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

Post 231: A Fox Perspective

Killing time in swanky reception areas s an occupational hazard that never seems to disappear. Normally the time is passed by watching the comings and goings of various people and according to their levels of politeness, trying to guess who is there to 'Sell' and who is there to 'Buy'. However, on the cinema sized plasma screen they were showing Fox News, a programme that I haven't seen since leaving America last November. I couldn't avoid watching it, I was hooked.

It's nice to see that in an attempt to provide a balanced view of both domestic and world events, Fox News carried an equally large chip on both of it's shoulders. It was an educational hour and the first revelation was that due to light snowfall overnight in one of the Northern States, Fox News could now prove conclusively that Climate Change was nothing more than a myth. Secondly, it was good news for George W Bush because the current world economic crisis was caused entirely by President Obama. GWB and the Republican Party are apparently innocent of all charges.

I then learned from Bill O'Reilly that President Obama was now actively appointing known racists to the position of Supreme Court Justice, which I suspect is the equivalent of a UK Law Lord. A judge by the name of Sonia Sotomayor apparently suggested that being an 'Hispanic Woman', she could understand the challenges faced by other 'Hispanic Women' more easily than your average 'White Man'. Apparently, instead of being a logical statement of fact, that comment simply makes her a 'Racist'.

Thankfully towards the end of the Fox News Hour, they moved on to more serious matters and briefly discussed the threats posed by Iran's Mahmud Ahmerdineajad and North Korea's Kim Jong Il. Although the former wants to wipe Israel from the face of the earth and the latter is exploding nuclear devices for the sheer fun of it, the biggest topic for discussion was their respective hairstyles.

As the programme ended, Fox News had clearly saved the very best for last. They praised George W Bush for his refusal to criticise President Obama for his poor handling of the economy and stopped just short of suggesting that GWB would be a good role model for Obama to follow. In the credits I found that Bill O'Reilly was sponsored by a bespoke tailor and a producer of tooth whitening products ....... and who said that comedy was dead?

Post 230: BMW Madness

Oh to have been a fly on the wall at the design meeting when the normally same BMW boffin's came up with these new 'K' series bikes. It probably started off on safe ground with the K1300 GT and S models which are both fast, practical and in BMW terms, totally conventional. I can only imagine that BMW were offering work experiences to a student who was then invited to contribute to the proceedings. The result of that contribution was the K1300 R. The 'R' I suspect stands for 'Roadster' put probably owes more to the 'Reefers' that the student clearly passed around during the lunch break ...... The K1300 R is totally insane.

Roadsters such as the Suzuki Bandit 1200, the Yamaha XJR 1300 and the Honda CB1300 have been around for some time and a similar example from BMW shouldn't really come as anything of a surprise. The conventional wisdom has always been to take a proven sports bike engine, slide it into a street bike frame and adjust the power to compensate for a lack of wind protection. It generally works quite well and you end up with a bike that's both practical and fun. However, BMW seem to have forgotten one major element in the design of the K1300 R ...... At 176 bhp, they didn't reduce the power.

The 'R's' handlebars are quite low and BMW have added a tiny bikini screen to deflect the worst of the windblast, but when you open the throttle in any gear, this bike just vanishes towards the horizon and if your arm and neck muscles are strong, you might just be lucky enough to keep up with it. For the first thirty minutes it's fun, but any longer than that and it's difficult to think of anything far beyond your own mortality. With a flick of the wrist in any of the first three gears the front wheel lifts into the air but thankfully usually lands in a straight line. The top speed is really quite academic because your arms and neck will never be strong enough to reach it. Unless you're laid flat along the tank like a teenager on his FS1E, anything above 85 mph becomes quite painful but I suspect that the 180 mph limit of the speedometer is not overly optimistic. The only subtle thing about this bike is the light grey paintwork, but it also comes in bright orange. The K1300 R is not the fastest bike that I've ever ridden ........ but it certainly feels like it.

We had a great time messing around on these three bikes and although I really wanted to love the K1300 R, my heart was lost to the bigger and more expensive Grand Tourer. The K1300 GT is definitely the fastest, safest and best handling touring bike that I've ever had the pleasure to ride. It has every gizmo imaginable, it hides it's weight well and any bike that allows the pillion passenger the ability to determine the warmth of their own arse at the flick of a personal button ........ has got to be given respect.

Post 229: Grumpy Old Man

This week I've finally submitted my 2007/2008 tax return to the Inland Revenue and TRD have asked for my expense receipts for the month of April. I'm self-employed and as such, I'm legally bound to make sure that any expenses I submit are directly related to the income that I produce. If I make an 'Accounting Error', accidental or otherwise, then I face prosecution and if found guilty could receive a sentence of up to ten years in prison. I'm not an MP, I don't own a first or second home that I can 'flip', my rented room isn't big enough for a plasma TV and while my room is definitely my castle, it certainly doesn't have a moat. I fully expect the Inland Revenue to question my claims .... they always do. In a few months time, they'll insist that I owe them more money .... they always do. Of course I'll pay them .... I always do. They understand that for individuals like me, it's cheaper to pay them than it is to fight them. They grind you down until you finally reach for the cheque book and willingly bend over to accept your punishment with a smile.

Our MP's don't seem to see anything wrong with having their collective snouts in the Westminster trough, they just seem to be miffed about the fact that they eventually got caught doing it. They expect me to purchase and carry an ID card, they want to store all of my personal data with unknown third-parties, they want to read my personal eMails yet these same MP's tried to defeat the freedom of information request that finally brought their expenses into the public eye. In a few weeks time we'll have the European Elections and the three main political parties are worried that we'll all go out and vote for the loony fringe. But who the hell should we vote for?

