Saturday, 28 July 2012

If you missed it, watch it again now....

One of the best bits of television in years, thanks to Danny Boyle. Click here to watch Daniel Craig as James Bond and the Queen as herself. Absolutely brilliant!

Friday, 27 July 2012

Hats off to Danny Boyle...

I approach events like the opening ceremony of the Olympics with a fair amount of cynicism and, to be fair, when it started off, my initial thoughts were, "Hold on, this is like the school nativity play – a little bit amateur," but oh was I mistaken! The whole thing developed into something amazing, culminating for me when the Olympic rings, like molten metal, hovered over the stadium. Brilliant! And what I liked most of all was the way the actors – particularly Kenneth Branagh, who seemed to be reprising his role as Gilderoy Lockhart from the Harry Potter movie, kept up the 'acting' throughout. There must have been a temptation for all involved to be caught off guard by BBC cameras, but no, everybody kept the faith, so to speak, throughout. Loved the industrial revolution bit, loved the music most of all, especially Mike Oldfield. What a coup! Oldfield is reclusive at the best of times so how Boyle persuaded him to come out and play a bit of Tubular Bells I don't know.

The absolute best bit of the lot, though, was Daniel Craig, as Bond, in Buck House. I was thinking, "no, it won't be the real Queen, it can't be," but it was! Brilliant!

I didn't stay up beyond watching a few of the athletes enter the stadium and besides, there was something good over on BBC 4. In fact, there was a great documentary about a heavy metal band called Anvil that I would have loved to watch again (I saw it about a year ago, possibly longer) but it was getting late and there's some cycling to do, in a minute or so!

In a nutshell, Danny Boyle turned out a great show. It tailed off a bit towards the end, but up to the rings, the bit with the Queen, the industrial revolution stuff, Kenneth Branagh, JK Rowling – brilliant.

Cycling arrests near Olympic Park

Scuffles, apparently, between police and cyclists, according to a BBC report. The organisation involved  was Critical Mass, click here for more.

For details of the story, click here.

Cycling's good for you – it's official!

An article on today's BBC website argues that cycling is incredibly good for you because you can build a ride into your daily routine. Check out the details by clicking here.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Sunny ride to Westerham

The 'thumbs up' totem pole that marks to top of the hill
outside of Westerham. Note the great view.
The sun was out again on Sunday 22nd July as Andy and I headed for Westerham – me without any effective rear braking system. It was a good ride (no puddles or wet roads) and when we reached Churchill's statue, we sat and watched various vintage cars roll by as there always appears to be some kind of gathering going on somewhere. The other week there were a load of old MG convertibles heading west along the A25. Today, not so much a rally, but one single AC Cobra, a blue one, owned by some old bloke (hold on, who are we kidding) in trendy shades and shorts. Later he sought the friendship of an even older bloke in an old MG (that looked like a Morgan). There's something about old men in sports cars that I find both sad and rather annoying. Sad because it's a hopeless situation: who are they going to pull at their age and even if they did, what would they do? Angering, because it's the way of the world: you never have enough money to relax and enjoy yourself until you're almost dead and gone, making me often wonder, what's the point?

We moved on to discuss the G4S fiasco and I suggested that the UK's general culture of incompetence is finally coming home to roost – watch out for more similar stories in the press over the coming months and years. The G4S thing has reinforced my view that a large chunk of the private sector is out for profit and profit alone, it wants to be paid, but it's not really prepared to put in the work and opts instead for a shoddy, 'that'll do' approach based on cutting corners and compromising safety just to save money. There are so many examples, large and small and in my opinion, Nick Buckles – he of the stupid hairdo – is just one 'senior manager' who shouldn't be in such a position. Somebody sack him.

Other themes touched upon included the Olympics and the general perception of the UK being like a badly run SME (small-to-medium-sized enterprise) with Cameron and Clegg as the CEO and MD respectively. None of the staff have much in the way of respect for them and often laugh behind their backs and now, as the company sports day approaches, everybody is secretly hoping that, somewhere, somehow, there will be a disastrous cock-up, London's transport network will come to a shuddering halt and chaos will ensue. Should this be the case, I'd imagine that all over the UK you will be able to hear a huge guffaw from the many disgruntled employees of UK PLC.

