Monthly Archives: May 2007


Use your mirrors, people. It’s what they’re there for. The M4 had a problem again on Friday evening with a couple of accidents and broken down vehicles, so there were long tailbacks. One of the advantages of being on a motorcycle is that at least you can filter between the lanes of queuing traffic.

It’s amazing though. Even with 220 Watts of driving lights on the front of my bike (240 Watts on high beam), vehicles don’t see me approaching. Either that or they DO see me approaching and decide that “because I’m stuck in traffic, I don’t see why I should let anyone else get past me.”
Fortunately I was only doing about 25 mph at the time.

So to the driver of the red car(no idea what make or model it was, I didn’t have time to identify it) whose vehicle is now missing a left-hand wing mirror, don’t worry about it. Seeing as you weren’t using it anyway you’re not going to miss it.

To all those other drivers who DO use their mirrors, and move their vehicles slightly away from the lane lines when stuck in a tailback, “Thank you.” We bikers aren’t asking you to leap out of the way, just stay in the middle of your lane so there’s room for us.

A week or so ago I was going down the M4 bus lane (For those of you not familiar with the M4, this is the right-hand lane of 3 lanes and runs for several miles going into London. Buses, Taxis and bikes are allowed to use this lane.) when I came up behind a small bus. It was obvious that he was not using his mirrors. Most taxis (and even some buses) will move over slightly to allow a bike to get past. Not this chap. (It’s not an issue when they’re keeping to the speed limit – I don’t mind staying behind them then. When they’re driving at 40mph in the 60mph zone is when I want to get past.)

Now I do frequently check MY mirrors, and as luck would have it, I spotted a vehicle approaching some way away with alternately flashing headlights and a blue flashing light on top. Not a problem, I indicated left and moved out of the bus lane. There were a few gaps in the traffic; it was not bumper-to-bumper. The otherwise unmarked police vehicle rapidly came up behind the bus. Where it stayed. Right until the end of the bus lane several miles later when it was finally able to get past the bus on the left. I think the bus driver was asleep.

My other pet hate is drivers not using their indicators. I think I’ll start carrying a screwdriver with me, and when a driver doesn’t use his indicators I’ll follow him. Once he’s stopped I’ll remove his indicator bulb. Hey, it’s not being used so there’s no reason for it to be there!

What to do on a Sunday

Well it’s Sunday again. So far the day has been spent doing all the little bits which need to be done. I won’t call them “chores” because that indicates drudgery, and once you start thinking of things as a drudge, you’ve had it – they get put off and you start dreading doing them. Washing the bike for one. Today I tried something new; after it had been washed I used Pledge to polish it. Apparently it helps to keep the bike clean, and if it rains the raindrops simply bead on the windshield and run off. Will see how it does. I don’t wash the bike every week; only if it has been raining or if it’s winter – it’s amazing how corrosive road salt can be if you don’t wash it off. The good thing about washing the bike is that you get early warnings about loose bolts, fork tube pitting, brake wear and that sort of thing. The only thing I struggle with is cleaning the wheels; my hands are too big to get into all the little nooks and crannies which Honda engineers saw fit to incorporate into the design! I do all my own servicing (except for adjusting the valves which I get my local dealer to do). I also check the bike over ready for the week’s commuting. Apparently only 18% of Brits check their tyre pressures weekly.

I’ve also started the bread; I have been making my own bread for years. (I cheat a bit, I have a Kenwood breadmaker). But it does taste better than shop-bought bread, and I know what’s in it! The other problem with shop-bought ready-cut bread is that the slices are never the correct width! Even the thick slices aren’t quite thick enough. So I made myself a bread slicer – just a breadboard which has wooden strips attached to each side. Each strip is exactly the right thickness and functions as a guide for the breadknife.

I make my own beer too; I quite like strong beer and by brewing your own you can get the strength just right!

Later on I’ve got the ironing to do – work shirts for the week ahead. I do my own ironing; my wife refuses to touch my shirts which is ok as I don’t mind it really. After all I was in the army for two years and ironing is just one of the things they teach you!

Apart from that there’s always other things which need to be done; maintaining the house (we’ve got a leaky roof at the moment and the repairs would cost £2400 – I’ll fix it myself thank you very much! – I just need a rain-free weekend. Then I’ve got a Land Rover to rebuild… I’m actually looking forward to the day I can retire – at least then I’ll have time to do things!

