Kubuntu Beta 2 is Out

Kubuntu Vivid Beta 2 is out.  This is the first major distro to ship with Plasma 5 so it’ll be the first time many people get to see our lovely new desktop.  Scary.

We have 24 bugs I’ve milestoned and 1 month to go until release, let’s see how low we can go.  Many of the bugs are easy enough to fix and just need twiddling the bits in the packaging.  Some are more complex.  If you want to help out come and join us in #kubuntu-devel we’d appreciate just testing the ISOs for sanity.

Alas upgrade from 14.10 is currently broken due to a bug which is probably in apt , fix soon I hope.

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Plasma Release Scripting

I made the tars for Plasma 5.2.2 yesterday.  I use releaseme, the nice program by KDE hero Harald Sitter.  Previously this took over 4 hours to make all 35 tars now it takes about 1 hour, lovely.  Most of the time is checking out the translations which, to make life simpler for translators, are in a separate Subversion archive.  The update Harald did now was to allow multiple checkouts, lovely.  And with the docs people helping out too we have translations of documentation, Brazil is far ahead in its translations here.

The result was there was time in the day after running it to ponder improving the Plasma specific parts of the scripts so I added automation of a few bits to ensure consistency and make the process smoother.  Making the announcement webpages for bugfix releases is now mostly automatic.  Updating individual tars when problems are found it too.  I finally got round to scripting updates to the version numbers in Bugzilla, it’s crazy there is no API for this. I borrowed Albert’s script for KDE Applications to make better full changelog pages.  And I added some QA tests so I can check if there’s anything missing which should be there.   It was quite a satisfying afternoon.

Now I just need to automate the announcements and the second half of the process will be easy too :)

The amazing Scarlett is busy building them for Kubuntu now

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Kubuntu 15.04 Heating up

Kubuntu 15.04 development is in full swing and it’s looking like our 10th anniversary edition will be a classic.  We’re the first distribution to ship a stable version with Plasma 5, the desktop which is getting tech journalists excited.  My new favourite desktop they say.  A masterpiece  in the making they’re calling it.  The most exciting release in a long time they exclaim.

Kubuntu 15.04 Beta 1 is out and is working well for people wanting to try out Plasma 5.  We’ve deprecated the 14.10 Kubuntu-plasma5 packages, they were only ever tech preview and I’m afraid we don’t have the person-power to keep them updated, if you want Plasma 5 use the 15.04 Beta 1 for released versions or use Kubuntu CI images for Git versions.

Last week Ubuntu switched over to Systemd for boot system.  It’s complex and faffy but at least we have the same complex and faffy as the rest of the world.  There was a strange issue during the switchover where login manager SDDM suddenly disabled itself from starting.  If you get that just run:

systemctl enable sddm

With a new desktop comes the pleasingly satisfying work of integrating it, it’s not unlike when I first uploaded KDE 3 to Ubuntu.  This time though I’m better placed to put all the fixes upstream directly.  For example I’ve just setup gtkbreeze, a helper tool to set up GTK 2 and 3 themeing to mostly match Breeze.  But the icons don’t work, any help with that welcome.

Scarlett has updated Applications to 14.12.3.  Aaron H has updated the docs and the ubiquity slideshow. I’ve nudged the people and pulled the leavers to get KScreen released and print-manager KF5 happy (mostly thanks to Red Hat that one) and telepathy working nicely with Plasma 5 (Martin K gets bonus points there for the legacy presence applet). Package manager Muon now fits in so well with Plasma 5 it gets released with it thanks to Aleix. User Manager gets an update courtesy of Vishesh.  And Harald took time out from making all of KDE continuously integrate to port About Distro, you just can’t live without that one.

We’re still stuck on getting the new BlueDevil in, something in Ubuntu Touch needs ported to Bluez5 apparently.  Libreoffice is looking nice with Qt 4 Breeze theme but I’ve failed to get the breeze icons properly integrated, hopefully I’ll have a spare day soon for that.

There’s still plenty on the bugs list many of them probably quite easy to fix if you fancy helping out.  Our To Do list has plenty to be done including several that could be classes as junior jobs if you’re wanting to get into free software such as making some new recommended applications for the Muon Discover banner or reviewing the ISO contents to see if anything can be removed and get the size down a little.  We’re in #kubuntu-devel on freenode if you want to say hi.



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Click-Let Happy to Rent Out Flats it Knows are Illegal, and Some Solutions

I’m reading Lesley Riddoch’s book Blossom which is about her experiences of Scottish democracy and it has an excellent chapter on tenements.  These medium density homes, which make up much of Scottish city housing, create community by forcing people to live together but don’t create ghettos in the way that high density housing of 60s and 70s housing schemes do.  They mean that people live close enough together it is often practical and indeed the easiest form of transport to walk or cycle around town.  They allow for on-street shops.  They are also weirdly rare in England and fail to feature in most modern developments where people prefer houses which take up more land and need cars to me useful.

I love the flat I own in a tenement in Polwarth in Edinburgh for all these reasons, but I continue to be saddened and annoyed by the number of people who rent them out, treating them as a bank account which doesn’t need any maintenance.  It doesn’t occur to these landlords that they have chosen to take on a job which needs active involvement.  And then there’s the agents who are happy to rent out these properties, taking their cut while knowing there is maintenance needing done they don’t get around to helping with.  Today’s grumpy blog post focuses on the agents.

Recently I got into a heated discussion about canoe politics.  Some slalomists had put in motions to get more money from the national association.  They ended up being defeated (if they money doesn’t exist it doesn’t make much sense to requite it to appear) and the slalomist on the board was voted off in favour of a marthon paddler. At the end the guy who had lead much of the online discussion, Stewart, posted a link to a news article about the marathon paddler going to court.  This was a very petty way to treat the losing of an argument and I said so, pointing out it was irrelevant and that he ran an estate agents who were renting out a flat in my tenement while not helping out with any of the repairs needed.  The property has leaks and as I wrote in my previous grumpy blog post it has damp which needs fixed.

Stewart said he would be happy to know of any problems so I added him to the e-mails with the other neighbours.  After some further exchanges among my neighbours about the repairs he asked for his staff member to be added to the e-mails, a chap called Kjartan who had previously ignored any call for help with repairs or stairwell meetings.  Kjartan ignored the issue of course and eventually I had to point out what needed doing, call some contractors, convince enough people to agree, organise the repairs, collect the money.  Kjartan kept giving vauge excuses why that wasn’t enough and when I keep pressing to point out it was his job to make it enough he ended up quoting the Tenement Act 2004 to say why the responsibility was all from his client landlord and not his.

