Yep. I’m still here and still sane. Just about.

This was a post I started writing a while ago but today’s antics gave me cause to finish it. I know I’ve not ranted in a while but had to get this off my chest following the last few exercises in democracy.

When did everyone become such bad losers? How did we move from accepting (maybe grudgingly) that our party, or point of view was not the majority and dealt with it like adults, instead becoming screaming hysterical snowflakes demanding another vote, or that it simply be ignored, or for the more tin foil hat types that it must be some form of covert ploy by hitherto unseen cabals?

I grant that the last UK general election, EU referendum and now the US election have thrown up unexpected results. But so what? Since when does that mean democracy itself is broken? How does that imbue those who feel they’ve lost with some victimhood status that they can wail and scream and demand they still get their way?

More simply, what the fuck happened to people?

The ability to accept and enact public votes is one of the cornerstones of a civilised culture. By all means disagree with, work against the current decision and start campaigning for a future change. But the incessant tantrums and screams that it cannot have been a fair vote since it didn’t go their way just sound like a toddler who’s been told no sweets.

Seriously? Is that how we’re going to run things now? We can have democracy as long as democracy gives the right results?…. Or to put it another way. Suck it up snowflake.

Some time ago whilst amusing myself on t’interwebs, I came across a motorcycle rally. Unlike previous rallies I’d attended which mainly involved falling over in fields, this one seemed to mainly be based on actually riding the bikes…

In the vein of orienteering the National Road Rally is a “scatter” rally where you attempt to ride between control points, trying to keep the mileage covered and number of control points to meet certain category requirements. In essence it is one large excuse for a rideout. So having persuaded a friend to accompany me, we awaited our packs to drop through the letterbox with 2 weeks to go…

The  planning pack!

The planning pack!

The maps and information arrived promptly with 2 weekends to go so we set to planning our route. Quickly it became apparent that there was not much in the way of controls in the north east. So we would have to head south a little bit to Thirsk for our first “start” control. Thereafter you have to try an plot a route taking in enough control points and covering a mileage appropriate to your category – we decided to be bold and aim for the gold daytime category. Basically visit 12 control points, in less than 10 hours with mileages between 260 and 280 miles.
Planning the route seems simple, provided with a matrix of the points and the mileage values for the legs all you have to do is work a route out within your mileage limits and going roughly where you want. All seemed vaguely familiar to riders of a certain age…

Mind the aspidistra!

Mind the aspidistra!

So having constructed routes, prepped bikes and made some route notes, we set off…

All set for the off....

All set for the off….

Our first control and start point was Teasdale bikes in Thirsk.

Stamp me!

Stamp me!

We quickly realised that a) There were a lot of fantastic bikes of all vintages about to set off and b) most of them were heading our way!
Thirsk - Not just our start point it seemed...

Thirsk – Not just our start point it seemed…

Even more starters...

Even more starters…

2 blokes, half a head of hair...

2 blokes, half a head of hair and not on top…

A rather sedate and gentlemanly start ensued as dozens of bikes set off on their first leg. We all wound our way out of Thirsk heading west towards Harrogate. We took it steady rather than tearing off, simply enjoying being in company with some superb vintage bikes instead.

Our 2nd control was near Harrogate, kindly manned by the Ilkley and District Motor Club. Already a queue had formed awaiting stamps but we were quickly and efficiently onwards having gained our first stamp on the road.

Harrogate. Fine gents giving me my first stamp

Harrogate. Fine gents giving me my first stamp

At this point we got our first taste of some of the weather in store as we set off for Skipton. The heavens opened, my gopro mount gave up the ghost (new sticky pad up to the job my arse) and they say you should never ride frustrated and angry. Well I proved it. Having blasted past the control point I tried for a quick u-turn in a barely used layby to discover it was inches deep in glistening wet mud. Fortunately no bikers went past as I picked myself up off the deck suitably embarrassed having dropped this bike for it’s first time ever. No-one to blame but myself, and a good wake up call. Luckily no-one saw so let’s keep it between ourselves ok?

A good check over to make sure the bike was ok to continue and I headed back to the control where I collected my wits and a third stamp from the chaps from BMF north west. Then, reunited up with my buddy we headed on…

Skipton. Got there in the end...

