31 October 2010

Halloween Weekend Heinkel

A request from my brother-in-law was a good enough excuse to pop over to arguably Dublin's largest bike shop, Bikeworld. The place is normally known for being expensive as well as unpopular with most of the scootering community. Something to do with Bikeworld's refusal to sell Vespa's legendary PX (when it was in production) even though the company was and is listed as Vespa's sole distributor in Ireland.

Maybe its the recession or maybe their reputation for expensiveness is a bit unfair but whatever it is, I was in a way, pleasantly surprised when I found a proper Dainese jacket for only €65! OK, it was pretty basic actually. The material looked like it could be shredded to pieces if one were to trip off their scooter, never mind a real crash but for that amount of money, I wouldn't be complaining.

But, before I even got to the jacket, I was even more surprised with what greeted me in front of the store...

The Heinkel looked untouched and unrestored from the day it rolled of the production line during the 60's. This particular scooter was definitely in working condition as by the time I walked out of the store, it was gone. A shame I didn't get the chance to meet its owner for a good chat about this wonderful piece of German engineering. Well, Dublin's a small enough city. I might just see the Heinkel again.

29 October 2010

Forgive me Blogger, for I (might) have sinned

Life as a teen in Kuala Lumpur of the early 90's was pretty dire especially if one was into anything other than mainstream, radio-friendly music. There was no YouTube or Vimeo and bands were nowhere close to putting up their music and videos on MySpace, Facebook or the like. Mid-way through the decade though, there was a glimmer of hope when Malaysians welcomed cable television (the now defunct Mega TV) which was quickly followed by Astro's satelite offering.

Brilliant if you could somehow convince your parents that channels like MTV and Kerrang! were as important as the air you breathed in as a teenager. Not brilliant if your parents were just coming around to accepting the concept of colour television in the first place and seriously believed that TV Pendidikan is great.

So, what's a teenager to do? Well one option was to do without meals or walk instead of getting the bus. After all, a decent imported CD (yes, we didn't have iTunes or MP3s back then either) costs as much as 100 fares on KL's infamous Bas Mini. The other option was to go underground and enjoy the home-grown gig scene.

The underground scene back then was a melting pot of ideas from all around the world. There were influences of ska, punk and indie from the UK, some scary metal from Scandinivia then grunge and hardcore from the far-flung cities of North America. Amazing really when you think that the world was more or less still offline back then. But kids being kids, we made do with the pieces of musical scraps that we had back then. Of course, this lack of musical sources didn't stifle the ambitions of some of us who were convinced that they could form a band that would one day take over the world.

So, it was in this period of my life that I learnt the various unwritten but widely spoken rules of forming a rock-type band. One of which was permanently stuck in my mind: Never ever wear you own band's t-shirt. Never. Not in a million a years. It just looks daft. Even if the person wearing it is the ugly drummer that you normally try to push as far back as you can on the stage so that it wouldn't ruin the photo.
It's a cardinal sin. A shameless act of self-promotion. Something that I would never do (if I ever formed a successful band). I believe in this unwritten rule so much that I've even tried to apply it to my other endeavours including this wee little spot on the interweb.

But, in the event another, totally unconnected band wore your band's t-shirt, then that would be a different story altogether. In fact, depending on the band of course, this act could be deemed to be the epitome of cool for the band on the t-shirt and the band wearing the t-shirt. Seriously.

Applying this principle to life in general and blogging in particular, I therefore unashamedly share with you, the readers of Hikayat Skuter Hijau... the fact that this blog (this entry to be exact) was featured in The Star's All the R.Age blog recently. Thanks to the other band, Ian-ything Goes, of course.

Thank you all of you for reading and sharing...

27 October 2010

Some Malaysian Football Fans

It was probably around this time last year when my other half's friend had a visit from her boyfriend/soon-to-be fiancee, all the way from Malaysia. Let's call him...Jimmy. As would be expected of most good Malaysian husbands, I was coerced volunteered to come along so that said friend's boyfriend, Jimmy wouldn't feel left out when surrounded by all the ladies.

At dinner, after all the pleasantries, knowing that I and another male guest were big Liverpool fans, Jimmy's girlfriend mentioned in passing that Jimmy too was a Liverpool fan. Two pairs of eyes were suddenly fixed on Jimmy as the girls left us guys alone to continue with our male-bonding.