Our elected leaders seem to think that because of 'Expensegate', we've lost all confidence in them ...... which suggests that they are totally dim or have very short memories, perhaps both. War on Iraq? 45 minutes from Destruction? 48 Hours to save the NHS? The Hutton Report? Cash for Questions? Cash for Honours? Referendum on the European Constitution? Light Touch Banking Regulation? Britain best placed to endure the Global Recession? Economic Growth of 3.5% in 2010? The only politician that seems to have brought any glimmer of light to the dark hole that is Westminster, is Vince Cable of the Liberal Democrats. Unfortunately St. Vince isn't standing as an MEP in my constituency and therefore I couldn't vote for him even I wanted to. Maybe I'll vote, maybe I wont ....... but at the moment I'm in favour of 'None of the above'.

On a much happier note, BMW seem to be trusting TRD to ride their latest range of superbikes; the K1300RR, K1300GT and K1300S. It's bound to be raining in South London on Monday morning ....... but somebody has to do it. I've no idea what we're going to do with the bikes or where we'll be riding, but I'll certainly make sure that my fuel receipts are in order.

Post 228: Busman's Holiday

I had a choice, I could either complete my 2007-2008 tax return for HM Revenue & Customs ....... or I could do something else. As the sun was shining, 'Something Else' won by a landslide.

I've worked in London for longer than I'd care to remember and while I've developed a certain fluency in the language of 'Post Code', I've never actually done the more usual tourist things. I convinced my daughter that 8am also existed at weekends and dragged her into London for a day of low cost capital exploration. We'd avoid the likes of Madame Tussaudes and instead concentrate on the cheaper side of London.

Starting in the City, Hannah already knew that 'Monument' had been built by Sir Christopher Wren and at 202 feet tall, she understood the significance of it's height. She was aware of the historical importance of 'London Stone' but found it difficult to understand why it was hidden away in a wall where everyday thousands of people walk past and have no idea that it's there. As groups of tourists stood gazing at the Royal Exchange Building at Bank Circus, Hannah correctly identified that they were looking in the wrong direction and pointed out the real Bank of England on the opposite side ot Threadneedle Street. Working east, I showed her an old photograph of St Paul's Cathedral and invited her to spot the significant difference to it's facade. She got it, but I suspect that many people wouldn't. Next it was 'Temple Church' which she'd heard of through the Da Vinci Code but had no idea where it was or even that a few acres of blissful tranquility could exist in the centre of one of the world's busiest cities. Before Dan Brown went and ruined it, this had been one of my favourite places to escape the CitySprint controller's and relax with a flask of coffee. Into China Town and a second site from the Da Vinci Code, the Jean Cocteau mural in the Notre Dame de France which impressed her not ..... and if the truth be told, me neither.

Across the river, we looked at London's finest fresco's of amateur 'Tagging' and watched a couple of young artists applying their art. The street artists along the Southbank were out in force and especially impressive were the dance groups who entertained the audiences with a fine display of double jointed gymnastics. We finished the day with a 'flight' on the London Eye, the only event that cost any real money in our short 'Poor Circulation' of London ..... but it was very impressive, worth every penny a good end to a great day out in London.

Post 227: Future Plans

In the Spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love ....... really? I'm not here to knock Alfred Lord Tennyson, but surely even back in the 19th Century it didn't take the arrival of 'Spring' to move a young man's thoughts in that particular direction. Perhaps I'm a lot older than I realised and thoughts of love are certainly infrequent visitors to any of my seasons, but Spring is definitely a good time for making new plans.
Over the Winter months I tried making plans for the next instalment of Poor Circulation but every move forward seemed to be accompanied by an equally long journey in reverse. There were tentative promises of financial support that eventually sank without trace as the world's economic crisis deepened, an unforgettable encounter with the NHS and countless other both real and imaginary excuses that diverted me from the task in hand. When there are eight hours of daylight and sixteen of darkness each day, it's hard to get motivated when things are seemingly slipping away from you. But then Spring arrives, the days get longer, everything becomes a little easier and plans that had once seemed almost impossible to achieve start falling into place and your motivation returns.
My love for SE Asia is no real secret and starting in November 2009, that region will/should/could be the destination for Poor Circulation II. A solo journey around Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia on a bike, but on exactly 'what' bike is still uncertain. Because of restrictions on entering Vietnam with a motorbike, it looks like I'll need to use a bike with an engine capacity of less than 150cc. There is a way of getting around this restriction that involves the cooperation of several different government and private organisations but it's a very complicated process. I'm working on that solution at the moment but if it turns into an administrative nightmare then I'll just lose some weight and do it all on a scooter. The budget will be slim, an awful lot slimmer than it was for the first journey, but thankfully the GB£ still stretches an awful lot further in SE Asia than it does in Europe and North America. Ideally, and perhaps stupidly, I'd like to work on the basis of £10 per day with an additional £1,800 for the bike, flights and insurances etc., making a total budget of around £3,000.00 for a four month journey. The benefits of working with such a low budget is that every little bit of help that you receive has a disproportionate impact on the overall costs. (The blagging letters will be sent out in early summer). I'll be working with, and raising money for SOS Children's Villages, a UK based charity that provides safe accommodation, education and health care for orphans across all four of these countries.
That's about all I can really say at the moment ...... but it's a great way to avoid another Winter in Britain.