I’m not one for lists really or come to think of it New Year’s resolutions, I just tend to bumble along trying to be a good person and enjoying myself along the way. For those who read this blog (what do you mean you don’t read it) you’ll know that I love to be out on my bike but quite frankly I’m rubbish and lack just about everything needed to be a competent mountain biker. I’m slowly (very slowly) improving with the help of lots of people this year but the thing is no matter how rubbish I am I just hugely enjoy being on my bike bumbling around trying my best and laughing at my incompetence. Bikes are after all a toy and I’m just a big kid playing about, even if it does form my main form of transport into work. Thing is I get pretty annoyed with most bike magazines and videos as I wonder who they are aiming at, certainly not me, and they often seem to encourage / promote a macho bullshit culture that is a total anathema to me and pretty much everyone I’ve come into contact with who rides. I clicked the link to the above video with some trepidation thinking to myself, here we go another load of people flying off all sorts doing the sort of riding that I’ll never be able to get near to. Yes there’s a bit of that in the film but it’s not about that it’s really about things that, no matter what your ability level you might be able to do and if you did would undoubtedly look back with a smile on your face. I’m not going to stick this list up anywhere as my list is simpler – enjoy myself – but I did enjoy the ten things in it. Cheers to @kristoffrides for bringing the video to my attention.
Tomorrow is the start of December and with it comes advent, which for most of us means a calendar that we open each day with a little chocolate inside. Over the years the tradition of little gifts on each day of December leading up to Christmas day has changed with shops now selling all sorts of boxes and hangers where you can put your gift, which of course can be anything and does not need to be chocolate but I suspect for most of us (particularly those with kids) it usually is. The year though things are a bit different as I’m taking part in #yayadvent which is not something I’d normally do but saw it on twitter and thought heh why not.
It’s brilliantly organised by @gazpachodragon and the concept is simple, put together and wrap 24 presents and number them 1 through to 24, you can only spend around £20 and you have no idea who you are buying for. Last Sunday those of us who could all met up and delivered our ‘sacks’ to @gazpachodragon who then gave us each one of the sacks in return, so my mantle piece now has 24 presents on it bought for me by a total stranger and a different stranger has the ones that I bought. Each day all of us who have taken part will take a photo and post it to the #yayadvent hashtag and I’ll create a gallery below throughout December of the ones that I open.
When it came to buying the presents it was quite tricky with the budget we had to spend so my kids have of course got involved and we’ve made some and tried to be creative where we could. It’s added a really nice feeling to the build up to Christmas having a total stranger buy me presents and I can’t wait to get started tomorrow. Follow along on the hashtag and see who’s got what and next year why not get involved yourself.
Top trumps were all the rage when I was young, we all had various packs that were mostly based around cars and football from my memory. I’m not sure whether they ever went out of fashion but I seem to think that they did until coming back with a resurgence in the last 10 years or so and you can now get top trumps on almost everything, as well of course of cars and football. I didn’t however know about bike trump cards until one of my kids bought me them as a little surprise gift on the weekend from Colours May Vary. These trump cards are slightly different from the ‘Top Trump’ brand as they are beautifully illustrated by David Sparshott so that each card is like a mini art snapshot and the pack would make a great present for anyone who likes bikes (they’ve certainly found a welcome home in my house).
The 30 bikes chosen are widely different from individual iconic steeds through to ubiquitous utilitarian numbers with a brief description of each bike and they battle across six great categories: Day to Day Practicality; Ride-by Kudos; Top Speed; Robustness; Price; 24-7 Comfort Level. I’ve taken much hilarity from the Fixie only scoring 25/100 for Ride-by Kudos so I suggest you make sure you buy a pack of these for the hipster in your life.
