One More Wave

One more wave… 

After the last post, what have I been up too?  

Recovery was slow and it wasn’t until about mid-October that my back was good enough to consider being almost back to normal. The other scars will take far longer and for the second time, my younger brother and I are no longer speaking.  

My knee… As I write it should have been operated on the 3rd of this month, (December 2019.) Sadly, the op was canceled and will hopefully get rescheduled for mid-January 2020. Some nights the pain is constant, on others I can cope. Work is a struggle, likewise doing anything to the fleet is difficult. I changed the front brake pads on Tug, my little Vitara just before my op was meant to happen. A job that normally takes 30 minutes max was over an hour with much swearing and cursing.  

In August whilst taking clean washing from my machine my right leg locked. Stuck, I had to pop my knee and after seeing the specialist it seems I’d torn and possibly detached my right meniscus…  

If my life was not so physical this would not be an issue. Yet walking on uneven ground, carrying off-balance weights, steps, kneeling are. All of which are a major part of my daily routine. At the moment, workwise I can do about 50% of what is normally possible, and then only for 3 to 4 hours before it becomes too painful.  

Thankfully there is one thing that I can do. 

After ringing my good clients in the morning, I’d told them I’d be there for 12…  I arrived at 12.30…  

“One more wave?” was their greeting, we have a mutual friend who got into paddleboarding very early. My clients understand, during the winter, on the south coast of Cornwall we often get rideable surf, not large, but to longboarders and paddleboarders, we can surf it.  

At Swanpool there are now a group of regulars. We have come to trust and respect each other. My weapon of choice, an old 14ft downwind board that turns as fast as supertanker, yet will catch ripples.  

Last year I wouldn’t surf in the pack, now I can. Maneuvering this 14ft board through the group is possible and a lot of fun.  

More than one regular has commented that Swanpool is among the most chilled outbreaks that they have encountered. Mostly free from ego, wave sharing is common, and mutual respect even more so. For a little while, on every wave I’m free, walking the board and reaching back to those early Hawaiian beach boys who reintroduced surfing to the world at the start of the 20th century.  

 

Growing up in Perranporth, on the north coast of Cornwall, surfing culture was a part of everyday life. Summer fashions being a mix of both Hawaiian and Californian.  Admittedly I tried surfing and really struggled. Then went back to bodyboarding. Yet, there in the racks of Perranporth Surf Club stood some of those original boards. Tall and elegant they were echoes of times past.  

Modern longboard type surf sups share similar lines, rightly so. Both those early Hawaiian beach boys like Duke Kahanamoku and the later watermen like Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama used essentially longboards with a paddle when they chose to SUP, (stand up paddle.)

Some aspects of car culture and surf go hand in hand. Hot Rodding originated in Southern California in the late 1930s and exploded into popularity after the Second World War. For instance, The Beach Boys were essentially a group of car guys and not surf ones.  

When I load the board up and head towards the beach the cultures combine. Instead of the woodies of old, now converted vans, for more affluent, VW ones, of course, gather.  

Out in the line-up, the mantra is one more wave and who I’m too argue. Even with my buggered knee…  

Thank you Toni for the pic of me paddling.

You Can Choose Your Friends, but…

Classicaraddict…

What a summer.

For the two summers previously, I got sucked into an unhealthy situation. In the process got manipulated and was accused of some things no decent person should.

Having finally cleared myself from that in April this year I had thought that lessons had been learned… Don’t be silly…

 

For many years I’d not had much contact with either my older or younger brothers.  I think that my older one and I never connected as children, and that continued into adulthood. Yet, over the last few years we have and with his recent change in career from big wave surfer, paddleboard instructor to now a very skilled potter we have become closer. Perhaps mutual respect has grown. I know I’m not surprised by his change in vocation, but very pleased by his passion combined with his talent.  The reason I’m still here is largely down to him. If it wasn’t for paddleboarding, I’d have become another statistic in the last couple of years.

