Dylan and Obama

Here’s a nice quote from Obama from the Daily Mirror site:
President Obama said: “Here’s what I love about Dylan – he was exactly as you’d expect he would be.

“He wouldn’t come to the rehearsal. He didn’t want to take a picture with me; usually all the talent is dying to take a picture with me and Michelle before the show, but he didn’t show up to that.

“He played The Times They Are a-Changin’. A beautiful rendition. The guy is so steeped in this stuff he can come up with a new arrangement and the song sounds completely different.

“Finishes the song, steps off the stage … comes up, shakes my hand, sort of tips his head, gives me just a little grin and then leaves. That was our only interaction with him. And I thought, That’s how you want Bob Dylan, right?

“You don’t want him to be cheesin’ and grinnin’ with you. You want him to be a little sceptical about the enterprise.”

Read more: http://www.mirror.co.uk/celebs/news/2011/05/24/bob-dylan-at-70-115875-23152463/#ixzz1NgNG3GXB
Go Camping for 95p! Vouchers collectable in the Daily and Sunday Mirror until 11th August . Click here for more information
from: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2011/05/24/bob-dylan-at-70-115875-23152463/

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-05-22

  • I'm back home. I had a sleepless night on the ferry and now the room is swaying #
  • I'm on the train at Cambridge off to #research2011 #
  • Just missed the train to Harrigate. The guard gave a special sign indicating death. Will I ever get to #research2011 ? #
  • Some interesting methods papers at #research2011 nice one on transcribing orchestral music for one instrument #
  • researcher Cronin from University of Essex likens student nurse learning to chaotic dice throwing at #research2011 #
  • having my first headache at #research2011 #
  • just off to the first breakfast event at #research2011 on future publishing. Should I tell them about my future plan to invent robonurse? #
  • Martyn Jones is huge at #research2011 #
  • Nice that the Justus A winner used sociological theory to study families of children with asthma at #research2011 #
  • Every seat is full for Vari Drennan on innovation and nurse consultants at #research2011 #
  • By the way my headache has gone #research2011 #
  • Clinical nurse researchers. A big growth area 100,000 yet only 68 MSc students funded #research2011 #
  • Sorry that should have been 10,000 but the discrepancy is still puzzling #research2011 #
  • Peter Griffiths says Paul Slater has 'one big long one'. It's his questionnaire #research2011 #
  • Gala dinner survivor at #research2011 #
  • on the way home from #research2011 and already looking forward to next year in London #
  • The bike racks on platform 8 at Kings Cross have been moved to platform 1. So you have to beg to get through the barrier and back #
  • Now I'm at the Arts Picturehouse to see a 1919 documentary about Shackleton at noon on Sunday. Needless to say it's empty. #
  • The narrative was unsatisfactory from today's perspective: emotions were erased; #
  • A grand failure was presented as glorious and the loveable dogs just disappeared from the story #
  • So very different to our reality tv approach where personal response takes the place of patriotism #

