27 September 2012

iPhone screen

Oldham Athletic iPhone screen

Love this image.

About 52 years since I made my debut behind the goal with my Aunt Linda and her friend Anne.

My Dad didn't stand with us preferring to sit in the stand with his friends.


What a great concept. Reward workers that put those extra hours in the office with a day off in the month after.

When it works it has to be applauded.

Another benefit is when there's an unexpected problem, instead of merely being late, a person can make it up by the end of the month.

Such a case is today.

I arrive at our rural station. The "down" platform chock full of people. Train late?

The arrival time of ours comes and goes. No train.

Smartphones appear in hands. Tap tap. No information on the National Rail app or website.

A cyclist appears. "There's a person under a train at Ashford" he says. Local radio knew. "No trains..."

Some people depart, other hunker down in their cars.

I could go home but... At the service area called Stop 24 I sit in Coffee Republic. Nice latté BTW. Free wifi.

App now up to date and shows trains up to and inc the 1019 cancelled. It's 0840.

What to do?

Good job I had about 6 hours in hand. Shame I was hoping to have a day off in October. After all I have already done the time.

26 September 2012

Latest on Euro Super MoT

The Transport and Tourism Committee (TRAN) of the European Parliament have now had time to look at the new Super MoT proposals from the Commission, so it's time, as voters, that we make contact with them.

They had their first discussion on the topic a week ago and are due to meet again on the 8th October, but I haven't seen the agenda to know if they'll discuss it again so soon.

MAG has been in contact with the Department for Transport here in the UK, so we know that we share many of the same concerns about this proposed legislation, but there is a long way to go as the legislative process has just begun.

You may remember the public consultation was held back in 2010 and is now the subject of an investigation by the Ombudsman, after MAG member John Strong formally complained that it wasn't fit for purpose. This case is ongoing, but I have read erroneous statements on some web forums that no-one was ever consulted. Over 9000 people did respond even though the questions were laughable, and I'm pleased to say many of them were MAG members.

Last weekend saw the demo in Brussels organised by MAG Netherlands and MAG Belgium, there were demos in France by FFMC and in Dublin by MAG Ireland, countries where the Super MoT will have an even more profound effect.

You may be interested to know that FFMC members also recently attacked the DEKRA headquarters in Paris, blocking the entrance with motorcycles before covering the front of the building in flour and oil and then dumping a ton of gravel immediately outside. Sometimes you've got to admire the French direct action! DEKRA is the private company who offer road worthiness testing facilities and who provided the research to the EU Commission to demonstrate that 8% of all bike accidents were caused by technical failures...

Here in the UK, the impact of this legislation won't be as profound, but will still cause considerable unnecessary change if we don't challenge it.

The first thing we must do is contact the British members and substitute members of the TRAN committee, so that they know we are watching what they are doing.

There is a letter below that you may wish to personalise, print off and sign or just cut and paste into an email, but please remember this isn't for every MEP, just those listed below, so if you live in the S West, Yorkshire, East Mids, Wales, N Ireland or Scotland, just relax for a minute.

Be warned, some in the car world who misunderstand the issues have been writing to MEPs already, so please do remain polite, don't forget to sign the letter and follow up the response if it appears your MEP has sent you the wrong reply.

North West

Brian Simpson (TRAN Chairman) Labour    briansimpson.labour@virgin.net   Lakeside, Alexandra Park, Prescot Road, St Helens WA10 3TT

Jacqeline Foster (full member) Conservative   office@jacquelinefostermep.com  Thursby House, i, Thursby Rd, Bromborough, Wirral CH62 3PW


Geoffrey van Orden (substitute) Conservative   geoffrey.vanorden@europarl.europa.eu   88, Rectory Lane, Chelmsford CM1 1RF


Syed Kamall (substitute) Conservative  syed.kamall@europarl.europa.eu   3, Bridle Close, Kingston upon Thames KT1 2JW

West Midlands:

Philip Bradbourne (full member) Conservative   philip.bradbourn@europarl.europa.eu   285, Kenilworth Road, Balsall Common, West Mids CV7 7EL

Mike Nattress (full member) UKIP   ukipmep@hotmail.co.uk   48, Fentham Rd, Hampton in Arden, B92 0AY

Phil Bennion (substitute) Lib Dem   phil.bennion@europarl.europa.eu   6b Bolebridge Street, Tamworth, Staffordshire B79 7PA

South East:

Keith Taylor (full member) Green   keithtaylor@greenmeps.org.uk   CAN Mezzanine, 49-51 East Road, London N1 6AH

Catherine Bearder (substitute) Lib Dem   catherine@bearder.eu    27, Park End St, Oxford OX1 1HU


I'm writing to you as a constituent and motorcyclist with some concern about elements of the newly proposed EU Road Worthiness Regulation COM(2012)380.

