Tuesday, 2 November 2010

NFL 2010 and patriotism?

Sunday, my son and I went to the annual NFL match at Wembley. Quick round-up of the game, as that's not really what this post is about.
First half was a bit slow and tentative, to say the least. But in the third and fourth quarters, the 49-ers really came alive. Got to feel sorry for the Broncos, to get an awesome running touchdown disallowed, but hey, that's the nature of the game, and rules is rules.

The annual International game at Wembley is always a blast. I've been to some pretty big events over the years, but nowhere has ever had the atmosphere that exists on that one day every year.

From the opening of the Tailgate party to the final whistle, it's amazing.



This year's pre-match show was good too. The Niner Noise and the Gold Rush put on a good show, generating a lot of crowd enjoyment. Similarly, My Chemical Romance, despite all my misgivings prior to the day, were really rather good. Like The Feeling who played the first Wembley match, they worked with the audience.

Unlike the Stereophonics last year, who did their level best to kill the atmosphere :(

But when it comes to the National Anthems, the organisers do need to be a bit more choosy. On the whole, it would be better if they picked performers that the Audience could sing along with, and show their patriotism, rather than stars whose only interest is to perform.

This year's American offering was diabolical. Michelle Williams from Destiny's Child screeched her way appallingly through the American Anthem, and the US guys sitting near us were finding it impossible to share their patriotism with someone so very much more interested in portraying her 'skills' than singing a tribute to her Country,

On the other hand, the British Anthem was played dead straight - no frills, no twiddles, just pure guitar magic. That's right, it wasn't sung, but played by the great Jeff Beck. Problem was, all the Brits were so in awe of his musicianship, that everybody forgot to sing!



Not that there's much interest in the National Anthem these days. It's not that the Brits aren't patriotic, they are. Especially since the Iran and Afghan Wars began. It's just that our anthem is so drear. And, I might add, if you sing the whole thing, quite offensive to the Scots!

verse 6:

Lord grant that Marshal Wade
May by thy mighty aid
Victory bring
May he sedition hush
And like a torrent rush
Rebellious Scots to crush
God save the Queen


I really think it's time that we had something that more people identify with. It would, I think, have to be a totally new anthem, as I can't think of anything out there already, that's totally suitable for the United Kingdom. Above all, it needs to be uplifting, and something that the British people can identify with, and want to sing.

While we're on the subject, it's also high time we had an English anthem. After all, the Scots have 'Flower of Scotland', the Welsh, St. David's Hymn etc. etc., but we do not have an official English anthem.

Let's face it, there's two immediate contenders - Hubert Parry's 'Jerusalem' and Edward Elgar's Pomp And Circumstance (Land Of Hope And Glory)

We are also the only component Kingdom of the United Kingdom not to recognise our Saint's Day officially. So how about joining the campaign to make St. George's Day a National Day of Celebration? Though quite why we should have a Roman Syrian as a national saint, I've not yet fathomed. St. Thomas A Becket Day would be more apposite. At least he was an English Saint.

Friday, 22 October 2010

The Prayer


I guess all of us whose partners ride, feel this way sometimes..........

(artwork by Japanese artist Fuyumi Soryo)

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

How should I greet thee?

When we two parted
In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.

The dew of the morning
Sunk chill on my brow--
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.

They name thee before me,
A knell to mine ear;
A shrudder comes o'er me--
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee so well--
Long, long I shall rue thee,
Too deeply to tell.

In secret we met—
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?--
With silence and tears.


That's a poem by Lord Byron, probably my favourite poet of all times.
That particular poem has always struck a chord in my heart. There was once somebody that I cared about very deeply. As the years pass, I miss him still, but probably a little less each year.
It has been over 30 years. I still care

But...................if we ever met again?.........................

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Book review - The Book Of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern



Yeah, yeah, I know - it's 'chick lit' and I don't do 'chick lit'.

Well, I didn't, until a good friend introduced me to the writings of Cecelia Ahern. She writes the most amazing books, in a totally unique style, and from the moment you open the cover, to the moment you turn the last page, they remain glued to your fingers.

As with all of her books, you learn all you need to know about the characters, the locations, and how they arrived at the point where the story starts in the first few pages. In a few words, she has an ability to paint complete pictures to set the scenes, leaving you free from then on, to enjoy the unfolding story.

The books are always set in Ireland, and the stories are told with a wry, gentle humour, and always have a quirky little twist to them.

I'm not going to tell you anything about this story, because to do so, would be to destroy a little of the magic. Suffice it to say, that Miss Ahern has once again excelled in creating a unique tale that holds you entranced all the way through.

In her own words..........

Somehow, the books sit there, almost magically willing people to pick them up. The right person for the right book. It's as though they already know whose life they need to be a part of, how they can make a difference, how they can teach a lesson, put a smile on a face at just the right time. I think about books a lot differently now.

Rating: a very definite 5/5

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

New addition to the garage.....

Meet the all-new Honda VFR1200DCT



one freaky, awesome hunk of motorcycle technology. The styling takes some getting used to, but after 3 days, I think it's rather beautiful. Gear changing in both automatic and manual modes is seamless, although it does seem to change a bit too early in auto mode. But that, apparently, is to aid fuel consumption.

Is dual-clutch technology the future of motorcycling? Well, I'm not sure. The DN-01 has not grabbed everybody's interest, but I guess a lot of that is down to its more radical styling and impracticality.

The VFR is a far more practical proposition, although the luggage is not quite as spacious as it could be, and the fuel range of, at most, 150 miles, could be better on a sports-tourer.

Next to get the automatic treatment will be the venerable Gold Wing, and that, I think, could be a vast improvement over the current model.

Well, we'll see. I can't see this technology being rolled out to sports bikes yet. For one thing, the DCT adds quite a lot of weight, and for another, I think sports bike riders would prefer to remain in total manual control of their machines

Monday, 6 September 2010

I'm angry....................

yeah, you better believe it. I'm angry as hell.....................

I've just come back from one of the best solo trips away I've ever had. Me 'n the LittleInsect went doing the tourist bit in Shropshire and North/Mid Wales.

Well, one of the best trips.....except for the idiot JobsWorth on the last day, who did his best to make me feel like some inferior creature from an alien civilisation.

On the last day, I'm cruising around the coast of Wales in the late summer sunshine, and, fancying a nice cooling ice cream, I dropped down into a little place called New Quay.

New Quay is a little seaside resort, very similar to those you find in Cornwall and North Devon, where you drop down a steep hill to a tiny secluded village, with a nice sandy beach looking out over a wide bay.

I headed for the harbour looking for somewhere to park. Now, as you go along the sea front, there's a large Corporation car park off to the left. Unfortunately, it's on a very steep slope. The LittleInsect doesn't have a centre stand, so I could immediately forsee issues with getting him to stand level without toppling over, and further issues with my poorly wrists in turning him around to leave.

