Monday, December 29, 2003

Ho Ho Ho

Merry Xmas everyone. We are over in Sarnia, Ontario at the moment spending Xmas with my brother and his wife and kids. We arrived on the 24th on a grey Canadian day but were lucky enough to get some snow for a white Christmas.

So far the break has involved watching TV, eating chocolates, drinking beer and playing with toys and games.

I have also been introduced to an online poker playing site by my brother and now I can bet recklessly against strangers with pretend money. At last the Amarillo Slim book that I read is paying dividends. A favourite piece of wisdom is that at every poker table there's at least one sucker. Look around and if you don't see one, it's you. That's not as easy to do online but the theory still holds water.

Monday, December 22, 2003

A Picture Really is Worth a Thousand Words

The sign outside our house when we got home last night.... Says everything really.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Enquiring minds want to know

What takes the people in front of me so long at the cash machine? It's not a rhetorical question,I really want to know as I'm sure I'm missing out on something. The bank account we have only gives you options to view your balance and withdraw money from the hole in the wall, so there's not a lot of opportunity to string it out to more than about a minute.

Do other people have cash cards that allow you to surf the Internet from the ATM? Have they got bank accounts that allow you to withdraw money and also read classic novels at the same time? I won't feel so bad if the reason the bloke in front takes 10 minutes to get some cash out is because he's trying to get in a chapter of "Tess Of The D'urbervilles" before doing his shopping.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

New Poll - Available Now!



Get Voting!

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Poll Closing Soon

The answer to the burning question of which is the fastest colour for a bike is about to be answered. Get your vote in before the countdown below hits zero. Click Here.

Everything in its right place

It is six months and one day since I last walked into the office that I had previously worked in for the past three and a half years. You would think that it would be completely different, but apart from some banter about the Rugby World Cup (and everyone being happier than they usually are due to the England win), it was exactly the same and I don't feel like I'd been away at all.

If only our bank balance felt the same......

We're kind of approaching D-day with the flat and fingers crossed we'll have some positive news soon....

Friday, November 14, 2003

Time passes

This was supposed to be our third and last week with the hungry pets of Europe but our hard work and dedication has seen us handed an extension. Sadly, our gain is Mark Viduka's loss and he's had to patch things up at Leeds instead of sniffing round King's House in Harrow. Our extension is going to be just a week as Vic is heading back to her old place of work and I have some slightly more encouraging irons in the fire. Perhaps we are leaving at the right time though as there has been a worrying trend of taking our work home with us. Last night we were trying to think of movies featuring the brands we know and love. After "Little Cesar" and "Aldi President's Men" we knew it was time to get out.

The house continues to progress and we are now in the hands of our respective solicitors. The purchaser has indicated he's keen to complete by the end of the month. This is fantastic news for us but worrying for any of our friends with spare bedrooms.....

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

The truth about cats and dogs

We are into week 2 of our three week assignment and we're suffering from "middle of a trilogy" syndrome. The novelty of finding out about western Europe's pet food buying habits has worn off and we are still not quite ready for the big payoff. (If any tax inspectors are reading this I use the word 'payoff' metaphorically.) Anyway, we're well on track to finish our bits and bobs on time and this has to be good news for all the cats and dogs out there.

Things are also moving forward (if slowly) on the home front and another box was ticked on Friday when the survey was completed. We're expecting to hear back this week about it, which probably means the report will be delivered by a postman wearing a Santa hat. Actually, you've got more chance of seeing Father Xmas than a postie these days but that's a different matter.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Catpains of Industry

A strange thing happened last week. We managed to find a recruitment agency that seemed interested in finding people temp jobs. I'd naively assumed that that was what they all did but the experiences of the last couple of weeks proved me wrong. Anyway, within the space of a couple of days of registering we had been found positions. As luck would have it a company in Harrow (where we live) needed two people with office skills and we fitted the bill.

We are working for a market research company and our roles really make us feel like we are making a difference. The project we are on involves correlating the results from four countries and producing the presentations which will be delivered in December. The reason we are making a difference? The company we work for is conducting market research for pet food.

When a cat turns its nose up at mackerel flavoured treats.... we want to know why.

When a dog owner asks themselves the question "If this brand was a person, would it be someone I would really like and have lots in common with?"...we need to know the answer.

When an overpaid middle-manager wants to know how loyal his customers are to a brand of cat litter.... we can show him in a range of pretty colours. By customers I guess I mean their cats for this one. Although cat owners can be an odd bunch.

I only hope the pet owners of Europe realise the sacrifices brave office workers are making to put the spring back in Fido's step.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Just found a great blog that gives you an alternative view of current affairs with an Aussie perspective. Check out Tim Blair's blog.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

After being inspired by DBC Pierre's drawing of his life showing him taking a turd for a walk, Banz has got all artistic and done a representation of our life at the moment....

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Important question...

What do you think is the fastest colour for a bike? Spirit Of Stockton is yellow but is more of a beast of burden than speed machine. Spirit of Brisbane is black and stylish but is it the quickest? Who would argue with Eddy Mercx's orange or USPS blue?

Well now is your chance to have your say on this important topic. Select your choice at the poll on the bottom left-hand side under the Message Board.

Polls will close when we have enough to make a decent graph. Or if we get bored....

Friday, October 24, 2003

Update to the Gallery

Just to let you all know we've added a few more piccies to the site in the Gallery.

Let us know what you think.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Weddings, Parties, Anything....

On Saturday we attended Kate and Maca's Wedding in Winchester. This event has been sat (usually alone) in the column labelled "good things to come from our house sale fiasco".

Due to our current limited financial resources, we were staying at the Youth Hostel and had arranged for the warden to let us call round after the 10am closing time. We didn't want to travel down in our finery or have to carry our normal clothes to the big event. He was expecting a quick bag drop so it was with a slightly put-upon air that he showed us to the ladies' washroom.

We were getting changed in record time when a puzzled look crept across Vic's face. It was the same sort of expression she sees on me when I finish assembling flat pack furniture to find a bag of screws and a piece of wood which looks worryingly load bearing left over. In these instances I can claim spare parts or a design amendment are responsible but it would be difficult for Vic to pass off her dress as wearable with the inner layer two inches longer than the outer....

