Sprachen ze lingo?

Well, I’m back from la belle France… and what a wonderful time it was too. A bit too hot for my liking, but an enjoyable getaway, nonetheless.

I’ve been to french France many times over the years and whenever I go, I’ll always have a go at speaking the language, because I’m told that they always appreciate that.

I’ve often joked that I speak just enough French to get my face slapped, but in truth, I could probably muster enough for a kick in the balls too.

Now, I’ve spent many, many hours in the car, listening to Teach Yourself French tapes and have learnt many phrases and words.

Stringing them into a coherent sentence though, that’s a different matter.

This was very evident one night when we went out to the Luna Park and I tried to get some drinks from a stall. As I queued, I practiced what I wanted to say, in my head, and when I reached the counter I confidently spoke the words… with a slight French accent, for good measure.

“Je voudrais une bouteille d’eau, s’il vous plait”

The girl serving behind the counter looked at me, uncomprehendingly, so I repeated myself.

She shook her head, looking confused.

I pointed at a bottle of water in the glass-doored fridge behind her. “Eau! Eau!”

She looked at me and then she looked at the queue growing behind me, and with some very obvious impatience and a condescending look, she said “Please say it in English”.

I fucking hate the French sometimes.

Paucity of posts

I know, I know…

I haven’t written anything here for ages. As a result, I’ve had complaints.

But, it happens: sometimes, my blogging mojo just ups and leaves me.

But it usually comes back.


So, what’s been happening in the Masher household during this lack of posts?

Bugger all, that’s what.

The mutt is still getting bigger and is starting to look like a proper pooch now. But, she’s going through her adolescent stage – yep, that’s a thing, apparently. She gets stroppy and disobedient and sulky, whenever it suits her. So, now I have three teenagers in the house. Arrgh!

However, it’s not so bad at the moment, as Mrs Masher and the kids have gone down to the south of France, so me and muttley have had a week to ourselves and, as a result, she has had some serious ‘instruction’.  I’m pleased to say, that she is picking it up quite quickly now.  Just as well, as she is about to spend the next week with my brother-in-law, as I am off now to join the rest of the family in French France.

I’ll bring you back a croissant.

Au revoir

Alliterative Arses

Spending the amount of time that I do, driving on the M1 and around the M25, I tend see some terrible driving.

I may have mentioned this before.


On many occasions, the offenders tend to be young lads in VW Golfs, who think they own the road, but of course, I should mention that other vehicle owners are available.

For my own amusement, I have taken to calling these drivers alliterative names, as I see them transgressing the rules of the road and, indeed, general motoring etiquette.

“Git in a Golf”, is ubiquitously used, of course. “Fuckwit in a Focus” is also quite popular.

“Bastard in a Beemer” and “Arsehole in an Astra” crop up regularly, along with the occasional “Prick in a Prius”.

I was also quite pleased recently when I spotted a “Twat in a Twingo”.

Lorry drivers get away with “Lughead in a Lorry”, as that’s the best I could think of.

But, yesterday morning, I was astonished when several cars in front and around me had to brake suddenly to avoid an accident, as a small black Corsa cut across all four lanes at high speed, in an attempt to not miss the exit.

I struggled to come up with a suitably insulting name.

Spring has sprung…

… the grass is riz…

It most definitely is, because I cut it yesterday!

There are many things to indicate that Spring has arrived: plants; animals; insects, all sticking their heads out.

Buzzy bees buzzing around; the daffodils and crocuses (crocii?) in full bloom and an increase in the amount of roadkill littering the lanes, is all a sign that Winter is over and that Spring has finally arrived.

But round these parts, they know it is Spring, when Mr Masher finally gives in and cuts the back lawn. The sound of the noisiest Flymo in the world, being dragged around my garden for forty minutes on a Saturday afternoon, is as accurate an indicator of Spring’s arrival, as anything else.

Another good indicator, is the increased number of motorcyclists on the roads. And today, I added to that number.

I pulled the dustsheets off the bike and was pleasantly surprised when it started first time – having not been used since last November. And then I took to the roads and rode to Hitchin, for a pre-arranged meeting with a couple of guys I had never met before, but had spoken to on Saturday, on the radio.

Pete and John turned out to be a most amiable couple of chaps and we took a very pleasant ride through the back streets of Hertfordshire, before ending up at a biker’s cafe on the A10 for a bit of breakfast.

