Spring has been slow to arrive this year here in North Cornwall. Its early May and by midday the temperature is only just nudging 8º Celsius, that’s a chilly 46º Fahrenheit. True it’s been occasionally sunny but often with a cool North wind.
I’m not complaining though; life is beginning to take on some sort of normality. The U.K.’s Covod Vaccine programme is progressing well and infection cases are falling dramatically. Lockdown measures are easing and at the moment things have an optimistic feel.
Maybe, just maybe we are moving into better days and as if proof is needed I recently took each of my two beloved Harley Davidson motorcycles out for a short ride to get some local shopping.
To be honest, it seemed a bit weird to be back on the road with a large Vee twin engine rumbling away underneath me. Weird, but in a very nice way.
On each ride I wanted to stop and take some photos of my machines, yet at the same time I didn’t want the moment to be interrupted by messing around with a camera…so I just carried on riding and soaking up the experience.
I took it steady, it had been some time since I had ridden any motorcycles, best to ease in gradually and let the road come back to me. There wasn’t any rush to get the ride over and living in such a lovely part of the world there was plenty to enjoy…trust me I was really enjoying these rides!
I did about 50 miles in total on each bike, on two separate days, and I was mentally worn out in a nice refreshed way. Motorcycles really do move the soul!
Despite thoroughly pre-ride checking each bike, on my return home I needed to make small adjustments and tighten up a few things on each of them; nothing major, just getting them back how I like them.
It felt good to be motorcycling again….and just to celebrate I smashed out a 28 miler on the man-powered bike afterwards!
Now all we need is for the weather to get warmer and say a prayer for the pandemic to recede all around the world!
“These are better days baby Yeah there’s better days shining through”
Bore da pawb. Heddiw yw Dydd Gŵyl Dewi, y Diwrnod Cenedlaethol Cymru.
Dymuniadau gorau i chi i gyd!
Good morning everyone. Today is Saint David’s Day, the National Day of Wales.
Best wishes to you all!
The weather here at Dookes H.Q. in Cornwall is lovely, if a tad cool.
The daffodils, National flower of Wales, are in bloom and with a freshly picked bunch on the table next to me, its like the sun has come into the house as well.
After the year we have all endured, it’s nice to have some brightness for once!
OK, brief history lesson then:
Dewi Sant/St David was born towards the end of the 5th Century in the region of West Wales known as Ceredigion. Whilst alive he built a reputation for his preaching, teaching and simple living amongst the Celtic people. He founded a monastery at Glyn Rhosin, which became an important early Christian centre. Dewi died on 1st March 589 and was buried in what is now known as St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire where his shrine became a popular place of pilgrimage.
For centuries 1st March has been a national festival in Wales with parades, concerts, poetry readings and of course traditional food all being enjoyed. Around the country not only will you see the flag of Wales, Y Ddraig Goch (the Red Dragon) being flown, but also the flag of St David, a simple yellow cross on a black field.
Today is also the time when Welsh exiles around the world remember ‘The Land of My Fathers’ and try to ease the sense of “Hiraeth” that yearning homesickness tinged with grief, nostalgia, wistfulness and pride in our identity that we often feel.
I wonder how many countries around the world have a National Vegetable? I can think of Ireland with the potato and in Wales it’s the humble, yet tasty leek, “Cennin” in Welsh, it is frequently eaten on St David’s Day; in fact I’ve just been outside to dig up a few for supper!
Leeks, just dug from the garden at Dookes H.Q.
Mrs Dookes has just made a lovely batch of Welsh Cakes, little drop scones of sweet fruity tastiness which we will shortly enjoy with a cup of tea. No, not all of them at once though!
Mrs Dookes’ Welsh Cakes.
There are reasons to be optimistic this St David’s Day and thankful too.
Plus our wonderful Welsh rugby team won the Triple Crown on Saturday by beating England in a thrilling game in Cardiff!
Photo: David Davies/PA
Have a lovely day and in the words of St David:
“Gwnewch y pethau bychain mean bywyd.” “Do ye the little things in life.”
It occurred to me that recently I have been singularly bad at posting anything on this blog.
In a way that isn’t very surprising, after all this originally started out as a motorcycle based platform with some other thoughts and interesting stuff thrown in on the side.
With everything that has been going on in the world over the past year, you’ll excuse me if motorcycling has been quite a long way from my mind.
