Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Jingle bells batman smells!

It's so nearly Christmas and while that's fab, I'll be offline for most of the holiday period. Boooooooo

It's an irrefutable fact that for most of the people I know 2009 has been rubbish. Between dad's illness and various other bits mine hasn't exactly been stellar either. With that in mind I'm quite looking forward to 2010.

At the same time let's look at the positives....... In January it'll be two years since I started commuting by bike. Although it wasn't all the way at first, nor was it every day that was the month when Roger and I went all the way. I cried the last couple of miles because my legs hurt so much. In February 2009 I started going all the way every day and in April I got Reg.

I'm a different person now. I've taken control of a lifelong hip problem and taken action to get moving and get fitter, I've lost nearly two stone, I sang with the London Symphony Chorus, one of the best choirs in the world, in three countries.

Still, let's hope 2010's exciting.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Rage Against the Machine

It's no jingle bells but, having finally listened to our Christmas number one, I'm feeling quite festive.

Waitrose bike trailers: Fail.

I'm hosting Christmas dinner this year and I decided to get some of my shopping done on Saturday. The ice had temporarily subsided from the roads and, rather than have to buy tiny amounts and fit it all into panniers I decided to go to Waitrose.

But what do you mean Weenie? How will you get it all home?

Aha, I thought, I shall use he much publicised bike trailers, which my local Waitrose is piloting.

I got to the shop, parked Reg and went to customer services. A very polite young lady guided me through the trailer lease agreement and told me to come back when I had shopped.

I went off and bought my various bits and pieces. A couple of kilos of potatoes, a big bag of onions, bulky toilet roll, parsnips, mince, big bag of chicken and a few other bits.

I paid and duly headed back to the desk to pick up my trailer. The nice young lady fetched two equally lovey young men. And this is where the trouble began. They have eight trailers at this particular Waitrose and four were out. Even so, the two lovely young men couldn't find me a hook necessary for attaching it. They found one, then couldn't find the bolts to secure it. After 10 minutes or so in minus one we finally found the bolts necessary.

Oh dear.

The hook wouldn't fit round my seat post. The boys made a valiant effort but apart from scratching my powder coating, no progress was made. No other sizes were available and as my panic mounted I chatted to the young men. We tested and the hook provided only fitted one of the five bikes in the stands.

Reg is a Specialized Sirrus, one of the most popular commuter models sold in the UK. Hmmmmmm

They were very apologetic and I headed home, in short leggings and inappropriate cycle trainers. I hung the shopping off my handlbars, balanced the heaviest bag on my rack with the handles tied round my seatpost and walked.

All in all it took me about half an hour and I was FREEZING. The bags kept slipping, Reg kept slipping and falling on the icy pavements, the pedals scratched my legs. It was rubbish.

Oh Waitrose, I'm soooo disappointed.

I plan on emailing them to let them know, I await a response.........

Friday, 18 December 2009

Siberia in the office

I'll set the scene:

There are several people in coats at their desks and a few have resorted to putting their hoods up or hats on.

The sound of typing is muffled by woolly gloves and the shuddering of people breathing the frigid air.

Staff take it in turns to get supplies from Starbucks in a desperate attempt to stay warm and keep moving.

Our repeated attempts at communication with facilities has failed. We have now been told that our other building is now without any heating and takes priority. As the minutes tick by we can only hope that help will come before someone freezes to death or, alternatively, everyone goes to pub.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Christmas lunch

Well that's something I'll never organise again.

Maybe it was the person who embarrassingly loudly had a go at me about paying the full amount upfront in front of the venue's manager rather than talk to me about it six weeks ago when I started organising it, maybe it was the people who didn't pay until the last minute even though I specifically asked for the money straight after a pay day (one of whom was apparently taking a stand against paying all of it so early but who never spoke to me about it), maybe it was how rude people were to the serving staff even though the problems mainly arose from people not knowing what they ordered and not bothering to check before we got there even though I told everyone I had a list, maybe it was the fact that even though I organised the whole thing no one thought to save me a seat and because someone turned up unexpectedly expecting to be fed a chair had to be dragged over and I had no cutlery, maybe it was because someone ended up with the wrong meal because even though I handed out the menu choices list three times someone still took his main, maybe it was because people complained to me about their perfectly good food instead of just eating it or talking to the staff, maybe it was the people who rather than just not put money in the tip envelope decided to put bottle caps, coppers and other pieces of rubbish in there.