So finally after a year of being stonewalled by Click-Let I got an assurance that indeed they were happy to rent out property, knowing it doesn’t meet The Repairing Standard which is the legal requirement for rentals.  They consider it entirely their landlord client’s problem and they are probably right.

But as I wrote about before the landlords are happy to let long term problems slide just expecting someone else to fix them.  And the tenants go along with this too because it’s not worth the hassle to give them grief or take them to a tribunal, in the worst case they can move out.


It needs some legislative fixes to let this tragedy of the commons be fixed:

  • Alter the Tenements Act to make property agents joint liable with owners in meeting The Repairing Standard.  They make lots of money doing nothing economically productive, they should at least be responsible when doing it.
  • The Tenements Act to be altered to make landlords and agents liable for repairs to owners of other flats in the stair as well as their tenants.  Tenements need everyone to look after each other but for some reason the law doesn’t reflect this.
  • The fit and proper test for landlords and agents to be defined and monitored and for them to be struck off the registrar when they don’t meet it
  • The landlord’s register to require an active e-mail address for all landlords as well as their agents.
  • Nobody to be allowed on the landlord register without first answering a questionnaire about what monitoring and maintenance they have done and will continue to do
  • It to be illegal to sell an inhabited tenement which does not meet The Repairing Standard
  • House surveys need to actually inspect the whole building.  The one I read for the tenement which got sold in my previous grumpy blog post said they surveyor had looked at it through binoculars which isn’t going to tell you anything useful.

The council needs to write to every landlord and agent reminding them of their duties.  And the same to the decreasing numbers of owner-occupiers.  It needs to dispell myths like ground floor flats not being responsible for maintaining the stairwell.

Landlord Accreditation Scotland are supposed to ensure landlords follow best practice.  They need to ensure that their agents maintain the properties they rent out.

Only with these changes will we be able to ensure properties like mine get their owners to work together towards maintenance and we can see an end to the sort of tragedy which saw Illegal Jacks restaurant close down.

Amazingly one of the other owner occupiers in the stair has contacted a roofing company and it seems like we may actually get some of the repairs done.  No thanks to Click-Let who are happy to take in money while problems go unfixed.


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Planet KDE Theme from Season of KDE

Season KDE is KDE’s annual project to give helpers a more structured way to take part in KDE.  It’s inspired by Summer of Code of course.

Today I had the pleasure of launching the new Planet KDE website theme done by Ranveer Aggarwal.  It looks very lovely and importantly makes the site a pleasure to browse on your phone.  Everyone hug him and do report any bugs to bugzilla.


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What’s happened with Kubuntu recently?

Kubuntu Wire seems to be down due to a server move so here's a Wire post on my blog written by Ilya Kowalewski as part of Google Code in...

Hey there, we’ve got some news for you, here in Kubuntu. Recently, we released Kubuntu 15.04 Alpha 1 (Vivid Vervet) with brand new Plasma 5 onboard and got some essential stuff updated.

Plasma 5, the next generation of KDE Software is still a work in progress, but is stable enough for everyday use and it keeps getting better as new versions drop frequently. The KDE Applications 14.12 includes a bunch of bugfixes and migrations to KDE Frameworks 5.

IT World Covers the 5 distros you need to consider and uses the classic photo above for Kubuntu with Billy Piper.

Softpedia covers the alpha..

This edition of Kubuntu features one of the biggest visual changes in the Ubuntu ecosystem. The change of desktop is a major one and there will probably be some opposition to it. The new KDE Plasma 5 follows the same overall design, but it’s very different from what we were used to seeing.

Linux Veda also reviews the alpha with mixed feelings about Plasma 5..

It is, undoubtedly, a solid and stable desktop environment

We’ve recently got an email from Kubuntu user saying:

Please pardon the interruption but, KUDOS to the whole Kubuntu family.

Unbelievable, running ALL favourite apps off flash card (in USB 2.0 adaptor) on fairly mundane (‘dated’) desktop. So happy from smooth zsync upgrade.

Next, HD install. Stable, and now hooked on Kubuntu’s KDE plasma. Christmas gift, and Happy Holidays, New Year 2015 and beyond to you and yours.

Linux Veda covers things to do after installing Kubuntu, so you might be interested in this, in case if you plan to install Kubuntu.

We also released a new version of KDE Frameworks 5.5.0. KDE Applications 14.12 are arriving in Vivid Vervet, with backports, as soon as we can. For now, we wish you a Happy New Year and recommend you to meet it with new Kubuntu on your PC.

Good luck y Feliz Navidad!  Remember, you know how to get off the naughty list..

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Further Problems with Edinburgh Landlord Property Sharks: Charles Lovatt and LI Components

The Problem

Regular readers will know of my problems with maintaining my property in Edinburgh. It’s a tenement flat building with 11 owners who all need to jointly maintain the communal areas. The problem is nobody except me does, maybe I’m unique in wanting to maintain the most expensive thing I own but only I so much as looks at the roof never mind maintain it.

This year one of the owners, Charles Lovatt, did organise a meeting of all the owners to discuss repairs needing done.  I say organise, it came down to me to point out what his job was and to set up the modern tools like Doodle which make these things possible and set up times and places.

We met and I had to show everyone where the problems were.  When we went into the attic half the owners stayed out and didn’t want to look.  When we were looking for broken tiles on the roof Charles was too scared to even walk near the edge.  When we were looking at leaks in the attic only 1 other person accompanied me to walk around it and look.  When I asked about who put down the mysterious plastic sheeting that was prolonging the damp problems or the even more mysterious insulation that was stopping ventilation issues nobody said anything.  Nobody seemed at all annoyed or amazed that random stuff had appeared in the attic causing thousands of pounds worth of damage which nobody knew about.

But we drew up a list of issues to be fixed and Charles noted it all down and we went away to communicate over e-mail.  But Charles didn’t get back to us.  I waited and enquired and he said he was working on writing it up.  I waited some more and enquired and he e-mailed to say he was having problems with his e-mail, a worse lie I can’t imagine.  After waiting in vain some more I went ahead and make a shared document which listed all the items we agreed and sent out an e-mail asking people to organise the repairs.

