Friday, 11 November 2011

Dartmoor Classic and bikes for weddings!

Would you two be interested - and tell Charlie - to do this over and around Dartmoor? Camp out on the Sat night as near as poss to the start.
Yesterday evening I cycled home from the office on my long route in the dark but also, for the first time, in rain that got going half way round. With the steel rims, it was really quite alarming not being able to bring myself to a stop! I overshot the alleyway to Peachley Close as I came down Dog Kennel Lane. Uffmoor Lane had to be taken at the slowest speed I have ever achieved - or not achieved - and there was a poor motorist behind me, whom I didn't let pass so I could see the road in his headlights! I did thank him when we got to the bypass.
I'm now trying out Halfords super lightweight racing bike mudguards on the new bike I've bought for Jonathan. The rear failed spectacularly on the first day but the replacement rear mudguard was fitted for free this afternoon. With the clips and straps on the pedals, I tried my brown pair of Hotter shoes, with air holes on the uppers this afternoon - and minus socks. My feet were sweating in Halfords while I waited for the fitting to be done but I was more comfortable once I got out on the road, even on a mild day. Halfords have a superb range of Chris Boardmen men and women's bikes. The women's are stunning white so would be ideal for arriving at your wedding, Becky, mounted on one - side saddle, of course! A white monocycle would mean less oil getting on the wedding dress, however but Halfords don't seem to sell them.
Halfords have a superb cross country Boardman, £899 machine, with drop handlebars, 20 gears, disc brakes and tyres that can take slick for racing or knobbly for towpaths, forest roads and bridleways. The width is between narrow racing tyres and wide MTB tyres. It is 4 lbs heavier than the £999 Boardman racing bike. I must find out if it can take a pannier rack for cycle camping/touring. I am very tempted! Interestingly, the Dartmoor Classic blurb mentions putting slick tyres on an MTB bike for their event.
I'm offering to buy mum a lightweight racing or hybrid bike - one of the dazzling white Boardman machines would be great for her, as well as for you, Becky on your wedding day. However, since she can so easily cruise up, in bottom gear, the two short but steep sections of Uffmoor Lane, she thinks the present heavy bike is just fine!
Can you give me Charlie's e-mail address, please Becky? I compliment you both on your entertaining writing skills of humour, spiced with keen observational skills and a healthy disrespect for this elder and his dazzling prowess on two wheels, including his cycling collection of, so far, one dislocated shoulder and one broken collar bone!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Summer Madness for Autumn Epic

This 63 year old old man, that is me, was so desperate to see if he was up to cycling the 128 Km (80 miles) short route Autumn Epic that he couldn't wait for the 2 October event itself!

I put the bike in the back of the Polo for the very first time and set off for Knighton in Radnorshire. The car is a brand new Blue Motion, the most frugal, five seater, fossil fueled car you can buy. The bike, however, is a piece of antiquity - a 40 to 50 year old bone shaker with only six gears and a rusting steel frame. I'm even older, all skin and bones like a beanpole and very little hair left. And, I was cycling this epic hill route of seven key climbs, as the race organiser put it, in sandals - what a spectacle I was!

The road to Newtown took me to the zig zags up onto moorland where four sheep in single line ran before me until a passing car made them swerve off into the grass. Only for them to rejoin me, running in line in front as I toiled up the slope! Soon a cattle grid forced them off the road and let me pass.

I did Rhayader clock tower in exactly three hours. That was satisfying and the two real hills were taken in the saddle. The only problem was my right tendon that was slightly complaining. I stopped for nearly half an hour to eat my sandwiches, slumped against a post on NCR8, on the edge of Rhayader. The remaining 50 miles was taken at a more leisurely pace, I thought but, in fact, I did the complete circuit in 8 hrs 25 mins. So nearly 10 mph, including all the stops to correctly navigate the route, for food and to admire the views.

I had to walk up the three steepest hills; I stopped off to walk up the nearest summit from the high point on the road - Gilwern Hill to the south of the road; and I climbed a gate to get a superb view of the Black Mts and the Brecon Beacons. In the saddle I admired two funny looking churches - one where the stone was painted white and another with a stubby looking tower and spire. I met a 61 year old cyclist out with his son who was in training for the 60 miles Aber to Kington cycle event. I'm sure he said that the Autumn Epic involves more climbing.

The final climb was a 4 Km steady upwards to then enjoy the swoop down into Knighton and the finish. 8.5 hrs in the saddle in the stunning scenery of the Radnorshire hills, is definitely more arduous than 8.5 hrs walking up and down the big Scottish hills that I normally do! Even so, I must do the short route once more before the big event itself - and beat my time, of course.

When will I buy a new road bike more fit for these big rides? And how much should I pay? How many gears? Should it have mudguards? What kind of frame?

Sunday, 20 February 2011

"The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself" FDR in 1933

Don't be afraid of afraid; don't be scared of scared; or, of warning and alarming. The only trouble is that then (in 1933) the danger was obvious; today we are cossetted in the complacent and comfortable materialism of the acquisitive society, with our fatal assumption that energy grows on trees and that things can only get better!

"I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is pre-eminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days."

Franklin D. Roosevelt - opening paragraph, First Inaugural Address, Jan 1933 at the height of the depression.

