Crusin' down ye olde M1, somewhere near Luton, in days of yore('76 maybe) on my way back from Mallory I became aware of something not quite right. I should explain that I was riding a semi home built Rickman Honda 500 Cafe Racer which is not something you will see every day and for good reason, the engine didna fit properly. Anyhow the front break leaver stated flapping in the breeze and this warranted a trip to the hard shoulder where a quick inspection did make clear� the reason, no nut in the torque arm to the Honda 250(!) brake. This meant that I had been very lucky cos the thing could have locked up at seventy plus and even in those days it could have been strawberry jam time. So I chucked the cable over the hedge and prepared to carry on (young and stupid) when by great good fortune number two some mates turned up (I live quite a way from the motorway) got the cable back and bodged it so that it was almost safe. Have you ever tried riding thro Londinium, no M25 then, with a poor Yamaha back break only, not much fun and it was a very relieved bunny to get home in one piece.
So there am I deep in the south of France en route to the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard in the early eighties. Now the Kawasaki GPZ550 is and was a fine machine but it has an oddity and this was a so called safety connection from the kickstand to the clutch which often broke. Now mine had broken just before and I had a mind not to fix it cos it would cost cash and only break again. But this meant when very tired confusion could happen and it did. I came out of this garage stand down and arrived at the first corner, grauuuuch, and of the road I went. First piece of luck I only glanced off the tree. second, now those of you who know the south of France (and shame on those who don't) will be aware that most roads have 50 meter drops and them that don't have 100 meter plus a raging torrent with boulders. But this was only two meters and grassy. So there I was trapped underneath the bike and third I managed to crawl out with nothing broken. Then fourth as I staggered back onto the road, 7 or 8 frog bikers arrived saying merde and alors etc. It took all of us to get the bike back on the road and fifth piece of luck was that it was rideable after pulling the silencer out of the back wheel! In fact that trip it got me through Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe and as I said, it was a good bike
threeAND IN THE BEGINNING! By Bob & Ann Jones�
The Huntsman Motorcycle Club began life as the Huntsman Sidecar Club With the inaugural meeting taking place on March 8th 1963 at the Huntsman Inn, Eridge. It all started back in September 1962 when we went to the Motorcycle Show at Earl's Court where we met Tiny Tanner, the P.R. for the Federation of Sidecar Clubs, asking if there was a club in our area and being told there wasn't, Tiny suggested we should start one and promised to help with how to go about it; and so it was in February '63 that notices appeared around Crowborough and Tunbridge Wells and in The Courier that on March 8th Bob and Ann would be at the Huntsman Hall behind the Pub and anyone interested should come along; unfortunately Ann didn't make it as she was taken off to Pembury Hospita1 where sadly we lost our first baby: Of course, I wanted to postpone the meeting but Ann wouldn't hear of it and on March 8th seven outfits turned up and we formed The Huntsman Sidecar Club the seven were Bob (AJS), John & Barbara Tilley (BSA), Dave & Lily Martin (Norton), Ted & Pam Miles (BSA), Barry Chatfield, (Matchless) Bill� (BSA ) Mick Timperley ( need you ask) (Ariel) . By the Summer of '63 the Club had grown to 13 outfits. Like all clubs, over the next-few years it had ups and downs, but when Ann and l moved from Crowborough to Fareham, Hampshire in 1968 the Club was still going strong, although by this time the MINI was seriously affecting the sidecar world. Nevertheless, here we are 40 years on and, although sidecars have virtually disappeared, the Huntsman Motorcycle Club marches (or should that be rides) on !
����������� Some might ask what a BMW ME100 is: It is an idea that came to me two years ago to build an outfit (motorbike and sidecar) with a sliding cockpit styled loosely on the famous Messerschmitt 109 Luftwaffe fighter. And that it would have the radiator recited in the sidecar to provide the option of heating and be a vaguely monocoque construction of aluminium and plywood with local steel reinforcing.
18:6:02 Coles Hall Cottage Sussex 08:55
��������� Another trip away looms large. I am fitting the last bits into the sidecar, then it should be Scotland, Ireland, Lands End here we come.
��������� The reality today is not quite like that. Outside cars drone past on the wet road, though the light rain that was falling from an uninspiring sky seems to have died away.
��������� Now the sun is out again, but I think I will stick to not leaving today; it makes sense to delay�
My right thumb joint is tender enough to make it uncomfortable holding this pencil let alone my throttle, and other bones are creaking too.
��������� We hear I think a preoccupation with painful joints as much to prepare a reason not to go, and thereby saving face if he �chickens out�.
��������� So in truth I am playing for time here. I will e-mail my friend Jonathan in Norfolk. He has a �Merlin Thunder-ace� outfit and is heading for Dornoch this week though sadly Jonathan was not to appear. I can tell him about all my aches and pains and that is bound to make them disappear.
��������� 13:25: I�m still here. For an hour or so there was thunder and heavy rain and I finally decided to go tomorrow.
