It’s been a while but I am still here …

So my last post was back in October 2017 …. wow … but here I am again!

Been a bit busy since then working with my friends at the Dambusters Charity Rides putting on our first joint event with the wonderful new International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln, the inSpire2018 Ride In event. If you are a biker and you missed it you will get a flavour of the day at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoBCgIPcaZ8

Anyway – now moving on to today … well yesterday to be precise! A lovely run out into the Derbyshire Peak District in the May sunshine. It is such a privilege to have such beauty so close at hand to where I live in Staffordshire.

Bit windy right up on the top and quite chilly even in the sunshine but as soon as I turned onto the B5053 towards Longnor and home the wind was gone.

The B5053 for those who do not know it is a scenic peach of a road … not fast, in fact slow but stunning countryside to ride through. Stunning.

If you have a few minutes spare you can ride with me for some of the ride at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVqeIeQHHDc

Well that’s it. A short post to get things started again.

Think I may well get back into this again but need to get a writing mojo back into my soul.

Ride safe all.

S

 

 

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Musings from a Dominican beach … No. 2

It is midday and I look out across a beautiful carribean beach ….


One of the best parts of our holidays is getting to know and enjoy the company of the staff … there are always those who instinctively engage with the guests and respond to our efforts with the local language. The reality is that both sides get something out of the interaction, we both get to laugh to smile, to feel value in the company of another human being. 

As I said at the start of “Musing from a Dominican beach No. 1” I have recently started to read the book titled ‘Joy’ by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. … and no this is not a religious post! I am to religious.

I have not got far through the book yet but in the very early pages the topic of the ‘Meaning of Life’ is touched upon. Whilst there is clearly much more to the discussion one of the central themes is that our purpose is to seek happiness. Individually it is difficult to argue against this point. On our own we do not have the power to shape the course of nature, of the planet and beyond …. we can only impact our immediate surroundings and the people we ‘touch’ as we pass through life; the people who look after us at our resort for example or simply the person you hold the lift for at the airport or the other motorist who just cut you up at the junction.

In any of those interactions we have a choice. How do we react?

Put yourself in the other persons shoes. How would you then want us to react? It is a simple thought …. we simply need to treat those people as we would like to be treated. With courtesy, with a smile, with interest … it does not cost much at all bar a little bit of thought and effort on our part. On an individual level it also makes very little difference to the world either …. we are one of 7 billion people …. but think of how much impact it has if we all did it. If we all made the effort to be nice, to smile, to hold the door open. Extend the idea and now act with the same generosity of spirit towards our planet, towards nature, to our use of resources and towards the equality of nations.

Now do you see the power?

The Dalai Lama is a clever man …. at first it all seemed rather idealistic and pointless as his view of individual action and enlightenment was so limited by each individuals sphere of impact. However, he was thinking on a population scale and not as a single human. That scale is where the impact comes from. I had not really thought about that before. The impact of scale.

If we all engage and seek happiness, are simply nice to one another, treat the environment with respect we can make a difference on a global scale …. but only if we all do it. Is that religion …. I don’t know but it seems to make sense if we want to pass on a world worth having to our grandchildren.

What is perhaps more important is that we can all make a personal decision to do it. We don’t need to win an election. We can simply make the choice to behave differently towards our fellow man, to nature and our world.

Idealistic? ….Yes. 

Individually possible? …. without doubt. What could stop you choosing to be nice to people you meet or to think about the consequences of your choices and actions.

It is your choice to make.

Seek happiness. One moment, one interaction, one choice at a time.

The world will be just that little bit better each time you do.

Try it!

S

Thoughts on life from a Dominican beach …

So it that time of year again! I am on holiday and relaxing on the beach … and at such times without the pressure of work and daily life my mind generally turns to more philosophical things. This year ahead of my holidays I have been wrestling with much of this already but my starting the book ‘Joy’ written jointly by Archbishop Des,one Tutu and the Dalai Lama along with the increasingly polarised and fractured society we live in have shaped my thinking significantly.

So …. here I sit on the beach at my resort in the Dominican Republic with this view …


In fairness, thinking and writing with such a view is not a chore!

