Saturday, 8 September 2018

Fire!


I've always thought that people who complain about their bottoms during/after cycling to be a bit, well, hopeless. Lightweight, dissolute, moaning minnies.  I now realise I've been totally unfair, and in fact there's really nothing very fun about having to spend 8 hours sitting on what feels like a medium-sized garden bonfire. 

I'm not really sure why it happened to me during Cent Cols ("a hundred cols" - a Col being a pass between two mountains). It certainly didn't in 2009 when I cycled Land's End to John O'Groats.  But in those days I was a regular cyclist, winter and everything, whereas now I'm not only a fair weather one, but a fair weather one only in France.  So maybe the 25 hours or so of road riding that I'd done before my trip down to the Pyrenees wasn't enough to harden up my nether regions.

Other afflictions during our 10 days of cycling up and down mountains all day included:

  • Dehydration headaches
  • Leg cramps
  • Horsefly bites 
  • Bruised palms
  • Sunburned nose
  • Uncomfortably chapped lips
  • Struggling to peel contact lenses off eyeballs after hot days
  • Being horsingly drunk after consuming just three Grimbergen beers in 40 minutes after one ride
  • Insomnia
  • ...and that general constant feeling of exhaustion - "how the hell am I going to do that again tomorrow?"
Looking back at that list it occurs to me that it's not that different to one a summer music festival goer might come up with, flaming bottom aside - and with the state of some festivals' lavatorial facilities, who knows, perhaps that one too.

But ask a festival goer whether it was all worth it, and the majority - I assume - would say "hell, yeah."  And the same was true of our merry band of 14 riders.  Five New Zealanders, three Englishmen, a Scot, and Aussie, a Belgian, and American, a Canadian, and a German woman pedalled their way through the Pyrenean mountains until we could pedal no more.  What made it worth it?
  • Er, the Pyrenees. Varied, gorgeous, challenging, fabulous. If you haven't been, you should go.
  • The comradeship. It was too tough to be competitive. It wouldn't be true to say lifelong friendships are formed - the nature of these trips is that a group of strangers comes together, they're mutually supportive, and then go their separate ways at the end. We might end up with a couple of extra Facebook friends, but that's it. On the road, however, we look out for each other.
  • Going down hills very fast.  It's basic, it's (arguably) childish, but there's something about descending 15-20km of mountain on 2 square centimetres of rubber at speeds of up to 90kmh that's totally exhilarating. The 15 odd km mean that it's not just a momentary high, but one that can last up to half an hour at a time (and there's no cold turkey or hangover when it stops). It's like skiing but without the cold, expense and idiots.
  • NOT the challenge. But it's reassuring to know you're still fairly resilient.
So there we are. It's a simple story really; we suffered, but we had fun.  Many thanks to my superb chum Mendip Rouleur for encouraging me to go after I tore my hamstring doing a marathon earlier in the year, for enlightening me and others regularly with obscure and arcane facts and knowledge, and being a more-or-less tolerable roomie (much less snoring this year. 👍. Or maybe deeper sleep on my part) and dinner date. 

Finally, some of the final-night-of-the-tour conversation revolved around the best moments of the trip. Apart from the undoubted and unexpected treat of seeing Mendip Rouleur's saddle sores when he bent over to inspect them in a wardrobe mirror, for me it was the moment when we arrived at the top of the 2200m Col du Tourmalet, for me the definitive Pyrenean climb), decided as a group to get some lunch, and so ate steak and drank beer 7000 feet up in the air and out in the sunshine, knowing we'd already worked off the calories many times over and there was nothing to follow but 18km of downhill to a hot shower. Here's the evidence (of the event anyway, steak yet to arrive):




Thursday, 23 August 2018

Here I go again...

He's beaten me to it, young Mendip Rouleur: I know what's coming

..but I was planning to write something tonight too.  The fact we're both doing it makes it feel like our valedictories, of the sort soldiers in the trenches might have penned the night before a planned storming of enemy lines, with the ensuing and inevitable carnage.  Yes, that's a ludicrous and overblown comparison, but then again, what we're about to do isn't trivial, as you might want to have a read here:

Cent Cols

The hills themselves hold no fear for me. I know what it's like to ride a bike up a sodding great mountain for anything up to two hours. And then do it again. And again.