It's character building to discover your wedding outfit is ruined two hours before the service but as veterans of the TV show "SAS: Are You Tough Enough" we knew well enough not to panic. In fact there are many similarities between having to survive in a hostile environment where any wrong move could lead to injury or death and life in the SAS.

Winchester is a beautiful city but its cathedral and museums were sidelined in favour of Debenhams which, unable to compete directly with Jane Austen's final resting place went for providing a reasonable array of dressy women's outfits.

By 12 o'clock we were out and waiting for the 12:10 bus to Alresford. By 12:30 we were in a cab slowly and expensively negotiating a one way system.

Still all was well and we arrived to see our friends Paul and Sandra get dropped off by Paul's dad. They too had had a difficult morning, but we happily accepted our role as bad luck magnets for the event.

The service itself was both moving and fun. Rev Phil Collins kept things light with a couple of jokes but sadly avoided any readings from Genesis and missed his chance to warn that "your can't hurry love". One of the hymns, Lord of the Dance, was a real blast from the past as it was an old school assembly favourite for the majority of the people there. I probably hadn's sung it for the best part of 25 years which was cause to stop and think....

The reception also had Kate and Maca's unmistakeable stamp on it. From the table decorations (sugared almonds out, lottery tickets in) to the speeches. The food was excellent, as was the company, but the highlight for me was when additional goodie bags containing howler balloons and peas shooters with crepe paper "peas" were handed out. There followed a pea shooter battle which accompanied dessert, coffee and about half an hour beyond and was notable for the way everyone joined in. As either participants or targets....

The rest of the day passed in a blur and it was a real wrench to leave for our 11pm curfew. As it was I had to tackle climbing into my top bunk in pitch darkness. Which probably explains why I woke up having slept on my backpack.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

A great day out in London....

We had a fantastic day out in London on Friday. It's one of the main things that I will definitely miss when eventually arrive back in Australia.

First of all we headed to Waterstone's in Oxford Street and get the latest Chuck Palahniuk novel, "Diary" signed by the great man himself. As you can imagine we were extremely excited about this and even tried to calm down enough to explain to the Italian guy outside who was handing out leaflets who had caused the huge queue that was snaking through the store and out into the street (the Banseys had done well by getting there 10 minutes early and being fifth in the queue). After saying it was Chuck Palahniuk, we got a blank look. After showing him his novel, we got an even blanker one. We then mentioned "Fight Club" and when we still didn't get any response, we gave up and decided to hit the road.

We then went to the Cycle Show. There was a lot of beautiful (and ridiculously expensive) bikes there to drool about. Quite an enjoyable afternoon seeing all the new bikes that are coming on to the market next year. Definite highlight of the show was seeing Banz do a one and a half kilometre time trial on a Tacx Virtual Reality Trainer. In jeans. Tucked into his socks. He did manage to break the current record (unfortunately there's a whole weekend of seasoned cyclists yet to try so its unlikely to stand for too long) and impressed the guy running the stand by doing it as a fixed wheel (only in one gear). I think this is because he didn't know how to change the gears (same as mine - Shimano 105s), but he says it was to show off how masculine he really is....

As you can imagine we were quite peckish by this stage and were fortunate enough to be able to track down a Wagamama's which is fast becoming our favourite chain restaurant around London. One Ebi Katsu and Chicken Kare Lomen for me, and a Duck Gyoza and a Chilli Chicken Men for Banz and we were on our way.

We managed to track down a cinema down the road showing one of our growing list of films that are out at the moment that we want to see (Matchstick Men, Belleville Rendevous, Cypher amongst others). This is probably the one we were most excited about - Spirited Away. This is a fantastic film fantasy that we would highly recommend.

All that and we got the train home in time to watch Sex and the City followed by Peep Show. All Fridays should be like this (apologies to those of you currently working....).

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Every silver lining has a cloud...

The latest news on our offer is that the people who made it may be unable to get their mortgage. Why you would offer to buy a place you couldn't get the money for is another question and certainly another addition to the "people are stupid" file. Unfortunately I haven't got the energy to work up much indignation over these people at the moment.

More positve news this week is that real buyers with access to real money are starting to show renewed interest. One couple are in talks with their lender to see if they can raise the required cash and a bloke who saw the place yesterday is apparently "very interested". Let's hope something comes of this. A bidding war for example.

As always, keep 'em crossed and watch this space...

Monday, September 01, 2003

Silver Linings

Well we finally have some good news to share with everyone, though we're still not going to get carried away until we're signed sealed and delivered.

WE HAVE AN OFFER ON THE FLAT!!

I'll calm down a bit now... Anyway, Banz showed two lots of people around on Tuesday afternoon. The first guy really liked it and was saying about how much he likes the high ceilings, big rooms etc and was going to bring his wife back yesterday (Saturday) morning. After him, there was a couple who really didn't comment or say much about the flat and were very quiet. Anyway, Banz gets a phone call the next morning and the couple have made an offer which was only £1,000 less than the offer we had previously accepted. Of course we took it. When my Dad was selling Real Estate he used to phrase it as "biting their hand off", but we weren't quite that bad. Just salivating a bit.....

Again we're not getting ourselves too worked up after last time, but its definitely a step in the right direction. They brought round their Dad (not sure which one's, but a Dad nonetheless) and he was very positive about the flat also, so that should also remove that obstacle.... My Dad lost a few sales with parents coming round and stopping their children buying a house that they didn't think was quite right. So everyone, keep your fingers crossed and the Banseys may be finally able to leave London.

Friday, August 29, 2003

A new addition

On Tuesday we were in Evans cycles in Waterloo Cut and we saw they had a BOB Yak trailer. I had been toying with the idea of increasing our capicity to carry unnecessary tat and this seems like the perfect soloution. It's a striking silver and yellow colour, which matches Spirit Of Stockton so it looks as if the two beasts of burden will be teamed up. We're going to use it to haul the tent and camping stuff which should hopefully put and end to the high centre of gravity issues I was having after our initial round of full-load testing.

It remains to be seen if it encourages us to repack the kitchen sink...

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Phil and Friends - Part I

Had the hills around Harrow done their job? Had the Col de Watford put steel in my legs? Had Alpe Bushey given me the heart and lungs of a polka dot jersey winner? We were about to find out.

