Sunday, 25 November 2012

Brain exercises - Number 1

Do things differently.

 Move your bathroom mirror onto another wall, if you can.
Tie your shoes in a different order than normal, if you can.
Walk backwards occasionally - see how it throws your dog off kilter.

and listen to cover versions of AC/DC

by these guys

Friday, 23 November 2012

It ought to be against the law

A few posts down we were debating the scoping exercise regarding the introduction of laws to restrict the novice activities of novice drivers.

I don't like intrusive laws that tell me what I must or must not wear on my motorcycle, preferring to use my own judgment.

There are some things that the law, in a liberal democracy, really cannot fix 

and was that rider saved by a lucky pony tail? Maybe s/he even lived to go home and make his/her excuses


All Dogs SNIFF!

I get really irritated when I hear the news meeja referring to specialist search dogs as `sniffer` dogs. All dogs sniff. They do other things too, frequently, but does that get a meeja label? No.
I must get out more.


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Tattoo you...

The Metropolitan Police has announced that any officers who have tattoos on their face, neck, above the collar or hands must declare them to their line managers or face misconduct proceedings. The force said it was aware there were officers with prohibited “visible tattoos” that
could not be covered with clothing. The Met said Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe was requiring those officers to make a formal written declaration to their line manager about these tattoos by November 12 or face disciplinary action.

 A written declaration? Why not a photo? And in my day, if you were good at rugby you'd get in regardless!

Makes you wonder what the Church of England might prefer, a tattooed male Bishop or an un-inked female one? Just saying...

Monday, 19 November 2012

The Young Ones

Years after several other countries acted on this subject, the UK is once again teetering on introducing legislation to save novice drivers from themselves and others.

I first became aware of similar restrictions placed on young/inexperienced drivers when we were touring Australia in 2003. Over there, if you have held a full licence for less than 2 (I think) years, you were not allowed to carry passengers except under strict conditions, penalty points incurred were doubled and your allocated drink/drive alcohol intake limit was zero. Even as a bit of a libertarian I couldn't find much in there to object about, having scraped too many youngsters from roads, lamposts and trees during my policing years. Very few of them were actually `unlucky`.

I don't want the state telling me I must wear hi viz clothing at all times on my motorbike. There are times when I choose to do so and some of that decision making process, quite a lot actually, is based on judgment which in turn is based on experience. When I first passed my test I nearly crashed dad's car through pure stupidity, too much speed in the wrong place, inexperience and peer pressure. I used up quite a bit of my lucky bag's* contents over the following couple of years. I actually agree with the gist of these proposals. I would perhaps build in a get-out clause whereby if a young driver then takes a separate course run by say the I.A.M. or RoSPA and passes, they get their restriction lifted. These courses are life savers - the standard driving test is not.

 I think this law will be an interesting one to enforce, but having seen the mess, the heartache, the sheer death and destruction up close and personal, I'd be ready to try it, unlike the stuff the French are churning out.

*When we're born we have a full bag of luck and an empty bag of experience. The knack is to fill the experience bag before the lucky bag runs out.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Glorious Mud

Boy did I have a ride yesterday. Its that time of year when all the agricultural types (and I'm surrounded by them out here) conspire against us motorcycle types to make a final concerted effort to get us sliding down the roads before the frost and ice arrives.

Encounter 1. Less than a mile from home, at the start of my journey, I find `Benny` and his tractor, with its 6 foot high tyres and massive contraption bolted to it. It looked like a pile of moving scaffolding. From a distance it looked like it was surrounded by a flock of brown birds but as I got closer I realised the `birds` were clods of soggy mud being liberally sprayed along the road, landing with a dull splat (there are many dull splats living round here, too). I picked my moment, sounded the horn and passed him by onto the clean tarmac ahead of him. He didn't hear me anyway as standard fit motorcycle horns sound like a donkey with a sore throat, plus he was talking on a mobile telephone.

Encounter 2. Within 5 miles Benny's mates had done a great little number on a stretch of B road, through a series of sweeping bends, no doubt having been warned of my approach via aforementioned mobile phone. It was well spread about and they had taken great care to ensure that not only was there plenty of mud on the crown of the bend where my lean angle would be at its peak, but even the approach, where I would be slowing down/braking, gave the road a sort of `ploughed field on tarmac` effect. Nice. Thank you BMW for fitting traction control and ABS, albeit I managed without either, although a third wheel would have been handy at this point. 45 minutes later and I had reached my destination.