But I do have plenty of other fears: managing my euphemistically-termed 'contact points' so that it doesn't feel like small bonfires are burning all across my body; eating and drinking enough without feeling like I could use it all to decorate the side of the road; 10km descents in the wet with the brakes fading like AM radio reception in the '70s; a screaming lower back when we start another big climb; a broken chain in the middle of nowhere, which is where we're going to be mostly. There's more, but they're enough.

10 days riding, 1540km distance, 37000m of ascent, give or take. I really ought to have removed the "Shut Up Legs" slogan from my crossbar, and had it replaced with "Bloody Enjoy It".  Because the latter may be hard to remember at times.  Equally, at other times, cresting a Pyrenean col with blue sky above and the scenery stretching out to infinity below, it'll be very, very easy.

Anyway, let's see what happens. With the exception of Mendip Rouleur, I don't yet know who my fellow travellers are - that'll be revealed on Saturday afternoon - but to them all I say 'bon courage mes braves'.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Those Magnificent Men In Their Driving Machines


My good friend Neil has owned his Lotus Sunbeam for 18 years. For those readers not acquainted with the wide variety of slightly rubbish British cars of the 1970s and 1980s, this was actually a half-decent version of the otherwise iffy Talbot Sunbeam (with apologies right at the start to all Sunbeam owners who might read this. I’m sure one of the brethren I’m about to write about is even now saying to his screen, “aye, but it managed 2000+ miles round Europe without missing a beat did it not?!").

When I say half-decent, clearly that doesn’t extend to aircon, power steering, ABS, or any other driver aids, but with 199 horsepower on a car weighing unless 1 tonne, there are compensations.  

Anyway, in Neil’s 18 year ownership, and the car’s 37 year existence, it had clocked up the not-very-heady sum of 35,000ish miles at the start of the trip I’m about to describe – but not as a diary, don’t fret. That’s obviously less than 1,000 a year. It – and it is an it, not a ‘her’; no anthropomorphism here – covered 2,300ish in a week on our trip.  A trip organised by ‘ASOC’ (the Avenger & Sunbeam Owners Club) that I became aware of last summer, when Neil invited me to join him. And I love a road trip, so, I thought, why the heck not?

In the end, there were five cars on the trip. Well, five at its peak. Four at the start, due to a late joiner, five for 1 glorious day, and then back to four when a catalogue of problems forced a withdrawal. Three were Avengers, two were Sunbeams. A quick namecheck for all the participants: your correspondent, Neil, Mike, Roy, Russell, Catherine, Phil and Alison. Fair to say that of the seven participants, six had a greater interest in the cars than me. Not that I had none – a small part of the reason for saying yes to Neil was that I spent a happy summer (1983) driving Peugeot Talbot cars between their dealerships, including said Sunbeam.

So while I like a roadtrip, normally I like to trip in vaguely reliable, vaguely comfortable cars, which these, compared to modern cars, most assuredly were not (cue more protests from their owners). It was inevitable, therefore, that I had to ask all the owners the question “why?”. Why do you own these things, why do you spend money on them, and why in God’s name are you undertaking a multi-thousand kilometre trip round Europe in them?

The answer appeared to be straightforward in most cases: it’s the car of my youth/that was the first one I owned/that I passed my driving test in. And yet I think there’s a bit more to it than that, and the pattern of our days gave me some clues as to what those extra bits were/are:

Day 1: Zeebrugge to Metz, via Spa motor-racing circuit
The highlight of the day was undoubtedly a fabulous 3 hour visit to Spa, where as well as a guided tour of all the bits you see on telly (podium, pits etc), we got to do 2 laps of the deceiving hilly circuit in our vehicles.  But it was our tour guide at Spa that gave me the hints as to why my lot loved the whole car culture so much. We never did know his name – even his email was just e.m2@belgium.com (or something similar) – international man of mystery, ageing lothario, ex-racing driver, current-louche, possibly couch-surfing, probably never washing up, and trying to kill himself with fags as the racing had spared him.  Anyway, his tour captured the history of the place, with its danger, glamour, money and excitement. There was a heroism about motor racing in its early days (even Hemingway said “there are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games”) that doesn’t feel present in the modern era, and owning a classic car goes some way to reminding you of that glorious era, when racing turned the mundane into the marvellous.

