Wheel alignment

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Going a little mad

Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad: whether from great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen.
  - John le Carre

I like John le Carre's quotation very much in light of the recent big ride through the night and it's particularly applicable to all motorcyclists who take the opportunity to reflect when they're out on a journey.  Alone but not lonely.  Experiencing something which is very personal and almost impossible to share.  Wonderful stuff.

It's also appropriate because I'm a little mad at present.  Didn't mention it in the 1000-miler blog post last week as it wasn't relevant to the ride itself but I have a problem which is stopping me from riding or doing much else at present.  Exceedingly frustrating given the superb run of weather we're having.

On the day of the big ride, I had a slightly sore calf and really didn't think much about it.  Not a clue whether I'd knocked it, strained it or whatever.  Just one of those things you take no notice of when you're busy with other things.  Anyway, the last 6 hours of the ride was more than a little uncomfortable with a throbbing leg which was clearly swelling.  On reaching home, the leg was starting to bruise badly and as Jennie is still in Australia,  one of our lovely neighbours (female of course, a guy neighbour would have just given me a beer and told me to harden up!) saw the pronounced limp and bullied me into going to the doctor.  To cut a long story short, the day ended with me driving to a hospital an hour away for an ultrasound to make sure that I hadn't got deep vein thrombosis.  The trip was almost worth it in that the technician was a very attractive young lady and having ultrasound gel massaged into your leg from groin to ankle for half an hour was a not altogether unpleasant experience (rolling of eyes and sighing from the female readers at this point).  However, the Goddess of Hospitals evened the score for having impure thoughts by making me wait for 2 hours in a corridor until a doctor was available.  The outcome was that a blood vessel had burst and caused a painful, but not risky haematoma and the treatment has been to sit on a couch for a week or longer with leg elevated.  Arrgh.... a terrible punishment.  Can't abide sitting about but have generally been a good boy so I can get back to riding in double quick time.  Don't want Jennie's mates ratting me out either. Just shuffle slowly round the house with a walking stick wincing at every step and feeling sorry for myself.

I might just add that the females in the vicinity haven't actually shown much sympathy after having initially nagged to get it checked out.  It's now just another version of that pathetic "man flu" as far as they're concerned.  Sigh.....

Anyway, I thought we'd have a break from bikes this time round.  You might remember an earlier post about an ornate carving knife that Jennie and I had commissioned which was made from Damascus Steel. We both love art objects which employ "traditional" skills and it's a real pleasure to support people who keep these arts alive.  Going back a few scant years, I used to sit on a government-led committee which ensured that employers who employed mechanical apprentices met their obligations and also received the appropriate support.  Part of this work involved visits to employers and one particular day will genuinely stay in the memory forever.

That day involved a trip to the town of Taupo and the visit was to a blacksmith who employed his adult son as an apprentice.  It was special enough in that blacksmithing apprenticeships must be as rare as hen's teeth anywhere on the planet but what rocked my world was that both the smith and his son had represented New Zealand at the World Smithing Championships on two or three occasions and had been highly placed.  This was going to be a very special occasion.

We were met at the forge by the smith, Brian McDonald.  I don't really know what a smith should look like, but if I was casting one for a movie, it would be Brian!  Around 60, not very tall but massive around the shoulders and arms, hands like bunches of bananas, silver hair and and an impressive silver walrus moustache, leather apron, thick glasses, cloth cap and blunt north of England accent - absolutely wonderful!  The son was was probably going to grow into a caricature of his dad.  The business derived its income from a base load of farrier-smithing (shoeing horses) and the rest from private art commissions.  We walked round the forge slack-jawed looking at work in progress - a dragon with a 2 metre wingspan, gate for a wine cellar with life-size bunches of grapes, leaves and vine tendrils twirling around the gate bars, all forged from wrought iron.  I could go on and on; it was genuine sensory overload.

