Tag: cycling

Lord, wont you buy me….

If you have to drive in England, and please avoid it at all costs, then at least do it in style. You will not get to your destination more quickly but your ageing arse and the pain that stands in for your lumber region will at least find some relief. 

For, it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a car on English Motorways is in want of his sanity. Don’t let the adverts fool you. You will not speed along empty roads in glorious sunshine and spectacular scenery accompanied by a headscarf wearing Kathryn Hepburn lookalike who promises a happy ending upon arrival at your destination in some romantic hotel. No, your fate is to be tearing into the abyss of grey water being thrown by the bucket load at your windscreen as you find yourself surrounded by towering trucks driven by demons from the seventh depths of hell whose only care is to get to wherever they are going regardless of any collateral damage be that rabbit, bugs or your wellbeing. 

You will be tailgated. For some unknown reason many drivers want to know what is on your back seat and thus play chicken with the brake lights they see in front. Data on stopping distances on wet roads are but a dim and distant memory to them as they leave their fates to the capricious whims of the furies. I’ve seen better driving skills being exercised by rum soaked drunken and testosterone fuelled matelots riding the dodgems at the fairground on Helston Flora Day. 

You will crawl behind a truck who is ‘overtaking’ another truck at 58 miles per hour while the fast lane is out of bounds to you due to the wide boys and sales reps, high on crack cocaine, exercising their ‘right’ to drive like complete wankers at over 90 miles an hour in a soon to be crashed BMW. 

You will wonder where everyone is going? Surely someone must be at work? Did everyone take today to go somewhere? Is the school run allowed on motorways? 

The A roads are no better. 

King’s Lynn to Norwich is not Route 66. You will certainly not ‘get your kicks’ nor will you be tempted to roll the window down, put on your shades, with arm resting on the door and sing to Elvis Presley on the radio. The road ahead will not stretch into the desert sunset in a straight line along the cactus lined highway to Hotel California. You will instead follow a tractor, the white van delivering tat to twats in time for teatime, the prat in an Audi who thinks he is Lewis Hamilton, a distracted mother with a car full of brats all shouting at her and a businessman in a hurry to get to the next Premier Inn where he can dream of eating a microwave dinner in the ‘restaurant’ before going to bed disappointed that Sharon from accounts was not there. He will go to bed after a late night snifter, turn to Babe Station and think of the short skirted but unavailable Sharon while he falls asleep only to wake up with his dick in his hand at 3 am. 

That is an English road trip. Pissing rain, bitter disappointment and a wank. 

Where was I?

While Mr Harris and Dr Tatham head to the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ that is Norwich in a Mercedes Vito van (nice), I drove the Mercedes C200 (even fucking nicer, excuse my french). I am not usually impressed by cars. They are merely methods of transportation infinitely inferior to trains. For a start you have to drive them yourself and keep awake while doing so. You cannot drink, nor can you drift aimlessly into a reverie about the time you found yourself covered in chocolate and being thrown into a party of sweet toothed lesbians and their overly sexed entourage of bisexual partners. 

(I might have dreamt that).

The Mercedes C200 deserves a mention, due to its overwhelming comfort. Everything in it works beautifully as it should. Every section of the seat can be adjusted, I counted at least 4 different moving parts to it. It heats up in the winter and gently caresses one’s testicles with what feels like a soft hand in a velvet glove, if you press the right button. German built and designed, you see. I wish we’d lost the war. I had previously already spent the best part of 10 hours getting to Kings Lynn in it, and upon arrival felt as fresh as the cherry blossom in spring, and as the smell of freshly baked bread and a day old baby’s head. The car gently and soothingly consumed the miles to Norwich enabling me to treat every other road user with contempt and pity. Come the revolution, I shall mandate that if it is necessary to travel by road, then a Mercedes should be issued to each and every citizen (except the couple who live in the flat upstairs and seem to be unaware that 50 shades of Grey is fiction and does not need reenacting at two in the morning. A man can only take so many muffled screams. By the way, I now know their ‘safe words’). 

Arrival in Norwich as the sun sets over the river is a delight. It would have been better if the Sat Nav had the correct post code coordinates. After a bit of map reading and a lot of swearing I find the hotel itself. The Premier Inn (for t’was our hotel…I hope they have Babe Station) overlooks the River Wensum as it winds it way through the city. The Cathedral Spire pokes above the trees a short distance away. There is a pissed women shouting near the bridge over the river, “lets be ‘aving you” I think it is. 