Day 2: Metz to Weesen (Switzerland), via Le Cite de l’Automobile (Mulhouse)
Apart from a wonderfully nostalgic run up the Ballon d’Alsace, which became the first mountain pass of any note I’ve both now driven and ridden my bicycle up, the highlight of the day was undoubtedly a trip to the literally incredible Cite de l’Automobile museum at Mulhouse in France.  It has hundreds of vehicles, and from all eras. Its earliest cars aren’t really cars at all, they’re horseless carriages, and it has everything from then to the present day, with the latest Bugatti Veyron being an example of that. Ah, Bugattis – they’ve been an unusual sight on the roads through the years, but this place has dozens and dozens of them. The most expensive is allegedly worth 10-12m€, and all of them are worth comfortably more than 100,000€.

But these were not the cars that provided the day’s insight to me as to why so many people love their cars – their old cars – so much. And nor was it the F1 cars exhibited, nor the Porsches, nor the Ferraris. It was the Citroens, the 2CVs and yes, the Rolls Royces. In a world of undiluted maleness, these were the cars that made it ok for blokes to be a little bit starry-eyed and romantic about the past. Their flowing lines, their moulding of form with function, their downright character – all made it ok to be slightly irrationally attached to a car, and sowed the seeds for the modern day love affair with outdated machines.

Day 3: Weesen to Turin (via the Klausenpass, Lukmanier Pass, Lugano and the outskirts of Milan)
This was our difficult day. It was the day one of our Avengers broke beyond roadside repair, that we had traffic jams, a missed appointment and a very late finish. It was the day the satnavs played up, roads were closed for no apparent reason, vegetarian food arrived adorned with lumps of ham the size of small boulders, and general tiredness occurred.

And yet, and yet….the first half of the day was utterly glorious. Getting a two hour headstart on our fellow travellers meant Neil and I got to drive up and down the Klausenpass (Neil) and the Lukmanier Pass (me). More than that, we got to appreciate them. Klausen was, in particular, fantastic. It had only been open two days, and the snow walls at the side of the road at its highest point were over 8 feet tall.  We had coffee and almond croissants just after its peak, and I can confirm that thin air does nothing to diminish their deliciousness. We saw marmots in the bushes and kites in the sky. We saw things other people will never see…

…but equally, we saw things that we might not have done had the motor car been invented, and with it the passion and skill to build paved roads where they’d been absent before. I’d look up at a mountain last week, as I do when I’m about to ride up them, and I think “how the hell am I going to get up there?”. But thanks to the work of hundreds of visionaries, engineers and labourers in decades past, I manage it, in car or on bike. Both of them, but for many lacking the mental and physical fitness to pedal up, the car give the mountains, and many humdrum things besides, an accessibility previously lacking. Cars gave us news and views we hadn’t had before; another reason the old ones provoke such dedication among their owners – they were pioneers.

Day 4: Turin to Dijon (via the St. Bernard tunnel and Lausanne)
I didn’t enjoy Italy.  Its superfast wifi and peerless coffee didn’t compensate for the rubbish road surfaces, the three idiots who completely ignored give way signs to nearly consign us to oblivion, the never-ending search for 98 RON unleaded fuel needed to keep a high performance engine going, and the high proportion of fantastically self-regarding Italian males. (I of course completely exempt the two completely delightful Sunbeam owners Steve and Andrea who we met on Friday. They were – there’s no better expression – top blokes). But we left Italy on Saturday morning to head back first into Switzerland, via the St. Bernard tunnel (rather than pass, which was, disappointingly, still closed following winter snowfall), for a most agreeable lunch on the shores of Lake Geneva, and then into France.  Mont Blanc and Verbier were the day’s scenic delights, and rural roads through France the day’s driving highlights.

So what was it about today that was great? Comradeship, companionship, and bonding. Poor old Roy had the day from hell on Day 3 trying to keep the stricken Avenger on the road, and we were determined he wasn’t going to suffer alone again on Day 4. So we travelled, for the most part, as a convoy.  That presents some challenges when trying to navigate short cuts with large scale maps (sorry all), but gives that sense of shared mission that perhaps we’d been lacking on the previous days. It was fun, it was good, and it made the end-of-day beer taste bloody excellent. Talking of which, who’d’ve guessed a modest Ibis hotel restaurant could provide a) such tasty food (including snails; respect to Phil), and b) such a convivial occasion – improved, it has to be said, by the constant footage on French TV of the Royal Wedding and the subsequent analysis thereof. Though I have to say I was reminded of the company I was in when the biggest debate centred around the merits of the floorplan design of the E-type in which Harry drove him and Meghan to their reception.

Day 5: Dijon to Le Mans (via Michel C, near Orleans)
A pretty boring day on the roads, being 90% motorway, a fabulous day in most other ways. We were treated to French, monied hospitality at its finest, an immersion into an incomparable private collection, and a glimpse of the sweaty masses leaving a Moto event at Le Mans.

We arrived at Michel’s house at 2pm. I say house, as that what it looked like from the front, but it hid the kind of semi-rural paradise with its manicured gardens and impeccably chosen adornments that the French do so well. Two hours of linguistic difficulties, tasty amuse-bouches and chilled rose, but no little entente cordiale, were the prelude to a look at Michel’s private collection of cars. Half Rally Sunbeams, half other treasures, he was clearly and rightly proud of it. Even to a semi-enthusiast, it was awesome. Though it did include a mint 1972 white 2CV, which is more my bag than a red and rude-looking Maserati.

We asked Michel why, as a Frenchman, he liked these comparatively unknown British rally cars so much. Apart from the exoticness of their foreign-ness (and I’ve never heard anyone talk so reverentially about Coventry before), it was the fact the team was small, the budget smaller, but the talent and character large. It was a monument to a time when skilled amateurs could take on the professionals – and win. Again, the car was the vehicle (pun intended) for trying something new and different, and all the romanticism that entailed. Less romantically, we also helped him compete SORN forms on the DVLA website, for which he was hugely grateful. And amazed that you could do it both on a website and on a Sunday. Bless the French.

Day 6: Le Mans to Le Millet (via 2 TGVs)
Not much to report. My car-conveyed miles ended mid-morning, when I swapped Lotus Sunbeam for something even faster – a French TGV. And then another. I was back home before you could say “sorry I haven’t validated my ticket”, leaving my travelling companions various lengths of journey home. I think some are still going.

It was, even looking back only 48 hours later, an epic trip. It was certainly one that’ll always bookmark 2018.  We saw sunshine, rain, hail and snow. We saw good driving and bad driving, and had great conversations and awkward exchanges. But best of all, we had fun.

Thanks to Neil for the organisation and route-planning, and to all the rest of you for being such good sports. I hope you all enjoyed to something like the extent I did.  I'm sorry I haven't captured every incident, every challenge, every plate of food and every conversation - but hopefully those things will live on in your minds.

But the last word goes back to the theme of this – why some of us love our cars so much. Because they’re evocative, practical and exciting all at the same time. Because they’ve changed how we live our lives in ways unimaginable 150 years ago.  And because the good ones are just so damn sexy.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Mo's Story

Warning: not my usual kind of blog, but it is me really, I promise..

I saw a tweet recently that said something like "I got a dog because I thought I wanted to receive unconditional love. I now realise I wanted to give unconditional love". Animals stir that kind of  emotion in you sometimes (well they do me, anyway).  Apart from our own stable of furries, the latest example for me was Mo, a Turkish Van cat (we think), who belonged to t'eldest and lived in Manchester. Not that he always did, and he was such a little character, it's worth telling him story.

It was last July when Mo, as he became, appeared at our house in France. It was a summer of waifs and strays, dogs mainly, one of whom also came back to the UK. But Mo was the only cat, and a shocking sight he was too at first - skeletal, thin and wispy fur, bloodied ear, folds of belly skin hanging down. Being completely honest, I wanted to have nothing to do with him, and to see him on his way. But he was a persistent little bugger, with a penchant for climbing on to the shoulders of anyone and everyone, and purring loud and long. I still wasn't impressed, but some of our summer guests took to feeding him scraps and morsels, and he began hanging round even more.

