Taking The Bus

Dookes H.Q. is situated on the edge of Bodmin Moor, an area of high granite moorland covering 80 square miles of North East Cornwall.

There’s only one slight problem, it’s a bit remote. Not exactly “Off Grid” to use a trendy term, but certainly a bit rural, we call it “Out in The Sticks.” Most of the time this isn’t a problem, but occasionally it can be a bit awkward, like today; I had booked my car into the local garage, eight miles away, for a service and Mrs Dookes was working 60 miles away at the other end of the county. Not good planning.

Let me be very clear, I love where we live and I’m not moaning!

I had three options:

1. Borrow a “Courtesy” car from the garage.
2. Book a taxi.
3. Catch the bus.

One thing about living in a rural area like ours is that you can easily slip into a sort of “bubble” existence and traveling everywhere by car only heightens that feeling of isolation; you look out at the world rather than being part of it. Another issue is that us rural dwellers often moan about the lack of services that townsfolk enjoy, like Post Offices and Public Transport. Often though the problem lies in us not using what is provided, the old “Use it or Loose it” conundrum!

Having spent a career running public transport services, on rails, I hang my head in shame to say that in sixteen years of living at Dookes H.Q. I’d never used our local bus. This is a service that is viewed by the good members of Cornwall Council to be of sufficient social necessity to warrant it being subsidised.

So with all things considered, I took the decision that today I would ride the bus!

With three spaniels barking to greet the dawn and eager for their breakfast, most days at Dookes H.Q. start pretty early. It really wasn’t any hardship therefore to drop my car off at the garage just after eight o’clock, which was great as I had time for a leisurely double espresso and perusal of the newspaper before catching the bus outside a local supermarket just after nine.

I found the bus waiting at the pick-up point, it’s engine running and the driver busily mopping the floor. The previous trip had been collecting up school children from the surrounding areas and their muddy shoes left evidence of the rural nature of the catchment area.

Just a little bus!


This morning I was the only person joining the bus at the start of it’s journey.

It turned out that my jolly driver, Julian, was originally from Romania. I more friendly person you couldn’t wish to meet. He explained that he was an economic migrant looking for better opportunities for his family, his wife was a school teacher and they had two children – I found all that out before we had even got moving, it was a glimpse into life on the little bus!

We looped around town to our next pick-up stop; road-works with temporary traffic lights played havoc with Julian’s schedule, but he kept smiling.
“Try driving in Bucharest,” he grinned at me, “A million times worse than this!”

I don’t doubt it.

Leaving the town centre there were just three of us on the bus. Julian, myself and an elderly lady who was travelling to an outlying village to play table tennis!

The three of us happily chatted the miles away, as the morning sun rose higher in the blue winter sky. As the route looped around a number of villages it drove home to me just how many widely splintered communities this little bus served. Small numbers of people joined as the bus made sporadic stops, sometimes in villages, sometimes at scattered farms. The atmosphere on board was like a friendly club; everyone knew each other. Well except for me, I was like the new boy in school and came under friendly scrutiny; this was quite a microcosm of the local society!

It’s tight on these rural lanes!


Sadly my destination point hove into view and Julian slowed the bus to a halt for me to disembark, where had the last hour gone?

I waved farewell to my travelling companions and set off to walk the two miles to Dookes H.Q. where the first Snowdrops are now in bloom, perhaps Spring is just around the corner.

Snowdrops

On such a lovely morning it was a joy to meander back to home along the lanes, it gave me time to ponder the service that such buses provide to rural communities.

Near Dookes H.Q.


With the exception of myself and one other chap, everyone else riding this morning was a senior and therefore in receipt of free bus travel. It was clear to see that this little bus not only provided a vital lifeline to the communities that it served, but it enabled people to access amenities that otherwise may be beyond their ability to travel to; it provides a real social need. In addition one little bus this morning kept a dozen cars off the road and that’s good for the environment as well, everyone wins!

The thing is though, these services are audited for the number of people riding and if those numbers fall to far, there is a real risk that the route will be cut or at least severely reduced.

I made a promise to myself to go ride the little bus again and get others to do so too.

“Use it or Loose it!”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

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Clouds

Clouds

It’s just about three months since my friend G had his horrendous crash.

For G it’s been three long months of pain, discomfort, worry and frustration.
For his family, well, let’s just say that its been difficult and there have been lots of dark clouds..

For my part, the time has been a bit weird and it has taken me a while to process in my mind just what happened. During that time I’ll be honest, I haven’t ridden much and haven’t really been in the mood to ride. True on one of the occasions that I popped over go see G I took my trusty Harls, but other than that…well I’ve just not really been feeling like taking to two wheels.