Tonight is beer and curry night. Dr Tatham’s medical chums of yore are in town with a half baked plan to cycle from Norwich to Romford. A distance of quite some miles across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, it has to be said. If they are as good at medical practice as they are at organising a cycling trip, I suggest you go kill yourself now. Their bravado is matched only by incompetence and a complete ignorance of the art of cycling any distance further than the mile to the pub. Team Sky they ain’t. We met up in a pub to enjoy some pre curry bonhomie and the talking of bollocks. 

The good doctors currently come from far and wide….Droitwhich, Diss, Romford, Ireland and Never Never Land. I think one gave his address as Number 1, Clueless, Cloud Cuckoo Land. I blame the parents. Tomorrow it will rain. I suspect that will not dampen their spirits, merely soak their bones and stoke their bloody mindedness. Beer and curry is a great combination, but in preparation for a 60 mile cycle in the rain it may prove exciting as their normal bowel patterns are disrupted. The crown will go to the chap who can find his way to the loo the quickest after mile 10. 

Our plan is different. We will not be rushing to join them southwards to The Only Way is Essex.

So we bid the chaps goodnight in the hotel bar as we prepare to go our separate ways on the morrow. 

Now, settle down. Get comfortable. Mr Harris planned a trip around Norwich that must be just one of the greatest journeys ever taken. In our estimation that is. You may like the Maldives, or a weekend break in New York. You may enjoy bashing your bishop in Barnstaple or choking your chicken in Chichester…but, nothing can quite match a trip on the North Norfolk Steam Railway. 

You need to realise that there is nothing like a steam engine to gladden the heart and quicken the pulse of three silly old ugly blind bikers in Norfolk. We can hardly curb our enthusiasm at the thought. We’ve talked about this for months, boxes of tissues have been used, imaginations running wild at the thought of steam hauled steel on rail. The sight, sound and smell of coal, fire and steam, brass and copper pipes, steel connecting rods, hissing, misty clouds, dirt and smuts from chimney, oil on trousers and dirty rags. Bloody heaven. 

Norwich railway station is just across the river, its gothic dome standing proud above the platforms. The plan is to take a train to Cromer and from thence cycle to Sheringham on the coast. The NNR starts at Sheringham and clatters some miles to a nowhere called Holt. One of our party, overcome with the thought of travelling by train and thus devoid of judgement, boards the wrong train, and as he enters the doors lock behind him. Thankfully, this train is going nowhere and after much jollity the guard releases the doors to facilitate his disembarkation for the correct train. 

Our train then winds gently across the Fenland and the Broads towards the coast. Our bikes are safely stowed aboard. Giggles are hardly suppressed. There is something touching about the ease with which grown men can be pleased. All it takes is a beer, or a train, or a rumination on the aesthetic similarity between a pint of Guinness and the stocking clad legs of a young lady bent on flirtation. It is the juxtaposition of black and white that does it. This latter thought had been prompted by the sight of a young lady hitching up her skirt to adjust her stocking tops as she walked down the Prince of Wales Road in Norwich the previous night. This remembrance had nearly caused a member of our party to choke with laughter whilst cycling and thus risking a crash into the hedge. Easily pleased, men are. 

Sheringham is a pretty seaside town, bunting fluttered in the sunshine in the high street. Tourists crowded the pavements and the coffee shops. The sky above the roofs hinted at blue. The North Sea sparkles and glistens, reminiscent of the Balearic Island paradise of Ibiza. The warm breeze caresses the skin, prompting the shedding of clothes while bikini clad women laze upon the golden sands in a coquettish demeanour. That’s what I saw anyway, rather than the hordes of Nora Batty clones stuffing their faces with fish and chips while shouting to the kids as if we are in an episode of East Enders. Fat blokes waddling along the sea front grunting for beer in a fashion free zone, dressed as they were for the Arctic but with sock footed sandals and Heavy Metal T shirts. 

Upon arrival at the station, the steam engine slowly glides in. I’ll leave it there. I will not be responsible otherwise for what I write next given the level of excitement this drew from us. The station, as with most heritage lines, is of course exactly like it would have been pre Beeching (damn his soul), and so dates from anywhere between 1930 to 1960, the heyday of the Railways. The tickets are cardboard and the guard punches them with a hole punch. The excitement just mounts. We rattle slowly along the coast and then inland to Holt. Heads are out of windows, waving at people in the countryside, the engine is chuffing up slopes and then gliding down the other side. 

