Monday, 30 January 2012

Botley and Godstone Green

We managed to get two cycles in this weekend, which makes a change. The norm so far this year has been one cycle, be it a Saturday or Sunday, or, indeed, none at all.

Ducks taking it easy on Godstone Green, January 29th 2012.
Saturday just about got off the ground. Andy sent a text saying he could only manage a fast one, to Botley and back non-stop. No need for tea and chat, just there and back. Job done. So I woke early, as usual, but this time got ready immediately, then made myself a cup of tea prior to leaving the house. I was early, for a change, which was good.

And yes, you've guessed it, it was dark outside and I still haven't sorted out lights for the bike and rode on the path towards the green, not the road.

We went to that small car park adjacent to the roundabout just beyond the Botley Hill Farmhouse pub and, as always, there were a couple of muddy puddles, but no rain. We chatted about the dangers of nationalism in the light of recent news stories concerning Scottish independence and then rode home.

On Sunday we went to Godstone Green, a destination we've avoided because we can't be bothered to tackle the huge and unrelenting hill on the return journey. In the past this has been because of my gears being faulty, but there's no excuse and besides, if we can get used to the hill, we can pay a visit to a new café that's opened in the farm shop on the A25. That'll be next week.

We figured the ducks don't like it when the pigeons show up for breakfast.
In Godstone Green we sat on one of the benches in front of the lake and enjoyed our tea and cereal bar before heading home and preparing ourselves for the hill. To be honest, while tough, it wasn't that bad, although I had to tackle Slines Oak Road, which is a bit of a pig. That conquered - and having already said goodbye to Andy in Woldingham - I cycled home along the Limpsfield Rd and home.

A good weekend of cycling and hopefully we'll be visiting Godstone Green a little more frequently. As I said to Andy on the ride, we've been having it fairly easy for a long time, cycling to 'safe' destinations like Tatsfield Village, Churchyard and bus stop, where there ain't many hills. We need to get back to a few more punishing routes and the hills coming out of Godstone are pretty hard-going.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Who needs independence?

No, it's not Dubai, it's Glasgow's Science Centre, superby shot by Keith Hunter.
Why do the Scots want independence when they've got the best of both worlds? I've just arrived on Glasgow Central station and I drew out some money from the cash point. And guess what? It looks nothing like English money! It's like being in a foreign country! I knew this, of course, having been here many times in the past, but isn't that the best thing about foreign countries - the different currency? Unless you go to Europe, of course, where everybody uses the Euro. How boring! I much preferred the days of the Deutsche Mark, the Franc and the Italian Lira...and who knows, the way things are going we might be going back to the old currencies. The Scots already have their own money that looks different from the bank notes you get in England so what are they moaning about? They've got the best of both worlds without having to try too hard: their own bank notes AND governance from Westminster. It's like working for a big company, getting all the benefits AND being allowed to work from your own office building. I know I wouldn't be resigning to set up my own business!

No cycling for Matt this weekend...

Today, as I ironed my shirts in preparation for a business trip to Glasgow, I moaned silently to myself as I drew back the curtains and revealed a tremendous-looking day, just perfect for a ride! I checked with Andy later, as I stood on the concourse of Euston railway station awaiting the 1225pm train to Glasgow Central, and he too missed out, preferring instead to have a lie-in.

But then Andy did go cycling yesterday, when I bottled it after realising that I had just too much on my plate. We were supposed to have people round to look at a car we were selling, but they never turned up and then there was a bit of work to do. Still, Saturday was a bit on the windy side, although it would have been good. I'm definitely going out next weekend.

Andy did go out on Sunday and he's sent me his route so I'll print it up later on. Right now, as I write this, I'm somewhere between Carlisle and Glasgow Central. As I gaze out of the window on my left there are forests and wind farms; on my right, a road and more forests. Fir trees, evergreens. The sky is a mix of pleasant blue and dark grey clouds, but it's all good. Powdery grey skies and fir trees silouetted against them.

On my right hand side, more wind turbines have appeared and they're not moving an inch, nor are the ones on the left, so I'm guessing they're not very effective. The forests are getting thicker and now it's opened out, there's a river and grey hills on the left and a similar picture on the right.

I arrive into Glasgow at 5pm and I can't really say much about what I'm doing as it's hush hush.

It's five hours from Euston to Glasgow on a Sunday and it's flown past. I've been working, then eating lunch and then writing a letter to an old friend from my childhood. Hopefully, one day soon we'll have a chat on the phone and might even meet up. Who knows?

