Thursday, March 31

Broccoli and women

What is it about broccoli that women like so much? Sonia dabbled with vegetarianism a while ago and though I wouldn’t call her an avid meat eater, she now will indulge in the “pleasures of the flesh” as I like to call it. She has a book called “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest” (which I must admit, isn’t exclusively about cooking the stuff) but is completely vegetarian. It makes for depressing reading.

Now I believe that a balanced diet (and here I mean a bit of everything but with meat or fish being the heart of the meal) is the way to go and a fully vegetarian diet is not “normal”. I wonder who originally thought of eating broccoli. They would have to be pretty well near starving to attempt it. Just look at the stuff. It’s hardly a sight to make you say “Yum yum! I REALLY want to boil that to a pulp and eat lots of it because it is so healthy”. I suppose that it is a bit like the medicine I was forced to take as a child. If it didn’t taste foul, it wasn’t any use. So broccoli is eaten in the same way. It tastes disgusting so it MUST be doing you good.

Well, actually, I beg to differ. It has an unfortunate effect on me and the day after I eat (or to be more accurate, the day after I’m FORCED to eat) the stuff, you really don’t want to be down wind and within 100 yards of me. It’s that bad even I can’t stand my own company. But no! Sonia is an avid fan of the stuff and will buy and cook it at any and every available opportunity. I refuse to touch the stuff and this causes the inevitable clash of wills. For me, it is a case of mind over matter. I don’t mind and it doesn’t matter but my little “You will eat healthily if it kills you” girlfriend takes it as a matter of honour. She’s convinced she’s RIGHT and will not stop until she has convinced me of the correctness of her stance.

Thus the “discussion” about what she refers to as broccoli and I refer to as the foul effluvium from Beelzebub’s backside (and if it is dredged from the bowels of a freezer – just so it can be inflicted all year round and not just in season - it is the frozen, foul effluvium from Beelzebub’s backside). But I digress.

I pointed out to her that I don’t like it, it has the aforementioned unfortunate effect on me and that I was too busy looking for the meat among the mountain of vegetables on the plate to discuss things.

One of the many nicknames I have for my little food fascist (“lips that touch MacDonald’s shall ne’er touch mine”) is Hiroshima – and it isn’t because she looks Japanese. “What’s wrong with broccoli” she exploded. Go back and read the last paragraph just to see if I missed anything out. I repeated it verbatim.

There are occasions when I act a bit thick. This was one of them. I never realised that she could talk non stop about broccoli for long enough for the meal to go cold, the gravy to coagulate into a forlorn brown rubber mat, the day to draw to its weary and gloomy conclusion causing the room to darken so much that the lights needed to be switched on to continue the meal and the will to live to be sucked out of my very bones.

I asked myself “Am I a man or a mouse?” NO, BY GOD, a thousand times no!!! I am a free born Englishman with the blood of the archers of Agincourt flowing in my veins. If they can stand up to the full might and power of the French Army and prevail, then I can stand up to Sonia. I WILL NOT EAT BROCCOLI!!!.

I ate the rest, including the meat, but I left the broccoli on the side of the plate. The frostiness following this defiance was enough to make me consider sitting in the refrigerator to warm up.

Eventually she decided that it was time for an after meal snack.

It was cheese on crackers.

She can be subtly sarcastic when she wants. But the resistance continues.

Tuesday, March 29

Computers are the spawn of Satan

The bank holiday didn’t quite go to plan … but there again, what plan ever survives the first five minutes of its execution?

The Friday weather was reasonable but I spent the time doing laundry, shopping for food (the usual quarter of mince and a small cut loaf) and tidying up the house so that I could enjoy the weekend ahead. I should have taken the opportunity to kick my heels up and do something more energetic and interesting. The rest of the weekend weather was atrocious – God ran out of colours to paint the sky and landscape but he had plenty of battleship grey so that was that. Low cloud, persistent rain and cold. As I predicted, the weather was poor but the girls were out in force with umbrellas, scuttling about in their dizzables and generally causing the traffic to slow down.

My little pocket Venus decided that her computer wasn’t up to scratch so she dragged me out shopping and bought a new one on Saturday. She wanted to “future proof” it so bought one with TV and radio cards. Her reason? The computer and TV won’t always be in the same room and she might want to watch TV. I would have thought that if you are working on the computer or surfing the net or whatever, you wouldn’t want to watch TV at the same time on a 15” monitor. Besides, she has a huge TV in the living room with DVD player, video, digi box etc. In fact more communications gear than the bloody BBC. My arguments and reasons were brushed aside. A new computer was “needed” and she wouldn’t be denied.

