Two-wheeled confusion

I saw a smart scooter today.

It was in Royal Blue, with the Union Jack boldly painted across the front.

A scooter in Shanghai

I mean it was a big paintjob, not that it was a bold decision to paint the UJ on a Shanghai scooter.


The thing that made this particular scooter stand out, though, wasn’t the trim.

What made it stand out was the way it was being confidently, nay, assertively ridden, through the wall of pedestrians, as they went about their business.

It seems to be accepted practice here, that scooters, like pushbikes, and electric bikes, can thread their way, at speed, through the near impenetrable wall of footists.

Yes, it is a word.

Do keep up.


I reckon the reason why the cyclists, mopedists, and electric bikeists use the pavements, is because duelling with pedestrians is considerably less life-threatening than duelling with the wall of metal, that slowly/speedingly grinds/darts its way through the city streets.

None of the two-wheeled brigade have any lights.

This makes an evening constitutional somewhat more of a challenge than back in the UK.

I managed to get some photographic evidence.


Shanghai pavement-riding scooterist

Shanghai pavement-riding scooterist

Shanghai pavement-riding scooterist

Shanghai pavement-riding scooterist

The global economy

We are accustomed to seeing the inevitable stores in ‘other’ countries.

Countries we don’t live in, but visit.

You know the stores.

Starbucks, Costa, Chanel, D&G, Levi, Subway, Marks and Spencer, Zara, McDonald’s, KFC, and all the other usual suspects.

We’ve seen them in a dozen cities in Spain.

And France.

And Italy.

And everywhere.

Sadly, while on walkabout in downtown Shanghai today, I saw them.

Costa, McDonald’s, KFC, Starbucks.

And all the others.

The Nanjing Road West is Shanghai’s equivalent of London’s Oxford Street.

And that makes me feel sad.

As you can see.

Me, being sad on Shanghai's Nanjing Road West

Local businesses being swamped by the global economy.

Unexpected, in The People’s Republic of China.

Subway (the store) in Shanghai

And why not feel sad, at encountering this in the People’s Republic of China?

Westgate shopping mall, Shanghai

China, in my hands

Drat, my Carol Decker fixation seems to be peeping through

It’s 1am and I’m awake because jet lag.

Social media doesn’t work here in the People’s Republic of China.

Neither does Google, and therefore neither does my catch-all email account.

But access to this website seems to be OK.


A six hour flight to Dubai, a couple of hours on the ground, and a seven hour flight to Shanghai, followed by an hour’s slightly scary ride in a very large, chauffeured BMW, led to a room on the 36th floor of this hotel.

Feeling peckish, and in need of something savoury, the early evening streets beckoned.

Choices ranged from walk in, sit down restaurants, to eating from a small table hanging off the back of a tuk tuk.

If the cyclists and mopedists didn’t kill us first.

I’ll pick up on the traffic in another post.

We chose a street vendor who was cooking some kind of fried dumplings.

He seemed aghast we only wanted six, but took our 55p (equivalent), wrapped them, and we took two pairs of chopsticks, and walked on.

In the noise and bustle of rush hour Shanghai we hunkered down on the steps of a shopping mall and tucked in.

They were *delicious*.

Some kind of boiling hot, shallow fried, sweet dumplings, filled with…

Well, we don’t know what they were filled with.

It seemed to be a herby-dressed, ground pork, or at least that’s my guess.

Whatever they were, they soon weren’t, and we were ambling about looking for a second course

Four satsumas (another 50p), and a slice of cake, with cream and apple in the middle, saw us right.

And then back to the hotel.

It was too dark to wheel out a camera, and record any images, but that’s what is in store for tomorrow.

In transit

I’m slowly digesting a larger than sensible breakfast, sitting at the departure gate for Dubai, at Birmingham International Airport.

Is there a Birmingham Domestic Airport?

Or a Birmingham National Flights Only Airport?

Thought not.

Anyway, Dubai is just a transfer point on the way to Shanghai.

For a bit of a break.

Back Friday.

Back to Birmingham on Saturday for the Bike Show at the NEC.

Sunday will be domestic duties.

And on Monday I start a new career move, with a job in Syston.

I’m very excited, about the latter, and really looking forward to it.


Considering getting rid of the ZX9R and the Daytona, and buying a ZX10R.

Just for the lolz.



I have moved this website (the TLD and this trailing sub-domain blog).

These websites (and databases, etc) are no longer hosted on my NAS in my lounge in Rugby.

They’re now hosted at a Tier 2 datacentre in Nottingham.

That I built.

