Monday, 13 October 2014

Meet the Lords of Misrule

 Remember to placate the Lords of Misrule. Take not their name in vain, for they will come back and hit you where it hurts most; usually a puncture when you're running late for the train. These pantheons of pranksters come in many guises, but it's the mischief makers that you need to watch; Kili, Loki and that wee imp, Murphy. They've always had a field day of opportunity with each new technological innovation. The broken spoke on that first oxen cart. The typo on the first Gutenberg printing press. The burst radiator on Mr. Ford's first model T. The 'Houston, we have a problem'. It's well understood by every farmer that a combine harvester never breaks down on a wet day and that when there are only two cars in the whole state of Pennsylvania, the tricksters will ensure that they crash head on. So as we enter the last week before we flee the winter and the house sitters move in, so the 'Captains of the capricious' will choose now to burst a pipe, leak a roof, fail a radiator. We got lucky, it was only an electric iron that deceased. An implement that until recently, lurked near redundant in a cupboard, that gave out on the second last uniform shirt of the season. Having partially failed the 'mischief test', Lord Misrule returns for one more effort as we're about to pedal off properly. Another gremlin. It's a comment on how addicted this western man has become to his 'opiate of connectivity'. Only eleven years ago, we set off on the 'long tour', our level of technology was a pencil and a jotter. An atlas of maps. No mobile, no computers, not even a camera. We survived, we thrived, we used an object called a callbox, for the vicarious travelers back home weren't ethereally connected to social media. This time the 'Queen of Cunning' has defuncted the tablet charger. Replacement will inevitably be overpriced, over-rated and not over here. She has another giggle; the spare is lying plugged in beside our Scotland. 

We all have a tally with these 'Gods of the Gambit', and like their turf accountant brethren, their raison d'├¬tre is to win, always at your expense. It's a lottery of points determined on a sliding scale. Wrong change for the latest fares increase on your local bus, you contribute to the CEO's bonus, With extra points if the newsagent won't break that tenner. Your kettle blows a fuse just as the minister calls by for tea: five points away, double if you blasphemed, treble if the warranty ran out last week. The Tally Man scores your card, the guarantee is simple, you lose. Still, you need to compete, to play the system, to play the mug. You might win, 'it could be you'.

Transporting two new hub geared wheels for our hibernating cycles, a retro-fit that requires a degree of modification, would suggest a level of confidence that might be more hope over expectation. A hostage to fortune. The possibilities for the trickster are legion. Starting with the Ikea wobble: the missing irreplaceable part, closely followed by the sino-scripted manual: pictograms of confusion, or the possibility that you've ordered the wrong kit: the AD/0144, when what was intended was an AD/0114. So whilst an alteration in the comfort of our own front room, with the reassuring knowledge that rescue from 'Mike's Bikes' is just down the street and there's a returns envelope for errors, would be reassuring, we're the wrong side of the equator, behind a customs barrier with punitive tax charges. Got to get it right first time. So if we're to tangle with the Lords of Misrule, a strategy of war will be required. The Plan, with its components of anticipation, speculation and resident mechanic. Thus far the best way to thwart the 'Deils Of Deceit', is to give up, cancel the order, return to plan: original. Yet we've been here before, this is the third trip that we've dreamed on this modification, only to renege, only to meet someone on the road who's toting a hub gear, only for the wee green eye of avarice to intrude. Of course it's 'want over need'. For so long we've been in thrall to the Great God Shimano, with his spurious upgrades that are simply a bolt size change, with his use of condescending jargon and a mumble of part numbers. It will be interesting to sit as an acolyte before a different deity.

The omitted part, the Japanned manual, the dyslexic order? All is well. All parts present and correct. The journal is an English written workshop bible. But it's the engineering that stands out. It's exquisite. It's German. My mechanic, the one I brought with me, is in cycle heaven. Of course it works, She got it right first time. Well....there was that one moment, that one place where the Lords of Misrule could intrude, a sliver of hope, a place at which to ruin the whole project.

What comes next is anorak tech, but anybody who has ever tried to fit a rear mech on a pedal bike will understand how frustrating it is to hold a spring-loaded part whose sole ambition is to blacken a thumbnail, induce hysteria, damage a thread, render a cycle useless. We came close to defeat, to disaster. Of course the thread got nipped, which had the Lords of Misrule salivating and myself speculating on the Spanish for 'Taps and Dies'. Some coffee and lateral thinking has the trickster temporarily in retreat. It's like playing the 'puggies', a few coins will drop, just enough to tempt you back into the game, for next time it might be all four fruits.

The bikes are ready for a road test. Time for an interim settling up of the Diddler's Ledger: am I happy to trade a fully operational bike for an unchargable tablet? It's a No Brainer.