Friday, 16 December 2016

The wheels of your life have slowly fallen off

What a year. It's only the 16th December but I've already crammed enough into it to fill one of those round-robin Christmas letters. Believe me, no-one is interested. Judging by the fact that only 41 people read my last post, no-one is interested in this either. I'll have to start slagging off the Chinese and the Russians, that will bump the numbers up a bit.


Anyway, all my creative writing is being channelled into my work. The stuff I do for money rather than just love. Last week I wrote a script for three role plays, it's more of a mini-play really. It's so good that a professional actor complimented me on the quality of the writing and characterisation. And I've not even paid his invoice yet.


One of my friends wrote a very funny email today, had me laughing out loud. Not just the pretend social media LOL either. And I made my boss laugh on the Tube when he read one of my (deliberately satirically funny) emails last week. But aside from that, laughs have been few and far between recently. It was the desire to do something deliberately funny that prompted me to contemplate taking part in a Santa cycle.


But then I acquired a power meter and my world has been turned upside down. In the "first-world problem" kind of way.  Those people who claim that numbers and stats take the joy out of cycling, turn a beautiful art form into a science of marginal gains are of course right. But how great to be able to reduce something so complex to the pursuit of just one number.


So I'm wavering on the Santa cycle. Because I need something totally all-encompassing for a few hours, take me away from all that laughter, families enjoying themselves (who are these people?) and instead engross myself in an obsessive, single-minded fixation. One where it matters not if it rains, blows, or if the road is steep or flat. Power is the alpha, the omega and all points in between.


As long as you're wearing Rapha.


And with friends and family.


And still smiling.


Especially to my Person of the Year, take a bow Junior, the most resilient one of our line, you'd bring a nod of approbation from your grandmother, that's for sure.



 









 

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Hope is for the Hopeful

My, my, there's a lot going on isn't there? But having said that I don't think I'm overly-qualified to comment on it, still less have an opinion. I know what you are thinking, that this has never stopped me before. You are right, and it is true that I'm probably more qualified than you to have an opinion on most things, because I do know a lot of stuff.

But just lately, well, so many people have been encroaching onto my territory, the one of unqualified opinion about anything and everything, that I have even begun to bore myself. And no-one wants that. It is also a circular argument that I'm fairly certain I have used before, saying that I am not going to pontificate, or make a song and dance about it, is a fairly paradoxical when you are blogging about it on a Google-owned social media site.

But it's a bit more than that. I'm not sure I like the direction I've been taking myself in.

When I was young, I worried about a lot of things, with what I felt was a kind of quiet intensity. I occasionally discussed these with my friends, but for the most part, just got on with the activities available to young people in the late seventies and eighties. Or the land of "three television channels" as I like to think of it. The drab, everything-closed-on-a-Sunday world, inhabited by nothing-to-do and "we made our own entertainment" nostalgia freaks. But it was OK, and it seemed a slower world, where there was less edge to everything.

But at the time, open warfare in Northern Ireland, Apartheid in South Africa, the Cold War and constant threat of imminent Mutually Assured Destruction, all seemed like pretty big and intractable problems. Nowadays we have Brexit, ISIS and the election of an Entertainer-in-Chief to worry about. I know I'm now 52 instead of 22, but somehow these 21st century things don't seem worth the worry and energy that even I've been putting into them. Given my eighties worries are, if not solved, at least less of a concern, I'm fairly sure things will turn out OK in the end for the trivial matters we have now. Or failing that we can just ignore them and hope they go away.

I had a lovely bit of escapism yesterday. Took the day off work and rode my bike with a great bunch of people. The day did go on slightly longer than I expected, and I was glad to finally make it home just before my front light's battery gave up the ghost. It involved hills, frequent (maybe too frequent!) stops for cake, chips, fudge (which isn't breaking my current no-chocolate rule and was justified on energy grounds), hills, gorges, dark and exposed moors, wooded valleys, views of the Bristol Channel (the night-time one was particularly fantastic from the top of Elworthy Hill), watching the local carnival floats on trucks in convoy to North Petherton, (their destination today I believe) and the local Friday nightlife of Taunton and Bridgwater.

Here are some great pictures taken by Paul Rainbow of Audax Club Bristol.