Then in August the Kinsey offspring came across for their annual visit to Le Millet. Georgina has always been a bit of a Cat Whisperer, and she and Mo (named by her and her siblings) bonded instantly. He slept in her bed at Millet (rather her than me at that time, it has to be said), generally went wherever she did, and there were one or two tears when it came for them to fly back to the UK.

I can't remember the exact point when we first mooted the idea of Mo coming back to live with George and boyfriend Tom in Manchester, but whenever it was, it was enough to get us both looking after him. He couldn't come inside; our own cat is not a good mixer. But fortunately we had our spare house, to which he could retreat and spend comfortable, safe nights on an old duvet. H fed him cooked and raw meat (which he loved), and he was soon putting weight on.

But he didn't seem particularly well or healthy. We didn't know his history at that point, but we struck a deal with George - we'd bring him back to the UK if we got him checked out medically, and there was nothing to prevent him getting a pet passport. So we did just that - or more to the point H did two 140 mile round journeys to a cat charity vet to do just that, and to our surprise and relief, there wasn't any reason why, with the right shots and pills, he couldn't get his passport. So on 27th September last year Mo became an English cat, coping admirably with his 14 hour journey from Brittany to Manchester, via Macclesfield.

Again, I forget exactly when we worked out Mo's history. It turned out that he'd belonged to a French family who lived about half a mile away, and who, when they moved out after a marital breakdown, just left Mo behind. This isn't uncommon in France, unfortunately. That was over a year previously - Mo had lived on the streets for a year. Or more accurately, in farm buildings and hedgerows, but never straying too far from his original home. Worse than living on the streets, however, he'd been badly abused by the children of the family before that; I'll spare you the detail.

And that was what made Mo so remarkable. Having been not only let down by humans, but actively mistreated, he remained so open and pleased to be around those that showed him even the slightest attention. He was fun, playful, and a gentleman. He never lost faith that some of us could be nice.

All went well in Manchester from September to February. Apart from having more toys and cat equipment than he could possibly use in a week, let alone a day, he put weight on, his fur thickened and became lustrous, and he looked well and happy - as he deserved to be, given the gourmet diet and level of attention he was receiving.

In February he began to lose interest in food, and to cut a long story - including two stays and many tests in veterinary hospital - short, he was subsequently put on a cocktail of drugs, and George had to feed him by syringe directly into his stomach, something which has been taking four hours a day in the last few weeks.

Through all this, Mo stayed Mo. He never stopped purring and nuzzling the vets and veterinary nurses who were treating him, even during some fairly invasive and unpleasant procedures. They too fell in love with him.

But it latterly became obvious he wasn't a well little fella. His stays at the vets confirmed hyper-thyroidism, though it was probably the also-confirmed feline HIV that caused him to really go downhill. I saw him last Sunday, and he still just about had the energy to come and sit on my knee, and purr, paw and nuzzle one last time. George took the brave decision on Tuesday that his quality of life was deteriorating quickly to the point where it was kinder to end that life than prolong it. And so Kerry the vet went round to their flat this afternoon, off-duty and a home visit - neither sanctioned by her practice, but another testament to how this cat got all everyone's skin, to see Mo on his way.`

I FaceTimed Mo and his humans last night, and I'm glad I did. It was lovely to see his little face. George and Tom have given him fantastic love and care throughout his all-too-brief stay with them, including George working at home the last three days of the week to just be with him. I'm so pleased that the little cat with the big personality knew warmth, comfort and company at the end of his life. He deserved it. Off you go little man; there's not many like you.




Thursday, 29 March 2018

Mind the gap


Generally, I don’t feel my age. Who does? Apart from, for those of us over 40, when an evening of over-indulgence takes until the next evening to recover from, compared to mid-morning in our youth. That said, I’m frequently reminded that neither am I a young person. The latest is this week’s goings-on with the Australian cricket team.

