Sunday, 28 November 2010


Sunday evening is when we get most updates about how the rest of the family is doing. With various relatives scattered around the country it sounds as though we are the just about the only ones who are not experiencing snow at the moment.

No doubt our day will come. For now I can only say that this afternoon's ride was blooming cold. My nose dripped constantly. Normally I proceed at a relaxed and leisurely pace, but today for the last few miles I dropped a gear, and pedalled furiously to warm myself up. When I got home I enjoyed the mug of hot chocolate that I had been dreaming about for a while.

The more important thing is that I've finally revisited the roundabout on the A4 where I was knocked off the bike a few weeks back.

I've been avoiding this for a while, by routing around. The A4 isn't a great road to ride on, but it joins up a lot of my other routes, and avoiding one junction was getting a bit silly. Naturally there was no problem today - on a Sunday afternoon with little traffic. So I decided to continue along it for a few more miles and a few more roundabouts. I wanted to prove that I was far too sensible to be troubled by one bump, and that I could easily  overcome any anxieties that I might have imagined. It worked. I am convinced. Really.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

War memorials

It was a bit of a cold morning but I managed a ride of about 20 miles around familiar lanes. It's now a couple of weeks after Remembrance Day, but I went with the intent of adding some of the local war memorials to Open Street Map.

The one in the picture is on the edge of Waltham St Lawrence. It commemorates those who died in both world wars, but I suppose it is understandable to associate war memorials mostly with the first. Apparently from this village of around 900 people, 220 served, and 29 died between 1914 and 1918.

It is estimated that 16.5 million people were killed in the first war, of which almost a million were from the UK. Just over one in 50 of the population were killed. So the village of Waltham St Lawrence suffered a bit more than most, but there is nothing really unusual about the number of casualties from this particular parish. There must be a similar number of names on tens of thousands of similar memorials.

The first world war ended a long time ago, but these monuments still show how determined they were at the time that their sacrifice would be remembered. Like many of them, one of the other memorials I visited today is inscribed "lest we forget". When the local MP unveiled this one he described it as “a memorial for all time”.

In many ways I suppose we have succeeded in keeping the memory alive, but I suspect most of us find it hard enough to understand how individuals coped with the impact on their own family. I, for one, cannot begin to imagine the overall magnitude of the slaughter. I find these memorials from a small community very moving. Perhaps that's because they bring something unimaginable down to a scale that I can cope with. But they are also so common and so familiar that I regret to say I normally pass without taking any particular notice. I'm glad that I took a bit of time to search a few out, and to make a point of pausing and reflecting.

The UK National Inventory of War Memorials is here, and the War Memorials Trust is here. The idea of adding war memorials to Open Street Map came from an OSM project of the week here. And I'm hoping that the one in the picture will appear on the map here.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

"Things can only get better"

It has not been a great day today, but even the World Database of Happiness recognises that we all share some ups and downs. Their figures look all over the place to me, but to the extent that there is any trend at all, things seems to be heading in the right direction. Slowly. So anyone who wants to survey my level of happiness might be well-advised to wait a while.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

What on earth!

From link on Yehuda Moon

Monday, 8 November 2010

Interesting map of UK POW camps from the Guardian data blog

More information here. Who'd have thought there were so many?

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Combined bicycle and accordion


Just fills a need long felt bv the cyclist.

There is a certain action claimed for it, in which pressure of air is used on the treadles which helps to propel the machine; but this is only a secondary element in the mind of the wary cyclist; no sooner will he see this invention than he will grasp the idea of getting keys to it and having it play him a tune, as he speeds on his lonely way. And then, how nice to sit down, unscrew a pedal, remove his treasure, and produce sweet strains of silvery music.

A new short method of instruction for playing upon this new combination may go with each cycle sold, such that any rider could soon comprehend. Below find brief of specification.

From the lower ends of the fork C extend, in downwardly or backwardly direction, fixed brackets, C' to which are applied closed expansible bellows, D, of oblong shape, one at each side of the driving-wheel A.

The combination, in a velocipede, with the driving wheel, of closed bellows supported on fixed brackets of the fork, forked pedal-rods connected at the lower end of the bottom of the bellows, and at the upper end to a transverse oscillating balance-rod.

R. von Malkowsky.

Extracted from Cycling Art, Energy and Locomotion. A series of remarks on the development of bicycles, tricycles and man motor carriages, by Robert P. Scott. Which can be found here. I have to admit that I'm not sure how tongue in cheek this was.

Tour de Fingest

Today I managed a thirty mile ride around one of my favourite routes. It goes over Winter Hill,  through Marlow, up to Fingest, then down the Hambleden valley and back to Marlow. I came home through Bourne End and Cookham. There's a map of the best part of the route here. It's the triangular local cycle route that runs north-west from Marlow, crossing the Chiltern's Cycleway.

It was a glorious day for a ride. There was a little bit of rain in the air but nothing much came of it. For most of my ride the sun was shining and the countryside was looking lovely and autumnal. There were quite a few walkers and cyclists out and about enjoying it all.

Previously on Tlatet we've covered the reasons why I've not done any long rides recently. Today was my longest outing on the bike in nearly two months. Over that time I've done a couple of rides to Windsor and back, but I tend to think of the 20 mile ride to Windsor as one of my longer short rides, while the 30 mile loop round Fingest and the Hambleden valley is one of my shorter long rides.