A quick look at my logbooks shows that since January 2020 my two lovely Harley Davidson motorcycles have done just 378 and 513 miles respectively…
The only plus side is that they both are sitting in the Dookes H.Q. workshop looking extremely clean and shiny!
With the terrible global pandemic it just doesn’t seem right to go motorcycling. Pleasure rides are certainly a no go and even though I am a volunteer rider for medication deliveries, it’s just too risky to use the bikes…Our hospitals have enough sick people, without having to deal with some motorcyclist who has had an “off!”
Looking around for something to lift my spirits I found that today is Imbolc.
Imbolc in the traditional Celtic calendar marks the beginning of Spring and a celebration of new life with the Earth waking from the depths of winter. It’s the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Equinox. It’s also the time to start your Spring-cleaning!
In the ways of all good Celtic/Pagan festivals it spreads over two days and is very conveniently encompassed in the Christian Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Christ, which lands on February 2nd.
Imbolc traditionally honours the Pagan Goddess of fertility, Brigid, who was also intertwined in the Christian Church as St Bridget.
February 1st is also St Bridget’s day.
Over the Centuries Imbolc has been celebrated in many different ways. Altars were set in homes and adorned with the earliest flowers and breaking buds of the season.
In Ireland, Brigid Crosses were traditionally made. These are formed from reeds, woven into a four armed equilateral cross and hung from doorways and windows too welcome Brigid and for protection from fire, evil spirits and illness. The crosses are generally left until the next Imbolc.
There are various thoughts about the origin of these crosses, but consensus seems to be that they pre-date Christianity, even though they have been widely adopted by Christians in Ireland.
With the current state of the world and in need of a little cheer I sat down today and made my own Brigid Cross for Dookes H.Q..
My Brigid Cross, not bad for a first attempt!!
I’m hoping some of the old ways and protection rub off with this little symbol.
Now all I have to do is hang it over a door and let Brigid do her stuff for the coming year!
Today, is the Winter Solstice, and probably my favourite day of the year; yes that includes Birthdays, Anniversaries and Christmas!
Living in the Northern Hemisphere it marks the turn of the seasons when the days begin to grow longer and the warmth of Summer is beginning its long return journey, true it’s also the real beginning of Winter, but hey you can’t have everything and thats only for a few months!
I spare a thought for my friends South of the Equator for whom the opposite is true, your days will now start to shorten towards Autumn.
In this craziest of crazy years it does occur to me that we, the human race, have drifted away from that fundamental link and understanding of nature. One could argue that we actively turned our back on the natural world to our great peril and it is now biting back. The World’s climate is changing and now the globe is under the grip of a pandemic that appears to be mutating and growing in ferocity.
Is our planet telling us something?
Perhaps it is saying “There’s too many of you, this cannot go on!”
In response to the pandemic the UK Government has just introduced restrictions on the number of people who can meet and socialise over the Christmas period.
Unsurprisingly, there has been a great outpouring of angst. I do wonder though exactly what these people will be celebrating, current surveys show that only a tad over 50% of UK citizens identify as ‘Christian” and staggeringly only around 10% attend church! I suspect the principle “God” figures are a turkey, alcohol and something called “Me, me, me”!
As I age, for me the relevance of the Solstice turning point has grown stronger. I understand the thoughts of ancient people who venerated the turning seasons, the Celestial calendar and more importantly the natural world which gave them everything they needed. Come to think of it the natural world still does, it’s just that we as a human race seem to have ignored it for too long.
In Pagan tradition it was customary to place holly leaves and branches in and around dwellings during winter. It was believed that the good spirits who inhabited forests could come into their homes and use the holly as shelter against the cold; whilst at the same time malevolent forces and spells would be repelled.
It’s interesting to reflect that the origins of many common Christmas decorations such as the Yule Log and Wreath trace back to pre-Christian times.
Wreaths are traditionally made from evergreen symbolising strength and endurance as the evergreen lasts throughout even the hardest winter. The ring is also immortal, never-ending or beginning. I am pleased to report that, as is tradition, Dookes H.Q. is currently displaying a splendid Wreath made by Mrs Dookes.
Familiar decorations of green, red and white cast back to the Wiccan traditions and the Druids. The old Pagan Mid-Winter Festival of Yule also included feasting and gift giving, doesn’t it all sound very familiar?
When I was younger we always did the usual Christmas decoration stuff, including a highly non-authentic plastic and metal artificial tree! My late father did little to dress the tree, but had his own take on the whole decoration thing that he insisted on doing himself; every year he would garland the house with boughs of green holly and evergreen, it was only then that I truly used to feel that things were being done properly. I suspect that my Celtic blood has a lot to do with this and I still carry on that tradition today in Dookes H.Q., I adore the house smelling of pine and other evergreens!
It won’t be long before I have to pop outside into the rain to grab Holly and Evergreen to decorate Dookes H.Q.!
Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, The Solstice, Dongzhi, Yalda, Saturnalia, Malkh, any other festival that I may have missed, or just looking forward to having a restful holiday, have a truly wonderful time and maybe spare a thought, or penny, for those less fortunate.
Lets hope that there are brighter days ahead and that we will all get to ride together again in 2021 with Harls, Hetty and I for more two-wheeled adventure and opinion!
“Praise be to the distant sister sun, joyful as the silver planets run. Ring out, ring solstice bells.”
It strikes me that just about the one thing that is “normal” about this crazy world just at the moment is the seasons.
I’m very glad about that.
To me one of life’s simple and indeed greatest pleasures is watching the seasons change. Not that I sit wishing my life to run away like grains of sand in an egg timer, no it’s just the way each season ticks over bringing fresh, yet reassuringly constant, vistas, smells and colours.
I’ve said before that the Autumn and Winter are probably my favourite times of year, which is probably linked to me being born in deepest Autumn. OK I could do without so much rain and wind, but a starkly freezing day with gin clear skies and iron hard ground takes some beating!
Then there’s that low lazy sun that can hardly be bothered to climb much above the horizon, the long shadows that it casts and the gaunt starkly bare leafless trees. I love to watch the last light of day disappear on the Western sky and the stars appear through those naked branches. It’s all magical stuff to me.
Living in Cornwall, and sticking out into the North East Atlantic, we are never far from the influence of the sea. Dookes H.Q. is now only five miles from the coast and when there is a big storm blowing you can taste the salt in the air.
The sea, it is often said, defines Cornwall and standing near the shore facing a force nine gale, it’s hard to argue with that!.
It’s also been a while since I was out on one of my beloved Harley Davidson motorcycles.
Are the two linked?
I suspect that’s very likely!
Lets face it, 2020 has been a crazy year and I’m quite numb from the constant bombardment of World Politics, Pandemics, Ecomonics and plain stupidity.
Following my somewhat nasty brush with the C19 virus I have been concentrating on getting well and getting fitter and in the usual Dookes way this has been done on two wheels; though this time man-powered two wheels!
Discussing my medical situation with the doctors treating me I came to the conclusion that there were two different paths that could be followed:
1. Sit back and hope that medicine would find a way.
2. Get of my backside and do something about it, make my body work back to health.
Now it just so happened that two of my Medics are pretty mad keen cyclist themselves. One of them is six months older than me and a couple of years ago she cycled up Mont Ventoux for goodness sake! Now I’ve motorcycled up Ventoux and that was tough enough, it’s not known as “The Beast of Provence” for nothing, but cycling, at our age? Do me a favour…
Anyway, from small acorns mighty Oaks do grow. I started out on pedalling on two wheels.
I don’t mind admitting, those first rides were tough, very, very tough. Small gradients stopped me in my tracks, I was gasping for breath and coughing up all kinds of muck. The early rides were low on miles, high in time, but also high on determination…this wasn’t going to beat me.
Gradually, through hospital visits and x-rays, I could sense not only was I getting stronger, but my endurance began to climb.
One day it all seemed to click in place and then after many months it all suddenly got a whole lot better. Though a largely wonderful summer certainly helped.
Now the days are growing colder and shorter my enthusiasm is undiminished. I hate the wind though!
A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine asked me if I fancied a ride out with him.
My wonderful Cannondale.
Now Merv is pretty hardcore when it comes to cycling either on road or mud-plugging on a mountain bike, oh and he loves nothing more than wild swimming in any available cold water,; actually, the colder the better for him. He’s also ten years younger than me!
Anyway out we went, on a none to exciting dull day.
