Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Budapest, Rising Up with the Ruin Pub Culture

Lush,and repeated x 1,000
Budapest if you didn't know is Buda on one side of the mighty river Danube which has the palaces and the Old Town up on the hill, and the other side is the main city Pest where I was based. Gloriously wide boulevards lined by stupendous 19th century Secessionist archictecture.You will walk these streets with sore neck and mouth agape, and yet the decades of dirt defiantly cling to give this grandeur a somewhat grimy edge. There are so many things to see as regards to Art,museums & heritage it's untrue.I only managed to do the National museum (£3 for over 2 hours viewing) to which, by luck,featured a special exhibit of my fave photographer Andre Kertesz.However, this is a living,working city which likes to play hard - nothing really comes alive 'til late and keeps on going.With beer between 90p and £1.50 a pint and fags at £1.50 a packet this is one cheap party playground, so don't plan on getting up early for your cultural tourism.
Pest viewed from Buda hill
It has to be said though, that I did witness a fair degree of homelessness & alcoholism.One day a chap stops me, begging,blurting on in Hungarian, so I reply "Bocsanot,Nem Ertem,Angol Vagok" Sorry mate don't understand I'm English.I give him some dosh and he thanks me with the parting shot in English "Who Is Foreign?". Maybe deeper than he intended but yeah,I like that.
Anyways, a further draw to me was Budapest's  Ruin Pub culture. Basically old factories or apartment blocks with courtyards turned into bars with a liberal dose of Art & Music.I soon found out my £17 a night hotel was slap bang in the main Ruin Pub area, so with free Wi-Fi on tap I planned out my mission. Initially I encountered Grandio a Ruin Pub/Cheap hostel with live music,and went down into the cellar to see indie/post-rockers Midas Fall.This venue was like a large underground Nissen Hut,with great acoustics,cheap beer and a superb laid back atmosphere which made for a fine old time.Another night I was out at Gondozo which was cool,artwork everywhere and a Hungarian folk band; nice but I wanted more... so off to Szimpla I went for more upbeat tunes.Walk in,POW! Face cracks into inane grin, visual overdose time, lights,camera,Action! A Ruin Club really: huge bar, 5 rooms downstairs traffic lights,pipes,structures abound,like a mental factory overtaken by the drones or a serious party in Steptoe's Yard. Upstairs more madness,huge bars,collapsing old sofas,valve radios,5 or 6 alcoves for secluded sessions,cocktail bar, food lounge. All the while I'm downstairs watching old 8mm films of Hungarian life,football matches,Szimpla being started in '94 -another projector plays a loop of removal men struggling with a fridge (??!) with a soundtrack of top indie tunes,I ain't smiled so much in years.
Aside from some nights in bars watching footy I finished off the last night by going to Fregatt (Ship) which was an underground rock bar in the style of a Nelson era gundeck. Drinking Zlaty Basant in memory of my former Slovakian neighbours, I was heartily amused by the aural madness of mashups -Sex Pistols v Madonna,Iron Maiden v Frankie and the best fit Pink v Dandy Warhols. Then off to Csaba for "a last pint" well that didn't happen -another great ruin pub -and some good DJs -saw a fine if somewhat late end to the trip.
A beautiful,amazing,crazy city -now get off this page and go to EasyJet or whoever and GO!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

