If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Thank you and goodnight

All good things must come to an end, and I guess this applies to the mediocre as well.  It has been 18 months since I last posted anything here, and that tells me that the blog no longer has a purpose.  I never quite managed to decide whether this was a biking blog that mentioned politics, or a political blog that mentioned bikes.  But both aspects have now had their day.  This will be a long post, and a last post.

I started writing in the days of Blair and Brown, when there was a lot to be angry about.  When Cameron got elected, a lot of the fun went out of commenting.  He was OK, didn't make too many stupid errors, and got on with the job. I didn't particularly like or trust him, but commenting was a bit like wrestling a blancmange.  I think Theresa May is a good prospect.  She has made the right noises and seems competent, so I will withhold judgement for a while.  There's going to be a lot of fun to be had with the Corbyn thing over the next few months, but I think I will watch that from the sidelines.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have now sold the bikes (the ancient and well-loved XT went for a surprisingly reasonable sum to David Lambeth, who is currently restoring it out of all recognition as an Australian-type utility bike) and have purchased two semi-classic cars.  The MX-5 was the first, and now I have an old Merc 190E as well.  They are both of an age where driveway maintenance and repair are easy, and I am happy with that.

On a personal level, I am still alive and kicking.  I lost a lot of weight last year (and I really needed to) and this was very positive from a health point of view, and much improved my outlook on life.  I put a bit back on over winter, but I am still a lot thinner than in January 2015 and I am much the happier for it.  I have started cycling again, which has been like reconnecting with an old friend.  One odd effect of the weight loss was damage to the peroneal nerve in my left leg (apparently it is protected by a fatty pad where it crosses the head of the fibula, and if this fatty pad is depleted by rapid weight loss, the nerve can get bruised).  The result was a case of foot-drop, which lasted a year and which has only recently gone away.  As it was starting, and before I realised I had a problem, I had a bad fall on my driveway, when I tripped over my own foot and fell heavily.  This resulted in a massive tear to a tendon in my shoulder, which has meant severe pain and restricted movement for 12 months.  Finally, I am seeing a specialist next month, so I hope there will be a positive outcome from that.  At one point, I thought I might be unable to drive a manual car, so I sold the Mondeo and bought the automatic Merc.  Of course, I am now able to drive without any problems, but I still rather like wafting about in the Teutonic Tank.  I alternate between the Mazda and the Merc on a weekly basis, and the contrast is highly amusing.  One week, it is racing changes and scurrying about like a demented go-kart; next week it is Haydn string quartets and letting the plebs overtake without concern.

I still have a shopping list (it's like the bikes all over again, and Anna is distraught).  A Morris Minor, a Citroen 2CV or Dyane, and I really have a hankering for an older Jag.  (These are either very expensive or very cheap, and for the avoidance of doubt it is the cheap ones I would be looking at.)  And possibly an old diesel Land Rover for the winter, although another classic Rangie would be nice, and ...

Anyway, a word of thanks to anyone reading this.  I had a lot of fun writing the blog, and I was always most grateful when people took the time to comment.  I'm going to leave this open for a couple of weeks, and then close it for good.  I'm still around, though.  Email is disraeligears01@gmail.com if you want to stay in touch.  I am on Twitter, but more as a reader than a contributor: @twistedteaspoon.  I'm also on Facebook, but that's under my real name, so get in touch by email if you think meeting up there would be a good idea.

Brexit, eh?  Who'd have thought it?

Sincerely, thank you all.  It's been good.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Sod's Law

I had the day off yesterday.  I was up early, and it was a beautiful morning, so I got a plan together.  Breakfast done, all washed up and put away, fire raked out and reloaded, wood fetched, shopping list assembled, shopping bags rounded up, coat on, all by 9.00 am.  Excellent!  And then it started to rain.  When I got to Tesco is was a biblical downpour, I was home by ten, and the rain eased off to a steady drizzle, which lasted all day.  So all the plans for outside jobs that I had lined up had to be shelved.  It was a bit of a dismal day, really, sitting around waiting for a break in the weather.

