Sunday, 26 April 2015

History repeating itself

On Thursday the boy passed his motorcycle CBT (compulsory basic training) - a very long day but it did mean that for once he was applying himself to something other than the Playstation controller. His determination to get mobile as soon as possible with the minimum of fuss, coupled with an enthusiasm for bikes that far outweighs his indifference to cars, has made it a logical decision for him to have a motorcycle even if both the wife and I have strong reservations about it due mainly to the injuries I sustained 18 months ago.
Yesterday saw me taking him to look at some bikes at a dealer in Chatteris, with the result that his new bike arrives this coming week, leaving the wife and I to sit biting our nails to the quick whenever he goes out, worrying that he might not come back.

Thinking about it, back when I was 19 it was my own parents that probably sat there fretting, and if I'm honest it was probably with good reason. I passed my bike test about a year after my car test, and the first thing I did was to take a short holiday with a mate involving a couple of days in Blackpool before trickling across to Llandudno via Liverpool, and back across the midlands with a stop in Coventry before heading home. Five days of glorious freedom with my accomplice riding his Yamaha RD350 and me riding a borrowed and somewhat modified BMW R100 with straight-through exhausts. This bugger was so loud that even when he was riding ahead of me on the M1 at a steady 80mph (errm... make that 70mph, officer), he could hear when I opened the throttle, and the noise it made when we rode through the Birkenhead tunnel was absolutely glorious.
After that little jaunt, my life was one of incessant hooliganism on a continuous stream of assorted motorcycles from piddly little fart-sticks to musclebound horizon-seeking missiles. There was the odd close shave, and I did temper my enthusiasm for pushing the limits when I became a father, but until 18 months ago I never had an injury, and when I did get taken out (when a bloke pulled out in front of me) it was as if the motorcycle gene was immediately switched off and I never wanted to even look at another bike.
Yesterday however, I did sit on the machine that the boy was interested in and somehow things started to stir. Sure this was just a wee 125, but it's kinda cool and looks a bit like an old Triumph Bonneville, and it crossed my mind that it would feel quite special to be able to ride with my son.

He's been riding pillion with me since he was was six years old and always loved it, so I suppose him wanting to ride bikes himself was pretty much inevitable.
My only hope is that he hasn't inherited my taste for lunacy and will at least be sensible enough to know that there's a time and a place for the sort of riding that tends to induce a big silly grin.
There's a whole lot more traffic on the overcrowded roads than when I was his age. At that time I'd go out for a ride just for the sheer hell of it; to explore both the roads and the limits of the bike and my own bravery, not caring about the cost because petrol was so cheap.
These days it's harder to find somewhere to really have fun on a bike which is why early Sunday morning rides are so popular - getting your riding fix before all the numpties start blocking up the roads with their tedious wheeled metal boxes.

Hardly seems five minutes since I was saying "You've got a lot of growing to do before you can ride one yourself".

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Fast, Furious, and very very silly

Yesterday I took the boy to see Fast & Furious 7 at Cineworld in Huntingdon, and having watched the trailer I had low expectations.
Personally I thoroughly enjoyed the first five movies (although the fourth was a bit substandard), but the sixth installment was where I decided that it had all become very silly indeed and I'd had enough.
However, given that 17 year old lads are pretty much slap-bang in the middle of the target audience, the boy was keen to see it so off we went, taking care to avoid being ripped off by extortionately priced cinema snacks.

Once we'd waded through the standard half hour of attempted brainwashing by adverts and trailers, we were propelled through a whirlwind of outrageous action sequences so over-the-top that they even made the crappy Pierce Brosnan Bond films seem understated. But in amongst the physics-defying car stunts and repeated fight sequences featuring a pair of testoterone fuelled nutters (including the women) beating the shit out of each other for an eternity without showing any signs of pain or tiredness, there was however the underlying issue of how to deal with the whole Paul Walker thing.
In this aspect, the film makers did him proud. I don't know the details of how they managed to complete the film without him, but without wanting to spoil things for anyone who is still waiting to see it, let's just say that Brian's departure was handled in the best possible way.

