Monday, 31 March 2008
Or at least it was.
I'm sorry to see the end of this excellent programme, which has been head to head, and shoulder to shoulder, above the normal standard of political coverage on the television.
With one notable exception, all the participants were pretty high value, but I reckon that David Aaronovitch and Janet Daly have been the most thought-provoking and challenging pairing. They proved willing to listen to each other's views, they responded thoughtfully; and in the process we discovered a surprising amount of common ground.
Goodness knows why the BBC is bringing this programme to an end. My inner cynic wants to think that the standard of debate proved too embarassing for producers of other programmes with higher profiles, and bigger budgets. More likely the viewing figures were just too low. It's a shame.
Sunday, 30 March 2008
Saturday, 29 March 2008
This is St John the Baptist in Little Missenden, which ranks as the ninth most distant, but it is the first to be open when I arrived, without a service under way. So it is the first that I have been able to look around without seeking out a key.
It was well worth it. It's a lovely church, with a core that goes back at least to the twelfth century, and according to the plans in the church, to Saxon times.
Despite the grey skies and a fair amount of wind, the ride out was quite pleasant, with no rain, and the wind mostly urging me on. As soon as I left the church, though, things began to change. The rain built up, and the wind was pushing me back. By the time I was approaching High Wycombe it had really turned quite unpleasant, and a fast descent into Hughenden valley, through driving rain, was getting quite exciting.
I don't know a nice route into the centre of High Wycombe from the north-west, but I now know how to find the good cycle route from High Wycombe out to Loudwater. By this stage the weather had eased up a bit, and despite a continuing headwind it really wasn't too bad completing the loop back to home.
Little Missenden was definitely the highlight of the day, but I also managed to climb the hill from Wooburn Green to Beaconsfield without getting off the bike. It was all in bottom gear, but I'm still quite pleased with myself. I think it is called Glory Hill, because that's the name of the farm at the top, but in any case, I will think of it as Glory Hill from now on. Glory, hallelujah!
Friday, 28 March 2008
Despite the crummy weather this has ended up as a reasonable week for cycling. For the first time, I have managed to get out on the bike every day (though, to be honest, today was a bit of a token gesture with only a couple of miles in gusty wind, mostly to put something on the board).
Overall, I've covered more than 75 miles in the week, which ranks as my second highest weekly mileage this year. I'm now somewhere near Bourg en Bresse (north of Lyon) on my virtual European tour. Bourg en Bresse marked the transitino from Stage 6 to Stage 7 of the 2007 tour de France. Oh, and during the last week, this blog has welcomed its first visitors from Sweden and South Korea.
The nicest trip in the week was an evening trundle around Cookham and Bray on thursday, with little wind, and some lovely light. The longest was a slog through driving wind, rain and worse on monday, which was mainly memorable as an exercise in grit and determination.
The weather forecast for the coming weekend is best described as "unpredictable", but I hope to get out a couple of times. Regardless of how the next few days turn out, after a couple of lean weeks, the graphs are starting to look a bit healthier. In a few days it will be the end of March, the clocks will spring forward, the current deadlines at work will either have been met, or missed, and we can look forward to a bit more progress.
Monday, 24 March 2008
Today, though, it worked as it should.
The idea, as regular readers know, is to set myself a series of goals, as an incentive to keep riding when the novelty wears off, and hence avoid my cycling getting usurped by less important priorities.
Over the last couple of weeks, I've not been doing too well. A combination of bad weather, more travel than usual, and pressure of work meant that all the graphs were starting to move in the wrong direction.
I did a little bit better over the first three days of the long weekend, and the forecast promised better weather today, so I was looking forward to a longer trip, and getting back on top of my targets.
It didn't quite work out that way.
The weather was still grim this morning, and by lunchtime I was beginning to wonder whether I should go out on the bike or not. In the end, the pressure of the numbers won out. I put on an extra t-shirt, packed a waterproof, and set off into a cold wind and light rain, hoping things would improve.
By the time I had covered a dozen miles, the rain had turned to sleet, and the wind showed no sign of letting up. Still, I pressed on rather than turning back. After a few more miles the rain cleared briefly, and things began to look better. However, on the way home, it all turned worse, and I was hit by a heavy shower of hailstones. By then there wasn't much I could do, other than press on.
Finally, as I covered the last few miles, the clouds cleared, the sun came out, and the wind got behind me, instead of blowing in my face. By the time I was home, and treated to a large mug of hot chocolate, I could see sunny late afteroon light through the window.