13th May the last day and coming home

13th May This is the last full day of riding. Last evening a red bearded young man arrived on a bicycle, pulling a trailer with an Ortieb bag. He set up near me and we talked.
German cyclist
He is from a German town near the Czech border and is riding to Iceland and around Norway, riding till September I think he said. We were both traveling down to Kristiansand that day – its about 60k but his work was cut out to cycle there, for me it meant going an extremely roundabout route. At the end of the day I had ridden 150miles. I wont detail the routes I took but I don’t think there is a boring road in Norway, apart from when I found myself on the main roads by the coast. A downpour had me retreating into a conveniently placed shopping centre for hot chocolate and a chicken roll. Afterwards my GPS wanted to take me straight into Kristiansand and given that I was soggy I was tempted to call an end to my travels and head straight for the campsite ‘near’ or so I thought to the ferry terminal for tomorrow’s early boat. As it happened I persisted in searching for one final enjoyable route. I have to conclude that Norway is an ideal country for a motorcycling trip. Finding the campsite took ages and the GPS (more about that later) sent me in mad directions, but by 3.30 I pulled into a swanky site in mid refurbishment into something of stellar quality.
Kristiansand campsite
Some of t was already done. Everything is going to work by a card which happy campers charge up and swipe to use the stove or the shower but not thankfully to flush the toilet. The toilet and shower block was astonishing with slate floors and beautiful sinks though they are far too small and the incredible number of spotlights seem to stay on permanently (how easy it might have been to install movement sensors. I set my alarm for 5.45 but in the event I was awake before then – it got light long before – and set up packing up my damp tent and other belongings. I rolled out by 6.15, passed around the barrier and, not getting lost this time, was checked in at the Colorline terminal by 20 to 7. Having learnt from the last trip up to Norway I found myself a comfortable seat, with my book (The Devils) and a supply of food which you have to hide from the food and drink police who are employed to tell people off if they are eating their own food on board or have taken drinks onto the deck. Sitting next to me were 12 or so highly international students, from a Bible college it turns out in Norway, who had a free trip on the ferry. I talked at length to James from Zambia about this and that. He was very earnest. Its easy to imagine him as a Christian. They seemed a nice bunch but without irony.
Once off the boat I headed down the E25 and the four hours or so to Esbjerg to catch my 8th ferry of this trip, the final one and the longest back to Harwich, arriving Sunday. On route in poured and I pulled off to a deserted picnic area and struggled into my waterproof suit as I was getting wet and cold. It took about 10 minutes to get into and by that time the weather was already improving. However, the screen on my GPS which I had damaged last year by dropping it let in water between its two skins. It has guided me back to Esbjerg but despite trying to dry it out with the hair dyryer in my cabin (how nice it is to have a bed and a shower and somewhere to sit) the screen seems to have had it and I cant get today’s stats from it.

Waiting for the ferry were a bunch of people with bikes, a couple riding a Honda Gold Wing and two men from Denmark on their way to Scotland, one on a lovely bright yellow Laverda which he maintains getting scarce parts from a specialist dealer in Koln and the other on a vintage v twin Honda. One of them riding a 1994 BMW k1100, the others told me was a man ‘with no hobbies’ so when he was 60 learnt to ride, now he’s 62, and rather large, a friendly slightly bumbling giant wearing a high vis vest stretched extremely tightly over his jacket. Another man, a Brit who runs a bike courier company in London rode a 1200gs which he has had a few surprising and expensive problems with. The more I talk to bikers the more I see that they get into scrapes with their bikes i.e. being stuck half way up a curb on a street in London and having to wait for a passer by to help them move, or having to be careful about wear to park because they know they can’t move the bike backwards or up an incline. So its not just me. There were also two (separate) eccentric cyclists, one from Denmark with a bg mustache completely coving his mouth, a battered Tasmanian hat, smoking a pipe which he repeatedly appeared to put,, still lit into his trouser pocket. He plans visiting Oxford and Cambridge (pubs he says – and Oxford because he is a fan of inspector Morse) and another man who is originally from New Zealand but has been working in Denmark for many years. He said he was in his sixties and he appeared to be wearing make up. How different this bunch of enthusiasts and eccentrics is to the other – or some of the other – travelers. On the stairwell I just overheard a bunch of retired Brits comparing notes about exotic places in the world they have been to, ‘Fiji, been there done that’ one of them said, describing how they stayed on a gated compound. These ferries seem to wage war on passengers bringing their own food and drink (which is the obvious thing to do as prices are hugely inflated). On this ship there are signs everywhere and on ColorLine they have their own security people who go round telling people off. There seems a trend in accommodation nowadays to once you’ve got people in, and they have already paid for entry, then milk them for as many extras that you might consider should come as part as what you’ve paid for. So these ships seem designed so that every public space is a restaurant or bar and in posh campsites every facility, including wifi sometimes, seems to require an extra charge. It seems the cheaper campsites often just don’t bother with the extra trouble of setting up systems for paying – so wifi was nearly always free for example.

I am on deck 6, level with the cars and in fact only 15 feet away from poor Bertha. The captain has come on and told us we are in for a rough night -which is unusual. This time tomorrow I will be plunged in to going through the backlog of work emails and preparing for another conference.

We’re on the home stretch now on this Sunday morning, with the coast of Suffolk (I’m sure that is the white dome of some power station) in sight as we sail slowly down it. Its a bright day though there are clouds in the sky. It was a quite rough night as the captain warned us and again I could not sleep much. With every lurch my heart was in my mouth. First I thought we might capsize, then when we failed to do that, I worried about Bertha and whether I had secured her properly. This is something some of the others have said they worry about.

