Thursday, 30 December 2010

The last post of 2010...

Before I start, the date reads Thursday 30 December when in fact it's the morning of Friday 31 December.
The Cottage Lodge – click here for more details.

The snow has restricted us and we haven't been out for a few weeks as a result. Andy flew to Jamaica on the 20th of December and then it was Christmas time. I did the usual: mother-in-law's on Christmas Day (I cooked the turkey and drove it over) and then on Boxing Day it was round to my folks. We went straight down to the New Forest on 27th December to visit our pals at the Cottage Lodge,  a cosy bed & breakfast hotel in Brockenhurst and now it's New Year's Eve and at 0720hrs it's still dark outside, although I can hear the birds tweeting to sunrise can't be far off.

Our room.

I considered a ride today but I think I'll leave it until tomorrow unless Jon calls, in which case I'll go to Woodmansterne Green. To be totally honest, I could do with a cycle as I've been stuffing my face with Christmas cake, Quality Street, Roses and beer and a bit of exercise would do me some good, but I doubt if I'll go. Tomorrow's a definite, though.

Pic courtesy of
Nothing else to report, other than I've just eaten a bowl of cornflakes (Waitrose Essential brand) and drank a large mug of tea. I'll probably have a bowl of porridge later – it doesn't get more exciting than that, eh?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Mobile phone version of blog available

Just to say that I've ticked some box or other that makes a special mobile phone version of the blog available. Tried logging on via the iphone yesterday and it works!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Snowstorm latest

In an effort to ensure that his flight to Jamaica takes off on time today, Andy decides to build a make-shift runway outside his house.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Another spooky churchyard photograph....

Snow ruled out cycling and I had to walk to our local
supermarket on Saturday afternoon, which meant another
saunter through the churchyard. I took this shot on the iPhone.
Spooky churchyard scenes are becoming rather familiar to readers of this blog, thanks to the snow. We had a shed load of the stuff fall yesterday around 1030hrs and it went on and on throughout the day, although it wasn't (isn't) as deep as it was on December 1st when over a foot fell on Sanderstead. This time it was about five or six inches, but it's still there now, as I sit in the conservatory looking out on the garden and there's no way the bike is coming out of the garage; for a start, I wouldn't get the garage door open without a fight and I know for a fact that I'd come off within yards of mounting the Scrap.

I'm assuming that Andy isn't waiting for me on the Green and I'm hoping that the airports will be clear for him tomorrow when he and his wife Marcia fly off to Jamaica for Christmas.

"The weather outside is frightful..."

I called my brother and pretended I was out on the bike, approaching Woodmansterne Green and where the hell was he, but the phone had switched to voicemail and I can only assume he hasn't heard it yet. In fact, I know he hasn't, because he called me and I had to explain how I'd left a message for him.

Anyway, outside right now, the snow is falling, quite heavily. Yesterday it fell from the skies in the early afternoon and my car had to be abandoned half way along the Upper Selsdon Road. I went back there around 9pm and drove it home as the roads had cleared. Now, the snow has started again and my thoughts turn towards the Christmas tree, which we haven't bought yet. It looks as if I'll have to walk in the snow to get the food, but hey, I've done that before and it's really no hardship. In fact, it makes for an adventure and the opportunity for me to pretend (to myself) that I'm Scott or Shackleton – or a contestant on 70 Degrees North.

The bike will remain in the garage this weekend, despite Andy and I resolving to go tomorrow; although, who knows? If the temperatures pick up and the snow thaws, we might well get out there. I'll keep you all informed.

No doubt Simon Cotter out in Australia has completely different weather. I mean, the very thought of having my Christmas lunch on the beach makes me shudder, but out there it's probably boiling hot sun and foot-burning sand, not to mention warm seas and ice cream. But not here in the UK.

Anyway, I'll better hang up – or rather stop writing. Oh, on an historical note, this time last year it was snowing too, check out the archive.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Cycling and running boom shows appetite for sports participation

Cycling's number is up by almost 100,000,
claims British Cycling's CEO, Ian Drake
New participation figures published by Sport England paint a mixed picture of progress in grassroots sport, with strong growth in running and cycling but a decline in other major sports, including football and swimming.  

Overall, the slow but steady increase in participation numbers seen over the past five years continues, with 6,938,000 people now taking part in sport at least three times a week. Today’s Active People Survey results show that regular participation is now 123,000 closer to the Government’s aim to get one million people playing more sport by 2012/13.