That Rafa's an idiot.

Jimmy announced boldly, looking to get our attention. He certainly had mine. There was absolutely no doubt about that. The other male guest looked at me, hiding a wry smile in anticipation of a salvo of facts from me towards Jimmy about Liverpool's manager, at the time.

I looked across the room and there was my other half staring straight at me. Those lovely eyes I fell in love with might as well have been Superman's with red laser rays directed at me, boiling the grey matter in my head until it all burst out like Old Faithful out of the top of my skull. Yeah, I got the message: Don't.make.a.scene.

Hmmm...we've had a bad season...

I managed to mumble something out through clenched teeth. To me, it was unacceptable for one to claim himself to be a Liverpool fan but at the same time attack the club's manager in such a manner. Especially one who has proven himself on many occassions and was due a bad season at some stage. Criticise his tactics? Yes. Ridicule the manner in which he deals with the media? Probably. But, to call him names just because the team was going through a bad patch? No.

Then again, Jimmy wouldn't be the worst there is. Only a season before, Liverpool finished second in the league with a points tally that would've won the league in any other season. Unfortunately, like the saying goes, second is the first loser. So, it wasn't surprising for a knee-jerk, Sky/Star Sports-fed fan like Jimmy to expect nothing less than an all-conquering Liverpool side in the season to follow.

No, Jimmy certainly isn't the worst. One fan comes to mind. Back in my college days in Malaysia, there was this one so-called United fan that used to go around referring to Ryan Giggs as Brian Griggs, Ronaldo (the fat Brazilian one, not the one currently at Real) as Rolando, Mark Hughes as Mart Huge etc. This went on for some time until a couple of us finally confronted him on the matter. We soon discovered that he had based his entire football knowledge on a video game (Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer or something like that). Basically, as the games couldn't or plainly couldn't afford the naming rights for the various football players, the game's designers decided to substitute the real players' names with similar-sounding names. Normally, when setting-up these games, most fans would use the customise option to change the names to the real ones but for this one dude, the in-game names were the real ones and everybody else was wrong or had some form of dyslexia when it came to football players' names.

Or, you might want to consider another Malaysian-based fan who started supporting United (they all seem to claim to support United) because he was so into Beckham's haircut (the semi-long one with the middle parting). Huh? Give me glory-hunting Chelsea fans (post-Abramovich, of course) any day. At least their reasons have got something to do with the game.

Fortunately, for every fan out there who would swap his/her club's jersey at a drop of a league point, there are still a few out there who actually take the time to understand the beautiful game and apply at the very least, some degree of reserach and more importantly, common sense when supporting their respective clubs. If you're one of these people (you know who you are), keep it up...Malaysia needs you!

25 October 2010

The Green Vespa: Back and Better

After enjoying a day or so on my Vespa (which had been gone for almost 3 weeks before that), I've now managed to get some pics of some of the minor improvements that I've made since it was stuck at Carl's. I won't go into the details of what was wrong with the scooter in the first place. The list of things that needed done was as long as my arm!

A Sito Plus exhaust is now bolted on to the old thing to replace the rusted original PX exhaust which was on its last legs. I still haven't given the exhaust a proper chance to show me its abilities yet as I was mindful that my rear tyre was brand new and needed some time to run-in. Something to do with a special coating on the tyre that's there for storage reasons. I'll give it another few miles and then...

Here's the new tyre on the bling-bling new SIP tubeless rim. Personally, on top of the polished aluminium of the rim, I think the rounded (acorn-type?) nuts that come standard with the rims (rather than the standard M8 ones) just complete the whole look. Anyway, sorry about the daft pic but I couldn't be bothered with removing the spare wheel for a better view of the thing. I'll get a better pic as soon as I get the tyre on to the front rim.

Speaking of the front rim, it's obvious that one needs a bit of patience to get tires on to these rims, even with the right equipment at hand. The one I had for the front had its tubeless beading broken so, I've had to order a replacement for that one. Hopefully, I'd have that sorted out by the end of the week.

23 October 2010

Vespa's Back. Back Again

Got my Vespa back today. At long last.....after 18 days of public transport and lifts from friends and neighbours. 18 days. That's longer than some stretches of being off the Vespa in the middle of the worst winter weeks. That's a long time. A very long, long time.

