The four horses of the commuting apocalypse…

…Wind, Rain, Dark and Cold. All four horseman were out riding with me this morning as 30 MPH winds first batted me sideways, before settling down and driving cold stinging rain into my face for three long miles. Dark and Cold were in close attendance adding their own brand of misery.

Riding in these conditions sometimes feel like a tax on the stupid. And maybe it is – the seeds of my downfall were planted last night with the abandonment of a resolution to pre-pack the commuting bag ready for morning. The alarm trilled irritatingly as it always does at 6:30am and as normal I flail around wildly trying to cancel it/break it into a thousand small pieces so not to wake my wife. From there on in, things kind of went downhill.

It’s dark. Really proper dark where I live with no streetlights and no close conurbations. But thanks to the miracle of electric light, I’m able to dress in sufficient expensive gear to waterproof a small elephant before heading out into the cold and moistness of a winter’s morning. Today I headed back in a number of occasions for keys, water bottle, work shirt, etc. That’s what happens when laziness overrides common sense leaving me standing uncertainly in the kitchen, head swaying from side to side, trying to remember what I’ve forgotten.

As may be apparent I’m not a morning person. My cognitive functions refuse to operate before daylight creeps over the horizon and they have been fortified by a strong cup of coffee. Their response to any enquiry before such precepts have been fulfilled is to flip a neural “V” sign and suggest consulting the hind brain instead which may be able to help. It didn’t and I had a train to catch so off I went with the fifth horseman – more a pit pony really – “doubt” riding alongside.

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It’s like Piccadilly circus out there!

Which wasn’t as surreal as I’d first thought. Because it was acutally Piccadilly Circus. Let me explain, the underground strike drove many of the tube rats out of their tunnels and onto bikes of assorted vintages, ridden with skills blunted by twenty years neglect.

Glancing over my shoulder at a set of lights, I was presented with a rambling pantheon of two wheeled transport, 4 or 5 deep in places. Suits and trouser clips jockeyed for position with lycra and SPDs. It was a great experience as this critical mass took flight (pedal?) on the green light and the cars – for once – played second fiddle.

There are sure to be casualties though. Diffidence and stupidity in equal amounts created traffic havoc at every junction. Increasingly frustrated motorists sounded horns and waved clenched fists at wobbling and worried cyclists. If the strike does nothing else, my hope is it will educate those who rode today what it’s like for the rest of us who ride every day.

But I say again, it was great to be part of a large cycling community today. Roll on summer and more of the same.

Now that’s a kick ass donkey

The internet has been described as all things to all (wo)men. It’s been rather better described as an enormous repositry for Porn interspersed with the deluded ramblings of a million conspiracy theorists. The truth – as with most of these things – is somewhere in the middle and my own personal shining light is the BBC website.

Occasionally though, an otherwise dull siding way off the information highway throws out a real gem. I give you this snippet from “The Northern Light” a electronic version of Montana’s newspaper.

http://www.ttc-cmc.net/~nlight/2%20news.htm

Please transport that donkey to the middle of my office and let it admister its’ savage justice.

Outstanding 🙂

EBAY – a shoddy place to do business.

Ebay pulled a couple of my listings yesterday. Their grounds for doing so were mildly amusing insomuch as it is a transparent policy to increase their listing fees. Buried somewhere in Ebay T&Cs is the entertaining precept that the seller may not charge the buyer for PayPal’s extortionate transaction fees because in some way this undermines trust in the seller?

How does that work then? As a seller, I offer the buyer many options to pay for the item. One of those attracts costs which I have no intention of paying. If the buyer feels the same way, fine – send me a cheque, do a bank transfer, pay me in chickens, I care not. How can this in some way undermine trust in the seller? Beats me!

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Real Mountain Bikers

It’s official. I am a proper mountain biker. Retro traditionalists may claim that 300 metres makes not a mountain, but this is nothing more than semantic pedantry. I’d further refute their laughable claims by offering this compelling and watertight evidence:

Impervious in the face of dampness. As the weather tended to the spectacularly moist, my riding buddy cluster compressed to five or less. Proper riders unearthed dusty waterproofs, traded race shoes for winter boots and, striking a heroic pose, manfully rode out into the driving rain. Frankly, it was pretty unpleasant – a flashback to November with greasy trails outing summer technique as overconfident ego-stroking rubbish which dissolved under sheets of the wet stuff. Although once I’d slid into a tree and suffered a two hour deluxe mud enema, it became strangely enjoyable. Especially at the end. That was the really good bit.

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The dreaded school quiz night

It’s the end of a long week – pointless meetings punctuated by periods of intense activity, fitfully attempting to close the gap between glib promises and actual delivery. The house is full of shouting offspring annoying two generations of the Leigh family and ratcheting my stress levels ever higher. Haven’t these kids heard of Chiltern Railways and their mythical timetable? I’m considering publishing a book “my life on a platform” – it wouldn’t be interesting but it’d be cheaper than therapy.

The school quiz night awaits. This is one of these dreadful group hugs that raises about 50p and attempts to unite a rambling pantheon of disparate individuals to a common cause. The strategy is excellent but the tactics are dreadful. 90% of those who occupy the hall could stay at home unwittingly donating 50 quid so by trebling the evening’s revenue without actually attending. But hey, I really had nothing better to do. Well I did but since there was a cheap bar, I could do it just as well in a drafty hall with a smell than shot me back in time thirty years.

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Why pickled hedgehog ?

Unbelievably “IWANTMYLIFEBACK.COM” was taken by some ‘get off your butt and start your own business’ website.

Rather than reaching for a beer and abandoning the project stillborn, I asked each of my kids for the first word that came into their head. “Pickled” grinned the 4 year old. “That’s a stupid word” retorted the lofty 6 year old – forehead creased in thought – before on came the mental light bulb and she seriously offered “Hedgehog”

We considered “Hedgehog pickle” but having plumbed the blogsphere to all the depth 10 drunken minutes can offer, there was more than a serious possibility that intensive goodling may drive extreme taxidurmists to the site. Now I’m up for spiking the hit counter as much as the next blogger but small truffling mammals and sticky preservatives is a line that not even I’m prepared to cross.

So “pickled hedgehog” it was and Lord save me from Meta Searches.

Apropo of bugger all, did you know that every three letter domain name has been taken from ‘aaa’ to ‘zzz’. No, really it has. One day I intend to methodically plough through the whole lot to cement or dispell this urban Internet Myth. Just not on my own time, I have all day at work for that kind of thing.