Keeping My Mouth Shut!

Hmm. There’s been a notable lack of posts from Dookes for the last few weeks. No, it’s not writers block…I’ve just not really had much to say.

I believe that Mark twain once said,
“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think that you are a fool, than open it and remove all doubt.”

Thinking about it, I’ve known quite a few folk over the years that fell into the latter category!

As folk say here in Cornwall, “What’s on?” Meaning what’s been happening then?

Well, the season is marching forward and Spring has firmly taken charge. Wild flowers are filling our hedgerows, birds are busy building nests and only this week I spotted the first migrating swallows cutting across a clear blue sky at Dookes H.Q.. In many Cornish gardens magnolias and camellias are in full bloom, their blossom may only last a few days, but I think they are worth the space that they take up for the rest of the year!

Magnolia in bloom at Launceston Castle.

On the motorbike front things have been quiet-ish. ‘Baby’ has a new set of brake pads; the old ones lasted 15,000 miles and included two Alpine adventures, so I guess that’s pretty fair for a bike that weighs over half a tonne! ‘Harls’ has been serviced and is pretty much looking as gorgeous as ever, but hey I am biased!

So sexy!

For one reason or another I always seem to be pretty busy and unfortunately that’s been eating into riding time…but I have been out and about on ‘Harls’ for a couple of nice head clearing ‘fifty milers.’

It’s been pretty weird though, riding a motorbike with G’s major crash still very fresh in the old memory. The whole thing has really shaken me, not the least seeing the photos of the scene and also riding past the very site. I was recounting this to another friend the other day. I was sort of trying still to make sense, is there is such a thing, of what happened. He listened intently, then told me that he believed that as I was what he called a “logical” person he was sure that if I only stopped and thought about it properly, without emotion, that I could work it out.

You know what? He was right!

I accept that riding a motorcycle has it’s inherent risks; add into the mix a large dose of idiot/inconsiderate/impatient other road users and the odds start to stack up against any two wheeler, powered or pedal. It’s part of a bunch of reasons why I keep up my advanced riding qualification and have regular assessment rides; it’s all about managing the risks as low as possible. The unexpected can and as G proved, does happen. I’m also a bit fatalistic and every time I ride out of our drive I steal a look over my shoulder, just in case…

Talking of G, he is making steady, if very slow, progress. I try to see him every week and really look forward to my visits with him. We are a proper pair of “Old Gits,” putting the world to rights over cups of coffee, grumbling about just about everything and also fiendishly plotting future adventures.

 Of course a lot of our plans are based around and depend on G’s recovery.

Lets not under exaggerate it; G’s body is pretty badly smashed up. Add into the mix the continuing treatment he’s going to have, it’s going to be a long haul and that’s without the stress that he goes through thinking about it all. Last Tuesday G had to have some of he wires holding his right hand together removed; he told me that the surgeon used a tool like a high-tech pair of pliers to pull them out, no anaesthetic was used, ouch!

Understandably, G has good days and not so good ones. I try to be upbeat, which generally is my nature anyway, but I do find it pretty hard sometimes when he gives me a bit of a grim reality reminder. Fortunately our sense of humour is pretty similar, “warped” was the word Mrs D used once. I have thought on a couple of occasions that I should have been a little less hasty with my suggestions…such as offering to loosen the screws in his arm…!

Oh well, its only what mates do!

On another matter, planning has begun for my next big solo road trip and that’s always an exciting time. More details to follow…

“Call me the breeze
I keep blowin’ down the road…”

Catch you soon.


Born to Run

I am frequently fascinated by many blogger’s who post their “definitive” list of best biking/driving/road songs…and then ask for others to contribute their suggestions, often that’s when things start to get interesting!

There’s an old saying, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison!”

Therein lies the crux of the matter.

Music, like just about everything else in this world is all a matter of personal taste. Indeed, on the music front I can switch around like a leaf blowing in the wind, (no pun intended!) it all depends on my mood. “Definitive” is not a word I use in such matters.