We travelled up to Sheffield on the Saturday and were staying at a well-hidden farm in Bradfield. A fellow Phil & Friends ride, Steve, and his wife Jill were also staying there but any thoughts of going round with him were scuppered when he mentioned that he'd just done the Etape in 8.5 hours.

The day of the race dawned grey and cloudy, which was a relief after the recent hot weather. We had a quick breakfast of toast and cereal and were re-assembling our bikes in Stannington by 8:15. After registering I was expecting a mass start but it soon became obvious that people were going off in small groups. This was a bit of a letdown but I decided to have a quick look at the instructions and set off alone. I could probably make friends on the way...

The hills kick in from the outset and we were treated to a steep descent for starters. A few groups passed me while I checked my directions at the first T-junction. This allowed me to latch onto the back of a group of about eight and we soon got talking. These boys were locals and they warned me that the first hour would be tough. Sure enough the road started to point upwards and I began to lose the wheel in front. At first I was encouraged to keep up but we all soon realised that our abilities were not evenly matched.

I was happy to ride at my own pace for a while and after about 30 minutes I caught up to three guys on a steep descent. Two of them were on tourers and they were all doing the 100km so I decided to try to join them for a while. The climb up the other side was a brute and called for the granny ring and some honking to get over it. I was more than happy to use all the gears at this stage!

The two on tourers drifted away as I talked to a chap from the Selby club called Albert. He'd done the ride before and we took our minds off the next slow ascent by discussing the route, our cycling backgrounds and anything else that came to mind.

Phil and Friends - Part II

The tea stop at Holmefirth is a popular one as it provides the fuel for the big glamour climb of the day - Holme Moss. This hill has been tackled in the Tour of Britain and the rumour was that the pros had been clocked going up it at about 17mph (~30 km/h). I was actually looking forward to this climb as I've always been attracted to the brutal glamour of the mountain stages in the big races. The climbers have always had more of my respect than the sprinters and I wanted to have a go at something comparable (i.e a lot smaller) to an Alp or Pyrenees stage. Holme Moss was a climb that could be tackled in one gear - the smallest one - and I was able to find a rhythm and twiddle up a steady pace. (Not 30km/h) The view from the top was worth the effort but I wasn’t really doing for the view. That said, it was uplifting to look down at Holmefirth and know I was able to propel myself and the bike up the 500 metres to the top.

Albert and I were able to get some speed up after the descent and were soon blasting through the gently rolling hills and reservoirs as we followed the valley. This made a nice change from the "slog up, fly down" sections we had been through and had yet to encounter.

The climb outside Edale started as a typical low-gear grind but it had a definite sting in the tail. Just as the road levelled and it seemed like the only way was down, the route took a sharp left and introduced the sort of gradient we had seen for some time. The hill was mercifully short and it was impossible not to appreciate the setting as trees spread out either side of the road. Before opening out to reveal the valley spread beneath us.

Albert had no luck selling his bike to some passing ramblers so we had to press on to Edale and it was on this descent that the speedo ticked over 80km mark. The mood in the tearoom was buoyant with those who’d done the ride before telling the first-timers that the worst was behind us. It was also pleasing to see the now-familiar 20 or 30 riders who we had regularly passed and re-passed on the road.

After tea we had a couple of climbs to further test the legs including a sweeping right-hander. I’d been whirling up it for a while before I realised I wasn’t getting anywhere. The gradient was constant, as was the curve of the road and we couldn’t really see where we were going or where we’d come from. But even this hill eventually ended and once at the top Albert momentously told me we could get onto the big chainring and power home. He was once again true to his word. I had expected us to arrive at Stannington by climbing the hill we’d flown down at the start but we were approaching from the other side. The last 5kms are a circuit high above the village and this gives a feeling of triumphant expectation as well as a few moments to reflect on the ride before the end.

And then, after five and a half hours in the saddle and with 106kms on the clock we took the last corner and approached the hall. Victoria was waiting for me with a big smile and the means to provide more tea and cakes and the encouraging comment that I didn’t look too bad.

Albert and I had stuck together for over 80 kilometres and he was the perfect pace for me. If I was a bit slow for him then he was too much of a gentleman to mention it. We said our goodbyes after our tea with Albert heading home to York, Victoria hopping on the 83 bus to Sheffield and me climbing back on the bike to coast the 4 miles back to the station.

So my first century ride had ended well. I'd had a great day, met some good people and managed the distance with a combination of steady pacing, full gear utilistaion and frequent refueling. My appetite has definitely been whetted and apparently there's another on in Sussex next month....

Friday, August 08, 2003

News and Views

Well we're settling back into London life. All the usual things are here, two trips to the cricket (Banz watching SA just beat England and both of us watching Surrey cruise past Gloucestershire), a visit to Wagamama and a furnitureless flat.

Well, the flat does have some furniture, it's just limited. We have our futon (which was the first bit of furniture we ever bought as a couple - unless you count the crisp boxes we used as a bed side table initially), a tv stand (on which to stand the smallest telly ever which has been most kindly donated by Nick H) and the mattress in the unregistered loft conversion to complete the skag den appeal. We also managed to be indian givers (I guess that's not a PC term these days, but there's no other way to describe it) and got our wok, fry pans, saucepans and microwave back off Spence and Cath - cheers guys - you can really have them when we actually do leave.

Time has been spent tidying up the garden for that buyer that we're sure is just around the corner as well as toning down the paint in the lounge. All those episodes of "House Doctor" haven't been wasted.

We've also been doing a bit of job hunting. I've had a couple of good phone calls today saying that I've been put forward for a couple of roles. Fingers crossed I get the one with more money. That's what my standards have been reduced to these days. Oh well it is only for six months (we hope). Banz has also applied for a few - including one at £50 an hour - that's if his postcard is still in the telephone box outside Kings Cross station.

Banz's time has also been taken up training for his century ride which is next Sunday, 17th August. The roads outside Harrow are not quite as inviting as those near Darlo but there are a few decent hillocks to contend with. The tarmac melting temperatures (no post could pass without a "Phew - what a scorcher" comment) have been a novelty but one which is wearing off. Perhaps our original plan to tackle southern Spain in August with panniers stuffed to the brim with kitchen sinks was not the best idea.... Maybe this is the "everything happens for a reason" excuse we've been looking for since the flat sale fell through. That makes two, the first being Maca's Wedding.