� and as good as his word was not, the evening of the same day?
��������� 21:45: Hilton, north of Cambridge.
��������� In room 2 �The Prince Of Wales� �40 per night. It was �45, but I said I don�t eat breakfast.
��������� There has been this worry in his head about how much he will be spending if he cannot find cheap digs; and if the weather does not suit him sleeping rough under the stars now and then. He doesn�t have a tent but just a bit of old ground sheet to roll up in.
��������� There is a club of Mini owners here tonight. I had a few words with one who has a turbo-charged Mini. All that aside, I may have a comfortable first night, but this will be too expensive to do every night.
19:6:02 Hilton. Mileage 69,957
��������� He would normally have noted the mileage before he leaves home at the outset but forgot.
��������� A perfect blue morning.
Because I had a room without breakfast I bought a �scotch-egg� in the Post Office next door.
��������� I am sitting in a farm track just outside the village to munch and gather my thoughts.
My rear brake feels completely dead. I think it is oil that has leaked from a bearing seal; unless it burns off or somehow sorts itself and gets working in the next few miles my journey may stop here.
It was in fact �three-in-one� oil that the twit had been squirting about to try a free a seized calliper; so not a leaking drive shaft oil seal (chalk one up to BMW)
I can of course drive without my back brake, but I have done so much to get this thing ship shape for the trip that it will be as much depression and disappointment that will send me home.
This must be exactly how Captain Oats felt as he agonised over exactly when to say, �I�m going out, I may be some while� and leave his tent.
12:05: Well Captain Oats left his tent and headed south for home; then after less than ten miles felt a bit of brake coming back and changed his mind and went north again.
Here I am somewhere near Doncaster on the A1, which makes a lot of noise today. I had wiped away oil on the rear disc, and the pedal seemed to stiffen up as I went along.
Further on there seemed to be no petrol stations and I was running out of petrol to the extent that I was resigned to conking out on the side of the road. With 164 miles on the tripometer (a record) this petrol station where I am now hove into view.
15:50: A68 near Jedburgh.
I am just going to look at my map to see where that is: I�m up the middle and must be near the Scottish border I reckon. If I got things mixed up in the last town I may be going south and be a very long way from the border. But the sun suggests we�re going north.
17:55: Jedburgh, �Craibowan B&B�
It was a beautiful run up the A68. You see Scotland form around you as the hills climb and lakes appear.
This guest-house is �20 per night. The nice lady proprietor is a �Brummy� but remarkably she knows Uckfield just down the road from me.
We stood out in the street slagging off Doctor Beeching for ruining our railways. She even knew that there were plans to rebuild the Uckfield Lewes line.
Now it�s about time to wander off for a beer, not that there�s much chance of finding ale. It will have to be Guinness or gas pumped McEwans I expect.
The town looks like I will be lucky to find �one horse� in it!
21:05: And home from an excellent meal just up the road. It was some sort of award winning joint, but then aren�t they all?
Each time I come home to the guest house the landlady looks more attractive. She is perhaps ten years in advance of my idea of an attractive mature woman, but she still has something there!
Should I wander back down-stairs now to test if she emerges again, and try my luck?�
20:6:02 09:15 Jedburgh
A pleasant dry start, but a damp weekend forecast. Not ideal to be heading for the west coast and Ireland really.
Over breakfast I convinced myself that my landlady is in fact a beauty; but it�s too late now, the road north beckons.
13:45: Halfway through the central highlands. I�m stopped in a lay-by and sitting in warm sunshine. I can see just a few patches of snow on the highest peaks; a few miles ago I thought I saw a Golden Eagle. There was something that made it look quite different to a buzzard (yes, wishful thinking).
It is warm but there are just the occasional spots of rain now and then.
An Oystercatcher (a wading bird) calls from across the meadow beside me, and in a minute I will have my packeted steak in pastry slice that has been cooking for the last hundred miles under a custom made aluminium plate on my engine.
The A9 that I am sitting beside is pretty fast and loud, though there are sometimes ghostly breaks in traffic; then it is only the chastising peep peep of the Oystercatcher who doesn�t really like me sitting here so long.
Yes and about that �beautiful� landlady: Any port in a storm etc. But when I was banging on doors to find her to say cheerio, she came out all guilty having just stubbed out her cigarette. So there you are: Not such a great catch after all was she?�
This feels such a long way from anywhere, that though it is beautiful I cannot see a good enough reason to return. Yet I imagine soon enough I will.
This sort of thought was often cropping up. It seemed to compromise his sense of being in the right place at the right time. Always there was the niggling awareness of the miles ahead, which at this point was still 1,500 miles or more. He loved being everywhere he found himself, yet was unremittingly haunted by the road ahead.
The rain has gone from the mountain tops, but if I dispense with my plastic trousers no doubt it will pour!
14:40: Can I get myself to move? It will be about the right time to be finding �digs� when I get to Inverness in a couple of hours.
