Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Happy Birthday To Me!

Yay. It's my birthday today. Another year older. Though somehow I feel like I've aged more than a year this year. Why? Because of this:
This was one of my birthday presents, and no, it wasn't just one of those presents a random relative buys you because they don't really see you that often and have no idea what you like or what you want so get you something they feel you should have - I actually asked for this!

At some point earlier this year I think I might have grown up - I bought a house, I started DIY, I set myself a budget, I had a training regime, I prepared for races, I even gave up drinking for a while, and I started gardening. I actually became rather sensible. (I only went on four holidays! How sensible is that?!)

But no more! If 2007 was a year of sensibleness, 2008 is going to be a year of immaturity; bring on the spontaneous trips across the country for coffee, bring on the stupid bike rides where we barely escape with our lives, bring on the all night drinking sessions. Being grown up is too dull and boring for me - even if it is cheap. There's so much to do before I'm 30 and I can't do it on a budget...

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Christmas Indulgence

I love Christmas. I don't know why. I just do. And I find everything quite magical around Christmas - the decorations, the lights, the carol services, the markets, the atmosphere, everything is just brilliant at Christmas.

And this weekend is always particularly good. For the last couple of years I've been away for a Christmas/Birthday treat weekend with my Mum. We've been to Brussels/Bruge, Copenhagen and this year we decided to stay in good old London town (because I'm skint from doing up my house). The weekends involve cramming in some culture in stunning cities of Europe; Cathedrals, museums, old buildings and the like, but basically revolves around the sumptuous Christmas Markets! Mulled wine, mince pies, cakes, gaufres, chocolat, gluhwein, glog, cookies, biscuits, venison sausage, kase, vin chaud - if it's sweet, yummy or alcoholic, we'll try it. If it's sweet, yummy AND alcoholic, we'll take a box of it! It's a weekend of pure indulgence. When it doesn't matter what you eat or drink, or indeed how much it costs, as long as it's good and it's Christmasy.

So I'll just pop into the kitchen and warm up some more homemade mulled wine on the stove, heat up a brandy laced mince pie and pour over the Cognac cream. Best open that next box of liquer chocolates as well, the night is young. I love Christmas.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007


Totally ran out of time today, I really don't know where the day went. It was dark before I knew what was happening! Still, with the urge to ride still strong, I popped down to the shed and dragged my surly Cross-Check up to the 3rd floor, stepped over the various power tools blocking the spare room doorway, pushed paint tins, planks and architrave to the edges of the room, and set up the turbo trainer on the nail infested floor boards.

iPod now recharged, I settled into a good steady hour of leg spinning. Legs felt fine, but I had that 'bruised backside' feeling again. You know, for all the years I've been riding, if I take a few weeks off I always get this after my first ride. You'd have thought I (or rather my backside) would be use to this by now, but no, I can guarantee it every time.

Feeling good though and looking forward to my next ride. Bring it on!

Monday, 10 December 2007

And the Lord said:

"Let them ride bikes. For this time of year is a time of celebration and happiness." And so it was that on the 63rd day of my illness, I did rise from the sofa and did take out my trusty Surly steed to help banish the evil virus from my body. And low, though I did ride through the alley of the thorns, I feared no punctures. And I did ride over the hills, and across the downs and through the fruitful forest. And when I had travelled many lonely miles and my spirit hath lifted and mine iPod run out; I turned homeward. And the sun set on a beautiful day and the world was good.

And whence I returned from my pilgrimage I did drink tea and eat cake - for every Englishman knows in his heart that these are truly the body and the blood of Christ - and the world was good.

And so, with a smile on my face and a spring in my step (despite aching legs), with the feeling of the wind blowing through my helmet so real I could almost be out there still, I can finally write about riding my bike again: a ride I will never forget. The bright orange sunset flickering through the trees as I approached Ivinghoe Beacon, (must remember camera) then as the terrain changed slightly I lost site of it, the flat Buckinghamshire countryside stretched out beyond the horizon shrouded under it's dusky orange veil, until I turned west directly into the sun down to Ivinghoe and it was so bright and low I could hardly see the road in front of me! This is why I ride bikes.

