Sunday, 26 July 2015

Another ride to the bus discuss freedom

I wasn't expecting to ride anywhere today as rain had been predicted by the weathermen, but this morning it was fine, albeit a little cloudy. I was running a late, but not by much, and when I reached the green, Andy and I decided that another ride to the Tatsfield bus stop was all that was open to us.

There was nothing untoward about the outward journey other than a VW Golf driving on the wrong side of the road in order to overtake the car in front of it and basically heading straight for Andy and me. It was one of those moments when we found ourselves lost for words and lost for anything other than to look upon the situation with an open mouths, expressing nothing but incredulity.

"Was he deliberately aiming for us?" I asked Andy, who was equally confused.
"I don't think so, he was overtaking," he replied,  but there was an element of both shock and surprise at the situation that had briefly unfolded. Still, these things are sent to try us, we thought, as we ploughed on along the 269, past Botley Hill and down towards the bus stop.

My bike resting against a tree adjacent to Sanderstead pond.

When we reached our destination the conversation focused on freedom. We all regard, say, motorcycling and pushbike riding as offering the rider a sense of freedom and, yes, that's true; being on the open road, the wind in our hair, the freedom to stop and start whenever we wanted to and so forth, offers a great, liberated feeling that I'm sure other activities also offer. Sailing, perhaps, would be another freedom-inducing pastime, but then so is walking through the countryside, a stroll on an deserted beach, anything that takes the participant away from the stresses and strains of everyday life and offers a sense of escape from the drudgery of paying bills and going to work.

Is there such a thing as freedom of speech, freedom of expression or, indeed, freedom in general? It was at this point that we discussed those who, at face value, show the rest of us that there is such a thing as real freedom and that all you need to do is get out there. Think Mike Carter in his books Uneasy Rider and One Man and His Bike or Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman in their books and films entitled Long Way Round and Long Way Down – they, with the help of the media, set out to prove that true freedom is out there (but only if you have money to burn and little in the way of responsibilities). Or, perhaps, you have responsibilities, but you also have enough money – or the wherewithal to make money, lots of money, from your freedom-inducing activities. Cue book deals and film rights.

Now, I won't moan too much about the way the media tries to fool everybody into thinking that it's possible to simply up sticks and cycle around the country or, indeed, the world, with your dog on a specially-built plinth over the rear wheel of your bicycle; OR the way it makes you think that it's possible to be cycling to work one fine morning and then deciding, on a whim, to simply ride on past the office and embark upon a six-month journey of discovery cycling around the coast of Great Britain. I've said enough about this in past posts.

Sanderstead pond in the rain, Sunday 26 July 2015
So Andy and I are sitting at the Tatsfield bus stop looking out towards the road and watching the odd Lycra monkey ride by and I suddenly realise how we're all basically prisoners, slaves, to the society that supports us and that the media's role in all this is to hoodwink us all into thinking that we are perfectly free to do whatever we want; this is, after all, a 'free' country. Or is it?

"What would happen if you were cycling to the office and just kept pedalling past?" Yes, I know, I've mentioned this quote before; it's from the back cover of Mike Carter's excellent book One Man and His Bike – and we all know that Mike didn't 'just keep pedalling past' – otherwise he'd have been sacked. He had arranged everything prior to leaving, he was earning money through writing a column for The Guardian and, well, he simply didn't exist in the same world he might have existed in IF he had simply decided en route to the office, "Oh, sod this for a game of soldiers, I'm going to cycle around the coast of Great Britain instead."

I started to think about what would really happen. Say, for example, that this morning I'd decided, on reaching the Tatsfield bus stop, that I was simply going to ride further, not go home, not go to the office tomorrow, but continue cycling east towards the coast – I don't know, Margate, Sandwich, Deal, Broadstairs, wherever I happened to end up.

Let's take it step-by-step: first the immediate practicalities and the rows and upset that would be caused when I phoned home and announced that I wouldn't be coming home for, well, a few months. "What do you mean? You've got work tomorrow! You'll get the sack! And what are you going to do for money?"

That, of course, would be the big sticking point. What WOULD I do for money? I'm already up to my eyeballs in debt, I have no disposable income whatsoever – even if I was solvent – and I'm leaving a family back home with possibly just one more pay cheque to last them the month. Except it won't last them because the moment we're paid, we're in debt and living off an overdraft that is costing us dearly in terms of interest.

