This is my favourite time of year for cycling. Dry, crisp, cold and wonderful.
And I'm on the tube. Sigh.
The good news is that Eenie, the cause of my non-cycling commutes, is getting ever bigger. He (and he is a he we've discovered) is enjoying wriggling and kicking and has decided mummy's bladder is a glorious toy to be messed with whenever possible.
He's also getting heavier and, with my dodgy hips, the regular long stands on the tube are getting increasingly uncomfortable. After a week of ligament pain I gave in and decided to try out the TfL 'Baby on board!' badges.
Having approached three separate stations, two of whom had run out, I was handed two brand new shiny badges with not even a cursory glance to check I was, in fact, with child.
I decided to try the badge out on the way home. I forwent it from Herne Hill but, when I hit Farringdon at rush hour, I decided to go for it. I put it on, unzipped my coat to display the belly and stepped aboard the packed carriage. Nothing happened.
Crammed into a corner, no one had seen my badge. Sigh. I was resigned to another painful stand, refusing to ask for a seat in order to give the badge a proper go.
One stop in, a miracle occurred, a girl lunged for a seat but, as she started to sink down she looked up, saw the badge, and blushed. 'I'm so sorry! I've just seen your badge, would you like a seat?' Hurrah!
I thanked her profusely and sat down in relief, my hips were killing me. I thought the joy was over, but no.
Having witnessed this chivalry, the man next to me leapt to his feet and, turning to the lady who'd given her seat to me, exclaimed 'Please have my seat, I don't need it'. When she sat I thanked her again for giving up her seat and she said she was glad I was wearing the badge as she often worried that, especially with winter clothing, she might inadvertently offend someone by offering and the badge swept away that anxiety.
At the next stop a priority seat was left empty. Instead of the usual scrum to grab it, there was a lot of thoughtful looking around before an older lady stepped forward to sit down. I'd like to hope that the generosity showed by fellow commuters had reminded everyone that not everyone can stand.
I'll admit I felt bit awkward and naughty, a bit like I'd emotionally blackmailed the seat out from under another commuter. It was far outweighed by the physical relief of resting my aching pelvis though.
I won't wear the badge every day, but I'll certainly be whipping it out when I feel rough.
We've all done it. That attempt to give a stranger's set of wheels a nonchalant sweep of the eyes. The internal monologue of why your choice is eminently superior, the almost imperceptible nod of approval when it clearly outclasses your purchase.
Yes, I have have pram envy.
We have yet to purchase a contraption but the attitude and technique I perfected for perving on others' bikes has merged seamlessly with my new pregnant status and the brands of Colnago, Pinarello, Dawes and Specialized have been replaced with Maclaren, Quinny, iCandy and the dreaded Bugaboo.
The only thing that now separates me from the others on Mumsnet is my chortles of glee at descriptions of mums and dads going to the local bike shop to get their punctured tyres repaired.
Today my childhood home is handed over to its new owners.
My parents have owned that house for around 25 years and I have lived in it all of the life I'm able to remember. My dad decided to up their already stretched budget after meeting the headmaster of the local school and deciding this was the man he wanted to oversee his small children's education.
It was FILTHY when we moved in. A wooden parque floor so dirty my dad thought it was plain concrete until they started cleaning it. The back room had housed a large dog, whose wee ad pooled under the carpet and whose paws had ripped the paint off the door.
Backing onto a local park, it was the envy of some of my friends. We were able to grab bikes or just wellies and play where my parents could literally bellow off the balcony that it was time to come in. When locked out, we became expert climbers as we scaled the eight-foot alley gate, hopped the garden fence and braced across the old outside loo roof to ascend to the balcony. The neighbours never worried, 'Is someone breaking in?!', 'No, it's one of the Amazonian women tribe whose forgotten her keys again.'
Over the years mum and dad invested in a loft extension and, more recently, a kitchen extension, to accommodate three rapidly growing girls who turned into grumpy teenagers and then women. One by one we left, my older sister returning briefly after university and then my younger sister and her boyfriend moving in again when dad had the stroke and mum needed support. I moved out the week before my 21st birthday and have not lived there the seven years' since. I never moved for though. While my sisters have lived in Manchester, Norfolk and Walthamstowe between them, I always remained close by. I still live around a mile from that house and have always come home frequently for cups of tea, to reassure moomin that I wasn't killed by the car that hit me last year, to cook for my dad once a week when he was ill (and sneak him out to the pub) and, recently, to tell my parents that they were going to be grandparents.
The local community that sustained us all through various massive upheavals is all around and many are sad that my parents have chosen to leave, but although the house remains, much has changed.
When we moved in the neighbours were mainly older couples who had lived in the area since the war, even when new people moved in we all knew them. I babysat for local children when I got old enough and on Christmas day people would gather to sup champagne in the street together and comment on how big each other's children had got.
With rising property prices and a rebranding of the area as a 'village', the only people who can now afford to buy in my parents' street are those working in banking, whose looking to rip the houses apart and resell them and no one knows who these neighbours are, because they rarely talk to us 'oldies'. The local school that so impressed my father has gone from strength to strength and there are far too many children vying for the spaces that inevitably go to those who can afford to live yards from the gates.
My parents have had their bikes stolen twice in three years, burglaries are on the rise and last week a girl was raped in the park I played in as a child. It's time to leave.
My parents chose a couple with a toddler who are planning to expand their family, in the hope that the house would become a family home once more.
I'm sad that my parents will no longer live round the corner and that Eenie, when he or she comes in April, will never walk round the house I grew up in, but I understand why they sold it. Following dad's stroke it became financially necessary, but it also means a clean break. Their children are adults, and it's about time my parents followed their dream.
Goodbye house, I only hope that the next family likes you as much as we did.
Late night on Monday I moved in for a cuddle with Mr Weenie to be met with 'Wow, it's like a bowling ball! It's all hard and you're so much heavier.' Bastard.
Tuesday morning I awoke with the horrendous mood carried over from the night before. I set off for work at 7.20am and took the train with Mr Weenie, all lovely. I had forgotten I was meeting Little Roboat that morning and missed out on a natter.
One stop into the District Line journey, Mr Weenie hopped off to go to work. I got back to reading my Metro. I got on that train at 7.45am, I reached Victoria at about 9.05am. I was on it for what seemed like forever. It was hot, it was slow and t was full off commuting nobbers who insisted on stepping on my feet, tutting at each other and spreading their papers out wide to be as annoying as possible.
I finally emerged from Hades into Victoria station. The next train I needed wasn't until 9.25am so I started to stride towards the Boots to pick up bits and bobs. As I reached the door the sirens began. An emergency evacuation of the station later and I was stood outside, in the rain, with 2,000 other commuters. Sirens wailed, fire engines and police arrived and many of us grumbled about the fact it was probably just some carrot batons in a dropped M&S bag or something.
The station finally reopened and I had that sinking feeling. Baby was on bladder and I needed to pee. Needed doesn't even convey the urgency. In desperation I used a loo on one of the stationary and posh looking trains that weren't leaving for a while. I then did a waddly run down to the distant platform where my train was waiting.
At 10.10am I was nearly at work.
I then had an utterly rubbish day at work before trekking the hour and a half home without the capacity to pedal out my rage. This blows.
Reg is still at my parents' house so I remain bikeless. There is also another problem. Eeenie weenie does NOT like exercise.
He or she has decided to make me so exhausted I can barely walk home from the station, let alone get on two wheels every day. Stairs render me breathless and t's very irritating. I'm most annoyed because I've always thought that the attitude that pregnant women shouldn't cycle is completely wrong and I was hoping to be a good example. Sigh.
However, while I stew in annoyance over my forced exile onto public transport, I have been greatly cheered by news from those I have or am hoping to convert.
TM is a former colleague (pre-work woes). On mentioning he quite fancied giving cycling to work a go I pointed him firmly in the direction of the Ride to Work scheme and he promptly bought a Brompton. He fell in love with it and, as luck would have it, there was a tube strike shortly after his purchase. He used the LCC bike tube to get to an important meeting in town and hasn't looked back. As well as commuting he recently took part in the Brompton World Championships. Wonderful!
The lovely S trekked out to my new office to say hello on a day off a couple of weeks ago. She's still cycling and is, in fact, encouraging others to do so. In a recent email she gaily told me that she was buying her husband a bike, as he had been inspired by her enthusiasm and fancied giving it a go. Rather than get the bike delivered, she had decided to venture out to an area she'd not been to before to collect said bike and cycle it home. Hurrah!
Moomin has ordered her new bike after the theft of her old one but, not being able to wait, has been using Roger and Reg while they've been stored at her house. My sister, who had an unfortunate accident as a child while on a bike, has also decided to give cycling a go and I have decided to give Roger to her to cycle to vet school and back. Marvellous!
