Blue Monday

Hello everyone!

First up, please accept my apologies for being a tad tardy in making posts over the last few weeks. Mostly my excuse is that I haven’t had much to say, so rather than blithering complete nonsense, as opposed to mostly nonsense I thought it best to shut up!

Life in Dookes World is pretty OK, I’ve been out and about on the bikes quite a bit though only relatively local trips. I am, however, getting totally fed up with the constant need to wash the bikes after each ride… go out on a blue Harley and return on a brown one, such is the level of c**p on our local roads at the moment! – No, don’t worry I’m not publishing a photo of a dirty motorbike!

Which leads me to the title of this post.

Apparently, the third Monday of January, (that’s today!), has been given the name “Blue Monday” and has been identified as the most depressing day of the year for countries in the Northern Hemisphere! There are even statistical equations that purport to back up the claim, though as two completely different versions of the equation exist I doubt that my old Mathematics Professor would be very impressed!

Now quite what this pseudoscience nonsense is all based on I’m not sure…though I’m inclined to suspect that travel companies eager to make bookings in the post-Christmas period have a lot to do with it!

Looking out of the window here at Dookes H.Q. today it’s dark, misty, damp and dreary, the forecast says its going to be this way for about a week… so maybe there is something in it after all!

All is not lost though.

We have been experiencing a very mild winter so far with temperatures around ten degrees celsius above average, it’s certainly saving on heating costs!

Best of all, a wander around the grounds here at H.Q. reveals that Spring is racing its way towards us. There are shoots of all my favourite Spring flowers pushing up from the ground through the last fallen leaves of Autumn. Stars of the show so far are a couple of delightful Primroses that certainly have arrived first!

Primrose, Primula vulgaris. Excuse the poor quality, blame the rain and the light!

Primrose, Primula vulgaris.
Excuse the poor quality, blame the rain and the light!

Now with that little glimpse of Spring I’m of to plan some road trips!

Blue Monday? Nah, not really!

“Monday morning you look so fine,
Friday I got travellin’ on my mind.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

La better kind of blue!

My kind of blue!

Jack Frost

I love crystal clear frost kissed days. Those mornings when the blue sky really does stretch to infinity and the sub-zero air burns your lungs as you drink in the purity of it all. If you need it, you get reminded of the pure joy of being alive!
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Our small corner of the world, poking out into the Gulf Stream warmed waters of the Atlantic Ocean, doesn’t get an awful lot of frosty days. Dookes H.Q. stands nearly 1000 feet above sea level and as a result we sometimes sneak an odd frosty morning while the rest of Cornwall basks in a sub-tropical bubble. More often, especially if there’s a South-Westerly wind, we just get mild rain!

We’ve had a couple of those crisp mornings over the last week and as usual I had a camera with me, so I hope you’ll excuse me a bit of self-indulgence and maybe enjoy some of the results; just click on an image to get the bigger picture.

“Countless drawings, endless sketches
On my window pane.
Master craftsman, skilled engraver,
Jack Frost is his name.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Goodbye Dog Days of Summer

OK I admit it, I’ve not been out on two wheels anywhere near enough in recent weeks!

I’m not over worried about the lack of bike action though. I had to smile to myself yesterday when the latest copy of HOG, Harley Owners Group, magazine dropped through the Dookes letterbox and the editorial commented that this year’s  “Riding Season” was coming to a close.

I’m sure that I have previously mentioned, to me there is no defined “Riding Season.” I ride all year round, whenever I can get out. It’s just about having the right gear and more importantly the right mental attitude and the commitment to clean the bike off afterwards…!

As I said in my last post, life has been busy and just as if I needed reminding to slow up a bit my body has done it for me. A torn Achilles tendon and a mild kidney infection have slowed me up nicely and given some badly needed time for recharging the old Dookes batteries. I do feel a bit of a fraud though, my mate leukaemia battling G is back in hospital and considerably more poorly than I am; here’s thinking of you fella.