At Holt there is even a model railway layout, and a proper row of red fire buckets hanging on the wall. We disembark and one member of the party is minus a bike helmet, due to over exuberance back at Sheringham, leading to momentary lapses of reason and forgetfulness. It is probably in the lost property office right now. 

The journey back to Norwich is a delightful 30 miles (ish) jaunt, the last 5 miles or so along a disused railway track (bugger Beeching but a boon to bikers). Upon arrival in the city, the route takes us past a pub called the ‘Adam and Eve’ and yes we would believe it. Being only a mile or even less from ‘Lenny’s’ we are able to make a decision about visiting the Norwich City Football Club shop or stopping for an ale.

Its thirsty work, cycling, and so the decision was swiftly made. 

Did you know Norwich cathedral’s spire is off centre? No one notices this at all, unless you stand at one of the gates (can’t remember which one), then line your self up with a ‘gable end’ (?). Suffice to say it takes a mathematical mindset to notice this. Once spotted however, it could grate. It is the princess and the pea of the cathedral world. I guess it is too late to put it right? I blame the monks who, proud of their ale making and goat comforting skills, probably did not bother supervising the masons due to a surfeit of ale infused bonhomie and a little light afternoon buggery. That’s medievalism for you. 

Somewhere in the world there are three old blokes on bikes, cycling languidly along the countryside noting all the relevant flora and fauna, learning about the local history and reminiscing about the times when access to stocking tops was as easy as falling off your bike in a gale. Getting away from the madness of car stoked roads into bucolic whimsy is an absolute joy, and should be prescribed as primary prevention for heart disease, diabetes and erectile dysfunction. Wives and girlfriends are welcome of course to join in but I suspect the degree of pointless drivel being talked would drive them to insanity and knitting. This is not a gender/sexist issue. I just think most women are just a bit too busy, too sensible or giving birth. The humble bicycle is thus a stairway to heaven, providing access to dreams, steam trains, revolutionary fervour and country pubs.

Ugly Old Blind Bikers

Ugly Old Blind Bikers

Once upon a time there was three blind mice. Except that was a nursery rhyme and not true. 

This time, there was one half blind chap and two other short sighted miscreants who required the miracles of modern science to see anything beyond the end of their frothy ale flecked noses. A plan was hatched long ago by these ‘three degrees’ (of insanity) to conquer the mountains of Fenland by bicycle. And so it was that King’s Lynn became host to three men and some bicycles. 

Getting there from the dark North and the subtropical South West required the navigational skills of a maritime mathematician, long in the tooth and firm of buttock, who longs for a tall ship and a star to steer her by. 

Mr Harris (pragmatic northerner) and Mr Tatham (a Newfoundland exile) trundled down the A1 in t’van while my good self braved the rain sodden waterways that pass for English motorways, from the south west. To say the weather was bad is to suggest that Satan may have been a tad dubious in character. I suggest that the Ms 5, 42 and 1 should be rebranded as canals given the amount of surface water sloshing about just waiting to throw the unwary driver into the back of a lorry. Every now and then, a thin sliver of sunlight crept in between the dark foreboding heavens to promise relief. 

It never came.

A Frenchman in a bordello has been relieved more often and with less fear.

Kings Lynn, formerly Bishop’s Lynn, lies on the Great Ouse as it empties into the south eastern corner of the Wash. There are boats, mud and the odd scared goat. In the middle of town is the ‘Nip and Growler’, a real gem of a pub selling micro brewery ales, some of which will result in depilation of the nether regions. They are that good. The Campaign for Real Ale has a special section reserved for such hostelries, including vouchers for fast track entry to Accident and Emergency or the local asylum. They hand out moistened tissues at the bar in case of ‘accidents’. The ‘Nip’ is a few short steps away from the town square which was at one time host to witch burning. This part of the country had a reputation for its enthusiasm in engaging in faggot lighting in order to roast the toes and tits off the local women, and did so with the gusto of a Catholic priest with the keys to the dorm at a boys school. Legend has it that one poor wretch’s heart burst from her chest as she burned, and it then splattered onto the walls of a nearby house. 

Nice.

Her crime, and thus accusations of witchcraft, included being nice to squirrels, knowing the names of a wide variety of herbs to apply to festering sores and the plugging of orifices, and commenting on how certain fillets of fish would be fit for Jehovah. 

