By johanne James

Greetings to you all and I hope that you have had a good week.

Let’s talk about the learning of new skills.
You know, those things that can expand your horizons and options, that you don’t become a, let me think about that one and get back to you. It could be painting, carpentry, mechanics, pottery.

What have you learned?
I had gotten into making furniture out of old pallet wood. Every time I saw one, a pallet that is, I would see a table or a bookshelf or a cabinet or a chair. It was a little strange because all of a sudden they were no longer just objects that I would pay no attention to and that would end up in a land fill sight, to which some 3 million do on a yearly basis, but practical things that I now use daily. I would spend hours in the garden during the summer months, making stuff. Unfortunately I don’t have a workshop and would have to work outside which left me at the mercy of the elements on some days. I’d set myself a target that I would work for three or four hours, then take a break. Ha, those hours would pass by in microsecond, and the next thing I knew, it was time for lunch or dinner or bed. I would lose myself in what I was doing and so with all the bits I had made, I decided to take them to a crafts shop where I consequently sold 13 pieces. Not bad for a hobby. I guess my aim now is to completely furnish my house without going to the likes of Ikea or John Lewis, or even MFI, or is it MI5? Either way, it is thoroughly enjoyable, therapeutic and satisfying to stand back and admire something you’ve created.

I don’t know if you consider learning how to ride a motorcycle a skill? Is it?
Anyway, the fact is that I had, have a passion for these machines and over the years have had quite a collection. It’s the sense of freedom they can give you on a warm sunny day. My favourite must be the Yamaha RD 250 LC. Now for you bike enthusiasts out there, you’ll know what I mean. At 6.000 RPM, hang on for dear life! The thing is, I went onto become an assistant CBT, Compulsory Basic Training, and British Motorcycle Federation instructor. Yeah, go figure, me, a motorcycle instructor. I was a dispatch rider 18 months and would ride like a complete nutcase some days and quite literally take my life in my own hands! Some days you’d feel indestructible, a bit like Captain Scarlet. For those of you who know who he is, you’ll know whom I’m talking about, and for those of you who are too young, go check him out.
Anyway, teaching the general public the ins and outs of riding a two wheeled machine safely through the streets of London is no mean feat. You have to be so aware of all the things that would take great pleasure in seeing you in the back of an ambulance and off to the nearest A & E. You have to communicate with the riders and give them the correct instructions on where to go and what to do, and have the confidence to do it, otherwise, nee nor nee nor nee nor, and a blue flashing light disappears into the distance. It’s a great responsibility. Ouch! Been there, done that! Riding a motorcycle is one thing, but being an instructor is something else. You must have the guile to know how to survive, which is a skill in itself. Being aware of what dangers lay ahead before they even happen is a must. I love bikes, and recently bought myself a Honda Bros 650 CC V Twin. A beautiful machine and very well made. Honda built quality is second to none! It’s a skill staying upright on two wheels, let alone negotiating rush hour traffic, the elements and all the obstacles that lay in your path. I would love to race, but that is a totally different skill set all together. Can you imagine riding a bike at 300 KMH? No, but I admire those who can. Just watch the Moto GP Series and you’ll see what I mean. The speeds are truly frightening, but I guess once you’ve gotten used to traveling that fast you only wish to go faster and it all becomes a blur! There are limits, but these are being pushed as each season passes for man and machine.

I have learned many a thing over the years, but these two descriptions have been my favourites of late. They both bring me a great sense of satisfaction. Working with wood, I can stand back and say, I made that, and riding a bike, I’m glad to have survived to live another day that I can enjoy the freedom it gives me.

What have you learned? What is it that now makes you smile?

Thanks for listening, and for those of you who ride, ride safe!

Johanne James



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