However, it was two tiny objects which really caught my eye, just laying on an anvil.  One was a leaf and stem, about 2 1/2 inches long and the other was 1 single petal from a rose.  Both beaten from wrought iron and even had veins in them - simply exquisite.  I asked Brian what the story was and he said he'd just "knocked them up" to show his boy who was still the master!  I asked him what he was going to do with them now he'd proved his point and he said he was going to chuck them away.  The first thought was to ask him if I could have them as a souvenir but as it was Jennie's birthday in 2 weeks, the idea slowly formed about asking Brian to finish the rose as a gift.  Before we left, a deal had been struck and I told him that I'd bring Jennie down to pick it up on her birthday.

The due date arrived, we rocked up to the forge and I introduced Jennie to Brian with her expression clearly saying "What the hell are you up to?"  Brian pointed over to the anvil where the object sat. Not only had he made the rose to full scale, he'd also hand-forged a specimen vase for it to sit in, also from wrought iron. Every petal, every tiny bud case, every leaf and stalk had been hand-forged together, not drilled or welded. He'd also scoured it with a copper brush whilst still red-hot to give it a sheen. Jennie was on the edge of tears and all I could do was shake my head in wonder.  There are a few special occasions in life that lift the soul and this was indisputably one of them.  As well as being visually stunning, it's amazingly tactile and the weight is very reassuring.

Here are a few photos and if you think it's a nice object, it's better by a wide margin in the flesh.  What an utter privelege and humbling experience it is to meet people like Brian McDonald.  Human beings who absolutely enrich the world we live in. Click to enlarge the photos.

See the bud casings peeled back at the bottom of the rose?

Close-up of veins and texture in petals and leaves

Leaf stems forged together

Another close-up of texture

Another angle


  1. I am glad that you paid some attention to the nagging, Thanks to the gods the diagnosis was minor, albeit painful. Staying put with levated leg and a walking stick while one could ride... I know that feeling all too well.
    You take care of yourself, and you will be back in the saddle in no time.

    Besides, I herewith confirm "rolling of eyes and sighing from the female readers at this point"...

  2. Geoff:

    Well, you were both "lucky" and unlucky at the same time. I think I could have savoured the gel thigh massage.

    Who's to say what's improper or not. A thought is just a thought and the unspoken ones are the ones to be treasured and remembered. Just like remembering how nice it would be to go for a ride while the sun shines.

    and if the urge strikes again when you are well, just pretend to limp and perhaps another GEL massage will be in your future.

    Wet Coast Scootin

  3. Hi Geoff, I hope your leg improves soon. I hate being un abble to do what I enjoy.

    Your post gave me goose bumps , it is a beautiful rose.

    Now enough of the sentimental stuff....harden up and get out riding!!!!!!

  4. Sonja:
    What can I say but "Mea culpa"? I dragged a chair outside this morning and cleaned the Striple for the first time since the GC. That was therapy in itself, although I'm a bit sore now!

    Yep.... Guys - enough said!

    You're quite right as always and our better halves when pressed will also grudgingly admit to those sorts of thoughts. Johnny Depp figures in the thoughts of someone close to me and I don't think they're motherly thoughts either.

    Thanks mate - everything is taking 10 times as long to do at present. I've actually lost a bit of weight as it's not currently worth the effort to graze in the kitchen!

    Glad you liked the rose. Like anything else, it's the story behind it that turns it into something very precious.

    Thanks for the "harden up" advice - now where's the beer? ;-)

  5. Hi Geoff,

    I hope the leg improves soon and you are back out on the striple once more.....At least it's now clean and I suggest you sit down with a Monteiths, gaze at your Triumph and enjoy its beauty!

    And that rose is absolutely incredible!!

    Have a great day.

  6. Cheers Anthony - it's polished as well now!

    Thank you for the suggestion. It's an hour to dinner time so about time for a Monteith's Original Ale, of which there are several in the fridge!

    Catch ya!

