My experience: Sept 20 years later

Airplane window view

9/11/2001 has a strange feeling for me. It was a sad time seeing so many people die or badly affected by terrorism.

I had started working in the university I went to for my undergraduate degree (Ravensbourne). I remember a colleague telling me a plane had hit the twin towers and by the time I got to the TVs in the reception area, the 2nd one had hit. Quite a lot of people watched as the first tower collapsed.

It was completely unreal and sad to see.


There is something which did happen in the weeks later, still in September into early October.

I had finished my degree and 6 years of education, so I really needed a proper break. For a while after 9/11, most of the flights were grounded just in-case. Then in Europe the airspaces opened up again. Needing the break I booked a holiday. I looked around and found some incredible deals, because no one was flying.

The holiday deal I went for was 2 weeks in the hills of San Antonio (Ibiza) self catering complete with flights from either London Heathrow or Gatwick. The total cost was 30 pounds to me, it was 20 pounds per person but I needed to pay a single supplement fee of 10 pounds to my ticket (of course I didn’t grumble). I did ask friends if they wanted to come with me but no one wanted to go (heck I even offered to pay for their ticket holiday), as I said no one was flying anywhere. Partly due to fear, jobs, etc…

My parents tried to convince me not to go but I needed the break so badly and was going regardless.

Ibiza for a total of £30 was incredible and was massively different to when I went in 1998 (thats a story in its self). Yes I needed to walk into the town but it wasn’t too far and it was the first time I started taking my laptop on holiday. I remember working on my new website cubicgarden.com next to the pool and at the outdoor bar, hotel wifi wasn’t really common then but I made do as most of the stuff was local web development.

I did a lot of things including going clubbing a lot but it was all locals which was actually very cool. I had gotten use to clubbing with locals and not speaking the language while in Berlin, so I was fine with everything. It was great without those annoying reps and endless drunken people stumbling around the streets. I hadn’t really got into drinking or cocktails at that point of my life and looking back now a lot happened in the years following including going to America a lot.

Building safety crisis picked up by the BBC

I have written about Islington Wharf so many times and even had my thoughts committed to the Sunday Times. Its good to see the BBC covering the systematic problem of the British building industry when it comes to buildings in the UK. Its not just cladding, the whole construction industry is a total mess and peoples lives are in tatters because of it. Its just not on!

Does it go far enough? Not really, but its a start. Hopefully there will be follow ups and other media outlets jumping in because there are so many people (like myself) who need the pressure on the industry to fix the massive latent defects and drive out the cowboys.

My motorcycle holiday, circling the Isle of man

My journey map

I am back from the holiday circling the Isle of Man. It was a scary at first but a incredible journey. Its these type of things which really challenge you and makes you realize you can do so much more.

There is a lot to this journey which I’ll add more to once I sort out pictures, videos, etc. But generally I wanted to start the blog and see what I can add later (any suggestions are welcomed)

To answer my own points…

  • Its right at that place where I’m slightly scared and excited at the same time. Its been a while

the causeway coastal route

it was amazing and although quite scary at points, its made me want to do more traveling by scooter. There were moments when you remember the corners have no barrier especially on the causeway coastal route down from the Causeway to Belfast. Amazing path but also needs to be treated with caution.

Coastal road

In the end I got off the causeway coastal route at Larne only because it was getting dark and actually cold. The path is amazing full of spots to stop and even sit on the beach. With more time I would likely have stopped but the time was moving towards darkness and I certainly didn’t fancy the causeway coastal route in the darkness.

Mourne Mountains path

Going back on myself at Newcastle to ride through the Mourne Mountains was incredible, so quiet and I did consider doing the whole loop around.

Mountain ride

I did go to the giant causeway but it was fully booked, I really should have booked it soon as I knew but I’ll be back

  • I get to visit a new country

Sign for Derry

I have never been to Northern Ireland and always wanted to check it out. Although its part of the UK, its quite different and I found Belfast very different from other cities in the UK. Those motorways felt like something out of Ridge Racer. I will have to go back without the scooter to check out the scene within the city including the many museums.

I did get to Derry and saw some of the incredible wall art but didn’t get a chance to snap any while riding, I generally turn my GoPro off while in most built up areas. I certainly like to do a tour of the wall art next time.

  • I get to drive in Europe at long last

Ok yes Ireland is left hand drive, but technically I did drive in Europe and kind of forgot to take a picture of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland (which if you have been paying attention doesn’t exist for good reason) but I was expecting something saying you have crossed over. On this note I did take my passport and driving license but never once showed it or was asked for it.