Of course nobody did.  But I contacted some repair companies and as is usual in these things they need chased up and you need to make some visits and arrange to be at home to show them around.  I got agreement from a majority of owners and told the repair companies to go ahead, which as is expected with these companies needs some chasing up.

Some of these are ongoing and some have been completed.  But now Charles has said he doesn’t want to be included in any of the e-mails discussing it because he’s sold the flat.  Why is it acceptable to sell property knowing it does not meet The Repairing Standard, the legal standard for property rental? Why does nobody else help in any way to repair their property or seem at all concerned or annoyed that nobody else is helping? Yes it’s some some mild bother and yes you need to be persistent to deal with the repair companies but that is the job they have taken on as landlords or the responsibility they have taken on as property owners with a shared building.  Several people have started paying me for the repairs before I have even asked them to, but nobody has started doing any of the organising needed.

The Cause

What is going on here?

One issue is people have grown up without a sense of community, nobody likes to talk to their neighbour or share the gossip which starts the sort of conversations happening to discuss these problems.

Another is there are a large number of middle class middle aged people who having worked hard to pay off their mortgage were able to take advantage of the insane rise in house prices in the years until 2008.  These people bought multiple flats to rent them out and assumed they would pay for themselves, that it was an easy way to make money and allow for an easy retirement.  You can’t blame people for taking advantage of a system I suppose, even if it does result in anyone under the age of 35 being unable to get a property without help, why no politicians are concerned about this is a constant source of annoyance to me.  Anyway these landlords tend to treat their properties as a savings account not a job and don’t bother with maintenance and assume someone else will.  They have plenty of money so they’re typically happy to pay someone else to do it but they don’t feel the need to do it themselves because they’re above such menial tasks.

Which bring me to the third reason, people don’t have the practical skills to maintain the property they own. When I bought my first house the first thing I did was go into the attic and scout around the roof, it was fun as well as normal to be.  When I saw a problem I enjoyed working out how to fix it. When it needed a professional I phoned up the companies to organise them and I kept phoning them when they did the usual practice of forgetting to get back to me.  Maybe I’m unusual, my dad also loves doing this stuff so maybe I just learnt it off him and got the required help when I got stuck.  But it doesn’t say much for society that people are unable to make a few phone calls.

So when I put “property shark” in the blog post title that’s just being provocative because I’m feeling grumpy, I don’t think Charles Lovett is a malicious property shark, I think he’s just a lazy middle aged middle class baby boomer with a sense of self entitlement.  He ran a company LI Components doing electronics and at some point realised it was more profitable to rent out a flat which was done under the ownership of that company presumably so he didn’t have to pay Income Tax on it. Until the crisis came and it stopped increasing in value every year and a neighbout (me) pointed out how he was failing in his job so rather than fixing it he sold it and ran away.  This government press release describes his “interests… include strategy, entrepreneurial marketing and the competitive advantage arising from good governance” but if he isn’t able to call a plumber  I don’t see why he’s suitable to run a quango.

The amazing thing is Charles and Brian are just the worst example I’ve had to deal with because they ran away.  The rest of my neighbours are no help either.  They are usually happy to pay, some do so without me even asking presumably to ease their guilt.  But they don’t help and they don’t seem to understand the need to help.

The Solution

How to fix this?

Edinburgh Council wants to restart the statutory repairs scheme where they just made repairs.  When this was done previous it ended up with corruption because none of the owners of properties they were repairing cared enough to check up on what as happening.  So I don’t think it’s a good idea to start that again.

I tried to sue the previous landlord who failed to help or pay but lost.  Although he has a legal duty to his tenant to keep the property in good order he has no duty to his neighbours, and tenants are often just as lazy and ignorant as the owners.  Enacting a duty to your neighbours to maintain communal property would solve this in a stroke.

Education and communication would help.  E-mailing the landlord registration database to remind everyone of their job and doing a mass leaflet campaign would help. Maybe the council could send round the contact details of all the owners of neighbouring properties.

You already need to register to be a landlord.  Enforcing this would be a good idea as there are at least two flats in my stairwell which are let out but are not on the registrar.  And doing some sort of test for people registering should be required. “Have you checked the roof is not leaking?” would be perfect.  “What have you repaired in the last decade?” would be spot on.

And y’know, maybe the government could make property not a profitable way to get a pension and make it affordable to people under 35.  Higher stamp duty is a start.  More social housing might help.  Higher bands for council tax may help.  It probably wouldn’t help the politicians win votes with middle aged people but it would be the right thing to do after decades of transferring wealth from the young to the old.


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Voted Si Si for Catalunyan Independence


Today I voted in the Catalunya independence voluntary non-binding consultation and I voted Si Si.

I had been unsure what to vote and have spoken to many people to try to work out what is best.  As I said in my previous post on the topic  I was unsure on the question because unlike the Scotland referendum it seemed to be all about national identity and money rather than political differences.  There are very strong passions here on the topic, just read the 20+ comments on my post above and compare it to my post on Scotland  which got zero comments.  Unfortunately most of the comments are again about national identity, quibbing about whether Catalunya was ever independent from Spain or not, which is really just ancient history.

Several people objected, quite rightly, to the comment about Andaluthians working only in the summer and claiming benefits the rest of the year, but this wasn’t my comment it was what several Catalan people had told me when I asked why I should vote Si.  This is the sort of nationalism that is a bit scary and objectionable.  When I asked at the rally before the vote the lady told me the reasons for voting yes were because she could not speak Catalan in school in the 70s and they gave away all the money to the rest of Spain.  There will be some truth in that but that can also an unhealthy sort of nationalism.  And it’s hardly a reason for me to vote yes since I don’t speak Catalan and I don’t pay taxes here.

So why vote yes?  I finally found someone who gave me some political reasons.  The Catalan government wanted to impose a transaction tax on banks to help pay for the crisis they caused, but this was rejected by Madrid.  They wanted to ban electricity companies from cutting off customers who could not pay, also rejected by Madrid.  Catalunya wanted to prevent banks repossessing  your home because you could not pay for your mortgage but that was rejected.  There is a plan for a Mediterranean Railway Corridor which would connect Medierranian ports with the rest of Europe by rail but the Spanish government insists it needs to go to Madrid rather than Barcelona.  Similarly the half public half private company which owns both Barcelona and Madrid airports keeps stopping new Barcelona routes and making them go to Madrid.  And then there are detention centres for immigrants which the Catalan government wanted to shut down but could not.

