29 December 2015

Decembeard 2015 Beardy update!

Day 29

Well, day 29 of Decembeard is almost over and this is where I am at beardwise. Although I did get it trimmed a week or so before Christmas, otherwise it would be more woolly.

The justgiving page (https://www.justgiving.com/Paul-Devall-Beardy) has achieved 120% of my target. I know I set it a little lower than I wanted but it looks better this way.

Thanks to everyone that contributed.  :)

The picture shows me in a Motörhead T-shirt in memory of lead singer Lemmy Kilminster who died today of cancer.

Planet Rock made today Lemmy T-shirt Day.

#decembeard #lemmytshirtday



Snow White and the Seven Dwarves at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury.

Another excellent production again.

11 December 2015

Decembeard 2015

Movember has been and gone. So why stop there when you can do Decembeard instead.

So far, the beard is coming along okay.  I took one at the St Nicks last week and another today.

Fund raising not going that well so far.....  So click and donate.

And I have set up an SMS donation system as well.   A suggested $1 but hell, you can choose any amount.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Google Nexus 7

After the trials and tribulations of the Hudl last year, this year I went a step further and bought a Nexus 7. Again powered by Android.

This one (for my sins) is a factory reconditioned model despite this upgrade not being out that long. The drawback against the Hudl is that there is no micro-sd slot to enhance the disk space and I am stuck with the 32GB onboard memory.

Although compared to the iPhone 5S I currently have the apps seem smaller and run more quickly. The problem is that many of the iPhone apps I use aren't replicated for Android.

The unit is very well made. It feels more substantial and better made than the Hudl.  The screen colours are far better and the operating system seems quicker.

As it is Google a lot of the things, like Blogger, are available. The app though isn't that good and has many shortcomings whereas the iPhone app is far better. Work that one out!

Let's see how we get on with this!

2 December 2015

Movember 2015

Charidee Mate
I didn't take part in Movember this year. I have directed my fundraising towards heart related charities as a result of the heart attack I suffered in April.

I did however make a donation,  but of course, I don't like to talk about it.

29 November 2015

Bike Show 2015

Bike Show aka Motorcycle Live.

Once again held at the National Exhibition Centre or NEC, in Birmingham, the show is the showcase in the UK for the new models and all the manufacturers from large to small are there. 

For me it would be a 350 mile round trip and the reason I've not been for a few years. 

It was my turn to drive so I set off before 8am to drive the first 35 miles to my brother's house. Traffic was light and I arrived about 8.35am and once the TomTom was fitted we set off, filling the tank locally and then off north.

We made good progress and were parked a little before 11.30. We chose the station car park as it is a covered walk into the NEC and is £6 whereas the NEC's own parking is free to bikes but £12 for cars.

After a bit of hassle when I couldn't find the email confirming our free tickets and then we were in.

We usually go in and the plan is to go up and down the rows until we have done everything.

We visited all the manufacturers from Aprilia to Zero, sat on a few bikes, and fitted in lunch and a drink. 

The Harley stand was impressive with the usual £20 grand tourers, and Triumph aired the new liquid cooled 1200 twins, but it was the Japanese that seemed caught in last year mode. Nothing leapt out at us. 

Honda had the Africa Twin. But with the Crosstourer in the range already it seems like a wasted effort and too late in the day. Plus it looked average.

The other three just seemed to be going through the motions.

There were more Chinese factories showing their bikes. Some decent looking stuff and very competitively priced but still not quite there yet. It won't be long though.

The MV Brutale and the new adventure bikes looked nice but the Brutale lives up to it's name with a hard seat and uncompromising pad at the front of it. 

Neill tests the Brutale seat....

Some of the museum and insurance company stands had some exotic and engineering marvels.

Millyard Viper V10

Above is a Millyard Viper V10! Another of his specials was a water cooled engine on what looked like an FS1E chassis.

An ex-Barry Sheene TR500

And John McGuinness' TT winning Fireblade.
Of course it would be bad form had not many of the stands featured promotions staff.

