Living in a tent…

… living in a canvas tent. Nineties hit? C’mon, C’mon. Artist and Title. Here’s a clue, they were one and the same. I want to whinge about my complete failure to complete my commute this morning, but it’ll have to wait. The reason being my annual appraisal awaits, which means lies, more lies and the chicken suit.

In the meantime, I found this on STW. It’s a blog from a man who has gone to great lengths to pay off his debts. He has sold his possessions, moved out of his house, and is currently located in tented accomodation somewhere in the South East. It’s amusing, and you cannot read it without doffing a cap with respect.

Right time to talc up 🙂


Oops, originally uploaded by Alex Leigh.

The riderless plunge through a garden of hard edged rocks took its toll on both rider and bike. Although how the hell I managed to dent it there is a complete mystery!

Tim “Mr Fork” Flooks assures me that fork crowns are cast and so as butch as a lesbian Marine.

Sadly bars, grips and other assorted items were transformed from purposeful, working components to skip food during the transition between wheels right side up and wheels merely acting as attractors for more gravity.

I have to stop crashing. It’s getting expensive. The upside is the customisation of the bikes makes them essentially unsaleable. Which probably leaves me with no option but to ride them.

Clic24: 24 Hours of Rambling.

Random bloke on the course. Dawn Lap, Flickr Image

Chronological retelling of something not very exciting rarely makes interesting reading. But – in line with my aims of ever lowering the bar – that’s the way the Clic24 is being Hedgehog’d.

If you can’t be arsed to scroll down, here is the adjectival summary: late, rain, beer, tent, snore, hot, arse, stop, start, crash, bleed, beer, hurt, beer, stupidity, sleep, stiff, apathy, quit.

Long, rambling, amusing. Pick two.

Continue reading Clic24: 24 Hours of Rambling.

I am 98% man…

Flickr image

… and 2% Mendip. There is an intense moment of silence which follows the bangs and crashes of a big stack, and into that noise void dropped the thought that I’d completely screwed up less than a mile into my first lap. My plan had been simple; easy spin up the first climb, get a decent sighter of the downhills, and don’t race anyone – especially those with constipated expressions and lean bodies.*

Like all hastily conceived plans, it overlooked a integral component of a successful execution. And that component was my mechanical prowess when performing the complex task of correctly inflating the front tyre. This new boot took one look at gravity driven singletrack and decided to take its’ rubbery business elsewhere. Specifically a swift ‘see ya’ to the rim before flailing around the fork in a mildly comedic manner.

For anyone watching, anyway. I was struggling to find any time to see the funny side as the next few seconds were packed full of incident. If your car tyre ever punctures at high speed, the deceleration process is both rapid and uncontrolled. Now try that crossing rocky ground with half the number of wheels and at one tenth of the width. And that wheel is handling both steering and braking.

Except, of course, it isn’t doing anything of the sort. The front wheel immediately tucked under pitching me headlong over the bars, into a landing zone of spiky rocks and tough looking trees. This was the full crash experience – Surprise, terror, impact, pain, bounce, impale, roll and more pain. Then the silence. Then the ‘what the fuck happened there?’. Then the full systems check as body parts checked in with various degrees of damage. Finally time for a decent groan, after a cautious move to semi prone breaches the adrenaline/pain barrier.

Important to focus on the positive. My smashed up knee from 2006 took a blow right to the centre of the original damage and it’s articulating pretty well. My dislocated shoulder from last year suffered an identical impact as I’d instinctively thrown out a hand and – aside from some desultory bleeding – that’s fine as well. The bike – when I find it over the other side of the track – has some interesting new gouges but appears functionally undamaged. Lots of riders stopped to see if I was still alive, while commenting “woooah, that was a big one”. Which was nice.

The rest of the lap was not nice. I inaugurated myself into the “order of the purple hand” as the lefty changed colour, swelled up and bloody hurt. Refreshingly, all the injuries appeared to be on pedalling centres – ankles, knee and a banana sized rash on my hip. So to summarise; 1 mile completed, can’t use my left hand to brake or change gear, can barely hold the bar and my head feels a bit like it’s been slammed into hard rocks at 15MPH.