Immediately opposite was a small area for motorcycles. It only held about 4 bikes, and it was already full. Next to that was a long thin car park with signs saying 'cars only'. Normally when you see such signs, it's because they don't want spaces being taken by caravanettes or light commerical vehicles. In other words, they're for private vehicles only.

There was one space, so I parked the bike and headed off to the machine to get a ticket.

It's HOW MUCH????

hmmm...£2.80. Well, OK, so it's not cheap, but I did want the loo, and I did want a coffee or icecream, so.............

The ticket machine was one where you input the numbers from your registration.............647.......(wonder what they do now that UK registrations all have the same numbers according to year?)

I put the number in, followed by my hard-earned £2.80 and got my ticket.

I walked back to the Insect, and as I was putting the ticket in the holder I carry for such purposes, a red estate car pulled up behind me.............

"You can't park there. Can't you read? It says cars only"
"sorry, but I took that to mean no comms or vans etc........."

The car was unmarked, and the guy was not wearing any uniform or anything to distinguish him as having any responsibility for the car park

"Clear off. I know your type. You bikers take up all the car spaces, and never pay"
"excuse me?" I held up my parking ticket for him to see.

"how do I know you haven't taken that off a car with the same number"

hmmmm......let me see.......is there another car with the digits 647.........nope. What did I do, find one, break into it, and remove the ticket from it's windscreen?

"not likely, is it? As you can see" (showing him my holder still stuffed with tickets from previous car parks) "I always pay if there's no dedicated bike park"

"I know what you bikers are like. One of you turns up, buys a ticket, then a load more turn up and fill up all the spaces"

"I can't see any other bikes waiting to park, can you?"

"well this car park is for CARS not bikes. Go away"

"so you're saying that motorcyclists don't have the right to behave like car drivers, or the right to visit anywhere in the UK we choose, like other people?"

"that's right. Go away"

"now as far as I can see, you have 3 choices. 1) you can leave me alone. I have a legally purchased ticket, and I'm not contravening any parking regulations or bye-laws. 2) you can refund my £2.80, at which point I will be pleased to leave and never darken New Quay with my presence again. or 3) (getting my mobile phone out of my pocket) I can call the police and tell them I am a woman travelling alone, and I feel threatened................."

(actually, I couldn't get a signal on my cell phone due to the geography of the place, but he didn't think about that)

"Well I supose you'd better stay there for now, as you're being so aggressive about it, but when you leave, don't bother coming back"

Believe me, I shall NEVER go back to New Quay. Pity, because it's a smashing little place, and I shall do my best to ensure none of my friends go there either.

Bl**dy NCP. I'm in the process of contacting their head office to lodge a formal complaint about the attitude of their staff towards perfectly ordinary law-abiding citizens, who just happen to prefer 2 wheels to 4................

So, if you're reading this, DON'T GO TO NEW QUAY. ABERDOVEY IS MUCH NICER

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Book review - We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver


Undoubtedly, one of the best novels I have ever read, and I don't say that lightly. Despite the name, Lionel Shriver is a woman, and this book could only have been written by a woman. That doesn't mean, however, that it is 'chick lit'. Far from it, this story is hard hitting and often cruel, both in its' concept, and telling.


It is also unusual, in the fact that you start by knowing the crime that Kevin has committed, albeit in no great detail, and the story unfolds through a series of letters from his mother to his father.

Reading it, there are details of Kevin's upbringing that will strike a chord with many parents. Points where you think 'oh yes - my child was like that'. There are other details which are quite disturbing.

This is one book that I sincerely hope they never try to make into a film. There's no way a film could convey the mother's feelings towards her son, or her husband, or the guilt that she feels over Kevin's crime. Or how she tries to rebuild her life afterwards.

As the story unfolds, you feel more and more disturbed, and the final revelations are quite appalling. You're left at the end wondering if Kevin is mentally ill, or if what happened was the result of his mother's feelings towards him, or if he really was born just pure and plain evil.

Rating 5/5

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Book review - The Prester Quest by Nicholas Jubber


The legend of Prester John has inspired many books over the years, both fictional and relatively factual. I say relatively, because the whole business of Prester John and the letters he supposedly wrote, is probably one huge medieval hoax.

In 1177, Pope Alexander III wrote a letter to the Priest-King of the Indies, Prester John. As his emissary he chose his physician, Master Philip. No-one knew where the legendary monarch's kingdom lay (or indeed whether he even existed) but Master Philip was undeterred. He supposedly set out from Venice.......and was never heard of again.

Centuries later, Nick Jubber found a copy of the Pope's original letter, and decided to complete Master Philip's mission and deliver the letter, albeit 824 years late. The Post Office would have been proud of him.

The resulting book is well-written, funny, and full of historical facts and detail. Probably the best bits deal with his and his companion, Mike's, travels through the Holy Land. The situation in the middle east and the eastern side of Africa today, is complex. With so many religions and variants fighting each other, and claiming vast tracts of land as their right, it's often very difficult to sort out who's who.

Nick Jubber has a way of explaining things through the eyes of the people he meets. He also compares today's situations with the happenings during the times of the Crusades, and Saladin, and finds that really, very little has changed over the passing centuries.

Probably the best section of this book, is the section devoted to the Holy Land. It does tend to flag a little, when he passes into Africa and heads ever south.

Does he find Prester John? I'll leave that for you to discover............

On the whole, this is a fast-moving narrative, with much to recommend it.

Rating 4/5

Monday, 9 August 2010

American Football

Yeah! the season's nearly upon us, and yet again, I've got tickets for the Big Game at Wembley.

Don't usually like sport (other than motorcycle racing, of course), but they started showing American Football on UK TV when my son was small, and I used to watch it with him, and got hooked.

He's a Dolphins fan. No accounting for taste, I suppose. When we started watching it, we each picked a team and had a sort of season-long competition between ourselves. I picked the Steelers, simply because I liked their colours. But I soon got really into it.

I think it's because I can understand the game. It's logical, decisive and, being a game of set plays, as easy to follow as a game of chess.

Then they started the London matches. So far, I've been lucky and managed to get tickets for us both every year. It will break my heart if the Steelers ever come over, and we don't get tickets.

So, this year, there will be him in his Dolphins shirt, sitting next to me in my Steelers Polamalu one, and we'll both be cheering on the 49ers. The atmosphere at Wembley is always amazing. Because we only get to see one live game a year, everybody there is out for a good day. Doesn't matter if it's not your team playing, it's a chance to marvel at some of the best athletes in the world, to indulge in some friendly banter with complete strangers, and enjoy the whole experience.

The guys are currently at training camp, and I would like to wish the Steel Men all the best for the coming season. Be assured, if there's a Steelers game showing on TV, I'll be there, glued to the set, oblivious to everything and everyone around me.

And Troy - what about another one of these?

And as an added extra, couldn't resist this photo (that's Troy on the right, if you didn't know), seeing as it combines two of my favourite things in life..........




Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Immigration

Although I'm not prejudiced in any way, shape or form, I must admit this did make me chuckle a bit............well, OK, a lot.............