I'm aiming to cycle to music school with my sister on Saturday if Eenie is amenable but even if I can't it makes me glow to know there are cyclists in London enjoying bikes and that I, in a small way, encouraged or helped them to do it. Sigh.
My new employer is fairly bike friendly. They offer Ride to Work, but their bike racks are butterfly ones and there's often jostling for space.
Yesterday two bikes went missing, during the day, from the racks.
They were both nice bikes and I'm gutted for the owners, both of whom are colleagues. Bike theft really annoys me. Any kind of theft does, to be honest. It's just such a lazy and dishonest thing to do. Bastards.
I, touch wood, have never had a bike stolen but my parents have had theirs stolen twice and many people I know have been hit multiple times. Both Roger and Reg are insured against theft as well as my paying for membership of the London Cycle Campaign so that I get free third party insurance and legal advice of I have an accident. My insurance costs about £7 a month for both bikes and LCC membership is about £35 a year.
My younger sister has decided she fancies giving cycling a go, so Roger was brought home briefly and then cycled over the my parents' house for her to experiment on.
Reg went too as we're having a new sofa delivered today and his presence in the stairway would have restricted the deliverers' ability to get it up to the living room.
I've not used Reg for a while and it was nice to pedal him even a short distance. Moomin was cycling Roger and manfully refused to let me put the seat down. As she's a good four inches shorter than me it led to a lot of giggling along the way. Her legs were at full tilt at the bottom of the pedal rotation and she looked a bit like she was riding a clown bike.
Hopefully Reg, Roger, and younger sis will all be cycling to music school on Saturday. Fingers crossed!
A heavy cold and stressful work mean I haven't been around much. I also have another excuse up my sleeve.
An Eenie Weenie is expected in April. Yes, I'm pregnant.
Having always said I would cycle if I got pregnant and I have been, but the sheer knackeredness and weird pain in my legs have rendered it impossible most days this week.
Mr Weenie is broadly supportive but has conditions. I must avoid main roads, not cycle at night and I have to stop if the medics advise me to.
Luckily, midwife and GP think cycling's great and are happy for me to continue, I just wish Eenie would allow me to get on with it instead of sapping my energy and demanding food at really inconvenient times.
It was mentioned when the scheme began, but it appears that the debate on whether Boris bikes should come with helmets has been reignited now that two people have been taken to hospital after accidents on the blue steeds.
Anyone who knows me or is familiar with my blog will know that I wear a helmet. I don't leave to go so much as to the shops without one and, when I'm Boris biking, I carry a helmet in my bag to use while pedalling.
It may come as a surprise, therefore, when I say that I think forcing the scheme to provide helmets is a very bad idea. Let me explain......
First off, I'm 5ft 10" and a reasonably big girl. I take the smallest women's size helmet I could find and it's only just small enough. My head is just a weird and tiny shape. My younger sister on the other hand, while taller and slimmer, takes a much larger helmet size. Even between the two of us, there is no way in hell you can find a helmet that fits us both. How on earth would you supply them in a size that fits all?
And size IS important. A badly fitting helmet is pointless.
It's a ridiculous notion.
Secondly, it is not a legal requirement for adults to wear a helmet while cycling. It just aint. The people who don't wear them now will just do what I've seen many do before: they'll hang them off their handlebars and use them as an ornament.
The scheme will have been forced to spend our money on helmets that aren't used or don't fit. Dunno about you, but I'd rather it went on something useful.
And finally, where does it all end?
On top of carrying a helmet with me, I also carry my bright yellow reflective Sam Browne. After an altercation with a car last year I promised Mr Weenie I would wear it when I cycle, and I do so for that reason AND because I think visibility is key to safety. Again though, I think, as adults, it's really a personal choice whether you want to wear reflective gear, it's not legally required after all. Will this be the next thing campaigners leap on and demand to be supplied with the Boris bikes? Perhaps it'll be jackets that inflate as you hit the ground, or a neon sign to be attached to supplied helmet with the words 'Please don't hit me' in flashing lights.
In all seriousness, part of the reason I was so pleased when the Boris bikes were announced is that they were sensible and expected the service users to be the same.
I will continue to wear my helmet and reflective gear, but I will fight to the death for others' right not to have to if they don't want to.
Last night I had the good fortune to sit next to a rather dashing young man and his weenie baby daughter while waiting for a train. He looked about 19 and was dealing with a full nappy situation.
Having drawn attention to myself by exploding hot chocolate all over my top, we chatted as he changed her. First baby, six weeks old, he was finding it all rather exciting but hard work. After successfully changing her, I was full of praise, he did it like a pro, he gave her a bottle.
However, just as he was busy feeding her, holding the bottle with his chin, picking up his shopping and putting it in the pram with his spare hand, the train was announced as arriving. A look of panic flashed across his face.
'Are you getting this train?' I asked.
'Ummm, I'm meant to be,' was the reply.
I of course offered to get the pram (it was huge) onto the train for him so that he could continue to feed small baby. The look of relief on his face was beautiful to behold. I swept selfish commuters out of our path and we both got on. After a burping baby was ready to go back in the pram and was cooed over by fellow train goers.
There were loads of other commuters on the platform and they must have heard our conversation. No one else offered to help and a surprising number actually got in our way as we attempted to board the train. They moved in front of the pram as the train pulled in. What really took the biscuit though was the t**t who decided that, as the train was so packed and there were very few handholds he would just hang onto the back of the pram. Every time the train wobbled his weight was on the back of the pram and the baby got joggled.
New dad was being very patient and didn't say anything. I didn't feel it was my place but I was livid.
When cycling in London there are so many things to consider as you pedal about town.
Has that cab seen me?
Is that road two way for cycles?
Is that pig on a racer going to get out of my way or continue to attempt an overtake on someone going the same speed as him?
Why do people not notice my bright yellow reflective belt?
Why does that guy look familiar?
Who is he?
Oh, is it the police biker man from the night rides?
It was indeed one of the night riders from my beloved FNRttC. We cycled together only briefly but it was lovely to see a familiar face. It was also fitting that we parted at the turn off to Hyde Park Corner, where our night-time cycling adventures begin.
Among cyclists there seems to be less of the awkwardness associated with seeing someone you know on public transport. If one person is really not fancying a chat they can just pedal harder an say they're in a rush. On a train you can be sardined next to someone for hours and when the small talk dries up, it can get awfully quiet.
Luckily, Mr Policeman and I were at an accord and both pleased to see each other so we matched speeds and had a quick gossip while still getting to our destinations on time.
I know not everyone's a fan of banks but whoever pulled this morning's stunt is, I reckon, just a bit sad.
I walked 10 minutes from Paddington to the nearest dock with bikes in it. A guy having problems with his key grumbled about it amiably and I sympathised. We shared our stories of key woes and then he laughed while I was mid-sentence. I pride myself on my wit but this seemed over the top.
'Who the hell has done that?!' he exclaimed, pointing, puce faced, at the rear of my chosen bicycle.
On each side, above the word 'Barclays' someone had put a sticker with the word 'F*ck' on it. Not just on my bike, but on every one in the rack. We looked at each other, incredulous. Then we giggled.
I know some people have a serious issue with Barclays having logos plastered all over the cycle hire bikes but, as a tax payer, I' really don't care that the scheme is sponsored if it means that, by extension, fewer public pounds are spent on what I think is a fabulous service for London.
I also know people hate banks, I am one of them, but I'm not going to cycle past children in a public park (my route is through Hyde Park, which often has families in it, even at the early hour I'm there) with 'F*ck' for all to see.
Finally, these people make me feel like a time waster. What on earth have I been doing in my mornings to prevent me too having the time to get high-quality stickers printed in Barclays blue before going out and having them on bikes before commuters collect them at 8am?
Clearly these people don't have cats to tend to or washing to do...
It's a public park, not a speedway for goodness' sake. I'm getting really tired of swerving to avoid the berks who seem to think the cycle lane through HydePark is a race track. I think it's irresponsible and rude.
This morning I was, yet again, nearly hit by someone overtaking a rival and completely misjudging my speed and distance from him. If it was a road you wouldn't do it, so why do it in a cycle lane?
On my way home I often have to completely leave the cycle lane and move into the pedestrian area to avoid the 'hunting packs' of w***ers cycling at speed across the whole lane and desperately jostling for position. It's just sad.
Hyde Park should be the highlight of my commute but it's being ruined by inconsiderate nobbers.
Yesterday I expected many more bikes on the roads and I wasn't disappointed. I posted about the increase and the unfortunate nobbers among those biking the strike.
This morning, however, I was not expecting what happened.