And the politics of Spain doesn’t get any more friendly.  There are reports of Catalan friendly judges being followed by the central police and the Catalan president is being prosecuted for running the referendum.

And there’s my personal experience of government here, I’ve been welcomed by the Generalitat when I registered to live here but both me and my girlfriend have been completely unable to get an ID number from the bureaucratic Spanish government needed to work and pay taxes.  So I don’t pay taxes to Spain.  No wonder they’re in crisis.

None of this matters much, most people didn’t even know the vote was ongoing (finishes tonight, 25th November).  And I nearly voted no at the last minute when a TV crew interviewed me to ask why I was voting when I wasn’t Catalunyan.  So I voted yes in the hope of becoming a Catalan in a new state.  Good luck.

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Blog Move, Bug Squashing Party in Munich

Welcome to my blog on the updated jriddell.org, now featuring my personal blog (which has existed for about 15 years or at least before the word blog existed) together with my developer blog previously on blogs.kde.org.

I’m at the Bug Squashing Party in Munich, the home of KDE and Plasma and Kubuntu rollouts in the public sector. There’s a bunch of Kubuntu people here too as well as folks from Debian, KDE PIM and LibreOffice.

So far Christian and Aaron (yes that Aaron) have presented their idea for re-writing Akonadi.

And I’ve sat down with the guys from LibreOffice and worked out why Qt4 themeing isn’t working under Plasma 5, I’m about to submit my first bugfix to Libreoffice! Next step Breeze icon theme then Qt 5 support, scary.

IMG 20141121 224006 Kubuntu People
IMG 20141121 225014 It can only be Harald
IMG 20141121 172556Akonadi: Lots of Bad
IMG 20141121 172609 Let’s re-write Akonadi!

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Ratchet Screwdriver

Copied over from the previous version of my website..

According to Google, there is no reference to Ratchet Screwdriver,
the legendary game played by young
the world over (and, as far as I can tell, nobody else).
How it can be that Quakers from Edinburgh to California all play the
same game without ever having met is a remarkable achievement of
nature of proportions similar to the the near identical shapes of
sharks and dolphins despite their evolutionary separation.

Some people mistake Ratchet Screwdriver as being violent. Some
people mistake it as being rather too intimate. Technically it is
both of these but mostly it’s just great fun.

Ratchet Screwdriver was banned by BYM’s Children’s and Young
Person’s Committee. There is no way of knowing when this happened or
who was consulted about the forced destruction of our heritage because
BYM’s committees do not make their minutes generally available.
However an explanation can be found at this
thread on u19s qboard
(search for `co-clerks’). An anonymous reply explains the fault in
their logic:

Unfortunately what you have done is to drive it underground, to make
it more popular than ever. Meaning it now happens without proper
supervision, it has become something cooler.

The first rule of Ratchet Screwdriver is: don’t talk about
Ratchet Screwdriver.

The Game

First, remove all footwear, jewelry, watches, and especially
glasses. I’ve never known a pair of glasses to come out of Ratchet
Screwdriver intact.

Ratchet Screwdriver requires an odd number of people to play,
usually numbering at least 11. One person sits on their own while the others
pair up and sit in a circle one member of the pair behind the other.
Those sitting behind their partner may not touch the person infront,
but can otherwise sit as closely as possible.


One player sits on their own, the others sit in pairs one behind the

The odd one out calls the names of two people sitting in the front,
and those two people must compete to be the first to kiss the odd one
out. The partners of the two that were called have to hold them

The one who kisses the caller first is the winner and now sits
behind the person they managed to reach, the partner they left behind
becomes the new odd one out. The other pair swap places to let the
person at the back have a chance at the front.

Oh the questions

But where did this game come from? Why is it thus called Will CYPC
see the error of their ways? If you have the answers to any of these,
any more interesting nuggets of information or tales of Ratchet
Screwdriver please do e-mail me.

And apparently some of them call it wink. That
page explains it quite well.

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2 Paddler Training for Canoe Polo in Barcelona

Recently I had the privilege of meeting Marc Van Der HS (or as I like to call him, Marco Polo, because everyone here is called either Marc or Jordi) in Barcelona. Despite this being a prosperous city on the sea front where people do a range of sports from bike polo to long boarding there’s only him doing canoe polo. So we do training a couple of times a week in Port Olympic. There’s a limited amount you can do with two people and no goals in what should be a game with two teams of five people but Marc has found a range of useful exercises to do. Here’s some of them for my own notes and anyone else who’s interested.

Warm up:

  • Paddle forwards over a length about 50m long
  • Paddle backwards over the length
  • Paddle forwards dipping the nose on each paddle stroke
  • Paddle touching your blade onto the sterm of your boat with each stroke
  • Paddle with a bow rudder on each stroke so you zig-zag
  • Slide the paddle so your hands are at the extreme left and right of the shaft and you are paddling with an extended shaft on each stroke

Ball thowing on the move, paddle side-by-side over a length of about 50m

  • Throw a ball to each other while paddling infront of the partner’s boat
  • Throw a ball to your partner’s body
  • Throw ball to the front of your partner’s boat so they can bat it forwards with their paddle blade
  • Before each throw do a fake throw forwards, for bonus points don’t look at your partner

Passing between two people

  • Pass with two hands facing each other
  • Pass with two hands throwing the ball up in the air, the thrower should keep eye contact on the person they are throwing to
  • Pass with 1 hand from right hand to right hand or left hand to left hand, the elbow should be kept high and the ball should be thrown above the head, use the middle and ring finger to throw, rotate the shoulder backwards
  • Same thing up in the air
  • Passing over a long distance
  • Passing sideways while boats are parallel to each other
  • Pass to your partner’s paddle blade on the left and right sides
  • Pass above your partner’s head to catch with paddle blade
  • Pass to the front of your partner’s boat to be caught with paddle blade


  • Paddle forward gently, one person shouting “go” means you do two paddle strokes forward hard
  • Ten strong strokes followed by ten short strokes

Other Bits

  • timed races zig-zagging over a floating chain
  • piggy in the middle with one person in the middle and three others all of who’s boats must touch the centre boat
  • with helmets: two boats next to each other parallel, one person uses a strong reverse sweet and edge to slide the tail of their boat under their partner’s then paddle back some strokes
  • play defence/attack where one person tries to get the ball from another person
  • do short laps with a 180 degree turn at each end, on the turn move both hands to the end of the paddle blade so you have an extended paddle shaft, use a reverse sweet and edge away from the paddle side to raise the front of the boat

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Voting Yes in Scottish Independence Referendum

Next month Scotland has a referendum in whether to be an independent country. Here are the main reasons why I expect to vote Yes..

