Friday, February 28, 2014

Furious driving

Blogging about motoring; it's not that there aren't other subjects, but this one really got up my nose yesterday. So here is my letter to the gentleman concerned. He'll doubtless never read it.

Dear Sir,

Thank you for alerting me of the presence of your FJ Cruiser yesterday, during the evening rush hour. Actually, I knew you were there, thanks to your daytime running lights and your car being only a metre or so behind me on my motorbike at 80km/h in heavy traffic. I didn't really need you to lean on your horn too.

Neither did I need you to squeeze between the central reservation and my bike, the instant I moved to one side of the traffic lane. There was barely enough room for us both, and obviously neither of us could change lane. Rush hour. Too much traffic.

I do hope my shoulder didn't damage your door mirror too much as you shot past me. I believe you were able to stop before rear-ending the car in front, judging by the shrieking of your tyres. My shoulder is fine, thank you for asking.

I have learned a valuable lesson. I now know what FJ stands for, when applied to you and your particular vehicle.

Have a nice day.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

In the pink

Achieved V2...and rotate!
I've been driving past the hides at Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary for about ten years, always meaning to stop but never actually getting around to it. Then a couple of weeks go, Nanny Goat asked if she could go and see the flamingoes.

So we went, and took a couple of pictures with Nanny Goat's pocket camera. I discovered that it was possible to get a semi-reasonable shot by taking a photo through a telescope. The other five attempts at this stunt were significantly less successful.

Formation flying.
Anyway, I resolved to return with a bigger camera and a long lens. Yesterday, I stopped at Bird Hide 1 on Ras Al Khor Road, but there were no birds anywhere near the hide. My visit to Bird Hide 2 on Oud Metha Road was much more successful, if being able to photograph large numbers of pink-legged wading birds counts as success.

It's not only flamingoes. One ornithologist in Bird Hide 2 told me that he'd counted 38 different species that very morning, from marsh harriers to cormorants.

I took over 300 photographs. Thank heavens for digital! Here is a selection of the highlights.

They really do have disproportionately
long legs, don't they?
This is what flamingoes do,
when they're not playing croquet.


Friday, February 14, 2014

It's good to be polite

Genuine British Police Officer
Confession, they say, is good for the soul.  Back in the 1980s I owned a plain white Ford Cortina. I also worked for a local authority, and the job required that I made frequent trips to construction sites in all weathers. So I got into the habit of throwing my bright fluorescent yellow jacket on whenever I drove the car. This was fine, right up until the day came when I was pulled over by the Kent Constabulary for both “Driving at 29mph in a 30mph zone” and “Resembling a Police Officer.”

I confess: I was indeed driving at 29mph. What speed would you have done when being tailed by a traffic cop in a 30mph zone? As for the other allegation, there was absolutely nothing that made me look like a traffic cop in an unmarked car beyond driving a plain white Ford and wearing a bright yellow jacket.

But I had wondered why the Porsches that came up behind me on motorways at enormous speed seemed suddenly to notice that they were accidentally exceeding 70mph, slammed on their brakes, and tucked in behind my Cortina at a sensible and law-abiding 69mph. It also now occurred to me why, when my car alarm accidentally malfunctioned while I was driving through Loughborough, the traffic parted like the Red Sea in front of a multitude of Israelites. Something to do with flashing headlights and an earsplitting  Bee-Doh-Bee-Doh klaxon. I’d bought the alarm secondhand, and didn’t know about the wire that should have been connected to prevent the thing going off when the engine was running.

Moving forward in time now, and I note that over the past 35 years, precious little has improved in the Department of Motorcycle Conspicuity. I have tried the Dayglo Derek approach; my current bike has 110 watts of unswitchoffable headlights; I’ve put reflective tape on the bodywork. Yet all seems to no avail. Motorbikes, because they’re smaller than Land Cruisers, are utterly invisible.

An ordinary fluorescent jacket with retroreflective stripes isn’t effective. Actually it is. It increases conspicuity by an astonishing margin, but other motorists apparently don’t give a shit. “They look, but they don’t see,” a grizzled old motorcycling instructor once told me.

Absolutely completely different from,
and definitely unlike, a Police uniform
But now, a supplier of safety gear in the UK has come up with a genius solution. started with equestrian gear – Dayglo for horses. They’ve now branched into motorcycle safety gear. The crucial difference between this new stuff and previous is some clever text on the back: “POLITE NOTICE – THINK BIKE” 

Funny how a small word that resembles at first glance the possibility of being prosecuted for a moving traffic offence is so much more effective than acres upon acres of Dayglo. And in the UK at least, it’s legal.

Dubai motorcycle cop
It’s pointless buying one of these tabards for use in Dubai. The desired effect wouldn’t happen here because the Plod looks significantly different.

However, there remains talk of Dubai Police adopting the black Kawasaki 1400GTR as weapon of choice, and if they do I’ll accidentally have a bike that looks exactly like theirs.


Friday, February 07, 2014

Tour of the UAE

Picture: Gulf News
Nanny Goat is in town this week. The Goat’s sister came up with a brilliant plan that Nanny Goat should visit her favourite first-born male child because he’d quite obviously be unable to cope for the two weeks that Beloved Wife would be away. Because, of course, several years of domestic wedded bliss have cause the Goat to forget everything he ever knew about shopping and cooking and cleaning. Oh my.

Beloved Wife is now back in Dubai, and Nanny Goat is still here. For entertainment, the Goat has taken his mother to the top of Jebel Al Jais in Beloved Wife’s newly-repaired car, he’s taken her around the Dubai Gold Souq and the Spice Souq, they’ve been to Sharjah Central Souq, and been out to dinner. The 2014 Entertainer book – full of BOGOF vouchers – has already paid for itself, and we’re only just into February.

The Goat did suggest that, if Nanny Goat fancied a ride on the Goat’s motorcycle, she should bring appropriate footwear. Jackets, gloves and helmets would be easily handled in Dubai, but not boots. And as she was game, this Friday the Goats rode over to Hatta Fort Hotel to avail themselves of the splendid Biker Breakfast. In order to allow this to happen, the Goat had to promise that he would keep his right wrist under a very tight rein, and would also undertake to practise none of that footrest-scraping, knee-dragging behaviour more suited to the Dubai Autodrome, but quite common on the mountain roads near Hatta and Kalba. And, as it turns out, the Goat has discovered that he does indeed have sufficient self-discipline.

Nanny Goat said afterwards that she really did enjoy the ride, the view, and the breakfast. The only problem was getting on and off the pillion seat of a Kawasaki 1400 GTR, which is up in the stratosphere. Beloved Wife says Nanny Goat is very brave.

The route chosen was coincidentally be very similar to Day 3 of the Tour of Dubai bicycle race. During the cycle racing, the roads would be shut to general traffic, but the Goats planned to be out of Hatta and back in Dubai probably before the pelaton left the start line. It was a bit disconcerting to see the ‘50km to finish’, ‘20km to finish’, ‘Hill Climb Ahead’ signs set up for the cycle race. Jeez, the Goat has trouble maintaining more than 20km/h on a bicycle around the gentle grades of Mirdif! Those world-class cyclists must be unbelievably fit.    

“Unbelievably fit” is not how the Goat would now describe himself, especially following a Hatta Fort Hotel Biker Breakfast followed by Second Breakfast. And there’s a pizza party tonight; Beloved Wife wishes to fire up the outdoor oven. Sic Transit Gloria Diet.


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