On the more boring parts of a ride my mind tends to start turning over questions like "at what point does a long-short ride turn into a short-long ride". I've not come up with an answer, but I have decided that it's not just about the distance. Familiarity also has something to do with it. I've ridden today's route perhaps half-a-dozen times, but the Windsor route dozens of times. I drive the roads to Windsor quite regularly, but I drive up into this part of the Chilterns more rarely than I cycle. The landscape on the two rides is also quite different. Today's ride involves hills and country lanes. In places it's quite hard work. The Windsor route is ridiculously flat, so an easier ride, and it involves more built-up areas and busy roads. As much as anything else it's the difference between spotting half a dozen Red Kites circling above Hambleden, or a flock of swans somewhere on the Thames.

There are a couple of hilly parts on today's route. One is the long climb out of Marlow. This normally involves a bit of puffing and panting, and I usually measure my performance by how many cyclists overtake me. However, there were no other cyclists around on that stretch today, so I have to be a bit more subjective. On balance, I decided my efforts there were what my mother would call "nothing to write home about". On the other hand they weren't too embarrassing either. The other hilly bits are some crinkly climbs  after Hambleden on the back road into Marlow. I've only once managed to climb all of those without getting off and pushing at some point. Today was the second time. And there was another milestone: I'm struggling to reach my goal for this year, but at least today takes this year's total past the mileage that I achieved in the whole of 2009.  

In summary, the scenery delivered everything that was expected. The weather did more than we have any right to expect at this time of year. The bike is riding well. And the cyclist gets a warm glow, a gold star for the crinkly bits, and no black marks for the slow climb out of Marlow. All very satisfactory.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Why does a bicycle stand up while rolling and fall down as soon as onward motion ceases?

For a plausible explanation, this and the section on balance here are a good start, but I like the following better:

The bottom of the wheel can have no side motion because it rests on the ground; and since the bottom is constantly becoming the top and the top the bottom, if the upper part of the wheel gets any lateral motion, it is checked by being brought round upon the ground again before the motion has too much influence.

That's taken from "Cycling Art, Energy and Locomotion. A series of remarks on the development of bicycles, tricycles and man motor carriages" by Robert P. Scott (1889). It can be found here. FWIW Mr Scott doesn't seem to find the explanation that I quoted very plausible either. He puts the magic down to the gyroscopic effect of spinning wheels. That's what I was originally taught, but that explanation seems to be discredited these days. The truth seems to be that we learn to steer so that the points where the tyres touch the road stay under the centre of gravity. That's what this is designed to do.

Perhaps what is really astonishing is that people have been building and riding these things for so long without really understanding how they work.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Je suis navré, je ne parle pas du tout le Français

Sort of following on from yesterday's post, with another bicycle too.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

House of Lords debates, 27 October 2010

Lord Butler of Brockwell (Crossbench) - To ask the Chairman of Committees whether there are any plans to install a docking station for the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme on the Lords controlled part of the Parliamentary Estate.

Lord Brabazon of Tara (Crossbench) - My Lords, Transport for London recently contacted the House of Commons regarding the possible installation of a Barclays Cycle Hire docking station on the Parliamentary Estate. While we cannot permit a station for public use in the secure area of the Estate, we are looking at whether an alternative location can be found outside the secure area. The nearest docking station to the House of Lords is in Smith Square.

Lord Butler of Brockwell (Crossbench) - My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that encouraging reply. I declare an interest as a subscriber to the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme. I have tested the walk to Smith Square and it takes the better part of 10 minutes. Would the noble Lord agree that it would be for the convenience of Members of this House and their staff to have greater ease in using this facility?

.... it all rambles on a bit, then...

Lord Brabazon of Tara (Crossbench) - My Lords, I have studied a number of questions recently in this House on the Barclays cycle scheme and I know that the subject of the wearing of helmets has come up frequently but, answering as I am for administration of the House, it is not a matter for the administration of the House whether Members should wear helmets or not. I think that most noble Lords are probably grown up enough to make their own decision about that.

The whole discussion can be found on They Work For You. FWIW the walk from the House of Lords to Smith Square is about 500 yards. The map is here.

October round-up

Things are not looking good.

The aim was to cycle 3,759 miles this year. To do that I needed to average just over 70 miles a week. At the beginning of August I was a couple of weeks behind, but by the beginning of September I had put in some more effort, closed the gap, and was even slightly ahead. I knew we were going away for a couple of weeks in September, so things would drop back. But I thought there was still time to catch up again by the end of the year.

Unfortunately the accident has mucked things up a bit. Instead of catching up in October I've fallen even further behind. Now this year's mileage is about where it should have been five weeks ago, and there's only a couple of months to catch up. Out in the real world, things are pretty busy at the moment, and the weather is becoming less helpful. There's little chance that I will close the gap.

The trouble with unreachable goals is that they stop being an incentive, and become a discouragement.

At the moment I can see two options. One is to recalibrate the annual goal, and the other is to extend the length of the year. About 10% of the goal I set myself in 2010 was to compensate for the shortfall against my 2009 goal. If I postpone the roll-over another year to 2011 then I would be left with an easier goal of 3,364 miles for 2010. I'm just about on track to do that at the moment, and I ought to be able to reach it. Alternatively I could decide to end 2010 at some point in January. That would give me longer to reach this year's goal, but a shorter year in 2011.

My inclination is to postpone the shortfall, rather than move the date because I think that leaves more of an incentive.

I am being teased for over-thinking all this, but it's not the kind of decision you want to rush.