Saturday, 17 January 2015

Sitting Bull

Marcia, whose birthday it is today, has been wittering on not only about her advancing years but also her weight.  I will admit she has grown a little chunkier than when we first got together ten years ago, but then I am hardly as svelte as I used to be.

It was with weight, or rather the control of it in mind, that I decided to get myself a bicycle.

You may recall I hand carried a bike back from UK for Alex last June.  You can't buy decent bikes here.  The only ones you can get are made in China and are festooned with all the extras a kid doesn't need (Shimano look alike 21 speed gears that don't actually do anything?).  Of course everything that doesn't fall off these bikes doesn't work anyway and instead quietly corrode.  And for such small bikes, they weigh a tonne.  Kids here rarely get to learn to ride a bike but they are very good at rolling bits of them such as wheel rims down the road under the control of sticks.

Alex's bike was made in Birmingham (that's the large Muslim controlled city in England for our American readers, not Birmingham, Alabama) out of aluminium, so it was both strong and light.  It needs replacing not because it has broken through the very hard use it has suffered, but because Alex has outgrown it already.

My search for bikes, therefore, commenced not with trying to find a couple of decent bikes, they are quite common in civilised countries, but with working out how to get them here.  DHL UK quoted me over £600 per bike.  After a lengthy and entertaining exchange with Lufthansa, which served to prove that Germans do not read emails, just react to key words so having initially concluded I was trying to ship a live animal, then quoted over 600 euros per bike but then informed me that they could not ship non-commercial items so could I please confirm that the bicycles were not for personal use.

In the end it was my brother in Germany who came to the rescue suggesting I just stuck them in the post.  I can see those of you familiar with Angola smiling derisively and my reaction to his suggestion was indeed somewhat deprecating.

'But DHL is Deutsche Post,' he said, skin as thick as rhino hide 'and you can track your parcel all the way.'

Well, it was worth investigating. 

German websites are notoriously difficult to use.  The Germans maintain they are logical in layout.  So are Qwerty keyboards but using one for the first time is still bloody frustrating.  Sure enough, about three hundred clicks later, I found a page on which it was stated with Teutonic confidence that Deutsche Paket Dienst parcels could be tracked from the point at which they entered their system to the hands of the recipient.  The package size limits were generous, as were the weight allowances and, considering that they claimed a delivery time to Angola of a week, meaning the parcels must come by air, they were ludicrously cheap.  So I decided to give them a go.

Sitting in my brother's study was a 60x60x60 cm box weighing fifteen kilos containing ABS wet cast swimming pool coping stone moulds.  They came from a company in Bristol called Airforme and, as far as I can tell, Airforme is the only company in the world who make wet cast moulds for traditional pool coping stones.  The moulds weren't cheap at £325 and they were no good to me in Germany, but I had yet to find a way of getting them to me in Angola for less than the usual Monkey (£500).  The UK courier had charged Airforme, who passed the cost on to me, £165 just to get the box from Bristol to Stuttgart.  DHL Paket International wanted £80 to send the same box all the way to Angola.  For eighty quid they'd get it here in a week and I could track it all the way.  Too good to be true?

I thought so after I logged onto their tracking service and saw the package was in Kuba, and that DHL were having difficulty delivering it to a Maria Pirez.  Considering that the package had only been handed in to DHL Paket in Germany that afternoon, this was bloody good going, even if in completely the wrong direction. 

Micky complained to DHL and was told to send them the invoice for the contents and they would refund the value under the terms of their guarantee.  Damn decent but I decided to wait and see.  Sure enough, the next morning tracking confirmed that the package had 'been incorrectly addressed' and it instantly reappeared in Germany.  Six days later Marcia, to whom the package had been addressed, received a text message from the Central (and only) Post Office in Luanda telling her a package had arrived from Germany.  Brilliant.  The thing is, given the time frame and the fact it was tracked through Frankfurt, it must have come in on a Lufthansa flight!

The system tested to my satisfaction, time to find the bikes.  I would have liked to buy the bikes from the same company from which I bought Alex's bike but since DHL UK, or any other UK courier, for that matter, cannot offer anything even approaching the service from DHL Paket in Germany clearly it made sense to buy from a German bike dealer.  German kid's bikes are hopeless.  They are so safe, they are no fun at all.  For a start, winding the pedals backwards applies a rear brake which, if you are not used to it, launches the rider over the handlebars and makes any kind of trick riding impossible.  And, let's face it, give a boy a bike and he is quickly going to work out the most dangerous unintended way of riding it he can.  That's the whole point of having a bike.  Then there are all the chain guards, padding and goodness knows what else, which make the thing look like a kindergarten toy, which is I guess, what it is supposed to be.  Even in UK it is quite hard to find a 'real' mountain bike with 20 inch wheels and a frame to match.  Dawes, the Birmingham company make them but the vast majority of manufacturers seem to think that 'for Kids' means 'Cheap and Nasty'.

After spending an evening fruitlessly surfing German suppliers and having made my mind up to buy a Dawes for Alex and have it delivered to a mate in UK for it to await the next visit to England of Micky, I trawled around the Deutsche web looking for a bike for me. In seconds I found one.  It was the right size, the right price and the right weight.  It was a tadge more than I intended to spend but the extra cost for exotic alloy meant less kilos and a saving on postage.  I realise that this argument justifying a cooler bike had been somewhat eroded by the efficiency and cost effectiveness of Deutsche DHL Paket Dienst, but what the hell, I am spoiling myself in a good cause.  But then the German website dropped a bombshell.  You could get Daddy's bike in exactly the same specification, with the same Gucci chain set and gears, the same light alloy frame, the same colour scheme, in every way identical but the size,  They would do Alex a bike like mine, but with 20 inch wheels and a frame to suit!