Let's assume, just for the hell of it that I did think ahead – just a little bit. I bought a tent from Halfords to enable me to camp in the woods or the fields or at camp sites. Even though there's no money in the bank, I'd have a tent and that's it. Sadly, however, 'wild camping' is against the law in England so I'd either have to break the law (I would definitely break the law) or pay for campsites with money I simply don't have.

Then there's the matter of sustenance: food and drink. I reckon I could survive on an M&S sandwich (or equivalent) for lunch with, perhaps, an apple or a banana, but that's not going to be cheap – let's say a fiver. Then there's dinner. I'll need at least one hot meal a day and it won't come cheap and when there's no money, it'll have to be cheap, which means nutritionally suspect. I won't have any means of cooking myself (unless I buy a camping stove, which might prove cheaper in the long run as I can cook fresh food, which would be cheaper than eating out even in the most down at heel 'caff') but it's going to mean additional weight and who said I had the money to buy a stove? If I ate out every night (not really an option) I'd have to limit myself to a tenner per meal, meaning my daily outgoings of roughly £15 would make my monthly bill just under £500. But this figure doesn't take into account potential problems with the bike. Alright, punctures are pretty cheap to fix, thanks to Leeches, but anything else (gears, brakes, wheels) would cost money that I don't have and this would leave me scuppered early on as I couldn't afford to fix the bike, especially once the money really dries up and the phrase 'refer to bank' stares back at me from a cash machine.

So I'd need to earn money on my way around the country, which means there would be long periods of standing still, living rough in a tent and working, say, in a pub. I might, perhaps, be holed up working somewhere for a month and then a situation might exist where I'm riding one month and working the next – one month on, one month off. And who's to say what would be happening on other fronts? My family would certainly be in touch to ask where I am, when I'm returning home and how the hell are they going to survive without me there earning money? My office would be in touch either to sack me or to ask me if I was considering returning to work any time soon. All of this aggravation would be pre-occupying me to say the least, making my cycling a little tense, a little uneasy. In short, I really would be an Uneasy Rider.

And who's to say the police wouldn't be involved? Back home bills would be mounting up, the power would be cut off and let's not forget my mobile phone account. Soon I would be completely off the radar and unreachable by anybody other than those who might have an idea where I'd be heading, but there would be nobody (apart from Andy) who would hold that knowledge as the whole 'adventure' was based on a whim. Remember the line? "What would happen if you were cycling to the office [or in my case the Tatsfield bus stop] and just kept on pedalling past?"

I couldn't even go on benefits because the Government has tightened things up and while there are people out there who know how to work the system, I'm not one of them. The best I could do to survive (apart from finding somebody who knew how to work the system) would be the aforementioned 'one month on, one month off' scenario of casual labour one month followed by a month on the road, living rough in a tent, doing a spot of 'wild camping', surviving on pre-packaged sandwiches during the day and one hot evening meal using the money I've made in the pub, or cooking something on a camping stove – and what's the guarantee I'll find work at the end of my month of cycling – unless I strike some kind of deal with a national pub chain?

In short, we realised, as we finished our tea and BelVita biscuits, that there was no such thing as true freedom, that all of us (let's make that 'most of us') are shackled to something – 'responsibilities' – and limited by a lack of funds that need to be replenished in order to survive. Most of us work to live, some of us live to work, but either way, if you just walk out of the rat race you won't last for long as the practicalities of life will gate crash your party, and if you wanted to ride around the coast of Great Britain or jump on a powerful motorcycle and ride around the world in any direction, you can't simply 'pedal past the office' and keep on going... unless you have the funds and the wherewithal to simply jump off the carousel of life in full knowledge that nothing much will have changed when you eventually return to the fold.

It started to rain and it was time to mount the bikes and ride home. We packed up our stuff, jumped on our steeds and, as the rain intensified, we accepted the sad fact that nobody was truly free. In short, the vast majority of us are prisoners, confined by a lack of wealth and a sense of responsibility for others. So much for Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, so much for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, so much for road movies, so much for escapism... it all comes at a price that many of us simply can't afford.

