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Saturday, September 17, 2016

TERRY PRATCHETT AND BOOKS

TERRY PRATCHETT

Being less active these days I tend to spend a lot of time reading. However, my shelves are so packed that I only buy a book if I really need to keep it. It also means that if a new book arrives, a book needs to leave the shelves to make room for it. It is then either donated to charity, or, if valuable, advertised on Amazon.

My daughter-in-Oz (who blogged as HHnB) helped here as I gave her a free run of my shelves when she was over a couple of years ago. This resulted in a large lorry calling and taking away about nine boxes of books for container shipping to an Australian bungalow in the hills behind Perth. There they now sit cosily on new, craftsman constructed shelves, looking back to me in photographs like beloved old friends.

This is all as an introduction as to why I increasingly rely on ebooks and a Kindle. Easy to store great quantities and so easy to prop up and read whilst eating! However it does not have the feel and smell of a good, mature book, which is something never to be replicated .

I felt I should extend my tastes into new areas in old age (Evelyn Waugh was a start). But I had an early attraction to science fiction/fantasy; Barry Alldis, Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, Kornbluth and Pohl all sit on a top shelf still. Ray Bradbury, of course and the arch fantasist of them all, J.R.R. Tolkien.

My Australian son-in law (the chemist) enjoys Terry Pratchett whom I had never explored. So, let's give him a go - it's easy (and cheap) as he is all on Kindle. I thoroughly enjoyed a few of his DiscWorld series, but he died last year and I  have turned to his post mortem book, "A Slip of the Keyboard", being all of his non-fiction musings. I am reading it at present and it is wonderful stuff, full of cleverness, humility, humour, philosophy and anger.

One particular chapter is a reprint of his Inaugural Professorial Lecture at Trinity College, Dublin in November 2010. It covers how his life developed, school, what  inspired him to write, his first journalistic job as an apprentice reporter ( blogger, R.R.  comes to mind) on the Bucks Free Press and, of course, his Alzheimer's.

It's made such an impression on me that I would like to share it with you. Worth reading and readily available.


Tuesday, August 09, 2016

SO LONG, MARIANNE (IHLEN)


As mentioned in The Guardian (and other media) Leonard Cohen's muse and lover, Marianne Ihlen has died of cancer, aged 81. Two of his most famous songs were inspired by her; So long, Marianne and Bird on the Wire.

So time passes and our youth with it.

RIP Marianne

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

RIDING THE TRAILS II

In comments to my previous post, RR and I discussed the morality of taking internal combustion engined machines along ancient greenways and I concurred with his views. My Damascene conversion came about on a trip to the Ridgeway. For a change I  had bought a larger trail bike, a Suzuki SP370, which was more "interesting" on the boring 300 mile motorway round trip  down to Wiltshire.


The ancient chalk trackway had been churned up by convoys of 4x4 drivers who delight in finding the "juicy" spots, driving into them and then using their skills to extract themselves.


The result was some 35 miles of a wet, muddy, chalky track with huge areas of very deep puddles (ponds?)


As you can see from the image, I was keeping, with difficulty to the side of the main track. However, at one point the only way through was to negotiate a very deep and wide "water feature". I usually walked such obstacles first but it was not possible on the occasion so I rode through it. Of course the bike hit a submerged rut and I went over. My usual small trail bikes would have been no problem in such circumstances, but the heavier Suzuki was immensely difficult to extricate and push out. By the time I reached the other side I was in a muck sweat ,shaking with effort and needed a sit down!

I rode home at the end of that day, jet-washed the mud clogged Suzuki and advertised it for sale. I was ashamed of what modern vehicles were doing to this environment (with my participation). No more trail rides, but I had had a good innings for some 30 years.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

RIDING THE TRAILS


I mentioned, in an earlier post, that I loved riding the greenways of Wiltshire/Berkshire and always had small, light trail bikes which were easy to pick up if I came off. Here is a little Honda XL125cc parked up on the Ridgeway, an 87 mile ancient road (3000 BC) across the Berkshire Downs

I always looked forward to the immense enjoyment of that old way as I rode the 150 miles down to it from Kent. (If one puts oneself in the right mind any motorcycle ride is enjoyable, whatever its size) One was alone with the vast panoramas, skyscapes and history. Sitting, eating a sandwich lunch all that could be heard was the song of skylarks as they ascended. The small bike did not make much noise as we pobbled along at about 15 - 20 miles an hour and I would always pull up and turn my engine off if encountering horse riders.

I count myself fortunate to have been able to ride it for 30 years because it has been illegal for about 10 years to take a motor vehicle along this famous trackway. This came about because, as usual, modern enthusiasms spoilt things for the individual solitary. Gangs of 4x4 vehicle drivers, some even over from the Continent would career along the road, churn it up (it gets extremely muddy in the winter) and spoil its peace and quiet. It is now only available to walkers and cyclists and that is a good thing, but regretful to us who sought to quietly integrate - to make love to it rather than rape it.

Pohangina Pete and Vita have both commented on my earlier posts about the monstrous motorcycles used by so-called "adventure bikers" like Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman. I think that the following rider absolutely knocks them into a cocked hat. He rides a Royal Enfield Bullet, similar to the one I have just sold. But he rides alone, does all his own filming and camps "wild" in the Himalayas. Here is a short trailer for the film he made. The full film runs for 95 minutes and is available on DVD or can be downloaded. It has won many awards and is well worth having, Even if you are not interested in motorcycles per se it is a record of an individual's effort, discovery of forgotten, threatened nomads and Tibetan customs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SldSSPxWMfk


Sunday, June 19, 2016

"BYE-BYE LOVE.."

