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

Monday, December 21, 2009

HAPPY CHRISTMAS !


CHRISTMAS PRESENT

Just had a call from the SAAB's insurers - they have agreed to repair it rather than write it off.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

OUCH!



A very busy, multi-entry roundabout. The Avus SAAB joins it; a scream of brakes behind; an almighty BANG and suddenly I have been turned through 180 degrees, sitting there dazed with all the traffic still trying to speed around me. If you must be in a collision I recommend that you do not choose a high velocity Range Rover to do the job!
The garage tells me that this almighty dent will mean that the car is written off as not economical to repair. So a meticulously maintained motor car, (£300 service three days ago, too) with 4 new tyres, is consigned to the rubbish heap. How "green" is that?

Friday, December 11, 2009

CANIS PRESTIDIGITATUS

I happily made up a meat sandwich for a light lunch, topped it with a packet of crisps and laid a square of paper napkin on top of the pile. Then I made a cup of tea.




Having left the plate on the low table beside my reading chair I returned to the kitchen to fetch the teacup, sat in my chair and turned my attention to the plate. There lay the packet of crisps with serviette atop, all perfectly undisturbed, but no meat sandwich under them.




Rex, the new dog, lay contentedly stretched out on the carpet before me - not a crumb in sight. How the hell did he do it so perfectly, quickly and surgically?

(the images are reconstructions of the crime)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

JOHN HEAD





Regular readers of my musings will remember this posting where I extolled the beautifully kept Rudge Superbe I purchased from John Head, who could no longer ride it because of age.
I have just learnt that John has died quite recently. The Rudge's wheels have turned full circle. Every time I take it out to meander around this Little Corner of the Earth John will be in my thoughts. The bicycle will be enjoyed as he is remembered.
I think that is how he would have liked it.
R.I.P. John

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

REX



It is 8 months since we lost our last dog, Sabre and just recently I have felt the time was right for another animal to come into our lives - in spite of Kipling's view on the subject.

I have never been one for puppies, preferring to rescue an unwanted or stray dog in need of a good home. Not having much luck with the national German Shepherd Rescue Society my wife and I, on the spur of the moment, decided to visit a rescue kennel some 20 miles away.

My daughter, with similar affinities, has always said that "when the right dog needs you, he will find you" .
And there he was - sitting in cage 5, bright eyed, tail wagging, tongue lolling, waiting for us to come along and take him home. Rex, 3 years old, taken into kennels a week ago because of a broken marriage.

The obviously heartbroken previous owner (never identified to the new one) had left a note with him giving some details of likes and dislikes. The last sentence read "once he gets to trust you, you are his friend for life. I know".

He is settling well, obviously had some training and eager to please (too eager sometimes!) . However, we are off to the vet's in an hour for a checkover and jabs, so I might not be flavour of the month for a while after.

Friday, November 13, 2009

THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS




They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate.
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few)
You will hear the beat of a horse's feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods….
But there is no road through the woods

(A gentle autumn afternoon's potter on my bicycle led me down a country lane. The hedgerows closed in either side. The lane became a farm track. The track ended at a derelict, overgrown five-bar gate. I pushed through and found myself on a forgotten, ancient road that led down through the woods, emerging onto the levels of Romney Marsh. Kipling's words slid into my meditative mind as my tyres rode over the soft leaf litter, the crack of the occasional broken twig almost an intruder on my musings.)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

ACTING SERGEANT MICHAEL LOCKETT

Our National Time of Remembrance comes round again. Poppy wreaths will be placed against memorials and bugles will sound the "Last Post" (or "Taps" in the USA)

Acting Sgt Michael Lockett, who was killed in Helmand on Monday 21st September 2009, was the first holder of the Military Cross to die in battle since the Second World War. In remembering him I remember all those who are fighting and dying now in Afghanistan and all those who have gone before. He exemplifies all that is best in a soldier and can stand for all of them.

Can I ask you to go to this article. It is quite a long one, but please do "Locky" the honour of reading it all. It made me feel proud, humble and not a little angry at the politicians who send these fine young men to die in often senseless wars.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

HONDA SH300i SCOOTER

(click any image to enlarge)

Barrett Bonden has posted about Honda's latest motorcycle which has an automatic gearbox and asked for my opinion (as a dyed in the wool motorcyclist ) . This naturally got me thinking about the automatic scooter that I have added to my stable, the Honda SH300i .


I have ridden and restored motorcycles, exclusively, for over 50 years having owned about 42 over that period. Scooters had never remotely interested me. However Honda brought out this range with larger, motorcycle type wheels and I threw prejudice aside and had a test ride. What a revelation!

I can honestly say that it is the best "motorcycle" that I have ever owned. Not the most expensive, the most interesting, the most desirable or the most characterful, but the one which does everything I want it to comfortably, smoothly, efficiently and economically. I ride it in ordinary clothes in a breathable "Peter Storm" outdoor jacket. Once off the machine the helmet and gloves are stowed in the top box. It has an underseat storage area which takes a lightweight waterproof overall and any small goodies purchased along the way. Behind the front fairing is a glove box with a 12 volt charging outlet for a mobile phone.

My BMW motorcycle gives me exhilaration, but the Honda is the most used - in preference even to the car and it was used throughout last winter in snow, rain and frost. The worst aspect of such use is the salt which is spread on our roads in winter to keep them ice free - however all vulnerable parts were liberally sprayed with ACF-50 which keeps corrosion at bay, although at the end of the winter the road parts looked like the bike had been through a farmyard! But when cleaned off it was as good as new.

I suffer from poor circulation in the hands and the ultimate luxury it has to offer is heated handgrips. These, combined with its designed-in protection and the extra clip -on lap blanket meant that I was warm and cosy all winter.



Its 280cc engine, taken from a Honda motocross bike, enables it to cruise on motorways at 70mph (116kmh) with some 15mph still in hand for overtakes. In my hands it consistently returns 80mpg ( 3.5 litres per 100 km). With fuel here costing £1.04 per litre what more could one ask?

It has ABS on both brakes, electric starting, fuel injection, watercooling and completely automatic (CVT) transmission (so no gear changes or clutch to bother about). For those interested in such things a technical spec. can be seen here .

You might think that I was somewhat enthusiastic about the machine - you would be right. I can think of no better answer to open air, comfortable and economical travel.

"Works Well", B.B.? I should think so!

Friday, September 18, 2009

SHOES



HHnB has just posted about her new shoes (which, she says, are unfortunately not red"). This reminded me that in the back of the wardrobe there still existed a relic from the mid '70s . My pair of red patent leather shoes which were worn with a pair of grey chalkstripe flaired trousers, a blue patterned shirt and a paisley "kipper" tie. Be kind to me, people - autres temps, autres moeurs!

Thing is, having put them on for the first time in 30 years, they are very comfortable, but I don't feel like being a fashion icon any more. (I wonder, if I click the (highish) heels three times, I can fly off to Oz like Dorothy? Except my Oz would be W. Australia!)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

NORFOLK REPORT

(click any image to enlarge)
Norfolk..........a leisurely, enjoyable week. A cosy spot to set up our caravanserai under the apple trees,


Norfolk skies with the harvest in



Norfolk churches


The nostalgia of "clackity-clack" rides through the Norfolk countryside on old railway lines in ancient carriages drawn by a steam engine



and a vintage Routemaster ex-London bus taking passengers from the train station to the town (Holt)


But there was work to be done for HHnB who had requested detailed pictures of the "Great Wall" of Erpingham for her future inspiration.





(a complete set of model "T" Ford wheels are embedded)


However, the real serendipity was that the house owner and builder of the wall, seeing me photographing, came out to ask (in an almost impossible to imitate in print, wonderful Norfolk accent) "Yew loiiike thaaat, then?" He had owned a rubbish skip business, wherefrom had come the wall's ingredients (he still had two fields full of the stuff as well a collection of 30 horse carts and pony traps). He and his wife had taken 7 years to build it together. Unfortunately she had died some 3 months previously. Telling him that I was there because a daughter in Australia had seen the wall on the net and wanted pictures, he was happy to accede to my request for his picture by it. "Mr. Wright" he said his name was - (the formalities were preserved). His somewhat set expression was down to the regrettable results of a stroke.



Oh - and I can recommend the fresh-caught Cromer crab!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

ANY IDEAS?

In the past, whenever a comment has been posted on this blog, an email message appears in my Hotmail inbox to notify me of the poster and the comment. Recently this has been very spasmodic and many of your comments have not been notified.

Any ideas about this please?

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Gypsy Life

Been taking a break from blogging recently. When it starts to feel like an obligation, then I feel it's time for a rest.

We are now off for a week in the caravan to North Norfolk - an area we have not visited for years. A gentle landscape, pretty villages, Roman remains, large stately homes and delicious, fresh caught crab. No real plans - just take life as it comes (and hopefully it will come with ice, lemon, tonic and gin!). However, our mosaicist daughter has given instructions that she wants detailed photographs of the Great Wall of Erpingham

Here is a sample of this fascinating construction - the link above will show you much more.



Having researched the internet I see that the Spread Eagle Inn at Erpingham offers good, home cooked food - so, definitely a day spent there.

Sandringham House, the Queen's country home will not be far from the farm where we are parking up, so a visit there will be reserved for a wet day and I guess that there may be some of those. However, we take the line, along with Alfred Wainwright, that "there is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing" - so we get by.
"Catch you all later", as our colonial cousins would have it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Word Verification

I am turning word verification back on for your comments, as previous posts seem to be getting inundated with loads of Japanese comments. They may be genuine: they may be adverts. However, since I cannot read them I cannot tell.

Monday, June 29, 2009

THE ROMAN SAUSAGE RUN

(click any picture to enlarge)
The Romans built a road from their port/fort near Hythe to Ashford where it met their road from the Wealden ironworks on its way towards Canterbury. Most of it is still used as an arrow-straight country lane, but it became abandoned near my home and runs under the gardens of the house next door.

This road is my route to the village of Aldington

and about once a month my bicycle takes me the 5 miles to a rural gem of a shop by the roadside, both butcher and baker, slaughtering their own meat and baking their own cakes and pastries.

The aim is to take on supplies of their delicious and varied sausages to restock the freezer. (This time I chose pork and apple, pork with stuffing, pork with hops and beef with horseradish).
Ten miles does not constitute a cycle ride however so, saddle bag sausage-laden I continued in the sunshine along Rome's road, passing the historic pub which was the headquarters of notorious smuggling gangs in earlier times. The scene of running battles (and deaths) with "The Revenue" and the "Aldington Gang".

My goal was the village of Lympne (pronounced "Limm").

Its name a corruption of the Roman name for their fort and port, "Portus Lemanis". Itself named after the defunct river estuary of the River Limen.
A winding path takes me to the escarpment overlooking a panorama of Romney Marsh. Time for a coffee break and the puff-pastry pecan plait (how's that for alliteration?) picked up with the sausages.

Below me are the remains of an outpost of ancient Rome. The 2nd century "Saxon Shore" fort protecting the harbour of the port and home to part of the Roman-British fleet the "Classis Britannicus". All is now tumbled ruins. Landslip and stone robbing for the nearby mediaeval castle has left but the crumbled stone stumps.

Looking across and beyond one sees a sanitised canal cutting through arable fields towards the seawall in the distance. The canal all that remains of the River Limen, the seawall converting what was a vast tidal bay into modern farmlands. The picture below looks back to the fort . One must imagine the salt waves lapping to the line of trees at the bottom of the escarpment in Roman times. The Castle, built from the Roman stones stands at top right.

However - enough of musing on history and Kipling's "Salt marsh where now is corn" . The coffee is drunk, the pastry eaten. The way beckons.
Sausages were on the menu that evening.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A LITTLE BIT OF ALAN BENNETT

HHnB and I recently had an email discussion about Alan Bennett, a wry, gentle author and playwright whom we both enjoy.

One (amongst many) of his bon mots comes in his play and film "The History Boys" and it puts into words something felt, but very hard to express. So perfect and sweet it is that I thought it worth sharing with those who may not know it. The teacher of English, Hector, says to a pupil:

"The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours."

Now isn't that just perfect and what would one give to be taught by such a man.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

"ONLY A DOG"

(click any picture to enlarge)


Sabre "found" us, aged two. A local German Shepherd Rescue Society directed me to him and he came untrained, ungroomed tangled coat and with the strength of a young horse. However, I have an affinity with dogs and with the help of a Halti lead and that splendid book, "The Dog Listener" he learnt that I, not he, was the Alpha Male.
Happy with this understanding he took his place in our "pack" and became a great softy who loved a romp with our 6 grandchildren - I have a happy memory of him vainly trying to shepherd them as they ran over a local field.
We caravan and he was a constant companion on all our holidays, making the load area of the estate car his own sleeping area. When we visited towns or country houses he was happy to be left guarding the car, loosely chained with the back door open.

With us he "triangulated" England. From Hadrian's Wall in the North,




where he became "mascot" to my fellow members of The Ermine Street Guard,



South-West to the Cornish coast


and, nearer to home in the South-East, walking the paths above the White Cliffs of Dover with my eldest grandson.

Reaching the age of twelve he was still happy to romp in the recent February snows.

Three days before our Australian holiday he showed signs of panic and distress - meandering around the house, pushing his head into tight corners and upsetting objects. He was due to be cared for by our son and I could not leave with him in this state, so the day before we flew I took him to the vet. She immediately diagnosed a brain tumour, to which elderly Shepherds are susceptible. Our eyes met and I knew there was only one decision to make.
A great English countryside writer is able to tell the rest far better than I:
"he died, swiftly and easily, with his head in my hands. Such is the price of love, which exacts nothing less than a part of ourselves, great or small, according as the occasion and our temperament decree. A dog is, of course, only a dog. His death is universal and not new. Two thousand years ago a Greek countryman suffered a similar bereavement, whereof the monument was discovered by archaeologists. "If," said the inscription, "you pass by this way, and happen to notice this stone, do not laugh, even though it is only a dog's grave. Tears fell for my sake, and the earth was heaped above me by a master's hand, who likewise carved these words."












Goodbye old friend.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

HOME AGAIN

What can I say? We had a wonderful 6 weeks with our daughter

and Australian relatives. The Aussies lived up to their reputation for throwing a good one when they gave us a great Golden Wedding Party

As many will know from her site, HHnB constructs mosaics and her present to us was a beautiful bird bath made with her own fair hands and showing Golden Wattle (Australia's national emblem) for a Golden Wedding . Fortunately business class air travel allowed for weightier baggage, since the bowl is of very substantial earthenware measuring some 30cm across by 8cm deep!


Now safely installed on a pedestal on our lawn, the birds are already making use of it.

And our presents to each other? They had to reflect our celebration in Australia, so Mrs Avus received an opal pendant set in white gold, chosen in the Fremantle Opal shop and I, naturally, chose an Akubra "Snowy River" hat.


As to our Australian experiences? I can do no better than quote from her national poet (who wrote "Waltzing Matilda"):
"And the bush has friends to meet him,and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars"

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

OFF ON OUR TRAVELS



Well, the time has almost arrived for Mrs Avus and I to be off to Western Australia for 6 weeks (albeit by Boeing 747, rather than BMW motorcycle - although that would have been an interesting experience of REAL travel!).

The Perth area contains a good number of Avus' relatives. Our daughter, of course, my wife's sister and brother and numerous in-laws, cousins and niblets (collective noun for nephews/nieces). Looking forward to seeing them all again and celebrating our Golden Wedding whilst there.

So there may be some "interruption of service" for a while where this blog is concerned. However, if I get my hands on my daughter's PC, on a wet afternoon, who knows.....






There could be a "posting".






Friday, February 20, 2009

FOR VALONIA

I have always felt a little ambivalent about publishing my picture on the blog, but since Valonia has blown my cover (see previous post's comments) I have decided to come clean.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Word Verification

I am joining Lee (amongst others) in turning off Word Verification on the "comments" form. I know it's supposedly there to stop spam, but it is a source of irritation.
(If I now get flooded with spam I shall curse Lee and turn it back on)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Mature Love Poetry

Lucy has a recent posting about mature love poetry. This inspired me to re-visit one of my favourite poets, Edna St Vincent Millay. I have a great love of most of her work, but Lucy's post brought to mind one (amongst many) of Edna's exquisite sonnets. Here she uses the third of the Greek Fates, Atropos, who cuts the thread of life, to make her point.

"I pray you if you love me, bear my joy
A little while, or let me weep your tears;
I, too, have seen the quavering Fate destroy
Your destiny's bright spinning - the dull shears
Meeting not neatly, chewing at the thread, -
Nor can you well be less aware how fine,
How staunch as wire, and how unwarranted
Endures the golden fortune that is mine.
I pray you for this day at least, my dear
Fare by my side, that journey in the sun;
Else must I turn me from the blossoming year
And walk in grief the way that you have gone.
Let us go forth together to the spring:
Love must be this, if it be anything."

Appropriate, as Spring approaches here in the Northern hemisphere.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

JUST VENTURED OUT OF THE CAVE

Having had the usual January feelings and also the most horrendous cold ever (started on New Year's Day and just getting better), I have not been in blogsphere for a while. However, things are looking up.

A bright and extremely cold day got me out on the bike for about 12 miles. Into town for a latte and cake at my favourite Italian coffee shop, home, and then after lunch to my country post office to send off a parcel. Could have gone to the town post office in the morning, but I needed the stimulus and exercise having not ridden a bicycle since January 1st. (Hard work,I have lost my wind and my legs!)

Why the town visit? To transfer funds ready for our 6 week visit to Australia in March. Time to see our daughter in Perth once more. We aim to celebrate our Golden Wedding whilst there and can rely on the Aussies for a good party!

So - a lot to look forward to. Think I will shut up the hibernation cave for another year.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

FELICITATIONS FOR THE COMING YEAR


(click to enlarge)

My best wishes to you all for 2009 - may the way be level and as you turn the corner ahead may the view be pleasant and calming.

Not having Patterson's sketching talents (see previous post) I must needs make do with a shot from my post-Christmas "dissipating the pudding" ride.