Now, as I said, I'm not prejudiced, but there are far too many immigrants coming to the UK.
It doesn't matter what nationality or religion they are, these overcrowded little islands just don't have room for them.

I know that a lot come here seeking ways to better themselves, and who can blame them? We moan and gripe when things get tough, but there's people out there a whole lot worse off than ourselves. And if you were in their position, wouldn't you try to make a better life for yourself and your family?

On the other side of the coin, there are those who come here (quite often illegally), because they perceive the UK as an easy touch.

Mind - there's indigenous folk who perceive the UK as an easy touch as well. ;)

Point is, we have 3.5 million unemployed. OK, so take out the 1m or so who prefer to live off the state, rather than earn their keep, there's still a shortage of work. I work in an industry that, over the past two years, has seen over 60% of all its' work outsourced to the growing eastern economies, particularly India. This has only served to worsen the economy back home.

I'm not stupid. I understand the logical choice of employers to do this, but it hasn't helped. And now, with a virtually open door policy that permits European residents to live and work where ever they choose, the poor old UK is bursting at the seams.

Our National Health Service (one of the 'institutions' that foreigners find so admirable) is stretched to the limit - to the point where it is often cheaper, and quicker for people to go abroad for treatment. And after the recent world financial market debacle, and the current cutbacks to pay off the UK debt mountain, things are not going to get better any time soon.

I've not got any answers, I'm no economist, but I do care, and I am worried. I'm getting to the end of my working career, and indeed, my '4 score years and ten'. But what will the future hold for my son? Or his children, should he ever find the right woman......................

From where I'm sitting, the future is not Orange, it's not even bright..........................

See.........

I don't know who wrote this, or where it originated. If I've infringed anyone's copyright, I'm sorry. If I knew who you are, I would give you full credit - for voicing what every single motorcyclist feels, and fears


SEE

I saw you,
hug your purse closer to you in the grocery store line.
But, you didn't see me,
put an extra £10.00 in the collection plate last Sunday.


I saw you,
pull your child closer when we passed each other on the sidewalk.
But, you didn't see me,
playing Santa at the local mall.


I saw you,
change your mind about going into the restaurant.
But, you didn't see me,
attending a meeting to raise more money for the hurricane relief.


I saw you,
roll up your window and shake your head when I drove by.
But, you didn't see me,
driving behind you when you flicked your cigarette butt out the car window.


I saw you,
frown at me when I smiled at your children.
But, you didn't see me,
when I took time off from work to run toys to the homeless.


I saw you,
stare at my long hair.
But, you didn't see me,
and my friends cut ten inches off for Locks of Love.


I saw you,
roll your eyes at our leather coats and gloves.
But, you didn't see me,
and my brothers donate our old coats and gloves to those that had none.


I saw you,
look in fright at my tattoos.
But, you didn't see me,
cry as my children were born and have their names written over and in my
heart.


I saw you,
change lanes while rushing off to go somewhere.
But, you didn't see me,
going home to be with my family.


I saw you,
complain about how loud and noisy our bikes can be.
But, you didn't see me,
when you were changing the CD and drifted into my lane.


I saw you,
yelling at your kids in the car.
But, you didn't see me,
pat my child's hands, knowing he was safe behind me.


I saw you,
reading the newspaper or map as you drove down the road.
But, you didn't see me,
squeeze my wife's leg when she told me to take the next turn.


I saw you,
race down the road in the rain.
But, you didn't see me,
get soaked to the skin so my son could have the car to go on his date.


I saw you,
run the yellow light just to save a few minutes of time.
But, you didn't see me,
trying to turn right.


I saw you,
cut me off because you needed to be in the lane I was in.
But, you didn't see me,
leave the road.


I saw you,
waiting impatiently for my friends to pass.
But, you didn't see me.
I wasn't there.


I saw you,
go home to your family.
But, you didn't see me.
Because, I died that day you cut me off.


I was just a biker,.....
A person with friends and a family.
But, you didn't see me.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Done, and still to do.......

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

I posted that, and posed the question, on an earlier blog.

I've done a lot with my short span on this earth, but I've wanted to do oh so much more. Somehow, life has conspired against me.
It's not just a lack of money, or time, although both have had their effect. Sometimes it's been a lack of somebody to share it with me. Although my husband and I do have a lot in common, and do enjoy a lot of things together, sometimes our tastes are wildly convergant.

I envy my son - he, being single, and loving travel, spends a lot of time visiting places that I would love to see.
He knows this, and always brings me back a memento, often in the form of a book, so that I can enjoy those places through him.

So, what would I like to do?
Watch an opera at the Baths Of Caracalla in Rome
Watch the sun set over Ayers Rock
Ride Route 66 from one end to the other

With retirement looming, maybe I'll get the chance to fulfil at least one of those ambitions.

Mind you, it's not always necessary to spend large amounts of money to achieve maximum satisfaction.

There have been moments I will always treasure, that have cost next-to-nothing to achieve, and others that have been totally unexpected.

Like having to camp over night unexpectedly halfway down the Rhine Valley because my travelling companion had trouble with the lights on his 1947 Vincent, and being treated to the surprise of a wonderful fireworks display taking place at the Stolzenfels Castle across the river. What could have been a very boring evening, thus transformed into a wonderful memory.

I'm a great one for sitting somewhere, and just looking at the scenery in front of me. Where I grew up, there was an escarpment nearby, with views over Romney Marsh, and out to sea. Imagine sitting there one warm evening, and as the light begins to fade, seeing a magnificent tall ship sailing quietly through the English Channel.............
And sitting up on the ruins of Tintagel Castle, listening to Arthur Bax' 'Tintagel' tone poem on my iPod, and looking out over the rocky coastline, and deep blue sea..........................

Sometimes it takes very little to please me.............

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Did I do that?

I've just come back from a ride on my motorcycle, with a furry visor. It's one of those things that bikers learn to live with in the summer months, like they do 'wet ear syndrome' in the cold weather (work it out for yourself!)

So out comes the wet tissues, and the visor cleaning begins, ready to go through the whole experience again tomorrow.

There was a particularly large greenish splodge with red bits today. Totally unidentifiable as previously having been any kind of living creature.

Got me wondering.....................

what if..........................

that particular splodge was the last remaining member of some species hitherto unknown to man? What if it was something that, had we known about it earlier, could have been beneficial to mankind?

Ah well, guess we'll never know..............

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Dogs

I grew up with dogs. My late father was a shepherd, who bred award winning working Border Collies, and we always had 5 or 6 around the place.
Of all domesticated animals, they are the ones with the most character.

This article just goes to prove my point.
I read it a couple of hours ago, and I'm still laughing

http://littera-abactor.livejournal.com/7748.html

Friday, 4 June 2010

You have the right to remain stupid

If someone told you the world was square with purple elephants on it, you'd be correct to label them stupid, insane or perhaps both and no one would disagree.

But you probably wouldn't call them stupid or insane to their face.

