Sunday, 30 November 2008

Trials & Tribulations

Sadly this TY (my son's bike) was stolen a few months ago, demonstrating that motorcycle ownership has it's bad moments. I started riding bikes when I was about 11 - my first expedition being a helmet-less trip on a step-thru C90 along the Fosse in the Cotswolds, brought to a swift end by the intervention of the law ( Morris Minor panda I recall). My own son started at the age of four with a QR 50 and then progressed onto the TY above. I'm sure the TY must have been a killer for Yamaha because it was so beautifully made, and although it sold in huge quantities from '74 to '84 can't have made them a lot of money. Since my introduction to the joys of two wheeled motorised transport I have ridden, owned, borrowed, crashed, been frightened by and enjoyed a vast range of machines (more to appear on these pages). I have, for many years, been under the mistaken impression that, for motorcycling heaven to be complete, one would need at-least three machines: 1. For crashing about in the fields, woods, quarries and occasional blats on the tarmac ( this bike to remain covered in mud and to be, cosmetically, a disaster but kept in tip-top mechanical fettle. ) 2. An excessively powerful, exquisitely handling, massively braked, howlingly exhausted all-out sports bike for pure adrenalin filled, knife-edge weekend riding and track days (probably Italian). 3. Big fat comfy, torquey, lazy slob machine for taking in the scenery, long jaunts around Europe and short trips to the news agents to pick up motorcycle comics. Well then - imagine my shock when I suddenly realised that all this was complete bollox. I've been without a bike for over three years now and suffer badly as a result. I've come to the conclusion that the thing holding me back has been the search for the ideal compromise machine ! Disaster, what folly - fortunately I hang out with some people who make sense and I have had it spelled out to me quite clearly that "any bike is better than none " - well of course it is - and how the bloody hell did I miss that one ? By lowering my sights, expectations, vanity threshold, bike snobbery visor and budget I have settled on the perfect solution - a hundred quid's worth of bits that may even yield two complete bikes at a push, conveniently located at the far end of the country in a shed. I'll let you know how it all goes on these pages. MORE PROBLEMS !

Friday, 28 November 2008

Real Food

This has been a long time coming - apologies for the delay. I'm very blessed in that my local happens to provide good beer and real food. The Queen's Head at Bulwick, Northants has been mentioned in these pages before but I'm beginning to feel guilty about not sharing it widely enough. Run by the enthusiastic Geoff and Angela, this pub keeps coming up trumps and has the Diplo seal of approval after many years sampling.
The beer is taken very seriously and it is such a pleasure to be able to enjoy a village pub that is happy to present a fantastic pint without making you feel you ought to be ordering a la carte for a dozen. So many of our pubs have gone foody and really don't understand the point of beer. Somehow this place manages both in real style. A little sample menu is attached - these two on separate occasions, but the offal dish a few weeks ago was absolutely out of this world, Geoff kills and butchers his own game which has to be a good thing. The pig's ear dish I had as a starter tonight, and was brilliant. I'm not a food writer but am happy to say I don't need to be - where on earth can you find such serious goodness AND with a pint of Brewsters Decadence to wash it all down ? - (that and a good Chilean Syrah/Cabernet).

Sunday, 16 November 2008

.....And Don't Come Back !

"Welcome" indeed ! This picture is offered as a marvelous example of our country's attitude to life. I was rather struck by the fact that the car park, for around forty or fifty vehicles, had no less than four of these "Bugger Off" notices. Not strictly a road sign, and therefore in danger of surviving my campaign to be rid of them, I offer this beauty to my unmitigated colleague to deal with - it bears a striking resemblance to one he posted earlier at a construction site in Rutland.
In the extremely unlikely event of any body outstaying their welcome in the car park, the local authority have despoiled the rather fine lamp standard with a personal message for Ron !

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Banking Suspended

Central Bank of Ireland, Dame Street, Dublin. By Sam Stephenson 1975. Controversial even after being reduced in height for contravening planning restrictions, this building is much un-loved but I've not come across this brave approach before.
A central column supports massive, balanced beams from which the floors are suspended, as can be clearly seen in this rather splendid shot. An habitual supporter of the under-dog, I have taken this fantastic piece of engineering under my wing and propose to defend it. If they really want to get rid of it, I'd gladly have it re-assembled in the grounds at Diplo Hall. MORE SUSPENSE !

Monday, 10 November 2008

.. the darkness He called Night.

At last - street light's packed up again. Celebration in Diploville as my one man campaign to rid us of the street light gets under way. I noticed, as I pulled into the Diplo driveway tonight, that darkness has returned, a short stroll up and down the road to get my eyes settled and already some sense of nature has returned. Quite apart from anything else the birds know it's gone bed time, the cats have all scarpered, little glimmers of domestic warmth appear through chinked curtains and a general feeling of peace accompanies the smell of wood-smoke from my chimney. Onward - the next light is some 274 yds to the East. Up two clicks, one click right for wind drift. MORE DARK !

Sunday, 9 November 2008

......... All Gone

Charming little straight Tempranillo Rioja helps cut the fat. That's all I have to say about that.

MORE .............!

This Little Piggy ..........

The Tamworth is generally recognised to be the purest of British breeds and less contact with Asian breeds over the last two or three hundred years makes it the most closely related to our native wild forest pig. Known for their spirited and perky attitude to life when given the freedom to express themselves, they are great foragers. This particular chap spent his time rooting out acorns and scratching his back on some of the most impressive oak trees in County Diplo.

This joint is the traditional shoulder cut, not so popular these days but offering a great mix of muscle groups, plenty of mid fat and a substantial sub-cutaneous layer making for a delightful crackling. Best cooked slow to get the most out of the long muscles, the hefty bone content ensures even cooking and stacks of flavour. I'll try and get a shot of it post fire. MORE FLAVOUR !

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Gas Works Outing

Some 12 or 15 years ago I recall taking a stroll in the early morning to get a closer look at this spectacular gasometer - in fact I seem to remember there being more than one then. This beauty at Barrow St in Ringsend, a short walk from Balls Bridge, was protected by a preservation order ( quite right too ). It was converted into a nine story apartment block called The Alliance (of what ?) and remained empty for many years. I gather it is now a hotel. Bloody shame it's not a gasometer really, it has all the potential.
I do think we need to get our unmitigated author on the case of architectural transvestism. Gasometer Hotel, Bank Wine Bar, Power Station Gallery and the like. I worry that many of our great industrial achievements have been lost forever, concreted over or just plain smashed beyond repair, in so many cases replaced with very unworthy structures. Having had a good look at this piece I should think it could just about be restored to its former use when the hotel's expired. This can't be said for the miles of railway track bed that has been grubbed out and built over, viaducts demolished, station yards now covered in ghastly over-priced, ill-conceived, appallingly designed, shockingly constructed, copy-cat, bijou "executive homes". MORE REVERSIBLE PROGRESS !

Sunday, 2 November 2008

A Different Class of Glass

Apologies for the shocking photograph - I may have been a little unsteady. Any how -there's been a lot of talk about the waining, or not, of the class system in these Islands. We had Prescott being very eloquent on the subject, R4's Today Programme coming in for some stick, and I heard yesterday that the shadow cabinet now has the highest number of Old Etonians on show in the history of the Tory party. Marvelous. I just thought this attempt to cross class boundaries by the Miller Corporation, calling their watery produce The Champagne of Bottle Beer was a good example of a failed attempt to dilute the extremes that this world has to offer. Personally I need the contrast offered by the seasons, the difference between The Avett Brothers and Beethoven, my caviar served chilled and my truffle omelet piping hot - please let's not make the mistake of blending the extremes out of our experiences. Delighted to report that all's well in Ambridge - Nigel's surprise that Alice's relationship with Christopher Carter is going strong - " thought she'd be aiming for brains and tweed etc..." - "Oh no" pips up Shula (Hebden-Lloyd) " seems like rough and windswept is her thing." MORE ICE !

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Wake Me Up !

I have just returned from a very rainy fireworks session. Great spectacle, huge effort, donated weapons and brilliant bonfire - BUT - who's had the bang out of the fireworks ? I've long been an enthusiastic fan of explosions and have developed a fine sense of what works - BIGGER BANGS. It seems that the Eurobureau have pulled even harder on the restrictions lever in an attempt to take the bang out of your firework. I've struggled in vain to get hold of the good old 75mm titanium maroon that was for years the mainstay of any Diplo display - in fact mortar style charges have been taken from us entirely. A shortened launch tube of around 14 inches would restrict the flight to some 100 feet or so ensuring that the blast's primary shock wave could render a devastating blow at ground level, the sharp slap to the top of the head and the visceral shudder in the diaphragm can catch out the unwary and I have seen people fall to the floor, rendered breathless for a few seconds. When you've acclimatised yourself it is possible to fight reflexes and keep the eyes open, you will be rewarded with the whitest, sharpest, purest light imaginable, quiet rural night is briefly turned to day and every shape, profile, branch and tree is seared onto your retina to be enjoyed for several minutes after the event. On a dampish but clear night it is possible to see the shock wave in the form of an expanding ring of compressed, condensing vapour. A volley of 12 maroons or more can leave one feeling quite exhausted and I would recommend a break of a few minutes. The largest mortar we have enjoyed was of 7 inch diameter, the launch charge alone was enough to sink the 200mm o/d gas pipe launching tube a foot into the ground and knock glasses off the table 50 yards away, standing next to it was thrilling and surprisingly warm - the following report at about 200 feet was followed by the most spectacular, ever expanding, circle of gold fire. This glow filled the sky to the horizon and fell like a blanket to cover the whole assembly of open mouthed, bleeding eared, and shocked spectators. I fear that such evenings are going to be thin on the ground under new regulations. MORE BLAST !

Sign Me Up !

Right then - while we're in rant mode,the heating oil tank's getting low and it's chucking it down - this is perhaps the moment to launch the anti road sign push. I appreciate this is very closely associated to the street lighting issue and quite rightly too. I think I have been even more clever than usual with the title of this post as it proposes a campaign style, a lobby or petition. That's all very well but I'm actually going to run this campaign as a one man show for a bit so don't feel pressurised. I had rather hoped that the price of scrap metal, particularly the very high quality dur-al type alloys used in road signs would result in them falling prey to the gas axe and disc cutter, squirreled into transit pick-ups and eventually make their way to China to emerge as counterfeit Honda engines. I drove a section of the 508 a few weeks ago and realised that there was NO point in the journey when less than 4 signs were visible, the heaviest count was 19 in 150 metres. In a village near Diploville a highway re-route became necessary to prevent a mouse getting run over and the resulting works at ONE junction have left us with 11 new aluminium blots. Scrap the signs - let 'em work it out for themselves. They may actually become illegal on the grounds that we are all driving without due whats'name because of the masses of tosh we are forced to digest on the approach to a roundabout or junction. I may well have to expand on the subject in these pages over the next few weeks. Ooh, by the way, I include the above pic to demonstrate what good signage is all about and to annoy the unmitigated author. MORE COMMON SENSE !