What worked well: having some dehydrated food so that I didn’t have to find a shop if I turned up at a remote campsite; when I did buy meat or fish locally to cook it was delicious; having a really toasty sleeping bag helped me get a good night’s sleep in quite chilly climates; generally all the camping equipment worked well; the overall route and timescale was just right; nearly all roads in Norway are stunningly beautiful; taking a waterproof suit was a great idea; fitting extra lights paid dividends for the long dark tunnels; the BMW bike gear was good – not too hot and reasonably waterproof even without the liners; I had two really good books.
What didn’t work so well: some campsites in Norway were set in surprisingly ugly settings, i.e. next to big petrol stations and there was no one there to welcome you – or sell you shower tokens; learning that the bits of old rope hanging around on Norwegian ferries are to tether your motorcycle; I was optimistic in how far north I would get – I only needed one of the three maps I took; I never used the wire mesh Pack Safe nor the water carrier nor the Ortlieb folding bowl.

May 12th heading back south

12th May. After a rest day I spent reading The Devils (its complicated but engrossing) I set off this morning with heavy skies. I got an early start as the campsite was closing for a harmonica festival which was going to take it over for a week. i am not making this up. I got a good start down to a town called Odda still on the same fjord as Kinsarvik, had a quick stroll round then pressed on. The road climbed upwards and it started to rain, a kind of wet rain. Somewhere I pulled off and performed the bizarre getting into a rainsuit wearing enormous enduro boots kind of dance while it is pissing down and while everything is getting wet. Once attired i headed off with rain on my visor and really going slower because I can’t see that much with the raindrops and steam. The road got higher and soon there is snow everywhere, of a dirty kind, then ice turning slightly green and beginning to melt – rain, snow and ice and the occasional waterfall throwing spray into the road- there was no shortage of water today. But as I realised here, you just need to move to the other side of some mountains and the weather changes. My route joined the road called Rv9 (and of course I starting singing ‘Highway Nine’ or whatever the country and western song is called). Things changed. Its a long road that goes south down all the way to Kristiansand and I could have just kept going but that would leave me with a problem for tomorrow which is my last day here. My choices were the ‘funny’ road to Lysebotn described in loving detail by a Norweigian biker ‘the funniest part is at the end’ or to head down for a campsite near the Rv9. I plugged in Lysebotn into the GPS and zoomed in on the road – just as I thought a tangle of blood vessels of hairpins that folded over on themselves countlessly, lovely for some riders but really scary for me, the rider who has not done a U turn since his test and whose heart is in his mouth on the haripins on ‘ordinary’ roads – let alone the narrow ‘funny’ roads. I thought it was going to be a tough choice whether to rise to the challenge or bottle out but in the end there was no way I was going to put myself through it. I pressed on down the 9. By now I am feeling a little used to the beauty that is everywhere here. ‘Even’ the 9 is stunning, its whole length by a beautiful lake, with pine trees rising on the other side to high mountains, the occasional tunnel (how I like tunnels though damp and smelling like the cellar of the house I grew up in, it does not rain in them). The first campsite whose co ordinates I put into the GPS seemed to have vanished (did I mention that the list of all Norwegian campsite coordinates that I imported seemed to have become deranged – they all have been relocated to the Indian Ocean. Honestly. So now I am sitting in the humid sunshine of the first four star campsite I have visited. I wait to see how much it costs in the morning as the people running it only seem to put in a brief appearance between 10 and 11am. Its also by a lake and has swish washing and washing up facilities and is large and generally populated with white campervans but there is enough space not to feel surrounded and again a lovely view over a slightly more domesticated lake. I’ve chosen some routes from the MC maps so will cruise my way down and by indirections find directions out to Kristiansand where I will bite the bullet and camp in the 4 star site apparently in the middle of town or at least very close to the ferry terminal where I need to be at least by 7.30am on saturday.

