Okay I lied.

Three undisputed truths of our time; Tony Blair is the right man to run this country, Foot and Mouth was just a small rural problem and mudguards are a waste of money for London riding. Sorry did I say truths? Of course I meant great big whoppers.

I may also have told a little fib about winter and it’s cold, crisp caress. I DIDN’T MEAN IT WHAT I SAID, COME BACK, ALL IS FORGIVEN.

There’s a certain type of rain that once started fills the sky with tree hugging cloud and grounds the birds. It flies in horizontally riding on a fierce wind switching between rampaging downpour and irritiating drizzle. But it never stops – well not until you’re inside and past caring.

I cared a little riding up the Mall receiving little damp patches on my arse with every wheel revolution. It was either the rain slicked streets and my aforementioned dearth of mudguards or a very persistent dog who’d mistaken me for a sprightly lampost. From the looks of my fellow passengers and the subsequent exclusion zone they afforded my dripping person, it may well have been the hound of urinary hell.

ClammyShorts™ is not the most pleasant way to pass a train journey but I still found myself smiling at the prospect of riding home. I’ve been bottling it lately due to many pre-banked and audited desposits in the excuses bank. Mainly around it being cold and me being nesh. Today I had the long ride home to test out both my mettle and my expensive yet lary waterproof.

Neither were found wanting. I’m sure those leaving one metal cage for another were thinking “great bloody idiot” but not me no, I was thinking “great, bloody tailwind”. Note the insertion of a very significant comma. I sailed home cocooned in all things gortex and idly wondered if this is what’d feel like to be really fit. It wasn’t cold enough to be actually unpleasant nor wet enough to pierce my layers of water plating.

I had to add a mile to the journey as the mp3 shuffler was perfectly attuned to my mood and the rain was going to quit before I was. For the last week or so, the reason for my everyday riding was strangely ethereal and difficult to remember. But now it’s perfectly clear again.

I just love riding a bike. Any bike, any conditions, any reason 🙂

The War Of The Trousers

This morning, I have suffered the greatest affront to democracy since the traitorous Stanley’s switched sides at the battle of Bosworth Moor. Some direct descendent of that false King, Henry VII, has performed an underhand trouserectemy in the lockers.

The usurper has only gone and moved my kit from a locker that is forever England and exciled it to some lawless region that for the sake of this metaphor can be thought of as Bolton. Now there’s an unwritten law for locker-space where newcomers fit in where they can and respect the heirachy of those of us who came before. Yet this full blooded Lancastrians’ approach has the appearance of ethnic cleansing with all his (and it has to be said rather nasty pink shirt and brown shoes) stuff anchored against a prized wall while my belongings have been banished far and wide.

This will not stand. There are battles worth fighting and battles worth running away before re-writing history to your advantage. So this is where the shifting sands of personal space stop shifting. To this end, I’m prepared to upgrade this minor border skirmish to total war including the use of archers and siege weapons. I’ve re-established the correct front line garrisoning my clothes with a damp towel. His stuff has been roughly re-housed squeezed between other locker users moist smalls. Stretching the metaphor yet further, while my trousers are enjoying an elevated view of the Vale of York, his garments are treading water in the Wigan outfall.

For his sake, this had better be the end of it. Otherwise the changing room will split down regional lines and inevitably an all out conflict will ensue. Except, I expect the southern softies shall mince around in their Calvin Klein underwear whining “oh no don’t hurt each other, I’m sure we can resolve this by talking”. Like hell we can. It may have been 550 years since Richard III was wrongfully deposed but that’s a mere chronological bagatelle to a card carrying Yorkshireman. There’s unfinished business and after this outrageous slur to my personal space, I’m the man to finish it! He’s thrown down the gauntlet and I’ll be picking it up to both accept his challenge and give him a good slapping.

For those unknowing of the “Vietnam of the middle ages”, I can recommend the tragically impartial War Of The Roses site. Others prefering a somewhat more partisan summary of that conflict, let me offer up the line taken by my History teacher back in Yorkshire: “It was a lucky draw and we didn’t want the throne anyway. Plus those cheating b@stards ended up with Manchester so that’s all right then

In other news I’ve been offered a Full-on Tax Simulation from our payroll department which has the hallmarks of a low budget porn movie. Probably worth attending then.

Spring: it’s the new winter.

It’s the talk of the platform; “Oh hasn’t this winter been mild?”, “Hah, what do those weather forecasters know? Nothing properly cold about this winter, now back in 76…”. They rub gloved hands and drone on so I tune out.