On a lighter note, the photographs accompanying this post are of Sanderstead Pond. I'd taken a shot at the Tatsfield bus stop just prior to departure, but it was over-exposed thanks to somebody back home changing the camera's settings without me knowing. By the time I reached Sanderstead the heavens had opened, but I braved the elements to take these shots, which are not over-exposed... unlike yours truly who was well and truly over-exposed to the rain, which continued for the most of the day and only brightened up around 4pm when the sun made an impromptu appearance.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

To the Tatsfield bus stop

It had rained heavily overnight and there were still a few drops landing in the birdbath at 0600hrs when I peered out to see what was happening with the weather. I'd been off work all week and the weather had been fairly good, bar yesterday when it rained all day.

This morning, as I sipped from my mug of tea, the trees swayed in the breeze, the bushes rustled and the sky was grey – an abort seemed likely, but there were no text messages from Andy so I figured that he, like me, was feeling optimistic. In addition to my cup of tea I had cut off a length from a baguette that had been standing to attention behind the bread bin.

A brief period of messing around on the computer followed and then, after making up a flask of hot water, putting four Twining's English Breakfast teabags in my heavy duty Integrated Mill Systems blue mug and pouring just enough fresh milk for Andy and I to enjoy two cups of tea at our destination, I headed out to the garage to blow up the front tyre, which was suffering from a very slow puncture. After a week the tyre was almost completely flat, but 50 pumps later it was as hard as rock and I was ready for the ride.

Roadside puddles provided evidence – not that any was needed – of last night's downpour, although I later observed, as we rode south on the 269, that the puddles had all but evaporated and were nowhere near as big as I've seen them on past rides. As I made my way towards Warlingham Green the weather improved considerably and blue skies appeared behind rapidly diminishing grey clouds.

Once we were underway, en route to the Tatsfield bus stop – our chosen destination – I was glad that we hadn't aborted the ride.

There were a few Lycra monkeys here and there, but no sign of Dawes Galaxy. I told Andy that I'd bought a hardback copy of Ewan McGregor's and Charley Boorman's Long Way Down. What a great book, even if I've only reached page 39. Phil has the DVD and I'm rather hoping he'll let me borrow it.

At the bus stop we made tea and enjoyed Andy's chocolate BelVita biscuits while watching somebody riding a Royal Enfield motorcycle back and forth along Tatsfield's Approach Road. "Not my style," said Andy – he's a sports bike fanatic (a kind of motorised Lycra monkey). He used to be a courier but admitted today that his motorcyling days were over. As for me, well, I had my mid-life crisis back in my mid-30s (when I yearned for a Harley Davidson Sportster but never had the money to buy one, although, in all honesty, motorcycling is not for me and I strongly believe that had I bought one, I'd either be dead by now or seriously injured, so it's just as well that I had no money. I still don't have any money.

April 2008, pre-blog pic near Botley Hill
While at the bus stop we chatted about pre-blog days and how we both wished we'd thought about the blog earlier as a lot of the early pre-blog rides were the pioneering ones. But there's no point crying over spilt milk. This afternoon I went into the photographic archive on a remote hard drive in search of pre-blog images and then remembered that in pre-blog days why would we have bothered taking photographs? Well, we did take the odd shot, but the only ones I can find that are 100% pre-blog images are those of Andy and I in the snow back in April 2008 – and they've been published here before. Still, as we didn't take a shot this morning, I'm going to bore you all with an image of yours truly, close to Botley Hill, in the snow, back in April 2008 (see pic left).

By 0830hrs we were ready for the return ride. Andy rode with me to Warlingham Green where we said our goodbyes and vowed to be back on the green at 0730hrs tomorrow, although I've been reliably informed that the weather is going to be bad. My iphone says cloud and rain – and so does the mother-in-law, but we'll see; I'm forever optimistic.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

To Botley Hill (eventually)

It was approaching 0600hrs and I was awake, looking at the digital read-out of the clock and awaiting Something Understood on Radio Four, not that I had any intention of listening to it, I rarely do as 0600hrs means getting up and going for a ride. It was Sunday morning. But then I heard the phone vibrate and I figured it was Andy aborting the ride. In a way it was just that, but not quite.

"What do you think?" said Andy's text.
"Murky. Meet at 8? Looks like rain, though," I wrote back, adding, "It's raining. I think abort, sadly."
"Ok. See you next weekend," said Andy.
"Ok," said I and then, some time later after resigning myself to no cycling – rain was hitting the birdbath, which in my book means 'no cycling' – I looked outside and noticed brighter weather and a calm birdbath. "Brighter here," I texted Andy.
"See you about 8. Quick one to Botley roundabout," replied Andy.
"Ok, will leave here 0730 unless there's another downpour," I said.