Whilst it's pretty true to say that while today I feel physically jaded, it was the first 200km+ ride I'd done for a couple of months, so was always going to be a bit hard, mentally I feel fantastic. It's not just the endorphin rush either, though that helps. I think it was the wonderful spirit everyone had on the ride, everyone really enjoying themselves, lots of laughs, and, the most important bit is this. Absolutely no sourness, sarcasm, clever-cleverness, just fun, good cycling and well, joy. Remember those three - fun, good cycling and joy.

Since I started my gratitude journal a couple of months ago, I would say that my perspective on the everyday has changed. Have you noticed the leaves in the UK at the moment? I don't know about you, but they are the most colourful Autumn spectacle I have ever seen. There were lots on display yesterday. And sunrises? And the food on the table? There is no end to it. This may seem a trifle sanctimonious to you. If that is the case, well, I'm sorry for you. Of course I still care about access to the Single Market, and the fate of the people of Syria, and the life my cousins will lead in America.

I've just got to the point where I have to look on the bright side a bit more. Who knows, maybe we can all get along without the cynicism and aggressiveness that seems to characterise so much of our discussion on these issues.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Thanks for all the Birthday wishes

"Blimey it's hot in this house". If you have ever uttered those sentiments on entering the abode of a relative of the, umm, older generation, it might resonate for you. Like getting up in the night to go to the (American-inspired euphemism alert) "bathroom", feeling the cold, like becoming increasingly grumpy at the state of everything, is a sure sign that time is accelerating.

But I'm not quite ready to dream it's over just yet.

On this, my 52nd Birthday, I feel more than ever In-between Days. I'm not old exactly, after all, 52 is the new 42. But then, I can't really claim to be particularly young either, although I'd still say I am young at heart. Especially as this has clips of music from the 80s that were made when I was supposedly an adult.  Before Facebook was invented. Or even the Internet.

So thanks for all the Birthday wishes. I'm dancing around to Clare Grogan right now. I'd encourage you to do the same.











Thursday, 21 July 2016

Like an angel on a balcony (Cingles du Mont Ventoux)


OK. Cycling. In the heat of Provence. The sunshine, albeit windy. More hilltop villages and lavender fields than any self-respecting woolly liberal can shake a packet of goat's cheese at.  

Then there's Ventoux. The giant in my room for the last six months. Ever since we tilted our caps at it, full of holiday brio and Winter bravado, before the flus of January, and the earaches of Spring, both of which reduced my enthusiasm and form to shrunken olives of their former selves. Not to mention the four horsemen of the Brexopalypse.  

I know I made that word and metaphor up, and it doesn't quite work as a device, but I had to have some reference to it in here. By dressing it up as a fancy allegory it becomes a parody of my own enormous literary pretensions, and a clever way for alluding to the in-built topical tension in the context of the relationship between Monmarduman and me. It wasn't much of a tension to be honest, we spent much of the time just having a laugh, and riding our bikes. Mostly at the same time.  

But that day really was a "watershed day" for me, in the way that Land's End to JOG was. It's a step change when I realise I can go further or higher than I thought possible.  

Before last Friday I had huge doubts that I could do it. Through the day I had a few moments and arguments with myself, when I thought I was going to fail. It felt as though it was impossibly hard. But I did it. And I did it through mental will as much as anything. Of course I had years of cycling experience and fitness to draw upon. But you don't succeed or fail as a result of those things. You succeed or fail because of what is in your head.  

But doing things like cycling to the top of Mont Ventoux three times in a day is not crazy. In response to a crazy world it sometimes feels like the sanest thing in that world to do. After all, the perspective from there is vast. You're a mile above sea level. Sometimes you need to get to places the hard way to actually appreciate how easy things are and how endless the possibilities can be.
 
 





Friday, 24 June 2016

I'm going to take that tiger outside for a ride

Oh dear, there's a lot of anger and recrimination flying about isn't there? And I keep seeing loads of comments on social media like "everyone is entitled to an opinion, no need to attack me" or "Everyone likes democracy when it goes their way". It's almost if they feel guilty and can't quite justify what they have done with any real opinions or facts.

