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.
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?
- to the past week.
It's not far from Manchester to a huge jolly tourist attraction in the Pennines.
Just across the border in West Yorkshire.
No passport or photo ID required.
So I'm now in a bustling real-life filmset full of eager visitors.
Brought about by a simple little TV programme that just happened to wander along aimlessly, ambling around for nearly forty years, with an anarchic cast of bus pass holders who knew how to live life properly!
And for good measure I journeyed here on my own bus pass. So there!
Some photos -
Looking for Compo - Nora's front door is just above the visitors' heads.
All right in front of the river, handy for falling into.
Roughly Compo's route from home to Sid's Cafe.
Sid's (latterly Ivy's).
The town of Holmfirth is a quaint tightly-woven bundle of narrow, steep and winding stairs, paths and cobbled lanes.
All the scenes below are squeezed in just above Sid's Cafe.
Must have been good fun with a TV crew rampaging all through it day after day.
But of course, this is a motorcycle (& bicycle) web site, so I'd better pay some attention to that.
I found Wally Batty pulling up to his local club.
Parking next to another Holmfirth bike.
. . . . Oops - wrong! That must have been Nelly going to collect Pearl.
Wally rides a Ducati now, somewhere up in the sky. But pops back now and again for tea at Sid's.
I snapped him parking right across the road, just before the 3:40 bus to Huddersfield arrived to take me back.
There's nothing quite like mixing your antidotes. Back in Manchester I found a neat little cafe in the Buddhist centre.
Well, the Buddha is Laughing merrily as he minds the industrial steam pressure, so I'll click the 'send' button while I'm logged into his wifi.
Time to go home now I think.
Back in the 1960s, having left school and started out in the world, one of the first discoveries that I made was about Art, and going to college for it.
I went to a modern College of Art and Technology in East London. These were fashionable in those days and could eventually lead to a degree in Engineering or Art, if you'd otherwise opted out of 'A' levels as I had. The 'art' at these colleges was slanted very much towards the commercial end of the subject, art for design, advertising, theatre and so on.
Straightaway the daily routine at college made me question the decision I'd made to embark on engineering as a career. The timetable went something like this:
8:40 - arrive at college, for lessons to start at 8:45 sharp. College pretty empty at that time.
10:30 - nip down to the canteen for 10-min tea break. Canteen jam-packed with art students.
10:40 - back to class. Art students still nattering away in their tea break.
12:15 - zip down to the canteen for 45-min lunch break. Canteen jam-packed with art students.
1:00pm - back to class. Art students still nattering away in their lunch break.
Afternoon tea break - same as the morning.
5:15pm - slide down the banisters (part of mechanics homework). Dash out the exit to parked motorbike with a mountain of incomprehensible homework. College all deserted.
The art students clearly had about five hours of lessons a day, compared to our solid eight hours of lectures on the wonders of imaginary and irrational numbers and the laws of Kirchhoff, Fourier and Laplace. And we were learning the laws of riding motorbikes on the road as well. Some serious thought was needed about a more rational future.
But I never liked art much at school and was glad to reach the year when it didn't feature in the timetable any more. So I avoided it ever since.
Until last year - and a diagnosis.
The cancer unit at Guildford hospital has a wonderful support facility called The Fountain Centre, offering all sorts of therapies and classes and other help for patients. So I thought I'd have a dabble with the Art Therapy class.
Maybe it would be fewer hours per day than keeping motorbikes on the road.
What a revelation!
The class is so brilliantly arranged and taught, I now find myself being hung in an art exhibition. Who'd have thought it!?
The exhibition was all the work of our dedicated teacher, Fi Channon, who persuaded a friend to frame our pictures for free, (page 2-3, headed "Art therapy") and also persuaded the actor James Cosmo (Trainspotting, Narnia, Game of Thrones and more) to open it.
Which he did, yesterday. Making it a most wonderful and uplifting day.
It's a small class, only three of us (two patients and a carer), and this is the exhibition of our work. Displayed around the walls of the chemotherapy department of St Lukes cancer centre. We hope it'll persuade more patients to join the class.
My daughter Caroline, on a visit from her new home in Rwanda, studies the pieces.
Teacher Fi shows actor James Cosmo around our exhibition.
One of McCrankpin's weirder works ('the ghost') is amongst those receiving critical appraisal.
And another ('the two feathers')
Across the corridor in the Fountain Centre's art room, Caroline tries out some painting techniques. James Cosmo gets ambushed for an autograph or three by one of Fi's students, Carolyn. Margaret, right, looks on.
The BIG Finale -
The OSCARS meet The TURNER PRIZE in Fi's Art Therapy Class of 2012.
To illustrate the idea behind these classes a little more, this next piece of mine didn't qualify for the exhibition.
Fi teaches a technique to help clear your mind of any and all thoughts of what you're going to paint, and how and even why? With an empty and vacant mind, you put paint to paper and see where it goes entirely of its own volition.
Which didn't quite happen with this -
"You definitely put thought into that picture," said Fi.
I think it started off OK, all abstract with no idea of a destination. But it was during the big build-up to the London Olympics.
So couldn't help it really....
Nor this. The Zundapp Bella scooter and GPO van that I passed my driving tests on, parked outside the Olympic Stadium.
You couldn't make it up.....
(There - I brought two wheels into it eventually)
When the Student is ready, the Teacher will appear.
One of the most fundamental proverbs of human existence.
I first saw this in a book by the 'notorious' Indian guru, Osho. (Notorious because he died rich and famous, having gained a place in the Guinness Book of Records for owning the greatest number of Rolls Royce cars of anyone living).
Well, never mind, because in the ten years or so since I discovered this quotation, I've found it to be the truest of them all.
Drifting into an art class at the time that I did, and having work hung in an exhibition a year later (as in my previous post) is one of the most graphic (or artistic) examples of its accuracy.
Another instance was a few years before I had ever seen this quote.
Early in 1999 the chairman of the 'Friends of the SPRI' (a happy band of supporters with an enduring interest in the Polar Museum and its well-being) negotiated a substantial discount for a group voyage to Antarctica for the following January 2000, on a Russian icebreaker chartered by the tourist industry.
Over many years preceeding, I'd done a lot of homework on visiting Antarctica, including following the news of the first tourist voyage of the Lindblad Explorer. (Which spectacularly sank off the coast of Antarctica in 2007 after hitting an iceberg).
I had made serious enquiries off and on about tickets, but it never seemed to be 'the right time'.
Well, January 2000 was exactly 'the right time' and a nice discount dropped right into my lap, courtesy of the negotiating skills of the 'Friends' chairman.
- When the student is ready, the teacher will appear! - QED.
I'm still in touch with my cabin-mate from that voyage, and we had a beer together after the Captain Scott centenary memorial service in St Paul's earlier this year.
"What do you think about going back?" he asked.
Well! What can you say to that?
"It's the centenary year," he continued. "I've heard there are special events being arranged. We could go back to one or two places we've visited before. What do you think?"
I thought, people say itís not good to go back to such places, as they are never as you remember them and the disappointment can be considerable.
But Iíll take the risk.
We decided that's an excellent idea, so off we go!
Mike has found that the 2012 Shackleton Autumn School will be running a special programme of events, in Athy, Ireland. That's not far from the South Pole Inn where we'll make a return visit afterwards.
In the meantime, Mike, author of The S.S. Terra Nova, (the complete history of the expedition ship that Scott took on that fateful journey), is an accomplished traveller and researcher, and has produced a whimsically formal itinerary for us to keep track of our great adventure.
A few days before picking up Mike at Dublin Airport I'll be joining in with the Clancy Centenary Ride from Dublin to Belfast. Should be a good outing, not as cold as Antarctica.
During the few days before that, I'm spending time in County Mayo, continuing the extensive research that my aunt and a great uncle have done into our family history in the parish of Annagh. Between them they have reached as far back as 1841, with a record showing births as far back as 1801. I'm aiming to find the place where they lived in 1841 and trace the records back further if possible.
And, taking a moment to travel rapidly forwards in time for news of descendants, my two grandchildren and their Mum have launched themselves onto the pages of the Sunday newspaper. Click here for the full story!
The evening before I fly to Ireland, there's a preview for Robert Falcon Scott: A Century On, the final Centenary exhibition at the Polar Museum. So mustn't miss that.
Will post a log of all findings on my return.
Lastly, yesterday was almost dry, so I set off on two feet to Fickleshole. And it looked wintry on the way.
It was indoor weather, and this seat was free. That'll do nicely.
On the return trek, the skies darkened making the Warlingham Park clock tower a touch more imposing against the ominous clouds.
Five past four already - must be a slow outing today.
Then the skies brighten up nicely.
Allowing the sun to sparkle on the wet ploughed furrows while the rain fell like stair rods.
Perhaps it wasn't almost dry afterall.
My visit to Ireland is a four-handed affair.
The first was the family history bit in County Mayo, over the past few days.
Much work on this has already been done over many years by relatives, which led me to the Culnacleha Crossroads.
This is where, in 1841, my bit of the Cunnane family lived. Later, at the time of the potato famine, one of the sons emigrated to Liverpool and moved to Derby where he married. The couple were my Great Grandparents.
A distant cousin visited this place about 30 years ago and found only ruined cottages with no roofs. Now, the ruined cottages must all have been renovated to smart houses during the Irish boom years of the 1990s.
There's no church nor graveyard in Culnacleha, so no tangible place to start research. But in Tulrohaun, the next hamlet, there's a Post Office and a cemetary. The cemetary holds four Cunnane headstones covering the years 1912 to 2009, but nothing as far back as 1841.
A local farmer asked me what name I was looking for.
"Cunnane." I said, as it's spelt and as we always say it in South London.
"Arrh, C'nyon!" he said.
The first item of research - how to pronounce it!
"There're no C'nyons in Culnacleha, don't know if ever there were in the 1800s. There's two C'nyon houses in Carrowmore West about two miles along the road. The rest are up in Bricken."
Well, it's Cunnanes of the early 1800s I'm looking for rather than modern-day C'nyons, but everything's useful and lots more interesting info was to come my way.
I felt a pull to The Post Office (started work there nearly 50 years ago) so set off to find the Tulrohaun Post Mistress.
Despite the hamlet comprising only four houses and the graveyard, it took a bit of searching, as the Post Office is just one room at the far end of one of the houses, the end away from the road.
Well, the Post Mistress is about 70 and had a complete record of all headstones in the cemetary, with photos, in her sideboard. And confirmed what the farmer had told me earlier.
"Also," she said. "Try the priest at Bekan. All the others around here are too young to know much. He'll be sure to be able to help. All the records are there."
The next stop for now was Logboy Church in another hamlet adjacent to Culnacleha. No cemetary and hardly a house that I could see. Inside was one pew dedicated to the family of Martin Cunnane of Carrownedan, a hamlet in the wrong direction from Culnacleha.
Then on to Bricken church. By now I had found that all these hamlets have three or more spellings. Many of them have similar names, so it gets a bit tricky. Bricken can be Brickeen, or Brickin.
Anyway, no Cunnanes there, nor in the tiny graveyard. But there were a few huge headstones in a tinier enclosed area, for the Crean family, from the 1870s to the 1950s. That's OK, I'll be visiting Tom Crean's South Pole Inn down in the South, a week and a half later, with Mike.
But in the Church I bumped into an elderly local.
"Come outside," he said. "I'll show you a Cunnane house just across the field. But it's empty now, has been for many years."
He then reeled off a list of names of the folks who lived there. All now in the Tulrohaun cemetary if I heard him correctly.
The empty house in Bricken.
Next was Bekan church and its cemetary. This is quite a way from Culnacleha, but the records (such as they turned out to be) are here. Lots of Cunnanes as well, from 1918 to 2010. And a memorial pew in the church to Mrs John Cunnane of Treenreevagh, a hamlet way over the wrong side from Culnacleha.
A few days earlier I had looked on the internet at the guides to the records in the National Library of Ireland, and the National Archives.
Both announced that in the Parish of Annagh, which is where all this research is taking place, (and includes the shrine at Knock), the only old records surviving are baptisms from 1875 to 1880.
Not much, as later confirmed by the priest at Bekan.
"I don't know of any Cunnanes ever researching their history. Hardly any old records exist around here," he told me.
On first arriving in Mayo I visited the library at Claremorris, the main town in this area. The librarian had some useful books, one of which explained that Mayo was a particularly poor county (and Annagh one of the poorest parishes I think).
If a parish couldn't afford people who had the skills to write, then no records were kept.
"When someone died, the villagers would just take him into a field and look after him in the simplest way. No record would be made," I read.
Taking photos at Culnacleha Cross Roads I met another local couple. They confirmed that there were no Cunnanes in Culnacleha, and that two houses along the road in Carrowmore West were in the Cunnane family, but that one had been empty for quite a while.
I suppose one of my most notable discoveries has been the pronunciation of the family name.
A parishioner in the church in Bekan, and cemetary workers I met there, both said, "C'nyarn is the fancy way of saying it, if you're clergy or someone. Otherwise it's C'nyon."
Another discovery was in Bekan church. As well as the pew dedicated to John Cunnane's wife, about a third of all the pews there carry this label:
And a bit of further research revealed that in Knock Folk Museum is a document showing the indenture of one William Cunnane, son of John Mark Cunnane, as apprentice carpenter to James Sloyan, Carpenter, of Knock. Dated 23rd September 1895.
By then, his cousin who had emigrated to Liverpool about thirty years earlier was bringing up a few children in Derby, one of whom was Peter, my Grandad, born 1879.
All this rather brings me to the conclusion that the Culnacleha arm of the family may well have been somewhat isolated from all the other Cunnanes, for some reason or other. Geographically, the majority of them lived around Bekan with quite a few to the south around Bricken and others just to the northwest in Knock. Culnacleha is out of that area, to the southeast up against the boundary with Roscommon.
Maybe that's what led at least one of them to emigrate to England.
Moving on, I'd set aside a day to visit the National Library of Ireland and the National Records next to Trinity College in Dublin. Which I did earlier today.
One of the books I'd browsed in Claremorris library warned about the practicality of this: "You're quite likely to be spinning through miles of microfilm stuffed full of names, examining the names starting with A and then B and C, suddenly finding you've arrived at the Ts with no awareness at all of having read the Ds, Es, F,G,H.... Winding all the way back will be needed and trying to stay awake for 20 minutes at the second attempt!"
Yes, it's almost like that. The helpful librarian, agreeing that no births, deaths or marriage records exist for the period I'm looking at, suggested a few ancient survey publications:
"The Tithe Applotment Book of the Irish Church Temporalities Commission. Diocese of Tuam, Parish of Annagh, January 1835."
So I toddled off to the grand reading room here:
Only matched by the fat armchairs and tables in the grand gents toilet.
Which one to fall asleep in?
With the microfilm loaded, a spin of the viewer revealed page upon page of spidery, faded and creased handwriting, hardly legible, and not in any order.
So just for posterity I copied a couple of pages on which something resembling the word 'Culnacleha' appeared in the left hand column.
What do you think?
The other columns are for the name of the landholder followed by acreages held, quality, rents paid etc, repeated twice for 'Titheable' and 'Untitheable'.
There was a little entertainment to be had in deciphering the entries under 'Quality'.
I could make out Arable, Bog, Rock & Bog, Stoney, Bottom Pasture, Inferior. Others were so technical I couldn't make them out at all.
I tried one more of the librarian's suggestions. A learned journal entitled 'Persons Who Have Suffered Losses in Their Property in the 1798 Rebellion'.
Another few miles of microfilm.
(By the way, I discovered from an old map that there are Irish miles and English miles, or Miliarium Hibernicorum and Anglicorum)
I found the records for the County of Mayo in the last Miliarium Hibernicorum of the film. There were no Cunnanes among the persons suffering losses.
So that's about the end of that - for now...
Next up: a visit to Dublin's BMW dealer for the Clancy Centenary Ride to Belfast via Donegal.
One hundred years ago this week, an Irish American, Carl Stearns Clancy, set off from Philadelphia with his riding companion Walter Storey, on a pair of 4-cylinder Henderson motorcycles, with a map that would guide them right round the world.
Clancy's friend pulled out in Paris, but Clancy himself completed the journey and is now considered to be the first motorcyclist to ever ride around the world.
For the Irish leg, he started in Dublin on 23rd October 1912 and rode to Donegal, and onwards to Belfast the following day. So on 23rd Oct 2012 a bunch of riders started out to retrace his steps.
And a lot of razzmatazz there was.
A 1922 Henderson was brought along to the departure party and was ridden around the car park a few times by Gary Walker, who joined us on the ride to Donegal on an 'ordinary' bike.
The boots that Gary is wearing here are the very same boots that Clancy wore on his trip. They survived through a long series of connections between the Clancy family and friends.
Preparing for the demonstration ride.
Feargal O'Neill, the organiser of this Grand Ride, looks on.
The starter on the left next to Paddy Guerin, owner of the Henderson, who has a steadying hand on Gary's shoulder.
And he's away! The Centenary Ride begins!
(If only Gary would put the book down)
Recent book by Dr. Gregory W Frazier. (Note the boots)
It was a false start. There's tea and biscuits in the showroom first, to take a break from the misty rain.
This 1922 Henderson has a mobile phone fitted.
A rare early version, consisting of a morse key for sending morse code, right on the handlebar.
( . . . - - - . . . for the emergency services)
Called The iMorse (or even ..Morse), it's a dual purpose device. Holding the key down earths all the electrics, the only way to stop the engine.
The 1922 Henderson in full song.
Dancing pushrods and valve springs exposed to the outside world, just behind the exhausts.
Arriving at the lunchtime stop in Enniskillen
And at the overnight stop in Donegal.
Clancy was here. A 100 years ago today.
From Donegal, Clancy did a side excursion to the Slieve League Cliffs.
So we did as well.
It looked like there may be a strange sunset.
But first a look at the Giant's Desk and Chair.
Round to the left, the moon put in an appearance.
Remaining pink sky to the right.
The Wednesday morning departure from Donegal - there's talk of how to load the beer kegs onto the bikes.
Seen on the Donegal to Derry road. Letterkenny, twinned with Khomas Conservancy.
On the way to the Giant's Causeway. Looking back to Portrush from Magheracross.
And onwards to the Causeway in the far distance.
Arrival at the Giant's Causeway Hotel for lunch. The group had grown to well over 30 bikes.
Quick briefing for the final run into Belfast.
Clancy headed to Belfast Docks for a ship to Glasgow. But no one knows which docks.
So we headed to tea and sandwiches at Adelaide Insurance Services instead.
A grand ending to a grand ride.
According to what I heard in the marquee, quite a few riders here have already put the next Clancy Centenary Ride in their diaries.
Many Thanks to Feargal for setting it all up. It was a great centenary event.
Next up: head down to Athy for the 2012 Shackleton Autumn School.
Next HU Events
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