As we reached the top of the hill going out of Westerham, Andy took the shot accompanying this post. That totem pole thing is some kind of sign for Surrey Hills. I think it signifies the top of a hill as, in this case, it seems to be in the spot where the sensation of climbing ends and the bike can coast a few yards. I must point out that within yards of passing the totem pole, the climb continues to the roundabout at Botley Hill and only eases up as we head north along the B269 towards home. Further down there is a smaller wooden sign that marks the beginning of our climb towards Botley.

• Oh, and talking of people being let off, I note with disgust that PC Simon Harwood of Carshalton, Surrey, has been let off for pushing over, with some force, newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson, an act that resulted in Tomlinson's death. Since Harwood's acquittal, details of his far from exemplary police career have been revealed and widely reported. A civil case is likely, but isn't this just another example of people who should be banged up and treated with the contempt they deserve simply being let off? More are in the pipeline: watch out for Rebecca and Charlie Brookes and, indeed, the British tabloid press as a whole. Leveson, of course, will be a complete and utter waste of time and money. Likewise the Murdochs will be 'pardoned' and anybody else who puts an incompetent foot wrong can rest assured that they will also walk off free men and women.

• What is the point of Select Committees and the Leveson inquiry when all they're doing is creating the perception that the Government is serious about cleaning things up, when the reality is more to do with being seen to be doing something, but not actually doing anything? They must think we're all idiots.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Sunshine and Woodmansterne Green

I met Jon on Woodmansterne Green, which was nice as the sun was shining and all was well with the world. Well, perhaps not with the world if you consider the global economic crisis, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, the shooting in Denver, Colorado and so on, but yes, in terms of today being a nice day, it certainly was.

Yours truly and Jon on Woodmansterne Green, 21 July 2012
In fact, the mark of a good day and decent weather to come is flying ants. This afternoon there were loads of them and I checked it out on Google only to find that for ants, the whole flying thing is to do with mating which, apparently, they do mid-flight then go off and set up another colony somewhere else. Nice one, ants.

So, flying ants but no stag beetles. Haven't seen any of them for a long while. There used to be so many of them during the summer months of my youth.

The subject of one of today's conversations was what would you do if you won £80 million on the lottery? Would you tick the box for publicity? I was telling Jon how I read somewhere that unless you do tick the box, you're on your own as far as help and back-up is concerned from Camelot. How true or false this is, I don't know, but the deal is simple: you tick the box and they support you with advice on all sorts of stuff.

A can of Lilt just left, along with other rubbish, on the green.
The downside, of course, is that everybody knows you've won and they start sending out the begging letters.

We both agreed that if we did win, we'd probably end up buying that elusive house on the beach we've been talking about ever since dad first took us down to the South Coast as kids. After that we'd spend the rest of the time cycling around, staring out to sea and generally relaxing.

The green was looking good, apart from a load of drinks cans and crisp packets that some idiots had simply left on the grass, making the place look untidy. We normally sit on the large tree trunks on the green, but were forced, by the unsightly mess of the litter, to sit elsewhere. We chose Jean Merrington's memorial tree and surrounding bench. Jean must have been a local resident, like Joyce Lowther who also has a bench on the green dedicated to her memory.

Jon and I drank two cups of tea, supplied by yours truly, and then we both went our separate ways. I reached home around 0950 and then had breakfast and a shower.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Halfords CEO steps down

Rob Halford, lead singer of Judas Priest, has nothing
to do with Halfords whatsover, although he might
have bought a bike from the store, who knows?
There's a report in today's Evening Standard about Halfords chief David Wild stepping down as CEO 'with immediate effect'. This follows what the paper calls 'a sustained period of underperformance, including a hit to sales of camping equipment and bicycles after the wet weather experienced in the last quarter.