Time to MTFU** and get on with it. Which I did although not before two more punctures reduced me to a puncture repair kit and a bloody annoyed expression. The first set of marshalls clapping eyes on my less than pristine person offered me a ride in the broom wagon, but that didn’t seem the right thing to do. And it was with that attitude, I completed that lap and a few more afterwards.

But it was fantastic. Not the crashing but the great cause, the organisation, the course and the other riders out on it. The St. John’s ambulance guys did a fab job of patching me up again, even tho I had to show another grown man my willy as he tutted his way round a couple of deep scabs. I’ll write some more later – about the event not my new found interest in getting my knob out.

I’ve documented my hatred of event racing many times before. And that hasn’t left me, but this event is something I really want to do again. If only to make it past the first descent without barrel rolling down the track. Because then it would make it even better 🙂

Today, a goodly portion of my left side is purple. This is officially the summer colour of 2008, and I’m well ahead of the game what with the Voodoo already being that shade***

* It’s really not meant to be a race. A few people didn’t get that at first, but I’d like to think my pithy comments may have helped to shape their opinion. If you can’t beat ’em, insult the buggers as they fly past.

** Man The Fuck Up.

** It is not pink. A few people also made that mistake during the weekend for which they received a sharp glance and a sharper bit of glass in their tyres.

Clic for more

More laps, more food, more beer, more stories, more pain, more is it over yet?

I’d like to say we’re ready. Which isn’t a total whopper if you suffix it with “as we’ll ever be“. Nigel has unearthed some terrifying mobile fire going by the name of “Chernobyl“. It’s a fiesty old stove neatly circumventing any safety regulations on the exceptional grounds it is a recognised antique. It runs on a cheeky combination of paraffin and eyebrow hair – at least they were the flammable ingredients that set fire to Nigel’s house during pre-event testing.

Jason is bringing a rebuilt bike accompanied by bowels of pasta and an assortment of beverages. I will be packing the car with everything I own including spare tyres, an extensive toolkit for other people to expertly spanner with and a crate of beer. Dave will rock up with his Shoreditch combover and a mobile phone glued to his ear. I haven’t had the heart to explain that the nearest thing to digital communications in the Mendips is the postal goat.

I have unearthed the tent of extreme frustration and will spend many hours trying to build it before giving up and sleeping in the car. I’m also planning to take two bikes. That’ll be one for each lap then 😉

Right, well much to do before packing, panicing, re-packing, getting Carol to help and then sitting on the M4 while pre-ride drinking time ticks away. I’m taking the camera so prepare for Flickr overload come next week.

Oh and a belated thank you very much for all your generous donations.

Karmic storms

Muddy Cove, originally uploaded by Alex Leigh.

Grab yourself a lentil and relax, as grassmud-hopper here enlightens you to the ways of karma. If one wishes to achieve meteorological karmic balance, one must first seek out the sub zero land of trench-knob, journey through the muddy foothills of component destruction and genuflect to the great God chain suck. Only then shall the trails of the righteous be paved with sun, dust and occasional sprinklings of cold beer.

And because the world is nothing more than an infinite flange of laziness, many of these footsteps of the cold, wet and un-initiated are being trod by yours bloody truly. You can keep your sheep-swool base layers – I have everything I need here with my hair shirt.

The most positive spin I can place upon yesterday’s ride was it was a small improvement on the week before. Not much, because the weather Gods have failed to flick the ‘Spring‘ lever leaving us with snow, hail, rain and freezing drizzle*. The car park was strewn with mud splats of portent, every car was brown as was every returning mountain biker. Except for a few which were blue and – apparently – unbreathing.