Whatever the reason I had a shit time.

Merry f****** Christmas.

Defeated by black ice

I'm out for beers this evening and Mr Weenie has respectfully requested that I don't cycle.

I was a bit put out but obeyed as he very very rarely asks and supports my mad overnight forays. I was glad.

Walking to the local station I nearly fell twice on invisible black ice on our ungritted roads. I was furious. Everyone's known it's going to snow and be icy for days so where the hell is the rocksalt?

Frankly, I may not cycle tomorrow either if the roads aren't done. I cycle on a very busy road and I work hard to stay safe, ice is just one risk factor to far I reckon. I guarantee they'll forget to do the road edges, you know, those green bits with bicycles painted on them.


Given that I'm out with CC and T though there's also the possibility that I'll be too hungover/tired and emotional I spose.......

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


So this morning I was in the work shower, as usual.

I hung my pannier on the back on the door, as usual.

I got totally naked, as usual.

I did my last-minute, before I get in the shower, check that the door is locked, as usual.

It's not locked, in fact it's very slightly ajar because of my panniers hanging on it. Shit.

I can't actually think about what could have happened it brings on palpitations.

Check your doors people.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


This morning I forewent my jacket again (I was, of course, wearing my eyeball-searingly reflective Sam Browne) and although my arms got a bit chilled I didn't really mind. I tend to build up a lot of core heat so my arms are a handy outlet. My face on the other hand, was frozen.

I wear a headband/ear warmer that cuts the wind and still lets me hear traffic but I'm starting to see the merits of the 'buff'.

I've always scoffed at them in the past but I'm starting to think that an item that can prevent nasal frostbite AND hide your sweat 'tache has got to be a good thing. I'm always worried I'd feel a bit suffocated but my breath this morning seemed to crystallise as it left my mouth and I'm getting increasing glasses mist as a result. Could a buff be a solution?

Still haven't decided what to do about my eyes though. I'm starting to think male cyclists are avoiding me because the tears streaming down my face and the ensuing redness make me look like someone who has been dumped while suffering PMT rage.


Monday, 14 December 2009

Morning cycle fans

So, I'm back rom Switzerland and among the many glorious things there (chocolate, the guy playing an alpine horn, chocolate, the gummi bear shop, chocolate, delicious coffee, chocolate, going for dinner in Germany and chocolate) there was a plethora of bicycles.

Not only are the roads and cycle paths smooth as silk with sloped subways only for bikes at tricky junctions, not only did no one lock their bicycle to anything because the risk of theft is so low, not only did everyone have nice practical bicycles often with cute baskets but my uncle Jan told me that it is a legal requirement for cyclists who cycle on road to be insured and to display their sticker as proof of this on their bike at all times.

It costs the equivalent of £5 a year to get insured and you are covered for up to two million Swiss francs. How marvellous!

It is not used to police cycling behaviour but it ensures that anyone in an accident, whether they caused it or not, is covered. Surely this would be an ideal scheme for England?

Not only that, but each train had at least two bike spaces in every carriage. Every CARRIAGE, not every train. Super marvellous!!

The public transport in Basel, I hasten to add, was similarly fab but my uncle has said he will lend me a bike next time I'm around so I can whizz round on it. I'm excited already.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Bobbing along...

Bobbing along on the bottom of the beautiful briiiiiny sea!

I have no idea but I've had that song from Bedknobs and Broomsticks in my head all day. I must have been humming it out loud without realising for some time as a colleague's just turned and asked if it was from the film.