15:35: Dismounted in Inverness. (Not as far as he thought)
There is a little guesthouse along here that I am going to check out.
18:30: It didn�t work out. She had just one spare room, a double, and she wanted �44 for it. I walked the many streets of B&B�s, and any I could face to stay in were full. I even went back to see if I could have that first one on �room only� basis; and I thought I might get her to offer it as a single, but no deal.
I motored across town and spotted a small hotel. After a nice shower in my en-suite room at the �Corriegarth Hotel� �35, pretty fair I thought, I am now off to the town centre for a beer and some food.
Now 21:00 will sound ridiculously early to be getting back to your room from a night on the town; but when you�ve ridden hundreds of miles through mountains, sleep will take you by the brow much earlier than you might think.
21:15: Back in my room.
As I walked back into the hotel and asked for my key, that I had been assured would be waiting for me behind the bar, the staff seemed somewhat at a loss to find it, but almost took the place apart in trying. More help was summoned and they began burrowing around below the bar, and all apologising profusely for their collective incompetence. The night manager came to help and got the guest book to confirm my check in time and who would have been on duty then.
It started to register that there was something different about this bar.
�I think I may be in the wrong hotel.�
The manager took me out of a rear entrance, and instead of beating me up, kindly pointed at a hotel behind them and said,
�is that what your hotel looked like?�
21:6:02 Inverness 09:35
A sombre morning this as England loose 2-1 to Brazil. We were it must be admitted, crap.
Enough of all that: It is a bright fine morning, and three wheels willing I will wind up in Dornoch later today. First to buy a few postcards I think. I have stamps with me and a couple of addresses like my ex common-law wife Tina�s new one, and Heike�s too(my German teacher). She was particularly keen that I should give her one. (postcard)
11:45: On the Firth of I think Cromarty.
14:00: On the Firth of Dornoch.
Last year on our web-site, I went on about how wonderful the Firth of Dornoch is, and how no one should miss the chance to ride up there to see it. Now I am here I can see that where I was talking about was in fact the Firth of Cromarty; though this one isn�t half bad too.
Dornoch does not have the climbing mountains beyond the loch, and the reflections on the water.
I can see Dornoch town across the water where the �nineties� pop-star Madonna was married in the Cathedral.
An outfit came riding up behind me, and for the last ten minutes I have been chatting to a chap called Mick who says he is 54 and an ambulanceman. He has just motored on to get his tent put up, and I shall follow soon to scour the town for tins of �Grannies� tomato soup for Vonnie at my local in Sussex.
Later in the �Malin House Hotel� Dornoch.
It was �30 a night, but I asked for room only so it cost me �25, which as it was going to be a wet night and I have only a groundsheet to wrap myself up in seemed a good idea.
I spent time �chewing the fat� with sidecarrists at the campsite, then later walked into Dornoch on my own that night as Nigel Shields, Nathan and Nakita had not turned up from Inverness.
Soon a couple of sidecarrists arrived at the pub I was drinking in, and we spent an hour perhaps going over our journeys,
Nigel turned up wearing a big leather cowboy hat with my favourite boy, his son Nathan and the evening really took off.
It seems in retrospect as if we moved around the town a lot that evening; though it�s possible that too much alcohol has blended the last two years together in my memory.
As Nigel sinks pints as if he dislikes them so much that he can�t wait to get each one over with, and I was around one and a half to every two that he vaporised, before we headed for bed I was seeing double.
Sometimes Nigel�s daughter Nakita and another sidecar riding family�s daughter called Tree were with us, and sometimes our women went off on their own to hang out with the locals.
Back in my room at midnight or thereabouts; it never really does get quite dark. It could be late afternoon in London at Christmas time.
The next morning:
In my hotel room it is raining softly but steadily outside. I feel none too keen to trudge back to the campsite and stand in the rain to talk about sidecars. 703 miles feels a long way from home with just three wheels and a packet of biscuits.
This day was an unsettled one for him.
He went to the campsite and talked the usual �shop� with whoever he could find; but something wasn�t right.
He had come so far to be here, yet now he stood among these other guys who some lived only fifty miles away, though most from much further. But he felt how far he had to go and in his mind the road stretched on, and on, and on.
He had thought to do two nights here, but told Nigel he felt unsettled and uncertain what to do for the best. He was worried even now about what will happen if he breaks down right at the top; or how his money will last if he lives it up too much, and the rain stops him from sleeping rough.
Nigel said� �just go one day at a time, if you do break down you�re in the AA, and if your money starts to run out then head for home. Don�t send your thoughts too far along the road ahead�.
And that was really all it took. He knew that he could carry on and nearly hijacked Nathan to take with him; though Nakita would also have been fun!
22:6:02 at 17:40: Thurso
I did John O�Groats and the sun was not quite out but warm and bright nevertheless.
