Friday, 23 December 2011

Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves

I was born in the wagon of a traveling show
My momma used to dance for the money they'd throw
Papa would do whatever he could
Preach a little Gospel, sell a couple bottles of Dr. Good

Gypsies, tramps and thieves
We'd hear it from the people of the town
They'd call us, gypsies, tramps and thieves
But every night all the men would come around
And lay their money down

So sang Cher, and that song illustrates just how most people think of the itinerant race we call Gypsies.

I come from Gypsy stock myself, on my maternal grandmother's side. I've traced their lineage back over 250 years so far, and the family history is fascinating. OK, so my grandmother was 'settled' - no longer travelling, but living in a house; but other members of the family were show folk and circus people, or workers travelling from farm to farm, following the crop seasons, and hopefully earning enough money to sustain their family during the lean Winter months.

I've always known about our Gypsy heritage, but I never really understood what happened to turn an honest itinerant way of life into the much maligned 'traveller' image that we see today.

And I don't mean that I despise travellers or their way of life, just that other people evidently do.
Now I have a better understanding, and it's down to a friend pointing me in the direction of a book which she thought might reference my family, as it's a Gypsy history of South London and Kent.

Stopping Places, by Simon Evans, is more than just a history of travelling families in this area, it does a lot to explain why the traditional Gypsy way of life is being eradicated. It describes the life of these people, living in bender tents and horse-drawn vardos, until the mechanisation of farming began to reduce the need for casual labour. At the same time, traditional stopping places were being closed off, and more and more Gypsies were being forced onto permanent sites - often closely resembling concentration camps in their bleak outlook.

Simon Evans' clear sighted and compassionate account of the changes imposed on the age-old Gypsy culture is all the more powerful for the inclusion of over 170 photographs, together with vivid first-hand accounts of the recent Gypsy experience.

rating: 5/5

Monday, 5 December 2011

Book review - 1000 Years Of Annoying The French - Stephen Clarke

Well now, this is certainly worth a read! Stephen Clarke, long time resident of Paris, takes a humourous look at the love-hate relationship between France and England.
It starts with William The Conqueror (who was Norman, and who hated the French), and goes right up to today, revealing many strange and curious facts along the way.

For instance, did you know that the Guillotine was actually a British invention? Or that one French king and a French Emperor were both buried in English soil? No, neither did I.

He takes an in-depth look at all the times the two countries were at war, and all the times they experienced an all-be-it uneasy peace. Along the way, he pokes gentle fun at the French, but also explains that it wasn't necessarily their fault.

To quote the book jacket: 'In short, the French are quite right to suspect that the last thousand years have been one long British campaign to infuriate them'.

If you like history with a twist, then look no further than Mr. Clarke's impeccably researched, but light-hearted look at ourselves, and our nearest neighbours.

Rating: an excellent 5/5

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Oh Who Is That young Sinner...........

Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?
And what has he been after that they groan and shake their fists?
And wherefore is he wearing such a conscience-stricken air?
Oh they're taking him to prison for the colour of his hair.

'Tis a shame to human nature, such a head of hair as his;
In the good old time 'twas hanging for the colour that it is;
Though hanging isn't bad enough and flaying would be fair
For the nameless and abominable colour of his hair.

Oh a deal of pains he's taken and a pretty price he's paid
To hide his poll or dye it of a mentionable shade;
But they've pulled the beggar's hat off for the world to see and stare,
And they're haling him to justice for the colour of his hair.

Now 'tis oakum for his fingers and the treadmill for his feet
And the quarry-gang on Portland in the cold and in the heat,
And between his spells of labour in the time he has to spare
He can curse the God that made him for the colour of his hair.

Now, that's a poem by A.E. Housman, written in 1895 in disgust at the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde for 'giving homosexual offence'.

But, it can apply to any form of predjudice. Indeed, it can be literally applied today, when, sadly, there is so much offence given to people with red hair, 'ging-ers' as they're disparagingly called.
Why there should be such a current upswelling of dislike against red-heads completely dumbfounds me.
Ah well, perhaps the fact that one of the stars of the Harry Potter films is a red-head may go a little way to changing people's perspective. In today's world of 'celebrity' stranger things have happened.....................