The Brexit vote in June 2016 exposed many things in the UK and Europe. Specifically in the U.K. it showed that we have become a hugely polarised society. Polarised about our past, polarised about our future direction as a country and also polarised geographically and also by generation. 

The Brexit vote and campaigns demonstrated a lack of judgement, a lack of facts, a lack of interest in facts across our political class and across the voting public. Both sides made claims and statements that were patently false or unsustainable. No one was interested in serious and informed debate and certainly politicians and voters had no interest in engaging and communicating outside of the circle of people that shared and reinforced their views either in real life or on Facebook. What an incredibly sad state of affairs for a stable democracy such as our own.

Aside from the outcome what did we learn? Geographically we are a divided nation. The South East is almost a different country to the rest of the UK with a vote shape totally at odds with the Midlands and North of England. Scotland and Northern Ireland also voted in large part differently to the rest of England. The inevitable conclusion is that decades of London centric political centralisation in England has created a divided society where much of the country feels misunderstood and ignored. Devolution in the regions seems to have mitigated this which is a good thing.

Equally, we have a young vote which had been disengaged from mainstream politics for many years and did impact the vote on Brexit as it could, perhaps should, have done. I have heard comments from younger voters that the older generation robbed them of their future in Europe …. which kind of misses the point of having a vote in the first place. Sad.

Since Brexit the lack of political leadership, the lack of vision, engagement and delivery on all political sides in the UK is clear for all to see. I am not making a party political point here … they are all as bad as each other! The Conservatives are divided and could not lead the country out of a paper bag, the Corbynistas want to re-run the politics of the 1970s pretending that the lessons from that failed socialist economic experiment are not plain to recall for all of us old enough to remember and the Liberals want to turn the clock back and rerun the June 2016 vote in what is perhaps the greatest arrogance of the three … their view being that the voters did not know what they were doing and made a mistake which they, the liberals can correct!

My conclusion? Our political system is broken, as in not fit for use, buggered, screwed …. you get my point.

How has this happened? My view on it is twofold.

Firstly, politics must be relevant to the people that vote within it. Voters must feel that their vote has an impact that they can see. Our current ‘first past the post’ system prevents this as a party can come a really close second in multiple constituencies yet get no MPs at all. All those who voted for the party that came second in all those constituencies feel their vote, individually and collectively, are pointless ….. which is why they disengage and don’t vote! 

Second, to be able to influence policy and direction you have to be an MP. To be an MP you have to be selected by a political party for the ballot paper and the only way this will happen is if any prospective candidates are seen to slavishly follow the chosen party line! Independence of thought, idea or direction are simply ‘removed’ from the candidate option list. Little wonder we end up with the idea logically sterile bunch we have in parliament today …. it is our own fault for allowing this process to become so entrenched as it is today.

So that is the problem … but what to do about it?

The current politicians are not going to vote for change in the system or selection process. Why would turkeys vote for Christmas? No … we … the voters need to create change . Starting small to start with at a local level we need to start new political movements where people have a say, feel they matter …. and from that national movements grow. It can be done, Macron in France proves that. The issue is that we, the people have to do it. We have to stop accepting that our choice is just those from the mainstream on the ballot …. we don’t have to vote Tory or Labour …. we can deliver change by our country refusing to vote or by voting for independent local candidates with ideas relevant to their constituents as opposed to robots simply looking to climb the political greasy pole.

Idealistic … possibly. But to me continuing down the visionless path to blandness which the current system will inevitably deliver is a direction which frightens me for my children and grandchildren.

We have to advocate, create and then vote into power a changed view of the world and the, our, future.

Who is with me?

Right …. now for a swim! More musing on life later.

S

Motorcycling as a form of ‘Mindfulness’ …

Only a short ride today and along familiar routes. The first run down the A518 from Weston to Uttoxeter was a beauty. No traffic. My favourite corners and I got them all right. It flowed; a rare thing! A quick stop above Blithfield reservoir for a snapshot of the beauty around me and then back on the bike to do it all in reverse!