Encounter 3. The first half of the return journey was uneventful and enjoyable, with the temperature hovering around a balmy 10C with the skies clear and blue as the afternoon sun reached the last hour of it's traverse and descent. I left the A roads for the final 12 miles. Big mistake. Benny's mobile network of rustic chums in tractors had been busy whilst I'd been enjoying an americano and eccles cake with a chunk of Lancashire cheese. This time they'd had time to really do a number on me. So cocky were they, that they'd even put a sign up saying `Mud On Road`. As I slowed gently down on the approach to a right hander I met my nemesis. There was no `mud on road`, the road was mud, a mid-brown-inches-deep river of the stuff. From hedgerow to hedgerow it was a bloody swamp as far as my vision extended.  I am no novice and for the previous 3 winters in North Yorkshire there were only 8 days when, for safety reasons, I didn't use the bike to get to work because it was minus 12 and the council had run out of salt to clear compacted snow and ice, but this was way too much and downright dangerous so I turned round and found another way home.

Leaving mud on the road is actually a criminal offence, but its one of those things where nothing is done unless something bad happens - and anyway farmers put food in the shops and can't be expected to carry a bucket and brush around with them as they traverse the countryside shouting "Git orf moi land". Bless `em.

Now this is skid control. I was billetted for nine months in one of the buildings that overlooked this skid pan. I've watched those instructors, in big Rover V8's, chasing each other backwards with the grace of ballet dancers  (but I bet he couldn't do it on a motorbike).

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Diplomatic Immunity

It was Remembrance weekend and we had a visitor on Saturday afternoon. My wife's friend and former work colleague came a visiting from North Yorkshire and stayed over until Monday. They'd planned a culinary weekend, visiting my wife's new place of work, a `soon to be award winning` bakery and bistro in a little Suffolk coastal village. It's owned and run by a young Canadian gal and her parents from England and Jamaica - what a combination!

Mrs HD's friend is Japanese and although she has made England her home for some years now, she has lived, studied and worked in Paris and is married to a New Zealander. She says she'll never return to Japan to live permanently as the culture doesn't agree with her. We have met her parents on a number of their visits from their home in Japan, recently re-built after the earthquake. They are good sports. Her father speaks some English, her mother none. He is a hoot and last time he visited produced a harmonica he had been learning to play. I have to admit that being serenaded by a Japanese man playing two verses of, "On the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond" followed by "Amazing Grace", on a mouth organ, in a Yorkshire cottage, was one of the more bizarre moments I have experienced.

 Remembrance Sunday was the day I'd decided that I was not going to play any part in what the ladies were planning, unless you count eating and drinking by the log burner at the end of the day. No, I had other plans. I affixed a big red British Legion poppy to my motorcycle and headed off to the Norfolk coast, a 90 minute ride. The temperature was hovering just a few degrees above freezing when I set off at 10.30 but it was dry and the early frosting on the roads had melted. At just before 11.00 I pulled off the A140 into a lay-by, switched off the motor and, with another chap who'd pulled up in a car, I observed 2 minutes silence. The sun was blazing away doing its winter best against the cold wind and I felt its warmth on my face. 
11.00hrs, 11.11.2012

 An hour and two minutes later and I had rolled to a stop in the main cemetery of the coastal town where the earthly remains of my Grandfather had been laid to rest in August 1914. He was a regular soldier of The Essex Regiment well before the war began. He died aged 31. I swept the leaves from his grave and placed the little cross bearing a single poppy, again provided by The British Legion, next to his headstone which in turn was provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission - two magnificent organisations. I had written the names of us, the six grandchildren that he never knew, on the back of the cross. I waited a while and wondered and wandered with my thoughts, then re-focussed and headed into town for a mug of builders tea and a fruit scone to sustain me for the return hop, due south, homeward bound. 

 The tea room was full to bursting with folks all wearing their poppies, many of whom had attended the 11am service at the town's war memorial. I managed to get the last vacant seat at a small table. Before I'd finished my scone the place had almost emptied (biker friendly, pure co-incidence :) leaving just me and two couples with small children, one of whom appeared fascinated by my flip front full face helmet, placed on the table in front of me. His eyes never left me as I paid up, jacketed up, buffed up, walked out the door and readied myself by the bike that was patiently leaning on its side stand right outside the cafe window. Little lad's eyes were like organ stops as I flipped the helmet's internal sun visor up and down a few times to add to his amazement. Switches on, dials alive and swinging, thumb the starter, gear, gone. I smiled inside my helmet, for I knew what that kid now wanted for the next 11 Christmases and birthdays. It was his mother I felt sorry for, remembering the look on my own mum's face when I told her I would like a motorbike for my 16th birthday.