Friday, 18 November 2011

New additions to my Folksy shop

As expected, I've had lots of spare time following surgery, and these are just some of the items I've made for my Folksy shop. (link down on the right-hand side). There's more to come, but I'm waiting for a delivery of gift boxes.
I'm a great believer in supplying items, especially jewellery, properly packaged, ready to give as a gift.

a pair of Christmas bangles in festive colours. Wear individually, or as a pair.

Autumnal necklace, with large detailed brown wooden beads, interspersed with small orange and brown beads, and strung on threads of silver-lined crystal-clear rocailles

A pair of embroidered Christmas gift bags. Sturdily made in cream cotton, with carrying handles

4 table mats or napkins, each measuring approximately 14" square, hand embroidered with sunflowers and with fringed edges

Delicate necklace of brecciated jasper, peridots and emerald green rocailles. The necklace is gently curved, so that it sits flat against the skin
Pretty silver-plate chain maille bracelet, with pretty pink facets at the heart of each flower

I made this necklace with Halloween in mind, as the pendant reminds me of a vial half full of blood!

Zodiac necklace for Cancer, featuring a ceramic plate mounted on a silver disc, and with the silver chain enhanced with matching beads

This Zodiac necklace is for Leo, and is made in much the same way as the one above

Big, bold, chunky monochrome necklace, which is tied with deep red and cream ribbons. Being monochrome, the ribbons can easily be changed to match your outfit

Tiger striped beads matched with big black pearls and mounted on silver for this matching bracelet and earrings.

As I said, they're all available in my Folksy shop. If you are outside the UK and would like to buy anything, just contact me, and I'll sort out postal charges etc.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Marco Simoncelli

Today was the funeral of Marco Simoncelli, the young MotoGP star who took the world by storm this season.

Already a double world champion in lower classes, this season saw the 24 year old Italian rock the top professional class, with his spirited riding, flamboyant appearance, and general demeanour in the paddocks and on the tracks.

Debating whether the terrible accident which cost him his life was his fault, or if Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi could have done anything to avoid hitting him (in my opinion, they couldn't), serves no purpose. A young man who has brought pleasure to millions around the world, is now lost to us.

I've nothing more to say on the subject, I'm just going to let this superlative picture speak volumes

Monday, 10 October 2011

Should I, or shouldn't I?

As you will already have read, I've opened up an internet shop to market my handmade jewellery and stuff.

Reading through the advice they give you, they recommend that you start a blog, to widen your market, and to help prospective buyers to get to know you. I was going to, but then I thought, I've already got 2 blogs going, and if one of the reasons is to help folk get to know you, then this blog probably says it all about me.

Quite what they'll make of me when they read this blog, I'm not sure..............

Anyway, the link to my shop is over there on the right, but here's a taster of a couple of items

I do seem to be having more success with these big, bold bracelets than some other items, but I shall keep trying new ideas. After all, this little venture is to amuse myself as much as to make money

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Update on me, my bikes, and stuff..............

Well, thank goodness that's over with! I'm now at home resting, minus one very damaged gall bladder, and with an abdomen full of holes and stitches!

So, what else has happened since I last posted on here? Oh yes - me and the Insect took a little trip to North Wales. We stayed, as usual, with Chris and Sue at the Castle Inn in Knucklas. Wouldn't dream of staying anywhere else!

I'll spare you the endless photographs, and trip details, as I've already updated 'My British Isles' (my other blog). However, a little tale concerning poorly Insects, big dams and the RAC now follows.................

Given decent weather, there's nothing I like better than heading for the Elan Valley. Somehow, however, I've never had the time to head out to the Claerwen dam. This lies off the Elan Valley Trail, down a separate valley, and basically, you go there and come back, because it's a dead-end road. The dam lies at the head of the valley, some 7.5 miles or so out of Rhayader.

The largest and most impressive of the five Elan Valley Dams, Claerwen dam holds back 48,300 megalitres of water, and I guess it's about 200 feet high. When you get there, the road divides - the left fork takes you to the base of the dam, and the right fork takes you to the top, where you can actually ride across the top of the dam, and there's a viewing platform at the middle point.