Following the north coast west, I could see a dark amorphous mass ahead, and when I detoured to visit Dunnet Head the rain began, and by the time I got near Thurso it was a torrent so I quickly searched for the hotel I had stayed in the year before last.
The name of the hotel I enter now is �The Pentland� which sounded familiar, but inside it is so different that I am sure it is a different place. Later I will have a look for the previous one I stayed in. Still, at �36 B&B I think the other one was much the same.
18:20: It�s that sort of time to have a wander round the town.
22:55: Back in my room, and still just a dim twilight. I even found the bar from two years ago that had real ale; then on the way home I picked up a �Chinese�, and the rest of it will make a meal tomorrow.
23:6:02 at 09:15
Breakfast done thank goodness: I hate the breakfast-room atmosphere and having to make polite conservation with other guests, and waiting like a prune while the waitress gets you order cooked. I would rather wander off into the cold grey daylight on my own to buy a pasty and a pint of milk.
I have decided that as there are going to be quite a few hotel bills, I should find some way to subsidise them a little.
As far as is practicable though not wishing to get banged up, I am going to begin stealing from each one I stay at.
I already have a spoon from the one at Inverness for eating the rice in a �Chinese� for example. Today I have �lifted� a small jar of Marmalade, and as I have brought no towel with me, it would seem prudent to select a nice little one before I check out.
I have not calculated the odds on getting nicked for it, but I would imagine that unless my bag falls open as I say goodbye I will be clean away.
I have been calling home at lunchtime to my �local� each day to give my position which they are kindly marking up on a chart for me. I had a nice chat with Ray yesterday, then he called me back later and just as I was about to secure myself a damsel for my own wicked purposes; �who needs friends!�
No he wasn�t; he just invented that to wind Ray up if he ever reads this.
�I arrived here in lashing rain yesterday, and will leave here in lovely sunshine today, unless I hang around too long.
19:40: Near Fort William
Just checked into the �Aonach Mor Hotel� �25 B&B as it happens, so I wont feel obliged to steal anything tonight.
And what a day. I set off to Thurso, partly because I couldn�t take the pace of another night out with the Shields�s.
I headed back down to Dornoch because it seemed a shame not to see them again before next year, and caught them heading out through the town.
Now just remember: At this point he was still all geared up to go across and out onto The Isle of Skye. How easily he is led astray.
During my chat with them I made a vague plan to go with them for fifty miles or so. Nigel said that I could go and do a night at their place in Inverness if I liked, but I said I felt I should be getting on towards the west coast.
We set off in mad convoy and straight away I knew that this was too much fun, and I would be going all the way and staying the night with them.
What a crazy blast: Through valleys, over mountain passes; for some of the route Nigel�s son Nathan came with me to compare the relative merits of both outfits, and all taken at speeds that I would normally only achieve on motorways! So I suppose in truth the Sheilds�s managed to do me in twice.
The road ahead is calling still.
We had a beer somewhere before Inverness. The day was drying up, and as there were still many hours of rideable daylight left I told Nigel and co, that contrary to previous announcements I would not after all be staying with them that night.
24:6:02 Fort William
In the Aonach Mor Hotel I am just off for breakfast� It was a nice breakfast and I had my first haggis.
The rain is falling steadily outside like a mute chastisement from the bastard gods! But perhaps the sky looks a little brighter over the mountains.
So to head south today. There is a big lump of Glasgow to get past on the way, but things are never as bad as they look on the map.
(In fact they were around three times worse)
18:30: The Irish Sea
Finally on my way to Ireland.
I suddenly found I�d seen plenty of Scotland, good as it is.
I am on a really fast boat; though we�ve only been going fifteen minutes I can see the coast of Ireland.
I will be landing at Larne. The ticket cost me �40 one way. P&O do not cover the Cork-Swansea bit so I couldn�t get a return ticket.
As it will be getting on by the time I arrive, I hope I can quickly find some nice cheap digs to save me searching around for hours.
20:10: Room 1, Curran Court Hotel
In Larne at last, and on a dry sunny evening too. Mind you it was a wet ride across from Fort William, and it took hours to wind along the edge of more lochs than you could �shake a stick at�, and you have to climb over a couple of mountain passes, Glen Coe was one.
So that is why I felt I had seen enough of Scotland for the immediate future.
It�s that wander off time into the town: Mind you Larne so far seems something less than an inspiration, looking very much like any dingy Scottish town would.
22:55: Home to my hotel and my Chinese take-away.
I have decided that �25 or less will not provoke a surcharge in the form of theft: Now, when I got here and saw the tariff of �27:50 I thought OK it�s only �2:50 more, I�m on my first night in a new country, let�s let it go.
The niggle is that the man behind the desk straight away said,
�it will have to be a double room (�35 or �40) so let�s call it �30 shall we?�
I was probably to some extent being had over for a few extra quid as there was little sign of anyone else much in the hotel, but as there was no way of telling for sure, as a precaution I will have to �use� the wash basin during the night.