  • I do it all without flying, although I do wonder if the scooter’s overall carbon footprint is so great or not

I could work it all out but haven’t tried yet. In total I did 826.4 miles from home to home over 5 days, stopped for fuel 9 times but sometimes to just to top up the tank just in-case. In total I spent about 60 pounds on fuel but the price varied a lot between countries and where I was (motorway vs city)

Here is the full details, after the fold…

Continue readingMy motorcycle holiday, circling the Isle of man

Circling the Isle of man without touching it

Common travel area by scooter map
About 600 miles of traveling

I mentioned traveling the common travel area as a holiday and I decided it needed to happen. Especially since the weather is actually going to be pretty good throughout the whole holiday (even in Northern Ireland)

I decided to do the loop in an anti-clockwise way because I wanted to visit Northern Ireland when the weather was at its best.

My Honda silverwing ready to go

So why…?

  1. Its right at that place where I’m slightly scared and excited at the same time. Its been a while
  2. I get to visit a new country
  3. I get to drive in Europe at long last
  4. I do it all without flying, although I do wonder if the scooter’s overall carbon footprint is so great or not

Good enough reasons for a holiday  I think

Maybe I’ll one day actually ride the scooter around the Isle of Man in my own TT

Traveling the common travel area by scooter?

Common travel area by scooter map
About 600 miles of traveling

Originally I booked a holiday in Portugal as a personal incentive for having the Covid19 vaccine. However during Euro 2021, Portugal was moved from the Green countries to the Amber countries. Although double jabbed, I made a call once I finally understood what I would need to do in regards to tests and finally cancelled the trip (the incentive worked, I could cancel most of it and I am generally trying to fly less).

However I still have the time off and started thinking what I could do with the time which is different from my usual days?

This is when I thought, I have never been to Northern Ireland and wanted to visit the giants causeway. While looking around at ferry’s trying to avoid going into Ireland I found out there is no tests to enter Ireland/Europe as its now part of the common travel area.

Ireland, the UK, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man

You do not need to take a COVID-19 test or quarantine on arrival in England if you are travelling within the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, (the Common Travel Area), and you have not been outside of the Common Travel Area in the previous 10 days.

I’ve been thinking what if I travel from Manchester, England to Hollyhead, North Wales, get the ferry across to Dublin, Ireland. Travel up to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Then get a ferry across to Cairnryan, Scotland then travel back to Manchester, England! One massive loop. Going to all of the United Kingdom and a part of Europe on my scooter?

My Honda silverwing ready to go

This would knock the long running new years resolution to drive in Europe and also kinda visit a new country.

Its also going to be social distanced if I’m riding my scooter most of the time. Perfect pandemic holiday eh?

Its about 600 miles of travel and two ferries crossings but I think with good weather its possible with a few stops in hotels and with friends.

The BMW C-revolution maxi-scooter reviewed

I have been on the BMW list for the last 3 years to test ride the BMW C Evolution maxi-scooter. My Honda Silverwing 600 is great but I’d like to try a proper sized electric maxi-scooter because the small scooters are just not right for someone my size and I’m not going on the motorway with tiny wheels. The big electric motorbikes are huge and not practical for me (I covered all this previously when talking about Maxi-scooters).

While watching the review, it didn’t sound good. Yes I like the off the line speed (get away from you car drivers, who are too busy looking at your phones). The lack of space was a big deal breaker for me, as I’m consistently packing my scooter with IKEA and shopping stuff.

Charging isn’t such a big deal but then again, I went on a ride to Wakefield via Barsley and Dunford Bridge yesterday all on a tank of petrol. Not sure the E-scooter would survive the journey, not because of mileage but because most of the roads are national speed limit and of course the M1 is 70mph, which would quickly drain the battery. Funny enough the BMW isn’t that much more heavy than my Silverwing

Judging by this and other reviews, I still want to test ride it but won’t be buying it (especially new!). Keeping my eyes open for other electric maxi-scooters but its not looking good on this front.

Wait for generation 2 it seems

Its too hot to work in my flat

I have said my piece about Islington Wharf multiple times including recently in a piece for the Sunday Times (!).

I usually disappear to a coffee shop in Manchester, but I didn’t want to risk going out on Freedom day (if I could say it with a super ironic voice I would). Especially just a head of my 2nd Covid19 vaccine. I know so many people are so looking forward to not wearing a mask, social distancing, etc but I’m still carrying my mask and using it when going into places or walking around Islington Wharf.

Interestingly, I found my mask so much more breathable in the heat than the surgical mask I had to wear when getting the 2nd jab. Once again I had the power of music (Binary Finary’s 1998 this time) and Anbesol to thank for a good experience.

Welcome to the Manchester high line

Manchester castlefield viaduct

The news broke a while ago about turning the Castlefield Viaduct into its own High line public garden.

