Cameo

Have you ever seen something and thought “I wonder if there is a word for that?” Most everything you will ever come across has a name or title so if you find something that doesn’t have a name then I reckon its your duty to try to get it named and recognised as such. Well, duty makes it sound a bit serious, but imagine if you were the very first person to use the word ‘selfie’ – you’d be pretty chuffed with yourself wouldn’t you?

So on this note I reckon I’ve got one! Now not all of you will immediately recognise what I’m talking about as its reasonably specific but picture this: you’re on a path next to a river, stream or canal and you come across a patch of damp ground with no discernible cause. Its not a puddle and its not raining. So what is it? What caused it?

Well it could be a dogsplosh.”

Shortly afterwards you come across the culprit which is:

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This is how it happens:

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And this is the result:

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DOGSPLOSH!!

Now this might seem pretty trivial but I reckon I should launch a campaign to get this phenomenon into the dictionary. What dictionary I’m not sure: Collins? Oxford? Urban? I’m thinking the last of these probably is a bit “street” to be bothered with this but why not go for one of the others? I may as well set my sights high eh?

And there are other things that can add context and colour to the term of dogsplosh. First, there is the faux-dogsplosh:

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Now this might look like a dogsplosh but don’t be fooled. Firstly there is no obvious spot for a dog to be jumping in and out of the canal. Secondly, there is no single spot where the ground is any wetter than the surrounds. And finally, it goes on too far – it would have had to be a very big and very wet dog to soak that amount of ground! No, this is damp ground due to the adjacent plants.

This is the sort of thing that can catch out the unwary dogsplosh-spotter!

In some areas, the powers-that-be have tried to install anti-dogsplosh measures. Take a look at this:

IMAG0918On the face of it you might think that it is a barrier to prevent erosion of the riverbank. But it could just as easily be due to “the man” trying to prevent our beloved pets from dogsploshing…. In my humble opinion I think it is actually a good idea as it leads to your canine friend having more fun jumping over barriers, therefore maintaining its fitness better and what dog doesn’t like jumping over things??!

So there you have it: I think I’ve found something that doesn’t have a name and feel compelled to give it one. Do you agree? Do you like the name? Let me know and, if I get enough feedback I could set up a Facebook group or maybe a page on change.org, or organise some sort of fundraising event to publicise the cause and rectify this glaring omission from modern life. (My tongue might be in firmly in my cheek here….)

I’d be fascinated to hear your thoughts…..

Now for the music. There was only one possible tune here I reckon:

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Alice Cooper

Hip bones. Yes hip bones. I’ve got some!!

On the face of it, you might think this is an odd thing to mention but whilst I wouldn’t say I’m fat, I would admit to having a degree of “frontal padding” which, by its nature, has meant that I haven’t really found my hip bones much in evidence in recent years. This has changed.

Unfortunately, the reason for the recent reappearance of these bony protruberances is a dose of food poisoning. Not good.

Now I don’t know if any of you have ever suffered this experience? Personally I’d thought that I might have in the past but I can now say for definite that I never have because this is such an unpleasant illness that I would certainly know it if I had.

After six, yes SIX, days of not eating properly (and if you know me personally you know that this is unheard of), drinking only clear fluids and NO booze, the obvious side-effect is always going to be weight loss. My clothes feel looser and, when I went to bed last night, I realised I could feel my hip bones. And the weird thing is that, despite not feeling great and the reason for their re-emergence, I was actually quite pleased.

This brought me on to thinking about how easy it is for people to get into unhealthy mindsets about diet and weight loss. OK I’d like to weigh less, but should I be happy about losing weight when having a bad illness? I don’t really think so. Now I’m not the sort of person that is going to become obsessive about weight: I enjoy food far too much for that to ever happen. But it highlights how easy someone could become obsessed. Add in media, lifestyle and peer pressures and you’ve got a loaded gun sitting on shelf waiting for someone with the right (or, more accurately, wrong) disposition to come along and pull that mental trigger.

Girl or boy, in this world we live in no-one is really immune to this risk.