There were no bikes at Paddington. This occasionally happens, so I toddled down to my failsafe docking point, where there are, on average, about 10 bikes at any given time. I was greeted by the sight of two men taking the last ones. Incredulous, I shared my shock with a fellow Boris biker who had also walked from Paddington and was not used to this situation. I walked on to the docking point round the corner, no joy. I walked round Connaught Square, past the armed police guarding the ex-Prime Minister's home and down to Hyde Park. Even the docking point at the top of the park was empty.
The next docking point had two bikes and I duly grabbed one. I still wasn't late for work and it was a perfectly pleasant morning to be toddling around London but wow.
I have a theory:
Boris and Bob Crow worked together on the strike. Where they met, is a moot point. Somehow, I doubt their social circles overlap. However, it's clear to me that in order to ease crowding in tube stations (making tube staff jobs easier) AND promote cycle hire, they met up and organised a strike.
Yesterday many Londoners discovered that they don't have to cram sardine-like into tube carriages, instead they can cycle.
The tube strike has not hit my travel times. As I use two overland lines and a bike in between I went home last night and came in this morning without the usual strike stress.
What did stress me out though, was the rest of the commuting population. Everyone gets grumpy on strike days. Raw animosity crackled in the air and I was smacked by large handbags/briefcases a lot more than usual as people stormed past. The train was rammed by the time we hit Paddington and the crush to get through the gates was far worse than usual.
Knowing all the bikes would be taken in the immediate vicinity, I walked the 10 minutes to my failsafe docking point where there are always bikes. I saddled up and set off. I'm used to a certain amount of snobbery from other cyclists when I'm on a Boris Bike. It's generally idiots though, so I shake it off. What really annoyed me today was the snobbery and attitude of the various people who had clearly bought themselves some lycra togs and then dug their monstrosities out of their sheds to bike the strike.
They were rude, they were arrogant and, sorry boys, they were mostly men. They ran lights, they overtook far too close, they went the wrong way down one-way streets. Sigh. One man in particular stands out.
He nearly hit me as I cycled through a junction because he ran a red light. I was a bit shocked and stammered that it was a red light. His response was to shout 'Oh f*** off!' into my face before wobbling off. He may have been in lycra but the rust on his chain told me he was a strike biker. There was just no need for that kind of attitude.
If only there wasn't that minority of arseholes. I should be rejoicing that so many people will have discovered they can cycle to work, instead I wish they'd just bugger off back onto the tube.
On Saturday CC got married. My faithful stoker and good friend is now the wife of a thoroughly nice young man who recognises that while he will be her husband, I will always be her captain. The tandem to Brighton, here, here, here and here got a mention in the speeches and it was wonderful. The day was just beautiful and suffused with love.
The next day, high on the loveness, I decided to cycle to Twickenham to see my sister on her birthday. Reg's tyres were flat from lack of use and I realised an ex-colleague still had my minipump and bits from borrowing them on a ride but I have spares so I packed them up and set off.
It was very weird to be on Reg again. His tyres seemed unnaturally skinny and hard after the fat eclair types of the Boris Bikes and the position was very different. Having a single pannier felt distinctly odd. My wrist felt fine though so we set off. I definitely took it easier than I would have done pre-wrist break and I walked the busiest roundabout on the way as I wasn't sure which lane I needed, the headwind was horrendous, but the experience was FAB.
The wind streamed through my helmet, the wheels spun at the merest push and I seemed to fly down to the river. I laughed and smiled the whole way because it felt so good to be back on my bike. After seeing my sisters and exchanging pressies (hurray for pressies) I set off home. Without the horrible headwind I was quicker getting home despite the familiar, right in the bum ache that comes with cycling distance after a long break.
Weenie's bike is not a hidey hole toy. And please do not use it for sharpening claws, particularly the tyres. FYI, that blackish oily substance will never be tasty, stop sniffing it to check. I know you're doing it because your normally white bib is black Mr Handsome.
When Weenie brings work home, don't walk all over the proofs she's attempting to read. Yes it does make a marvellous scrunchy crunch sound when you jump on it but the sound is matched by a wail of exasperation and rage from deep within my soul.
My cycle helmet is NOT a toy. Just because it spins across the floor when batted does not mean it was built to do so. Also, you look ridiculous when you successfully set it spinning only to jump two feet in the air with your fur on end 'because it attacked me'.
You are NOT a tiger. Tigers do not prowl the wilderness by day only then receive with enthusiastic glee biscuits provided by a human. Nor do they snuggle into said human's armpit and roll onto their backs emitting pussycat snores as soon as it gets a bit chilly.
On Monday I decided not to use a Boris bike as I was just too tired. I went in without my helmet and bike stuff and took the train and tube. Eugh. On the way home I felt so ill with the heat and crammedness I vowed never again.
I was a little disappointed yesterday and today, therefore, to fine no available bikes at Paddington's two nearest docks. I lucked out on Tuesday when someone pulled in while I stood in shock, but today there were none and I walked to the next one.
It wasn't a massive inconvenience or anything but it does show that the planners were wrong to site so many docks in residential areas. I would have thought it was obvious that the people who would jump at the scheme would be commuters like myself who come into a main station and want to hop by bike to another one or into the centre of town.
When I arrive at Victoria there are always loads of docking spaces because all the bikes have been taken. In fact, I am often hovered over by men in suits who patiently wait for me to dock, take off my helmet and reflective belt, get my stuff in my bag and start to walk away before they grab the bike I've just used.
The other problem with the Victoria bike dock I use is that it's in the middle of lots of one-way streets, so I can't cycle the last bit. It's also on the coaches' approach to Victoria coach station's arrivals hall so huge coaches and TfL buses are coming past all the time. I'm always careful when I back my bike out but I've seen several people nearly come a cropper when a coach has wheeled round the corner.
I know my key didn't work properly at first and other teething problems exist, but I really think the scheme's a winner. I just hope that the scheme organisers use the feedback and bike data to make sure that any new docking stations are put in useful and usable places.
Someone has brought a campaign by Arthritis Research UK and I'm quite taken with it.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of juvenile idiopathic arthritis. It can cause a lot of pain but with the cause unknown it's difficult to treat.
I've mentioned my dodgy hip on here a few times and it's had a significant impact on my life. As a young(ish) person, it can be very frustrating to be unable to walk long distances or shop for hours with your friends because you have to keep sitting down. It's embarrassing and depressing. Luckily, I am now at a stage where it does not affect my every day life and I no longer allow it yo limit my activities.
Cycling proved to a be a great therapy for my arthritis and has improved my situation dramatically. With research, other young people who suffer with swollen and painful joints will be able to experience the freedom I now can.
I nearly didn't bike today but sternly told myself off with an internal monologue when I got to Paddington. Unfortunately, I then cut my finger on a wayward piece of plastic under the saddle when I was adjusting the saddle.
A Boris Bike repairman was waiting for colleagues next to the docking stand and, when he saw me sucking the finger in question asked what I'd done. He conscientiously investigated with me saying he'd take the bike out of service if there was a sharp bit on it, but we couldn't find what had done it. I still have no idea but it bled a lot.
Even with the injury, I knew I'd made the right decision as I hit Hyde Park with blue sky up above and the sun shining. Because they're so heavy, the bikes force you to pootle and, in a sit-up position, it was lovely to admire the view and glide through the park. I know my route really well now so I can peer around and admire the various things going past.
Gosh, just a week or so into my return to cycling and I'm already full of rage.
I've shouted at two naughty black cabs, one dozy minibus driver and have seriously muttered about a lot of cyclists.
It's an unfortunate truth that some of the cyclists in central London are complete peenarses. They speed through Hyde Park like they're in a race, with little old ladies and wayward toddlers forced to leap out of the way even when they're on the pedestrian sections. So intent on overtaking their fellow cyclists, some of these dimwits turn the wide two-way cycle lane into a speedway. A couple nearly hit me head on yesterday while trying to overtake other cyclists. Others just nip out of the cycle lane onto the pedestrian walkway, blindly expecting people to get out of their way.
As I'm still on Boris bikes at the moment I also get the sneery look of derision from some of them as they whizz past. I'm sorry mate, but given that your carbon dream machine weighs about an eighth of the steel contraption I'm on it's no wonder you're going faster than me. It's so not a legitimate scalp you moron.
Then there are the worrisome nobheads on their phones while cycling. They weave around, occasionally glancing up to see what's coming. Sheesh. Get off your phone or get off your bike.
Perhaps I was protected from all this when I was commuting into zone two, maybe zone one is just another twilight zone, infested with evil meanies.
Whether you wear a helmet or not is entirely your choice, you're a grown up, so why the frick are so many of you bringing out a helmet and then hanging it off your handlebars/backpacks?!
I don't care if you don't want to wear one but carrying one around without using it would indicate to me that:
A: Your significant other/parents have told you to wear one and you carry one so that when you leave the house they see you carrying one and assume you're going to wear it.
B: Part of you thinks you should wear one but you just can't bring yourself to strap the polystyrene monstrosity to your head... in public.