And life IS good!

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Brain Melt Day

I had one of those days yesterday, you know, where everything is just that little bit more difficult and you can never quite remember what you were supposed to be doing. I think it's because I was distracted with the idea of going back to work.

It started with the post. I had a couple of letters to send. Now, I may or may not have put a stamp on one of the envelopes, but that may not matter because I may or may not have included the cheque in one of them, and I may or may not have signed that cheque anyway. I'm not sure, I got distracted.

Then I started to tidy up. Half way through tidying up I noticed the sun glaring through the smudged hand prints on the window. I put down the polish and duster - which are as yet to be rediscovered - and got out the white vinegar and newspaper to clean the windows. I subsequently misplaced the top to the vinegar bottle which is now making my whole house stink! Yes, it is that potent.

I gave up trying to do anything soon after this and sat down with a coffee and a creme egg. But who cares, it's CHRISTMAS!!

Friday, 30 November 2007

A cough...

So, following on from my last blog, I'm still ill. And I'm too fed up to rant now. It's been a rubbish couple of days. Not least because I spent over an hour waiting to see the doctor again yesterday; for the third time in six weeks. Big deal you might think? But before this, I hadn't been to see my GP once in 3 years!

I have nothing against doctors, I just personally don't find them very useful as I have very little need for them. On the few occassions I have been to seem them over the years, they've mostly been rubbish - giving me the wrong information or the wrong diagnosis. Like the time I damaged the tendon in my shoulder joint and the doctor had me doing shoulder shrugs - my physios mouth dropped when I told him. Or the time I had mumps and it wasn't spotted until the following week when 4 of my class mates got mumps! Other instances I won't go into.

But it's not just the good old NHS, it seems it's the same across the Atlantic as well, no matter how much you pay.

Last September I flew to Colorado and a few days later I woke up one morning with a cramp-like feeling in my right leg. Fortunately, it didn't totally cramp up. A few days later the area started to get quite solid, looked bruised and was really quite painful when walking. I popped in to see a friend who recommended a physio to see for a massage to work out what was probably a muscle knot. The physio refused to touch it when I told her I'd only flown in last week as it could possibly be DVT and I should go to hospital immediately!

So I went. And walked up to reception and told the receptionist I'd flown from the UK last week and the physio thinks it's DVT and that I have a "pain in my right calf." It was serious enough to be placed ahead of the guy with the foot and the woman with the finger.

A waiting room stint, a check over, some tests and an ultra-sound later, I was diagnosed with, wait for it... "right calf pain"...

Fast forward again to thursday, a different doctor to the first two times. She read my notes and I added that the bronchitis I'd been diagnosed with wasn't getting any better, I had a back pain almost constantly and these last couple of days I'd been feeling quite dizzy. (I didn't mention that I'd almost collapsed whilst brushing my teeth wednesday night, it's not the most strenuous of tasks and, well, I have got an electric toothbrush...)

Again, more checks - she told me to breathe. I did that. And from that in depth investigation she came to the conclusion that I have, wait for it... "a cough"... But seeing as I've had a cough for so long now, I should probably take some time off work; and take some stronger drugs because the last lot didn't do anything.


Sunday, 25 November 2007

Been a while...

So it was brought to my attention today (thanks Simon), that I've really not been posting too much. Three weeks since the last one to be precise. The sad thing is, it's not because I've been busy or doing anything exciting - in fact, the exact opposite. Which is why I haven't been posting, because I haven't done anything interesting.

Truth of the matter is, I've been ill for a full six weeks now and to be honest, I'm getting really, really fed up with it. It started with a chest infection from Dusk til Dawn, evolved into flu, which then morphed into bronchitis. I've now cracked a rib, from coughing of all things! And it feels like I've got another cold coming on (though apparently bronchitis + cold symptoms = pneumonia in some cases. Gulp! I'm sure it's not though... just cos it's not... gulp!)

Yes, I could have ridden if I wanted to, but seeing as I practically cough up a lung every time I ride up the little hill from the train station, I thought it best not to. I'm pretty sure that's what caused the cracked rib as well. And passers by look at me as if I've got the plague because I'm coughing so hard and so long. It's not pretty I can tell you.