Skipton. Got there in the end…

The rain kept on and off as we headed for out of Skipton towards our next control at Accrington, Apologies to the Amigos running the control, completely forgot to grab a quick photo!

The next control was a “virtual” control at Wigan. This is one you count towards your controls and mileage but not actually a point to visit. We logged it on out way to the next manned control at Warrington. This was probably our longest stretch on motorways and dual carriage ways as we skirted Manchester, and again the West proved to be the wet side of the country.

Warrington. More stamps and a break...

Warrington. More stamps and a break…

We reckoned this was about half way round for us, so after collecting our next stamps courtesy of the guys from the Moto Guzzi owners club we decided it was a good time for a rest break as the control which was at a full set of services. Got to keep fed and hydrated!

No idea how w stay this trim....

No idea how w stay this trim….

We set off for Congleton and all the rain we had seen so far was as but a light bit of drizzle. At times we were reduced to a crawl in sheeting torrents and roads became rivers. Wetsuits would have been more in keep rather than waterproofs. We eventually pulled into the Anchor Inn where the local Congleton and District Motorcycle club bravely manned the awning where we got our stamps and laughed in the face of the elements…

We gave up on any hope that the weather would let up and headed back out into the storm on our way to Ashbourne. The friendly gents from the Vincent Owners Club stamped us up – Apologies again as I completely forgot to grab a quick photo mainly due to my buddy showing up with cakes he rustled up from the local bakery whilst I got fuel.

The ride on towards Tideswell should have been through some spectacular countryside and rock formations in the Derbyshire National Park. What we could mainly see was copious amounts of water however. More and more bloody water. I swear I saw the animals paring up and looking for an ark at this point. I’m pretty sure we took the scenic route as well, but as the visibility was more akin to something from the shipping forecast I can’t be sure.

Tideswell. Manned by lovely ladies

Tideswell. Manned by lovely ladies

We found the control and like sirens tempting sailors the lovely ladies from The Anchor stampers marshals tried to waylay us with pieces of fish and chips. Our resolve held though, and we managed to get away with just our stamps and maybe a few small pieces of home made millionaires shortbread…

Tideswell. He can sniff choccy cake from 2 miles....

Tideswell. He can sniff choccy cake from 2 miles….

We turned east and north once more as we began the return journey to the northeast in earnest at this point. We skirted Sheffield and crossed the M1 to the Moto Demon Speed Shop at Rotherham. As if to light our way home the weather finally cleared as well, and we began to see dry roads for the first time in hours.

Rotherham. The guys there were setting up for the night...

Rotherham. The guys there were setting up for the night…

There was a definite party atmosphere at the shop as they were gearing up to go through the night for the riders on the hardcore rally categories. As relative newbies however we had a schedule to keep, so after a short break for more food and caffeine we headed Barnsley bound…
Rotherham. He found the food again...

Rotherham. He found the food again…

Our penultimate control was courtesy of the Barnsley Bikers Club. A fleeting stop as we pushed on to make sure we could keep to our time limit.

Barnsley. End almost in sight...

Barnsley. End almost in sight…

Despite the highways agency’s best plans in closing the M1 (top tip for future rallies – check the planned road closures!) we still made our final control at Squire Biker Cafe with plenty of time to spare

Last stop. Squires Cafe.

Last stop. Squires Cafe.

Squires provided an ideal last port of call – the cafe and bar was open so we could bask in the glow of a great day and grab some more caffeine and admire our completed stamp collection..
Proud of my stamp collection

Proud of my stamp collection

The cafe allowed us a chance to talk over the day before setting off home. We both agreed on the whole a cracking day out. Some great scenery, if seen through a rain soaked visor. Definitely some great people met. The true test of the day was that we both immediately agreed it was something we would do again…

Back on the bikes to head home

Back on the bikes to head home

After a few days I’ve had the chance to consider the rally and there’s a few points for anyone considering it for a first time.
First up, just bloody do it!. The absolute worst that can happen is you don’t enjoy it and sack it early. Not much of a loss is it? The best that can happen? a fantastic ride out, meet loads of great people, see loads of great bikes and explore some of this fine land.
To help on the way –

  • Plan but be flexible. By all means have a route, but be aware of alternate fuel stops, roads etc
  • Take breaks. Drinks and food are a must. they help you stay alert and on the ball.
  • Any bike can do it! I saw scooters, classics, crutch-rockets, endurance tourers, customs and my own VN900C SE cruiser. If you can ride it on roads it’ll get round.
  • Make friends. Every person, and I mean every single person I met on the rally was friendly and happy to chat, give advice, tips, routes and laughs.
  • So hopefully I’ll you out there next year. I’ll maybe even go through the night this time!

