Tuesday, March 28, 2017

St. Emilion

Bought a 1995 BMW F650 Funduro motorcycle about a year ago and used it just once to go about five minutes down the road where the back brake locked on. So I stopped. Brake caliper smoking hot. Let it cool down. Neighbour Christian stopped to help with his massive lorry. Helped me get it back home on a trailer. Took it to the local bikeshop for repair. Didn't try it out to see if the fault persisted. Didn't trust the damned thing. So the bike stayed in the shed.

Spotted an ad for a top notch, recently serviced, low kilometrage, 1999 Funduro with new tyres and BMW top case and panniers, down south in a village near St. Emilion, about a month ago. Immediately emailed the seller with a few questions. His answers and tone assured me that he and the bike were good 'uns so we struck a deal. Unfortunately he was just about to go away on business or a holiday (I wasn't sure which) so the sale would have to wait for a few weeks.

Drove down there last Sunday with the bike trailer hitched to the dogwagon. Set off before dawn at 6.30, which was 5.30 in old time (clocks went forward that night) with Georgie, Hamish and a load of extras such as Thermos of coffee, croissants, water, belts (to tie the bike down on the trailer), assorted cds, hi-viz vests, warning triangle, car documents, cash to buy bike, trailer spare wheel, a day's worth of medication (three pills and one powder), maps, tyre pressure gauge, dog water bowl, and a load of other stuff that I can't remember (it's surprising what you need to pack in if you're off for the day). Headed to Ussel, turned right onto the motorway (A89 autoroute to Bordeaux), bypassed Brive, turned off at Montpon, then south on a little road to Chatillon-la-Bataille, then right to 33350 Sainte Magne de Castillon. Arrived at about 11.30, signed the papers, paid the dosh, loaded up the bike and drove off about an hour later.

Headed back to Montpon via the St. Emilion vine country. Very picturesque, especially on a sunny Sunday as it was that day. Interesting to see the vines in March before the leaves appear. Row upon row of gnarled stumps. Come September and October it'll all be different. Lovely bit of countryside. Did a tiny bit of research when I returned home and apparently this little area is perfect for wine-making with an ideal climate and humidity and a soil that's rich in limestone and fossils. And although it's a tiny area, it's home to loads of different wine chateaux each with their own wine label. Foreign buyers are moving in, investing in wine chateaux for ludicrous sums. And there are different levels of wine quality. Grand Cru, or summink. Unfortunately I'm a novice in this subject. To become an expert takes a lifetime. Fascinating study though. (Vine photos nicked from the internet.)

All went well on the homeward trail 'til I made the decision to go through Brive instead of taking the bypass (the bypass route includes a long, steep uphill section which would be a nightmare in an underpowered, 1.4 litre, Citroen ZX dogwagon pulling a trailer and bike). Sunday in Brive, no problemo thought I. However, unbeknown to moi, that afternoon Brive rugby team were hosting a match against Montpellier. TV cameras, the lot. Premier league rugby is hugely popular in France so you can imagine the traffic chaos, especially when one arrives about forty minutes before kick off. Then, to make matters worse, roadworks meant a diversion. Traffic jams with a bike trailer. Oh, joy.

Somehow, I know not how, we escaped the bedlam and found ourselves back on the right road. Stopped off at the service area just east of Tulle for a welcome break in the sun. We'd stopped here about nine hours earlier for coffee and a croissant when there was frost on the grass. Not there now though. Gave Hamish a quick walk then slung him back in the back and headed off again. Well, when I say 'walk', we tried to give him a walk but he insists on stopping and sniffing all the doggy smells at a ridiculously slow pace so 'drag' would be more accurate than 'walk'.

Arrived home safe and sound at around 7.30, unloaded the bike, unhitched the trailer, unpacked the car and took Hamish for an evening stroll up Sprocket Hill. Job done. Bought four bottles of different St. Emilion wines the next day from an Aubusson supermarché. Pricey stuff compared to my usual cheapo rosé. Good though. Almost polished off a bouteille last night with supper. Shall sample another ce soir.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Snow Moon

Impressive full moon last night. Looked very big, even bigger than the one a few weeks back (or was it months?) which was supposed to be the biggest for ages. Apparently it's known as the 'Snow Moon' because the full moon of February generally occurs when we're up to our necks in that white stuff. And, according to the internet, there was a lunar eclipse yesterday too. So, full moon, Snow Moon and lunar eclipse - the moon certainly had his hat on last night.

Naturally, being a hermit recluse, I hadn't the foggiest idea about all this, so when I drove up to Sprocket Hill with Hamish and Georgie for our evening stroll, the big moon came as a big surprise. As is usual when something's worth photographing, the camera was miles away, perched on the desk back home. But, nae bother, one has one's trendy mobile smartphone with its thoroughly modern built-in camera. Nowhere near as good as a proper digital camera, but better than nowt, even though the pictures are a bit fuzzy and the shutter has this maddening tendency to operate at the merest hint of body movement, resulting in an abundance of unwanted snaps including feet, out of focus sky and blurred treetops.

Anyways, we legged it up Sprocket Hill for a good view of the moon and the surrounding countryside and it was well worth the effort. A truly cosmic experience. Mind you, it was a bit slippy underfoot due to recent muckspreading. Luckily this was at the tail end of a sunny day so the muck had sort of dried out. Had it still been of its liquid or damp consistency, Hamish would have been rolling left, right and centre, thus preparing himself for an unwanted shower when he returned home, not to mention his generous adding of perfumery (his opinion) to the stinking dogwagon's interior.

When I downloaded the moon snaps, there were some other photos as well which I'd forgotten about. These included some snaps of a snowy soirée dogwalk at the same location a few days back, plus a photo of the view out front taken this afternoon - very foggy, and chilly.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Final fling

Sold the Honda CBR1000F a while ago and replaced it with a BMW Funduro. Sold the Greeves trials bike and have now reluctantly accepted the sad fact that my trials-riding days are over. On the car front, up until recently I was happy with the Citroen ZX dogwagon as a runaround and the 1992 BMW 320i for longer trips. But..., having now reached the ripe old age of seventy, I rather fancied a final fling with a rorty beast before further physical degeneration robs me of the joy of driving. So I decided to keep the ZX and swap the Beemer for... what? A Ferrari perhaps? Or an Aston? Don't be silly. Limited finances dictated that the budget should be somewhere around €5k, or maybe a tad more.

Spent a month trawling the Leboncoin site (a French website for buying and selling all sorts of stuff) for a lowish mileage (kilometrage actually!) rorty beast that was within budget. Came up with a big fat zero. Then, as is often the way, budgetry constraints flew out the window and I found myself looking at cars in the €10-15k price range. Clearly I'd lost the plot and reluctantly sort of decided to hang onto the Beemer.

But..., that car itch continued to demand scratching. Just in case anyone's interested, the cars I considered included the following: Porsche 944 (good 'uns too pricey), Mercedes 280se 1980's version (good 'uns too pricey), 1994-1997 Jaguar with the 3.2 six cylinder inline engine (good 'uns too pricey), Audi TT (good 'uns too pricey), 3.0 and 3.2 litre Alfa Romeo (good 'uns too pricey) ...see a pattern developing here?

Then, having accepted that I'd be hanging onto my trusty Beemer for the forseeable future, or at least until that elusive lottery win suddenly happened, what should turn up but a car that ticked most of the boxes including that damned budgetty one. So I nipped down to Cahors and snapped it up. Er, not quite that simple. Firstly I had to arrange insurance, then arrange a 'cheque de banque' (involved a 40 mile drive St. Leonard de Noblat and back), and then book travel (train west to Limoges, then train south to Cahors). Ideally, I should have driven down to see the car (nearly 200 miles there and back) before making these arrangements, but I couldn't be arsed, and, anyway, after intensive questioning via the internet (plus a single confusing phone call - the seller's command of English was on a par with my understanding of French, i.e. practically zero) I was convinced the car was a good 'un, and, if it wasn't, I could always say "no thanks" and hop back on a homeward train. Fortunately, everything was groovy so, as I said, I snapped it up and boogied back north in my new acquisition while listening to the tuneful purr of one of the world's finest engines.

Next, unload the Beemer. But before composing a Leboncoin ad I had to get the car through a Controle Technic test (French equivalent of an MoT - if you sell a car it has to have a less than six months old CT... and mine was seven months old). Er, it failed. Dodgy front steering arms, or summink. As I write, the car is in the local Peugeot garage awaiting collection having been fitted with with new wotsit thingys. Neighbour Isabelle has kindly offered to drive me down there in an hour's time. So..., tomorrow I prepare the car for sale. Ooh, it's all go.

Meanwhile, daft as it may sound, I still find myself trawling the internet for bikes and cars. Well, not so much for cars due to exhaustion in hunting for the ideal Alfa. Anyways, here's a trio of bikey gems that have tickled my fancy...

First off, a 1978 350cc CCM trials bike in excellent nick with a price tag of £11,999, offers considered. Hmm, bit pricey methinks, but maybe someone will snap it up. Or maybe not!

Next, a little cracker. An immaculate 1979 Honda 400-4 that's only done just under 2000 miles, up for grabs at £9495. Love it. Need a lottery win.

And finally, my ideal bike if I wasn't so crippled with the aches and pains of being a geriatric old fart, a year 2000, 50th anniversary limited edition, Honda VFR800, in mint condition, with only 5716 miles and a very reasonable asking price of £5495. If I win tonight's lottery, that bike will be in my shed by this time next week.