I was actually putting off creating a blog. I thought it should be like a book, with a storyline which flows. But then I realized if I waited until I had a coherent storyline it would be yet another thing which never gets done! I named it Seriesowner because I used to own a Series 3 Land Rover.

So, a bit about myself:
My mother was in the WAAFS during the war. Their family lived in London (she was born in Glenelg Road in Brixton). Her father had size 5 feet and was a chubby, cheery little man. He was a shopkeeper who amused the family by tapdancing. He decided because of the danger posed to London by the Luftwaffe, to move the family to Lowestoft in Suffolk. My uncle turned 18 and joined the RAF as an apprentice. One weekend my mother had applied for leave to visit home, but was refused because a raid was coming over. After her shift finished, she went home, only to find that a German bomb had landed on her house, killing her mother, father and brother. She had quite a few penfriends during this time, one of whom was my father. He grew up in Lowestoft as part of a family of 13, having three sisters and seven brothers. Being the second eldest, he was looking after his younger siblings. He lost his front teeth when he was a teenager; he was drinking from a bottle of pop when somebody hit the end of the bottle. He turned out to be the black sheep of the family because he decided to leave England and go overseas to join the Palestine Police. This was before the Second World War broke out. When the war ended, he came back to England and asked my mother to marry him (“Well, why not, you don’t have anybody else!” were apparently the words of his proposal!)

My sister was born in 1946, in Lowestoft, followed a year later by my brother. Finding it difficult to make a living in post-war England, my father decided to leave for Africa. He had a farm in Kenya for a few years, keeping mainly livestock. My mother always tells of the cow they called Daisy who used to put her head through the kitchen window and lick the soap! They had a few dogs, one of whom was called Mush; he fathered many generations of puppies in Kitale. On one occasion, the chickens started going missing. My father sat up one night with the shotgun, and hearing something in the chicken run, shone his torch and fired. It was an eagle owl. The next day he took the body to the local museum; it was the biggest eagle owl yet found in Kenya – the stuffed carcass is apparently still on display there.

Trouble then started up with a local group known as the Mau Mau. One of my parents’ friends had a brand new shiny car, and his houseboy always took very good care of it; he was always outside polishing it. One day the chap asked him why, to which the reply was “well, when the Mau Mau take over, this will be my car”. “What about me then?” the chap asked. “Oh, you’ll be dead, Bwana” was the serious reply.

Another couple of acquaintances had a native cook who was very capable of cooking… mince. After several visits to their house, my father remarked that he was a bit tired of being fed mince for dinner, so concocted a plan. The next time they were invited to dinner, he went to the local butcher and bought several pieces of expensive sirloin steak. Giving these to the hosts, he said “this time, I’ve brought dinner!” The hostess took the meat through to the kitchen and gave it to the cook to prepare. After several pre-prandial drinks, everybody sat down to dinner and the cook brought the meal through. Lifting the lid of the salver, he revealed his effort for the evening… mince!

Things did not go very well with the farm and my father eventually sold it. The family moved to Uganda where my father obtained a job with the local government. My brother and sister stayed at boarding school in Kenya – my brother attending the Prince of Wales school at the same time as Roger Whittaker. I was born in Mbale.

As befitted the women of those days, my mother did not drive. One day she found that she needed something from the local town, and as my father was away at work, she decided to take the Land Rover into town herself. This was achieved successfully, although at a slow careful rate. She ended up taking driving lessons there. The examiner was extremely stringent, even telling her to stop on an incline, getting out, and putting a box of matches just behind the rear wheel. Another test was reversing into a driveway on a culvert over an open drain. Needless to say, she passed her test. The next time she was to drive a car was after my father had died in 1990.

One holiday was taken on the coast at Mombasa, where my father collected quite a few colourful shells. These were brought all the way home on the train, in a small suitcase. Because the weather was fairly hot, a strange smell started to spread throughout the compartment. This was noticed by the steward who gave my parents some very strange looks! When the shells eventually arrived home, advice was given by a neighbour to bury them near an anthill so that the shells would be left nice and clean. This was duly done. The next day, the entire ant population vacated the premises! The shells were never cleaned, and as far as I know are still buried there!