I look forward to meeting up with them again, some time soon.

And now that Spring has snuck up upon me, I really must pull my finger out and get my latest Geocache puzzle built, before Autumn suddenly arrives and I’m too late.



Did you know that it’s actually safe and legal to drive at high speed on the hard shoulder, if it is empty and the three lanes of the motorway are at a standstill, so long as you put your hazard lights on.

No, I didn’t know that either.

But I know it * must * be true, because I have seen so many people doing it recently.

And if you are a motorcyclist, it is OK to drive between the lanes of motorway traffic, at stupidly high speeds, as long as you have your hazard lights on.

Because they will protect you from someone pulling out in front of you.

And if you are driving along a busy road and you want to pull over to the kerb, then the best thing you can do is put your hazard lights on and then pull over, because the car behind will have instinctively figured out where you are going.

Hazard lights: best motoring invention ever.

It’s a man thing

Miami Airport is a sprawling mass of buildings and tarmac and terminals and gates.

The quickest way to get from one side to the other, is to take the Skytrain – a kind of shuttle that whisks along the outside of the terminuseseses.

It’s only a couple of minutes journey, but as I sat there on the hard plastic seat, I couldn’t help but notice the cleavage on the blonde seated opposite me.

The top she was wearing was quite low cut, revealing a decent amount of decolletage, and the lacy, frilly bits around her bra were just about visible, forming a sexy frame along the bottom of the neckline.

Completely unaware, she leaned forward slightly, affording me a better view for a few seconds, until the swaying of the train caused her to lean back against her seat.

Then – much to my delight – the train swerved the other way, and once again she was thrown slightly forward, giving me a perfect view of her knockers.

For a moment, I was transfixed and couldn’t take my eyes off them… until I noticed her looking at me with a steely stare.

“What’s wrong with you?” she said, sitting back in her seat and straightening her top, “You only saw them this morning! Right, come on, this is our stop.”

I grabbed our suitcases and followed her out the door.


Driven to distraction

Last year, I bought a new car, because my old one was starting to show its age and – at 175,000 miles – was starting to cost me money on servicing and such.

My new car is nothing special, just a Ford Focus with an automatic gearbox for driving on that goddamn M25 each day, but, as it’s only a year old, it’s still in good nick and everything is nice and tight and it’s comfortable and nice to drive.  I’m not really a car person. They don’t excite me. But I do like my own car to be of a reasonable spec and to be comfortable and safe.

The kids always prefer to go in Mrs Masher’s car though. Not just because she drives like a loon, but because she also has a new car and it has the internet in it. Well, not the actual Internet, of course, because that is in a small box that is kept under guard by the Elders of the Internet , but it does have a WiFi access point, and as such, the kids can sit on their tablets playing online games and Snapchatting and watching YouTube videos and other shit.

Now, back in my day (oh dear, here we go), we did other things to keep ourselves amused on a long car journey. Like looking out of the window and daydreaming. Or, we would play games involving having to hold your ears whenever you saw a red car and not being able let go of them until you saw a yellow car (a.k.a “cheese-on-wheels”). Dad used to do the driving, but he never played that particular game with us.

And I used to do a lot of reading in the car. I can remember reading my first Spike Milligan book – Rommel? Gunner who? – during a particularly long drive down to Devon (or Dorset, I can’t remember that bit). Squashed into the back, along with my two sisters and bags of clothes and toys and inflatable canoes and everything else that wouldn’t fit in the boot, I cried with laughter for pretty much the whole journey.

But now, the kids play computer games and talk to their friends and watch films as we drive, and they are just as happy as we were with our silly games, I suppose.

The technology may have advanced, but the end result is much the same.

Shaking it all about

Long haul always does my head in.

We are home now, and I have just been up to Sainsbury’s to get some essentials.

It felt like it was mid-afternoon and I was surprised to see it was only half-past eleven and it’s strange to think that less than 24hrs ago we were on Ocean Drive.

I feel dog-tired, but I need to hang it out, to get back into this time zone and into my normal routine, as quick as possible.

We flew through the night – which doesn’t help… I hate night flights. I can never get any kip.