Andy and yours truly just past Botley Hill, Sunday 19th July 2015
The weather really brightened up and for that alone I was grateful. While yesterday's blue skies had gone, there was a mixture of blue sky and light cloud this morning as I rode towards Warlingham Green. There was also a lovely fresh smell of rain in the air, which made it a fantastic morning.

I'd forgotten all about Andy's 40-miler last weekend, but remembered when I reached the green and asked him how it went. Fine, he said, although there were plenty of hills and, of course, plenty of middle-aged men in Lycra (Mamils). Not good, but Andy did it with his pal Richard and it was all done and dusted by 2pm.

We headed off in the usual direction for a short ride to Botley Hill, stopping on the mini roundabout where Andy checked out the flora and fauna, wondering if he'd stumbled upon some hogweed. Nasty stuff hogweed, according to Andy. "It can cause third degree burns," he said, trying to describe what hogweed looks like.

"I might have some in my back garden," I told him.
"You can be fined, you know," he replied.
"Oh," said I resolving to check out two huge weeds that had sprung up over recent weeks. Better remember to wear the old gauntlets, I thought, as we sipped tea and munched on our BelVita biscuits (chocolate chip with, apparently, apricot). You simply can't beat a BelVita biscuit.

Andy had a busy day ahead of him doing all the stuff he hadn't done yesterday so we took the photograph accompanying this post and headed for home, Andy saying goodbye yards from where we had stopped and riding off along The Ridge towards home. I carried on down the 269 towards Warlingham and then Sanderstead, enjoying the wonderful weather, which is still fantastic as I write this at 1025, breakfast eaten and ready for a drive over to Wisley.

In total this week I've cycled around 26 miles and I suppose I could have done better. I feel a trip to Westerham next week is on the cards, but let's see what the weather looks like.

I'd better check out that potential hogweed in the garden...and I can now report that it's not hogweed.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Urban ride to mum's...

Saturday 18th July 2015 was a wonderful sunny day from the outset. It was one of those mornings when everything looks good with the world and there's nothing to do but get up, get ready and go out cycling. I did just that. After a cup of tea and after pondering where I should go I headed into the garage to find a soft front tyre. But this was not a problem as I know it's taken a whole week to go down and is, therefore, a slow puncture. I found the foot pump and rectified the matter and then jumped on the bike – a little later than usual, probably around 0730hrs – and rode along Barnfield, still uncertain as to where I should go; there were really only two choices.

I dawdled for a split second as the decision to turn left and go to Botley or the Tatsfield bus stop presented itself, but no, I always go there so it's got to be mum's for a spot of breakfast. I carried on to the end of the road and then coasted down West Hill and into Essenden Road as this sort of weather demanded that I took things easy, breathed in the fresh air and enjoyed the ride.

Mum in her back garden, Saturday 18th July 2015
Andy had work to do and Phil was on holiday so I was on my own and while, yes, I could have gone anywhere, even Westerham, the idea of a lighter rucksack, one not containing a heavy flask of hot water for tea, had a certain appeal and I knew I could get a cup of tea round at mum's and more.

There was little traffic on the road as I turned left on to the Selsdon Road and then left again into Jarvis Road before crossing the Brighton Road and heading uphill towards Pampisford Road and a vast expanse of green fields, parched brown by the sun. It was tempting to get off and take a photograph (as I did the last time I rode this way) but I remained in the saddle and made my way towards the A23 and a right turn at the lights adjacent to the Aerodrome Hotel and then a left turn that took me through an industrial estate and out on to the Stafford Road at The Chase in Wallington where I once saw an identical bike to mine resting against a wall outside of a betting shop.

Traffic picked up a bit as I rode towards Wallington, but not by much and soon I found myself in the backroads behind Carshalton Park. The route skirted the park and brought me out close to the Windsor Castle roundabout. I was only around five minutes from mum's and soon I arrived, parked the bike and gladly accepted the offer of breakfast.

