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June 2008 Entries
My Cat Died Today

My cat Perdy died today (well, I should say our - I found out my wife had acquired her more or less when she appeared in the house). She had been in decline for the last 12 months or so. We "inherited" her years ago from a young couple we know who were at the time starting a family, and Perdy's habit of sitting on everything was a bit too much for new parents. Her exact age was uncertain, though we reckon she was at least 16 years old. The last few months were the usual old age problems of not cleaning herself properly, losing a bit of mobility etc, but she still managed to get stuck behind the kitchen units a couple of weeks ago.

Before that she did the usual cat things, sitting on anything you wanted to read, sitting on my computer keyboard, climbing wherever possible. She also did a few different things like being very vocal, never scratched, liked getting her tummy tickled, and at times liked to climb on my shoulders. She illustrated some of the real cat attributes of offsiding (always being on the other side of a door) and played cat chess with the other cats in the street. I think she shared the house with us for about 10 years. And for those who know me, the fact she was black fitted in with my casual wardrobe. I'm not exactly macho in admitting, but I think I was quite attached to the daft cat. I'm quite sad about it.

posted @ Saturday, June 7, 2008 10:02 PM | Feedback (0)
Another ride out on the motorcycle

Out again for a short ride yesterday, so I took part of the route we travelled on my Qualified Observers test the other week. A nice wee bimble, so I connected up the curly Autocom lead and plugged in the MP3 player to listen to some tunes on the way.

Setting out from home I got some petrol at Shell Lizzie Bryce, just near the house, only needed about half a tank or so but wanted to make sure I was well fueled up for the wee run to the borders. Then off along the A71 to join the Edinburgh bypass, then along to Fairmilehead to take the road South to the Borders.

I left the A720 and turned South to join the A702, this is a gently undulating road with a few villages and 3d stuff going on i.e. it goes left and right and goes up and down, with some bits where both happen. I travelled on this south until you come across the A721 turning left off the A702. On a map it doesn't look much, but because it is a major intersection the junction is well painted, laid out and has good visibility leading up to it. On the way down the A702 there are a couple of 40 and 30 limits to take account of. On my run yesterday there were a couple of interesting vehicles - both with accelleration belying their size. One was a camper van which could shift once out of the lower gears, and another was a middle size coach. It made planning an overtake interesting as once they were up to 45 ish they would pull quite strongly to 60, making an overtake a bit difficult.

Once at the A702 I cut across the wee twisty road to the A72, which is a fairly well used route north to Edinburgh. On this route it gives a hint at what is to follow. The Scottish Borders are covered with a network of rivers cutting their way to either the East or West Coasts to join the major rivers of the Clyde and Forth, so most roads will find you either following a river valley or cutting up and across a river valley. This means lots of twisting with ascents and descents, which means you have to keep your wits about you. At this point I stayed on the A72, which rather than continuing North cuts West. Turning the corner faces you with a sobering sign - on this road they post temporary warning signs for bikers during the summer months, showing the number killed or seriously injured on the road. Taking this into account I took my time.

The A72 in this direction starts by following a river valley along the side of "Tarth Water" as it heads to join a larger river "Lyne Water" as you can guess the smaller river valley twists and turns as does the road that has been built along the side of it. These twists are also known as the Castle Craig Corners and have unfortunately seen a few accidents. I took it easy along there, having come the other direction to find gravel on my line in the past. As the valley joins the larger river it opens out to be less twisty, but with that comes more speed. This showed itself with a van and car having a race coming the other direction, no problem though as you can see them across the valley to the left under Hog Hill. Then we cross the river further on so the slope is now on our left instead of the right. Coming down to Peebles introduces more sweeping curves with the odd strange corner due to the landscape. Nearer the Western Approach to Peebles we also have more trees - these are conifer based forests so they are there all year round, rather than the hedgerows at the moment which are thicker during the summer months. Along there was a left hander with flowers attached to the fence - a memorial to someone who didn't do so well on the road.

I had a wee stop at the carpark on the left as you go in to Peebles, and had a wee go at slow maneuvering - still a big weak point for me but practice will help. Then I got off and tucked my gloves into my sleeves while it wasn't raining. Thankfully it didn't rain at all that day, but it meant some more flies.