And Larne really was a hole; not one decent pub in the whole town, and my first Guinness was OK, but the one I had in a bar on the way back to my digs was so stale that I left it on the table and walked away.
Ulster of course should not be judged on how I found Larne on a dull Monday evening.
Tomorrow I will make a �B-line� for the border and across to Sligo, and Eire had better shape up a bit or I could be catching a fast ferry back to the British mainland.
25:6:02 Omagh 13:05
I stole nothing in fact: I was going to steal another teaspoon but there seemed little point in having two with just one mouth; now having bought myself a yoghurt and been unable to find the previous one, I wish I had �half-inched� it.�
Now he has a little bit of excitement coming to him round the next corner.
Just before Omagh I was stopped by six guns pointed at me. There were three spread along the ditch on one side of the road, and three on the other. And what was perhaps an officer though wearing black with another soldier blocking the road ahead of me.
I stopped abruptly beside the first gun, pushed up my visor and said with a smile,
�what are you doing in that ditch and why are you pointing your gun at me?�
The lad as such he looked, grinned back but did not speak. The man in black had a look and waved me through and that was that. It was a new experience to have six or more gun barrels pointed at me, certainly the highlight of the trip so far.
Later he did remember seeing a helicopter circling down some way ahead of him on the road to Omagh.
I�m pushing on to Inneskillen now, then across the border into Eire and on to Sligo.
I am writing leaning on the roof of my sidecar in beautiful sun which is a pleasant change from yesterday.
It strikes me as a cracking little town, utterly unlike Larne in the north. The mood of the place has much more of that of the republic that it is, with not one flapping union jack to be seen. The �tricolours� that you see in a few gardens could mostly be as much to do with the world cup as southern nationalism.
Cheap accommodation will I think be a needle in a haystack that I have begun to rummage for. So far I have been into a nice central hotel that was Eu.64 which is about �50.
Paying that much would for me be out of the question if the town were a dump like Larne; but I am very very keen to spend a night here.
There is a huge beautiful river that passes through the middle of the town with colourful bars and shops on either side. Every other house or shop is either yellow or purple or green or orange, and the general mood of people seems just as colourful.
Having trudged to the outskirts to seek cheap B&B�s:
I am sitting in the warm sun on a pavement bench. Various not young but still half-tidy women have been coming past me as I sit scribbling. I am speculating whether I should flag down the next one and offer myself to be used as a sex-toy for an hour in return for a bed and some tea and toast in the morning.
The only one that I would get would be at least 103 years old. Would ever bed and a slice of toast be so hard won.
There is a big old church over the road, and I cannot say from outside if it is still up and running in the godly sense. I love finding old churches that have fallen into disuse, so it will help to get me on my feet and going again if I �take a butchers� at it.
Indeed the church was locked, and another hotel I passed wanted sixty something Euros. Then in Connolly street I found �An Cruiscin Lan�, and for Eu.27. Not en-suite of course but there is a basin! That poses me with a dilema� having got the price well below �25 and with the girl here so pretty and Irish, how can I possibly piss in the hand-basin? I would rather have paid a bit more and felt justified: Am I being hard to please?
I had been wandering around Sligo, and not daring to think about beer till I had secured my digs it now feels like time to see if my chum Jimmy O�Mahoney was speaking the truth about the �efficacy� of Irish Guinness!
26:6:02 Sligo, �An Cruiscin Lan�
09:25: A damp beginning to the day but it seems the outlook is to brighten up in time.
This was a great place to stay: It proves that it is vital not to let yourself become despondent in your search for digs.
Walking away from that church yesterday afternoon where I had been writing, and then finding that expensive hotel; in my eagerness to have a room I was so close to checking-in to it, but luckily there still felt to be enough mileage in my arthritic hip to keep searching further.
In retrospect I didn�t really make full use of my evening: I wandered out from my B&B, and so very soon found �The Ark Bar� where the Guinness was very good. A pleasant barman returned often to my end to chat, and made me feel at home: A bit like my local and our barman, except without all the paranoia and insults.
A pint of Guinness costs Eu.3:25. I enjoyed five pints and a burger then had a fairly early night. Nor sadly did �Colleen� come tapping gently on my door that night, though she was pretty active in my dreams!
I want to avoid blasting straight to Cork today.
I am quite frankly amazed that he even considered this. Cork is where he will be departing from, and he is only a couple of days into his visit.
The greyness makes it uninspiring to loiter very much. I shall wander out to get some more Euros before I head south.
15:40: Galway and the day is bright now: I had to spend Eu40 to secure a room here. It was looking a bit touch and go, and having just drawn a hundred Euros I was prepared to sacrifice half of it to get somewhere in this very lively place.
As I walked through a square not far from here, there was a woman getting out of a top of the range Mercedes; she was I would think around fifty five years old and in passable nick for an old pot broiler, as I at 45 must be considered too.
