Friday, 23 January 2015

Buy Britisch Motorrad

I've often felt that I should get another Triumph. I owned one briefly in the late 60's, a Thunderbird, and I once looked after a friends Tiger Cub. Both were fun and left the traditional oil puddle, something of a trade mark for British bikes of that vintage.

These days I'm on a BMW R1200R but having made an interesting discovery I don't feel quite so guilty. I hadn't been aware until very recently that the Triumph company was actually started in the 1880s in Coventry, by Siegfried Bettmann, a German Jewish chap from Nuremberg. He started a high-quality bicycle company (the Triumph Cycle Co.), which, at the very beginning of the 20th century, started making motor-bicycles (after a very short time using proprietary engines but then one designed and built in-house).

Bettmann was joined by a fellow countryman, Mauritz Johann Schulte, sometime in the 1890s, and the two maintained an active, if sometimes rather acrimonious, business partnership until Schulte left the company in 1919. Interestingly Bettmann became so respected a local figure he was elected Mayor of Coventry in 1913, but sadly the effects of anti-German feeling meant that he had to relinquish that position soon after the outbreak of war (although he avoided being interned).
It intrigued me that the manufacturers of the Triumph Model H motorcycle which was the primary British Dispatch Rider bike of WWI was built by a company founded by two Germans.

Und zo, it zeems zat I vill heff to shpeak viz ein Cherman eccent veneffer I em reiding ein Triumph. Wunderbar!
Auf widersehen


Friday, 16 January 2015

Paris, Belgium........

Recent atrocities in France and the police operations in Belgium the other day prompted me to think of this:

In the dark days of Irish republican terrorism I found myself on a professional study week, in The Netherlands, in a white transit personnel carrier, with several other of my then work colleagues. A double murder by automatic weapons in nearby Roermond was reported to our hosts and we were told that we should up our vigilance as we were in a British registered vehicle and being as we all looked like police officers (because we were), or military personnel, we might be at a slightly enhanced risk. We pointed out to our hosts that we had been at a `slightly enhanced risk` in our own country for our entire service.

The perpetrators drove across the various borders with ease, impunity and their weapons. The `Shengen Agreement` helped considerably. In the light of recent events I suspect that it still does.
Our Prime Minister at the time the agreement was proceeding through the Eu Parliament was Margaret Thatcher. She did not like it one bit. To this day the UK remains outside the `Shengen Group`.

We are in a different place today than we were then, but if you read the attached, particularly the final paragraph, you will see that it still resonates.

Names and faces simply turn into statistics after the tears dry up.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Oh Captain, MY Captain?

The Sunday Times, 11/01/15:
" Whitehall sources say more than 30 Isis fighters in the UK have been placed under surveillance by MI5 because they are considered a serious threat.
Now a further 120 who retain “extremist” views but have escaped detailed scrutiny will be reassessed amid fears that they have the firearms training to commit a copycat attack."

It's at times like these I turn to people former Rail Regulator and International Rail Regulator, the economic regulatory authority for the railways in Great Britain......??? 

 (personal thoughts: `how dare you besmirch that dare you wear very dare you`)

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The day after the day after Armistice Day.....

It’s the day after the day after Armistice Day.

However, on the 11th, just before 1100hrs, my faithful Jack Russell, Monty, and I stood at our village war memorial alongside a few other local residents and a dozen schoolchildren, approximately half of our tiny primary school. The fourth stanza of Binyon’s poem, For the fallen was spoken. As the church clock struck eleven, we observed a two minute silence. Then we left.

When I got back home I read the final paragraph and then the epilogue of the book I have been reading these past few months, purely co-incidental that I finished it on this day. It was about the British Redcoat in the era of sword and musketry. The final paragraph came as a footnote to the Battle of Waterloo, June 18th 1815. I shall share it:
“Thomas Pococke of the 71st did not care. Having survived the Peninsular and Waterloo, his only concern was to to be given a discharge and return home. He got his wish in the winter in 1815…….`I left my comrades with regret`, recalled Pococke, `but the service with joy. I came down to the coast to embark, with light steps and a joyful heart, singing, “When the wild war’s deadly blast was blawn”. I was poor as poor could be; but I had hope before me, and pleasing dreams of home`.
Arriving in Edinburgh by ship, he went straight to his parents’ home. They no longer lived there, nor did the new occupant know their address. Fortunately the landlord remembered Tom and took him to his mother for a tearful reunion, the first in nine years. Pococke spent the next two years completing an account of his time in the army and sent it to a friend in the hope that it might be published. It was in 1819. But by then his mother was dead and he, unable to find work even as a labourer, had disappeared. Having left the army sound of body and without the requisite twenty years’ service, Pococke was not eligible for a pension. He was last heard of working as a road mender `with a number of other poor labourers thrown out of general employment`. Thus did Britain reward `that best of all instruments…British Infantry`.

In the epilogue, the last words were fittingly a quote from a soldier whose Prussian (later German) Army would dominate Europe’s battlefields from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries in much the same way the British Army had for the century and a half before that. `For battle`, wrote Baron von Müffling, Wellington’s former Prussian liaison officer, in 1816, `there is not perhaps in Europe an army equal to the British, that is to say, none whose tuition, discipline, and whole military tendency, is so purely and exclusively calculated for giving battle.` He added:
`The British soldier is vigorous, well fed, by nature highly brave and intrepid, trained to the most vigorous discipline, and admirably well armed. The infantry resist attacks of cavalry with great confidence, and when taken in the flank or rear, British troops are less disconcerted than any other European army. These circumstances in their favour will explain how this army, since the Duke of Wellington conducted it, has never yet been defeated in the open field`.