Sadly, summer in the Northern Hemisphere is beginning to wind down; shadows are getting longer and the nights are noticeably drawing in. We’ve still been enjoying plenty of good weather though, all is not yet mists and leaf-fall, but the dog days are certainly gone for another year.

In our garden at Dookes HQ we have a delightful raised bed planted full of various types of mint. It’s useful as a herb for cooking, but at this time of year I love it because the flowers acts as a magnet to butterflies and bees.  This summer the butterfly population of Cornwall has been noticeably depleted, possibly this is a result of our mild wet winter last year, so its been great to see at least some of our residents topping up their nectar levels on our mint blossom. On a glorious morning the other day I grabbed a camera and stalked the butterflies for a few minutes, I must say that I am quite pleased with the results!

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This rather lovely Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais ureicae) caught my eye with its dazzling colours. This is one species that has suffered a worrying decline in recent years, particularly in the South of our country. One theory is that is being attacked by a parasitic fly, whose range is spreading due to global warning. It’s still one of our most widespread butterflies and occurs throughout the British Isles. I just glad it chose our garden!

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Looking at the photos, I think that they might be two  different butterflies as the wing pattern doesn’t seem the same in both photos. I am, however, very pleased with the results and I hope you like them.

“What it’s like to walk amongst butterflies.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

 

Land of Mystery

Lovely early summer days have arrived here in Cornwall and for me the best way to enjoy them is from the saddle of one of my beloved Harley Davidson motorbikes!

On my last post I took you to the times of Arthurian Legend, this time lets go back further in time. . . a lot further back.

High on the South Eastern edge of Bodmin Moor is the small and incredibly named village of Minions, yes honestly that’s the name of the place! Here can be found evidence of human habitation that stretches back to the Neolithic Period, at least 2500BC, or to put it another way, thats over four and a half thousand years ago! Around the parish can be found burial mounds, standing stones, ditch-ways and a host of other mysterious works.

Most impressive of all can be found on the Western edge of the village where three intriguing stone circles laid in a straight line lie. These are known as “The Hurlers,” or in the local Cornish language, “An Hurlysi.” They are probably the best example of ceremonial circles in South West England and folklore has it that they are the petrified remains of men punished for playing Cornish Hurling on a Sunday.P1030830

The three large circles are aligned on an axis running NNE to SSW. The largest circle is the centre one and measures just over 41 metres in diameter, with its flanking neighbours both just over 30 metres across. Just off to the West are two separate stones known as “The Pipers,” possibly they were playing for the Hurlers when they were set in stone! The whole site is big! 

 

Now don’t go expecting another Stonehenge, the more famous site on Salibury Plain, the Hurlers are nowhere near as grand, but to the Ancient people in this part of the world, probably just as important.

It is fair to say that what they represent is, today, a mystery. Some scholars have suggested that the layout of the stones concurs with stella alignment particularly linked to the stars Vega and Arcturus, or at least where that combination would have appeared in antiquity. Others have linked the layout to the stars in the constellation of Orion, specifically the “Belt,” though as recent archaeology has revealed that there once was a fourth circle I guess that kicks that theory into touch! 

 The stones that remain show clear signs of being crafted and hammered smooth. Originally there were 28 in the centre circle but now only 14 survive, whilst the North circle has 15 out of 30 remaining.

As a place to visit it is certainly worth the effort, particularly on a nice clear day and if industrial archaeology also floats your boat, there are countless reminders of Cornwall’s tin and copper mining heritage to be seen as well. More on that in a future post. I couldn’t resist a bit of monochrome either! 

 About half a mile South of the Hurlers is another fascinating relic of ancient times. This is “Long Tom” also known as “The Long Stone,” an ancient Menhir that possibly pre-dates even the Hurlers. Again the original reason why this 2.8 metre tall stone has been placed here is lost in the mists of time. The most fascinating thing about Long Tom is that at some time the rather phallic stone has been “Christianised,” a simple Celtic Cross has been roughly carved in the head. I found it quite hard to define in a photograph, but trust me, there is a cross there.  