HOWEVER, guess which mug got the job of setting it up and transferring the programs and data from her old computer? Correct first time!

The trouble is I’m an odd sort of person in that, if there isn’t anything on the TV, I won’t take it into my head to format the hard drive and set up the computer from scratch just for something to do. So I am a bit out of practice setting up computers from a bare system. It wasn’t helped by my little pocket rottweiler who can be ever so slightly impatient. I think she expected to switch it on and see a big button labelled “make it just like the old one but better” and by clicking on it, to have the whole thing set up instantly. Ain’t gonna happen …

So I set off and tried my best. I wasn’t helped by Sonia. “What’s the code for this application?” I asked. “I don’t know. I didn’t write it down”. OK my little angel, I’ll try to get it off the old computer. (Note that there is a small programme you can download from the net called Belarc Advisor which will audit your system and print out a full list of all applications with serial numbers etc. Try it. It’s worth having. link is here http://www.belarc.com/free_download.html).

“What’s your password for this account my little choux pastry?” “I don’t know – can’t you find out?” “Where’s the set up disk for this particular software package?” “Well I don’t know!! How do you expect me to remember things like that?” And so forth. There was much looking over the shoulder and “is it ready yet?” comments. So all in all it took Sunday and most of Monday to figure out how to get the new one to have all the software and rubbish from the old one onto it and getting it to run to her entire satisfaction. Following that, it was a big beaming smile and “You are a genius”.

I eyed up her old computer which is better than mine and wondered if I should swipe it and get mine up to a reasonable speed. Could I be bothered to rebuild the thing to my requirements? The answer came and it was a resounding NO! My old one is fine for what I need and I still have the bathroom to do. So that is for THIS weekend and the odd evening.

Want to bet that next Monday, I’m writing “My little pocket timewaster had me doing …”.

No wonder I’m going bald!

Thursday, March 24

Easter and a four day holiday

Ahh. Bank Holidays. Invented to line the pockets of DIY superstores and garden centres. It’s either that or spend your time sitting in traffic jams both ways going to and coming back from somewhere you’ll be disappointed with. Just the same as the other half of the population of Britain.

I’ve got things planned this Easter. I just know the weather will be poor, I know the roads will be clogged and the queues for the DIY stores and supermarkets will look like the German retreat from Stalingrad. So I bought some panelling for the bathroom a month ago and paint and adhesive. So I don’t need to venture out. And if I do, I’ll go on the motorbike and try to avoid the holiday routes.

Fortunately I live on the coast and within 800 yards of my house I have two chip shops, about a dozen Indian restaurants and takeaways, four Italian restaurants, two Chinese and a Thai. The freezer is adequately stocked too so there is no danger of me dying of starvation in the wilds of Whitley Bay.

My advice to anyone wanting to drive through Whitley bay on a bank holiday is DON’T! You are in serious danger of either driving into the back end of someone’s car or they will drive into the back of you. The young girls wear four items of clothing and two of them are a pair of shoes. Mix into that scenario copious amounts of alcohol and I’ll leave you to imagine the picture. This is independent of the ambient temperature. The boys watch the girls who watch the boys go by … as the song goes. And if they happen to be driving at the same time, then it’s tears before bed time. It’s worth a walk up the street in the early evening before they get too drunk and silly if that interests you.

I used to like bank holidays when I had the dog. The bank holiday weather can be cruel and when people travel to the coast, they are determined to indulge in the usual coast pleasures. I used to take the dog out for a walk along the sea front and watch them “enjoying” themselves eating their fish n’ chips and ice creams. Meanwhile the rain was blowing in horizontally from the North Sea. I used to laugh my head off. I knew that I’d be back in the house shortly, drinking hot soup and watching the dog steaming slightly as he relaxed and dried off in front of a roaring fire. The smell of hot, wet dog on a cold day is a happy sort of smell and brings back fond memories.

Sometimes I’d call in to Bills fish bar and buy fish and chips for myself and the wife. It’s on Cullercoats bay and the best chip shop around. If you call in, you’ll possibly see Bill and you’ll realise he doesn’t throw the scraps out for the cats at the end of the evening’s trade. He is a big lad and isn’t exactly skin and bones.

Ah well. That’s the holiday taken care of. I’ll probably be glad to get back to work for the rest ….

Wednesday, March 23

Skule dinners, healthy eating and £9.4 Billion

I see that Saint Tone of Sedgefield has leaped onto the bandwagon and is desperately scrabbling for votes among those concerned about their kids’ health.

After Jamie Olivers’ School dinners program he has “seen the light” and now wants to have a “Children’s Manifesto” which will enshrine into law (and be heavily slathered with political correctness, government interference and intrusion into family life, no doubt) the types and quality of food fed to children in schools.