This is prompted by my careless comment at a Transition Worcester meeting, last week, that others, as I am, should be almost scared into saving energy. I am scared of the future, as two others at the meeting also confessed to be. However, it seems, this is something that must never speak its name!

For decades, as I see it, the green movement has been the prophetic voice warning of danger ahead unless we take on that manifesto of a sustainable society that the Green Party has promoted since 1971. I think, it is better not to hide uncomfortable home truths from people but to assume that they have the maturity and responsibility to be able to take them.

I admire, but cannot copy, the Prof James Lovelock approach of quiet speaking sweet reasonableness. He's the most delightful and pleasant doom-monger I have ever heard on Radio 4! Perhaps he comes over as being so happy in dishing out the bad news, 'cos he knows he's near the end of his life!

I think we need to give the reason why it is urgent to save energy, to spend less, to make things last and to, generally, lower our impact on life support systems creaking at the seams. Transition - and each of us - needs to give "a leadership of frankness and vigour", as President Roosevelt put it.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Two Pertinent Points for Israel

Could Israel not allow the Palestinians to carry on saying that Israel should be wiped off the face of the map, when they have known for years that it is only bragging, empty rhetoric and, cannot possibly be achieved? All downtrodden peoples always say the most uncomplimentary things about their oppressors.
Could Israel not attempt to meet Palestinian grievances through talking and compromising for the sake of getting peace through justice?  Like sharing the land and sharing Jerusalem, possibly?

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Daft and incapable in charge of a bike!

From e-mail to Jono:

"Last week, (26 October 2010) I had my worst bike crash, at night, when I was not paying attention to the road ahead. I thought I had eaten too much condensed milk with my pineapple chunks, so thought I ought to cycle off the calories. It was at night, and on a dark country lane when I was not paying attention to the road ahead. I hit the kerb and landed awkwardly, twisting my back - thankfully on soft grass - and broke my left collar bone, cracked two ribs and am now suffering with chest and back pain, too. This was after 10 pm just below the summit of Romsley Hill as I was gathering speed. I stupidly looked down at the pedals to check they were the right way round before the long, 3 mile descent into Halesowen. That was my undoing! I had to eventually flag down a passing motorist for help. He straightened the handlebars but, as he could not get the bike in the back of his car, I had to somehow limp home on the bike. In bed, I was in so much pain and felt a protruding bone, I then had to get mum to ring 999 for the ambulance. In the ambulance there followed a haggle between the two paramedics and me as to which hospital I should be taken to. Later, after a cursory examination and X-ray, I had hours sitting on a wooden chair until it was time to go to the fracture clinic at 9 am. I had to stay awake or, as my friend and colleague, Chris said, I could have fallen off the chair and broken the other collar bone too! Stewart, from next door, and mum, took me in his car to the fracture clinic. Our car was at Fast Fit, with the leaking cooling system being investigated.

Since, then I've had loads of X-rays and now a scan on Monday to decide whether or not I have to have an operation on the shoulder."

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Two maxims from a Quaker friend

Two maxims which express my political philosophy. 1 There is very little that you can do, and it is very important that you do it. 2 The right thing is never done till there are wrong reasons for doing it. [The classic example is Victorian legislation to protect factory workers, like the Ten Hours Act. This was supported by the Tories because they thought it would harm their Whig opponents, who were industrial magnates, whereas the Tories were the 'landed interest'. Currently my peace movement colleagues tend to be sniffy about Henry Kissinger's conversion to nuclear disarmament. Undoubtedly he sees this as the most intelligent way to preserve US supremacy, but it's a great plus to have someone like him on side to get rid of the horrible things.]

With kind regards, Geoffrey Carnall

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Two problems with Christianity

One problem with Christianity is that it is mixed up with Judaism and the very different values, beliefs and behaviour of the people of Israel in the Old Testament. With its quite shocking track record down the centuries, even to the present day, Christianity I think, should really be confined to the life and teachings of Christ in the Gospels. His teachings should not have been mixed up with scores of other teachers, prophets and kings outside of four New Testament books in the Bible of 66 books. Christians have to be syncretists and to take on board so much that it is different from Christ's values and practices. You then have to be into defending the indefensible or, cherry picking the more ethical teaching and, even explaining what should, simply, be repented of.

Problem two is what my youngest brother in law mentioned to me at Christmas. He had read the mighty tome called 'A History of Christianity - over the last three thousand years'. One conclusion he came to was that Christianity's history has been noted by a love for truth rather than a desire for unity. I agree. I have found division, conflict and war within Christianity and out to others since the conversion of Emperor Constantine. Nothing changed with the rise of secularism over the last 100 years. War to defend our vital strategic interests around the globe is as common among the secularists as the church-goers.

Down the centuries, Christians have slugged it out between the different denominations and churches of Christendom. Now, against the Muslims and the Taliban in Afghanistan and the border with Pakistan whose killings we justify 'cos they are the terrorists and we are the angels of light, truth and justice; the angels of goodness bringing democracy and Western values to those who don't know better! All the Christian churches - and everyone else - are fully involved apart from the Quakers, whom the evangelical Christians sadly shake their heads at as not being Christians, at all.