It Came From Out Of The Shed

What Lies Beneath? Actually this is a scary movie of British origin ... After my own recent Hammer Horror story I felt strangely compelled to create my own monster ,as a distraction,and being such a beast of a project it is doing that very well.From the swamplands of Tamworth a Villiers engine was acquired that had suffered a seizure but which I will bring  to life.There's a plethora of James K7 trials bikes out there so a James Colonel (love that name!) K12 frame,swingarm and hubs came via Kent, £20 plus carriage. The trouble is the frame's mountings (for a 1H motor) have been removed,trying to position the engine correctly in  3 Dimensions and then have the chainline spot on too is enough to give you nightmares.When I've done all that there's the small matter of altering the frame's steering rake and learning how to build wheels.
A visit to VMCC Founder's Day Show became a whole new experience,me Dad used to have a stall there and I didn't mind manning it because the rest of the 'British only' jumble stuff had nothing for me,-not now though! Box upon box of rusty rubbish I'd previously avoid is now my hunting ground.Sure enough, a good bottom end & barrel/piston & clutch are soon found. "How much,mate?" - "20 quid the lot" Done! 140 mile round trip I end up buying the bits I need off a guy I've known years from the next village. It's mainly so cheap as my engine is a 30C, it's only 147cc but a chap in CDB mag built a trials bike from one,besides it's near identical to the 197cc so that could be substitued later on.Over to the trials demonstration and the biggest applause goes to a youngster on this rigid James who circuited the course in the opposite direction and had to wheelie onto the see-saw as the end was up.
The last time I had a Villiers powered machine I was 13 and getting more excited by Britt Eklund than Brit Bikes to be honest. Viewed with older eyes they do have a certain character and whilst being no advocate for "factory fodder" I would have loved to have been apprenticed at James,Francis Barnett or the like. It is funny how your tastes change though,only perhaps 5 or 6 years ago I was at Stafford Show Auction and my Dad's German friend approached us in some exasperation.He had bought his usual pre-war Norton and dragged us over to some 1960s Francis Barnett,unbeknownest to him it was part of the lot he had just won.He didn't want to transport it all the way home,would either of us take it, free? We looked at it,shook our heads and slipped away. It's probably still there.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Dalesman Puch - Still Kicking

With the prognosis on the accident knee not looking good (two damaged 
Cruciates,two fractures,s/steel tendon clips, half a kneecap missing) 
riding,let alone racing,are now on indefinite hold. In the fight back 
though I'm doing 5 hours a week in the Gym and much to my surprise, 
loving it!Without using the running bikes there's still the sick ones
to rehabilitate. So currently on the operating table
I've got a 1972 Dalesman Puch.The story is this:Over the phone  
I swapped a knackered TY80 kids trials bike project for a
Montesa Cappra roller and a "Wassell" roller. When it arrived I knew 
straight off (from the Puch hubs) that it was a Dalesman and 
even better I had the engine for it. Deal done,the guy 
told me he laughed that morning at getting rid of "this rubbish"
Sold the Montesa right out for £75, the Dalesman had a valuable
(but incorrect)alloy tank and 
the TY80 had only cost me £35 from the local paper.Dalesmans fetch
between £500-£1200 ,pleasure doing business sir,please come again! 
For a long time I put off doing it because some butcher had chopped 
out most of the engine plates to fit a different engine.
As I had the time, I spent some hours armed with cardboard & scissors 
to make the correct templates.Then my mate Mark came round to show me 
how to weld one afternoon. Thereafter with much cutting,and grinding
of 3mm steel I constructed the new plates and welded them in.
Now these are my first  welds and like the farmer's daughter maybe
they ain't pretty but sure are strong.
My ancient arc welder cost me £10 from a carboot sale and the rods
are 13 pence from the hardware store in the village,not expensive.
When I rang my elderly father to tell him of my welding exploits
coincidentally he'd just come in from gas welding on a 1930s J.A.P.
So the two bookends of the British bike story there.
My bike although made in Bradford, used the Austrian Puch 125 engine
Having owned a Puch M125 as a kid 30 years ago I know how well made & 
willing they are, if somewhat peaky for a trials motor.
As a footnote to this recovery period -the day before starting work,
I tried to fire up the Yamaha TY175 with my bad leg.
Ooohhh, I love the smell of two-stroke in the morning!
So perhaps not riding, but still kicking nonetheless. 
The pics are with a scrap motor installed, for proper Dalesman pics see Flickr link on left

