30 November 2013

St Nicks - Part Three

It didn't take long to find the "usual" chocolate shop. The same lady works in there was in all the years we have been going to the St Nicks. Since 1985.

I bought a few things, some to take to work, some for Christmas and some to eat during the day!

Chocs etc
Once back at the bike it was already 1425 local time so I set off around to the meeting place. Like a ghost town. There is some bike parking near the big church so I went there. A couple of non-local Belgians had arrived. Just as nonplussed as me as to what was going on.

The web page definitely has this weekend on the poster.

I waited a while and with My Ferry having a three hour gap from 1645 to 1945 I decided to take off along the coast.

The sand covered the road in places between the Thermae Palace and Middelkerke. But rather than risk it I picked my way through the car tracks.

On the E40 again I set the cruise to 120kph. One of the successes was to work out how to change from miles to kilometres.

I arrived at Calais just about 1535. Checked in for the earlier 1645 sailing and road to Lane 340 to await the ferry.

Calais dockside

Once onboard, Döra was tied down in the rack and I went to the brasseries for a croque Monsieur and a coffee.

St Nicks - Part Deux

It looked very murky as we went parallel to the French coast. 

The crossing in the end took just 90 minutes. There seem to be far fewer people on this ferry than on the rival P&O ferries on the same route. This is a good thing.

Far less pushing and shoving on the stairs to get to the car decks! Fewer people filling the brasserie and bars.

Once ashore I fell into a rhythm with the cruise set on 70mph. I should have changed to kilometres but forgot.

I missed the Middelkerke turning and ended up going to Jabbeke and the A10 entry into Ostend.

It seemed eerily quiet. Very few bikes. Shit! Wrong date.

The rally site has moved to a new venue and I guess that means that fewer bikes are parked in the city.

I did a ride-by where we have met St Nick every year I have been since 1985.  Lots of metal fencing and entry forbidden signs.

I parked around the corner as it looked more hospitable.

There were some other bikes there too.

I went to look for a coffee and the chocolate shop we always go to.

Found both. 

The cafe bar was full of smokers but the back was separated and smoke free. Had a coffee whilst trying to get the wifi to work. No success with that.

St Nicks - Part One

Up early and off to the Port of Dover. Arriving at 0730 it was a little disappointing  to see no bikes there already.

Outside Dover East
I hung about until 0745 and then made my way around to check in. A little after 0801 I was in Lane 149 waiting to board. No other bikes at all in the loading lanes.

Jean Sans-Amis obviously.

It was about 6.5C when I left home rising to a positively balmy 9C at the port.

As usual My Ferry is late into its berth on the incoming trip. So not boarding at 0750 as the info boards say!

I was first on and rode the length of the ship to the bike racks in the starboard bow.

The crew guy had it tied and secured in a minute or so. This is so much better than the messing about on other routes.


I was in the restaurant quite early and decided to pass the day with a full English.

So now only two hours to kill before landing in Calais.

Had a realised I was solo on this trip I'd have brought my Kindle!!

29 November 2013

Getting ready for the weekend 2

Fitted the panniers. Gave the lights a buff over.. Tyres good. Quite mild this time of night.

Had to scroll a bit to find that display!! Flashed off a few pix of Döra....

And Bully shows up quite well.

Frenchy Rules

The French are allegedly enforcing the law from years ago whereby bikers are supposed to have four white stickers front, rear and sides of the helmet.

I have never bothered but for £1.95 I bought four black stickers that in the light show white.

Let's see if Mr Gendarme is impressed.

At the back Schuberth decided to put their logo and model in black that reflects white!


28 November 2013

Nikon D50

I have this D50 to use. It's not worth much on eBay but it takes pretty reasonable pictures.

If only there was a firmware update so that it would take a bigger SD card than the 2GB maximum it currently takes.

26 November 2013

1991 was cold

The coldest year for the Sinterklaastreffen that I have been to was 1991.

Audrey and I went on her XJ900 as I had the DR800 and it wasn't good two up. The XJ was an excellent tourer. Shaft drive and frame mounted fairing.

F501OMJ was superb. I later bought one with an H reg.

Anyway. By the time we had got into Belgium it was freezing.

Firstly my visor iced up, then my glasses. I had to pull them down and peer over the top. Then my eyebrows iced and froze.

We stopped and took this shot on the old Olympus OM10 - that I still have!

