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"To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower; Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour." William Blake

Holy Halloween

October 31st, 2007 by sunflowers

HalloweenHalloween is shorting of the term ‘All Hallows Eve’ which was the night before ‘All Hallows Day’ and is now called ‘All Saints Day’. When I was working in Central Europe (Poland and Hungary) I was told by clients that All Saints Day is the most important family holiday of the year and the time when the family gets together and makes a yearly pilgrimage to the graves of their deceased relatives.

I on the other hand met up with my business partner to discuss the product testing of the male skin care range we are launching and then got chatted up at the bar when a bloke reckoned I stunk as I was wearing a male fragrance. I did see some huge pumpkins in Covent Garden.

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PADI Advanced Open Water

October 30th, 2007 by sunflowers

SwanageAt the end of September I did a dive weekend down in Swanage, Dorset. On the Saturday we did some navigation dives under the Swanage Pier and then on Sunday we did a wreak and a drift dive. I also got to try out my new tent that I bought for my trip. Then I finished off my advanced open water course with another day at Gildenburgh to do the navigation and deep water dives. SwanageSwanageSo now I can dive up to 30 metres and have specialities in: boat, drift, dry suit, enriched air and an oxygen first aid speciality. Now I just need to do a rescue course and twenty some dives and I will be a Master Scuba Diver. I am thinking about becoming a Dive Master before I go on my trip so that I can pick up work diving.

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Dancing at Diwali

October 29th, 2007 by sunflowers

DiwaliDiwali “Festival of Lights” is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains throughout the world to welcome in the New Year. The thing I love about living in London is that you can join in the celebrations of almost every culture so on Sunday I headed down to Trafalgar Square for Diwali and watched everyone get down to a bit of bhangra and joined in the dancing in the rain.

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Helping Habits

October 28th, 2007 by sunflowers

If you want to be productive the best way of accomplishing something is to develop habits that help you achieve them. A bit like doing all your household chores on a Saturday morning and getting them over and done with so you can enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Before I went to bed I used to write down what I wanted to blog about even if I didn’t post it. But after missing a few it becomes easier not to do it. I also stopped going to Spanish lessons as they had moved to the same night as my toastmasters so I didn’t go to either.

This weekend I decided I have to get organised and start going to Spanish lessons again and find a Tuesday club for my toastmasters as well as start getting ready for my trip as the next eight months are going to go by very quickly.

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Ode to Colin ‘Viking’ Fraser

September 13th, 2007 by sunflowers

Colin FraserColin is one of those people that you feel very privileged to have met and you know you will remember forever. I just read the entry in my guestbook about his passing and feel sad that someone who played such a special part in my life recently and for so many others is no longer with us. Even though I was looking forward to knowing him for a long time, I am glad I was lucky enough to have met him and he will forever be an inspiration to me. My heart goes out to his wife Carol and the rest of his family and friends.

Posted in Motorcycling | 1 Comment »

Back On The Bike

September 2nd, 2007 by sunflowers

I was quite nervous about going along to the social ride on Sunday after having my off at Cadwell. As this would be the first time I would be riding the bends and the reason I was at a track in the first place was my inability to keep up with my bike group around corners.

I mentioned to one of my fellow riders by uneasiness about the ride and another rider gave me a lecture about listening to music as I ride. I have been told not to listen to music quite a few times but I find when I don’t listen to music I end up thinking about work and being more distracted than if I have my music on. Plus the instructor at Cadwell said to sing to your self when you are going around the track and I would rather sing along to someone else.

Grafham WaterIt turns out that I had nothing to fear. Either we did the ride a lot slower than usual or I am actually much better at going around the bends now. I have a sneaky suspicion it was a bit of both and a lot of the faster riders who usually pass me weren’t there.

We had a lovely ride up to Grafham Water where we had lunch. I ended up talking to this guy who had been about to become and instructor with ELAM when he had a head on with a car that came around a double bend and wasn’t paying attention and went onto the wrong side of the road. He said that he was doing 40 miles an hour and even though the skid marks from the bike show that he was on his side of the road when he began to break that the case had gone to court. He also recommended an insurance company that has income protection that includes bike accidents. I think it might be worthwhile looking into now that I am working for myself.

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Boating Gone Amiss

September 1st, 2007 by sunflowers

LittlehamptonsOn Saturday I rode down to the Littlehamptons for a wreak dive and a drift dive. I followed google maps suggested route along the A23 and even though I had given myself an extra hour to get down I ended up arriving at the boat just as it was ready to depart so parked up the bike and jumped onboard in my bike gear to a big cheer. Stripping off my leathers I went straight into my drysuit (wearing the same woollen under garments so it isn’t as glam as it sounds).

Before the wreak dive we ended up sitting waiting till the turn of the tide for an hour parked sideways too a two plus metre swell so everyone was feeling a bit ill and then when we finally started the final kit up to jump overboard the boat capitan’s yappy little dog started non-stop barking. After going over the side I couldn’t sink with the weights I had, one of our group’s regulator stopped working and as the boat couldn’t see over the swell it almost ran over my instructor and the last person had no visibility so didn’t go down.