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Being Human: A Crash Course

On my bike in Krishnagiri,almost 3/4 of the way across India. Waiting to turn right at the motorway intersection a car speeding in the opposite direction knocks a poor Indian couple off their bike,swerves violently across the lanes and BANG! It hits my bike head on, I'm thrown into the air and land hard on the motorway. Blood leaks out my mouth as I lie stricken and am immediately surrounded by locals. That sickening feeling of bones clicking in my leg as they try to move me is halted by my shouts and some bald headed Indian dude directing affairs. The red hot tarmac is burning my bloodied skin,John's coat eases that and people give me water. The ambulance comes and they get me in alongside the first crash victim. The old chap looks in a bad way, bones sticking out his feet,moaning next to his distraught wife. My prayers are for him,not myself, as we speed away,the back doors flapping open pursued by the shouting crowd.
The first night in Krishnagiri hospital, a state-run village hospital is culture shock writ large.They wrap a bandage around my leg and for the next five days my 'home' will be a bloodstained and damaged mattress.
The whole place is filthy,blood under my bed,people are just staring at me,I'm alone -smashed up and night is falling. More people arrive - shouting and vomiting noises are heard ; these are the suicides. A bag of salt and a visit to the open toilets for this lot to cough up the overdose. I doze off and awake in the night with two guys at my bed,one holding my book. "Be good to me,and I'll be good to you". Whaaat?? .He repeats and I'm getting nervous. Then he offers to get me drugs and we're not talking medicine. I decline as forcefully as I can,they move on.A young baby is placed next to me -connected to a big 02 cylinder,and left. Someone tries to beg money off me; it was a long,long night
At this level,the Indian way is that relatives provide food& water for the patient so am lucky John is here to fetch supplies. I'm not eating much though as there's no way I can use a squatting loo, my requests for a bedpan are just laughed off, I'm glad I brought that Immodium! The next day,I glimpse starched white nurses dresses and youthful Indian faces spying on us. The most forward of these girls -comes over and in almost perfect English introduces herself as Rada.Then she brings her two best friends both called Priya. It snowballs and for the next few days I meet all 50 of these student nurses.Apparently I bear some resemblance to the star of Bollywood film "Little John" .Seems I have a group round my bed constantly and John's laughing as I have to try and remember all their names and do repeated tests on the Tamil words Rada & Priya are teaching me.Primarily because of the cops,I'm stuck there for 5 days without treatment,yet these girls made it bearable.
I eventually reach a real hospital in Bangalore (Manipal) and within the day am X-rayed and readied for an operation.The kneecap that the 'doctor' bounced upon,exclaiming "Simple Injuries!" is smashed -half of it now missing and the tendon ripped off.My lower leg has a major crack too. Stainless steel wire loops are inserted and the tendon attached to them. I end up marooned there alone for a week -as the insurance dallies arranging a flight home.My only contact is a mobile phone (John's) and when it gets stolen,I can confess that was a real low point.
However I eventually flew home in style, BA Club class (as my leg was in cast) fine wines & cuisine of course.Although I'm going be in a leg brace for some time am fully aware I'm lucky to be around,sadly we heard the guy in the ambulance with me died. Looking back - I encountered some heartless dirtbags and some absolute stars,the guys who gave me 100 Rs,the folk who bought me English papers,the chap who witnessed the accident and came 60 miles to visit me in Bangalore, not to mention the many people who offered their help and their handshakes. Same the world over, human beings are not objects - being human is the objective.