To busy enjoying it at the moment. Will report back as soon as I finish enjoying myself on it and sort out all the little bits that needs sorting...

21 October 2010

Saved By the Bale

It must've been over a decade since I last looked forward to a match at club level more than I would a Liverpool match. I've had my eye on this match ever since the fixtures for the Champions League group stages were confirmed: Internazionale v. Tottenham Hotspur.

The match sees Rafa Benitez somewhat reunited with Harry Redknapp and the English media for the first time since being forced out of Liverpool in the summer. OK, so why is it that I was so looking forward to this match?

The reason is simple really. I wanted Inter to win. Not only that though, I wanted to see Rafa Benitez and his Inter squad systematically disassemble Harry Redknapp's Spurs like the rookies to Europe that they are. Put Redknapp in his place and all that, while in the process, show the English media (well, most of them anyway) how wrong they were in their almost xenophobic treatment of foreign managers (Benitez in particular) and their blind support for English managers (Redknapp and media darling, Hodgson specifically).

So, was it worth the wait?

Oh, yes. Within 2 minutes, Inter were one up and by half-time it was game over. Even the faithful in the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza fell strangely silent, satisfied with the opposing team's comprehensive destruction on the night, seeing no need to cheer on their own team any further. A sign of mercy perhaps to the battered, floored and demoralised Londoners. This doesn't include Bale of course, who had other plans towards the tail end of the night.

And what of Redknapp? Well, he did what he does best. Twitch endlessly on the sidelines.

Gracias señor Benítez. Gracias.

19 October 2010

Scooter Sightings: A Random October Weekend

A beautiful October day called for a visit to the city centre taking along the old camera with me. Well, the extra weight on the shoulder definitely didn't go to waste.

A gorgeous Vespa Sprint greeted me as I popped down the Ha'Penny Bridge to land on the north side of the city centre. I'd love one myself but personally, I'd do a Scooter and Service job on the Sprint if I ever get my hands on one. Not this particular one though, it'd be blasphemous to mess with this one.

Back on the south side, a nice looking Mk1 PX in Temple Bar was strategically located close to Temple Bar's weekly Food Market which the family and I took advantage of to grab a much needed quick bite. These are the types of things I miss about the city centre since moving to the 'burbs a few years ago.

Scooters parked in formation: Another nicely restored Mk1 PX, an ET2 and hidden way at the back, a scooter I once considered buying myself, an Aprilia Habana (or Mojito) Custom.

Coming towards the end of Wicklow Street, at the usual scooter sighting spot across from Tower Records was unsurprisingly, a few scooters. One of them in particular, had my full attention. I was rushing towards it to snap a pic, thinking it was a Rally or a TS (from the look of its side panels) but then, I realised that it had indicators, an awkwardly shaped glovebox, a strange-looking horncast area and a handlebar that was all wrong, for a Vespa that is.

A Bajaj. I don't get to see lots of these around these parts. Not ones that proudly announce its Babaj-ness anyway, most being unconvincingly converted to Vespa look-a-likes by their owners. Same goes with LMLs that tend to suffer the same fate. The question here is, why? Why?

Anyway, it was a good day out with the family. It's good to see some lovely scooters especially since I've been off my own Vespa for exactly two whole weeks now. Two very long weeks. Here's hoping that my misery ends sooner rather than later...

17 October 2010

Derby Day Blues

I put up my last post on Friday when about an hour after that, it was announced that NESV had officially acquired Liverpool. Good. At the very least, the club wasn't owned by the pair of cowboys any longer although, if reports are to be believed, we'll hear from them yet. As for the new owners, I have to say, I like their under-promise, over-deliver prudent style.

But, today is not supposed to be about all this ownership malarky. Today is derby day and with the ownership issues temporarily settled, it should be just about the football. Thankfully, it was just that but oddly, looking at the performance of Liverpool today, I was quietly hoping for some form of distraction from the pitch. Unfortunately for me, no distractions came along. None whatsoever.

As for the match itself, compared to the last couple of matches, the players did look like they pulled up their socks this time (minus one or two) but there's only so much the players can do when the club's manager appears as clueless as Cher Horowitz, only less pleasing on the eyes. A lot less pleasing. And, can anyone out there explain to me what's the story with Hodgson's broad smile at the end of the match? One for the cameras eh, Roy? 