Even old-ish curmudgeons like me see older public figures (Brad Pitt, George Clooney, et al) and feel pressure to look better. There’s magazines such as Men’s Health or GQ (which I’m sure never used to be like it is now….) which don’t help the blokes!

Don’t get me wrong: fitness, good diet and all forms of healthy living are a good thing. But my revelation of today just got me thinking of how easy it is for these initial good intentions to slip into a dark place from where it can quickly develop into a potentially dangerous obsession.

For my part, I’m sure that as soon as I am feeling better my appetite will return and the hip bones will once again sink back below the “insulation” that I put on. As you can imagine, I haven’t been out cycling for a while but once I’m back in the saddle, maybe they will reappear when the exercise I put in results in weight loss by that means. And that’s a lot better way to lose weight than being ill. And its more fun!

As you can imagine, there’s not a lot of songs about illness. But this is a fave of mine:

Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston

Hi everyone. It’s been a while eh? Well it’s been a couple of weeks and I’ve got the excuse that I’ve been off sunning myself in Turkey.

What a fabulous place. Great beaches, great countryside, great food and people. It was my first trip and it certainly won’t be my last. I even got to play around in some ancient ruins:

Ruins at Patara, Turkey

But, after getting home, it’s obviously necessary to get back on the bike. But the weather has been great and it’s much nicer to have company when cycling so why not have a trip out with Mrs D (after all, her bike didn’t get stolen) and enjoy the treats that the canal and river have to offer?

There are a few things to note when cycling in a pair or group: there’s always limited space and you don’t want an accident or, even worse, end up in the river! Pedestrians are a greater hazard and, obviously, at greater risk when there’s more than one of you.

Pay attention! Despite it being ideal weather conditions we still had a couple of close shaves with one old geezer (with an improbably long beard) nearly riding into me head-on despite my ever-more-frantic bell ringing…. He was just looking across the canal at all the pretty houses and not paying a blind bit of attention. Fool.

But these are mere annoyances. It was great to have conversation, mutual enjoyment and, mainly, a picnic!

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I’m afraid I can’t prove that this was a picnic as I’d scoffed the food before I took the photo, but I did take the picnic blanket. That proves it, doesn’t it??

And the other benefit of there being more people on the ride is that someone can watch your bike whilst you get the beers in!

IMAG1093So it was a good way to ease myself back into the saddle!

One last thing to be cautious of is that some parts of the path can be a bit narrow for two bikes. As a good friend Andy found out a few weeks back, this can hide hazards like logs which, in his case, spilt him off the bike and into nettles. Ouch. Good news Andy: the log has been moved so you’re safe next time we go out!

So the moral of this post is that it’s nice to have company! As the music will testify:

Nickleback

Well it’s been  a bit of a quiet time recently. Working life rudely interrupted my cycling time and has meant that I haven’t been out training as much as I would have liked.

Luckily there are still 3 and a half months to go until I have my big test so there’s plenty of time to make up for down time. That’s what I’m hoping, anyway….

But I’ve not forgotten about getting some pictures taken when out and about. I’ve loaded up a few that hopefully you might find of interest. In fact, there’s even royalty there!

So don’t forget to let me have any thoughts, comments or likes that you might care to leave – take it easy and don’t forget to ring your bells!!

Oh and here’s the music – enjoy:

Culture Club

Well I’ve learnt a lesson this week. Actually, I’ve learnt a few, all in one go.

Let’s go back to last Wednesday night: after going to bed I heard noises and just thought it was the neighbours. They’re not that noisy but sometimes you hear movement or voices. But hey, that’s what happens when there is someone living next door…

Next morning I got up and went downstairs and just happened to glance out through the back doors. At this point I spotted that my shed doors were wide open and I could see that my bike was no longer there. OH NO! On investigation I found that the shed door lock was hanging off and although they still had to get it out of the garden, the gate padlock had also been removed.

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Where’s my bike?? At least they left Mrs D’s wheels (and basket!)

When I told my wife she said she’d also heard noises in the night but that she had woken up fully and knew it was coming from outside. But what she didn’t realise was that what she was actually hearing was my bike getting nicked.