Staying United and Reducing Government

All countries need to work with their neighbours, when Europe was a patchwork of protectionist countries that like to have random wars with its neighbours life was tricky. Scotland was poor 300 years ago so when the country finally went bust it took the best opportunity on offer and had a union with England which while still having random wars with its neighbours had its own empire to work with other countries through (either on friendly or less friendly terms). Now life has moved on and we need bigger more fair unions to sort out the boring stuff like free movement of people and trade. That’s the founding purpose of the EU and while it has its problems with lack of accountability and political messups like allowing Greece to join the Euro it has overall succeeded brilliantly. We have no need for a union with Wales, a random corner of Ireland and little Englanders when we can have a much larger union as part of the EU. The UK is simply a layer of government I feel no need of. Best to simplify it by having three layers of government (local, national and international) than four (local, national, another definition of national and international).

An independent Scotland will be more democratic. Where the borders of government are made is arbitrary circles on a map but there is a clear demos in Scotland which we don’t share with England (and even less with Northern Ireland). The two parties that make up the UK government are the least popular parties in Scotland while the majority government in Scotland has a tiny representation in the UK and a whole government department (Scotland Office) with nothing better to do than work against the democratic process of Scotland.

And the scare stories?

What currency will we use? Although it’s not fashionable to say so now I’d like to move to the Euro, it’s been broken by politicians fudging the rules of entry to let in various countries that then messed up. But it seems to be healing and given a cautious approach there’s no reason not to join. Except we can’t because we use Sterling and before any country joins the Euro you’d need to peg your currency with it which the UK doesn’t want to do. Using Sterling makes sense, if the rUK government don’t want to have an agreement to use it then Scotland can just use it anyway just like the Isle of Man or Channel Islands do and just like Ireland did when it became independent, and if rUK insists that it somehow gets rights over Sterling which Scotland doesn’t then fine, they’ll be dumped with the national debt.

Will Scotland be allowed to join Europe? Scotland is already part of Europe so there’s nothing to join, no part of the European treaties allows for European citizens to be kicked out of the EU. There’s again no reason why the rUK gets to claim it is different from Scotland, just because they’re bigger doesn’t mean they get free entry into the EU while Scotland doesn’t. The biggest threat to being in the EU is England’s Tories giving a referendum to leave the EU, now that scares me.

And other issues? How will the BBC be split up? Will Royal Mail continue to operate cross border? Will mobile phones work cross border? Maybe I’d being naive but I trust our MPs at Westminster such as Danny Alexander and Alistair Carmichael to negotiate for their constituents in Scotland and not against their interests. If they negotiate against Scotland’s interests then that in itself is a pretty good argument for dissolving the UK.

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ESO (External Site Operator) training at Pinkston Watersports Centre

Pinkston Watersports Centre is an awesome new facility at the canal basin in the centre of Glasgow. After many years of hard campaigning and fundraising by canoeists around the country Scotland will finally have an artificial whitewater course to canoe on. England and Wales have had these for years but the difference is this one is intended for canoeists and canoe clubs. All the other courses make money by sending down bored office workers on rafts a dozen at a time which is far more profitable. This centre is a charity that runs it for canoe clubs like mine. Lovely. Consequently any club can get people trained up as External Site Operators who will get a key to the place and can run sessions on the flat or moving water. I did that training last night, here’s a few notes to help my memory..

19 May is the grand opening for funders and politicians. Sat 31 May is the grand opening for clubs, I should organise a trip.
Iain is the centre manager and Allan with the funky hair is watersports manager.

Currently bookings are made by phone and e-mail and pumps are turned on manually by staff. Shortly they will have a website booking system. This will come with a centre internal website which controls the whitewater course pumps.

Any club can get people trained as External Site Operator, it’s a simple 3 hour course. Over 18s only. The ESO will have responsibility for the use of the centre by their group. Groups must have liability insurance, SCA affiliated clubs have this for official trips. People overseeing the group must have Foundation Safety and Rescue training for use on flat and Whitewater Safety and Rescue Training for use on the whitewater course. Beyond that it’s up to the club to decide if they need to follow BCU Terms of Reference.

Park and Play sessions, those overseen by centre staff and not an ESO, are for 18+ only as they don’t currently have an AALA licence.

The course is nominally grade 2(3) and the short course is just a big wave.

There are three pumps to choose how much fun you want to have, 1 is mostly for rescue training, 2 is for fun, 3 is for real fun.

No throw lines or slings allowed, if they get dropped they’ll end up back in the pumps which will break.

Any injuries of other incidents should be reported to the BCU and to Pinkston staff. This is to spot problem areas and incase there is legal action years down the line.

You need to bring your own first aid kit.

Importantly, you need to bring your own 19mm spanner to be able to move the door that switches between the short and the long course, and the door which opens onto the car park.

Costs are £30 an hour on the flat and £75 an hour on the moving. Didn’t ask about the Park and Play sessions but the website suggests £7.50 a person, not sure what times these will run. This includes changing rooms.

Clubs can also hire a container.

It’ll be great fun, see you on May 31st :)

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Voting Green in the European Parliament Election for Scotland

It’s time to vote for the European Parliament elections which happen next Thursday 22nd May 2014. It’s hard to get excited about European elections because the EU parliament is just a revising chamber, so candidates can’t say “we will create a law on X and spend money on Y” they can only say “we will promote cause X and campaign for Y”. But if you don’t vote, you’re a bad citizen and can’t complain about anything. The media coverage is poor, they mostly seem interested in UKIP for reasons I can’t work out. One week before the elections the Scotsman politics page has one story, and guess what it’s about UKIP. The bastin of quality English liberal journalism The Guardian’s European Elections page has not one story about what the parties have in their manifestos. The only place to see the candidates talk is a three minute clip from a BBC debate which isn’t on iPlayer.