So that's it. That's what I've been doing all this time. Nothing. Nothing at all. How boring is that. I am getting grouchier though because I'm not riding my bike, so my rants are getting more colourful and my temper is getting shorter. So if this riding drought continues, I may have to post more ranting...

Public transport, don't get me started!!

Friday, 2 November 2007

The Cookie Story

It's funny how the simplest of things remind you of the strangest of memories. On my way in to work this afternoon I decided to treat myself to a Millie's Cookie from Euston Station. It's been a long time since I bought one of these, but I certainly remember the last time I did and it always makes me smile.

About 7 years ago I moved down to London to start my first job at a small start-up television channel called The thing that struck me about London was how unfriendly it was and how nobody ever spoke to anyone or smiled or made eye contact. So, one night I was working down at our studio in the Trocadero shopping centre and a friend and I decided to treat ourselves to a cookie. As per usual I was bantering a bit with the cute guy behind the counter, trying to get a freebie, but he wasn't having any of it and we paid and went on our way.

Later that night when the show had finished it was the custom for the crew to go to the pub and have rather a lot to drink - who was I to argue. The pub closed and I made my way to the tube station, passing the aforementioned Millie's Cookies. The cute guy was cashing up for the night and a few random cookies lay under the counter so I tried my luck again. I'm not sure whether it was drunken charm or whether he just wanted to get rid of me, but minutes later I was merrily on my way with a bag of 8 free cookies! Result!

So there I was, midnight, stumbling through the London underground with a bag of cookies, passing unfriendly faces. What better opportunity to cheer a few people up than to share my delights with them! On my way up the escalator I politely asked the man in front of me if he'd like a cookie; "oh, er, well, yes, thank you" he said, slightly unnerved that a stranger had spoken to him, and even more puzzled by the fact it was a young lady offering him a cookie! At the top there was a smartly dressed woman, "excuse me, would you like a cookie?" I asked, "they were free and there's too many here for me."
"Oh, thank you very much" she said, and smiled.
Another grey haired man in a suit and two young Asian guys also partook of the free midnight snack.

I got on the train feeling rather satisfied and happy, and I hope everyone who took a cookie that night also went home a bit happier; and that maybe they recounted the story of the crazy midnight cookie girl to their friends the following day and made them smile as well.

And here I am, tucking into my cookie with a cup of coffee, smiling as much now as I did that night. I hope it's brightened up your friday afternoon as much as it has mine. If not, buy a cookie on the way home, that'll cheer you up.

Friday, 26 October 2007

That's what I'm changing the name of this website to. Why? Because for the last two weeks that's all I've done - the fence, the shed, the spare room walls, the ceiling, skirting boards, doors, architraves, the kitchen. You name it, I've probably painted it. And I haven't ridden my bike once! The closest I've got to bikes is sorting out the shed.

So I'm looking at this as my off season bit. Hopefully by the end of today I'll have a fully functioning kitchen. Hurray! Five months without one was starting to get a little annoying. And by the end of next week I should have a finished spare room and a house that is easily liveable, which means my goals for the year have been accomplished. I can put away all the DIY tools in the revamped workshop/shed, and get out on my bike and go exploring again.

I can't tell you how excited I am to finally be getting these things finished, this house stuff really has dragged on! My fault for going away so much this summer I supppose, you can't have your cake and eat it as they say. Mmmmm, cake...

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Dusk 'til freezing Dawn

Another excellent course to play on at Thetford with mile upon mile of swooping, twisting singletrack making up the epic 12 mile lap. This was going to be fun. I love riding at Thetford! Ickle Paul started off as usual, I'm surprised nobody slipped and twisted an ankle on the testosterone covered start line seeing as he'd grabbed centre stage along with Ben Dale and Paul Gibbons. Boys will be boys eh?

It was quite a spectacle as the hundreds of lights streamed past underneath the start banner, only to reappear a couple of minutes later a little more spread out and even more impressive.