Well, whoop de doo! However did the human race survive until now without the kindly and guiding hand of Saint Tone adjudicating on this matter?

Don’t get me wrong. I think that the sum of 37p to be spent on the ingredients for a school lunch is ludicrously inadequate. You generally get what you pay for and anyone with enough sense to come in out of the rain would have to ask themselves what standard of food you would get for that sum.

HOWEVER, there are several questions which spring to mind. In no particular order, and as they occur to me, they would be along these lines :-

1) Why has this suddenly become a hot topic? Saint Tone has presided (and I use the word preside here very carefully) over this situation for the last 8 years. There have been reports that I have seen in newspapers, on the local TV news and discussion programmes, on websites and elsewhere which raised concerns regarding the nutritional value of the food served in school dining rooms and canteens. Hardly a timescale which needs an instant response to save all the children from a horrible fate.

2) Where did the figure of £9.4 billion arise (and for those of you who aren’t mathematically inclined that is a million x million multiplied by 9.3 or £9,400,000,000,000.)? That’s a LOT of cash to upgrade meals when Jamie demonstrated that it COULD be done for the sum of 37p a meal. Is this more labour spin where they are including every last £1 to be spent on education, school buildings, books, pencils etc. over the next 10 or so years? I will certainly accept that the Dinner ladies will need some retraining and that the school kitchens will need upgrading and re-equipped to allow food to be cooked from basic ingredients but £9,400,000,000,000?

Presumably this concept has been tacked onto the sum announced in the budget for school rebuilding – so it seems spectacular but it looks as if it will be deducted from the amount earmarked for school rebuilding/refurbishment. In other words, it will be grudgingly allocated and will have to be fought for.

3) The manifesto was published less than a week after the last programme in the series and a day after Saint Tone announced this in the Sunday newspaper the Observer. Now call me a cynic and whack me over the head with a wet haddock but do you REALLY think a fully formulated and well thought out manifesto could be produced in that timescale? Even if we allow that the very first programme triggered concerns, then the timescale is still very short to even formulate a policy solely on school meals. But wait! There’s more! The manifesto contains the usual rag bag of suggestions, ideas and unrelated legislation including diet, legislation to protect children from paedophiles targeting children via the internet etc.

Good news though. A “new independent School Food Trust, to be set up by the government shortly” will draw on the work done by Jamie. In other words, MORE bureaucrats will eat into the cash available and will generate lots of paperwork to be completed to demonstrate the targets are being met. Which will bleed more cash away from the front end and be spent on beureaucracy and form filling. I can see any cash allocated to this idea leaking away like water into sand. So very little will eventually arrive on the plates of the kids.

To put the final nail into the coffin, the children's manifesto, it to be unveiled by election co-ordinator Alan Milburn, Education Secretary Ruth Kelly and Children's Minister Margaret Hodge. Use the acid test – would you buy a used car from those three? I thought not. So would you trust them with your kids future? Answers on the back of a postcard to the usual address …

So is the manifesto a half cocked response? A spur of the moment decision? A leap onto the bandwagon to be seen to be doing “something” and no real thought or genuine commitment to the idea? The answer, I suspect is a resounding YES! To all three. My admiration for Jamie Oliver has increased in leaps and bounds when he stated he would “scrutinise the detail”. Wise man. He doesn’t trust the politicians either.

4) One amusing item from the report was that Mothers didn’t trust the food produced by Jamie and were fetching hamburgers into school for their little darlings, and twice as many children were bringing in packed lunches since Jamie’s campaign started. Well! Who would have thought it! The mothers don’t want their kids to eat healthy food. More worryingly, the head teacher examined the lunchboxes and (here I will cut and paste from the report)

“she was 'shocked and appalled' at some of the contents. 'Last week, there was a child with three bars of chocolate and two packets of crisps in its lunchbox. We are now finding that the children who tend to cause problems in the afternoons seem to be the ones who are bringing in packed lunches.' She is writing to parents with instructions on foods not to include, although she said it would be a 'radical idea' for some to adapt to providing a sandwich, fruit and non-fizzy drink. 'We can work on children in schools to understand the importance of healthy eating but if we're not getting to the parents as well, it will continue to be a struggle.'”

Again, I’m in two minds about the reaction. OK I agree that the stuff the kids are eating is not what I’d choose to eat myself but to have the State dictate to parents how to bring up their kids and what to feed them? What are they going to do? Have a lunchbox audit at the school gates? Destroy the food the kids bring if it doesn’t conform to an arbitrary standard? Send the kids home with instructions not to bring such food again? But everything is OK – the Government spokesman says “far from fearing a 'nanny state', families want the government to intervene to protect children's health and safety”. So that’s OK then. The population of Britain has in essence said that it can no longer make rational decisions about how to raise kids and it wants the Government to tell them how to do so.

