When we told friends that we were going away for Easter and taking the bikes, everyone assumed we meant either Scotland, the Lake District or somewhere equally as scenic with lots of mud and hills to climb. Imagine their surprise when we said we were taking Mountain Bikes on the train down to London and staying in a hotel. Comments ranged from ‘You’re mad’ to ‘What on earth do you need mountain bikes for in London’ however we refused to be deterred. A recent article on a blog I follow had inspired me, the author spoke about riding through London crossing the river Thames on all accessible bridges. This set a chain reaction off in my head and I began to hatch a plan……
I wanted to ride out to Greenwich to play in Greenwich Park
I wanted to ride through the financial district when the normal machinations of the city had shut down for the weekend
I wanted to explore the Thames path and use in for normally unseen vistas of famous London landmarks
I wanted to ride through the royal parks and explore Hampstead Heath, and finally to the exasperation of my long suffering riding partner in crime Al
I wanted to climb the hills around Highgate to prove that hill climbs are possible in London
So did my plan come together? – Yes it did
We explored the sights and sounds of London that we have never encountered on our normal city breaks. We rode out to Greenwich, exploring backstreets and unknown paths on the way. We returned via the city using the empty streets, like something out of a horror movie as a giant playground, cutting through alleys and ginnels normally heaving with city workers.
We rode through paths to Hampstead Heath to play on its grassy hills fueled by fantastic coffees and bagels from Brick Lane. I swear I even saw Al smiling as I pedalled away from him uphill on secretly discovered road climbs.
A surprising side effect of our adventures was discovering restaurants and cafes away from the normal tourist beaten path that sated our hunger from all the miles in our legs, places that we would otherwise not have discovered.
3 days. 68 miles ridden, we both now feel like we have seen a side of London that we want to explore more and so the planning begins once again….
Tomatoes, raw garlic, chilli flakes and blue cheese ! When I read the list of these 4 ingredients that are combined in this incredibly simply pasta dish I thought to myself that can’t possibly work. However the recipe is one from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Three Good Things book which, along with his Everyday and Veg Everyday are books I turn to frequently when looking for something to cook for tea. All three have some interesting, simple but extremely tasty recipes so I was intrigued by this one. I love all the ingredients individually but couldn’t quite see how they would work together, how wrong I was however as this dish has turned into one of my favourite no fuss suppers. It’s so easy that there is no cooking involved at all apart from boiling some pasta but the end result is bowl lickingly sumptuous. If you want to put it to the test here is the recipe and simply instructions. By rights it shouldn’t work but it just does.
The kids chose a colour – purple – for the second week’s theme of their Easter Holidays, they’ve thrown in a few other colours over the last two years and they always go down well. I like that fact that people can take photos of all sorts of different things but the single colour unifies them all together creating something greater as a whole colour collage than the individual photos.
It was funny but as the photos came in realised that I don’t tend to think of purple as being a particularly ‘spring’ colour but it clearly is in the range of flowers that are sprouting up now resplendent in their purple foliage. There was also some lovely takes on the theme Donnie and Marie singing Deep Purple, Prince in his Purple Rain threads and some purple prose from the mighty Hunter S Thompson.
It was generally a relatively quite week but as always we enjoy all of the contributions and thank you all for taking part. The next photo fun will probably be during May half term which is the last week of may but we might throw in the odd random weekend one as well before the main six weeks of summer.
The latest in our series of photofun ideas sees the kids picking a couple of themes to do over the Easter holidays, the first theme being Clear. With the clocks going forward and Spring allegedly here clear was a clever theme as we do tend to have a bit of a clear out at this time of year while at the same time the sky opens up a bit, brightness starts to creep in to our lives again and the views around us start to become clear.
I sometimes wonder whether we clear our minds a bit as we begin to look ahead towards summer. I know that lots of people plan things looking forward around the new year but for me the start of spring always seems a more natural time to think ahead, you can feel the seasons changing compared to new year when you are still hunkering down in the depth of winter.
When you look at the series of photos sent in there is a lightness, a clarity, a playfulness apparent, horizons are being stretched and looked towards perhaps because the world starts to physically become clear and this helps us lift our heads, look ahead and perhaps see the path we need to take become clear.