That’s the church for you. You may bugger a goat with your ale soaked cousins, but don’t go picking lavender in case that is an act mistaken for spell casting. Women like picking herbs and flowers which goes to explain why they get mistaken for witches. Well, that and turning people into newts. 

And the pointy hats.

Never mind, stories like that enhance the taste of ale and pies. So, suitably victualled first in the ‘Nip’ and then at a quayside eatery, the intrepid three retired to the B and B to dream of conquests new. 

Prior to arriving in Fenland, Mr Harris and Mr Tatham had already been having far too much fun at the National Railway Museum near Darlington. In addition, culture was engaged in at various historic places of interest such as the the grave of the Vulnerable “oh, please don’t be mean to me” Bede, whose claim to a place in posterity rests upon his reading of some books on Jesus and his sheep. 

Day 1.

“There will be pies”.

Breakfast. The French may have their croissants, and the Canadians their maple syrup, but by thunder a ‘Full English’ is second to none. Tourists may be forgiven for thinking a ‘Full English’ is a euphemism for the furtive arts practiced by ladies of a wayward reputation near the docks, but the sight of a sizzling snorker sitting alongside its various accompaniments should disavow them of more carnal thoughts. Our hostess served up three plates of the most joy you can have with your clothes on and your inhibitions off. The breakfast was of such high quality that we clean forgot to consider a spanking. You, dear reader, may wonder why a spanking would even be considered at all before breakfast. Suffice to say that there are times in an old man’s memory that recall such episodic ventures into the realms of fantasy. 

Straight after breakfast, all kit was checked and ablutions completed. The bicycles had already been fettled and waited like the ‘stallions of steel’ they (nearly) were, straining at metaphorical leashes for the off. 

Mr Harris’s bike was a wonder to behold. A proper touring bike with panniers, tyres the width of a runway and gadgets that turn on its lights automatically. Oh, and mudguards. It is thanks to his planning and organisational skills that we were there at all. He even had a list, an itinerary, and downloaded maps of the route. Navigation was aided by a Garmin GPS system which beeped at regular intervals to tell us that a) a turn was 150 yards way and b) the turn was just ahead as we approached it. There should be no way we could get lost. I had every faith in the pragmatic and systematic approach of our Northern guide. He had the whiff of precision engineering about him, an ‘everything in its place’ kind of thing. He could spot a mislaid joist at a hundred paces. He looked the part. It was that of a long distance cyclist. Tall, and a lean frame frame befitting someone who is planning a very long trip to cycle every stage of the Tour de France won by a Brit.

Given that he often had his arm up a cow’s arse, which I believe calls for judgments of distance around clearances of inches rather than thousands of a millimetre, I found his attention to detail refreshing. I should also say that his inserting of limbs into dark places was for business reasons and not for leisure. His day job had been the welfare of animals, which includes killing them. 

That’s what vets do. 

Mr, actually Doctor, Tatham is garrulous to the the point of distraction. Think of the exuberance of Toad of Toad Hall. His clothes are often arranged in loose formation, the main colour scheme being that of a rainbow crashing into a paint factory with little regard for aesthetic juxtaposition. His bike was one of Mr Harris’ contraptions with the emphasis on “Will Dr Tatham survive without wrecking it?”. A permanent grin would accompany the permanent camera and cries of absolute joy rattling o’er the treetops. Plying his trade as a General Practitioner in Canada has prepared him well for East Anglia. There has not been an orifice, lump, secretion, protuberance or bleed that has phased him in the past. The inbreds of the Fens will not therefore shock. There are bits of him that require attention (and drugs) and a decent service, but the 50 miles should not present too much of a challenge. As long as we don’t pass a pretty young thing, then our progress should be smooth. For Dr Tatham, precision and planning are two words in the dictionary rather than concepts to be applied in everyday life…and so it is a good thing indeed that Mr Harris takes charge.

