Thursday, 29 July 2010

Everywhere I go, people are having fun on bicycles

London was awash with bicycles this morning. I watched longingly as people whizzed by past Hyde Park Corner and Victoria. I shone green with envy when a young lady took a cab driver on and remarked that he was being aggressive, every bike seemed gleaming and beautiful, every cyclist happy.

I attempted yet another permutation this morning as I had to renew my travelcard. It meant I missed the Victoria tube closure but meant I walked for 15 minutes to reach Victoria. It was bike heavy and only magnified my commuting misery. I near wept at the sight of so many happy two-wheelers.

Sigh, why is it that when you can't do something, everyone else starts doing it?

So unfair.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

It's off... ouch

Yesterday the cast came off.

A large and friendly nurse waved a mini circular saw around with gay abandon and cut off the pink monstrosity that has made life so difficult for nearly two months. I was so excited the night before I could barely sleep. Little did I know...

First of all came the smell. Ewwwwwwwwwww. In my defence, no one's arm would smell like roses after seven weeks sweating into a cast.

Then there was the hair. Oh. My. God. Monkey-like dark brown hair. All over my forearm and back of my hand. My arms have always had quite a lot of hair, but it's so blonde it's near invisible. Not any more.

Then there was the skin. Dark brown scaly patches of dead skin were everywhere. Even in places where this wasn't the case, peeling was a major feature. And then there was the heat rash all over my inner arm and on the back.

The back drop for all this was pale skin (oh the tan line) wrapped around a somewhat thinner arm than the one I fractured at the beginning of June.

Manic arm scrubbing, Jolen bleach (the hair) and Sudocrem (the heat rash) later, it does at least look human. What's rubbish is the pain. And it really hurts. Apparently it's normal but owwwwwww.

Is rubbish. Put it back on.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Why do we do it to ourselves?!

Following the corporate shafting that resulted in my moving to a destination miles and miles away for work, I have been left with a commute that, this morning, lasted just over an hour and a half. And that was because I ran for a train.

Crammed into hot and sweaty tubes of met with the rest of London's commuting warriors, my mind wandered to my first job. A similar distance, my days were consumed by it and the resulting misery meant that I quit.

The distance to my new company is 15-16 miles and I think it's a feasible distance to cycle once the cast comes off and I've worked up my leg strength and shed the obscene amount of weight gained while eating cheese in Normandy.

God help me, I'll have to think of something because this morning was awful.

Now that I am part of the cycle enlightened I have another option, there's another way. So why do most of us dismiss cycling as an option for so long when the alternative is to fight our way on to crowded platforms, elbow the weak out of the way to climb onto packed carriages, become intimately acquainted with strangers' armpits, and all so we can arrive at jobs we seldom enjoy?

Why why why.

Friday, 23 July 2010

I am a Normandy convert

When my parents told my sisters and me that they were planning to leave us to live in Normandy I was sceptical. The building they planned to convert was a wreck and, at the tender age of 27, my immediate reaction was but I want my muuuuuuum!

Last week Mr Weenie and I went out there with them and two family friends to view their nearly completed house and the locale. We also decided to sample the cheese.

It was amazing.

The community are friendly and supportive, there's kayaking/canoeing, rambling and other activities on a short drive away and the wildlife is varied and numerous. The local river is clean enough to swim in and was covered in dragonflies, mayflies and damsels with the occasional big fish.

More importantly, the whole area is signposted for cyclists, with picnic tables hidden away in shady nooks in hedgerows for water and rest stops and some spectacular scenery as you pedal around. I was green with envy watching the many people touring the area and the locals weaving back from the boulanger with fragrant baguettes sticking out of ancient panniers.

I can't wait to take my bike over and enjoy the area on two wheels. I also reckon my parents will be very happy there.

I did get to experience some pedal-powered fun, however. The velorail.

I made the combined holiday party of six adults go on this wonderous invention. A four-wheeled pedal-powered rail carriage, it goes along a disused railway track and two people sit on saddles pedalling furiously while up to two adults sit on the seat admiring the view. At the end of the route you use a pivot cage to spin the contraption round and set off back to your start point.

We went on the hottest day of the holiday and spent most of the time giggling our heads off about the entire thing.