December 6th 1991!

The visor was a graduated one with a darker tint at the top to help with the sun. The helmet is a Freddie Spencer replica Arai.

Changes to British Standards later outlawed lots of tinted visors for use in the UK.


Oops.  Posted this twice!  http://invictamoto.blogspot.com/2007/11/frozen-up.html albeit 6 years apart.

Getting ready for the weekend

It seems absolutely ages since me and Döra were last out.

I had planned to get her out and give her a quick wash and brush up prior to this coming weekrnd's two trips. Sadly with the weather only being a few points above freezing and sunset about 4pm there's so little daylight left to get things done.

So Döra sits in the garage waiting for Saturday's trip to Belgium and her first St Nicks Rally. 

The plan is an early ferry across to Calais and then a ride along the coast to Ostend. It's only about 60 miles on the other side but it can be very cold.

Retro Shirt

Maybe when you take up internet dating, total honesty or rather, truthfulness, might not be at the highest place on your checklist.

Things like height, weight, hair can all be exaggerated but a picture? I guess you could send an old one.

I sent Claire one of me wearing one of these, plus bike gear, and taken in Venice! 

That shirt "disappeared". A replica 1970 FA Cup Final shirt. A valued and sadly missed friend...

And now thanks to www.camporetro.com I can replace it!!!


The new shirt has the numbers 11 on the back,  that mark it as a replica of the shirt worn by Charlie George. The Arsenal hero who scored the winning goal that beat Liverpool at Wembley. 

Campo Retro also have the red and white shirt from the same era... Mmmmm? Christmas is coming. 

23 November 2013

MAG News Release

Lembit Öpik adds passion and power to MAG's Communications and Campaigns Team

Former MP Lembit Öpik is renowned for his 'full-on' approach to all he does. Now he's channelling his irrepressible drive to protect and promote two core passions: Liberty and Motorcycling. Lembit joins MAG's newly streamlined team of professionals. Their mission is to take a leading role to stand up to threats to riders' rights and expand the use of motorcycles and scooters in the UK.

Lembit's new role as Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) was announced today at the National Motorcycle Show in the NEC. This puts him at the heart of UK motorcycling and the new team at the core of MAG's Campaigning and Lobbying activities. 'People know me for a lot of things!  But few of them know biking's been an enduring part of my life. I rebuilt my Yamaha YB100 in 1982, and have ridden two wheels ever since. Currently I've got a Suzuki GS1000, and am as passionate as ever – and that's why taking on this new role feels like coming home.'

Lembit isn't tackling the communications and public affairs challenge alone. He's working with biking campaigns guru, Dr Leon Mannings, who's got an exceptional pedigree. Lembit says of Leon 'if Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance came to life, it would be Leon. He's a combination of perspective and limitless resilience, and he has a tremendous record of winning for powered two wheeler riders.'

Lembit and Leon have clear ambitions for MAG.  Lembit says 'as an MP, I chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group for Motorcycling.  Back then, the Department of Transport saw bikers more as a hassle than an answer to congestion and pollution problems. Now, the mood at the Ministry is changing and we've got a rising number of great allies in Government.  Steve Baker MP is an outstanding Chair of the All-Party Group. I get on well with Transport Minister Robert Goodwill MP and know he will engage on bike policy.'  Leon adds 'with a newly sharpened approach, a better relationship between bureaucrats and bikers is evolving.  It's about to become even more productive. I've worked and won on issues before, and we now have better prospects than ever for really moving the positive role of motorcycling further up policy agendas – at Local and Central Government levels.'

MAG Chairman, John Mitchell, underlines MAG's determination to boost the strength and penetration of its voice for bikers. 'We've always been at the forefront of battles over issues for bikers since we formed to fight the authoritarian helmet law in 1973.  Other threats have come our way, most involving the replacement of common sense with patronising over-regulation. Lembit and Leon are a tremendous new force in the fight-back for freedom: the Institute for Economic Affairs even identified Lembit as the most 'libertarian' MP in the country, and he really does 'walk the freedom talk' in word and deed.  Leon has an excellent mental map of the policy jungle, and has a key role in our awesome team.  Changing the regulatory tide is bigger than just biking – it's actually about liberty.  With Leon's insight, clarity and stamina, real progress looks likely. And, if one person combines political focus with the passion needed to fully reflect MAG's determination to defend the heart and soul of biking – it's Lembit Öpik.'

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17 November 2013

See the world as I see the MO!

Day 17 is over.

Mo mo-ney still needed as real-bro has overtaken me to lead by a tenner.


Run Out

Today's run out probably added less than 20 miles onto the odometer.

A swift run up to the Blue & White Café to meet the other old Codgers that form the Kent Centre of the Suzuki Owners Club.

We are a diverse bunch of older men. Many sporting grey hair but we still love getting on the bikes and riding.

But probably not too much or too far when it is freezing weather.

Last week on the Ring of Red it was cold. This week I swapped ordinary poly cotton t-shirt for a thermal long sleeve shirt and it wasn't as cold. 

In fact it was miserable with the kind of invasive drizzle that seems to eek its way through your leathers and chill right to the bones. Nasty.  Give me crisp and dry cold any time.

We have been told by the soothsayers of disaster that we will get snow early this year.

With two runs over the weekend of Nov 30 and Dec 1 I hope not!!

16 November 2013

Field of Remembrance - Westminster Abbey

We had a day trip up to London today.

Our first stop was the Field of Remenbrance in the grounds of Westminster Abbey. 

We were looking for the regimental badges of our war dead relatives and Claire's Dad, Victor, who served with 5 Commando in Burma.

We found the Royal Irish Fusiliers (Charles Devall) and the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry (William Devall) but not the Royal Irish Rifles of Claire's Grand-Uncle Timothy O'Leary.

I'll have to check to see what happened to the RIR***

It was very moving and although I didn't expect to see a cross with Devall on it, I had to check. There wasn't.

I texted my train buddy Mo and he took us into the Abbey and sorted out the audio guide equipment. I've never been and it's a shame there is no photography allowed. The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior is worth the tribute. 
From the Abbey we had a walk up Whitehall to look at the Cenotaph and the tributes from last week.

The wreaths of poppies are there; a little wind blown, but still there.

The photo shows the east face and the wreaths laid by The Queen and Royal Family.

Just a little further along is the relatively be memorial to the Women of World War 2.

*** Updated. The RIR meged with the Rangers in 1968 and their history is now - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Ulster_Rifles

15 November 2013

Save the Children

Save the Children logo

Donation confirmation

Dear Paul,

Thank you so much for making a donation today. Your gift of £NN.NN really will help us change the lives of the poorest children.

If you want to speak to us about your donation, please give us a call on +44 020 7012 6400, or you can email us at supporter.care@savethechildren.org.uk, quoting the reference number on your PayPal receipt.

Our friendly Customer Service Team is also ready and waiting to tell you more about our work. If you would like to know about all the different ways you can help us then please do get in touch.

Once again, thank you! Your kindness really will make a difference.

Anne Cooper Beresford
Customer Care Team
Save the Children

13 November 2013

School Tales

We were discussing the things that we used to get up to at school or "funny" things that happened to us or other kids. Most of my tales are from when we lived in Oldham!


When we were at Chadderton Hall School (we were 8 or 9), we used to keep our bus fare and walk home, stopping at the shop to buy a glass of sarsaparilla (we called sasprilla).

One time we got concerned about a bloke that kept locking up pigeons in a shed on the allotment we crossed on the way to the shop. So we unlocked the door and shooed the pigeons out and made sure it was locked again.

The next day they were all back, sitting in the dirty shed, so we let them all out again. For the next few days it was the same. We'd let them out and the next day the nasty bloke (so we thought) had captured them again.

Then one day we were mid-shoo when a man came up. An angry man... "I know your Dad" he said. And he did. Over his shoulder I saw an angry Dad coming over the allotment. That's how we learned about pigeon lofts and homing pigeons!!

Snow Boy

This tale was earlier in my school days. It used to snow quite a lot in the 60's especially in Oldham. I was at St Matthews Infants in Chadderton and we were all in the playground before school started. At the front the playground was below road level with a wall and a concrete slope stopping it all falling down. The top of the wall was the base for iron railings and was maybe 10 feet above the playground surface. When it snowed it drifted up against the concrete and the wall.

The older kids use to walk along the wall holding onto the railings; shuffling to their right to get along to the other end about 20 yards away. We were watching as one kid after another tried it. Then one kid lost his footing about half way... feet sliding into the snow on the sloping concrete. With a shout his hands slipped and he whooshed down into the snow drift, disappearing from sight. We could hear him shouting for help. How we all laughed.