Fast and Furious 7 continues the franchises regular themes of hot cars, hot women, crazy action and a certain amount of witty banter between the crew members, and even though the whole thing has really been done to death now, this latest effort is at least entertaining in a very bloke-ish way as long as you're prepared to leave your brain at the door when you go in.
After number six having such stupid bits in as the whole 'tank' sequence and the Antonov transport plane at the end where the runway had to be about 26 miles long for the laughable finale to take place, I expected 7 to be utter rubbish. Leaving aside a couple of bits that took fantasy to a whole new level, it wasn't all that bad - at least I didn't walk out of the cinema contemplating what a waste of well over two hours of my life it had been.
Besides, there was still the obligatory blow-out on Kentucky Fried Chicken to round things off nicely, proving that I can still get the occasional bit of quality time with my son even though we do have to use a large crow bar to get him away from the Playstation these days.
With a bit of luck we'll do it again soon - when The Minions Movie comes out.....

Sunday, 5 April 2015

It all amounts to nothing.... maybe

Today is Easter Sunday apparently - one of only three days a year that the country is shut and the only thing to do is search in vain for something worth watching on telly, secure in the knowledge that tomorrow everyone will be crammed like sardines into every garden centre and DIY superstore in the land.
So am I sitting here feeling nauseous, surrounded by foil wrappers that once encased a hugely overpriced chocolate egg? No I'm not, because I treat Easter with the same level of disdain as Christmas. I'm not religious, and I object to religious festivals being used as yet another excuse for commercial gain. We all know that the amount of chocolate in the average Easter egg is comparable to that contained in a 'fun-size' Milky Way. Spend the same amount on proper chocolate bars and you'll have to spend a month down the gym to work it off, with cocoa-flavoured sweat soaking into your t-shirt. Yet I'm constantly amazed that so many people fall for the 'everyone else is doing it' bullshit, despite knowing full well that come Monday morning the shops will be knocking them out for a quarter of the price they were yesterday just to get rid of them.

But does it really matter whether you fall for the commercial machine's 'this is how you must aspire to live your life' party line or if you have the strength of character and intelligence to forge your own path through life without being affected by what others think you should be doing?
When the chips are down, does it make any difference if you travel through life on a pristine motorway with a heute-cuisine restaurant in every service station, driving a gold-plated Bentley with Keira Knightley in the passenger seat, or if you undertake the journey on a badly potholed B-road littered with roadkill and discarded KFC cartons in a rusty Austin Allegro?
Some people live life at the red line, blasting through to the next life completely sideways in a ball of fire yelling "Holy shit that was fun!", whereas others will come and go without being noticed.
The end result, however we undertake the journey of life, is that the destination is always the same. Death.
With this inescapable fact in mind, the question arises - exactly how many things in life really matter?
I've got another week off work to go, but suppose I decided not to go back at all? Would the world notice if some PHD student was unable to carry out their experiments to try and prove that their new design of vortex generator will reduce drag by two percent? Doubtful.
The realisation of this has opened up my mind to a new attitude.
I've recently been going through a stage of being very down, agitated and heavy-hearted. It didn't go unnoticed, to the point where I had my boss wanting a little word about what was going on. Such a shame my colleagues felt unable to sit me down and talk about their concerns directly rather than involving someone else, but maybe they didn't want the discomfort of me breaking down completely in front of them. Understandable I guess.
Luckily the wife introduced me to a book called 'Stop thinking, start living' by Richard Carlson, and it seems to have initiated a change for the better. The basic premise of his teachings involves stopping yourself from following negative trains of thought and overthinking problems, because doing so only serves to amplify any problems out of proportion.
There's been a lot of stuff on my mind - some issues too personal to talk about here - and by allowing myself to dwell upon and constantly analyze these issues I'd been dragging myself further into a pit of despair that was becoming impossible to climb out of.
By realising that my ever-present tendency to cultivate negative thoughts was the source of my impending self-destruction, I've managed to start working towards a more balanced and healthy mindset.
Part of this for me is working out what's really important in life, which when you think about it rationally comes down to having a roof over your head, food in your belly, clothes on your back, and family and friends with whom to share love and support.
All the other crap is just there for decoration and doesn't really matter in the scheme of things. Whether it's having the full-on 'Hello' magazine lifestyle, or buying overpriced chocolate eggs, it doesn't shield you from the inevitability of a wooden box trundling slowly into a furnace.
Acceptance of this is actually quite liberating, and frees me even more from the self-induced worries about the nonsense of modern life, which is great because if nothing else it allows you to feel totally guilt-free about buying cheap Easter eggs after the event.