Friday, 30 November 2012

BBC Sports Personality of the year...

It's that time of year again. Stand by your phone, steel yourself for an unprecedented crop of tear-jerking victory montages, and be prepared for the annual surprise of Gary Lineker's latest gloriously spiffy skin-tight shirt. The shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award 2012 has been announced, an occasion of heightened interest at the end of a year in which British sport has perhaps never shone so brightly – this time around the BBC's flagship sporting award show can present itself to the world as a celebration of genuinely grand-scale achievement.
The debate this year is about the nuances of achievement. In terms of sheer, unrepeatable sporting excellence the bookies' favourite Bradley Wiggins stands out. 
No Englishman had previously won the Tour de France, the greatest sporting endurance event. A subsequent gold medal in the men's time trial at London 2012 makes for an unignorable set of laurels. Not to mention his victories in some of the cycling classics earlier in the year.
If you are wondering who I will be voting for, I don't mind telling you - It will be Wiggo - If I live for another 100 years I might not see another Englishman win the Tour - it is an achievement that warrants a knighthood - and you can bet he will be the best-dressed recipient of the award ever!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012


It was an early start, the chilly morning air was criss-crossed with shafts of warmth as the rising sun cut through the mist and illuminated the foliage along the long, straight road in front of me. I paused by a tall holly tree, full of red berries and intertwined with an exuberance of flowering ivy. There are thousands of small flying insects, hovering as well as one or two honeybees stoking up on the sticky florets before the temperatures drop.

I move on cycling past a few stately oaks. The sky is a blaze of colour now, illuminating the myriad textures and fissures of the oak bark. There are many flies and insects attracted to the warmth held by the dense old tree and I notice a delightful mosaic of lichens and mosses encrusting areas of the surface.

A proper flood!!
No doubt you have experienced some rain. We have all suffered a soaking over the past week. Many roads in these parts have been unpassable but nothing like the picture here that I noticed in the newspaper! - Wow - he must be mad.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Christmas shopping....

I've made a start. I dedicated yesterday to a full-on assault of the city centre. I need to be ahead of the game this year. I have taken on a work contract which is going to tie me up for every weekend in December - and indeed some weekdays too. So much so that shopping in December is impossible for me. So, with both daughters in tow I battled the traffic into Leicester - it was toe to tail all the way and took me almost an hour. Once there and parked we entered into the frenzy with a wide eyed disbelief. No signs of a recession - queues everywhere, tills kerchinging, people loaded down with bags and packages. Good job I chose to make a start and get some things ticked off - if this is anything to go by there will be nothing left in a week or two - I thought on-line shopping had more or less killed of the high street - i keep reading it in the newspaper - but no evidence or indication of it in real life?

Shopping for stuff is tiring, it wears you down like a long distance bike ride - I got home at about 5.30 thoroughly drained, tired, aching feet, sore back and empty wallet. Later I dozed off in front of the fire.

But this morning I was eager to get out again - no shopping though. The sun was shining brigh and low and the sky was crisp and clear. There was a layer of frost over the car but it was dry and inviting. I decided to wait until around lunchtime; let things warm up a little, and then I was off. Thick gloves, two pairs of socks, three layers of clothing and my warm cycling top that I bought from Chalet Reynard on Mont Ventoux.

It was still bitingly cold, my fingers began stinging as I cycled up towards Market Bosworth. The effort getting up the hill helped warm me but extremities remained stubborn to acknowledge the effort. I worked my way towards the Bosworth Battlefield site via the gated road from the town centre. there were a few walkers around but mostly I had the road to myself. I paused by a small copse to put on my neck scarf and heard some shuffling amongst the trees. Too heavy for a pheasant or even a fox. As I stood silently straining my eyes through the tangle of branches I spotted a slight movement. It was a deer, perhaps two, dapple shadowy under the trees. They were difficult to see, the exact silver fawn colour of the dead sweet chesnut leaves, with darker splashes, and standing amongst the trees in the freckly sunlight they toned away into near invisibility. Then, as a couple of walkers approached, with a boisterous spaniel, they were roused. They started up and were off, electrically, with astonishing lightness and speed, almost ethereally vanishing back into the deeper cover of the trees.

I am always cheered by surprising glimpses of nature such as that - they happen exclusively when least expected and by unbelievable chance.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

4.00pm - Sunday afternoon

The sun is shining, but the wind is cool and the dead oak leaves rattle in the wind. The sky is ablaze with fiery red and orange cloud patterns as I set off for a late afternoon ride. I wonder if this might be the last of the bright golden sunlight. Just one more brilliant, motionless sunset and then crash, the next morning a huge rolling grey sky, manoeuvring itself overhead like a great big lorry come to deliver the winter. There's a sharp stiffness in the breeze as the last of the leaves tumble and my thoughts turn from the salad bowl to the stock-pot.

It felt good to be out again - my first ride for over a week. I thought I was moving well but I felt my breathing was tight and laboured - the bike was rolling along at about 18mph when it happened - he came swiftly and silently from out of the sun - dressed all in black, crouching low over the bars - he said nothing and then he was gone. I made a half-hearted attempt to keep up but it was a pathetic effort - I felt weak and useless as he powered off towards to the horizon, while I wheezed slowly along. My fitness is shot to bits and I feel annoyed.

The darkness came suddenly. It was still dusky on top of the hill outside Snarestone, but as black as black by the time I was in amongst the trees at the bottom of the road just minutes later. My ears were sharpened. There were new noises: caterwauling and cooing, hooting and barking.

A home is never more of a home than when it's wet and windy, dark and dirty out. The house looks so pretty during the long nights, warm light glowing in the windows. I do like candle light - soft and pretty. The past must have been beautifully lit. All these new light bulbs are so lab-like, clinical, Christmas will never be the same.

Sunday, 4 November 2012


The darkness has arrived and with it the desire for sleep; like some deep lying animalistic instinct I am drawn to the duvet. Worryingly the urge cannot be ignored, and arrives earlier as each day creeps past 6 'o' clock. I have been snuggled up in bed by 8.30 on more than one occasion lately - what's happening?

Yesterday I managed an early ride. The roads were damp and dirty, some overnight rain left murky brown puddles and a coating of slime. Nevertheless there was a clear sky and a hint of sun. There is a relentless cyclonic cleansing away of the summer in full force here. The beating of wind and rain does a glorious job and in a single day things can be changed beyond recognition. I rode along lanes that I know well, but felt unfamiliar in their new guise - I almost felt i was riding along some of them for the first time, there has been a sudden letting in of light, the green canopy has gone, succeeded by an endless blanket of rolling, spinning and somersaulting leaves that crowd along the earth. The air has been whipped with rain freshness, it is clear and there is the new coldness, the first touch of winter that is as exhilerating as spring.

My time on the bike has been so depleted of late that these few miles are to be relished like a rare treat. I ride slower to better enjoy the experience and the surroundings. I stop often to gaze over empty fields and bare earth and to look at ancient trees closing down for the winter months. My bike will be put away this week and won't come out again until spring. My older bike will be dusted off and once again punished by the wet mud and salt. However I don't expect to do much cycling now until next year. At least not comparitively. Somehow over the last couple of winters I've managed a reasonable mileage - obviously ice and snow means no chance, but I've braved rain and cold close to freezing. Somehow I don't fancy that this year - I'm more interested in sleeping!

For sure I will need to work harder in the new year - the target of riding London to Paris will be the spur to get me moving again, along with the prospect of spring and warmth. So, if this blog becomes rather more infrequent than it already has, have no fear - I shall be back - once I wake from hybernation.