27 April 2017


I guess we all have our own ideas of what makes a great hotel or restaurant, but sometimes I read reviews (before I go somewhere) and pick out places that I think we'd like to go to.

Of course, you have to sift through and discount the reviews written so obviously by the proprietors best friend and at the othe rend of the scale, those written by someone in competition or simply hates them.  These are the usually the over effusive 5* or totally terrible 1* reviews. 

Some are simply weird.

Today I was thumbing through the Dordogne area, by town, for "dog friendly restaurants". We all have an opinion of that. Personally before I was a dog owner again after over 20+ years of not being a dog owner, I didn't really care. As long as Muttley was quiet and not causing a fuss.

This guy obviously thinks it's a dirty European habit. Forget your heritage bud? Has he never been to someone's house where the dog is inside or maybe they own a cat?  As long as the animal isn't in the kitchen where it can be  licking the plates or pissing on the veggies, and is restricted to the public areas, what harm is there.  Maybe in the Republic of California they don't have indoor dogs?

As a general tool Tripadvisor is very useful.  I have quite a few places reviewed. I tend to not be too critical unless it really deserves it.  After all, as they disclaimer says "This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC"

This is my worst review of a hotel in Coventry.  It was in 2011. The manager commented but it looks as though little has changed as there are more recent damning reviews! Second worst!

25 April 2017

Most Popular Post - VX800 Road test

I just had a look at the stats and am quite amazed that a road test report I wrote on the Suzuki Marauder has had over 15800 views.  An article originally written just shy of 20 years ago!

I do this blogging lark as a bit of fun but I'm glad that someone has actually read something I have written and appreciated it.

And here it is.


TomTom 410 Update

It's been a while since the last update in the Saga of the TomTom.  It's not quite as long or as involved as the famous Icelandic Sagas, but the story has to be told.

On the test runs in the car we had several problems where the unit turned itself off. Not simply going into "sleep mode" but actually fully shutdown.

In the settings there is one that can be switched off that covers it going into "sleep mode" when it detects a drop in the power.

Very inconvenient especially on a test where we didn't actually know where the destination was!  When it does that it actually loses the route that it was following.

On the "front" screen it displays the status of the connections and the battery symbol know to all of us with a mobile/cell phone.  When connected to the car mount the battery shows no charging is taking place.  If the power lead is then connected to the unit itself. The battery shows the lightning bolt image.  

I reported this to TomTom and they are sending a new car mount.   

With very little time to get out in the garage at weekends (no power and dark evenings don't help) I have yet to check whether the motorcycle mount is working. The only time that we have tried the unit went crazy and this whole thread and fiasco was kicked off.

At that time I never saw whether the battery shows the lightning bolt or not!

This weekend I have a trip on Sunday into unknown territory and for peace of mind I will use the Urban Rider as I know that the unit works, has the right mapping and the power lead to the Rocket's socket works!

MyDrive App

On a positive note. The 410 connects to a smart phone via the TomTom MyDrive app.  To connect the phone needs to pair with a Bluetooth tether link.  This was simple.  MyDrive mapping is not as easy to use as Google Maps and for some reason is not a richly formatted e.g. there are no overlays.  

For example. Looking for the football ground at Wimbledon for Sunday, Google Maps shows the street and the ground is there to see, but MyDrive shows the streets but not details of what is there in the blank bits.

With the phone and unit both switched on and tethered planning a route on the phone simply needs "send to device" clicking and a few seconds later the unit announces a new destination has been received.  Note. Not a route has been received but a destination.  Planning needs to be sequential. 

Planning a route from A to B is okay, but if you decide to go via C, you need to remove B, add C as B and then re-add B and that becomes C.  You cannot add what the old system terms a waypoint once the start and end points are determined.

That's okay once you realise but frustrating at first.

24 April 2017

The Key

I started using this ticket at the start of the year. For years we have been expecting Southeastern Trains (SET) to replace the paper tickets with a smart card. After all in London they have been using the Oyster card instead of paper and cash for a number of years.

In the photo you can just about detect the discoloration, bottom centre, where there is a little crack. The card now doesn't work at all. Unlike the Oyster it doesn't have an obvious microchip in it.

