Monday, 30 November 2009

How Annoyed Can You Get?

Well I can get pretty annoyed! The trouble is that I don't generally let it show and I bottle it up. This isn't a good thing, but that's me I guess.

I was supposed to be off work today on a day off. Instead I'm in work sitting at my desk because last week I discovered I had a tender bid to be submitted to a client today. On this occasion I wasn't actually the one pricing it - it was being priced by another division - but the tender was being sent via myself so to all intents it was my bid to deal with, so I said to my boss that I would come in to sort it out and reschedule my day off until another time.

I switched on my PC this morning to find that I had been emailed the completed bid by our other division and saw that there were some changes needing to be done so cracked on with it. A few minutes ago I asked one of the girls in sales admin' if she had received the programme showing what was going to happen when and she said she had and that it had gone.

I looked at her baffled for a second before questioning her a bit further about it. Apparently my boss had forwarded the completed bid to her and it had been sent to the client at 08.00am this morning!

Is it just me? Am I right to feel a bit pissed off? I mean I walked right past his frigging desk when I came in & said "good morning". I sit within spitting distance (literally, and wish I could spit at him right now), plus he knew I rescheduled my day off to come in to do this. Everything else I have on my desk, although important, is not urgent. Sure I can take the day off another time, but that's not really the issue. NO ONE SAID A F$*&ING WORD!!!!

So not only have I wasted a day off - and thsi is the day I wanted off, not another different day - but I've wasted 2 hours of my time because people can't communicate.

Treated like a mushroom; fed on shit and kept in the dark

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Weekly Weigh In

223.4lb (15st 13.4lb)

Pretty shabby but at least its the right side of last weeks weight, although its been bucketing it down all weekend, wasnt too chipper yesterday & so I havent managed to get out riding all week.

I just wonder what it would have been if I had managed to get in more exercise...any exercise.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Swine Flu Jab II

This morning I feel like my upper arm has been hit by a truck. No swelling or signs of bruising but it feels very "muscular" in nature. The other thing is that I feel so drained of life. Its like when you have a really bad cold but without the runny nose and coughing fits.

Just going to lay down on the sofa for a while under a blanket and doze for a while I think. The Sun is bright although its windy & chilly so not sure about going for a ride today. On the one hand it might wake me up some but
I just feel so lethargic.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Swine Flu Jab

I had today off as a holiday. At 11am I went to the doctors to get my Swine Flu jab.

I cant say whether I was either way fussed about it. Ben had told me one of his friends at school had been given it a week or so ago and it was one of those multiple needle things, and that wouldn't have been pleasant tbh.

As it transpired it was the fastest service Ive ever had there. I walked in, told the receptionist who I was, sat down for about 2 minutes and was called in to the nurses room. All they asked was whether I wanted the left or right arm done - I opted for the right, rolled up my sleeve and they stuck me with the bugger.

It was just a normal looking needle and I have to confess it was the least painful jab Ive ever had. I almost didn't feel a thing. They didn't even ask if I was allergic to anything, like eggs, bacon, snicker bars, whatever (maybe they should have, I dunno).

I rolled down my sleeve, asked if there was anything else and when I was told "no" I walked out. Now that's what I call efficient. Shame my doctor wasn't there to learn a few things. The nurse told me that I might feel a little sore later on, and starting around about 5pm my arm began to ache around the area of the injection. It feels like a bad bruise or they hit the muscle or something but hopefully it'll be better my morning.

The good news is that I think I might have managed to get the house insurance sorted out. It'll take until next week to know for sure, so here's hoping.

The bad news is I didn't manage to get out on my planned bike ride today. I feel pretty bad about that, but I really did have to get this insurance stuff sorted and it just took time.

On the very positive side of today I was up with the larks this morning and took Ben to school in the car. I think its the first time Ive actually seen him in his new school uniform and he looked really smart. I was pretty proud of him, looking all grown up.

Both of us are hoping to get out for a ride this weekend - we already have a new route planned which involves some gentle offroading. Should be real fun if the weathers good.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

First & Second Weigh-ins

I will endeavour to do this each week on a Sunday night. Probably that's too frequent considering its Winter and x-mas is coming so not only will the goose be getting fat but I'll be busting. I'll see. If I weigh in on a 2 week basis then I might lapse back to laziness so a weekly one is hopefully the best one for consistent monitoring and progress.

I weighed myself on the 18th Nov - exactly a week ago - and was 229.4lb (16st 5.4lb)
This week I am 225.6lb (16st 1.6lb)

The scales looked good and impressive when I saw a drop of nearly 4lb, but converting it to Stones makes it look crap!

I'm not fooling myself. It's probably a blip as I only went cycling the once in the week. Lets see what it's like on Sunday night.

The root of this evil is two fold. In the main its because I like my food. Nah I LOVE my food. Don't get me wrong though, because I don't eat burgers, chips, greasy food etc. Although I have to say I love them, I very rarely eat them. Can't remember my last McDonald's (sadly) or the last time I had chip shop chips or a (drools) Full English Breakfast. On the rare occasion we eat chips at home they're oven ones and "relatively" healthy compared to deep fried ones.