Yet through gritted and chattering teeth, it’s incumbent on me to make the non PC case against global warming. Having ridden through the dark and cold of our unloved fourth season, let me set you straight: IT’S BEEN BLOODY FREEZING. I’m sure if you’re entombed in five layers of TopMan’s finest polyester and Christmas thermals, it’s distinctly toasty in the waiting room. This is not actually representative of being “outside” where the incessant cold mischievously plays hide and seek with any unprotected body part.

I’ve been forced to develop a layering system based on the horror depicted by my outside temperature sensor at 6:30am.

5 degrees or above: Assuming no Vietnam flashbacks due to small arms fire on the barn roof (hail or heavy rain), grab any two layers, shorts and go ride.

0-5 degrees. Base Layer, Mid layer, Lined jacket. Buff (that’s the clothing item not some reflection on my fro gut), winter gloves, Porrells, stiff upper lip and heroic bearing. A spot of Shackleton method acting and strike out with ones helmet at a jaunty angle.

Less than 0. Abandon layering system. Wear everything. Consider exchanging bike for sled and husky’s.

That’s centigrade of course. Fahrenheit is for those gullible fools who honestly believe Esperanto will ever catch on.

Once road-borne, thermometers are ditched in favour of the extensive empirical evidence surrounding my freezing body. Although for the first mile, corpse is a more descriptive adjective as only muscle memory and gortex keeps me moving. Frosty hedgerows sport inappropriate spring bloom and icy windscreens dangerously limit visibility for suicidally lazy drivers. That and the occasional inverted Post Office van – wheels up in a ditch – which always reassures me the temperature has yet to creep over the right side of zero.

There is clearly some kind of unofficial race series taking place in the major postal districts of Aylesbury and its’ immediate surrounds. In summer they’re door handling everywhere scattering pedestrians and generally acting in an ambassadorial role for their employers. Come winter, the quest for a personal best lines them up for either awesome van control and peer adulation or an extended spell examining shrubbery from an interesting angle. No wonder stamps are so expensive. It’s almost like sponsoring my own racing driver – Michael Postmaster perhaps. Okay, perhaps not.

Cold is boring. Hot stuff keeps you going; showers, bacon sandwiches, the latest copy of Hustler- that kind of thing. That and the secret knowledge squirreled away in every riders psyche– for every cold and pissy winter commute, there’s a perfect summers’ day waiting only a season away. Call me a seasonal charlatan if you will but it’ll be us creatures of the ice you’re thanking for endless days of sunshine and dusty, dry trails. Pint of lager’ll be fine. Ta.

Okay, okay just occasionally those impossibly blue mornings make it worthwhile; Swallows on the dawn patrol silhouetted perfectly against a climbing sun and random Mandelbrot patterns iced onto spiders webs. And mainlining lungfulls of – what feels like – air on speed which only climatically freezing conditions can produce,

Those days are great. There just aren’t enough of them.

Roll on proper spring with your rain, wind and storms. I’ve about had enough of winter.

Actung Baby!

Behold! The pant crisis is over. Probably.

Look I know that the trials and tribulations of a family forlornly wandering in the land of stinky laundry isn’t terribly interesting, but I’ve paid good money for this bandwidth. And I’ve spared you any photographic evidence for which you should be profoundly grateful.

You can tell this washing machine is German. It has absolutely no truck with the argument “form over function”. It is essentially three mechanical generations downstream of a Tiger Tank. Already the other appliances are twitching nervously – I expect them to be whipped into shape within a fortnight. None of this lounging about, working when they can be arsed or randomly displaying smug red warning lights. Oh no, soon the toaster will be doubling up as a microwave and the tumble dryer as loft insulation or some such thing. I fear for the kettle as the water filter is already wiring itself into a plug socket.

Clearly a detailed and thorough plan has been hatched to annexe the remainder of the kitchen before moving on to other rooms in the house. The machine has a certain fanatical bearing around the chromed drum and an expansionist bent to the simple programming switches.

My wife is diligently following the – very precise – installation instruction whereas I’m lurking around the box hunting for the turret attachment.

I’m getting flashbacks to electric dreams

No Germans were needlessly offended during the making of this post 🙂

Update: Installing it was not without complications. I usurped the missus in the “installation position” as the manual was want to call it, and only just resisted the urge to out the tool belt and fire up the power tools.