 

 Now here’s an interesting thing, if you take Long Tom as the starting point a line can be drawn right along the axis of The Hurlers and it leads to an ancient burial mound known as Rillaton Barrow. Local legend says that that Rillaton is haunted by the spirit of a Druid Priest, who offers travellers a drink from an undrainable cup. During archaeological excavations back in 1837 a variety of finds were unearthed. Human remains, obviously, but also “grave goods” including a bronze dagger, beads, pottery and a wonderful gold cup. Now known as The Rillaton Cup this beautiful, 90mm high, relic of an ancient time can be seen in the British Museum, London; could this be the cup of the Druid Priest? 

 Pondering the past and happy to be a Druid, I eased Harley into gear and nodded a distant salute to the Priest as I rode away; luckily I wasn’t thirsty!

“Forget about the cheque we’ll get hell to pay, have a drink on me!

Catch you soon.

Dookes
Oh yes, I nearly forgot. Someone in the village of Minions has a sense of humour and I fully approve!  

   

A New Day and The Brown Willy Effect!

I don’t quite know what it is, but these days I find myself trying to put the brakes on the ever crazy speed that we try to live life in the “Western World.”

This morning was a good example. As I set out on my twenty-mile commute, sans Harley I’m afraid, across Bodmin Moor the sun was just beginning to claw itself above the hills, kissing the landscape with its golden light.

Time to pull over and take in the moment, the office can wait for a few minutes!

Colliford Lake glints like a shard of liquid silver in the half-light.20150217_073916

Looking North, Rough Tor on the left and Brown Willy to the right, the highest points in Cornwall.20150217_074008Notice how the cloud is being pushed out of shape by the air moving over the hills? This is a meteorological phenomena know as “The Brown Willy Effect.” In simple terms it occurs when warm moist air from the Atlantic Ocean blows over the hills of Bodmin Moor and is lifted by the altitude of the surrounding topography; this causes the moisture to condense and brings more rain to Cornwall than other parts of England… and that’s saying something! Nice to capture it in a photo without it raining!

Then it was time to move on, after one more deep breath of the fresh moorland air.

Catch you soon.

Dookes

“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now…”

Re-Springing My Step

OK, this blog is supposed to be, mostly, about travels on my beloved Harley… and yes just at the moment there hasn’t been much of that to report on.

I’m getting motorcycle withdrawal syndrome.

Its like cabin fever, I feel boxed in, almost unable to breathe and all because I haven’t been out on two wheels!

Let me explain, it’s not a weather thing per se, I hear cries of “fair weather rider” from my friends with “Adventurer” type bikes. Then I hear the sniggering of my Trial Bike Champion nephew Chris, who not only rides in all weathers; but also rides across/along logs, barrels, rocks, old cars and anything else that will stand still. Chris does not have a good day out unless he can pressure wash his motorbike off at the end of it and leave a ton of mud on the driveway! No, I’m not afraid of the weather, but it’s the amount of salt that the Highway Authority throws on the road during the winter here in the UK, I am afraid of that damaging my dear Harley…

The not riding thing is, therefore, self-generated and self-enforced, but I am climbing the walls to get out.

One day last week, as I was driving across Bodmin Moor I felt the urge to stop and dream of what was to come.

It was a beautiful afternoon, a tad chilly, the hills were bathed with a gorgeous clear light and there was a brisk north wind blowing in from the sea. The journey is one I had made countless times before, this time was a little different. About halfway across the moor is a narrow lane that leaves the highway and heads north into the heart of the high moor; it only serves a couple of farms and is for the most part gravel and pot-holed. I’d often wondered what was down that lane, so I turned off to find out!

After a mile I parked in a gateway and got out of the car. The keen wind and clean air made me catch my breath, but then so did the view and the silence. I stood drinking it in with my eyes.P1020918
In the distance I could hear the mewing calls of a flock of Golden Plover as they wheeled on the breeze; other than that, just the buffeting of the wind.

OK, so it’s not the Rockies, the Alps, nor even my beloved Welsh Mountains, but it is only three miles from home and it ain’t half nice!

I may not be out on Harley for a few weeks yet, but places like this put a bounce back in my stride; sort of “re-springing my step,” if you like!

