Tuesday, 27 January 2015

In Leicester...watching Celebrity Big Brother!

...yes, I'm in Leicester. Not very exotic when you consider some of the other places I've been to, but next on the agenda is Morocco. Marrakech to be precise. But that's later. Right now I'm sitting in a budget hotel watching Celebrity Big Brother on Channel Five. People in my office don't like Perez Hilton, but I do; he's brilliant. A million times better than the awful Katie Hopkins, his nemesis, and her crew. And right now the ads are on and there's an eviction coming up. It won't be Perez as he's currently segregated from the rest of the house on some kind of secret mission set by Big Brother.

Anyway, I'm sounding pretty sad. It's not that I'm a Celebrity Big Brother fanatic, never have been, but when you sit down and watch a few minutes you get hooked and that's just what's happened to me.

On a completely different subject, if ever you find yourself in Leicester, go to The Globe on Silver Street. It's excellent. Oh, hold on, Celebrity Big Brother's back on. A live eviction! "The results are now in." But who's coming out? "It's time to talk to the house. Celebrity Big Brother House, this is Emma...".

"The viewers have spoken. Your fate is sealed. I can now reveal the two housemates with the most votes and, therefore, safe from eviction are....Nadia and....Katie Hopkins!" But who's going out? Hold on, it could be Cami Lee, Patsy, "one of you is about to leave the celebrity big brother house." But who? It's...Patsy! Patsy Kensit has 30 seconds to say her goodbyes.

I have to say that I like Patsy Kensit. She's got a bit of style about her, unlike most of those in the house. So let's hear what she has to say...after another ad break.

Great Aldi ad with a bear in the woods talking about toilet paper. Do bears shit in the woods? Of course they do!

It's back on! Is Patsy pleased or disappointed to be out? Pleased. She says it's stressful and madness (in the house). "The problem was I just didn't want to get involved in the fights," Patsy says. "I'm really happy to be out."

Is this boring? It is, I know, but here I am sitting in a budget hotel in Leicester. Although, to be honest, I've been watching it at home too. The last time I watched Celebrity Big Brother was in 2005 (or 2006) when Pete Burns was in the house.

Anyway, back to Patsy, she likes Cami Lee (boos from the audience).

"I'm safe, I'm calm and my intention is good," says Patsy while in the Big Brother House.  Mind you, what's with all the 'give peace a chance' stuff? A bit out-dated, don't you think? But hey! I like her calmness.

"My time in the big brother house has been a little bit surprising but I'm glad I did it," she says and now the fun begins as the housemates are about to find out that Perez hasn't left the house, as they all thought – he's back and the Perez Show continues, although he's now permanently up for eviction. Not that he cares! If he does get evicted he still gets paid.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

A cold and frosty morning as we ride...to the Tatsfield Bus Stop

No cycling for yours truly on Saturday and it was kind of welcomed in a way. The problem with missing a week is that you enjoy a lie-in and so, when it comes to getting up early in the cold weather to go riding, there's a strong reluctance to get out of bed. But I had a valid excuse: an early trip to a shoe shop near Claygate. Andy rode to the churchyard, non-stop.

Lopsided, but pointing in the right direction
Sunday was game on, however, and even though I admit to feeling a little reluctant to hit the cold air – and it was cold – as soon as I'd jumped out of bed and had the kettle on downstairs, I realised that I was looking forward to getting out there.

I wrapped up warm, opting once again for the flappy hat and terrorist balaclava combo to keep out the cold and soon I was riding along the sparkling roads towards Church Hill. I was constantly concerned about my left foot (see previous post) although things are much better now. My problem is that I know whatever was wrong with my foot is still there, it's still lingering, waiting for another opportunity to play up. What could it be? It's hard to tell. A sprain? Possibly. Arthritis? Could be. Rheumatism? Maybe. But it's definitely not gout. Hooray!

Andy's walking boots
So I tried to use my right leg more than my left in an effort to reduce stress on my left foot and it seemed to work, although the only part of my body that was cold appeared to be my feet. I noticed that Andy had taken to wearing walking boots and thicker socks; this might be the answer – at least until the weather warms up and who knows, it might be the cold weather that's causing the problems.