Seriously, even if given time and Hodgson's tactics are actually properly implemented by the squad as intended, at the very best, Liverpool would just end up as a very, very mediocre footballing bunch. Wonder how that fits in with NESV's plans for Liverpool's world domination? Hmmm....

15 October 2010

Hicks & Gillett: Clutching at Straws

Liverpool fans are regarded as being one of the more knowledgeable bunch of fans when it comes to all things football and even more so when it comes to their own club. Well, more recently you can throw in a lot more knowledge into that pot. In fact, a bit too much for your average football fan to comprehend. But, being the loyal supporters that we are, every attempt is and was made to fully understand what the hell exactly is going wrong on at the club.

Around this time last year, fans were bombarded with talk that Liverpool were going under because the club's auditors had raised some doubt as to the ability of the club (more specifically, its holding company) to continue as a going concern. Hicks and Gillett's leveraged buy-out of the club was confirmed and and it was plain for all to see that their plan wasn't working too well. All of a sudden, a good bunch of fans were also financial experts.

Then, just over a week ago the gates of legal hell were opened when Liverpool's proposed sale to NESV was questioned and subsequently dragged to court. There were scenes of jubilation at the courts after RBS' view on the situation was favoured over the current owners'. That was meant to be end of that story but no. Not for old Hicks & Gillett. Like the villain in a horror flick who just refuses to die, they've managed resurrect their chances and have filed some sort of counter-claim in Dallas, Texas.


What's some district court in Dallas got to do with Liverpool? Well, seemingly a lot considering that Kop Holdings' primary place of business is legally considered to be in the Lone Star State. Old Man Hicks's lawyers are of the view that the Board's sale to NESV is some sort of English conspiracy between the two and RBS to undervalue Liverpool. You know what? The conspiracy bit is probably true but the undervaluing bit? That's all you, Mr. Hicks. You and your pal George.

In short, all this means is that all this legal wrangling will drag on and on until all possible legal avenues are exhausted. A process that can drag on for a very, very long time.

Oh, and if there's any doubt that Hicks and Gillett are the cause of this whole mess, the recent events should be enough proof. Unless you're Harry Redknapp of course. And I thought Jamie was bad...

13 October 2010

This Is...Fred Perry?

I'm a sucker when it comes to good marketing tactics. Scratch that. They don't even have to be good in the first place. All it takes is constant in-your-face imagery and I'm yours - up to a point of course. Take for example the job done by tennis attire-turned-subculture favourite, Fred Perry on This is England '86 .

After watching the series, I was hooked. All I can think about these days is the stitched laurel on a merino wool cardigan or a polo shirt, tipped if possible. To make things worse, I don't even look good in either piece of clothing. Personally, I think cardigans are for grandads, not that my two grandads ever wore one, preferring the humble combination of a sarong and a Pagoda t-shirt instead while my other half thinks I "look a bit gay" in a cardigan. Just great. Get myself a cardigan and I run the risk of looking like a homosexual grandad.

The good news doesn't end there though. No, not for me. You see, I have jello for arms and a six-pack ab. Unfortunately, the six-pack is well hidden underneath a worryingly huge tummy. This is normally not a problem if I just stick to regular or loose-fitting pieces of clothing but, if I ever decide to challenge the norm with say, slim-fitting Japanese-size Fred Perry polos, catastrophe looms.

So, for the moment, I think I'd stay clear of Fred Perry until my infrequent visits to the gym actually bears some fruit. Until then, I can at least say that i've got a scooter and at one stage of my life, owned a pair of Dr. Martens boots...

Pic by andeecollard

11 October 2010

Every Cloud Has a Sito Lining

My Vespa's breakdown couldn't have happened at a worse time. The mechanic I normally send my Vespa to, couldn't have been busier. There were paint jobs to finish off, some insurance claim cases and a long queue of scooters awaiting some much needed TLC. So, a little delay was quite acceptable.

What wasn't acceptable was the state of the Green Vespa's rear tyre. I sort of knew it needed to be replaced some time soon but if I didn't have any problems with the Vespa, I  wouldn't have bothered looking closely at it until it was probably too late. There was basically no thread left on the tyre at all. Of course, I grabbed this opportunity and got myself the replacement Heidenau K58s. This time, in tubeless form to go with my all-new SIP tubeless rims. I can't wait when I finally get those rims on the Vespa...