Dinners at home consist of a main course only and is a varied diet of good meat and veg, often white meat rather than red, pasta's & rice with a healthy side salad almost all the time. Once a week I'll make a soup for us all from fresh ingredients. The problem is the quantity of the food. A main course in a restaurant would probably be 2/3 or 3/4 of the size of the food on my plate. I have had times in the past when I have loved the flavour of the meal so damned much that even when I was full I wanted more and would have taken it if there was any left over.

Its not totally eating the food because its there in front of me, although I was brought up in a home with parents who were in the R.A.F & had to endure WWII rationing, a mother who used to admonish me at the dinner table about "there's starving children in Cambodia who would die to eat a meal like this" if I didn't like something or was full up before the plate was empty. No my problem is the flavour and texture of the food. I live to savour the combination of tastes on my tongue. Sod sweets, deserts, etc, I can live without them all, but savoury food is like a drug to me.

The second reason I am fat is due to my illness. Sure I was overweight before I was ill, but after they sliced me from gut to gizzard then failed to stitch me up for over 6 months I had/have no stomach muscles across my abdomen and no feeling there any more. No longer can I suck in my stomach when I want to appear butch; it just don't work! Consequently I have a stomach which looks like "Son of Goodyear Blimp". It stops me rolling over and out of the bed though so there's a plus side eh?

Anyway enough of my wanderings for now. Onwards and upwards...or downwards if we're talking weight.

I placed a bid on a vintage racing bike on e-bay today but its got 6 days left on it. If the bidding gets above £50.00 then I'll look at another, as that's my limit I think. Nice looking bike though

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Changing Tack

I had an epiphany today. My slap in the face came with reading someone elses blog & realising that I'm basically a sheep in wolf's clothing. Hell Im not really even disguised as a wolf, more a poodle (but not a pink one). Oh yeah I guess I need to be a little less cryptic so I'll explain; I only recently began cycling and it coincided with the change from "pleasantly mild" weather to "jeeez its cold" and changing the clocks so that its dark in the mornings and at nights. None of these facts are condusive to a beginning cyclist getting out there. Sure there are weekends but I know thats not enough for me to lose weight.

Then there's the bike. I have my eldest sons bike which we bought him some years ago and he rarely used. Its an MTB with sprung forks, rear suspension and offroad tyres. Its good for trials I guess and okay for getting from A to B but its essentially a bike which is built for riding a couple miles on Sundays and eventually getting bored with when I need something I can increase my daily mileage on and not become a factor in me becoming bored with the activity.

I dont want to sell the MTB (I still want to do some proper off road stuff) but I now realise I need to get a proper road bike or touring bike. I dont need anything special so cheap second hand is what I am now definitely going to be looking for. I know its going to cost money we cant really afford to waste, but at the end of the day if it improves my health I see this as a bonus for myself and my family and thus money well spent.

The other thing is I will be noting my weight on this blog so as to maintain my new sense of direction. I think I'll change the name of the blog too. I need to make it more "cycling" orientated. This is probably the hardest thing - need a good name...hmmm.

Saturday, 21 November 2009


I should be working. Yeah I know it's Saturday but I do actually have stuff to do. Instead I was browsing some websites and saw a lovely bike, which got me to thinking "I wonder what other beauties are out there". So knowing Google is my friend, I did a search and found these great bikes:

Not exactly a workout riding this one, but it would go on my x-mas list

The IF Mode, while not quite as compact, has all the right looks

The "On-Concept" below from Cannondale includes an integral SRAM 9 speed hub...and it folds up too!

Not sure Id feel very safe on this thing, but its only a concept, and unlikely that Id ever be able to afford it even if it was in production.

"Wood"n't say no to this either, but woodworm might be an issue.

Matt Clark, an industrial designer from Southern California, has designed this new recycleable inversion-1 bike, made from recycled plastics its the ultimate in eco friendly. Not only are you helping save the planet by cycling, you're saving it by reducing the production and manufacturing of raw materials.

And then on the flip side of the eco friendly coin theres this

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Blood n’ Bikes

As part of my “use it or lose it” holiday initiative, I took yesterday off work. I had a blood test in the morning at the hospital anyway so I didn’t get a lay in, and even though I was there at 7.45am I was still 5th in the queue. With only one nurse working in the Pathology department I was there waiting for 45 minutes. I can only think that the others before me must have had veins so deeply hidden from sight as to warrant the use of a special crowbar needle.

It confuses me slightly as to why the whole “taking your blood” department is called the Pathology Department. I mean a similar term is also used to describe compulsive liar’s aka pathological liars, so does that mean that these liars are really “bloody liars”?

I digress though, because in my somewhat vast experience of the people who work there, I’ve never had a bad jab from them. Over recent years since my illness, my veins have become kind of hermits who like to keep themselves to themselves, and at any sign of a needle will wriggle into hiding. I’ve had doctors and nurses who have struggled to find a vein in my arm with over 10 minutes of thumping me to death to “bring one up”, and sticking me like a pin cushion, when a Pathology Nurse will find one within seconds. It’s almost like it’s a tribal thing. I’m sure they could do it blindfolded, drawing a syringe from the hip holster and whupping a needle on and into a gnat in mid flight.