So was it worth it?
Yes - no doubt about it.
Apart feeling good after an afternoon's exercise and plenty of (very) fresh air, I have the satisfaction of having braved the elements, and overcome temptation. I also have another 37.5 miles on the log. That doesn't break any records, though it is among my longest five trips, and contributes to quite a lot of future Eddington numbers. It also means that I shouldn't have too much trouble achieving this weeks targets, and might even be able to bank some extra miles to cover future shortfalls. The graphs are starting to move in the right direction again, and I've covered some new routes around Sonning.
Sunday, 23 March 2008
But fine words butter no parsnips, and today is also the anniversary of the founding of Mussolini's fascist party in Italy, the first broadcast of Midsomer Murders, the birth of Wernher von Braun, the death of Peter Lorre, and the launch of John Major's citizen's charter.
So much to commemorate, and so little time...
Saturday, 22 March 2008
There are more than fifty comments on Conservative Home, mostly pointing out that we shouldn't make too much of this.
Friday, 21 March 2008
His web site is here. Apart from pictures of all sorts of different baskets, I particularly like the link to other suppliers / cheaper baskets. As he points out, "not everyone wants to pay for a top quality basket...".
The climb up to Winter Hill with a strong head wind was a bit tough, but the drop back to Maidenhead riverside with a strong tail wind across Widbrook common was much more fun. So much so that I decided to carry on to Bray. Just beyond Maidenhead bridge I stumbled on the little Guards Club park. The park was created in 1977, on a site that had been a recreational club for guards based at Windsor. This pretty little footbridge leads to an island in the river. It seems the bridge is open in the summer, but closed at this time of the year for the sake of swans nesting on the island.
By the time I left Bray, light rain had started, and the wind fallen a bit. On the whole it was a pretty good outing. It was long enough to bump my Eddington number up to 12, but not far enough to bring the week's total mileage up to scratch. So unfortunately that makes two weeks in a row when I have fallen short of my goal. With a long weekend, and hopes of better weather, perhaps I will do better next week.
Wednesday, 19 March 2008
View Larger Map
I forget where I first saw this suggested, but thanks to whoever it was.
(if it doesn't make any sense, then try clicking on the pins)
I am currently somewhere near Dijon on my virtual European tour, with about 200 miles to go before I reach Héré. However, the weather has brightened up today, with the promise of more cycling, and hence better virtual progress over the next week.
Sunday, 16 March 2008
It originates with Arthur Eddington, who was a physicist, who reached an E-number of 87 by the time he died in 1944.
Counting from the beginning of this year, my Eddington number is 11. Ouch.
The thing is that you have to plan ahead to reach higher numbers. I could increase my E to 15 fairly easily by doing a few trips of 15 miles, but after that, none of them would count, because an E-number of 16 only counts trips of 16 miles or more.
I have already "banked" seven rides that will count towards an E-number of 20, five rides that will count towards an E-number of 30, and two that will count towards an E-number of 40.
At the moment I am finding it quite a neat measure for stretching the distances I am covering, but like all these things if you start thinking too far ahead, it all gets a bit discouraging.
Friday, 14 March 2008
Tuesday, 11 March 2008
Sunday, 9 March 2008
This afternoon I did 30 miles on the bike, looping round Wargrave, Henley and Marlow.
Not so long ago, 30 miles would have been a major expedition. It is a sign of progress that it no longer feels like a massive challenge. Nevertheless, it was very pleasant. The weather stayed fine, apart from a brief, light shower just after I had set off. Thankfully I decided to press on; the sun came out, and for once the wind seemed to be pushing me along as often as it was pushing me back. There were quite a lot of other sunday cyclists around, and today they didn't all seem to be passing me.
I reckon it was a pretty good way to spend a sunday; and thankfully we've got roast pork (Gloucester old spot) to look forward to for dinner - not squirrel.
Saturday, 8 March 2008
Friday, 7 March 2008
copies a day - it can't be helping.
"No matter how hard you try to boost your happiness, ultimately, you are destined to fail."
Needless to say, I beg to differ.
Thursday, 6 March 2008
I suppose it's a bit late to start preparing a similar effort this time round, but I reckon that if I keep working at it, I could be ready for something along similar lines in 2012.
I'm prepared to consider offers of sponsorship.
Wednesday, 5 March 2008
The first Zebra crossing was installed in Slough in 1951. Before that, pedestrian crossings consisted of parallel rows of studs in the road, and orange globes on poles (Belisha beacons), but no black and white stripes.