The return journey was in falling temperatures with the sun lowering and giving me a few visibility problems as it's full beam hit me 20 degrees to the right of head-on. The thermometer on the instrument panel was showing 4C by the time I rolled into our village. I de-kitted and, having received a message that the girls were en route as well, I prepared the log burner and decided to put my feet up, put the TV on and watch a bit of the National Remembrance service I'd recorded.

I must have nodded off because I was awoken by the Jack Rascal terrorist whining by the window. They were back! I then realised that the TV was showing a film - shock horror, it was "Tora ToraTora"! I didn't think that would go down well, what with our Japanese guest,  so I quickly hit the channel button. `Shock horror 2`, it was a programme about the battle for Kohima, with hordes of Japanese soldiers bearing down on our besieged and embattled lads. I switched the darn thing off and went into the kitchen to make us some tea as they tramped through the door. I switched on the radio and selected BBC World Service thinking that would be a safe bet. Gor` blimey! it was a programme about the building of the Burma Railway and the 90,000 lives of POW's and Asian labourers it cost. Then I remembered Alan Scott, a friend of my father, who had a cycle shop in Kingsthorpe Hollow, Northampton. He spent time in a Japanese POW camp a mere 16 years prior to befriending Dad. I remember him, a very quiet man with an occasional nervous disposition. I recall how his wife once told my mother of how he'd accidentally dropped a tea cup that he was drying with a tea towel in the kitchen and how he froze and cringed briefly, before carrying on `as normal` and cleared up the broken pieces.
It's at times such as this that the trusty Anglo Saxon general purpose word for frustration, disdain, contempt, resolution etc  (I said it was a general purpose word) comes to my lips, and this was one such moment - "Bollocks", I snapped out of my unnecessary diplomacy, kept calm and carried on. This is what remembrance is all about.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Friday, 2 November 2012

"Chancellor of the Exchequer complains about police" - all sorted, nothing to see here, move along.

Discipline and standards of behaviour must be maintained. Transgressions, where behaviour falls below what is expected, will be dealt with quickly, firmly and appropriate to the circumstances.
The two officers knew this to be the overriding objective of the chief superintendent as he considered the case before him.

They had been on duty, in uniform and in a police vehicle with responsibility for supporting other officers engaged in protecting the small cluster of buildings containing over 260 rooms in Downing Street that are homes to the Prime Minister, The Chancellor of the Exchequer and The Government Chief Whip. At 4am, on the last legs of what was a very quiet night shift, the car pulled up to check on the outer perimeter protection teams. A few words and maybe a joke or two were exchanged, a cigarette smoked and then they were off. But this time it was different.

As the 3.5 litre V8 automatic Rover saloon car gurgled across the gravelled expanse of Horse Guards Parade a devil whispered in the ear of the driver - and he listened. He gunned the motor and the car quickly picked up speed, small stones scattering and clattering on the belly pan of the dark blue police car. Swinging the wheel over to the left as he squeezed the accelerator, the car drifted into a graceful arc that left a large "J" mark on the gravel. With minimal effort he straightened the slide, picked up more speed and repeated the move in the opposite direction, this time leaving another big "J", but a reverse image of the first one. The car was then slipped into reverse and similar manoeuvres were conducted as it danced its waltz, strictly come backwards, across the hallowed expanse that is better known as the place where the Brigade of Guards perform Trooping The Colour every June. As the dust settled, they were gone. The audience that was treated to that disply of finest, Hendon-trained, vehicle control was a small select group consisting of 3 officers of the Metropolitan Police "A" Division, who were delighted at the spectacle - and the rudely awakened Chancellor of the Exchequer - who was not.

The Chancellor was a very popular man with the police at Number 10. He had an outstanding war record and was very friendly, with a light and personable style. Justice would be swift, firm and appropriate to the circumstances, just how The Chancellor would have expected it, after all he was a former wartime RAF pilot who doubtless knew a bit about high jinx in the officers mess. The two officers in the Area Car were soon to be enlightened as to their fate later that day by a wake up call to come in and stand before the divisional chief superintendent who, under such circumstances, had no respect for 8 hours sleep after a night shift. They didn't expect to be paid overtime either. They knew their boss very well. Sentence was passed. Case closed. They were just grateful to be alive.

The following night the shift paraded at 2145hrs as they always did, but this time there were two extras. The two officers who thought they were deploying to the front door of Number 10 Downing Street were re-assigned to other duties, much to their delight. The two `extras`, thereafter known as "The Horseguards Two", took up position on the famous doorstep - and would do so every night, uncomplaining, for the next three weeks. No Police Federation (union) reps were involved, no complaints, no politicking, no media, no messing. "Quickly, firmly and appropriate to the circumstances" End of.