An alternative view is that by forcing parents to conform to the State diktat on food, Saint Tone is shooting himself through the foot. He is saying “Your kids cannot eat the food they want. We’ll force them to eat the food we say is good for them”. How’s that for an election winning strategy?

Take a look at this link for a fuller discussion on the announcement :- http://pcwatch.blogspot.com/

Just to balance up the discussion, I was at my girlfriends house last night. She’s a chocoholic and we sat and watched TV (the usual garbage except for a programme on Otzi the Ice man and various post mortem interpretations on how he died and his life immediately before his death). She munched her way through about a half pound of chocolate. Organic Black and Greens, but still a LOT of chocolate for one sitting.

I wonder when the Government will reintroduce ration cards so that this unhealthy eating habit can be controlled and regulated (for her own good) and she will be forced to eat what is good for her.

Easter will be interesting. The chocolate factories are working overtime.

Tuesday, March 22

Politics, logic and soundbites

The election campaign is in full swing and our political “Masters” are indulging themselves in their usual vilification. It makes for an amusing spectacle provided you don’t take it seriously. I enjoy watching the various issues being hijacked in turn by the different parties and each trying to outbid each other on the issue. “To prevent a crime, HMG will amputate two legs of offenders” said the Home secretary. “This is typical of the half measures and shilly shallying of the Opposition. Vote for US and we pledge to amputate AT LEAST three legs of the offenders, with the option of amputating more if they repeat the offence”. Eh? Gob in gear, brain in neutral. I’m just waiting for a similar (if less extreme) reaction from the politicians.

For example, the issue of “Gay” people. In my opinion, it is a daft way to categorise your entire life based on your sexual preferences. Me? I’m a leg and backside with dark hair man so naturally I must despise anyone who doesn’t share my preferences? Somehow I think that to define me solely on that basis is insulting. You are discarding 99.9% recurring of my personality, character and interests which can, and do, occupy a much larger segment of my life.

I seem to have known plenty of gay men throughout my life (though I’m heterosexual – I have never seen a bloke I fancy and I’m unlikely to be persuaded otherwise) and if I liked or disliked them, it wasn’t because of their sexuality. So I find the scrambling for the gay vote a bit perverse. I’d say that the vast majority of people aren’t gay (I’d estimate 95% but the point I’m making cannot be dismissed because I got the percentage point amiss) and to skew the whole of society on the basis of a minority is being vastly unfair to the majority. However I’m having doubts about the credentials of our own dear Saint Tone of Sedgefield when he states that he can foresee Britain accepting a fully gay PM (see the link here http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=4283378) . Mind you, if I was married to his grinning gargoyle of a wife, I’d look for something else to occupy the left side of the bed too …

I sometimes feel like mischievously introducing a new category of minority group and see the Politicians squirming to get the votes on board. How about The Gay Pensioner (over 80’s) Gnome Collecting and Ferret Breeding Society? What is the government doing to alleviate the terrible social stigma that these people are labouring under and the prejudice they face, eh? What are the politicians doing to address the needs of this section of society? How about a council tax rebate and State provided sheds to house the ferrets and gnomes? How about introducing tax breaks to encourage them to set up a cottage industry to open up their Gnome collections as tourist attractions? (Ooops!!! “Cottage” might be a pejorative term when applied to gays so we’ll have to think of a less antagonistic term to describe it). Indeed this group could lead a renaissance of wealth and tourism activity in marginally deprived areas. Or perhaps it is a load of bollocks and we should allow these people to pursue their particular interests without massive state interference and funding. It would be interesting to see the reaction if such a group did exist though …

Then there is the matter of the East Coast Main line – GNER has just committed up to £100 MILLION a year to run the franchise – a useful little earner for the Government coffers and four times the £25 million it paid the last time. Now let me outline the contradiction here. See if you can spot it. Cars are the “Great Satan” and according to the various clap trap spouted by the various politicians (notably Two jags Prescott) we must give up our cars and use Public Transport.

Let’s examine the options. If I go to a local auction I can buy a banger of a car for £100, put petrol into it and drive to London and back. Say a tank full each way at £35 to £40 a tank. Total cost £180 maximum. Cheapest rail ticket (via Virgin trains buying a standard – cattle class - at short notice) £187. Now bear with me on this one – I know it takes a genius of a politicians stature to see the flaws in my logic – but for a single person, this is a saving of £7 and if MORE THAN ONE person travels, the savings are greater. If a group of 4 travels, the train tickets can cost £748. So clearly the benefits of using public transport are so obvious that only you stupid people would wish to stick to your cars in the face of the evidence.

If GNER has paid £100,000,000 per year for the franchise, guess what will happen to the price of rail travel? Or perhaps I need a politician to point out to me the flaw in my argument.

They haven’t got the moral courage to face up to their actions. It is always someone else’s fault. For example, fly tipping by commercial firms is skyrocketing. It has got nothing whatsoever to do with the £10 to £20 waste levy imposed by the “green is good so we must tax you for anything we can think up that we can justify by our warped logic”. I’ve read that you cannot dispose of tea bags into a council compost bin as they are animal products (they may contain traces of milk) so must be treated in the same way as an anthrax riddled cattle carcase.

So if you are a commercial organisation and wish to dispose of ordinary household waste (say an office or similar) you will be charged heavily. Easiest solution? Fly tip!

But it isn’t the politicians that have caused this. Oh, deary me no!

I could go on but the utter pointlessness and stupidity of it all is sapping my will to live.

All I can do is treat it all with distain and look for the utter logicality of their statements. Should keep me busy over the next few weeks.

Monday, March 21

Cats and drugs and motorbikes

I don’t like cats – and not many people I know like them either. In these politically correct times, it isn’t allowed that you can dislike anything but I don’t subscribe to the theory that the only things that are bad and you can freely revile are those things that 95% of the population agree with. So my definition of a cat is “A simple device to convert catfood into cat shit without doing anything particularly useful in between times”.

One of the women I know has 4 cats – and if a public toilet smelled as bad as her house, you wouldn’t use it. Her husband states that cats exude a pheromone that directly acts on the human brain making the person like cats. So it acts like a drug I suppose. I can well believe it. Nothing else can explain the irrationality that causes women in particular to dote on their four legged fleabags and their blindness to their behaviour. Watching a cat shred a £1500 settee and the owner sitting there watching and allowing it to happen is a form of insanity IMHO. “It’s their nature” they claim. It’s a dogs nature to chase cats but dogs should be exterminated because of their cruelty and viciousness towards moggies. Contrast that with the way a cat catches and deliberately tortures birds and mice. It’s their nature - which must be tolerated again. Logical? The pheromone theory certainly gains credence when the double standards applied to their pets are examined dispassionately.

Saturday was a nice day, so I had a tootle around on my motorbike. Newcastle has “The Hill” which if you are a motorcyclist, it’s why God made Saturdays. A full street lined with motorbike shops, motorbike accessory shops and on a sunny Saturday, motorbikes. It has a website and is a Mecca for bikes and riders and the wannabees wandering around admiring the kit. I like to go up and see what I can’t afford. So I parked Bruno (the bike) up and had a wander up and down, watching the posers, the flash boys and the impressionable. Wait there long enough and the world will pass by – often at high speed on a motorbike but let it pass, just enjoy the sights and sounds.

The bike was a bit dusty so decided to wash it (and if you see the state of my car, you’d understand what a sacrifice of my time and effort this was). I’d sooner ride the thing than wash it.

Anyway, I had washed it and was rinsing it down with a hosepipe/pistol gun thingy. It converts a hosepipe into a giant water pistol with the full pressure of Keilder Water (the largest man made lake in Europe) behind it. Next doors cat strolled along the wall and across my garage door. I hissed at it and gave it my best “hard Paddington Bear stare”. It didn’t work as it uses my back garden for a toilet (which of course is their nature and I shouldn’t object) and I usually try the constipated gargoyle expression through my dining room window to scare it off. It is well used to it so it didn’t react. So I squirted it with water. It ran along the fence and crossed over so it was facing its own back yard. There it paused and stood looking back over its shoulder with it’s tail up. MISTAKE!! I shot from the hip and caught it right up the Jake.

Try THAT for your pheromones you crap filled fleabag.

Most satisfying!

Friday, March 18

A young at heart mans fancy turns to ...

Spring is here (or so the weathermen have promised). I’ve come to work on my motorbike this morning. It’s wonderful to be able to see over the dawdleboxes and be able to slip through gaps in the traffic. Surprisingly it isn’t saving me any time. I know I have the ability to ride past the traffic jams so I tend to use the savings in time to take the scenic route to work – which means I arrive about the same time … Hey ho!

Still, nothing (OK – very little) that work can throw at me will spoil my sense of happiness. My bike awaits me and as it is Friday, I finish work at 1pm so I’ll have the afternoon on clear roads. I might take a tour of Northumberland just for the Hell of it. There isn’t anything in the world like riding a motorbike to make you feel alive, blow the cobwebs away and weld a daft grin of sheer contentment to your mug. And Northumberland is Gods own allotment if you ride a bike and love space and spectacular scenery. But don’t tell anyone. We don’t want the place spoiled.