At the top of mum's garden
Mum and I chatted about her brother George and her dad and soon, after a boiled egg, fingers and tea, not forgetting a chopped and peeled orange, it was time to get back on the bike and head home. I walked the bike to the shops with mum who was nipping out to get a newspaper and then, at the foot of Shorts Road, I jumped back on, rode up Alma Road and headed towards Carshalton Beeches. I retraced my earlier route and reached home around 1000hrs, ready to mow the lawn and generally chill.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The Charge Grater 3 – not Helen Pidd's two-wheeled soul mate

Matthew Moggridge writes: Bikes are definitely getting more expensive. These days, when I walk into a bike shop to see what's on offer, even the most basic-looking machine seems to cost over £500 and sometimes I spy bikes with block brakes that are even more expensive. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, like Apollo bikes and other lower cost brands, and while it is often said that you get what you pay for, some argue that a cheaper bike is not only better for you if fitness is your goal – heavier, lower spec machines mean you've got to put in more work – but enables you to add your own higher spec components at your own pace. Some would argue that 'a bike, is a bike, is a bike' and why spend a fortune on one?
The Charge Grater 3.

A couple of weeks ago I was wandering around Düsseldorf in Germany and while loitering outside the main railway station (on the quieter side, adjacent to the Leonardo Hotel on Ludwig Erhard Allee) I spied a rather good bike shop with some top-of-the-range machines going for 520 Euros. Now it might well be that the same bike in the UK would be far more expensive as these days you don't get much for your money if you've got just over £400 to spend. I doubt very much whether the bike I spied in the window in Düsseldorf would cost whatever 520 Euros works out to be in good old English pounds.

In this week's Guardian Weekend magazine, Helen Pidd was reviewing the Charge Grater 3 – a strange name for a bike in my opinion. Looking at the facts box at the bottom of the page I noticed that it costs a cool £549.99.

I don't know where Helen got that £549.99 price tag. Looking online this morning, they're much more expensive: £649 at Sunset Bikes; £749.99 at Cyclestore and Evans and also at Tredz Bikes, but only £467.49 from

Well, at least it has disc brakes and high-spec Shimano Nexus 8 hub gears, and mudguards. I'm starting to realise the importance of the latter as avid readers of this blog will already know.

That aside, I don't think Helen was overly impressed. In fact she felt that the manufacturer spent all its money on the gears, claiming that normally a bike with Shimano Nexus hub gears would 'be significantly more expensive'. Hub gears in 'my day' – meaning my days as a kid – used to be Sturmey Archer. In fact I never had a bike with gears, just a single cog at the back. According to Helen the hub gear is ideal if you wish to ride to the office in work clothes as all the machinery is hidden away. That is a good point, although the Charge Grater 3 doesn't have a chain guard so what the manufacturer gives with one hand, it takes away with the other.

Helen says that the Charge Grater 'seems too good too to be true' and it's a little too pricey for what it is. Hub gears are a pain to fix, she says, and the bike she was given to test had faulty gears that kept slipping and the rear mudguard kept catching on the wheel – now that's annoying – and, she said, the handlebars looked cheap. Now I know what she means about that; I often take a long, hard look at a bike's handlebars and sometimes, yes, they do look kind of cheap and unimpressive and that will be enough for me to consider not buying it. Helen reckons that the manufacturer of the Charge Grater 3 spent all its money on the gears and had to settle for lower quality bars and other lesser components.

On the plus side, she said that the Charge Grater was very light, looked clean and modern and was light enough to lift on and off the Transpennine Express. The saddle was also comfortable – 'mega comfortable' – and it was a ladies' saddle (Helen says that 'far too many manufacturers think women won't notice if they whack on any old blokes' saddle'). The Charge Grater 3's saddle, she says, was shorter and wider and included a 'pressure releasing' channel 'to keep one's bits in working order'.

She wasn't keen on the 'skinny down tubes' and wasn't happy either with the wider-than-standard handlebars.

Helen summed up the Charge Grater 3 as being her 'two-wheeled soulmate' (a reference to her opening paragraph in which she compared the bike with a dating profile 'that promises more than a real-life human could ever deliver.

Helen Pidd can be followed on Twitter – @helenpidd

To read Helen's complete article, click here.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

To the Tatsfield bus stop... for a sausage sandwich!

It was going to be Westerham, but we all had commitments. It was, however, a special day. Phil was christening his 'new' Kona Smoke. I'm not sure how much I've said in past posts, but in a nutshell, Phil's old bike – formerly his father's Raleigh – was getting a little too old. Phil has been considering a new bike for some time, but he wasn't in any hurry.

