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

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

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!
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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

Playing on the Tracks

It’s a chilly late October afternoon, the temperature has struggled up to 9° Celsius and the sun refuses to burn through the grey covering cloud. Black feathered Rooks are calling from the high trees around the old railway station. The air is still.

This is Autumn in Brittany.

Jean-Claude and his mates are playing Breton Bowls on the ground where the old railway lines once lay. They gather here most Fridays to play their game share a meal in a local café and generally enjoy each other’s company. The cackle of their laughter competes with the cries of the black birds above them, whilst the clunk of stone bowling balls punctuates their conversation.

Boules Bretagne on the old railway.

Boules Bretagne on the old railway.

“Hey, Gallois come and have a go!” Jean-Caude implores. “Leave the ghosts of the old railway alone.”

The old station fascinates me.
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Mur de Bretagne saw its last train steam out towards Carhaix nearly fifty years ago when the metre gauge Réseau Breton railway system closed down. I only wish I could have enjoyed it before it vanished forever. The network linked many rural communities and it’s closure pushed many small towns into a kind of time warp that they only really came out of after the turn of the 2000’s. Today around Brittany most of the old station buildings remain, the French can’t see the point of demolishing perfectly good structures when alternative uses can be found.

Mur de Bretagne Station in 1910.

Mur de Bretagne Station in 1910.

At Mur the station now serves a local cycling club, the fire brigade and of course the Breton Bowling club, talk about diversification!

I smile.
“Un petit moment, Jean-Claude, je besoin explorer le vielle station.” – “In a minute Jean-Claude, I must explore the old station.”

My friend shrugs his shoulders, he understands my interest in the history of the old railway, but to him it’s just that, history.

He can remember the station when it was open and he stood here the day that the last train departed. To him it’s gone and no end of interest from me will ever bring it back… The bowling is what matters now.

I get it, but my curiosity and passion for old railways wins out.

The station is a wonderful mix of good repair and partial decrepitude. On the side where trains once ran the building is in good repair and well-tended, whilst at the rear there is evidence of slightly less love being endowed on it and that makes it more interesting. It’s just crying out for some monochrome photography.p1070925

In my mind’s eye I can see the busy bustle of the place when it was still served by the Réseau Breton. At least it still lives on serving the local community in other ways. p1070924

I marvel that the old enamel name board still proclaims the town on the gable end. Back in the UK that would have disappeared to a collectors wall years ago!p1070920

The game is progressing and I’ve missed out the chance of looking silly by joining in. Maybe the old station saved me from gentle embarrassment!p1070922

J-C looks at me and winks, he’s winning at the moment!

There’s a strong coffee with a splash of Lambig, the local calvados type firewater, waiting at the end of this game. Then there will be Poitrine Fumé, Haricot Blanc avec ail and tarte-tatin to follow, all washed down with a local rough wine, my kind of heaven!

There’s a hint of wood smoke in the cool air, the clear clean air of Brittany and just at the moment there is nowhere else in the world that I’d rather be.

Catch you later – À bientôt!

Dookes

Bike Night

Motorcyclists in our part of the world are a lucky bunch; not only do we have stunning scenery, twisty roads and wonderful coastlines, but during the summer months we also enjoy a selection of events known as “Bike Nights.”

The basic principle of a Bike Night is very simple, riders and their machines gather to admire each other’s bikes and socialise with like-minded people. In scale the “Nights” range from small gatherings at a local café to impressive events with live music, bars and shops. (Though having a bar must be of questionable sense for people riding home afterwards!)

At this point I must confess to being only a very occasional visitor to “Bike Nights.” It’s just that if there is a nice evening to enjoy I’d much rather be actually munching the miles on two wheels than talking about it!

A couple of weeks ago I had arranged to hook up for some supper and ride to Bude, on the North Cornwall coast, with my oldest and dearest friend, known on these pages as “Vifferman.”

“Viff” works across the Devon border in Barnstaple and by taking a rather circuitous route on a beautiful afternoon I was able to enjoy just over 100 miles of delightful sunshine before meeting up with him at a convenient service station. We then enjoyed a spirited run to Bude and took on board that food of all British Bikers – Fish and Chips!

On arriving at Bude quay, we were pleasantly surprised to find “Bike Night” in full flow!

Can you spot Baby Blue?

Can you spot Baby Blue?

Bude Bike Night one of the smaller events, centred on a local café and as a result it’s very laid-back and relaxed…which pleased “Viff” as his Honda is well used and sometimes a tad grubby!

We parked up and had a cursory look at some of the bikes before enjoying our fish supper whilst putting the world to rights on a quayside bench.

Summer waning away with the ebbing tide.

Summer waning away with the ebbing tide.

It was a glorious evening with heavenly warm light from the dipping sun. The air was, however, tinged with that peculiar sadness that comes with summer closing fast and the knowledge of long dark nights of winter rapidly heading towards us.

Sunset at Bude.

Sunset at Bude.

Leaving Bude on my big blue Harley, I rode the Atlantic Highway into the setting sun and had time to muse.

Evenings spent with friends like “Viff” are like the light, golden, precious and to be treasured. I’ve known my mate all my life, well over fifty years, we’re the brothers that choose to be brothers and d’ya know, I don’t see enough of him these days…we need to change that!

“Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields.
You know I don’t even know what I’m hoping to find …
Running into the sun, but I’m running behind.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Dust

Grabbing some nice shots of the morning Autumn mist a couple of days ago was very satisfying. As you would expect, I took far more shots than just the one that I posted in “Soul Mover.”

To start with it was all looking good, but as I was inspecting my handiwork closely I noticed a blemish in one of the photographs. I checked the next frame. Oh no, same blemish and then again in the next shot and the next one. You can see the wretched things just above “Harls” in this shot.image

On even closer inspection, there were at least three small blotches on every picture. Time for a bit of head scratching!

I checked that the lens was clean. Then had a good look to make sure that there was nothing obviously amiss such a scratch on the lens or anything loose inside the camera. A couple of test shots revealed that the problem was unfortunately still there.

If I was dealing with a 35mm film SLR camera it would have been simple to remove the lens, check the shutter gate, clean as required and that would have been it, but compact digital cameras aren’t that simple. No, the things are sealed up like the tomb of King Tut!

The principle of a digital camera is quite simple. In place of film is an image capture sensor on which the picture is projected and converted into a digital information. There’s also small filter between the sensor and the lens. If any dust or foreign body was appearing as marks in my pictures then it had to be in that part of the camera. I suppose at this point that most people would have made a bee-line to the nearest camera shop and put their device in for a service.

Dookes isn’t like most people.

No, it was obviously time to head off towards the “Man-Lab.” In that haven of joy and peace, where much happiness is to be had amongst a multitude of unfinished projects, electrical components, models of trains, cars and aeroplanes, plus the other stuff that Mrs Dookes doesn’t even try to understand; I set to work!

The camera in question is a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ22. It is getting on a bit, but I like it. With it’s Leica lens it performs well and being a compact is great for taking on my travels. One day I know I’ll have to replace it, but not yet.

With a large piece of plain paper on the desk, I began by dismantling the outer body of the camera. Next the three ribbon leads connecting the screen to the motherboard were carefully removed, followed by the board’s protective metal plate. Now I was getting into the heart of the camera and things were getting exciting! The sensor mounting assembly screws were carefully removed and it’s electrical connection released. With some trepidation I lifted the sensor out of the camera; I wonder if bomb-disposal feels like this…except of course without the risk of getting blown-up!

Once the sensor was free I carefully examined it under my desk magnifier and sure enough, there were the offending specks of dust. Now all I needed to do was to gently clean the sensor, reassemble the camera and test it. image

This is the camera stripped down, that’s the image capture sensor at the lower left.

How did the dust get in there? Well, like many cameras the Lumix has a retractable lens assembly that powers in and out on start-up and shut-down plus when using the zoom facility. I suspect that this action has over time worked a bit like a pump and simply drawn in airborne dust particles.

I’m very pleased to report that all went well and I am now enjoying dust free photographs once more!

Not a blotch in sight!

Not a blotch in sight, shame about the power-lines!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Goodbye Dog Days of Summer

OK I admit it, I’ve not been out on two wheels anywhere near enough in recent weeks!

I’m not over worried about the lack of bike action though. I had to smile to myself yesterday when the latest copy of HOG, Harley Owners Group, magazine dropped through the Dookes letterbox and the editorial commented that this year’s  “Riding Season” was coming to a close.

I’m sure that I have previously mentioned, to me there is no defined “Riding Season.” I ride all year round, whenever I can get out. It’s just about having the right gear and more importantly the right mental attitude and the commitment to clean the bike off afterwards…!

As I said in my last post, life has been busy and just as if I needed reminding to slow up a bit my body has done it for me. A torn Achilles tendon and a mild kidney infection have slowed me up nicely and given some badly needed time for recharging the old Dookes batteries. I do feel a bit of a fraud though, my mate leukaemia battling G is back in hospital and considerably more poorly than I am; here’s thinking of you fella.

Sadly, summer in the Northern Hemisphere is beginning to wind down; shadows are getting longer and the nights are noticeably drawing in. We’ve still been enjoying plenty of good weather though, all is not yet mists and leaf-fall, but the dog days are certainly gone for another year.

In our garden at Dookes HQ we have a delightful raised bed planted full of various types of mint. It’s useful as a herb for cooking, but at this time of year I love it because the flowers acts as a magnet to butterflies and bees.  This summer the butterfly population of Cornwall has been noticeably depleted, possibly this is a result of our mild wet winter last year, so its been great to see at least some of our residents topping up their nectar levels on our mint blossom. On a glorious morning the other day I grabbed a camera and stalked the butterflies for a few minutes, I must say that I am quite pleased with the results!

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This rather lovely Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais ureicae) caught my eye with its dazzling colours. This is one species that has suffered a worrying decline in recent years, particularly in the South of our country. One theory is that is being attacked by a parasitic fly, whose range is spreading due to global warning. It’s still one of our most widespread butterflies and occurs throughout the British Isles. I just glad it chose our garden!

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Looking at the photos, I think that they might be two  different butterflies as the wing pattern doesn’t seem the same in both photos. I am, however, very pleased with the results and I hope you like them.

“What it’s like to walk amongst butterflies.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes