Just a quick update on some of the things I talked about here.
I haven't yet built up the necessary head of steam to get back into learning to drive - got to be honest, I'm enjoying the lack of pressure and the flexibility attached to not spending every waking moment thinking about, planning, or otherwise dwelling on, driving lessons.
I will get back into it, but I've already kinda written this year off, and in truth I'm OK with that.
Not planning my life around driving lessons meant I was able to treat myself to a last-minute week at the Bowes Incline, between the 17th and 22 of this month (July): got there on Sunday afternoon, thanks to the very kind offer of a lift from my buddy Chris; fished the Angel Of The North Lakes Monday to Thursday; taxi home on Friday.
The hotel was as nice as an £80 a night hotel should be, with only the constant slamming of other guests' room doors (the automatic door close springs they've installed aren't soft-close - they missed a trick there) as a black mark against it; and it was indeed only five minutes stroll from the fishing, so it worked out perfectly in that regard.
The fishing was, for the most part, as good as I could have hoped.
I fished Bowes Lake on the first day, and ended up sick of catching carp! I must have had well over 300lbs of fish, and they were still going mental when I was packing in.
TBH there are too many fish in there, I reckon - a lot of the carp I caught looked pretty thin and hungry.
So with that in mind, the next couple of days saw me on the Lookout lake - and this was much more like it.
Still loads of carp (bigger, and in much better condition - fish to double figures were regular enough), and I actually had to step my gear up to 8lb mainline and 7lb hooklengths to be confident I'd get the buggers out.
I also got among quite a few barbel to around 4lbs - they were a blast; and caught a few tench to around 2lbs too, along with the odd perch and a few silver fish.
Yep. much more like it.
Mind you, the first of the two days on Lookout - on the hottest day I'd ever fished in, and indeed the day the temperature record was broken - I had to pack in early (around 2:30 pm) because my landing net broke.
What a sickener!
I was having a brilliant day, and the fish seemed unconcerned about the temps, feeding happily throughout - but the stamp of fish I was catching meant no landing net, no fishing...
I was able to buy one from the on-site tackle shop, but it had to wait until the next day, as the shop shuts at noon.
The second day on Lookout was much the first though, I so I wasn't disappointed for very long.
The last fishing day saw me on their little "ornamental pond", Bassett's Pond: a really bonny little spot (just 14 pegs, and I had all to myself, as had also been the case on the previous three days) - and again I filled my boots.
Loads of carp (to about 8lbs, all in perfect condition), tench (including my first-ever blue tench, an ornamental strain), roach, rudd, perch, ide, golden ide, orfe, blue orfe...
I was after variety: box ticked!
I even caught a probable UK record gudgeon!
(God knows how heavy it actually was - no scales with me - but the lad in the tackle shop is adamant that there are record-breakers in there, and this thing looked like a barbel - it was longer than my hand.)
So that was my experience of Angel Lakes. And yes, I'd go back again very happily - Lookout Lake was my kind of fishing, for sure - especially as I had it to myself.
The rules (which some anglers balk at, apparently - fine, if it keeps the muppets away) didn't feel excessive or unreasonable at all in practice, and although the tickets are £15 a pop - that's a lot for a "commercial" - you can really see where the money goes: the place is immaculately turned-out and well maintained, and there are so many fish to cast a line at.
Happily, my taxi home on Friday arrived at 10:30am on the dot - I really was expecting it to be late - and the taxi driver kept his gob shut the whole way home, which suited me and my persistent social anxiety perfectly.
I was back at Reeder Towers for 11:10 and that was that.
Although getting to and from the venue was far less hassle - and no more spendy - than a trip down to North Yorkshire, it's too expensive to taxi there and back in a day - it would be a nigh-on £100 round trip, which is too much for a day.
So - yep, this again! - I'd need my own wheels, wouldn't I?
It's only twenty-something miles away (I could - I won't, but I could - actually get pretty much the whole way from my house to the lakes on Sustrans cycleways) and given that I'd only need to take tackle, because bait, food and drink can all be sourced on site, it'd make for a light load to strap onto, say, an electric motorbike.
