I will always reply to comments and always re-reply to re-replies.

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.  












Thursday, May 05, 2016

THE BILSINGTON MONUMENT

In an earlier post I compared cycling through the lanes over Romney Marsh to being at sea in a small boat with the distant escarpment being my landfall.


If one pursues that analogy then the Bilsington Monument would qualify as a "seamark". Standing 52 feet (16m) proud on that escarpment it is visible from wherever you are on the Marsh and I think its story is worth the telling.

It was erected in 1835 in memory of Sir William Cosway, one-time secretary to Vice Admiral Lord Collingwood and highly respected in Bilsington as its excellent squire and main landlord. Being very interested in the Reform Bill, he was much concerned about the plight of local farm labourers, giving financial support to them and built the village school for the benefit of their children.


In 1834 at the age of 51 he fell from his coach in London and died soon after. The Reformers of East Kent, with the support of the people of Bilsington had the monument erected in his memory.


It has had a chequered history, being struck by lightning in 1967 and half destroyed. But a trust was formed and, with Heritage Lottery funding, it was repaired in 1999, ready for the Millenium.


As one gets nearer to the escarpment it accompanies you on the skyline
After leaving the Marsh, a ride up the steep lane beside it (easy by ebike!) and crossing the local cricket field one is able to approach it
and sit in the sun beneath it on the bench provided, drinking coffee (in my case) and admiring the panorama over all of Romney Marsh.


Thursday, March 31, 2016

ARIEL SQUARE FOUR PINION PULLER





Well, my daughter and Vita had asked about this piece of kit, which has been gracing my garages since about 1962. At that time I was the proud owner of an Ariel Square Four motorcycle with a large family sidecar. Indeed, I owned two in quick succession.




As usual, I enjoyed "fettling" and had occasion to delve into the engine. The reason it was known as a "Square Four" was because of the unique and clever cylinder layout, which enabled four cylinders to be inserted compactly into the frame.


These cylinders were connected by a couple of interlocking pinions and I needed to get these off.


You can see the pinions at "A" and "C" in the drawing above. I used the aforementioned tool to successfully remove these. When the engine was reassembled I put the puller carefully away "for next time" and never used it again. It is till awaiting reuse after over 60 years! Incidentally, over the years, as I have lifted cylinder heads off motorcycles, I have always preserved the old gaskets as memories - I found the old Square Four ones.




I loved those Square Fours. At that time (apart from the too expensive Vincents) they were the only 1000cc motorcycles and were ideal for dragging a large family "chair". They managed, easily, a wife and 3 small children and were only eventually replaced by a Morris Traveller car for family comfort.


My daughter remembered my affection for them and once, as a "thank you" present she bought me a painting of one, which still graces the bedroom wall.





Monday, March 28, 2016

GOOD FRIDAY RUN

I had spent the morning "de-winterising" a motorcycle (cleaning off the protective spray applied in November and generally tarting up prior to selling). The sun was warm on my back and the day delightfully calm and spring-like.


After a light lunch the ebike and the lanes called. The usual alcohol infused coffee flask was prepared, along with a couple of cheese scones. (The inner man needs to be refuelled at the halfway stage, even though the bike has electrical assistance).


My aim, as is often the case, was Romney Marsh, but I decided to take a different route today, following Robert Frost's musings:


"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, "

I had not seen my most coveted house for a long while and wanted to check how it was getting on


Still there, it seems, still surrounded at the rear by absolutely delightful gardens, green, close-mown lawns, a stream and daffodils in abundance. I would love to see inside it as the rooms seem to be all on different levels and I can imagine the musty smell of ancient, cured oak of which it is built. I could never afford it and I guess my modern, estate house with all its mod cons is more comfortable, warm and draught free but my illusion continues, unpricked.

Then it was a descent to Romney Marsh. An artist's paradise with its vast skyscapes


When cycling through these winding, deserted lanes (even on a Bank Holiday, they are traffic free and undiscovered - long may that continue) I have the feeling of being at sea in a small sailing boat, the distant escarpment being my eventual landfall.

The coffee and scones were enjoyed on a bench in a windless little Marsh churchyard, the sun being so hot that I needed to take off my cycling jacket and the underlying sweater. A glorious afternoon, well stolen as the rest of the subsequent Easter weekend dissolved into torrential rain and gale force winds.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

"A HALF-HOUR JOB"

I had occasion to fit a side stand on a small motorcycle I have recently purchased (of which more in a later blog post). There is a lug built in to take one, but our dreaded European "Health and Safety" rules, to which we have to comply, has meant that motor cycle manufacturers can only fit such now if they include an electronic cut off switch to immobilise the engine unless it is retracted. (It seems that some forgetful wights forgot and rode off with the stands down - they soon remembered when leaning over to take a left hand bend!). This particular model had dispensed with them since the  European diktat was promulgated in about 2000.