Keep your fingers crossed and hopefully we'll be back amongst the employed in the next couple of weeks. The taxman's gain is Quincy ME's loss.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Bizarre

I've just seen the strangest thing ever. Watching a list of the Top 100 sellers ever in the UK, they had "Tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree" by Tony Orlando was somewhere in there in the high 80s. That in itself is wrong, but it then showed Tony Orlando in concert and who should be in the audience, but the thin white duke himself, David Bowie. He was sitting there with Angie enjoying the show. Very strange....
Gallery On-Line

Two posts in one day! Just to let you all know that we now have our Gallery on line. A couple of pictures of us at home when we first received the bikes, as well as our pictures from the Coast to Coast (check out our forced smiles!).

Many thanks to HiG for supplying us with the space for this.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

A cycling post of all things

The other day on the TdF coverage I heard about a ride that's happening on the 17th of August. It's called "Phil and Friends" and is 100 or 150 kilometres up and down some hills in the Sheffield area of the north of England. Details can be found on the CTC website. I decided two things...that I'd like to enter it and that I'd better find out if I was in any sort of shape to do it.

Over the past few weeks I've gone out on a few 20 to 40k rides round the country lanes nearby but I thought I'd better step it up a notch. I planned a loop from Northallerton (10 minutes on the train from Darlington) using our "White Rose" maps. These maps are to be used at the start of the Big Trip to get us from Stockton-on-Tees to Hull.

On Thursday morning I got up, got the train and was at Northallerton by 10am. The planned route would take me up onto the North York Moors in a 60-70k loop and would be a good test of my fitness. The first were undulating with a few low gear climbs (one naively noted as "killer hill" on the train ticket where I was keeping notes) and these hills were enough to get me into the King Of the Mountains mindset. In fact, I could almost here the excitable commentators willing me up the 1st Category climb that can found near Upsall. The short ups were followed by short downs from Kirby Knowle to Kepwick and I was starting to feel there was nothing the roads could throw at me that my biscuit-fuelled legs couldn't handle.

Just after Kepwick I made the first map reading blunder. I was faced with a sign that read "Unsuitable for motor vehicles" pointing left and "Stilton" pointing right. I had a moment's hesitatation before barrelling down the steep hill towards the home of cheese before I smelt something was up. (Cheese lovers insert joke here.) A quick look at the map confirmed I'd gone the wrong way and had to battle back to regain my lost altitude. Perhaps a lesson to be learnt here in pre- or post-decision map referencing. The reason the road was unsuitable for motor vehicles was not down to quality or width but the fact that it resembled a tarmac'ed staircase and it lead directly to t'moors. It was steep. In fact it was so steep I had to get up onto the pedals in my bottom gear (that's 26 on the front, 34 on the back gear ratio fans) and honk on some of the steeper sections. Mercifully these only lasted for 30 or 40 yards at time but even that takes a while to do at such speeds. I can't say exactly what speed as my cycle computer had actually assumed I'd stopped as the wheels were turning so slowly. Everyone's a critic. I was grateful for the absence of cars as I was able to make full use of the road as I wobbled my way to the top. Sadly, the top in this instance was a gate half way up the climb. The first half had been a tree-lined road but the moors started to open up after the gate. I hadn't seen anyone since the road went up but I met a rambler on this section. Luckily he was heading down as I don't think my brain could've handled being overtaken by a pedestrian. Still, I rode it all and got my reward as the road levelled out to reveal the stark beauty of Thimbleby Moor.

Once again I diverted from the map although I didn't realise this until a reached a crossroads which was nowhere near where I thought I was but actually on the route. I'd gone a shorter distance but across rocky paths instead of surfaced roads. Ten minutes later I was at Sutton Bank, a North York Moors visitor centre with hot tea in one had and a jam sarnie in the other. I'd actually eaten a couple of the others on route to preserve the Tour de France vibe.

The ride down Sutton Bank made me grateful that I gone clockwise round the loop as I was doubtful that I could have safely climbed this hill with the combination of steep gradient, traffic and blind corners. The road from here on in stayed sensible and the hills I'd seen as killers in the first hour were now taken comfortably in a lowish gear.

I reached Kirby Knowle for the homeward section with the speedo showing an average speed of 19.5km/h and my legs feeling like they had a bit left in them. I decided to see if I could get up to 20km/h so I slipped onto the big ring and pushed the speed up. Bizzarre, soul-destroying things then started to happen... The average speed would be creep up to 19.7, my current speed would be around 25 but then suddenly the average would drop back to 19.5 and the slow upward creep would begin again. This happened a few times and after having 19.9 cruelly taken from me for a third time I decided to change the display to current speed and distance. You'll be excited to learn I finished the ride with the following numbers :-

Distance : 68.51km
Time : 3:23.22
Average : 20.2km/h
Top speed : 58.5km/h


Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Oz visa

My visit to the Australian High Commission happened yesterday and it wasn't what I expected. I was perpared for a "Mr and Mrs" style quiz on toothbrush colours and favorite perfumes (mine's Tramp by Faberge for those who are interested) but it was more like applying for an overdraft. They called my name, I went to the counter with my dossier, they tried not to laugh at me being horribly overdressed in shirt and tie and I handed over my documentation. There followed a rapid, seen-it-all-before whizz through my application, one or two questions to clarify certain parts and that was it - application successful. Twenty minutes later I had the visa in my passport which means I can travel and work freely in Australia. We were pretty confident that my application would go smoothly but it's nice to get it out of the way. I have to go to Oz in the next 12 months to get my passport stamped but that's hardly a disaster.

The only disappointment was that we didn't get an invite to the ambassador's reception. Still, more Fererro Rocher for us...

Friday, July 11, 2003

The coolest cycle shirt ever....

I have just seen the coolest cycle shirt ever - check it out at Foska. Even though I don't like Marmite (Vegemite is miles better), this is pretty damn cool. So I thought I'd mail them and see if they were going to make a Vegemite one and got a mail back the same day from David there who said they were trying, but Kraft wouldn't let them use it. Surely its free advertising for Kraft? I can feel a campaign coming on.