Contributors Ben Spurrier and Clare Beaumont must have spent a long time arguing and haggling over which bikes to include before settling on the final cut:
- Sling Shot Farmboy
- Cervelo R5 CA
- Graeme Obree’s Old Faithful
- City Hire Bike
- Look Al 464
- Lotus Type 108
- GT Fury World Cup
- Red Line Flight
- Dutch Bike
- Colnago Master
- Lo Pro Pursuit
- Pinarello Dogma
- Mongoose Program
- Paris Galibier
- Condor Fratello
- 1970′s Clunker
- Moulton AM 20-2
- Polo Bicycle
- Peugeot Equipe
- Specialized Epic S-Works
- Mclaren Venge
- Strida SX
- Team GB Olympic Bicycle
- Merckx Track Bike
- Raleigh Chopper
- Trek FX Hybrid
- Ridley X-Ride
I always find it interesting to see what happens when buildings that have previously been used for the production of something are changed following the demise of that industry. Will the change add to the public realm, provide something new that people want to visit or will it be completely demolished so there is nothing left of what had once stood there, or perhaps converted into cold offices or flats? Wherever you go around the country there are many examples both good and bad as our economic base has shifted over the last few decades. In Leeds, The Corn Exchange and the City Museum I like although the Corn Exchange has for me not found the right use for the splendour of it’s conversion while a trundle down the M1 takes you to one of my favourites in the region Magna. I felt privileged therefore to be invited by Culture Vultures to the first peep behind the scene of The Tetley to see what has happened since the controversial close down of the brewery.
It felt quite strange walking down past the Adelphi pub toward where the brewery stood not very long ago. Where there was once all the hallmarks and smells of the brewery with thousands of barrels stacked up outside now there is just a large car park, some newly created patch of green space and the main building that used to be the headquarters. Walking under the gorgeous wrought iron Joshua Tetley & Sons sign the entrance is the original beautiful wooden revolving door which gave a hint as to how the building has been converted.
The new Tetley is going to be serving up a very different brew when it opens it’s doors officially on 29 November when it will become a contemporary art exhibition and learning space and we had the architect and directors to show us around after a drink at the new bar of course. I’ll get my one disappointment out of the way at this point, the bar was serving Tetley beer which personally I found pretty insulting but the building is still tied to the Carlsberg conglomerate which dictates what can be sold but for me, shipping the production elsewhere and getting rid of the workers then selling the beer back in a bar in the place where they used to make it is not tasteful in more ways than one. Besides the beer the bar is pretty cool and links through to a new restaurant / canteen which will be serving food from a menu designed by Anthony Flynn (remember him folks).
The bar and eatery are one thing but it’s the conversion of the rest of the building and the art space that I was particularly interested in. It could have been gutted completely leaving nothing of the original feature but instead they have done what the architect described as a collage effect whereby new elements and remodelling work have been layered and integrated with the original features. The ground floor is a case in point, light modern bar area which you access via the old revolving doors and wood panelled reception area. There is a beautiful old lift and they have kept the war memorial to the workers from the Brewery who fought and died. Remodelling work has created a large open atrium space around the beautiful (in my eyes) art deco staircase which takes you up to the first floor art space. Here there is a real mix of spaces that, if cleverly curated, will be great to wander around. The large central space is thoroughly modern but ringing it are range of offices, again full of wood panelling some with brass name plates still on the door. Inside one of the rooms were the old wooden letters that had once stood proud above the brewery (see the E at the top of the post). The directors explained that they have discovered loads of artefacts from the brewery that they are going to catalogue and curate at some point in the future.
The first floor gallery will showcase new cutting edge contemporary art while the second floor is going to be a learning space where classes and family activities will take place. This will be interesting I think to see how children and families can be integrated into the activity of the gallery. The Hepworth in Wakefield has been brilliant at this since it opened and is somewhere I go regularly because it mixes interesting exhibitions with clever involved guides and activities that my children can enjoy. It has set a high bar in this regard and I’m excited to see if the Tetley can deliver on this aspect as in general, in Leeds in my opinion, the galleries are poor at this. The signs from the Tetley are positive though judging by the early programme of activities.
I left feeling uplifted and hoping that this new venue can become a thriving success on the Leeds scene. A new brew indeed and I’ll drink to that, cheers.