There were quite a few seconds of eyeing up between the two of us, so I could tell she must be pretty desperate. I was momentarily close to asking if she fancied company or needed a house boy to do her washing up or other chores in the house in return for a bed� if not much sleep!
But the moment passed; like ships in the night we went on our respective way. You need a lot of balls to ask for succour if I can use that metaphor, but I reckon there are times when it might pay off.
You must be patient with his middle-aged fantasies when he is far from home.
Walking on through the lanes and alleys of Galway there are numerous buskers, some good some bad. There was one old boy I gave a Euro to who was jiggling a pair of spoons. Not singing or dancing to them, just �ching ching ching, pause� ching ching ching, and ching ching ching, pause� ching ching ching. After that it starts again. You kept thinking that any moment he might start flailing his toes and spinning about, but no� just ching ching ching, and so you wander off.
You have in your life been a sort of cellist, at least you own one and know where some of the notes are hidden. Before you round a corner your ear is lifted by the heavenly breath of a girl singing, and a cello�s sidling banter behind: Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream�You stop abruptly at the first note heard, and in your waking day dream, you know why Ulysses had himself tied to the mast to be able to hear the bewitching sirens.
Coming round the bend to face, it is as if the dream of every phrase you had struggled to get your fingers and cello bow around has come in search of you. She both sings and looks and plays like an angel. You listen and watch as in a dream. I say �you watch� because I had never known anyone sing while playing a cello before; and here is someone who sings and plays and looks like this� and doing it in the street as well.
As she paused at the end I stepped forward with my Euro and she said
�thank you sir�
in her lilting soft Irish. I said,
�I can hear from the accompaniment you were playing to over the rainbow, that you play Bach.�
She smiled and sang something at me, very close to,
�to be sure I do sir�
�please would you play me one of his cello suites?�
�Thank you, I would really like to do that sir.�
I can tell you because you are all friends and comrades, that by now my trousers were becoming a slightly awkward fit; but I am just crazy to hear her play Bach. And in that little street the air turns to wine. It�s like watching a baby being born on the floor of a factory perhaps, a sort of incongruous miracle. All my life I have wanted to see someone�s hands playing a Bach cello suit so I know it�s not just some kind of a trick: Now a girl is showing me while I stand in a side street in Donegal.
I was not ashamed to stand there and my eyes be moist with tears.
As she ends I step forward with another Euro and croak:�
�Thank you so much� that was the most��
But like Ulysses must sail away, and I have gone.
Now in my room I am weighing up if it is worth going back to bring my outfit to the car-park round the back here. But the road I left it in was a quiet leafy suburban street and I reckon it is just as safe out there.
The only plus-point to trudging away to fetch the bike, is that it will help to keep me off the �black-stuff� for another hour, and help delay my evening out. Last night I was back in bed at around 22:00!
Mind you, my tummy is already rumbling because I skipped lunch today so that�s going to take some ignoring if I try and stay in my room a while.
All these options to worry about, and things to be avoided: It is quite simply time to get myself out into the world and take it as it comes!
These next few lines in his diary were wrote all sloped and wonky being blind drunk� so this is as near as I could get.
24:20 back at guesthouse: Oh what a night!
Spent with a guy from Pennsylvania, and later a couple from California. The Pennsylvanian bloke was called Charlie, but the other two�s names I didn�t hear, or can�t recall.
As we were bidding them a fond farewell I said,
�as I will never see you again in this life, good luck�
We all went home to our respective digs.
27:6:02: Galway, �The Western Guesthouse�
Before we, that�s Charlie and me met the Californian couple who I would think looked pretty married, as there was sometimes that haunted dull smile offered sideways to each other. Yes before that we talked to two Irish girls who came along.
Somehow in the chat we both got asked how old we were. They were of course being kind, and being safely younger anyway said they could not believe that I was forty-five. I said,
�that�s a bit of a blow, so I suppose you both thought I was at least fifty�
and they insisted the other way and it was all jolly good banter.
The blonde one, though I hadn�t said that one was dark and one was blonde; the blonde one who had been asking lots about what I was up to, asked me how old I thought she was:
�I would say you are between 39 and 42�.
Bit of a shame really that one, it turned out she was only 34; though it didn�t seem to turn her against me, if anything she became more attentive.
Her dark friend was the keener to get to their booked restaurant table, and I was starting to be got the better of by the �black-stuff�, and in the fog she slipped away.
But Charlie agreed afterwards she looked way over thirty-four. It was a great evening either way, with too much Guinness being drunk, so the �eye� not being kept on the ball as well as it might.
�Blondie� was nice looking to a forty-five year-old�s eye, and with her being no out and out �glamour puss�, I can just about think I was in with a chance: The beer had other plans.
So forget all that, what of today? It is dry as I look out the window, not much in the way of sky, just a few blue bits though increasing I reckon.