I’ve had the inevitable discussions with people regarding the Motorbike riding thing. Their arguments fall into several distinct categories :-

1) It’s dangerous and you might get killed
2) You’re a Hells Angel
3) It’s an impractical form of transport
4) It’s just a mid life crisis
5) Why? What do you get out of it?

For the non motorcycling people reading this I’ll try to explain and answer the questions. For the motorcyclists, either read something else (you’ll have heard this before) or direct your wife/girlfriend/mother/significant other to the discussion. You can then say “Look. It’s in print on the internet. It MUST be true”. Send the money to the usual address …

1) The danger bit. I rode a bike for 10 years before I got married and didn’t get killed. OK I’ll admit that the traffic levels etc were a bit lower than now but it was “learn your lessons the hard way”. I was shown the controls and that was that way back then. The casualty rate was appalling. The bikes were powerful and it really was criminal to allow someone who had never ridden a bike had no experience of driving or riding on the road, and no decent protective gear to ride away from the shop on the machine.
I gave up the bike when I got married and it was only when I got this job and had to commute 12 miles to work through the traffic that I thought “Soddit. I’m having a bike”. I took the precaution of having lessons – they weren’t available when I first cocked a leg over a motorbike way back then – and the quality of tuition was excellent, enabling me to quickly get back most of my former proficiency. I have a theory that it’s like swimming or riding a push bike – you never really forget, you just get rusty. If you have even the slightest interest in motorbikes, do the CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) – it will occupy one day, cost less than £100 and it’s great fun. Ask in any motorbike shop or any motorcyclist. Just do it. You only get one bite out of the cherry of life.
It’s true that the casualty rate for motorcyclists is higher than cars BUT the casualties are normally young inexperienced riders. Teenagers are not capable of evaluating risk and inexperience combined with no perception of danger will result in tears before bedtime for any activity – be it balloons on sticks or bikes. It seems from my observations that the first year or two is the danger time. After this, the skills and observation are well enough developed to make you a better road user.
It won’t stop you getting involved in an accident with a Chav that hasn’t had a driving lesson in their life in an uninsured unroadworthy car but they are just as liable to kill you if you are on foot or in a car. One of my friends had his wife killed by a drunken, drugged up to the eyeballs driver last year. She was 4th or 5th in a queue of traffic at traffic lights. Lights changed, the cars moved off and the bozo went through a red light doing an estimated 60 – 65 MPH. He “Didn’t notice the light”.
You can’t eliminate EVERY risk in life, just decide which risks are worth taking. If you smoke you stand a 1 in 3 chance of either dying or being severely incapacitated from the activity – a casualty rate which if it occurred in motorbikes would result in them being banned immediately.

2) A Hells Angel? Don’t be daft. More like Hells Pensioner nowadays. And you can’t get denim long johns with an escape hatch in the arse for love nor money ..

3) Practicality is getting through the traffic – If I want to buy a months groceries, I’ll use the car, thanks. If travelling alone then having a mode of transport adapted to carry one person is eminently practical.

4) Mid life Crisis, eh? Then I shouldn’t have lived beyond age 26 as I’ve been riding motorbikes since I was about 13 or thereabouts. No – I think motorcycling is a bit like malaria. Once it’s in your blood, you never get rid of it. Besides, one of my friends who is female (allegedly) and is the same age as me has taken to collecting teddy bears and a HUGE dolls house. Spent a fortune on it too … but THAT isn’t a MLC. Oooooooooooooooooooh Noooooooooooooooooh! She’s a woman and it’s only MEN that go through MLC’s.

5) What do I get out of it? You could take the argument to it’s logical conclusion and ask everyone to justify what they get out of anything. But to answer the question, it’s fun, it’s the closest I can get to flying without leaving the ground, freedom, excitement, relaxation (it requires 100% concentration – or suffer an immediate, painful and salutary lesson in road craft) which means that the mundane cares of the world are forgotten in the immediacy of riding. Once your skill level reaches a certain level, you can start to enjoy traffic. Imagine yourself as a WW2 fighter pilot in a Spitfire with 450MPH on tap and the whole sky to play with, escorting lumbering bombers trundling along at 200MPH. You have the speed, acceleration and manoeuvrability to do what you want. It’s just a flick of the wrist and a twitch of the left toe away. I enjoy it!
There’s the companionship too. Bike riders acknowledge each other. They’ll wave, salute or nod their heads in greeting. We’re the chosen few. And we know it. Brothers (and sisters too for those ladies who have taken the plunge) in a shared passion. Fiat Punto owners never do the same when I'm driving my car ...