Here are some practical tips for any would be washing machine installers out there:

1. Install drainage cable before inserting washing machine. Failure to do so will involve removing both washing machine from its’ orifice and skin from fingers.

2. As tip#1 but this time for cold water feed.

3. Removing a washing machine from a very tight kitchen fitting is analogous to a 3000 point turn. Do not try to rush it. Once you’ve done it twice it gets easier.

4. Pushing in the machine on a wooden floor whilst wearing socks invokes Newton’s laws of motion. The machine doesn’t move while you end up on the horizontal, gamely hanging onto the worktop before sliding gracelessly down – face first – onto the floor. Pretending you meant to is a key part of an anti humiliation strategy.

5. The Freeride gut and extreme grunting are the fro washing machine installation option. “Yeah I just hucked off the worktop, rode the skinny down to bevel height and then, calm as you like, knocked out a “thrucking manouevre” to get the bastard aligned

6. Do not keep doing German jokes. You better half gets bored and the machine seems to have spawned a new setting to go with Rinse/Spin/Final. It’s “Attack

Still when it did slot home, I couldn’t help but think “Battle of the Bulge”

I’ll stop now. I promise. Especially if someone firebombs the Manchester Inland Revenue office. It’d be an act of mercy compared to what I’m considering 😉

Caption competition

Worryingly – for any readers of the blog who have sustained an interest way beyond the mean boredom threshold – there are 10 new entries ready to wibble. It’s getting easier to write stuff but I have this sneaking suspicion that’s because I’m getting lazier in terms of grammer, humour, vaguely contextual metaphors and the use of smilies to replace said, it, me and bollocks.

So in an attempt to buy time to convert drivelling badly informed rant to grammatically correct and appropriately punctuated drivelling rant, here’s a couple of pictures from Spain. Where it snowed. Alot.

Andy “Staying Alive” Hooper

Martyn “The Spade” Buckley

Nigel “Extreme Shaving” Parker

Captions appreciated as humiliation of others is this weeks customer care.

More here. Not terribly interesting but there’s only so much snow, steps and cold, irritated riders you can take pics of.

What one hand taketh…

… the other one snatches away. Last months pay slip was somewhat skewed in favour of the taxman (remember it’s not the Government’s money when they’re funding war by ego, it’s our bloody money robbed via the means of direct taxation). Actually think of it as a financial mugging which rapidly arrested the development of a tidy little upgrade project planned for one of the bikes. Not actually required of course, rather another tweak in the endless/pointless (delete as applicable) search for component perfection.

On enquiring why the Inland Revenue can rape and pillage my wage packet at will, the response was both complex and barely understandable by a man to whom anything beyond log tables requires the use of an accountant. However said accountant summarised it thus: “Because they can, mmmwaaaahhhhhh”. That little financial snippet cost me an additional thirty quid.

As each delivery van roars down the road, removing at source the problem of dog-shit by mowing over the odd dim witted turd producer, hope briefly rises that “the great pant crisis” is close to being over. But no, here we are at lunchtime – hope crushed – with only the smell of canine roadkill to keep me company. It’s cheering me up but has yet to out-stink the pile of smouldering washing.

So far today, it’s been all demand and very little supply. The only sign of the many and varied products recently ordered has been their descriptions in the debit columns on the credit card statement. What a great business model: pay now, possibly deliver in your lifetime. And then only between 8am and 6pm on any day except a weekend or if the van has broken down, or when the shit hot logistics system has accidentally shipped you a dolphin rather than a washing machine. Easy mistake to make eh?

Assuming you can ever get past the cry to barely restrained violence that is “your call is important to us, all of our agents are responding to other customer needs”, your reward is a cacophony of pealing laughter, when enquiring if it’s possible to reserve a slightly less ambiguous delivery slot.

I’m expecting the Milkman to pop round, in a minute, demanding money with menaces to the value of a couple of grand. And we don’t even buy milk off the Milkman but living in the world of less service for more money, don’t even think about arguing. Not unless you want to spend some quality time held in a call queue suffering endless “Music to slash your wrists by” arranged for Children’s xylophone.

Anyone had any experience of shelf stacking? Or failing that, what’s the minimum age you can realistically send the kids up a chimney?

You could buy a car for that!