Though not quite finished it has been an interesting time. To think I bought the first three maps of Norway taking you up to Tromso. I’ve not moved out of the area covered by the first and been amazed at the scenery, the quality of the roads and their emptiness. I’ve had the whole width of the 9 nearly the whole time I have been on it. Perhaps Norway is another country, like Slovakia, that I think about coming back to some day and ‘doing properly’. Here it would mean having a definite plan and timetable to reach the top, to much visited Nordkap. The trouble is, to get here you either drive 500 miles just to arrive at the bottom of the country via Germany and Denmark or you pay over #300 to take the ferry to Esbjerg and still need to ride for a couple of hundred miles then take the ferry up to Kristiansand. Its quite a expedition but one worth thinking about. But like other major trips I think about, it would be ideal to do it in a small group. Its hard to keep up morale when you get caught up in your own thoughts and doubts about the trip. Hmmm. Something to think about.

4th to 11th May

May 9th finally I get to sit down on a bench and write. I’m in a campsite called Lone camping which is about 15 miles north east of Bergen. Its my third campsite in Norway. They are mixed events. There is usually one view which is stunning (the one that gets into the camping book) but invariably another which is the back of a petrol station – as here. Look one way and I see Bertha with a mountain, the snow melting behind her. Look the other and its huge trucks refuelling and pumping up their tyres and a fast main road.

But enough of this criticism. A kind Norwegian man gave me some recommendations in terms of routes from where I stayed on the first night here, at Flekkefjord, which was a couple of hours from Kristiansand where the ferry docked up to tavanger. He said ‘Perhaps theere are too many mountains, even for an Englishman’. And he was right, there were deep blue lakes, hairpin bends both the going up and going down variety, tunnels and amazing views over the sea. Driving here is effortlessly stunning. And the Norwegians must know it. There are lay byes exactly where you would want to pull off and admire the view. (A voice was asking me, as usual, ‘why is this a beautiful view? Is it because you recognize it from a stock of catalogue views?’ What is beauty?. This is the usual voice that comes with me on every trip, asking me why on earth I would want to do this.) (I wish the fat man on the sit on lawnmower would go away). Some things are perfect. The weather for example. So far beautiful blue skies with a temperature of about 18 during the day, dropping down to about 12 – 14 in the evening. The roads, and the bike is performing well. Now for the bad and good news. Journeying up the coast involves taking ferries, two so far. On the first from just north of Stavanger to Skudenshaven, I left Bertha unsecured. There were no usual straps and I thought this is only a short trip so perhaps they don’t tie down the bikes. As we proceeded the sea got rougher and the boat dived and rose. Up on the sun deck I thought, well if Bertha falls there will be plenty of people on hand to help. Then when we arrived i went down to the car deck and breathed a sigh of relief to see her still upright. But when I got close to her I could see that she’d been damaged and someone had set her straight again. I started her up, checked the indicators and lights and all seemed well but something on the handlebars did not look right, but I started off, then I realised that a mirror was missing. I went back and found it lying on the floor under a bulwark. I remonstrated with one man and then another but they continually told it it was my responsibility to look after her. ‘Hey, bad luck, man’ the manager said in parting. A campsite was nearby and it was about 6pm on Sunday. Unlike most European campsites, no one seems to be ready to greet you here. On Sunday there was just a number to ring posted up on reception. On ringing it a small girl gave me another number to call, eventually summoning a woman who took my money and toldd me about a mechanics, just 200 metres up the road that I could visit in the morning to see if they could fix my mirror. This was number two campsite. Just me and a couple of guys in a mobile home, and a petrol station. I was fuming at Norway. My argument about the bike was gong through my head over and over again. Added to that there was a fierce wind, so it was impossible just to sit and unwind. In the morning I headed off to the mechanics. I talked to one man then another who spoke quietly and with an effortless can-do approach. He went off and welded the broken part, commenting that the mirror was fixed with a left handed thread. He brought back the perfectly welded part and fixed it back on – perfectly. We spoke quietly about riding bikes and ‘Norwegian miles’ which are 10 kilometres apparently. ‘So how much do I owe you?’ I asked. A brief conversation – ‘its nothing’. It was fixed for free and in a way the net effect of the whole event was positive. I went back to the campsite and made another coffee, ate my lovely Danish marzipans and headed off. Lovely roads including a fantastic long a dark tunnel, amazing bridges and beautiful views, including the first snow-capped mountains. I just made a ferry up to Bergen and drove straight on. This time I parked up right against a rail and used the ropes they casually leave there. But this time you could stay with your vehicle so I sat glued to Bertha this time, but the journey was calm. And now, after missing my turning, I am at this campsite. I feel there is something cynical about running it from the petrol station with two young rather uninterested boys selling petrol and telling you where you can’t park or put up a tent (anywhere that is remotely nice) but not bothering to tell you that you need to buy tokens if you want to use the showers. With some lateral thinking I’ve found an ok spot. The sun is still warm and the breeze has dropped. There are a coulple of tents over the way but I have defied possibility and parked near to where I have put up my tent. There is even a picnic bench right next to the tent, where I am sitting in comfort at last, typing up my diary. I dropped in at Spar over the other side of the main road before arriving and bought some steak, onions, mushrooms and olive oil. I’m a little tired of my dehydrated food. I’ve also got a couple of beers at a not too exorbitant price for all that. The sun will set early tonight as it disappears behind the mountain over to the west. There are some ominous clouds up here. Its time to start chopping and frying.