Yes, that’s right, I’ve built a Tier 2 datacentre.

I could fill your head with the wonderfully geeky adventures that I’ve been through, to establish the datacentre.

But I won’t.

But it’s been a stunning experience.

In a very good way.

However, it all seems to have been set up rather too well (thanks to my design, and thanks to the sensational technical assistance of a Belgian uber-ninja-geek who I got onboard to do the virtualisation, install the KVM HyperVisor, and build the admin tools).

I say ‘too well’, because now that it’s done it’s all…



And I’m bored, because the actual admin overhead is…


And by ‘minimal’ I really mean ‘next to nothing at all’.

Anyway, the Belgian uber-ninja-geek is sticking around to handle first-line support (none!) and to virtualise the next set of infrastructure which I will finish building, RAIDing and installing the OS on, next month.

I shall move have also moved the Geekblog from the NAS to the datacentre this weekend/early next week.

I could fill your head with the amazing fun and games and geeky adventures and outright learning curves that I’ve been through in the last couple of months.

But it would only bring your excitement to fever pitch.

And we want to avoid you frothing up your underwear at the thought of such rampant geekage.

I have moved contracts.

I’m no longer slogging my heart out trudging down the M6, M42, M5, M4, M32 to Bristol.

Now I just potter a little way down the road to Northampton.

This is a massive improvement in my life, obv.

Especially as the weather has improved, so I’m doing most of these daily trips on the ZX9R.

And finally…

I am moving.



To Nottingham.

Blogathon 11/15 – commuting fantasy

I don’t know why it should, but yesterday evening’s discovery that one can’t cross the border from Algeria in to Morocco has been troubling me.

Not, I hasten to add, that I’m so concerned about the free-flow of market economy products across international boundaries, that I worry about the trading balance of the eastern Morroco folk (and, by mirror image) the lack of international trade of the western Algerian people.

No, I feel sure that the local economies have their own methods of *cough* ‘enabling’ trade between the two countries.

I have no idea why this cross-border blockage should trouble me so much.

It just did.

Earlier this evening, as I was driving back to my flat (which is a euphemism for ‘sitting in the globally-famous Bristolian gridlock: Southmead Hospital chapter’), I began to conemplate other holiday routes.

As I sat, surrounded by traffic, mentally flicking the Vs at the cyclists (who cut up the inside of the line of traffic like lemmings heading for the tallest, fattest, juiciest cliftop, instead of overtaking properly), I revisited the original trip.

A short motorbike journey around the south of France?

That can’t be too difficult, right?


I decided to set my doubts aside, and mentally began to plan the route.

Rugby to Eurotunnel. That one was easy.

Eurotunnel (via appropriate stops, obv) down to Viaduc de Millau.

Because what’s the point of going to France if you aren’t going to see and/or cross this?


After the viaduc, head on southwards to the French Riviera, stopping first at St Tropez.

Then Cannes.



And, of course, Monaco.

When I’d reached my limit of French sunlight, and got my toes sufficiently wet, and had my fill of French food and wine, I’d head homewards, and not fanny about too much.

That sounds simple, doesn’t it?

And it’s a trip that isn’t going to take too much time either, right?



Not really.

Just meeting the above checkpoints, and travelling on motorways (which I wouldn’t do, for reasons of mental tedium avoidance), the oracle that is Google Maps says I’m looking at around 2,100 miles.


Why does this have to be so difficult?

And why does everywhere have to be so many road-miles away?

Blogathon 10/15 – warm (but not wet) dreams


I was talking to SWMBI SWMBO the other day.

It’s a thing.

We do it often.


The subject of holidays came up.

Now then.

Holidays present something of a problem.

Or two.

For example:

I have a little bit of a hankering to sit on a motorbike and trundle around the warmer parts of Europe for a week.

As I did last year, with my round-Spain tour.

But where to go?

Having done southern Spain (but thoroughly enjoyed the experience), I’ve been looking at the map.

Yeah, dangerous I know.

Wherever I do choose, the simple criteria is that *getting there* has to not be stupid mileage from the UK.

For example, I love the idea of trundling around mid-to-southern Italy, but just getting there is a hell of a stretch in itself.

So much of a stretch that the journey *to there* might take the fun out of it.

So I’ve been looking at France.

Southern France, to be precise.

And that is a problem in itself.

Southern France, in case you didn’t know it, is in actual France.

A little French geography for you there.

And unlike my Spanish, my French never really made it out of the ‘où est la plume de ma tante‘ and/or ‘où est la piscine‘ starting blocks.