As ever thanks so much to everyone who submitted a picture, it’s so appreciated and I hope you like the gallery. To view the pictures in full as they were sent in just click on the gallery and you can scroll through them. Do let us know which ones you like and hopefully you’ll continue to play along with us both in week 2 which starts tomorrow and in the various other photofun themes the kids come up with across the year.
I have been a meat eater for all of my 31 years, and in recent times the majority of my family have all turned into veggies! Now, I’m not adverse to a veggie dish, I’ve eaten many a veggie sausage and aubergine bake, however I am also partial to a juicy burger and a good old roast chicken!
Over the last few months I started to ponder…. I realised I was pretty much eating meat once a day, if not twice and figured it isn’t great for me. So I decided that from the 23rd of March no meat would pass my lips for one week and actually it was pretty easy!
So what did I eat? I borrowed a good veggie recipe book by Rose Elliot from a friend and decided that if I prepared some meals then that would work better, otherwise I would get in from work and have no energy to start from scratch. My creations included a aubergine and tomato bake, and a spinach and green bean flan, which were very tasty. I also had a few meals out, which I thought would be challenging, but actually quite liked the fact I had only 3 dishes to choose from on the menu! I had some beautiful food at Jamie’s Italian and Meze (a greek place in Brighouse, pics enclosed)
I had a few dips, mainly when I was tired after a tough week at work and just craved protein! and also a moment in Asda when I was perusing meat crisps, wondering if they counted, it was ok, there was no meat in them!
Overall, I felt better for eating more vegetables and like anything, you get out what you put in, so making an effort with cooking paid off. The week has come to an end…. how did I celebrate? A good old roast HAM!!!
After a few years of rattling around on my battered hardtail the time has come for a serious upgrade into the world of proper mountain bikes, the only question being what to choose. Actually as I discovered when I started to look around there is an awful lot of things to consider when you are parting with a sizeable chunk of your own cash. There is no such thing as ‘a mountain bike’ as there are different styles of bikes for the innumerable branches of the mountain bike family tree (actually someone should draw that it would be ace) broadly categorised by Cross Country (XC), Trail, Enduro, Downhill. So the first thing to think about was ‘What sort of riding do I do?’ or perhaps more importantly ‘what riding might I be doing over the next few years?’ and this would narrow things down a touch.
The answer to what sort of riding do I do is really slow not very good riding ! (check out my Project Snail posts) which I do mainly on XC terrain with a nudge towards some trail riding. Trail riding is what I’d like to be able to confidently ride so with that future in mind I started my search for suitable bikes, looking at reviews, narrowing brands down, asking people and trying to come up with some sort of vague shortlist. Once you begin this process though other thorny questions arise, how much travel do you want (or require), what about wheel size, and what level of spec do you want (or can you afford). With regards to wheel size I’d have quite happily stayed on 26 inch but there are less and less to choose from so I decided to look at 29er over 650b as I’m unlikely to be able to ride the very techy tight stuff where 29ers perhaps struggle. I looked at a range of travel but decided that 120-140mm would be ample for what I do and give the growth in case I ever get any better at this lark. Spec, ideally wanted to go with Shimano over SRAM and come in around the SLX / XT mix, I wanted to have the option of going tubeless and I wanted to have a dropper post. Never did I ever think I would write the last bit of that sentence but having had a go with a dropper post and spoken to others who ride them they all say they would never go back.
So I had my rough ‘wish list’ of what I wanted, now to find the bike that would deliver this and fit me within the budget that I had, which while decent was going to rule out the super marques. Once I started going round bike shops, having a look and trying out bikes I quickly came to one conclusion, the geometry and sizing of bikes is so different that for me getting the right fit by trying a lot of bikes was going to be essential. I’m a stumpy Welshman, some bikes that were technically the same size as I ride now were too big others too small so while I did consider the elephant in the room of direct sale bikes I ruled it out very quickly as there was no way I was going to spend decent money on something I had no idea what it felt like to ride. This would be my one biggest tip, unless you really understand geometry and your body size, don’t buy a mountain bike unless you have tried it and compared it to others. I was starting to despair a little as many of the bikes I tried out just didn’t feel right, didn’t fit or didn’t deliver what I wanted, even taking certain compromises with the spec into consideration.