It wasn’t helped by the German girl seated in front of me, who was obviously a nervous flyer. Before we took off, she was up and down, changing seats and annoying the hostesses, before finally deciding to settle down into her original seat… in front of me.

And when we did finally take off, I could see she was gripping the seat arms for dear life.

And then we hit some turbulence. Some pretty bad turbulence.

And she started screaming.

Proper screaming.

Now, neither Mrs M or Amelia like it when the ride gets a bit bumpy, and I was seated between them both.

Mrs M had my left hand in a vice-like squeeze.

Amelia was clutching my right arm as hard as she could, doing her best to not burst into tears.

And this German bird was screaming her head off in front of me.

“This is going to be a shit flight”, I thought.

I wasn’t far wrong.

But I’ve just had a proper cup of tea – made with a proper teabag and proper milk – the first for over a week, so things are already starting to look up.

Coming home

This post comes to you courtesy of the 30 mins free WiFi at Miami airport…  so I’d better type quickly!

Well,  we are now at the airport after spending several hours on a couple of open-topped bus tours around the city.

I always enjoy guided tours,  and this one was no exception.

After,  as it is the current Mrs Masher’s birthday today,  we had a slap-up lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe,  where we ordered more food than we could comfortably eat.

As per usual.

On the subject of food,  we have eaten  soooo much on this holiday. I still have a six pack,  but it has become a six pack of sausage rolls!

When we get home,  I shall be looking in earnest at gymnasium membership.

And when I have finished looking,  I shall sit down with a cup of tea and a biscuit  and decide whether ‘sausage rolls’  is such a bad look.

Hotter than a monkey’s bum, Your Majesty

Today’s post comes to you from the Bahamas.

About an hour ago,  the ship docked in the port of Nassau.  Bloody amazing to watch it being parked, as it had to be reversed in. I struggle reversing my car into a space sometimes,  but this ‘kin huge vessel just effortlessly backed in to the dock and pushed itself up against the jetty… without the slightest of bumps…  all lined up perfectly.

Anyway,  I ain’t getting off.  It is ridiculously hot out there.  Mrs M has disembarked along with Amelia,  to go shopping  (what else?).  I don’t mind it being warm,  but there’s  no way I’d cope with that heat…  especially whilst being dragged around the shops.  Nope,  me and Harry are quite happy to stay on the boat,  away from the sun.

  • Anyway,  better go as Harry wants a go on the Formula 1 simulator.


Today we are having a day at sea.  I’m quite pleased really,  as it will give us a chance to relax –  the last few days have felt a bit hectic.

Much to Mrs Masher’s annoyance,  the weather is rather overcast, so she can’t do any sunbathing.

Unlike me,  she doesn’t do much reading and can’t be bothered to to sit down with her puzzle books.

That leaves  shopping.

Whilst the kids were off doing whatever it is that kids do,  Mrs M and I found ourselves in the jewellery section.  It’s  Mrs M’s birthday this weekend and I thought she might like a new watch.

She did and after a little bit of looking,  she found one  she liked, and so I bought it.

And then I saw one that I liked,  which was twice the price of the one I had just bought for her.  And I bought that one too.

Staying on the boat is much more expensive than  going ashore,  it seems.

Just checking my offshore accounts

We have just left the Cayman Islands.

Man,  is it hot here!  As I write this,  I am in the cabin,  with the balcony door closed and the air conditioning turned down a notch.  I need some respite.

We have been on an off road tour of part of the island of Grand Cayman.

Mrs Masher elected herself to drive –  I didn’t get a say.

As we bounced along the rough tracks,  in the middle of our convoy,  I could hear a knocking noise coming from the rear off side.  Looking in the side mirror,  I learned that “objects may appear closer than they are”.  But also,  the rear wheel looked a bit wobbly.

Despite expressing my concern on this,  Mrs M continued to hit every pothole she could…  at speed.

Eventually I persuaded her to pull over so I could check it out.  The jeeps behind,  passed us and the convoy disappeared into the distance.

Of the five nuts holding the wheel on,  one was missing and three had loosened so much that they were barely on.  I did them up as tight as I could using just my fingers,  as there were no tools in the vehicle at all. But when we tried to continue our journey,  they immediately loosened again.

Eventually the tour guide came back looking for us.  He looked horrified when I showed him and gave us his jeep instead.  Which drove much better.