C: You are under the misguided impression that, when one came with your bike, it was some sort of technical thing that belongs with said bicycle and that to separate them by more than four feet will render the bike useless.
To all of you, be it A, B or C:
You are lame. Make the decision and stick to it, grow a pair while you're at it.
I've been stopped several times by random people while out on a Boris bike.
'How much does it cost?'
'How do they handle?'
'Have you had key problems?'
'Is it easy to find a dock?'
People are interested, they want to know. So I tell them, often wheezing as they're invariably on little carbon fibre things. I've been told a couple of times that they're interest is because they're keen to get a friend or other half cycling in London and it's a nice way to start.
I've also helped several people having problems with the scheme. I've guided people to the nearest neighbouring dock when there's no empty spaces, I've pointed out that putting your key in makes it harder to dock the bikes, not easier and I've shown people which way up to put their key in the slot.
I've been happy to help, but what's shocked me is how many others are equally willing.
On the tube, it's an unwritten rule of London that you NEVER strike up conversations with strangers. Those who do are automatically given the mental label 'tourist'. Eye contact is a no no.
Cycle hire scheme bods seem to reject this. Even suited and booted trader types will give a hearty 'good morning' as we release bikes at the same time. 'Lovely day for it', is called out by the previously sour-faced school maam lookalike. In a London where I'm often the only person to help those with prams negotiate the stairs at stations 'Allow me!' is bellowed by an older gent who has seen me struggle to pull up a stuck seat post. I was so stunned I could barely offer a thank you before he sped away.
Yes, this is a different way to commute. Perhaps it won't just change the way we travel in London, maybe it'll change our entire attitude towards the others battling to work and back. Dare I say the word... camaraderie.
Be ready. The green light may only flash for a single second. Insert your key, leave it there, grab both handlebars, keep an eagle eye on the lights and be ready to pull the bike out.
They are HEAVY. If you are used to lighter weight machines, be prepared for this. While it gives you stability after the initial shock, I had a bit of a weaving phase before finding my feet as it were.
Key problems. I have had a few already. The cycle hire line is pants and it's obviously not coping with demand. Don't be put off. At least twice I've called back and gone through to the centre itself instead of the overflow. If they have to reactivate your key and it doesn't work immediately, it's worth trying it again after about 10 minutes. I found walking to the next docking station filled the time and destressed me.
Redocking. Do a BoJo. When he says be firm, he's right. I've seen several people insert their key to redock their bike. You don't need to do this. Again, take both handlebars in a firm grip and roll the bike at a reasonable speed into the dock. Hold it in while waiting for the green light.
Do your research. While I've not yet been unable to get a bike at my dock of choice because of a lack of machines, it does happen. I have memorised the nearest four docking stations to the two stations I travel between so that I can just walk to the next one. Some of them are in weirdly residential places and bikes are always plentiful in these.
Persevere. The initial key problems caused me no end of grief and I got really annoyed. I refused to be cowed and decided to keep trying and it's been worth it. I travel into London and out again to get to work without having to use the tube. Lovely.
Having finally got the hang of my routes to and from Victoria I sailed across London this morning. There were bikes left at Paddington, my key worked first time, I knew where I was going and the weather was cool and clear. I donned my helmet and yellow reflective Sam Browne and I was off.
The joyous thing about my route from Paddington to Victoria is that it's downhill. When still half asleep I barely need to pedal going through Hyde Park, especially as the Boris bikes are so heavy, I just let gravity pull me along. The way back is a bit harder as it's mostly uphill on a fat-arse Boris bike, but it still beats hideous tube interchanges.
This morning I left my house at 7.25am, got the 7.39am train and was docking my bike near Victoria by 8.20am. That, to me, is amazing. Using the same train from where I live I've missed the 8.44am from Farringdon and, if I change to the district line using the same first train, I get to Victoria for about 8.40am. More than that, it's packed with commuters, stressful and uncomfortably warm. Getting in and out through the ticket gates is horrendous, with people pushing all the time and there's no guarantee of a seat.
More than all this though, I think my body's finally remembered how to cycle. It's been a struggle the last two days but this morning it finally clicked. I could almost hear it sighing 'ah, that's what you want me to do'.
The route I'm taking is not direct but it takes in the park and backstreets. I've negotiated Hyde Park Corner a few times but, even with the cycle lanes etc, I hate doing it. I'd rather cycle 10 minutes more and be happy.
I have decided to defy the NHS and begin cycling again.* However, I decided my return to pedal power would be on Boris's marvellous cycle hire contraptions as the sit up and beg position means no weight is being lent on my wrists and the route from Paddington to Victoria is mainly through Hyde Park.
A week after signing up, my key arrived so, on Monday morning, I headed out with my helmet and Sam Browne in my bag, ready to hit the bikes.
My key didn't work.
I headed back to the trains after a call to the cycle hire line that said they were too busy to sort it out and that they would call me back. Train delays meant I was horrendously late for work. Boo. That evening I rang again, pointing out that no one had rung me back. 'Sorry madam, we're still too busy' came the cry.
After getting very cross. I decided to calm down and walk to Paddington as Mr Weenie was working late and it was a lovely evening. I planned out a route and had a lovely walk. This morning, having seen a lovely occupational physio who guardedly said that, while she couldn't tell me I was fine to cycle because of protocol, she could tell me that many other people started back doing everyday activities at this point and no harm came to them. Hint hint.
Yesterday morning I got to Paddington (trains were again late) and my key STILL didn't work. So I rang the line, and they picked up! After apologising profusely for the delay they reactivated my key and it worked.
I climbed aboard and, once I'd secured my bag and strapped on my helmet, I was off.
Be warned all those who cycle light and modern roadies and hybrids, Boris bikes are heavy. Vary heavy. I wobbled somewhat as I began but I soon hit my stride and, as I've cycled around Paddington many times, I knew exactly the way to Hyde Park using small backstreets.
The brakes were sensitive without being too sharp and the gear changes were smooth. Yes, the bikes are heavy, but they're also stable and feel well built.
After getting a bit lost I arrived at Victoria in around 25 minutes, a vastly improved time than it's been taking of late. I saw a docking station, obeyed BoJo's instruction of firmly ramming the bike into the dock and the light went green first time. I walked 100 yards to the station and my train was already at the platform. I hopped on and arrived at work far happier than I've been for some time.
I've always supported the idea of the scheme and, although it's unfortunate that the call centre is clearly ill equipped to deal with the volume of interest, I'm heartened that the interest has been so great. Given that only members can use the bikes at the moment I've been impressed by the number of people I see out and about on them. Fingers crossed they work the kinks out as soon as possible.
*I should point out that the doctors do not object to my cycling per se, it is their concern that I will fall over while on my bike. My hip problems mean that I've fallen over about 15 times since I broke my wrist while walking around. Hmmmmmmmmm
I'm still not allowed to cycle... in case I fall off. This means that this morning I was yet again braving the train commute. After noticing I seem to be jostled often, this morning I decided to count the hits.
My right forearm was hit 10 times by people's bags or elbows, and that's only counting the ones that hurt. I also nearly got shoved off the train at Ealing Broadway and would have fallen flat on my face and probably thrown my arm out to catch myself.
The theory that it is somehow 'safer' for me to be doing this every morning instead of cycling is becoming more and more questionable. Dogs and small children are continually at my feet attempting to trip me up, I am shoved from behind as I step off high trains onto low platforms by people anxious to get to work, people with ridiculously large bags with hard edges swing them into me as they plough through the crowds.
I haven't even factored in the higher risk of obesity and heart disease caused by sitting on your arse on a train instead of cycling.
Oh God, I'm doomed!
PS: Am still waiting for my key to a Boris bike....
Yesterday we said goodbye to my grandma's sister, auntie Neen. Her funeral was in Stockport, where my mum's side of the family orginate from.
It was a long drive up north and and, on the way, grandma and I got chatting about how she'd met grandpa as we were passing through where they met. Their eyes met across a field of rhubarb as they were both working on the harvest. The rhubarb was bound for the jam factory, where wooden pips would be put in to pretend that it was strawberry jam. It was 1948.
Apparently, grandpa was 'gorgeous' and, as the only single young man of the group of three he was in, he was highly sought after. Grandma giggled when she remarked 'but I got there first'.
Were there dates, I asked. 'Oh no,' she replied, 'but I cycled 10 miles to work, and he cycled 15, so we would meet at the crossroads and go in together.'
Grandpa's a veteran tour cyclist and I've always known that he and grandma occasionally tandemmed together, but I had no idea that bicycles played such a key role in their romance. How fabulous.
There's scientific proof that the availability of cheap bicycles had a huge impact on the UK gene pool. Suddenly, lads and lasses were able to meet and marry people from other villages and were able to look for work further afield. I didn't realise, however, that their availability had had a direct impact on my existence, for if grandma and grandpa hadn't met in that rhubarb field, I would never have been born.
London was awash with bicycles this morning. I watched longingly as people whizzed by past Hyde Park Corner and Victoria. I shone green with envy when a young lady took a cab driver on and remarked that he was being aggressive, every bike seemed gleaming and beautiful, every cyclist happy.
I attempted yet another permutation this morning as I had to renew my travelcard. It meant I missed the Victoria tube closure but meant I walked for 15 minutes to reach Victoria. It was bike heavy and only magnified my commuting misery. I near wept at the sight of so many happy two-wheelers.
Sigh, why is it that when you can't do something, everyone else starts doing it?
A large and friendly nurse waved a mini circular saw around with gay abandon and cut off the pink monstrosity that has made life so difficult for nearly two months. I was so excited the night before I could barely sleep. Little did I know...
First of all came the smell. Ewwwwwwwwwww. In my defence, no one's arm would smell like roses after seven weeks sweating into a cast.
Then there was the hair. Oh. My. God. Monkey-like dark brown hair. All over my forearm and back of my hand. My arms have always had quite a lot of hair, but it's so blonde it's near invisible. Not any more.
Then there was the skin. Dark brown scaly patches of dead skin were everywhere. Even in places where this wasn't the case, peeling was a major feature. And then there was the heat rash all over my inner arm and on the back.
The back drop for all this was pale skin (oh the tan line) wrapped around a somewhat thinner arm than the one I fractured at the beginning of June.
Manic arm scrubbing, Jolen bleach (the hair) and Sudocrem (the heat rash) later, it does at least look human. What's rubbish is the pain. And it really hurts. Apparently it's normal but owwwwwww.
Following the corporate shafting that resulted in my moving to a destination miles and miles away for work, I have been left with a commute that, this morning, lasted just over an hour and a half. And that was because I ran for a train.
Crammed into hot and sweaty tubes of met with the rest of London's commuting warriors, my mind wandered to my first job. A similar distance, my days were consumed by it and the resulting misery meant that I quit.
The distance to my new company is 15-16 miles and I think it's a feasible distance to cycle once the cast comes off and I've worked up my leg strength and shed the obscene amount of weight gained while eating cheese in Normandy.
God help me, I'll have to think of something because this morning was awful.
Now that I am part of the cycle enlightened I have another option, there's another way. So why do most of us dismiss cycling as an option for so long when the alternative is to fight our way on to crowded platforms, elbow the weak out of the way to climb onto packed carriages, become intimately acquainted with strangers' armpits, and all so we can arrive at jobs we seldom enjoy?
When my parents told my sisters and me that they were planning to leave us to live in Normandy I was sceptical. The building they planned to convert was a wreck and, at the tender age of 27, my immediate reaction was but I want my muuuuuuum!
Last week Mr Weenie and I went out there with them and two family friends to view their nearly completed house and the locale. We also decided to sample the cheese.
It was amazing.
The community are friendly and supportive, there's kayaking/canoeing, rambling and other activities on a short drive away and the wildlife is varied and numerous. The local river is clean enough to swim in and was covered in dragonflies, mayflies and damsels with the occasional big fish.
More importantly, the whole area is signposted for cyclists, with picnic tables hidden away in shady nooks in hedgerows for water and rest stops and some spectacular scenery as you pedal around. I was green with envy watching the many people touring the area and the locals weaving back from the boulanger with fragrant baguettes sticking out of ancient panniers.
I can't wait to take my bike over and enjoy the area on two wheels. I also reckon my parents will be very happy there.
I did get to experience some pedal-powered fun, however. The velorail.
I made the combined holiday party of six adults go on this wonderous invention. A four-wheeled pedal-powered rail carriage, it goes along a disused railway track and two people sit on saddles pedalling furiously while up to two adults sit on the seat admiring the view. At the end of the route you use a pivot cage to spin the contraption round and set off back to your start point.
We went on the hottest day of the holiday and spent most of the time giggling our heads off about the entire thing.
There are several velorails across France and I think they're a fab idea for using disused rail tracks. I think, had we had children with us, it may have been more their thing, but it was wonderful to pedal something for a sustained period.
Having made him go on the velorail, Mr Weenie then demanded we go kayaking, but that's another story.....
I don't know why I bother checking the rules about bikes on trains because the people living around me clearly don't.
I live on the Heathrow line and, for good reason, non-folding bikes are not allowed in week days between 7am-10am and 4pm-7pm on trains bound for central London (although there are exceptions outside of zone three). While I would love trains to have more capacity for bikes the fact remains that they don't at present and, when busy, bikes are an obstacle. Especially when they're parked across the door and not in the carriage that has room for bikes/wheelchairs (Mr multi-pierced emo man with a dirty single-speed).
I do my best to check the rules, why can't other people?
Last night I took the much delayed tube to a station I haven't walked from before. It's fair way away but I fancied a toddle. It's made me all reflective and serious....
As a child, the music school that I now teach at was based at a high school near the station and I was a student. My parents would drop me off at 8am on a Saturday and pick me up at 12ish. With a couple of pounds for the tuck shop and my french horn I was expected to get myself to lessons and behave. The site wasn't closed and behind the school was open land that led down to the canal. The fields were very bumpy as huge rabbit warrens lay beneath and, if we had a sufficient gap between lessons, fellow french horn player John and I, along with various others, would go running across the field, walk along the canal to race sticks in the weir, and look for bunnies. If it was sunny we would just lie in the grass and chat, giggle and hope that theory was cancelled.
Adults kind of knew where we were, we were trusted to not do anything silly, and, as it was before mobile phones, we had no one breathing down our necks in a technological manner.
The music school is now based at a new site, another high school. The site is more secure and closed. The children I teach are, in the main, not even allowed to walk down the stairs and meet their parents in the canteen after lessons and must be met at the door. This includes the ones nearing 10 years old. One child, from the age of four or five was allowed to do this. His father let me know and explained that he was hoping to teach his child independence. He was told where his father would be waiting and, if he wasn't there, he was to return to the classroom. Nervous at first, he soon adjusted to the routine and is far more outgoing than before this arrangement.
Other parents noticed the child leaving without an adult. I explained and I actually heard a tut. When I gaily described what was the norm when I was a student there were looks of horror.
Walking across that field last night I felt like I was eight again. A bunny hopped across the path and I walked down to the canal and along it to my current home. I giggled as I remembered some of the things we got up to and the fun we had. And I wondered how many of the children I teach with experience that same rush of remembered joy when they think back to their time at music school.
I must admit that with the various goings on, this has slipped under the radar of late. I saw one of the bikes at the Earl's Court Bike Show eons ago and was impressed. Sturdy and attractive I knew I'd be happy to ride one. They're a bit feminine but, obviously, that's not a problem for me.
The scheme popped back into my consciousness because of my various work troubles. If the changes go ahead I'll be expected to commute to Herne Hill, near Brixton. From where I live that's a bit tricky. There's no tube near me and I'd have to go in to go out, as it were. The train near me goes to Paddington, not terribly helpful... or so I thought.
Mr Weenie was screwed over by an Oyster machine on Saturday and while I waited for him to shout at managers I picked up a leaflet about the cycle hire scheme and looked at the map of the docking stations. I had a revelation.
For £45 a year I could pick up a bike at Paddington and cycle it to Vauxhall every day as well as using one whenever I wanted. Herne Hill's just a couple of stops from Vauxhall. The combined journey time will still be far longer than my current one and it's less than ideal, but it solves my problem of bringing a bike into London at peak times, I won't have to. Plus it means I can still cycle part of the way and not have interchange as much.
If the scheme is well run it could be marvellous, fingers crossed that management get it going well.
As the job debacle rumbles on and my cast gets progressively more itchy it's hard not to be angry. I have to admit that the love I've received from friends, family and readers has been very welcome and has genuinely made me feel better. It's also contributed to my attempts at not being bitter.
Unlike previously shafted employees I've decided not to get angry. It's rubbish but I'll be damned if they'll make me slink off into the dark. Leaving do and presents please!
It's been a bit of a rubbish week as I found out I've been sold to a new company. Yes, I'm being trafficked. Anyhoo, I have at least got a date for cast off. The 27th of July. At least there's light at the end of the tunnel I spose...
The pain in my fingers means typing with my right hand is out and I'm doing this post over several days using my pointing finger on my left hand. On top of this, it really hurts. God bless Tramadol but it so isn't stopping all of the pain. I'm knackered too and am napping with Mr Handsome every afternoon. This combination means I'm off work, at least until Mr Orthopaedic surgeon man decides on whether I need it pinned. I'll also be getting my new cast then, I'm desperately hoping they'll have pink ones.