Our washing machine has finally expired. It passed away noisily after a terminal illness brought on by repeated abuse from my mouldy cycling kit. In this world of throwaway commodity, repairing it was both undesirable and highly unlikely. Even if we could still locate a balding overall’d bloke further defined by tuneless whistling and sporting a stubby pencil behind a grubby ear, he’d have taken one look at the ruined bearings, pointed accusingly to my innocent person and declared “your husband? He’s fecked it”.

Obviously in this Internet age, we were spared the slack jawed base grunt and multiple pearcings of a high street sales assistant. Instead our trawling of the world wide wibbly resulted in a net full of complex variants each proclaiming to offer some USP or at least a nifty start button. Further delving rendered these choices irrelevant as all the brands are made by a single factory in Taiwan. Except the German ones which I was keen to reject on the grounds they may feel the urge to invade Czechoslovakia.

Eventually as with all these things and regardless of the selection process, we bought the most expensive one. £550. Five Hundred. And. Fifty. Pounds. For a drum, a few lights and a hole for water. I was aghast until it was cruelly pointed out that once I’d spent more on a set of forks.

For that much money, I assume it has a some kind of cosmic interface that connects it directly to the laundry basket. Continuing that theme, I’ll be mightily disappointed if a small robotic arm doesn’t winch itself out of the drum and collect the kids discarded and dirty clothing from around the house. Apparently the myriad of programmable settings – although I was disappointed not to find the “locate sock” one – requires more processing power than the space shuttle. I’m not sure I feel entirely comfortable with that fact but it’s certainly shifted any career aspirations away from astronautics

According to the – and I’m quoting directly here – “up to the minute logistically enhanced stock control system”, one of these beomoths could be delivered at the weekend for an additional £20. Seemed like a small price to pay for laundered smalls come Monday morning, but no in fact the system was representing a stock state last updated during the Vietnam war. We are anxiously (and I do not use that word lightly, I am pant counting as I type) awaiting a new delivery date having so far received nothing other than an electronic version of the sharp intake of breadth.

Remind me – is the secret of single pant longevity to turn them every day or to air them during my lunch hour? If it’s the latter, the whole property strategy of open plan offices could be thrown into disarray.

Corporate Hospitality: Nose in the trough.

Maybe it’s my quasi-liberal bent but I can’t help noticing that the best freebies go to those who can most afford to pay full price.

In February, I accepted an invitation for a “corp-hosp”(sic) day at the rugby. From the moment I arrived until my drunken exit some eight hours later, my wallet remained firmly in my pocket while my nose was stuffed deeply in the trough.

Firstly, pretty girls in short skirts express transparently exaggerated delight that you’ve deigned to honour them with your august presence. Then you circulate amongst social climbers and crocodiles thinly disguised as sales directors. “Oh come and meet so and so, he’s right up the arse of the chief executive at BP” they say and those whose noses spend as much time in the brown as in the trough gleefully explain “I’ve been to twenty England matches and never had to pay, not bad eh old chap? Marvellous isn’t it”

No it bloody isn’t.

At £600 a ticket, I’d like to say it’s killing sport for the common man; the problem with that statement is it is clearly bollocks. The success of the team sees every ticket sold twice (mainly by rugby clubs who use it to fund initiatives such as youth rugby which somewhat deflates my argument) and the small percentage of us frauds troughing it up probably makes little or no difference.

So why do I feel so bad? It’s either pretentious introspection or half forgotten student socialism. I’m really not sure but the majority of my besuited sheep at the trough would fail the no.1 rule of “Life is too short to drink with arseholes”. Obviously I’m far too craven to say so instead satisfying myself with a working class smirk.

After drinks and a four course lunch, in what is essentially a tented double glazing showroom with outside toilets, we perambulate unsteadily towards our seats where reality bites. I’m sat next to a couple of passionate Welshman who’ve spent a good chunk of their own cash to watch their team get stuffed. They are -by degrees -macabrely amusing, incisive and gracious in defeat. Representing the English I’m proud to offer up patronisingly magnanimous, slurringly misinformed and pissed.

We retire victorious to the (free) bar back at double glazing central, for yet more drinks, deep mined bullshit and the odd comment on 80 minutes of barely sanitised violence. I may not approve on a moral level but a healthy dose of hypocrisy sees me nose down in the beer trough only occasionally surfacing for air.

There’s some desultory selling -which is of course the point of these things -but they are not really trying and that’s fine as we’re not buying. Man, we barely retain the power of speech by this time. If someone had given me something to sign, we’d probably own a thousand timeshares by now.