Everyone has a right to their own opinion, even if it's wrong, stupid, ignorant and without any basis in reality. I respect that 'right'. But I don't have to necessarily agree with it.

When I point out to people, friends or otherwise, the inaccuracies of their logic or prove them wrong, they rant and rave like demented souls.
Then they tell me they have the RIGHT to their opinion.

Well, if your opinion is that 2 + 2 = 5, well I'm sorry, you're stupid. That's not an opinion, that's a fact
And most people just can't accept being told that they're wrong.

a bit from a poem by Mary Oliver

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?




damn...got to do some work now..I'll expand on this later. Meanwhile, what IS it you plan to do?

Thursday, 3 June 2010

My other blog

It was while I was writing the bit about Slapton Sands on this blog, that I realised that I've got literally hundreds of photos of places I've been, and loved, so I decided to set up another blog, to try and do justice to the beautiful country we call 'home'.
You'll find the link in the 'Links' section on this page. It's called 'My British Isles'.

You know, they keep on about people staying at home because of ash clouds, air fares, air miles, etc., but personally speaking, I'd be more than happy if everyone holidayed abroad, so that I've got the roads and the beautiful scenery to myself.

Trouble is, the British Tourist industry would soon go bust! Ah well, can't have it all ways, I suppose.

Anyway, if you like the UK, please take a look - you may find it a bit surprising. It's not just the places you'd expect to visit..........

But then, I'm seriously odd!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

The Irritations of Art Deco

I'm fanatical about everything Art Deco - especially the Streamline moderne end of the Deco spectrum.

Now, I've got a 1:12 scale replica Art Deco house, that I was given for my birthday a few years ago, and it's almost furnished and finished the way I want it.
(you can see it by clicking the 'Ocean Boulevard' link on the right side of this page)

BUT................

the one thing I want for it, I can't find.
I want a telephone. Not just any telephone, but this one - only in 1:12 scale of course.



You think I can find one? Nope, no chance. I shall end up either trying to make one myself, or, more likely with my dodgy hands, paying somebody else to make one for me :(

Such a tiny thing, but it's been bugging me for years now. LOL the thought of a telephone bugging someone instead of someone bugging a telephone.......

anyway, if anyone comes across one (small chance!) please tell me where it is.......

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Non-Eco Friendly

Found this on the web, and although it's meant to be a joke, it does serve as a reminder of just how often mankind damages this wonderful planet of ours.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Slapton Sands

Well, I've just come back from a week swanning about my favourite part of the country - that's Dorset, and surrounding counties.
One of the places that was high on my list of places to visit when I'd got time was Slapton Sands in Devon.
It's a bleak, desolate place on the whole, especially when it's cold, windy and inclined to drizzle a bit - which it was, on the day I went there.
The story of Slapton Sands and Exercise Tiger is both tragically sad, and downright disgraceful.

In late 1943, as part of the war effort, the British Government evacuated approximately 3,000 local residents in the area of Slapton, now South Hams District of Devon
Landing exercises had started in December 1943. Exercise Tiger was one of the larger exercises that would take place in April and May 1944. The make up of Slapton Beach was selected for its similarity to Utah Beach, namely a gravel beach, followed by a strip of land and then a lake.

The exercise was to last from 22 April until 30 April 1944, at the Slapton Sands beach. On board nine large tank landing ships (LSTs), the 30,000 troops prepared for their mock beach landing.

Protection for the exercise area came from the Royal Navy. Two destroyers, three motor torpedo boats and two motor gun boats patrolled the entrance to Lyme Bay and motor torpedo boats were watching the Cherbourg area where German E-boats were based.

Early in the morning of 28 April, German E-boats that had left Cherbourg on patrol spotted a convoy of 8 LSTs carrying vehicles and combat engineers of the 1st Engineer Special Brigade in Lyme Bay and attacked.

638 servicemen were killed, compared to only about 200 in the actual Utah Beach landing, 441 U.S. Army and 197 U.S. Navy personnel. Many servicemen drowned in the cold sea while waiting to be rescued. Soldiers unused to being at sea panicked and put on their lifebelts incorrectly. In some cases this meant that when they jumped into the water, the weight of their combat packs flipped them onto their backs, pushing their heads underwater and drowning them.

Of the two ships assigned to protect the convoy, only one was present. HMS Azalea, a corvette was leading the nine LSTs in a straight line, a formation which later drew criticism since it presented an easy target to the E-boats. The second boat which was supposed to be present, HMS Scimitar, a World War I destroyer, had checked into Plymouth for minor repairs. The American forces had not been told this. When other British ships sighted the E-boats earlier in the night and told the corvette, its commander failed to tell the LST convoy, assuming incorrectly that they had already been told. This did not happen because the LSTs and British naval headquarters were operating on different frequencies. Also, British shore batteries defending Salcombe Harbour had seen silhouettes of the E-boats but had been instructed to hold fire so the Germans would not find that Salcombe was defended.

When the remaining LSTs landed on Slapton Beach, the blunders continued and a further 308 men died from friendly fire. The British heavy cruiser HMS Hawkins shelled the beach with live ammunition, following an order made by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, who felt that the men must be hardened by exposure to real battle conditions. British marines on the boat recorded in its log book (the only log which has since been recovered from any of the boats) that men were being killed by friendly fire.

All survivors were sworn to secrecy by their superiors.

In his book The Forgotten Dead - Why 946 American Servicemen Died Off The Coast Of Devon In 1944 - And The Man Who Discovered Their True Story, published in 1988, Ken Small declares that the event "was never covered up; it was 'conveniently forgotten'".

The 'official' memorial stands at the Dartmouth end of Slapton Sands.



it records the gratitude of the forces to the people of the area who gave up their homes



it makes no mention of those who lost their lives.

With little or no support from the American or British armed forces for any venture to recover remains or dedicate a memorial to the incident, Devon resident and civilian Ken Small took on the task of seeking to commemorate the event, after discovering evidence of the aftermath washed up on the shore while beachcombing in the early 1970s.

In 1974, Small bought from the U.S. Government the rights to a submerged tank from the 70th Tank Battalion discovered by his search efforts. In 1984, with the aid of local residents and diving firms, he finally raised the tank, which now stands as a memorial to the incident. The local authority provided a plinth on the seafront to put the tank on, and erected a plaque in memory of the men killed. Small documents how the local villagers were of more assistance than either the US or UK military officials. Later the American military honored and supported him, when at the same time the UK military were snubbing his efforts. Small died of cancer in March 2004, a few weeks before the 60th anniversary of the Exercise Tiger incident.

This is the memorial that, thanks to Ken, stands at the Torcross end of Slapton Sands, and which gives a true and fitting tribute to those marines.

Friday, 7 May 2010

UK Elections




says it all really..............

To those who didn't bother to vote, you've only got yourselves to blame, if you don't get the government you want.

Mind you, looks like we'll eventually end up with the Government we deserve........

