Wednesday 21 December 2016

Blood Bikes? What's that all about then?

Those of you who are Facebook friends may have noticed a few posts about blood biking in recent weeks and there is of course a reason….

This was something I was heavily involved with back in the 1980’s being a member of the North East Thames Emergency Voluntary Service (EVS), who supplied an overnight courier service for hospitals in North and East London carrying samples, whole blood or anything that a hospital needed moving urgently and couldn’t wait for NHS transport to resume in the morning.

Even back then it was not a new concept as it had started in 1962 when Margaret Ryerson and her husband formed the Emergency Volunteer Service (EVS) in Surrey.  In 1969 this was followed by the Freewheelers youth community action group in Stevenage which initially served hospitals in Stevenage, Luton, Dunstable, Bedford and Hitchin. These original groups are no longer operating, but they inspired other groups to provide similar services.

The third group, which still operates today, was the Yeovil Freewheelers, founded in 1978. And in 1981, SERV in South West London and Surrey and the NE Thames Emergency Voluntary Service (also known as the EVS) were founded. This latter group was the one I was a member of and indeed was a committee member for a few years. The EVS sadly disbanded in 1999 but SERV continues to this day and now operates as a number of different groups. Other groups followed, and currently there are 34 different groups operating in the UK and 5 in the Irish Republic.

Blood bikes is the informal name for these emergency medical services, who provide voluntary motorcycle courier services to hospitals and other healthcare providers, to help with the transport of urgent blood, tissue and organs. They generally operate overnight at weekends and on bank holidays.

So what’s this got to do with me?

Since my move to Milton Keynes I have cut back on my previous volunteering activities, I stood down as Chairman of Hertfordshire 4x4 Response at the AGM in March and I ended my eight year stint as a Trustee of 4x4 Response UK in October.

I also resigned my position as a member of the Hertfordshire Local Access Forum as I no longer live or worked in the County and recently decided to resign from the National Escort Group GB (NEG GB) as my career as a motorcycle marshal for cycling events seemed to be a non-starter. I only did one event in 2015 after they “lost” my email address and the same seems to have occurred this year as I haven’t been allocated a single event and to be honest can’t be bothered to chase them anymore.

So as one of life’s inveterate volunteers (you might have worked that out from the above), I started to look around for something to fulfil my needs. This also coincided with Grainne's promotion, which means she'll be working shifts again so I'll need something to keep me out of mischief when she has to work weekends. I was out on a ride with Grainne shortly after she got her bike this summer when we were passed by a liveried blood bike from SERV OBN (Oxon, Berks, Bucks and Northants). A few days later and I saw another out and about in Milton Keynes, so started investigating.

The upshot was I applied and was accepted to join SERV OBN and last weekend started my training, learning the “northern routes” on our patch. More training will follow in January and then I have an assessment ride before being allowed to go operational. Just like in the '80s I will only be volunteering at weekends so as not to interfere with work.

A lot hasn’t changed from my experiences back in the eighties but there is a lot of new stuff too. The most obvious being the use of liveried fleet bikes rather than using our own vehicles and riders to have an advanced qualification (so good job I passed my IAM Advanced Test in 2011). The bikes are equipped with blue lights and sirens but at the current time these are not used by SERV (it’s a complicated story) but this may change if Sect 19 of the Road Safety Act 2006 is ever enacted, so the bikes are specified with them. 

This week the BBC ran a good article on the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikers:

Saturday 3 December 2016

A treatise on earworms

treatise noun
  1. a written work dealing formally and systematically with a subject.

earworm noun
  1. a catchy song or tune that runs continually through someone's mind.

So why do people keep blogs? Many are to document a particular interest; indeed I started mine simply as a way of documenting my rally racing efforts, although I have on occasion wandered off onto other subjects. Others use them as outlets for random outpourings, rants, daily diaries or a myriad of other things.

I often think of things that I consider broadcasting to the wider world but never get round to doing so. In fact many of my random thoughts occur on my daily 45 minute motorcycle commute between Milton Keynes and Northampton.

So I have finally decided to commit some of my more random musings to print (or pixels, or electrons or whatever).

So ear worms, what’s that all about? You know the thing, a random tune pops into your head and you just can’t shake it, no matter how hard you try.

Now I get it if you’ve heard a song on the radio or somewhere and it's catchy enough to stick in your memory but why is it I can almost always guarantee that some odd, if not downright bizarre tune will pop into my head when I’m heading home from work on the bike. Yet there is no music in the office and it’s not as if I’m listening to the radio like I would be if using the van, so where does it come from?

It rarely ever happens on my way in to work in the mornings so it’s got me a bit perplexed. And then there is the weird variety of tunes that crop up, not something that might be current and so likely to have been heard recently or even music I have in my own, admittedly diverse music collection. OK occasionally it will be something I almost certainly heard recently, not that old and still played regularly enough on radio, so they make sense unlike many others….

Recent highly bizarre examples include:

Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”.  I can’t remember the last time I listened to Rumours and yes it is in my old record collection but I haven’t had a record player for about 15 years and no I don’t watch Formula 1 (do they even use it for the theme anymore?). So why did it pop into my head as I accelerated down the slip road onto the M1 the other evening?

And one that cropped up the other week “Tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree” yes the excruciating 1973 hit by Tony Orlando and Dawn (yes I had to Google that). Where on earth did that one come from? A tune I guess I haven’t heard played anywhere for at least 20 years.

Then there was the evening where it was “Teddy Bears Picnic” you know the one, “if you go down to the woods today…. etc. etc.” Jeez that was a very strange experience.

But the truly bizarre was the other day when I had a classical tune running through my head, I couldn’t for the life of me recognise it but sure enough the tune was clear in my head. I eventually worked it out some days later. When I first started buying records in my teens, I expressed an interest in classical music. A friend of my parents gave me some old records, including one of overtures. Now I last played that record in about 1975, so how the hell did a tune as obscure as Franz Von Suppe’s “ Light Cavalry Overture” find it's way into my brain whilst riding down the A508 on a cold, dark November evening?

As I said truly bizarre!

And last night? It was this little ditty from John Williams.....