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

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


It has been a weird and upsetting year for many. On the local and international front unexpected political changes have caused dismay and mistrust. Also the terrible situation in the Middle East, that supposed genesis of civilisation and the original home of someone who preached, "Love thy neighbour as thyself", shows no sign of abating.

So it is hard to wish everyone a "Happy Christmas", a phrase which trips lightly off the tongue. Let me just hope that yours will be peaceful and that as we enter yet another year, somehow, things will, gradually, resolve. That very Middle East was the originator of this phrase:

"This, too, shall pass
(Persian: این نیز بگذرد‎‎, īn nīz bogzarad; Arabic: لا شيء يدوم‎‎, lit. "nothing endures"; Hebrew: גם זה יעבור‎‎, gam zeh ya'avor)
it is an adage indicating that all material conditions, positive or negative, are temporary.

In this year, too, Leonard Cohen entered "The Tower of Song". I published this clip some years ago, but make no apologies for sharing it with you again. After all, shepherds are supposed to have heard angels singing "Hallelujah" on that first Christmas Day.


Saturday, December 10, 2016


I would normally answer comments to my posts in the section relating to that post, but R.R 's comments on my last post need some answers that might be of general use to others contemplating getting an e-bike.

Firstly I would put his mind at rest. Modern e-bikes will be perfectly capable of easily tackling the type of rides he contemplates. (Although I cannot comment on the traffic conditions since I don't know the area) The latest batteries are lithium-ion, like those used in hybrid cars and are much lighter than of yore, mine (the larger long range version) weighs in at 3.5 kgs. My bike weighs 24 kgs including the battery. For comparison a classic modern touring bike (not electric) such as the Pashley Roadster Classic weighs 19 kgs. Actually its weight is only apparent when moving it around when off the machine. Once under way it feels like a normal bike, indeed I often ride with the electrics off when the going is level.

The pedal assist will augment power up to the speed you dial in. It will increase its assistance according to gradients/headwinds . The separate, power only, twist grip provides exclusive e-power without pedalling, but I only use this for start-offs if stopped on a gradient, for instance. As soon as I am under way pedal assist takes over. Unfortunately recent EU regs are outlawing this facility and all future e-bikes will be "pedalecs" only, although most dealers seem to be able to get round this legislation in the UK.

Batteries: come in two sizes 10 amp hour and about 16 amp hour. Always go for the larger one (in output) , they are very similar in weight, but their range increases by about 30%. The larger is about 30% more costly too (you get what you pay for). It really depends on how far on a ride you intend to go, RR's rides will be OK with the smaller battery. Batteries are often located on a carrier, high up over the back wheel (like my first conversion at blog-head) and this compromises handling, I had experienced the "tail wagging the dog" on occasion. A much better position is low down, in the centre of the bike, behind the seat tube (like my current one) or on the down tube from bars to bottom bracket.

Motors: Located in front wheel, back wheel or bottom bracket. Front wheel compromises handling, back wheel is fine. The latest, and most expensive, are in specially constucted ebikes and built into the bottom bracket,(see image at the top of this post) supplying power direct to the pedals rather than the wheels. I have not experienced them but others say that they are better on really steep hills, so if contemplating the Col du Tourmalet I would go for one of them! I think the worst option would be a rear carrier battery driving a front wheel motor (as was my first one).

In RR's locality I have found Hereford Electric Bikes, which looks a good dealer and if really interested I should go along and see what's on offer and discuss things with the staff. They stock, and I can recommend, the "Freego" brand as my wife has one, also my regular cycling companion, Peter, who was instrumental in getting me on e-bikes. If difficulty is experienced in "getting your leg over" (the bike!) most makes do a dropped frame version, popular with ladies and older folk. (My future purchase, no doubt).

Saturday, December 03, 2016


As I seem to have concentrated on posting about motorcycles recently I thought it time to give details of my main mode of pleasure transport these days. My motorcycles have always been a means of release from my "trap" in the south eastern corner of England - trapped by Cobbett's "Great Wen" of London (and even greater now than in Cobbett's day) which effectively cuts Kent off from the rest of the UK and my glorious Wessex.

I tend to travel less far these days (age and health) so motorcycling is less and I have reverted mainly to my old love of bicycles. I am a life-long club cyclist, but, post stroke, I am only able to continue with the help of electric assistance and my roamings are usually delineated by my neighbouring Romney Marsh. Less is more; I cover less ground more slowly and see in greater detail than I would have done on a motorbike - although when the sun is up and winter gone I shall be looking forward to riding them again.

Abroad e-bikes are proliferating. (A friend has just returned from a week in cycle-friendly Holland where they abound and the streets are thronged with thousands of bikes of all types. Incidently amongst all those thousands he only saw one rider wearing a cycle helmet - the Dutch are far more relaxed about such things - probably why cycling is so popular there.)  Let's discuss my own bike. Its source of power is the battery behind the seat tube and this drives the electric motor in the rear wheel. My first e-bike conversion (of my own Claud Butler, ) had a motor in the front wheel and I said "never again" when I rode it over ice and the front wheel, losing all traction, spun at peak power and the bike deposited me, very hard, on the road.

The bike has disk brakes, very powerful, I have learnt to use the front one cautiously. It has sprung front forks and a sprung seat post so Kentish potholes are taken care of. The side stand is a boon, one does not have to look around for somewhere to lean the bike. Since my stroke I sometimes have difficulty knowing the position of my feet on the pedals, so I have substituted the toe-strap pedal clips I have always been used to for open ones that are easier to locate. Front and rear lighting is driven from the battery and I have fitted puncture resistant tyres (try removing a rear wheel with a motor therein to get a tyre off!)

Day to day luggage needs are taken care of by the neat top bag.

Note my club badges, I am a life member of the Cyclists' Touring Club and a member of the Veteran-Cycle Club (the bikes not the members, although that is sometimes a moot point on meets!). The faded pin brooch, given to me by my daughter, has an appropriate quote from Tolkien, "Not all who wander are lost". The side panels unfold if required to give two panniers bags - useful for the weekend papers or to take our Christmas parcel for Australia to the post office.

A comfortable seat is essential. I dumped the squashy foam item and fitted a Brookes leather one which has a cut-out for male comfort in the perineum area

Let's talk about the controls:

I like foam grips on my handlebars and the "horns" give a change of position and better "pull" if needed. "1" is a twist grip throttle, independent of pedalling which will take the bike, illegally, (15.5 mph is supposed to be the limit) up to 20 mph. However I only use this to give me a push as I move off on hills, or for quickly crossing busy roads. Usually I use pedal assisted e-power which only works if you are actually pedalling. This has 5 modes, first gives assistance up to 3 mph and is practically useless, second assists to about 10 mph, third to 12 mph (the most used by me), fourth to 14 mph and fifth to 15.5 mph, the legal limit. The more power you feed in the shorter the distance between battery charges. (Nothing in life is free)

 "2" in the image is the control panel, let's have a look in detail:

It is controlled by the grey buttons on the left, these are almost impossible to operate, particularly if wearing gloves, so I have glued brass rivet heads to them to use as "braille". Top one turns power on/off (it can be ridden without power if conditions are easy). Third one down increases power levels and bottom one decreases. Power level is shown bottom left (on "0" at present). Top left section gives battery information (as I use it, I can go about 60-70 miles before a recharge pedalling at a steady 12 mph). Top right shows road speed, bottom shows total distance covered. (I have managed 2,664.7 miles to date).

Back to the previous image; "3" is a separate computer I have fitted so I can keep tabs on distance since last battery charge (it's on 15.3 miles above) and also shows speed. "4" is the twist grip change for the derailleur gears (7, but I seldom need more than the top 3 because of e-assistance).

The bell is essential. Ashford has many cycle paths shared with pedestrians and it can be amusing to see  such checking their mobiles when I ring it! Not so amusing when they walk towards or across me, head down to their phones away from this world. Another essential is the mirror, especially since this old geezer has trouble turning his head behind him (arthritis).

Well this seems complete so I am now off for a ride and get lunch some place, before commiting to publishing it.

Some three hours later. Back from a pleasant ride down to the Marsh and across to the little seaside town of Dymchurch. About 25 miles in all. The weather overcast, cold, but frost-free and completely windless. I rode the last mile to the town along the sea wall, the tide was in and the sea was like a mill pond. A hearty meal of fried eggs on toast, sausages, hash browns and baked beans seemed appropriate, followed by a large mug of steaming tea. Total cost only £4.50. (you get the picture of the type of cafe it was).

Friday, November 11, 2016

LEONARD COHEN enjoy joining the "Tower of Song"

Leonard Cohen has died, age 82 - I have always been a fan since his "unfashionable days" when it was considered very avant garde to enjoy him.

I only bought his very last offering "You like it Darker" a couple of weeks ago (he recorded it in October, sitting in a medical chair with his son's lap top in front of him - going until the end). This is an interview with him, where he comments on the phrase "Hineni - I'm ready my Lord" on that last recording


The following obituary does him more justice than anything I can write:


Wednesday, November 09, 2016

SINNIS 250 RETROSTAR , or finding something to suit

A few posts ago I bemoaned the fact that, post stroke, I could no longer manage to heave around a heavy motorcycle so opted to get a Honda CG125 "tiddler".

Experience with this and improving strength led me to consider something a little larger and "classic". A 1981 Honda 200 "Benly", which had been restored to very good condition. Why this particular bike? My wife had one, new, in about 1980 and I remembered it as a delightful, light little machine.

A summer's use of the Benly brought me to realize that traffic and road speeds have increased exponentially since 1980 and perhaps I needed to look at old motorcycles through less rose tinted and more practical goggles!

All these machine changes have been at very little cost (I count "fettling" expenses as part of the fun of owning motorcycles) since they have been bought and resold via Ebay.

What next?  It was time to think outside the box. I needed something with a bit more snap, crackle and pop. It had to be comparatively lightweight and have an electric start. My riding, these days, is of the fair weather variety, no rain if I can help it and definitely no frost or snow. Riding of motorcycles is on hold from November through to March! Rides are at the most 100 miles per day and I eschew motorways, preferring the byways and lanes of this green an pleasant land. So, heresy, I considered a CHINESE MOTORCYCLE. This one, the Sinnis 250cc Retrostar,  is imported by a distributor in Brighton, not too far away from me and they have dealers over much of the UK, Kent included.

Previously Chinese bikes had a bad name for shoddy finish, but quality control has improved considerably. They are also, still, very cheap to buy, a new one of this model retailing at only £2400. I researched Ebay and bought this  for £1700, a year old with only 3000 miles (5000 kms) run. The first owner was moving abroad and delivered it personally to me, his wife following in their car.

It cruises at  60 mph, tops out at 70 and covers about 80 miles to a gallon of petrol. The weight, crucial for me, is only 285 lbs. (130 kgs) and, since it won't be used during inclement weather on our salt-strewn roads the finish  should last for my requirements.

For those  who know about motorcycles, the styling reminds me of a 1960's Triumph Trophy and on the overrun it emits a delightful "twitter and pop" reminiscent of a 1950's BSA Gold Star. So an old man is made quite happy. I think Chinese motorcycles are probably going through what Japanese bikes went through here in the early 1960's when us British referred to them disparagingly as "Jap crap" and look what they did to our complacent and badly managed industry!.

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.

Monday, May 23, 2016


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


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


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


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


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!)


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.