Twenty Eight miles later we were back at Dookes H.Q., 1852feet of elevation gain, average speed of 14.5mph and dealing with 16mph winds. Not bad for an old geezer, declared Merv!
….and the best part of cycling?
When I’m out there pedalling, all the crap in the world disappears!
Sure, I have to have serious conversations with my legs and tell them to stop complaining, but when you have faced the terminal alternative, it’s a small price.
It’s been a long time since I sat and wrote a Blog Post.
A lot has happened in the world since then.
Many years ago this started as a motorcycle blog, a way to record my travels and if other people wanted to follow, comment or just have a look then I was very happy about that!
Over time the Blog has morphed into something a bit broader than just “This is a trip I did on my motorcycle.” It has become more of a look inside the mind of a chap who is growing older, possibly more cynical, but still has an enthusiasm for pushing the envelope…whilst at the same time ever more embracing the concept that he doesn’t have to/want to take any more cr%p from anyone!
It’s also a way of facing one’s own finite mortality and realising just what really is important in life.
Last week, Mrs Dookes and I were hoping to be in France. Unfortunately, the present Covid19 situation screwed that idea, but all was not lost as we took lovely holiday at home…admittedly living in a beautiful part of the world certainly helped!
One of the things that we did was to take Mrs D’s Dad out for a day. He’s been a widower for some years now and generally does OK. A diagnosis of prostate cancer and subsequent radio therapy earlier this year has knocked him sideways a bit lately. The good news, however, is that the quick and quite intense treatment appears to have been a success and he is now in remission.
A proud Cornishman, he was born and raised on the Lizard Peninsular in the very extreme South of Cornwall, so it seemed only apt that for his day out we should go there.
Lizard Point lies at the Southern tip of the peninsular. It is the most southerly point on mainland Britain. Thats a lot of South and Southerly stuff!!!
The point has for centuries marked the start and end of great Ocean voyages, being the last and first land that ships encountered.
On nearby Bass Point stands the former Lloyds Signal Station where, in the days before radio communication, semaphore signals were sent and received from ships in passage.
Lloyds Signal Station on Bass Point
It’s also the graveyard of many ships and the final resting place of their crews as the rocks, reefs and currents here can be lethal to the unwary mariner.
A lighthouse, to warn seafarers of the dangers of the Lizard, has been present here since 1619.
The current lighthouse dates from 1751, though obviously has been constantly modernised since originally constructed. The lighthouse was automated in 1998, along with all others around the British Isles along with the splendid foghorns that date from 1908.
On a lovely day such as we enjoyed it’s hard to imagine how savage the weather can be on the Lizard. No trees grow here; it’s just grass, some wind stunted gorse, rugged drystone Cornish hedges and rugged Cornishmen… like my father in law!
“Although I wasn’t born here, it’s always home for me,
I love this land where red rocks and white waters greet the sea.”*
The world is truly a strange place at the moment. Whilst the human population is being ravaged by a planet-wide pandemic politicians across the Continents seem to display a mixture of greed, incompetence and plain ignorance. In exchange, many of the population appear to live in fear, whilst others carry on in a self-centred bubble of denial!
As the song says,”Two men say they are Jesus, one of them must be wrong.” It sort of sums up how I feel!!!!
For lots of reasons my motorcycle activity has been somewhat limited of late.
It’s partly due to other more pressing matters, such as building work at Dookes H.Q., but also a reflection of how the current global situation makes me feel; I honestly don’t really feel that I can justify pleasure rides on a motorcycle whilst people are both dying and working so hard to contain the C19 virus.
That said, I am lucky to live in a beautiful part of our island country.
I’m only five miles away from one of the most stunning coasts in the world. Ok I’m biased, I admit!
A small shopping trip the other day morphed into an extended loop on some tourist avoiding back roads which was nice.
It really doesn’t matter if I’m on two motorised wheels or two Dookes Pedal-Powered wheels….it doesn’t take very long to go somewhere to really lift the spirits!
Then there’s Dookes H.Q., sitting outside having an evening gin and tonic the view is, frankly, delightful, I’m very lucky.
Stay safe people and I’ll catch you soon.
It’s raining today, not heavy rain, but persistent and actually quite refreshing. After nearly seven months of the stuff through Autumn and Winter you’d think I’d be fed up with it, but in a way today I’m really enjoying it!