I may just treat myself to the Australian jersey there when I finally get back into the workforce. Maybe then I'll get off my butt and back on the bike and get a few miles in - instead of just watching Robbie, Stuart and Baden pushing themselves in Le Tour (we would've been in France by now - sob sob). It's either that or Le Tour King of the Mountain's Jersey - though unfortunately when I wear it, it would be ironic.....

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Let's push things forward

As you may have guessed, we're trying to put a positive slant on recent events and get a bit of perspective. What's happened isn't the end of the world and I'm sure we'll both be OK no matter how the house saga ends. This week has been a busy one divided between getting our CVs up to date, applying for jobs, reading Harry Potter, watching the rain fall at Wimbledon, listening to rain fall at the cricket and doing a bit of low-key DIY at Hig's place. I guess it's a sign of the times that I add reading and watching TV to the week's "busy" column.

On the plus side, it feels good applying for a few jobs and I feel as if there must be a short-term contract out there to suit me. Fingers crossed anyway. The next step is to head into Darlington with our CVs and visit a couple of recruitment agencies.

We also took our first tentative steps down the DIY road this week. A few small jobs were lined up (strip and reapply sealant to bath, remove last remnants of fitted wardobe frame) and successfully accomplished. We have been rewarded with a skip which arrives on Friday and the promise of saws and axes to wage war on the cherry tree. The cherry tree appears to have a great height and moderate weight advantage at this stage but seems tactically naive. Admittedly, it has used 'just standing there' to good effect for several decades but I think it will need a complete strategic overhaul if it is to get a win this week. On the other hand, the two plucky challengers are armed not only with state of the art equipment (axe technology has really moved on since the stone age) but strength, guile and agility. Local bookmakers are seeing the tree as 4-1 outsider, the Washbrook boys at 2-1 and the draw favourite 1-3. The bookies have wisely spotted that we may trip up on the stump and I think we can all see that it will be a tree of two halves.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Life is slightly better....

Well, the dark cloud has risen a bit. Thanks to all for the positive thoughts - they've worked.

Martin is down in London at the moment sorting a few things out like tidying the flat and seeing the real estate agents. He's also managed to get into some of the boxes that we'd sent home (thanks to the guys at Interpak - especially Hilary for restoring some of my faith in humankind for their help there) so that we can find all the documents that we've kept from when we bought the flat. We weren't sure if we had anything from our solicitors which showed that they were aware of the loft conversion but he has managed to find a document from them which mentions it, so hopefully we'll be to prove how ineffectual they were, and sue the arse off them! That does raise my spirits a bit.

HiG has also been touting us around (does that make him our pimp?) and he may have a contact for us at Adecco here in Darlington. He's been the best mate (well he was our best man) possible and has offered us to stay with him for as long as we need. His house needs a bit of redecorating and we figure we can repay his kindness by giving him a hand with a bit of DIY which he has motivational issues with doing. As long as we can make enough to cover our mortgage in London until the house sells it will definitely be viable.

I've also finished the new Harry Potter (unemployment will do that to you - finishing ~750 page books in just under five days). I enjoyed it - the death wasn't really that much of a shock - I thought it would be a more major character. I'm looking forward to the next two and what will happen to Harry eventually - I reckon he'll marry Hermione and end up with 2.4 kids with her, or him and Ron become gay lovers. Not sure yet.

The sad thing is I now have to choose another book. I'll probably start one of our classics that were going to be our Big Trip reading. It doesn't feel right to be reading them in a house as I had envisioned it more reading it under a tree whilst we stopped for lunch in France.... oh well, if our Estate Agent gets his act together it may still be achievable this year!

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

The Best of Times, the Bloody worst of Times...

Well our nightmare has come true. Our house sale fell apart yesterday. The buyers pulled out as they couldn't handle the pressure to do with the loft not being approved by the council. They really must be the stupidest people I've met in my lifetime (and I have met some prize idiots), as everything was set for it to go through and they obviously couldn't grasp the fundamentals of what happens in a house sale.

So we're now trying to decide what we're going to do. We don't have furniture, jobs and a loft conversion that isn't regularised.

Big Trip is on hold, at least for the next three months. I don't pray, but if you can send some positive thoughts into the world for us it would be much appreciated as you can imagine our's are pretty damn negative at the moment. Oh, and if you know anyone who'll give us a job, that would also help.... Thank god for the latest Harry Potter book - I don't know how I would've entertained myself otherwise when we got the news yesterday.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Counting the cost

Well the house still hasn't gone through... still to do with our loft.... and its just not that much fun anymore...

Please don't ask about the house as we're starting to bore ourselves with the talk of it.... needless to say when it does actually go through, you'll all be the first to know. As long as you're looking on our website that is....

We're now back up in Darlington visiting Mr HiG as all of our furniture was sent back home to Australia on Thursday 19th June. We have left in the house the futon and a beanbag and Cath and Spence are eyeing up the futon, so soon we'll just be down to the beanbag with the two of us fighting over it in between playing games of football with a tennis ball in our living room (note to any interested purchasers of our property - we're not really doing this, you know creative licence and all that). We were sleeping on a mattress in our bedroom (the f*$king unapproved loft) to complete the skag den appeal of the flat. As we've grown tired of saying goodbye to everyone on a weekly basis in London we thought we'd head back up to Teesside and then maybe head up to Scotland to do a mini-tour up there with all the bags as a bit of a tester. We figure if these people are going to mess us around we might as well actually enjoy the time off instead of endlessly playing "Age of Empires" on the PS2 (not that that's all I've been doing of course).

Anyway, its off to the pub tonight to meet up with Ted and Carole and to drown our sorrows with a few vodka and oranges.

By the way, check out our new counter - I can't make it any more obvious that I haven't tampered with it (last count as at 23/6 was one!) so get our numbers up and keep visiting. We hope to have good news some time..... Hope you won't all be bored of my rants before than....

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Differences

What's the difference between what we want to take on the big trip and what we're prepared to carry? We didn't know exactly but the wobbly and incredibly taxing ride from Darlington to station to Chateau HiG hinted that it would be quite a bit. Today was the day when the final selection process was made and even more difficult decisions than thinning our three sewing kits down to one would have to be made. Topping the casualty lists were our entertainment products such as walkman and gameboy and we seemed to be carrying a few more spares for the bikes than we needed. The electronica had always seemed extravagant but we thought they'd be small and light enough to get away with. After about 30 minutes we were able to fill a large holdall with the non-selected articles and I guess the next job is to flag up these items "Components & Logistics".

