It seems like an age since I last tried a wee bloggie. And it is at least six months ago, so anything of earth-shattering significance been happening?
Well- lots of photos taken of events at “my” school, an awareness of the increasing allure of old motorcycles, a chance meeting with a boyhood hero, a return to saxophone lessons, a self-imposed reduction of one fingertip and even after much soul-searching, an awareness of how much my painting actually means to me.
This last was underlined a few days back as I turned to “December” on the Cross and Cockade calendar for 2014.


My RE7 painting from the Guild’s 2013 show. Happily sold but still with me – in print.
Next year’s calendar has another painting of mine too,
although sadly its reproduction is not in the same league as this.

So to Bicycle Maintenance. A lesson well-learned a month ago. After a complete replacement of transmission components on the Winter Fixed-wheel.
Keep inquisitive fingers clear of spinning chainwheel and chain or much pain-filled troubles will ensue. THAT buggered-up the saxophone lessons…..Ooooya! B……!

Went to the Scottish Motorcycle show with pal Peter a couple of months ago, when one Guest of the Day was a man whose exploits I grew up reading of in Motor Cycle News. The multiple Word Champion in 500cc and 350cc classes, the incomparable Giacomo Agostini.
As we knew the show’s M.C., we were imvited “backstage” for a coffee and sandwich. There, looking a bit bored and anxious to get back to his hotel – the Campionissimo himself. To cut it short, Pete and I ended up taking him for a conducted tour of Festival Edinburgh before delivering him back to that hotel.

I had to stop and pick up Ruth who had absolutely no awareness of the legend in the passengers’ seat!
I read recently that another World Champion – Phil Read – had described Ago as “Insular”.
Well, maybe to you, mate.
We found him warm, grateful, erudite and happy to talk of his exploits without any way resorting to arrogance.
Not sure if the same could be said of Read!

psychedelic selmer six!

To saxophone players and aficionados, the Paris-made Selmer Mk6 is the absolute pinnacle. It’s the one by which all other saxophonic pretenders are judged and usually found wanting. Of course the fact that they’ve been out of production for many years only adds to their cachet and air of desirability and superiority. The survivors can range from laquerless, scrappy, dull-looking “characters” to totally renovated and shiny-fresh Blings. And all points in between.
But at least they’re mostly brassy and gold-ish looking.
Unlike this chappie….

Pink Six

As spotted at an instrument technician’s workshop Somewhere In Edinburgh. This is an original factory finish and the only excuse can be that the horn was produced in the late 60’s – just as mind-expanding chemicals were really catching on. FAR OUT!

When I got home an amazing thing had happened. My Yani 992 Tenor was sitting happily on the couch with a New Arrival.

Tenor and Sop.

The Boy Soprano!

Unassailable Uhlans

I like Tauben
Amongst the first ever aeroplanes adopted by the German Military, the Taubes were manufactured by many of Germany’s early aero-makers although the type originated in Austria. Here’s a Jeannin Taube of 1914
Portfolio Taube Two jpeg

and here, a Rumpler of 1913. The name of Rumpler became synonymous with the Taube type.

Rumpler Taube

The first aircraft to ever drop a bomb on Britain was a Gotha-produced Taube, in 1914.
Here’s a Gotha of 1913 in original German Military markings

Five - Gotha WeeJPEG

Tauben. All oil paintings. Bonnie things, taubes…….

Scrubs Up Well…….


To continue just the once more with the Pre-65 Scottish – a Swedish owned Royal Enfield that looks almost recognisable (forks excepted!) having a shower.
A 500cc at that, amongst all the other 350cc Enfields competing.
Francis-Barnetts used to be resplendent in a green livery too and the Ariel below is flanked by a pair of them. Naturally these never saw the Fanny-B factory either but it’s the thought that counts. Both infinitely better than any original F-B for the purpose.

wee Ariel

The sharp eye will spot a “James” in the background too.
Its just lovely to see and hear all the old and not-so old stuff that is ridden here. Virtually all British (English!) too.
Here’s a view of folks awaiting their turn at the next section. Velo, Matchless and a “Bantam” behind. Just joyous!


As a good European I have to show this delightful wee 240cc JAWA too….


…and that’s about it for this year’s Pre-65. Back to Human-power for MY 2-wheel-ing. Regrettably………..

The Past isn’t what it used to be…..

To continue in the “Motorcycle Trials in Days of Yore” mode – a trip up to Kinlochleven this weekend to view the Scottish Pre-65 2-Day Trial.
Passing the Great Big Buachaille on the way. Looking a bit broody on Friday but not as terrifying as the day long ago when Stan press-ganged me up it.
Curved Ridge. Just to the left of centre line. Just the once thank you………


The interesting thing about the Pre-65 trial is all the qualifying Pre-1965 bikes that are so different to anything made before 1965!
The entry list too is full of makes that no-one in their right mind would have dreamt of riding back then. But with some modifications……
A Velocette Trials Bike? Impossible! – but here it is. (and there were two).


It’s a Velo ENGINE anyway. Ariel-ish frame. Norton forks ( but what’s inside them?) Burman gearbox and clutch and a belt primary-drive = Velocette!

A true classic of the Scottish – the 500cc Ariel HT in action.


Of course very little of this lovely thing ever saw the inside of the Ariel factory. The engine and gearbox castings certainly but very little else. Nobody at Norton would recognise the “Norton” forks either I suspect. But the point is the bikes look fabulous, sound the same and are far lighter and infinitely better than the factory original.