    Finally, and the most important thing I wanted to say. The rally exists only because of the volunteers who give their time and effort so freely. Huge thanks are due to each and every one of them out there. not just those on my route, but at every control, behind the scenes, everywhere. Thank you all. See you next year!

    For those of a techy bent. I used an app called Glympse on an android phone whilst on the rally. It broadcasts your gps location to a web based map which you can send the link to via email, facebook, even texts. This allowed Mrs Spider to keep up to date with our progress and seemed to work really well – just remember to keep modifying the time period you are sharing for as it has a limit of 4 hours, but you can keep extending it. For a free app I was quite impressed!

    No seriously, fuck right off.

    After a year of radio silence that is the message I wish to convey.

    After the murder of an MP by a deluded fascist nut job, I am heartily sick of the pro-EU hand wringers wheeling out their argument that although they in absolutely no way wish to politicise such a hideous event, if you don’t vote how they want then you’re some form of sexist racist homophobic fascist who probably gases immigrant kittens for kicks.

    So my message to them is simple.
    Fuck off. When you’ve finished fucking off, fuck off some further.

    How dare you equate extremists with people who have perfectly legitimate concerns about the political tyranny overtaking the EU and wish to think globally instead. How dare you try to use sympathy for a bereaved family to support a purely political agenda to support a regime that usurps elected governments to impose technocratic puppet leaderships.

    Of course any right minded person feels utterly terrible for the grieving family. Same as for every murdered policeman, teacher, nurse or even *gasp* an unemployed person. I don’t see their families getting calls from Obama or parliament recalled? The only people reacting differently are the political establishment and Westminster echo chamber that are suddenly faced with some of the shit the rest of the electorate have to deal with.

    By all means vote however you want. In or out, don’t care. It’ll make little difference. Want to try and convince me one way or the other? Feel free. Try and propagandise an act of terror or murder and claim unless I agree with you I’m as bad? Fuck right off.

    Oh, almost forgot. May contain profanities.

    +++GNU Terry Pratchett+++

    Scotland eh?

    Grim up north...

    Grim up north…

    Now obviously this was written before the referendum, so maybe it’s all proved pointless (they remained in the UK) or maybe the worst fears have come to pass (a dead heat). But given the bile now being spewed by both sides north of the wall you’d expect me to have a view wouldn’t you? (even though not scottish)

    So should Jockistan be an independent country?

    Simple premise isn’t it but there is so much at stake, so much given as a reason either to support or oppose the idea. So much bullshit or denying the obvious.

    So on the hot topics…
    Will they keep the £? Well, if they want to. There is absolutely nothing to stop them using it. They can use any currency they like, they could use euros, dollar or doubloons to be honest. What they cannot realistically expect is currency union, to have their financial and banking system continue to be underwritten by the UK taxpayers. So in continuing to use the £ they cede all fiscal power to an unaccountable authority in another country.

    Will they save the NHS? Even the fraction they already run north of the wall is monolithic and nigh unsteerable. There will be hard decisions ahead. It will cost more in the future, treatments will cost more and they will lose economies of scale and the ability to send people south easily for treatment – after all will the UK NHS want to be seen using scarce funding subsidising NuScotland?

    Will they be more prosperous? There is oil, gas and whisky. But as capital flight takes hold there will be an impact on the financial industry. Shipbuilding will suffer as the UK MPs will find it hard to justify spending defence budgets in foreign countries instead of supporting local economies.

    Will they stay in NATO? They claim to want to do so, but want all nuclear weapons removed as “they are abhorrent”. Seems a bit rich to want the protection and membership of an organisation dedicated to a mutual nuclear deterrent, but refuse to contribute and indeed cause all manner of problems for the existing members. Tricky…

    Will they get to stay in the EU? They say they can join immediately. The actual members of the EU say different. Hard to see how you can force a club to let you join against members will. Many countries have independence movements of their own they are dealing with and the realpolitik is that they will make it as hard as they can for NuScotland to join, so they will be forced to accept Schengen, Euro, EU financial controls etc..