Until one evening earlier this week.

The phone rang, it was G.

During the early dark days immediately after the crash G made up his mind that his future petrol fuelled adrenaline fix would come on four wheels, not two. Initial thoughts centred on possibly a Lotus or Caterham Seven sports car; one of those things that look and feel like a go-cart on steroids! Then his fancy switched to a Mini Cooper; not any old Mini Cooper though, oh no, we were talking John Cooper Works and nearly 300bhp with twin turbo-chargers!

He knows what he likes does my mate G.

G’s recovery has now progressed to serious physiotherapy and by all accounts he has a top man on the case, with an attitude along the lines of, “The surgeon put you back together, now I’m going to make it all work again.” Fair play to G, he has embraced the whole rehab thing and not only is he being a good lad and doing all the therapy exercises, but he’s doing gym work and swimming as well, which is brilliant! Even more brilliant, he has progressed so well that he can now drive a car again, with the full permission of his doctor.

Anyway, I digress…

I answered the phone.

G was in ebullient form. He excitedly told me of his latest physio progress and how much more he was able to do since I had seen him last. Then out of the blue he hit me with it:

“I can twist the throttle and start to pull the brake with my right hand, left one for the clutch is no problem….”

I sat down.

“Run that by me again.”

“I’m going to ride again mate.”

Part of me sort of went into shock, while the other part just broke out into a big stupid grin. Even over the phone connection G’s enthusiasm was infectious, he chattered away with a happiness that I had not heard for some time.

G went on to explain that he and Mrs G had discussed the matter fully. Being a pretty switched on lady, she had noticed that whenever G had been talking to his motorcycling mates that his spirits were always lifted; two wheels or even the thought of riding two wheels was where he wanted to be. With his new Physiotherapist things had taken a serious turn for the positive and Mrs G could see that having the goal of riding again could only be a good thing. She also understands that crash was unfortunate, but not G’s fault and if he wanted to ride again…well that is OK by Mrs G!

….and so that was why last Thursday afternoon we were found in the showroom of a large motorcycle dealer in the heart of Cornwall.

It was a good choice, as the place is not only a Yamaha and Honda concession, but has a large and varied selection of nearly new bikes of many different makes. G and I were in our element going round and sitting on the different offerings! From my point of view it was, you understand, purely academic…but G wanted to size up what future options would be. G likes Adventure bikes, so the Honda Africa Twin came under scrutiny, but top of the pile and much to my surprise was a BMW GS; the handlebar and lever geometry seems to work best for G’s wrists, but who knows what he’ll end up with.

Back in the saddle, how about a smile G?

OK, its early days yet and G has a whole bunch more therapy to go through, but the future is looking much brighter, it’s like clouds have lifted!

Talking of which, we get some pretty special clouds here on Bodmin Moor…

How about this fantastic lenticular cloud formation.

“Ice cream castles in the air.”

Or high level fern like cirrus, a sure sign of fair weather, seems a good one to end on!

“Rows and flows of angel hair.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I really, really, really now feel like going out for a ride!

“Do not stop me, do not try,
cause I’m a motorcycle man
I get my kicks just when I can.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Big Sky on Bodmin Moor

OK, I have to plead guilty of living in a beautiful part of the world. True it’s not on the scale of the Alps, The Grand Canyon or the Norwegian Fjords, but you know in it’s own way Cornwall is right up there with the best of them!

The 80 square miles of Bodmin Moor lies in the heart of Cornwall’s geography and life. To explain, a Moorland is a type of habitat found in upland areas that are generally characterised by low growing sparse and tough vegetation on acidic soil. The United Kingdom hosts approximately 15% of the world’s moorland, which is great for me because I just love the wildness of this type of hard country. Best of all, Dookes H.Q. is right on the edge of the high moor; my moor.

I don’t intentionally take our easy access to the Moor for granted, but occasionally I have to give myself a slight kick on the backside to get out on the wild side and let my senses drink in the landscape. The beauty of the moor can be deceiving, this is truly hard country when the weather takes a turn for the worse and although you are never really very far from civilisation its easy for the unwary to get into trouble. On a day like this though, when skylarks soar and sing and the plaintive mew of the curlew drifts across the landscape all is well in the world. I find that even a short excursion onto the peatlands clears my head, both literally and spiritually, but then I always have loved the high country landscape. On a clear day it is possible to spot the other high moors of South West England, Exmoor and Dartmoor, from the slopes of Bodmin Moor.