Anyway, I took the lower road first, duly admired and photographed the dam from below, and then turned around and headed for the top. Totally amazing! I parked the Insect and walked across the dam. It was a loveley warm day, and the sun was reflecting off the water, and the air was full of martins, swooping and diving for the thousands of midges.

I walked back to the bike, turned the key, pressed the click silence. The Insect was completely dead. It slowly dawned on me that I'd now got a real problem. As I said, the Claerwen is over 7 miles from the nearest settlement, in the middle of the mountains, where there is absolutely no mobile phone signal. And I'm a woman, travelling alone, with all that implies. The Breakdown Services and the Police always recommend women to stay in their car if they break down, lock the doors and windows and wait for help to arrive.

But what do you do if you're on a motorcycle?

Over the far side of the dam, halfway up the opposite valley wall, nestled a little farm. I walked back down the road, took the lower dam track, and then walked up to the farm. I asked the lady if I could use her land line to call the RAC, and she very kindly obliged.

After a short wait, the RAC Call Centre answered.

"RAC Breakdown. How can I help you?"
"I've broken down"
"Can I have your membership number?"
"Yes, it's .............."
"Which motorcycle is it?"
"It's a Honda Hornet, registration S... ..."
"Can you give me your location please?"
"Yes, I'm in the Elan Valley, on top of the Claerwen Dam"
"Can I have a post code for that?"
"'s a dam in the middle of some mountains. I don't think they deliver letters to it"
"Can I have your mobile number please?"
"You can, but I can't get a signal, so it's a bit pointless"
"Where are you calling from?"
"A farm on the other side of the valley"
"Is your motorcycle there?"
"No, it's broken down, on top of the Claerwen dam"
"Can I have the postcode for its location please?"

oh please.............................

"Well, if you don't give me a postcode or a mobile number, how will our agent find you?"
"Fair question. Just tell him to look for a 200 foot high dam, at the end of a valley, with a broken down motorcycle on top of it"

Anyway, I finally got her to understand that he needed to head for the Elan Valley Heritage Centre, then ask for the way to the Claerwen dam.

"Can you give me the post code for the Heritage Centre"
"Hold on, I'll walk the 4 or 5 miles to it and ask them"

As I said, I'd followed the road round to the base of the dam, and then crossed the valley floor to the farm. I made that around 1.5 miles. So I asked the farm lady if there was a quicker way to get back to the top of the dam.

"Yes, cross the footbridge there, go up through that stand of trees, and you will see a dried up stream bed. Follow that, and it will take you to the top."

Nice one - across the footbridge, through the trees, find the stream bed...........which is full of running water. Oh well, in for a penny.

So, hot day, full bike gear, carrying back pack and crash helmet, I start up the stream towards the top of the dam. Boy was that steep! In places I was on all fours, scrabbling for some kind of foothold with my big clunky bike boots.

I got to the top and collapsed in a heap on the grass. A nice, kind fisherman passing by gave me a bottle of water, and a much needed cigarette (I've actually given up smoking, but sometimes, you just know what I mean?)

About an hour later, the familiar sight of a bright orange RAC van warmed my heart. The RAC man was a very nice man. He established that the battery had died a death. In all truth, it had been on there for a very long time, and I guess the morning spent creeping around these lanes in first gear, had killed it off.

His first priority, was to get me back to civilisation, before we worked out what to do about getting bike fixed. As he said, I couldn't have broken down in a more inhospitable place. We jump started the bike. It's old technology, this one, so once started, it will run on direct current.

We cruised back to Rhayader, where there is a small off-road motorcycle and quad shop. They couldn't help with a replacement battery, but they called another shop about 30 miles away who had one, and who said they would put it on charge straight away, so that, by the time I got there, it would be almost ready to fit to the bike.

To cut a long story short, Mr. RAC started my bike again, and off I headed to get this goodly battery. The bike shop were brilliant. By the time I'd had a coffee, they'd fitted the battery free of charge, and the Insect was once more fit and healthy.

Strange experience, but hey, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger - or so they say..........

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Dust if you must............

My Mum always said 'a clean and tidy house is the sign of an empty life', meaning that women who 'just' did housework, had nothing else to occupy their minds and bodies.
I reckon she was right. The farm house was cleaned sufficiently, but was seldom tidy, because there was always so much else for her to do. She belonged to a generation where women were not expected to partake in gainful employment and despite the fact that, once married, she never had such outside employment (to say she never worked would be just plain wrong) she always had much to do outside the life of a housewife. Whether it was knitting clothes for the children of countless friends, baking cakes for various village events, training sheepdog puppies for Dad, or just helping out on the farm, her days were full and happy.
I'm afraid my life (and my house) are much the same............

Anyway, I was reminded of her, when I cam across this poem by Rose Milligan:

Dust if you must, but wouldn't it be better
To paint a picture or write a letter,
Bake a cake or plant a seed,
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there's not much time,
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
Music to hear and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world's out there,
With sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it's not kind.
And when you go - and go you must -
You, yourself, will make more dust.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Well I never.....................(well, actually, I did)

You may have seen the occasional post about my timid footsteps into the world of handmade costume jewellery.
Well, it's taken off rather well, and I now suddenly find myself with an internet shop!

If you want to keep up with what I'm doing, design-wise, you can find a link to it down the right side there.......
At the moment, I'm only selling to the UK, but if you're elsewhere and want to buy something, just contact me, and we'll make arrangements...............

I suppose now I've opened a shop, I've got no excuse to not spend hours in my workroom.................:) and spare time is something I'm about to have plenty of, as next week I'm off to hospital for some quite major surgery. So if you don't hear from me for a while, you'll know why!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Book Review - The Devlin Diary by Christi Phillips

Two murder mysteries and two love stories separated by more than 330 years. Two tales that are linked inextricably.
In 1672, a vicious killer stalks the court of King Charles II, inscribing his victims' bodies with mystical markings.
In Cambridge in 2008, a Trinity College professor is found dead, the torn page of a 17th. Century diary in his hand.
The two tales are written concurrently, but in such a way that they are not confusing, and you move seamlessly between the two tales as they begin to converge.
There is a slight, almost imperceptible difference in the way the two stories are written, and this helps you to keep them separate in your mind.
This is a well-written book, based loosely on known facts. It is a fast-paced narrative, and altogether, a most enjoyable read.

It's a sequel to Miss Phillips' 'The Rossetti Letter'. Think I shall have to go and seek that one out.......

Rating: a well-deserved 4/5

Friday, 5 August 2011

Antony Gormley

And while I'm in an artistic mood, how about my favourite modern sculptor? Antony models his figures on his own body, which gives them an incredible sense of life and realism. But there's so much more to his work than just the accuracy of his portrayals. The location of his figures is every bit as meaningful. This is best shown here:

This is Another Place, where his figures stand, looking out to sea. Search the internet, and you will find literally hundreds of photos of this installation, taken at all times of day, and from all different aspects. Each one seems to portray a different emotion and point in time.

Of course, Antony is best known for the remarkable Angel Of The North, which really needs no explanation or description

Probably my favourite - at least as far as atmosphere goes - is Sound II, in the crypt of Winchester Cathedral. When the crypt floods, as it often does, it imparts a very surreal stillness to the whole scene.

And now we have one locally. Hundreds of old nails taken from the restoration of Canterbury Cathedral, have been transformed into a 'floating body' by Antony, called Transport. Again, it is located in the crypt.

I could go on posting pictures of his work all day, and still not give it justice. If you're not familiar with anything other than the 'angel', I suggest you look on the web - there's hundreds of pictures, plus he has a web-site too

Time for another of my favourite poems..... my favourite poet, George Gordon Byron.

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

(It is known, that this poem was about his cousin, Mrs. Wilmot, whom he met at a party in a mourning gown of spangled black.)

Monday, 1 August 2011

Favourite paintings

I've always had a love of art, studying it at school, and later at art college. Can't paint now, as my wrists make my hands too unsteady, but it doesn't stop me loving fine art.
Thought I'd share with you some of my favourite paintings. I'll warn you though, I'm not one for realism and the old masters.

First up is Jack Vetrianno 'The Singing Butler'. I love the sense of wind and cold and movement. It's also quite a romantic notion - dancing on the beach, while the butler sings, and the poor maid catches her death of cold!