Anyway,  then we went to the beach,  had a barbecue and relaxed before coming back to the boat.

Mrs Masher is up on deck,  grabbing the last of the day’s sun.

I don’t know how she does it.



Well,  we’ve had a bit of a walk around Miami.

Seems nice enough.

And we are now on a boat.

The MSC Divina,  if you must know.  I believe it featured on telly on Friday on Channel Five,  with Jayne McDonald; that bird who used to sing on boats for a living.

Anyway,  it’s an impressive tub –  I’ve hardly seen any of it yet. Our cabin is a decent size (would be more decent if we didn’t have to share it with two kids!).

As I write this,  it’s 5am local time – body clock hasn’t adjusted yet – and we are at sea.

It’s very relaxing just sitting here on the balcony,  in almost total darkness, listening to the sound of the water as the ship cuts through the waves.

Today we are spending the day at sea,  so Mrs M has it planned to get herself sunburnt.  She never actually plans for that,  but it’s what always happens.  I shall probably be relaxing  with a book., although the kids seem keen to get me in the gym.

Not sure what they are telling me there.

I can’t see any Dolphins

Our flight was long and uneventful.

The queue at Passport Control was also long and uneventful.  It took an age.

Our pre-booked taxi was way too small,  despite them being told that it was for a fully-loaded family of four,  and I struggled to get the suitcases in the back.  Our driver,  Alex,  didn’t even get out to help.  No tip for him, then. In the end, one of the cases had to go on Mrs Masher’s lap,  which was far from ideal.

Our apartment is huge and is on the 28th floor. The picture above – of Downtown Miami –  was taken from the balcony. Yes,  a balcony on the 28th floor! It’s quite vertiginous and Mrs M is somewhat wary of going out there. 

We slept well,  but the five-hour time difference meant we were all awake at about 3am local time.

Roll on breakfast.

Leaving on a jet plane

Well,  here we are at Heathrow airport.  And it it manically busy.  I know it’s the busiest airport in the world,  but even so.

I’m currently sitting in the departure lounge,  availing myself of Heathrow’s free WiFi.  Our flight has been delayed,  but fortunately only by half an hour.

And we have just learned that our plane has been changed…  to a smaller one.  That’s it in the picture above.  They have also changed our seating arrangements,  so that we are not able to sit together.  Due to the smaller plane,  I suppose.

We should be boarding shortly,  so I shall try and post again tomorrow.

Outta here

This post comes to you courtesy of the Wi-Fi at a Premier Inn down near Heathrow.

Because we are going on holiday.

And that wasn’t the royal ‘we’… no, the whole family are going.

Of course, when I say ‘the whole family’, I don’t mean my entire family, because that would be just mad.

Look, me and the current Mrs Masher and the two kids are going on holiday, OK?

Right, I’m glad that’s sorted.

Of course, this may well make it difficult for me to post on a daily basis during Blogathon month. Didn’t plan that very well, did I? So, if I do miss the odd post or two this month, please forgive me.

Also, I’m not taking any laptops or the like with me, so I’ll be using just my mobile phone or maybe one of the kids’ tablets… if I can wrest it from their grasp for five minutes.  As such, any posts I do make, might be a bit short.

But, I have pre-written a couple of posts that I could just drop in, if time is getting the better of me, so don’t be surprised if, after reading several posts featuring me as a sun-bronzed Adonis playing volleyball on the beach, you suddenly find me talking bollocks about the M25 again.

Catch me if you can

I often see – on my travels – Loomis, G4 and Securicor (are they still going?) vans with a sign on the back telling the police to follow them.

And yet, I have never once seen a police vehicle actually following one of these vans.

Or is it a warning to potential bad guys that the police are actually following the van – sort of like the pictures of Alsation dogs that people stick on their doors, with the words “I Live Here”. But they might not.

Another van sign that intrigues me is “Ask Driver For Details”.

One passed me the other day on the motorway. The company who owned the van called themselves London Flood Defences… or something like that, and there was a sign on the doors saying that the driver should be asked all about it.  I’m pretty sure that if I was the Mayor of London and I was looking to bolster the city’s flood defences, I would probably speak to someone quite high up in the company, rather than the van driver delivering the latest load of sandbags.

And yesterday – most intriguing of all – I saw a white van with absolutely nothing written on it at all… except for the words “Ask Driver For Details”.

