Sunday, December 24, 2017

Moto Guzzi Nevada

Sold my BMW Funduro a few weeks back. Only rode it a couple of times. Went well, ideal for pottering around the local countryside. Trouble was, it was slightly too high to swing my leg over. This meant I had to get on and off by standing on the footrest then slowly easing my leg over. All a bit precarious. Hence the sale. Went to a very nice elderly chap who bought it as his final bike after a chest operation.

With an empty space in the garage and being without a bike for the first time in over half a century I started searching for a bike with a low seat height. Obvious choice would be an Harley Davidson but budgetary constraints, tractor-like engine characteristics (apart from the V-Rod model with an interesting engine developed in partnership with Porsche which many Harley fans frown upon as not being a proper Harley) and an image which suits bank manager types riding once a week on Sundays (if it's sunny) wearing ripped teeshirts and red bandanas, put me off.

After much searching I'd narrowed it down to a very low kilomètrage (1200kms)  1100cc Yamaha Virago and a 750cc Moto Guzzi V7 Stone 11 (two, not the three which is very new and a bit pricey). But..., the Virago was way up north near Strasbourg and the seller wasn't prepared to accept an offer below €4500 on his €4750 price. Have to admit I was tempted but the weather was nasty (not good for driving) and it was almost the shortest day (again, not good for driving) and getting there and back would mean an overnight stay somewhere. All seemed too much of an hassle. This left the Guzzi as a front runner. But..., €5k, hmm, pricey. Then, as is often the case, something else popped up: a very low kilomètrage 750cc Moto Guzzi Nevada with just one owner from new (a lady), being sold in a village about 25 miles south of relatively nearby Clermont Ferrand.

To cut a boring story short, I gave her an offer she couldn't refuse (well, she could have I suppose, but she didn't), then hurtled along to St. Leonard de Noblat for a cheque de banque, then loaded up the trailer and headed off to Auzat-la-Combelle with Georgie, Hamish and a Thermos. Weather was a bit iffy going there (snow, mist, etc.) but not too bad coming back. Bike was fab, so too the seller and her family. Job done. Roll on spring.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Cranes heading south

It's around this time of year that cranes migrate south from northern Europe, Russia and other chilly places to the warmer winter climes such as Spain and northern Africa. On their journey many pass over our region of France and if you're lucky you can hear them coming (they chatter constantly) and then spot them high in the sky. Trouble is, at such moments, one rarely has a camera close at hand. However, ce matin, Georgie happened to be outside when three or four gangs of these feathered warblers flew overhead so she shouted and I hurriedly took a few snaps. Disaster. Most of the pics were out of focus (without zoom telephoto), others missed their target (with zoom telephoto) and others didn't happen due to flattery battery. Then they were gone. Shown here are two of the best pics which just go to show how bad the others were. Ah well, maybe better luck when they fly north in spring.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

No comment

This is annoying. I can no longer respond to comments made by people kind enough to post messages. When I click on 'reply' there's a box titled ' Enter your reply...' followed by the instruction 'Reply as', followed by the instruction 'Select profile' with the following list of options: Google Account, LiveJournal, WordPress, TypePad, AIM, and OpenID. Huh? Jibberish. Then when I type a message, click on an option (e.g. Google Account) and press 'Publish', nothing happens, zilch, zero. As I said, it's annoying. And..., it makes me appear ungrateful for people making the effort to comment on my bloggings, which just ain't right. Grr.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Georgie's birthday

Georgie's birthday yesterday. Hot and sunny (in mid October?!) so set off for a couple of places she wanted to visit. Boogied across the plateau de Millevaches (splendid area and a well kept secret) without a cloud in the sky. Got stopped by the cops in the middle of nowhere but allowed to continue when they discovered I was anglais - weird. Stopped off at Egletons for a coffee. Next stop, Curemont. Apparently it's one of France's famous historical villages (typically, I'd never heard of it but Georgie had) with the added attraction of having magical healing properties (hence 'cure' in the name). Being on the tourist map, visitor parking was somewhere outside the village, with (surprise, surprise) a very modern ticket machine that gobbled cash. While Georgie marched off to inspect the village, I gently strolled with Hamish up the adjacent ridge. Great views.

Half an hour later, cultural visit over, Georgie returned and we hit the road for Turenne. Again, I'd never heard of it but Georgie had. And again Georgie marched off, this time to the hilltop castle and garden (garden photo nicked from web) while I gently strolled around the lower regions of the touristy village with Hamish (advancing age and physical decline dictate that extreme exercise be kept to a minimum). Killing time, I found a glass of rosé and a fig tree interesting (hence boring photos). About an hour or so later, Georgie returned from up high and joined me outside a pretty café where I was leaking coffee from every pore. She then demolished a lethal looking ice cream while Hamish was busy leaving his calling card on a wide variety of vertical thingies much to the disapproval of la madame propriètaire.