My friends Pat and Peter (The Old Black Dog, Uplyme) have this hanging in their dining room.

Next, we go to Salvador Dali, but not one of his surrealist weird things. This is 'Christ On The Cross Of St. John'. This used to hang in one of the classrooms at my school, and, although I'm not a Christian, it has always had a profound effect on me.............

Edward Hopper - 'Nighthawks'
If ever there was a picture which depicted loneliness, it is this one. Most people have seen it, but few know what it is - either in this form or one of its many parodies.

And talking of parodies, this is probably the best-known of the 'Nighthawks' parodies. This is Gottfried Helmwein's 'Boulevard Of Broken Dreams'. Again, the sadness in the picture is almost tangible.

Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and James Dean - all great talents sadly missed.

More later.............................

More Jewellery

Finally, I feel like I'm beginning to succeed at this. I'm quite happy with some of the pieces I've produced lately, and I'm hoping soon to be good enough to market them. Here's some samples, anyway

gold butterflies and hearts on a silver chain

I really like doing chain maille. Don't see why it all has to be in precious metals though. This bracelet is a combination of silver and brass, of all things

And keeping to the theme of mixed metals, the above bracelet is made from stainless steel bike circlips, with a silver-plated and enamelled crash helmet.

A fun bracelet, this one is stretchy, one-size-fits-all, with Lucite calla lilies and leaves

and finally, the above is silver wire, strung with Honda 10mm mirror nuts and Czech glass beads. Soon, I will have a whole range of biker-oriented jewellery. Why shouldn't bikers be glitzy and fashion-conscious?

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Book review - Ventriloquism by Catherynne M Valente

Hmmmm.............what to say about this book? Well, it's a collection of stories, strange, secret stories. An eclectic mix of steampunk, part fantasy, part history. Ms. Valente takes fairy tales and snippets of history, and weaves strange continuations on to them.
The wordsmithing is exquisite. Her use of language superlative, but somehow, the book left me a little cold and perplexed. As with any collection of short stories, some are more appealing than others, and some I regret I found almost incomprehensible.
Nevertheless, the words are beautiful, and Ms. Valente obviously has a remarkable imagination. However, probably the best thing for me about this book, is the beautiful illustrations on the book cover. They're exquisitely drawn by Rima Staines.
For those of you not familiar with Rima's work, check out my links, and follow the one to The Hermitage.
If you are into the unusual, and imaginative, then this book will probably appeal to you, but sadly, it won't be to a lot of people's taste

Rating: a disappointing 2/5
An extra 3 however, for Rima's artwork

Friday, 6 May 2011

A week of motorcycling or Honda get it right

Well, quite an eventful week for me and the bikes this week!

It started on Monday, with the annual May Day Run to Hastings - me and 29,999 other bikes!

This run has been happening since just after WWII, when a small bike club decided to take a run from Locks Bottom to Hastings on the May Bank Holiday. It's happened every year since, and, like Topsy, it's growed and growed

Weather this year was dry and sunny, but a little windy. Well, OK, a lot windy.

There were more trade stands in the town centre this year, and I managed to buy myself a new summer jacket for around 1/2 price. This is it

Unfortunately, I had to ride Paul, my CBF1000, as the Insect has been suffering with a mysterious electrical problem. Just what you need a few days before you're due to go touring on it. Not that it would be any hardship taking the 1000 on holiday, but I do love to disappear for a week on the Insect. Although it's a drag on the motorways getting to wherever I'm going, when I get there, it's fun fun fun all the way!

Anyway, back to Hastings. The day went well. We met up with our usual friends and spent an enjoyable time wandering around, looking at the bikes, and generally enjoying life.

Everything went well until it was time to leave. For those of you not familiar with Hastings, there is a huge car park called Pelham Place, which stretches almost the entire length of the seafront. On the Sunday evening prior to the May Day, it is closed to all users, and then opened on the Monday for motorcycles only. And believe me, it fills up with bikes very quickly. In fact, every available place where you can park a bike in town, has a bike or two parked in it.