I admire my friend whose blog has a link on the right who made a decision based on his principles (and probably knowing him, some research) and was bold enough to defend his position. Even if I disagree with it.

The people I despise are those who can't really understand why they decided to shit the bed, and now are looking at the pile of poo of their own making, and just want some kind of acceptance from me and the other Remainers. Well you won't get it. It's a stupid decision actually driven by misguided notions by some, unconscious or conscious fear of difference by others, with no real knowledge of the implications.

But I will move on, and watch with glee the negotiations to come, safe in my moral superiority and the certainty that I will profit from the chaos. The people I feel sorry for are actually those that voted to Leave, because I suspect you will be disappointed and the mythical 1950s Britain will not emerge.

What a life eh?

Anyway, here's that historic speech and my interpretation of what he might really be thinking:

I want to begin this morning by paying tribute to David Cameron
Fantastic, I’ve played a blinder, only Gove to beat, I’m a shoe-in
 I know I speak for Michael (Gove) as well when I say how sad I am that he has decided to step down
Oh crap, if he’s gone Govey and I will have to do the negotiations, then I’ll have no-one to blame
I’ve known David Cameron for a very long time

Those were the days, you could do all sorts in white tie and tails and no-one put it in the papers
A brave and principled man…with his own brand of compassionate conservatism
What a sap, judged that one wrong didn’t he, and tried to pretend he was one of the people
All of us politicians should thank the British people because in a way they have been doing our job for us
Just got to keep pulling the strings on that Farage chap before he starts talking about "betraying the British people"
This question is about the very principles of our democracy
And how I can manipulate them for my own advantage
There is now no need for haste, nothing will happen in the short term, apart from some thought on how to extricate this country from the supranational system
And I don’t want to get blamed for that when it all goes tits up, so better slow it down till the heat's off a bit
There is no need to invoke Article 50
Otherwise people will see the chimera for what it is and actually want to have their cake and eat it
This does not mean that the United Kingdom will be in any way less united
Let’s face it how could it possibly be that?
Nor indeed that it will be any less European
We are all Little Englanders now, even me with my Turkish ancestry
I want to speak to young people, who may feel that this decision is in some way pulling up a drawbridge or any kind of isolationism
A tough one this, they do so love to go travelling….just keep talking and with their short attention span they'll go back to the x-box
We can pass our laws and set our taxes entirely according to the needs of our economy
When I say “our” and "economy" I’m being very specific so it’s not really lying, just don't mention any real figures or facts
We can control our borders in a way that is not discriminatory
That sounds good doesn't it, I wonder what it means?
And look forward to a wonderful future for our nation
All my posh mates are going to absolutely love me
 
 

Sunday, 19 June 2016

The life inside your head we give to you (Avalon Sunrise 400km Audax 2016)

Sometimes things just go right.

Bustling start in a rush down to Tiverton, solitary climb up the Exe valley under a cloudless moonlit sky, blast with a tailwind along the A39 to Bridgwater, crazy mayhem outside a nightclub at 3AM, levels full of foxes, empty roads near Glastonbury, climbing the Mendips at dawn to a fabulous sunrise over the lavender fields, swooping down through cobbles of Frome in company, through the Two Tunnels, across THAT bridge, cake and ice-cream in Wickwar, hills and more hills (thought I couldn't do any more but Brian coaxed me into it!), duck races in Bradford, pasty at Beckington, warm winds, great company, audaciousness and camaraderie, sunshine and a rousing finish.

Yep, that sums it up. If you haven't done it, sign up for 2017 now. It's magical.


Thanks to all the organisers (especially Jamie Andrews), helpers, controllers, fellow riders, especially Brian Atkins for tremendous company and dragging me around the route, and up that hill!

Honourable mention for Noel Gallagher, whose words kept me plodding on. Because that's why we're really here.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Achievement and challenge

I know my life is easy. Most of my so-called difficulties are of my own making or imagining, and if you are from the UK, there's a fair chance yours are too. I'm prepared to admit that it may not be the same for my Ukrainian readers, or even some in China, but for most Westerners life has become very comfortable in the last 100 years or so.