  7. Geoff

    Sorry to hear about your ailment - maybe you should ride a larger bike! I say this as a 6ft6in tall sufferer of bikes designed by and for midgets.

    It's wonderful to behold a Father and Son relationship that produces such quality and beauty.

    regards from England, N

  8. Gidday Nikos!
    We are at opposite ends of the Gaussian Curve for riders - not unlike Richard Hammond and that other freak from Top Gear if you will.

    Leave us semi-normal folks to our normal bikes. I think your only true solution is to abandon bikes and buy a Hummer. You'd look almost normal alongside one ;-).

    Such a productive father-son relationship is rare. Even driving lessons in the James family nearly lead to bloodshed.

    Cheers from the edge of nowhere....

  9. Geoff

    I beg your pardon - I've put my size 14s in it yet again!


  10. Not at all, hehe! Robust banter is the spice of life.

    I must away to bed - 'tis the Dark Side here.

  11. I too hope your leg improves soon Geoff. Did the blood vessel burst due to the extended ride? I sometimes wonder about keeping the legs kinked for long periods.

    Judging by the background of that beautiful rose, your weather and view are both exquisite!

  12. Hi Mike and thanks! Nope, something was going on before the ride. Guess that having your leg pointing towards the ground for 20+ hours before being able to elevate it didn't exactly help though. Glad to say that it's improving daily - even did some vacuuming today ready for Jennie's return from Australia!

    Cheers - the weather is still lovely which is frustrating of course! We're fortunate to have some nice views. If you'd like an in-focus look, follow this link and put the photos in slideshow mode: http://picasaweb.google.com/geoff.james74/CoromandelDistrictNZ#

  13. Those are really great photos on that slideshow Geoff! Your area is absolutely beautiful!

    After I made my earlier comment I got to thinking that my question about how the blood vessel burst might have sounded too personal. Sorry, I didn't mean it that way. I was just curious about how it related to the riding position.

    Glad to hear that you're getting better each day! I hope you get to ride soon - more riding and less vacuuming, that's what I always say.

  14. Thanks Mike, we feel pretty priveleged.

    Not the slightest problem my friend, not taken in any way other than interest. We "Down Under"folk are a pretty straight forward lot!

    Many thanks -I'm driving to the airport tomorrow to collect my wife. I'll still be sharing domestic stuff to attract the normal bonus points!!

    Safe travelling....

  15. Hope your ailment clears up soon Geoff! Must be driving you mad not being able to get out on the striple. Must say I wouldn't have minded the massage either!!
    Get well soon.

  16. Thanks SB. The big ride is still sustaining me but not for much longer!

    Amazing what small pleasures are available on the national health service at no cost, eh?

  17. Geoff:

    You must have had a great party. I can still hear the vacuum cleaner.

    for more sympathy votes perhaps when you collect Jenny you could limp a little, and perhaps tell her you don't feel up to driving home as you have to elevate your leg a bit to stop the throbbing.

    Wet Coast Scootin

  18. What a thing of beauty. I will visit to inspect sometime soon.

  19. Bob:
    Picked her up from the airport at the weekend and got a surprising amount of sympathy! Lovely to have her back. At least I can drive, even if I won't be able to ride for another 1-2 weeks.

    Thank you! Always a bed and good grub. There might even be fresh snapper if I can get the boat out!

  20. Take care of that leg, it can cause you some problems. Amazing rose!

  21. Thanks Motoroz!

    It's actually causing problems of an unexpected kind at present. Whilst there is a noticeable improvement and I'm moving around more freely, riding a bike is still some way off; principally due to ankle stiffness. Not being able to ride the bike, take the boat out fishing or do anything else useful has caused rather a lot of frustration and grumpiness. One relatively minor aspect of this is that I'm rapidly losing interest in blogging and am seriously considering stopping, not that it's any big deal in the scheme of things. I've got one more post in the pipeline sometime in the next day or two so there'll be one more at least.


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