I’ve just got up, strolled to the window and looked at my bike … you just can’t explain to someone who isn’t a motorcyclist what it is about the feeling. Just looking at the bike gives me a sense of peace and contentment. Trying to explain the feeling is like trying to explain to someone who hasn’t eaten chocolate what it tastes like.

Just do it ….

Thursday, March 17

Mogadon for the Masses

I was at my girlfriends house last night and she’s an avid TV watcher. One of her less endearing qualities is the amount of 100% vitamin enriched gold plated rubbish she watches.

The first was a program about a hospital in London – and the mawkish ambulance chasing that went on was incredible! First off was a older motorcyclist injured in a road traffic accident (RTA). Though the “journalists” didn’t explain, from the injuries he sustained (all to the left side of his body) and the damage to the front of the car, it was obvious that the car had emerged from a side road and T boned him. Despite the serious internal injuries he had sustained (abdominal bleeding, breathing difficulties and fluid in his chest) and the broken arm, leg and head injuries, the trauma surgeon still had time to look photogenic and chat to the camera for the benefit of the program.

WTF IS GOING ON HERE? Surely to all that is sensible the first duty is to the injured man? But no! the time spent pandering to the camera was more important. This did not sit easily with Sonia either. I ride a motorbike and I could see she was visualising my tender carcasse being mangled in the same way.

Next up was a 10 month old girl with pierced ears and brought in by a Chav mother. The bairn was suffering from a temperature. The poor thing doesn’t stand a cat in Hells chance in life IMHO. Ignorant mother, all the hallmarks of the lifestyle these people elect to follow and judging by the mothers attitude, a carefully developed and nurtured attitude which can be summed up by “The world owes me a living”.

And so it went on … I cannot see for the life of me how watching other peoples suffering and misery can be classified as mainstream entertainment – particularly at 7-30 in the evening. Unless it is the “feel good” factor kicking in? All’s well that ends well perhaps? Does THAT make you feel better? Baaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!

I gave up and went onto the computer to research stuff about one of my passions – civil liberties and the relationship between the State and the individual. I’ve read two books in particular recently which has caused a lot of the ideas and feeling I have about this country to coalesce into concrete form. I found myself muttering to myself “I wish I had said that!” The way the endless torrent of laws, political correctness and regulations are eroding the freedoms Britain has previously enjoyed is frightening. It is a bit like your hair growing – you don’t notice it but when someone meets you again after a few weeks and comments on your Bohemian looks, THEN you realise just how bad things are. So it is with freedoms - actually cataloguing what has been lost is thought provoking. And the books set down just how the thoroughly th fundamental building blocks of this country have been destroyed. It’s frightening.

So it was in a more sombre mood I rejoined my little pocket Venus to watch Jamie’s School Dinners. I’d never really rated the man – I prefer Gary Rhodes’ style of cooking and way of presenting things – but I’m warming to him. It takes guts to swim against the tide and try to do things to your very best ability, particularly when there is no direct profit or reward in it for him - just grief and heartache. And he deployed and demonstrated such a range of skills (marketing, financial, organisational and sheer bloody hard work) that I found myself cheering him on. Good on yer Mate!. No wonder you are a successful businessman. He rides a scooter too – not quite a motorbike but it’s a start.

Now that Jamie’s School Dinners is finished, I can’t see me watching Wednesdays TV much. Or any TV the rest of the week either.

And so to bed (as Samuel Pepys would say).

Tuesday, March 15

The future (and it's a mystery)

My office stands by the banks of the Tyne. When I got in this morning it was high tide and before starting work I watched the cormorants for a while.

They spend their time diving under the water and stay down for about a minute in some cases. I wondered what they eat. Judging by the expanse of mud uncovered at low tide they must exist mainly on traffic cones, bricks, supermarket trolleys and tree branches washed down the river. I’m surprised the supermarket trolleys haven’t accounted for quite a few. I thought they would get their heads caught between the bars of the basket and drown. So far I haven’t seen any dead cormorants hanging from the trolleys at low tide. The water must be cleaner than I think or they are luckier than anyone would believe.

The Celts used to throw stuff into rivers and lakes. Swords, spears, gold torcs and other finery. The archaeologists have constructed fine theories about why they did this. I wonder if in years to come (say about 2000 years to throw a “for instance” into the discussion) the archaeologists will try to form a picture our civilisation from the stuff deposited into the river. The bricks and the cones may convince them that a splendid temple devoted to cone shaped icons and wire baskets on wheels worship existed somewhere on the banks of the mighty Tyne.

