Monday, 13 May 2013

On Yer Bike!

Apologies for posting without photos, but I have a new camera and being the techno whizz I am I can't work out how to upload photos.  Thank you for the advice some of you have offered but I still can't do it!

I've bought a new bicycle and before I go any further I will offer my beginner’s tips in case there are any other cycling virgins out there.

Handy Hints

Thongs are a big no no unless you are up for a little masochistic bottom flossing.

When planning a route avoid places with names like; Bramshill, Farley Hill, The Downs, Lower or Upper anywhere because the clue is in the name – chuffing hills.  If you go whizzing down a hill, the wind whooshing through your hair, legs akimbo, inevitably you have to get back up the other side.

Keep your mouth closed.  Flies supposedly contain some protein but I would rather have a handful of peanuts any day.  

Choose your cycling clothing carefully

courtesy of

I think I paid more for this push-bike than I did for my first car.  In fact I paid more for the blooming helmet than my first car.  My old bicycle is hard work; I can only equate the difficulty of riding it to a jockey riding a donkey in the Grand National.  Whilst my new bike is not quite a thoroughbred it is proving to be a good little runner. I figured if I paid a little more for a bike guilt alone may will get me out riding.  

I have many pieces of exercise equipment.  I have an exercise ball, an abdominal roller, a lateral thigh stepper, a dyna-band, a chest flexer and a mat to name but a few.  In the old house I always managed to get these into the water heater cupboard and squeeze the door closed.  They never saw the light of day again until the next piece was shoe-horned in.  I am sure a psychoanalyst would have a field day about some event during P.E. in early childhood, a Freudian gym-slip or something.  It is a standing joke now if I see a piece of equipment and mention that it looks good the LGB will ask if it will fit in the cupboard!  So, my thinking is that the bike won't fit in a cupboard and each time I pass it in the garage it will look at me accusingly and remind me that I could have had a nice little beach holiday sipping Pina Coladas for the price I paid for Bella the bike.

I rode it back the 13 kilometers from the shop the day I bought it and nearly put it straight out to pasture.  Only yards from the shop a van pulled across in front of me. I had to get off and walk up one hill. I felt every bump on the road and I thought I may have to have the seat surgically removed at the end of the ride. But I persevered and we now have a passionate love affair going on.

What to wear?  I wanted to look the part but didn't want people thinking 'who does she think she is Lance Armstrong?' Minus the drugs of course, well I do pop the odd Ibuprofen, just for the sore muscles, you understand.  But I have now treated myself to a cyclist's jacket.  It has little pockets on the back for my phone (in case I fall off or get lost), some money (I might need a drink or nourishment or a taxi home), tissues (it’s a runny nose hobby) and of course my lippy (a girl can't leave home without it).   I have also purchased a skort, which is a pair of shorts with a skirt attached and I wear that over my leggings.  I figured it would be a little less scary for drivers coming up behind me and encountering my big arse. They would recognise me as a female in a skort and not as an eclipse of the sun.

I have done a few 9 to 11 kilometer rides and was pretty chuffed to do 25 kilometers one day.  There are no great speeds involved during my rides but I did reach 24 miles an hour going downhill.  That almost made the 30 mile an hour road signs worthwhile. I don’t plan my routes, I just head off.  Dad lives in a lovely area in Hampshire.  I meander up and down lanes; all the places you wouldn't go with a car. I daydream about which gated house I would buy if I won the lottery.  I convert garages and out-houses into beautiful abodes.  I have found terraced cottages overlooking village greens that I never knew existed and small business tucked away behind trees.  I avoid pot holes and when some idiot passes a little too close for comfort I shout 'tosser' and hope he can't lip read in his rear view mirror.

I am frequently overtaken by uber fit young things and wrinkly old things.  Today the only things I managed to pass were a rabbit grazing in the hedgerow and an old biddy with a zimmer frame, no really.  On one ride I thought I would go left at the roundabout until I noticed a fellow cyclist complete with high definition yellow jacket ahead of me.  I knew with a little push I could overtake her.  So, I went for it and I did!  Yay, give that gal the yellow jersey!  How sad am I?

Today I headed off in the rain.  That’s dedication for you!  I just followed my nose. I go down cul-de-sacs and back up again, along unadopted roads and if the name of a road takes my fancy how can I resist turning down it?  Today it was Nutbean Lane and it didn't disappoint.  I approached an old man with a walking stick and a dog and as I drew alongside I said 'good morning'.  The poor old fellow visibly jumped and yelled 'Aaaaahhh' before returning my greeting. I apologised for frightening him and cycled on giggling I'm ashamed to say.

En route I decided I would like to go further than my previous 25 km. I thought 32 km (20 miles) would be a good distance. I was pleased as punch when I reached my goal, but that quickly dissipated when I realised I hadn't yet reached home.  By now I was struggling a little.  My thoughts turned from beautiful lottery win homes to the length of the NHS waiting list for a couple of replacement knees.  I won’t even go into how my derriere was feeling and my nether regions are fairly well padded, how do these skinny Tour de France riders keep going?

With no membership to Roadside Recovery I had no choice but to carry on.  I was pretty chuffed to get back all red faced and wobbly legged to tell Dad I had just cycled 35.405568 kilometers.  He said he had been tip-toeing around the house because he thought I was still in bed!