Of course it doesn't feel like that, but objective reality and subjective experience are never best friends. You also may be thinking that you are not able to control things like depression, anxiety or random thoughts that just pop into your head, like "what happens if I do sell it separately?" The thing is, human beings are hard-wired to see problems not opportunities, and to measure their state against their nearest comparator. Chances are this comparison  isn't always made with someone worse off than you.

As I hurtle towards death I become increasingly concerned with getting the most out of my life, a task that seems beyond me but in reality isn't. On Tuesday I decided to take up that particular cudgel and challenged myself to wash my bike. Of course, I have been throwing down that particular gauntlet for the last few, sunny weeks, so I was pleased to at last accomplish it.

To you, washing a bike may seem particularly easy, but to my time-poor, stressed out and sick brain, it seemed nigh on impossible. I'm not really time-poor, let's face it if I can afford Sainsbury to deliver to my house instead of walking to the well, how can I be? But I like to kid myself, and it does have the added benefit of increasing the post-wash sense of satisfaction.

Unlike today. I'm supposed to be riding down to the Quantocks for coffee, but on waking the rain was pouring from the sky and the wind was whipping from the relevant quadrant, and quite frankly it was a step too far. You know the one, the first one out the door. I let my friend know of my failure to observe Rule 9 & 5, only to receive a cheery message about how nice it was down at his place. Sure enough, it's now brightening up and I'm left sat in my pyjamas.

Back to the bike wash. It was a bit too easy really. It was, after all, a warm and sunny evening, so no great chore. I finished my carton of Muc-off (more evidence of soft living), and I wondered. Could I throw the empty plastic container to the back door, and make it bounce, just once, on each of the six steps in front of it.

I pondered this, and after successfully completing the challenge and fist-pumping the air, I realised how no-one would ever know of my moment of triumph, it would be a secret I'd keep to the grave, secure in the intrinsic motivation of Achievement. Anyway, to tell anyone would risk revealing more Mendip Rouleur dysfunction.

But of course Junior saw me from a window didn't he? He asked me if I'd set out to do it deliberately as he often did stuff like that, and thought it was just him. Maybe it's a Rouleur thing, all in our genetic make-up, seeking out challenge and problems when is none, instead of just enjoying life.

Six steps though! What a life.


Life is getting better too, it's just started to rain again. Let's see if I actually make it out the door next Friday too. That one's unfinished.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Just the start of me and you


Sometimes someone is in your life who amazes you. Sometimes that person has been there all your life. Sometimes that person had it in them to do amazing things but just needs a bit of courage and a push to get going.
 
This weekend my sister will do something amazing, push herself outside of her comfort zone and prove what I always knew about her, how much she can do. So please, take a moment to think and recognise people like my sister.

Some people aren't prepared to put up with mediocrity, but decide to do something worthwhile, for others and for themselves. My sister is one of them.

If you are feeling materially generous, sponsor her here, if you are feeling spiritually generous just take a moment to recognise what it was like the first time you cycled 100km, or ran a 10K, or spoke in front of 50 people, or whatever your own personal barrier was.

Good luck Claire, I know you will do it!



Here's something to keep in your head as you speed through the night.

Friday, 13 May 2016

I've looked everywhere


 
Fergie said it was "obscene", how we laughed. Then we were relegated
 
 

 

My name is Miklosko, I come from near Moscow
 
He had no right to make some of those saves,  Schadenfreude was never this good
 
 

 
It was along drive back, but it was worth it
 
 

 
Reo-Coker didn't score that many, but one was enough
 
 

 
But it was to be the last for a long, long time
 
 

But nothing can ever beat THAT night
 
The best of them, the last of them, and I was there.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Fortune's always hiding

As we were walking back to the station after the 4-1 debacle at home to Swansea last Saturday, we bumped into my old friend Mick, also heading for Plaistow tube station. Which is incidentally the nearest tube station to where I was born, in Plaistow hospital maternity unit. In a strange parallel, the unit is being converted into a housing development, the original Victorian buildings torn down, to profit some developer and their hangers-on, which of course includes, in a "crumbs from your table way", me.

I asked Mick if he'd heard that the club were selling us our actual seats for £50. "All my memories are in my head" he replied, echoing my own sentiments. So tomorrow I will be at the Boleyn Ground for one final time, moaning about this and that, enjoying some of it, shouting a bit, and maybe shedding one or two tears for the final time as we concede a hatful of goals in injury time.