Which leads me to motorbikes…

Here again it’s all about choice and how the mood takes you. If you need any convincing of the wide variety of tastes that exist in the world of motorcycles then you only have to go on-line or pop into a dealership and see the plethora of different styles of bikes available for the eager to purchase!

The vast majority of us generally settle on one type of machine, one that either is spot-on for our needs, or more likely, a reasonable compromise for what we might want to do on two wheels. Take my mate Vifferman as an example; Viff settled on the Honda VFR800 as his “do most” machine, generally used for commuting but with the ability to give some serious “Grin-Moments” as well as limited touring use.

Some folk are fortunate that they are able to acquire more than one bike to indulge their different interests; maybe a sports bike for high-speed fun, alongside a trials bike for a spot of mud plugging!

Nephew Chris on his way to winning another trophy off the road and in the mud!

The great thing about motorbikes is that you can usually find something to suit any pocket too.

Now as regular Bloggonaughts will remember, there are two machines in the Dookes fleet and whilst they are both Harleys, they do actually tick different boxes. They are both firmly “road-bikes” and not really intended for off-road activities; though I have ridden my Softail “Harls” off tarmac in the Bardenas Reales semi-desert in Spain as you can see by clicking here.

“Harls” by model is a Softail, a “Cruiser” that does most things adequately, but excels at putting a smile on my face!

“Baby” is an Ultra Limited, a heavyweight “Tourer” ideal for comfortable mile-munching and in some ways not much else! Yes, I know that there are incredible videos of people throwing big Harleys around like BMX pedal bikes, but generally they don’t own them…or the repair bill to mend shattered fairings when they drop the things, as inevitably happens when you are practicing! I know my limits.

Generally though, the Dookes view on Off-Road riding is that if God had intended motorbikes to be ridden in the mud, he/she would never have given us asphalt!

Talking of mud, there was I recall in the 1970’s a rock group of that name who had quite a bit of success in the UK…which sort of brings me back to music!

Last Christmas Mrs Dookes kindly gave me a copy of Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, “Born to Run,” which is named after his real breakthrough album of 1975. I’ve been a fan of Bruce since that album was first released all those years ago and my vinyl copy was over the years played to death!

I’m often hesitant when it comes to books by musicians, there’s frequently too much padding or simply boring stuff, a bit like a sandwich with too much bread! Stand out for that transgression I found was Keith Richard’s tome, though considering the amount of drugs and alcohol that he consumed over the years I suppose some latitude should be allowed and I should be grateful that he could remember anything!

Anyway, back to Bruce.
He began slowly writing his book after performing at the 2009 Super Bowl and took seven years to finish it. I found his frankness about the mental issues that afflicted his father, plus his own brushes with depression to be quite moving; possibly because of my own father’s battle with dementia.

For me, this really is a book with broad appeal, all you need is a love of rock and roll or a mind open enough to find out what it is all about. Springsteen’s book writing style is an echo of his song writing and that itself a reflection of his roots.

If anyone is in doubt about the writers credentials and background then they should study this book. It is clear that Springsteen is the living embodiment of the “American Dream,” a descendant of immigrants who grew from nothing to Demi-Rock-God multimillionaire through talent and hard work. If anyone has a right to write about the things that his songs explore, it is this man; Bruce wasn’t gifted a shed-full of dollars to start out, unlike the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue….and maybe that’s why it’s clear that Mr Springsteen’s feet are still firmly planted on the pavements of Thunder Road!

“Born to Run” the book, is probably as detailed an insight into the life of one of rocks most iconic figures as we, the general public, are likely to get. By Springsteen’s own admission, there are certain details that he has omitted, either for personal reasons or to protect others, but in general his life is laid bare across the pages and certainly kept my attention throughout.

An added pleasure from reading “Born to Run” has been the subtle kick up the backside to go listen to Bruce Springsteen’s back catalogue and revisit some old musical friends from many years gone by. Like I said earlier, music is a mood thing for me and just lately the mood has taken me back to Bruce…but tomorrow it may be Mozart, John Lee Hooker, or Kraftwerk . . . let’s just see where the day, or motorbike, takes me!