Our all new lightweight test ride was a success and we've managed to keep all our panniers down to about 75% full - plenty of room for encyclopedias, stone statues, etc which we're bound to buy along the way...

The last slight concern is the tent which currently sits atop the topcase and, although not heavy, seems to cause centre of gravity related mischief. I don't think I have the topcase as securely fastened as possible but I'm sure I'll sort that out in the fullness of time.

Our load now seems manageable for the first time but I guess judgement should be reserved until we hit the first big hill...

Friday, June 13, 2003

It's that elbow again

Well, yet again it seems I have not yet mastered riding a bike... We arrived in Darlington last night on time (I think the first time ever on our journeys up here!) and prepared for our first longish ride with the bikes fully loaded.

Bloody hell, there's definitely stability issues involved here. The ride from our house to Harrow and Wealdstone station wasn't too bad (it is only about half a mile to be fair) and the train journey into London Euston also ran quite smoothly (apart from the morons who obviously thought it was more important that they get on the train before I get off with my (do I need to repeat this?) fully loaded bike). From there, it was a short ride to King's Cross, but not wanting to risk London peak hour traffic with our unstable bikes, ended up pushing them the kilometre or so to King's Cross. Train journey passed without incident and we arrived at Darlington at 22:30. Here we go. A couple of roundabouts and a few cheeky calls from cars with boozed up occupants (England vs Slovakia for the European Football Championships had been on just down the road at the Riverside after all) of "Can I get a lift?" and, most charmingly, "Get a car". I would've liked to have stopped the occupant of the Ford Focus and asked them how much they earnt last year and compared it with my salary. I'm not saying that salary is an indicator of standing in society, but these people obviously think a car gives them some kind of status and I would've like to seen how that other indicator of status (according to society) racked up against each other. I would've also liked to explain that I can afford a car, but I choose not to drive. Cycling is fun - driving a car isn't. It is as simple as that. I don't expect everyone to get out of their cars, but I would like a bit of respect for at least trying something different - I know I'm dreaming! Anyway, rant over.

We had a slight downhill after the roundabouts and I changed through the gears and was able to get a decent speed going. We then got to some lights and I was unable to change back to a decent taking off speed. Result. I can't get any speed up on the slight uphill after the lights change to green and fall over on the pavement landing smack bang on the already swollen and bruised left elbow. The familiar agony started again and I'm ready to call the whole thing off. Who's bloody idea was this anyway? I know, half mine, but I'm sure everyone has had one of those moments where you can just have enough - and we hadn't even started. Anyway, I pushed the bike to HiG's, had a cup of tea and iced the elbow. Huge lump coming out on it now as well as a lot of bruising. Felt better and am now determined to thin out everything in the panniers to make this riding to Australia thing a bit easier. I didn't say easy. Easier. Than what, I don't know....

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Yet another update -> Check out our Tagboard! and no we're not that bored....

After a great suggestion by the soon to be newly-wed Mr and Mrs Morgan of Watford (otherwise known as Robbie and Nicky) we have added a guestbook cum messageboard otherwise known as a Tagboard. Much searching of the internet was done over the weekend and after a lot of false starts and basically crappy guestbook designs we found the Tagboard and have added it to our page. What do you reckon - let us know what you think....

Apologies for all those people who are logging on every so often to check if we have actually left the UK yet. No, not quite is the only answer we have, but we're getting there and we do hope to have left the country by the end of the month. In the meantime, all you get is updates on my swollen elbow which is starting to come out in a fantastic bruise though it is still swollen.

The other big news of the day is that we don't have a fridge anymore as it was sold this afternoon.... Looks like we're getting in that camping spirit just a tad early....

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Updates -> We now have Inspirations

We decided to do a page where we can pay tributes to people who've inspired us (or actually we've just knicked a lot of our ideas from). There's some great sites there so have a look and let us know what you think.

Also a big hello to HiG who has asked for a mention on our website (have to do this as we're coming to stay at his house on Wednesday and don't want to have to find alternative accommodation in Darlington at 22:30).
How to not unclip your cleats and have a majorly bruised elbow....

I am typing under duress at the moment as my elbow is majorly swollen. We went to our old flat in Northolt as the contract company that I used to work for has sent my P45 and P60 there... even though I hadn't lived there for two years. Anyway, there were no occupants there at the time, so it was a wasted trip on the way to our friends, Pauline and Mark's place for a BBQ. Anyway, I was trying to balance on the pedals so I could nip quickly out when the traffic cleared... anyway, gravity and laws of motion got involved when I slowed down too much and I fell over before I could get my feet out primarily landing on my left elbow (and unfortunately my arse). Both are bruised with my elbow looking like an extra limb from the prosthetics used in the elephant man film. The only upside is that I will have a spectacular bruise in a couple of days.

So that's twice now that I've not unclipped in time. Thankfully both in no traffic with me overlooking the fact that I don't have as much skill as I though I did... oh well, I'm sure the message will get through to my brain at some stage.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Flat Sale

We're now getting there - finally! It looks as if we'll be exchanging next week and hopefully completing the week after. Well I really hope we will be because we're sending all the furniture home on June 19th so the house will be rather empty after that!

Unemployment

You know when you're working your standard 9 to 5 job and the thing you're dreaming about more than anything else is having the time off to relax at home? I have to say after about 3 days of being at home, I was completely bored - it would be different if we had a definite date for the house as there's lots of things that I could be booking and organising, but since we don't we've just been filling in time. Whole days on the PS2 don't have as much novelty when that is what you've done all day. Fortunately we have been able to get somethings done and we should now at least be rabies free due to our vaccinations as well as having a further round of leaving dos with my former work colleagues on Wednesday, our friends Paul and Sandra on Thursday and our friends Pauline and Mark tonight. There is only so many times we can say goodbye though....

Maybe a leaving date?