Wild's job has gone to Dennis Millard, who will act as CEO until a new one is found. It's odd when you consider that Wild is described as an experienced retailer with spells at Tesco and Walmart. Whether he fell or was pushed, we'll probably never know. Millard's keep quiet, merely saying that the company always takes the temperature where shareholders are concerned, and Wild himself is saying it's about time he moved on, having set up the strategy that (ahem) has seen a period of sustained underperformance.

According to the Evening Standard, 'Wild will receive his total pay of £645,399, including his salary of £517,650 and pension contributions, in 12 monthly instalments.' Clearly a nice little earner.

For Q2, Halfords posted a 5.6% slump in group underlying sales, with retail sales falling 7.5%.

Millard described the trading conditions as the most uncertain he'd ever experienced.

In the year 2011-12 the company made pre-tax profits of £92.2 million, but for 2012-13 it's likely to be between £62 million and £70 million.

Source: Evening Standard Thursday July 19th.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Tatsfield Bus Stop and then Westerham...where Andy was 'nice and comfy...nice and comfy'.

Yours truly and Andy at the Tatsfield Bus Stop, 14 July 2012.
My bike is still lacking a rear brake and I keep meaning to take it down to Redhill to get it fixed. But all sorts of problems present themselves. First, there's that whole thing about will I or will I not get on the train. Theoretically, I won't as it's against regulations during peak times. But Purley Oaks is one of those stations where you just walk on to the platform. Nobody checks your ticket, meaning I can lift the bike up the stairs and jump straight on the train, ride one stop to Purley and then change trains for Redhill.
Proof that the sun did shine in Westerham on 15 July 2012
The big problem is if the guard on the train from Purley says no; then I'll have to ride the bike back home and come out again to get to work. The trouble is, there's no telling what's going to happen. Worst still is that I'm happy riding around with just a front brake. The rear brake does eventually work if I pump it, but it's not ideal – and all this because I took my bike to Halfords to get the rear brake repaired. I'm never going back there again. That's why Redhill's in the picture: because there's a decent bike shop there called C&N Cycles. They sell a lot of Cannondales.

Last weekend, even without a rear brake, was good. On Saturday, while we didn't get a soaking in the traditional sense, I took an early bath thanks to no mudguards. Andy made a point, when we reached the bus stop and I had that uncomfortable moment sitting down with a wet arse, of saying 'Nice and comfy, nice and comfy' while acting a bit like a hen incubating eggs. 'Nice and comfy, nice and comfy'.

We sought refuge from the rain the last time we
rode to Westerham.
The road was wet and there were plenty of puddles, that I tried to avoid, but it's dangerous doing that, swerving out to avoid water when there are cars coming along the road.

Sunday was a better day. There was still a lot of rainwater no the roads, but there was also a bit of sunshine and, unlike the last time we were in Westerham (when we sought refuge from the rain underneath an awning) this time we found that we could use one of the benches on the green, behind Churchill's statue.

Andy and I noticed that the Barclays Bank in Westerham had disappeared and a To Let sign had appeared on what is now an empty building. When we had our bike and café fantasy, we had earmarked the building rented by the scandal-ridden bank brand. Now it was up for grabs, but while we'd both kind of like to do something, we don't really have the inclination or the cash that's needed. And besides, it won't make any money. There are too many caffs and teashops in Westerham so we'd be relying on the bike shop for our survival. If the truth be known, we just can't be bothered.

We sipped our tea and headed home around 9am. I got home around 10.20am

Saturday, 14 July 2012

An appropriate poem

                In Time of Silver Rain 
                                    By Langston Hughes

In time of silver rain
The earth
Puts forth new life again,
Green grasses grow
And flowers lift their heads,
And over all the plain
The wonder spreads
      Of life,
      of life,
      of life!