“Come on with me, tramps like us
Baby we were born to run.”

Catch you soon


A Little Bit of History Repeating

When I’m off on my little motorcycle adventures, there’s nothing I love more than riding new roads. Actually, that’s what its all about, new roads, new vistas, new places and new people.

There are times though when I retrace my steps. Sometimes it’s because of necessity because there is no other practical route and other times it’s just because I want to.

Now I’m not talking not those grand places that call me back, like for example Col du Galibier in the French Alps. No, I mean those back roads that just need to be ridden at a leisurely pace without a care in the world.

A few weeks back, as I trundled across Brittany heading for the ferry home, I had one of those moments. I wasn’t in a hurry and the D764 road to Pontivy just sort of called me to enjoy a steady trundle across the gentle Breton countryside.

I couldn’t resist stopping to try to recreate a photo that I took of “Harls” a couple of years ago on the same road.
Heres the first picture:

Harls in Brittany 2014.

Harls in Brittany 2014.

And here we are with “Baby” in the same spot two years later!

Baby, Brittany 2016.

Baby in Brittany 2016.

Apart from the difference in the weather and the height of the crops in the field behind the bikes, I don’t think too much has changed.

“Harls” looks a bit dirtier than “Baby,” but that’s probably got a lot to do with her being a naked bike and all exposed to the elements, as I am when I’m riding her!

All I know is that it’s a privilege to be able to own, ride and enjoy two lovely machines such as these and take them to the many wonderful places that I do.

It’s what keeps me sane in this crazy world that we live in!

“Yes I’ve seen it before,
just little bits of history repeating.”

Catch you soon.


On The Road Again

Good morning everyone, it's a decent day here in Brittany on the North West corner of France.

The ferry crossing last night would have pleased Mrs Dookes, had she been with me; the sea was glass smooth and the ship had very little motion, a bit disappointing really!

I woke with the first ray's of morning streaming through my cabin window and just had to get up on deck to watch the sun rise out of the Eastern sea.

I had an old dear friend who has sadly "gone on," he spent many years at sea, both in the Royal Navy and then the Merchant Marine; Tony always used to say that dawn was the best time to be at sea on a ship. I think he nailed that pretty well!image

I’m just South of Rennes now, 140 miles in two hours, not bad! Traffic was nice and light until the Rennes Rocard, then we hit the shoppers…

Ok Baby is fuelled and I’m topped up with espresso; screw it, let’s ride!

Catch you soon.


Out in the Country

Every morning at Dookes H.Q. the alarm goes off and persistently calls us out of our comfortable slumber at the crack of dawn every day, yes that’s right, every day! You see our alarm takes the form of three working cocker spaniels; Deltic, Bethany and Bluebell. Without fail, as soon as the light of day gets to a certain level, our four legged friends decide that it’s time to get out of bed and burst into song to join in with the dawn chorus! 
Yes, sometimes it’s a real pain to drag out of a cosy bed, but other days it’s a treat to be outside as the new day gets going. Today was one of those mornings that took my breath away; it was a little bit hazy but had the promise of a good day ahead. Things have sort of got to me over the last few days so I took the opportunity to get a few jobs out of the way and then enjoy some “me time.” 

Now before I get someone saying that taking early retirement is pretty much wall to wall “me time,” let me assure you it ain’t! I just needed a bit of space to get my head reset and yes, it was going to involve riding Harley. 

Actually I had a funny little job to do first. Some time ago I was given a couple of large cobble stones that a former neighbour had picked up on a local beach. The two stones have sat incongruously in our garden for a year or so and every time I’ve walked past them they have began to look more and more out of place; if stones could look sad these did! I knew that they were picked up from Widemouth Bay, so after loading them in Harls’ panniers that’s where we went and repatriated my two pre-Cambrian friends on the beach with their brothers and sisters! You know, it made me feel pretty good too, daft eh?

After riding literally thousands of miles on Baby Blue in recent months, it was really back to basics on Harls; less power, less brakes, less comfort, more wind, more noise….I love it! 