I´ve always loved the superhero comics. As a kid i read Batman, if fact i still do. The caped crusader with his gothic home town really made me wonder away into a fantasy world. I tied a towel around my neck and jumped down the stairs so it would flap in the wind. The love for comics followed me as i grew older. Slowly i started to read the more adult orientated titles in the DC universe. Like Sandman, Preacher among others that were released on DC Vertigo.
But it wasn´t really superhero comics i was used to. Then i got a hold of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Watchmen and everything changed.
All of a sudden the world of Super heroes was real. The people behind the masks were real people with real problems. Watchmen was the kick off for this kind of comics. In 1994 Marvel released the mini series Marvels. Written by Kurt Busiek and painted by Alex Ross. Here we behold the birth of super heroes through the eye of a photographer. Busiek returned a year later with his own concept “Astro City” on Image comics. In “Life in the city” We get to follow, among others, the Superman character of Astro citys universe The Samaritan. During night he dreams of flying. Without obligations like saving the world or rescuing people from burning buildings.
The superhero comics has grown up. Most likely because the audience or comic geeks, has grown up. I believe that without these ground breaking comics today’s big comic book movies would not be possible. Even if the movies are more like the comics were before it is starting to change. They are getting there. The reboot of Batman as an example of an more dark and realistic super hero take.
I recently got my eyes on Swedish artist Andreas Englund amazing oil paintings of an ageing super hero. This really is the finest mix of classic art and pop culture. I just love it!
After all if the meta humans got the same problems as you. They become a bit more for real…
It’s not often you get a chance to take part in something genuinely historic but that’s what happened when I made my racing début at the Morvelo City Cross event at Piece Hall in Halifax on Saturday. I’d been along to watch the first event of this kind which was in a slightly less salubrious venue – an old rubbish dump. Somehow however, Morvelo and Emma Osenton had managed to stage a coup in getting permission for the second event to be staged in the Grade 1 Listed Georgian architectural wonder, Piece Hall which is shortly due to be closed for renovation work thus allowing a window for it to be overrun for one day only by a load of cyclists. The 18th century building surrounds a huge sloping cobbled and grassed courtyard, the slope meaning that the building is two storeys at the top end but three storeys at the bottom. The slope, cobbles and grass meant that those with a warped / clever mind could turn this space into an urban cyclocross event aka City Cross. which as I approached it on Saturday in the rain I realised with a growing feeling of terror I was about to race; my first ever race on a bike of any kind. I did enter – and complete – the Cliff Cross event earlier in the year but this was more of an event than a race and it was a very different beast to what awaited me at Piece Hall.
As I wheeled my borrowed bike (thanks Hannah) into the venue to register there was a real assault on the senses, a veritable blizzard of tape marking out the course; cowbells and cheering; riders whizzing, grimacing and sliding around; the smell of beer, great street food and wet mud all to the accompaniment of an indie rock soundtrack that filled the courtyard being spun by resident DJ and bike designer Brant Richards. It was some scene.
Quite how I’d manage to find myself getting a race number pinned onto by back I wasn’t really sure. For those who’ve visited this blog before I’ve been on a bit of journey this year, my project snail journey, where I’ve been trying to tackle/face my lack of confidence and skills through some training with Ed Oxley, riding with different people and seeing what happens. I’d got it in my mind that maybe having a go at a race would be an interesting and challenging experience and this City Cross event seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. I wasn’t thinking that though as I watched the skilled riders in the event before me compete, I was very very apprehensive. I was glad that I knew a few other people riding and there were plenty of the GarageBikes crew in attendance. Shop owner and all round good guy Al Shaw who was racing with me provided wise words of encouragement along the lines of “you’re just riding round in circles with a number on your back, go at your own pace and enjoy yourself”. One question going round in my head looking at the course was how the heck do you know where you are supposed to go, I’d not had a chance to ride round it or really look at it in any detail so I knew in a few minutes I’d just have to hit it and hope. I was reassured by those who know that you just follow the tape ! So I wheeled my bike onto the start line which was down a cobbled side street outside of the venue.
