Saturday, November 27, 2010


A fellow blogger recently asked why I rent a garage when finances are a bit tight. Well, in the winter days before I rented...

Yuk, snow!

Snowing here. Coming down from the north. Wouldn't normally mind but Georgie's flying over tomorrow. Well, she's scheduled to, but whether her flight from snowy Southampton takes off is another matter. Then there's the question of whether the trains from London will be running. They're always a bit dodgy. Just looked up the UK weather forecast for tomorrow and the south of England, especially Hampshire, is due for a heavy snowfall. Apparently it's something to do with warm air coming in from the channel and then freezing over land, thus resulting in tons of snowy stuff. Also looked up the local French forecast. Seems it's going to continue snowing here today and maybe tomorrow. Hopefully the downhill road out of the village won't be blocked. If it is, we're stumped. Ooh it's a nightmare. Meant to clear up Monday or Tuesday though. Then it's rain. But up here in the hills, probably more snow. Yuk. Still, soon be the shortest day. Roll on spring.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Brum, brum.

Nice sunrise this morning.

Anyway, more importantly, bikes'n'cars...

Bikes first...

My current steed is a BMW R100GS. It's 22 years old, very comfy, done only 25,000 miles, is powered by a twin-cylinder 980cc engine that was originally designed in pre-war days, has a reputation for typically Teutonic reliability, is motorcycling's equivalent of a Land Rover and stirs the soul in much the same way - i.e. hardly at all. Bereft of more recent BMW technological innovations such as oil cooling, fuel injection and four-valve cylinder heads, it can justifiably be considered a relic from a bygone age. I, however, prefer to use the descriptor 'classic'.

Although the bike does everything I ask of a motorcycle (start, go, stop), I am becoming increasingly aware of two important factors: anno domini and diminishing finances. It's suddenly dawned on me that this could be my last ever motorcycle. This realisation set me thinking. Maybe now's the time to sell this antiquated heap of metal and re-invest in one last hurrah. Maybe a Honda Blackbird (nah, it's a licence loser). Or maybe a pristine Ducati 916 (nah, too temperamental and ridiculously uncomfy - especially for Georgie 'the pillion'). Or maybe one of these new 6-cylinder BMWs (nah, way too pricey - 16 grand? - and 'flash').

So what would I go for? Well, having given this question due and in-depth consideration over the last few weeks or so, there's only one answer: a Honda VFR750, preferably '95 to '97, with extremely low mileage and just one careful (and preferably rich and geriatric) owner. Spotted one on eBay a couple of weeks ago - '97, 2500 miles, with panniers and top box, one owner, 2500 quid. Would have bought it immediately but it was all a bit rushed and I hadn't consulted 'er indoors. Looked again about five minutes later and it was sold. Damn. That's how quick you have to be. Decided there and then to put my BMW up for sale so I could be better prepared should such an opportunity arise again.

Took some photos of the bike and placed an ad on various biking websites including eBay. Was then inundated by heaps of questions from nutters, dreamers and punters in the UK. For example: Do you know the proceedure for registering a French bike in the UK? Are you willing to trailer the bike to a channel port for inspection? Will you deliver to (e.g.) Basingstoke or Middle Wallop? Why has a White Power rear suspension unit been fitted? Would you accept an offer of half your asking price? What did the previous owner eat for breakfast? An absolute nightmare. Needless to say, the bike didn't sell. Having said that, I've just received another enquiry this morning from another punter. Emailed him hi-res photos. Am anticipating more tricky and daft questions. Maybe I'll just keep her.

And now cars...

I own three: the dogwagon (a beat-up Citroen 1.4 ZX estate that only a dog or a bohemian hermit recluse would be seen dead in), the camper (an elderly, low mileage, VW T25 1.6 Transporter that barely gets used and spends its life garaged in Aubusson at a rent of 120 quid a quarter) and the Golf (a dysfunctional yet incredibly sporty mark2 GTi 16 valver that needs a few bob thrown at it).

The Citroen was bought as a runaround and fulfils its task admirably. The camper was a sort of spur of the moment purchase. Thought it would be ideal for spending week-ends doing up 'the barn'. However, as the barn project has been put on hold, it currently serves no specific purpose. The Golf was bought because I once held up a long line of traffic climbing a steep hill out of Tulle in the Citroen loaded down with three passengers, two dogs and various gardening implements. I vowed at that moment to buy a sporty car that would zoom up hills at the speed of light while pinning occupants against seat backs and sinking eyeballs deep into sockets.

