The thoughts and ramblings of a semi-golf hacker
I hear from time to time that motor bikes are dangerous. The truth is that riding a motorbike can be hazardous, but it is my opinion that it is not the bikers themselves, it’s other road users in the vast majority of biking related incidents on the roads. Here’s how:
I passed my motorbike test in the mid 80’s while serving as a Royal Air Force police Officer. The course was a 2 week intense course where an advanced instructor taught me and another how to ride a motorbike. We started off with a full day of theory and had to pass a written test, even in those days and even though I already had a car licence. Then we set out to learn how to maintain, look after and start the bike. The one thing that stuck in my mind that second day was when the instructor said “The first thing you must learn is how to stop”. He spent a few minutes explaining how to stop a motorbike correctly. By using the front brake first to get the nose to dip slightly before applying the rear break a split second later; if on a straight. If, in an emergency, I needed to stop during cornering, then it was rear brake while straightening up, then off the break if time permits, on with the front and then the rear again. We even did an exercise to show what would happen if we braked incorrectly and I saw the front wheel just lose all traction and slide away. Valuable time spent learning in my books.
Next came setting off and stopping before we were then allowed to change gear. All this before I even set a wheel on the road. Through the 2 weeks we were taught much, and not just how to ride a bike. We were taught about road conditions, the need to avoid metal casings in the roads such as man hole covers, the meaning of the white markings, using hedgerows, telegraph poles and trees to help us understand the direction the road would take in the countryside. We learned about avoiding the white parts of zebra crossings which are slippery when wet, about riding through the lower line on the letter “L” on “SLOW” road markings, so we spent as little time as possible on the white paint that could make us lose traction. We even got taught to use shop windows in built up areas to see what was around a junction, bend or traffic by using the reflections. All in all, we got taught some amazing skills.
All this was done on 250cc Can Am Trail bikes that the military had dispensation for to allow beginners to learn on, not the 125cc bikes most had to use. We took our test on the 250cc bikes too and once passed (First time) I did a conversion onto a 400cc Armstrong Trail bike then 2 day conversion onto a 600cc Norton Interpol police bike. The rest of my riding career was spent riding the 400cc bike around North Wales and North Devon.
Out on the open roads, we were told off if we didn’t progress enough through traffic. We were taught how to safely overtake, skirt past or through traffic and where dangers would lurk if we didn’t concentrate. We had to use the power and acceleration of the bike to keep safe, as much as we would use the brakes. For example, I was told that it is always safer for a bike to be in front of traffic and that we should always aim to do this. It meant knocking the bike down a gear and accelerating past the vehicle in front swiftly before pulling in to a safe position. Cars can take ages to pass another vehicle, sometimes a couple of hundred yards or more, but bikes can do it in 30 yards or less if you’re in the right gear.
We were also taught the difference between the different white hash marks on roads. It’s often said that bikers entering a white hashed area on a road is dangerous, well here you go folks; it’s OK providing it isn’t a risk to other users and it is surrounded by broken white lines, not solid white lines. So when you see a bike overtaking where you think it may be dangerous, this it almost always not the case.
So far, I’ve been back on bikes for 8 months. I have had no close shaves caused by myself. The only concerns I have had so far are from other road users who are distracted, like people pulling out of junctions without looking. If I don’t see them clock me, I’m ready to hit the brakes hard. I’ve also had a van turn left at a junction in to a 2 lane road and then decide to pull a U-Turn immediately he realised he was heading the wrong way. He didn’t miss me; I missed him due to hitting the accelerator hard to get out of trouble. Scariest so far was a middle aged woman overtaking a cyclist on a hump back bridge with solid double white lines which she crossed with all 4 wheels. Oblivious to the fact that any vehicle could be over the brow, she saw me, gripped the steering wheel harder and hoped for the best. Had I been a car, I would not have been able to avoid her, but as a bike, I managed to almost grass it and squeeze through. This morning I had a near miss again. A schoolboy of about 9 years old crossed a busy road to a traffic island. He waited and saw the inside lane of the two lane carriageway had come to a standstill. Without looking, he stepped out in front of me. Again, I was ready, hit the brakes and he nonchalantly carried on his way.
I’m not trying to make out I’m a great bike rider here, just showing you that I’m out to look after myself when I’m on my bike. Not because I’m selfish, but because I know that many others are so unaware of the dangers they may cause to their lack of concentration.
Bikers spend all their time concentrating on the road, metal covers, potholes, markings, other drivers, the road ahead etc and we get tired quickly, so we take breaks. We don’t text, phone, change radio channels, eat, drink, talk or do make up whilst we’re in control of our vehicle. The majority of bikers are amongst the best qualified road users around. Yes we will have a small minority who are idiots, but overall, most accidents involving bikes aren’t the bikers fault. They’re usually the fault of others not being aware of their surrounding.
So I don’t think that Bikers are dangerous; I’m a firm believer that they put many others to shame with their driving skills. Look after us, because your lack of concentration won’t just affect our lives, it could affect yours for the rest of your days.