Its a great idea and to be honest I wondered for almost decade why it had not happened already. The disused bridge was growing wild for a long time but was far enough away from the train and tram bridge to cause no problems. Even getting on to the bridge was pretty simple except the artificial barrier blocking the way.

Castlefield is a good place to be when its sunny in Manchester and the planned garden is going to be quite something and I’m just glad its going to be public not some private space for footballers and the wealthy.

One of my favorite diabolo tricks recently

The long sequence for this is a hand grind to spinning top to vertex whip to vertex to vertex suicide to vertex around the legs and above. Quite a mouthful?

Although things are opening up in the UK, I’m still in the garden doing the Diabolo when ever I can.

The moves are getting more dangerous based around what I can do with a vertex. There is a lot more that I can do for example I haven’t really got into vertex genocides yet, for the diabolo to leave the string in the middle of a vertex seems insane. But to be fair I remember when I first tried to whip a vertex diabolo. Its easier when doing the spinning top to be honest.

Diabolo vertex spinning top

One trick I’m turning my head to is the infinite suicide. I’m just not getting it and its frankly annoying me. Especially as you have to start slowly making sequences or combinations interesting.

Dynamic diabolo pictures at dusk

I have been filming my diabolo tricks since the very start of the pandemic. Every once in a while I stop on a frame and just think wow that looks so great. Today at dusk while doing a new trick – Spinning top to vertex whip to vertex suicide to vertex around the legs.

Nothing better than filming this at dusk.

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This is the Islington Wharf update you have been waiting for

Double rainbow in Islington Wharf

For many years I have written about the problems at Islington Wharf. Part of the reason for writing about these flats is to force some change in my way, while others try other things. A lot of people don’t like its all out there for all to read but frankly its been out there for over a decade. The most important thing is to get the latent defects fixed to the comfort of all the people like myself who bought or are renting. Its been way too long!

Following on from this large post and the last post. Things have changed again…

The temporary aircon solution

…This time for last time hopefully

Waterside places came to the Islington Wharf committee with a proposal after the last one with Laing O’Rourke which was awful didn’t pass. It took some time but after the meeting in April, we were all ecstatic. The next day a email was to everybody

In short all the work which was planned with Laing O’Rourke would go ahead but with Morgan Sindall Construction. They will not use the garden as their workers yard instead use part of the old central retail park and phase 4 space, which is next door. They will do all the latent defect work in 18months instead of 2 years and the best part is they are going to replace all the glass, not stick a film to the outside. The cost of this all to the residents? Zero! Yes no cost. Lets be frank Islington Wharf has a ton of glass, so this is no cheap operation but was always needed. It would likely be easier if done years ago because now phase 2 & 3 makes access much more tricky.

Islington Wharf
Imagine replacing all that glass

Now you can see why we were ecstatic! This is a massive win and I find myself very fortune I am in the position where this is a option when so many flat owners are having to pay to replace their cladding.

The next part is to get agreement from all the flat owners they will allow access. As you can imagine with support from the committee and mailshots, emails, fb, etc. We have pretty much everybody in agreement. Although some haven’t replied back, likely forcing Waterside places to consider legal action to gain access.

Heat check while working
28c while working away with two fans and window wide open

This is most likely the last summer of heat (hopefully), which would be great as I’m experiencing 28c heat while working at home and its 24c outside.

Once things get going, I’ll start updating the older blogs as I do get the occasional press attention, which was the point of writing.

Update (Monday 14th June)

I was prompted to wrote this blog just after being interviewed by the Times journalist Emanuele. I had meant to write it for a long while but being interviewed pushed me to do, mainly to set the record straight and give a fair update of where we are now. I see the article went live in the Sunday Times thanks to a friend’s mum.

Although not quite what I said, its mainly there and glad the last part was included about the developer (Waterside places) agreeing to fix the latent defects.

Lost connections: What the best science really says about depression

I read Lost Connections a while ago and was quite blown away by the hypothesis/result. I have recommended it many times, not just to people who have/been depressed; but generally.

Theres a lot of controversy about the book, quite a few people disagree with Johann Hari.

What ever you think, its worth reading and considering.

Photo in the Manchester Evening News

Manchester City stadium with Lasers

This photo ended up in the Manchester Evening News, of course they didn’t tell me and it took a google alert to notify me.

Not that I really cared too much but Chelsea won, so there was no light show afterwards.

2 jabs and a blood test

My vaccination card, lidocaine cream and headphones

Its clear 2021, is going to be the year of 2 covid19 jabs and a blood test. 2 more jabs that I would expect and 3 more than I would actually like. Certainly not a good year for me, someone with a extreme needlephobia.

The one thing which clearly has changed is using lidocaine cream. Its a real game changer for myself. I’m not saying it makes things easier but the instant pain of the prick is less intense, making it less likely for me to react.

1 jab to go…!