If he hadn’t shot past me at about 80MPH, I might well have actually asked him.

Best laid plans

Today at work, I have been out and about.

Leaving home at 05:45, I soon found myself stationary on the M1, due to a broken down lorry.

Once past that, I was then stationary again, thanks to an accident closing one lane.

I’d only gone two junctions!

Of course, I was then late hitting the M25 and so I hit all the built-up Monday morning traffic on there.

My planned arrival at my boss’s house in Maidenhead was 30 mins later than I’d arranged, despite me leaving doubly early to get there on time.

Oh well.

From Maidenhead, we drove to Reading to do a Health & Safety audit on one of the dig gangs. We had four planned in to get done today.

They weren’t there. Turns out one of the team had phoned in sick.

So, then we drove to Newbury to do another gang. Their previous job overran and so they arrived late, but we did manage to get an audit done. At last. It was now nearly noon.

From there, we headed over to Swindon. Parking up in the street where the gang were working, I suddenly realised that I had parked right next Alex and Michelle’s house. These are friends that we made in Egypt some years ago. Annoyingly, they weren’t in, so we couldn’t grab a cuppa and avail ourselves of the loo, so I just wrote a slightly cryptic note and stuck it through their letterbox.

The job that this gang were doing went slower than expected and whilst we got an audit out of it, we were frozen to the bone by the time it was finished. That cuppa would have gone down well.

We’d only completed half of the audits we’d planned, but the boss decided that would be “…enough for today. Let’s go home.” Dutifully, and gratefully, I drove him back to Maidenhead… with the car heater turned up to max.

A quick cuppa there, and then the fun journey home along the M4, M25 and M1,

240 miles, six hours in the car and just two audits completed.

Not the most productive of days.

Motorway madness

Some years ago, they (whoever they are) did some extensive work, adding an extra lane to a large stretch of the M1.

From junction 10 all the way down to the M25 turn off at junction 7.

Two years it took, but it was worth it, because it made a big difference to the traffic flow once it was finally completed.

Annoyingly, they didn’t extend ithe extra lane further up the M1, choosing instead to go for the cheaper option of opening the hard shoulder to traffic at peak times.

And that works too, making a big improvement to the traffic flow at peak times.

Until there is a problem.

To get to the M1, I have to drive a short stretch of the A505… about half a mile of it. It generally takes me about 60 seconds.

But not yesterday. Yesterday morning, it took me twenty minutes. Because the hard shoulder hadn’t been opened to traffic, and all the vehicles were backing up down the slip road and up the A505.

When I finally got on the motorway and managed to squeeze myself in to the traffic, we crawled along for three miles up to the next junction. There were no vehicles stranded on the hard shoulder. There were no accidents. There was nothing; just an annoyingly empty lane.

I think the man whose job it is to press the button that tells the motorists that the lane is open, just forgot.

Because this has happened several times before.

Including yesterday morning.

And again this morning.

He doesn’t forget to switch on the overhead signs though, does he?  With messages like “Don’t Drink And Drive” and “Remember: Sleep Kills”. Oh, and what’s that other one that I see just about every single bloody day? Oh yes: “Incident. Slow Down”  Slow down? We’re already going slower than a tortoise with a limp!

Because someone forgot to open up the bloody hard shoulder!

There’s a BAFTA on it’s way, I’m sure of it

Last Friday, I was ‘working’ in that London and so I decided to “let the train take the strain”… that’s an old British Rail advert, as I remember.

Anyway, it’s been a while since I travelled into that London by train, for work purposes, and I’d forgotten just how busy it gets, but luckily, getting on so far up the line always assures me of a seat.

And so, as we chuffety-chuffed our way to the Big Smoke, I sat and watched my fellow passengers – always a favourite pastime.

Unfortunately, I never saw The Girl From Harpenden, but the rather attractive red-head in the leather trousers who sat opposite me, made up for that.

Most of those seated or stood around me, had their heads buried in their phones: either playing games or reading or texting or watching videos or listening to music via the ubiquitous white earphones that hung from their lugholes. Indeed, the young chap in the blue suit, seated across the aisle from me, was having a whale of a time as his fingers flicked across the 4.8” screen of his smartphone. Whatever he was playing, was pleasing him greatly, judging by the enormous rictus-like grin plastered across his face for most of the journey.