After that initial sick feeling, knowing that my prized possession was no longer in my care and control, (and thinking about how much it had cost me) I realised that a whole load of hassle was about to ensue: and I was right. Call the police; call the insurance; make a list of all of the accessories that were attached; look into how to get a new bike; buy locks; repair the shed; the list goes on.

All the while feeling angry, upset and infuriated that someone thinks that its OK to come into my property and take my possession. Bastards!

The good people at Evans Cycles were really helpful: they had the same bike still in stock and I’ve already been out and replaced it! So luckily I’m still mobile although I’m still missing some bits and pieces that I will get in due course. Its come as quite a surprise how many parts and accessories I’d added (shhh, don’t mention how much I’d spent…).

So what do I take away as learnings from this whole sorry saga? Here’s a few things that have occurred to me:

  1. Don’t ignore noises outside your house at night! You might not save your bike but you can at least yell at them and give them a scare before calling the feds. (But please don’t confront anyone: after all it’s just a bike and you don’t know what sort of scumbag you’d be squaring up to…)
  2. Security, security, security. Get it sorted before you need it! As I’ve learnt to my cost, afterwards is too late. I’ve actually now added FIVE locks and an alarm to my overall security set up! Any future thief will have to be prepared to spend a good deal of effort and time, and risk making a row (let alone the alarm going off) if they want to relieve me of my possessions in future.
  3. Insurance. Get it insured so that, if the worst happens, you know you’ll get some help to get back on two wheels (or three if you’ve got a trike!)

But the most surprising lesson I’ve learnt is how bad it makes you feel. At the end of the day you’ve worked hard to earn the money to buy something (bike, watch, Picasso, it’s still your possession) and some scrote thinks they can just walk off with it. And the police have little chance of catching them so maybe they are right. You’re just left with an empty space where that item used to be, and an overwhelming sense of injustice at the unfairness of the world.

In fact, I’m now ultra-aware of any odd noises coming from the general direction of “outside.” That’s the reason I’ve opted for the alarm because it will generate an unusual noise that can’t be mistaken for anything else.

Other than that, the future is now in the lap of the gods so let’s keep fingers crossed eh? And if you’d do that for me too then that would much appreciated!

Now its music time: I could have gone with the Bad Boys theme but this is my favourite Culture Club song so I decided to go with looking at things from my perspective. I’m not giving those thieving gits any more acknowledgement than I need to! Enjoy.

LaBelle or Anita Ward?

When Saffi was still with us (see About) I did a lot of walking and had a fairly low opinion of bikes that would come flying past with no warning, leaving me with nothing but a racing pulse and the aroma of their sweat. Nice.

I couldn’t understand why they didn’t use their bell. Every bike has one and it’s not going to rival an iPhone in the high-tech stakes is it? I mean, come on, how difficult could it be? Well very apparently, for a lot of cyclists.

Do you want to risk an accident? Do you want people to think you’re an arrogant fool? Or do you really think you’re that special? I’m guessing the answer is “no” to all three questions. So USE YOUR BELL!

But, like everything, it’s not what you’ve got, its how you use it.

Actually, that’s not quite true. There’s a lot of bells to choose from and I’ve found that some are quite quiet and some are a lot louder. Check this out:

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It calls itself loud and will currently cost you £3.11 from Tredz. Not exactly a kings ransom is it? And if it saves you from a crash (either with a person or something inanimate after swerving to avoid a person) then surely you’d agree it’s a bargain.

So back to how to use the bell. You’d think it’d be a quick ping and that’s it. Not a chance. This is where you have to take a breath, look around, and realise your place in the scheme of things. As I’ve said, you’re not the only person on the trail/path and using your bell as a weapon to send the message “Grrrr. Get out of my bloody way” is not going to be the most productive approach.

Use it as a warning aid. I ring my bell a couple or three times in plenty of time for any pedestrian to move to one side or another or, as some people do, give you a thumbs up to indicate they’ve heard you and you’re free to pass without scaring the pants off them. If I’m not sure they’ve heard, then I slow down and ping again. As long as they’re not weaving like a drunk then I’ll pass by whilst giving as much space as possible.