…and then there I was, pushing along down the road which cuts across from Blithfield Reservior to Uttoxeter, a road which flows from one corner to the next, some climbing, some falling, short straights … when I realised I was focusing on nothing else except where I was and on what I was doing … which was focusing on the vanishing point on the way out of a climbing right hander!

I had completely left all the distractions behind and was living in the moment, the now. All I could feel was the flat twin cylinders urge pushing into the back tyre, I could feel the suspension soaking the bumps and the power at the same time, the bike was rock steady and flowing … trust me it does not happen that often as I am not a good enough rider but just now and then I have a good day!

There is a lot of pressure in my life at the moment.

Work is highly stressful and for the first time since joining my employer six years ago I am not sure …

Harry under real pressure from his OCD … and we are talking about real, all encompassing OCD that makes you want to stop living. The compulsion is so real and so destructive … he is stronger than me … I could not deal with it.

Jo’s business is in retail … not a good place to be right now …

Time passing by and at the right old age of 55 do I really want all this or should Jo and I opt for change and slow down???

But there, half way around that climbing right hander it was all gone, vanished, irrelevant. All that was in my mind was the bike, the road, the corner, the vanishing point and the harmony between me and ‘Lille’, my wonderful R1200R.

There was no stress, there was no fear, there was no pressure. Just me and ‘Lillee’.

It felt so good I was insanely grinning inside my helmet. I have said before that riding makes me feel alive … and so it does. Today though it was more than just alive. I felt calm. I felt safe. I felt content.

‘Mindfulness’. Mindfulness is a technique which can help people manage their mental health or simply gain more enjoyment from life. It involves making a special effort to give your full attention to what is happening in the present moment – to what’s happening in your body, your mind or your surroundings, for example – in a non-judgemental way. Mindfulness describes a way of approaching our thoughts and feelings so that we become more aware of them and react differently to them.        http://www.mind.org.uk

Funnily enough we had been talking about Mindfulness, Buddhism and so on in the family. I have just bought the book ‘Joy’ by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu and another about how to live by the Dalai Lama alone.

Yet there it was all along …. motorcycling. My own personal route to mindfulness and to let the stress and emotion of ‘life’ ebb away to nothing … leaving just me, ‘Lille’ and the road.

Perfect. Another reason to ride.

Stay safe all.

S

 

A good ride….

The jobs were all done. Grass mowed, food shopping done, even. The trip to IKEA was completed. Now I can get ‘Lilee’ out of the garage for a blast through Staffordshire’s glorious countryside!

It was one of those days when I wanted to diver familiar roads where I knew the corners, knew the bumps and junctions. I wanted to simply ride and enjoy it so Intook the well ridden route along the A51 before turning left and across the ridge to Swynerton and out towards Eccleshall before cutting back on the Newcastle road ….. then repeat! What was even better was I got two complete circuits of these great roads without hitting any traffic at all.

I was able to simply ride the roads as I wanted, concentrate on getting the right line and gear for the corner, focus on. The vanishing point and feel the bike hooking up the drive out of the corner just right. Smooth, easy and just a hugely enjoyable feeling. It doesn’t happen that often, traffic free roads area rarity!

Circuit three and I stopped to grab a few pictures … 




I love my bike and how she makes me feel!

Ride safe all.

S

The first Staffordshire Young Riders BBQ …

Aside from Dambusters Charity Rides and Motorcycle Outreach I am also privileged to be a part of the Staffordshire Young Riders Group. As part of our efforts to engage with the Young Riders of Staffordshire we organised  a BBQ at LDC Training / Falcon Motorcycles of Burton on Trent which took place on 23rd August 2017 …

The aim was not to preach about safe riding or better kit at this stage. Simply to get the young riders down there and to begin to engage with them both directly and via our ‘Biker Jack’ FB page. Aside from our Staffordshire Safer Roads stand with all our free stuff we had stands from racing teams, Motorcycle Action Group, The Institute of Advanced Motorcyclists and above all free foodm free stuff and competitions. We also had biking celebrities Rhys Lawrey, Triple Motorcycling World Record Holder and British Superbike star Shaun Winfield.