Talking of the weather, yesterday (Saturday 24th January) was very pleasant. It was a big shame that I didn't go out. The sun was shining the weather was mild in terms of the temperature and I started to regret my decision not to venture out, especially as today it was cold and frosty outside. Not that I really noticed as the balaclava and flappy hat kept most of the cold at bay.

The Tatsfield Bus Stop
We rode the fast way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop mainly because I didn't want to put the stress of Beddlestead Lane on my left foot. It was pleasant enough and, as usual, when we reached our destination out came the tea and biscuits and we chatted about this and that before taking a few photographs and heading home again.

The road to Westerham...but not today
I reached home around 0930hrs and saw Phil in his front garden. He admitted to his dislike of the cold weather and said that Andy and I were putting him to shame. I told him that Andy was missing his sausage sandwiches and then put the bike in the garage until next week. No cycling next Saturday but we're both back on the road next Sunday.

Generally speaking the bike is alright, although it's still a little temperamental in the gears department. For some reason it chose today not to change down to the lower crank at the front. The last time this happened I had to walk up Hesiers Hill. Still, it's riding well other than that and I'm loathe to send it back to the bike shop as, invariably, something else tends to go wrong as a result. The last time, for instance, I think the block they put on was slightly higher geared than the block it replaced, making my ride just a little bit harder. Things are best left alone.

For next week I might sort myself out with a pair of those heavy duty walking socks and some new laces for my walking boots, the ones with the steel toe caps purchased in Brixham back in 2010 from Shoe Zone (my favourite shoe shop). You won't catch me wearing any trendy brand names as I don't see the point.

Weatherwise now, at 1116hrs on Sunday morning, the sun is shining but the weather people say it will cloud over and that tonight we can expect rain, which is making it's way down the country from 'ooop Narth".

Sunday, 18 January 2015

My left foot...

Late February 2012 was the last time I recorded there being anything wrong with my left foot and if there is any kind of pattern developing (assuming that cycling and the state of my foot are in some way linked) then it has to be steep hills and possibly pushing things a little too far. Back in 2012 Andy and I rode to Limpsfield village following an off-road route through the Titsey Estate. On the return journey we had no choice other than to ride up Titsey Hill to reach the plateau and Botley Hill Farmhouse. The following day I was in the same state I found myself in last Monday – unable to walk. In a nutshell all of this week I've been hobbling around. It started Monday and got progressively worse as the week progressed. It was so bad that I was quite literally dragging my left leg behind me and it took me an inordinate amount of time to get anywhere. Fortunately my wife picked me up each night from Purley station, saving me the agony of the longish walk home. I say 'longish' because any walk, be it a short stroll to the local shops, is like trekking across the Himalayas. It wasn't pleasant and night times were just as bad as a dull, mildly throbbing ache meant that it was difficult to get to sleep. I resorted to Nurofen but was clearly not taking enough. In fact, I ought to relate my Nurofen story. In essence, all we had in the house were Nurofen melts, which, for some reason, didn't really appeal. Now you might say that if I was desperate, surely any port in a storm and all that, but for some reason I wanted basic Nurofen. So, at 0200hrs, I hopped out of bed – and by 'hopped' I mean I hopped out of bed on my right leg, wary that as soon as I put any kind of pressure on my left foot I'd be in total agony. I couldn't even put a shoe or trainer on without shrieking with pain. Suddenly the peace of the night was shattered. Arrrrgggggggggggggggghhhh! In the end I resorted to wearing my slippers.

At the foot of Hesiers Hill – perhaps I was over enthusiastic.
This shot was taken in the summertime.
Outside it was cold and quiet and the halogen street lights created a kind of lunar landscape in a suburban setting. I limped to the car, jumped in and drove off, passing a couple of gas stations and pulling in to their deserted, brightly-lit forecourts to see if they were open. It was hard to tell and the last thing I wanted to do was get out of the car and try walking if there was no point. The pumps were on; I could clearly see the digital read-outs of the meters, the forecourt was ablaze with light but there didn't appear to be anybody in the shop. I drove out and later found another gas station equally deserted. There was only one thing for it: the 24-hour Tesco in Purley – which, in all honesty, was where I was heading anyway. The huge car park there was virtually empty so I drove to the nearest parking space next to the store and then limped off in the direction of the shop floor. Fortunately I was directed to a small counter selling Nurofen Express, which I figured were good enough (although why 'brand extensions' exist I'll never know). There were no cashiers, just self-service machines, which required me to limp for a few yards more to pay. Clasping my much needed drugs I limped to the car, drove home, took some Nurofen and went to bed. It was around 0300hrs before I fell asleep, possibly later.