I was going to get the tyres at my default dealer of choice, SIP Scootershop but as they couldn't be bothered with stocking the tubeless version of the Heidenaus I wanted, I decided to give their competitors in Cologne a try. Scooter Center have been gaining a good reputation within the scootering community in these parts, as a viable alternative to SIP especially since some quality issues (both service and goods) have started to creep in the Bavarian company's business of late. Hopefully, the competition would give SIP a good kick in the behind and they'd start to buck-up soon.

In addition to the long-needed tyres, I also managed to convince myself that I desperately needed a Sito Plus as a replacement for my old, rusty, bog-standard exhaust. Theoretically, the Sito Plus should give me that extra bit of power to drag me over a steep-ish hill and also allow me to safely compete with what seems like an ever-growing number of 50cc mopeds at traffic lights. Theoretically.

Seven days (and counting) being Vespa-less is quite bad and is testing my patience with Dublin's traffic but at least now, I've got a couple of things to look forward to.

09 October 2010

The Pros and Cons of John W. Henry

Roy Evans, the former Liverpool manager and the last of the club's Boot Room managers summed it up for me a few days ago when he raised a note of caution (or warning depending on whatever way you look at it)...

We cant't afford to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Or, if you prefer the more eco-friendly Malay version, Keluar mulut harimau, masuk mulut buaya. Not that Evans would be saying anything like that.

Anyway, within the next few weeks or so, Liverpool face the prospect of kicking out two very unwanted Americans and replacing them with 17...errr...Americans (seemingly the amount of major shareholders in New England Sports Ventures) led by billionaire turn half-a-billionaire-because-of-the-credit-crunch, John W. Henry. So, about a week after Liverpool's probably not-so-legal board accepted NESV's offer, what do we know about the club's potential new owners?

The Pros
  1. Like Hicks and Gillett, NESV also own (or owned in Gillett's case) several American sports franchises and have never been involved in sports outside of North America. Unlike Hicks and Gillett, NESV's franschises have actually been successful (and in the Red Sox case, extremely successful) after having been taken over.
  2. Seemingly, the acquisition will not place any additional debt burden on the club. In fact, it appears that part of the reason the three directors agreed to the sale was because Henry and Co. made a commitment for the complete removal of the acquisition debt associated with Hicks and Gillett's initial purchase. That would save almost GBP800,000 a week on interest payments alone. Or, to put in football terms, a whole bunch of players of the quality of the current First XI. Not bad, eh?
  3. The potential new owners are no newcomers to investing in sports so, they do realise that Liverpool badly need to develop on current facilities to compete with the Premiership's other big clubs, be it an all-new stadium or the re-development of Anfield at its current site. It's blatantly obvious. According to the latest available figures, United earn GBP40-GBP50m more than Liverpool on match day earnings alone. That's like getting two players of Torres' quality on an annual basis. 
The Cons
  1. Like most American investors in the Premiership, NESV lack any experience in sports of any form on the other side of the Atlantic. Henry is well-known to be an ardent baseball fan so, it'd be interesting to see whether the same level of passion would transfer to football and specifically, Liverpool Football Club. Failing that, the new owners would be relying on advisors and that too could easily go pear-shaped depending on who they get on board.
  2. From a technical point of view, even Hicks and Gillett kept to their word and didn't place any debt on the club. Key words here: on the club which, they didn't. But, before you release the lynch mob on me, I do realise that in reality, they did put a mountain of debt on the club's holding company which, has the same negative impact on the club. Who's to say NESV who have promised the same, wouldn't do the same either? Hmmm...
  3. A lot of credit has been given to NESV for the Red Sox's World Series success in 2004 and 2007 but, not being a follower of baseball, I certainly wouldn't be able to confirm whether the Red Sox's success can be directly attributed to NESV. For all I know, it could just be that NESV got lucky and bought the Boston franchise at the right time, when they were already on the up.
Not surprisingly, the pros do cancel out the cons leaving us back at square one. It's definitely still early days but it's heartening to know that at least Broughton, Purslow and Ayre are determined to get rid of the current bunch of Americans, no matter what their motives might be. Good luck to you three in court. Good luck to Liverpool.

07 October 2010

Vespa Breakdown

I've only had praise for my trusty old Green Vespa. Other than the odd clutch cable snapping (a well-known P-series design flaw) and the recent issues with the exhaust, my ownership of this Vespa has been relatively problem-free.