Worst one I ever had – apart from multiple cannula’s – was in my groin. It was the middle of the night on a ward and they needed some blood for a test, and with no one “pro” available, no vein in sight, they stuck me down there. Fuck me it hurt. They new it was going to as well because the female doctor (quite nice from memory) offered for me to squeeze her hand while the needle went in. I declined that though…too macho! I must have ground a few microns off my tooth enamel though.

So back home for breakfast (I’d had to fast since 7.30pm the night before) and then the structural engineer came round to look at our house.

The morning was a combination of rain and heavy gusting winds again. I had planned to go out for a long bike ride, but didn’t fancy it in that weather, however I was lucky in that the rain stopped in the early afternoon. It was still blowing a gale and threatening rain so I decided to do a shorter ride, looping back via the supermarket to get ingredients for a curry for the family meal.

The ride took me around the back of Madjeski Stadium where Reading FC play. Behind the ground is a relatively new industrial park called Green Park and they have their own wind turbine, then it was through the old Gillette industrial estate and onto Morrisons supermarket. I'm surprised I didn't get collared by the security guard as a potential shoplifter because I was wearing a fleece coat and was sweating a bit. I then discovered the joys of trying to operate grip twist gears while heavy carrier bags are hung over them. Mental note to take a back pack next time. I tried to keep it to 12mph but the wind was too much for me and an average 9mph was the best I could do.

Cycling over the river.

The Symantec offices. I wondered why they were so dark on a midweek afternoon.
Maybe they got a virus?

There's even a tennis court beneath the turbine.
Wonder what the fastest downwind serve has been!

The blades were going like the clappers.

This is supposed to be the wind turbines interactive
board with LED displays. I've never seen it working!

Madejski Football Stadium - not the best of views I'm afraid.

The wind turbine from a distance.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Storms, Spiders & Stir Fries

(Or should that be "Fry's"?)

This weekend Tropical Storm Bubba Gump hit the U.K. Well, maybe not a tropical storm as such seeing as we aren't in the tropics and I guess it didn't have a name, but we had wind blowing between 60 and 90 mph & driving rain. Fortunately the chimneys on our house seem to be fixed on with some of the highest strength but crappiest looking cement possible to find. I have no idea how they are still there and not embedded in the next door neighbours van roof like some cheap version of a steam ship.

All that I had to repair was a panel of our timber fence in the back garden which had come away from the post. The repair itself took a matter of 5 minutes, it was locating the hammer, nails and crowbar in the shed which took the longest time, not aided by my fear of spiders.

Everywhere I turned there were cobwebs, making me twitch and brush against another cobweb. I didn't see any spiders though and the memory of the webs in the barn in the film Arachnophobia was ever in my mind. Any second I expected to see The General leaping at me and my lack of a bottle of 1940's Vermouth, lighter and a can of deodorant was annoying to say the least.

Saturdays meal was a recreation of my sisters thick vegetable soup with Pancetta we had devoured last weekend. I was unable to get any Pancetta so decided that smoked streaky bacon would suffice, and I fried it with Paprika sprinkled on it until it was crispy, then cut it up and added it to the full soup bowls. Everyone voted it one of the best soups I had made so far. Honestly it was one of the easiest and quickest too.

On Sunday I had been asked to do a stir fry. Chris is okay with these but he says he isn't keen on Beansprouts. Ben, my wife and I all love Beansprouts! The obvious way around it was to do them separately but I'm not a great multi-pan cook so I came up with another solution - make the meal nice enough that they don't care there aren't any Beansprouts in it. Simples!

KungFooSausage's Stir Fry

Ingredients - Serves 4

3-4 chicken breasts (roughly cubed)
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 large handful of savoy cabbage, shredded.
3 carrots, peeled & chopped into batons
6-7 spring onions, peeled & chopped into 1cm lengths at and angle
1 handful of Mangetout beans, chopped if too large
6-7 baby sweetcorn chopped into 1cm rings
1 handful of halved cashew nuts
3 packets of straight to wok egg noodles (Amoy)
1 tbsp paprika
1 pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 tbsp light extra virgin olive oil
150ml chicken stock
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp plain flour or cornflour
2 tsp ground nut oil

1. Heat the olive oil in the wok and add the chicken. Sprinkle it with the paprika and chilli flakes and fry until browned all over. Remove from the wok and set aside.
2. Add the chopped vegetables to the wok and stir fry for 3 minutes.
3. Make the chicken stock & to it add the light soy sauce & tomato ketchup & whisk with a fork until smooth. Then sprinkle the flour into it and mix it in well so its not lumpy (this may take some elbow grease but Ben did a brilliant job).
4. Add the noodles to the wok and mix them and the vegetables together.
5. Add the chicken back into the wok and mix.
6. Pour the chicken stock mix over the contents of the wok and mix to ensure everything is coated. Allow to fry or another 3 minutes.
7. Just before serving drizzle the groundnut oil over the top and sprinkle the cashews over.
8. Serve into bowls.