MV Agusta

MV Agusta

Er... fat tyre on a Back Street Heroes exhibit

WSB rider Leon Haslam and friends

After a chat with David and Gary on the HC Travel and Orange & Black stands we set off home.

The weather was pretty awful on the way home and it was nearly 9pm by the time I got home.

A tiring day with for me about six hours driving.

And lastly, a couple of pix taken by Neill of me and some expensive Guzzis.

Draped in carbon fibre Guzzi

Quite nice but the tourer is very much in the H-D price bracket.

The touring cruiser version

Around £18k for a naked no luggage bike is very steep.

Motorcycle Live 2015

27 November 2015

Thanks very much

A big thank you to the person that ran into my car at Sandling station sometime on Wednesday.

I only saw the bumper had popped its  mounting on the left rear when it was under the bright lights on the Waitrose supermarket car park. Then with the torch we could clearly see the impact mark and the crack in the plastic bumper.

Well done whoever you are. I can only hope something really nasty befalls you.

Thanks to you I am looking at £250 to spend out to get it fixed.

26 November 2015

Motorcycle Live!

The "bike show" as most people cal it starts at the NEC in Birmingham tomorrow for the press day and on Saturday to the paying public.

I won two free tickets a while back in a competition and we have to pick the tickets up from the press office on arrival.  Not a huge prize, no quite the lottery but about £30.

It's my turn to drive and so I'll pick my brother up about 0830 and head up there.  

According to Tyre it's about 190 miles each way. Quite a long day.

23 November 2015

Action Cam SJ4000

It seems to be a biker or road user, an action cam has become the accessory of choice.  Cyclists wear them to show how bad other road users are and bikers use them to show how their rides went. Mostly boring I expect!  If they are anything like my tests.

I bought this one from eBay for £17 inc postage from China., It,is not much use for mounting to a motorcycle but perfect for the cyclist and their style of helmet. On eBay now the SJ4000's go from £16.99 to more like £44.99! I can't see the difference between them and mine, whatever the price.

I bought it as a replacement for the Denver I bought last year.  The Denver kept going wrong and I keep it as a backup. 

Dropping it on the garage floor didn't help. 

Whereas the Denver was wifi equipped and has an app on my iPhone (and Android) to set up and view movies, unlike this one it doesn't come with small LCD screen.

It comes with the waterproof case and I had to buy the plastic ball mount that will fit to the RAM Mount one the handlebar that usually mounts the TomTom.

To charge the battery or remove the ad card, the waterproof case has to be removed. That proved a challenge out of the box!

The screen on the back is very useful and is where the menu can be accessed to set it up. It has taken a few tests, as the manual is totally rubbish, to get it to record for more than 20 seconds at a time.

On the test in the lounge it carried on up to 50 seconds and so I turned it off.

The screen also allows you to see that it is pointed in the right place and also to review the movies you have taken.  

Now that I have worked out how it works, I have set it to 720p as it is more economical on storage than the higher setting, 1080p HD video. I have a 32gb SD card in it and I will see how big themovies  get and maybe go to 1080p.

I do have a 64gb micro as card I bought for another movie camera that I'll try in it. I expect the battery will run out before the memory!

I'll have to see what videos I can get on the St Nick's Run in a few weeks,

21 November 2015

Canterbury Tales

Today Claire was meeting her sister for lunch and a quick look around the shops...

Reggie and I went to take her and have a walk and lunch ourselves.

First stop was the Dane John park in the drizzle. The park is inside the city walls and has several monuments. Pictured above.

After Reggie had spied a squirrel and tried to follow it up a tree I needed a coffee. Luckily, the Don Juan cafe in the little kiosk was open. This is quite unique as a South American cafe. I had just a lattè, but the menu includes different choices from Argentina, Venezuela and Colombia. 