As I glanced around me the word novice (I was racing in the second novice heat) did not spring to mind as I knew a few of the riders and novice is not what they are, they may not do much cyclocross but there were some kick ass MTBers alongside me. My kids had kindly stencilled The Snail From Wales on my back which had seemed like a good idea the night before but I now realised I was identifiable and opening myself up to public ridicule and humiliation. My mind was a whir of questions, am I in the right gear, am I going to crash straight away and if not how many times, would I be able to get round the course, will I be able to calm down, how am I going to ride over wet, muddy off camber cobbles, how much beer should I drink while riding etc etc. Beep the whistle blew and we were off……
I got away cleanly, clipped in pedalled and surged (well moved vaguely steadily forward) up the slope, cameras flashing before sweeping right through the gates and into the arena which felt like going into the lions den. I hadn’t really considered people watching before but there I was riding into an area with spectators watching, I could here cheering and cowbells clanking and music blaring as we turned left and headed uphill on cobbles before hitting the sandpit, which proved much harder to ride through than I’d have thought. Once through it was onto the vortex, a large spiral that you made your way into the middle of through ever decreasing circles before a tight turn and then working your way back out. Each circle you were traversing the slope up and down, primarily off camber. I didn’t actually mind the uphill bits but the downhill bits put the fear of god into me I just thought there is no way I’m going to get off these cobbles without crashing but somehow I got out of the vortex. Uphill again briefly before a sharp right hand turn, downhill under a scaffolding bridge then onto the mud, a couple of 180 degree turns and I’m still upright and then I’m faced with 6 or 7 steps. I unclip, grab bike and haul myself up to find myself on the stage behind the DJ with a smoke machine billowing in my face. I was totally unclear about what to do so I pushed the bike across the stage then saw the way off, a steep ramp (made a note in my head that next lap get back on the bike as soon as I get on the stage to make riding down the ramp easier) which I looked at and gulped. I have a fear of pointing downhill steepily but I thought I’ve just got to go for it, stay of the brakes and see what happens. Down the slope, still on the bike and a sharp muddy turn, off a kerb onto the cobbles again for a short sharp sprint toward the bridge which I was determined to get over up up up and over gasping for breath now down the other side, no mishaps phew and back onto the cobbles, turn right downhill to be assaulted by a crafty marksman with a water pistol, overshooting a bit turn right again and then BEER. The novice race has a beer stop where, should you wish to accept, the lovely people of Dark Star Brewery Company hand you a cheeky beverage. Feeling cocky at this stage I grab one and try to drink it while riding, decided after spilling a bit that that approach was a waste of good beer and that I would stop next lap (which I then did each lap generally shouting beer please as I came round the corner to which the reply was “Your wish is our command”). Back onto the mud for a few more tight turns before off onto the cobbles for a short sharp climb up toward the sandpit. One lap completed! 4 and half minutes of mind bending pain and exhilaration.
I knew I was well at the back by this point but really didn’t care, I had started to relax as much as I could and I just gave it my best shot. What was great was the encouragement from the crowd, where I had been fearing ridicule all I got was support. People who knew me shouted my name at different points of the course, others who didn’t shouted out “go on Snail”, “keep riding fella”, “good effort” “keep going” etc and I was genuinely touched by this so a huge thank you to all who watched and supported, this, the music and the beer fuelled me round. I had no idea how long or how many laps or to be honest what on earth was going on I just kept pedalling, tried to stay upright and finish. Eventually a marshal waved his hands as I crossed the line indicating the race was over, I simply slumped onto the bars feeling quite emotional, buried my head and gulped and gulped oxygen into my lungs. I’d been a long long way out of my comfort zone but felt hugely proud of what I’d done and once I’d come down to earth realised I had hugely enjoyed myself. After shovelling food from No Fishy Business down my neck I went to check the results and to my utter astonishment found I’d not finished last but came 17th out of 20.
I was then informed that as I’d not qualified for the final I could race again in an hours time with all the other people who’d not made it in a last ditch knockout. In for a penny in for a pound. This race was a bit different as those of us from the novices who decided to have a go found ourselves in with those from the seniors and vets who had not made it. Lining up on that start line as darkness fell and the rain poured and looking round I just though blimey not sure I belong here. Credit though to all the riders, they all seemed great people. Off we went again for another dose of pain and beer. This time I did crash but picked myself up, kept going, finished and I did pick up the lantern rouge.
I felt hugely privileged to have taken part in this event. Slow I may be but I was bloody proud of myself and I don’t often say that.
Most of the photos of me are taken on my phone by @oldstuntmonkey as I shoved my phone into his hand before the off saying see if you can get some shots. Others have kindly been donated by Chris Crabtree (@meadowedge), Craig Walmsley (@P9ADV), Tim Royle (@whitenosugartv), Eleanor Clark (@eleanorsioux), Jon Moore (@_Jon_Moore_), Survey Partners (@surveypartners), Morvelo (@Morvelo) and of course Emma Osenton (waterrat77) without who none of this madness would have happened.
Lovely guest post by @alishepster
Recently I was fortunate to go to Lundy Island with a group of friends to celebrate a (big!) birthday. Lundy is a 3 mile lump of granite rock in the middle of the Bristol Channel, owned by the National Trust and with a number of holiday cottages / houses on it. Before going, I read up about the island so knew a little of what to expect, I knew that it was a place where time seems to stand still; with no roads or cars, no television/ radio in the holiday lets, and where the electricity comes from the island’s generators rather than the national grid and runs out each night about midnight! I knew that there was a shop, a church and a pub, whose door never shuts and where mobile phones and other electronic devices are banned – you get fined £1 for using them – although I couldn’t get a mobile phone signal on the island anyway! I also knew about the wildlife; that it is the only marine conservation zone in the UK, that it has puffins (the island’s name means Puffin Island in Norse), seals, basking sharks and is the only place in the world where the rare and unique Lundy Cabbage grows.
What I didn’t know about was the well-kept secret of Lundy Letterboxing. The island has one of the world’s oldest private postal services, and produces its own stamps which have to be placed on the top left hand side of the letter due to the island’s quirky franking system. There is one letterbox in the wall behind the pub where I soon posted my postcards home. However there are also 27 other letterboxes craftily hidden around the island, leading to a unique Lundy pastime that quickly becomes an obsession – called Letterboxing. This is like a cross between Geocaching and Orienteering; an ingenious treasure hunt for children and adults alike.
The Lundy letterboxes are various designs; some are wooden boxes, other weatherproof tupperware boxes, wrapped in two Lundy island carrier bags and hidden in some very crafty places around the island; under rocks, tucked into a crevice, in a cliff, in a cave or a stone wall. Each letterbox contains an ink pad, a stamp that is unique to the letterboxes hiding place and a little notepad. Some of the letterboxes contain stamped addressed postcards left behind by previous letterboxers – the rule is that if you find a postcard in the letterbox you remove it and post it back to the owners and you also leave a postcard somewhere for the next letterboxer to find and post back to you and one box contains the shy but athletic Lundy Bunny that hops around the island from letterbox to letterbox. If you find the Lundy Bunny you are allowed to move it to another letterbox, hence the movement!
To get started you buy a pack which contains some laminated clues, your own little notebook (to stamp up with proof that you have found each letterbox) and a stamped postcard. You can also hire a compass for a returnable deposit, and your own design of stamp to use in the notepad in any letterbox you find. Then you eagerly set off with the spirit of adventure to find your first one.
Almost everyone starts with the easiest one – it’s in the pub! There is a danger that once this is found, the delights of the wonderful Marisco Tavern ensnare you with its books, board games, delicious food and beer so that you decide to give up and not bother going on the hunt for letterboxes. However for those who persevere, the delights of letterboxing very quickly become apparent and the hunt for the ellusive letterboxes takes you to places on the island you would probably miss if you were just going for a walk. As we found each one we took a photograph of the finder triumphantly holding up the letterbox, and thus we all need to explain to anyone looking at our photographs of why we have endless photos of us beaming of us holding up what looks like a manky carrier bag!