Looking East at distant Dartmoor.

Like many moorlands, Bodmin Moor is almost totally bereft of trees. It is believed that clearance started in the neolithic era, between 12,000 – 6000 years ago. Those trees that remain are usually isolated and stunted by the poor soils and constant winds. This particular hawthorn, Crataegus in latin, always fascinates me.

I couldn’t help taking a few shots in black and white just to experiment.

I hope you agree that I am really lucky having all this just five minutes from my front door!

“On the hills where the wind goes over sheep-bitten turf,
where the bent grass beats upon the unploughed poorland..”
John Masefield

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Earth Day

I have my good friend Alba to thank for reminding me, via her stunning blog photography, that last Saturday was Earth Day. Click here to visit her blog and see what I mean!

OK, so I’m late, blame thirty years of running railways on that habit!

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on 22nd April. Worldwide, people come together to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970 and today Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to first be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of equinox was later sanctioned in a proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom award in recognition of his work. While the 22nd April Earth Day was focused on the United States, by 1990 it had spread to an international event involving 141 nations.

UN Secretary-General U Thant supported McConnell’s global initiative to celebrate this annual event; and on February 26, 1971, he signed a proclamation to that effect, saying:

“May there be only peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life.”

A beautiful sunset at Dookes H.Q. in Cornwall on Earth Day 2017.

On Earth Day 2016, Paris Agreement on Climate Change was signed by the United States, China, and some 120 other countries. This signing satisfied a key requirement for the entry into law of the historic draft climate protection treaty adopted by consensus of the 195 nations present at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

By Earth Day 2017, the new President of The United States had turned his back on the treaty. It appears to me that short-term profit and political appeasement are seemingly more important to him than the future existence of our Planet as a viable place to support life.

Wake up and get real people.

We only have one planet, isn’t it time that we started looking after it a bit more?

“We’re killing everything that’s alive
And anyone who tries to deny it
Wears a tie
And gets paid to lie.” Joe Walsh

Catch you soon.

Dookes

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone,
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Joni Mitchell

The Cloak of Invisibility

“Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You.”

That’s a phrase that most motorcyclists hear from time to time!

It’s usually uttered by an apologetic car or truck driver just after they have pulled some mindless manoeuvre right in front of your moving motorbike. If you are lucky it’s a case of ‘no harm done,’ but often the consequences can be a whole lot more serious for the bike rider and result in an unexpected hospital visit…or worse.

As part of the advanced motorcycle training that I am known to bang on about we teach riders to create a ‘Safety Bubble’ around themselves. By that we mean to create a zone on all sides of your machine where you can manage the risks that may present themselves the road as you travel along. So if you are following another vehicle, don’t get too close; if something moves towards you from either side then move the other way and if something comes up from behind be aware of it and maybe accelerate or simply get out-of-the-way.

Of course another point to bear in mind is, “Can other road users see me.”

Some of this visibility, call it attention grabbing if you like, is again all about where you position the bike on the road. As riders, there are other things that we can do to help; things like riding with our headlights on and wearing clothing that draws attention to ourselves. It’s a strange thing though and I frequently muse through personal experience that all this gear must form some sort of “Cloak of Invisibility.” I’ve truly lost count of the number of times that people have bumped into me in supermarkets when I’m wearing my riding gear!

W.T.F.? You really can't see me?!?!?!

W.T.F.? You really can’t see me?!?!?!

Most modern bikes don’t give the rider any option with the headlights as they illuminate as soon as the ignition is turned on. It’s not just bikes that can be hard to see in poor visibility, I remember having a major argument with my mother on one occasion when she drove her silver car at twilight in falling rain….without any headlights on! Her excuse was that she could see where she was going, the trouble was no-one else could see her as the car blended into the road colour and general murky atmosphere!

The riding gear that we bikers buy is often black and that’s not necessarily the best to be spotted in, however durable it is for hiding road dirt. I frequently wear a hi-visibility tabard, with reflective strips, over my leathers. A colourful or white crash helmet is another good way of drawing attention to yourself; I used to ride in a very striking Simon Crafar race-replica, one of the best helmets I ever used, if a tad high on the posing front! – I’ve still got that old helmet, it’s way past its ‘use by’ date and now retired, but it still looks great on display in the workshop.fullsizeoutput_fd

I started writing this post a week last Friday, then on the Saturday got news that my old mate G, him of the leukaemia battle, had been victim of a moments carelessness by a car driver who pulled across in front of him with no prior indication! G slammed into the side of a Peugeot and flew 25 feet through the air, before crashing to the tarmac. The pictures of the scene are grim and I won’t be showing them on-line.

