Archive for March, 2009

More news as it happens……..

Monday, March 30th, 2009

So I woke up only just remembering that the clocks had gone forward. Ted Magnum was due any minute providing he had not overslept. We all had hangovers from a get together at the Revellers house the night before, and we were going on the Egg Run! For the benefit of my foreign chums let me explain. Every year there is a meeting of bikers that go for a bike run from the waterfront at New Brighton and ride in convoy to Clatterbridge hospital collecting money for a children’s charity as they go. The distance is only 20 miles or so but each year the number of participants has risen enormously. Traditionally they used to take an Easter egg for the children at the hospital but there are now so many participants that they ask for donations instead.  The total amount of riders this year was 10,000. Yes that is Ten thousand and they come from many parts of the country and from the continent.  You can imagine what 10,000 chocolate Easter eggs would do to a bunch of kids teeth.

Again and mainly for the benefit of any one who has never seen this spectacle or taken part in it, at a given signal hordes of bikers set off in a sort of orderly fashion and in some sort of order. This means that for those at the back it may take an hour of slow moving inch by inch until you are on the open road, all the while breathing in exhaust fumes from some serious petrol heads who may or may not decide to see who has the loudest set of exhaust pipes in the pack. The normal rules of road courtesy go out of the window although speed limits are adhered to through the many police that line the 20 mile route. You overtake as and when you can and this means being overtaken on the inside and out usually at the same time. It is exhausting, nerve racking but tremendous fun and I was glad to be in amongst the pack.

I lost TM within minutes of setting off but met him later on at a pub called the TAP. With many hundreds of bikes all setting off for the same location parking was at a premium and after only an hour we set off for another watering hole called the Swinging Arm. This was also full but we found some space and parked there. The amount of bikes and sheer range of models and makes is truly staggering and I was lucky to be able to take a photo of one of the best Trikes I have ever seen. It was pulling a trailer and was undoubtedly a show stopper. By the time I was home I was exhausted and shattered from the stop, start, go fast, go slow procedure. My arms ached and my legs and both hips ached from the strain of keeping the bike upright and not running into any one and from getting out of the way should they decide to run into me. Twice I had to stop as cramp in my hips got to me. It just shows I am getting old or arthritis is setting in. Beancounter felt as tired  although mainly from petrol fumes.

I did notice that the back brake is so ineffective it may just as well be there for ornamental purposes and I have to give some serious thought to the amount of weight I carry on the bike. A short run is planned to the Lake District in a few weeks and from there we will decide as to whether or not BC and me will actually take Rhonda to Portugal in September. More news on that as it happens. Right now it is Roger Moors birthday and we are about to do some serious damage to a bottle of Jack Daniels and Little Miss Sunshine’s daughter is in hospital waiting to give birth. As of 30 minutes ago her waters had just broken. I did ask LMS if this was a good thing and could it be fixed. I have been assured that waters breaking are a good thing. Strange that, I thought you went into hospital to get things fixed not broken!

More news as it happens……..

 

Le earthquake, it demands respect.

Monday, March 16th, 2009

It has been a funny old week, knowing just where to start is always the problem.  Tuesday evening and my good friend Roger Moor popped into see me. We watched my beloved LFC wipe the floor with Real Madrid and we had a nightcap or two I can’t really remember how many. However, we did and we decided to try out the allegedly favourite drink of Toulouse Lautrec. This is called Le Earthquake and consists or equal measures of Cognac and Absinthe. The taste does grow on you after a while but the effect is truly devastating. After 3 I had started to hallucinate and the last thing I remember is RMstaggering out of the door. I woke up on the couch at approximately 10am. As it was it was my day off work and I had to stay in anyway as a gasman was coming to service the boiler.

I was still feeling out of sorts when RM came home from work and we had a “livener”. It started going downhill from there. I went to bed early acutely aware that I had to be up for work in the morning. The rest of the week flew by and on Saturday afternoon I made contact with the Driver and promised to ring him in the evening. Before that I was drive to Manchester Airport to pick up the Traveller who had flown back from Greece on a reconnaissance mission for some land and property.  As I picked him up he promptly said “within 24 hours of landing I remembered why I left there all those years ago”. I got lost coming home from the airport, the signs all seem to have changed and after driving around in Manchester city centre we headed for the M62. It was not the way I would have chosen to come home and it took us a lot longer but it was the start of a downward spiral.

We arrived at Château Ghastanbury to be greeted by Beancounter and RM and a quiet drink to welcome the traveller back home that descended into farce. Le earthquake re-surfaced and at some point in the evening RM staggered home again, I demanded that BC give me back the keys to the house for some completely unknown reason and the Traveller collapsed into the fireplace. It took me all of Sunday to recuperate and three of us to sit down and try and work out what happened the night before. As a result we have collectively decided to ban Le Earthquake from Chateau Ghastanbury. I have lost two days of my life to the green fairy and I do not wish to lose any more. The travellers head is fine and me and BC are still speaking.

To the Tiler, the Printer and the Driver apologies for not getting in touch as I promised but I was a little bit out of it, the only consolation I have is that I was not on my own! How Toulouse managed to drink that stuff on a regular basis is completely beyond me, but I can understand why Van Gogh was so wasted he cut his ear off. Le earthquake, it demands respect.

 

the bitch is pimped

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Rhonda is almost complete. I took her along to Ted Magnums place at the weekend just gone where she received a full service and all of the accessories that I have accumulated over the last 6 months were bolted in place. Considering that I purchased Rhonda for a specific job, I have discovered that any maintenance on her will not be a roadside job. Thoughts of taking tools with me to complete any task out on the highway have almost evaporated when I discovered that it took 2 hours for the pair of us to take the tank off the bike. Sadly this was necessary because the air filter is housed under the tank and the fairings are clipped into the tank.

Taking the endless chain off involved the use of a grinding wheel to remove the chain plates. Changing the oil required most of the guards and plastic bash plates to be removed in order to gain access to the drain plug and oil filter. It was no easier to drain the forks and replace the oil in them, the oil was changed to a heavier grade than the factory fitted stuff. I get the feeling that half of the fairing will have to be removed just to change a light bulb when it eventually does go on me.

A repair was made to the speedometer drive and I gather this is a regular bone of contention amongst Transalp owners. Taking the degenerated bits of nylon sprocket from the speedometer drive housing was a real pain. What should have been a simple job took another couple of hours.

I am pleased to report that the Scotoiler went on with a minimum of fuss even without instructions and the satnav was a doddle to fit and hard wire. What has not been added yet are the tool tubes. I have simply run out of room on the bike to bolt them onto anything. This may be an omen as I hope I never have to do anything to it.  All in all Ted and myself spent two days pimping and servicing the bike.

Apart from the previously mentioned tool tubes, there is only 1 item left to attach to the bike before I can say it is fully and comprehensively pimped and that is the cigarette lighter socket that is on order as I write. Needless to say many people have chortled when I mention this item. As most people in the biking fraternity will realise this is not for lighting cigars as I scream down the motorway at 70 mph. It is to charge portable electrical items such as a phone or laptop.

I hope I have not bought the wrong bike but it appears to me that anything that is important lies behind a myriad of parts such as frame work and fairings that have to be removed to access them. By contrast anything on Ted’s Africa Twin seems to be in the most accessible of places and his bike by comparison is a joy to work on. As the clocks are nearer to changing and the weather warms up I can gladly say the Bitch is fully pimped.

Paris Rocks

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Paris in springtime, what could be better, well watching ACDC in the Bercy stadium which is what Bean Counter and I did on February 27th. We had flown to Paris courtesy of Ryanair that very morning and landed at Beauvis airport at around 11pm. We then took a bus journey to the centre of Paris and then a combination of metros and taxis to get to our hotel. All in all a flight time of 1 hour was only a small part of a journey that took 7hours door to door.

Let’s get the bad things out of the way first! We spent more time hanging around waiting for security clearance than we did travelling. The Gendarmes are not very helpful sending us the wrong way when we asked for directions and the prices are extortionate. Paris is without doubt the most expensive place I have ever been to. A pint of beer during happy hour cost £5.50. I will never again complain at the cost of British beer in pubs. Add to this the Parisians themselves, aloof smug and with an air of superiority that even other Frenchmen hate.

The good things about Paris are the historic buildings and culture. There are so many buildings to see and it was impossible for me and BC to see everything in the three days we spent there. We took in Eiffel tower, the Louvre, (saw the Mona Lisa, nothing to write home about and vastly overrated) Notre Dame, plenty of pavement cafes and some very good food. There was also the concert. ACDC were magnificent and played 4 tracks from the Black Ice album and a host of other favourites. The Bercy Stadium puts the MEN in Manchester to shame and the regulations about standing and dancing are not vigorously enforced as they are by the jobsworths in Manchester. It was fair to say that me and BC rocked that night in an abandoned drastic effort to recapture our youth.

All too soon the concert was over and we made our way back to the hotel with the aid of some interesting characters we had met in the stadium, one of whom produced a photo of him between Ronnie Woods and Keith Richards. This guy had a history and was almost as entertaining as the band. The following day we had to move out of the hotel and make our way to another for the next two nights. The tickets I had bought only included one nights stay. The second hotel turned out to be a mere few yards from the first one and very close to the Follies Begere. It was sad to see the Follies, the old building looked very run down and the place looked as though it was closed.