I reported this on the 7th April and expected a new card in about a week to ten days, this extended in an email from them to two weeks.  I called them today as the replacement hasn't arrived and they had a look. Twelve days ago the card was being tested. Six days ago it was being tested.  Today?  Who knows?

The Key from Southeastern Trains

Until it went wrong it has generally worked okay. I buy a new monthly travelcard that covers train from Kent and tubes/buses in London as well.   It ain't cheap folks. Luckily a kidney regrows each month in time for the next time I have to pay out.

Whilst the train section of my journey is okay, I show the emailed receipt for the kidney, and the conductor laughs it off , and the gate staff grumble and let me through.  But.  The Tube/Bus staff look at me as though I have printed my own non-working ticket and won't let me travel. So instead I have to use my contactless credit card to buy each journey. I can claim this back from SET once the new card is up an running, whenever that will be.

So far pretty poor service.

Update 5/5/17:

A flurry of phone calls after I had logged a complaint that I was still waiting and in the weeks since I had reported it the ticket had expired and I was now using a paper ticket again.

The upshot is that as it has expired, they will cancel the account and I can then order a new one, which has been done and I have ordered a new one.  Whether I use it of course is another question.

As for recovering my out of pocket tube fares, they say there is a form and I need to send my bank statements in with the amounts and they will pay it back.  Now that remains to be seen!

Latics @ AFC Wimbledon

Although I have supported Arsenal since 1965 when we moved down to the South from Oldham when I was ten years old, my first flirtation with football was with Oldham Athletic - The Latics.

This was primarily as they were my local team, and when I say local, from my house less than a mile across the field next to Fernhurst cotton mill. My Dad worked for the club and supporters club as the Pools Promoter and also helped out at the Bingo evenings they ran. These were very vital earnings streams in the 50's and 60's.  

I started to go with him and then with my Aunt Linda and Anne,  a pal of hers.  For a couple of years I had a season ticket and  then we moved south to Surrey.  

My Dad was an Arsenal supporter and many of the family were too.

Over many years as an "exile" I have tried to get to games when they are in the south and accessible. 

Although I have been to games at Wimbledon before, in their original guise as a non-league side playing in the Southern League at their old ground at Plough lane, and then latterly as they made their way to the Premier League and playing home games at Crystal Palace's Selhurst Park.  

Then an owner took the club to another city and the new club was born from the angry supported back in south London. They have worked their way through the pyramid as far as League One - the third tier in the English game.

They still share a ground before moving back to Plough Lane where they have taken over the land from the greyhound racing stadium.

I've not been to the current ground, although in the 70's friends and I from school did go often to watch the club the share with, Kingstonian, in the Isthmian League, the 7th tier in the pyramid.

As it is difficult to get to from where I live I intend to ride up on the bike. I have checked that there is parking onsite. They confirmed that there is motorcycle parking at the attached leisure and fitness centre.  So now I hope for better weather!!

23 April 2017

The Adventure Goes On - FAC Semi @ Wembley

And the adventure goes on.  

After a disastrous run of games of late that have seen the assault on the league fade and fade with a record, under Wenger, of four consecutive away defeats, Arsenal were definitely underdogs on Sunday in this semi-final. 

In the League trailing their opponents by a considerable margin, the one-off match to reach the final was a different ball game, to coin a phrase.

After a dreadful mistake allowed  Manchester Oil Barons to go ahead in the first half. The Arsenal players managed to rally themselves and equalise through Monreal.

The game went into 30 minutes extra time before Sanchez scored to win the game.

The final beckons on May 27th.

15 April 2017

Walk on the Shingle

Today we had a short drive to Dungeness to take Reggie for a walk.

We go quite often to see the trains and for a walk on the shingle.

As it was a sunny Saturday of the Easter Weekend the place was packed.  Now that some of fishermen are selling their product direct to the public and have small pop-up restaurants, the crowds have increased.

We were lucky to park and then set off across the shingle inland to give Reggie a chance to smell down a few rabbit holes. Luckily for all concerned no rabbits ventured above ground.

The old Lighthouse
The big square building is a nuclear power station!

12 April 2017

11 April 2017

TomTom 410 - Update

The call I logged on the TomTom Support site seems to have fallen into that hole where difficult calls disappear to when no one wants to do them.  Maybe they think that if they ignore me long enough I'll simply write-off the money and forget I bought this piece of crap.