I am reporting my progress in kilometres because that is what I am now used to since living in France. Okay, I'm lying. I am really doing it because  35.405568 km sounds so much further than 22 miles!

For now I am thoroughly enjoying the freedom the bike offers.  I am not so sure how enthusiastic I will be around the hills of the Charente.  Holland looks like an appealing place to live.  I wonder if I pushed reaaalllly hard do you think I could get the bike in the water heater cupboard?

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Mind the Gap

I have been asked why I haven't been posting on the blog.  Well there is not a lot of building going on at the moment. We are still in the UK.  This is how I came to be on the 8 o’clock commuter train from Richmond to Waterloo. 

It is not a mode of travel I have often taken and a number of things struck me.  As the doors opened I was sucked onto the train with the crowd with barely the need to use my feet.  I had to stop myself from greeting the hoards with a ‘Bonjour, tout le monde’. 

With standing room only for the plebs I had my nose pressed up against the glass door to the first class carriage looking in at the privileged few and feeling a certain amount of seat envy.  While the hoi polloi stood and jostled for a little personal space the lucky buggers behind the glass not only had the luxury of one comfy seat but also a spare one next to them allowing them to spread one bum cheek on each seat if the fancy took them.  

These people probably travel on the same train day in day out, surrounded by the same faces but there was no interaction.  Each one was ensconced in their own little bubble world of techno gadgets.  Wires were hanging out of ear-holes,  thumbs were texting with dizzying speed in danger of being disjointed, kindles were being flicked, laptops were being tapped and one first classer was watching Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear whilst texting on his gismo – show off!  More amazingly some were playing with their Pou!  No, not pooh - Pou! These people are adopting Pous. A Pou is a virtual I don't quite know what who live in fear of being neglected, starved or deprived of sleep and if you don't feed, clothe, tickle and take care of them they die!  Oh, don't ask!  It's enough of a worry for me to decide what to cook for the two of us each evening without having to remember to feed, clothe and put to bed some virtual alien pet. 

The Pous have been dressed in their Sunday best

Say please!

The technophobe that I am prayed the LGB wouldn't phone me because that would have meant getting out my little Nokia pay-as-you-go and I could not face the elbow nudging and giggles that would ensue from the state of the arters with their super-duper all singing all dancing gadgets. But I am sticking with my little relic, my little dinosaur of the mobile world because I know how to send a text on it and it is very useful to call the LGB and b*ll*ck him when I lose him in the supermarket.  (He is the only man I know who loves shopping and can spend twenty minutes in the biscuit aisle.) Besides I really shouldn't be let lose with anything of any more technical than a tin opener these days because my 'blonde moments' are getting more frequent, as the LGB likes to point out. I put the kettle on the hob for a cuppa last week - electric kettles do not like gas hobs, they simply melt!

I googled 'old fashioned mobile phones' and an image of mine actually came up.
This one is the newer version!

Another thing that struck me was that I stuck out/stood out like a sore thumb or an overgrown Little Red Riding Hood in my red coat.  I seemed to have broken the commuter dress code that stipulates mornings must be monochrome. ‘You vill not vear colour, you vill not speak to your neighbour, you vill not make eye contact’.

I was meeting a friend later in the day so with time to kill I trotted off to the Tate Modern for a mooch.  I think a visit to any art exhibition would beg the question ‘But is it art?’ I am more of a grand master gal myself.  Dali’s plastic Lobster Telephone just doesn't float my boat (or ring my bell), having said that I love street art and graffiti but I will save that for another post too, together with my visit to The Light Show at the Southbank Centre.

Shivering on a platform waiting for another train, the lady next to me commented on the weather.  As we chatted and established that she was Austrian living in London and I was English living in France she commented that ‘Nobody is at home’!  How true!  We parted company smiling.  My opinion of the miserable commuters was changing. Later I asked a lad for the direction to the nearest tube station.  He was carrying his lunch but turned around and walked me back some way to an information board to show me where to go before retracing his steps.  I have visited London a few times since I have been back and have been pleasantly surprised by how friendly and helpful people have been.  I wasn't too impressed however to be offered a seat on the tube by a young lady.  I'm not sure if she thought I was old or pregnant!  Just a spot of wind love!

There is an amazing employee at Mortlake station called Daniel who greeted us on two occasions with a huge grin, joked and told us the best deal for travelling.  We watched him greet the other commuters by name and they greeted him likewise.  The punk ticket inspector at another station happily posed for photos for us and a flower seller gave us directions with good cheer when I thought she may have been sick to the back teeth of tourists asking the way.  I was heartened by the responses I got from them and others including policemen and a road sweeper.

What a legend.  You just have to smile!
My photo
So, for anyone who says The Smoke is an unfriendly inhospitable place I would have to disagree.  Perhaps my attitude has changed since living in France.  In France it is the norm to walk into a room and greet everyone.  People say ‘bonjour’ just joining the queue in the local shop, walking into the doctor’s surgery or into a bar.  Strangers wish you ‘bon apetit’ in restaurants and even when they walk past when you are munching a sandwich on a park bench.  I like these little niceties.  I do pass little comments and interact with strangers more, whether that comes with age or living in France I am not sure.  But will someone tell the LGB I still don’t do noise and heavy conversation first thing in the morning!  Sometimes silence is golden!