Monday, 26 April 2010

Craftwork

My favourite past-time, when I can't ride the bikes, is any sort of craftwork. I make all my own greetings cards, some presents, and basically, do anything anyone asks me to do. I embroider, crochet, make lace, paint - you name it. The one thing I can't do, however, is knit. Mum tried to teach me, but found it too difficult, because I suffer from being extremely left-handed - almost to the exclusion of using my right hand - or 'sinister', as the ancient Romans would have it!


If I haven't got anything better to do, I 'paint' needle portraits of my friends on their bikes..........


This is New Zealander, Adam Donovan racing in the Isle of Man TT




This one was still in progress when the picture was taken - Dennis Hobbs, BSB Privateer at Mallory Park...............



.....and friend Matt, putting his 900 Hornet around Snetterton



Each one takes me about 4 months of hard labour to complete, averaging about 70,000 stitches per picture. I've done more than this, but for obvious reasons, not many!

Blog Extra!

My hero in life -


Steve Jones

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Desiderata

I've had this hanging on my bedroom wall since I was about 17, and it's still as meaningful and relevant in this cruel, mixed-up world today, as it was back when I was a young thing, full of high ideals

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.


Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.


Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.


Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.


You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.


With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann



Ok, so that's the piece of prose. If you're not interested in serious commentary, then don't bother reading the rest of this post.

I was baptised into the Congregational (now known as 'United Reform') church, but Christianity has never done it for me.
So, during my 'hippy period' in the late 60s, I spent a lot of time looking at other religions, and trying to find something that echoed the way I felt, and indeed, still feel. Did I find it? Well, not completely.

All religions have something to offer, but no one religion has everything that I need, or perceive to be true.
I'm not a Christian, but I do believe in a Supreme Being - you can call him God, Allah, Jehovah, or whatever you like. As long as there's still unanswered questions in the Universe, man will always need a final solution to believe in. Who was it said, 'if God didn't exist, man would invent him'? So true.

The nearest I have ever found to echo my beliefs, is the Rada Krishna Temple. So many people dismiss them as freaks, a by-blow of the whole hippy movement. But they have a valid outlook on life, and a valid way of living it.

Desiderata - Latin for "desired things", plural of desideratum

So what do I desire out of life?

I'm a pacifist, so naturally I desire Peace On Earth. It's all too easy to trot out such platitudes, but some of us really believe in it.
Almost all wars, throughout history, have been fought in the name of this or that religion. If you think about it, war, or conflict of any kind, comes out of one person believing that they are right, and others are wrong. Whatever happened to acceptance and celebration of our differences? Why must we always seek to make others more like ourselves?

Having said that, of course, there are some things that should never be tolerated - abuse of any kind, verbal or physical, cruelty and injustice.

I enjoy the company of others. I'm gregarious by nature, to an extent, but I still need my own space, and take pleasure in my own solitude at times. So I take short trips away, on my own, to recharge my batteries, and recover my sense of self, and purpose. Much of this time away, I spend riding strange roads, discovering new places. But every now and then, I delight in finding a spot away from civilization, and just sitting, looking at the beauty of the scenery, and allowing my thoughts to wander where they will.

I'm an environmentalist. Like many people of my generation, in my youth I joined Greenpeace. My teenage years were really the first time in history that young people found their own voice. So there was always this or that organisation to join. I gave up Greenpeace when they started to forgo their pacifist ways, and used more violent scenarios to make their point.

Doesn't stop me feeling though, that mankind is bad for this planet, or that we could, and should, be doing a whole lot more to protect it. So, I do what I can, in my own small way, to help. Like adopting a tiger in India. He's called Roque. Tigers have almost been wiped out by man's greed, Some species have disappeared, and all of the others are seriously endangered. That can't be right.

The big hero for me at that time, was Dr. Martin Luther King. One thing I will never stop believing in, is equality, irrespective of race, colour, creed, gender or sexual preference. Why should one human being be preferred over another just because they're the same as you, and not something different? Sadly, after his death, his movement was run along far more militant lines, and so I droppped out.

Again, most of the organisations around that era offered something, but not everything that I related to, and most went too far. The Equal Rights for Women movement, for example. Yes, if a woman does the same job as a man, she should get equal pay, but that's as far as it goes for me.If she expects equal pay, then she must perform equal tasks. If she can't do that, whether physically, or mentally, then she must expect less.

The only organisation from that period of my life that I've stuck with, is Amnesty International.

I could go on and on about beliefs and creeeds etc., but this blog is becoming wayyyyy too long. No doubt I shall be returning to these thoughts at some point in the future

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

'WARNING'

This is 'Warning' - a poem by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.


You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.


But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.


But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple



OK, so maybe I won't wear purple, but I WILL continue to wear my bike gear, and ride my bike. This poem really sums up my attitude to life. I REFUSE to be dictated to by other people, or by what's trendy for 'women of a certain age'

I have to wear respectable clothes for work. The dress code is 'business casual', which means I can get away with wearing trousers (of the smart plain black variety), but not a lot else.

Haha, but if you want to see rebellion, check out the fluorescent socks, which are also often odd!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Castles

I love castles.
Big ones, small ones....any size. The very word 'castle' conjures up images of knights in armour, damsels in distress, the age of chivalry etc.
Some castles (Edinburgh, Warwick, Windsor etc.) are huge and spectacular. They offer so much to the tourist. Often a whole day can be spent exploring them, and learning about their history.
Sometimes though, it is the smaller ones, even those in ruins, that seem to hold the most magical atmosphere.
I hope some of the following pictures will encourage you to explore the world of days gone by..........

This is Tintagel in Cornwall. Once the legendary home of King Arthur, in reality a castle belonging to King Mark of Cornwall, from roughly the same period.





OK, not so much to see, but the views from where it perches on its' rocky outcrop, are spectacular



Another ruin, this time Corfe Castle in Dorset



Some castles, of course, are not that old. The Victorians had a great penchant for gothic castles. Hence Durleston, also in Dorset



Whilst we're in Dorset - this is one of my favourites. Lulworth Castle. It suffered a huge fire in the early 20th. Century, when it was completely gutted. Since then, it has been reroofed and had new windows put in, but the interior has been left as a shell. This has resulted in a fascinating insight into how people lived. Because the fire started in the underground kitchens and spread upwards, you can see how the castle was built at the lower levels, right up to the 20th. Century decor at the top.



Caerphilly Castle is the second largest castle in the UK, after Windsor. The Walls are impressive beyond belief, and the whole is surrounded by huge lakes.



Also in Wales, Raglan Castle



Germany, and in particular, the Rhine Valley is full of the most wonderful fairy-tale castles. I'll ignore Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, because everybody knows that one. This is Drachenfels



Back to England, and my home county of Kent. Hever Castle was the home of Anne Boleyn, and is a truly marvellous vision.



It is surrounded by a 'medieval' village, that is entirely a 20th. Century creation, but does nothing to detract from the beauty of the setting.