 

My younger brother is a different matter. Whilst there is 2 ½ years difference between my older brother and I. There are only 14 months between myself and the other one.
A little too close for comfort and not helped my dyslexia which was not diagnosed until I left school. This meant that my very intelligent younger brother was often slightly ahead of me regarding school and such like. Making an already difficult situation far harder, yet things became more complex again.

It can be said that the lesson’s learned when young are carried forward to help create the adults we become. None of us were angels, far from it. Yet, my older brother and I did learn a lot of positive ones. Later in life, they have certainly helped him become someone that I’d be proud to know as a friend, let alone call my brother. Hopefully, he now says, “yes, he was right brat as a child but has turned out OK as an adult.”

 

My younger brother and I got into a lot of shared trouble, in an ideal world we would have each other’s backs, but the world is far from ideal.

What comes next is my personal narrative or my own version of events, so it will be full of bias. The imperfect nature of language, memory and my own choices of how to express those will ensure that it is pure fiction. Outside a few very specific areas truth is at best subjective…

My younger brother and I did get into a lot of shared trouble… The lesson I learned was that no matter what was done I’d get the blame regardless of if I was responsible or not.
There was one occasion that involved an upright piano key. He dropped into it and I did not. Yet when found out it was assumed that it was my fault, he never owned up.  Far easier to let another take the blame, to lie. I still did tell stories as a young adult, that was until my life became strange enough never to make another thing up.
I also made the choice to change,  we all have it, sometimes it is the only thing we do have.

After 6 years at the beginning of June, my younger brother and I got back in physical contact. It would have been nice to have had time to slowly build the bridges. Yet suddenly there was a plan for him and his daughter to move to the north. I did my best, yet a week before they were due to move my knee popped. Luckily, I have a good doctor who I’d seen the last time about depression two years ago. He paddleboards as well, and as I was waiting to go in, my elder brother’s wife messaged to say that they had found a 14ft board at the bottom of the garden and it was mine if I wanted it… Try talking to a doctor about depression when all you want to do is go and get another board. When I did go in this time, he said that having seen me paddling regularly he never worried about me returning the last time. The result of this was he quickly referred me for an emergency appointment about my knee with a specialist and then advised me not to drive 450 miles and unload a van load of my brother’s stuff.

If it had been anybody else, I’d taken his advice, but due to deadlines and family pressure, I did the journey.

That was almost a month ago and the repercussions are still occurring. My mother and brother expected me to have dropped everything and focus on ensuring the move, regardless of what else might have been planned workwise or socially. Why? Family of course.  Sadly this reminds me of the person I finally got out of my life in April and my ex-wife. The way strings are pulled and unless things go exactly how they want, the reasons why it doesn’t is always someone else’s fault.

With a little distance, each new accusation becomes like a beat from a bad piece of music. I hear a bad impression of Vin Diesel saying, “but we are family….” In my head.

 

I had a choice, it has cost me a lot physically, financially and emotionally.

After traveling up there on Bank Holiday Saturday and making good time there was no one to help unload. Normally this would not be an issue, but with a buggered knee it was. In the process and after finally getting help my back went into spasm. I faced a choice. We filled the van up with diesel and I headed home. 920 miles in a day. The next few days I’d never felt such pain, even the most basic tasks were beyond me. It was total, and it meant that I couldn’t work or help my brother clear the rest of his house.

I’m self-employed, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid.

Yet the drama continued.  It seems like the other’s I have known.  My brother seeks to blame everyone else rather than take any personal responsibility.

Today, on my mother’s birthday I got effectively disowned and after not speaking to my younger brother following a few choice words 3 weeks ago it seems that I might have been able to bring his stuff back from the north next week. After messaging him the response was F ck Off you Sociopathic    C nt.  I can but ponder the potential and unintentional irony of his statement, in this he reminds me once again of that person from my recent past.

 

Now like Max at the end of Mad Max 2, I might be battered, beaten up, yet I’m smiling. I have a choice, as the dust settles, I choose to ensure good people are in my life. I know others who have suffered far more yet somehow still smile. Those people have a light even after being swamped by darkness. We all have choices and those inspirational people remind us of that.

What choices will you make today?