But it wasn’t long before I reached my destination and so had to curtail my people-watching activities.

So, what was I doing in that London? Well, it was a bit of a team-build event.

And we were building the team with Plasticine!

Some animators from Aardman – the people wot brought us Wallace & Gromit – had set up their own company to do these sort of events and, with their help, each team made a small animated film (Water Board based, obviously).

The end-product is in post-production and I doubt I’d be able to show it here, but here are a couple of photos I took with my phone.


dsc_00455dsc_0041dsc_0043I always knew that patience was required for stop-motion animation, but I never realised just how much. It takes about ten minutes and a VERY steady hand just to make your character blink! (our team decided that, as effective as it looked, our characters probably only needed to blink once throughout the entire sixty-second film).

It was a lot of fun, but I don’t think I’ll give up my day job just yet.

It’s been so long…

numbers… since I wrote here last, that I actually struggled to remember my log in password!


So, what has been happening?

Not much really, hence the dearth of posts.

I’ve been to a couple of family functions in ye olde Ruislip: a funeral and a 50th wedding anniversary (I was a page boy at that particular wedding 50 years ago – I looked bloody gorgeous).

I visited Newark Showground at the beginning of the month, where I spent a happy few hours in the company of a couple of thousand nerds, at the UK Hamfest – the country’s largest Amateur Radio rally.  I showed great restraint in only spending a couple of hundred pounds. Mrs M would be so proud of me… if she knew.

And I’ve spent a fair amount of time pondering Graham’s Number: a number that is so indescribably huge, that if you wrote a digit on a grain of rice and then filled up all the empty space in the universe with digitized grains of rice, there still wouldn’t be enough room for Graham’s Number.

And yet… we know it ends in a 7.


Anyway, other than that, I have just been working and sitting in traffic – which I’m fed up with moaning about. So I won’t.

But hasn’t the M4 been a bag of bollocks lately?

At least the inevitable drawing in of the dark winter nights has been brightened up with the welcome return of Strictly to our telly screens. Although, this weekend, the great British public showed that once again that they can’t be trusted with a democratic vote.

First we had the debacle that is Brexit, then on Sunday night, Naga was voted out of the ballroom, when EVERYBODY knows that it should have been Ed Balls and his God-awful rendition of a Paso Doble.

“With great power, comes great responsibility”, a wise man once said (I think it was Spiderman’s Uncle Ben).

Perhaps those words should be flashed up on the screen as a reminder, before every voting opportunity.


Mrs Masher has gone.

And she’s taken the kids with her.

There was nothing I could have said or done that would have prevented her leaving.

So I didn’t.

It’s now five in the morning, and an hour ago, I watched them disappear into the night, in the back of a taxi.

So, now I’m all on my own.


But I’ll be fine.

Sainsbury’s do a fine range of microwave meals.

And, of course, when they all come back from their holiday in the south of France, in a fortnight’s time, I’ll be as pleased as punch to see them.

Till then though, I’m single again.

I have two weeks in which to let my hair down and be a batchelor boy once more.

Come and go as I please.

Do what I want, when I want.

Wherever the fancy takes me.

Think I’ll start with some tea and toast.

Then maybe I’ll do a bit of hoovering.

Out of touch

mobile phoneI left my phone(s) at home yesterday when I went to work.

This is something I’ve done a little too frequently, but luckily, I normally notice when I’m just a few minutes down the road.

But not yesterday.

Yesterday, I realised I was phoneless when I was about halfway through my two-hour journey to work.

I wasn’t going to turn round and go back!

“I’ll just have to be uncontactable, for the day”, I thought.  I actually thought it might be quite liberating.

It wasn’t.

I found it quite traumatic, actually.

Being uncontactable by work colleagues was a worry to me. What would they think? That I was skiving off somewhere?

But not being able to be called by any friends or family was even worse – even though it’s fairly rare that any of them do call me during working hours.

It was just that thought of being incommunicado for a whole day that worried me.

What if one of the kids has an accident and the school can’t call me?

What if my dad falls off a stepladder and no-one is able to let me know?

What if there is a major incident at work and I can’t be contacted to escalate it?

What if…

Of course none of that happened, but it did leave me wondering how I coped, back before mobile phones were invented.