Three hours later I was a broken man but still alive. Those following the narrative may remember me citing a positive in a previous paragraph. That’s it. Both my riding chums – Nick and Dean – had apparently broken nothing, not even a light sweat. It is fair to say they are both fitter than me but, if one were being scrupulous in the use of ‘Fair’, so are almost all of my friends. Even those who have passed on to a better place.

Not the greatest accolade ever presented is it? ‘Cheers for the ride fellas, thanks for not leaving me to die, oh, and you’re both far healthier than some dead people I once knew’. A week ago Sunday, 90 minutes dispatched me to the same dark and hollow place, this time I managed twice that although not without some physical and mental consternation.

But I am going to keep at it; commuting through winterspring(tm), tossing myself recklessly** into pools of deep mud and spending a long weekend trudging up alpine climbs with only thin air for company***

But soon, I shall emerge from winters’ chrysalis and flaunt my faux fitness on trails which aren’t trying to consume you from the wheels up. Although looking at the long range weather forecast, what I am actually doing – right now – is practising for much, much more of the same.

I like to whinge about the weather. It makes me feel all patriotic and English.

* This is not the same as hail. As cold but lacking the viscosity to keep it from running into your previously warmed crevices.

** Which doesn’t bode well for the eyesight.

*** I may be underselling our Pyrenees trip in April. However, any fitness gained will be lost to the power of my willpower once the bar opens.

That’ll learn me

Sitting on an 500mph aeroplane going nowhere, I found myself idly musing if a man, still within binocular distance of not that old, should be growing breasts. Fantastically innovative as the human body is, the DNA chronology is clearly wrong in this case. Boys should grow breasts at the age of fourteen – such was our fascination as puberty took hold – and then we’d never have to leave the house. Bad for the bedsheets, good for millions of innocent women who don’t include teenage groping in their list of wants.

Whereas at 40, we have a spouse and the Internet for that kind of thing. And, because I was sandwiched between a family with about 50 kids, half of whom were screaming and the other half who were being noisily sick, I decided to extend my pondering to consequences. Of breasts, not children, I don’t like to think about the latter without a large drink in my hand.

With the CLIC-24 less than two months away – and I may need to start sponsoring myself to pretend I have more friends – I am determined not to put in a totally piss-poor performance. Considering my entire racing career consists of seven starts and two finishes, this is possibly an unrealistic aspiration.

So four days of Easter would be the ideal way to kick start my training regime. Although, ‘training’ to me is not based on any science; for example when I dismount – jelly legged from the bike – if I still retain the power of speech, then I clearly am not trying hard enough. And while I have a heart rate monitor I don’t understand and a training book I’ve never read, my total lack of mental discipline means training is just riding a lot and hurting.

Sadly plan A was scuppered by the kind of rain and sleet which so characterises British Bank Holidays. But a lack of Plan ‘B’ meant going out during a brief period of cold blue, clad only in thin shoes, roadie shorts and a late snatched waterproof. The first half of the ride was into a freezing headwind that rapidly escalated into a toe, body and hand-wind – all of which began to shiver.

My mind was elsewhere though, trying to judge whether the banks of threatening dark clouds were far enough away to allow a sneaky five mile extension. My decision to go for it was mocked by immediate rain upgrading soon to sizzling hail. Blue sky still lit the Chiltern hills a few miles away, but my personal hailstorm followed me all the way home.

Removing the lights and courier bag to gain speed still rated as a fine plan, ditching mudguards and waterproofs less so. Within two minutes, my arse was soaked, I had contracted “Trench-Willy“, my face was stung by shotgun pellets from the sky, and my feet had lost all form of motor control.

This went on for a very, very long time without any respite. It was sort of fun in a it’ll soon be over kind of way. I was significantly happier – standing naked in the barn – once I had stripped off the layers of soaking clothing. Sadly my feelings of warmth and worth were spiked by a caught reflection of white and floppy man boobs.

Still I can suck it in and, because I went out yesterday, I have every excuse not to go – Scott like – into the sleet and rain today. But I bet it’s not raining in New Zealand 🙁

More norks, less isobars.