 

Oh, and the reason I’m going north next week… A friend is moving to God’s own country, (Scotland) and has asked me to drive her in a VW Crafter camper van. It is a tough job, but someone has to do it…

Finding a Unicorn Car for a Friend.

I’d put it off for far too long.  Early January and my friend wanted to replace his very high mileage Toyota Yaris with something a little better.  To be fair, we found him the Yaris about 5 years before and it had provided amazing service yet now at almost 200000 miles, the end was nigh. That amazing little engine had developed a death rattle…

Over the last year or so my friend had mentioned how he would like a 4×4. Now I’ve had Tug, my little Suzuki Vitara at that point for 18 months. So, I do feel that  I can comment. The trade off for 4×4’s is the extra weight of the internals, extra driveshafts etc… That some have separate chassis, the fuel consumption is bad. They handle worse on road. Now if you have a use for one, like I do, they are amazing… But.

I’d already talked him out of a Jeep Cherokee… Too big, expensive to run, and Jeep reliability.So not ideal. 

At this point. I thought I’d put him off the idea… Yet, once again here he was asking me to help. We are good friends, what could I do? The gardening doesn’t really start until the first full week in the new year. So first it was research time. The only choice that really covered the bases was another Toyota, this time the Rav4. Oh, and just to make life a little more interesting, my friend wanted an automatic.

Why a Rav4? Simply because Toyota made its best cars from the 1990s to the middle of the first decade of this century and they were the most reliable in the world.

We both live in Cornwall, which means that once you find a car, the chances are that it will be at least 2 to 3 hours away… I found a couple of auto MK2 Rav4’s listed, one near Taunton, the other near Bristol. The closer one had just been sold, the seller in Bristol didn’t get back to me… Facing a dilemma… Then I found an MK1 Auto Rav4 at a dealer in Honiton, in the pics it looked really clean… My friend now was in a meeting for a couple of hours… So I rang the garage, explained the situation. They said they would hold it until 1 pm.

We left at 1.30 in Bel, my little MX5, roof down, of course.

The garage was a Rav4 specialist with mostly MK2 models. There in the furthest corner, she sat. Clearly had not been moved since before Christmas. Her body looked clean, and underneath, for her age, she was amazingly tidy.  The salesman came out and was about to start her, but I got him to open the bonnet. First, I placed my had on her engine, it was stone cold. Then a quick check of her fluids, all looked good… As I was doing this, I explained what I was looking for and why. The salesman made a joke about dodgy second-hand car dealers. Then he turned her key and she burst into life. No smoke, no hassles.

I jumped in and we set off on a quick test drive that included a blast down the nearby A30. She ran like a dream, at first the brakes ground a little, but that was just the surface rust coming off. We then swapped seat and my friend had a little drive.

Thumbs up…

We left with the car an hour later. I fear my I might have inflicted my friend with the classic car bug. We drove home in convoy, Bel in front and the Rav4 that now had been named Phoebe following. Inside I felt a sense of relief. I’d pulled another out of the bag.

My friend Andy with his new purchase…
Phoebe and Bel at Victoria Services.

Motorcycles and Renewed Friendships

When was the last we rode together?

The question hung in the air, the years had passed, more than we cared to remember.

An unexpected opportunity meant that 3 friends replicated a photo taken 29 years before.

Then there was 5 of us, each on a moped, a total capacity of 250cc and 5 cylinders. Now there was a total engine capacity of 2500cc and 7 cylinders. Where before there were 4 Japanese bikes, well one with an Italian engine and one East German one.  Now there was two from the land of the rising sun and one wearing a German badge, with an Austrian heart and a frame built in Italy.

The changes in not just the bikes, but in the riders, spoke volumes.

Middle age has crept up,  it seems bike clothing shrinks for all of us. Surely that must be the reason why once loose fitting jeans seem tight? Hair has become flecked with white, faces lined with experience. Yet, if you look closely, you will see the pleasure in friendship and motorcycles. A few moments before, we had been making a temporary repair to my bike, a little alternative engineering (bodging) that is such a part of motorcycling. Another aspect that bonds us together in more ways than we care to imagine.