The week was characterised by limping everywhere and by Wednesday I figured a trip to the doctor's was in order so I booked up and found myself waiting almost an hour in the surgery's waiting room. GPs tend to be pretty useless as they don't really know what's wrong with anyone, they simply ask a few questions and then suggest that it might be X or Y and that anti-inflammatories are the best bet to start with. "Come back if you've still got it next week," she said and I limped away.

The last time this happened (back in February 2012) I went to a doctor in Croydon and asked them if they thought it might be gout. I was told no, not gout. If it was gout, she said, I wouldn't be able to touch it. Phew! But this time round the subject raised its ugly head again mainly because, over the Christmas period, I had stuffed my face with tangerines and oranges and other acidic fruits. I wished I hadn't mentioned it because it led to the doctor saying that perhaps I should consider a blood test. I hate blood tests. But she said it wasn't necessary so I haven't bothered. What she did say was 'no cycling', not this weekend at any rate, so I resolved not to go. Andy wasn't going on Saturday and, as it turns out, the rain was falling on Sunday, which meant it was likely that we would have aborted anyway. It was one of those damp mornings when everything had that wet look and the back lawn in particular took on a sponge-like appearance.

Fortunately, my foot is now better. I can walk virtually normally and I'm no longer in pain. There's nothing worse than being out of action for health reasons – in this case a dodgy left foot. It makes you realise the importance of good health at all times.

It also makes me realise how lucky I am to be able-bodied and how these things shouldn't be taken for granted. I'm levelling the blame for my left foot at Hesiers Hill on last Sunday's ride and, perhaps, I was overdoing it a bit. To be honest, I don't know the real cause, but that's the only thing I can attribute it to. Fortunately for me, it's over now. I'm feeling better, I'm not limping, I'm not in pain and I'll be back on the bike next weekend – weather permitting.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Stars in the early morning as we head the slow way... to the Tatsfield Bus Stop

Warlingham Green, Sunday 11th January around 0730hrs.
Like the beginning of most years, it's looking as if 2015 will be a slow start where cycling is concerned. Last week we only went out on Sunday; this weekend was no exception and it looks as if next week will be the same. It's a mixture of Andy not being able to make it and then yours truly deciding to lie in and not go riding, but then, ultimately, the weather proved to be so awful that neither of us would have gone out anyway.

I enjoyed my lie-in: for a start, I needed it. I fell in and out of sleep and it was just before 1000hrs when I finally found it in me to get up and start the day.

Last Saturday it rained all day. This weekend it was wind and rain and who knows what next week will bring? Hopefully not snow.

Trees near St Leonard's Church, Chelsham
Today's weather was fantastic and having enjoyed my lie-in yesterday I was raring to go. I was up at 0527hrs and downstairs before 0600hrs enjoying Shredded Wheat and a large mug of tea while watching BBC Breakfast News – there was some bad news during the week when some Islamist terrorists decided to attack the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France. The radical magazine's cartoon depictions of the prophet Mohammed led to a handful of the magazine's cartoonists being gunned down in cold blood. While this was happening, another Islamist terrorist took hostages in a kosher supermarket on the other side of town in what looked like a co-ordinated attack. Needless to say it all ended badly. Innocent people were killed and the French security forces managed to take out all the Islamists bar one, a female, who escaped and is believed to be in Turkey. There's been a march through central Paris today attended by world leaders (including Buzz Lightyear) and, once again, the world is on high alert.

The mayhem has put me in a subdued state of mind, reinforced by some personal uncertainty in the family, which we're all a little anxious about. The weather is much improved over yesterday. The wind and rain has gone, the skies are clear and when I left the house at 0700hrs there were stars clearly visible above me as I pedalled towards Sanderstead High Street at the top of Church Way. It was still dark and my front and rear lights were both flashing, creating a strange strobe effect.