Today, by contrast, is beautiful - bright sunshine, a light hoar frost on everything, and the prospect (according to the lovely Behnaz on BBC Wales) of a dry and sunny day.  And, of course, I am working tonight, so I will need to spend part of the afternoon having a nap.  That's going to be difficult.

Today's question: with a dribbling weirdo leading Labour, a weak charlatan heading the Lib Dems, a pub bore heading UKIP, and an incompetent hippy heading the Greens, why aren't the Conservatives a million points ahead in the polls?  David Cameron looks the part, speaks well, and doesn't make many unforced errors, and superficially he should be streets ahead of the rest.  And yet, apparently, it's neck-and-neck.

To put it a slightly different way - if Cameron can't pull out a 20-point lead over the disaster that is Miliband, what use is he?

For those ignorant of the BBC Wales news team, here is Behnaz.  Just so you know.

Sunday 8 March 2015

Have I missed anything?

Fourteen months since my last post, and twelve months before that for the previous one.  Anyone would think I had given up!  I almost did, to be honest.  I got into blogging just as the last Labour government was entering meltdown, when there was rage to be had in every day's news.  The election of the Coalition meant that politics became genuinely boring.  It's not that everything was OK, far from it, but that it became increasingly hard to write about.  With Blair and then Brown as PM, every day gave some reason to choke on your cornflakes.  Cameron and Clegg, not so much.  I wished the Coalition well at the start, and sincerely hoped that a combination of financial competence and a soupçon of good old Liberal social conscience might make a workable mix.  I'm old enough to know better, I suppose, but now I am disappointed rather than angry, and disappointment is hard to work up into anything people might wish to read.

There are a number of other reasons for my lack of attention to the old blog.  The main one was getting an iPad.  Handy little device, and very useful and portable.  Perhaps too useful.  It's great for surfing the net and doing emails, but not so good for blogging.  Of course, I ended up taking the easy option and started using the iPad almost full time.  The fact I can use the iPad in the living room where there is a nice woodburner, rather than the cold study where the lapdog lives, was another reason to put off blogging just a little longer.

The demise of the excellent Google Reader was another factor.  I had all my favourite blogs in there, and it was a simple matter to read the latest updates and go to visit the blogs to add comments and observations.  The best substitute I could find for the iPad was a thing called Feedly, but the whole setup mitigated against participation.  The blogging truism (interact with other people and they will interact with you) worked against me there.  And of course, as they say about many things, the less you do something, the less you feel like doing it.  So I semi-bowed out, more by laziness than actual intention.

So, here I am again.  First thing to say is a massive thank you to the blogs on my bloglist.  I have been through most of them to check, and I am still there on many people's blogrolls.  Very kind and loyal, and I am not sure I deserve it.  But thank you anyway.  I have been reading you all, through Feedly, every single post, but when replying meant opening a browser and logging in and all that kerfuffle, I just moved on the the next one.  Sorry.

A quick update on the last 12 months might be in order.  After changing bikes like most people change their socks, I ended up with two excellent machines - a Honda Hornet 900 and a Yamaha XT660R.  Supposedly, one was for long-distance stuff and one was a daily driver.  But it was never that simple, as both were great and capable machines, and many days featured a lengthy shall-I-shan't-I conversation until my head spun.  Meanwhile, the old XT600E was SORNed, under a cheap Lidl tarpaulin behind the shed, and getting rustier by the week.  Back in October I had a good long think.  I had been riding bikes for 42 years, and had never had a serious accident.  One or two clumsy tumbles at low speed, but nothing life-threatening.  I started to wonder if it was time to cash in my chips while I was ahead.  I had noticed my reactions getting slower, and I was finding oncoming headlights were affecting my vision more.  It's quite possible to adapt your riding to take account of these things, and I did, but it was another question mark,  And I will be quite honest here - winter was approaching, and the thought of fighting my way into waterproofs and cold-weather gear twice a day was not giving me any pleasure.  In summary, biking was not as much fun as it used to be, and when something is no longer fun, you should stop.  So I did.

