Friday, 30 December 2011

27th December - Tatsfield Churchyard

Despite a broken night, I decided to push ahead with a ride and rose at 6am in preparation. To be honest, had my phone been charged, I might have sent the 'abort' text, but I'm glad it wasn't and that I didn't.

It was a pleasant day and we'd both had decent festive breaks. Andy was at home on Christmas Day and I went to the mother-in-law's followed by my mum's on Boxing Day. All very pleasant. Today, 30th December 2011, I've just returned (last night) from two excellent days in the New Forest with friends. We go every year and it's always a great break, lots of walking around the forest and, of course, a few beers and loads of food. Great stuff.

Andy's bike gets into the festive spirit.
I'm getting a little concerned that this Christmas seems to be sailing by miles too fast. Soon I'll be sitting at my desk, working. Still, live for today and all that.

On the 27th, we cycled to the Tatsfield churchyard, but couldn't find a Christmas tree that looked any good; the one on Tatsfield Green, which we cycled to after drinking our tea, had lights and stuff, but it wasn't switched on and looked a bit dull. We cycled home and Andy said he'd decorate the bike.

Today, 30th December, it's a nice day out there, but I woke up too late for a ride and perhaps a break is as good as rest. Tomorrow, 31 December, will be our last ride of the year - here's hoping it stays nice out there.

Two years ago.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Eve morning - let's talk about dogs...

Tatsfield village on Christmas Eve morning, around 0815hrs. The Christmas tree on the green wasn't sparkling because the lights were off, but there was a fair amount of activity, mainly from people buying their early morning newspaper from Linda's store, one of those places that sells everything you need.
Dogs: cute, maybe, but they don't know the meaning of Andrex - even if
they feature in the advertisements.
There were a few people out walking their dogs. One man had three. At one point, as Andy and I sat down to enjoy our tea and cereal bar, it seemed as if all the dogs were barking at the same time. Sitting in the comfort of the covered bus stop, looking across to The Ship, Andy had something to say.

"I can't stand dogs," he said.
"I'm not sure," said I. "But I know what you mean."

Across the road a man emerged walking his dog. Right on cue, I thought.

"They're pack animals," Andy said.
"Man's best friend," I replied.
"I don't believe that; they just go where they're fed."
"Cats more so..."
"I hate cats too."
"I'd prefer a dog to a cat."
"Why own a dog? They're so much grief. Everything revolves around the dog. If you go out you have to ask yourself 'shall we bring the dog or leave it here?' and if you go on holiday, you've got to find somebody to look after it or put it in kennels. It's like having a baby for 15 years. People who own dogs need to feel wanted."

Andy had picked the right day to discuss dogs; there were loads of them: big ones, small ones, some in twos, some in threes, Tatsfield was a dog owners' paradise.

"The thing I hate about dogs is the smell," I said. "A kind of doggy smell, a damp smell, that suddenly hits you, it wafts past. I remember once, when I visited a social club near Derby, that the man who owned the club offered me a lift to the station. He warned me that he kept dogs and that the car was a bit of mess, but it wasn't the mess I was concerned about, it was the smell. For the whole journey I must have been pulling an awful face. All I wanted to do was pinch my nose."
"And every day you've got to take it out for a walk, whatever the weather, even when it's pouring down."
"Yes, and when you get back home, soaking wet, the dog shakes himself all over the carpet."
"And these days, you've got to pick up their turds too.
"That's the most off-putting bit."
"Yes, the feel of a hot, squashy turd through a plastic bag."
"Actually, the worst thing about dogs is that they don't wipe their arses."
"I've never thought of that before, but you're right, they don't."
"Imagine if you had to do it for them. Now there's a job I wouldn't relish."
"The dog wouldn't like it either."
"Think for a moment if humans acted like dogs. Imagine being at home, with nothing on. You answer the call of nature, you don't wipe your arse and then go and sit on the sofa. That's what it's like being a dog."
"Or doing that thing dogs do when they pull themselves along on their arses."
"Carpet surfing?"
"That's it."
"Our respective wives wouldn't be impressed."
"No, they wouldn't."
"That's a good point, though."
"I've never thought of it before: that dogs never wipe their arses."
"Well, they can't, we'd have to do it for them and that's far worse than picking up their turds through a plastic bag."
"What time is it?"
"Time we got out of here I think."

We mounted our bikes and left Tatsfield and it's barking dogs behind us. We cycled past the desolate Reptile Zoo and were greeted by the sound of dogs, or was it wolves, crying and yelping. I wondered if a Komodo dragon was on the loose, but figured that a reptile zoo in Tatsfield would be limited to grass snakes and other less dangerous animals.