The best place to get a view on what interesting votes have happened in the last 5 years in the EU parliament and to see how your MEPs voted is My Vote 2014.


So firstly the nutters: Britain First are a splinter group from the BNP and their top candidate James Dowson is from Northern Ireland, where I’m guessing he’s been busy fighting the police to keep a Union Flag flying rather than care about anything important. The BNP’s Kenneth McDonald is sadly from Edinburgh although the bottom 4 candidates are all from England. I wonder whatever made him a racist twit in a country with minimal race problems. UKIP are not polling great in Scotland fortunately but the opinion polls show a swing to them, probably due to wall to wall TV and newspaper coverage. Their top candidate is a fat man from London. Then there’s the left wing nutters, no2eu. It’s quite nice to see the left wingers get together and the right wingers get splintered, a change from the historical norm.

Then there’s the discredited mainstream London parties. The Conservative and Unionists stole our free school milk and have never been forgiven. They also want a referendum on being in the EU but want to be in the EU, this makes no sense whatsoever. Scottish Labour don’t even have a manifesto on their website and they invade random countries. The Scottish Lib Dems might claim to be the party of “in” but they also don’t have a manifesto on their website, and their main performance in government at UK and Scottish level is to do nothing.

Which leaves the SNP and Greens. I’m a card carrying member of the SNP: in general they’re the party I feel most aligned to and I think everyone should donate to a political party else it’ll be left to corrupting powerful influences to do so. The SNP launched their manifesto yesterday and it’s full of decent stuff if you want to download the PDF.

But the Greens edge them out in my opinion because they care about the election. They have a dedicated campaign website which clearly shows what they’re interersted in. It includes a page on digital rights which none of the other parties care about at all. Green MSP Patrick Harvie even came to talk at a Falkirk Linux User Group meeting, I can’t imagine the SNP candidate coming to a meeting of 20 geeks. They even have a briefing paper on digital rights which talks about the potential of Free and Open Source Software and how it’s a bad thing to do mass surveillance, none of the other parties mention that at all.

We Promise is a nice website where candidates sign a 10 point charter on digital rights. Maggie from Greens and Alyn from SNP have promised, but nobody else.

While the SNP claim the final place is between a third SNP candidate and a UKIP candidate, the polls show it’s as likely to be a fight between Greens and UKIP (or even Labour) so I don’t follow that.

And then there’s the election broadcast, the SNP election broadcast is about the independence referendun and doesn’t mention the EU elections. It’s illegal and shows a disrespect for the voter. While the Scottish Green Party has a genuinely amusing one slagging off UKIP and LibDems.

So Greens it is, good luck you tree hugging hippies.

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Canoe Polo Referee Training and Exam Grade 3/4

I did the Canoe Polo Referee Theory Course and Exam (Grade 3/4). This is a three hour computer slide presentation taking you over the rules of the game followed by a multiple choice exam. Here’s my notes for my own use and anyone else who is interested.

The BCU Canoe Polo Rules 2013-2015 describe the rules and are mostly accurate and about as readable as they can be. They are based on the ICF rules.

A pitch is 35m x 23m or otherwise in a ratio of 3:2. Water is at least 90cm deep. 4 metres each side of the centre of the goal is the No Waiting Area, subs should stay out of this area. Goals are 1m x 1.5m x 30cm deep and 2m above the water. Marked with red/white stripes.

Ball is size 4 for ladies and junior, size 5 for open competition (these sizes seem to come from FIFA for football).

There can be 8 players on a pitch with 5 in play. A max of 10 is allowed in each team.

Officials needed are: 1st referee, 2nd referee, Timekeeper, 2nd timekeeper (for sending offs), Goal line judge x 2, scorekeeper and scruitineer. In Scotland it’s usually just 2 refs, timekeeper and a scorekeeper.

The timekeeper needs a horn, 2 timers (1 for sending off) and disciplinary forms.

1st referee has overall control, is nearer the officials table and makes any final decisions.

Referees work with lead and trailing, lead to your right so you are inline with the goal on your right if the ball might go into it so you can check it crossed the line. The trailing referee should keep an eye on the rest of play and generally won’t go past the 6 m line.

Player equipment – boats of the same colour, helmet with a guard covering the chin and holes no larger than 7cm. Bumpers should be compressable by at least 1cm with a thumb. Buoyancy aid (body protector) should be 15mm thick with side padding. Numbers should be 10cm high on front, 20cm high on back and 7.5cm on each side of the helmet.

Playing time is ideally 10mins each half with 3 min break. In Scotland Div 4 it’s 6 mins each half with minimal break.

A free throw is given to the team that did not cause the sanction, must be presented, will not have a starting whistle, must be taken with 5 seconds or being in position and can not be shot directly at goal. The ball must travel 1m horizontally. Referee points with open palm in direction of play. They are given for…

  • Start infringement (e.g. two people from same team go for ball
  • Sideline, corner or goal line throw

If the throw is not legal (e.g. no presentation) then the opposing team gets a free throw.

A free shot is the same as a free throw but for illegal play, it can be shot directly at goal. The referee points in direction of play. Given for…

  • Obstruction/holding (touching another boat with hands, touching goalie’s boat)
  • Illegal tackle (at 90 degrees, over cockpit, not in possession of ball)
  • Illegal possession (holding for 5 seconds, paddling with ball on deck
  • Illegal use of paddle (paddle near ball, paddle over bow in reach, paddling off opposition boat)

A goal penalty shot is given when the referee considers a goal the most likely outcome. Taken from 6m with other plays at half way.

A referee’s ball is given when two players are holding the ball for 5 seconds.

A green card is given on any dangerous or deliberate illegal play. A yellow card on 3 green cards or for any dangerous AND deliberate play, the player stays off for 2 minutes. A red card is the second yellow card and the player stays off for this game and the next. When giving a card, call time out, call the player over, show score keeper and player card. When more then 1 player has caused an offense a team card can be give, present to the captain.

The captain should wear an armband.

The referee can call play on if illegal play is observed but the team would be disadvantaged by stopping. After 1 pass the ref can change his mind on this.

The goal keeper is the player most directly under the goal and facing out towards the pitch.

On time out and any time you want to gain control of the players use a triple whistle.

