Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

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Seasonal Shenanigans

Blog Date - 04 January 2019

As a child I loved Christmas. 'Twas the season of getting toys that you could not afford to buy for yourself on pocketmoney. 'Twas the only time of year we'd have Coca-Cola in the house and a tub of Quality Street. 'Twas a time of year when I did not have to attend the horror that was school.

As a curmudgeonly grump in my late 40s I hate Christmas. Spending all that money on things that people don't really want. Cold, damp, wet and miserable. Shopping centres bursting at the seams. Chintzy tacky sickly Christmas adverts. Chintzy tacky sickly Christmas music. I used to look forward to seeing the movies but it seems all the good ones are now on Netflix or Amazon Prime or something like that.

In spite of myself I try to make the most of it. 

I try to take advantage of the lack of traffic on Christmas day. So after being a good father and a good son (visiting my lad with grandma) I'm awaiting the arrival of Sharon. The weather is - considering it is winter - misty and moist but not particularly cold. That said as Sharon pulls up in my back passage (yik yik) she looks less than thrilled. 

It seems in her home town of Liverpool (where the streets are paved with gold) the beautiful people are bathed in a gentle golden sunshine and the fresh clean air is not cold just slightly tepid. Here in the grimy hovel hell-hole of Horwich the air is chilled and dirty, the roads are slippery and damp and the traffic is horrendous. Maybe I should move to the quaint peaceful coastal resort of Liverpool?

After a brew and a warm-up (it is hard to warm-up in a house that never has the heating on) Sharon is recovered. She decides that it would be much nicer to sit on the back of my bike and let me take the strain. Fine. 

Christmas day is not devoid of traffic, if only it was. In spite of Sharon's previous protestations though it is comparatively quite. In Preston we find we can't actually get to the town centre using motorised transport but we can look up the main shopping street, Fishergate. All is calm with a mere handful of solitary walkers, I find it truly fascinating.

Fishergate Preston. A street filled with shops but no people because it's Christmas day
Rare indeed to see the main street in Preston almost empty.

Southport is equally quiet and being part of Merseyside (where the streets are paved with gold) the weather's a bit better too. The only problem is all the cafes are shut so there's nowhere for a brew. How inconsiderate. 

Southport is grey and devoid of life save for one person walking across the shot
There's always one person and one car to spoil the shot. 

So that was Christmas day, Tuesday. This coming Saturday we're meeting with friends at - ahem - Lymm Poplar 2000 services - for a ride out. Sharon ought to know where this is as we've been several times before. Sharon's brain is wired to understand things like colours and people, there's very little "navigational" circuitry in there and I have learned to accept she has no mental map. I'd best take her there today, today being Wednesday, Boxing day.

The motorways are grey, the skies are grey, the roads are filled with those in search of winter sale bargains and yet my mood is on the up. Why? The good thing about Boxing Day is this is the day that is furthest away from Christmas. I have a full 11 months before the next bout of seasonal angst. 

Sharon recognises the services and repeats to herself "Jcn 10 M6 south Birmingham, Jcn 20 Lymm, 2nd left then right... Jcn 10 M6 south Birmingham, Jcn 20 Lymm, 2nd left then right... " as we drink hot tea. She'll be fine. Hmmmm. I have visions of a call "where is Stafford in relation to the services?" "Stay where you are sweetie, I'll come and get you".

Ren in a car park beside the bikes almost smiling at the camera
I'm not smiling OK, it's wind.

The general plan was to head towards Derbyshire and the Peak District but I'm just not feeling it today though. I'll take a detour through Chester, hopefully we'll find a hill and with Sharon's lack of mental map she'll be non-the-wiser. 

When I look around the places where I live and work and socialise I may have cause to ponder how a company like Porsche can exist and what kind of idiot has £200 to spend on a bottle of perfume. I only need to travel to Cheshire to see such things are mere frivolities for some. High-end fairy lights twinkle in the "cheap" terraced houses set next to the village green with Audis parked outside. On the edge of the village the houses get larger along with the cars and the manicured lawns.

It is pretty. It's also cause for concern. I'm no left wing come the revolution power to the people type like Citizen Parker riding behind me but even I can sense the gap between the haves and have nots is, well, larger than it could be? It's all about balance and moderation, we've come a little too far to the right for my taste. Anyhow I'd be embarrassed to drive a Range Rover HSE with tinted windows, oh the shame. Hang on, perhaps that's WHY they're tinted?

I depart Comrade Sharon on the M6, she heads back to the halcyon bliss of Halewood and I return to the horrors of Horwich. We've not achieved much today but as I cover the last 5 miles of darkening motorway I decide not every single ride needs to be a stunning adventure. We got out there and had a mooch, more than most folks did.

Today is now Saturday. Today we're meeting with friends at Lymm services with a mind to go to "The Ponderosa" cafe near Llangollen. 

1030 is departure time. I'm first there at 0945 but I'm soon joined by another couple of riders. I am slightly concerned that Sharon will be lost or late but no, at 1010 I see her green Kwakker rolling into the car park. Well done that woman, not lost and not late. 

The skies are light grey though there are patches of ominous dark dark grey. To waterproof or not to waterproof, that is the question. Not. I'm going to be brave, or foolish, time will tell.

I lead myself and 6 other bikes a merry dance through Great Budworth and Northwich. Then Bernard takes the lead and blindly follows sat-nav... straight into Chester town centre on a Saturday... just after Christmas. Oh dear. After wrangling ourselves out of town we're soon back on the pretty roads heading for The Horseshoe Pass and the cafe. 

A BMW R800 with luggage and covered in Christmas tinsel
Bernard is rather more serious about Christmas than I ever will be.

It's been a good year 2018 weather wise and even today at 400 metres above sea level the air is crisp and clear. OK, yes it might be a tad nippy but given this is December 29th I daresay this is practically a miracle! The downside is if 2019 proves to be merely an average year it's going to feel like a washout.

The Ponderosa cafe on the Horseshoe pass in late december
The Ponderosa. Clear, dry and not as cold as I'd expected.

We dine heartily and talk cruelly to each other, as friends do. Another run through the gorgeous Welsh countryside and a wriggle along some delightful twisty roads sees us parking up once more for another round of brews at The Llyn Brenig Visitor Centre. More teasing, another warm up and pleasing vistas across the reservoir.

Llyn Brenig, the centre and the reservoir and hills beyond
We couldn't hope for more than this in late December.

Back on the road we have another handful of twisty miles to relish before the motorway and darkness leads us back to our homes. I'm stopping at Sharon's tonight, I think we'll only have a light snack for tea because I'm stuffed.

Here I am now writing in 2019. I'm staring another long winter right in the face and wondering how to make the most of it. Regular readers will know I've taken to doing a winter trip but this year I can't seem to make it happen yet. 

One part of the problem is I'm now "employed" as opposed to "self employed" so I need to use my holidays carefully. That's not the real issue. No, my winter trips were to escape the monotonous dark and depressive moods of January and February. I wouldn't go as far as to say I'm "happy" right now but I'm "comfortable". I fear I may be getting old.

We do have a night away in a hotel planned this February. Maybe I'll get away in January, maybe not. Maybe it'll be March? I don't know. I feel as though I should go away but really? I may be getting old but I still have some growing up to do.  

If you've a winter motorcycling tale to share send it to

Reader's Comments

Upt'North said :-
Remember Ed there's only 354 shopping days until Christmas which is about 30 million seconds, one, two, three.
04/01/2019 07:11:37 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Stop it Upt'North - you're making me panic already! Right that's it I'm off late night shopping and I'm gonna put the sprouts on today!
04/01/2019 08:13:02 UTC

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