Catch you all later, all down the line…

Dookes

Taking The Long Way

The wonderful summer weather is fast becoming a mere memory as we slip firmly into autumn. Sticking out into the Atlantic Ocean our county of Cornwall certainly gets more than its fair share of storms and gales, this last week we got the first one of the season. To be fair it was more like 24 hours of squalls, but the leaves started to spin off the trees as the rain came down in whipping sheets.

Not surprising then that Harley and I haven’t been out much in the last two weeks. I’m not at all bothered by whatever the weather is when I ride, but sometimes if it’s just for pleasure and its chucking it down I’ll pass and wait for the clouds to scud by. Coupled with other life pressures I really have not had time to get out on the road. Actually its the longest period of time that I have not ridden her since March this year, shocking, absolutely shocking!

This weekend I have made sure I got everything else done and today I carved out some time to go get mellow, on my beloved Harley.

We needed a few supplies, so I took a right and headed up the A30, crossing the border into England and pointed to Okehampton on the northern side of Dartmoor. It was good to blow the cobwebs away, but hell there were some real jerks in cages out there on the road! A quick stop for supplies and a complementary coffee, some of you will guess which supermarket I shop at, then time for a decision.

I really wanted a chilled out ride, without having to street-fight the cages, so I took the West Devon Ride back towards Cornwall. This is the old A30 road, the one that existed before the dual carriageway trunk route was built. In fact it follows the old trade route that dates back before the Romans. It runs from Sourton on the west edge of Dartmoor to Launceston on the east edge of Bodmin Moor and is twenty five miles of really enjoyable riding. Today it was empty, very like some of my favourite French roads. Harley was able to sit at a legal yet quick pace and I was able to get stuck into some nice corners whilst enjoying the changing autumn colours and the great scenery. The air is beginning to get a bit of a chilly bite to it and I was pleased to be able to adjust my heated jacket to stay snug. Passing through a couple of villages the smell of wood smoke showed that we were not the only ones with the heating on! After Launceston we kept to the back roads, taking the long way and just enjoying ourselves. Those bends were just great! No photos, I was too busy having fun!

OK you want a picture? Not the best but hey, I’ve spoilt you all in the past!

Well, last Thursday evening at Plymouth Harley Davidson we were invited to the launch of the 2015 models. Big emphasis was the new Road Glide, which to be honest doesn’t really do it for me. There is a big boxy faring on the front that I just can’t quite appreciate, but each to their own. I do however, like the Rushmore Electra Glide and also the new metallic blue colour for this year. This is the blue on a V-Rod muscle bike.

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…and this is the 2015 model of the Electra Glide Ultra Limited.

P1020643.JPG Silver and black looks nice, but for me it really needs to be a solid colour. These are big bikes, 103cubic inch (1690cc) engine, dry weight of 398kg, 2.6 metres long and a top speed in excess of 120 mph. Nice!

Gotta say I’m pretty smitten, I think I feel a test ride coming on. Can’t hurt to try one, can it????

P1020644.JPG I can just see myself sitting here!

“I always find my way somehow, by taking the long way around”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Sometimes You’ve Just Got To Breath The Air!

These last few weeks I have been mega busy, for all sorts of reasons.  A real plus is that unusually for a British summer, the weather has been pretty good and as a result I have ridden Harley nearly every day since returning from our last Continental trip! Yes sometimes even in the rain, it never takes the smile off my face when I’m on that motorbike of mine…

Although I have been riding so much and racking up the miles, it’s always when I’ve got to get somewhere in a hurry, which is OK, but no out-and-out pleasure rides. Last Friday, as I rode across Bodmin Moor in glorious sunshine, it occurred to me that it was time to stop for minute and just take in the beauty of the area where I live. I turned off the A30 trunk road and diverted only half a mile to Colliford Lake. This is the largest lake in Cornwall, a reservoir covering more than 900 acres and located in an area of outstanding natural beauty.
IMG_0409The morning was, as you can see, really very pleasant indeed. The fresh moorland air was scented with the coconut aroma of gorse flowers and filled with birdsong. I took a few minutes just taking in the beauty of the place and breathed in the fresh air. Yes, sometimes you do have to stop and just breathe it in, because it’s fantastic!