In time of silver rain
The butterflies
Lift silken wings
To catch a rainbow cry,
And trees put forth
New leaves to sing
In joy beneath the sky
As down the roadway
Passing boys and girls
Go singing, too,
In time of silver rain
      When spring
      And life
      Are new.
Langston Hughes 
February 1902 - May 1966
For more information on Langston Hughes, click here.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Just a word on Halfords...

Make up your own mind on this one: I took my bike to Halfords to have the rear hydraulic brakes fixed. First, the bike was in the shop for a long time as they didn't have the part to fix it. Remember, we're talking about a shop that sells and repairs bikes. Eventually, I got the bike back but about two weeks later – after only riding the bike twice – the rear brakes were suddenly non-existent. Remember also that, while my bike is a 'dirt jumper', it's only used on the road. In other words, not heavy usage.

I called Halfords and they said it sounds as if the brakes need bleeding. Well, okay, but surely it is something hat Halfords should have taken care of? Obviously not.

The thing is, I'm not prepared to pay more to Halfords to fix my brakes; I've already paid them £40.

I've made the decision to take the bike to a 'proper' bike shop. I've found one in Redhill, but there's also Bike on the Brighton Road.

At the moment, if I pump the levers, it will stop, but I've got a front brake, so it's not proving too much of an issue. I'll certainly be riding this weekend, weather permitting, although, with torrential rain on most days, I might have to consider going out in it.

Halfords recently announced that their profits had plunged. I wonder why?

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

It's just a thought at the moment, but...

A typical shot of the beach at Felpham.
.... on 22 July I'm free to do a long ride and was thinking of Bognor (Felpham). It's about 60 miles but an early start and a steady pace should see us there at a relatively decent hour, hopefully in time for a splash in the sea (that's optional and weather-dependent) and a meal in the caff on the beach (The Lobster Pot or the one further up the beach).

Like everything, this isn't certain, but it's more certain than normal, so worth considering. If I do it, I was thinking of the usual early start and heading through Woodmansterne, Kingswood, down Pebblecombe Hill, through Dorking, Horsham, Ockley, Billingshurst, Pulborough, done past Ford Open Prison, then head west into Felpham running parallel to the coast or dip south into Middleton-on-Sea and then head west, possibly going to Old Point and the beach there or simply heading for the civilisation that is Felpham.

I've done this ride before and it's not a walk in the park. It'll certainly mean the train back home, but let's  also remember that there are trains stopping at Purley, Purley Oaks etc so we don't need to go all the way back to East Croydon.

The other thing is the weather. Obviously all the usual 'abort' rules apply.

As I say, this is all just a thought. It might be that I just head further south on one of our normal rides, ie head down towards Edenbridge or explore unchartered territory, not sure, but a longer ride is on the cards and if I'm feeling energetic, a run to Felpham would, for me, be spirtually uplifting.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Federer beats Murray

Federer wins Wimbledon for seventh time. Murray was good... but not good enough. Maybe next year.

More rain...but not at the Tatsfield Churchyard!

I can't remember a summer like it: it's been on and off rain since May and yesterday saw some huge downpours in the South West of England (although there was serious flooding in Southern Russia).

It's Wimbledon fortnight at the moment – or rather it comes to an end today with Federer versus Murray and it's the first time a British player has been in the final since 1938 (except, of course, he's Scottish). The centre court now has a roof, which means that rain won't stop play, but unfortunately, NoVisibleLycra doesn't have a roof - just leaky crash helmets.

Unbelievably it looks like a nice day, but there's probably some dark clouds somewhere.
Right now it's bright outside, but over Andy's way it's raining still so we've decided to abort our ride. We were out yesterday, but just to the Tatsfield bus stop, which was pleasant. Yesterday, however, was another day of on and off rain so I'm amazed we didn't get a soaking. Andy said this morning that he DID catch a soaking, but I managed to get home just in time, having already sheltered under an awning in Hamsey on the way home.

This year, or rather this summer, has been a wash-out. Yesterday's ride and last week's were the only rides for about a month. I think the last one prior to last week was the teashop in Godstone (which was definitely prior to 8 June when I left my last job).

