Monday, 24 February 2014

London calling.....

As the snowdrops cascade along the roadsides and the daffodils push relentlessly toward the light I wonder what happened to winter this year. We've had plenty of wind and rain but it hasn't been cold - not really. This time next week we'll be into March, already the mornings and evenings are getting lighter, it will soon be possible to get out after work. Today I wandered around the centre of Leicester in bright, warm sunshine - it's nice but probably not right.

Well, I've entered the Prudential 'Ride London' event. I've got until August to get fit and practise riding up hills - there are quite a few apparently. Leigh Hill and Box Hill being the most formidable. But looking at a few of the blogs with articles about last years event, it seems walking up the hills is acceptable - in fact, possibly, unavoidable - the sheer number of riders and, consequently, bodies means that it only takes a few people stopping and pushing to block the road for everyone else. I remember riding London to Brighton, around 1980 - it was impossible to ride up Ditching Bank - there just wasn't enough clear road. Anyway, the fees are paid, I am already in receipt of the first email trying to sell me a special 'commemorative' cycling jersey - of course I will have to get one.

I managed a couple of rides over the weekend - the same route on both days - totalling 36 miles or so, overtaken twice on Saturday and once yesterday - and every time by riders whom, I swear, were in their 70's. I take it on the chin though - there are some fit old gits out there - I wish I was one of them, but my programme hasn't started yet, nor will it for another month or so. I'm happy just to idle along right now - no need to push too hard or feel uncomfortable - its bad enough being out in the wind and rain. Plenty of time for torture later on.

Thursday, 13 February 2014


The Elizabethans took a dim view of the winter season. Understandably - it was nigh on impossible to stay warm. People would be sown into their clothes in autumn - and not emerge from them till spring. Only the great frost fairs, held on the solid frozen river Thames in London offered any respite from the unyielding greyness - crammed with stalls and attractions as far as the eye could see.

These days we are better insulated. Our homes are warmer and we can pile on cold-defying clothes. We can enjoy the mercurial landscape, the frosty tableaux, the rural hoar frost ..... the floods.

I ventured out on the bike recently for a 20 mile spin - it looked pleasant enough - a hint of sunshine even - but the wind... oh my lord - it was fierce. A roaring gale, powerful enough to fell trees and send water the wrong way - up stream. The sky was the colour of fresh liver as I headed out on my usual route - but with an additional loop to take in the climb up to Bosworth. The wind was unrelenting - vicious, strong and forceful. It was laughable how it was able to hold me back, despite all my efforts and pressure on the pedals I couldn't move forward. The effect, combined with the cold left my fingers and feet numb.

As I struggled, laboured, up into Newton Burgoland I heard a dull crash - I thought it might be a car crash or a tree falling - as I approached the junction to Swepstone I could see what it was - the fingerpost had been blown over, the earth at the base black, rich and fresh. It sat, wedged on the grassy bank - I paused to take a photo before soldiering on.

The fallen sign
Talking of soldiering I am sure you won't need reminding that we are in the centenary year of the start of the first World War. My Grandfather was part of it - seems unbelievable but he was. He fought at Vimy Ridge and was shot through the face, the bullet passed straight through from one side to the other. He survived though and lived to ripe old age. I am prepared for the inevitable glut of documentaries to mark the event - I wonder if any of them will provide a fitting memorial for this centenary of the 'Great' war that, almost uniquely, resulted in nothing positive whatsoever. There was no silver lining in 1918, no lesson or benefit. Certainly nothing that mitigated its appalling cost in human life.

As I struggle back up the final hill towards home I think about those men in the trenches, on the front line, the mud, the stench, the death. My generation has had it easy really. Suddenly the ride seems different. I might be struggling, hurting, tired - but it could be worse.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014


Last post I made a sneaky reference to upcoming challenges for 2014. I deliberately held back on details whilst we were awaiting confirmation. We had a mad idea in the pub one Friday night - why not invade France? - Row across the English Channel flying the Jolly Roger and when across plant a flag in French soil. It sounded so mad it could be ideal - we found a company who would supply a suitable boat, and accompany us across in their own support boat in case we got into trouble. We needed a crew of six rowers plus a cox - no problem there. And the cost - a mere £250 or so. This was a goer - the ideal challenge - not for this year but 2015.

Sadly our plans have been sunk before any oar sliced through the waves - apparently the French authorities have banned all such endeavours - and would use all powers available to enforce their rights. We're hoping the situation may change over the next year - which means 2015 is still a possibility - apparently more people have climbed Mount Everest than have rowed the Channel - It would be a great thing to attempt - and I can't swim!

Our cycling challenges for the year are shaping up. the big trip will be a cycle ride to Amsterdam in June. 300 miles or so - a doddle really. Then I had the news that I've been accepted onto the second Prudential London Ride in August - the first one last year attracted some publicity - the London Marathon of cycling - roads closed in London and riding over the Olympic course, there will be something like 30,000 cyclists - possibly more. Having been accepted I need to carefully read through the small print - everything sounds very strict - I'll keep you updated. Unfortunately Gary didn't get in which is a shame - I considered turning down my invitation because of that - however I think i should have a go at it - its another 100 miler and with a few steep climbs - and it has to be completed within strict time limits - but should be achievable.

Then there's the Dunwich Dynamo - 100+ miles through the night from central London to Dunwich on the Suffolk coast - we've been talking about this for a few years now - but never got round to it - this year we'll give it a go.

I managed a 20 mile ride last weekend in almost unbearable conditions. I arrived home totally demoralised - 20 miles felt like 300 - I battled through winds which literally stopped me dead - I was travelling at less that 5mph in some places - and the effort needed to make that happen left me totally drained. I really feel like not bothering until the weather improves - but then the weekend rolls around and I can't resist it!

Monday, 3 February 2014

February already?......

January flew by in a flash - only seems like 5 minutes ago since Christmas and now the mornings are getting noticeably lighter - another few weeks and I'll be travelling to work in daylight (maybe).

Very little in the way of riding to report - I was working on Saturday but managed a short ride yesterday - my bike computer has failed again - looks like I'm going to need a new one. Not that I needed it yesterday, I know the course and distance well enough, although sometimes it's good to know the speed.

On Saturday night we went out to celebrate Gary's birthday - a trip to The Black Horse at Appleby Magna (thanks Gaz) - haven't been there for years but Gary enjoyed a good Christmas dinner there. We enjoyed good food, cooked with flair and well presented. As usual we got through plenty of drink. Gary has purchased a rowing machine - which is a strange coincidence, because I too have been investigating a similar possibility. He takes delivery later this week so I look forward to a post on this blog giving a full report.

My eldest daughter is currently studying for a Masters degree at Birmingham University - and on Friday she sent me the news that she is now a published writer. She wrote a piece on Sherlock Holmes that has been printed in America - here's the link for anyone interested!

Not only that, she has also secured an internship at the BBC working on the 'Doctors' series. She's excited about that too.

There are a couple of crazy ideas that were suggested during the night out celebrating Gary's birthday.  New challenges! - I'm not sure if they'll develop but suffice to say they are mad enough to be considered. Further information to follow!!