To remember a song which was current when I was in the Army in the late '50s...

The Royal Enfield Bullet has been sold for £2,150 (hurrah for Ebay). Bought by a mature enthusiast who was treating himself to a 60th birthday pressie. He had twice toured around India on such, which are available to hire all over the place out there and wanted one of his own. His wife brought him down from Essex and he rode it back home. Here is the image of him leaving my address on it - not the happiest moment in my motorcycle life!


So now it is back to trolling around on a little 125cc Honda although this has appreciativly more performance than the little BSA Bantam 150cc which was my very first bike in 1958.

It will not come of too much of a culture shock though. Over the years I have owned a number of Honda trail bikes which were only 125cc and had immense fun with them. I am very much attracted to the Berkshire/Wiltshire downlands and Salisbury Plain with their ancient trackways and often made the 300 mile round trip in a day to explore them on these little bikes. I have always used trail bikes that were light enough to pick up if I came off, or to push out of deep mud - which was a not infrequent occurance!

I think this may be the subject of a later posting.......


Saturday, June 04, 2016

DAVE SWARBRICK

Well, one of the finest folk fiddlers ever has finally justified his very premature obituary that was published in newspapers here some years ago. For a long time after "Swarb" would personally autograph photocopies of his "obit for £1 a time.

Now he has really died, age 75 and I wonder if we will ever see his like again.

Here, very much younger, he is playing "The Hens' March" accompanied by Simon Nichol on guitar.


Rest in Peace, "Swarb". We folk aficionados are going to miss your playing and quirky humour.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A MOTORCYCLING LIFE


It is 1958 and a young man sits nonchalantly on his first motorcycle. A 1956 BSA Bantam 150cc, I bought after a bad and financially costly experience with an ancient Ford 8, mentioned in an earlier post.
At this time I was doing army service and went to the local dealers with a knowledgeable mate to choose. I bought it and the next week went with the same mate to get it. We rode back to barracks through Canterbury with him on the back shouting instructions. I had never ridden before, but youth has confidence. Training and crash helmets were not yet compulsory, so hearing was easy.
It was such a pleasant revelation that I rode it 30 miles to Maidstone that very evening to see my girlfriend. A lifetime's love and devotion were formed (with motorcycles and the said girlfriend, who has now been my wife for over 50 years). Here she sits astride the little bike:

she too was to get the bug and loved being on the back, subsequently owning her own machines for a number of years until rheumatoid arthritis put paid to it.

Came marriage and eventually children started to arrive. With two, we invested in a sporty looking sidecar combination



Really it gave the impression of a bishop arm in arm with a tart as the bike was a rather staid BSA 600cc sidevalve attached to the sports child/adult chair. Nevertheless our first holiday was spent touring Devon and Cornwall, wife with very young son on her lap in front and 4 year old daughter in the back. Here we are crossing Exmoor on a "moist" day.(Note the pushchair, carried for said son)
As the family increased with another son, so we went up the combination chain until the chairs began to look like small buses.








Eventually the two eldest kids began to get interested in rides on the pillion of my small Velocette LE 200cc although the boys never really took to it,

only my daughter, taking after her mother and loving it so much that she eventually trained and rode on her own moped.
We got a car, but I always had a motorcycle in the garage. My love for big single Royal Enfield Bullets started about now in 1965
Then, in the '70s I deserted to East European two-strokes, the MZ 250 being a favourite
here a rather older daughter shows her approval

Numerous SJF s (standard Japanese fours) followed, but in the '80s I began an enthusiasm for BMW flat twins. My second, a 1000c model I kept for over 25 years, only reluctantly selling it as arthritis began to make handling it painful in 2012
So it was back to a first love Royal Enfield Bullets, only now made in India, but having an updated fuel injected engine
I had hoped that this would see me through to my dotage, but a couple of strokes left me with reduced use of my left arm and leg. Motorcycling was impossible for a few months, but as soon as possible I managed to get back on two wheels with a "twist and go" Honda 125cc scooter which has no left hand clutch or left foot gear change to operate
I shall hang on to this as it is so useful and easy to ride (and who knows what the future will hold), but it is not the same as motor cycling. On a scooter one sits primly upright, knees together, rather like a spinster at a vicarage tea party. This will give you my view of motorcycling!

But even the Enfield is now too heavy for me to push around when off it, particularly backwards due to poor balance (only off the bike thankfully) and lack of muscle tone, so I have invested in a "tiddler" - only 114 kgs. A Honda CG125, owned by a mature rider who sold it to another one (me)
So, as T S Eliot has it in his Four Quartets, "In my end is my beginning" (Although I see that Mary Queen of Scots got there first when she embroidered, "En ma fin git mon commencement."


I started my motorcycle life on a 150cc machine and I end it on a 125cc one! Over that time I have owned 51 bikes. During those 60 years I have tried to put back into what has become a wonderful hobby. I was for many years the chief instructor of a training centre, County co-ordinator of 14 training schemes and helped to set up the first advanced motorcyclist training scheme which has subsequently been taken up nation-wide.
An old motorcyclist, John Masterman once said,

"Cut your miles a day down from 300 to 200, and 200 to 100 or even less.
 Ride and rest - and ride again. Never give it up. Never say die.
 Never part from an interest and love that is life itself."

I believe I may have posted the following link before but it is so appropriate that I shall repeat it, with no apologies.