November 10, 2010 GMT
Royal Homecoming

On Monday, I nipped down to Gatwick, hired a van, found the BA Cargo depot and collected H.M. The Bike. It had been put on a flight four days later than originally booked, for reasons I don't suppose I'll ever find out. But that was no problem, it gave me a bit more time to clear the decks and settle things down a bit before its arrival.

The collection was all pretty uneventful, although about two and a half hours in all.
And a little unreal - there's no customs office here. It's in Salford.
The clearance all done by computer, on the Gatwick agent's account with HMCR.

Then a gentle van ride back to Whyteleafe for bike and rider.

White van man arrives home. First cut made into the plentiful wrapping and padding materials.

The agents in Cape Town made a good job of all the padding.

And back on English soil.

The engine started easily enough, but does sound pretty rattley now.
I'll put it back on the road here for short journeys and see what happens.

I'm now engaged in the oh-so-stressful business of starting my other bikes after they've sat idle for well over a year. Maybe they'll burst into life as readily as my car did, but definitely not, I hope, head for the scrap heap.
But first, it wasn't only my bike I collected from Gatwick, most of my luggage was on the pallet with it. So now I have to try to remember where it all goes. That'll take some doing. Just WHERE did all this stuff fit??
What'll be even more difficult is remembering where I've put everything after it's all stowed away (about a year's work there, I think).

I've had quite a few welcome emails about this blog and its accounts of our journey - Caroline, Beau and I from Whyteleafe to Nairobi and me onwards to Cape Town - saying it's been an entertaining story and how readers have enjoyed following it.

Armed with such encouragement, I'll try to continue the blog with reports of the upheavals of returning home, what might (or might not) happen next, and other bits and pieces, relevant or not, that spring to mind and have been left out up till now.

So returning to the southern tip of Africa, there was a fair amount of rain while I was there. More usually at night, and people would say to me in the morning, "Look, you should cover your sheepskin up. It's been out in the rain, it'll be soaked!" (That's the sheepskin cover on my bike seat. Standard kit for long-distance riding).
"Put your hand on it," I say. "See if it's wet."
"Oh! It's dry! But it rained a lot in the night."

Now, there's a constant debate about what is the best gear to wear on such long trips. And I'm learning about the practicality of sheepskin on motorbikes, and why Ted Simon still laments the loss of his sheepskin jacket in Central America. It had served him well for over half of his round-the-world journey in the mid-1970s, including Cairo to Cape Town. I'm beginning to think that sheepskin is highly practical for a jacket for long-distance motorcycling.

Back to the rain in the night, many people down there have experience of sheep farming, and end up saying, "Of course! Sheep are always out in the rain and don't seem to suffer or dissolve. I suppose if the wool side is on the top side so the rain doesn't fall on the skin side which is on the underside, then the rain runs off and both sides stay more-or-less dry!"
Which is exactly what I think is happening.
During this journey I've often left the sheepskin uncovered, unintentionally, when the bike has been parked. And when I've folded the back part over the front part, so the skin side is the up side, catching the rain, then the whole lot gets soaked. But now I always make sure the wool side is uppermost, and I can leave it in the rain all night and it hardly gets wet. Including those last couple of nights in Cape Town.

What I need to do now is to test that situation back in England.
Because I have scientific evidence that English rain is a lot wetter than other types.

It was back in the 1990s that Pete, a good motorcycling friend of mine, and I went over to Normandy one year for a D-Day anniversary. In June.
On the last day, riding back to Calais for the ferry, it started raining. But it's always a fuss, stopping to put on waterproofs on a motorway or busy road. And way ahead in the distance we could see the sky was brighter.
Well, it rained quite a bit, but the clear sky drew nearer, and we were wearing fairly good quality leather jackets and trousers. So we continued, eventually leaving the rain behind us a little way before reaching Calais, where we found all our clothing dry on arriving at the check-in booths for our ferry.
Just to be sure, we could hang our jackets up in the self-service cafeteria on the ferry back to Dover.
So everything was dry again, including the weather, when we disembarked the ferry and headed for London.

But later the rain caught us again, so we employed the same tactic - not bothering to stop on the motorway to put on waterproofs.
By the time we reached the join of the M20 and M26 the rain petered out and Pete continued north while I went west. But I had that certain wet feeling, that after years on two wheels you get to know so well.
It was another twenty minutes or so of riding, in the dry breeze, before I arrived home.
The next day Pete and I compared notes over the phone.
"Did we have the same amount of rain on the M20 as we did on the way to Calais?"
"Yep. And what about when the rain stopped. Did you ride further in the dry to get home than we did before arriving in Calais?"
"I certainly did. And everything was dry when we reached Calais, wasn't it? Jackets? Trousers? The whole lot?"
"That's right, bone dry. Were you dry when you arrived home?"
"I was #***@# soaked to the skin! What about you?"
"Me too! Did you happen to collect any samples of that French rain, so we can have it analysed?"
"Don't be silly, we just agreed, it didn't make us wet at all. I didn't keep a drop of it."
"So why's that, then?"

Perhaps that's why those English kings of long-ago were so keen to keep a hold on northern France. Maybe they too found the rain over there to be a lot dryer than our English stuff.
So I've a funny feeling that, in the English rain, unlike in the African rain, whether the wool side is the up side or the down side, my sheepskin seat cover will become a sodden mess. Just like Henry V's did when he was in England instead of surveying his realm across the Channel in Normandy.
So why's that, then?

Posted by Ken Thomas at November 10, 2010 06:08 PM GMT

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