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.

The rains in Spain fall mainly on the plain.

They had better bloody not. Ok for the meteorologically challenged I’ve included the entire Sierra Nevada range in that last comment. I have this perfect picture in my head of sun kissed singletrack, warm rides and cold beer. Three out of the four weather sites insist on something different and damper. The other one is hedging it’s bets. I’m going with that one for now.

Still compared to spending another day in this (hopefully) final slap of winter, even warm rain seems almost too good to miss.

I have to pack my bike. This is likely to be a unmitigated disaster spiced up by tape which sticks to everything (cats, children, dinner) except the frame, serious bleeding due to aggressive wielding of the Stanley knife and a “Michelin Man” sized bike that exceeds the volume of the bag by 20% or so. Then I’ll go and fetch the hammer, and then they’ll be an argument and before I know it, I’m taking my hardtail because I’ve beaten the 5-Spot to within an inch of its’ life.

Remember that Fawlty Towers sketch when John Cleese is birching the car: “It’s not like I haven’t warned you is it, you are getting what’s coming to you, etc”. That’s a metaphor ably describing my life at the moment.

We going with these people http://www.ciclomontana.com/ and riding trails like this:

http://www.ciclomontana.com/img/content/welcome_1a.jpg

Cupping my electronic ear, I’m picking up some angst racing down the information super highway. Can’t quite make it out, something like “plucky flooking bar steward”.

Four days riding, beer scheduled to start at breakfast and much fun to be had with like minded friends 🙂

“Oi! You can’t park there”

“I just did” is, in my experience, a proportional response. This holds a special pleasure when directed at some pompous ass who truly believes every Englishman’s home is his castle. It’s almost charity work to disabuse them of the notion that house deeds rarely extend to the public road.

I had a similar experience today. Chiltern Railways “cyclists charter” treats bike carrying in the same vein as murdering your fellow passengers with a blunt axe. Messy and bad for business – especially at peak times. Therefore I had little option but to haul cold, dark butt out of bed at 6am in the morning so as not to suffer the fate of a possible eviction at Amersham.

Wind back a bit here. Why was I doing this? So I could swap

From This

To This

And I hear you ask again Why the hell was I doing this; replacing one mountain bike with another? Long story which inevitably will be blog-food in due course.

As the 6:35 rolled out of Stoke Mandeville, I’d cunningly wedged the bike into the disabled area. The train was almost deserted and short of suffering some potential early bird wheelchair action, I was perfectly positioned for some quality snoozing.

What I’d failed to recognise was a. this is the slow train which stops at every station, siding and seemingly where people stick out an opportunistic hand and b. there is a critical mass of sad buggers travelling that early. Past Amersham, it’s standing room only and lustful glances are being cast at the foldable seats nailed shut by forceful insertion of a mountain bike.

Continue reading “Oi! You can’t park there”

CHIP and PIN(g)

This morning I’ve debated a fascinating logical conundrum with the security guard. Nice fella, we’ve had a few chats, with him sharing amusing anecdotes of car park securitydum. I know his name and he knows mine; we’re not friends as such but more than nodding acquaintances.

This morning he’s run out of the security hut with a turn of speed belying his 40-a-day rollup habit and advancing years. This unexpected manoeuvre caused me some consternation due to a high approach speed and partially committed move to dodge the barrier now occupied by my portly yellow jacketed chum.

Sketchy stoppy completed with some panache, I assumed he was desperate to impart some choice missive on how the chefs create their special mayonnaise or some such but no:

Continue reading CHIP and PIN(g)

The Mobile Phone: A weapon of career destruction

Here’s a tip; Nokia provide a simple key lock for your phone to prevent unintentional dialling. Use it. Here’s another; program a dummy number in the first phonebook entry for the time you neglect tip#1. And for the serially stupid here’s Tip#3 which must convey the complex nuances of speaking without thinking but can be summarised thus: Shut The Feck Up!

Experience is how the stupid categorise their biggest mistakes. Tonight I am truly experienced having extemporised to my work colleagues much that I know nothing about and a little I probably shouldn’t have shared. This is just pub talk at the end of a day when a thin corporate veneer prevents you from carrying out instinctively violent actions against the guilty. Which today included almost everybody.

So almost expected behaviour. Except for significant additional circumstances.

My boss, separated by half a mile, but connected through a combination of a forename starting with “A” and my wanton abandonment of Tips 1, 2 and 3 gleefully listed to the entire exchange on his office speakerphone.

To be fair, he was trying to explain that I had inadvertently conferenced him in. Somewhat less fairly, my phone was buried deep in a suit pocket which prevented me hearing him. Still Nokia Mics are a bloody triumph of miniature engineering. I really wish they weren’t.

Powerful as the English language is, it cannot even begin to adequately portray the depth of the pit into which my stomach plummeted. Not can it properly document the white hot embarrassment felt on my discovery that “PubGate” had gone global.

The only fading glimmer of light in this tunnel of cringe was my genetic inability to tell large fibs allied to a pathological hatred of talking behind people’s backs. Or into their phones as was the case here.

I’m kidding myself. It’s not really a glimmer is it?

The instinctive response is to pass the whole episode off as a indiscretion similar to jarring someone’s arm at the coffee machine. However Andy – my boss – is an infrequent reader of this blog and I can hear the bugger chuckling. Quite right too – experience may finally have taught me that mobile phones, beer and ranting at the speed of stupid make very unhappy bedfellows.

I left the pub somewhat chastised and considered allowing a “Strand Suicide” taxi to administer the last rights, but even this small pleasure was denied me.

Normally at this time of night I’d put my phone on charge. But you know what? I don’t think I’ll bother.

I’m not having a good day.

Street Riding

“I’m just off to ride my bike in town”. A phrase so lacking in machismo it hints as ladies clothing in your wardrobe. And yet it’s a precursor to a splinter riding activity that has much to recommend it.

What’s good; It’s close, it’s easy to start and hard to finish, it embeds useful skills for trail riding and it hints at urban rebellion. What’s bad; you feel old and sometimes a little stupid. It’s the clothes you see, cooler friends than me (that’s everybody) pull off the jeans and hoodie “Urban Grungy” look while I’m reduced to sporting a pair of Fox Huck Pants superbly disguised as those polyester trousers you wore at school, clashing horribly with a jey riding jacket. I tried a hoodie once but when even my own kids were almost crippled with laughter, I reassigned it to the cat basket. Accessories include knee and elbow pads, helmets and the smallest bike in your shed.

Continue reading Street Riding