Such stands are still available via Ebay as  most more enlightened countries outside the European "state" still allow them to be fitted. So I obtained one and looked forward to a pleasant half an hour fitting it. (Motorcyclists love "tinkering").

It came complete with fixing bolt and retracting spring. The actual stand fitted quickly and easily in about 5 minutes to the lug provided. However, the retracting spring is, of necessity, very powerful and when offered up it was approximately one cm. short of its locating stud.
Its end was totally inaccessible and the spring too strong to be able to stretch it, but a known dodge by anyone purporting to have some engineering knowledge is to extend the spring by fitting spacers into the coils. This can be effected by putting the spring in a vice and bending it to left and right to open the coils. Coins are useful spacers. The trouble is that as one bends the coils one way the tension on the previous spacers is released and they drop out. Calm thought was called for and insulation tape came to the rescue.

As each set of spacers was fitted a winding of tape kept them in place and the end result was a spring sufficiently extended

There was a problem however, on coming to fit it I found the space too congested to loop the end over the stud because the width of the spacers was impinging on the stand

It pays to keep calm in such circumstances. The only solution was to remove all the coins and cut them in half (sorry your majesty!)


Result!

Once the stand was put into the "down" position the spacers could easily be removed with a pair of thin nosed pliers as the spring extended.



and what I thought would be a half-hour job took the whole of Saturday morning. But I did, in a strange way, enjoy working out the problem. (It's not just riding motorcycles that gives pleasure - fettling increases it).

My wife gets her pleasure from solving crosswords - mine is of a more practical nature.






Tuesday, March 08, 2016

GROUNDWORK (or owner trained by dog)

It is nearly 20 years since I had a female dog and had forgotten how bitches can ruin a lawn. It does not apply to the male of the species. Dog urine contains large concentrations of nitrates. In small doses these are, in fact, very good for the grass, but, as the Delphic inscription had it, "medan agan" (nothing in excess). A male dog tends to cock a leg and spray, thus dispersing the result. But a bitch likes to squat in one place and puts everything in a few square inches. Result, as can be seen below, large, dead yellow patches on the grass. (I hope you are not eating whilst reading this)

For my previous dogs I had a area of paving slabs where they could amble around. This was easy to keep clean and tidy. The current fastidious little lady does not like squatting on cold concrete and refuses to pee on same. As soon as she was let loose on the lawn she would perform (it may be that she enjoyed the sensation of grass tickling her fanny). This I needed to address.

Physical work which I used to do in about two days I now need about two weeks to complete. I have found since the stroke that I can work for about an hour, then need a sit down with a cup of coffee and a book for half an hour or so. This is rather pleasant in fact and lends grace and elegance to the day . Why did I never do this before - the work ethic dominated, now I have an excuse!

So, over the course of the last two weeks I have lifted ten 60cm square concrete slabs.
The compressed soil  beneath them (Kentish clay of the consistency of cheese) then needed to be dug over (the hardest part of the project). Then a drive to the local garden centre for three large bags of topsoil to mix with and "dilute" the clay.

I rang the local turf supplier and said I needed some. "We deliver free on orders over £50", he said, "how much do you want?" I only needed 6 rolls for the job so I collected them myself  (went into the back of the "Popemobile" very nicely, thank you).

Then a visit to a builders outlet for a quantity of 180 cm. lengths of timber (again the Popemobile swallowed the lot, no probs.).

The result is a fenced area half slabs and half grass. Little madam is confined therein and is happy to perform on her personal bit of lawn. Usually I am able to follow her with a watering can to dilute her deposit.












So, job done. But it does occur to me, just who is training whom?





Thursday, February 25, 2016

SURFACING



At last the three months of winter draw to a close and I begin to emerge from SAD hibernation. It has been a particularly doleful winter this time, almost ceaseless rain, with dreary "nothing" grey days. But the sun's red orb now sits exactly on the far house rooflines when I rise in the mornings (07.00) and the frost sparkles everywhere. Muddy paths on the dog walk have solidified to ice and many more birds are in evidence.

At least the warmer winter has meant that primroses are now blooming early and even the first spikes of unfurled bluebells are evident. Unusual, but welcome.

It may be just a little early, but March is the first month of the spring cycle, so I now change my blog head image accordingly.