Sadly, they are mistaken.  I have updated the call a few times and maybe asking for it to be replaced as it has never been used has caused them to go silent.

I tried to connect again last evening.  This time I was able to login to My Drive Connect and it went through the "restore" motions and re-booted the unit. But it failed again... and again and again.  In the end I aborted.

I have updated the call, again, on the Support site and also this time added a scan on the invoice from when I bought it on February 1st.

So let's see where this takes us!

P.S. The Urban Rider took me to the parking on the Vimy Trip without a hitch.

UPDATE 12/04/17 11:00

This mornings update is that is had to go back as the internal memory is u/s. TomTom have sent a label and I need to package it up and it has to go UPS to The Netherlands!!   I doubt I'll see it for a while then. They have said 7-10 days round trip. But that will  be longer as we have two Bank Holidays coming up this weekend and May Day.

A little annoying that they simply haven't just replaced it with a new one considering it is brand spanking new.

Better start scrambling around for some bubble wrap and a padded posting bag. Luckily today we had a dog food delivery and that comes with loads of those irritating plastic peanuts to pad the box out. So I might use some of those!  Let the Dutch recycle them!

I might give it one last chance before I box it up. You never know.  Murphy's law will dictate if I don't that it will arrive with TomTom and it will work when they turn it on!

UPDATE 12/04/17 20:00

The law according to Murphy.  I connected the 410 to the same laptop with the same oem cable, and started My Drive Connect and... it connected. The screen didn't come up with the error message but it booted properly!

I have updated the call and said I will keep it until after the Easter holiday weekend and see if there are any problems with it.

7 April 2017

Tomtom 410

A miserable story here.

Ever since it arrived I have been trying to get it up and running.

On the face of it the new software that was supposed to be a step forward seems in fact two steps backwards.

Most of the best functions from the older systems have been lost,  but modern app like functions such as web connections through a mobile phone are better.
Linked to an app on the phone it should mean sending a route to the unit is simpler and does away with having to connect to a computer.

So far so good. Sadly the reality is not as good. The new software doesn't handle waypoints like older TomToms and even my ancient Garmin.  You can add stops though.
When connected to a computer it shows up as a drive but unlike the older generation it can't be browsed.

I spent hours today and all seemed good. I got the route set, and even amended it slightly on the unit itself. Then I fitted the cradle and Ram mounts to Pepe and put the unit on and.... it failed.

Nothing I have tried has made it work and yet another call has been made to their support site. It didn't help that although I could login to the support site, the My Drive Connect desktop app wouldn't accept the password,  even though it is all the same.
Luckily, I still have to Urban Rider available.  Good job I didn't put it on eBay.

A few minutes tinkering and it's setup ready for my trip to Vimy Ridge on Sunday.
The login problem extended to TomTom Home as there were updates to maps but it failed with some connection errors.
Let's see what they come up after the weekend to get the 410 working.

At the moment it is looking like a massive white elephant and waste of money.

The first picture was when it actually worked and shows the route to Vimy. The other is the marvellous screen that popped up when fitted to the bike.

But as they say "The show must go on".

1 April 2017

Aldi bike gear

Once again Aldi have their bike gear on sale.
I'm not in the market for jackets or over trousers so I didn't bother going in on Thursday when it went on sale.
For those of you that don't know, Aldi is a German supermarket chain. They have become very international and you may find their stores in most European countries.
They started off being cheaper than the UK competition and has gradually moved up and with the economy the way it is, people are looking to cut their shopping bill.
Anyway,  as well as food they do household stuff and other goods from time to time. This week they have motorcycle gear. Next week caravan accessories.
Claire went in in Friday and bought me a Base Layer shirt. In XL it is a tight fit but apparently it's supposed to be that way.
Might give it a try out tomorrow if the weather is kind.
UPDATE: April 9th 2017
 I wore this shirt on the Vimy run as it was very sunny all day and although not billed as windproof I didn't feel any windchill as Red Pepé and I cruised at 70 - 80mph on the A26. On the way back I got slightly chilled after the sun went down on the last bit of the run into Calais at about 2200 local time.
I'd rate this shirt 5/5 for performance.

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