Harley looked pretty good in the morning light too! I think she appreciated the pause as well!IMG_0412

“We can run to the far side of nowhere, we can run ’til our days are done.”

Dookes

Silly Season and Slippery Stuff

Living in the beautiful County of Cornwall in the South West of England has it’s advantages. For example, we are surrounded by sea, well on three sides anyway! The scenery is generally fantastic, not like the French Alps, but very easy on the eye. The local produce, particularly the sea food and the famous Cornish Pasty is renown the world over. All of which at this time of year leads to one thing, yep that’s right, hoards of visitors, holiday-makers…or as we call them in these parts, Emmetts!

Most of the time these in-comers are pretty benign. They add millions of pounds to the local economy, which in turn provides jobs in tourism, catering, hotels and other service industries. The cost, however, is borne by the infrastructure and most noticeably the roads. We have a joke around here about public holidays, the extra day off is provided because you need an extra day to get anywhere! The last week most of the schools finished for the summer, so this weekend has heralded the beginning of “The Silly Season” as the liberated masses headed off on holiday.

Harley and I hit the road very early on Saturday morning and headed West along the A30, the main arterial highway through Cornwall. Every lay-by across the fifteen miles of Bodmin Moor was jammed up with caravans and motorhomes and even at six thirty in the morning the traffic was both heavy and driving along like total morons! The outside lane was busier than lane one as the overloaded masses lumbered towards the seaside disregarding all laws of the road….you all know my views about most British car drivers by now, but this was my worst nightmares all rolled out as one and right on my doorstep! Oh the joy of another six weeks like this, until they all go home for the winter! That said the weather was superb and it was great to be out, mind you I have ridden Harley just about everyday since returning from France…I just can’t get enough of that bike!

Later in the day we headed up to Plymouth Harley Davidson, via the A38, to buy some bits and pieces, the traffic was still heavy, but as we were generally heading against the flow of holiday traffic it wasn’t too bad, especially in ‘street fighter’ mode! Unlike In France, the British car driver always seems determined to make life difficult for us bikers; little tricks like driving over to the right as much as possible, blocking at junctions and racing at the end of a dual carriageway. Pretty dumb really, as most motorcycle riders are going to be quicker, much more nimble in an overtake and yes, better trained to boot and also as car drivers ourselves know the difference in relative performance between the two machines! Rant over, for now!

I said I needed some bits, actually I wanted to give Harley an oil change as we have been racking up the old mileage since the service in Spring. It has been said that oil is cheap, but engines ain’t, and I certainly buy into that sentiment! This afternoon I jacked Harley up on the workshop stand and set to work. It’s not a difficult job, nor,  if you get it right, very messy…except for removing the old oil filter which is as messy as it gets, cos H-D designed the thing to lay on its side and when you unscrew it at least half of it’s contents of old oil have got to run out, it’s a gravity thing! This what it looks like when the filter is off.imageYes, I’d cleaned up the majority of the spill! And with the new filter fitted it looks like this..image

Three point three litres of this good stuff later.imageOnce all the work was done and the engine was bench tested it was time for a road test, just to make sure all was well. So we headed out onto Bodmin Moor for a gentle(ish) test ride.

She felt fine, but the Emmetts were still in evidence! As I put in an overtake on a heavily loaded Peugeot, with a big Wigan Athletic sticker on the rear window I was treated to cigarette ash being flicked out of the window into my face, nice. Passing the idiot, I gave the driver a suitable glare as he flicked more ash out of the window with his right hand, whilst holding a mobile phone to his ear with the left hand! I can only assume that he had very cleaver knees or was concealing a midget in his crotch who was steering for him!!!! Perhaps his name was William, William Anchor!

I stopped Harley for a quick check, all was well, so I grabbed a quick photo and headed back to Dookes H.Q.. Time to get the barbecue going!

image“I need a shot of salvation baby, once in a while…”

Dookes