While perhaps not the cheapest stir fry you can make, a lot of the ingredients are probably already available from the cupboard. I would have loved to add mushrooms but my wife has an allergy to them, and you can really use any vegetables you like.

The dressing/sauce was a "taste sensation" and we were all very surprised at how great it was - thanks to Ben my assistant chef for making it.

While on the subject, I chopped the carrots with a new device I bought called a "Nicer Dicer" - as advertised by "Chef Tony" (add a Bronx accent when you say his name). Its a godsend for these things. All I had to do was peel the carrots, chop them into about 1" lengths and stick them in the Nicer Dicer, push down and out comes loads of mini batons. It must have saved me an hours worth of work.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Holiday Fun

I get 25 days holiday a year at work and often I have a couple of days spare coming up to x-mas that I've kept as contingency planning in case of any last minute things which I take off to do my present shopping.
This year for some reason I have 7 days left to take. We aren't technically allowed to carry them over to the New Year nor do we get paid for them if we don't take them i.e its a case of "take 'em or lose 'em".
I guess I've just been so damned busy this year here that I've not had a chance to take the odd day off here and there. Still busy too so I had a chat with my boss, told him I didn't mind taking them in one go or spreading out about a day a week until x-mas eve, I just don't want to leave the department in the lurch.
We came to an agreement where I take a couple of long weekends and tack the remainder onto either the front or the end of the x-mas holidays - obviously if its in the New Year I have to keep schtum and not let on!
So all told its either going to be a great few weeks with days off here and there, or a really crappy few weeks because if its busy here then I have less time to price the work in.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

No cycling at work so far this week. I've had a lot to do at work and so worked through a few lunchtimes and late evenings plus I've also had some personal things to sort out so the time to ride has not been available to me.

On the plus side, I have managed to compile my x-mas list for my family. I certainly don't expect to receive ALL of the items listed, but my wife and kids clam they need ideas so I have to do a list for them.
Just so long as I don't get socks!

There's never anything I really need, however this year the cycle carrier would be a real blessing for me.
  • A cycle carrier for the back of my car.
  • A rear mudguard for the MTB.
  • A bicycle maintenance book.
  • A new bumbag.
  • Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 for the PC.

    I've given up the thought of buying a cheap road bike for now. My thoughts are that following x-mas there may be a few more available or cheaper deals to be had.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Sorting Out The Richard's (Gear's)

So yesterday while grumpy eldest son Chris and my beautiful dishy wife (she might read this!) were at work Ben & I went around to my sisters house. Her hubby is currently on a project overseas and we chatted to him via Skype and webcam. It turns out he's pretty good with bikes so I explained the problem with my gears only seeming to mesh on the rear largest and smallest cogs and he tried to explain what the problem could be to me. Sadly I'm a numpty and most of it went in one ear and out of the other.

But this morning I was determined to at least try to do some of what he said. My first challenge was to get the bikes wheels to rotate while stationary. Paul had said that turning the bike upside down possibly wouldn't work so I came up with the following - probably due to me watching too many A-Team or McGuyver episodes*

"Tell me your secrets or you'll hang like a dead dog forever"

Well I soon sussed out that it was the read derailleur which was the culprit but couldn't see any way of adjusting it, so making a note of the make I consulted Google and found a very helpful website that told me there was an adjustment (trimming) barrel on the gear lever. Setting the gear to the smallest cog and switching up a gear can be trimmed by rotating the barrel so that this fine tuning enables all of the gears to be selected. Took a while but I succeeded. I then remembered Paul had told me pretty much this the day before. See? I'm dense!

Adjustment barrel / trimmer shown just below the gear selector.

Just to show how dense I can be, I then thought I'd tinker with the front 3 cog selection. I'm still not sure what the two spring loaded screws do on the front selector cage thing but they seemed to do nothing whether I screwed them right in or right out. Ignoring those for now I tried to do the same with the front trimmer barrel as I had with the rear.

Its at this point I buggered things up and found I could no longer select the biggest cog. I was turning that barrel like a lumberjack rolling a tree down a river but to no effect. I decided to concede that having gears 1 to 10 was better than I had before and left it at that.

Strangely, on our ride into town that afternoon the full 15 gears started working again - and NO SLIPPING. Yeah I know - I'm bloody great! I don't know how I do it sometimes. No really! I have no idea how I did it!

* Just like to add that Mc Guyver was waaaay better than the A-Team.

Sunday Ride

Today we (my youngest son Ben and I) planned to ride into Reading town to go visit a new cycle shop that has opened there. There were a number of routes we could have chosen but we settled on what we thought would be the nicest which was part cycle path and part following the River Kennet. The bonus to this was that the river passed right by the cycle shop.

Weather wasn't particularly brilliant; we'd had rain early morning, but that cleared away just leaving a windy and cold overcast afternoon for our trip and we set off around 1.45pm.

I was a little cautious of Ben cycling by the river and so I was either between him and the river, or if it got too narrow to do that I was behind him so I could get him quick if he went "skew wiff", however I shouldn't have worried as he was great...still a little wobbly in places but hes improving each time we go out.