And then they'll turn it into a housing development, and the crumbs from the table will be Dimitri Payet scoring a goal in the distance, at a shiny, new taxpayer-funded stadium. For a couple of seasons at least. It all seems a long way from 25th September 1971. Jumpers for goalposts, holding my Dad's hand in case I get lost, oh the good old days.



I could get all maudlin and sad about it, cynical and angry, or look back with rose-tinted spectacles and marvel about what a wonderful place it has been to watch football. But none of it would make a difference. And apart from the friendships I have, the sense of belonging, the weird set of common values and experiences I have gained, the atmosphere of a set of people who go for more than just the glory, the genuine "West Ham way" of playing football, that means we can beat the League leaders one day, and lose 4-1 at home the next, all while trying to play attractive football, well what have the Irons ever done for me?

So in all this, what is most important about tomorrow night, the final match? Do you really need me to answer that question?

Sunday, 1 May 2016

I'm tired of watching all the flowers turn to stone

My last post was read by 245 people, which probably makes it some type of record. If only 10,000 times as many read it and everything else I have ever written. Then I could take a day off every week with the ad revenue I could generate.

But I always said I write this just for me, which of course is true, and generally I enjoy the process. As I was walking out of our office on Friday night I walked down the stairs with a colleague, who asked me, in the way that you do before a Bank Holiday, what I was up to this weekend. When I told him I planned to bike 400km across Wales and back, he asked me why such a long distance?

Now you'd think that would be both a question I answer all the time, as well as one I have a ready answer for. Thinking back on it, the seeds of my ultimate abandonment at Llandovery were already rooted and thriving as I mentally struggled to convince myself there was a valid reason. You see, I have reached a bit of a turning point. Of course I gave him all the usual guff about the camaraderie of Audax, the beauty of the countryside, and the challenge of endurance cycling. All of which are true.

But one of the reasons I gave to my colleague was that I really enjoyed the process of cycling. Well, I'm just about clinging onto that one at the moment.

But, the other reasons? They aren't enough anymore. So when faced with chronic tiredness on Saturday, not helped I'm sure by a hectic week preceding, or an early start to the trip to the Depart at Chepstow, it wasn't hard to convert a 400km ride into a 260km one.

It was still a great day, misty sunrise over the Wye Valley as we cycled up past Tintern, wide open vistas across the Brecon Beacons and the delightful Lord Hereford's knob (it does exist). Even the fight into the wind from Builth to Llandovery had its moments. And once I'd packed, I enjoyed the wind-assisted, if very blast back through Brecon and the Usk Valley. I didn't enjoy my low-speed tumble in front of a Saturday evening audience in Usk itself, or the nice swollen knee that didn't help on the climb towards Chepstow.



But I was home for Match of the Day. Instead of breakfast. A part of me misses the beauty of night-time cycling, but honestly, I'm so wrecked today from 260km that I know I might not have made it. I'd certainly not have enjoyed it.

So what am I to do? My cycling form is off the pace, my Randonneur round the Year has gone, and I don't think I'm in a fit enough state to go for the Bryan Chapman in a fortnight. So no Super Randonneur for me either this year. Worse, my motivation is falling off a cliff, and my one great strength, the ability to persist, seems to be deserting me. On bike rides at any rate.

What is to be done?

I feel about like those deluded Arsenal fans, calling for change when in reality I probably should be more grateful. I can cycle long distances, albeit less than I have set out to of late. I'm relatively healthy, fit, devastatingly attractive and incredibly funny. I get to watch London's best football team, and I have a great family and circle of friends.

What is the problem? I don't know, but right now my soul feels like this.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

How low or high I go

Audax Hotels. Some of you will know what that means, some of you won't, but the apogee of this story happened in one just outside of Ascot. Just past the roundabout on the A329 where there's a nice ornamental apartment complex, although at the time all I saw was the hotel.

It was about 10PM, Thursday night, dark, obviously, it being March in the UK. Cold, very wet, pretty windy. A headwind. As it had been for me since about 5PM when I had left the City of London, only 70km previously. That's slow progress isn't it?