I'll be away for the rest of the week in Switzerland so this will be the last post for a while (put away that bugle!).

I'm going out on a high as I'm actually very proud of myself after the weekend, when I cycled to Edgware to have lunch with the journalism girls. Having never ever ventured that way before I was prepared with an AtoZ and a vague idea of which direction in which to head.

I pulled over three times o check I was going the right way and had a thoroughly enjoyable, if hilly, pootle. I was the first to arrive at the destination by a considerable length and had brought not only clothes to change into but pressies as well.

After a delicious lunch and some juicy gossip I changed back into my gear and cycled home. My weird memory means I often forget what I've had for breakfast by brunch but I have a photographic memory for routes. Despite never having been in that direction before I got home without checking my map once, without making an error and 20 minutes quicker than the outward journey.

I was home safe and considerably damp, had a hot shower and was snuggled up with Mr Handsome and The Fat One when Mr Weenie arrived home from rugby half an hour later. My legs were pain-free and I wasn't particularly tired. Having checked TfL and seen the horrendous traffic on the bus route I would have taken I knew it could have taken up to two hours to get home by public transport.

I would think about padded undershorts the next time as it took about an hour of pootling on badly maintained roads but other than that it was lovely and far more intellectually stimulating than a couple of bus rides.

What on earth did I do without my bike? How did I survive? I hope only that I'll never have to find out.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Finally some proper weather

This morning's commute was marvellous.

Despite having imbibed Stella Artois last night, which always gives me a headache, I arrived at work in a glorious mood and full of the joys of winter.

You see, I'm a sweater. The height of summer is just not that fun for me as the film of sweat coats me an drips into my eyes. This time of year, when the air is cold and crisp and I have all the right gear, is perfect for my cycling needs. The sun was low but my route is protected by buildings so it's not too bothersome. For some reason traffic was very low and I sailed along, steaming slightly at stopping points.

I whizzed to work in a heavy base layer and jersey, fleece-lined leggings but no jacket. I felt aerated while moving and snuggly when stopped.

Yes commuting in the rain is a total pain when you're on two wheels but myself and my cycling colleagues were the only conspicuously bouncy people in the office this morning. Wonderful.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Oh the rage

This morning I was watching BBC1 with my coffee as I usually do before setting off. As well as the news it provides valuable weather information and the traffic report.

A report about cycling was announced and my ears pricked up. Apparently research has found that you're more likely to have an accident/get injured if you cycle to work than if you drive.

No sh*t Sherlock.

My jaw was slack in disbelief that an entire slot of the news was focused on this amazing piece of news. The rage started to build when the reporter, in Bristol, started his pre-recorded section. At no point was it mentioned the kinds of accidents they were talking about, all accidents including minor bumps, those reported to police, those involving injuries? It would have been nice to get some clarity. If, for example it was based on injuries sustained it would have been revealed as rubbish. Of course cyclists are more likely to get injured, they are not in a big metal box with air bags and bumpers.

There was much talk of cyclists going through red lights and being silly, a refreshing change in fact as mostly these reports will not apportion any blame to cyclists at all, but there was little mention of the appalling state of cycling facilities and the fact that even where they exist some motorists swerve into them, park in them and generally act like nobheads.

What is the point of research like this if it is not examined in any meaningful way?

I honestly believe that while you can't prevent some accidents, cycling within the law and sensibly greatly reduces the dangers you face on the road. This danger would be even more reduced if cycle lanes and facilities were protected from idiots parking in them and if motorists who drive dangerously and those who hit cyclists through their own fault were prosecuted and given meaningful sentences.

This perception that cyclists are mavericks who take their own lives in their hands every time they take to two wheels and that an accident is inevitable must be addressed. Being hit by a car at some point is not a foregone conclusion, perhaps the money spent on this research would be better spent on cycle facilities rather than stating the bloody obvious.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

I know it's raining but....

Stop leaning out into the cycle lane to look down the road with your umbrella at f***ing eye level!