That is why I support the Royal British Legion.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Fair wear and tear....

Had a faithful old tooth removed yesterday. It had served me well for almost 50 years. Needed a root canal jobby a few years back but apart from that it was doing great. My Portuguese dentist has told me I have great teeth and healthy gums... with one exception, the aforementioned LR5 (who I shall call "Mo"). Pure bad luck caused an infection to set in, post aforementioned root canal, which in itself was a great piece of work, but hey, sh1t happens and Mo had to be retired.
Plan `A` was to remove Mo and screw a Titanium implant into his place to take a ceramic in a few months but the X ray showed that Mo's foundation was no longer rock, but sand - a bone graft would be needed. But quick thinking dentist coolly announced that next to Mo there was a long-time gap where LR6 once lived and this will be ideal for the implant, so it was `job-on` after all. Can't remember how I lost LR6, but what with the space he'd long ago left behind suddenly coming in so unexpectedly handy, nay perfect for the tactical option (and me being a bit of an aviation enthusiast) I'm re-naming LR6 "A.10"! (I thought about "Spad", but this is the 21st century and after all we are talking Titanium).
So I'm all numbed up and the Op begins. A couple of taps, the insertion of a small explosive charge, a dull crunch and out comes Mo. The infected section of jawbone is cleaned, grafted and we move on to prep area A.10 for the titanium screw. A two, three and four mm drill bit do their thing - well not quite, as the 3mil seizes solid in the healthy, rock-solid bone, the drill suddenly stops and my dentist is flung sideways with the torque reaction.Another hi tech piece of specialist dentistry has to be deployed. I think I heard him call it an `Apertado Pequeno Bastardo`, which judging from the sound and feel of things through the numbness is probably Portuguese for, `Mole Grips` (probably titanium as well, although I swore I could smell WD40).
Space `A10` was completed in record time (about 8 tracks from the `Adele CD` playing in the background - just as well because I think he told me there were `21`).
I aimed some antiseptic fluid in the general direction of my mouth, rinsed out the bone and gore in an action resembling a lawn sprinkler, and then let my dentist give me a facial makeover with a sterile wipe. I sat up and looked at the lovely nurse who had, for the last 90 minutes, been kneeling on my chest forcing my mouth open with steel instruments pressed hard on the bits of my lips and mouth that still had working nerves. Trying to smile I said, "Ice pack please". She then slapped me across the un-anaesthetised part of my face and stormed out. I was bemused. The dentist ran after her and she returned a short while later full of apologies. It was a simple mis-undertanding caused by my anaesthetised tongue, what I said being encrypted by the novocaine and coming out as "Nice rack Miss" *.
I'm feeling a bit better this morning, despite the stitches in my gum, and looking forward to getting the full A.10 by the end of the year. Until then, you can call me `Gappy`, although you can't see it until I laugh real hard.

* Surely I must be joking by now? Of course.

Friday, 3 October 2014

"Eheu Fugaces, Postume Postume"

Met a bloke I hadn't seen for bloody years very recently. He'd got himself into a shedload of trouble and currently awaits a sentence. He didn't say anything to start with as he assumed I'd heard about his big mistake, which I hadn't, despite it making the press. I felt sorry for him, more so for his innocent family. He wasn't a child molester/sexual deviant, a thief or a breaker of bones. He'd let a chain of events get out of hand and had made a huge error of judgement that could cost him a loss of liberty by way of an exemplary punishment. I told him he'd be lucky if he got it suspended but his admission, clean sheet and conduct prior-to would be a sway in his favour. `The thing is`, I told him, ` we all make genuine mistakes and get things wrong through occasional bad judgement which, in itself, is caused by many factors but mainly inexperience. If we could go back in time to do things better, most of us would, so we shouldn't judge the less experienced soul we once were, based on the experience we have today`. I don't know if that helped.

It also got me thinking about people I've encountered throughout my working life, who I may have either misjudged, let down or disappointed in some way. If I got it wrong, I wasn't wrong deliberately. If I got it right but they didn't like the outcome, well, maybe I could have gone about it in a different way, but I couldn't see it because, at the time that was all I had. I have given evidence in court as a character witness for a defendant. I have also declined to give prosecution evidence when a former colleague was being prosecuted because it just seemed like a witch hunt. For me, it is all about the ethics and if he was guilty beyond reasonable doubt then they wouldn't need me to over-egg the pudding of justice. Sometimes the prosecution looks like its using a sledgehammer and to me that is distasteful.

I never turned away from doing something I believed needed doing. I could never ignore something bad because turning a `blind eye`, is to condone and if you are paid to get things done properly and don't, then you are a fraud and not earning your keep. I never set out to do harm. I'm sorry if I did, but my intentions were always to do what I believed was the right thing, however personally damaging it was for me to do so. By the same token, I don't bear any malice or ill will. It's done and forgotten. Life is way too short. So if you are out there and you see me, do say hello. The slate is clean.