Because I am old, the exact time and place of my first adolescent grope of a pert boob is not a fixed memory. Obviously some years had passed between this orb of delight being a source of food and comfort to being a rather more entertaining supply of teenage pleasure*. And some discomfort in the trouser department, for which I place the blame squarely at bollock tight 80s jeans.

Amazing really looking back that girls would bother with us at all. They had all the physical assets and mental maturity, while our idea of sophisticated foreplay was controlling premature ejaculation. When one of my daughters returns home shying showing off her first boyfriend, he’s going to be in the centre of a practical experiment. I’m going to ask her to touch him anywhere and when he explodes in teenage delight, I’m going to shoot him. And then place his head outside on a spike as an example to others.

Sorry Fatlad, my Neocon paternal urges kicked in there for a moment, let me get back to the point. Or points of interest, specifically the joy of poking fun at US “Weathercasters“** when compared to their somewhat more staid British colleagues.

When I worked out there, it was well understood that the Weather Channel was educational, free soft porn. All the presenters were beautiful women who could provocatively gyrate at a moments notice. Legions of gorgeous, besuited women would waft across the screen and describe the weather in a way that certainly delivered some high pressure to my lower regions.

On the downside, as they had their own channel and a whole shit load of biblical weather, it did tend to lead to excited exchanges such as:

Hi” [Business Suit, High Heels, Size 0 and and a bit, Perfect Smile] “This is Cindy Nosemaker on the Weather channel welcoming you all to” [Toss shiny hair] “on this stormy morning in the most dysfunctional country in the world. Our roving reporter Reisling J. Pineapple the Third” [Wiggle in a way that has every man betwixt the ages of 8 and 80 reaching for the tissues] “is out on the streets of a wild and windy New York. Reisling?

[Cut to reporter dressed in branded wind cheater against a backdrop of 10 foot snowdrifts, roofs flying past, looting in the background, sounds of murder out of shot, etc]

Well Cind, it’s dumped another 12 inches last night” [suggestive leer] “no traffic is moving, the trains are cancelled, the airport is closed, there’s panic in the streets and the Mayor is being supplied with his breakfast truffles by Army Airlift

Cindy [Ignores leer, wiggles again, collective grown from 60 million men] “Well that’s just swell!*** And worse to come, rains of trout are being driven in on icy polar winds and there is an 84.25% chance of hailing haddock by midday” [indicates galactic wall sized, interactive weather map]

And after these messages, we’re going to the International News Desk with a breaking story that France has sunk. That’s in Yew-Rope and so isn’t important at all.”

The UK version of that goes something like this:

Michael Fish stumps onto screen wearing elbow pads, National Health Glasses and a haircut styled by backwards hedge. Removes academic pointing cane from hidden inner pocket, indicates blackboard resplendent with a crayoned version of the UK scrawled upon in.

Good Evening. It shall be a little wet and windy. The Met Office recommends a stiffening of upper lips, a small glass of sherry and the staking out of any children left outside

Except of course, it isn’t like that any more. The last two decades have bled us of cultural differences in the unseemly haste for globalisation. Now I watch the weather and crave the days of Wincy Willis and her sticky clouds****, 20p worth of not very special weather effects and the lackadaisical approach to forecasting “tomorrow may be warm, cold, dry or wet. We suggest you look out of the window and form your own opinion“.

It takes a special kind of mind to take an email “I’ve got quite a few American readers, fancy writing something about the weather for me?” and turn it into a discourse onto why US weather women were pretty damn hot. I can’t say it makes me proud but now I’ve finished, it’s sure to make me drunk.

I probably should end by cravenly stating my allegiance to the majority of the people I met in the US. For the first year or so, it was a Grok like reenactment of Stranger In A Strange Land as people who I could see and understand operated like aliens from a different planet. Subsequent to that and on the back of learning a culture through a culture of drinking, I found them warm, open, passionate and funny. And insular, a bit warmongery, occasionally arrogant and as shouldery chippy as a professional Yorkshireman. I liked them even more for the last one 🙂

* I do remember my second (and nearly last) day at my first proper job where a young lady – endowed in such a way you’d consider snorkel and flippers – was mammarily straining in a tight blouse. Every time she bent towards the phone, I was convinced she’d inadvertantly call the emergency services. This is not pervy – I was about 17 and everyone was like that. Probably.

