By The Light Of Past Mistakes.

We’ve had a frantic few days. Well, mainly Wendy has. Obviously the first priority was getting the car MOT-ed before the insurance changed their mind, or we got pulled by the plod. Wendy has decided to own the problem of the car. Up until now she has driven it, I’ve had it serviced, MOT-ed, etc. Not, as it turns out, very successfully. Rather than be in the dark as to the status of her car, she’s decided to do it herself now. Which means she’s had to do everything for the first time, on her own (as I’ve been working) and stressed out of her head.

She took the car for it’s MOT. Because of Covid she wasn’t allowed to wait, as I usually do, so she had to go for a walk for an hour. When she got back, despite me having gone over every tyre for tread depth, every light,the wipers, horn, screen wash, fluffy dice (OK, no fluffy dice) it still failed. They said there was a dangerous bulge on a tyre. I hope that was on the inside, because I didn’t see it. She went home stressed and told me. I said if she took it to the nearest tyre fitting place (Kwikfit) she could get back to the garage for the MOT certificate the same day. They kept her there for an hour and 15 minutes. Still madly stressed. Which meant the garage was shut so she had to get her MOT the next day, still with some minors. A chip in the windscreen, and slightly damaged valves on the on of the back tyres. Rather than mess about we ordered a new set of back tyres to be fitted at home, and we’ve got someone coming around the fix the chip. The tyres were done this afternoon, the windscreen gets fixed on Saturday. That’s it then, the car is MOT perfect. Wendy has noticed the aircon is only blowing cool instead of freezing so she’s booked it in for a re-gas on Thursday. Then it’s a perfect car for a couple of years more. Wendy has bravely adopted the motto “Be scared, do it anyway.” All these new things are destruct testing that resolve.

The doctor upped her pills but, whether due to the pills or the bump and consequent faffing about, she’s feeling more stressed. She said one of the possible side effects of the anti-anxiety pill is increased levels of anxiety. I’m not an actual doctor, but I can see flaws in that medication regime.

I’ve had a hugely productive couple of days. After my ride to Chorley to work (40 minutes, lots of it at *cough* motorway speeds) I noticed the front end still didn’t feel right. It wasn’t falling into corners but it was starting to wriggle at *cough* speed. I was worried it had the potential to turn into a tank slapper and throw me off. I couldn’t leave it like that so I decided on a course of action. Drop the forks, change the oil to the thicker, more shock absorbing oil, check it actually had the upgraded springs the seller claimed were fitted, get the oil levels exactly equal, then replace the forks 9mm higher through the yokes, which throws more weight forward to settle the front end. That was my plan for Sunday. If it still felt wriggly I was going to buy a new set of tyres for £260+. I don’t mind spending that much when I have to, it’s the main bit of the bike that stops you from bouncing down the road, it’s worth whatever it costs, but the tyres that are on it look nearly new. That was upsetting.

I went to drop the forks out (after removing the side panels, mudguard, brakes, and front wheel, *sigh*). There are two bolts on each fork leg. One in the middle one at the top. I undid the middle one and the fork leg slid out. WHAT!? Some moron hadn’t tightened the top bolts at all after fitting the head bearings. Big speeds, hard braking, with one bolt standing between me and a face full of fork leg. That would explain the wriggle as well.

Oh. Dear.

Ah well, I wanted to do the jobs, and I had it stripped, so I carried on. I did the oil, checked the springs (it is the upgraded ones, yay!) and changed the engine oil and filter while I was at it. I put it back together and, after resetting the brake, and double and triple checking I’d re-tightened every single bolt, I took it for a test run.

It’s like a different bike. It leans neutrally into corners, doesn’t wriggle or shake, and inspires confidence. I think it must have been the head bearings, then the top bolts being undone. The other jobs are improvements that I wanted to do, but I think I had it fixed at head bearings.

So, that was brilliant. Normally mechanic-ing jobs are a series of disasters leaving the bike not much worse than when I started. This all went smoothly and got the result I was hoping for. And it saved me the best part of £300 on unnecessary tyres! Win!

This morning I was up early and spent most of the day in the garden. I’m ready now. When everything grows in, assuming we don’t get any hard frosts (nothing forecast for a fortnight, by which time we’re well into May) I’m almost that mythical place where the gardening is “done”. All I have to do is watch it all grow into a perfect display. Yeah, I’m fooling no-one.

The usual routine is I grow great looking plants (dahlias, gladioli, etc) that grow to full stature, look brilliant for 10 minutes then lean and fall over and have to be snapped off to make way. This year I’m doing what Monty Don said and buying some mild steel rods and bending them into big plant supports. 6mm diameter, 3 metres long. He said, “I got these for about £2 each”. I rang the local steel stockholder, as Monty said, and asked for 15 rods. “We don’t sell to the public, try this place”. I rang them. “Not got them but we can order them off the first place. That will be £68.”

Errrr, no. No it won’t.

