Monday, 29 June 2009

Petrol prices

Anyone noticed that the price of petrol is creeping up again?
Why no protests this time? I'm sure nothing has changed and we are all (Well... except maybe a few MP's) struggling in the economic climate.
As it stands petrol is 103 at my local garage, the cost of it breaks down like this

Petrol cost = 27.82p, Garage gets = 7.57p, Duty = 54.19 and VAT = 13.42p.
It is the duty and VAT that is the killer, petrol is an easy commodity to tax, almost everyone uses it and if you don't then any goods you buy must have been brought to you using it.
So when are we going to to see protests again? When it hits 105 or 110? And was has happened to the most vocal of protesters from the last demo? Suddenly its very quiet.

Recently I lost my job and had not realised how much a tank of petrol had risen, I used to put £10 in the tank of the bike and refill when the gauge told me I was low, sometimes it would not take the whole £10, now its costing me £14 to fill up, I had not noticed it creep up that much! Some time in the last two years it seems to have gone up an enormous amount.

A lot of people are struggling to make ends meet, they are trying to cut their costs to reduce outgoings and the price of petrol is not helping, most of the tax on petrol will probably get swallowed up in the spiralling cost of running this country, is it not about time government got its house in order and really clamped down on waste and inefficiency with our money.

I am absolutely certain that if our country was a business, the shareholders would be screaming for a change in the board by now. This country is run by civil servants, MP's rely on these civil servants to do the majority of the work in running the country, MP's come and go but they remain, without them the country would fall apart. Public servants though can increase their own power and budgets, who is watching over them? In the 80's Derek Rayner, the former chief executive of Marks and Spencer, was appointed as an efficiency expert and he pointed out that only 3 of the 8 BILLION spent by the civil service went on 'essential services' the rest was effectively frittered away. I wonder what that figure would be now.
Reducing that waste could allow our tax burden to come down dramatically, I am also sure that is not the only place we could reduce costs, ever wonder how much Trident is costing us? Look it up.

Rather than look at the problems logically, government tends to throw more money at them to mask the effects, this makes it look like they are doing something. They should really get back to the root cause of many of our money problems. They wont do that though, as this would show that all they have been doing all the time is quick 'popular' fixes, any government that did try to rectify the problems in this country would be very unpopular for some time as the cure will not be to the public taste, but we, or at least somebody, have to do something. This current situation will deteriorate further and further, the Labour government will just let it rot, they know they will lose the next election, so will leave it to the next government to sort it out, whoever gets in will also get most of the blame.

So when will we see the next load of petrol protests? I have no idea, I think the fight has been knocked out of all of us, we have too many other problems to worry about.

Friday, 26 June 2009

The power of dreams....

Can someone explain this weird period of mourning for someone that most people have never met?
Sure MJ was a talented musician and a good song writer, but I really can not understand all this ridiculous crying and wailing over his death. Are some peoples lives so sad that they can only relate to a person of dubious moral standards, who was living a life so out of touch with ordinary people that he becomes a complete fantasy figure to some.
Where are we going with this adulation of pop stars and media icons? There have always been groupies and such but this is surely taking things much too far, we seem to be ruled by the television and the superstars that are created to fill our time. Witness the number of people walking around totally insulated from the world with their ipods and walkmans, they go home and talk via the internet and there some people who never seem to have human interaction in the real world. I do know someone who spends all his spare time in a virtual world, He is quite shy and has trouble talking to people, girls in particular, yet in his virtual world he is hero. He lives out his fantasies there instead of gettin goff his arse and living a real life.
He also is quite upset over the death of MJ, as far as I know he was not a big fan, but he is in mourning for him.
There is something wrong, IMHO, when things get to this state, I do not see him upset over the 1000's dying in third world countries for ,lack of clean water.
My father died at the same time as pricess Di, during my period of mourning I was bombarded by the media with images of people in mourning for someone they had never met, I did not understand this and did want this to intrude on my grief.
MJ lived a fantasy life style, rumours persist that he was was a sexual predator of young boys, whether this is true or not I suspect the truth will never come out, yet this is ignored by the general public. Imagine what would happen if the same accusations were made against an ordinary member of the public, adulation and the raising of these 'icons' to the status of gods is a bad thing. We think more about them than the people that we should be thinking about, people that could need our help and support. so befroe you rush out and buy the MJ compliation album, that will only have the same songs that you have already on other albums, think about the vast money making machine that he had become, he made enough money save a lot of starving people. He sold them music instead.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Bikes birds & blurry memories (an article written for Brit chopper magazine)

Back in the 70's we (blokes anyway) all saw ourselves as rebels and adventurers, riding the lonely highway looking cool and most of all looking good to the chicks. Off into the sunset after pulling some amazing bird, with your mates looking on jealously, is really what most of us were looking for when we were younger, and I don’t suppose that has changed much. The biker image of good looking blokes pulling stunning birds was mainly gleaned from books and movies, but for some of us it all worked out amazingly well.
Riding the biggest noisiest bad ass bikes (or so we thought) in the neighbourhood, looking hard in our leather jackets with filthy denim cutoff over the top, disgusting jeans, open faced lid and cool sunglasses. We looked like a stereotypical biker gang and I suppose that’s what we wanted to look like if we were honest, we thought we were the dog danglies, until it rained, more of which later.
Showing off for your mates and the girls was one of the more popular pastimes, but it could drop you in it, pulling wheelies outside a sixth form girls college, my chain snapped and the bike hit the deck, as I was trying to pick it up, a police car pulled up and the two cops helped me to the side of the road, I was explaining that I had fallen off because the chain snapped, when this chorus of girls piped up “Pull another wheelie mister!” The two coppers laughed their nuts off.
Later that year I tried showing off to a crowd of girls on their way back from a party, they had stopped to watch the bikers on Chelsea bridge, by wheel spinning my newly acquired CB550 Honda away from the tea stall, unfortunately during the week the council had laid down an antiskid road surface and as the rear wheel drifted on to it, the tyre bit and the bike flipped completely, landing on top of me. Mind you I did get off with the nurse from St Thomas’s hospital, so that was alright then.

We were always cruising the pubs and clubs in South London, hoping to find a good looking girl to take home, or maybe to her place, because yours had engine bits everywhere and oil stains on the sheets. I once took a girl home to my place and as we fell onto the bed she screamed, not because I was huge, but because her arse had found the Mk 1 Amal I had left in the bed, so that’s where it went.
Mostly though it was trying to find a girl with her own place, the number of times I had taken a girl home only to find she lived with her parents/flat mates/husband was, to say the least, frustrating, and daddy was always happy to see his best girl turn up at 2am on the back of a 8 foot long purple chopper, god knows how many times I nearly got caught copping a quick consolation feel on the doorstep. I was once chased down the Kings Road at 3am by some loony parent wearing a Chinese style dressing gown and waving a 9 iron, he was wearing the dressing gown, not me.

One girl I pulled in the Saxon Tavern who turned out to be barely 16 and had 3 enormous brothers who rode scooters, that went down really well as I was 28 and looked like your mothers worst nightmare for a boyfriend, she did look about 25 though and I pulled her from some bloke about the same age as me. I never did have much trouble with the girls, despite looking like a refuge from some bizarre mad max type film. I am reliably informed that I was quite good looking when I was young, long flowing hair, slim build and intense Steve McQueen blue eyes. (What ever happened to that good looking chap...) The fact that if I sat on your mums sofa she would put newspaper down first, I am not kidding that happened several times, or that daddy would take you to one side and threaten all sorts of dire vengeance etc, just made it all the more exciting and gave the nookie a bit of edge, most of the so called 'good' girls were very good in my opinion. I remember getting noshed in a doorway by a girl everyone knew as fairly quiet, near the Castle pub in Tooting, when her parents pulled up in the traffic, they looked over but did not recognise her or me in the darkened doorway, that got the adrenaline going.

My mates in the 70's used to love going drinking with me, I was one of those blokes who would check out the women and know which group to chat to, I could nearly always get everyone a bird by the end of the night, mostly by making them laugh, get a woman laughing and you are halfway there. And if we tried to pull birds that were with blokes, we sometimes got in a bit of a punch up as well, all fisticuffs then, very rarely was a weapon used and you would probably be buying each other a drink the following week.
Posh birds were best, mostly after a bit of rough, no commitment and some excitement for the evening, hanging around the Drugstore in Chelsea was a good place at chucking out time, as was the Markham Arms, a gay pub that strangely always had a fair contingent of girls in there, you used to get the posh bints in the Drugstore looking for anyone to buy them a drink (they never had any money) or score some drugs (funny how they had money for that), the amount of herbal tobacco I sold to them was amazing and no one ever complained.
A fast adrenaline filled ride was always a good precursor to a, well, a fast adrenaline filled ride, you want a wild and rampant woman, then literally scare the pants off of her, riding fast always seemed to get them going, the vibration of some bikes helped as well. I had a BSA 441 SS for a while and when I bought a CB750 four the woman I was with at the time was most put out, she preferred the throbbing of a big single, to the high revving vibes of the Honda. Yet another loved the high frequency vibes of a 380 Suzuki I despatched on, sometimes we had to pry her off the seat with a crowbar.
After the first time a girl out rode me on the road I spent weeks trying to pull her, I had been on an Export Bonnie and she was riding a Ducati 750SS. It had had a lot of money spent on tweaking and handled like a dream, I drove her mad trying to get her to go on a date, but I think she enjoyed the chase more than I did, when we did get together we were both a little disappointed, we ended up as friends for quite a few years though.

There is a downside to all this, and it was rain, when it rained and it does quite a bit in this country, you have no chance, unless a bird was really drunk or stoned you could not get them on the back of a bike for love nor money. Trying to pull a bird while dripping water all over the floor tended to put them off, for example arriving a bit late at the County Arms one night I found my date getting in a Capri with some bloke dressed like something off Starsky and Hutch, when I queried this she told me in no uncertain terms "No way was she getting on a bike in this fecking weather" as she was getting in the car I asked her rather loudly if she needed anymore of her penicillin tablets. Chummy got most upset.
Looking like a drowned Roland Rat does nothing for your image as a biker, yet that is how we spent a lot of our time, I was a London courier for about 15 years and spent a fortune on the best waterproofs, it did not make a lot of difference, "Alright love, put all this stuff on." "'ere, are you kinky or sumfink?" "No, its raining outside." "Stuff that, where’s a bloke with a car!"
You cant look cool or glamorous when cold water is trickling down the back of your neck, although there were one or two girls who quite liked the feel of wet leather, 'cough' but that is another story.
There used to be an unwritten law, if you were far from home and it was raining, try to pull just so you did not have to ride home in the rain. When I was a courier I used to try and pull the receptionists at the drop off point on long jobs, if it was a Friday, so I would not have to ride home until the morning. Bizarrely the best town for this was Manchester, never failed there, I always managed to get a bed for the night, worst was Doncaster, but to be honest I never found anyone I fancied there.

Very un-pc now but in the 70's I pulled a hell of a lot of women, most were absolute stunners, or was that the acid? I did also have some horrendous episodes, like leaping out of a first floor window with my trousers under my arm, straight into some rosebushes, from which I still have scars, and having to try and keep very quiet. Or waking up one morning and staring into the eyes of the hound from hell which looked like it wanted to tear me to bits, as my eyes left the dog, I saw hanging on the bedroom door the biggest pair of pants I have ever seen in my life. As I lay there wondering what part of hell I was in, a girls voice called out, "The dogs fine, just dont make any sudden moves, I'm just in the shower." I grabbed my clothes, crept out the door and just legged it.
Then there was the weird episode where I was drugged by a bird at a party in Mornington Crescent, she locked me in her bedroom and told my mates I had gone home or so they said, thanks for the rescue guys, she turned out to be a distant relative of Princess Di!!!
The Sunday night after a heavy weekend could be amusing for my mates, "Look out, here comes that bird you pulled the other night." "What bird?" "Hello Jake, buy me a drink then?" And I would have no idea who she was, so it was pretend to have a bad hangover and bluff my way along until I sussed out if they were bunny boilers or worth another go.
We were in a pub called the fountain one night when this stunning bird walked in, we were all completely gobsmacked, not the usual girl you found in Tooting at all, she looked around, then saw me, walked over planted a big kiss on my face, put my garage keys on the table said "You dropped these in my place, thanks for Saturday." All I could do was mumble incoherently.
She then strolled calmly out the door and all my mates started questioning me, unfortunately to this day I have no idea who she was, I still suspect it was a wind up.
Or another time after a particularly stonking weekend, I was standing at the upstairs bar in the Music Machine in Camden when in walked ******** ****** (famous 70’s 80’s female singer, I am not going to name her) as she walked past she looked daggers at me, then disappeared into the crowd, I was completely puzzled, a few days later I found her name and phone number in my little black book and after questioning them, was told by my mates that I had spent a whole night buying her drinks until I had no brass in pocket. I remembered nothing of it and felt that there was a missed opportunity.
I once wrote Debbie Harrys name and phone number (made up) on a piece of paper and left it in a mates wallet, we had been drinking in a club sitting next to her band Blondie the previous evening, he never had the bottle to ring it and boasted for ages that he had got her number, I never told him what I did because he was so chuffed about it.

The 70’s were a very hedonistic time, everyone was experimenting with life, drugs and values. There was a lot of perceived freedom and some very liberated women, I felt that although they had women’s lib, most women still wanted to be dominated and looked after, but they also wanted excitement and fun, the restrictions of previous few decades had been lifted and they wanted to get out and experience the world in their own way. This made it a lot of fun for people like me, good looking and not looking for any commitment. After the first time a girl out rode me on the road I spent weeks trying to pull her, I had been on an Export Bonnie and she was riding a Ducati 750SS. The Ducati had had a lot of money spent on tweaking and handled like a dream, I drove her mad trying to get her to go on a date, but I believe she enjoyed the chase more than I did, when we did get together I think we were both a little disappointed, we ended up as friends for quite a few years though.
Most of the 70’s is actually blurred for me, I do remember that we did a lot of drugs, drink, built CB750 Swedish style choppers, BSA cafĂ© racers, Z900 streetfighter (we didn’t call them that then) with reversed Ace bars, a 400/500/550/750 four Honda with Vespa badges on the side panels (that one really screwed with the brains of the police as they checked it out), a bike built from left over bits in my mates attic and from 1972 until 1979 I clocked up well over quarter of a million miles, I suspect it was nearer the half million mark but cant be 100% sure, I was a courier for most of that time.
I look back on the 70’s with genuine affection and more than likely rose tinted glasses, the summers were hot, the winters snowy and it rained a hell of a lot. Those were good days.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The tube strike.