Next Wednesday 12/6 we're heading up to Teesside to drop the bikes off and to say some final farewells to everyone. We'll then pop back to London to go to our friends' Mike and Alison's wedding before finally heading back up to Teesside to finally head off.... I don't want to jinx it but we may be able to actually start the trip on Monday 22/6 departing from Stockton. Everyone keep your fingers crossed so that our solicitors will get their act together.

Until then, sorry for the lack of interesting information - I'll hopefully be able to have some really good news next week.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Treading Water

Well I'm still here two weeks after when I thought I'd be gone. So what's been happening you ask? (Well if anyone was actually reading the site and me just not posting random ramblings out into cyberspace). Oh well, I'll continue anyway....

Flat Sale

Flat sale has been delayed because of our attic. For those not in the know, we have an attic in our house which has been converted into a bedroom which we use as the master bedroom. Evidently, this never had planning permission. Our crap solicitors never picked this up when we bought the place, but the purchasers of our property have. Their lenders won't lend them the money because of this as they think the council is going to come round and tear it down. Martin has gone to the council and they basically don't care and are happy to respond to a letter from the purchaser's solicitor to say so.... so now we're just waiting for that to go through....

Leaving Do

Had a great night on Friday May 9th at our leaving do. Much alcohol was drunk by all and the only hard part was getting around to seeing everyone to have a chat. I had just been extended that afternoon for another couple of weeks so people were saying to me, "Goodbye, all the best" and I'm sadly having to respond with "well, actually I'll be at work on Monday, probably see you at the canteen". Not quite the same.

Finishing Work

Well, Banz finished work on 2/5/03 and I've somehow got extended until Friday 23/5/03. Though sad to leave all my poor CASS compatriots, I have to say I'm not that disappointed to be leaving. Too many spreadsheets in the last couple of weeks have driven me mad I tell ya! The dole and lots of Sims on the PS2 beckon.... If we had a PC and all the Sims add on packs I really wouldn't be able to leave the house....

and cycling....

Sadly I have done minimal cycling in the last couple of weeks due to London putting on the worst display of weather I've seen for a long time. Rain, hail, pestilence (well, not quite, but you get the idea) have all hit London over the last couple of weeks and I just haven't been up for riding at all when I can get a ride in with my matey Wardy in his nice, warm, dry Lexus. I'm sure I'll regret this laziness at some stage (actually probably each morning when I zip my jeans up). At least give us some decent weather this weekend, hey??

Friday, May 02, 2003

Streamlined and Goodbye Vulcan :-(

Wednesday was my day to get streamlined. The brunette locks have now fallen from my head and my hair is now the shortest it has ever been possibly except for the couple of months post-birth. Quite a strange feeling. After a couple of days I've stopped doing double takes in the mirror and using excessive amounts of shampoo in the shower. I'm sure I'll be quicker on the hills now....

Yesterday was my last ride in on Vulcan. He's going to a good home with my colleague Karen. I tried to get him up Sudbury Court Drive in a record time but wasn't able to keep the pace up for the final third. Oh well, we've come a long way from my initial attempt where I only got one third of the way up..... It was only just over a year ago where I was excited to just make it up the hill without stopping!

Friday, April 25, 2003

Goodbye Snakebite :-(

Well, it was goodbye to Snakey from Banz this morning. Our trading post ads where we're selling off the remnants of our London life have succeeded and Banz got a response from the Ad for Snakey yesterday. Banz rode him there this morning and the prospective buyer snatched him up for only a 50% depreciation cost on his purchase price (ie £100).

One of my colleagues here at work, Karen is maybe interested in Vulcan after taking him for a spin along the canal yesterday after work. She's keen to cycle in to work as much as possible due to the same reasons that we got back into it, ie. traffic, driving, public transport not reliable and fitness.

Its kind of sad to be seeing our old bikes going. They're what got us back in to cycling after such a long time and whilst they were cheap, we did get our moneys worth and then some on them. Hopefully they'll go to good homes and will be well maintained and used.

Bring on the weekend and hopefully some decent weather for a ride.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Still at work....

Well my dream of a month off in front of the PS2 didn't materialise and I'm still here at work, hence my reason for not having an opportunity to write up a blog.....

I dream of one day finding a job that I actually find stimulating and want to do. Frustrating in a way, but I've just sort of drifted into different things including what I'm doing now, working with computers. Parts of it are interesting, but the management in the department I'm in now, are awful and are one of the main reasons why I just can't wait to leave. I do feel sorry for my colleagues who don't have that option. I can only hope that they'll eventually get someone better or find better jobs, before their positions get wound up or the entire thing outsourced.

Enough about work as it is so dull. We just had Easter weekend which was a great break. Basically we didn't do a lot and just relaxed around the house. Yesterday we unfortunately went to the football and Boro's horrible away form for the season continued with a 1-0 loss to relegation battling West Ham. Our season is effectively over and they've got everything to play for. I am such a jinx though as except for a league cup game against Brentford, all the away games I've seen this season have ended in 1-0 defeats. Oh well, since we won't be able to any games next season, I expect us to have a great run... or the usual rollercoaster season that we always seem to have at Boro.

Its two weeks almost since we did the Coast to Coast. It was the hardest thing I've ever done physically in my life. At one stage I just didn't want to go on and was doubting doing the Big Trip completely. Banz calmed me down and we realised that there are going to be hard moments on the Big Trip, but we'll be able to take them at our own pace and won't have to be making sure we're in a certain place for our night's kip. I also hope that I will be a bit fitter before I start having to hit some mountain ranges again....

Friday, March 28, 2003

In Training

For the last two weeks Wardy and I have been doing lunchtime training runs along the Grand Union Canal. We go from the Black Horse pub, which is next to work, and head east until Kensal Green before heading back. My cycle computer makes this a round trip of about 15 miles but I have lost all faith in this device since it reset itself after 980 miles. I'll check it out with the digital map measurer when I get home to see if I can introduce a further margin of error.

These training rides are primarily to get Wardy's legs moving again prior to next month's Coast To Coast. The weather here has been beautiful for the last few weeks and it seems that Spring is really in the air. On Tuesday we set off with our usual high hopes and had gone a couple of miles when trouble struck... Wardy reported a certain softness in his back tyre but a puncture is hardly a problem for two competent and well-prepared cyclists. A puncture becomes a real challenge, however, when you have no patches or pump so we headed off to find a garage to put enough air in the tyre to get us home.

