28 July 2014

The Somme Weekend - Part Deux

Sunday dawned quite early as it was very warm and humid overnight. I had the windows open but had to tie them together with my belt to make sure they stayed open but not blowing about.

I packed and then went down a little too early for breakfast so took my bag out and loaded the panniers.  It was still alternating between warm and sunny and drizzle.

When I went back in, David was up. He'd had a ground floor room facing the street so was unable to open a window.

Amiens Hotel

Breakfast at the Central & Anzac Hotel is dubbed continental, but it is far better than that might suggest.  So much to eat! Once Lainy came down we were ready to get going.

The first stop of the day was to be the Australian Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.  The run wasn't too far from Amiens and once again we were in waterproofs.  When we arrived there was a coach from Slovakia and a large group of tourists ahead of us. Tourists sounds a bit "sniffy" but no meant that way. We were tourists too.

The monument commands the high ground and the Australians had to cross flat open land to assault the enemy positions. 

Australian Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux

Australian Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux

Australian Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux

There are 1535 identified burials but so many of the stones are of an unidentified soldiers. More information

Once we had navigated the car-park,  newly surfaced and a little slippery with inlaid marble slabs, we made the short journey to Corbie.

In the military extension to the municipal cemetery there are many burials. Mostly soldiers that died of wounds after being moved back to the hospital at Corbie.

It's here where I wanted to plant a poppy cross for my Grandad's cousin William Devall. We have done it before but I guess the clean up by the CWGC gardeners have got rid of it.  When we arrived Alan and I arrived first and we cleared away some tree branches that had dropped onto the stones under the big tree.

I found William, and planted my cross and took some photos and then returned to the bikes. 

William Devall @ Corbie

We decided to make a change to the plan and opted to go back to Albert so we could visit the museum under the town.

Somehow I managed to miss the Red Baron, in fact the waypoint didn't appear on TomTom! Ian said it had pinged up on his Garmin.

Before the museum we adjourned to a cafe for a drink to fortify us for the museum trip.  It is well worth going to underground.  It's only €6 each to get in and although some of the models (manikins?) are a little strange looking, the message of what it was like in the trenches is pretty well conveyed. The assortment if guns and other paraphernalia is extensive. Most poignant are the personal items such as toothbrushes and things that the men would have had on them.

We passed quite a time in there and came out to what appeared to be dry weather!  Hurrah. Checking the clocks showed that we had less time to get to Calais than we had thought and so the rest of the tour was scrapped and I told TomTom to take us to the ferry port.


With Ken and David both needing fuel before we would arrive at Calais, I said that we should stop at the services on the A26 northwards after Vimy. We made good time along the road past the Tommy Cafe and Pozieres towards the A1 and then onto the A26.

Stopping as planned for a fuel stop and lunch stop. The food in the services was probably better than most at British services but wasn't all that marvelous by French standards, although the baguette and frites filled a hole. But in common with France it was expensive! Gone are the days of the three course 10 franc menu!!!

The rest of the run back to Calais was only marred by the toll plaza having a problem where it wouldn't accept anyone's credit card.  The car in front of me seemed to have done something that caused it to shutdown and need manually resetting after every vehicle. I don't lile automatic tolls as I never understand how they differentiate between bikes and cars.  Bikes generally pay less than cars in France!

Once back at the port, the passport controls were relatively painless and we had a short wait to be loaded onto the boat, where we went to the coffee lounge to chill out, surrounded by kids and maybe even adult supervision.....  

They have so many school parties that they even announced over the tannoy for teachers and accompanying adults to supervise the kids in their party.  They didn't do that good a job of it!

Once we docked, we shook hands and then went our own way.

I think everyone enjoyed the trip and I would like to thank everyone that came and made it so enjoyable.

We are already planning Part Deux. Aiming to go a few weeks earlier to visit the places we had to drop this time.

Later in the year I will look at a hotel. With the distances involved on the Somme. Maybe choose the Central & Anzac again as Amiens has all the bars and restaurants we could ever need.

Every Man Remembered


See who you can remember for their massive sacrifice?