Manchester's Famous Steam

 Took myself on a short tour of a great Victorian industrial city: Manchester. I'd only really been there at night to either play gigs or party. In the sober light of day you cannot fail to be impressed by the scale and grandeur of the legacy of the Industrial Revolution. I always get a buzz when I'm in London (unless I'm watching Orient and then it's more a feeling of slowly unfolding disaster) and that's partly due to the architecture. Manchester's is no less impressive but in a very different way,  more Victorian factory owner than Georgian dandy. Sturdy functional edifices that impose themselves upon the observer.
Being at the power stroke of Britain's technological past, I head for MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry) and a Dibnah-esque collection of huge beam engines and steam locomotives. Nice to see the staff getting oily maintaining these wonderful old trains which are appropriately sited within the world's first ever train station (1830). Over to the transport collection and Manchester's own Avro aeroplanes dominated by a massive Shackleton (based on the famous WW2 Lancaster).On the motorcycle front there are several DOT's,some beautiful old Speedway JAP's (as raced at local team Belle Vue) and this interesting Anelay special. Loosely based on a Villiers power unit these raced at the 1951 TT. When John Anelay disbanded his racing team -he gave this engine to Senor Bulto -upon which he initiated the Bultaco concern. So all those Sherpas and Pursangs owe their heritage to sunny Lancashire!
A march across to the People's History Museum and the background story of the the working classes struggle to be represented, and the suppression to deny this. From the 'Peterloo' massacre that took place round the corner in 1819( two of the savage looking cavalry's cutlasses on display) to the Miner's Strike in1984.Centuries of pressure to get a vote,to work safely,to have support in old age,unemployment or sickness. Most of which within a mere 5 years are scheduled for "re-structuring...."
Finishing the day with a wander round Chinatown and a visit to Manchester Art Gallery .Huge amount of breathtaking art here, particularly liked Valette's impressionistic Edwardian street scenes (here)
Cracking day and admission to everything was free!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Going Slightly Green - KDX 175

I only managed two days of having a sane shed after the Fantic went,then the fever bit and I bought this. I've been after an early KDX  for a while but they aren't often seen; and then I walked into Newark that fateful Sunday last. There it was in the distance, even with race shirts hanging off it like some insane clothes-horse, I could tell what it was, and I knew I would own it. Despite my best efforts in haggling and walking away,my blood was up, and I went back and paid the two ton. Made in Kawasaki's first year of making a pukka enduro bike (175 class) it's a 1980 KDX 175 A1. It had been reduced to  tragic field bike status, wrong tank held on with wire,two exhausts welded together, gate bolts,two screws bent double to hold brake cable on, you get the picture. I brought it home with the back door of my van open (these things are loooong!), and set to it. It had a spark and even 'popped' a few times but after cleaning the carb and no joy, I got some pliers to take the pipe off and looked up the port. Oh dear. The piston was toast, with the bore scratched as a result.
Like modern two strokes these have a Nikasil bore -which has to be expensively replated and returned to a STD bore & piston. Except mine has had a sleeve put in and it's 1mm over. Reline or rebore? Decisions, decisions and none of them cheap 'n' easy . I briefly put this up for sale, just after it caught fire, (oh yes) I get moody about things like that. Then I thought, you know , everything else I've got to restore will be to sell and this is gonna be to have fun on,to race. It's fairly low,(major selling point to short fellas!) they were supposed to be one heck of a bike, quick but tractable,stable handling and bullet proof when looked after.
I'm determined this Green Light bike is gonna be for go and not the seven year Fantic wait at red. I'll keep you posted. 

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Red Shed Redemption

Just sold this Fantic 200 ,definitely Italian in character -pretty but damn temperamental. I'd had it 7 years and I reckon I must have ran over a mirror when I got it. I first set eyes on it lying capsized on it's side,like something stricken, at Newark autojumble. In some bizarre art experiment kids had painted it purple & silver all over, it had a moped back wheel,a bent swingarm and no seat. Approaching it at the end -the guy picks it up and STARTS it. I am impressed such an afflicted machine is capable of actually running,and buy it:  £140.
After a complete stripdown it was obvious the big-end was going and the paintwork needed more than a touch-up. The plastics got the usual hours of scraping and the frame goes to my mate Mark's workplace,a fire extinguisher factory. These are powder-coated. RED. Just like a Fantic 200 and my frame secretly slips through on the production line.
Over the years I did the rings and put a new engine in,did the fork  seals,brakes,wheels,exhaust,silencer,seat rear shocks,new sprockets,made the very rare sidepanels (IKEA chopping boards!),swingarm (twice),carburettor (twice),and endless tank battles to fight the leaks.It has drained money from my pocket,taken weeks out of my life and I've ridden it just once,a brief spin up the street two years ago.I pulled it out the shed and it had now decided it was only gonna run on full choke,so it was obviously taking in too much air. I guess I knew it all along, this bike really does suck!