Unfortunately, both pedestrians and drivers ignored the crossings, so this public information film from 1946 shows how to cross the road safely. The studs and Belisha beacons are there - but no zebra stripes.
"Let me introduce you to Mr. A. Now Mr. A is a perfectly straight forward kind of person....
With a tip of the hat to martin97uk on Flickr for pointing out the link.
Monday, 3 March 2008
Sheldon's web site helped me get back into cycling. He was clearly a gifted writer, for which I am grateful. He was also clearly an enthusiast who was prepared to follow his own path, which I admire. But my gratitude and admiration is just a tiny drop in the wave of feeling expressed by the internet cycling community over the last month. It is good to see his work recognised in the traditional media.
You can view the interesting obituary here. Don't bother with the silly editorial.
Much of yesterday's ride was on canal towpaths. Not quite as much as I had planned, because part of the towpath near Denham was closed for repair work, and I had to make a diversion through Ickenham.
But the main point is that yesterday was the first time this bike has handled a fair distance off paved roads. It was OK, but it wasn't really in its element on the rougher surfaces.
To begin with I was taking things pretty carefully, but once I got used to it, I relaxed and just bashed on as normal. So it wasn't a great surprise to get a puncture.
In truth, the soft tyre only became apparent when I was almost home, so I guess it probably wasn't caused by something on the towpath. Rather than fix it there and then, I ended up pushing the bike the last couple of miles, and fixing it this afternoon. A tiny tack had gone straight through the tyre into the inner tube. Hardly the end of the world, and it would have been easily fixed earlier in the day, as I had remembered to take the repair kit with me.
After putting everything back together again, and pumping the tyre up to full pressure, I did my usual spin round the suburbs to try it out. On getting home, I discovered that the recorded mileage was down from 5.39 miles (on the immediately preceding trips) to 5.35 on this one. So I checked back to to the distances I have logged for the same route over the last few weeks, and they vary by about 1%. No doubt some of this is due to taking a slightly different line on the same roads, but I wonder how much is down to different tyre pressures. The front tyre has never been soft, so it's only the difference between a fully inflated tyre, and one that is ready to be topped up. Surely that couldn't make a significant difference to the diameter on the road - or could it?
Sunday, 2 March 2008
Today I have cycled to two more of the churches that Simon Jenkins rates as the thousand best chuches in England.
To recap, I have measured the distance from home, as the crow flies, to the neighbouring churches in the list that Simon Jenkins picked. I am aiming to cycle to the twelve nearest this year.
St Giles, at Stoke Poges ranks as the fifth most distant of the twelve, but in chronological sequence, it is the eigth that I have visited.
All that might be important to me, but in the grand scheme of things St Giles at Stoke Poges is more famous as the church where Thoms Gray wrote "Elegy written in a country churchyard". The poem goes on a bit, but it begins with the famous words....
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me
The other church that I visited today is St Mary's at Harefield, which ranks as the twelfth most distant of the Jenkins churches, and the ninth I have reached.
There was a service in progress at St Giles when I was there, and St Mary's was locked - so I didn't see inside either of them. From the outside, St Giles is the prettier, so it gets the picture.
I have now reached nine of the twelve, and covered around 60% of the distance, and 50% of the climbing, and it is still only March. It is beginning to look as though I may have set my sights a little too low.
Saturday, 1 March 2008
The total distance covered at the end of February was 335 miles, which gets me to somewhere just south of Paris on my virtual European tour, and on track for my goal of covering 2,500 miles by the end of the year. This year I have done ten trips of more than ten miles, and I have ridden my age in kilometres twice, but I have not yet ridden my age in miles.
I have succeeded in the aim that I will "get out on the bike more often than not" in every week of February; with at least four outings every week, and six outings in three of them. I have also achieved my goal of covering at least 56 miles a week in every week of February.
Total mileage in February was 273 miles, the longest trip was 41 miles, and the average just under 12 miles.
I have now visited 7 of the 12 Jenkins churches that I am planning to visit by the end of the year. So although the remaining distances are getting longer, that goal may prove a bit unambitious.
I still need to work on getting faster - I am averaging round 10 mph on shorter journeys. Including breaks, I average about 7 miles an hour on longer journeys. I think I should be doing better.
Last, but not least, I have been able to move my belt buckle in by two notches since I started, which is better than I expected by this stage.
I reckon it is not a bad start, on the whole. The trick now is to keep it up.