Then everyone is as safe and comfortable as they can be.

And don’t forget to be polite! If people move out of the way, they have done something for you so remember what your mother told you and say “Thank You.” Good manners cost nothing!

Lastly, it sets a good example to people with young kids out on their bikes to give them a ding, a wave and a “Thank you.” That way you can feel smug about showing the next generation how to behave!

Let me reiterate one more time: Use your bell. There is no reason not to and it makes you a better and nicer cyclist.

OK, so far so pro-pedestrian. Yes, cyclists can be inconsiderate rude sods. I see enough of them when I’m out on my bike. It always makes me shake my head. But this is where we move on to the other side of the coin.

For god’s sake would you pedestrians, would you please keep your eyes and ears open! I cannot tell you how many times I cycle towards couples or groups and they simply don’t register your presence. I mean, how engrossed in a conversation do you have to be not to realise that there is a big bloke on a big bike coming at you with his bell ringing away? Or putting yourself into your own world with headphones so that you’re oblivious to your surroundings?

It seems that some people on foot believe that they can yield all personal responsibility for their own safety. I wouldn’t say they deserve all they get but….. If you hear a bell, move out of the way: it’s safest for everyone. Its not rocket science either.

In summary people, try to get along and realise that whether you’re a cyclist or a pedestrian, you’re both as entitled to be there as each other. There’s enough conflict in life: you’ve made the effort to go out and enjoy yourself so make sure you do.

Sermon over. At least on the subject of bells.

Now for the music. What a choice this week: an artist to give a great link to the subject or another disco classic with a slightly more obscure reference. Which to choose? Tell you what, have both.

It’s my turn to dish out a Brucie bonus. Enjoy

Journey

[Alternatively: The (tow)path to success…. or failure?]

Goals. Its good to have a goal I reckon. After spending time on the bike I thought that I might want to do more than just ride up and down a section of the Thames. I then received a delivery of an online order from someone like Wiggle which contained a leaflet for an organised ride on something called the Lemming Trail. Great name.

(Incidentally, Wiggle will sometimes add a little Brucie bonus to your order like a packet of Haribo – what’s not to like?)

I wasn’t sure I was brave enough to be a lemming so started looking at other rides and there’s loads of them. I’m sure you’ve all seen people bombing around the roads at the weekend but, as I ride off-road, I saw that there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in an organised ride without risking life and limb on the roads. (Just watching the crowds of cyclists clashing with traffic on Box Hill on a Sunday is stressful enough: forget riding….)

And then one September day I left my house and found lots of people whizzing past along the towpath with British Heart Foundation entry numbers attached. A quick google and I found the London to Brighton off road event and the seed of a plan was planted.

Two years on, I’m enrolled and in training. God help me.

To illustrate the challenge I face, its 75miles in one day and I’ve done well to manage 90miles in one week. So the training distances need to step up a tad.

Then there’s the terrain. A quick check of the elevation profile for the ride shows some pretty steep climbs and likewise with the descents.

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London to Brighton elevation

As a comparison, below is the elevation profile of my longest route to date:

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Towpath to Richmond Park with a loop of the path

Quite similar you’d think? Until you realise that my chart is about a third of the distance that I need to achieve and the climbs/descents on the top chart are compressed in distance compared to the lower chart.

One thing is for certain: I have four months and a lot of hard work ahead of me if I’m going to make it to the finish line.

Wish me luck!

 

And now for your reward for getting this far down. A little predictable but hey…..

Genesis

(After giving it some thought, I’ve decided that my hook will be a music theme to the title of each post. Ambitious? Twee? Pointless? You’ll have to decide! Anyway, see the end of each post for a title-based treat!)

Now whilst the title might not immediately appear to make much sense, I wanted to share how my interest developed since first getting a bike. The first thing to consider is that it’s a machine, toy and gadget it will there for qualify for that bloke trait that says that anything that can be tinkered with, will be tinkered with.