Roads have become so much more dangerous than ever. The amount of traffic now combined with the brain numbing effects of satnav means that riding is more a lesson of risk management than enjoying the open road. The bikes we now ride reflect this.

Well for two of us anyway…

One of my friends has owned his 1200cc Suzuki Bandit for 10 years. The bike still looks as good now as it did we he first got it. One of the ultimate expressions of the once was known as a UJM, or universal Japanese motorcycle. But that would be unkind, the 1200 Bandit was as hooligan’s bike when introduced and can still surprise a few now. Like all things it seems, motorcycles have become larger and the 1200 bandit has shrunk, but now it is condensed, focused and understated.

My other friend has owned his Honda 650 Deauville over 3 years, has toured all over the UK and Europe two up on it. The bike is typical of the Honda being well built and thought out. Based on the long-running NTV 600/ 650, the engine will last forever. For today’s roads, it is ideal and I have no doubt my friend will still be riding it in 10 years’ time.

I was sitting on the joker of the pack, my newly acquired BMW F650. Unlike my friend’s bikes, I’m starting my relationship with it. It has already done more miles than their bikes. Being unlike anything I’ve ever owned before yet seems to work for today’s roads. I’d only ridden about 200 miles over 5 days at that point. After not been on a bike in about 2 years and enjoyed riding for far longer, I’m rusty, unlike the BMW.

Shortly after we left for a ride (scratch), clearly my friends have ridden together often. Their close formation and fast, but safe pace only one expression of that.  I was tail end, Charlie. The spot allowed me to ride at my own pace without the pressure of holding someone up.

With old friends, we have no need to prove anything. We can all ride or drive just about anything quickly, but understand it takes a few miles to truly settle down on something new. I sat back and enjoyed my own pace, keeping up, but not too closely.

With the promise of a mug of tea and bacon sandwich, we pulled into the café near Kit Hill.

The three of us once more riding together. Almost 30 years may have passed, but for us, it seems like only yesterday.

For the record, the line-up is the same from the left to the right.

A Little Fun, Off Road Playing in a Suzuki Vitara

‘Fancy a go?’

My friend asked if I wanted to try his newly acquired MK 4 Golf, it was nothing special, but then that often does not matter.  What did surprise me was just how cheap it was.

Now, old cars are worth next to nothing in the UK. A good one with a long MOT can be bought for what is little more than pennies. In this case, a car 14 years old with almost a full year’s road test was£300 pounds. Yes, it does have a few issues, including needing a heater matrix changing. I suspect my friend has never changed one, for one the first things that goes into an empty body shell during assembly, is the heater matrix. I once did one on a MK 2 Golf, never again, as complete sod does not even start to describe how difficult it is.

It seemed only polite to allow him to have a go in Tugg, my little Suzuki Vitara. In past, he has owned a Mitsubishi 4X4 pickup and a Unimog. So, he knew a bit about driving 4×4’s.  He and his family are converting an old NATO pumping Station to apartments. What this means that their property is not overlooked and is about 3 acres in size. With a high bank on one side. After a little go on the tarmac, his next suggestion was that we tried the track up the bank, so swapping over I went first.

It turned out that the test drive was a little more extreme than either of us expected. Tugg, climbed the slippy bank with ease and then with her small size, she squeezed through the gap at the end. Then it was his turn, same route, but with a steeper bank at the start. Yes, we were both very surprised and my friend could see why I like the Vitara so much.

Just as I was about leave, he suggested I tried the really steep bank. After Scraping her tow bar, we finally got Tugg stuck, but on a dry day he thinks she would get up there… Unhooking her tow bar was fun, both of us simply  lifted the rear wheel arch and Tugg rolled back as if this was normal.

There is a real importance to sometimes kicking loose. I would not let everyone drive cars and bikes, but to those who I trust there is real joy in sharing the magic.

The best part is my friends laugh at the end of the short clip.  Sums up friendship and the joy of both us simply taking a few minutes out from adulthood.