sleep with it and today it seems fairly useable. Surprised at both.

Get that out of the way on the 3rd- 4th of July, then I’ve only got two marathons and a half (fun run, yay!) until the end of the season. Then I’m going to see the physio and I’ll be resting my foot completely for as long as it takes. They say up to 9 months. Even if it’s a year, it’s got to be done if I want to achieve my goals.

That is when the sax will really come in. I’m going to need to do something or I’ll go mad.

In positive news, Wendy’s been really chipper this week. She says she’s less stressed when I’m around, but hopefully she can carry on with it when I go back to work. Also she got her insurance renewal letter. I was expecting it to go to over a grand, but, even taking account of the bump, it’s only gone up by £50. If you stay with the same insurer the quote goes up by at least that much without a bump. That is an excellent result.

I’ve been trying to up my money the last few weeks, now Wendy is going on to half pay. I didn’t know if this job, being agency, would be any good if I wanted to make serious money. The first week I got 5 shifts, I’ve just had 6 days paid holiday, and next week I’ve got all 6 days (so far). If that’s an indication, I am never leaving this job. 5 and 6 shifts, at £18 per hour, known start and finish time, and on my doorstep. I can’t see me beating that.

Something weird has been happening lately on the motorbike front. They say that my condition gets less the older you get. One of the symptoms is reckless thrill seeking, oblivious to the danger. Just recently I’ve started thinking “If this goes wrong I’m going to die. Or get seriously smashed up… and I don’t want to.”

That’s new and horrible. Previously I’ve gone in knowing I either live or die and I’ve been OK with either. It’s a total buzzkill. I’m actually getting scared. I don’t care for it. Wendy reckons I’m probably at the level of a normal reckless teenager now. It sucks.

I have even been entertaining thoughts of getting a midlife (late, I know) crisis car instead. My last couple of long rides have felt like work. Looking far into the distance, tracking every other vehicle, leaving safe braking distances, etc. There’s no fun in that. And if I’m getting too old and scared to enjoy the adrenaline parts…

I’m not rushing into any decisions. I don’t need motor transport for work so a bike I don’t use is no different than a car I don’t use. It’s just weird that I should even contemplate the possibility.

Forgot to say, Wendy, Lisa and I are all jabbed up, with zero side effects from the second jab. And improved wifi. So it’s all good.

Anyway, a few pics and I’m done.

The other Boris the Rat tried to distract from his spin doctor revealing that he let tens of thousands of people die unnecessarily by quickly getting married. Again. His fourth time. In a Catholic church, which needs special dispensation from the Pope. And apparently, if Bozo has returned to Catholicism he is banned from office under some old law.

An astounding bit of wood carving

An impressive painting

A great shot

And random stuff.

Right, out of here.

Later,

Buck.

Positive Day.

It’s been a good day so I might as well record it.

The last time I was on Trainer Road, (2 days ago) I was hanging on by my fingernails. At the end of each section I was out of air, my legs were slowing, I was standing in places just to keep the pedals turning. It was horrendous. I thought I’d lost all my fitness.

Today I did a 1 hour 15 minute session, containing four 9 minute blocks under/over maximum. You start at 95% of FTP (maximum sustainable power) then ramp up for a minute to 110%, take a minute to ramp down, and repeat. The evil genius of under/overs is as soon as you go ‘over’ you are loading your legs up with lactic acid, then you slowly ramp down to under. Then you have a minute (still at 95% of max) to clear the burn before doing it again. It’s tough going.

Today I just did it. I knew I was going to. There was no question of quitting. It was painful and hard, but manageable. Then I went out for a run straight after. (Two disciplines together is called a brick session.) The thing with bricks is your legs are already shot and it’s misery to get them started again. Not so today. I felt fresh as a daisy for the first 3 miles. I decided to do 10 miles.

Also today I was testing fitting a battery pack thing to my running watch to recharge on the hoof, for my upcoming 24 hour race. So I got to 5 miles, after letting the battery run down recording the bike and the run, then stopped and tested it out. It took me a minute or so to figure out the best way of doing it, but it worked a treat. Charged it up and didn’t interfere with the data recording. That was a good win.

Then I started running back. Because I hadn’t paused it the watch was saying I was on for a 14 minute mile. I’d been doing easy, just under 9 m/m’s. Not having that! I legged it for the mile and got it back to a sub 10 m/m. My maths isn’t good enough to work out what speed I’d been doing, even if I could have measured the stop time precisely, so I carried on into the next mile at the same pace to see what I’d been doing. 7.25! On a brick run! It started slipping into 7.30 so I upped the pace, 7.20. Hang on, could I go sub 7? I nearly killed myself, but yes, 6.57! I will well take that, on a brick! I paid for it a bit on the last two miles, but still kept it under 9m/m’s.

That was the best bit of training I’ve done in ages. I was dead chuffed with pulling a sub 7 out of the middle of a brick session.

Other good news; last night I was looking into my 24 hour race and found a list of the entrants. I wasn’t on it. What? I dug out the email about my deferral from last year. Apparently they were supposed to send me a link so I could re-enter. Either I hadn’t received it, or it had gone to spam and been deleted. Then I noticed “last date for deferral entrants, 15th of May”. What?! Gutted. I’d already sent them an email before I spotted that. I had a bad night with my brain going over it, but when I woke this morning they’d already got back to me. They’ve put me back in. Brilliant.

I’ve been trying to get more shifts from work. Today I got a call, would I like to work Sunday? (I’d marked today and Sunday as available). Excellent. That’s my first week trying for 5 or 6 shifts and I’ve got 5. That’s promising.

Also my sax mute arrived today and it looks like decent kit. I won’t get my sax back for another 3 weeks or so, so I don’t know how quiet it will be. Fingers crossed.

And the cheap Chinese wooden barrel for my clarinet arrived today. It was a smidge too small so I had to sand the inner face, but I got it fitting, and to my surprise, I think it does actually deepen the tone. I’ve found a clarinet teacher who does online courses. I’ve not signed up, but she had a lot of promo videos. One of them was discussing upgrades. I’ve taken her advice and bought a different design of ligature (the thing that hold the reed to the mouthpiece) and a wooden barrel, and I have to admit she’s totally right. I thought it would be too fine a distinction for a rubbish amateur to notice, but it is a clear improvement. And, I know this is going to sound pathetic, I managed to read my first line while counting time today! I am really struggling. as soon as I go 1,2,3, 1,2,3, I lose track of the notes or my tongueing or fingering, or try and say one, two, three as I’m blowing. My first line. It’s a start.

Here’s the new barrel (bulging bit) and me having a go at time keeping.

https://youtu.be//bT1aV7NrAXY

Good days. More of them, please.

Buck.