Each of the letterboxes has name and the letterbox stamp reflects the name and character of the place in which it is hidden. Two of the letterboxes were named The Lost Heinkel and The Forgotten Heinkel. We had no idea what a Heinkel was and spent ages looking unsuccessful for The Lost Heinkel on day one; ignoring a heap of metal that we thought was the remains of a burnt out tractor. Only when we found The Forgotten Heinkel did will learn that a Heinkel is a German aircraft company and the heap of metal was the remains of a Heinkel aircraft that crashed on the island in World War II. We had clearly been in the right area but just failed to find the letterbox despite much searching.
Some of the clues are quite esoteric. We spent ages searching around under a beak shaped rock without success, only to discover it was the wrong beak shaped rock. When we found the correct beak shaped rock it was clearly far beakier than our previous rock leading to much kicking ourselves for our short sightedness. One of the clues suggested we found a rock that looked like a piece of cheese – we read this clue whilst standing on top of hundreds of rocks that all looked like cheese given a bit of imagination!
We managed to find 7 letterboxes on day one and retired to the pub for a well-earned pint. In the pub is a letterbox log book; a journal in which letterboxers can leave clues or helpful tips and hints, or write about their experience of letterboxing, have a moan about their frustrations of trying to find some of the harder letterboxes or boast about how quickly they have managed to find them. One contributor to the log book suggested that the best approach was to adopt a Zen-like position; to let the letterboxes come to you rather than the other way round. We tried this on day 2 with varying degrees of success! Reading the log book also gives an insight into how much of an obsession letterboxing can become. Some people split into teams and see who can find the most in the fastest time. Then there are those who think that they should add additional letterboxes, quickly followed by complaints and entries to explain that the illegal letterboxes have been removed! Lots of people write complaining that it is too hard – especially for children and there are lots of entries from children themselves stating how much fun they had trying to find them!
So if you find all 27 letterboxes do you get a prize, cash, freedom of the island, discount on your next holiday, a fee pint, or a combination of all these? No, you get a certificate and your name goes in a book of achievement in the pub! This seemed really quaint and old fashioned at first and hardly worth all the effort but very soon the magic of Lundy caught on and suddenly that certificate became much sought-after and desired. There is an incredible sense of achievement you get from finding each one and so to find all 27 must feel like a mammoth achievement that brings with it its own sense of satisfaction. I would now love to have the certificate of completion and the feeling of honour of being part of a very small group of completers! Some people take years to find them all coming back time and time again and searching for the hardest to find. Many children take part; their parents commenting in the log book about how it was a great way of keeping children interested in exploring the island and yet some of the letterboxes were incredibly inaccessible and quite dangerous, requiring the letterboxer to scramble across rocks and climb cliffs. The island is the land that health and safety forgot with a deliberate philosophy of not putting ropes or signs up to warn people of danger which the warden explains actually makes people take more care. So I did muse on how many children had been sent off letterboxing by unwary parents to death traps, but the log book didn’t seem to record many letterbox-related injuries / broken legs other than the odd complaint about grazes and bleeding fingers!
After 3 days of intermittent letterboxing, we found 14 – and were pretty pleased with that haul. We found one self-addressed postcard which we duly posted and we left our own self-addressed postcard for the next people to find and post back. It arrived only a few days after being left; despite leaving it in what we thought was one of the more difficult boxes to find. We didn’t find the Lundy Bunny though, to the disappointment of the ten year old in our group. We never did find The Lost Heinkel either despite going back and trying a Zen approach on day two it remained lost to us. I can’t say I’m too disappointed; having caught the Lundy letterbox bug it gives me a huge excuse to go back to this wonderful island year on year just to find the remaining letterboxes !
On returning from Lundy, I found this blog where they have found all the letterboxes and claimed their certificate and have taken photos of all the stamps.