My own favourite British bike is the BSA Gold Star but the big Goldies were never cut out for trials – although the BSA works team did use the early BB model until something a bit more suitable came along. The 250cc BSA C15. There were a good number of THEM this weekend too.
But there was a most excellent new-build oldie but Goldie at Kinlochleven.
Oh! Great was my delight to see THIS!


This BSA seems to be heavily indebted to Royal Enfield cycle-parts and probably much else besides. It’s a 350cc DB32 model although when I asked Mike it’s rider what engine size it was, his voice dropped a bit and he confided “390”.
So, no crossed rifles trademark stamped on THAT piston!

Here’s another post-trial pic. I LOVE this!


I was so enthusing about this beast that Mike offered me a shot – which I politely refused. With my present level of practice and incompetence, that might just have been as terrifying as climbing the Buachaille.

A Stream of Consciousness…

A Sunday Morning’s walk along the foreshore at Silverknowes last week. I stopped to take this shot as this is a stream that takes me back to my days of Trials riding with pals and of the skills we would try to improve on by riding up this feet-up.


It’s a bit more overgrown than in those days of yore but the real tragedy is that whilst we would ride to this and have a couple of hours practicing in the stream-bed, to do so nowadays would bring down all manner of legal censure. i.e. We’d all get the jail!
It’s nice to think I’ve been up this stream on my Montesa, Tommy’s Ariel HT5,
Stan’s Greeves Anglian and all manner of Bultaco’s.
But sad that nobody can or would attempt such a thing nowadays.
Interesting too that a half-mile further East is an enclave of Transits and Caravans drawn up in a defensive circle on the public grasslands.
No problem there then……..

The Greatest….

For many of my generation the defining question asks if we can remember where we were when told of the assassination of JFK.
But for some of us that remembrance is also reserved for the passing of this man………
I saw this image online recently – it was take by “Sutton” and what a great picture it is.

Formula One World Championship

Perhaps the greatest Grand Prix World Champion ever. The unforgettable Jim Clark.
A sublime talent and yet an approachable and humble man.
Jimmy was able to drive anything to its limit. From a rally Lotus Cortina to a monstrous great
Ford Galaxie saloon.
Here’s another drifting picture – this time it’s a Zagato-bodied Aston Martin sports saloon.

Formula One World Championship

Jim could make them all dance. A Great Scot!

They Made Me Do It….!

…but I was very happy to conform!
When a revered Edinburgh College asked me to produce a painting relevant to their own Great War remembrances, we decided on the Bristol F2b.
The Bristol Fighter incidentally was always known to its crews as the “Biff” and not by the subsequent and baleful, press-led soubriquet of “Bristfit”.
Amongst the college’s former pupils were the three brothers Barnwell. Of those, one went to the Army but the other two, Harold and Frank were aeronautically inclined. Harold became a test-pilot for Vickers and would die in a crash in 1918.
Frank however became a designer at Bristol and would be partly responsible for the Scout shown below. This was a real pilots’ aeroplane and well-beloved by all.



After the Scout, Frank designed the M1 monoplane, an extremely efficient fighter but destined to be un-acceptable to the biased anti-monoplane thinking of the top brass.
Frank’s next design – the Bristol Fighter – was probably the finest all-rounder produced by any of the warring nations and destined to fly on almost all fronts, surviving in the RAF until 1930.

Looking to be a wee bit different I’ve pictured this one over the deserts of Palestine. A No.1 Squadron Australian Flying Corps “Biff” about to engage a Rumpler CIV in 1918.



Headin’ West……..

North -West.
The weather has been so depressing of late that I’ve decided to live in the past. Again.
So, last Summer – Ruthie and I drove up to Fort William and took a train to Mallaig. The weather was sunny and warm and the power-source was fairly warm too.


This is the most beautiful railway line in Britain and how lucky we were to see it on such a day.
To be behind that lusty Black Five was a real treat but there was to be another and less usual steam experience later on the route.
The well-kent viaduct at Glenfinnan is quite breathtaking and all constructed from concrete by the pioneering Robert McAlpine.



Further down the line from Glenfinnan is another fine McAlpine bridge over the bay at Loch nan Uamh. This is followed by a tunnel and then the 1 in 48 climb of Beasdale Bank. This being a tourist train the trip was taken at a fairly leisurely pace. Too leisurely for The Bank it turned out, as the speed slowed and slowed until every piston-beat shuddered through the train.
Which finally just stopped!
This inevitably led to much discussion and sage recommendations from the knowing enthusiasts and congnoscenti within the coaches who now noticed the train was speeding backwards for some two miles. Whilst no doubt much frantic shovelling was being carried out at the Black End.
Stanier’s best then fairly belted-it at the gradient which had no answer to such a determined assault.
And so to Mallaig and a welcome meal of Fish and Chips. What else???
The journey back was largely downhill – so uneventful except for the surroundings. What a place to live eh?
All this and steam too.

en route

en route

Engineering Beauty!



I still get misty-eyed over my first true scrambles bike and after a recent web-trawl I just had to download this fantastic picture and put it here.
There has positively NEVER been a more beautiful competition bike than a 500 BSA Gold Star.
I bought mine for £149 Quid, raced it for two seasons and traded it in for a trials Montesa.
I got £65 for it against the trials bike.
If you could find a good scrambles Goldie these days you’d pay approximately £10K for one.
Here’s an excessively-happy 18 year-old with his freshly-purchased used Gold Star ready for a season of competition.
The detached retina would come a season later and lead to its unfortunate trade-in.
Ah! well.
All those streets at Balbirnie in Edinburgh have gone now too. Progress…….

Gold Star