Somebody has left a copy of the Sunday Mirror on the table opposite. In fact, I've moved to the very table as I can't get power for my laptop on my side. That's something that happens quite a lot these days. A few times now I've gone to plug in my phone charger or lap top only to discover that there's no power. Now that's just poor service, something that seems to be more common these days than in the past.

It is, however, good to know that those who provide a poor service ultimately pay the price. Take British Gas for example. There's a story in the Sunday Mirror entitled GAS TURN-OFF: 200,000 quit British Gas...and profits FALL by 23%.

Well, that's good news! Voting with your feet is the best way. British Gas will, apparently, announce a 23 per cent fall in profits as 200,000 customers walk away. Since last summer, 1,800 people per day have left in protest at 17.3 per cent price hikes - there we go again, poor service, but high prices. Just for the record, my ticket cost me £127! Why, then, has the power on my side of the train been switched off?

Customers are moving from the big power and energy suppliers to smaller operators, according to the Sunday Mirror. Why? Because large falls in the price of wholesale energy are not being passed on to the consumer. Instead, the fall in the the wholesale price is benefitting Sir Smetherington Gobshite, or somebody like that. Why? Well, it's greed, it can't be anything else. No doubt, there's somebody out there heading British Gas getting paid a huge and totally unjustified salary. Perhaps he's called Sir Smetherington Gobshite!

The Sunday Mirror article says that bills could be cut by £135 if wholesale savings were passed on. Having said that, British Gas is, sadly, still in profit, although profits have fallen from £742 million in 2010 to £566 million in 2011.

Wholesale gas prices have plunged by 31 per cent and electricity by 28 per cent - but British Gas only cut consumers' electricity bills by five per cent and didn't cut gas bills at all. This really is outrageous but, sadly, it's par for the course.

Unbelievably, a British Gas spokesman told the Sunday Mirror: "We work hard to give customers value for money." Sounds as if the spokesman is a Lib-Dem as they tend not to keep their promises.

Another story that I find astonishing but again par for the course in the UK is the ordeal of Sacha Williams-Rowe. She was stabbed by an abusive boyfriend and had already testified against him but the case collapsed when the judge fell ill. He then ordered a retrial and Williams-Rowe was expected to face another court ordeal.

Remember that Williams-Rowe had been seriously wounded by her abusive boyfriend and was in no fit state to attend court. She thought that the British legal system would be on her side, but oh no, don't forget, the legal system is ALWAYS on the side of the criminal and once again that has proved to be the case.

Williams-Rowe failed to appear in court to testify again and guess what? SHE was sent to jail! Meanwhile, the abusive boyfriend pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of unlawful wounding and was jailed for just 15 months – although he'll be out in six weeks!

Judge Lord Parmoor should be ashamed of himself. The abusive boyfriend, by the way, goes by the name of Mr Murda - he's a rap singer. I'll leave it there.

It's dark outside now and we're minutes away from Glasgow Central, better sign off.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Tatsfield Churchyard - too tired to go anywhere else

Here's Andy's shot of the steps leading to the 
Tatsfield Churchyard. Think Stairway to Heaven
General tiredness has forced me not to post for the past two weeks. I've been so busy, working  full days during the week and then having two days off on Saturday and Sunday. The weekends have become like rocks to step on to escape a raging torrent of work. During the week I'm up at 6am, out of the house at 7.25am and on the 7.40am train. I change at East Croydon for the 7.49am Brighton train, getting off at Three Bridges and jumping on the early bus, the company bus, which arrives outside the station at 8.20am. By 8.30am I'm at my desk, I get one hour for lunch then work through to around 5.30pm, normally a bit longer, and then I walk for 30 minutes through the poorly-lit streets of Crawley, travelling from Broadfield and through Tilgate to Crawley railway station where I board a London Victoria train. I get off at East Croydon, take the subway to platform six and pick up the East Grinstead train. One stop later is Sanderstead and then I have a walk of around 10 to 15 minutes through the alleys and home. I repeat this process every day for five days.

Yesterday, 17 January 2012, I was out until 1am, but I still woke up around 6am and was back on the early bus again from Three Bridges. During my lunch break I walk, normally to the shops at Tilgate, then I turn around and walk back. Sometimes I walk to the shops at Broadfield or I hoof it down to Furnace Green and some shops near a pub called The Charcoal Burner. Then again I turn and walk back.

