Discovering the world on $20 per day ......................

Post 213: Changing Times

Tuesday 20th January 2009, 12 noon EST., Barak Obama takes the oath of office on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. The world seemed to get a little brighter as he made his inaugural speech and I can't think of any other person that has both the brain and the balls required to turn the sows ear that he's inherited into the silk purse that's needed. Good luck Barak Obama,...... and well done America.

On Wednesday, I received the email that I'd been waiting for. It was from the new magazine that's hitting the newsagents shelves in April, ..... it was Christmas all over again at Maison Blue88. Triumph, Moto Morini, Royal Enfield and other new models from Aprilia, KTM and Yamaha, most that I'd never even heard of,.... all new bikes that need testing over the next few weeks. To be honest, I've never objectively tested a bike in my life, I've destroyed one or two but I've never had to report my views on how they've performed,.... or in my case survived, the various ordeals that I've put them through. I've absolutely no idea, and even less interest, in the subtle differences between a group of similarly cloned sportsbikes; CBR, R6, GSXR, and I doubt that most regular owners would be able to spot the difference on UK roads anyway. What I read in Motor Cycle News and other eMap 'Group Tests' is little more than fodder for the bragging rights of folks who seem to always ride spotlessly clean bikes.

If anybody reading this can think of any things that they'd like to see included in bikes tests,..... then don't be shy, drop me a line or a comment and I'll be more than happy to plagiarize your work. What I can say is that whatever I do with the bikes, it'll be fun, relevant and very hernia friendly. Unfortunately I've been invited to wait another ten weeks before my body's finally restored to it's former glory,... so if this cold spell continues,..... I'll be using an awful lot of strategically placed hot-packs to help me along the way.

It's been quite a week and I'm not entirely sure which prospect excites me the most. It ought to be Obama's rise to President,....... but the Moto Morini is a beautiful looking motorbike. As for the NHS, it's not their fault, it's just the way that things work and at least I don't have to worry about paying for it.

Post 212: Taxing Times

In the way that iron filings are attracted to magnets, 'Couriers' are drawn to 'Deadlines'. No matter how generous a gap there is between collection and delivery times, the deadline is always achieved but seldom beaten by more than a few minutes. It's a habit that creeps into other aspects of life, in fact I can safely say,.... all aspects of life.

Every year around this time, I start training my mind for the task of completing the annual self-assessment Tax Return before the 31st of January deadline. It's not that the task is particularly difficult, it's just messy, time consuming and lacking in any form of entertainment,..... it's just a legally necessary pain in the arse that makes household tasks like cleaning and ironing suddenly feel like the most enjoyable distractions that you could ever imagine. As the years have passed and the trading expense column has risen disproportionately to the income column, the £100 fine levied for the late filing of my tax return has become an ever greater deterrent to my tardiness. With this in mind, I began to gather the documents required for the task ahead - not too difficult considering that my entire world now exists within two panniers a top box and a suitcase - and set about entering seemingly irrelevant figures into an increasing number of confusingly complex boxes. Within five minutes, I was totally confused and making my first call of the new year to the Inland Revenue's help-line.

After making that call, it would be fair to describe my mood as borderline angry. With the passing of 48 hours and the consumption of several premium beers, I can now see that the people at HM Government's Revenue & Customs had a valid point in questioning the circumstances that had led me to such a state of overwhelming confusion:

''No, I've been away, I wasn't aware that I could now only file my tax return on-line''
''No, I didn't work in this current tax year''
''No, I didn't receive your letter, .... In June I was in Russia''
''No, I wasn't on holiday, I was taking my parents ashes to Boonville''
''No, my apartment burned down while I was away''
''No, I'm not taking the piss''

They did have a point,..... I wouldn't have believed it either. Unfortunately the task of self-assessment now resides on my 'to do list' awaiting the return of my will to live,... I'll still have it submitted in time,..... but it will definitely be just in time.

On the writing front things are progressing slowly and on the biking front things have stopped,.... it's just too bloody cold to ride, I've turned soft, it's certainly no colder than in any other year but because I haven't been riding every day, I've missed the climatic transition between bracing and biting,... my body simply refuses to adapt. It creaks, it aches, it complains and it begins to tell me that there has to be a better way of moving from A to B for a man of my years. I'm starting to look at ancient cars rolling along the salted roads and finding them strangely attractive and I'm a worried man,....... is it time to grow-up?

Poat 211: The Slowest Book Ever

Progress at last,..... but in order to move 'forwards', I've first had to go 'backwards'. On New Years Eve I was literarily speaking entering Russia,.... but now I'm both literally and literarily back in England.
Thirty thousand words have been dispatched to the virtual recycle bin,.... but they were certainly not the best of words and I feel a lot happier for having abandoned them.
Having travelled so far in reverse, I've now missed not one, but two of my self-imposed deadlines. This failure has invoked the first of the promised penalties and a single Chapter of the Book has been published on the web. It's still in 'draft from' and awaits the scrutiny of an editors critical eye, so please forgive any errors. If you wish to read it, then please follow the link below and if you have any comments,...... please feel free to leave them here.