I had planned to have lunch in a pub across the city but with it drizzling, I checked the doggie pubs website and found the White Hart. A quick call confirmed that dogs are allowed in the bar. In fact it was nearer than I had imagined. Back at the car park as I waited to cross the road, just 200 yards eyes right, there it was. 

We were first in at 1230. I ordered a steak and ale pie and chips. Reggie had to make do with the bag of treats I had with me.

I also had a pint of The Rev James Rye,  whilst I waited for my pie to be cooked. This beer is brewed by Welsh brewery SA Brains.  http://www.sabrain.com/beers/draught/the-rev-james/the-rev-james-rye

As usual I had a fixed lead for Reggie. He is always well behaved and can be tied to the table.

Reggie at home in the pub!

When the pie arrived it was superb. Lumps of steak in an ale gravy and light pastry.

Steak and ale pie

Steak and ale pie....

The pub filled up but strangely I had half to myself with Reggie and They all crammed into the other half!

Time past quickly and we left about 1345 to walk back to meet Claire and Sally. We walked along the city wall and back in time to get in the car about the time the parking ticket ran out.

It was freezing in the wind and we had ten minutes with the heater on before they arrived.

In the 21st century when we take mobile communications seriously neither O2 nor 3-Mobile could provide a consistent signal so we could keep in touch!

All in all an enjoyable day.  

20 November 2015

Windows 10 now fixed

Thanks to Patrick at work we now have a working laptop with Windows 10 installed. 

After the problems when Windows Update decided to do the usual security fixes for Windows and Office, and lobbed in the Windows 10 upgrade at the same time, it is good to have it back.

Mind you. The original upgrade failed on October 26th and it took until November 16th to get it fixed.  Days in my life that I will never get back thanks to Microsoft and their half arsed upgrades.

On top of that there is the MS tech forum that suggests all sort of fixes and bodges that are way way outside the technical know-how of the average home user.  

Patrick though is a technician and network manager at work and even he struggled to fix it. In the end we had to backup what we could of the user data and then blast it, installing Windows 10 from scratch,

I am lucky he saw it as a challenge as I gather from the internet and forums that others, and many of them, have had to pay a lot of money for a professional to fix their shattered machines. Don't expect Microsoft to help though.

The other stroke of luck was that the challenge only cost me a bottle of Bushmill's Irish Whisky. Lucky indeed.

A lesson learned?

2 November 2015

Ring of Red

It's that time of year. Poppies have been on sale for a few weeks already and the Remembrance will take place on Sunday 8th November at 11am in Whitehall and all over the Commonwealth.

Why we don't stick to the proper day and have it on the 11th November, I do not know.  I suppose a Sunday means that Big Business doesn't have to miss a day's trading!

Ring of Red Wristband 2015
The Ring of Red is now in its third year.  Originally the target was to ring London on the M25 orbital motorway with bikes and their riders all wearing red to form a moving "poppy".  There is another on the M60 that rings Manchester.

Hopefully, the weather will be kind and thousands of bikes get out on the M25 at 1330 to complete the ring.

I had the event in the Meldrews diary but it wasn't met with too much enthusiasm so I took it out.  In the diary I am tied to a meet whether I am Johnny No-Mates or not.  Been there, done that and have many t-shirts to prove it.

This year I will cross the Thames at Dartford and meet the group from all over the country that have chosen to meet and leave from Meeting Point 1.

I'll post it again as an impromptu meeting rather than a definite.

27 October 2015

Windows 10 Upgrade

Well, that came as a surprise...

I turned on the Dell Inspiron and it started to download the latest updates to the OS.   It was on the dining table and I let it run as this operation seems to kill the machine, making it impossible to do anything else. 

Returning an hour or so later, after taking Reggie (the dog!) for a walk, and it was about 25% the way through installing Windows 10.   That was yesterday.

I know I had requested this "free" upgrade some months ago, but I thought I had the ultimate control on when I wanted to run it.  I let it run as it seemed the lesser of two evils rather than cancel it.

Sadly, my first inclination may have been the right one as over the next twelve hours it installed and welcomed me to Windows 10.

I then logged in and after a few minutes the desktop disappeared and this was it.  Just the weather widget!

No toolbar and no "start|" button. The only way I could get the desktop back was to restart the laptop.  Not ideal. Then it cleared off after a few minutes.

Extremely pissed off.  Luckily on my work laptop I was above to sign onto the MS Forum and see all the other mugs that had had problems.  None of the "fixes" worked for me and so I resorted to getting one of the techs at work to sort it out.  As it is school half term he is not back until next week!

23 October 2015

Man, dog and motorcycle

I've seen this guy on the tv and in newspapers. What a great story it makes and they obviously enjoy their lives together.

If only Reggie didn't hate bikes!


22 October 2015

Frying Pan into the Fire 2?


The home signal is definitely as bad as O2 but everywhere else it is about the same. On the train journey home, there is a signal at 3G and occasionally 4G where the O2 SIM had nothing, so the £6.75 a month it is saving me could be roughly called a success.....

21 October 2015

Blogs Merged!

To cut down on the blogs I have merged  a few into one another. It makes management far simpler!

Blogger allows and provides a tool to aid the export of a blog's contents, and then import those contents into a new or existing blog. 

It also retains the publishing dates, photos, labels and the comments as they were and also sorts the posts into the right place in the new blog.

All the travel oriented blogs are now in one place:  HERE

Dora the Explorer has been imported here, into "On the Road Again"

The Ashes Tour has been merged into The Devall Boys On Tour - both these are shared blogs with my brother Neill.


17 October 2015

Frying Pan into the Fire?

After several years with O2 I have moved to 3 for a year at least. 

The signal is about the same as O2 at home, poor, but the monthly charge is 25% less and for that I get "eat as much as you can" data, which is a bonus.

We'll see how it goes!

16 October 2015

My most read post!

This is review of the Suzuki Marauder VZ800 that I originally wrote for a website I did for the Suzuki Owners Club that didn't get accepted and that I simply did nothing with until Geocities was closing down, so I saved it and two others.

So far it has over 12700 views. Thanks everyone.

Sinterklaastreffen 2015

After a couple of years as Johnny No-Mates,  I again put it on the Meldrews Facebook page to see if anyone wants to go this year. So far not many takers.

This year will be 30 years since I went for the very first time.......

I have a spare crossing on Eurotunnel to use, one that I originally booked for the Charles Devall Memorial Ride and then changed when we went as a family in the car. I still had the motorcycle booking to re-use.

The plan is as usual. An early but not too early crossing to Calais, either by Eurotunnel train (me and maybe others!) or the ferry (others), and ride along to Ostend where the local club, Motor & Toerisme Vrienden Oostende have hosted the Sinterklaastreffen for over 45 years.

Once again the rally will be over a weekend but we have begun going for just the day over the last few years. Sometimes we go and join in the ride around with St Nick, other times we go, have lunch, buy chocolates and watch them ride past.  It depends on how cold and miserable we feel!

MTVO Poster

The date for the Meldrews diaries is December 5th 2015.

Car Poorly - 2

In "Car Poorly" (http://invictamoto.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/car-poorly.html) I mentioned the Insignia was unable to take us on the France trip as the rear spring was broken. I was advised that long journeys were out of the question but taking it gently to the station was okay. So that's what we did.

The French trip was undertaken in Claire's Corsa and very economical it was too.

It was booked in Caffyns at Ashford a few weeks later and they did the list of repairs including both rear springs to keep them matched and the mud flap and wheel arch liner.

With some trepidation I went to collect it, expecting a bill nearing four figures and found myself relieved that the bill was just, I say just, £475! 

Still a lot of money but way less than I was expecting especially after they called me to say the problem I was having with the electronic hand (parking) brake was due to pads almost to the metal. 

So fingers crossed.

13 October 2015

Ring of Red

The Ring of Red ride to attempt to get enough bikers wearing red to complete a ring of the M25 orbital motorway, and the M60 ring of Manchester, will be on November 8th.

I'm hoping the weather is good this year so that rider's turn out. I have a massive t-shirt that fits over my riding gear.

I advertised it on the Meldrews Facebook page to see how many can make it.

Although the M25 is 112 miles around, most riders do one or two sections. So I'll go up to Dartford or across to the service area at Thurrock and join them for a ride around to the next area in Surrey.

14 September 2015

Biker's Loft

This has been an annual event on The Meldrews (and before them the Kent Centre SOC) calender for a few years and although it is one of the most popular and well supported I have never been before.

This year I will get a chance to see what all the fuss is about!  

I only decided to go last week. One of the others had to drop out and there are no refunds. Instead the Meldrews decided to take a donation towards our charity for the year, the Kent Air Ambulance.

Luckily Cal our Ferry Leader was able to get the ferry booking into my name and for the Rocket.

The ferry goes at about 4.30pm on Friday. Returning on the Sunday afternoon.

Next thing is to work out where it is and get it into TomTom.

13 September 2015

France September - Troisième Jour

As it is Sunday a bit of a lie in and then when Claire was getting ready I took the boy out for his morning ablutions.

Today there was a very autumnal chill in the air and a heavy dew. My trainers are definitely not waterproof, seeming to have the water resistance of cardboard.

Still after breakfast and checkout it was dry for the 35 miles or so to Desplanque Farm and the cemetery.

The track off the main road is worse than ever. Bumpy and not suitable for most cars. The Corsa coped okay. At least it was dry.

Desplanque Farm

Charles is one of four graves in Row D alongside the standard cross. Already there was a cross from a school and a laminated sheet of remembrance left last year by my brother, Neill.

Family Remembrance 

It's a little muddied and tatty but still readable. I put our cross on the front of the headstone.

The headstone and poppy cross

It's a very sobering place and time for reflection.

Cross of Sacrifice

Next to him is one T O'Reilly, also of the Royal Irish Fusiliers.  I wonder if his family have ever made the trip across. He was killed on the same day.


From here we decided to try and find the Guards Cemetery near Cuinchy to see the war grave of her Granny's brother Timothy O'Leary.

TomTom decided it was going to be magical mystery tour time and we had no idea where we were going. In the end I stopped and reset it. It immediately had us do a 180 and head miles past where had already been! I turned on route recording on the TomTom a bit earlier to see where the heck we were.

In the end we gave up on Cuinchy and dialled in Cassel.  One high spot was that the route TomTom chose was through Fromelles.

Later on checking the TomTom I could see that we had been going in completely the opposite direction and then looped back to where Cuinchy actually is!  We gave up when only about 10 miles away!!!

TomTom did take us through a village called Fromelles.

This is the site of Pheasant Wood, where only in 2008 they discovered mass graves containing over 250 Australian and British dead. 

The battle here was fought over two terrible days on 19/20 July 1916. Australian casualties were over 5500 killed along with a further 1500 plus British dead.

A massive DNA search in Australia has resulted, according to the display boards, in only one left unnamed.  The headstones haven't yet caught up as there are many just with "An Australian soldier of the Great War" on them still.

Fromelles erntrance

Cross of Sacrifice

Cemetery from the right side

Further right!

The wooden building is the museum. We didn't have time visit but will plan to do so another time.

Read more at:

We arrived to find Cassel, high on its "mont" packed with cars taking up most spaces. In the end we parked in Place Van Damme. Not named after the actor but a Napoleonic General - http://www.napoleonguide.com/soldiers_vandamm.htm

Cassel was Marshal Foch's HQ during the early part of WW1. There is a statue of him on horseback looking towards the east where the German lines were.

We ascended and then descended the Mont from car park to town centre and decided to have lunch at the Sainte Cecile Café as they had a snack menu and outside seating.

No sooner had we ordered coffee and a Croque Monsieur each than the rain started. We went inside. This cafe is also a betting shop, bingo and lottery establishment! But it allows dogs inside and is out of the rain. It was okay but nothing of note!

The walk back up and over the Mont? Not so dry! In fact we got soaked.

Once in the car I set TomTom for home and the fastest route and by 4pm we were queuing to get through the pet passport check with Reggie. The drive-through section was closed! Luckily the rain had stopped so no one got too wet in the queue. 

All our paperwork, thanks to Anthony at Barrow Hill vets, was in order and we joined the next queue to get through UK Border controls. As we were an hour early and also due to delays with intruders once again in the tunnel, things looked a bit packed. 

In the end Eurotunnel put on extra trains and we were hustled through 40 minutes ahead of the booked train. Result.

And that's it. All over for this trip. 

12 September 2015

France September - Deuxième Jour

We were up reasonably early to make sure that Reggie was watered both ends and had his breakfast. The special food he has from the vet to try and cure his bad belly is not to this liking. He eventually ate it at about 4pm.

The "plan", such as it was, was to head along the coast towards Veurne in Belgium before turning down to Armentières.

I set TomTom to avoid motorways and we set off along the back roads before joining the old N1, now designated D940,  near Fort Mardyke. Not all that scenic so far. Ignoring the instructions we headed into Dunkerque and parked near the old harbour. The three of us walked to a café for coffee, dogs allowed inside.

On the way we passed a succession of historic ships in the harbour.

The former light ship that guarded the sands in the channel.
Duchesse Anne
The "Duchesse Anne" is a German 3-masted sail-training ship and given to France after WW2 as reparations for war damage, and rescued and restored by the city of Dunkerque in 1980.

Princess Elizabeth
The paddle steamer "Princess Elizabeth" took part in the Dunkerque evacuation in 1940. 

The cafe was decked out with American flags as from time to time they have classic car events.

La Pataterie
It is also decorated with old photos of the town and people.

Wall decor
Wall decor
Once finished we walked back to the car after deciding to look for the beach where the 338000 troops had been taken off from. It is actually in the neighbouring coastal town of Malo les Bains.

Firstly we stopped at a bakery for lunch. Or rather picked up a baguette, pastry and drink to take with us.

Croq' Baguette
After a few missed turns we made it to the beach and the memorial to the French troops and their allies, that would be the British Expeditionary Force, that were evacuated.

The mémorial des Alliés

The mémorial des Alliés

The mémorial des Alliés

The mémorial des Alliés
The mémorial des Alliés

The beach itself is obviously a holiday beach and since June 2014 dogs are banned.

There are special fences erected to stop it blowing away.

Panorama of the beach
After lunch was eaten on a bench we had a walk along the promenade to the seaside town but. Very sad as September is obviously out of season!

The next part of the plan was to head for Armentières and the hotel there. The off-motorway route took us into Belgium and past Poperinge, so we took a turn into the town, down past Talbot House (http://www.talbothouse.be/en/museum/home) and into the square. 

With Reggie out of the car we headed across to the Hotel Amfora for coffee. Why? They had the best looking awning as it looked like rain was imminent.

It was. We had a second coffee.

Here we decided to change hotels. With rubbish weather we didn't want to be wandering about looking for a restaurant so cancelled Hotel Joly and booked another Campanile. This one near Dunkerque with attached restaurant.

The hotel is near a couple of lakes. Once we had checked in and had a rest, the weather brightened up and we went for a walk around them, hoping Reggie might go to the loo. He didn't.

The walk was a little over two miles. By the time we got back we hoped he'd eat his dinner. He didn't. 

We went to get our dinner whilst he stayed in the room watching a programme about Ferrari's on the TV. Anything to stop him barking and growling at anyone passing by the window.

Of course. Once we got back to the room he decided to eat then. Plans for a loo walk curtailed.

Tomorrow, we will drive down to Armentières and visit Charles and pay our respects.

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