We found this seriously mutilated deer on the
roadside, prompting thoughts of wild cats on the 
loose - what if a Komodo dragon has escaped from
the nearby Reptile Zoo, we wondered.
This routine tires me out and unless I got to bed early, which I don't on a Friday night, the cycling is in the balance. I consider the 'abort' text. On the weekend of the 14th and 15th of January, I went on the Saturday (14th) but didn't go on the Sunday - but that was because I had work to do. The week before I think Andy and I were out on the Sunday but not the Saturday. I can't remember, but we've managed one cycle per week and both the restful Tatsfield Churchyard.

This week I'm determined to get out there and do both Saturday and Sunday, but we'll see. I hope so, but perhaps going to Hunger's End is a bridge too far, I'm not sure.

Apart from work, not much has been happening. I've been thinking about dad, especially today as I've been invited to The Gunmakers Arms in Clerkenwell, a pub that symbolises so much family history. The Moggridges were once gunmakers and they lived in the EC1 area of London. They probably went to the pub and next week I'll be there again. I think the last time I was there I was with dad and, I think, mum. But that was a while back.

What else am I doing. Oh yes, I'm reading Dave Gorman, he's great. I Tweeted him the other day and he tweeted back. No, I'm not a regular Tweeter, I hardly ever Tweet. I must have been bored, although I am reading Gorman's book, Dave Gorman versus the Rest of the World. I think I've mentioned this before. I've read all but one of his books, his first book and one day I'll round to that too.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

First ride of 2012...

Andy and Matt, Monday 2 January 2012, the Tatsfield
Bus Stop, our first ride of the new year.
It's been pretty lazy over the festive season, but then it's always like that; I start watching late-night TV shows safe in the knowledge that I'm not getting up early to go on a ride. New Year's Day - no ride (Andy would be waking up at his mum's place, not his own, making a ride impossible - unless I went solo). I stayed in bed. Besides, it was another broken night.

I was planning a last ride of 2011, but that was not to be either. To be honest, we need this lazyness to survive and so, last night, the night of Jan 1st 2012, I was in the 'let's get up late' mood. I texted Andy asking if a ride was on the agenda today (Jan 2nd 2012) and, not receiving an initial reply, thought there would be no ride. I stayed up late (1.20am) and watched Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure, a live version of the book I'd read some years ago - fantastic! I'd never seen the stand-up version. I hope that Gorman's America Unchained is screened next, possibly today, but I'm sure it won't be - and hopefully not tonight as it's work tomorrow and I'll need to be in bed early for a 6am start on Wednesday (Jan 3rd 2012).

Anyway, for some reason I wake up at just gone 6am today (2nd Jan) and I'm wondering if there's a ride as I hadn't heard back from Andy. My phone beeped a second ago, but could I find it? No. Eventually, after hunting high and low, there it is in my trouser pocket and sure enough, a text message from Andy reading 'Yep'. I had to think fast: do I abort and go back to bed or go on the ride?

"How about 8am?" I texted back.
"Ok" was the reply.

So, not feeling particularly tired, I decided not to abort and here I am sitting at the computer screen writing this post. It'll have to be a short ride as I've only had about four hours in bed. I'm already contemplating going straight to bed on my return, but whether or not I'll have the chance, I don't know.

In fact, I'm feeling pretty tired as I write this sentence, although it's too late to abort now. I'll continue this post later, once back off the ride...

Geoffrey Althoff's front cover illustration.'s now 1044hrs, January 2nd 2012 and I'm back off the ride. We rode to the Tatsfield Bus Stop and did our usual: sat there flicking our teabags, drinking tea and eating cereal bars. Our chat revolved around a children's book, Suki & the Christmas Treasure Trove, penned by yours truly and on the verge of publication. It's currently available on Kindle, but I'm about to upload an edited version.

Writing a novel is not easy. Well, it's 'easy' if you know what you're writing about, that's the hard bit, the idea, but then there's getting it down on paper, which is even harder and then, once you've written it, there's the editing - now that's really difficult.

I managed to bag the story, ie the basic written framework, in a month - 30 days to be precise - but it's taken another two years to get it right; and that involved writing another chapter to tie up some of the loose ends, which were left open-ended in what amounted to the first draft.

Only two people have read Suki & the Christmas Treasure Trove, excluding me; they are Geoff Althoff, the illustrious illustrator, and Andy Smith, my NoVisibleLycra partner in crime.

You can read more about Suki & the Christmas Treasure Trove by clicking here. The story is available on Kindle, but a final edit will be on the Kindle site shortly, so if you're reading this on 2nd January 2012 and fancy uploading it, wait a few more days for the final version. The print version will be out soon, I hope! I've got one more error to fix and it's done.

Photos of today's ride to follow...