At one end of the seafront, as you come out of Pelham Place, there's a large roundabout with a fountain in the middle of it. When we left, I got 2/3 of the way round the roundabout and had to stop because of the congestion. Imagine 30,000 bikes all trying to leave a small seaside town - it's murder.

For some reason, I put my right foot down instead of my left, and it was just as well. Two large gentlemen (for want of a better description) decided to cross the road whilst the traffic was at a standstill. Problem was, they were so busy looking at the bikes, and talking to each other, one of them walked straight into me. Yes - slap bang right into the side of my bike! Lucky I had my foot down firmly, or he would have knocked me off. I swore (involuntarily of course), and the expression on his face made me laugh. It was such a picture of embarrassment at what he'd done, combined with surprise at my language. Oops! Still no real harm done, except a bent mirror, which soon got straightened out.

As usual after this event, we returned home via the Woolpack Inn. This little Shepherd Neame pub, over 600 years old, stands down a narrow lane, in the middle of Romney Marsh, which goes nowhere in particular (actually to a place called Midley, which is a ruined chapel and not a lot else), and does the most excellent food. We've been going there for years. You can't pre-book, but they guarantee to fit you in, if you don't mind waiting a bit. They were so busy, we actually sat at a large wooden table set inside the equally large inglenook fireplace!
Looking up, you could see straight up the chimney to the blue sky outside. Made us wonder what would happen if it rained, or if a bird perched up there........

Anyway, rolling on the week a bit...........
Last week, I had a problem with the rear right indicator on the Insect. It decided it didn't want to work. The bike was booked in anyway for its MoT and annual service, so I asked Clive to have a look at it at the same time. He couldn't get it working,couldn't trace the fault, so he changed the indicators, and they worked.

That is, until I got home - when the same indicator packed up again. I took the Insect back on Thursday for them to do some further investigation. Usual thing with Kent Motorcycles is, I leave my bike there, and they give me a loan bike for the day.
This week, they were a bit short of loan bikes, so they asked me if I'd mind just having a little CBR250 for the day.

I was a bit disappointed, but given the choice between that and hanging around the shop for what might be a very long job, I took the little 250.
Now, I have a problem with sportsbikes, because of my wrists being fused and not bending, but this little thing wasn't too radical, so I reckoned I could probably cope with it for a couple of short journeys.

At first, I thought what a strange little bike. It's a single-cylinder 4-stroke, but it rides like a 2-stroke. There's virtually no engine braking, and you have to wind up the elastic band very tightly to get it through the short first gear. Once into second, it flies like a very sweet little bird.

Apart from the fact that, like most singles and, to a lesser extent, vertical twins, when it reaches a steep incline, it loses a little speed, cruising all day at 80-85mph is not a problem at all

Handling is sweet. The bike feels taut, precise, and oh so very stable. In fact, I can honestly say, I don't think I've ever ridden a lightweight bike that feels so stable and confidence-inspiring. To a novice biker, this bike is going to be so forgiving and easy to live with.

As to the rest, the seat is a little lacking in padding, but it's the kind of hard that doesn't get any harder with distance - if you know what I mean. As to appearance, well, judge for yourself -

Now is that pretty, or is that pretty? This is the version I rode, a sort of mini CBR600. They also do a version that looks more like a mini VFR1200.

I do think Honda are getting their range right these days. For a lad or lass learning to ride, who hankers after a sportsbike, they can start on a CBR125, progress to a CBR250, then either a CBR600F or CBR600RR, and thence to a FireBlade.
If they want to go the other route, as I said, there's a version of the CBR250 that will lead them on nicely to sports tourers.

Maybe (now here's a thought) Honda should introduce a scheme whereby if you purchase a CBR125, you get extra allowance on the trade-in if you buy a CBR250, and so on up the range...................

However, Clive traced the fault on the Insect's indicators, so me and it are off to the High Peak area of Derbyshire next week for a bit of fun. So watch out for more pictures on my other blog when I get back

Friday, 18 March 2011

more sparkly stuff......

Punk Egyptian bracelet. Made from safety pins, no less! Had a lot of fun making that one

Aqua Marine - tiny variegated blue rocailles and bugles, with silver findings

Book Review - A History Of Scotland

Anyone who has watched the brilliant BBC TV series 'Coast' and the subsequent 'A History Of Scotland' will recognise the name and face of Neil Oliver, quite my favourite factual presenter.