I had a brainwave. Why doesn't he buy Dave's old Kona Smoke? Here was a perfectly decent, hardly ever used bike that was slowly rotting away in a garage in Caterham in Surrey. The last time it was on the road was in pre-blog times (pre-2009) when Dave joined Andy and I on a ride to Westerham. Sadly, there is no photographic evidence.

Saturday 11 July
Let's face it, Dave isn't really the sporty type. So I sent him a text. "Ever thought about selling your bike?" He came back with a "Why not?" I'd already asked Phil whether he'd be interested in buying Dave's bike and he said he'd happily take a look at it. A few weeks passed and then we drove over to Dave's to check out the Smoke. Phil liked it, but admitted that he needed to raise the handlebars.

A deal was done, Phil rode it back from Caterham and this weekend was the first time Phil was riding the bike with Andy and I. We rode to the Tatsfield bus stop where Phil unveiled his famous sausage sandwiches and Andy produced some chocolate chip BelVita biscuits. I served the tea and we sat around chatting in the early morning sunshine.

Phil with his Kona Smoke (left) and Andy at the bus stop
Dawes Galaxy turned up, looking unnaturally sweaty. He stopped to chew the fat and, as Phil has already observed, he didn't get off of his bike but simply stood there in front of the bus stop straddling the frame of his immaculate-looking machine. He'd already riden to the Tatsfield churchyard to see if we were there, but we told him how our family commitments prevented us from going any further than the bus stop.

We might have made the churchyard had Phil's Kona Smoke not fallen victim to a front wheel puncture only yards from our start point. We stopped on a pleasant green joining Morley Road, Arkwright Road, Church Way and Ewhurst Avenue and I called Andy to say we were delayed. But it didn't take long to get back on the road again and soon we were riding along the 269 heading south towards Botley Hill and then veering east and riding around half a mile to the bus stop.

After chewing the fat with Dawes Galaxy, who this week mentioned his diabetic brother with only two toes who lived in Cornwall, we all bade farewell to one another and rode home. Andy branched off at the Ridge while Phil and I rode back towards Sanderstead. We parted at the top of Church Way and we won't be seeing Phil for a while as he's off on his summer holidays.

I'll need to motivate myself for next weekend as Andy and Phil won't be present next Saturday.

Sunday 12th July
It was raining this morning so I didn't go out, but in all honesty it wasn't so much raining but spitting. Had I been a little more dedicated to the cause perhaps I'd have gone out early and returned before the heavens opened, but I didn't; I lolled around making plans – or thinking about – a drive to the south coast. The weather was poor; it was dribbling with rain, it was cold, breezy and overcast and there's nothing bleaker than a seaside resort in bad weather – misty, deserted Pagham beach was suitably uninspiring and an equally deserted and miserable promenade at Felpham left me feeling down and meant that a walk was out of the question. After a cup of tea in the Lobster Pot, we drove home.

The Wimbledon men's final was still on when we returned and now it's dark outside, Joanna Lumley is on the Trans-Siberia Express and I'm in the conservatory writing this post, but not for long. It's just turned 10pm and it's time to call it a day.

And the burning question is...

I used to read the Guardian on Saturday regularly and there's no reason why I'm not doing so today, just that habits change and I pick one up whenever I can, like this weekend. Fortunately for me this week's newspaper contained the Do Something supplement (with a cover image of comedian Bill Bailey standing on a paddleboard).

The Do Something supplement exists to make its readers feel guilty; guilty because they are bored enough to skim through it, looking for something to do because otherwise they would be sitting in front of the television twiddling their thumbs and wishing they'd made more of the beautiful weather on offer outside. While Serena Williams was busy winning yet another Wimbledon Ladies' Tennis Championship, the Do Something readers looked out on to unmown lawns and simply wondered. That's it, they just wondered: What the hell can we do to relieve the boredom?
Life's a beach – Joshua Sivarajah and Nero. Photo: Daily Mail
And to be fair to the Do Something supplement, it's full of bright ideas for its well-heeled, left-leaning readership, such as making their own toothpaste. Who, I wonder, is THAT bored? Who has that much time on their hands? "I know, I'll make my own toothpaste!" As the supplement points out, toothpaste is a 'doddle to make'... but the bad news is, it tastes appalling. There's even a three-step 'how to' guide on how to make appalling-tasting toothpaste. Why bother? Get a job!

But something that always catches me off guard and infuriates me no end is when somebody makes a life-changing decision and leaves everybody else with the cliffhanger question – doesn't he (or she) have a job to go to?