To complete the course and be a qualified Grade 3 referee I need to be observed as referee and have the assessment form filled in.

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Andy Jackson Fund for Access

The Andy Jackson Fund for Access is a charity set up in the name of a legendary Scottish whitewater paddler to help the access situation to interesting rivers for canoeists.

Last year a paddler who I respect lots Chris Dickenson posted a rant on ukriversguidebook forum, a common place for people to post rants on. The rant was long but hard to pin down what it was about. One of his concerns seemed to be that the SCA wasn’t giving the money from the guidebooks to the Access Fund as they had pledged.

A quick look at the Access Fund entry on the Charity Regulator website shows that the charity does indeed get income every year but that it didn’t have any outgoings until 2012 and even then only £662 and in 2013 only £500. The only information on the charity is on the poorly maintained Where’s the Water website. There’s no indication of what projects they fund or who their trustees are or who their membership is.

Intrigued I sent an old fashioned letter to the address on the OSCR website asking for their latest accounts and annual report. After a couple of weeks I got the accounts and report ending 31st March 2013 dated December 2013.



As of 2013 there’s 4 trustees, Bridget Thomas (chair), Robin Cole, John Picken (treasurer) and Ron Cameron. Eddie Palmer’s name was on it but has been scored out presumably because he stepped down when he became president of the SCA. Robin Cole was added, presumbly when he took over from Eddy as the chair of the SCA Access Committee. Kenny Biggin stood down, no reason given.

The annual report says they do receive funds from the guidebooks.

The only activity given in the annual report is that two projects were suspended, Kinlochleven and Fort William Tailrace. There’s no indication of what these projects were or why they were suspended.

They have £11,562 in the bank.

The actual accounts do list some more activities. In 2012 there’s two items marked “Steps at Netherton on River Blackwater” and another marked “Steps on the River Garry” and in 2013 one marked “To SCA for Land Reform Consultation”.

And that’s it. No indication that they plan to do anything more with the money they keep receiving from the guidebooks, no modern means of communication like a website or e-mail or even telephone number. No suggestions of what sort of projects they would be wanting to support.

I expect that like a lot of volunteer committees the Andy Jackson Fund for Access is made up of people who don’t have the time or energy to give to the project as it deserves or even to ask for other people who could do so. This is a shame as many people buy the books expecting them to go to good caueses when in reality the money is just sitting in a bank account. Chris Dickenson’s rant that they are not being given the dues they are owned by the SCA is quite defaming and wrong. Many SCA committees are made up of volunteers who do a lot of hard work but then fail to show that by updating their pages on the SCA website (the access committee might well but one of them) with the result that people complain about the SCA don’t care or fund whitewater and only cares about sprint/slalom (which gets lots of funding from SportScotland). Here we have rare funding for whitewater paddling that isn’t being used. The Access Fund would benefit greatly from advertising itself and actively asking people to apply for grants.

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Small Claims Court in Edinburgh against Brian Porteous, BJP Properties

A year ago I organised some repairs to the communal parts of the tenement I live in. All the other owners while incapable of organising the repairs were happy enough to pay up once I organised repairs to their property for them. Except property shark Brian Porteous who trades as BJP Properties. Rather than maintaining the property he manages he did some superficial patches on the repairs needed and put his property on the market. He chose not to reply to any contact from any other owner. So in the end I had to sue him by filing a small claims summons.

Scottish courts are not known for their up to date technical know how. You can download the form for small claims summons on the website in proprietary MS Word format. The form badly needs a proofread by the Clear English Campaign, it uses a large amount of legal jargon including places where two obscure terms can mean the same thing. Having printed it off twice I took it into the Clerk to the Small Claims Court and paid the £16, very good value for the service I received.

Some weeks later a letter arrived with a date some weeks in the future. I put all my papers into a folder in a sensible order and went to court on the day. At the Sheriff Court there is minimal notice or information from anyone about what is going on. From a textbook I read once I assumed small claims courts were pretty informal affairs without lawyers but in the court room everyone was wearing gowns and we had to stand for the sheriff who was in his wig. They called up the cases one by one and the gowned lawyers kowtowed to “your honour” and explained their cases, mostly why their clients had decided to drop them. Eventually I got called up and asked what I wanted. Did I want a decree? I said I wanted the court to order him to pay the money I was owned, which turned out to be the same thing. However he had not turned up so the sheriff said in fairness they should reschedule for another date in a few months’ time.

In a few months’ time I was back in the same courtroom as another sheriff went through cases with gowned lawyers until there was just me and a fat man in the seats. The sheriff called us forward and asked if we’d like to go for mediation. I said I’d never had a chance to speak to him despite living next to him for 8 years sharing communal property. Brian said he had this letter from his lawyer and wouldn’t that be enough proof? No it would not said the sheriff, it would need to go to proof if he wanted to argue his case. So we got a date for proof in a few months’ time. In all the forms I had filled in nowhere had it mentioned that the date we got was only a preliminary hearing, sensible enough but seems everyone was confused.

By this time I’d collected some more friendly confirmations from my neighbours and I’d looked up a few more laws and I put together all the papers in a nicer file and handed in copies in triplicate to the court.

A few months’ later I went to the same court and watched a bit of a case involving a car accident, a man was in the witness stand describing what had happened as he drove round a roundabout. After a bit the sheriff called me and Brian Porteous foward and said they wouldn’t have time for us today so we got another date in a few months’ time. The same thing happened a few months’ later.

A few months’ later again I had my day in court, which was delicious. The sheriff had me take the witness stand and asked me about the case. He spent some time getting the whole story of everything I had done and the number of times I had given Brian Porteous time to respond. Then Brian got to question me. He chose to ask if I knew his flat was empty, I said I had no idea as it was not my flat so not my concern.

Then Brian took the witness stand and the sheriff took him through his understanding of the case. I got to quiz Brian on what his understanding of the communal property was and how he expected to maintain it. He said he thought I was in a better place to maintain it as I was living there and I questioned what that meant he did as the director of a property maintenance company. I questioned why his son had not passed on the many e-mails I had sent them and if that meant he was an incompetent property agent. He said he would expect the council to do repairs and I questioned why he expected someone else to maintain his property for him. I also questioned why he had not updated the private landlord registrar, which he said he did not know of any law that required him to.