The other group on board all made it down but two of them couldn’t find the wreak and someone else ended up falling badly on her knee when getting back on the boat due to the high swell.

But the drift dive saved the day! They said that drifting along in the current can be compared horizontal sky diving or hang gliding and I don’t know if that is true but it was pretty amazing to be pulled along with the current looking at the coral as you floated by. On the way home I took the A24 which is a bunch of long stretches of road separated by roundabouts so had a fairly pleasant ride back into town.

Posted in Diving | No Comments »

Hopp Rider Training at Cadwell

August 30th, 2007 by sunflowers

Cadwell ParkHopp Rider’s training at Cadwell follows a structured programme of tutorage in the morning and three free sessions in the afternoon. You are broken into groups A, B and C and then have a twenty minute session each hour. I was in group C for the beginners. The first time around we focused on following the correct lines. The second time around we concentrated on looking to ahead of where we were going and did a cool exercise were we realised that you can see the ground directly in front of you while you are looking into the distance but if you are staring at the ground in front of you, you can’t see what is ahead.

For the third session we did moving our bodies and counter steering when we went around the corners and I know this sounds obvious but even though I lean when I go around corners I have never purposefully moved my body and I found it made quite a difference to my ability to take the corner. By this time I was feeling really good about how I was learning to take the bends. Then the last session before lunch we were told to ease off the throttle before the bend and accelerate coming out of the corner and that is when it all went pear-shaped. Our group had been split when trying to overtake another group and I was trying to catch up and ended up taking the hairpin bend faster than I felt comfortable and so rather than just leaning into a bit more I thought that seeing as how at Folmerbray I had done grass time twice and remained upright I could do it again. Now I know what they mean when they say your tyres have no traction on grass. Seconds after hitting the grass my bike was on it’s side. My first thought was that at least I had learnt to fall ok. But then the guy came to collect me and said my bike couldn’t be ridden as I had wrapped the brake peg around the foot peg and even if I managed to fix it they might not let me back on the track.

Then I got quite ticked off at myself and stomped about a bit. After getting my bike carted back to the parking lot and having the ambulance guy check me out. I got a couple of guys from Cadwell’s workshop to bend back out my brake, got one of the Hopp Rider guys to sign me back in and then had to get the track guys to allow me back on the track.

After the crash
Cadwell ParkFacing up to getting back onto the track after all the crash I realised my fear factor was in overdrive. I stayed with my group as they were such nice people rather than moving down a couple of groups but I really struggled with the stress level of keeping up with then and even just riding around the track. So for the second session after lunch I asked one of the instructors to go around with me. It was quite frustrating as he made me follow him and kept on indicating to me to come closer and I instinctively didn’t want to be within a few metres of him. The last couple of laps were better when he let me go in the lead.

It was funny as in his feedback he said I wasn’t shifting my weight or counter steering which was weird as I thought that I was doing both. It would have been nice to stay for the last session and see if what he was saying was correct but I decided with a four hour ride back to London my nerves couldn’t take doing the final session. But I did find on the ride home that even though I mentally knew I was counter steering I wasn’t putting that extra little push into it.

On the ride home I rode with two of ELAMs instructors. It is a truly pleasant experience to ride with people who are really good and even with my nerves slightly shot it was a beautiful day and a lovely ride back to London.

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The Night Before Track Day

August 29th, 2007 by sunflowers

After only getting three hours of sleep before Folembray this time I really wanted to leave work by about four so that I would get up to Louth (a town 5 miles from Cadwell) while it was still light. In the end I couldn’t get away from work until five and didn’t get onto the M11 until after six.

Cadwell ParkI still measure my riding experience in the number of times I get lost, how many times I have done something stupid and someone honks at me and how many times I have to stop and look at directions. I stopped at the petrol station and after filling up rather than moving my bike because I was the only one there I started looking at my map. Then one other vehicle drove up and after he filled up he came up to me and said that I had stopped him from using the pump that he had wanted and that I could die standing by my bike rather than moving off the forecourt. Obviously he was having a bad day but it made me realise that I do need to start focusing on learning Spanish as if that happened in South America I would not have understood what he was saying.

For the last hour of my ride to Louth I was on single lane carriageway with no lights, pitch dark and lots of bends which was slightly scary.

Cadwell is set in the rolling Lincolnshire countryside, established in 1934, nicknamed the ‘mini Nurburgring’, I guess because if it’s because of it’s mountain feature.

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It's all about learning

August 28th, 2007 by sunflowers

The reason that I signed up for two track days this summer is when I went back to New Zealand, Nigel who so kindly lent me his bike to ride from Christchurch up to the Bay of Islands, who has been riding for twenty years said that he had improved his riding immensely by doing a track day. That was enough for me. If it can improve an experienced rider like Nigel someone like me needs all the learning I can get.

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