Saturday, 10 November 2012

Broad and Balanced

I had a bit of an awakening over the past few days. It seems I've been being secretly judgemental without any right. There's probably a word to describe me and it won't be complementary.

It started while I was waiting for my bacon sandwich with black pudding (thankfully, they seem not to have received the memo from my doctor). I noticed on the table an obviously popular newspaper. Surprisingly, despite the important events following the US presidential election and the Chinese Communist party conference, they had mainly gone with the existence of someone's breasts and some apparent BBC bashing. It left me wondering what kind of person would willingly admit to reading such a publication. Doubtless they would be shallow and of limited intelligence. Wouldn't they?

That evening, I was directed by Motorcycle News on Twitter to a documentary about the Isle of Mann TT. Called 'Isle of Man TT: A Most Dangerous Addiction,' it was excellently put together and presented by a typical English chap (by typical here I admit to meaning a white, middle aged, middle class bloke). However, this seemed odd as it's an Al Jazeera program.
Now, there are many things I accidentally let myself think I knew. Firstly, Al Jazeera is a news network prone to broadcasting beheading and inciting the Islamic world to jihad. Also, the people who watch the Fox news network would happily set the full force of the US military machine on anyone who has ever watched Al Jazeera. Meanwhile, people who watch the Channel 4 news (and Channel 5 for that matter) are a little like I think people who read the Daily Star must be, shallow and insular. I of course tend to get my news from the BBC who are above reproach, broad and totally balanced.

But it turns out, I don't know anything. It turns out I'm the shallow one for making judgements based on people's news providers. At the end of the program about the TT, secretly wondering why there was no obviously Islamic slant, I went onto the live feed of the Al Jazeera English channel. I caught the end of someone being hugely critical about the USA in general while summing up a discussion I otherwise missed. Then there was a great deal of coverage of current affairs across the middle east and a teaser for a program about the ordeal of refugees in Israel. Actually, it came as no surprise and was mostly what I was expecting. However, I learned about things that were happening to people that the BBC didn't tell me. I feel quite well informed about the crisis in Syria for instance. Mind you, I thought I was before.

What could I learn if I regularly got my news from other networks? What am I missing? Perhaps I need to look around. Rather than expecting my news provider to be broad and balanced, maybe I'm the one that needs to be. One thing's for sure, I'm in no position to throw the first stone and I'd better remove the plank from my eye. That said, I'm not sure I'll start broadening my horizons by reading the Daily Star just yet.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

I've Discovered My Perfect Day

Not being the sort of person to dwell on such things, I'd no idea until today what my perfect day would look like. Now I know and just on the off chance anyone wants to know without the requirement to make small talk, here it is.

Sorry fellow devoted parents, but it started with dropping one child off at nursery and handing the other off to Grandma (thanks Mum). Then Ang and I got on our bikes and headed out. It wasn't perfect weather for riding as the roads were a little damp and largely strewn with wet leaves. But any day that starts with a rideout, no matter what the weather, is bound to be a nice day.

Ang has built a lot of confidence since she spent the summer riding to work. I led the way up to Patley Bridge, across to Lofthouses then north towards Masham. They're narrow roads with tight curve after tight curve, steep hills, tired tarmac strewn with gravel and the odd sheep. Add to that the autumn leaf fall and the roads get tricky. Ang took it all and handled her little YBR125 beautifully. When we did stop for coffee high up on a stunning moor, Ang was still smiling and so was I.

After coffee, we carried on to Masham. It's a wonderful place where instead of pay and display machines and patroling 'Traffic Enforcement Officers,' there's an honesty box and a suggested parking fee of 50p. Usually, I wouldn't bother paying to park my bike unless I know they ticket bikes which haven't. But in Masham, parking is a matter of Honesty. I couldn't Steal parking.

As I dropped the full whack, a whopping 50p per vehicle a passing local, who must have thought Ang looked hungry, pointed her in the direction of the Suncatchers Cafe. That place is awesome and is a metaphor for multicultural Britain as I like to think of it. I was served a full cooked breakfast in a Yorkshire Market town, by a woman who was not apparently of European decent and had a broad Scottish accent while surrounded by what seems best described as loads of Arabian type stuff. Even the toilet was kind of cool because they made room for a wash basin by digging into the thick stone wall. Ace!

After that we pretty much rode home and spent time together pottering about Harrogate, drinking more coffee. The new Baltzersens Cafe is also rather good, particularly because it's spacious, has some very comfy seats and the actual coffee is superb. It's a perfect place to while away the afternoon and catch up with the world, sitting by your wife as she catches up with whatever they feel important enough to publish in 'Prima' magazine.

Thus my perfect day began to draw to a close. I'd had a ride out though my beautiful Yorkshire Dales. I'd found new and wonderful places. I'd had a full cooked breakfast and superb coffee. And all of this was quality time spent with Ang (as opposed to time spent placating children with my wife). However, this would not have been enough on it's own.

At the end of my perfect day I was alone in my garage, just me, my bike and my power tools. I'd bought a metal work vice because I needed to modify some M8 bolts and the woodwork vice I've already got is no use for grinding. Unfortunately, I rather cleverly used the last of the M8 nuts attaching the vice to a wooden block making it impossible for me to complete the job on the garage door. That's fine though because next time I have a perfect day, I will have a good reason to finish it off in the garage, with my bike, playing with power tools.