Having no right hand use is pants. Who knew that even going for a wee could be an adventure in balance and co-ordination? I was asked to sign for my prescription earlier and just looked at the pharmacist blankly. I'm starting to get the hang of left-handed Sudoku, but it takes a squillion years.
On the plus side I'm not able to do housework either, nor can I cook. Turns out Mr Weenie is a fabulous nurse. He's been downloading recipes to take over the kitchen I've run for seven years(amazing chillimmmm), ensuring I don't have to go out braless (intrepid teenage boys who learn the one-handed bra undo I salute you), attempting to tie back my hair and telling me my new hair cut looks lovely (hurrah for Louis, hair saviour for ladies who have one hand with which to sort their bonce), and just generally being fab.
The love I've received from various quarters has been most marvellous. Not only have friends and loved ones been voicing concern and offering help but when you're a damsel in cast even teenage boys on the bus rush to your aid when you drop your phone for the third time.
When I pass Reg in the corridor, however, it pains me. Taking the bus and train has been crap and when I see cyclists whizzing past I wish it was me...
Anyhoo, enough ranting, I need someone to remove the wrapper from my ice lolly. Mr Weeeeeeeeeeeeeenie...
I fell playing rounders at a barbeque. I've managed to split my ulner, chip it AND possibly dislocate my thumb. It sucks.
I can barely do anything. Typing is taking an age and the pain means I can't even use my fingers to hold anything still while I use my left hand.
Mr Weenie has been marvellous.
So... the story...
I was fielding and ran for the ball. My ankle went over and I landed with all my weight on my wrist. I felt sick for a moment and it was sore but I decided to get up and soldier on. I played left handed for another hour or so. Afterwards, we went to the bar. I'd only had two bottles of beer all day but decided to have a coke.
I started to feel really sick and, as we left, asked to be taken to the hospital on the way home. We arrived at 8.45pm, and left at 2.30am. I swore and moaned while being x-rayed and nearly passed out when they took the sling off.
A mean nurse plastered me eventually and we walked home. Mr Weenie carried my bag, made sure I kept warm and, with the foxes and a clear night it could have been romantic.
The annoying thing is that I can't blog much, if at all. Nor, crucially, can I cycle. Six weeks in plaster. Sigh.
When Mr Weenie announced he was off the rugby AGM there was a niggling feeling that I'd been asked to go somewhere, then I remembered. Ealing Cycling Campaign meets once a month and last night was the night.
I decided to attend. A asked me ages ago and I was hijacked in the local Waitrose car park by another member asking if I wanted to join.
It was a nice evening on all fronts. A very nice man on a Brompton bought me a beer, there was a space next to A for me to sit, and I found out about the various Bike Week projects going on in the borough. It was, a bit like the FNRttC, the kind of cycle group where everyone is welcome and, while some were in jerseys and some were in jeans, we were all cyclists together.
Afterwards, having had no word from Mr Weenie, I decided to visit some old friends who I had no doubt would be in a local pub as they always are on a Wednesday night. I arrived unannounced and had wine thrust into my hands and a hearty welcome.
I then cycled home in the balmy evening, not even having to put a jacket on. Bliss.
Yesterday I was having a less than spectacular day. To top it off, a guy walked out straight in front of my bike on my way home. Noticing that he wasn't looking I had rung my bell with no response and, luckily, had slowed in the anticipation of his suspected stupidity. It didn't stop him swearing at me though. By the time I got home, wet and muddy, I was less than bubbly.
As Mr Weenie and I waited for our shopping delivery I decided to take action.
For my 21st birthday I bought myself a blender. A £120 blender. It has about a squillion attachments, including a juicer. We have a regular fruit and veg box delivery and have been woefully rubbish at eating the fruit. I decided to blend my blues away. I juiced the oranges, then I did some apples and, while it took about five to make one large glass of juice, Mr Weenie pronounced it delectable. I juiced the pears as well and, with no fruit left, I decided to attack the kohlrabi that had arrived instead of detested courgette.
Using the shredder I reduced it to paper thin strips along with some carrots and an onion. Mr Weenie and I snacked on the resulting mix while waiting for the shopping.
Yes, there's nothing quite like shredding and pulping the hell out of things to make you feel better.
I was off buying cat food nearby and realised that Wizzbikes has now completely morphed into a branch of Evans Cycles.
My company's Ride to Work scheme is through Evans, so I decided to check it out in case I decide to get Rupes, my third bike. Wizzbikes was much loved by local cyclists and, with their staff kept on and the Chiswick Evans super busy, I wanted to check out the customer service etc.
I got lovely, if alarming young, lad, who was super helpful and had no problems whipping out bikes for my inspection and allowing me to sit on them. He certainly talked the talk and was very helpful. He was a little obsessed with me getting a road bike even though my heart's set on a cyclocross, but he made some compelling arguments. They also had some GORGEOUS sit up and begs........
In short, I'm fairly sure that it's the shop I'll be going to if and when I go through Ride to Work. Evans can be a bit patchy on service (Fulham Broadway were particularly awful when I went in) and I want somewhere that treats me like a proper cyclist without bamboozling me with details. I'll let you know when I go next.
Oh dear. According to an interview with the Evening Standard it would appear he's too scared to cycle in London but, at the same time, thinks cyclists aren't aware of the dangers. Hmmmmmm
'Perhaps they need wingmirrors'? For what? To be distracted by instead of learning behind properly?
He's frightened by the way 'we' pull out around other cyclists 'unaware of the car behind' is he? Perhaps he should be more scared of the cars behind 'us' cyclists who refuse to acknowledge our signals as we pull out and seem intent on running us over for having the audacity to cycle quickly. These are often the same cars whose drivers berate others for going too slowly.
There there dear, get into the cool dark interior of your Jag and it will all go away.
Lady Julian has done a magnificent post on this subject, enjoy.
Last night S and I bumped into bicycleslut on the way home. She accompanied us part of the way on a gorgeous red Brompton and the three of us pootled home. It was only as we hit the A4 cycle track that I realised our average speed was up by about 4kph and I anxiously looked at S to check she was ok. Of course she was. In fact, she looked positively radiant so we continued at the increased pace and dropped her home.
This morning S and I set off once more and I found myself looking behind for her only to realise she was out in front and we were making record time. By the time we hit Hammersmith she was going like a pro. But then we hit a snag or, rather, it nearly hit her. The traffic up to the one-way was stationary and S decided, quite wisey, that she didn't fancy going up the left-hand-side of the large lorry in front of us, so she stopped.
I heard a nasty roaring whine from behind me and a motorbike decided he'd squeeze past us. He was too close when he passed me, but by the time he got to S, his wheel was halfway up onto the pavement to get past and he missed her handlebar by a couple of inches at most.
I was worried and, trapped by a car, could only look on as S carried on up to the ASL box. I was confused as normally she's happy to queue. She handled the lane change with aplomb and I caught up at the next light. I turned to ask if she wanted to stop for coffee.
'He said I was going too slowly!'
'I caught up with that motorbike and said could he try not killing me next time and he said I was going too slowly!'
It transpired that S had gone up the ASL to tell said motorbike that he had come too close and he had no idea what she was talking about, so oblivious had he been to what he'd done. Far from upset, S was enraged that he'd been so careless and put her in danger for nothing. She'd caught up with him so he hadn't saved any time.
After we'd arrived at work, showered and got coffee we were laughing about his micropenis, so there's no lasting damage. I'm proud. She didn't swear or get overly aggressive, she simply alerted him to the fact that he'd been driving dangerously and, with me far behind, then got on with her commute and crossed a large and difficult junction alone without letting him ruin the rest of her day.
Hi guys, yes you, the ones with the trackstand attempts.
Let me let you in on a secret people: that whole attempting to stand upright on a wobbly stationary bike; the slow creeping forward that's made at least two of you fall over in front of me; that super extension of the neck and swivelling motion to see all junctions; the sudden halt as a car comes haring round the corner; the near misses with cars; the being sworn at by drivers; all of it can be avoided.
Yes, wait until the light's green and you can cross the junction without all that palarva. Simples.
Oh and Mr Council Road Cleaner Man, thanks for cleaning the streets, but using your leaf blower to direct the dust, dried flowers and leaves and road crud right into my face? Not cool.
Having been asked about gloves, here are some thoughts.....
Definitely wear them! I started developing unsightly callouses without and I have been assured by those more experienced at falling off that your hands often go down first so they're vital to protect you from road rash.
I used to own some Altura Synergy gloves. They have gel in the pressure points and make for a very comfy ride. Said gel did start to escape after a couple of months of every day wear but, having spoken to a couple of other people, it would appear that this happens with other gel gloves and for £17.99 a pair (less when they're on sale) I didn't worry too much about it and just replaced them.