"Hurry up Dad!"

From the pained expression on his face, you can probably tell Ben's
just had one of those "balls meets crossbar" moments

The extreme mountain biker contemplates the route

The path on the right is the last stretch we covered.
All that's left is to cross a couple of roads and we're at the shop.

The new cycle shop is Evans Cycles, and it's pretty big inside, with some lovely gear and bikes of all kinds. I saw stuff in there I can only dream of dreaming about, let alone owning. I particularly liked some - to me - new style handle bar grips which are moulded with a kind of paddle look to the outer edge where the pad of your hand would be. I only saw them pre-fitted but trying them felt really comfortable. Brilliant idea.

The Holy Grail

I was also looking for a bike maintenance book (more on that in my next blog post) but what they had wasn't ideal for a retarded cretin like me, and I also asked about read mudguards. It seems they clamp onto the seat post these days. I commented to the assistant that this was not a great solution as if I leave my bike somewhere I want to take the saddle with me as its a quick release and don't particularly want to take a grotty mudguard with me too. His answer was "well they fold up", which wasn't a solution as they didn't fold up by much and there's still the dirt and crud to deal with. I'm sure I can develop or adapt something which is a permanent fixing to the frame when I get the time.

We did buy something though :)

Ben got a bell!! Whenever we were riding and came upon someone walking the same way Ben would "cough". Unfortunately they rarely heard him so he said he needed a bell. They had two types and we got the one with a compass in the top which I said might be handy for future expeditions.

After a good look around the shop I noticed it was 3.30pm so we wiped the drool off our chins and headed back a slightly different route. I'd hoped it would be quicker as it was more paved but I think it actually took longer as it was more indirect.

A well earned rest

Ben had another interesting "experience" on the way back where we cycled down a road which was blocked off at the end by bollards and a couple of large concrete rings. Most normal people would be able to navigate between the quite frankly HUGE gap. Not Ben! His handlebar clipped the ring which I think made the front wheel hit the ring too and....yup his poor little happy sacks squished. Of course I was more interested in capturing the moment for my blog than I was in rushing to his aid.


The rest of the cycle was uneventful and we got home at about 4.30pm. Funnily we were fine when we were riding, but as soon as we got back indoors we were both quite tired. However we both agreed that we were cool extreme mountain biker dudes and that it had been a really enjoyable ride.

Friday, 6 November 2009

U.K Cycling Accident Stats

I was listening to the radio on the way into work this morning and a news item mentioned that new statistics from the Department for Transport (DfT) show a worrying rise in the number of cyclists injured on Britain's roads.

In the second quarter of this year, the number of riders killed or seriously injured rose by 19% compared to the same period last year, from 688 to 820, while the overall number of reported cyclist casualties rose by 9% to 4,860.

There was a spokeswoman from the DfT interviewed and she put forward two interesting facts, which probably holds true for a lot of developed countries feeling the recession. Roughly from memory these were:

1. Taken in the context of a significant rise in the number of riders, people are ditching their cars and turning to bikes because of the recession, environmental fears and schemes like Cycle to Work so the figures aren't as alarming as they first appear.

2. However with the reduction in the amount of motorised traffic on our roads caused by the above, it is possible to also suggest that some car drivers are seeing clearer roads and increasing their speeds.

She also said that provisional estimates for a single three-month period shouldn't be taken in isolation as the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on the roads each year has fallen by 31 percent since the mid-1990s. The number of people cycling is increasing. Cycle traffic rose by 12% between 2007 and 2008 – and this is likely to be a factor in the estimated number of casualties for the beginning of this year.”

Carl Christopher, spokesman for RoSPA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), said it was too early to say how significant the 19% rise was because it was only a quarterly figure.

He said: "It could be a temporary thing, or it could be because of a longer-term trend of people swapping their cars for bikes due to the recession. Also, heavy goods traffic has decreased, and if there's less congestion the traffic can travel faster, and that puts the two-wheeled community at risk".

"It concerns us because it's such a high rise – almost 20%. A lot of people are put off cycling because of concerns about their safety. It would be a shame for people to hear these figures and be dissuaded".

"We'd advise people who are new to cycling to get some short rides in first, some practice in the park, before braving the roads. The key thing at this time of year is to make yourself visible by wearing reflective clothing and using lights."

Chris Peck from UK cyclists' organisation CTC told The Guardian newspaper that the rise could be due partly to more inexperienced riders taking to the road and a "deterioration" in riding behaviour, particularly in London.

Noting that Transport for London figures showed that in recent years around five percent of cyclists killed in the capital had been jumping a traffic signal at the time, he told the paper: "It's not a big factor, but it could be something. It is fair to say that particularly in London, riding behaviour has deteriorated in recent years."

The CTC could not provide BikeRadar with further proof to back up this claim, but a spokeswoman said anecdotal evidence from their SMIDSY campaign ('Sorry mate, I didn't see you") suggested it could be a factor.

Mr Peck said: "I expect that the increase in casualties 2009 is probably a consequence of a substantial increase in cycling. Nevertheless, much more needs to be done to improve the safety of cycling – especially by reducing speed limits and improving both driver and cycle training.”

Personally I think all of the above are valid points, however they forget to mention the "steam gives way to sail" or as I call it the "I don't give a damn" attitude I see a lot of riders taking, especially when I'm in my car or on foot. The amount of cyclists I see - admittedly young males mostly - who at pedestrian crossings & vehicle junctions don't stop, jump on and off kerbs at junctions to get around lights and blatantly ignoring the lights altogether is more common than seeing them actually stop and give way. They seem to think that because they offer a low profile on the road that they are easier to miss or can weave in and out to get by with minimal looking around at the conditions.

Just last Friday night I was driving my eldest son into town after dark and at the bottom of our road there's a mini roundabout. I saw 2 kids shoot down the pavement, straight off the kerb and across the road. They were all in black or dark clothes, no lights and if I hadn't slowed down I'd have hit one of them for sure. My comment to my son was "they haven't long for this world at that rate".

Thursday, 5 November 2009

My Best Macaroni Cheese & Ham.

No cycling today as I'm going to work through lunch on this damned tender I have to get out, so time for another recipe I reckon.

My wife makes a mean Macaroni Cheese with sliced Tomato's in it which I love. For a change a few weeks ago I found the following recipe on a website and fancied I could do it for the family. Its a lot different to the way my wife makes it and the result is a lot lighter (not as thick and filling) this way. I made the mistake of chucking a whole 500g bag of Macaroni pasta in the pot and our family of 4 had enough of the meal left over to feed a platoon of highly trained pasta eaters from the spaghetti nebula. And thats with everyone eating seconds too! Maybe for this reason the sauce was lighter, who knows.

I changed the recipe around a bit from what it originally was as they had the flour added before the milk and stock. I found that when I added the flour it went very lumpy no matter how slow I added it or hard I stirred. I reasoned that there wasnt enough fluid in the pan to seperate the mixture so I've swapped that bit around which should work better. It'll save a half hour of cursing with a spatula as you try to pound the lumps out anyway.

Oh and two more things; I add a glug of Extra Virgin Light Olive Oil to the pasta water to stop it sticking and boiling over in the saucepan. It actually works. Also make sure you have a big enough tray to put all the pasta in when you come to putting it in the oven or you'll have the problem I had - loads left in the pan (which is still edible the next day. woot!).


300g Macaroni
50g Butter
1 clove of Garlic, crushed
1 tsp Mustard
1/2 tsp Paprika
50g Plain Flour
400ml Milk
200ml vegetable stock
300g ham hock, cooked or ham slices shredded.
80g Cheddar Cheese, grated
80g Gruyère Cheese, grated

Serves 4 (but just adding more pasta makes enough for 6)
Preparation time about 5-10 minutes, Cooking time about 40 minutes.

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. However our fan oven is like a mini nuke so I do it at 150C.
2. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Cook the macaroni until it is al dente. Drain and set aside.
3. Melt the butter in a pan, add the garlic, mustard and pimentón. Cook well.
4. Add the milk and vegetable stock then add the flour and cook until the sauce thickens
5. Turn off the heat and add half of the grated cheese (40g of each type) and stir it to melt. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Shred the cooked ham hock into the sauce. I couldn't get this when I made it so used cooked ham slices torn up which worked great.
7. Add the macaroni and mix well. Put it into a baking dish and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.
8. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
9. Serve and enjoy.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Biking Diabetic

Some of you who read this may already know that I have Type 2 Diabetes, and to be honest it's a worry for me which isn't made any less by the fact that I nearly died of Severe Acute Pancreatitis before developing the condition. It's always in the back of my mind - and sometimes in the front of it too - and I think a certain percentage of the reason for my laziness and lethargy when it comes to exercise is my fear of having a "hypo", passing out or overdoing it, which considering my lack of fitness, could bring on a stroke or something else I can't think of.

I'm nowhere near being a hypocondriac, but events such as these and other close shaves in my life bring a respect for how close the old fella with the big sickle is sometimes.

Okay I'm not ashamed to admit that I am also a person who prefers comfort over effort, and that I hate with passion those who never seem to put weight on.

So it was a nice surprise to come across a blog by a guy in the U.S called "Biking Diabetic". Boz, whose blog it is comes over as a really nice guy who has had a tough time of it and I have just finished reading his blog from first post to present day.

The reason I mention Biking Diabetic is of course because I feel a tie to it medically, but also because in reading Boz's blog I have gained inspiration and some determination in pursuing this stupid peddling of two rings covered in rubber. I'm not so worried now that something bad is going to happen to me. In fact my worry now is that I'm not doing enough!

I looked on e-bay today at road bikes and how much a second hand one would be. If I can convince the missus that I need an early x-mas prezzy....heh heh!

I really hope that this inspiration will continue.

Lunchtime Cycling

Today was a much nicer day. Still a bit nippy and the Sun was having a hard time drying out the ground after the overnight rain but I was determined to go out for a lunchtime ride today, even with the crappy gears.

I had promised my friend Stout that I would upload more photo's than just my ugly mug so donning my fleece coat I set off on my usual route. Rather than pressing hard in my today cycling I took it easy, partly because I knew I'd sweat more than a pig roast in my coat and partly because I wanted to stop frequently to take photo's.
Quite near the start of my circuit. It may not look it but its a looong uphill drag for me on the way back unless I got the "wimpy" flat way back.

This is the start of the nice part, about 0.5 miles from my office I guess. It's called The Rye and is quite beautiful with all the fallen leaves this time of year.

The cycle path goes down the edge of a narrow lake which travels the length of The Rye amongst a small woodland.

At this point the footpath goes left and the cycle path goes to the right.

And this is effectively the end of my outward bound journey. The entrance back into The Rye is just barely visible to the very right edge. I have no desire yet to cycle up that road to see where it goes. It looks much too knackering!

Or at least I thought it was the end until I noticed this set of steps around the corner, and figured "what the hell, I'm riding a mountain bike, go for it"
And this is the view back up it. You probably can't see the skid mark left by the rear wheel all the way from the top, but it's on the right somewhere.

Here's my pride and joy

The start of the route back towards the office. Just before this is a steep bit of path deep in leaves & I had to peddle so hard to get up it the rear wheel just kept slipping so I had to walk it. You can just make out a small waterfall left of centre.

And back to the start of The Rye again, looking up the lake I rode along.

I haven't bothered to take photograph's of the rest of the circuit as to be honest its boring and best over with as soon as possible. So thats where I go when I'm at work. Hope you liked it :)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Damn the Weather

Today its bucketing it down like a vertical Tsunami and so I'm stuck in the office over lunchtime. I don't own enough waterproofs to go out in this, plus the MTB doesn't have any mudguards (makes mental note to look into buying some) so even if it miraculously stopped in the next 5 minutes I'd probably come back to work with a muddy streak up my back.

I wish I had taken up this cycling thing a few months ago during the Summer. Evenings are too dark & cold for me to enjoy cycling now, and are want to get worse as Winter draws near so I'm limited to lunchtimes and weekends, weather permitting. I suppose I can go out in the rain but the thought of a rampant runny nose of slime and quadruple pneumonia kind of puts the thought of it on a low priority.

As it stands I can do between around 7 miles a day in the week (if I do the route twice), then assuming the same route at a weekend I can cycle about 5 miles a day. That makes a minimum of 45 miles a week.

If I can get hold of a cycle carrier for the car then Ben and I can go further afield cycling in some nice countryside and I'm certain we could make a nice day of it which would increase the weekend miles. Currently though I won't allow him to go on anything except flat cycle paths due to his just learning to ride properly. By Christmas I expect him to be doing back flips and riding up walls so I think I'll drop a subtle hint to family that I'd like a cycle carrier for a present.

Monday, 2 November 2009

MEDIIIIC...Bike Repairs Needed - STAT!

I went out today for my now usual lunchtime cycle of 45 minutes. I'd like to say to anyone who knows me personally that I DO NOT stop off at the burger bar on the way through the park and just come back to work pretending that I've cycled miles! Much as I'd love a burger, and the smell is soooo good, I can resist. I'm a man for gods sake!! mmm burgers...sigh!

Something which was troubling me on and off was my gears slipping and this has now become a regular thing. The bike has 15 gears - a fact I only discovered by accident - but for some reason I can only get "grip" in the lowest or highest gears. I'll try to explain; The left hand handlebar grip has numbers 1,2 & 3 and the right hand grip has 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5, so giving me 15 gears of joy to conquer any mountain of doom. However, irrespective of whether the left hand grip is in any gear, I can only get the right hand 1 and 5 to engage so the chain doesn't slip - at least I think its the chain. Its that kind of feel anyway, of the chain missing half the teeth on the coggy thing.

This could be seen as more of a workout. I can only peddle like Road Runner or like Neo from the Matrix, so I get more of a burn. Trouble is I came back to work today sweating like a pack mule in the Sahara...not good.

I need to look at the problem a bit anyway, but I took the precaution of phoning a bike shop who will charge me £29.99 for a "service" on it. I'm considering this as the easy option as for sure if I do it myself I'll end up with screws and springs flying around. It could just be the chain needs tightening, but to what I couldn't say. Dammit how hard can it be eh? I'm a man FFS!!

Yeah maybe the bike shop is the best bet, seeing as I'm a man.

Sunday Cycle Fun

On Sunday I went for another ride, except this time with my youngest son Ben. I was kindly given a second hand mountain bike for him from a friend at work and although it is slightly too large for him (18" wheels) he has over the past few weekends learned to ride it in a fashion not unsimilar to an 80 year old man with one leg missing i.e. he wobbles a fair bit, but over the past week he had improved immensley so as to give me confidence that he could at least ride on the wider cycle paths. Truth be told he had been practicing on the local park and the grass was a bit long which made it harder for him so tarmac was a definite bonus to his speed which helped him to keep the bike straighter.