Of course, probably one of the most famous castles in the world, is the Tower of London. Anyone for a beheading?



If you want remote and spectacular, then there is nowhere that fits that description more than Bamburgh, on the north east coast of Nortumberland. This is another castle with Arthurian connections, said to be the site of Sir Lancelot's Joyeuse Garde.



Probably the most photographed castle in the UK is this next one. Eilean Donan in Scotland.



Nevertheless, the most famous castle in Scotland is Edinburgh



Again, closer to home - in Sussex, this is Arundel. Aa well as being impressive on the outside, the library is one of the most remarkable rooms I've ever found in a castle. I'll let you discover it for yourselves though.



Now to Chepstow, Monmouthshire. It's built in a loop of the River Wye, right in the centre of Chepstow town. It's easy to see how the little town grew organically at the foot of the massive walls.



Also in Wales, is Penrhyn. This is another of those Victorian Gothic fake castles - a little more authentic looking than some



Back to England, and Warwick Castle. Rightly so, this has won many awards for being the best historical tourist attraction in the country. This one really does take all day. There's just so much to see and do.



Back to Wales, and little Skenfrith Castle. This is just a tiny ruin, set amidst half a dozen little cottages in the middle of nowhere. It's free to get in, because, basically, there's nothing to see. But oh, the atmosephere........



I've been to many more castles, this is just a sample. I hope it serves to whet your appetite.

Roots

For the past couple of years or so, I've been researching both mine and my husband's family tree.
At first, I was a bit half-hearted about it, but as time has gone on, I've started to get really involved. I've managed to get 2 branches back to the mid-1500's, and one branch back to 1340!

Ploughing through huge amounts of parish records, has turned up some fascinating details about both our families. For instance, quite a few of his emigrated to Australia - and not purely by choice! Whereas, some of mine were hanged for being smugglers in Kent and Susssex.

I already knew that my maternal grandmother's family were show-folk and gypsies, so there were few surprises there.

But it has been some of the finer details that have affected me most. For example, over 3 generations, three of my husband's relatives committed suicide. The strange thing was, they were all called John. I hope that's a lesson to anyone in his family who is currently expecting a baby!

But it was the baptism records for one small Kent village that had me laughing and crying alternately. comments like...........

'Baptism: George - sone of ye known Hore' (that was from the late 1500's) that one made me giggle, despite myself.

But the saddest?.............

'Baptism: twins. one a male child being called Simon, the other having no name, being called a creature'

That one had me puzzled, and left me feeling slightly disgusted. After a lot of thought, I came up with a plausible (although very sad) answer. Spina Biffida is very prevalent in my mother's family, and it has resulted in some terrible disabilities, even in my lifetime. It is possible that one twin was so severely deformed, that it could not even be sexed, let alone named.

I intend to carry on my investigations. If nothing else, it gives me an excuse to go ride my motorcycle all over the county, with the pretext of 'research' ;)

Blood Red

Sitting on the riverbank, dreaming, was something she really enjoyed doing. Especially as now, with the sun setting in a blood red sky, and the soft, warm breeze making the slightest of ripples in the dark waters.The river seemed full of roses, deep, blood red roses.
'Why all those roses?' she thought
'Do you not know?' whispered The Voice

The sighing breeze gently stirred the surface of the sluggish river, and she could see a black hearse, pulled by four black horses, the coffin covered in those same blood red roses.
'Has someone died?' she questioned wordlessly
'Do you not know?' again the whispering voice.

The sun was setting fast, and when the breeze came this time, it felt a little chill. She pulled her cardigan tighter around her shoulders, and stood up, brushing the grass from her skirt.'Time for home' she thought .......

(Later)
She sat at her dressing table, idly brushing her red hair, and wondering if dinner with his boss was going to be as boring as he said it would be. Still, he said he would drive, so at least she could have a glass or two of wine, red if she was lucky.
'I bought a new shirt for tonight'
He came into the bedroom, holding up a new, blood red shirt..................................

Names

Names........what we call people, or things. A name is unique to that person/thing, and is the easiest way of identifying someone or something.I've no doubt some of you have noticed the picture of the rear light of one of my motorcycles at the top of my blog. I know I'm not the only one, but I've always given my bikes names. I'm a great believer in inanimate objects having personalities. And if that is so, then that personality should have a distinctive name.Currently, my four bikes are the LittleInsect, Terry, PanDora and Dolly.
Why?
Well, to start with the simplest - Dolly - is a Honda Deauville. She is very definitely a 'she'; mild-mannered, reliable, trustworthy, if a little bit of a 'Plain Jane'. She's the workhorse of the family. She does housewifely things like going shopping, and being used as the family taxi.
PanDora is a Honda Pan European. We resisted the obvious name of Peter Pan, and opted for PanDora, because she's Dolly's bigger sister.
Terry - every time I get a new bike, the motorcycle forum I belong to runs a little competition to name it. For instance, the previous one was a Honda CBF600 in dark blue. For those who don't know, a CBF600 is a detuned version of the Honda Hornet. The name chosen for that one was Bluebottle (buzzy little thing with no sting in the tail). Now, Terry is a Honda CBF1000 in a blazing orange metallic.At the time I bought him (oh, yes, most certainly male), Dawn French had an advert on TV for a certain make of chocolate orange, that went 'It's not Terry's, it's mine). So the 'Nest decided my handsome orange bike should be Terry, because it's orange, and it's mine
And so we come to the LittleInsect. This one is a bit different. His name is a tribute by me, of a personal nature. When I bought him (in 1998) it was a new model that few people had seen at that point. In fact, I had the first one in the country sold to a member of the public.I took him round to show a dear friend, parking it next to his enormous BMW outside his house. He duly came out to look at it, and admire it. 'What's that?' he said. 'It's a Honda Hornet' sez I, proudly. He looked at the difference in size between the two bikes, and said 'hornet isn't really appropriate, it's really only a little insect'Shortly afterwards, he was diagnosed with the progressive form of MS, and his health is sadly now very compromised. But as long as I own the hornet, it will always be the LittleInsect, in tribute to a truly wonderful person and dear friend.
But, to get back to names - have you noticed how nobody, but nobody, ever likes their given name(s)? It occurs to me that this is because it is the one thing in our lives that we didn't choose. It's given to us by our parents, and is their choice, not ours. Of course, you have the option of calling yourself whatever you want, or indeed, changing your name by Deed Poll. But that doesn't alter the fact that you didn't choose your original given name.
My son is called Rene. On his first day at a new school, when he was about 6, the school rang me and asked me to go down and collect him, because he was in floods of tears, and they didn't know why. When I got there and talked to him, it turned out there was another child in his class with the same name, and it was a girl!. A slight touch of the Johnny Cash, Boy Named Sue, syndrome, I think. It took a lot of patience to calm him down, and explain that, although it was pronounced the same, her name was spelt Renee, and that as a big strong boy, he didn't have, or need the extra 'e' on the end of his name.
Well, he hated that name, until he became a teenager, when it all changed. He suddenly found that having an unusual name was a bonus when it came to dating, because all the girls remembered him
I do wish parents would take time to consider how giving a child an unusual, or even inappropriate name will affect them. Because it can, and does. They should also write the name down and look at the initials. (Malcolm Anthony Dean - guess what he was called at school)
Your name is the thing that readily identifies you to the world, and it is probably your most enduring and important asset. May all parents use a bit of common sense.