The bikes went on eBay and were sold for a modest loss in both cases.  And then one of those curious coincidences that makes you wonder if there is some force working around our lives that we are not aware of: every time I went to Tesco I had to pass a car dealership, and there was a little sports car on the forecourt at a ridiculously low price.  Convertibles are even harder to sell in the autumn and winter than bikes are, and after a test drive I offered the dealer a stupidly low amount and he accepted.  It's a Mazda MX-5, a 10th Anniversary model from 1999, and it is a cute as a very cute thing with added cuteness:

Superficially it's in VGC, but it's not been without its problems.  However, I went into it with my eyes open, and I think I have got to the bottom of any issues, after the suitable expenditure of a number of beer tokens.  I've spent as much as the car cost in getting it put right, but even so it has only cost me what I got for the bikes together, so I think I am winning so far.  I was a bit apprehensive about Anna's reaction when I had sold the bikes and asked her what she thought about sports cars.  She was delighted, which made it all a bit easier.  Long ago, she had been the proud owner of an MG Midget, but had to sell it when she became pregnant and couldn't fit behind the wheel.  She thinks the 5 is great - so much so that we are planning a holiday in it.  It's a complete hoot to drive.  Not a fast car by any means, but as nimble as a rollerskate.  Every time I get in it, I smile, and that's what the bikes did, so it's all good.

The XT, of which I am absurdly fond, is now in the garage space vacated by the 'proper' bikes, and will be given a massive amount of TLC and brought back to a good standard when I get the time.  How long have I been saying that?

In other news, I mentioned the possibility of a better job in my last, distant posting.  I got it, and I am no longer a Security Man, but a Night Auditor.  I do all the financial operations that have to be done when the tills are closed, and all the reporting for the following business day.  I still work nights, but now it is 4 x 10-hour shifts a week, which is easier on the social life than the 4-on-4-off x 12 hours I was working before.  My body clock is still scrambled, but in a kinder way.  There was a small pay increase, but the great thing is that the job has a bit of challenge about it, and plays to my analytical and problem-solving strengths, such as they are.  I quite enjoy it, so things could be worse.

So that's me back in the blogger's chair, and if you are reading this it is because you stayed with me, for which I am absurdly grateful.  I doubt if I will be posting every day, but I hope it will be more frequent than annually.  Oh, and I have joined Twitter, more as an observer than a participant.  It's mad.

Sorry for the long post, but a catch-up was necessary.  More to follow.

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas all

To all my loyal readers, if I have any left after such a period of inactivity, I wish a very happy Christmas. May you get everything you want or, failing that, everything you deserve.

More apologies for the lack of posting recently. Things have been busy. There have been bike-related shenanigans, some car issues to sort out (including a mysterious tale of a brake caliper and a wheel bearing) and there may be a new job on the horizon for the new year. Also, I have had a big birthday (ending in a zero) which took a bit of coming to terms with.

I won't be posting over the next few days, but as soon as the Christmas nonsense is out of the way I will be back.

Take care and have fun.

Sunday 3 November 2013

Aye, Laddie!

I can't remember ever learning to read.  It was just one of those things that came to you, like walking or eating.  I think I was fairly surreptitious about it too, as I surprised my mother with my facility for textual decoding (can you tell I used to be a teacher?) one day when I was about three years old.

We were out for a walk somewhere (at a guess, Stanhope Park, in Darlington) and I needed a wee.  I told Mum and she said I'd have to wait.  But no, I said, there is a toilet here.  No, that's not for you, she said. You can't go in there.   But, but, I said, I can.  Look, the sign says "Laddies"!

OK, not perfect decoding of the double-consonant rule, but nearly there.  I made her laugh, and she got her revenge by telling friends of the story when I was in my mid-twenties.  And thirties.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I was browsing Facebook recently, and came across this advert in the sidebar.

Do they think I was born yesterday?  Those are gurls.  I know.  I'm nearly four.

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