After a while someone went to get the caretaker. The shouting started to get less and less and the laughing stopped about the same time. The caretaker arrived and started to dig through the snow, about 6 feet deep at this point, to get to the kid. Someone had called the ambulance and they arrived and helped the caretaker dig through about ten yards of snow.

Eventually pulling the frozen kid out; blue with cold and unconscious. He was rushed off to hospital. We learned another lesson that day!

10 November 2013

Ring of Red Around the M25

It was a bit of a rush but well worth it to be part of another triumph for British Bikers.

I was ready to leave as soon as the two minute silence was over. I watched the Queen lay her wreath on the Cenataph and then I was out to where Döra was waiting.

Then it was all action to meet my brother, Neill, near Chatham and ride to the rendezvous point at Dartford just south of the QE Bridge tollbooths. 

We made it in good time but with maybe not enough to spare had we attempted to go through the Tunnel to the local start point at Thurrock "Lakeside" Services.

As the bikes streamed oved the Bridge we could see the red line of their riders and pillions. Most wearing red t-shirts and hoodies,  some with red hi-viz and others even in onesies! 

I had started with a red hi-viz but took it off and put on the more comfortable XXXL t-shirt. The hi-viz flapped about at anything over 50mph.

We joined the large group and headed to the next rest area at Clacket Lane

Many riders did the entire 117 miles.

With my vented summer gloves I was glad of the heated grips and the hand guards that deflected some of the breeze away from my fingertips and those vents.

It was later in the day that we learned via Facebook, that we had achieved the goal of a continuous red ring around London.

Another brilliant day and another chance for Britain's bikers to show that we aren't all hooligans, as we are always portrayed in movies. Or should I say still portrayed in movies?

The picture is me at the rendezvous after donning the red t-shirt.

Pic of me taken on my iPhone by my brother, Neill.

This picture, courtesy of Julia Stevenson, the RoR organiser, taken at Thurrock Services. 

9 November 2013

Movember - end of day 9

And so it is looking more like a mo now...


More sponsorship is needed.


Ring of Red

Bikers coming together to honour the servicemen and women killed and wounded for our freedom

The idea is to set off from points around Lobdon's Orbital Motorway and eventually link up to make a poppy ring. 

It will take thousands of bikes to achieve  but it is worth a go.


2 November 2013

Movember is Go!

The smooth top lip at the start of the month.

If you want to aid research into cancer that affects men, then my page is http://mobro.co/invictamoto

1 November 2013

St Nicks Rally & Whitstable Toy Run

Things have been very quiet lately. I haven't had much opportunity to get out for a ride and hopefully that will be resolved tomorrow if the weather holds off. Forecasts are for half a month's worth of rain in a weekend; so not looking too clever.

On the horizon though are two regular runs I go on. Sadly, they are always the same weekend! So about of a double header!!

Firstly,  the Sinterklaastreffen. I have been most years since 1984, missing a few due to being in Czech working or bike breakdowns and last year snow. We used to go for the weekend, but once our favourite (and quirky) hotel, the Polaris,  closed, we started only going over for the day and sometimes, not even joining in the run itself!

So what does the St Nicks Rally (as we call it in English) entail?

For the day tripper it is an early ferry across to France and then a ride along the coast to Ostend. It's about 60 miles from Calais to the parking up place in Ostend. It is usually either very cold or simply wet.

St Nick comes ashore from a fishing boat, along with his two (non PC) blacked-up helpers called Piet. He gives away sweets before setting off in a sidecar outfit for a ride around the city ending up at a children's home where toys are distributed. Halfway around there is usually a stop for soup! Don't get stuck with the ladle!!

For the weekender there are bands and other live entertainments on Friday and Saturday in the marquee.

Last year we had a lot of snow and I decided not to go. 

 My ticket is booked for this year with "My Ferry" (the re-badged Seafrance) at the princely sum of £14.50 return for a bike and two people. Gotta grab that with both hands.

Secondly, the Whitstable Toy Run. This year is the 30th Anniversary Run from Gorrell Tank Car-Park by the harbour in Whitstable to the Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother Hospital at Margate. It's the Sunday after the St Nicks Saturday!

I have put both on the Kent Centre FB page to see if there are any takers!!

Fingers crossed that someone else signs up for one or both the events otherwise it will be a lonely weekend!

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