I've always loved him as a presenter, but this is the first time I've read a book by him, and I must say, it makes for easy reading.

As a child, growing up in England, I've learnt a great deal about English history, but never really paid much attention to the history of its' closest neighbour. Reading this book, I've been amazed by just how important Scotland has been to the history of England, and most specifically, its' monarchy.

Oliver gives you all the facts and figures, whilst managing to make what could be a very dry subject, thoroughly interesting, and in places, even entertaining. He writes in a style that, if you're familiar with his television programs, means that you can almost hear him speaking the words, instead of just reading them on the pages of a book.

He leads you through Scotland's turbulent history, right from the dawn of time to modern days, in such a way that the history flows effortlessly and smoothly. I found myself totally engrossed.

If you have an interest in history, then this is a book to be strongly recommended.

Rating: an historical 5/5

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Why people write blogs..............

Heaven knows why some people write blogs!
I know why I write mine.

I've just been reading another person's blog, with comments about 'blogger jealousy' and I'm amazed!
How can people become jealous of other people's lifestyles, without ever knowing that person, or understanding the circumstances of their life?
Don't they understand, the world of blogging, with the best intentions in the world, is not completely real?
You only get to see what the blogger wants you to see. Whether it's how proud they are of their children, how clever they are at making things, how committed to their religious beliefs they are, or whatever. You don't very often get to see what they're not good at, what they fail at, how they lose their temper with a loved one over something trivial, or lose their car keys, or forget a dental appointment.
You can't really know a person, or understand them, without meeting them, and spending a considerable period of time getting to know them.
Reading a blog, is the same as reading a novel. You are introduced to the main character, you follow the plot learning as much about that character and no more as is necessary to follow the storyline, and when you have finished reading, you close the book.

I read other blogs because I'm curious. Curious about other people, how they live, what their thoughts are, what they do. But I don't envy them. I only have a few blogs I follow regularly, and those are mostly about things I'm interested in, whether it be motorcycles, craftwork, or whatever. Other blogs I just select at random, when I have spare time to kill.

There's only one blog I read regularly, where I am actively interested in her life-style. That's not to say I'm jealous of her, or her life-style, because I'm happy with my own life, thank you very much. But I admire her free spirit and her way of life, and who knows, had my life panned out differently, maybe I would be living in a similar world myself.

If any of you have read my blog, you would have found that I use it to put my thoughts into words - to cement my own thoughts and reasoning, to express myself in a way that it is not always possible to verbally.
I also post about things I'm interested in, motorcycles, music, crafts, history, and yes, occasionally, I write about things I've made. But not to elicit praise, more to store my ideas, and realisations.

For years now, I've worked in the computer industry, and I've seen computers change from industrial machines to a 'must-have' for every home.
Whilst it can provide great entertainment, and is a boundless source of information, I do fear that some people have become addicted to modern technology to the point where they are in danger of forgetting what it's like to stand in the street chatting to a neighbour, or wandering around the shops seeing and feeling the products at first hand, or whatever. Simply interacting with life outside for real, instead of existing purely in a cyber-space world.

This does not necessarily bode well for the future, because, it seems to me, people are becoming evermore isolationist, devoid of compassion, and really only interested in themselves.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Say 'Hello' to Paul............