The good news was the weather – glorious sunshine and not a cloud in the sky as we set up …

The big question was would anyone of our target audience turn up?? Even the local BBC News were there to do a story about motorcycle safety and to interview our group leader, Kevin! In the end I am chuffed to say that the evening was a roaring success … loads of young riders, loads of engagement and loads of inspiration to do this type of event again!

It was also great to have the support of our Dambusters Charity Ride supporter and Triple World Record and Triumph Ambassador Rhys Lawrey, aka the 2moroRider (www.2mororider.com), join us to pass on some his enthusiasm and inspiration. It was great to see how Rhys was able to chat so easily with the young riders and pass on his advice, encouragement and inspiration. Easy to see why his strapline is #beinspired!

 

 

So there it is … our first Staffs Young Rider event done … and a success. Thanks to all who gave up their evening to make it happen and especially to the young riders who came down and got involved! Roll on the next one on 13th September …

 

Ride safe all.

S

Lone Rider by Elspeth Beard – Book Launch evening …

The launch of Elspeth’s book, “Lone Rider” was hosted in Vines Motorrad’s newly renovated showroom in Guildford this Thursday evening. I was in Reigate with work that afternoon, friends and fellow Motorcycle Outreach trustees Craig and Barbara were going as was friend and overlander Sam Manicom. Perfect opportunity. In 1982, at the age of just twenty-three, Elspeth Beard left behind her family and friends in London and set off on a 35,000-mile solo adventure around the world on her motorbike. The book, ‘Lone Rider’ is written with honesty and wit and is the extraordinary and moving story of a unique and life-changing adventure.

 

Elspeth herself is a motorcyclist and award-winning architect. She runs her own architecture company, specializing in creating and remodelling interesting and unusual buildings. Absolutely in keeping with this Elspeth lives in a converted water tower in the southeast of England and still enjoys riding her collection of motorcycles, which includes her trusty BMW R 60/6 which was the very bike which took her on her travels back in 1982 … and it was there in the Vines showroom for all of us to see!Image result for elspeth beard

Credit to the team at Vines Motorrad they had done a great job – drinks and canapés for all on arrival with a good open space for conversation … it was great to catch up with Sam who I had not seen since his ‘off’ and broken arm from his last trip to the USA. I also had the pleasure of chatting to his better half Birgit … which was slightly surreal as I am listening to one of Sam’s audio books in the car describing his and Birgit’s adventures in Africa and South America! Great also too to be introduced to Elspeth herself and also to Lois Pryce, another lady overlander and author of note who was supporting and comparing the event.

 

The evening played to a packed house and took the form of an interview, hosted by Lois, which soon had Elspeth chatting about how she got into biking in London initially simply as an effective means of transport. However, the biking bug soon bit and via a Honda 250 twin Elspeth soon graduated onto the venerable BMW boxer twin! The whole thing had the feeling of a friendly conversation between friends and we had the opportunity to listen in – really good and engaging format! Nice one Lois and Elspeth! The anecdotes were great, the insights enlightening and inspiring with the core message which comes out so often from the overlanders I meet and talk with. It is an incredible world out there and in broad terms strangers in far lands will do their very best to help you with kindness, support and advice.

One of the bonuses from the evening is that Motorcycle Outreach, a small motorcycle based charity of which I have the privilege of being a trustee, was one of the two charities taking some benefit from the ticket sales. Thank you Vines and thank you Elspeth! Here Elspeth is with fellow trustee and friend Craig Carey-Clinch:

Sadly for me I had to get going virtually as soon as Elspeth had finished talking as I had a 3 hour drive north to Staffordshire was waiting for me …

Great evening though, with really enjoyable company and a top book to read as well at the end of it (the Amazon link should below should take you straight to the correct page for the book:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_2_18?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=lone+rider+elspeth+beard&sprefix=lone+rider+elspeth%2Caps%2C151&crid=3ITCDHR5519IP

Our world is full of fascinating and interesting people. Ride safe all. Let’s hope we get a good dry weekend and cab get some miles in!

S