Two paragraphs ago I said it was 'bright outside', but now it's not; it's raining again, very fine rain, but rain nonetheless. This is, of course, England, but this is easily the worst summer in ages.

In the news: Serena Williams wins the women's final at Wimbledon (that was yesterday);  the aforementioned floods in Southern Russia killed 144; Libya has started counting the votes in its first election since the overthrow of Gaddafi, 

Friday, 6 July 2012

Belated pix of the Black Horse Ride

The organiser of the Black Horse Ride had a photographer floating around taking pix of the riders. Here's Andy and yours truly as we approach the first marshalling point. Note our pal David as the marshal in his high visibility vest. Quite a coincidence that this shot was taken with all three of us.

Here we are, note David in high viz vest (and my red leather Converses!)

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Nearly caught a soaking in Westerham

Andy loves his bike, by the way... or so says that bell.
A good weekend of cycling and we managed to dodge the rain on Saturday. Chevening Lake was on the cards, but an email to Andy didn't get through so we met at our usual time of 0730hrs (I was hoping to meet at 7am so we returned home early, had we gone to Chevening). As it turned out, meeting at our usual time was a blessing in disguise as, the night before, I'd discovered, while flicking the channels on my TV remote, that BBC 4 was screening a documentary about the making of the album Quadrophenia, followed by the movie of the same name. I caught the last 15 minutes of the former and then I watched bits of the movie, starring Phil Daniels and Ray Winstone (not forgetting Sting and other actors who can now be found mainly in television dramas).

In all honesty, Quadrophenia the movie was absolute rubbish. Seriously. A load of complete tosh. Not only were there the well-documented continuity errors, such as blue and white trains, which weren't around in the sixties, and V-registered (1980) cars in the streets of Brighton, it was just generally a crap movie full of a load of second-rate actors (as I said, a lot of them appear today, much older, in run-of-the-mill soaps and dramas on the box). But still, I found myself sitting there, occasionally flicking over to Graham Norton (with Danny DeVito, Charlotte Church and Rhod Gilbert). Either way, I should have gone to bed, but didn't, until around midnight.

Still, when 6am rolled in, while I was feeling fine, I was beginning to realise that meeting at 7am would have been a mistake under the circumstances. Andy later confirmed that he hadn't received my original email so all was fine with the world.

We decided to head for Westerham. The weather was looking dodgy overhead. It was warm, but the roads were wet after rain in the early morning and through the night and there were moments when it started to rain and then stopped. We managed to avoid a soaking and reached Westerham at around 0815. As we set up shop on Churchill's statue it started to rain so we took cover under an awning in front of a chocolate shop and engaged a woman with a 'Cockerpoo' in conversation. A 'Cockerpoo' is a cross between a spaniel and a poodle. The rain poured down, the skies were grey and all we could do was moan about the weather - like true Brits.

Soon, shower over, roads wet, we set off for home, except that something was wrong. My rear brakes - recently fixed by Halfords - no longer worked. It looked as if the pads had fallen out but later, when I called Halfords, they said it might be a lack of hydraulic fluid, making me wonder why? Surely, if Halfords had fixed the brakes, they would have checked the hydraulic fluid? Obviously not so it's going back to the shop sometime this week after work. All very frustrating and another reason why I won't be using Halfords again after this last time.

Sunday saw us heading off for a short run to the Tatsfield Churchyard. The weather was much, much better and we sat there laughing and joking about a range of things, including the fact that we haven't really grown up.

The bike was fine, but there is (at the time of writing) only one brake (the front one) although I've found that if I pump it, it works. Still, it has to be fixed.

Generally - well, Spain won the European Championships, Nidal was knocked out of Wimbledon by a player from, I think, the Czech Republic, seeded 100, the chairman of scandal-ridden, scandalous Barclays Bank - Marcus Aguis – has resigned and's solo single tops the charts. Oh, and in Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto is leading the pack in Mexico's elections signalling a return to the old ruling party there - the PRI.