We had a small tour of Alperton before finding a garage with a working airhose but it didn't take long to realise that this would not solve all our problems. The air went in alright but seemed to have hardly any trouble getting out again judging from the hissing. It was down to me with my working bike and £1.02 in cash to save the day. Luck was once again on our side as I found a Halfords after 2 minutes of searching. Here's some advice, if you need a puncture repair kit and you plan to go to Halfords to get it, take more than £1.02. Unless of course you plan to do a bit of begging... I managed to find some patches at the back of the display, slightly bent perhaps, but intact. I explained our situation to the bike mechanic there and he let me have the patches and dug out some rubber solution for us as well. Top marks for (non-) customer service!

Ten minutes later Wardy was patched up, pumped up and we were both whizzing back towards work for his 1pm meeting. Which he ended up not going to.

Still, we learned a valuable lesson and we were both fully kitted out for today's 15 mile blast.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Clipping In

Yesterday (24/3/03) was also the inaugural SPD Clip-in. I've had the pedals and shoes for a while and was going to use them with Vulcan for commuting to work. The fear of the SPD always got the better of me and so never tried (the pedals were an expensive reminder of this every time I opened my cupboard).

Sunday night, Martin had changed over both of our shoes so that the cleats were there ready to go and we'd experimented sitting on the bikes and clipping in (the bikes at this stage were still living in the spare room). So Monday evening was the big day to actually ride round the back streets of Harrow clipped in. You know what - it was a breeze! I'm still surprised at how easy it is. The aim now is to make sure we don't let complacency in and stop somewhere and have a "timb-ahhhh" moment of just falling sideways on the bike.
Team Estrogen

Yesterday at work (you don't expect me to actually be working in my last week do you?), I found a great website Team Estrogen. I came across it when looking at some links for Defeet socks. Martin had been able to buy a couple of pairs of these on Sunday, but of course there were only larges left when I found some that I liked. Undaunted, the world wide web helped me out and I've got some winging their way to me as we speak, as well as a very cool cycle jersey.

On the TE site they had a current adventures in cycling section by online diarist Terri Rafter. Her diary really made me laugh and so many of the feelings I had about restarting cycling with my much fitter husband came flooding back. Her comments after trying to cycle up a steep hill, felt so familiar, I could've been writing it myself, but probably with more swearing -

"I hate this," I gasped. [As a matter of fact, I probably gasped it more than once.] By the time I'd pushed my bike to the top of the 43,567,289th *vertical challenge* in a row, I was exhausted, sunburned, sticky with sweat, mad as hell ... and spoiling for a fight.
Jaunty/Show-Offy Cyclist Guy Whizzing Past Us At 800 mph: "Good morning!"
David: "Good morning."
Secra: "Fudk you."
Big Trip Shopping

What a great weekend. Work is just never as good.

Our friends, Ted and Carol came down and we saw the sights as well as having numerous curries (well, two - a Thai and an Indian).

On Sunday, they headed to an exhibition while Martin and I headed to Evan's Cycles for Big Trip buying. We had a list of things required and so proceeded to go through and choose the bits and pieces. First up was security. One of the guys there pointed us in the direction of the lock that he's had recommended to him. We've only been using cable locks on Vulcan and Snakebite but we need to protect our new Hewitts whilst we're travelling. Never realised how bloody heavy they are! Martin also got his SPD shoes. We both got new mitts with lots of padding and I bought a pair of bike shorts that are made from cotton instead of lycra. There's never any need for my ar*e to be shiny as well as big. After much consideration, I got the same bike computer as Martin (a Cateye Enduro 2). I had considered the Shimano Flight Deck, just because it sounds good and has features like cadence and telling you what gears you're in as my Shimano 105 components are Flightdeck compatible.

Common sense got the better of me though as the £55 difference in the price tags had me working out how many days we could survive on the road with that £55 (probably only a couple, but you get the idea).

Friday, March 21, 2003

Why does work go so slowly when the end is in sight?

Is it only me that's suffered with this? I got my notice that I was finishing up at the end of the month (internal budget cuts and since you're leaving anyway you may as well go now - never mind that I do need to save money and still pay my mortgage!), but since then this month has just dragged so slowly. It must be worse for Banz who had to give notice in January for him to leave in May. He's also going to have to keep getting up whilst I chill at home and get some hours in on the PS2 (as well as sensible trip planning things like new passports, visas and doing up more lists - you can never have too many lists).

Work is so dull at the moment. Come on the next six days!

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Bikes are here!

Received the bikes yesterday (18/03/03) - very exciting. Banz got the call from the postroom here at work and we rushed down to pick them up. We were worse than two kids on Christmas morning (or is that better??).

They both look really good. We'd ridden Vulcan and Snakebite in so we decided to leave them here at work and ride Spirit of Brisbane & Spirit of Stockton home. It was so weird! I do love my new bike, but I've still got a soft spot for Vulcan in that I know her so well and what she'll do (or not) depending. I really didn't feel confident in the traffic with the drops so I need to get SOB out and do a bit of practising so that I can get used to the new riding position (drops instead of straight bars). I also need to get used to the SPD pedals, so it may be a trip to the Civic Centre carpark on Sunday morning to get used to it. The response on SOB is brilliant though and you can really feel the difference heading up hills - I felt as if the bike was actually helping me rather than me having to drag it (poor old Vulcan) up Sudbury Hill. Harrow on the Hill is going to be the real test once my confidence is up.

Did I mention our new bikes look fantastic? Paul Hewitt has done a great job on them (I was disappointed to see dust on them when we got home, but there's going to be a lot more dust on them before we get back to Brisvegas. We dragged them both up to our spare bedroom to try on all the panniers that we've acquired from Vaude. They look good, but already notice the difference in weight. We have got the majority of stuff for The Big Trip, but there's all the fiddly things to get like a first aid kit and a broad brimmed hat.

We've got a trip in to town planned this weekend to coincide with our mates Ted and Carol coming down from the North-East. Apart from some museum viewing (Imperial War Museum), and some theatre-going (Arsenic and Old Lace with Stephen Tomkinson, good Boro lad and Michael Richards, better known as Kramer in Seinfeld), we'll be heading to do some bike-related shopping.

Will definitely need a curry after all that.....