For some reason it’s reminding me of those road trip days when I get up, it’s raining and there is no choice but to ride in it…and I’ve suddenly realised that I actually like riding in the rain, a bit, except when the road gets slippery and I can’t see where I’m going! I like the way low cloud brushes over the hills and through high forests and woodland and the gossamer strands of the cloud tell you that there’s wet road ahead, yeah I like it!
Well, sort of like it….
With the continuing World-Wide pandemic of Coronavirus, there are definitely wet roads ahead…but sometimes it’s the crap in life that makes people realise exactly how much good they have.
Lets go to the French Alps…
Sit in L’Entrique bar in Bourg St Maurice and take in the scene.
Bourg is a buzzing town deep in the French Alps. In winter it’s the hub of snow sports, whilst summer sees culture and nature taking over.
In the evening, there will be live music in L’Entrique, often driving rock with great guitar riffs. The food is good and the staff friendly. During the day, outside meal times, it’s a nice place to grab a coffee and chill.
Then walk outside and climb on your bike. Hit the starter, let the engine warm and then kick in first gear, hang a left onto the wonderful D902 and head for the sky!
50 kilometres Southwest lies Col de l’Iseran, at 2770m/9087ft the highest true paved Pass in Europe.
It’s a funny road from Bourg, wide and fast in places, tight in others.
There are tunnels; I hate tunnels, mostly.
The road climbs, relentlessly.
All the time are the views; ahead the expanding peaks, on each side the valley moving in, tightening, the river being pressed into a gorge.
Near Tignes is the hydroelectric dam, a dichotomy of natural beauty and intrusive industrial architecture.
More tunnels; then comes the famous ski station of Val d’Isere, which like many of the Alpine ski resorts largely slumbers during summer months.
Probably the best thing about the place is the road out…
…and what a road it now is.
Forget the previous 33 kilometres; you had to ride that to deserve this!
The road climbs and climbs and climbs. It narrows and things begin to get serious.
We are above the tree line now. The views open impressively.
The gradient shifts ever upwards, 2.8%, 5%, 8% then for the last 7k to an average of 10%.
There are hairpins, but not in any great number, just a relentless gradient like driving up a wall.
The air is thin, a carburettor motorcycle like Harls begins to struggle; how the cyclists cope is beyond my comprehension!
Just below the summit are a couple of sharp switchbacks, “Lacets,”
the French call them.
The wind always blows here and adds to the stunning views to literally take your breath away.
I like to park away from anyone else and find a solitary place.
A place to take in the view and reflect.
A place to find peace.
A place to give thanks.
A place to reach out and touch the face of God.
A place to return to soon.
“Lazy days and sunny rays will guide me
Back home where I belong”
Today “Harls” and I should have loaded onto a ferry and sailed off to France beginning another two-wheeled road trip adventure.
Instead, due to the World Wide Coronavirus Pandemic, all passenger ferry services between the UK and mainland Europe are cancelled and non-essential foreign travel is discouraged by our Government.
I am currently sitting in our local Harley Dealership, Plymouth Harley Davidson, waiting for my other Harley, “Hettie” to have her slightly overdue annual service.
It’s an efficient use of an unexpected vacant day I guess. I’m very grateful to the dealership for getting up and running again and sitting in a motorcycle showroom surrounded by lovely bikes isn’t normally a great hardship for me, but it isn’t France!
In the dealership everything is “Socially Distanced,” there’s no sitting on bikes or trying on clothes, but at least they are open for business.
I can’t say I’m greatly impressed with their choice of a Country and Western radio station though….!
I’m not sure about this paint job…!
It’s a grey day outside and cool enough to warrant my heated gloves for the ride in here this morning. In a way, it sort of helps ease that our trip is on hold for now; had there been blue skies and sunshine I definitely would have been climbing the walls!
No point in dwelling on it, things are just how they are and after my own brush with the virus I’m just happy to be!
This one needs a dust!
As for future trips, well who knows? I certainly love the whole planning experience and at least have this year’s itinerary that I could re-activate in the future…then again there are other options.
My mate Thierry, from Thonon les Bains, said in an email to me the other day, “C’est l’occasion de redécouvrir son pays” – “This is an opportunity to rediscover your own country.” You know, I think he may be right.
Heavenly: On Galibier.
Let’s see what happens…
The main thing to remember, is that the sun will come up tomorrow, just aim to be there to enjoy it.