Well, next not just this week’s. It’s long struck me as just plain wrong that in a sport that’s essentially non-violent, like cricket, banter has long since descended into outright personal abuse and threats. It’s troubled me that England get up to this nonsense, but by all accounts the Aussies are the true masters of the petulant and the profane.

What I can’t comprehend the approach that thinks this behaviour is ok. I’m not being naïve – I’m amazed I wasn’t sent off more frequently than I was in my footballing career, and in the heat of some very hot moments, bad words may have escaped my lips. But to embark on a systematic pattern of abuse and intimidation; no, I don’t get it.

What I get even less, however, is firstly the blubbering emotional collapse we’ve seen today by the (now-ex) Australian captain, Steve Smith, when caught doing something he shouldn’t have done, and secondly, the chasm of a contrast between the macho, arrogant mindset that drives one set of behaviours, and the childlike behaviours in that collapse.  Maybe a psychologist could explain to me how they’re closely related.  Perhaps they’re both borne of deep emotional immaturity. But I can no more imagine bleating about in public about how I’ve let my parents down than I can setting out to emotionally destroy someone.

But Steve Smith isn’t the only example. I can’t be the only one of my generation who winces a bit when Princes William and Harry talk about the need to be more open about our mental health, and blokes in particular. I’m not suggesting depression isn’t real or something to be taken seriously, but in common with characteristics that drive the current hideous identity politics, I worry that for some it’s becoming a badge of honour – something that marks them out as special. Because we’ve all got to be special in these days of the selfie and Instagram, even when we’re manifestly not.

You might think I’m wandering from where I started. I’m not. The point is that I just don’t understand or relate to many of the emotional responses of under 35s. I don’t think crying in public is a virtue – I think it’s embarrassing. In my world, it’s like getting drunk; something to be done in private, and while there are times you can’t help it happening, it’s not something to be proud of. I generalise of course – I’m sure there are plenty of under-35s who aren’t emotionally incontinent (e.g. my kids; of course) and there’ve been plenty of examples of middle-aged men blubbing when they’ve been caught doing something they shouldn’t, but the generalisation feels valid to me.

And there’s the rub – perhaps it is just me. I am, after all, someone who never goes out without a handkerchief in his pocket, would never wear a suit with unpolished shoes or go to work unshaven, and when walking side-by-side with a woman has to be the one closest to the road. I don’t think that children can or should be friends of their parents (though that’s not to say they shouldn’t have a close, healthy, unique relationship), and that age and achievement does buy a degree of respect from kids that’s sometimes lacking.  And I would never think it ok to play my music out loud or have a noisy conversation in a packed train carriage.  I do know how all this sounds by the way.

All this is a bit like looking back at 80s music – was it objectively better, or does it just it feel better because of the time in our lives it happened?  Similarly, will the public-crying, emotion-spilling 28 year olds of today will mature into buttoned-up misanthropes like me?

If they do, there’s hope yet. 

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Wiggins, Sky

I don't know any more than the next casual observer about the whole Team Sky, Wiggins 'scandal'. Ok, perhaps just a little bit, but nothing that can't be easily found online or in the press. So I have no insights, and no opinions on his/their guilt or otherwise. I do, however, have some observations:


  1. It seems slightly odd to me that the UCI have only really thought fit to comment on the issue (via Brain Cookson's French successor whose name eludes me and I can't be bothered to look up) after the DCMS committee reported.  Were they not that bothered? Did they want someone else to break cover? Are they only reacting now out of embarrassment?
  2.  It strikes me as a peculiarly British trait for a British Parliamentary body (said DCMS committee) to take it upon itself to denounce a British team and a British winner in international sport for "crossing an ethical line" (note: not breaking the rules). I can't dismiss the suspicion that such an investigation would either never have been instigated by the equivalent Parliamentary body in France, Spain, Italy, and if it had, the findings would either have been kept under wraps, and/or made much less of. Maybe I should be pleased about that, evidence of the continued existence of the British sense of fair play and all that, but I'm not. I don't understand this tendency to seek feet of clay in our own. Especially when the investigating body has no jurisdiction to examine the practices of foreign teams, thus robbing their conclusions of any sense of comparison, context or perspective
  3. Within the cycle sport-following community, there seems to be disappointment, if less outright condemnation. And whichever reaction it is, it seems to me to be driven by the view that the Sky problem exists not necessarily because of what they did, but because of the song-and-dance they made at the outset about being demonstrably clean and different - and they're not. We don't blame them for that - we know that pro cycling is a rough, tough, unforgiving sport, and working with, even bending, the rules is likely to be widespread and a prerequisite for success - but we do blame them for trying to sell us something. And who knows how many hideously-overpriced jerseys, caps and bidons they shifted on the back of that
  4. Those people calling for Sky to be disbanded are either massive hypocrites (Landis), or naked opportunists (other pro teams). Investigate every team that's won a Grand Tour or a Classic in the last 8 years to the same level as Sky, then get back to me.
I'm no Sky fanboy. I've never bought or worn their kit or anything endorsed by them, I don't especially identify them as 'British', and all the preceding isn't to defend them. It's just that I don't like humbug, of which there's a lot sloshing around at the moment.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Stuff wot I think about

Now clearly when I'm out running or riding, if I'm not thinking about what I'm actually doing training-wise, I'm normally to be found reflecting perhaps on the merits of existentialism, reciting early Donne verse, or somesuch equally cerebral matter.

Just occasionally, however, the heavy main course of my considerations requires a mental palate cleanser, a thought-sorbet if you will. When one of these is needed, I have a stock of fallback subjects that I seem to have developed over the years, and I thought it only fair to share these with you. So in no particular order:

  1. Ways of improving sports that otherwise I consider quite dull - horseracing on the flat, for example, could be much enhanced, in my humble opinion, if every 3 furlongs or so, jockeys had to dismount, tie their horses up, crawl through one of those tunnel-type things that are found on dog agility courses, sprint back to their horse, and carry on the race. Who wouldn't love that? The punters would come from miles around, and it could open up a whole new lucrative betting seam for the bookies.
  2. One-hit wonders of the 1970s and 80s who subsequently had to seek an alternative living governed by rhyming nominative determinism - to cite some examples that I've come up with over the years: Leif Garrett's Carrots, Terry Jack's Sacks, Anita Ward's Swords; and to prove it's not limited to solo artists, Baltimora's Fedoras.
  3. Why there's so much damn litter around the place - and more specifically, what kind of person you must be, and/or what must be going on in your head to think, especially if you're sober, "d'ya know what, I'm just going to check the remnants of my Happy Meal [or whatever] out of the car window. There won't be any consequences of that at all". Arseholes. I realise there are greater crimes, but to be honest, few that are triggered by me looking at lots of hedgerows.
  4. What the world would be like if everyone was like me - often brought on by number 3 above, as there would, for example, be no litter. The world would also be more logical, ordered, efficient, polite, and less emotional and confrontational. It would also, however, be a less colourful, inventive, artistic, and - probably, though I don't like to admit it - compassionate place. I add regularly to the adjectives on each side of the equation, and always end up concluding it's just as well everyone's not like me.
  5. The things I'd do and buy if I won an enormous amount of money on the lottery - there's a slight glitch with this one, as I don't actually do the lottery, but nevertheless it's quite fun to fantasise. I'd like to think that diamonds, superyachts and Bentleys would be of no interest - the list extends no further than: a slightly bigger house (UK and France); a large garage to house all the bicycles I wanted, a 2CV, and something very fast and sexy (we're still talking wheels); a chef and a valet; some nice original art; and a bit for the kids. All the rest goes in the Stuart Kinsey Charitable Trust, money to be doled out to worthy causes, e.g learning how to be more like me.
  6. Brexit - oh dear, this is where I have to stop. Suffice to say I'm still disappointed and slightly surprised at the rudeness and vitriol the subject generates. Please don't bother to tell me why it does, why your side is so right, why the others are clearly lunatics, blah blah.
There we are. Rides and runs with just myself for company fly by, as you can imagine. I wish you a Very Happy 2018. (Which, by the way, should now definitely be pronounced Twenty Eighteen, not Two Thousand And Eighteen, in case you wondering).  
Tweets by @skinsalive