21 July 2014

The Somme Weekend - Part Un

It was an early start on Saturday for the ride to Dover to meet the rest of the group. Ken Fulton, who I have known for thirty years or so stayed over Friday night.

The group numbered ten people; Alan and Sue, Frank, Cal, Ian, Ken, David, Elaine, Neil and me. The problem of keeping together never arose as everyone did a good job keeping an eye on the other bikes in front and behind, although we did occasionally get stretched out along the road.

Once we had negotiated the ferry port and I then set the first part if the A26 cruising speed to approx 70mph, and then got through the tolls I upped to about 125kph or about 77mph. Keeping us below the dry speed limit of 130km or 81 mph.  In the wet the limit drops to 110km or around 68mph.

In hindsight I should have plotted a route around Arras as we ended up going through the centre and the resultant traffic cost us valuable time. 

The first stop was Serre Road Cemetery No2 to plant a British Legion Poppy Cross at Frank's Grandfather's eldest brother's grave. 

The cemetery is around 300 yards from No1. Both very large with a fine crop of British and the Empire's young men.

Serre Road Cemetery No2
The problem was always going to be rain. Many of us had opted for summer riding gear and so it was some few miles down the road it started to rain. We pulled over and put rain gear on.

As with summer showers it wasn't that long until we arrived at the next stop at Thiepval. Stripped off the waterproofs to go into the visitor centre.  The centre takes you through the history of the Somme battle and the rivals on the field.

Of course it started to rain as we headed out to the memorial arch itself.


Thiepval Pano
I'd already had to drop out a few waypoints as we were way behind my intended schedule.

After Thiepval we arrived at the Tommy Cafe for lunch. There were already British bikes outside, as there had been at Thiepval. Sadly lunch was restricted to sandwiches and drinks. A half baguette filled any empty spots anyone had.

After Tommy Cafe the schedule was Lochnagar Crater but as some were low on fuel I decided to pass it and head into Albert for petrol. We had a long procession at Super-U as the pay booth was shut and only two of the pumps operate pay-at-the-pump.

From there it was back to Lochnagar to view the 90m diameter and 30 metre deep hole created by a mine planted under the German line.

Lochnagar Crater
Lochnagar Crater

From Lochnagar it was the short run down past Super-U into the City centre. It looked like the large round "cannon balls" were spaced to create motorcycle parking.    

The plan was to go and look about the museum that starts under the Basilica.  However by the time we had had a drink as by now it was showing 35C on the pharmacy outdoor thermometer, it was closing!

We togged up and made the last leg of Day 1 to Amiens and to the Hotel Central & Anzac. The hotel is near the station and is on a narrow one way street with little street parking. I ran into the hotel to check on the parking that is actually owned by the hotel next door. Then I ran next door and for the €5 each we were booked in and had the bikes safely parked.

After booking into the hotel, and a shower we were assembling in the lobby and went around to an Irish pub. The plan to drink one and then look for a restaurant. In the end we were there until about midnight. Or at least a few of us were....

The weather turned again and the rain lashed down we stayed put!

Here are the first three beers out little group had!

I forgot to get a pic of the fourth one, the ordinary pression with a dash of grenadine!  Actually very nice.

Then, time for bed.

18 July 2014

The Somme

I started writing this on Wednesday. The 16th July 2014.

The 98th Anniversary of William Devall, last of Vauxhall in London and the 7th Battalion Shropshire Light Infantry, succumbing to wounds received in the Battle of the Somme.

Tomorrow, Döra and I will go across to France again. Thanks to people like William and the next generation that fought in the Second World War we are able to travel with few restrictions. Something else we owe to the hundreds of thousands of (mostly) young men that went out and never returned to their families and their loved ones.

On Sunday, four days late, I will call into the cemetery and plant a Poppy Cross to show that the Devall family remembers his sacrifice.

Laurence Binyon's Poem "For the Fallen"

"They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam"


16 July 2014

Wild Hogs European Tour 2014

My brother Neill and his buddy Patrick are on this tour around Europe.

It's a big undertaking in Europe even in the summer.


A month away to our holiday in Spain. With about 5500 miles on the odometer, two things are on my mind.

A) Tyres. Will they last a month here and then about 1500 miles around Spain, plus there and back miles?

B) Service time at 10000!

After hot weather in the UK I chose to wear the Joe Rocket mesh jacket in France and generally that was okay with the light waterproof over the top.


Tank filled..

Got home from work and as it was sunny and dry I decided to take Döra out to put some air in the tyres and fill up. 

The pressures are shown as 36psi front and 42psi rear; the same as the GS. Easy to renenber!

The pump at Stop 24 costs 50p to start it, but according to the RAC and others, these are more accurate than free ones.

Both tyres were a couple of pounds under which was not too bad. 

As petrol is 7p a litre or 31p a gallon more than Tesco, I went down one junc on the M20.

"Pay at the Pump" was the only option and with 205.6 on the trip I gladly filled up. 

The yellow fuel light has been on a while and the "miles to empty" showed 10. 

I need to check the tank size as it took 17.98 litres to fill right to the top!!

So maybe there were a couple of litres still in their. Good for 25 more miles!

On the way home I stopped at the kiosk by Seabrook beach before going home.

I didn't want too many miles as I wanted a full tank for Saturday and the Somme Trip.



15 July 2014

The Tale of the Disappearing CD

Or "Where the **** has it gone"

Today's school visit to run an upgrade ended well but had begun inauspiciously.

Firstly "digital signature failure" caused the download and install to fail. This is because security settings in Internet Explorer are set too high.

The tech couldn't set them lower so we tried with cd. Popped the first one in the drive. Check it had come ready. No.

Open drive. NO CD!!

It had not seated properly and the closing drawer had pushed it between the drive and the bay wall. Nothing would move it.

So we reverted to downloading the files from Capita, and mounting the drive with Daemon Tools Lite. Superb and job done.

Panic over!!!


Sometimes good luck comes to those who make a stupid mistake. This time it was my turn to benefit. 

Yesterday we took the train to London. For me a daily occurrence. Same train, same change to Underground. 

This time I had Jiří with me, on his way to collect a hire bike. Not his fault but in the hurry to get off the train I left my bag on the luggage rack. 

I had just shown him where to go for his last (and solo) journey from Highbury when I noticed I had no bag. How?

The darned thing hangs over my shoulder to rest by my right hip.

I then tried to think when I last had it. Car? Yes. Slow Train? Yes. High Speed Train? Yes. Tube? Mmmmm can't remember. 

I reported it to the London Undeground guy and he called to the station at the end of the line. Not handed in.

So I decided to call Southeastern to ask what happens to lost luggage. No help at all. Takes 5 to 9 days to wind up in the Lost Luggage at another station.

Back tracked to St Pancras.  Can you describe  it? Better than that? It has my council id badge in the front pocket with my mugshot.

Reunited after 55 minutes apart. All intact. Phew.

13 July 2014

Sunday Out...

Today we had a plan. Kent Centre AGM, then off to look at the Ducati shop at Laguna for Jiri, and then Canterbury.

In the end we did the first two, breakfast at the Blue and White where both Jiri and Claire came to the meeting. Only three of us were club members out of six attendees.

After the meeting we set off the look at the Ducatis. I love the Diavel but £16950 is too much!!

Then we went to the Battle of Britain Memorial and Jiri could look for the names of the Czech pilots on the roll of honour wall.

Then we went up to the White Cliffs to walk along and see the port from above.

Back at home watched the first Superbike race from Laguna Seca, and then the World Cup Final.


Really good day in London. Good weather,  and it was heaving with people.

The area around County Hall and the London Eye needs some serious crowd control. The company that runs the sites just leaves everyone to push and shove and queue wherever to block the path.

The day stayed sunny for the most part.

We wanted to show Jírí, our guest from Brno, as much of the city sights as possible.

He had his first Guinness as well in the Red Lion in Whitehall.


9 July 2014

MAG National Demo - Saturday 23 August 2014

How much is a life worth?

Every day, a motorcyclist is killed or seriously injured on the road due to the actions of a driver who didn't pay attention, or even look out into the road. Nine times out of ten, the driver receives a pitiful sentence for careless driving, or worse still, nothing more than a driving ban; meanwhile, a family loses someone who cannot be replaced. 

Sorry mate, I didn't see you!…is the most common excuse for a driver when a rider has been knocked off. It doesn't matter if the rider is wearing hi-viz, with headlights on or not. It's time that this changed!

The purpose of the demo is to raise awareness on the theme that too many riders are being knocked from their bikes; that drivers are being mildly punished or getting off free, and that we – every day – see that the errors of other road users are putting our lives at risk, while we are being popularly held up to blame. 

This year there have been even more deaths than usual, and it's our perception that the majority are due to driver errors and poor planning/maintenance. Our best political lobbying efforts on key issues have received lip-service and duplicitous underhandedness so it is time for action.

The demos will take place in at least nine cities, including London, Glasgow and Belfast. An event will be created on the MAG Facebook page shortly and more information will be available from this page and the MAG website in the next few days. Also, your Regional Reps will have more details in due course (other cities are being sorted out as we speak). These will not be the usual demos you've seen from MAG recently. Every year, thousands of bikes gather in Brussels to protest at the EU parliament's scant disregard for riders' rights. (at the demo attended by MAG Chairman John Mitchell in 2012, over 7,000 bikes parked along the Rue de la Loi, outside the EU Parliament HQ) and it wasn't a silent protest. It's time us brits took a leaf out of their book.

Now you see us!

August 23, 2014
The Motorcycle Action Group – www.mag-uk.org

7 July 2014

Celebrities turn their Lights Out to honour WW1 heroes

Lights Out
Dear Mr Devall,

The Royal British Legion invites you to take part in LIGHTS OUT, to remember those Commonwealth service men and women who lost their lives in the First World War.

A UK-wide event, LIGHTS OUT is an invitation to everyone to turn off their lights from 10pm to 11pm on 4 August, leaving on a single light or candle for a shared moment of reflection. LIGHTS OUT will be one of the largest mass participation events of its kind ever seen in the UK, and will complement a candlelit service held at Westminster Abbey on 4 August 2014.


You can be part of this historical event in a number of ways:

  • Watch our exclusive film which features Jeremy Paxman, Fiona Fullerton, Louis Smith, Twiggy, David Gandy and Chelsea Ladies footballer Gilly Flaherty.
  • Attend a local LIGHTS OUT event in your community or why not think about organising one in your area? Resources are available to organise a successful event.
  • A limited edition Centenary candle is available from selected M&S stores and online at www.marksandspencer.com from 4 July 2014 for £4, with all profits going to The Royal British Legion.
  • For nearly 100 years The Royal British Legion has been supporting our Armed Forces community from the First World War and its aftermath through to the conflicts in Afghanistan today. Please help us to continue this work by making a donation online or by texting LIGHTS OUT to 70020*

However you choose to commemorate, we hope to light one million candles across the UK to remember each and every one of those Service men and women who gave their lives during the First World War. Please join together with us to create a unique national moment to honour them.

Thank you.

Stephen Clarke
Head of Remembrance
The Royal British Legion

*You will be charged £1 + Standard Network rate. £0.97p goes direct to The Royal British Legion.

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4 July 2014

New Rain Jacket

One of the problems being a motorcyclist in the UK, and indeed, anywhere in Northern Europe is the propensity for it to rain, or be generally inclement during the summer months.

Sadly we don't live in the Enid Blyton idyll inhabited by the Famous Five when the sun shone from dawn til dusk everyday without question.  Maybe in the Mediterranean or Florida?

Anyway, it means that wearing a mesh summer jacket may seem very silly indeed. My Joe Rocket has an inner waterproof lining. So in the rain the outer jacket gets completely soaked through.  I have never used it, but with a trip coming up to Spain, and some of it in England, I looked for an over jacket.

I didn't look too far as I fancied the look of the Triumph over jacket.  Priced at £39 it looks a decent bit of kit and what's more fits over my JR!

So I bought one. It packs into its own little bag that when worn is a pocket in the back on the outside.  It has a few reflective stripes to keep the French happy.

Time will tell!

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