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Monday, October 03, 2016

Hallowe'en Approaches!

Out cycling this morning along the ancient Roman road that links my village (Kingsnorth) with the site of the Roman harbour near Lympne - this was the surreal sight in a field to my left.

In a couple of weeks this field will be barren as all the pumpkins will have been harvested for Hallowe'en. Does anyone eat them in the UK or do they just scoop out the middle, cut faces onto them and hang 'em up with a candle inside?

Saturday, September 17, 2016



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


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


Thursday, July 21, 2016


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


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.


Sunday, June 19, 2016


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


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.