A couple of people had mentioned having a look at Cube bikes and also mentioned EscapeBikes nr Ingleton as a good shop that stocked Cubes. They had a welcoming approach when I contacted them about the Cube Stereo (the bike in their range that I thought might best meet my needs), ‘Yes come on up swing your leg over and try it out’ and I’ll just point out that not all bike shops adopt this approach, some seem genuinely surprised that you might want to you know actually ride and try the bikes in their shops. Sam up at Escape was great taking time to talk knowledgeably about the range (again not all bike shop staff can do this) and get the bike set up for me to try, including adjusting the sag in the shocks. The bike felt great as soon as I got on board and crucially for me the fit was good and I felt instantly comfortable. It did of course feel odd looking down at big wheels but I’m sure I’ll get used to that. The spec and value for money looked excellent, SLX / XT mix, dropper post, Fox doing the suspension all wrapped round a carbon front triangle – way too good for me :-)
So after months of searching and trying numerous bikes the Cube Stereo (see photo above) is what I’ve settled on and I can’t wait to pick it up and get used to it. Hopefully we’ll have many adventures and smiles over the next few years and who knows I might even get to the stage where I ride it to it’s full capability and even if I can’t I try to have as much fun as I can trying.
Popped into OK Comics (a place I need to do a blog post on) recently to see what they’d pick out for me this time and I came out with a couple of interesting numbers, the first of which was this fantastically titled comic / graphic novel by Jason. It’s a quick read, you can comfortably read it in half an hour for example, as there is a sparseness to both the illustration and the narrative which, as someone new to the comic world, is something that takes me a bit of getting used to. A novel telling the same story would be packed full of text, characterisation and description whereas Jason boils everything down to the bare bones, but in doing so invites you the reader to build the body around them, to fill the space with thoughts and reflections on what is happening. As there is often so little on the page you can tend to whizz along and I found myself having to force myself to slow down to savour the word and the images, like drinking a nice wine, don’t gulp it down let it settle on the tongue and savour the flavour as it develops. So my new method was slow the pace and fill the space and once I’d adopted this method the comic took on new levels for me.
The story opens in a strange world that is essentially the world of today but one in which violence is ever present as assassins loom large, hired to kill everyday people for the generally annoying things that happen in everyday life, a noisy neighbour, someone getting promotion instead of you, a failed relationship etc. The central protagonist (nobody is named in the story apart from Hitler) of the story is himself an assassin, an assassin who’s relationship is failing, but who’s business is booming and who has a steady stream of people queuing outside his office to employ him to kill the annoying people in their lives. One of these people though has someone more serious in mind, he’s invented a time machine and wants to employ the killer to travel back in time to kill Hitler in 1938, thereby preventing the second world war and the subsequent Genocide.
There is a potential snag however as the machine uses so much energy that it takes 50 years to create the energy for one trip back in time and to have enough energy to return to the present day and the inventor has been waiting up until this moment to have the energy for the machine to work. There is an interesting moral ambiguity here in using a contract killer to kill a mass murderer before he becomes a mass murderer. The assassin accepts the mission but gets overpowered by Hitler who jumps in the time machine transporting himself to the present day and leaving the assassin stranded back in 1938. At the same time as Hitler is now living in the present time the assassin is also there, and looking to find him but he’s now an old man having waited 50 years to get back to the point at which he was originally sent back in time. He enlists the help of his girlfriend (who is now like his granddaughter) to see if they can find Hitler. I won’t reveal what happens next as unsurprisingly there is a twist, however something to think about is that despite the second world war not happening the world is still a violent place so with or without Hitler man’s inhumanity to man remains intact.
With the protagonist effectively having lived his life again over the previous 50 years and Hitler not embarking on his plan for world domination, both have second chances which I think is a key theme that Jason is trying to portray and perhaps to ask questions of ourselves that no matter what mistakes we have made we possess the ability to change, to create our own second chances. This is particularly effective when we think of our relationships and how we treat those closest to us, perhaps if we looked to understand more and condemn less we would not become so annoyed by the things others do, we would be happier people and there would be less conflict. Despite the sci-fi time travelling shenanigans I think that this is what Jason is trying to say and that the comic is really a love story and reflection on relationships.
This is a comic that is a short read but don’t think that this means it doesn’t contain some big themes, dry wit and clever ideas as it does. What it really does very cleverly I think is to allow you the space in which to explore them.