I've never cycled in London before. It was bad enough on the way into the town, I'd chosen main roads for navigation purposes, but I doubt I would have found it much less stressful on the back ones. And I can see why cyclists jump red lights, there's one every 50 yards, and if the taxis and buses don't get you, the pedestrians almost certainly will, eventually.

So I took my colleague's advice to heart on the way out of the city, take it slowly and stay safe. But stopping at all the red lights, trying to make a path through all that Bank Holiday traffic heading for the airport, the beach, the hills, well let's just say my momentum was non-existent. All those people can't like London very much if they were all leaving, can they?

Once past Hounslow it got worse. Although the traffic eased, I was now on main roads with fast-moving traffic, puddles of water and plenty of headwind with few buildings to shelter me. I pushed on up Egham Hill trying to get warm, but as I rolled through leafy Virginia Water and past the Ascot racecourse, I couldn't feel my hands or feet, I was shivering, soaked to the skin and I saw the bus shelter and decided to take stock.

It had all been going so well too. The wind I struggled against in the evening had propelled me in the daytime, up though Bath, Chippenham, Marlborough and Hungerford.


The view of Cherhill, Wiltshire from the A4


 I breezed along the A4, delighting at my speed along the rolling main road, which seemed quite quiet, and into Reading by midday.

Reading

From there, despite the onset of rain, I made good time to Windsor and onto Hounslow, before hitting all the traffic on the run-in to the City. I'd decided to combine a DIY Audax with a fund-raising attempt for our current office charity, Jack's Fund, that raises money for the Children's oncology unit at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. You can still sponsor me if you like via this link. My employer had also given me the day off to do the ride, as well as allowing one of my colleagues to have some time off to feed me and take care of my bike parking arrangements quickly at our London office.


Arriving at our office in London


So after arriving at about 4.30PM I was out of there and back on the road within an hour. With hindsight the timing was terrible as by now, what had been very busy traffic, had turned into nose-to-tail jams. I cut some of it out by cycling across the cycle paths of Hyde Park, but my average speed for the first 10 miles was 9mph, with plenty of stops to boot. It didn't get much faster either, looking at my Strava data, I seemed to have taken about an hour to cover each 10-mile section, culminating in that stop in Ascot.

There was still 160km to go (about 100 miles). I knew that if I continued I would have another 5-6 hours of rain, and after that the temperatures were forecast to drop to about 3-5C in open country, plus the headwinds all the way to Bristol. Even on a good day, that's 8 hours of riding, plus stops for food, and that was likely to be in the open at all-night garages.

I was shivering, I couldn't warm up, so I called Mrs Mendip Rouleur to ask her opinion. Fortunately she was able to think straight and booked me into a Travelodge in Wokingham.  I knew that this decision would cost me any chance of this being a qualifying Audax ride, as well as my attempt at Randonneur round the Year going down the drain, as it's too late in the month for me to get another ride in.

I know people who would have pressed on, and I know people who would never have started. I also know people who would get on a train home. As you can see from the trace of my route, the fact that it took me an hour to find the place shows how confused and unable to follow directions I had become. It was unquestionably the right decision for me and I don't regret it.


Broken by the weather in Wokingham
 Of course, that wasn't the end of the ride. Early the next morning, well about 8.30 actually, I headed off into the bright sunshine into the West. It was a nice day, although I did still have that headwind to contend with. Now the time pressure was off, I took it easy, finding some nice country back roads in Berkshire to cycle on, admire the views and marvel at the fate of Greenham common airbase. I also passed the Aldermaston Nuclear weapons research facility, which is set in an incongruously leafy area.

It was also a bit of trip down memory lane as I passed towns and places that my grandparents, parents, uncles, brothers and sister all have associations with, as well as my own childhood memories of climbing Silbury Hill and wandering around the West Kennet Long Barrow.

Eventually I made it to Chippenham, and not having to complete my mandatory route I decided to take the direct route back to Bristol via the A420. Now the official longest, grindiest road in a headwind in the World as voted by yours truly. As I neared the top of one slogging incline, a bloke walking his dog, called, encouragingly I think, "dig deep son, dig deep". Nice people are everywhere!