My current short finger gloves are also Altura, but they're from the Gravity range. I can't find the ladies ones on Wiggle at the moment, but that's where I got them from, again on sale. They don't have gel padding but as I'm mainly on-road that works for me. I sweat a LOT, therefore I like gloves that can be cleaned without damaging them and I don't tend to spend a great deal on them on the basis that if they start to smell, I can get new ones.
For those who fancy smarty ones in leather or the like, Knog do nice ones available from Cyclechic. The Love Hate ones in red and white are my favourite. I dunno if they'd be great for sweaty commuting though as leather can get hot.
I'm not an Altura junkie as such (I own clothing and kit but various other brands) but these are the gloves that seem to suit me and I also own a pair of long-fingers from their brand. They are fleece with grip in convenient places. Again, because I get hot I need ones that can be washed and they allow air in so stay comfy as well as warm.
This weekend I toddled off to the Chilterns for a weekend of patter songs and drunkenness. The venue is not too far from High Wycombe and, as I knew I'd probably be late and was taking the train, I was reluctant to call for a lift. So Reg came along too.
The weather has been glorious and when I left High Wycombe station it was balmy and beautiful (if one looked away from the passed out drunk guy who'd thrown up on himself). The station is on an incredibly nasty hill so I was anxious not to go the wrong way and exhaust myself. I, of course, then went the wrong way. Once I'd walked Reg back up the hill we embarked on the right course and headed into the country.
I had my bright reflective seatbelt on and had my lights just in case because it's all tiny country lanes (with remarkably smooth tarmac) and cars come haring round the bends. It was mainly uphill but the inclines weren't too steep.
Around 20 minutes of wonderful cycling later I hit THE HILL. The venue for the weekend is up an enormous hill. It's near vertical in places and no one even walks up it. Well I did. I decided it attempting to cycle it wasn't worth the pain and, with my lights on in case of cars coming up, I set off.
A few cars passed me (I moved over for all of them as I had my ears on high alert). What I thought was very sweet was that a cab driver, having dropped off his charges and turned round, pulled over with his window down saying 'Keep going, you're nearly at the top and you're doing really well!' before giving me a cheery wave and disappearing down the hill.
I arrived late for the first rehearsal and ran in in lycra. Moomin had collected my music and attempted to hide her worry and assumption that I'd had a disaster. Reg was duly propped against some fencing for his first experience of being outdoors overnight and Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore was wrestled into submission.
I had a fab weekend seeing people, singing and admiring beautiful small children and, in a flash, my time there was over. Moomin drove a lot of my stuff home to keep down the weight and I headed off into the early afternoon with the sun bright above me and so much suncream on I glistened.
It was mainly downhill to the station and it was gorgeous. One rude station staff member and a missed train later (I couldn't see the bike carriage) I was speeding towards London with a fellow singer who I haven't seen for years.
As we approached Wembley I suddenly realised it would probably be easier to cycle from there than to train to Marylebone, cycle to Paddington and take another train. I whipped out the incredibly useful mapping system on my phone to get my bearings and was soon on the road to Hanwell.
When I arrived I drank a pint of water and had a very cold shower. Blissful.
Yesterday I cycled in with S before enjoying an eight-mile ride across London for a meeting. At A2's suggestion I crossed Richmond Park and it was AMAZING.
I didn't know there were cycle and pedestrian only roads through the centre. Smooth tarmac and gorgeous surroundings. Enormous Red deer were right next to one section and they sat looking menacingly beautiful with enormous spring antlers as I slowly pedalled past to take in the sight. They're HUGE close up, but while I kept a respectful distance and kept moving just in case they seemed happy to let me pedal past.
I left the park and headed for the river before crossing one of the locks.
All this was very picturesque but my God I was hot. It was incredibly muggy and the air was alive with the sound of small buzzing insects. I arrived for my appointment sweaty and dishevelled. Luckily, A2 works where I was headed so tucked my panniers away and guided me to a washroom where my carefully packed kit of washing equipment, moisturiser and dry shampoo came into its own. I re-emerged looking far more human.
When business was concluded A2 offered to guide me part of the way home. He knows the area far better than I do so I was grateful for the help. But then it happened. I attempted to race him. I was back in my lycra at this point but I was still laden with two heavy panniers on a mid-range bike compared to his carbon fibre lovely and a small rucksack for luggage.
We whizzed along anyway as we're both fairly quick off the mark but my one overtake (23mph) was an error. Afterwards I panted for some time as A2 discreetly took a notch off the speed to allow me to compose myself after seeing my tomato face and hearing the panty wheeze of someone ill-matched their opponent. He dropped me off and I cycled the rest of the way alone. All in all I cycled around 11 miles home, plus the eight I'd cycled two hours before.
I was a wee bit tired this morning. Probably not a good thing that I had to drop camping supplies to my parents' house for them to drive them to where I'm going this weekend before picking up S this morning. Sigh.... Sooooo tired.....
This afternoon I have to cycle straight to an important appointment. It's eight miles from the office and there's no direct transport link. I don't really have any other practical option other than to cycle.
Prep started last week. I looked into the transport situation and decided to cycle.
The last two days I've been researching routes. Yesterday A2 sent me a perfect one that's not too arduous (read sweaty) and it's pretty as it goes through Richmond Park.
This morning I was up early to decide on outfit (transferable from bike to walking around looking smartish) and 'the kit'. Facial wipes? Check. Dry shampoo? Check. Deodorant? Check. Make-up? Check.
Get to work this morning. Damn! I haven't bought new shampoo (current one makes my hair greasy and gross). Off to Hammersmith Broadway in lycra to pick some up.
I'm now ready, in a transferable outfit with clean hair and all the necessary bits and bobs. I'm also knackered. Zzzzzzzzz
The topic is valid (why are more women being hit by HGVs in the London even though they're the minority of cyclists). AND my comment got lots of recommends.
However, I'm sick of this victim-like approach to reporting on female cyclists. The whole 'I'm frightened', 'Cars will beep at me', 'Wobbling around' attitude, personified by Petronella Wyatt, is just so boring. Not to mention offensive. Yes there are some women out there who are nervous, but so are a lot of the men I pass every day.
When will a national newspaper have the balls to publish an article by a confident, competent woman cyclist?
My regular readers will know I cycle around 100 miles a week on-road and am fairly new to the cycling game. Am I a hero? No. I'm just trying to get to work and can't drive.
I own two Pearl Izumi jerseys, both have pink on but one is really pink. I also own a long-sleeved one that's REALLY pink.
As a rule, pink is fairly rare among the cycling fraternity (and sisternity), particularly among those who wear lycra. This means I'm rather distinctive, especially with my bright yellow 'seatbelt' worn over the top at all times.
Yesterday A2 was in town working from a local office and saw me streak past as he ordered his corporate coffee, our company's chairman often says hello when he sees me out and about, children I teach see me and wave, my parents' church friends mention they've spotted me when they see mum and dad at choir practice.
There's an upside and downside to all this:
The upside is that when I complain about evil bus drivers I can tell TfL that I know I've been repeatedly offended against as a personal insult because I don't look like any old cyclist; I must also be on best behaviour a lot, which to me is a good thing as it often stops me from tempting naughtiness.
The downside is that when you nearly hit said company chairman because he didn't look when he crossed the road you were turning into you spend the rest of the day worrying that he knows it was you........
It's about bloody time frankly, but the sun has finally got his hat on. Last night I nipped to Hobbycraft to get wool for my latest secret knitting project. Coming back I went through the local park along the cycle track and it was gorgeous. Bees, butterflies and golfers, it had it all. Even a grumpy cab driver this morning couldn't bring me down from the high.
This morning I picked up S and we went via the river but not the long route, which we may do tonight. The sun sparkled on the water and the traffic through Chiswick was fairly light. I even got my shorts out and the legs were on show.
Altogether now... Let the sun shiiiiine, let the suuun shiiiine, the ssuuuuun shhining!
Last night I had one of those sweet sweet moments that occasionally crop up when you commute by bike.
Between Shepherd's Bush and Acton a guy on a phone swerved left and nearly hit me as I came back. He was a youngish bloke and, in response to my shout of 'Watch it you idiot!', he and his passenger waved with saccharine smiles. I waved back with a similar smile and a slightly different gesture. They laughed and apologised, I laughed and thought nothing of it.
It was a popular model silver car so when I passed it the first time I barely registered it. He overtook again but I definitely noticed when I passed it again a mile later. I didn't see him again for a couple of miles and assumed he'd turned off.
I got to west Ealing and, while stopped at traffic lights, two familiar faces peered out from the car next to me and waved, giggling. The window was rolled down, I couldn't resist: 'About time! Where the hell have you guys been?'
The reply came: 'Naaaah man! How many gears have you got on that thing?!'
I shouted back '24' before pedalling off while they stayed stuck in the traffic queue. I didn't see them again and arrived home triumphant.
Car stomping weenie-style.