Merry Christmas to all our readers!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Helen Pidd on the Batavus Lento Deluxe

Writing in Saturday's Guardian Weekend magazine (17 December) Helen Pidd explains how she can never understand anybody who takes the bus when the option of cycling is open to them. Well, how about when it's raining, Helen? But, she argues, when she moved to a foreign country (I'm guessing Germany and Berlin) she bought a cheap bike and discovered that 'riding a rubbish bike is no fun at all'.
The male version of the Batavus Lento is available in blue and black.

Well, of course. Having spent around £700 on my Kona Scrap, I must admit that I would never trade it in for a cheap ride from Halfords (not that all Halfords bikes are cheap, they used to sell Konas there too).

Getting back to Helen: she took delivery of a Batavus Lento (click here for more details of the company behind the bike) and she described it thus: 'it was like having sex with somebody who knows how to do it after years with a blundering novice; like tasting real pesto after a lifetime eating it out of a jar'.

My pesto always comes from a jar and as for sex with a blundering novice, well, hey, I need more practice I guess.

Describing the Batavus Lento, Pidd said that turning the pedals was effortless and that 'a light tap on the brakes brought me to a firm yet peaceful stop'. She said that the front light (front light?) was powered by a dynamo (now, that's what I need) and that it was so bright she had 'enormous fun deliberately dazzling friends while pretending to be Mulder or Scully with their industrial torches'.

Just for the record, Mulder and Scully used Maglites.

According to Helen, 'a cute little pump' was built into the Lento's rear rack and was never needed.

The Batavus is a Dutch brand and while it is what Helen calls 'a traditional sit-up-and-beg' bike, it's pretty speedy too, with seven gears offering an excellent range. She never needed to dip below two and found herself 'really flying' along Berlin's Karl-Marx-Allee.

And then she went and ruined the whole article: 'The fact that it [the Lento] looks a little ploddy may be a disadvantage to some, but being underestimated by men on racing bikes is one of my favourite things'., racing bikes. We're not all Lycra monkeys (or Mamils). 'I love swooshing past while they're fiddling with their clip-on shoes at the traffic lights'.

But is Helen ever really satisfied? No. She admits herself that she started to nit-pick. She thought the Lento was still a 'hulk of a bike' despite its aluminium frame, that the rack at the back was too chunky and the back light was not powered by a dynamo and needed batteries. She disliked the girly white or pink colour options (men, there is a male version of this bike in black or blue).

The colour options and, indeed, all her criticisms of the Lento were mere 'toothpaste squeezing/seat-up' sort of issues and not grounds for divorce (or, in the case of a bike, taking it back to the shop).

In short, Helen found the Lento a joy to ride and far better than taking the bus (although she didn't mention anything about her options when it rains).

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Tatsfield Village – Saturday 17th December 2011

Cold weather. The car outside had a dusting of frost on the roof, Sanderstead pond had a similar cellophane film of ice as I cycled by and, in short, it was cold. Fortunately, I had my full balaclava on and many layers of clothing and I didn't feel too bad. To be frank, I was just glad to be up and out on the bike as the weather, while cold, was strangely pleasant.
Tatsfield Village Green on Sunday November 21st 2010.
At the green, Andy and I decided to head for Tatsfield village and en route we checked out the reptile zoo, which was closed. There was a sign saying that a café was open from 7am, but there was no sign of life so we headed for the bus stop in the village opposite the pub.

We sat outside, drank our tea, ate our cereal bar and chatted about jobs and stuff before heading home and vowing to cycle again the following day. My last words to Andy were something like 'same place, same time tomorrow?' but it wasn't to be as I had a broken night. I sent Andy the Abort! text and went back to bed, not surfacing properly until around 10am. Andy texted me saying he'd had a lie-in, which was good news as my lack of cycling recently has been bugging me.

I phoned Andy and we discussed next week: a Christmas Eve cycle is definitely on the cards as is boxing day ride to Woodmansterne Green to meet Jon and eat some cake. That's the plan. My aim is to get a whole row of early nights in next week, particularly on Friday.

Incidentally, I'll also be available for rides on 30 and 31 December, not forgetting a New Year's Day ride if anybody's up for it.

Thought for the day: if quizzes are quizzical, what are tests?

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

That time of year....or just plain laziness?