I started with a standard “off the peg” mountain bike (a Giant Talon Zero 2010 model) and only thought that I needed three things: a pump, mudguards and a lock. Simple, you’d think…. Oh no, no, no! And that’s before you consider price! A quick trip to Evans Cycles in Wimbledon sorted me out but at a total cost of £70-odd! The mudguards were fine but I’d only learn later that the pump and lock weren’t really fit for purpose. Probably the sort of error that is commonplace for newbies.

So off I scooted, got a few rides under my belt. All well and good you’d think. Not a bit of it!! There’s immediately a few problems I think I need to address. The first problem is a bit sensitive. Tender, if you will. Yep its the botty! Not something to be sniffed at (sorry for that mental image…)

OK, that’s easily sorted: padded undershorts. Feels a bit weird like wearing a nappy, but the saddle-soreness is a thing of the past. Phew!

Next problem is the my poor little mitts: they got a bit fuzzy and numb after riding for a while. What does one do? Well in time-honoured male fashion you google it and then see what toys are available to solve the issue! That leads to a special pair of handlebar grips to help with the vibration effects. Huzzah!

Remember, this is still at the very beginning of my venture into mountain biking!

Since then there’s been so many other things to address: pedals; saddle; chain; tyres; tubes; seat post; lights. The list goes on. And that doesn’t include tools and maintenance equipment or clothing!

But guess what: IT’S GREAT!!

Us blokes love this sort of thing and, even when its dark out or winter/raining hard, you can still get online and spend hours comparing, contrasting, deciding on your next purchase or seeking advice on forums.

But, remember, none of this is compulsory! Its just what I did and whilst I’ve ended up with some dud purchases, there’s also some great ones! In the end, I suppose, it depends on what you ultimately want to get out of cycling. Want to commute but have to leave your bike somewhere public: you be unwise spend thousands just for it to disappear whilst you’re working! Want to get into pedalling but unsure of whether you’ll like it? There are plenty of budget options. That’s what I’ve done and whilst I’ve upgraded my bike recently (I’ll talk about that in a future post) I still look around to see what I want to get next!!

So that’s my initial experience: its daunting at first but you soon get to grips with terminology and realise there are bags of resources out there. Don’t be afraid to use them and pretty quickly you’ll be talking the talk with the best of them!!

 

Now for the bit you’ve been waiting for: enjoy a 90’s classic!

 

My big idea

I’ll try to keep this brief as I think its best to start this project by trying to explain why I’ve decided to start a blog. Especially as anyone who knows me would be fully aware of my (formerly) deep and abiding hatred of those on two wheels! I grew up in Brighton and have also worked in a driving-centric job in London: these experiences had given me a view of cyclists that was, frankly, less than flattering. What with jumping red lights, weaving recklessly through traffic and riding the wrong way up one-way streets, to riding on pavements and hurling abuse at motorists, I thought I had a pretty reasonable opinion of the lycra-clad masses that you find creating moving hazards along The Embankment every rush hour.

However, a few years ago I decided to join a gym and I had a go at spinning. I found it quite enjoyable so, when I later came into possession of a mountain bike, I thought I’d give cycling a chance.

Revelation!! Cycling is actually enjoyable!!

Now don’t for a second imagine that I’ve had a complete conversion and no longer hold any of the views that I’ve hinted at above: I’m sure at some point I’ll probably cover what my problem is with some cyclists. And, in the interest of balance, I’ll do the same from a two-wheeled perspective of those in warm, dry, four-wheeled cocoons.

Since moving to Walton on Thames three years ago I’ve been regularly cycling along the towpath by the Thames (mainly because a Mini Cooper isn’t really made for transporting bikes!) and whilst that’s all very nice, I’ve got to the stage where I want to venture further afield and test myself on greater challenges. As evidenced below, I tried it last year although I started with what I think is quite a testing route, but at least I survived and I’ve now entered a London to Brighton off-road event in September.

So that’s been my journey so far: from here on I’m intending to record my progress towards the aforementioned challenge; the trials and tribulations I face along the way; and anything else that takes my fancy or gets my goat.

I hope you find it interesting, amusing, enlightening or diverting. And, if so, feel free to comment and tell anyone about the page!

Before my first organised ride in July 2014

Before my first organised ride in July 2014