Clearly, I don't need three cars. One would probably do. As the Citroen's unsellable without a massive defumigation programme and a substantial cosmetic overhaul, it inevitably makes financial sense to keep the damned thing and run it into the ground (so far, it appears to be indestructable). So, inspired by my BMW advertising venture, I knocked up a quick ad for the Golf (it's kept outside and with winter snows approaching it makes sense to unload it first - then the camper). Realised then that I needed photos. But the car required cleaning first, both inside and out. Discovered a bit of rust along the bottom of the passenger door. Spent a week-end scraping, sanding and painting with a rust-preventer. Wouldn't win a beauty prize but was considerably cheaper than the 380 euros I was quoted for a proper door removal and re-spray job. Then set about cleaning the interior (amazing how dog hairs, mud and breadcrumbs get into even the darkest recesses - discovered four Biros, some old French francs and a 1994 Easter egg wrapper under the back seat). Realising that I was never going to succeed with just a dustpan and brush, I then headed for the local carwash and its super-duper Hoover thingy. Eventually (after a scary moment when my right leg was almost sucked into oblivion up the Hoover tube) got the car looking fab so took some snaps and placed an ad. which appeared last Wednesday in a French classic car mag.

Had about half a dozen phone enquiries from eager enthusiasts. Trouble was, they didn't speak English and I hardly speak French - certainly not enough to answer specific questions. No great problem though, couple of chaps said they'd come round this week-end to view. Asked me if I had some form from the local Prefecture (county hall) in order to complete the sale. Told 'em I didn't but I'd get one. Whizzed off to Gueret yesterday. Arrived at the Prefecture, fought my way through a load of flag and banner waving revolutionaries outside the front door (dunno what they were campaigning against - could have been something to do with Sarkozy's upping of the retirement age) and obtained said documentation. Then popped into the key shop opposite. Asked if he could knock up a duplicate of my massive (and I mean massive) front door key. Said he could but it'd take a couple of hours and cost 13 euros. Result! Been meaning to get a spare for ages.

Drove back home. Digital dashboard not working. Totally blank. Rats. Just my luck. Car won't sell in this condition. Reckoned it was underpriced anyway (2250 euros), which may explain why so many people were interested. Decided right there and then to keep the car, tell all punters it was sold, throw loads of dosh at it over the coming months and get it back into A1 condition (it is, after all, one of my favourite cars of all time).

But..., I've just spotted a 4.2 litre, V8 Audi estate (woohoo!) that's only done 90,000 kilometres. Up for grabs at just 9,000 euros.

Naughty, but nice. Just the job for driving to England and back. Trouble is..., just 22 miles per gallon (hah! who cares!). Ah well, maybe I'd better stick to the dogwagon and Golf.

Right, so, next..., change oil and filter on dogwagon, get estimate for Golf dashboard repair, then a new exhaust, maybe a new clutch, maybe a new set of hoses, maybe get that door properly resprayed and work out where the rain's getting in (it's a complete mystery), then photograph camper interior (already have excellent exterior shots) and knock up an ad, hope it sells and thus save just over a quid a day for garaging. Ooh, it's all go.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunny soiree

Rubbish weather recently. Cold, damp and grey. Even had a touch of snow earlier this week. Brightened up a bit yesterday though. So took the mutts up 'the lightning tree' to give 'em a run and catch the sunset. Climbed the hill with its splendid 360 degree views at the top. Warm and gentle breeze. Made a pleasant change. Last time we ambled up there, we were blasted by wind and rain. Still, whatever the weather, it's a great place to just stand and take in the scenery. Dogs seem to quite like it too. Sprock especially. Spends ages digging up molehills. Bites out great chunks of earth in a mad frenzy. Then moves on to another one. Stands there with head tilted to one side watching for signs of activity (occasionally spots a bit of movement as a mole burrows below). Jock quite likes it up there too. Being a shortarse, it's one of the few places where he can see for miles. And he really enjoys the run back downhill.



Friday, November 5, 2010


Lots of yellow around at the moment, especially down the valley. Shame there's no blue sky to go with it. One tree in particular really stands out...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Crikey, November already. This year's whizzed by. Seems only yesterday we were enjoying blazing sunshine and long, lazy days. Now the only thing blazing is the kitchen wood burner and the days are noticeably shorter. Lovely time of year though with trees turning to their autumn colours. The wild cherry trees up the back lane are looking particularly splendid at the moment. When the sun shines on them it's like they really catch fire with their bright reds, oranges and yellows. Been waiting for these colours to arrive for ages so I can get my paints out again. Trouble is, just when they're looking their best, the weather changes. Been cloudy, rainy and dull for about a week now, with just the occasional burst of sunshine. Those cherry tree leaves have already started to drop so I decided to start the painting yesterday instead of waiting for a few days of sunshine. By the time it arrives, the leaves might have gone. Made a promising start but didn't finish it. I'll have another go this afternoon after I've walked the dogs.

Taken a few snaps of the garden and view over the last week or two. Amazing how quickly colours change at this time of year. Also took some snaps of the plants Georgie bought from the garden centre opposite Wandsworth nick a couple of weeks ago (see previous posting). Carted them back in the smelly dogwagon and dug 'em in as per Georgie's instructions. Amazed none of them appear to have died yet - I'm no gardener. She's asked for a few bloggeau snaps so here goes...