I understand that you are a member of the Transport and Tourism Committee (TRAN), which will be leading for the European Parliament on this issue.

Although the UK already has a motorcycle road-worthiness test in place (MoT), many of the requirements contained in the new proposal appear unfounded and will I feel add unnecessary expense and inconvenience.

The proposal specifies the visual examination of brake drum linings for scoring and oil contamination for example, and ensuring that motorcycles adhere to their original form as constructed, which the UK Department for Transport considers may prevent many modifications owners wish to make, either for personal reasons or indeed to improve safety or fuel efficiency.

The Commission may require the registration of even the smallest trailers and the withdrawal of a vehicle's registration should they fail the test on what is considered a 'major' defect. Perhaps most concerning in the UK, is the financial and regulatory pressure faced by small bike shops who may not be able to continue offering road worthiness testing. This could ultimately lead to a small number of large centres, inconvenient for many riders, but certainly exacerbating recovery charges should a vehicle fail the test and not be permitted to use the highway following removal of its registration.

The public consultation completed in 2010 was deemed by many unfit for purpose, and it is the focus of a complaint to the European Ombudsman, who has found the Commission has indeed a case to answer.

I urge you to consult the Department for Transport and the UK's leading riders' organisation the Motorcycle Action Group for advice on this matter and look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Yours Sincerely

May the force be with you.

Summer went with a bang!

Sadly, back on the train this week. The "summer" that arrived a few weeks ago lasted until Sunday, then the heavens opened.

It washed out our local MAG Fundraiser, with proceeds to the local group and the Kent Air Ambulance.

Incredibly, the Air Ambulance is a charity supported service and not provided as part of the huge tax burden on UK citizens. So they need every penny available. You can read more here.

Overnight rain and high winds meant that only the most hardy riders turned up to the Ocean in Dymchurch.

The idea had been for the three bands, and a supporting disco, to play on a truck-back. The p.a. was setup but in the end it was too dangerous to play outside.  Electricity and water aren't good bed fellows. Unfortunately, that meant relocating into the pub itself and although they do have an area where they have live bands on Saturday evenings, it clashed with the regulars (and locals) weekly dose of live football on the large TV.

Sadly, the organisers (not me!) had to call and cancel two of the bands.  In the end the band that had already arrived went on about 4pm and did a short set despite the moaning from the football fans that they were missing the second live game on the TV.

Similarly affected was the pet food run across the county in Whitstable. It's annoying when things you have no control over ruin charitable events.

The high winds and heavy rain; apparently a month's worth in two nights, have caused flooding around the country, leaving people in temporary accommodation.

And me? Having to use the train to work. As well as costing me about 50% more a week than the bike I am stuck to their timetable and not mine. Even with wear and tear, tyres and servicing, it is still cheaper on the bike. Plus I enjoy it more!!

21 September 2012

Another small victory in France against bonkers ideas

After much campaigning by FFMC (MAG's sister organisation in France) we hear that the French Government have now scrapped the idea of banning older vehicles from city centres.

The original idea was that 8 major cities in France would introduce access restrictions on bikes built before 2004 under the guise of improving air quality.

This was a nonsensical idea given that bikes of any age will always be moving in an urban area and never adding to congestion and thus increased pollution in the way that stationary cars do, no matter how new they are.

The move would also have penalised those who chose older bikes for financial reasons, or, perversely, because they felt the carbon footprint of producing a completely new machine, was an environmental price they didn't want to pay.

This is a huge success for riders' rights and campaigning. Well done FFMC.

Paddy Tyson
Campaigns Coordinator
Motorcycle Action Group

18 September 2012

Another 1000

81000 miles
Came a little quicker than I had really thought about it.

I pulled into the kerb in Dalston and took the snap. I also set up the Bluetooth link on my phone to the Scala headset so that I could speak to work.

On the way home the sun was a problem. Virtually all the way home along the A2 and M20 the low sun glared out the mirrors. As expected our car driving compatriots seem unaware that low sun equals low rear visibility.

I stopped on the A20 and took another pic.

GS in the Sunset

16 September 2012


TomTom Screenshot
At least the Tom Tom seems to know where I am at journeys end, but on the way it seems to get its knickers in a twist.