Update: Terry has been replaced by Arfur. Why Arfur? because he's my 'Daley' transport.

(won't mean anything to you unless you've seen 'Minder' on TV

Squirrels

Have you ever wondered what the Great Redeemer was on when he invented squirrels? How can something so small and fluffy be, at the same time, so cute and yet so aggravating?Anyone who has read the famous squirrel story in one of Dan Meyer's 'Life Is A Road' books will know exactly what I'm getting at.
Where I work, we have squirrels. Lots of squirrels. Mind, the building is in the middle of a nature reserve. Now, I'm not saying they eat anything, but, they eat everything.
We have a small glade where we have several bird feeders. We fill these daily with peanuts, seeds, fat compounds etc. for the delictation of our pretty little feathered friends. Except that the squiggles eat the lot.
We've tried everything to defeat them. Yes, I know you can flavour the bird food with stuff like paprika, which the birds don't mind, but the squiggles hate, but that's not the point. It has now become a battle of wills between us and them.
The first bird feeders were wire mesh. The squiggles demolished them in about 24 hours. Next, we bought one which was basically a long tubular steel cage with a ceramic top and bottom. The whole contraption was held together by a long steel rod passing through the top and bottom caps, held on with a wing nut underneath.
We kept finding this in pieces all over the ground. Then one day, we caught Squiggle hanging upside down, carefully undoing the wing nut with his paws. I swear he laughed with glee when, yet again, it all fell apart.
So, we removed the wing nut and put a locking nut in its' place. Did it work? Did it hell! I swear he broke into one of the cars and got himself a spanner, because next day it was in bits all over the floor again.
Then we saw an advert for 'squirrel-proof' bird feeders. Well, we bought a pair, one for seed and one for peanuts. Squirrel-proof my a*se! The peanut feeder consisted of a long thin mesh tube for the peanuts, surrounded by a metal cage with gaps big enough to let small birds through, but too small for fat squirrels. Now the answer to this is evidently to get the smallest squiggle you can find to ease his head through the gap and gnaw a huge hole in the peanut tube. You then get a bigger squiggle to sit on top of it and shake it till all the peanuts fall out. You then repeat the entire process with the seed feeder.
Meanwhile, the glade is also the only place on site where folk can smoke, and there's a small shelter with a huge ashtray in it. This ashtray consists of a robust, thick plastic cylinder, around 3 foot tall, with a heavy chromium steel ash tray on top. We found that the base, being empty, was the ideal place to store the bags of peanuts and seed, which we've been buying in bulk because it's cheaper that way.There's no way the squiggles can break into it, because the cylinder is too smooth and round for them to get a purchase on, and the top section is too heavy for them to lift.
Hmmmm..................... why has the cylinder now got a huge hole in the side, and where have all the nuts and seed gone? How the hell........?
We've long given up with the conventional bird feeders which hold fat balls. The balls never lasted more than a few hours. Then last week, I saw a huge plastic tub fat/seed mixture. This thing is around 6" diameter, about 4" deep, and can be suspended from a convenient tree branch by a robust plastic strap. Far too big and heavy for a squiggle to steal.
Where the hell is it? Sure, the plastic strap is still there - in pieces, on the ground, with multiple squiggle teeth marks. Of the tub, there's no sign.
When I get some time, remind me to tell you about the incident of the squiggle and the cheese sandwich....................

Random thoughts on music

I suppose, after motorcycling, I love music more than anything. All kinds of music, from medieval motets to Rap - it's all music to my ears.
Does it surprise you that I like rap? Why? Because I'm 'old'? Why does music, and indeed, the people who listen to it, have to be pigeonholed.
To me, music always has something to say. Maybe just to the composer, but more often than not, it will strike a chord with listeners. It may remind you of some place (Bax-Tintagel), some event(Crazy Cavan - The Ace Cafe Brighton Run), or somebody (Beach Boys - Tears In The Morning). It might just be an echo of how you are feeling at that moment (Eminem - The Way I Am). But music is a form of expression that is unrivalled in the world, and immediately accessible regardless of nationality or culture.
I have a collection of something over 2,000 CDs. These range from classical to rap, and include music from all over the world - from African drum beats to Buddhist chanting.
I have no time for those people who turn their noses up at what you are currently listening to. When I was at school, there was a young lass whose father was a music teacher, and he forbade her to listen to anything other than 'highbrow' classical music. To my mind, he was denying her a part of her education. I absolutely horrified him when I told him, yes, I did like classical music, but I didn't particularly like Beethoven or Schubert! Not even the knowledge that I absolutely adore Mozart appeased him.
Similarly, I hate those people who consider themselves audiophiles. A few months ago, I was in the position of finally being able to replace my ageing Technics HiFi, and with my natural thoroughness, I did a lot of research into what I wanted to replace it with.
I wanted something that would handle my extreme range of music well, and which had a warmth and depth of tone that most Japanese HiFi systems don't give you, but English ones do.
Going the rounds of the Sound specialists in Kent was quite entertaining. "Oh well, madam, this is the best you can buy. The setup is £24,000, the speakers are an extra £13,000" Yes, yes, that's all very well, but does it sound the way I want my music to sound. Actually, no, it didn't.
My hearing is not as good as it was - mostly, I suspect down to years of riding bikes without hearing protection. All I want is something that sounds good to ME - not you, or the so-called expert in this, that, or the other magazine, ME. Geddit?
Eventually, I found a nice young man called Sam, who listened to what I was trying to explain to him, grasped it, and set up 4 systems of varying prices and capabilities, letting me play a selection of my own CDs on each. I ended up buying the second cheapest (although not exactly cheap) because to my untrained ears, it sounded right.
I wish more salesmen listened to their customers, instead of constantly trying to push what they are currently earning the highest commission on.
However, I digress.
I've always loved music. Again, it was encouraged in me by my mother. She played the piano. Sadly, my parents couldn't afford for me to have music lessons.
We lived out in the country and didn't get electricity till after I'd started school. When we did, my dad bought a big old Bakelite mains radio, and my mum and I would spend every evening listening to plays and music. I developed a love of sound, because, unlike TV, which I find oppressive by being all-consuming, just using your hearing, left your hands and eyes free to do other stuff, and your mind free to wander and imagine whatever the particular piece of music sparked in your mind.
Eventually, Dad bought me a battery-powered record player for my birthday, and all my relatives gave me money, so I had enough to buy 2 LPs. The first one I bought was Elgar/Enigma Variations coupled with Vaughan-Williams/Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, conducted by Sargent.
The second one? Buddy Holly - Reminiscing of course! Thus started my ever-growing collection of diversity. In fact, I'm sitting here at work typing this with my iPod on. The Animals, followed by Jay-Z, followed by Andrea Boccelli, followed by......................
It soon became not enough for me to listen to the radio. I had to 'own' the music. I loved the feel of actually holding a record in my hands, of being able to read the sleeve notes and learn about the artist or composer. Although I have downloaded some music, I still prefer, even now, to go and buy the physical recording. To me, the possession of music is as important as the possession of books. They sum up who and what you are.