Weekly participation in athletics (including running) has swelled by over 263,000 over the past two years, buoyed by a growing network of informal running groups across the country. Over the same period, cycling’s numbers are up by almost 100,000. British Cycling’s Chief Executive, Ian Drake, said:

“We put great stock on trying to ensure our participation initiatives truly meet the needs of those we’re hoping to get involved in our sport. Indeed, we can partly put the continued success of Sky Ride down to the fact that we listen to participants and adapt our offerings based on the feedback we receive. We’re committed to getting more people on their bikes and importantly, keeping them cycling. What is particularly exciting for us is that we’re confident there’s plenty more to come and throughout 2011 we will be launching more new initiatives to help get more people cycling more regularly.”

Netball’s participant numbers are up by over 26,000, an increase of a fifth in the size of the sport in two years. Much of this success comes from the Back to Netball programme, which tempts women to return to the sport with a fun and flexible offer.

This is just one of the initiatives that have contributed to a recovery in women’s participation in 2010, but the gender gap in sport remains a challenge.

Of real concern, however, is the continued under-performance of five of the top seven participation sports, including the only sports with more than two million weekly participants - swimming and football. Their size means that this decline has a major impact on the overall growth of grassroots sport.

For these two – and other sports such as cricket and rugby – the challenge is to arrest the drop in participation outside the club structures where they have traditionally focused most of their attention.

The past 12 months have also been a tough period for sports that are costly and time-consuming such as golf, sailing and skiing. There has been a marked drop in participation in these activities among men aged between 35 and 44, a key period of economic productivity in most people’s lives.

Sport England ’s Chief Executive, Jennie Price, said:

“It would be fair to describe today’s results as a mixed bag. It’s good to see a wide range of sports – from individual pursuits like running to small team sports like lacrosse - demonstrating that, with the right approach, increasing grassroots participation is a realistic ambition.

“What is concerning, however, is that a number of major sports have yet to deliver, despite significant levels of investment. They now urgently need to demonstrate their ability to grow participation in their sport and prove they can make a significant contribution to sport at the grassroots level.”

The Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Hugh Robertson MP, said:

“During the comprehensive spending review we fought hard to get a good settlement for sport, keeping the Whole Sport plans in place. Now it is vital to see a return from the investment sports get from the public purse. I want every pound that national governing bodies spend on the grassroots to count.

“Our recently launched ‘Places People Play’ strategy will help get more people participating but we also need sports governing bodies to step up to the plate and deliver. Some sports are making progress such as athletics and netball and we need to learn lessons from them to get growth across the board.”

Source: Sport England

Andy's off to Jamaica – and they're promising more snow in the UK

A view that Andy will see a lot over Christmas
On Monday, Andy flies off to glorious sunshine in Jamaica for his Christmas break and I bet he's not even bothered about missing the Top Gear Christmas Special either. While yours truly is cycling in the rain and sleet to Woodmansterne Green on Boxing Day, Andy will be lying on a beach somewhere and the last thing on his mind will be cycling and whether or not he should wear his hat underneath his crash helmet.

The Jamaican Flag
He won't even be able to access the net to check out the blog and find out how we're all doing back here in Blighty where there's nowt to do but watch the Eastenders Christmas punch-up and other banal television programmes. Oh, alright, there's the Queen's Speech and, if we're lucky, there might be some student protests to liven things up a bit, but Andy's going to miss it all and I bet he's really cheesed off about it too.

The view that Matthew will see a lot over Christmas
(pic from

Still, here's hoping he has a good time and is refreshed and ready for some January cycles, which are bound to be jam-packed with snow, sleet, rain and wind.

Update from last weekend...

Sorry about the rant on student protests. Had I gone out cycling on Sunday it probably would never have been written, but hey ho!

We cycled to Tatsfield Village on Saturday and it was pretty cold but it was a fairly unadventurous journey. Sunday didn't happen last week, but we're both game on for a ride this coming Sunday, the day before Andy flies off to Jamaica.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Student protests – there's comedy in everything

The student protests in the week provided me with an opportunity to laugh out loud, mainly because there was a very strong element of comedy in the involvement of two members of the royal family, namely Prince Charles and Camilla.

Prime Minister Feathers McGraw claims that the full
force of the law will be brought to bear on 'the feral thugs'
Imagine, for a minute, that you are an angry protester, quite rightly fed-up to the back teeth with Nick Clegg and his ballot box betrayal; you're a bit hard up, thanks to the global banking crisis (nothing to do with Gordon Brown as the Tories would have you believe) and you face years of idealogically-motivated 'austerity measures' courtesy of George 'it doesn't bother me, I'm a multi-millionaire' Osborne. In other words, you are paying for the reckless bankers who have squandered everything and it's all coming out of YOUR taxes. Furthermore, you hear rumour that not only are the bankers edging their way back to big bonuses, but that big companies, like Vodafone and Top Shop (owned by that big, fat bloke who quite obviously eats miles too much and does little in the way of exercise) are managing to avoid paying hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxes. In the case of fat Top Shop bloke, he's sending it all to his wife who lives in Monaco – forget demonstrators, we need lynch mobs!