Andy on the return journey near St Leonard's, Chelsham
At the green I had time to take a few shots of the bike before Andy arrived. I could see his flashing front light a mile off and soon we were on our way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop (the slow way). As we headed towards the turn-off point at Chelsham the skies brightened up and we wound our way around the country lanes towards Hesiers Hill and then Beddlestead Lane.

At the bus stop it was business as usual: tea, BelVita biscuits (this week we had the chocolate-flavoured variety, which reminded me of Coco Pops). Coco Pops in biscuit form – what could be better? 

Surprisingly – and for the first time in NoVisibleLycra history – we didn't see a single Lycra Monkey on our outward journey; they didn't make an appearance until we headed back along Beddlestead Lane towards Hesiers Hill. And they certainly made up for their earlier absence. We found ourselves constantly nodding and saying 'good morning' or 'alright?' and other pleasantries.

For some reason my gears were working again and I managed to ride up Hesiers Hill without dismounting, unlike last week when I had to walk up. We weaved our way around the country lanes near Saint Leonard's Church and back into Chelsham where a woman walking two dogs asked us to keep a look-out for a beagle that had seemingly escaped bail. We saw the fugitive dog crossing into woods but there was little we could do, other than offer it a cigarette or a light, so we headed towards the mini roundabout at Warlingham Sainsbury's and then right along the Limpsfield Road towards the green.

Andy won't be around next Saturday so if I'm going to take a ride I'll be alone. I'm already thinking of a ride to mum's, but if the weather's good I might even head for the churchyard or the village or, if I'm feeling really adventurous, Westerham.

Monday, 5 January 2015

The first ride of 2015 – slow way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop in thick fog

Andy on Beddlestead Lane
Ghostly tree on Beddlestead Lane

First, let's deal with Saturday 3 January. In a nutshell? Rained off. I awoke around 0600hrs to the sound of rain outside. In all honesty, it was a kind of blessing in disguise. I rose from bed, peered out the window and spotted a puddle on next door's conservatory roof being hammered by raindrops. It was raining! Time for a quick 'abort' text and then back to bed. I was fast asleep by the time Andy responded with a simple 'ok'. It rained for most of the day.

Sunday was a different story. No rain but there was fog. Serious fog. It was probably the foggiest it had ever been on one of our rides – 'since records began' (in this case late September 2009). Thick fog from the moment I stepped outside until the moment I returned just before 10am. Visibility? Probably about 25 yards, but at times it was almost magical. It was certainly dangerous enough to warrant a ride to the famous Tatsfield Bus Stop the slow way. The 269 would have been far too dangerous. We even rode back the slow way after our usual tea and biscuits. In fact it was on the return journey, as we rode along Beddlestead Lane, that I noted the magical quality of the weather. It was almost like being in the clouds and there was a watery sun in the sky.

Thick fog at the Tatsfield Bus Stop
A ghostly sun over Beddlestead Lane

The trees were ghost-like in their appearance, virtually concealed from view by the fog except for a ghostly outline as if sketched with a pencil on white paper. Everything looked different. It was hard to recognise sections of Beddlestead Lane and it was strange to see the normally familiar mobile phone towers sticking out of the fog like weird skyscrapers as we headed towards the bus stop. In fact, it was difficult to see the bus stop. Cars disappeared into the fog as we sat sipping tea, prompting our decision to ride back the slow way, which meant Hesiers Hill. Not pleasant at the best of times, but I had to walk up thanks to my gears letting me down: they wouldn't change down to the lower crank at the front. In all honesty I don't think I lost any time.

Once I re-mounted we wove our way around the country lanes towards Warlingham Sainsbury's and then back on to the 269 where, thanks to the suburban landscape – and street lights – it was a little safer than out in the sticks. The fog was a little less dense but not by much and after saying goodbye to Andy at Warlingham Green I headed towards Sanderstead and my last day off work before Monday, which would be my first day back in at least three weeks. We drove to Danehill and Trading Boundaries and then all that remained of the Christmas holidays was dinner followed by Sunday television.