Two-wheel triumph

policebikeToday, I have been out riding with a police motorcyclist.

The feds do a Ride Safe scheme, y’see, where you go out for a ride and a police motorcyclist – on his police bike and wearing all his police garb – follows you closely and then afterward he critiques your riding performance.

And it’s all for free!

Now, I consider myself to be a competent rider – hell, I’ve been riding for thirty-seven years! – but also a careful one.

But, in thirty-seven years, it’s easy to pick up some bad habits, so I thought being assessed by a professional would be worth a go, just to see how my level had dropped.

Especially as it’s free.

The idea, of course, is to ride how one would normally ride. There is no point in riding like you are taking your test.

And so, I tried to forget he was there – not easy when you have a hi-viz clad policeman looming in your mirrors all the time – and just took a normal Sunday ride. Maybe, just maybe, I paid a tad more attention to the speed limits!

Back at the station, Gareth gave me my assessment. I have to admit to being quite chuffed.

“Have you had any further rider training since you passed your test back in… when was it…1979?”

I shook my head and he seemed genuinely surprised.

He went on to explain that I was riding pretty much perfectly, for my level (ie, not advanced) and that if he had to pick me up on anything (he had to, of course) then it would be that I didn’t make enough use of the available road when positioning the bike.

Other than that, I was the dog’s bollocks.

Based on that, I’m kind of tempted to train for the advanced test.

If nothing else, it’ll get me out on the bike a bit more.

29. My All Time Favourite Song

moonAsk me that on my death bed, because I might have an answer then.

Because things can change.

It’s difficult to have a single all-time favourite.

I have favourite pop songs; favourite rock songs; favourite classical tunes. But, it’s really hard to pick a single favourite from each category, never mind overall.

But, if I had to choose… if you were to put a bun to my head and force me to pick one, then I would probably go with Fly Me To The Moon, a song that I have long heralded as a personal favourite.  Of course, Frank Sinatra had a big hit with it, but I’ve always preferred Julie London’s version.

In 2002, it became even more special to me. The current Mrs Masher and I were on a cruise ship out Singapore way, for my birthday. Each night, after dinner, we would finish up in our favourite bar, where long-legged Asian girls with improbably small bottoms and impossibly short skirts, would serve us free cocktails, whilst a pianist played gentle tunes in the corner.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

One evening, after downing several Black Russians, I wandered over and asked him to play Fly Me To The Moon. and he did.

And he played it the next night.

And the next.

In fact, wherever there was a piano, Ronald – for that was his name – would play it whenever he saw me. In the bar; in the casino; in the main dining hall. Even as we were disembarking at the end of the cruise, I heard it playing and turned to see Ronald smiling at me as he played it on the grand piano at the bottom of the stairs.

It was ‘our tune’. Mine and Ronald’s.

4. A Song That Reminds Me Of Somewhere

DeckchairsI was nine years old when I had my first flight on a plane.

Mum and dad never had the money back then, to take us on fancy trips to other countries. Margate, Walton-on-the-Naze, Great Yarmouth, Clacton and Weymouth were our holiday destinations back then, with me and my sisters and suitcases and bags all stuffed into the back of my dad’s red Ford Cortina.

But, as a first grandchild, I suppose you could say I was somewhat favourited by my maternal grandparents and in 1971 they took me on holiday with them to exotic Majorca. At that point, even my parents had never flown abroad and so I remember feeling very special.

I have distant memories of that holiday. I know we stayed in the Hotel Guadaloupe (I wonder if it still there) and I remember having a passionate liking for the caramel custards served up in the hotel restaurant.

I also remember making friends – as kids easily do on holiday – with a Swedish boy, who was the same age as me. His English was less than rudimentary and my mastery of his language was non-existent, but we managed to communicate somehow and I was sorry to say goodbye to him at the end of the holiday.  I think, at the time, we were actually the only two kids there. Different times.

I was trying to find a photograph to post here (but couldn’t find it), of a young me playing some maracas alongside the house band, who would play British pop songs each night.

A favourite at the time was doing well in the charts, and the band would play it each night and I would stand next to them and join in with my maracas. And I was bloody good, as well!

Lady and Gentleman, I give you a song that reminds me of my first ‘proper’ holiday: Funny, Funny by The Sweet.