So, in a way, the breakdown I had a few days ago on my way to work was definitely a first. Not a first that I would be awfully delighted with but, a first anyway.

Like the calm before the storm, everything seemed fine that morning. Traffic was heavy but not actually horrible. There was one car-driving douchebag on the road that refused to let me overtake him even though it was clear he'd get nowhere at the next set of lights which was only a few feet away from us. There was even one stretch of road that was almost impassable because of some cable-laying work. But still, I felt glad as my Vespa was doing fine.

Unfortunately, that feeling was totally erased when at a set of lights in the city centre, I heard a loud enough Click from my scooter and then, silence. At first, I thought it was just that I had mis-timed releasing the clutch while it was still in gear so, instinctively my right foot went for the kick-start. To my horror, the kick-start was stuck in position no matter how hard I tried. I knew then this wasn't some problem I could solve by myself on a footpath that morning.

Not wanting to face the fury of the traffic behind me, I gently rolled the Vespa on to the footpath and started to think of my options. I considered rolling the Vespa to work which was only a 10-miunte walk away (probably a bit longer I suppose dragging the scooter with me) or call in the recovery crew immediately and get my scooter to Carl's that same morning.

I went with getting the scoot over to Carl's and within an hour, a recovery van arrived (courtesy of my Carole Nash insurance cover) and got me over to Inchicore. Hopefully, it's not too bad of a problem and I'd be back on my Vespa within a few days...

05 October 2010

Relegation Fodder?

...as opposed to you lot. Relegation fodder!

That was the way the United fan who I happen to share a work space with, ended his sentence. Ah, nothing beats a bit of morning football banter to brighten up one’s day. The odd thing was, I could actually smile and brushed away his comments as if it were some Brothers Grimm fairy tale.

Well, not today though.

To put things into perspective, the comment was made a couple of weeks ago, after matches against Arsenal, Manchester City, WBA and Birmingham left Liverpool languishing in the bottom half of the league. Not actually relegation candidates at that stage. After all, a couple wins at home in the next few weeks and Liverpool would easily shoot up the league table (hindsight is a great thing isn’t it?). Surely...

Unfortunately, things don’t seem to be going as planned and it’s looking even worse. By mid-October, the club could be rooted to the bottom of the Premiership with negative three points (one of the gifts of administration) and the possibility of being further anchored there after a visit across Stanley Park a few days later. I’m not being pessimistic but if Liverpool lost against Blackpool at Anfield, we just don’t stand a chance against Everton do we?

Anyway, if there is some light at the end of the tunnel, I don’t seem to be blinded by its glare just yet. The fact that the manager conceded that the club are in a relegation battle don’t help either. Yes, it might be the case of stating the blindingly obvious but it still didn’t sound good coming from the man in charge.

The only logical explanation (read: conspiracy theory) that comes to mind is that this is some sort of elaborate master plan by the wily old Hodgson to drive Liverpool’s selling price even further down with the aim of making Liverpool Football Club even more attractive to potential buyers and rid ourselves of the current American owners for good.

But in reality, that's just not the case, is it?

The reality of it can be summed up in Hodgson's own words:

How many clubs have I had in 35 years? What do you mean, do my methods translate? They translated from Halmstads to Malmo to Orebro to Neuchâtel Xamax to the Swiss national team.

With all due respect to the clubs and one country mentioned, does anyone see any household names in that list?

03 October 2010

Vespa Won't Do Any More Than 40

It all started about two weeks ago. Well, at least as far as I could tell. By the time I noticed that my Vespa's engine was in a bad shape, the Vespa was struggling to get to 40 mph (that's about 60 km/h) and couldn't even do any more than that even if I was going downhill with the wind behind me.

OK, I'll personally take some of the blame for the Vespa's lack of speed. The extra stone or two that I put on at the end of Ramadhan could have been a contributing factor but seriously, I don't think it would have shaved 15 mph off the PX125's listed top speed. So, the good old Haynes manual was consulted and I went through the list of usual suspects. The carb was as cleaned as a whistle and so was the jet. Next up was the spark plug. Although it looked normal enough on initial inspection, it did have a small amount of soot on it. Having a spare plug handy, I had that replaced.