I rang around a bunch of other places and have got 14 rods for £35. That’s more like it. I’m picking up on Wednesday. The trouble is they are uncut, so 6 metre lengths. I’m going to have to saw them all in half to get them in the car. I went to B&Q get a cordless (battery powered) angle grinder to do the job easily. Their cheapest was £70 plus another £40 for the battery. I bought a £6 hacksaw!

I’ve order a cheap, new, Chinese angle grinder, with battery, off eBay for £55. Literally half the price. It’s not like I need a cordless that often, but when you do (such as when I had to rent one to saw a jammed, toughened steel, lock off my motorbike) they are invaluable. I’m really hoping the £6 hacksaw goes the distance this time. It’s only 7 cuts. Surely it will be good for that?

I think my frantic activity has just been prevarication. I’ve been putting off getting back to bike training. I did that 20 mile run last week and my foot wasn’t good enough to do any runs after it, and the bike has just been so, so hard. I think it’s just due to lack of consistency. While I was off with my shoulder and bored witless I was riding 6 days a week. Just recently I’ve been skipping a week at a time. I have to get back into a regular pattern. I got back to it today. a 1½ hour ride, with 3x 20 minute sections at 85 – 95% of your max. The workouts are tough and demanding, but the bit where you fall down and quit is mental strength. That is why you need to do it regularly, to get your brain used to it as much as your body. I was 18 minutes into the second block and all my thoughts were “I want to quit now” keep going “I want to quit now”. Then the on-screen text said “Decide now, you are going to finish this block” and I replied “Of course I’m going to finish!” and just like that my brain turned around. Instead of ‘I can’t go on’, I was all ‘BRING IT!’ I did the 1½ hours then straight out for a 4 mile zone 2 (slow) run. I’m off again tomorrow so I can do another catch up ride.


I got the steel rods. I was slowly sawing my way through them when the guy from the metal place took pity on me and came out with some bolt crops and just snipped them in half.

Wendy took the car for the re-gas. As is the trend, it didn’t go smoothly. They’ve closed the waiting area so she has to wander around town and sit in the bus station out of the rain. She was terrified she was going to bump into someone from work, and the bus station was freezing as they had all the door open for covid. It turns out the pollen filter was clogged to death on the car (it has a pollen filter. That’s news.) and the fan is only blowing feebly. So the next job is to sort the fan. They gave Wendy an auto electrician’s number, but frankly she’s had enough stress now, so I’ve rung up and arranged it for Monday, my day off. *Then* the car will be sorted. The windscreen guy came and did the chip today.

The other big thing is, predictably, I’ve swung around to wanting to learn the sax again. Look, it’s the coolest thing in known universe, it’s not my fault! I had the thought about a week or so ago. Well, more of an idea that I’d like to work towards it. The thing I could never master was the time. I just couldn’t keep a count when the music went to half or quarter notes. I decided the best way to attack the problem was with a recorder.

They’re cheap, quiet, and supposedly about the easiest thing to learn. If I can master ‘time’ I can start from scratch and hopefully learn this time. I have started to make inroads. I’ve got two very basic, 3 note tunes, (the first in the book) that I can just about count out 1,2, 1,2, 1 and, 2 and, 1, 2. etc (It’s 2/4 time.) As soon as I had my first success I was looking for a sax. So much for restraint. Wendy has been the voice of reason though. Or a joy sucking harridan, depending on perspective. She pointed out I only sold my saxes last year as I was too bad to continue and it was making me sad never making any progress. And that the sax is very noisy, and I need to train at least half an hour a day, whilst still being embarrassingly crap. All fair points and I will bear them in mind when finding her a care home. Tomorrow. In the meantime I’ve compromised. I had a look on Gumtree and someone is selling a student clarinet about 2 miles away. It’s the full set up, Google says it’s good learner kit, but old, so nice and cheap. Splendid. It’s got a reed (like a sax) so you have to practice embouchure (holding your gob right), the fingering is similar to a sax (I’ve heard) but a lot quieter, and it’s got a nice sound, so I actually want to learn to play it for it’s own sake. The seller is out of town until tomorrow, then it’s opening to Rhapsody in Blue all the live long day!

Oh, one other thing, seeing as my poppies aren’t going to be brightening the shady part of my garden for the next 4 or 5 years (if they ever germinate, a few weeks now and not a sausage) I got to thinking about hostas. I saw one I really liked but even for a tiny little cutting plant they wanted about £12 on eBay.

I tracked down a cheap mixed bunch containing the one I wanted, got to checkout then a message popped up “After 30 years of supplying the UK we can no longer do so due to Brexit. We’d have to ship more paperwork than plants.” Super. Brexit just keeps on giving. That will be “cutting the redtape” and the “sunlit uplands” then.

Anyway I finally got a selection. Some crackers in it. I’ll either have a gorgeous garden or the fattest slugs in the UK.

A few bits of Twitter and I’m done. There was this, which in a sane world would have been the end of Bozo and his government.

Some random stuff

The hero the country needs right now

A nice snap of the light through the trees on my way to work this morning

I showed restraint

Missing mutt

And a philosopher I follow mused about Harry Potter and philosophy