May 11th Wednesday
The night of my meat feast it rained and rained keeping me awake most of the night. I felt rather gloomy yesterday morning but remembered the advice of a Norwegian biker to travel East, away from the coast, to avoid the rains which, as I saw on a satellite film, do come in from the south west. After taking a coffee and delicious cake in the cafe near the campsite, I rolled up my wet tent and packed up. In fact by the time I did pack up it had stopped raining though the sky was extremely heavy and the waitress said that it would stay wet all day. I wore my hi visibility vest- with its Salvation Army price tag still on but didnt’ put on wet weather gear that makes you feel like Mr Balloon man. It was a lovely 40 miles or so, some of it next to the train track, up to Voss, quite a pretty town where I had another coffee and another pastry, not quite so nice this time. Norwegians seem to be relaxed, quiet, with nothing to prove, helpful when need be. I took a closer look at the welding the mechanic had done on my mirror fixing and am amazed at the neat job. After many lovely long tunnels and a very short ferry trip from Brusevik over the fjord (I sat on Bertha all the way) I rode down to Kinsarvik where, after a moment of panic thinking I had a flat tyre after riding the gravelly road at some raodworks (and the previous panic about the engine smelling really hot when I stopped), I parked up. I had noticed two campsites next to eachother just out of town and was determined to stay somewhere good this time. I walked passed the first four star establishment with its archery targets and cabins going up to a much humbler place with space for about 10 caravans or tents. A builder told me the man in charge was down in his cabin. I walked down and knocked on the door getting no reply, then again where a bearded rather elderly man welcomed me enthusiastically and engaged me in german conversation. At last this was the kind of hospitality I had been hoping for, and the site is a gem, albeit a slightly unkempt one. My tent is about 6 feet from a beautiful Sorfjorden, that does actually connect to the North Sea as some Norwegians also staying here told me when I asked where all the fast flowing water goes to. I walked back, picked up dinner (more meat vegetables and beer) and rode back down here. Later in the evening the manager (he is not the owner who lives in Oslo) invited me into their cabin for tea with his wife. She was rather formal like my German grandmother but he was enthusiastic, telling me how frustrating it was that he could not speak English. We burbled away. He told me he used to own three BMW motorbikes, but stopped as the bikes started to get too big. They spend just 6 weeks here if I understood right and are from Osnabruck in northern Germany. Needless to say, I’m staying here one more night. I plan to stay at Lillehamer which looks to be half way back to Kristiansand and the last night, Friday, I will stay in what seems to be a campsite right in the town, almost within view of the ferry terminal where my boat back to the top of Denmark leaves at 8 on Saturday morning – but I am wishing my time away. Even though the weather was beautiful (till it rained – but even that was only at night – I have never ridden in the rain) its only here that I have got in to the spot I was hoping for. Its as if someone is standing behind my shoulder all the time, someone extremely critical, asking me, sneeringly why I am participating in something so dreadful. Well, here, this critical person has become quiet for the moment and my buoyancy defeats it. The simple pleasures – this morning I had a hot shower and washed my clothes from which steam arose in the cold morning air on the line here. I’ve had one lovely coffee and marzipan cake from Odense (I have one left). The ferry boat goes back and forth all day up the fjord and back to just around the corner from here where you can’t see it dock. I have the feeling I will take a day off from riding. The weather is perfect again.