So, there you are: your kids won't be able to afford university – that's now to be reserved for people who speak like Kirstie Allsopp – you're likely to be made redundant and all the fat cats, unlike you, are avoiding paying their taxes. What's more, Eton-educated, Bullingdon Club member Feathers McGraw, aka David Cameron – take a look, they really were separated at birth – is talking about the Big Society, which we all know boils down to the attitude of 'you do it' – meaning that the Government's austerity measures are cutting things back so drastically that you, the man and woman in the street, can clear your own snow, grit your own roads – and all under the guise of 'the big society' and 'pulling together as a team'. Two words spring to mind and one of them is 'off'.

There's a lot of anger about, for all the reasons outlined above and that's liable to make any self-respecting demonstrator a little unhappy with Theresa May's assertion that peaceful protest is acceptable. Why, in heaven's name, would a protester want to do anything that was acceptable to the seagull-resembling home secretary? And, as one of the Whitechapel anarchists pointed out on television during the first wave of student protests a few weeks ago, when has peaceful protest ever achieved anything? He had a point.

So, the scene was set for a bit of a civil unrest and yes, of course, it got out of hand, like any good demonstration does, but the punchline was tremendous. A bungling royal security department decided to send a huge, black, gleaming Bentley carrying two super toffs – the very people that sum up the whole problem and who won't be suffering at all under the coalition's austerity measures. Round the corner they cruise into the path of a breakaway group of demonstrators and just imagine it for one moment, as I did on Saturday morning, what they, the protesters, must have thought. A huge, black, shiny, ostentatious symbol of wealth with huge, clear windows showing off its valuable cargo – that of the future king and queen who were unwittingly taunting the protestors from the supposed safety of the car.

Well, I don't know about you, but those students must have been eager to prise open their cans of vinyl matt emulsion and, as the car passed by, they must have been even more elated when they discovered that one of the windows was open. Game on!

For some reason, I found it all terribly funny, mainly because it was so ridiculous, like a situation comedy, which got even funnier when I heard some of the demonstrators chanting "off with their heads, off with their heads!".And then, of course, there was the possibility that some of those surrounding the royal Bentley were members of an anarchist group called The Wombles. Surely, Uncle Bulgaria's finest moment.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Ghostly snow images from the iphone...

Who would have thought that a walk to the supermarket could be so spooky?
A stroll in the snow to get some milk proved pretty spooky last week (it was either Thursday 2nd December or Friday 3rd December). This shot was taken around 4pm in the afternoon as I walked through the local churchyard at the top of Church Way. I pass through here every weekend morning on the bike, en route to Warlingham Green, but in the snow it looks a little spooky, don't you think?

Church Way, the first climb on any cycle that involves Warlingham Green.
Every cycle that involves meeting at Warlingham Green means a ride up Church Way, home, incidentally, of supermodel Kate Moss when she was growing up. Rumour has it that her mum still lives there, but how true that is, I don't know. This shot taken en route to the supermarket and just minutes before the churchyard shot above.

It's kind of customary to make a snowman when it snows, complete with a scarf. As I write this, the snow has thawed considerably and the snowman is but a shadow of his former self.

Despite Andy's offer of a cycle this morning, I foolishly bottled out on the assumption that we'd get a soaking in the slush. As always, I'm beginning to regret my decision.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Heavy snow rules out cycling

This picture seems to sum it up nicely. Photo credit:
The UK has been freezing cold and covered in snow all week. Oddly, the south seems to be pretty badly hit. I was in Derby at the beginning of the week and we were able to drive around in minicabs from one destination to another. It was cold, yes, but everyone was still mobile – apart from the trains. The 1918 train to London from Derby arrived at around 2005 and I reached London on Wednesday night at 2200 only to discover that trains further south were virtually non-existent. I eventually boarded a train to West Croydon, which went the long way round, and then took a taxi home, but at double fare because it was snowing. Now that's a good example of capitalism at its very worst. Still, needs must. I did, however, direct my minicab driver up a very slippery road and, as I walked away having paid double fare, I heard his car struggling on the icy hill. Here's hoping he's still there now, eh?

I seriously doubt if there will be any cycling this weekend. There's roughly a foot of snow outside my front door. Well, okay, it's thawing a bit now, but it's been about a foot all week.