There are several velorails across France and I think they're a fab idea for using disused rail tracks. I think, had we had children with us, it may have been more their thing, but it was wonderful to pedal something for a sustained period.

Having made him go on the velorail, Mr Weenie then demanded we go kayaking, but that's another story.....

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


I'm finally on holiday for a week, away from work stress and other boring things. I'll be back next week and am massively excited.

Love to all, byeeeeeee...

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Grrrr get your bike off the train!

I don't know why I bother checking the rules about bikes on trains because the people living around me clearly don't.

I live on the Heathrow line and, for good reason, non-folding bikes are not allowed in week days between 7am-10am and 4pm-7pm on trains bound for central London (although there are exceptions outside of zone three). While I would love trains to have more capacity for bikes the fact remains that they don't at present and, when busy, bikes are an obstacle. Especially when they're parked across the door and not in the carriage that has room for bikes/wheelchairs (Mr multi-pierced emo man with a dirty single-speed).

I do my best to check the rules, why can't other people?

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Looking for rabbits and other things children aren't allowed to do

Last night I took the much delayed tube to a station I haven't walked from before. It's fair way away but I fancied a toddle. It's made me all reflective and serious....

As a child, the music school that I now teach at was based at a high school near the station and I was a student. My parents would drop me off at 8am on a Saturday and pick me up at 12ish. With a couple of pounds for the tuck shop and my french horn I was expected to get myself to lessons and behave. The site wasn't closed and behind the school was open land that led down to the canal. The fields were very bumpy as huge rabbit warrens lay beneath and, if we had a sufficient gap between lessons, fellow french horn player John and I, along with various others, would go running across the field, walk along the canal to race sticks in the weir, and look for bunnies. If it was sunny we would just lie in the grass and chat, giggle and hope that theory was cancelled.

Adults kind of knew where we were, we were trusted to not do anything silly, and, as it was before mobile phones, we had no one breathing down our necks in a technological manner.

The music school is now based at a new site, another high school. The site is more secure and closed. The children I teach are, in the main, not even allowed to walk down the stairs and meet their parents in the canteen after lessons and must be met at the door. This includes the ones nearing 10 years old. One child, from the age of four or five was allowed to do this. His father let me know and explained that he was hoping to teach his child independence. He was told where his father would be waiting and, if he wasn't there, he was to return to the classroom. Nervous at first, he soon adjusted to the routine and is far more outgoing than before this arrangement.

Other parents noticed the child leaving without an adult. I explained and I actually heard a tut. When I gaily described what was the norm when I was a student there were looks of horror.

Walking across that field last night I felt like I was eight again. A bunny hopped across the path and I walked down to the canal and along it to my current home. I giggled as I remembered some of the things we got up to and the fun we had. And I wondered how many of the children I teach with experience that same rush of remembered joy when they think back to their time at music school.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Cycling to school, worthy of social services?

I couldn't believe this article. In an age of obesity and children scared to leave their parents for a minute it's absurd.

How else are children meant to learn independence? This couple have been vilified for no reason.

London's cycle hire scheme

I must admit that with the various goings on, this has slipped under the radar of late. I saw one of the bikes at the Earl's Court Bike Show eons ago and was impressed. Sturdy and attractive I knew I'd be happy to ride one. They're a bit feminine but, obviously, that's not a problem for me.

The scheme popped back into my consciousness because of my various work troubles. If the changes go ahead I'll be expected to commute to Herne Hill, near Brixton. From where I live that's a bit tricky. There's no tube near me and I'd have to go in to go out, as it were. The train near me goes to Paddington, not terribly helpful... or so I thought.

Mr Weenie was screwed over by an Oyster machine on Saturday and while I waited for him to shout at managers I picked up a leaflet about the cycle hire scheme and looked at the map of the docking stations. I had a revelation.

For £45 a year I could pick up a bike at Paddington and cycle it to Vauxhall every day as well as using one whenever I wanted. Herne Hill's just a couple of stops from Vauxhall. The combined journey time will still be far longer than my current one and it's less than ideal, but it solves my problem of bringing a bike into London at peak times, I won't have to. Plus it means I can still cycle part of the way and not have interchange as much.

If the scheme is well run it could be marvellous, fingers crossed that management get it going well.