But I’m done with it. I know that even if it’s not me, then someone else will be filling my place. Yet by ascending to the moral high ground at least I’ll feel better while actually achieving feck all. So that’s alright then.

Well when I say I’m done with it, that actually means until the next time. But I’ll console myself that my attendance is contextualised in a post modern ironic framework. I’m a bit worried that no one will notice.

Today I’ve set my moral compass to “idealistically arsy”

The Lord Nelson Principle: I’m a road user too.

You have to pity Lord Nelson. 200 Years after teaching Johnny Foreigner the fallacy of messing with the British Empire, his statuesque legacy has been reduced to a repository for pidgin shit.

That’s a timely metaphor for those of us fighting slightly less important battles on the streets of London. It’s a traffic heirachy; pedestrians assume the role of randomly mobile statues being dumped on by us cycling pidgins who – in turn – are hated by everybody else.

It’s important, regardless of social position, to be able to look down on someone else. Battered and broken as we are, we’re enriched by the fact that the multicultural jay walkers have it even worse than us. Yet they know the risks – step off on amber, and if you’re spared crushing by the testosteroned car driving muppet, we’ll sweep up the remains with the malicious insertion of a sharpened bar end.

Maybe we should side with the peds so our combined anger musters an army to march. We can reclaim the streets from those motoring usurpers because our cause is just.

I wish.

Motors rule and what’s worse is that they know it. If not in possession of four wheels* and a sneeringly arrogant mindset, then you’re merely aluminium swarf waiting to happen.

If road usage was a game of stone, scissors and paper, the car wins every time. Cyclists anywhere on the road are just slow moving slaloms and pedestrians on a crossing merely the meek to be intimidated. Like I say motors rule – let me show you what I can do with a heavy right foot and an 5 star safety cage.

We can’t hurt then. And they know that too.

And yet while we’ve losing the war, there is still satisfaction to be gained in the odd battle won. The archpriest of destruction is a little less close to canonisation once you’re wrenched his door open, grabbed him by his fat, greasy collar and pointed out – probably not in a polite way – that if he ever tries that move again, you’ll relocate his teeth onto the plush leather interior.

It’s not a solution but it’s our only option. We resort to guerilla tactics because the rule of the road, and those who are paid to enforce them, just doesn’t apply to anyone who once executed a three point turn without crashing.

Today I stuttered out a staccato rant to the pretend policeman who were busy criminalising those they could catch because the real criminals are beyond the metric of their targets. They didn’t care and after a bit, I didn’t either.

We’re on our own out there; Nelson and his pidgins. It’s up to us slavishly obeying the law to meter out justice in the only way we know how. And that’s to behave like a car, own the centre line, give way to no-one and ride on the hair trigger of instance violence.

It’s not a solution and it probably doesn’t help. But feck me, it feels good.

* I like to think of Motorcyclists as our close brethren albeit with an engine. Except couriers and their car wide top boxes – they’re trained killers. And Scooters, they’re just stupid.

Groundhog day

The shadow of Punxsutawney Phil lies heavily across this late winter’s morning. The trains are still delayed, the coffee machine is still broken and the weather is still on the bloody freezing side of arctic. I’d place a handsome bet that the penguins of that region are grumbling “global warming my furry arse?”

Leaving southern Spain in bright warm sunshine and spring like conditions, my return to the UK woefully failed to deliver any of those much loved climatically encouraging characteristics. However I felt a surge of patriotic pride at the slew of “out of order” signs plastered across assorted vending machines, toilets and amusingly one of the departure gates.

I have returned to damning evidence of some hard partying at my desk. Cables, computers and phones have been flung to the four corners of my workspace, resembling the aftermath of a ground zero event. Clearly my mildly ironic signage proclaiming – the genetically indisputable fact – that “your mother doesn’t live here” has failed to instil any manner of basic housekeeping. I shall be setting mousetraps and other such deterrents for my next trip away.

What with spring showing the bonginess of a partially coiled sponge, this could be sooner rather than later. I’ve been showing remarkable mental strength by successfully stifling the urge to check the Granada weather. Such an action would likely trigger a chain reaction involving booking flights, wasting more non family holiday and – possibly – resulting in impending divorce or death by rolling pin.

But as I was chipping the ice off my windscreen this morning, the cheeky chuntering of that damned groundhog was both clear and clearly irritating.

And the next person extolling the virtues of winter especially in a riding context will be in receipt of a rapid and no nonsense slap across the chops.