Sunday, July 27, 2003


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.