Please keep an eye out for bikers now the weather is turning better because more and more will be out on the roads and will be dependant upon your skills more than their own.
The remake of The Dam Busters film is causing a bit of a stir in certain parts. The film, as you will probably be aware is about a black Labrador that committed suicide on the eve of a minor flying mission. At least, that’s my impression based on the opinion of certain members of a military group I’m in discussion with on FB.
The reality is that the film is about a daring mission to destroy a number of dams in industrial Germany. Flown by the bravest airmen of WW2, whose skills were beyond question. The film also focuses on the genius of Barnes Wallis in developing the bouncing bomb. The original film was highlighted as having a number of historical inaccuracies by Martin Shaw in a tv documentary. It is, after all, a feature film based on a real story, not a documentary.
The focus of the discussion on the group is about the historic inaccuracy of calling the black Labrador by a different name to avoid offence. To be honest, I’m more offended that the same people bemoaning the change, don’t have the first clue about how many died in the mission or the names of any crew members, other than Guy Gibson. There were over 50 airmen who died and it seems to me that people couldn’t give a shit, providing the dog’s name isn’t changed.
My own feelings is that if the makers of the remake had retained the dog’s name, so what? I’d have sat through the film, cringing at the name, but that was what he dog was called. If they change it, I shall sit through it, recognising the change. To me, it’s not important to the remake. Neither would I get on my boat about the “Historical accuracy” of whether they smoke on screen, what they had for breakfast or the fact that no one farts in the movie.
I never saw much gnashing of teeth from the left wing when the remake was announced & it was the Director, Peter Jackson, who was happy to change the dog’s name to ensure it reaches a wider audience. Good move, Peter, as this now means many more countries will learn about the daring, courageous mission that saw so many young men fail to return home.
If historical inaccuracies on such significant minor details are so important, I hope & pray that those critical of the change actually know the real historic version if events & don’t just base it on the 1955 movie. Since when were movies the record of factual history?
I’ve decided to take a few days off twitter. At first, I didn’t know why I felt like I needed to, but looking back through my time line, it soon became apparent.
I love twitter, it’s fun, anarchic, friendly & supportive. Somewhere we can speak the truth. My time line, however, was becoming more & more of a support seeking mechanism. I have wonderful people in difficult situations as friends. I see all their burdens, raw on my timeline. I try, as often as I can, to be supportive of my friends on there. Lately, it’s become overwhelming though.
I work in the third sector, for a charity that helps people, supports them from traumatic incidents through to their repair. It’s emotionally tiring, then to come home to find more of that on Twitter eventually wears me down. I know that I’m not being asked directly in most situations to be the one who supports those down on their luck, but my values mean that I feel responsible to help others. When I don’t, I feel shit about myself.
I’ve come to realise that I need my own time away from other’s misery, not in a selfish way, but in a way that protects my feelings so I can continue to be a friend to those in need. That is why I’m having some real life time. I’ve vowed not to feel guilty about not being able to help everyone or upset at myself when I feel emotionally spent from time to time. We all need to find a bit of time for ourselves, to refresh and reinvigorate. On a course I did in the RAF about loss and bereavement, space for ourselves and emotional recovery was highlighted as a top priority. This, I had forgotten.
I dearly care about all my friends undergoing difficult times & wish I had that magic wand or words to make things better, but I don’t always have the right words & sadly don’t own a wand. So I hope that folk will understand that I’m not ignoring them in their need sometimes, I’m just taking a bit of time out for Me.
I’ve been a Spurs fan as long as I can remember. I started supporting them because a school bully told me to. He then did his usual trick & changed teams when another team won some trophy. I didn’t. I stood my ground, because I had seen the glory that is Tottenham Hotspur. I am a glory hunter, of that I cannot deny, but not the sort that we see with those clubs who bring in obscenely rich foreign owners in a bid to buy glory.
Danny Blanchflower is quoted as saying “The great fallacy is that the game is first & last about winning. It’s nothing of the kind. The game is about glory. It is about doing things in style, with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom”.
That is a philosophy I like. It’s why I am a glory hunter. It’s why I support Spurs & always will. Even if we don’t win a top flight title in my lifetime, I will have seen more glory than those clubs who buy titles through rich Sheiks or Russian billionaires.
Danny Blanchflower was not just a great footballer. He was a very wise man. I was privileged to have seen a testimonial to the Spurs & Irish legend in 1990. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It was a glorious match for a glorious man. If only we had more of his calibre playing today.
Glory, glory Tottenham Hotspur!
As a Spurs fan, I’ve had a lifetime of people making anti-Semitic comments about my team, the fans & myself, even though i have no Jewish background. Spurs fans, rightly so, decry those using anti-Semitic terms at matches & some of the disgraceful West Ham fans today were among he worst racist people I have ever had the displeasure to see & hear. Uneducated yobs who think its ok to mock the holocaust & the “almost fatal” stabbing of a Spurs fan in Rome.
What disturbs me just as much is the handful of Spurs fans who then go on to use derogatory terms to label a whole group. The term “Pikey” is a derogatory term. Calling folk “Pikey c***s” is no different to what John Terry did, which we all condemned. Don’t shout racism, then use racist terms yourself. It just shows hypocrisy.
Some tweets I have seen today from a minority of Spurs fans have disturbed me. From now on, I’m unfollowing those that use the term in a derogatory manner. Like the term “Yid”, if it is owned by someone from he travelling community to disarm the term, so be it. But I’m not accepting any more hatred on my timeline. I make no apologies.
Just watching the documentary “You’ve been Trumped” about Donald Trump’s planned golf complex in Aberdeenshire. It’s a huge talking point up there, as I’ve heard folk talk about it many times during my pilgrimages to Scotland. The main talk is about the jobs it will create.
I’ve played many golf courses near the coast & I have absolutely no doubt that Trump’s complex will be stunning & fit in with much of the surrounds. Modern technology will ensure that the complex is as environmentally friendly as possible. My local golf course does all it can in this area of environmentalism. We have our own water supply in a huge reservoir that is home to amazing wildlife. We use very few pesticides & manage the upkeep of the course by using an ergonomist to advise us of environmental methods. It’s not cheap, but it is worth every penny.
Despite my love of golf & great golf courses, which Trump’s course will undoubtedly be, I cannot bring myself to agree with the complex being built. The beautiful wild dunes aren’t meant o be tamed. The compulsory purchase order (CPO) of residential and commercial properties for a private company are unethical. The intervention of the Scottish Parliament with regards to planning permissions and CPOs totally beggars belief. If CPO was done for a public service or utility, such as a road or energy, I could understand the Scottish Parliament’s decision, but it is not. They are in effect saying that this new business is more important that the local businesses that have been around for hundreds of years. They are saying that Trump, a US citizen, has more rights than the residents who have lived there for generations.
It stinks of greed. It forgets the locals & I would not be surprised if we find out, in years to come, that palms have been greased. I will never play the complex or support it, if people’s homes and livelihoods are seen as a commodity that can be purchased at the whim of a very rich man.
Leave the area to its natural beauty and be done. Golf is important, but not that important!
Today, I have been on a course to update me on aspects of Domestic Abuse and the impact it has upon the victim. It’s a complex and difficult topic, one that I learned about at an age far too young to realise what it was.
My father was a Domestic Abuse perpetrator when I was a baby. I was removed from my parents because of it and placed in the care of extended family. Years later, I was adopted by them and luckily, I was brought up knowing that Domestic Abuse was wrong. My older brother was also adopted, but he had seen and grown up with it more than I and while he’s never been a domestic abuser, he has an almighty temper that can flare up at any time with anyone.
My Father married again, after my Mother found the courage eventually to leave him. It’s no easy decision. She found happiness with someone who loved her and just as importantly, respected her. His second marriage ended when his second wife upped sticks and left overnight without warning. I was pleased for her, as I had seen how he belittled her and treated her like a commodity; his possession. When he found another wife within 6 months, I was brave enough to talk candidly to him about his behaviour to women. He slammed the phone down on me and we haven’t spoken since. I have no desire to speak to him ever again. He even blamed my brother & I for wrecking his marriage! He is not a man.
Tonight, I’ve seen first hand the effects on families who are suffering Domestic Abuse here and now on a documentary about 999 calls and responses. It brought it home. After a day of training, years of working with Domestic Abuse cases and a lifetime of effect, it was too much. I had to switch off and vent, which is why I write this blog.
Any individual who believes they have a right to treat another in such a way is, in my humble opinion, a pathetic creature. It’s not big to control others and it certainly isn’t a display of love. It’s a last resort of a sad lowlife who hasn’t got an ounce of moral integrity, who would do such a thing as commit domestic abuse. The impact it has had on me has eventually had a positive outcome, but for many it doesn’t. I don’t care how nice you are normally, if you commit Domestic Abuse, the slate is wiped clean of all smarty points and I will have nothing to do with you again. If I can do that to my father, I can do it to someone I hardly know who is reading this blog or even a best friend.
It takes a real man to express his love through equality, fairness and compromise. It takes a spineless rat to express his so called love through violence or controlling behaviour.
Today, I got my first pair of glasses. Age is catching up & my lens in my eyes, especially my right eye, aren’t so flexible. I quite like my glasses. They’re Oakleys that make me look a bit younger & loads more intelligent than I really am.
I expect I’ll eventually get to feel like they’re a part of me, but right now, they’re a mix of being an exciting new development & a bit of dread as to what folk will think or say. Best bit is though, that everything is so sharp. The TV looks like it’s HD, I can read signs on the road earlier & I can see in 20/20 again.
So this is the start of the new me, or so it feels. Once the jokes fade away from friends who know me well enough to take he piss & the novelty for me wears off, it’ll just be an extension of me. The reality is that there are many who have much more to get used to than me & I am going to watch them with great joy over the next couple of weeks as they prove that they are not disabled, but elite athletes. Can’t wait. Come on Team GB!