Fifty minutes later and I was taking my final swig of Sloe Gin Liquer from my Surly hipflask, ready for the handover. I.P didn't look very happy when he came in, oh dear. Still, my first lap was SO much fun. Singlespeeds rule at Thetford and my Surly 1x1 was handling like a dream in the tight trees. During one particularly tight tree lined section Jo Burt and another couple of singlespeeders came up behind me and were whooping, hollering and generally making high pitched squeally sounds. The whole thing reminded me of that scene in Star Wars (oh come on, you know the one with the hover bikes through the giant trees) and I flew through the section at light speed. How much fun!

It was now getting a bit colder but I knew I was still going to sweat a lot in the trees so donned my trusty Endura arm and knee warmers to keep the chill off. They performed brilliantly but sadly it was too late for my knee which I've been having trouble with since soloing at Sleepless in the Saddle. Swiss Schali crept up behind me about half way round - his lights had failed so he was sitting behind me as we ducked and dived through the singletrack. On the fire road I'd spin like mad to keep up with him and then he'd let me go first again. "Hope I didn't hold you up too much?" I asked at the end of the lap. "No no" he replied, "I've been doing 52's so it was nice to have a steady late 50's to recover a bit." Hellfire! I was giving it everything I had to get those late 50's! Back in the handover, I.P didn't look very happy.

My third lap and I decided to give it everything I had again as I was pretty sure it was going to be my last. Traffic was a bit worse on this lap and the pain in my knee was increasing. It was my slowest lap but I was still under the hour. At the handover, I.P didn't look very happy. I told him the good/bad news that I didn't want to carry on and risk further damamge. I.P looked happy and went out for another lap. Turns out he hadn't been feeling very well either and things hadn't fallen into place. So, at 2.30am, after a total of 7 laps, lying in 4th place, we happily retired to the warmth of the Climb On Bikes camp - to drink, eat, sleep and hide under our duvets for the rest of the race. And from the pale, freezing faces we kept seeing diving in and out throughout the night, we'd made a good decision.

Hours later, the freezing fog lifted and it turned into a pleasant morning. A 1st, 3rd and 5th for our boys and girls in various categories and some rather lovely trophies to reward the massive effort everyone had put in to an extremely tough endurance race. Well done everybody! Full team write-up here.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

It's NOT the 2nd of October!

It's not, really it isn't, and I'll tell you why - because over the last few weeks my motivation to ride bikes has been lacking to say the least. So I'd decided that I was going to take things easy in September, just take a step back from riding, racing and decorating and get back in the saddle in October.
Well, I'm not very good at keeping track of time - I find that happens working shifts. I rarely know what day it is and weekends don't mean a thing, it's either a work day or a day off, nothing else registers - so on Monday I was convinced it was still September and that riding would start Tuesday. Sadly, Monday evening I was informed that it actually was October already and therefore I'd missed the boat. Damn!
Still, determined that my vigour for riding bikes would return at the start of the new month, I declared Monday null and void, and Tuesday as the 1st of October.
And so today I went out for my first ride in, well, I can't remember how long it's been, that's how long it's been! I dusted down my Surly cross-check, a trusty steed that has so far been neglected this year; She didn't hold it against me however and we were soon cruising along the Hertfordshire lanes like best friends again, Old Faithful never missing a gear change.
The weather then took a turn for the worse but I didn't care. I was wearing my new Endura Air Defence jacket, that may well become the Old Faithful of my wardrobe this winter - we got a lot of miles to do together guys!

Monday, 24 September 2007

Glad that's all over!

Final round of the BMBS at Coed-y-Brenin and the race season is (almost) over, hurray! And what an eventful weekend it was. Four unknown sport riders turned up on the start line and soon disappeared up the hill. Knowing my training hadn't been ideal and my series standing unchangeable I just wanted to finish. Minutes later I came across Fran, a fellow Climb On bikes rider, in need of an inner tube adaptor. I stopped to see if I could help but to no avail and was now dead last.

I caught up and passed the next two sport riders only to come across a guy who had rammed his face into the stoney singletrack! Again, I stopped to help. His position of 'face planted firmly into rocks spilling blood, bike on top of him, still clipped in' didn't look very comfortably and his weak flailing and groaning told me I could helpfully remove his bike from his feet without causing further injury. After establishing he couldn't remember his name, Ruth and Rachel caught me up and I told them to ride on to the next marshall. The junior Team Chance rider who'd also stopped then said she'd punctured so I may as well continue with my race. I did so. Only to find Ruth a little further down the singeltrack with a puncture. This scenario became very common as I completed the lap.

The next singletrack and more unhelpful bodies had decided to throw themselves in my path. One more good samaritan session helping to straighten handlebars and a brake lever and I set off once more! Any chance of podium had now gone so I decided just to enjoy myself and was whooping and jumping down the rocks once more, casually rolling down the 4x track with a view to putting all my effort into the second lap, just for fun really.

With all the breaks I'd had on the first lap, the second lap flew by and was most enjoyable, finishing 5th only a minute or so back from 4th. Being my worst position of the year, this round was dropped from the overall series and I happily collected my Series 2nd trophy. Woohoo! Not bad for a year where every spare minute has been spent with a paint brush in my hand, rather than riding a bike.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Back to school...

First day back at work today and even though it's been many a year since I experienced the big summer holiday, it still has that feel about it - the fun is over, normal life resumes, packed lunch is made, bag packed, there's that slight chill in the air that tells you autumn is on the way and the nights are drawing in. Every good holiday comes to an end I suppose.

At least I'm away again this weekend for the final round of the NPS at Coed-y-Brenin. Not that I'm looking forward to it. Two weeks of alcohol consumption that would make my doctor cringe even if I halved the daily amount and then knocked a few units off for good measure, never ending amounts of fried food and grilled cheese, and umpteen 4am finishes, have not surprisingly taken their toll and my body is showing the signs of giving in to a cold of some sort. That was blindingly obvious. Still, I shall persevere, then take a few weeks to chill out, rejuvenate and replenish my bank account by actually doing some work. Ho hum...

Monday, 17 September 2007

The Long Way Home...

Well, my epic two week trip around Scotland, and believe me, it has been around Scotland more than once, has finally come to an end. The Raasay Rumble on the Isle of Raasay, just off Skye was a bit of a wash out. The rain started on Friday evening, and I can't remember it stopping! It went from drizzle to torrential to biblical and back again continuously throughout the weekend - throw in a howling gale, some nippy temperatures and you've got yourself one fairly miserable setting. Shame, because there's some amazing trails on that island. There'll be a full story once I get home.

Right, best hit the road, I'm in unknown territory in my road atlas (i.e. a brand new unused page), and it's a hell of a long way home...

Thursday, 6 September 2007

SSWC 07 - leaving town

So the World Champs are over for another year (the real world champs, not that rubbish that's going on in Fort William this weekend). Beer, riding, friends, derbys, crashes, dancing, beer, mickey taking, heckling and endless story telling, perfect. Sat in Cafe Mambo in Aviemore, drinking great coffee with C.G. an American friend I only see once or twice a year, and Ricky/Chris, the random Canadian guy we picked up last night and has decided to hang out with us for a while. We're on first name terms with the baristas and practically have seats with our names on. We have no plans, just a big van full of bikes and stuff. This is what singlespeeding is all about.

Browsing the interent to find all the photos, posts, threads and things being said about the event is proving interesting. The photos tell the best stories, everything else seems a little distorted. It always fascinates me the amount of comments that are made by people that weren't even here! It was legendary, you missed it, get over it.

Adam Craig and Kellie Emmett won with true style, the course was amazing, not that I rode it, there was some world class heckling, lots of beer and I think Billy Spaceman won the ass slapping contest. We went for a walk, skimmed stones in the loch, drank coffee, ate cake and ice cream and laughed, lots! (I think we may have ridden our bikes at some point too, but that was only to get to the cake shop.)

Another plate of nachos and we'll be off to Pitlochry, making sure we stop by the Cairngorm brewery to stock up. We're passing (meaning, dropping by) some distilleries on the way too. I think this mornings vows to not drink any more this week aren't going to last very long, another few minutes maybe...

If you want to see any photos Garrison's, aka Baby Bear, are on flickr. And yes, the in-jokes are going to continue for many years to come. And no, it's unlikely you'll ever get most of them...