By comparison the Moulin Rogue is still going strong and we sat and had a glass of Absinthe each across the way looking for Toulouse and any of his mates. To point out the expense of Paris the absinthe cost 20 quid for two glasses, one each for me and BC. We also managed to obtain refreshment in a pub called the Frog and RosBif where I indulged myself with a pint of Parisalyser. A very strong local brew made particularly for the pub chain. Due to the fact that the 6 nations competition was taking place that very weekend it was full of well mannered but very drunk rugby supporters. The English section decided on a pavement singsong and promptly forgot the words to Jerusalem but launched into New York York, You really needed to be there to appreciate how funny this was.

No matter where in the world you go you will always find an Oirish theme pub. There were two next to each other in a small section near the Bastille and we popped in for a quick drink. At this point BC desperately needed a toilet. As she discovered to get to the ladies cubicles she had to walk past the men’s open pissoire. It was a bit of a shock for her especially as the washing facilities for both genders were next to the pissoire. This was the very, literally, essence of Paris. A meal in the Hard Rock Café took almost an hour to serve reminding me that the service in Paris has not improved at all. The waiters were not apologetic at all and I suspect it may have been because we were English. The Americans sat next to us on another table waited almost as long and were served with the same contemptuousness that we suffered.

After the experience with the Gendarmes it cemented my belief that the French hate the English, never forgiven us for Agincourt let alone Waterloo and Trafalgar, and probably the Americans because the French were incapable of liberating themselves in 1944. The Parisians have a belief that they are better than any one else and I cannot understand why. They have not had the need to build a victory arch since Bonaparte. What the Parisians do have is a sense of style and mini skirts and high heels are very much the fashion for this year. Sadly so is the fashion for fur coats and I saw more there than at any other time in my life. The crepes from the pavement cafes are fantastic, almost as good as my own I should point out, and watching them being made show they are a work of art.

The best way to see the city is take advantage of the open tour busses that run on four different routes and you can swap routes and get on and off at almost any point. The metro system, once you have fathomed it out is simply fantastic. It is cheap, reliable, quick, clean and no matter where you are in the city you are never more than 500 yards from a metro station. It makes a mockery of any underground system I have travelled upon in the UK. There is so much to see that the batteries in my camera ran out due to all of the photo’s I took.

I have to go back to Paris, there is unfinished business there. BC and me did not have the time to walk hand in hand along the Champs-Elysees, nor did we get to tour on a Batteau Mouche. We did not manage to travel to the top of the Eiffel tower and enjoy the view. Paris is a wonderful place despite all the things I hated, the good things far outweigh the bad and this includes the beggars whose numbers increase year upon year. Upon reflection, Paris Rocks.

Roll on Easter

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

February 25th as everyone knows is Pancake Day or to give it its correct title Shrove Tuesday and the evening preceding Lent. Strictly speaking Pancake Day is not a universal term and in some countries it is called Carnivalle and a host of other names around the globe. In 2008 Bean Counter and me had spent a wonderful evening at the home and in the company of Sophia Loren and her mum where we were treated to a sumptuous feast. I decided I wanted to return the favour this year and duly concocted a myriad of recipes for the pancakes I was to make.

These included, curry, chilli, crispy duck, sweet and sour pork and spinach and cheese for the mains. For desert I had decided in my mind upon a mixture of Crepe Suzettes, cherries and cherry sauce, chocolate and ice cream and strawberries and cream. Surely a feast in the making? BC did question as to whether or not we could possibly eat one of each but the Traveller decided it would not be a problem and was backed up by Roger Moor.

I had spent a day preparing all the fillings and the evening was spent making the batter, a task of no small feat considering the amount I would need and was helped along the way by BC and a couple of bottles of inspiration. As the evening arrived things got a little hectic as guests arrived and cooking everything got under way. I even managed to flip a couple of pancakes with as much flamboyance and panache as I could muster. This was mainly due to good luck and the Traveller recorded it in on camera for posterity.

Halfway through the evening it became apparent that BC was right and it was impossible to eat one each of the 9 pancakes no matter how much we drank. RM gave up after the chocolate one and SL and her mum shared each one from the crispy duck onwards. By the time the liqueur coffees were ready I no longer knew what I had eaten but knew I could not manage another mouthful. We did try and the cheese board was presented with a bottle of port which I apparently finished off as no one else liked it very much. I can report that not much cheese was consumed.

As the photos suggest the evening was a roaring success and will probably be repeated next year and is another event that will become a regular fixture on the Ghastanbury calendar. In keeping with the spirit of Lent I have given up biscuits and chocolate until Easter. Although not a religious person I have decided to follow the Eastern style of abstinence. This is different from the Western churches idea of Lent in which Sundays do not count. I have thought this style as being a bit wishy washy and not hard core enough for me. Abstinence is abstinence and should be for a set period, not one with regular breaks in it for good behaviour, roll on Easter.