Then I headed North on the A703 Edinburgh road, with a couple of overtakes. I was taking it easy again and perhaps missed one or two safe opportunities because I was dawdling, no massive problem there. Then through Penecuik and joined the A720 at the same place. It was beginning to get into rush hour so I did some filtering up the middle of the two lanes, taking my time. Lots of drivers move out of the way (both trucks and cars) to assist even though there was plenty of room. Thanks to them for that. I take it really steadily and only filter really when the traffic is stationary, moving back in to lane when it gets moving again.

Then off at the Calder junction with a reminder of the white van man syndrome you see there a lot. Two things happen a lot at this junction with the A71 - Sighthill has a lot of delivery company depots so at teatime they all rush home to base. This means a lot of vans making last minute swerves off the bypass onto the slip road - so if you see a red or yellow van in the outside lane at Baberton, watch out for them. The other vans take the right lane for a left turn onto the A71, to try and beat the queue. Such is, but most drivers of that ilk will also race you to the roundabout at the park and ride to get ahead of you. I had a white van undertake me last night, which then meant I had to follow him all the way to the turn off for Kirknewton. An object lesson in patience for me - whatever lane you take on approach to the roundabout at the Hermiston Park and Ride, such a driver will dive to the other lane and try to beat you to the A71. Note to self - spot them at the slip road and let them sit on the tail of someone else.

So a nice wee short ride followed by a quick chat on the phone with Nigel Bowers who is a really nice chap from Staffordshire who earns a few pennies for his retirement helping people to ride their motorcycles better. He has an interesting technical setup on his bike involving three cameras, sony recording kit, Autocom audio wiring and bike to bike comms. He has also posted a large number of videos on Youtube, which can now be viewed in high quality too!

posted @ Wednesday, June 4, 2008 11:24 AM | Feedback (0)
A wee ride out on the Motorbike
I thought I would do the equivalent of obtaining Dumbo's feather and now have a new set of Bridgestone BT-021s on my R1100RS, so there is nothing apart from my head to fix on the bike.

There was a minor mixup from the supplier to the garage and they gave me a call on Friday to apologise that they had been sent BT-020s and had ordered the proper tyres for a Saturday delivery, so they kept the bike overnight for me so they could fit the tyres when they arrived.

As it was I had planned a day out on Saturday so I was through in Glasgow and arranged to pick up the bike on Sunday at C&J Wilsons in Uphall. After lunch at the Burrell Collection, we popped over to Hein Gericke on Great Western Road. Strangely enough hardly anything fit apart from their discount range so I now have a new textile jacket and pants at about half the price of my original HG kit. I've also got new boots on order, Alpinestars GPS-3 WPs (shiny shiny).

Roll on to today to run the tyres in, I picked the bike up in Uphall - checking the pattern on the front tyre which is much cooler than the BT-020, then up the M9 past Stirling and up to the little chef for a late breakfast. All was good and working on turning corners without too much panic setting in, and learning how to travel in a straight line with a rear tyre with a proper profile on it!

Then headed further up the M9 towards Perth and the Broxden roundabout where I fueled up, still a bit slow on slow (and particularly slow left handers - see my previous posts) stuff but getting there. Then the rain started. Had a few circuits around the streets of Perth - down past the Tay, past Dunkeld Road, past the bus station. All to practice slow speed lefts and rights. I need to keep practising to get rid of the feeling I am going to drop the bike, and although at first I was running a bit wide I started getting it tighter.

Then out of town and the rain was picking up, came off the M90 and decided whether or not to go through Newburgh to Cupar, but decided to head Glenfarg way - haven't been there for years. I thought it was twistier than that - or perhaps I'm getting better. Up through there and a right turn and through Milnathort. What a surprise it was to see all of the house building work in the area. Then on through Kinross and Cowdenbeath, old stomping grounds and I worked there in my summer holidays from Fife College. Rain was getting heavier and heavier, so I chose to head back to the M90 through Crossgates and joined at Halbeath. Then a pretty nondescript ride back via the M8 to Livingston.

A reminder for wet riding though - a small tip is to remember to tuck your gloves under your waterproof kit. All of my stuff has the membranes and keeps me dry, but today all of the water was running off my jacket into the cuffs of my gloves. I swear water ran out when I lifted my arms at the end of my journey. I should have tucked them in at the petrol stop at Broxden rather than leave them, and I would have had dry gloves. All my stuff is dripping round the house now
posted @ Sunday, June 1, 2008 5:59 PM | Feedback (0)