'Marcia!' I called, 'you are whining about being fat, do you want a bike as well?'

'Nem pensar!' she said.  OK, I won't think about it I thought as I wrote to the supplier to ask for an invoice.



 
This is Daddy's bike.  It is big and made by Bull. 
I shall call myself 'Big Bull'
 
 
This is Alex's bike.  It is small and also made by Bull. 
I shall call him 'Little Bull'
 
 
Mummy didn't want a bike. 
We shall call her 'Sitting Bull'
 

29 comments:

  1. How the hell you're still alive after mentioning Marcia in the opening comment of a post tiled "sitting Bull" is nothing short of bloody amazing lmao.
    Enjoy the bikes, I'm sure you won't fall off and break an ankle ;)

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    Replies
    1. On falling off and breaking things, the bikes are fitted with Styx components. I wonder if mine has a coin slot as well, be handy in the event of me killing myself on it...

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  2. Replies
    1. Thankyou, thankyou. It's the way I tell 'em.

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  3. Replies
    1. Oh John! Go straight to the top of the class.

      (leave your books where they are, though, you won't be there long)

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  4. It's all about calories in and calories out. 3500 of them per pound. If mother is with child she has a right to be putting on some pounds. As far as yourself well its a loosing battle. Once past the half century mark and it all goes pear shaped. But I suggest It be a whole lot less trouble and a lot cheaper if you just dug yourself a deeper pool. That should burn some calories. ;-)

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    Replies
    1. I have to admit that at my age it is getting a bit loose...

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  5. Dad should be called Full o' Bull!

    Haha.

    Happy Birthday Marcia!

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  6. If you'd have ordered from Amazon, they would have dropped your package the next morning by way of a drone. At least, that's what they plan to do. If you're a member of some sort on Amazon, shipping is free. Wonder what they'd say about Angola?

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    Replies
    1. Amazon will deliver books to Angola and use DHL Express but that costs around a hundred quid for a couple of books.

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  7. I thought Chinese bikes were OK. I have a Raleigh and had to take off all the unwanted bits as soon as I bought it (1980-ish), It's still going strong.

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    Replies
    1. Not everything made in China is rubbish, they can produce to whatever standard the client wishes. The importers here, though, go for all the tat.

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  8. I hope you ordered some good locks for those bikes, otherwise they'll end up in the same place as your tools....

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    Replies
    1. I should really build a sturdy shed.

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  9. We take our post so much for granted here and moan when postage goes up, but it's nowhere near as bad as what you face.

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    1. Makes you think. For us, being able to ship a parcel from Germany to here measuring max 60x60x120 cms weighing up to 31.5 kgs for ONLY 91 Euros is a bloomin' bargain!

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  10. How can a woman be a bull? In the wonderful world of cattle the female of the species is not a bull but a c.. (Oh sorry!). Your bikes look splendid. I hope there are not too many big hills around.

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  11. Bloody glad I did not buy my bike in England, it would have been a Claud Butler. Then your comment would no doubt have been, 'That Hippo, a reet girls blouse, what wi' 'is Clard Bootla an' arl!'

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    Replies
    1. Your command of Yorkshireish is impressive. Did you by any chance attend the Weer thus Muck thus Brass Language School in Cleckheaton?

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    2. School? Thar's got heirs n greyrces ain't thee? Me fether apprenticed me t't mill soon as a kem off me mam's tit.

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  12. Nice one. I will expect to read on a blog here soon, "Have you seen my bike Marcia?" to which the reply will be, "It's ok. I let *%$**+ borrow it" Good job you have taken some photos to remind you what they look(ed) like.
    I look forward to seeing the pool finished. How many coping stones will you have to make?

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    Replies
    1. Including corners and radii, close to a hundred, I guess. I will do a post on making them, though, as I will for constructing the pool in general. I will either dispel a few myths generated by pool contractors, or prove them all correct!

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  13. DHL and bulls. Do you remember my saga? I'm having a similar one right now, but this time in the opposite direction - sending a disposition (sales document) for my father's house to the lawyer in Scotland for a completion date of 30th January. So far Thailand Post Track & Trace informs me that it arrived in UK 9 days after leaving Bangkok. Am about to send a duplicate by UPS, which will doubtless mean that the first will indeed arrive to second I have paid for this additional service. I'm a shitting bull - if these papers don't arrive the sale falls through.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Yes I do remember, I covet your bull.

      DHL tracking always amuses me. A parcel sent from Reading passed through Heathrow, East Midlands, Leipzig, and Barcelona in less than 24 hours before hanging up in Lisbon for a week and then making it to Luanda.

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  14. Can't imaging you'll have those bikes long unless you lock them up every night. If they aren't stolen Marcia will " lend " them to someone for urgent business somewhere and that will be the last you see of them !
    Isn't it pretty difficult riding a bike in all that sand ?

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    Replies
    1. For security I think I need one of your Australian working dogs. Can you do one the height of which is measured in hands?

      The sand will be no problem, I shall have natives laying palm fronds across my path.

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  15. I hope Marcia had a nice birthday, and as for all the bull, well it's just as well I am wearing boots.

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Please feel free to comment, good or bad. I will allow anything that isn't truly offensive to any other commentator. Me? You can slag me without mercy but try and be witty while you are about it.