The answer is probably a mix of the two. I didn't go cycling at all last week, but to be honest, I put it down to tiredness. At last I have a proper job, but it means getting up at the crack of dawn, which takes some getting used to; so it gets to the weekend, Andy's not going and I figure a lie-in will do me good – and it does! Add on a bit of poor weather, ie it's cold, and the end result is I don't go cycling.

Andy's weekend cycling route - I was in bed.

This is, of course, a sorry state of affairs that has to be rectified, but then again it is that time of year when the weather gets very cold – not that it's stopped us in the past – people start to go down with coughs and colds (fortunately, not yet) and a little thing called Christmas comes our way (the festive season has never stopped us, incidentally).

Andy did go last weekend, though, so I really can't use it as an excuse. In fact, he sent me a map of his route - just to make me feel that little bit more guilty! The truth of the matter was this: last Saturday, 10 December, was my birthday (I'm keeping quiet about my age) and I went round to a mate's house to celebrate as his wife and one-year-old daughter were both sharing my birth date. Coincidence or what? It's odd, as there's a girl in my office who shares the day too, it was Marco Pierre White's birthday on 11 December and my former colleague Sean's birthday on the 9th, not to forget an old pal, Andy Penfold, who also shares the 10th. All in all, then, birthday city!

Anyway, that was my excuse. This coming weekend, poor weather will be the only excuse and that excludes cold weather - only rain and heavy snow count as a reason for an abort text.

The photograph accompanying this post shows Andy's route last weekend.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Urban ride...

Breakfast at mum's - easily the highlight of the day.
The weather was grey and dark, but there were signs of clearer skies and I fancied getting out on the bike. Last week had been a poor show, yesterday was a good day, but I stayed away from the Kona and today there was no excuse. 

There are car problems; the pipe connecting the radiator to the engine blew last week, making us immobile for the weekend. Short trips became mammoth logistical nightmares and I figured the best way to see mum was to ride over there. It took me 35 minutes, possibly 40, but I got there; and what's wrong with the occasional urban ride?

I travelled down Barnfield to West Hill, hung a left on to the Upper Selsdon Road, heading towards Croydon, and then hung a left past the old Rail View pub (now The View) and on to the Brighton Road for all of 30 seconds before hanging right into Haling Park Road, riding a strenuous uphill route to the roundabout at Pampisford Road. Down past the vast expanses of playing field and round past Rockingham's garden centre and the ugly Hilton National towards the lights on the A23.

I turned right on to the A23 and then, about 500 yards later, swung left into a road that took me through an industrial estate, but brought me out on the Stafford Road beyond Fiveways. I rode towards Wallington, crossed the top of the high street and on to the mini roundabout at Boundary Road. Turning right, I headed towards the lights at the top of Ruskin Road where I turned left, passing Carshalton Park on my left and then finding myself at the Windsor Castle pub followed by a short burst of the Carshalton Road before turning right into Shorts Road, travelling the wrong way along a one-way street - but at this time in the morning, it mattered not.

At the end of Shorts Road, safely under the railway bridge, I'd arrived at Westmead Corner and it was only about 100 yards to Rossdale, where I turned left and cycled up the hill towards mum's.

A hearty breakfast awaited me: Shredded Wheat with hot milk and brown sugar, bread and marmalade and a boiled egg with fingers. Perfect! I washed down the lot with two huge mugs of tea, chewed the fat with mum for a bit and then headed for home again, getting back around 10.30am - just in time to get involved with a day of frustration - all based on just two words: jump leads.

Whenever the words 'jump' and 'leads' are put together, it means a day of shite lies ahead. There's nothing worse than getting them out of the boot, fixing them to the battery and then linking them to the battery of the car owned by the unfortunate other person who has to be involved to make them work - although later in the day, I went solo and jumped one of my cars with another. But let me explain that bit for you. 

On Friday the car seemed to explode while on the school run. The pipe joining the radiator with the engine fell apart and the car was abandoned a couple of miles from the house. Today, after my cycle, we went over there with my brother-in-law, got the thing moving again and I drove it home, being careful not to overheat it. 

Earlier in the day, my brother-in-law had connected his car to my dud one on the drive to charge the battery. This had been successful and I then drove the car to a nearby garage, filled the tank and drove home. Then (I hope this isn't boring you) after a spot of lunch we decided to drive over and see mum - except that we couldn't because the battery was totally dead. I then drove the fixed car on to the drive and jumped it with that, but it didn't work and now, as I write this, we have two crap cars outside, one on the road and one on the drive. What a nightmare!

One year ago...