Category Archives: Random

Don’t Be A Spectator In Life – Be A Participator

A couple of days ago I took part in a funeral cortège with several other members of the Harley Owners Group Great Western Chapter. Around forty of us rode our Harley Davidsons through a tiny Welsh village near Tonyrefail to pay last respects to Charlie, a former member. The sight of all those powerful machines roaring through valley communities brought many people to their front doors.

HOG Great Western Chapter UK

HOG Great Western Chapter UK

I felt privileged to be honouring Charlie’s memory as it was his express wish that his fellow bikers join him in this, his last ride, and afterwards be with his family for a curry. Although I’d never met Charlie it was evident from the turnout and the many funny stories that he was a popular character in the chapter. His wife and family were clearly moved to see so many of us there.

It was another funeral a few years ago, when my friend and work colleague Uwe died unexpectedly, that led me to buying my trike. I knew Uwe owned a Harley but the entourage of Harley’s that followed his hearse took me by surprise. I was waiting with others outside the crematorium when an incredible roaring sound like an approaching thunderstorm filled the air long before we could see them. It was a thrill for me to see all these fabulous machines and reminded me of a life-long ambition to own one. I was also reminded by Uwe’s sad death that none of us know how long we have left on this earth and how important it is to try and enjoy every precious minute. So for me to be honouring another biker by riding my own Harley as part of the same group that honoured Uwe was a very special moment indeed!

Our Trike

Our Trike

I wish that I could have known Charlie and ridden with him and also with Uwe but we can’t turn back time. It is sad that it was the death of a friend that prompted me to follow through and finally buy the dream Harley – especially as it has given me and Mrs D so much pleasure already and introduced us to a whole new bunch of friends. So, if this strikes a chord with you, please don’t put things off! Seize the day and follow your dream, whatever it is, while you’re still able – don’t be a spectator in life, be a participator. Because participating is so much more fun than just watching!

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Distractions from Writing

The_Trike

I suppose I knew deep down that buying a Harley Davidson Trike was going to eat into my writing time – and I was right. The only reason I’m now sitting writing this in the sunshine is because I’ve been caning the trike too much and it’s caused acute tendonitis in my clutch hand. My doctor has ordered me not to ride for a day or two (well he said a week actually but that’s not going to happen while the sun is still shining!).

I bought the 4-year-old Sportster Iron 1200cc trike from a lady US Marine and she had only done a little over 1600 miles. In just two months I’ve almost doubled that mileage. It’s the new love of my life. Fortunately, Mrs D is far from jealous because she loves it too – you could say we’ve become a trikesome – and we’ve been out on it almost every day, weather permitting.

The reaction of our friends and acquaintances has been interesting and mixed. It seems everyone has some stereotypical picture of bikers in their heads. Some think I’m having a (late) mid-life crisis and seeking to recapture my youth (that could be true – and it’s working!). In truth, owning a Harley Davidson has been on my bucket list for many years.

Our older friends remember the clashes between mods and rockers that terrorised many a seaside town in the sixties, or the rise of Hell’s Angels gangs in the seventies – they believe we’ve succumbed to a cult and gone over to the dark side.

The grandchildren think it's a new climbing frame

Can we have one of these Daddy?

Our close family are bemused but they know well enough that we’re a bit mad and unpredictable – it’s a bonus that we can still shock our grown-up kids. The grandchildren think it’s a climbing frame! (See photo)

I’ve had my own stereotype views challenged too. We have unwittingly become part of a wide camaraderie between bikers that we didn’t know existed and this came as a truly pleasant surprise. Mrs D and I have been amazed at how friendly other bikers are (although some go to great lengths to look terrifying, so far they’ve really proved to be just big softies underneath). They watch out for one another on the road and keep an eye on each other’s property when parked up. In Wales, most riders give a nod, or a wave, when passing (I’m told this doesn’t happen over the border in England, which is a shame). We’ve already made some good friends and met some truly interesting characters (who may well appear in some guise in future novels!). The fact is whenever we park up someone will come over and talk to us.

As for riding the trike – well it’s everything I hoped it would be and more. We love being out in the fresh air when travelling and we see so much more of the countryside than we ever did in the car. The feeling of exhilaration when shooting the breeze on motorways is wonderful too and the acceleration when I twist open the throttle gives a real adrenalin rush. And, to be honest, riding a Harley attracts whoops of delight from children and a lot of admiring glances from parents too, all of which makes us feel like minor celebrities.

So what if it is a distraction from writing? I’ve always thought of writing as a winter pursuit anyway and I can still dream up stories while cruising along the highways and byways of this beautiful country. And at the moment I am busy planning the next book in my head (and, no, it’s not about bikers…).

All I need now is for this damned tendonitis to disappear before the sunshine does!

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Walking to Work

Musselwick-strollers

 

One of my 2013 New Year’s resolutions is to walk to work every day. This may
sound a bit odd because, now I’m a full-time writer, I mostly work from home.
However, I find that just moving from one room to another doesn’t really work
for me after being used to a lifetime of commuting. I miss that distance and the
thinking time it gives me. So, from now on, I have resolved to take a walk to
work every morning, whatever the weather, before starting my writing
day.

I’ve stuck at it for three days now, which is pretty good for a New
Year’s resolution (close to a new record for me!). I’m enjoying varying the
route each day and can make it as long or short as I like; it gives me exercise
and time to think and dream up new plots for stories; I also get to hear the
birds singing in the trees. Down side is everyday so far I’ve ended up in a
coffee shop where I take a break to sit and plan my day. This means I often
don’t arrive at my desk until 11:00 AM – but then there’s no one there to tell
me off for being late – that’s one of the best perks of being my own
boss!

Happy New Year

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If Gardens were literature… (Autumn Photos)

If gardens were books then Stourhead Gardens in Wiltshire would surely be a timeless classic. I do hope these and other beautiful gardens and woodland are not spoiled by this Ash virus spreading around the UK.

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More information: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stourhead/

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Hide & Seek

‘Ready or not, here I come…

Hide and Seek is surely one of the oldest games in the universe. It’s so beautifully simple – one person closes their eyes and counts to ten and the other dashes off to hide somewhere. I loved playing it as a child and also loved playing it with my children.

The trouble is I’m too good at it! One time I was playing with my son when he was about four and I dashed off and hid in a wardrobe. Standing still and silent in the dark of the cupboard I could hear him rooting around the bedroom checking under the bed and I froze expecting to be discovered at any moment. It was a double wardrobe and he opened one of the doors and peered in but for some reason he left the door I was behind closed and failed to spot me. Success! Surely he’d have to give up now. I heard him move onto other rooms and remained where I was. After about half a hour my wife came into the bedroom and almost passed out with fright when she found me lurking in the wardrobe.

“Where is he?” I asked. To tell the truth, I’d been getting a bit bored waiting for him.

“He went out to play in the garden with the little girl next door,” she said, laughing at my being cast aside like a forgotten toy!

Undeterred, I still love the game and yesterday, while Grandma was busy cooking sausages in the kitchen, I played it again, this time with my four year old grandson. I found a really tight but well concealed spot wedged in the corner of our living room between the sofa and a little-used cupboard. Once again I felt the thrill of anticipation at hearing my grandson moving around the room searching for me and not finding me. Soon, he’d enlisted the help of Grandma and the two of them came into the room and still failed to discover my hiding place. They moved on and I could hear them searching around the house calling my name but I wasn’t about to fall for that old trick! After a while, a note of desperation crept into Grandma’s voice as she called out that the sausages were burning. It was only then that I realised I was well and truly wedged into my hiding place and couldn’t budge. Eventually, guided by my cries for help they found me and, when they’d stopped laughing at my predicament, they managed to help me clamber out.

What a great game!

Have you had any embarrassing moments playing children’s games that you want to share?

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Hoggin’ The Bridge 2012

Last Sunday I attended my first ever Hoggin’ The Bridge event and took loads of photos of the thousands of bikers who gather together every year to raise money for charities by riding across the Severn Bridge and heading to Chepstow. Whatever stereotypes you may have in your mind about leather and denim-clad bikers, these guys were friendly and polite and the atmosphere in Chepstow was simply amazing.  The townsfolk lined the streets to clap and cheer the bikes as they made their way to party in the town centre with some great bands playing too (I particularly liked the folk group ‘Rusty Shackle’). A great day out for all the family!

I’ve been a push-biker up until now but this is going to have to change: next year I would love to take part! Here are some of my best pics:

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Dedicated to my former friend and colleague Uwe Frey (deceased) who participated many times in this event and whose spirit will have been lingering in the mist.

More info: http://www.hogginthebridge.co.uk

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A Hug for Gadget Geeks

The Psion 3a

One of my first digital organisers – the Psion 3a

I know there are some writers who shun technology in favour of simple pen and paper and if you’re one of them that’s fine – but I’m most definitely in the other camp. I am an unashamed gadget geek and have been ever since throwing away my slide rule in favour of a pocket calculator. I was one of the first among my family and friends to own a Psion Organiser (pictured) and I willingly abandoned buying CDs as soon as I could download music from the Internet, my cameras are all digital, I do most of my writing on my iPad, or iPhone, and it’s all backed up in the cloud – and yes, of course I have an eReader! I tweet, I blog and I design and maintain my own websites. I love technology!

That said, some of the new technological developments I’ve read about this week leave even a technophile like me flummoxed. Apparently, television remote controls may soon disappear from our living rooms as new TVs will change channels at the wave of a hand. My first thought was ‘wow’ but then I considered some of the practicalities: Does it mean that every time a toddler runs in front of the set the channel will change? I often jump up excitedly when my football team scores a goal and would not appreciate missing the instant replay because the TV thinks I want to switch over! Also, Mrs D has a tendency to wave her hands as she talks – is she supposed to sit on them to watch TV from now on?

Then there’s the new ‘Like-A-Hug’ jacket designed by Melissa Kit Chow, a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which “allow(s) us to feel the warmth, support or love that we feel when we receive hugs”. Apparently, it works through air pockets that inflate when the wearer’s mobile phone picks up a signal that a page has been liked. At first I liked the sound of this but what happens when you’re not wearing it and someone ‘likes’ your page – does it jump off the peg? Also, can people still give you a Facebook ‘poke’? It could be embarrassing if your jacket starts poking you in public!

Such a jacket would be wasted on me anyway as I only have 21 ‘likes’ so far on my new Facebook page… so, if you like this blog, then why not give me a virtual hug now by following this link to Facebook and liking my page too?

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Robert-Darke/430009677022290

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