Friday, 21 December 2012

Cruisin' for a bruisin'

Today I have ridden my bicycle. Yesterday I ran with my legs. Nothing too energetic in either case as I've still got a rattly chest, but 6 hilly miles today and 32 fairly flat ones today is ok. And heck is it wet out there - we've avoided the worst of the rain so far this winter, but our luck seems to be running out. On at least three occasions today on minor roads my bottom bracket was skimming the top of the flood. With another very wet day forecast tomorrow I can't imagine what it'll be like on Sunday - but I'm planning to go and have a look. Tomorrow will be a running day I suspect.

Anyhow, to today's subject; I've started doing something potentially more dangerous than descending a Pyrenean pass at 75kmh in the rain - getting involved in public situations. Not walking on by. As a kid I wanted to be a policeman, and the urge to intervene when intervention is necessary is still there it seems. In recent times I've suppressed it out of a sense of self-preservation, and I suspect there are plenty of times I would and will still suppress it - in London, with obvious psychos and so on. However, there are other times when it feel like the right thing to do. Edmund Burke's quotation that "when good men do nothing, evil triumphs" has become over-used and a bit of a cliche, but it's no less true for that. And frankly, if a reasonably self-confident but not threatening middle-aged bloke can't intervene, who can?

So far there have been two incidents. The second was a little earlier today when I witnessed one of a group of kids (probably 12-13 years old) throw an empty can of pop into the hedge as I got back from my ride. I didn't actually see who did it, so I asked the group who it was. To my utter astonishment one of them put his hand up. I - quite calmly - asked him first why he thought he had the right to litter my neighbourhood (he said he didn't), and why didn't he take the can home with him to bin. He said it was too far (it was a mile). I said it wasn't and he should pick up the can and take it with him. Again to my astonishment he did. If only they were all so easy. However, there was no shouting or swearing on my part, and I don't think I humiliated him in front of his mates. I possibly also looked like I wasn't going to be messed with in my bandana and mirrored shades. Stop laughing, a chap can fantasise....

The first incident was on the train home from London last week. For a change the client wasn't paying so I was in Standard class. (I know, I know, the sacrifices...). I was also in the quiet coach. And as per normal there was someone with a too-loud ipod (instead of the normal phonecall-maker or taker), just in front of me. She was pretending to be asleep, so I tapped her on the arm and asked her to turn it down. She did. And duly emboldened, two other passengers in different parts of the coach then asked their fellow travellers over the next half hour to, in one case, do the same, and in the other, to leave the carriage if they wanted to carry on their phone conversation. And both of the requestees also did as asked with no dramas. Considerate people of the world, fight back!

My two targets so far have been a woman in her 30s and a kid of 13; it'll be interesting to see when I come up against a harder target. If it goes badly then it's been a pleasure to write for you dear reader. If not, then there'll probably be more of this drivel at the start of 2013. In the meantime, a very Happy Christmas to all my loyal displacement-activity seekers.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Quotidian deflections

No riding and no running since last we spoke. There are any number of reasons for this. In no particular order......

Work; but quite frankly, I've written about this so many times it's dull and repetitive, so I'm going to move swiftly on to.....being ill. I've had a cold for a fortnight now, which is very unlike me, but probably not surprising given the number of environments I've been in over the last few weeks - holiday parks and mass crowds in Wales, the usual trains, tubes and buses, Christmas parties, racecourses, and hotels. Then last weekend I felt truly awful and had to take to my bed for a couple of days. I ached all over, felt nauseous, and slept constantly, waking only to run to the bathroom for ghastly horridness to occur. At the time I didn't realise norovirus was doing its usual winter rounds with more vengeance than usual, and I hesitate to say it was definitely what was going on, but there was a strong resemblance between its reported symptoms and mine. Hey ho, it's gone now, but for a while the world did indeed full out of my bottom.

As previously advertised, Mrs K and I flog Christmas trees too at this time of year. It started as a bit of a joke almost about 5 years ago when we bought just a few from the local agricultural market for family and friends, but when we realised what we were buying them for, what garden centres and the like charge, and how we could still make a healthy profit by undercutting the usual outlets, we decided to expand. We now do 4 - 6 ft trees, potted trees for our Green customers (environmentally-conscious I mean, rather than Martians), of which there is steady increase in number year on year, wreaths and tree stands that we acquire on ebay in January for £1, and sell on for £10-15. Last year we sold 137 'things' off that list, and whilst we won't be retiring on the proceeds, the profits comfortably cover the cost of Christmas and our trip to Brittany. Apart from the financial aspect the main reason we do it each year is that it's a really good way of meeting the neighbours, being seen about the village, and generally getting in the Christmas spirit. Our reputation now precedes us - several people have knocked at our door this year on days when the signs haven't been out to enquire whether we're selling trees. We won't hit last year's heights this year - we only bought 105 trees in the first place, but it's been as enjoyable as ever, and to be honest does stop me from going for a brief ride. Carrying the damn things from the back of the house to the front in the morning, and reversing the job in the evening does, in any case, constitute a pretty good gym alternative.