So there you have it, a 400km ride done with a break in the middle, no Audax points and a few more hard lessons learned. Does it count as a 400km ride? Yes it does, in my book, and that's the one I'm counting. It's on Strava like that anyway. And thanks to all the people who encouraged me (especially my colleague from work) along the way. And Mrs MR for making me see sense. It means everything to have that backing.

But the most important thing in this? Over £700 raised so far by virtue of the vey generous friends, colleagues, and family that have sponsored me to raise money for people who face a constant challenge far in excess of anything I had to do. So if you are feeling up to it, you can sponsor me too, even just a small token amount counts and is gratefully received. That means everything too.

Thank you.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Back to Square two

2016 has not started as I thought it would. Before I get stuck into this theme properly, I want you to understand that I am not complaining. At all. I have, as they say, so much to be grateful for.

For a kick-off, I'm not American. The world's most dysfunctional country also has a lot to be grateful for, but unlike me, it hasn't really wised up to that as yet. Last year I met a really charming man, Jeff Guara, whilst we were both cycling from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean with Pyractif. Jeff, as well as being very charming is also very weird. Not because he is American, or because he is a Christian, or because he shoots his own meat. But because he is a triathlete and wears those funny socks and other weird stuff - pointy helmet and cat-ears.

Actually Jeff and I had many very interesting conversations in the few days we were together, and even occasionally when we were cycling together. Although on that point, most of the time I was trawling a long way behind his very well-organised and meticulous pace. As he stormed up the Col de Port in 30-degree heat, I grovelled.

Jeff dressed as a cyclist on a cyclist's bike.

We did have the "gun conversation". I think to begin with Jeff was a little bit surprised that I was serious when I told him that firing guns had no appeal. Although my 15-year old son was all for jumping on a plane to Carolina immediately and high-tailing it out to the woods to blast away. But one day when our peloton had a run-in with an errant driver, and the encounter left no-one nursing gunshot wounds as a result of road-rage, I think he saw my point.

It was recent Facebook exchange with Jeff that prompted me to worry about America. Whilst we have Boris Johnson as our "I can't believe he is really in power" politician, unfortunately America has Donald Trump. So whilst enlightening Jeff, via the global tax-avoider's facility, and the history of monkey-hanging in Hartlepool and its impact on the Democratic process, he confessed that they had no-one they could actually vote for.

It was then that I realised. The actual triumph of tyranny is not global repression, tax-avoidance, abolishing free school milk or awarding yourself a whopping pay-rise as an MP when you have all the benefits of an Eton & Oxford education. No the successful totalitarian despot these days makes mainstream political life so tediously dull whilst at the same time stretching the bounds of credibility to make it seem like it is a reality TV show.

In that way we all just give up and go back to our bread and circuses, and leave the elite to go on with their Master Plan. And they say what starts out over there, soon comes over here.

By now I had also expected to be well into my first 300km Audax of the year. But unfortunately my lungs are refusing to play ball, as I succumb to my second bout of man-flu of 2016. Of course, I am making a mighty fuss about it, but I haven't helped my own cause by going and watching two West Ham games in the last 7 days. Whilst the football has also been unexpectedly good, the accompanying freezing-cold weather has probably not helped my immune system, or my asthma.

 
But nights like this one are coming to an end with our move to the state-subsidised Olympic Stadium (thank you all very much for your generosity), so I just had to go to see us beat Spurs under the lights for the final time.

Usually, West Ham's form takes a nose-dive at any hint of achievement, so it is unexpected to be both playing attractive football and winning football. Although I expect all of that to end this afternoon away at Everton. The latter have won more points against us than any other team apparently, so my natural pessimism won't be misplaced. They are 1-0 up as I type this.

In between the two colds I did manage to have a great February, with some great weekend rides and lots of commuting. My ride down to Lyme Regis was particularly epic, but maybe I overdid it there too.

So I am back to Square one again, next weekend (I hope) for the third time. I probably need to eat more vegetables and get more sleep, traditional remedies to illness. Regrettably I can't take it easy for the next couple of weeks as I'm committed to a 400km charity ride in three weeks time. Feel free to sponsor me via that last link, I'm going to be under-prepared and suffer, so make it worth my while. Please.

So hopefully with Spring on the way the cycling can get going properly, and not stop. See you out there.