Joshua Sivarajah claims that the first 34 years of his life were 'fairly conformist' – university followed by a variety of jobs, including his own sales business, but when his mum suggested they move to Jakarta – or rather that she was moving to Jakarta and would he like to join her – he said yes, he'd come, but then he started to realise how he was going to miss good old Blighty and, in a nutshell, he decided, as a kind of parting gesture, to take his dog and cycle around the UK. He set off for what was going to be a seven-week jaunt, but then realised that there was no hurry. "I just needed to appreciate what was around me," he said, going on to explain that what started out as a seven-week adventure, turned into something much bigger. "I've seen and done much more than expected," he said, adding that the west coast of Scotland was particularly thrilling.

But what all these adventure-loving people forget to mention – and I'd imagine it's the burning question on most readers' lips as they sit at home wondering what's stopping them from simply jumping on a push bike and heading off around the UK with a pet – is how the hell can they afford to do it? Sivarajah talks of his outgoings being roughly £300 per month (for him and Nero, his dog).

What I want to know is this: how is he funding the journey? Alright, £300 per month so if he's away for a year, say, that's £3,600. What about his rent or his mortgage back home, what about his job, who's going to pay the bills in his absence? What about emergencies? But these questions are never addressed and the Do Something supplement's readers are left feeling a little inadequate as they know that simply dropping everything and buggering off around the world on a bike is completely out of the question for them – as it is for most people.

As for Sivarajah, he's now broadening his horizons: "We're cycling across Europe – we've visited France, Spain and Portugal so far. I never want to stop." But surely, Sivarajah, you've got to stop sometime, if only to earn some money to buy a new pair of pants?

A story in the Daily Mail quotes Sivarajah as saying, "All I have to my name is Nero, a tent, cooking stove, some clothes and some trainers," but fails to explain how he intends to fund the trip bar a cryptic mention of how he has somehow managed to secure sponsorship for his phone and gadgets so that he can post updates on a series of blogs. Eh? What does that involve? Who did he approach and what was their answer to his question, "Can you sponsor my phone?" And what about that blog? Is it making him money, from paid subscribers – or advertisers – or is it like my blog: just there, but certainly not earning any money.

One of the best books I've ever read is Mike Carter's One Man & His Bike. It's a brilliant, well-written account of Carter's two-wheeled excursion around the UK coastline. But there's one problem that always annoys me. On the back cover is the following sentence: "What would happen if you were cycling to the office and just kept on pedalling past?" Well, ultimately, you'd lose your job, be evicted from your rented accommodation or you might find your house being repossessed.

Carter's publisher wanted to convince the reader that Carter had done just that: he was cycling to work and then thought, 'sod it! I'll keep cycling'. The reality was something completely different and all I want from publishers and the media in general is honesty. Tell it how it is!

But no. Publishers simply ignore the vital questions that people really want to hear – basically, how the hell can they afford to do that?

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Double puncture means no cycling on Saturday... and an abort from me on Sunday (but Andy rides out on both days)

Andy's Kona Blast in the woods. This shot
from his ride on Saturday
On Saturday morning the weather was glorious from the word go. I was up with the lark and raring to go, but it was not to be; I was running a little late and then, when I reached the garage, I noticed that my bike was sporting front and rear punctures. I couldn't believe it, but quickly phoned Andy to say I'd better abort. I then spent the early morning hours sitting in the garden reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Yes, I'm still reading it but I'm now on page 1000 so I'm nearly finished. I sat in the sun until just gone 0930hrs and then, after a fashion, I fixed my two punctures. One required a new inner tube so I walked to Cycle King and bought one.
My Kona Scrap

After a late night on Saturday I couldn't face a ride so I aborted around 0600hrs. Not going cycling was a bad idea, but there was simply no way. I always feel terrible about not going for a ride and this weekend was no exception. Sunday was spent lazing around and then going for a pointless drive into the country and now it's Sunday evening, it's almost 10 o'clock and I should be making tracks to hit the sack.

The weather's been a bit changeable: rain in the morning and I think thunder overnight, although that might have been Friday night, I can't remember. But most of Sunday was very pleasant. I think we'd have escaped a soaking this morning had we gone out and yesterday would have been an amazing ride had my bike not had two punctures.

I haven't heard from Andy, but I assume he got out. I know he said something about doing a local ride on Saturday morning, but whether he went out this morning, I'm not sure.