Then in the last few days I've had the eldest two with me, having finished at their respective universities on Friday. This happens all to infrequently these days, both because they're obviously at uni, but also because their out-of-uni time has to be split between me, their mum, and respective boyfriends and girlfriends. That means I tend to drop everything to do stuff and generally hang round them like an annoying smell. We had a cracking walk though yesterday to my favourite spot in the UK, Shutlingsloe, a hill at the arse-end of the Pennines just 5 miles from where I'm writing this. Here's proof:

The only thing that would have made it better would have been the t'youngest being with us, but she was at home in Plymouth preparing for another in the seemingly never-ending round of GCSE exams. I will see her, and the other two, on Boxing Day however, when we're en route to Brittany.

I will ride my bicycle in Brittany, but I'm also hoping to get out a couple of times or so at home before then. I love pootling round on my rubbish winter/touring bike, built by me, total cost £175 (£135 for the frame, £40 for the wheels, everything else begged, borrowed or cannibalised from old bikes), mudguards, 7-speed only and all, and just, well, taking in the sights of the countryside that you don't get in summer when there's full leaf cover on the trees.

At some point I will become a disciplined training machine again, but at the moment I seem to be finishing 2012 the same way as most of the rest of it turned out as far as exercise is concerned - letting life get in the way.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Working 9 till 5

...what a way to make a's enough to drive you crazy if you let it. Oh Dolly, you were a wise woman, but you only sang about half of it. Yet again, this blog veers away from running and riding, and more towards, well, runners and riders today as it happens as I spent the day in the Royal Box at Kempton Park racecourse, but generally, work.

In a way, I can't complain; I quite often don't do a lot of exercise at this time of year, and the work I'm doing is QI. For example, I was at Kempton today, and will be tomorrow, facilitating a session with the Board of a major finance company sorting out their strategy and structuring the programmes they need to support it. It's not rock 'n' roll I grant you, but neither is it watching Jeremy Kyle. Or worse, being on Jeremy Kyle.

It's just so all-consuming. I haven't had two consecutive days in the same place since the start of November, I genuinely can't count the number of hotels I've stayed at, I quite often can't remember where I am geographically, and my travel wash bag is so dirty my mother would be ashamed. And all that is still just about cope-able with, until something out of the ordinary takes place. Last weekend I was supposed to be at Hard Rock Hell [annual heavy metal festival for the uninitiated] for the 4th time, and only managed to make it for 1 of the 4 possible nights. It was a really good night as it happens, but 8 hours of rock, half a litre of vodka, and a 3am bedtime were just enough to push me over the edge into sore throat and general knackeredness territory.

Normally Mrs K and I just crawl off home and spend a few days recovering after HRH. (For the dubious, it's fantastic fun, some bands you haven't heard of are great, and it's attended by some of the funniest-looking but nicest people you could wish to meet. My highlights were Quireboys and Ugly Kid Joe, who you might know. I was also truly gutted to miss Dr Feelgood on Sunday). This time however, I was on the road south at 5 am on Monday, taking over 5 hours to get to work, courtesy of motorway idiots crashing into each other. So work started at 10.30, till 7, when I had another hours driving. Yesterday was a 14 hour day in central London.

So, it's with enormous delight I'm writing this from my hotel bed, doing nothing, fed, watered and with the prospect of 8 hours sleep. Even better, Friday is our Christmas Do, which is less of a Do, and more of a Day. We're at the palatial Cliveden, which is so posh it was mentioned in one of Harry and Paul's 'when life was simpler' sketches recently. We've got spa treatments, a private dinner, and our personal drinks trolley in the library afterwards. HRH to Cliveden in 5 days, talk about ridiculous to sublime. Or is it the other way round?

Then, on Saturday, we open up Kinseys Khristmas Tree Emporium for another year. There's 100 of the buggers waiting to be flogged. 99 to be precise, Mrs K did one today. That too, is good fun. Sunday - a miracle may happen; a bike ride for me. Let's see, this space.
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