Running out of ideas and skills, I re-started the Vespa but it still sounded pretty bad - the same awful dry, chainsaw-type sound that just wasn't music to these ears. I gave Carl at Modern and Classic Scooters a call and went through the symptoms. The good thing was it wasn't anything as serious as say, a worn cruciform or a destroyed clutch but we still couldn't figure out what the problem was, at least not over the phone.

So, I made my way over to Inchicore and after a short lecture reminding me to get my Vespa serviced more regularly, Robbie and Carl worked away on my Vespa. After looking into the same places I looked at, Carl casually mentioned that it could be the exhaust.

A quick look at the exhaust and it was obvious that the exhaust was the cause of my woes. The exhaust was almost completely blocked up by carbon and soot deposits. Robbie worked away on unblocking the exhaust and after a few minutes the Vespa was re-started. Like an asthmatic boy that's just found his inhaler, the Vespa took in a huge deep breath and puffed out a good amount soot. Although I had limited mechanical knowledge, at that moment, I had a good feeling that my old Green Vespa was back to its normal self. After a quick spin around the garage, I was proven right.

All was back to normal in Chip's own Vespa universe.

01 October 2010

Watching Paint Dry in Utrecht

There I was busily tapping a way at my laptop’s keyboard when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Movement. Yes, there was definitely movement outside on the first floor balcony of my house. Could be nothing. One of the estate’s many stray cats or a bird. Nothing to panic about. After a brief moment, I noticed it again and then again. That’s no cat...

I got off the couch and without thinking twice I darted to the French doors that led to the balcony. There in front of me was my cat – two hooded figures, in tracksuits and sneakers were crouched on the metal rails of my balcony, in broad daylight.


Different thoughts raced through my mind. There was the hurley or maybe a golf club that I kept reminding myself to buy and keep handy around the house, just in case situations like this ever happened. Where were my wife and kids? Surely, I needed to tell them to get out of the house at that very moment. My mobile? God only knows where that was that afternoon.

I must’ve stood rooted to the laminate floor, staring at the two intruders for long enough as one of them pointed me out to his fellow perpetrator. But then, something strange happened. Both of them smiled. Cheesy-looking grins actually and waved their guns. Oh yeah, burglars with a sense of humour. Awww...how nice of them.


Those gray things in their hands weren’t guns or any type of weapon. Not at all. They were...paintbrushes soaked in gray paint. Eh? WTF?

At that moment, I realised that the two men standing on my balcony weren’t actually baddies out to rob me of what little belongings I had in the house, they were actually painters who were hired by the block’s management company to spruce up all the old and flaked paint on the metal railings around the place. Relieved that my life wasn’t at threat I continued to stand at the same spot curiously looking at the two men’s work.

It wasn’t easy work. First, they had to scrub and sand off all the old paint work. Then, they had to brush away anything else that was left behind before putting on what seemed to me like a coat of primer on the bare metal. After leaving a section to dry, they’d continue with the sanding/scrubbing elsewhere but would come back to paint on a couple of layers of gray paint, making sure that they get the paint evenly on every single nook and cranny on the metal railing. After all that, their job was basically done and all that was left was to pray that it didn’t rain so that the paint could properly dry.

Interesting? Not one bit.

But I can promise you that there are even less interesting things in life than watching paint dry. And, to prove my point, I will gladly offer an example: The FC Utrecht v. Liverpool Europa League match last night. I would offer some of my views on the match but considering that the only interesting bits were Van Wolfswinkel’s name and Martin Skrtel’s head wrapping that made him look like a white Arthur Ashe (without the 70’s afro), I’ve pretty much ran out of things to say.

What I can comment on is the strange reaction from Roy Hodgson during the pre-match press conference. When asked how many points would be required to qualiy from Group K, he replied with...

Nine or ten would be my guess but I wouldn't put a bet on it if I were you because I'm not very good at these 'How many points do you need' games.

Not very good at estimating points, Roy? If you're not good at that in a 4-team group, I wonder how you'd fare with the Premiership's 20-team table. How many points are you aiming for there?

OK, I'm being harsh but it's not like I plucked the comments off some anti-Liverpool tabloid like The Sun. The comments were taken from Liverpool's official site so, the chances of our manager being misquoted are pretty much slim to none. Of course, it might be the case that I lack some sense of humour but really, now's not the time to be joking about points tally and all.

If I was looking for some reassurances last night, there was definitely very little on show either pre-match or during the match itself.

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