The road to Cork stretches leaping and potholed ahead of me. If it is as horrendous as the �Irish motorways� I�ve driven so far it will be a long and laborious ride, five or six hours I would imagine. When I get there I will decide if I should jump straight on a ferry.
09:55: With breakfast successfully consumed and kept down, though still feeling very hung over. Taking copious lungs of air through my open bedroom window as I write. My dread of being on the road is to be ill and have no base to creep away to.
Looking out my window to the north west it is flat, but there are some very distant mountains.
As for me and my head: At the moment I am almost too unbalanced by the remnants of my head injury and hang-over to stand; but by the time I have staggered across town to find my outfit I should be in a fair shape to drive it.
10:40: In Galway Catholic church. It is huge with a dome like Sacrequer Montmatre in Paris; and it was only the last of those three words that I know I can actually spell.
There are women polishing brass-work and marble in front of me. I said to one that she was doing a great job but to mind she didn�t wear right through. There are also microphones being tested ready for a bit of �god� to be done. It is time for a good Jewish atheist boy like me to vacate this pew and scram.
18:30: Carrigaline, Barcellos Bar.
In Scotland this would be a one street one horse town; but here in Ireland it is colourful and bustling, and fair enough it is a sunny afternoon, but it seems as if the whole population is wandering in and out of all the shops and cafe�s and bars.
For tea I bought a nine inch pizza for Eu.9:50, and now am settled with a Guinness for Eu.3:10.
I did make enquiries about a room but nothing fell into my lap. One bar I enquired in was �manned� if I can use that masculine word, by the most beautiful Irish girl I have seen since I arrived. She had the most luxurious tangle of mahogany curls tumbling and stroking sickeningly over perfect breasts, with luminous blue grey eyes glowing like a wolf in moonlight.
As she spoke soft lipped in answer to me her satin skin came alight with a smile that soaked into my soul, (which I had never previously realised I possessed) and I stood trembling almost on one leg while the other twitched involuntarily.
Her lilting voice was a breath of mountain air and trilling skylarks, and you really believed she would do anything to be of some help: And believe me in almost every way she was.
If someone had said to me: �You can stay the night here and take her to bed with you, but in the morning we have to take you out the back and shoot you�, I would have said �that�s fine with me�!
I scoffed my pizza by the river, then headed back towards her bar for a Guinness and to torture myself some more. She was �shift finished� and driving away in her car as I approached. Did I feel some tingle of disappointment or simply take it on the chin like an Englishman? I fell to my knees in the high street and howled like a baby�! Not quite, but it felt as if a light had gone out in my life. �
Back here in Barcellos Bar I am impersonating my chum Jimmy O�Mahony: I have just waved my nearly empty glass at the all right though hardly comparable barmaid and she is starting another one for me.
Going back to this question of a bed: The thing is that because I have been recommended to be early at the port to get a ticket it may be far more easy to sleep rough in or near the car-park at the port.
I am banking on the night being dry of course, it looks set fair but much can change in a few hours.
20:40: I am yawning for my bed already. I hope that three pints of Guinness will both allow me to drive safely back to the port, and get me off to sleep when I�ve made a bed.
There was a very youthful fifty-year-old retired Dutch marine commando sleeping in a van nearby in the car-park. They had spoken in German a few hours earlier, before he rode away to Carrigaline. When he gets back the chap comes over and offers him coffee and beer, and he is once more struck by the kindness of everyone that he stumbles across.
Driving the ME100 up the curb and onto the picnic area he parks by a hedge of fir and pine trees to keep the night breeze away. An alarm clock sits on the drive shaft of the bike beside him, though out here he�s unlikely to sleep late; then fully dressed he�s in his bag and rolled in his tarpaulin.
Only the many late dogs that are brought for their final �walkies� before bed give any concern as they thunder released past his ear and chase their mates. But none even stop to sniff and he is left alone to doze.
As well as one or two camper vans in the park, there is a young couple there for the ferry who must sleep sitting in their car; and it appears without reclining seats. He can see them shifting around and trying to get on their sides to sleep: But they won�t get half as wet if it rains.
28:6:02: The ferry port 06:55 on Friday
Just about to get myself a ticket, and the ship sails at 09:00; or sooner if there�s not a lot to load.
I think the crossing takes� I began to say; but now it�s 08:00 and I�m on the ship. It has �fast ferry� wrote in big letters on the side. The crossing is scheduled for ten hours, which to get from Cork to Swansea sounds fairly leisurely to me.
My ticket was Eu.61 and I think �10 is Eu.29. By my reckoning that makes my ticket �21 (Wrong).
A woman with a Russian accent announced over the tannoy that they will be locking the car-deck. That means also my store of food. This is where I will discover that on the ship a currant bun costs Eu.10.
The picnic area where I �bivied� last night looks nice today with its grass and sculptures so I have taken a photo to remember where I slept.
One late car is driving in down below and the engine note has changed a bit so at 08:40 I think it will not be long before we go.
09:00 and steaming out of port.
