Post Christmas Ride

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Mmmmm so what’s changed since the pre Christmas ride, well not the wind that’s for sure as it was howling again today and has been pretty much all week culminating in me losing sections of my garden fence.  Today, allied to the severe wind was a soupcon of driving rain requiring a summoning of some Flandrian spirit but the flip side was that it was perfect blow the cobwebs off weather.

Normally we always ride in the Dales, partly because of course it is beautiful, peaceful, we love the trails and the pubs are brilliant for your post ride replenishment.  However I’m keen to look at different areas for a number of reasons so today we headed West instead of North and onto the Pennines, which strangely we never ride despite them being much closer.  As we headed up the valley towards Todmorden noticed plenty of bikes heading up to TodCross which must have been super tough today.  I also noticed the steepness of the valley !  We’d got a route planned and had fashioned waterproof route holders out of sandwich bags and headed off, unfortunately there was no time to warm up as straight away I was inching my way up the very STEEP valley sides.  Thighs were burning quickly and every beer, glass of wine, mince pie, cheese and other lovely food could be felt as I groaned and huffed and puffed like Ivor the Engine on a bad day.  It did not just feel like a long climb it was a long climb, made a tad trickier by the wind and rain lashing into my face.  I watched PB vanish into the distance and attempted to just get my head down and pedal and slowly the Snail made it up to the top, although both of us at one point had to get of and carry / push the bikes after becoming becalmed in a swamp.

It was fantastically bleak Wuthering Heights conditions up on the top but the rain had stopped and the views were majestic, at one point you could see the city centre of Manchester in the distance which felt quite odd seeing such a large city when we felt very much out on our own up on the top.  As we had not ridden here before not surprisingly we managed to go off in the wrong direction after missing a turning.  We could see where we needed to get to but not how we were going to get there.  A very steep off piste downhill needed negotiating, PB set off in his usual gung ho style and I watched in awe as he somehow managed to zigzag his way deftly down the hill.  I attempted and came a cropper pretty quickly so decided discretion was the better part of valour and slid my way down, undignified but in one piece.

Once back on track we came across some fantastically varied riding, slippery cobbles (eeeek !), lots of slidy mud, rocks (not good at them), singletrack, ups and downs and pretty much all sorts of stuff.  In general, a bit like the pre Christmas ride, I didn’t manage too badly and definitely feel like there is some improvement going on and certainly I appear to be a bit fitter than I was.

Incredibly despite small squalls, after the start, the rain pretty much held off even if the wind continued to howl the whole way round.  All in all a good time had riding in a different area and it’s definitely one I need to explore more of.  A great way to finish off 2012 and head into the new year.  Cheers all.


Wind in the Willows



Thursday on reflection turned out to be a day of memories revisited as after my fun at the media museum in the afternoon playing Galaxian the evening saw me head down the West Yorkshire Playhouse for the annual visit to the Christmas production, which this year was Wind in the Willows.  It’s very much become a tradition now for us to go to the Christmas show and we have all been thoroughly entertained with some brilliant performances over the last few years.  I’m not much of a theatre goer but must admit that every time I do go there is an immediacy to it which I really enjoy and I must make more of an effort to investigate what’s going on.  I think that the Christmas show holds a special magic however in that it normally takes a book or film that we remember experiencing as children, and have no doubt passed on to our own children, and transforming what we therefore know and love into a magically stage experience.  I’m always interested in the different classics that are chosen and find it particularly interesting when, as this year, they are bringing a book to the stage rather than a musical film such as Annie or the Wizard of Oz.

The main theatre at the playhouse also holds a special memory for us as a few years ago when the Wizard of Oz was on I and some friends managed to bump into the Wicked Witch in a bar.  She kindly met us and our families the next day when we were due to attend and gave us a tour of all the costumes and behind the scenes sets and much to the kids delight let them stand on the revolving stage.  It made a huge impression and really added something to be sitting in the audience a few hours later watching the performance.

We all still remember this and are always looking at how the stage now works, the sets, the costumes, how many different parts each of the actors or actresses might be playing – things that we perhaps would not have known about had we not been given a bit of inside knowledge by that actress.

The current production of Wind in the Willows has been adapted for stage from Kenneth Grahame’s classic novel by Alan Bennett so I was fairly sure the dialogue was going to be crisp and funny and we were not disappointed but the characters and costumes were simply fantastic.  We all actually had different favourites but mine I think was Ratty who was brought into raffish life by Jack Lord.  I was surprised at first by there being no orchestra pit but soon realised why as most of the characters actually play various instruments throughout the performance which, allied with the amazing movement and choreography throughout, supported the script beautifully.  I did at one point think that things were perhaps moving a little slowly but then reminded myself that that is how things are down by the riverbank pootling along and watching the world go by.

Overall it was a highly original and entertaining performance that thoroughly brought the book to life and was a delight to behold enchanting young and old alike and surely that is what Christmas should be about.  The performance runs till January 19 so if you have not been along I’d thoroughly recommend it, what a good start it would be to the New Year.

.Mr Toad

Galaxian !

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Yesterday I entered a time machine and relived some key moments of my younger life via a fantastic exhibit at the Media Museum in Bradford where they have many of the original classic arcade games and early consoles rigged up and ready to play.  Now these days I’m not a gamer and in fact I remember taking a pretty conscious decision a long time ago not to become a gamer once the serious home consoles kicked off as I knew that I’d never leave the house as I’d spent a huge part of my formative yearns semi addicted to arcade games and their cousins the pinball machines.  So you can imagine my delight as I walked into a room to see, in my eyes, the supreme triumvirate of early arcade games – Space Invaders, Pacman and Galaxian lined up and ready to play for 10p a pop.  I was only heading one way and that was for the mighty Galaxian.  Now for those of you weened on Halo, Assassins Creed and the like this will probably not mean much to you but for those of a certain age you will remember the pure thrill of exhilaration that Galaxian provided, no longer did the evil hordes just move from side to side (a la space invaders) but they were going to swoop down and dive bomb you as well.

Now all of the early games came in Arcade form but also in table form (excellent for putting your pints on although I remember spilling a few) and while the table form was a classic I always preferred the stand up versions.  There was a little cafe outside the 6th form I used to go to where I used to go while waiting for my bus home and inside was a Galaxian, I played it so much that I can remember becoming almost trancelike as you got used to the movement of the attackers and I’d adopt the Galaxian sway as my whole body bobbed and weaved while playing the game, totally immersed in the pixels.  When I fired up the old game yesterday the sway returned (much to the amusement of my kids) and despite 30 years away the old magic was still flickering as I took the high score, much to the bemusement of the kids this time who simply said “but Dad you can’t play video games” – look and learn kids look and learn.  So over the next few weeks I feel like reliving those memories again, pocket full of change, bunk off for the afternoon and let play commence.


December Photo Fun – Week 4 – Temperature


Firstly a belated happy Christmas to everyone I hope that this week has been as you hoped it would be.  I’ve had a lovely few days but have not been blogging much (which I will rectify over the next few days).  I must admit I was not sure if any photos would come in this week as obviously people have had plenty of other things occupying theme but amazingly we’ve had a good few entries for the the theme of Temperature that the kids set for the week.  I really enjoyed the contrast between the hot and cold images, beautiful frosty and crisp photos set against cosy warm log fires and sunsets.  As always of course there were some lovely interpretations, foods, spices (in the photo above), thermometers and a clever play on the subject with photos from a climate change demo.  It also includes a frankly disturbing photo of a hand covered in burning candle wax from someone taking their devotion a bit too seriously for my liking.

Again a huge thanks to all of you young and old who have taken to the trouble to send photos in this week of all weeks, it’s really appreciated.  Do let us know which photos you have also enjoyed.  Despite most of next week being January we will be running the final week of photo project as tomorrow, when the theme is announced, is still in December.  I hope you’ve all enjoyed it and that the last week will be a memorable one.

Pre Christmas Ride

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For one reason or another I’ve not been able to get out mountain biking for a while but was determined to try and get a pre Christmas ride in somewhere, all the shopping was done yesterday so my good friend PB (in the fetching bandana above !) was up for sneaking up into the Dales.  My general approach is that once we decide to ride then ride we do no matter what the weather, there are many times when you look out of your window in the morning and it does not look good but if you can force yourself out then I find that I almost always have a good time.  Now to say we’ve been seeing a bit of rain lately would be somewhat of an understatement so picking somewhere that might give us some good riding without sinking into a bog proved a challenge but a plan was hatched.

The roads were empty and the sky’s leaden but it was not rain that was going to be the problem today but the gale force winds that were moving the car as we headed up into Dales.  It felt great to think of everyone battling after the sprouts in the supermarkets while we got kitted up ready to ride, getting some very quizzical look from the few people around.  Once we’d cycled out of the village unsurprisingly we didn’t come across a soul, the trails were ours.

The only snag being the Wind and that was Wind with a capital W.  I’ve never tried to ride in anything quite as strong and inching my way uphill was made very tough.  I had my head almost down on the risers in an attempt to cut through it but the wind was actually gripping the visor of my helmet making it tricky to even look straight ahead and the water streaming out of my eyes added to the general torrent of water cascading off the hillsides.  The trickiest bit though was trying to keep the line you were going to ride, time after time as you approached the line you had picked the wind would simply blow you somewhere else.  At one point as I picked my way through one section a gust literally blew me off my bike, luckily onto a soft landing.  Once PB realised I was OK he simply stood there laughing as there I was on my back, my pack making me look like the Beetle from Metamorphosis as I thrashed around trying to right myself.  However once moving again I was really proud that despite a couple of bits where for both of us the wind was simply too strong to ride I made it up to the top, strangely riding as well as I’ve done for a long time.  Even PB was complementary of my riding and strength so I knew something was going well.

Before we could get to the main downhill stretch there were a few small undulations before a ford crossing and a stretch along the top.  By this time you had to actually lean your bike over as if cornering to simply ride in a straight line and the small downhills had to be pedaled down otherwise you would come to a stop.  Strange but exhilarating.  Of course on the top we had to stop for the obligatory pre Christmas mince pie.  My decent riding continued as I rode the downhill stretch as well as I ever have done, not bunny hopping, but timing the approach to objects in the trail well enough to pop my front wheel up and over and trying to keep my grip loose to let the bike skittle freely over the rocks and stones, something I always struggle with but there was definite improvement today.

No one else was crackers to be out on the tops today but we both felt totally buzzing by the effort to get up there and savage beauty of the Dales in all it’s windswept beauty as we barreled along.  So so glad we made it out, it’s always worth the effort.  Mud-splattered and ruddy faced we got some pretty strange looks as we enjoyed our post ride pint.  I couldn’t capture the gale force winds but hope that photos give a flavour of the raw beauty we experienced today.  Can’t wait for the post Christmas ride now, hope it’s as much fun.

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December Photo Fun – Week 3 – Motion




I was a little bit worried when the kids came up with the theme of Motion as although movement is all around us all of the time I wasn’t sure that it was easy to capture and I also thought that I might get lots of photos that were all the same.  I needn’t have worried though as the gallery is not just Planes, Trains and Automobiles but also camels, bikes, skis, boats, funicular railways, carousels as well as people and animals in movement.  There are some photos that suggest motion that I really like and some lovely clever effects (such as the photo above) and the one below of the lights going into the house that makes it look as though aliens have just visited and these photographs combined with those of people and children moving I think make this one of the joyous galleries we’ve had.

I’d like to give a special mention to my kids for coming up with the themes, whenever I doubt the wisdom of the choice they always explain that they think it’s easy to get photos of that particular theme.  Their boundless optimism is a real lesson to me.  They always look to take a photo themselves as well and I really like the two this week.  One of them asked for my phone while we were waiting at a bus stop on a cold and drizzly morning and came back a few moments later with “Dad, there you go pigeons in pecking motion”.  The other is often in perpetual motion and wanted me to include the one of the cartwheel which encapsulates her and the theme perfectly.  Two very different photos but that show, along with all the ones that others have sent in the scope of creativity and imagination that interpreting one word can bring.

As always a huge thanks to everyone who has taken part, it really means a lot to us.  We spend time chatting about the themes and the photos that come in and wondering what the result is going to be and all of us really enjoy the finished gallery which of course would not be possible without your efforts.   Do have a look at the gallery and let us know what you think.


Tis the time of the year to queue

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I assume most of you have been in some sort of queue in the past week. Maybe you’re even passing your time right this very minute in one, inching your way forward to the till. Alternatively you might be purposely trying to avoid them, keeping away from the stores and centres that are being descended on by thousands of jolly shoppers.
When I think of queues, I think of my dad. He hates queues, with a passion. He doesn’t reserve the usual amount of animosity towards them, but starts scowling and pacing, stomps his feet, starts checking from one aisle to the next, knowing full well that whatever queue he’s picked, it will be the slowest. You should see him in a traffic jam, rather than sit beside him, in the car when the M62 backs up.
So last Friday I decided to do a little shopping of my own. Not at 6pm, I’m not that naive, and anyway, the Russians don’t celebrate Christmas on the 25th to the same extent as we do. New Year is the big day for them and they have their own Christmas on the 7th January. Still, with people finishing their working week and all, I decided to descend on Ashan (think a Makro or a Walmart) at 9pm. So did the other inhabitants of Moscow, all 11 million of them.
Honestly I’ve never seen so many people in a single shop. There were queues for queues, and just when and where they ended, nobody could tell. It was like the old snake game on Nokia, when you had thousands of points and found the whole screen one messy squiggle. The two pictures show just the main section of the queues. They went down food aisles. People were eating their dinner standing there, and I wasn’t surprised, 45 minutes I queued for.
So next weekend when you’ve 10 people in front of you in M&S, just count yourself lucky will you, and don’t, don’t forget any items you went in for.