And I find the thought of being an ineffective communicator in a foreign country quite intimidating.

The other problem is that if I get too close to northern Spain, I might not be able to resist the pull of the country in which I used to live, and could quite quickly find myself in Barcelona.

Where I’d potter about for a bit.

Before heading down to warmer Valencia.

And then southwards to even warmer Alicante.


You know, from Alicante I could get a ferry across to hot Algeria.

Poke about in Algiers for a bit.

And then motorbike westwards to Oran.

And then over the border in to equally hot Morocco.

And then on to Fez.

Then continue west to Casablanca.

Then head up to Rabat.

Then Tangiers.

And then get the ferry across to Taifa del Algeceras

Then trundle around Gibraltar for a day or two.

Then head west and north to Cadiz.

And then Jerez.




A couple of nights in Salamanca.





That’s an absolute beauty of a road trip.

But it would take more than a week.

Maybe two.

Possibly three.


Well, the border between Algeria and Morocco is closed because of a territorial dispute.

So it would be down to Almeria and then a ferry across to Melilla and then through Morocco.

The trip would be something in the region of 3,500 miles.

Over 15 days that would average 234 miles/day.

Travelling for 20 days would bring the trip down to 175 miles/day.

I think SWMBO would have an opinion on this.

Blogathon 5/14 – a long way up (and down)

Bloody hell, I’m completely tired.

I’m more tired than a very tired person from a very tired town, in the middle of the tired countryside, who has been busy doing things and getting very very tired.

Yes, I’ll stop now.

I noticed a few peculiar things on my roadtrip to Darlington and back.

A significant number of drivers have dangerously defective vehicles

  1. Indicators appear to be an unbought optional extra
  2. Steering wheels don’t work, leaving motorists stuck in the middle lane for hours on end
  3. Mirrors (see 1. above)

But it was a good day.


I got there, I did proper professional stuff with proper professional people; it was positive and beneficial, and then I came home.


There were a couple of l-o-n-g stretches of the M1, on the way down, that had temporary speed limits.

One very long stretch – over 20 miles – had a limit of 50mph imposed.

But there was nobody working on the road.

I don’t mean there were people about, but nobody was working.





So here’s my thought.

We live in the 21st Century, right?

This is the age of portable electronic communication, and apps, and smartphones, and WiFi and Bluetooth, and intelligent systems, and all that stuff, right?


Why does the Highways Agency (or its contractors) not have electronic speed restriction signs, which they can activate when people are working on the roads?

Why does the temporary speed limit have to be set all the time – 24 hours a day – (and therefore not that temporary), when people aren’t actually working on the roads 24 hours a day?



No, go on.


It’s a sign!









You know those LED signs at bus stops that tell you the next 36B will be along in 12 minutes?

Well, today I learned that bus location information is generated on the bus, in real time, using GPS/GPRS, and sent, via a special type of SIM card, to a central control centre.

The central control centre analyses the bus location and then calculates that against the known speed of traffic, and the calculated arrival time is then sent to each bus stop along the route.

The cynical me had always assumed that the displays were merely a digital reproduction of the estimated time of arrival, based on the bus timetable.

I’m impressed.

Of course, the system is only as good as the availability of the GPS/GPRS signal.

Which, sadly, in parts of central Oxford is nil.

But still, it’s a great use of tech.

All life is here

I have just finished watching the BBC docuseries ‘Routemasters’.

Although there was one episode that heavily featured the eponymous London bus, the docuseries was, essentially, about London and the various forms of transport (and associated management systems) that run through it:

  • TfL buses
  • National coaches
  • International coaches
  • The underground
  • Cyclists
  • Lorries
  • Cars


Although pedestrian (pun!) at times, each episode contained at least one surprising piece of information, contained some very interesting views of the London transport infrastructure, and contained some revealing insights to the human condition.

I’ve learned a lot from the series; some of the lessons were less obvious:

  • That not every incoming international coach traveller has their passport checked by customs and immigration at the point of entry in to the country
  • That no matter how weird some people look, their views are often entertaining, educated and worth listening to
  • That some people are complete and utter cunts twats


But the two overriding facts that the series has reinforced are:

  • How frail London’s infrastructure is (the slightest incident can paralyse sections of the city for several hours)
  • How little room for any further growth there is left in London’s transport infrastructure

‘Routemasters’ has been a very low-key, under-marketed docuseries.

If it swings round again, give it a try.

Because, in the words of one elderly gentleman who has been voluntarily patrolling the walkways of Victoria Coach Station for 40 years…

All life is here.