These were just a few shots of my blackbird friends visiting my roof-top garden.
This is how the professionals do it —
Thank you fellow WordPress blogger Hakan Dahlstrom photography from Sweden for the use of your photo.
Some days don’t go to plan. My ride from Oswestry over to Matlock where I had arranged to meet a group of fellow XJR owners went well. Derbyshire roads across the Peak District are a pleasure to ride first thing on a Sunday morning and my expensive new titanium Akroprovic exhaust gave out a mellow song.
Matlock was it’s usual busy self when I got there with the main street lined with bikes and the tearooms doing a roaring trade in biker breakfasts. Formalities over, six of us set off for Buxton and beyond with plans to ride that biker’s favourites Snake Pass and Cat & Fiddle.
It was to be a few years later that I rode to the Cat & Fiddle with a different bunch of mates – Mad Mick with the red shoulder inserts had arrived late on that first occasion and missed the Mayhem. The smiling Martin giving hand signals had wrecked himself and his bike while on the way to one of my meets in the Cotswolds a few years earlier and was to do it again on my Charity Ride in the Lake District a few years later. He was the one made the hole in the wall and was flown off to Lancaster Royal in the rescue helicopter on that occasion 🙂
Back to Matlock Mayhem
We didn’t even get out of Matlock proper before we were hit by an out of control biker coming from the opposite direction! The guy arrived at a rate of knots around a blind bend with his rear wheel stepped out like a speedway rider! He slid across the double whites and whacked me on the foot before becoming public enemy Number One when he caught my lovely new Akro exhaust can a glancing blow.
I kept my bike upright and made the bend – just – while my antagonist lost it completely and carried on underneath my mate Tony who was next in line. That’s when things got serious —
and the good natured gun-toting Derbyshire Constabulary came along to say hello —
then it was just a case of picking up the bits —
Tony looked remarkably happy for a guy who had just had his pride and joy wrecked through no fault of his own.
Our attacker got carted off to hospital with a broken leg in one ambulance while Tony had a check-up in the other.
Apart from severe bruising of his nuts when they hit the petrol tank Tony came out of it pretty well. He and his wife had been trying for a baby for some time and the blow must have shaken something into line cos – yep – you guessed right – about 12 months later they were blessed with a baby 🙂
As for me? No probs – I just pulled my damaged silencer out of the rear suspension and strapped it roughly where it should be then rode on home and let the insurance company sort things out. The on-coming rider accepted full responsibility for the acccident making things easier to settle and once he had recovered from his broken leg he undertook expensive re-training from Derbyshire Traffic Cops. The alternative being a big fine and major points added to his licence which would have really screwed up his every-day job as a truck driver.
I did get a shock much later when Derby Roads Dept. sent me a massive bill for my share of their costs involved in cleaning up the Torrey Canyon type oil slick and I was relieved when my insurance company paid out.
They also sprung for a new exhaust for my XJR1300 so it wasn’t long before I was back on song again 🙂
At least we were fortunate that the guy hit the two bikes in the middle of our group who were riding solo. The other four bikes were two up including a husband and wife who each had one of their boys riding pillion. The dad Steve – in the white polo saw three accidents that summer involving his mates while out riding in groups. He got pretty good at directing traffic and loading bent bikes. 🙂
Midge – a Border Terrier/Jack Russel cross. I found her at a gamekeeper’s cottage in the middle of a forest near Lake Vrynwy in Mid-Wales —
Midge is one of a litter of five – I got her as a tiny bundle fur at six weeks old. The Border Terrier dad is a ruffty tuffty working dog who lives in an outside kennel and the Jack Russel mum lives indoors and is the family pet. When I went to chose a pup there was quite a mix – rough haired pups – smooth haired pups – some red – some brindled all climbing under and over one another with mum looking on proud as punch.
It’s unusual to see water spilling over the dam as it is really a catchment for the city of Liverpool water supply and the city draws off most of the flow. I have seen it in all seasons and all weathers and this is the main feeder river – again I caught it in flood —
It was difficult to chose but one little beauty had a white tuft under her chin so it had to be her —
Both Midge and Taz live up to their names but there is never any trouble between them. Midge will get too boisterous after a few minutes of playing together. That’s when the claws come out and a swift tap on the nose from Tazza cat is enough to make Midge settle down.
Those plaques on the rock at the end of the dam above my XJR1300 give lots of info regarding Lake Vrynwy —
and down below the dam there are walks and an interesting sculpture park with exibits from artists worldwide —
Lake Vrynwy, a lovely place to spend a day or two with tearooms, gift shops, water sports and bird hides. There is a single track road runs all the way round the loch making it a good walk or cycle at about fourteen miles for the circuit. Well worth a visit if you are in Mid-Wales.
With Oswestry Showground right on my doorstep for a number of years I would enjoy the annual Agricultural Show.
There was always plenty of beef about —
But if I had a favourite it was my friend’s horse —
a two years old Shire horse —
or is he a Clydesdale?
can’t remember – but you have to be fit to parade these big fellas —
and even down in rural Shropshire they love the Scottish Highland breeds —
With Christmas fast approaching most of us have thoughts for our family. My children and grandchildren may as well live at the end of the earth but my thoughts are with them.
My cat Tazza has featured in these posts recently and this is how I described her arrival in my home to my grandchildren a few years ago.
Raining Cats and Dogs
One dark winter’s night the wind was gusting under the bridge over the stream at the bottom of my garden and the rain was coming down in torrents when my neighbours, the Mills family, heard a howling outside their house. Mother Mills rushed out expecting to find at the very least a pack of dogs whining and baying at the wind but to her surprise there was nothing to be seen.
Mother Mills went back inside for her big torch and bravely came out for another look to find where the cries were coming from. Then she saw it! A tiny kitten clinging to a narrow moss covered stone ledge on the side of the bridge a few feet above the raging brook! It may have been a tiny kitten but she was making enough noise for a whole family of them!
Mother Mills managed to rescue the soaking morsel from her precarious perch and took her into the house where she dried her with an old towel and gave her some warm milk to drink. When she was dry and her tummy was full of warm milk the little kitten quitened down, curled up and fell asleep as if nothing bad had happened to her. Where she came from and how she got there was to remain forever a mystery.
The Mills family had two more cats at that time called Zach and Clovis and when those two saw this strange little mite drinking their milk and sleeping in their bed they were none too pleased and set off around the house complaining loudly to anyone who would listen! So, to keep the peace in their house Mother Mills asked me if I would like a kitten and I’m sure you know what the answer must have been because that little kitten is now Tazza, a full grown pussycat.
She is a really brave and clever pussycat and one day when I didn’t have my car I put her in her travelling basket strapped to the pillion seat of my motorbike and took her to the vet’s surgery for her appointment. She didn’t complain at all. In fact she seemed to enjoy whizzing through town like that!
Another time when she was quite young she came on a two hundred miles journey in the car to Scotland. That’s quite a long way so we stopped for a comfort break at a service station on the M6 where she walked on a lead and did her toilet behind some trees as if it was something that happened every day.
Shame she blotted her copybook at her grannie’s house though. The young Tazza found it all very strange and managed to do a ‘whoopsie’ on the cushion of a chair in the sun lounge. Poor Tazza! She was very embarrassed and so was I but the cushion cover cleaned good as new in the washing machine and I’m pleased to say that Tazza hasn’t had any ‘accidents’ since.
Another trick that Tazza get’s up to is to try and walk along the narrow edge of the bath when I am having a soak in the tub. Now cats are not supposed to like getting wet and I would have thought that after her problems on the bridge as a kitten, she would keep well away from ledges and water but no, daft cat that she is, she is never happy unless she is in danger of slipping into the bath amongst the soapy water!
It’s the same with the bathroom sink. If I leave the cold water tap running just a little bit, she will climb up into the sink and play with the running water for ages. First catching some water in her paw and then pretending to drink it.
Tazza sleeps in the house most days and goes out hunting for rats and mice at night. Sometimes in the morning she will bring a live one home as a present. That’s one present I would rather not have! One thing hasn’t changed and that is the row she makes when she arrives back at the house around five or six o’clock in the morning! She is louder than an alarm clock and I always have to go downstairs and let her in before she wakes the neighbours!
Sometimes I think that Zach and Clovis were right when they thought she was a right little nuisance but I love her to bits and am so glad she came to stay.
Don’t be fooled – Tazza is the boss!
Back in ’02 during the formative years of the XJR Owner’s Club a fellow owner and steam train enthusiast (Borg) rode up from his home in London to spend a couple of nights with me in Shropshire where I was living at the time. We rode over the Berwyns to Bala and beyond to Portmadoc for our first look at their Steam Rail setup and were very impressed. Mostly manned by volunteers it was quite something.
We parked the bikes at the station and spent the rest of the day around the trains and rolling stock. We even took a ride by steam train up to Ffestiniog where the slate was mined that the railway had been built for in the first place. It carried the slate down to the harbour in Portmadoc from where it was shipped to London amongst other places. There was a time when the streets of London were said to be paved with gold – even for the welsh slate industry.
I remember cobbling a ditty together and sending it to my very young grandchildren at their home on the outskirts of London. It went something like this.
PORTMADOC STEAM FESTIVAL by grandpa Donald —
with slate from the quarries —
action from the workshops —
a bit of spit and polish —
the little steam train puffed off down the track —
While on the subject of Steam trains here two more photos borrowed from a friend.
The impressive Jacobite engine which pulls the train between Fort William and Mallaig —
one of these days I’ll make this trip on the train but the road to Mallaig was built for bikers.
Thanks for the Jacobite train pics Buttons – hope you like what I’ve done with ’em 🙂
Confession — I used a touch of poetic licence with the opening photo at the top of the page. It was taken in a railway carriage but nowhere near Port Madoc. That pic was taken on the wooden train that runs between Palma and Soler on the island of Majorca 🙂
I blame the Scottish weather! My thoughts are on warmer places. Mallorca can be ok this time of year so long as you carry a rain top or fleece. I’ve wandered around there quite a lot. My first trip was way back when my local pub in Dunblane organised a long weekend in Arenal. I will spare you the gory details – suffice to say much drink was spilled 🙂
I have clearer memories of another out-of-season trip I did on my own. I had the use of a friends apartment in Port de Pollenca in the north. It wasn’t long before I’d done all the local and semi-local walks including some interesting hills.
Time to explore further afield. The highest peak on the island was next – Puig Major —
It was quite a long walk in from the road on the north side and I came across an Ice Safe below the peak. Apparently it was put to good use prior to the invention of refrigerators and was still full of icy snow. It consisted of a deep hole quarried in the rock. In winter snow would be packed down the hole and covered with charcoal. In the summer it was just a matter of climbing up with your backpack or mule, cutting a few blocks of ice out and carting them back down the mountain where they would be put to good use to chill the San Miguel..
Once back at the road where I had left my hire car it was only a couple of clicks back to the Monastir de Lluc where I found a room with the monks. The room was basic but warm enough under the wool blankets and clean. Dinner in the main restaurant was ace with a big open log fire roaring up the stone chimney. I had hooked up with a young German architect also walking solo by this time and over dinner we hatched plans to hike out to the coast via the four hundred feet deep Torrent de Parais in the morning.
Transport was sorted when the only other guests at the monastry – two German girls with their own hire car offered to drop us at the head of the gorge in the morning and collect us from the beach later in the day. The deep gorge needs to be treated with respect. Once you are down there it would be very difficult to get out other than under your own steam. Some parts are narrow enough to have you squeeze through – others have ropes strung to help pull yourself over large boulders. A major concern is flash flooding as there is nowhere to hide from the torrent and the walls of the gorge are sheer rock. A couple of bits needed swimming through and it was a relief to see the girls waiting for us when we eventually emerged onto the beach.
Next step was to light a fire from the driftwood laying around and just chill out with a beer or two the girls had picked up on their way down.. My German friend just shucked off his clothes and walked into the sea naked. It’s sad that we shy Brits aren’t so keen to bare all in front of virtual strangers. I did envy him his freedom of expression. It was to be a few years later when needs must in Croatia before I found that liberating feeling.
The road back over the mountains was quite something. On one particulary steep section it was elevated and screwed round on itself a full three-sixty degrees to gain height to the next level.
Dinner in the Monastry restaurant was even better that second night and my German friend was sitting on the stone steps by the entrance in the morning holding his poorly head when I left. The House Red had been particulary strong! Just the way the monks like it!
Unfortunately the photos I have to hand are mostly from a later trip.
This could be the cathedral on the coast by Palma —
The railway station in Palma next where the wooden train leaves to rattle up and over the mountains and down the other side to Port de Soller on the remote west coast not too far from where the Torrent de Parais reaches the sea.
An atmospheric ride – especially with me driving 🙂
I lie I was only the conductor 🙂
Another interesting place was all the way down in the south-west – Port d’Andratx —
Was a time when I loved to splice the mainbrace 🙂
Sorry but that’s my lot. Considering how often I have been on Mallorca I don’t have many photos to show for it
When I lived in a caravan in the summer months I would go off to spend my winters in warmer climes.
In 2008 I was in Cyprus. Being a bit religious over there they do Christmas in a big way.
Pretty cool eh? Yes the Christmas tree pokes right up into the second and third floors.
Strrretch limo sir?
or would you rather take the mini?
No thank you – I’ll take the Tenere 😉 🙂
M-mmmm – maybe I should check for flight availibility 🙂
Christmas in Cyprus