When the recorded route is put into Tyre it shows some strange inaccuracies that seem to log that I have ridden in circles for part of the journey. In some cases it shows the arrival point in North London completely wrong and a point 25 miles away.

It might seem a minor problem, but in the SOC we exchange routes so that when we are on runs out, we have the same route. If someone has done the route before, sharing the actual route taken is better than a planned route that no one has ridden before!

12 September 2012

MPGCalc Again

A few days of using the throttle a bit over actively has seen the mpg drop under 50 again after an improvement.

I tried to stick to no more than an indicated 80 on the clock on the motorways, but a few times I forgot and let it creep up, plus a few traffic jams that were slow going seem to have killed off the improvement over the last four fill ups.

Tomorrow I have a longer trip as we have a Team Away-Day in rural Essex.  Most of the trip will be motorway and there might even be a ford to have a look at.....

It's a bit of fun in reality, and I don't take too much stock in that graph but maybe someone else does.

The free app doesn't calculate as many figures and the history is limited, but 69p and the full app is pretty good.

I don't know if they do it for the other smart phones, but the iPhone app is pretty easy to use.

"Red" captured!

After another of his " treatments" to mirror and screen I came out to catch him on the box singing his little heart out.

10 September 2012

8 September 2012

Christmas comes early at Tesco

Whilst doing the "big shop" at Tesco in Cheriton I came across a display for tins (actually plastic nowadays) of biscuits, then a complete aisle full of Christmas treats.

It's September 7th for God's sake. The kids only just went back to school!!!

Commercialism is horrendous. Anything to make a quick buck.

6 September 2012


For the second day running I have been the victim of "Red". 

I have only seen him once sitting on a fence post and he hardly made eye contact.  I went out at lunch time and there was the evidence.  Not visible from afar but once up close it's easy to see he has left his little mark on the mirror glass.

His aim is getting better, yesterday he got the black surround, but today, bulls-eye.

As I put the phone away the culprit emerged from the bushes. We made eye contact. His beady little eye stared at me, then he ambled towards me, grabbed a piece of bread that someone else had left for him, then he scuttled back to the bushes.

5 September 2012

Summer finally arrived!

iPhone Screenshot

Amazing though it may seem, 2012 has seen the wettest summer for a 100 years, and the wettest April to June ever. So it makes it more amazing that the last week of August and into this week are hot and sunny most of the time.  Hurrah.

Sadly it looks like it is all downhill from Monday.

Ride to Work 2

For a while I have been playing with an app in the iPhone called mpgcalc. There are two versions, free and the full one that stores more entries and also gives a wider choice of stats.

mpgcalc data
The export data file is a txt file but comma separated and it goes into excel pretty easily and here is the resulting graph.   It shows 19 entries.  The 1st is actually the sum of the fuel put in and the miles ridden from a whole load of entries I would have lost as data isn't transferable if you pay the 69p and upgrade to the pay app.  Shows a pretty consistent pattern with a wide difference between the highest and the lowest mpg.  This is for the UK gallon.

When I fill up tonight the graph is liable to take a dip as I was quite "spirited" on the way home after I was blocked on my favourite curve by a muppet in a BMW 5-series.

Outside the Emirates Stadium
The ride in this morning was pretty easy. The same holdup as yesterday, so there must be a reason for it,  and it can't be blamed on the Paralympics as it is miles away! I had a few school visits to make and had a tour past the Emirates Stadium on the way back to work. At least there was no bird crap like yesterday.  Or at least there wasn't when I had a walk out at lunch time.

 For those that don't know the significance of the cannons behind the bike, The Arsenal were formed in South-East London by workers that were employed in munitions in the Royal Artillery depot at Woolwich, and the club was originally called Woolwich Arsenal. Despite moving to the current location in Islington 99 years ago, the local rivals still hold a grudge and call us gypsies.   The cannon has been on the shirt badge for many years and the club's nickname is The Gunners.

 The other bike that parks in our car park has attracted the attention of a robin that they have named Red.  He sits on Sam's scooter wing mirror and leaves his calling card on the glass.  We reckon it's because the premises manager and the doormen encourage it with bird seed. Shouldn't be long before my mirror to get "tagged" too!

The ride home was pretty much the same, all going swimmingly until the foot of Wrotham Hill when all three lanes on the M20 suddenly clanged up. No advanced warning. None of the warning signs were lit up. Luckily most of the cars managed to stop but Messrs Michelin and companies that make tyres will be gaining a few more sales.

I tootled down the middle, splitting lanes, for over two miles before the first lit up warning sign advising everyone to slow to 40 mph! Traffic remained at walking pace for another couple of miles, past the sign saying "60" before gradually speeding up again to about normal cruising speed.

The sun was setting and the sky was a beautiful pink and purple. I decided to stop and get a couple of pix. Sadly the iPhone is incapable of getting a decent image. Either glared out or dark.

Mirror shot

4 September 2012

Ride to Work

With the weather forecast looking like summer has arrived at last I decided to ride the bike in this week. My season ticket ticket ran out on Monday and so the bike seemed like the best option.

Wear and tear aside it is cheaper to ride in. In fact it saves me about £50 a week fuel against rail fare. Not to be sneezed at in these days of austerity. A months savings should cover the service the bike is due soon. On top of that it is about the same time as the train, plus I can come and go as I please. Today I left about the same time as yesterday, and arrived 15 minutes earlier.

At Work
I had expected there to be a load of traffic as the Paralympics are on. But, au contraire, light traffic and hardly any holdups. In fact, the Olympic Lanes were open to all and luckily hardly anyone read the signs so it was straight through.

My first stop was at a school. A ten minute job that turned into hours and hours of going over why taking the register electronically is better for the school and better for the kids. The actual click, present, or ignore, absent took a short time.

All the time the bike was out in the parking area being crapped on by a few birds and a squirrel that made eye contact with me, scary.

A nice clean bike and the little buggers chose to eat red berries.  Urghh.

All the time I wanted to get out on the bike. Unsatisfied after the 75 miles completed to that stage. Sadly, it was only 2 miles to work.

Home time came later than normal at 5.45pm.  Apart from the usual hassles around Hackney, caused by the Metropolitan Police ignoring the yellow box junction rules and blocking it up, only causing tail backs for about a mile in each direction. One rule for us and one for them? Who polices the police? Etc.

The rest of the ride was pretty good, light traffic and home not too late.

Same again tomorrow?

3 September 2012

Back to School

Not exactly true for me as I work around the calendar, but today is the first day of the new school year.

Traditionally, the students will not be back until Wednesday or even Thursday, but for many schools today is the first day back for staff and teachers.

Despite what the government thinks, schools like hospitals, can't function without the non-teaching(medical) staff. Often much lower paid than teachers, and always less valued, these ladies and some men (in primary schools) are the backbone of the school. No admin, no cleaners, no support workers, just teachers, and chaos will ensue.

There will loads to do and I expect the phones to be running hot all day as they come back and have forgotten their passwords or haven't set the new year up in their MIS.

Still, it's what we get paid for........

2 September 2012

Paralympics Day

Up a bit later than expected and away to Ashford. With the Network Card the return fare was only £11.90 for Claire. I have a season ticket this week and this week will get six days out of it.

The journey was quite quick up to Stratford and a short walk across the shopping centre to the Olympic Park.

The walk to the Riverside Arena is the furthest of then event venues from the entrance. First up is the Aquatic Centre, then the Olympic Stadium. The park is littered with eating and drink places.

We had tickets for the 7 aside football tournament in the morning. We missed the first half of the first game where the Russians beat Argentina 8-0.

The rules for the game are based on classifications, four different classes of disability are included all based on cerebral palsy and people that suffered a stroke.

The second game was Iran beating the Netherlands 4-1. Both winners so much better than the oppositions.

We then left and found that for the remainder of the day we could go to other venues, except they were full!!!

We ended back at the football and saw the Olympic Champions Ukraine demolish the US 9-0. It could have been much worse had the woodwork not been to the US defence.

The main event was Brazil versus Great Britain. Although pretty even, Brazil ran out 3-0 winners.

After the games we left and joined the crowds walking back to the station.

I had booked a restaurant in Canary Wharf. The Plateau is very nice on the 4th Floor overlooking one of the man made squares in the man made city.

The booking was made through the Evening Standard and offered two courses plus a glass of wine for £15. Easy to find from the tube and well worth the money.

The main course of baked sea bass was very good.

From there it was a short ride to West Ham and change to the DLR to Stratford and the Javelin home.

After watching professional football for over fifty years, it is hard not to be impressed with the skills of the players, their commitment to the game and above all their sportsmanship. Something the over paid cheats and divers in the Premiership might like to learn from. 

Riverside Arena
Olympic Stadium in the evening
Claire poses by Stadium

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