I wonder if the supermarket names sealed under the Perspex on the trolley handles will survive. Will our future archaeologists try to link the name to a particular God or Goddess? Will they know the significance of the Deity known as Tescos? What about Netto? Safeway no longer exists, and the question WHY needs to be asked and answered by our intrepid archaeologists.

Will the results be skewed by regional differences and the habit of some supermarkets obliging you to lock a £1 coin into the trolley to release it from its mating position with the others? For example Morrisons seems to be confined to the North of the country, AND they are one of the “£1 for the loan of the trolley” supermarkets. Therefore it is less likely that one of their trolleys will be thrown into a river (who will throw £1 away?) and they will be thrown into Northern rivers or lakes. Will our archaeologists wonder about the regional distribution of the God? How will they explain the use of these artefacts? What purpose will they think they served? What if a supermarket trolley park somehow survives? Will they think that this was a place where people bought the votive offerings and then transported them to waterways to make their sacrifices?

Will I ever complete this CAD drawing? Who knows? Sod it. I’m off for a cuppa from the drinks machine. I’ll leave the cormorants to their own devices.

Monday, March 14

Underpants

My girlfriend woke me on Sunday morning - this is unusual as she normally doesn't "do" mornings but my excuse was that I was ill with a severe cold and she was up before me. Serves me right.

"Look"

I rolled over half asleep and confused.

"Look!!" She repeated for empahsis "Look!!!!". She was twirling a pair of my underpants around her index finger. I'd been trying to persuade her to wear sexier knickers the night before but I didn't expect this. Was I supposed to be impressed? Turned on? Alarmed? I had other, less substantial items of female lingerie in mind when I suggested her getting rid of her "Blitz Madchen" underwear.

My brain started to kick in and I noticed the body language. Feet apart, hand on hip, scowl on her face and horns, steam and a sulphorous smell sprouting from her head (OK - the sulphorous smell might have been a side effect of the blocked sinuses but you get the picture). She's annoyed, I thought. Sweet Jesus! What has my little pocket Rottweiller got in mind now?

I cleared my throat to play for time. It didn't work. The underpants were whirling at too high a rate of knots for me to focus and my brain wasn't functioning.

"What am I looking at my little pocket Venus" I asked She's smaller than me and is indeed a pocket Venus. I do love her small size and fierceness. A cross between a Jack Russell on speed and a full blown Dragon, just packaged in a miniature 5 feet nothing frame.

She thrust the underpants into my face. "These" she hissed. "I'm sorting your clean washing. They're knackered".

I sighed. She's on a mission to waste money again I thought. "What's up with them, my little choux pastry" said I in a voice of dulcet and sweet reasonableness. Guess what? it didn't work.

"This" she said, demonstrating a small (and I mean a less than 3mm opening) in the seam underneath the crotch area. "They are beyond redemption. Get rid of them".

You can't reason with her when
a) you are naked in bed (a naked man has no moral authority when confonted by a fully dressed woman. Trust me on this one)
b) she's got your underpants with the implied threat of what normally occupies them will be ripped off
c) you are still partly asleep and
d) She's Sonia.

"Chuck them in the waste paper bin, then" I said. It was the path of least resistance and the wisest course of action under the circumstances.

A flick of her wrist and the underpants flew across the room, hit the wall and fell into the wastepaper basket. I was impressed - how the hell did she manage to do it without turning her head?? "We'll got M&S later and get some new ones" I said. "The factory outlet place at North Shields will open at 10AM. We can go then".

She narrowed her eyes, looking for the evasion. I tried to look as innocent as possible (which is always a mistake - with my face, people asume I'm as guilty as a weasel in a henhouse regardless) and coughed furiously to distract her.

Surprisingly, she seemed mollified. "OK then. I'm making tea. Do you want a cup?"

"Yes please" I said, between bouts of coughing. She turned and left me in peace.

I waited until I heard her filling the kettle in the kitchen.

Then I rolled out of bed, retrieved the underpants from the waste paper bin and put them into the underwear drawer. They are good for another 100,000 miles, those ones. Sheer extravagance.

The resistance continues.

Hello, Good Evening and Welcome

Shows my age with that one (if you are younger than say 40, don't bother ...)

About me - I'm fifty, live on Tyneside and I'd like to think of myself as someone who can think for themselves.

This blog isn't political, sexist or whatever - just my way of jotting down my thoughts and if you disagree with them - TOUGH! I'm entitled to an opinion just the same as you.

So watch this space.

Incidentally, names have been changed to protect the innocent (and not so innocent...). Any resenblance to anyone living or dead (or indeed in between those two states) is purely intentional and guaranteed to offend someone, somewhere, somehow. But hey! life's like that