    So from all these you may think I’m against the proposal. After all as the UK we have achieved much, defeated tyranny, lead the abolition of slavery, created the NHS, created a welfare state to envy of the world, lead the world in industrial and scientific innovation. All of these from a union of nations not a conquest.

    But I’m not. Not a single one of the topics above actually matters. I hope they vote yes, go their own way and stand on their kilted legs.
    Mainly because it’s democratic. It moves power away from the centre towards those that foot the bill for it all.
    Because it promotes equality. Those left in the UK will not longer faced with scottish MPs who helped give us tuition fees and social care costs whilst all the time helping their constituents avoid them.
    Because I’m tired of England being the whipping boy for all Scotlands issues. I’m sure like any politician they’ll blame the last administration. But they’ll no longer have an easy excuse.
    Because if they remain, they will now be privileged members of the union. Bribed with others taxes with a greater say, greater funding per head and protected positions.

    Finally because it’ll be the beginning.
    We will see more clamour for accountability. Wales & NI may well want more of a say in how they are run. England certainly will, and perhaps the regions of England.
    Will this effect our global standing? Probably. So what? Why does it matter if we can tell other countries what to do? The first duty of the government is security of the nation, not governing other nations.

    Been quiet of late I know. But here’s another one for the good stuff list.

    If you’re on Teesside and interesting in anything linked to cycling then get yourself down to GLG Cycles in Thornaby. They’ve just opened again after a brief spell shut due to a fire.

    I’m by no means a “cyclist” and recently got myself a bike again after 15, 20, a long time off of bikes. Sent there by a friends recommendation I’m glad I did. Gary who runs it provides a friendly welcoming service and by no means a hard sell (even recommending cheaper bikes than I budgeted for!) He was happy to provide friendly easy going advice, so even if you know nothing like me you don’t feel embarrassed.

    I am however a keen internet user and obviously shopped around before spending my hard earned, and the prices are easily comparable to what you find online – with better advice and the ability to pop back in if you’ve any issues.

    So if you need anything cycling related on Teesside you know where to go. Thank me later.

    Bravo Zulu.

    you can find them here

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    Well I suppose it was only a matter of time before the witch hunts began. Vast swathes of the South now feature on the shipping forecast, homes now have as many moats as MPs and the major crop in Somerset could be be rice paddies.
    The search for someone to blame is well and truly under way. The Met Office will cop for some in true “shoot the messenger” style, despite the fact that forecasting an event in no way stops it. Next will be the Environment Agency for not doing enough – who will in turn claim that funding cuts have prevented them doing enough to prevent the floods. Then of course, politicians of every hue will blame every other politician for previous funding, inadequate planning, jobs for the boys, manning levels and so on.

    Here’s the unfortunate truth.

    If you get an absolute shitload of rain in a relatively short period of time on waterlogged ground you will get flooding.

    No amount of dredging small rivers, sustainable drainage, urban planning or even wishful thinking will prevent this. Flood plains and river systems will flood. If you then build homes in these areas they will get flooded.

    Pretending otherwise is nonsensical. It is possible to alleviate effects a bit, we can reduce the extent of floods, we can maybe flood proof structures. But the expense in time money and resources to say we will protect against all flooding? Utter madness.

    What should be of more concern right now is the causes of the dominating weather patterns we have seen. Mainly due to the position of the jetstream across the UK-I am sure the debate will begin whether this is a more permanent shift in climate driven by changes in the Atlantic, or a temporary aberration about a more usual mean. I say debate, more likely a bunfight for research grants for everyone to prove their own pet theories.

    My advice? Learn to live with nature, because it’ll kick your arse every time otherwise.

    Imagine if you will in the wake of the Saville scandal an investigation found that the BBC had systematically helped hide child abusers.

    Imagine that not only did they ensure they were not prosecuted that they moved them to another job where they had more contact with children.

    Imagine that they had run a regime where in a single country upwards of 10,000 young girls were treated as slaves and abused.