In other news though, Mr Weenie came off Roger this morning. He snapped the pedal and has grazed his right side on his arm, leg and knee. Luckily, however, he was wearing the cycle mitts I bought him for our anniversary and his hands were spared. Phew!
Mr Weenie has been warned repeatedly about not using my bath products. I often get given sparkly products and he has emerged with an unhealthy sheen several times. Last night though, things went to a whole new level.
Last night he used whet he thought was a bath bomb but was, in fact, a Lush Shimmy Shimmy bar. As a result he has glitter chemically welded to him. We've tried everything to get it off. In addition, everything he touches shines, the sofa, the bed, the cats, you name it. Sigh.
Mr Weenie's arm:
More importantly, Roger is home!
Mr Weenie has decided to start riding him locally and he cam home yesterday. His gears are still a bit out and his front wheel's still got that slight buckle but he's still sexy.
In celebration I took the 10-mile route to work this morning. I was knackered again yesterday so only came halfway to work but with the sun out and blue skies this morning I threw caution to the wind. It was gorgeous. There's nothing like cycling along the Thames when the sun's out. Bliss.
After wine at a leaving do on Friday night I carried Reg up and down many stairs, took him in a lift and eventually arrived home knackered only to have sleep evade me as I subconsciously waited for Mr Weenie to come home.
Saturday morning I took George the tandem to my parents' house. Moomin and I giggled our way through Ealing backstreets to music school, where various children oohed and aahed at his magnificence. Moomin agreed that hills are easier with two pushing.
Afterwards it was rugby time and I set off with my sister and dad to the Stoop in Twickenham to watch the Harlequins beat the Sale Sharks in an excellent game that involved a lot of beer and shouting. I've never been to a pro game and it was really exciting and masses of fun. I've always liked the attitude of rugby supporters and, many hours later, when I took a cab home, the driver agreed they were lovely. Originally from Leeds and not a rugby fan, he'd not worked the first few match days just in case. When he eventually did, two rival fans were in the back and he was feeling uneasy. His fears proved unfounded though as they debated both teams' performance in an amicable fashion. He now loves being called to pick up both players and supporters.
Eventually Sunday rolled around and, unfortunately, it was time for George to go home. His owner had very kindly said he could be left with the nearby bicycleslut. I had coffee with her and Julian and met their beautiful quails and chooks. I was sent off with a King's ransom in quails' eggs, three of which I had for breakfast. Mmmmmmmmm mini egg goodness....
To top off this most excellent weekend I then visited a secret bunker. A secret bicycle bunker. So secret I can't disclose anything. But.....
My goodness, it was amazing. Bikes of all shapes and sizes adorned the walls and even the ceiling. None of these new pre-built ones either, but lovingly restored ones, other rescued ones awaiting restoration, custom builds with beautiful metalwork and many more. It was magnificent to behold and somewhat humbling.
All in all a fab weekend, now all I need is for Mr Weenie to come home!
I'm not a huge Labour fan, but I do like Steve Pound, he knows everyone and gives a genuine s*it about his constituents. He was untouched by the expenses scandal as he hadn't done anything wrong and any MP secure enough in his manhood to dress as a Cheeky Girl at a parliamentary event is a good egg in my books.
With a hung parliament upon us and the ensuing mess I'm genuinely pleased that at least one decent MP is in place.
Edit: My goodness, he increased his percentage by 3.5%! Class act.
Unfortunately the BNP also stood and got 1,045 votes. They came fourth out of seven parties.
There are many things that frustrate me about cycle lanes but a few things top the list:
Bad design that puts you in danger (ones in the door zone for example).
When they're not protected from people parking in them.
When they're not laid properly.
That last one is a real bugbear. In Ealing there are a couple of sections on the Uxbridge Road that are directly in front of new developments/building sites and they're rubbish. Not only that, but many of the sections that have been dug up for water/pipe maintenance are relaid as bone-jarring bumpy tarmac not fit for a badly done driveway.
There's a new section before Ealing Common coming from Acton, and just before the Tesco garage. I went on the shiny new blacktop yesterday and nearly came off.
When will the council demand that those who dig up cycle paths must put them back in usable format? They should be level, safe and at least as good quality as the main road surface, if not, better.
I'm sorry silver car, but if you change lanes without looking or indicating and nearly hit me, I shout.
Granted I was already cross but still.
Last night Reg's back tyre felt very squidgy but, seeing no puncture, I decided to pump it a bit. The valve broke. It's a presta valve and the middle bit snapped clean off. I decided to chance it and cycled home on it.
However, after getting home and receiving anniversary pressies I forgot all about it. (Thanks Mr Weenie, I woke up to the dulcet tones of Chris Moyles after getting the clock radio I wanted.) Mr Weenie received chamois cream and padded undershorts. He laughed at both but couldn't resist trying on the latter. He then strode round the house saying 'It actually feels like I've pooed myself!'
This morning, as I awoke, I remembered the inner tube. I duly got up and decided to work in the front room rather than go outside in the cold. With Reg tipped up, Mr Handsome decided to 'help'. As I wiped the oil from his nose I couldn't help but giggle.
My hands are sore after a hard weekend's riding and each time I thought I'd got the tyre back on I heard the defined 'SchmoCK!' sound of it popping back out further round the rim. I got it back on eventually and all was complete. I washed my hands and set off.
Only for you, Mr Silver Car, to nearly hit me then wave with a sly grin as I shouted. Grrrrrrr
On Friday morning I picked up a beautiful and marvellous machine.
After the March FNRttC's tandem success CC and I were keen to give it another go. Charles had lent us the last one (Miranda) but he was prohibitively far away to collect and drop it off.
The lovely Bicycle Slut had responded to my question of whether she knew of a tandem I could borrow with the response 'Of course!'. Her equally lovely partner the Lady Julian has parents in Harrow and they were willing to lend us their Dawes.
I set off to their house full of hope and they didn't disappoint. I arrived to see a red and black beauty sitting in the drive with huge puffy tyres and sit-up handlebars on the back. J, Julian's dad, talked me through the various bits and bobs before announcing he would drive me home with it. Reeling from the shock of the niceness I climbed into the car and we headed off.
Not only is he cool enough to own a tandem, he also keeps bees. What a guy.
Back in Ealing I took dad for lunch and then cycled the newly christened 'George' to my house. It was surprisingly easy to maneuver and balance.
That night the signs were not auspicious. It hammered it down at around 9pm and then drizzled. At Hyde Park Corner I was dubious. CC arrived looking bedraggled having been drenched as she left the house. The rain eased and we decided to go for it. George is a comfy ride and we set off with aplomb. It's a fairly flat route and, frankly, apart from a heavy shower as we left London, the ride went without incident until we neared the halfway point.
There had been an accident. A shunt had a domino effect and A2 was the final victim. He smiled bravely and waved us on. We waited for him at the service station.
He arrived and said he was ok, we iced the right elbow he'd fallen onto and we had coffee. But then it happened. The colour suddenly drained from his face and he looked very unwell indeed. I decided to get bossy and ordered him to lie down. We found a quiet spot and raised his legs. I went to get ride leader Simon and the decision was taken to call an ambulance.
They came quickly and Simon called the rest of us to attention. We would continue under the co-leader's direction. CC came over. She had decided to go with Andrew as I could pilot the tandem alone and, as she didn't have a bike, she could take care of A2's and get him home.
We said goodbye and I joined the rest of the group. Many calls of 'Where's your stoker?' were answered and we set off.
I had forgotten about the big hill. The Bread and Cheese is steep and nasty with a false ending that fools you into thinking it's over before going steep again. A charming policeman took my pannier and we set off. I made it. I even passed someone.
The back of the ride broken I was able to get George to Southend with only a couple of hairy moments, mainly involving tight turns. I wolfed a hot breakfast and thanked all I could for their support. I'm fairly sure a few of them had stuck with me to make sure I'd be ok.
Luckily, Bicycle Slut and the Lady Julian were also on a tandem (a hugely swanky custom build) and, as they live near me, we decided to head home together.
Getting two tandems on a train is tricky but, apart from a very drunk rude man (he called us Conservatives, the very nerve), we had a nice train journey home chatting about all sorts. Back in London they led me in convoy with another bike back to Hyde Park where I decided to take the train from Paddington rather than cycle home.
The final challenge was carrying George down the stairs at Hanwell, it sapped my last bit of energy and, once indoors, I stepped into a hot shower before sinking into the bed with Mr Handsome purring along side.
It was a challenge I rose to, but when Mr Weenie arrived home and decided to get into bed with me for a nap, I was glad it was over.
I started blogging as a cycling convert but, after having two children, I have discovered that the world of parents is far funnier and more bizarre than people in lycra.
I still love my bike, but motherhood means I get less time in the saddle and more time negotiating the minefield of do's, don'ts and craziness that comes with the magic of childbirth.