I've gone on at length about the barriers to entry into that world, given the reluctance of insurers to take on CBT compliant e-motorbikes, apparently because the ones I'm interested in are so much more than a 125cc CBT petrol bike - like the Zero S, which is theoretically a CBT bike, but which can actually produce something like 60 bhp (a 125cc CBT petrol bike produces a maximum of 15!)
I get it, although I don't like it. There are bikes I can insure - the Super Soco TC Max being the obvious one, which multiple insurers are happy to take on - but while I could just about live with the low top speed (it struggles to make a Real World 60 mph), it's the small battery - and the attendant lack of range - that rules the TC Max out.
For context, the TC Max has a 2.7kWh battery.
The Zero S has 14.4kWh!
So the TC Max has a Real World range around 55 miles. It would get me to and from to my local fishing club ponds well enough, but not much more than that, and I want more than that.
I've argued for a long time that the makers of the smaller e-motorbikes must realise that there's going to be a ready market for something that can stretch its legs a bit and go beyond being just a commuter, without getting into Zero S territory and falling off the CBT rider radar.
And it looks like I was right.
The parent company of Super Soco - Vmoto - has announced (and this is where I jinx the whole bloody thing... ) something called the Vmoto Stash, and bugger me if it doesn't tick all of my boxes:
It looks great; it's got a nice low (785mm/<31") seat height; a 6kW hub motor*; I like that it's got a screen; and - most importantly - it's got a 7.2 kWh battery: 2.7 times that of the 2.7kWh battery in the TC Max.
That means nearly three times the realistic range of a TC Max - by my estimate, something approaching 150 miles at city speeds; over 100 miles in mixed riding; and up to 80 miles at 50 - 60 mph.
Numbers like that would be absolutely perfect for me. In fact I'd enjoy seeing how much more range I could get out of it by "hypermiling" it - 'cos I'm funny like that!
It will be relatively inexpensive, too - rumours have it at around £5k or less (I paid that for my Specialized e-bike) - and because it won't have fire-breathing performance, it won't scare off the insurers.
The top speed is claimed to be 65mph, which is only a couple of mph more than quoted top speed of the TC Max: this is more likely to do it though, and it will get there more quickly thanks to the more powerful and more efficient hub motor, but its still not remotely Zero S-like in its performance.
Another important point is that Super Socos are available all over the place - there's a place in Consett, for example - so assuming that the Stash will be as readily available, I'll be able to actually throw a leg over one before I buy; and have some relatively close-at-hand support should problems arise.
I'm really struggling not to build my hopes up about this bike - and I'm failing utterly on that score - so unless there's a show-stopper I'm not aware of as yet, I really think that I've found my new bike.
In case you're wondering, it's called the "Stash" because there's room in the fake fuel-tank "frunk" to stash a full-face helmet.
Oh, how we laughed...
* Although the press releases for this bike talk about a 6kW motor, there's nothing definitive as yet about whether that's the nominal figure, or the peak figure.
Why does this matter? Well, the TC Max has a nominal 3.9kW - which is not very much, really (although arguably enough for a commuter, given how nippy e-motorbikes are off the line thanks to their all-available-torque-at-any-RPM character) - but it will peak at 5 kW, which on the face of it isn't far from the quoted 6kW of the Stash.
Does this mean that the Stash is really only marginally more powerful than the TC Max? Well if it is 6kW peak, then yes.
That would be a real disappointment, given that the 6kW figure is being given such prominence by Vmoto that it's actually written on the side of the bike!
So I really do hope that the 6kW value is the nominal output (my gut feeling it that it is), which would put the peak around, at a guess, 8 or 9 kW.
Still not a lot - certainly not enough to panic insurers - but it would better fit the image and the buzz around the bike, as well as just making it a more attractive proposition. I'd likely buy one anyway - as I say, it's the range which is the USP for me - but I do have misgivings about not having a little bit of power in reserve when needed...
(Again for context, the Zero S has a nominal 11kW, which is the maximum allowed for a CBT compliant bike, equating in theory to 15 hp: but - and this is surely what scares the insurers off - it has a peak output of 44kW/59 hp!)