We chose the route I had been doing for the past few weekends which was around the rear of Reading football stadium and he was brilliant! Yeah I know its a proud dad speaking, but really his skills were so much better than on grass that it was a real pleasure for me to ride with him, chatting along the way. He needs to learn to use the gears though but he told me that when he goes to use the handlebar twist gears he loses control, so I set it to a nice gear for him to pedal without straining and all was fine....except for the two occasions when he rode into things.

The first was a bollard in the middle of the path near the start. Now it wasnt huge, and in fact you could probably have fit two cyclists side by side either side of it, but like a horse to water he went smack bang into it and came off. Fortunately he didnt hurt himself. The second hiccup came when we rounded a corner and he decided he liked the look of an electrical switch box by the side of the path. SMACK!!! This time he hit it straight on and the bike stopped dead. Unfortunately for him he shot forward off the saddle with his testicles each side of the cross bar, sliding up to stop at the handle bars...ouch!! He had a rather pained expression on his face for a while after that, and it was all I could do to not laugh. Well I did laugh, but not as much as I would have liked.

Despite the two slight mishaps it was a fun ride and we are both keen to do it again next weekend if we can. Hopefully I will be able to get hold of a cheap cycle carrier for the car so we can jaunt off to places and do some different rides.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

My Grilled Sweet Vegetables

Ingredients (Serves 4)
800g New Potatoes/Salad Potatoes
1 x Red Bell Pepper
1 x Red Chilli Pepper
1 x Red Onion
10 x Cherry Tomatoes
1 x Teaspoon of ground Paprika
1 x Teaspoon of Rosemary
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Cooking time approx: 5mins chopping potatoes + 10mins to boil + 10 minutes to grill = 25 minutes

1. Chop fresh New Potatoes into approximate bite sized pieces – New Potatoes are naturally small and so sometimes this means chop them in half or thirds.
2. Chuck the potatoes into a pan of cold water with a little salt and bring to the boil, then simmer until they are almost cooked but not so they break up.
3. While the spuds are cooking, chop up the pepper into bite size chunks, chop the tomatoes into halves, chop the onion into wedges / bite size pieces, and the chilli into small pieces. Personally I always de-seed the chilli’s but if you like ‘em strong then leave the seeds in.
4. Remove the spuds from the hob when nearly cooked and drain the pan of water.
5. Empty the drained potatoes into an oven dish so they cover the bottom. You don’t really want them too spread out or too cramped so judge the dish size from how many potatoes you’re doing.
6. Drizzle some olive oil over them.
7. Sprinkle the Paprika and Rosemary over them.
8. Throw in the rest of the ingredients (pepper, chilli & tomatoes) and gently toss them so that they are all mixed nicely. If it looks like they need it add some more olive oil across the top. Be careful not to break up the potatoes as you mix although some minor breakage isn’t a bad thing.
9. Turn the grill onto a medium heat and slide the dish under for around 10 minutes or until the vegetables begin to swell, but before they get nuked.

That’s it. What you end up with is a lovely mixture of flavours. It’s a variation on Patatas Bravas which is a Tapas recipe. However Patatas Bravas has more of a sauce over the top and often uses pureed Tomatoes.

I basically cobbled this together myself as something different to compliment a meal of Gammon steak & Pineapple with a Parsley Sauce. I made it about an hour before I started the main cooking and just shoved it under the grille about 10-15 minutes before the rest was due to finish.

Everyone gobbled it down, and even my youngest boy Ben - who always complains about the skin being left on New Potatoes - said it was great (that’s mah boy!)

Kitchen Ninja

So this is me. Not the most flattering of photo's I have to confess, but I am what I am. As you can see I have craftily disguised myself as a chef and was in the process of making a (bloody excellent) Lasagne when surprised by the camera flash going off. Years of training under a 90 year old wrinkled old fart taught me to react with lightning swiftness to any sensed danger. The knife causes a distraction to the assailant while the pot of Oregano is readied to season the unfortunate foe to death.

Unfortunately I completely missed seeing the levitating mass of saucepans above my head :(

Getting fit - ish

So I decided a couple of weeks ago to get fit. Actually that's a lie, because I didn't decide to get fit per se, but to really just get some exercise. Of course me being me I chose the time to do this just as the summer ended and the wind, rain and cold nights draw in. Bloody typical!

I've tried jogging in the past, but it kills the feet and ankles, plus its knackering. I've tried gym's but they're too expensive (can you believe I used to go to a gym 3 times a week in my 20's?), and the exercise bike in the conservatory is more often used to hang clothes on than to ride.

It was at my sisters wedding that I got speaking to my niece & her partner, with suspiciously unsubtle hints from my brother in law about cycling. They all cycle and I thought to myself (without letting on that they might be winning the argument) that I could use my eldest son's mountain bike to do some riding.

After a clean up of the hardly used cycle I bought some bits; water bottle, trip computer, puncture repair kit, lights, and headed out for my first circuit. I chose a short route around Reading's back streets, across the main road into town and then round the back of Globe Park where the footie stadium is. A total distance of only about 5 miles but good for a fat and admittedly lazy old bastard like me.