I stuck to the back roads and apart from the odd tractor didn’t see any traffic, with no time constraint it was blissful riding at its best!

There’s been a lot of pretty heavy things processed in the Dookes brain of late and a ride like this was just what I needed. 

Nearing home I couldn’t resist a little diversion to Treburland Bridge on the infant River Lynher. This delightful place is only two miles from the front door of Dookes H.Q., but it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been down the twisting narrow lane that fords the water here. Just a few yards upstream and flanked by the last of the spring bluebells, stands the clapper bridge that gives the place it’s name. 

Clapper bridges are ancient structures often found on Dartmoor, Exmoor and of course here on Bodmin Moor. The bridge is formed by large flat slabs of local stone, here it’s granite, supported on stone piers and resting on the banks. Goodness knows how many centuries this bridge has stood here and how many feet have trod those worn slabs of rock.
It’s just the sort of place to sit, gather your thoughts, breath in the fresh clean air and just enjoy the moment. With the river gently burbling over the ford, a billion gossamer winged willow seeds drifting around on the slack breeze and the tang of wild garlic in the air, it really was quite enchanting and certainly uplifting. What else would you expect it to do for a country boy like me?

You know, it gave me an idea. . . 

I do believe that it is time for a road trip!

Stick around, this is going to get interesting!

“Why don’t you tell them what you’re gonna do? Do anything you wanna do.”

Catch you soon.


Simple Things

Sometimes it’s the simple things that make me smile.
No, let me correct that, it’s always the simple things that make me smile!

Take for example last Friday.

My old mate G, who you may recall is currently undergoing chemo-therapy for a particularly nasty form of leukaemia, though what form isn’t nasty, called me up and asked if I fancied getting out on two wheels. Do bears crap in the woods? Yeah, of course I was up for a trundle around on the bikes!

One thing you have to understand about my mate G, is that if he didn’t have bad luck he would have no luck at all. Having to endure regular sessions of Chemo-Therapy is rough enough, but the previous weekend G got knocked off his motorbike by an elderly lady in a car who jumped a red light and didn’t stop!
Fortunately G got off pretty lightly with only some bumps and bruises, mostly testament to wearing good protective gear, his Triumph Tiger was similarly lucky as it fell on top of G!

Anyway, the thing was that he needed a good ride with someone he trusted to get his confidence back and I was very happy to oblige!

I had a small errand to run first, dropping in on Lewtrenchard Manor, a really nice country house hotel, that was conveniently on the route. image

I hooked up with G in a cafe on the Northern edge of Dartmoor and after a coffee we trundled off to the delightful old market town of Moretonhamstead.
Following G, I concluded that if his confidence had taken a knock by his accident, well it wasn’t showing as he expertly flicked his nimble bike round the corners leaving me to heave Baby around in his wake!

Mortonhamstead is an ancient town, noted in the Domesday Book in 1086 and granted a weekly market in 1207. It’s one of those places where everyone feels at home and a sense of belonging. Our mission there was to visit the noted butcher and delicatessen of Michael Howard, famous for his sausages and faggots!  

Now before anyone gets carried away and wrongly assumes the modern, Americanised, derogatory use of the word, let me explain something for you!

Faggots are a traditional dish here in Britain, especially in the English Midlands and more importantly, Wales. Do you see where I’m coming from? It is normally made from pork meat off-cuts, offal and bacon minced together, wrapped in caul and formed into fist-size balls with onion and herbs added for flavouring. They were a cheap food of ordinary people and followed the maxim that the only part of a pig not used was it’s oink!image
Today faggots have largely slipped from favour, except in their regional strongholds, but for aficionados such as G and I it’s well worth taking the trouble to hunt out the real thing, such as made by our butcher friend in Moretonhamstead. Not surprisingly I also ended up buying a pile of other tasty goodies!