Next, head for home via Collanges La Rouge (yes, it's a red village - photo nicked from web) and a hillside road near Serilhac where we stopped to view our distant barn which, surprisingly, still seemed to be standing, then motorway to Ussel (in a 3.0 V6 Alfa one has to keep eyes peeled for cops) where we lashed out on a McDonald's each, then dogwalk, home and a glass or deux of champers.

P.S. Photo of barn from years back plus photo of impressive view:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Where do butterflies go?

Where do butterflies go when there's a howling gale with torrential rain and a hailstorm with hail the size of marbles? Good question. Anyways..., so, after yesterday's glorious weather I was looking forward to more of the same today. Sure enough, all went well 'til mid-afternoon when a few clouds sneaked in from the west. I didn't notice at first 'cos I was wasting time surfing the internet. Then I twigged that the sun had disappeared from the wall behind my laptop. Opened the window and felt a few raindrops. Then a gust of wind heralded a bit more rain. Nothing serious, just a quick shower. Wrong. Thunder. More rain. Torrential. Howling gale. Shut window. Hailstones. Noisy. I could hear them battering the car port roof. Big buggers. None of your cissy little jobbies. These ones were causing bedlam to the cattle in the distant field. Serious stuff. Lasted for a good twenty minutes. Then it calmed down a bit as the storm moved east. Eventually emerged from the house for a check up. No obvious damage but next door's veg patch had taken a hammering. Spuds had been flattened. Crunched over the hail-splattered lawn to view the distant cattle. They seem to have survived, even the tiny calves. Then noticed Georgie's bins were full. They were empty this morning. Gave Hamish a quick walk out the back, then dished out his grub. Poured myself a vin rosé and sat in the evening sun. A couple of butterflies fluttered by. Which reminds me, where do they go when...?


Sweaty old day yesterday. Must have been way up in the 30's. Spent most of the day indoors. Late afternoon ventured down the supermarché to stock up on vital necessities: vin rosé, chocolate and half a dozen bouteilles d'eau. Took a bit of time to get into the car though. Steering wheel and seat were way too hot to touch and Hamish had jammed himself under the car in the cool grass and wouldn't budge. Eventually set off and parked up. Left three windows wide open for His Lordship - couldn't do that back in Blighty but it's fairly normal out here. Did a quick lap of the supermarché while enjoying the cool air conditioning then wobbled back to the car. Gave His Nibs a short meander in the shade of the car park then bundled him into the dogwagon (much against his will) and set off for the hills and home. Arrived back at HQ where the rabid mutt immediately headed for the shade under the Alfa while I lugged the goodies indoors. Made a cuppa, did a bit of this and that, then realised it was after six. Didn't feel like it though - that's what happens around the longest day. Time for walkies. Dragged the grumpy dawg from his shady refuge under the Alfa and flung him into the smelly and very hot Citroen dogwagon. Set off for Sprocket Hill then remembered that the entrance was fenced off so the farmer's cattle could munch that field's grass - at this time of year some fields are for munching while others are for cutting and haybaling. So, plan B: the Cemetery Run. Parked up in the shade of tall fir hedge and set off. Still very hot with the sun nowhere near the horizon. Welcome shade of the track by the old orchard. Loads of flies. Onwards past the tall trees to where the trees end and the sky opens up. Into the field dotted with new hay bales. A couple of hawks flew off their distant bales to return later for mice spotting. Hamish gave chase but ended up weeing on a bale or four. Then got bored, or maybe too hot, so we headed back, passing a field of very hot cattle. Maybe they were too hot to check out Hammy, and maybe he was too hot to give 'em a woof, so nowt happened. Returned to the car a wee bit hot and bothered and headed for home. Hamish immediately sprawled in the cool grass outside the front door - the sun was now around the back, while I prepared his grub and poured myself a cool rosé. Sat outside while the farmer loaded haybales in the barn by the church using his elderly diesel tractor. Can't beat the sound of an old tractor with the waft of diesel and freshly cut straw while viewing a clear blue summer's sky through a glass of chilled rosé. Then felt a bit guilty 'cos Georgie's over in London 'til Wednesday and I'd been tasked with watering some plants. Did three can's full then sat back fattygayed. Nice flowers though, whatever they are. Took a few snaps. Then went indoors and boiled some spuds. Ooh, it's all go.

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.