G had been riding his Yamaha on the edge of Bodmin Moor and minding his own business at a legal 60mph.

Two totally smashed wrists, one broken vertebrae and one smashed knee later, he got a totally unplanned helicopter evacuation to hospital thrown in for free! Thank goodness for the Cornwall Air Ambulance and also testimony to the excellent gear that G was wearing.

On the Monday G had six hours of surgery to reconstruct his broken body and have numerous bits of metal inserted to hold him together. I visited him in hospital twice last week, it’s not good to see one of your best mates in that state.

It’s of no comfort at all that the car driver has admitted responsibility….

Today G has been in the operating theatre again, this time for further work on his wrists; if he is lucky he will get most of the use back in his left hand and about 20% in his right. Next week he will have further surgery on his knee.

There’s a long difficult road ahead, but he’s Welsh and a true Celt so I have every faith that he won’t accept the surgeon’s prognosis and will work to beat the odds.

I took the Big Blue Ultra Limited out for a ride this afternoon.

Aside from the squally weather, it felt very weird and maybe a bit scary…I really can’t put my finger on it… Then just a few miles into it a bunch of “Slippery Road” signs, light rain and the strong smell of diesel fuel got me concentrating on the job in hand pretty quickly! Yes it’s good to ride, but even better to be alive.

Get well soon G.

“The road is long
With many a winding turn…”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Blue Monday

Hello everyone!

First up, please accept my apologies for being a tad tardy in making posts over the last few weeks. Mostly my excuse is that I haven’t had much to say, so rather than blithering complete nonsense, as opposed to mostly nonsense I thought it best to shut up!

Life in Dookes World is pretty OK, I’ve been out and about on the bikes quite a bit though only relatively local trips. I am, however, getting totally fed up with the constant need to wash the bikes after each ride… go out on a blue Harley and return on a brown one, such is the level of c**p on our local roads at the moment! – No, don’t worry I’m not publishing a photo of a dirty motorbike!

Which leads me to the title of this post.

Apparently, the third Monday of January, (that’s today!), has been given the name “Blue Monday” and has been identified as the most depressing day of the year for countries in the Northern Hemisphere! There are even statistical equations that purport to back up the claim, though as two completely different versions of the equation exist I doubt that my old Mathematics Professor would be very impressed!

Now quite what this pseudoscience nonsense is all based on I’m not sure…though I’m inclined to suspect that travel companies eager to make bookings in the post-Christmas period have a lot to do with it!

Looking out of the window here at Dookes H.Q. today it’s dark, misty, damp and dreary, the forecast says its going to be this way for about a week… so maybe there is something in it after all!

All is not lost though.

We have been experiencing a very mild winter so far with temperatures around ten degrees celsius above average, it’s certainly saving on heating costs!

Best of all, a wander around the grounds here at H.Q. reveals that Spring is racing its way towards us. There are shoots of all my favourite Spring flowers pushing up from the ground through the last fallen leaves of Autumn. Stars of the show so far are a couple of delightful Primroses that certainly have arrived first!

Primrose, Primula vulgaris. Excuse the poor quality, blame the rain and the light!

Primrose, Primula vulgaris.
Excuse the poor quality, blame the rain and the light!

Now with that little glimpse of Spring I’m of to plan some road trips!

Blue Monday? Nah, not really!

“Monday morning you look so fine,
Friday I got travellin’ on my mind.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

La better kind of blue!

My kind of blue!

Jack Frost

I love crystal clear frost kissed days. Those mornings when the blue sky really does stretch to infinity and the sub-zero air burns your lungs as you drink in the purity of it all. If you need it, you get reminded of the pure joy of being alive!
image
Our small corner of the world, poking out into the Gulf Stream warmed waters of the Atlantic Ocean, doesn’t get an awful lot of frosty days. Dookes H.Q. stands nearly 1000 feet above sea level and as a result we sometimes sneak an odd frosty morning while the rest of Cornwall basks in a sub-tropical bubble. More often, especially if there’s a South-Westerly wind, we just get mild rain!

We’ve had a couple of those crisp mornings over the last week and as usual I had a camera with me, so I hope you’ll excuse me a bit of self-indulgence and maybe enjoy some of the results; just click on an image to get the bigger picture.

“Countless drawings, endless sketches
On my window pane.
Master craftsman, skilled engraver,
Jack Frost is his name.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes