Thursday, 12 November 2009

Shopping and Motorcycles

I am going, as always, to the Motorcycle Show at the NEC in Birmingham in a few days.

And, as always, I will be going in the car.

Now, this may seem strange for someone who professes to love bikes and for whom paying for parking is an irritation at best and anathema at worst. However, there is method to my madness, over and above a less than passionate love of the M6 on a winter's night and this is best explained by a post on the Motorcycle News forum after my last foray to the, much more convenient, London Show in February of this year:

"How the HELL....?

Ok, here's the thing.

I'm thinking of doing a bit of green-laning, partly as I may be going on a bike holiday that involves some off-roadish stuff, partly to improve my skills. So I thought I'd invest in some proper kit - nothing too expensive, until I know I like it, but enough to at least LOOK the part!

So, as I found myself with a few hours to spare unexpectedly this afternoon, I took myself off to the Excel show, see if I could pick up a bargain.

And I did, sort of.

I managed to get a nice Shark MX helmet quite cheap (although did rather fall in love with the new Arai Tour-X3, but couldn't justify the cost) and a pair of Oxtar MX boots.

However, when I got back to the bike, having congratulated myself for having the foresight to bring the Dulls, with it's panniers and top box, I made some interesting discoveries.

MX helmets are a different shape and take up a lot more room in a top box.
MX helmets don't fit into the pull out helmet section of an Oxford rucksack
You should always carry a cargo net or bungees
MX boots are bloody HUGE and don't bend. This means that they don't fit in a top box full of MX helmet
They also don't fit into the side panniers of a Dulls. To be honest, not much does.
So, bright idea time - put the Oxtars ON, and squeeze my ordinary, well worn and therefore flexible road boots into the top box.

Next interesting discovery. Trying to put on brand new and stiff MX boots, in a dark car park is a new meaning for the word 'fun'.

Finally, I managed to get everything squashed in, by which time it was completely dark and they were gritting the acccess roads.

So, off I went, out of the car park, onto the slip... or rather, as it's now gritted with appears to be fine sand.... slippery road, which is where I made my most interesting discovery.

MX boots are so big and clumpy, you cant' get your toes under the gear shift to change up.
No matter what I did, I couldn't change gear. Nor, for that matter, could I feel a bloody thing.

So, I have no idea whether this a feature of the Dullsville or whether I'm doing something wrong, but I rode home with two huge MX boots strapped to my back with a mixture of my back protector and the braces that hold my strides up.

If I'd come off, I would not only have hurt my back, but would have mooned the Emergency services.


How the HELL are you supposed to ride in these things??????"

So, shopping or riding. Those who know me will understand............ no competition.

Thursday, 24 September 2009


er⋅go⋅nom⋅ic defines Ergonomics as:

human engineering 

–noun an applied science that coordinates the design of devices, systems, and physical working conditions with the capacities and requirements of the worker.

Voice of the Alter Ego defines it as:

The science of creating and deploying technology in such a way as to give yourself and your colleagues a really good laugh at somebody Else's expense.

An example of this is the loos at the hotel I'm currently at.

When you walk in, the lights sense movement and come on automatically.

When you wash your hands, the taps sense your hands beneath them and turn the water on automatically.

And naturally, not to mention hygienically, the toilet flush requires no physical contact, detecting the movement of your hand over a sensor on the wall and flushing automatically and, it must be said, vigorously.

This is, you may think, a demonstration of the perfect deployment of technology, and I would be inclined to agree with you.

However (and there is always a 'however'), this is where the Voice of the Alter Ego definition of Ergonomics comes in:

Ergonomics engineers decide that although the light sensor comes on when you open the door to the toilet on the way in......... it is less sensitive when you exit your cubicle to pitch darkness. There is always the alternative of playing basketball whilst using the facilities, but for a man, that would constitute multi-tasking.

We don't multi-task.

IF you are fortunate enough to guess what has happened, you will stand there in pitch darkness, waving your arms like a student of method acting 'being' a windmill. This is fine, unless someone walks in at that moment - triggering the light naturally - to find you standing there, wondering why you are pretending to swim in the middle of the toilet?

If you are not fortunate enough to guess what has happened, you will spend some time, fumbling round the walls in some sort of Fort Boyard type test, looking for a non-existent light switch. This seems to defeat the purpose, unless of course, you subscribe to the Voice's definition....

Ergonomics will also dictate that, as you cannot manually turn on or control the water, you will probably scald one hand, freeze the other and, in all probability, splash water down to the front of your trousers in that way that is so common, but so impossible to explain. This does not however prevent you from trying.

However, Ergonomic's greatest flash of brilliance is reserved for the flushing mechanism.

It is wonderfully clever to create a flush that merely requires you to wave your hand over a sensor on the wall, removing the need for physical contact with something that, almost by definition, will not be very hygienic.

It is truly INSPIRED however to mount it on the wall DIRECTLY above the toilet roll holder.

So, as you sit there (in all probability in pitch darkness), you reach for the paper and WHOOOOOSH. Your hand passes in front of the sensor and you are rewarded with the feeling that you have been sitting - commando - over the blow-hole of a Sperm Whale returning from a particularly arduous dive.

Oh, how they must be laughing at Acme Ergonomics Inc.

Oh what fun they must have, coming up with these wonderful ways to deploy technology.

I wonder if they have any jobs going?

Tuesday, 25 August 2009


I've been trying to compile my list of 'Desert Island Discs' which is difficult for any number of reasons. For a start, what IS the protocol on the spelling of 'Disc'? Is it Disc for records (if you don't remember records, don't bother reading on) but Disk for computer media? Or vice versa?

For convention and out of an innate laziness, I'm going to stick with 'Disc' for now, not least because this post is not about discs.

Because it strikes me that any person or organisation that is willing to strand me on a desert island, with a means of playing discs, a favourite book (as well as the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespere) and a luxury of my choice, can also stretch the envelope a little, and provide me with some means of playing videos.

This thought was prompted by an idle browsing of YouTube not, as is my normal wont, for videos of cats doing amusing things or people coming a cropper, often on motorcycles, but of music videos, and this, oddly, made me realise something.

The songs that move me are NOT necessarily the same as the videos that do.

For anyone who may not be familiar with the concept of Desert Island Discs, you can take eight songs with you, which is all the music you will have on your island, for an undefined period of time. If you're going to take eight songs and ONLY eight songs with you, they have to be songs that move you, or mean something to you.

I've already started compiling my Desert Island Discs on here, although I've hit a bit of a brick wall and I fully intend to continue with this. However, when I've looked at the videos - the proper videos, not someone's home mash-up or a kareoke soft-focus jobbie - I've often found myself un-moved. How odd. A song that can move me to tears - of sadness, joy, regret or simply rememberance - can leave me relatively cold when 'enhanced' by video. Yet songs which I like, but which I wouldn't consider as part of my desert island list strike that emotional nerve in much the same way as the end of ET or the old Post Office advert with the little girl and the birthday cards.

If music has charms to soothe the savage breast, then it would seem, videos have charms to make a middle-aged bloke well up.

This morning, for example, I watched Meatloaf's "Objects in the Rearview Mirror" (sic). Although my pedant warning was triggered by a deviance from the the lyric, replacing a car with a biplane, I have to say the emotion of the song got to me in a way I wasn't expecting. Although the story in no way relates to my own years as a child - my father never hit me, let alone again and again and again - I found myself mourning my lost youth, missed opportunities, friendships squandered, lessons not learned. I've always believed you cannot look back and yet, in truth, I do so more and more.

Hopefully, as I get older, my memory will continue to deteriorate and I won't do this so much.

Perhaps, in truth, this would not be a good song to take to the Island, for that very reason. It would not be sensible to sit there on the beach, mourning lost friendships and lost youth, when I should be out gathering coconuts.

So, over subsequent posts, it is my intention to identify other songs where the video enhances the experience for me, to the extent that it creates an emotional response. However, I have an subconcious worry that these will all tend toward the sad end of the spectrum, so I apologise for that in advance and will fully understand if you wish to skip these and look for content highlighting my innate inability to deal with the complexities of modern life, such as mobile phones and Facebook.

But do check out Meatloaf's video - just not when I'm around please, unless you like seeing a grown man cry.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

The Visit

This was first posted on Six Sentences, but has apparently been deleted, so I'm posting it here for posterity and posting it today because today is painful.

I visited my Father today.

It has been some time since my last visit as, over time, the demands of a frenetic lifestyle led to them becoming less and less frequent, filial duty replacing desire, obligation replacing need.

Originally, I would talk of many things, asking for advice and guidance, receiving none, regaling him with stories of the latest exploits of his granddaughters, as if he could not see for himself how they grow and yet, over time, the content dwindled proportionate to the visits, the intervals longer and longer, the words no longer flowing.

Today was different.

