October 05, 2012 GMT
Adventures On Eighteen Wheels

The final part of the test was to park the 40-tonner as close to the pedestrian as possible without touching him. Or without him even realising I was there in the huge articulated lorry.
This test checks that you're able to use the front-view mirror to see if anyone is loitering on the crossing in the blind-spot right in front of the bumper, and to manouvre right up close. Without this mirror the pedestrian is completely hidden from the driver's view - that is - my view. So I have to show I can use it properly and keep out-of-sight pedestrians safe.

Having passed that with flying colours,

it was time to get comfortable in the driver's air-seat for the 200-mile run to Glasgow, hauling 38 tons of Yamaha motorcycles.


"Are we nearly there yet?"

What all this has to do with the Labour Party Conference, I don't know, but the truck was on the concourse ready to go and they wanted someone in the driver's seat.

There was also a letter to be posted.


This Horizons Unlimited website is owned and run by a Canadian couple, Grant and Susan Johnson. They rode around the world in the 1980s and 90s, put their story on the internet, and it became the HU website that you see today.
Well, a few months after I received my diagnosis of prostate cancer last year, Grant received his. He and Susan have posted elsewhere on this website news of their progress since that moment. And we've exchanged a few messages of support for which I'm very grateful.
A month or so ago Grant announced that the chosen charity of the Horizons Unlimited website will be Prostate Cancer UK. (From which I've received lots of useful info).
And, the British Post Office has since announced the same.
So here's an Olympic Gold letterbox that appeared just as I needed it.


I don't know what this has to do with the conference either, but I think I was posting one of the many protest postcards demanding the re-nationalisation of the railways.
So now I'll have to find a train to drive as well.

But I can't do that just yet, as this got in the way.

Free beer!

I've always been puzzled by the number of travellers who post photos of plates of food in their writings about their journeys. I suppose they can be interesting sometimes, so I'm posting a photo or two of bottles of free beer from this past week.

The photo above is of a small corner of a free bar dispensing various European beers. And a very civilised queue to reach it. Drinking the beer was supposed to help the situation with the Euro currency, so said a Member of the European Parliament at this jolly symposium about the good, the bad and the ugly of the E.U.
So I can't drive a train just yet.

Specially as the very next evening, would you believe it, another free bar popped up, well stocked with the most wonderful Palestinian beer.

A plentiful supply of Taybeh Beer.


A special treat indeed as this is hardly ever obtainable outside of Palestine. It's brewed by a microbrewery in a Christian community in Taybeh north of Jerusalem.

Train driving will have to wait a little longer.

When it came to the food, I didn't reach the elaborate trays of Baklava fast enough. The one or two lonely pieces remaining wouldn't have made any sort of photo.

Stepping back a week, just before heading off on this trip to Manchester, I made another outing on foot to the White Bear in Fickleshole.
And I found that the Mystery Crop Squares of a few days earlier had mysteriously transformed into Mystery Crop Circles.


Either that, or an 18-wheel articulated lorry was about to arrive to have its tyres changed.
And it wasn't the one that I passed my test with.

Politics - you can't always believe it.....

Yes, there's been a bit of spin here.
There wasn't really 38 tons of Yamahas on the road to Glasgow. That would probably have been too many for the local showrooms to fit in.

The main activities at this sort of event, outside of the conference, are the scores of 'fringe' meetings and seminars taking place every day from early morning to late evening. Organised and funded by lobby groups, unions, interest groups and so on. The Times newspaper arranged a debate about cycle safety where everyone could have their say. They brought in MPs and groups like the RAC, SusTrans, and cycling associations. And, because stats seem to show that a growing proportion of bicycle accidents involve heavy goods vehicles, a haulage association was invited as well. They arranged for an articulated lorry to be parked at the conference centre.

Cyclists and anyone else interested could have a look at the technology being fitted, aimed at making bike-riders a bit safer when they pedal closer to these behemoths than is really sensible.
The idea was to sit in the driver's seat and see it demonstrated that about 10 bicycles could easily congregate around the area of the front nearside wheel and passenger's door and be completely invisible to the driver. It's quite a lesson.
Any motorbikes amongst them are OK I suppose, they can immediately zip forward into open spaces ahead and get out of the way. But not cyclists.

So they demonstrated the various devices like tracking nearside mirrors (that swivel as the trailer behind moves out of line with the driver's cab) and sensors that buzz when something is close to the nearside.
It was also surprising to see (or not see actually) that when stopped at a zebra crossing, a lot of the people on the crossing are competely out of the driver's view.

But by 'eck - are these cabs luxurious, or what?

And the plentiful supply of free beer was definitely not spin - but might have been later on.

Specially the morning after.

When the guy on the stage asked for some serious comments,

Spinning umbrellas sprung up around the auditorium - and there were no leaks in the roof....

Oh well. Out on the streets of Manchester, if you look around enough while leaving the big truck at home (does Chris Eubank still drive his one down to Brighton's Sainsburys?) you encounter things not found elsewhere. Cue more table-top photos of drinks.


I happened across this place, where you can order a pot of Darjeeling leaf tea, complete with that rare item these days, a tea strainer, and even rarer, a 4-minute timer to ensure a perfect brew.
Funnily enough it's called Teacup.

Years ago I worked a few times in Manchester and learned my way around it a bit. But the last time I was here was a few weeks before the central Arndale area was blown to pieces by a bomb. Now, it's all different, and I can't find my way anywhere through the maze of new tram lines.
So fate must have taken me to Teacup....

Being as it's in Thomas Street.

Right, where's the train that needs driving?

Posted by Ken Thomas at October 05, 2012 08:53 AM GMT

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