But now this is quite something else: A Napoleonic naval dockyard I would think, with Martelo tower too.
There are as a couple of Irish naval ships in port as well; at least they were flying the tricolour so I assume that�s what they were.
Now I see two more naval ships coming in from the open sea. If they are also Irish I reckon it must be their whole navy out today.�
09:55: I could hear eastern European accents from the cabin staff so I hailed one who was collecting cups. I asked him if he was Russian. He was Polish, so I told him that I have a Polish uncle. He told me that two of the sailors are Russian. I notice that the ship has all Russian placards on its life-rafts and things. Might be quite entertaining if there was a disaster.
13:20: Just eaten cottage pie and veg.
Having just read my diary and the days I�ve been away: Donegal still feels �now�, Sligo is still �now�, Ulster feels like� well best forgotten really; but anywhere like Jedburgh seems a life-time ago; but reading now it all comes back.
I tried to call my local in Sussex before I came into the canteen to hit the trough but we seem to be between the Eire and mainland networks; or that we are over the horizon from anyone.
15:10: On the upper deck.
It seems so perfect, not a cloud to be seen. And a hissing mumble from the engines down below comes up and flies above us all.
I would be nowhere else but this place and this time, even if the sunlight and colour just now does somewhat remind me of the film �Titanic�!
Soon enough like any ship it will be vacated. Soon three wheels will flee from dingy Wales and fly the Severn Bridge. If Dot has a room at �The Sun� down in Cornwall, and barring punctures or other curses I may even be down there in time for a pint of �Doom Bar�.
15:40: Land ahoy, and Wales I�m sure. Those distant islands may be Skomer and Skokholm. With three and a bit hours of scheduled time I would have thought we were rather early, but this ship chugs so slowly (�fast Ferry�) that we may well not be.
16:45: For the last week I have had no idea what day of the week it is. I know I got to Dornoch on the longest day so the 21st, but since then the days have blurred.
18:05: I raised �The Sun� down in Cornwall, and I have my room. All I have to do now is get there in time for a �swift half� before bedtime.
24:05 Cornwall: Which is I suppose really another day, but it seems to make sense to finish this day with my arrival at the �Sun�. I will not try to say too much now; despite just one pint down stairs my vision is so double that I am having to close one eye to write along the line.
That drive from Wales to Cornwall was a gruelling ride. Swansea was miles further into Wales than he had pictured it being, so even getting to the Severn Bridge seemed to take an eternity. Then on the M5 going south the traffic ground to a halt and at the same time his engine began to suffer fuel vaporisation and to struggle to get along.
But there he was at last.
29:6:02 �The Rising Sun� Altarnun Cornwall.
10:40: And I didn�t rise until 09:30 either! The day so far is grey but dry. Though like it would just as soon be wet.
My plan if such it can be called is: When I have tried to find the engine problem that made my run down from Wales such a nightmare, then I will head some way down west to represent Lands End (the small piece of wood that keeps the fuel pipe away from the cylinder-head had moved out a bit). I cannot stand the �End� itself, so it is unlikely we will �End� up there.
Just a gentle day for me today, an amble west for a couple of hours which will see me somewhere near the �End� and turning east.
That will also be a sort of end to my journey. And what a crazy, unsettling, stimulating, extraordinary time I�ve had. I am probably sounding as if it�s done now, while there are anything up to five hundred miles to run to the end and back my house in Sussex, �Three wheels willing�!
Sligo and Galway: Those two towns have undoubtedly been the highlights of the trip so far, now back in Cornwall where I slip down to every few weeks through the summer, things fall back into their old routines. But the remaining journey might still have a few tricks up its sleeve for this old dog.
30:6:02 at 07:20 Altarnun
Up from bed for a quick cheese roll and a swig of water, then get out and off before the convection rain gets started. Three wheels willing I shall be in �The Cross� in Sussex late lunchtime.
I�ll be glad to be home.
And I�m glad that I went.
Which am I more? If it was the latter then to prove it I might eagerly set straight off again. All that stuff is pretty debatable; but a deep respect for the ME100 is not in question; and pride that I built it and it got me round.
71,966 miles, and in �The Cross� in Sussex by 13:00. That makes it a bit over 2,100 miles all told.
And safely back at home he asks why did he go: Why did a long journey sound such a great idea to such an unnatural traveller.
He dreads the moment of setting off, and as soon as he is more than a hundred miles away he starts worrying whether he will ever get his beloved contraption home again. But he�s built this blasted thing� so feels he has to drive it around a bit. Next time, he thinks perhaps he�ll have the wander round the USA that he keeps thinking about.
And sitting here on the 10th of May 2005, all that seems so far away, and yet just yesterday as well.
So, USA next? I rather doubt it now my friends, I think the time for that has passed. Now with a home loving Philippino wife and a baby I think my days for wandering off on three wheels are mostly done for a year or so.
It�s time to get the writing right.
But thank you if you came along to Ireland with me!
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