Now, I mentioned that we were on the Northern edge of Dartmoor and regular blogonaughts will know that this is one of my favourite local playgrounds; 368 square miles of wonderful granite upland peaking at over 2000 feet and with lonely lovely twisty roads. I adore every wild inch of it, so I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity. Fortunately G feels the same as me about the place and it wasn’t long before I was following him across the wonderful wilderness. The unfenced roads across the moor all have a blanket 40mph limit to protect animals, I like it because it forces you to slow down and take a good look around and just enjoy the view a bit more. image
Riding behind G the best view in the world for me was seeing him on his bike in front of me. The past months of chemo have been tough on my mate and his family and there have been times when our ride would have been out of the question. I’m keeping everything crossed, because it’s looking OK at the moment; G’s test results have been getting better and he seems to be responding well to the treatment. To see him in his element on his beloved Triumph made me very happy and judging by the grin on his face it did the same for him too!

We cut across Dartmoor and through the Stannary town of Tavistock, I must do a post about that place one day.

Soon we were into Cornwall and briskly heading into the vibrant fishing port of Looe, fresh fish for lunch was calling us!

During the summer months Looe creaks under the weight of invading holiday-makers, but last Friday it was an altogether more relaxed place and after a leisurely meal we took a gentle stroll along the quay and enjoyed an ice cream where the fishing boats were tied up.imageThe afternoon was marching on and the light began to take on a golden tint, time to head for Dookes H.Q. across my beloved Bodmin Moor.

Colliford Lake, Bodmin Moor.

Colliford Lake, Bodmin Moor.

Our two bikes roared in harmony as we sped through the clear moorland air.
Yes, the simple things definitely make me smile and riding a motorbike alongside my mate, as he fights his biggest battle, was one of life’s greatest privileges and gave me one of my happiest smiles!

“Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels —
Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields.”

Thanks everyone for your support. Catch you soon.


The Next Little Trip

Regular blogonaughts of these pages will hopefully remember the pilgrimage trip that we made last April to the Somme Battlefield in Northern France, in order to trace the footsteps of my two Grandfathers.

As I explained at the time, it was my attempt at making sense of some of what they were both involved in nearly 100 years ago and the sequence of posts hopefully gave you all an insight into what I found.

Now here we are, just over a year later and a number of things have fallen into place for me about those dark, far off, days. Further research has uncovered couple of snippets;

Grandfather William was awarded a “Wound Stripe,” after stopping a piece of shrapnel with his head whilst in action near Nieuport in 1917! The stripe was a metal badge worn vertically on the left uniform sleeve and signified that the wearer had been wounded in combat. The British Army started awarding them in 1916 but stopped after the end of WW1. Some were also issued after D-day in 1944, but were discontinued after 1946. The fact that William was awarded the stripe is a detail that no-one in the family appears to have been aware of, up until now! I have managed to obtain a genuine, but unissued, WW1 wound stripe that I am going to mount along side his medals and insignia; one day it can pass to one of his Great granddaughters, my nieces, if they ever show any interest. If not then the collection can be sold in aid of veterans charities.

WW1 Wound Stripe,  out of focus pen for scale.

WW1 Wound Stripe,
out of focus pen for scale.

Searches in the Public Records for Grandfather Charles have also been interesting. I found out that he and his unit of the Royal Field Artillery is recorded as “Entering Theatre, France,” on the 12th May 1915.

Now that got me thinking. . . That’s exactly 100 years ago next Tuesday!

I haven’t been able to find out where Charles first “Entered Theatre,” but you can bet it was probably at one of the French Channel Ports. I can just imagine the scene as men, equipment and horses were all being unloaded from a ship. The more I have thought about it, the more I feel that I just have to be in France next Tuesday; nowhere specific, just in France 100 years on.

I shared my feelings with my oldest friend, known in these pages as “Vifferman,” he gets it and is going to ride with me again. It’ll be cool.

We are going to pop over on the night ferry to Roscoff, have a little ride around, then go pay our respects to some guys from another conflict that never made it home, then we’ll come back. I’ll tell you all about that in another post, be great if you ride with us.

Until then, gotta dash and polish Harley for a special day out!

Catch you all soon.


PS Serious stuff this, so no Rock n’Roll.