    The imagine their response was to establish of a commission of their own “experts” to look at how they could better protect children from potential abusers, but keep it findings and decisions confidential.

    How might we react?

    What would the public demand happen next?

    Ridiculous you might say. No organisation could survive these sort of crimes becoming public you may think.

    Well, the catholic church is guilty of these and far far more. So when confronted by the enormity of their sins by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the expert panel published a series of highly critical observations accusing the church of failing to acknowledge the scale of the problem and implementing policies that led to “the continuation of the abuse and the impunity of the perpetrators” you might expect contrition?

    Ha, not the church.

    Apparently daring to criticise the Holy See for protecting abusers is “out of date, unfair and ideological”

    Well, it appears dear reader that I am out of date, unfair and ideological.

    In a world where we can panic over a childs possession of mini cheddars we should be merrily burning churches for their crimes. Tear down every one and use the land for museums, libraries, schools and play areas. Seize and use their tax free ill gotten gains for education. Let the smoldering remains of the catholic organisation do some good for once.

    Before you are too quick to criticise me for haranguing your belief (I am by the way in case you’re wondering), then note I fully support your right to a belief, opinion or thought. That does not extend to your right to have that belief protected from criticism or ridicule.

    What with christams, new year and well life, it’s been a few weeks. But I hadn’t forgotten. So here’s another Friday fiver.

    This week I saw a tweet from someone I follow on twitter

    Now, I find Skip funny and provoking. Not to everyone’s taste certainly. But following the link i saw this charity.

    Soldiers off the Street helps all branches of the forces. They provide practical and sound help to get people back on their feet and with a fighting chance of a decent life. Not a lot to ask for guys and girls who signed a blank cheque to the nation for everything up to and including their life is it?

    The fact that this is needed shows what politicians really think of the forces. There to be discarded when inconvenient. Take a moment for a read, and if you can spare the price of a pint they even take paypal… go on, you know you’ll feel better for doing it.

    So last week saw the highest flood surge on the eastern coast of the UK in several generations. Tides locally beat anything measured in over a century. People were evacuated from at risk areas as chaos ensued across the region as power went down and roads were blocked

    I witnessed the efforts of emergency services, local authority staff and other agencies combating the elements into the night in cold, dark wet conditions to try and help those effected. So whilst I am not always the states biggest supporter when I read this today I felt compelled to weigh in.

    For those not familiar to the area Port Clarence is one of the most deprived areas of Teesside, it is also well known to be at risk of flooding, to the extent it gets its own flood warning area.

    So despite the numerous warnings for days before, on TV, radio, websites, twitter, rss feeds, apparently not enough was done.

    Such as what exactly?

    It’s a flood. It’s an enormous body of water inundating the land. What exactly do you think is going to be done? Even royalty as long ago as the 10th century figured out they could not prevent the tides.

    King Cnut. Even he worked it out...

    King Cnut. Even he worked it out…

    I suspect what people actually mean is they don’t want to be effected by these events. Well guess what, nature doesn’t give a shit what you want. If you live on a flood plain at some point you will get flooded. Same as if you live on the slopes of a volcano at some point your house may get covered in magma. Stop expecting everyone else to bail you out. If you managed to remain unaware that there was anything about to happen last week then to be frank, you are a moron, especially if you live in a flood risk area. Hell – there was so much info about it I was sick of hearing about it.

    There are free warning services you can sign up for, all you have to do is register. Yet people who expect others to warn them, protect them, clean up for them and provide funds to replace their damages seem unable to lift a single finger to that extent to help themselves. It’s your home, take some bloody responsibility for it. Make some preparations. Maybe flood proof it, get adequate insurance, or if it’s all just too much like hard work? Move somewhere else. I suspect if as much effort went into protecting homes as voting on reality bloody TV shows we’d never have an issue.

    As for all the guys who worked long and hard into the night in difficult and sometimes hazardous conditions evacuating, feeding, rescuing, pumping out, directing traffic, restoring power, protecting buildings, warning others, providing medical aid to name but a few, you’d think just maybe there’d be a bit of gratitude…

    Here’s just a couple of warning services / pages. Took me all of 2 seconds to find. You’d think if you lived somewhere at risk you might make the effort don’t you?
    Flood warnings direct (free service in at risk areas)
    EA RSS flood feeds