** Calling Ian to the Scorpion Pit please.

*** Americans – in my experience – don’t do irony. I think it was displaced by the bombing gene.

**** Don’t try and find a simile in there. It exist only in your dirty little mind 🙂

I’ll do anything for cash

Well not quite anything although the localised credit crunch in our bank account may well push me into displaying myself naked on the Internet. Still we don’t need 50p that badly and anyway, the sheep is demanding 20% of any royalties.

So far this month the tax man cometh and rapidly goeth away after collecting a bagful of cash, and the Honda garage is celebrating record profits since the disturbingly gleeful Service Manager exclaimed “Oh Sir! Do come in and sit down. Your car needs the REALLY EXPENSIVE service“.

With us laundering Sterling at a frightening rate to various tourist agencies in New Zealand and the potential fiscal implosion that is replacing Carol’s car, I’ve been tracking the price of small children on eBay. Except of course you can’t sell kids on the open market – I know this because their teachers urged them to contact Social Services if we ever tried.

But don’t feel sorry for me.

[Places ear trumpet to wibblyworld and listens carefully]

Right OK, You don’t feel sorry for me but feel sorry for those kids I’m raising money for. Now I know this is already taking on the virtual aspect of a broken record*, so I’m going to make you an offer. And no, it has almost nothing to do with webcams, sheep, leather waistcoats and runic chanting**.

Instead, donate a quid and I’ll write you something. And I know this is a conceit of epic proportions but the more I learn about Clic-Sargent, the greater my desire to prostitute myself to any bidder. Limited as my skills are, some expectation setting is probably necessary. So here are some newspapery categories in which I feel I could craft*** something:

– Local Reporting: Man bites dog
– From our foreign correspondant: Man eats dog.
– Special interest story: Man has sex with dog
– Mystic Hedge: Man turns into dog
– Helpline “In a pickle”: Is it ok to teach my dog to perform blowjobs?

Frankly, it’d be a public service doling out content that isn’t related to bikes, commuting and the many uses of a grouting compound. Don’t just think of the almost infedesible pleasure of being published on a website occaisonally read by people you’ve never met, but consider also their delight in bettering themselves with – for example – an educationally vibrant debate on “What would this country look like, if run by llamas?

That’s got to be worth a quid of anyone’s money. And for that carrot, there is this stick – otherwise I’ll be forced to go with option 1. And that’s just not fair on the sheep!

* for younger readers of the Hedgehog, this was a rather lovely piece of analogue technology that the iPod generation killed.

** Never again dare I look at what search words which spike the unwary to the site.

*** Make up

Look over there —> !

No, not there, where the remnants of another weekend’s house sprucing lie congealing and in need of throwing out of the window NEVER TO BE SEEN AGAIN. LET IT BE SO a wash, here – the funky new applet tracking sponsorship for my foolhardy attempt to finish a MTB event. I’ve started quite a few but when the going has traditionally got tough, I’ve got in the car and gone home.

But not this time because I’m determined to finish. Some of that is driven by the bloody mindedness gland that has failed to fire in previous events, a little more by my team-mates giving me a motivational speech along the lines of “get back out there you lazy fecker“, but mostly because I need to earn the sponsorship that will hopefully not be reading zero in three months time.

By all accounts, it’s a fantastic event. But so much more than that is the absolute certainty that giving money to CLIC-Sargent is going to make some little lives better.

I have a whole weekend of angst to share with you starting predictably with a paint brush and ending in a Bruce Springsteen-esqe “planting in the dark“. But better still, I’ll tell you why 🙂

Feel free to pop off over —-> there in the meantime if you like.