My new baby!
After two of the old-style CBF1000s models, now got meself the all-new, all-singing, all-dancing CBF1000FA.
Such an improvement over the old model. New frame, new engine, new suspension, new bodywork, new brakes, new instruments..........and on it goes.
Having only had it just over 12 hours, not really had much chance to try it out yet, but so far, I'm impressed! The engine is silky-smooth, with none of the throttle response lag the older model suffered from.
It's slimmer than the older model, and far more stylish. Instruments are a vast improvement, with a well-lit, easy to read digital display (which I haven't found my way around yet), the side stand has been moved to behind the footpeg (can't find it without looking yet), the new topbox is roomier - no longer have to lay my helmet on it's side.
Only two down-sides - they didn't do a lairy colour this year, and having owned one in orange and one in gold, I miss that. But given a choice of red (never have liked red bikes, except for the old Kawasaki GPz's in Firecracker), black or white and black, I opted for the latter, simply because it matches our other newbie, the VFR1200DCT.
And Paul? Well.............................that's his name ;)
What's black and white with wings? - a magpie
Where was the bike built? - Honda's plant in Italy
What's Italian for magpie? - Gazza
English football fans will now understand why Paul....................
Oh, and those tyres have GOT to go. Why on earth did Honda fit such a good bike with 15 year old technology? BT57s are CR*P
Could go for my usual Avon ST Ultra 2 Storms, but the new Michelin Pilot Road 3 are getting such good reviews, I may just opt for them instead.

Monday, 7 February 2011


Been busy, me. Been learning to make jewellery. Not very good at it yet, but I will get better. Well, it'll keep me out of mischief!
Here's a few tentative first steps:
a Pandora-style bracelet, made to represent my bike club, the 'Hornets Nest'. It features a silver-plated motorcycle, two little enamelled silver hornets, and Murano glass beads striped in yellow and black, all on a black leather thong with silver clasp

Bridal necklace. This actually looks better in the flesh. The chain is silver, and the pearls are tinted in the palest pink blue and green, with iridescent clear droplets

Another Pandora-style bracelet, this time on a silver chain, with a variety of pink Murano glass beads and gems, and a dangling pink dragonfly

'Night Sky' - various shaped beads in a dark dusky blue-grey on silver wire

'Spring Equinox' various glass beads in different shades of green, again on a silver wire

I'm not yet bothering to sell anything, but hey, if something takes your fancy, make me a sensible offer.....................

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

A New Year...........

So, here we are, bit late doing my New Year Address to the Nation, but better late than never!
2010 wasn't a bad year - wasn't exceptionally good, but it was pleasant enough.

What does 2011 have in store? Well, on the trips and tours front, I've already got trips lined up to the Peak District, Lake District, Scottish Borders, and North Wales, so expect lots of updates on my other blog (My British Isles).

And I'll have a new bike to do some of them on. I'll still use the LittleInsect where I can, but the occasional journey will be done this year on a new white Honda CBF1000FA.

I thought I was going to be clever. The old-style CBF1000 has a known alternator problem. The alternators tend to fail between 20,000 and 25,000 miles. It happened on 'Terry', my first one, and I was determined not to get caught out on 'Arfur', the second one.

So, with 17,000 miles on the clock, I ordered the CBF1000FA for delivery on 1st. March. Apparently, according to Honda, the problem doesn't exist on the new model.

And what happens? With 17,500 miles on the clock - you've guessed it - the alternator blows. No fun being stuck by the side of the road in the dark and sub-zero temperatures waiting for the RAC.

I called the RAC, explained to the girl that it was a motorcycle, and it would need transporting because the alternator had failed, which means it needs replacing, and is not repairable.

So of course, they send a small van out to see if they can get me going. He turned up, and I said that I'd told the girl I needed transportation because the alternator had failed, and explained that I knew what I was talking about because it was a known problem, and my last bike had done exactly the same.

But no, I was a woman, what did I know? He tried to start the bike and it wouldn't, then got out all his electrickery stuff and started testing things. Half an hour later 'I'm sorry, madam, but your alternator seems to have failed'

Oh haha. I'm now even colder

'I can't transport you, I'll have to arrange for a bike trailer'

Grrrr.........what did I say to the girl?

4 1/2 hours later, I'm finally back home.

But I digress. It's not just the trips away I'm looking forward to this year. My friend David gets married to His Julie on 9th. April. Oh damn, that means I've got to ride the bike to Lancashire. ;)

And my beautiful future daughter-in-law, Brooke, gets out of the army, and moves over here to marry my son, Rene. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to that.

Oh, and on the wedding front, there's some guy called William marrying some girl called Kate, and I get a day off for that.

On the hobbies front, still got loads of embroidery to do, books to read, music to listen to, and I've now taken up making jewellery - with variable success at the moment, but I will get better with practice. (I hope)


Altogether, another busy year in store. Can't wait........