Finally I got to take the sheriff over the statute law I had dug up which implicated him. I pointed out the Housing Act and the Tenement Act which both require a landlord to maintain their property and I pointed out the Antisocial Behaviour act which require a landlord to update the landlords register. The sheriff said we would receive judgement in the post and scooted off. Brian then asked me “as a man” to take down my previous blog post calling him and his son a property shark. I said I would not as he had shown no indication he needed to maintain the property owned by his property maintenance company. He said he’d call the police and I wished him luck with that. I thanked him for giving me this opportunity to learn lots of the law and what an interesting process it was at which point he made some excuse and walked in the opposite direction.

And then silence, the judgement didn’t come. I popped into the clerk’s office (a hassleful procedure since you need to give up all your power cables at the court entrance presumably in case you garotte someone with the power cable, or maybe try to set anarchy lose by using a non-PAT appliance) but the clerk’s just said it was with the judge. After 2 months I wrote a letter to the judge and a few days later a judgement came in the post.

And alas I lost. The judgement said that Brian had “never had a key giving access to the common stairwell” but I don’t see how this is relevant, if he is incapable of looking after his own property that should not be my concern. And “there is no evidence to indicate that the defender had knowledge of a concluded agreement” but I e-mailed his agent (who is also his son and neighbour). “at best the evidence indicated that cruz property management were e-mailed the quote” well yes, they were his agent, how else was I supposed to contact the guy? “The pursuer is misconceived in his reliance upon the Housing Act and Tenement Act” which in the sheriff’s reading don’t make the landlord liable to me (presumably only to and tenants he rents out to). “The sum sued for is so low that it falls beneath the limit where expenses can ordinarily be awarded”.

This is disappointing but I’m very pleased at putting in a good performance in court, public debate and confrontation is not something I’ve often been very good at but here I held my own under pressure. I learnt about the legal process which was interesting. It is very slow and clunky and not user friendly at all, it feels a lot like the processed is designed so trained lawyers know what’s going on by laypeople find it too daunting to use. Many basic details are not explained anywhere in the application process such as the 2 stage nature of it (initial review then going to proof) or the limits you can claim for expenses etc. Scotland (or at least Edinburgh) badly needs a law which gives tenement owners a duty to the other owners to maintain the property, currently my flat has leaks in the roof which nobody has bothered to fix and nobody seems even capable of looking at them. (How can you be a property agent when you are scared of heights and can’t even look at the roof?) I hope Brian Porteous learnt something about his need to maintain his property but I doubt it.

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Motorcycle CBT in Edinburgh with Saltire

In my never ending quest to better myself I took my motorcycle Compulsory Basic Training, CBT. It’s a 1 or 2 day training course to give you basic safety knowledge for riding a motorbike and some practical experience which is required before you can use your provisional category A licence. I did mine at Saltire Suzuki in Edinburgh who I’d fully recommend. Here’s some notes for my own use and anyone who is interested..

There are 5 modules in the CBT, the first is about safety clothing.

In 1979 the helmet law was introduced requiring all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet. It’s the only piece of safety closing legally required but any sensible person will also want protected jacket, trousers, gloves and shoes. There are three types of helmet, open, flip up and full face. All use polystyrene foam as protection which is easily damaged and once compressed does not uncompress, if you drop it then you should replace it. There are 3 types of fastener, clip, ratchet strep and double d ring. Don’t loan your helmet as if the borrower drops it they probably won’t tell you. Polycarbonate helmets last about 18 months to 3 years, fibreglass about 3-5 years and kevlar/carbon up to 9 years. Dry hair before use else it’ll mist up. Some visors are tinted but this is problematic when riding in the dark. A double glazed plate on the visor prevents steam. A visor lasts about 18 months if looked after.

Clothing is usually made from leather or Cordura. Leather is heavy, not waterproof but easy to repair. Goretex is often used as lining to make it waterproof. Don’t try gloves on a radiator as it makes them hard and brittle.

The next module is about your bike before you ride. Your weekly checks include checking the wheels, the tread should be 1mm. Your daily checks include testing your lights and breaks.

Then you get to ride the bike. As with learning to drive it takes a lot of learning the feel of new controls, only in a motorbike there are new controls of different types in unfamiliar places. The clutch is the leaver that would be the left hand break in a pedal bike, the throttle is by rotating the right hand grip, the gears are a pedel you lift or press with your left food, the back break is another pedal on your right and the front break is a heavier break you use on the right hand where you’d expect a break to be. Riding around the yard you are introduced to all these one at a time. There is no indicator for what gear you are in except if you are in neutral. None of the controls makes any sense and especially not when you have to use all five at once as in an emergency stop so it takes some practice to make them become instinctive.

More theory now. When coming to a junction remember OSM/PSL – Observe, Signal, Manoeuvre, Position, Speed, Look. Check mirrors and over shoulder. Then indicate. Then Manoeuvre which involves getting into the correct position, going at the right speed and looking around. The look will often involve a lifesaver look which is checking your blind spot over your shoulder. On a motorbike you must manually cancel the indicator which is very easy to forget.

Don’t ride in snow and ice. In fog you can tap on the break to show an extra rear light. Motorcycles make up 1% of traffic and 25% of fatalities, erk. For a bike which is 3 years old you must get an MOT yearly. Insurance comes in 3rd party, 3rd party+fire+theft and fully comprehensive flavours. Road tax is not emissions rated, which means it is often more expensive than a car. A V5C vehicle registration certificate is the legal log book required for every vehicle from the DVLA. A motorcyclist is especially vulnerable to road surface changes, always avoid spilt diesel and cobbles. Go over tram lines at an angle. Keep your hands and feel warm and dry, if they get cold you will be much less responsive. Wind affects motorcyclists a lot, if the Forth Road Bridge is closed to high sided vehicles it is also closed to motorcycles. Mirrors don’t cover your blind spot, don’t tell you the speed of other vehicles or the distance of other vehicles. Check them every 30 seconds. There are 169 over the counter drugs which cause drowsiness, don’t take any before riding. More stops are needed on the bike than in a car so plan your journey. Don’t ride when emotional, you’ll take it out with bad riding.

Then you get to ride around town with the instructor following and one way radio giving you instructions. Putting together all the controls along with good road use is tricky but I succeeded well. I wonder if I trust myself to ride without guidance now.

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