Today, as so many times before, I began as the mature adult, long absolved of the need for parental navigation through the exigencies of adult reality, began with the same hollow synopsis of complex lives and personalities, began to speak without talking.

Yet today, it was all stripped away from me, not layer by layer but at once, a magician’s reveal of my inner child and suddenly, I was not an adult fulfilling a social expectation or a student seeking tutorial guidance, but, with great wracking sobs, I was that child, needing the Daddy taken from him too soon.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009


There are many, many things I hate.

Probably far too many than are healthy for me - certainly too many than are healthy for society. Many of these hatreds I can contain and, unless you are a devotee of Tim Roth's alleged use of 'micro-gestures', I would challenge most people to even be aware of them. This is odd, because I'm useless at Poker.

However, this is not always the case.

For example, there are circumstances that not only prevent the masking of hatreds, but, quite the opposite, seem to exacerbate and amplify them beyond reason (assuming of course that they are reasonable in the first place) to the extent that they take over. The most obvious of these circumstances in when I am encased in a small metal box, with an engine and controls supposedly designed to get me where I am meant to be more quickly.

More quickly than what? Teleportation? Have you SEEN the amount of traffic on the road these days, huge numbers with foreign number-plates so they can avoid paying road tax or.......

Ok, and breeeeeeath..........

However, this post is not about the hatreds that emerge when I'm driving. That would take too long and you'd never reach the end. No, this post is about the hatred that emerges when I am in bed.

(Before you leave, no, it's not about anything like that. This is a 12 certificate post).

This is my hatred of phones that ring in the night. Or rather, the three hatreds related to phones that ring in the night.

Firstly, I hate phones that ring in the wee hours. It is never good news. Never. It is never a long lost cousin in Tierre del Fuego telling you you have just inherited an estate in Monte Carlo and the Mona Lisa. So, when it rings, my heart plummets as, simultaneously, my stomach tries to escape through my sinuses. Not a nice feeling, although I could probably get a Cadbury's advert out of it if I could do it to order.

I had a call like this the night my Father died.

So, when the phone rings in the wee hours, I know I am not going to be pleased, whatever happens.

So, I hate it when the phone rings in the wee hours. That's number one.

Secondly, I hate when, having been jarred from, hopefully pleasant, dreams, you fumble for the phone, knocking glasses of water (sans teeth thank goodness), alarm clocks, pots of cufflinks and a pile of intellectually challenging books that you fully intend to read - one day - flying. I hate it even more when, along with the assorted detritus, you also knock the phone flying.

What I hate even more however is, when you finally find the phone, find which side and end is meant to be next to your ear and work out how to answer it, a process which seems to take hours, but in fact only takes a few dischordant rings, you manage to answer it, only for there to be no-one there.

Not, I stress, to find they have hung up. That is without doubt annoying, but no, this I would suggest, is worse.

What I hate is when you find that, having finally mastered the process of answering the phone, there is nobody there responding to you. You can tell the line is not dead - there are faint noises of speech in the background, but nobody responds to your increasingly shrill cries of "hello! HELLO!". Finally, as your voice reaches the pitch at which bats fall from the sky in distress, you hang up in discuss, place the phone back on the table, knocking it and any remaining accumulated rubbish to the floor, roll over and try, rather too hard, to recover the dream that, unusually, was rather vividly in your memory. I hate people who call in the middle of the night but don't speak to you.

However, what I think I hate most of all, is when the following morning, you remember the incident and determine to put your full investigative skills to work in tracking down the miscreant.

You find the phone amongst the rubbish on the floor.

You dial 1471 to find the last caller's number.

The robotic (yet strangely authoratitive) voice reads the number to you and, as always, you wonder if Stephen Hawking uses this as a chat-line?

You frown, vaguely recognising the mobile phone number you've been given. You dial 1471 a second time, to hear it again. Yes. You know it. You can't place it, but you know it. You run through a mental check-list. Kids. Nope. Mum. Look it up (she never turns it on so you never call it)- nope. Ex - nope. Brother - errr - nope.

So who IS it???

And then you remember.

You know why you never call this number.

It's because it's your number.

So, the thing I hate most about phones that ring in the night is when you leave your mobile on the bed and, in the throes of a dream, roll onto it, inciting it to ring the last number called. Your number. Last called because, as always, you couldn't find the landline handset.

The thing I hate most is when you roll onto your phone, call yourself in the wee hours, hears yourself saying "hello, HELLO!" in the background, and finally go back to sleep cursing yourself for your inconsideration.

So, I hate phones that ring in the night.

But I hate being a dingbat more.