Random thoughts on motorcycling

I am, and always have been, an avid motorcyclist, or biker, or whatever you want to call me that I can deny.
BUT - just because I'm a biker, it doesn't mean I'm a second-class citizen.
I recall, a few years back, going into a well-known computer store, and being ordered to leave my crash helmet on the floor just inside the door. The reason given, was that motorcyclists steal things and conceal them in their helmets.So what about the old dear with the shopping bag? Is she any the less capable of being a thief than me? Such treatment sucks.My comment was, that if I complied, and my helmet was either damaged or stolen, would they replace it? Of course not!
There was also an instance where my husband and I went camping in Wales. We arrived around Midday, but it was gone 19:00 before we could find a camp-site that would take us. Most camp-site owners said they'd had trouble with bikers before, so they weren't going to let us in. So, if they had trouble with a couple on a Ford Fiesta, would they then ban all Ford Fiestas? FFS we were a middle-aged couple on a Honda GoldWing Aspencade - about as expensive and classy as it gets.
I appreciate that motorcycle clothing may not always be appropriate, for example having tea at the Ritz, but surely our money is as good as anyone else's?On the other hand, I've stayed in some pretty exclusive hotels, where I've turned up on my bike and been treated with the same courtesy and respect that they would extend to a visiting Prime Minister. A classic example was Wroxall Abbey, where, if I arrived back at the hotel wet and cold, they almost fell over themselves to offer me a cup of hot chocolate to warm me up etc. Nothing was too much trouble, and to me, this is the sort of thing that distinguishes good service from bad.
It shouldn't matter what form of transport a person chooses to use, how much that transport cost, or even what type of 'biker' they are. We're all people, just getting on with our lives.
All of the above makes me sound as though I'm a Rich Urban Biker, with money to burn. In fact, I'm not that at all - average job and average income. But motorcycling is my biggest expenditure in life. The posh hotels generally coming about as a result of my work, not through my personal preference, which general speaking results in B&B in a pub somewhere.
It is true, that over the years, my life style has to a large degree been dictated by my love of bikes. It influences how I dress, and to an extent, where I go and what I do. But that in itself, doesn't mean that I'm like every other rider out there. I'm still an individual - as are most motorcyclists. The only thing most of us have in common, is our love of bikes.
And what about that love? Do all riders ride for the same reasons? Definitely not. Ask any group of bikers why they ride, and you will get a myriad reasons, from 'because all my friends do' to 'it's something I've always fancied doing'But I bet, within that group sample, you will more than once hear the word 'freedom'.
For me, I grew up with bikes. My dad, his brother, my brother, all rode. It was natural then, when I became a teenager, to gravitate towards lads with bikes. When I started riding legally, in 1964, I was one of perhaps 3 women in my part of the world who rode. Now the sight of a woman on a bike is commonplace. However, I have serious doubts about the reasons some of them ride.A lot ride because their husband/partner/boyfriend rides. Often they are talked into it almost unwillingly. Others ride because they think they've got something to prove. No dear, life ain't like that. Ride bikes because you love them - what other reason is there?
You know the people I really hate? Those women riders who make a big thing about 'riding with the lads' and then ask for women only events. Do you hear men asking for men-only track days etc.? If you want to participate in a predominantly male pursuit dear, then do it on equal terms.Anyway, I feel that women only motorcycling events are self-defeating. How often I've heard women say that they want a women-only event, because they feel intimidated by the men. So you end up with a bunch of women who are only comfortable interacting with other women. Learn to do the job properly, and you'll get treated like an equal.I suffer from a bone condition, and I know my weaknesses. I'm grateful for assistance if I run into a problem because of my poor health, but I certainly wouldn't want it 'because I'm a woman'. After all, I would help a disabled biker, irrespective of gender.
So, what makes a true biker? Is it someone who does, like me, 25,000 miles a year on bikes, someone who only has a bike licence and not a car one, someone who has the latest trendy crotch rocket and matching leathers but only rides on sunny Sundays, the old boy down the road with his 1933 Rudge, or the young pizza delivery lad on his twist and go? For me, it is all of those. A biker, at the end of the day, is someone who chooses to ride a powered two wheeler, for whatever reason, whatever distance, and however he or she is dressed.
I could get started on philosophy, and books about biking, but maybe I'll leave that for another time

Random considerations of education

I'm currently reading Clive James - Cultural Amnesia. In the chapter on Gianfranco Contini, he makes the point that the art of learning by heart has all but disappeared from the British Education System. System? Don't make me laugh!Contini made the point, that if you didn't learn to recite poetry by heart, how could you possibly understand how a language should flow. He wasn't wrong.Growing up in the 50s, a lot of my schooling was learnt by repitition. Almost all of what I learnt has stayed with me throughout life. Not just poetry, but mnemonics for important stuff like math, grammar and spelling."i before e, except after c" et al.
I'm a heavy user of an internet forum, and at times the grammar and spelling are so appalling, I have trouble deciphering the meaning of some of the posts. How hard is it, to learn the difference between 'they're' 'their' and 'there'. And why, oh why, do people say 'would of' 'could of'. It's WOULD HAVE and COULD HAVE!!!
I don't consider myself particularly well-educated, but I do consider my education to have been a great deal better than it is today.
Yes, knowledge is more accessible today than it has ever been, but there's a world of difference between knowledge and understanding.
Mobile phones and the internet have a great deal to answer for. To partially gloss over mobile phones for the moment, text speak does nothing to make people conscious of either grammar or spelling.
The Internet is, I believe, harmful in a sense to understanding. How often, needing to know something, do you 'Google' for it? That's fine. The Internet is a totally brilliant way of getting instant access to all kinds of information that has previously passed you by. I use it myself, a lot.
However, most of what it gives you are facts, not understanding.For instance, look someone up, and it will tell you he did this. What it doesn't tell you is why that person did whatever. What led him to do it? Was it something in his earlier life?
Most of this sort of detail generally comes from books. An in-depth understanding of a person usually comes from a biography, not from a Wiki on the 'net.
There is also a feeling among some education specialists, that the instant availability of information is discouraging people from reading books, and further, is actually harming their ability to concentrate on a passage of prose for more than a few minutes.
Reading and a love of books was instilled in me at a very young age, by both my mother and my teachers. I still love to read, fiction, non-fiction and poetry all have me enthralled.
It will be a sadder world, if our future generations lose love for their language and for in-depth study.
A world of just facts will be a sadder place.