What wonderful chaos on our roads today, drivers coming in who have obviously never driven in London before, millions more pushbike riders with no road sense, long queues at the busstops. Traffic problems were caused by the sheer weight of stupidity on our roads, if you cant get anywhere, why block the road for others? Most of the problems were caused by a lack of patience and manners rather than anything else.
I watched a bloke in a van, move forward to turn right at some lights, his exit was blocked so there was no point, when the lights changed the traffic from his right started to move forwards and guess what? There was a van in the way, now the traffic has gridlocked itself and lots of drivers started hooting and shouting, I just manuovered the bike around the obstruction and cruised up the road laughing.
I was amazed at the number of full motorbike parks though especially because it had been raining, it took me 20 minutes to find space to park in one. I dont have a problem with that though, the more people who use their motorbikes the more bike parks they will eventually put in and it reduces congestion/pollution.
I did have a few 'moments' with people though, two bike riders who were under the impression that because they were riding bikes they did not have to look behind or sgnal before moving across in front of me, I am sire the second one got into work with messy trousers (Tip for riding a bike in London - dont abuse the big bloke on the big nasty looking motorbike).
A car driver who was stuck illegaly in a bus lane tried to push me out of the way with his bumper, I hope you managed to find your keys in all that traffic. Frayed tempers apart it was an interesting ride in.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Smells like history.

For those regular readers of this blog, you may know that I have some memory problems, due to an accident in 1988, just recently some memories have started coming back, I have now noticed that smells have started triggering memories as well. Some smells have always set off some memories, but just lately almost any smell has triggered a memory or two.

I really noticed this the other day, I got a waft of what I assume was popcorn, suddenly I found myself walking through Battersea funfair in the late 60's, very odd feeling, especially as I was crossing the road in Kings cross. Later a smell I could not identify (possibly glue?) took me back to a holiday on Hayling Island aged around 7. I have no idea why the smell of glue would trigger that one, looking into this I find there are lots of examples of the link between memory and smell, if fact there are 1000's of different texts on the subject, some make sense, some dont.
There are a myriad of theories as to why this happens, my favourite is that it is suvival based, having smell linked to memory allows us to remember what bad food smells like, or maybe a saber toothed predator. Some foods can look quite good, until you smell them. Smell is definetly an important sense, as much so as sight and taste and I think more so than touch, smell triggers more memories than any of the other senses, so our bodies must think its an important one. Back when we were single celled animals, smell was the fist sense to tell us if something was 'safe' to eat, and still plays a big part in safeguarding us from bad things.

What I dont understand is why some of the memories are so intense, during my reading I came across this by Karl S. Kruszelnicki

This kind of memory, where an unexpected re-encounter with a scent from the distant past brings back a rush of memories, is called a "Proustian Memory". It's named after Marcel Proust, one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century. He describes this phenomenon in the opening chapter of his novel Swan's Way, the first novel in his mammoth seven-part work, Remembrance Of Things Past.
He writes how the smell of a madeleine cake (a small, rich pastry) dipped into a lime-blossom tea, unleashed a rush of brilliantly-clear memory: "and as soon as I had recognised the taste of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me ... immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set ... and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the Square where I used to be sent before lunch, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine."

This is almost exactly what happens to me, not that particular memory but one of my own,
the scene is almost real before me, non of them last long though, maybe a few seconds, but its all helping to bring back memories long lost. This may take some reasearch.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

MEP elections.

I hope you all voted today, because if you didnt then you have no right to complain about .... well anything. People died to make sure that you could vote, they fought for your right to vote and you should not waste it. I am sick of hearing excuses, "I dont know who to vote for?" "Whats the point? The bloke I want wont win..." etc You vote for the candidate who is nearest your ideals, you are never going to get someone who is perfect for you, but you could help keep out someone you dont really want in.
Wasting your vote is pointless, it is there for you to make a statement, even if that statement says 'keep this man out'.
Not voting is laziness of the most insulting kind, insulting to the people who died for that right, insulting to the people who work hard to get your vote and most of all its insulting to yourself. You are saying to yourself, 'I dont care who wins, I dont care who controls my life, I dont even care if my bins get emptied.' If you cant take time to have say in who runs the country or the EU then you throw away your right to complain if it all goes wrong, but you will anyway... wont you?