The bikes had been fettled, the loins girded but the butt cream forgone. Ahead was 50 circular miles of Fenland adventure. The sky was blue, the odd cloud skittering high above, the wind but a breeze although forecast to be stronger. Taking a north eastern route out of town, we found ourselves quickly into the countryside on our way through to the Sandringham Estate. We passed by one of the Royal Gates, a huge black wrought iron affair with spikes and what I thought was a Royal Crest. It’s message was clear. We might have paid for this Estate, with the blood of the proletarian martyrs while the robber barons, with a Royal nod, dispossessed the common folk from the common land as the enclosures tightened around their necks, but there is no way a hairy handed son of toil was going to set foot upon monarchical property. Even on a bicycle. In the background, as we stood for a picture by the gates, we could hear birdsong in the surrounding woods. I thought I could hear the sound of the sharpening of guillotines among the chirruping of sparrows. 

As we leave Sandringham, it is soon time for tea and cake. However, we are in the countryside of Norfolk. There are fields, and trees, and lanes, and pigs, horses and crows. We spot Red kites and the odd rabbit. The wind sweeps across the open hedge free fields kicking up dust and leaves. There are no signs saying ‘Tea Shop this way’. I hear a banjo. The only other sound is the swish of rubber tyre on lane and the occasional fart.

We quickly agree that it is impossible to fart while peddling or remaining in the saddle. So, if you see the cyclist in front of you stand up on his peddles and ceasing turning the crank you may suspect with a high degree of accuracy what is about to occur. So to add the to the gently shushing of breeze and tyre we hear the odd ‘tharp’. I blame the Guinness. 

A windmill is spotted in the distance.

As we cycle we come across the little brown tourist sign which of course says ‘Windmill’. This is overkill because we can see the bloody thing from 1000 meters away. Now, we could plough onwards looking for a tea shop for cakes and pie but this little gem has to be seen up close. We turn left off course and down to the mill. We stop at a gate to admire it and take a picture. Pretty as it is, the agenda has quickly focused on tea, but there is no sign of a tea shop. We might have to clench buttocks and grit our teeth. 

However, the inquisitive Mr Harris, cycles a few yards down the lane to the other side of the mill. Unbridled joy erupts as he spots a tea shop hidden from our view. There is still no sign pointing to it, but hey ho we have found Nirvana.

One of the absolute joys of cycling is the stop for tea and cake. This tea shop has cake, pasties and pork pies. We push open the door into the relative darkness inside, but the sun comes out and its rays floods the tea room with warmth. It is good to be alive.  As I am about to order I spot the pork pies, hand made with crinkly crimping around the edges. They are not uniform in shape indicating the hand crafted nature of each individual pie. They are lovingly made by jolly buxom housewives in the back kitchen who sing while they work, their nimble fingers caressing the pastry after the high quality pork is placed inside. Only the finest pigs, hand fed on acorns while otherwise roaming free foraging in the forests, provide the meat. The shortcrust pastry is light and crumbly upon the bite, the jelly inside explodes onto the tongue. They would be perfect with an ale. ‘Cornish’ pasties are also on offer, and I inwardly bridle when this is said. But the mistake was very quickly rectified and the ‘cornish’ was retracted. Just as well, they were crimped over the middle and the inside contained peas and carrot. How do I know? We bought three for the end of the day’s ride. In terms of size they were just above a cocktail pasty and just below a small. After 50 miles, however, they were fantastic. 

Suitably victualled we set off down the Norfolk country lanes. The sun continued to shine, with little evidence of the predicted shower. The riding at this point is fairly effortless, at a pace of about 10-11 miles an hour. This is slow enough to take in the sights and sounds and provided ample time for photo stops and banter. 

The next stop would be for lunch at the ‘Dabbling Duck’ in Great Massingham. You just can’t make this up. A village green, a village pond (with ducks), the church, old cottages thatched and tiled and the pub. Just the perfect village scene. I spotted its idiot hiding behind the red pillar box doing something uncalled for with a bucket, some lubricant and a cat. At this point my garmin was telling me I had used 1400 calories. Thats 7 pints and two pies worth, therefore a lunch of a ham and cheese sandwich to be washed down with a pint of ‘Nelson’s Revenge’, served in a dimpled beer jug with handle, was hardly going to make a dent. The sandwich was served with a side salad, red cabbage and these new fangled hipster type crisps which I think are some old vegetables sliced up and passed off as a ‘crisp’. I think to qualify as a ‘crisp’ the sliced potato (not parsnip, beetroot or carrot) has to be come in a bag preferably with a little blue bag of salt.  

We learned from the barman that the mansion we had previously passed was Houghton Hall, the summer holiday home of Lord and Lady Cholmondeley (‘Chumly’) whose main residence is Cholmondeley castle. These country houses were no doubt built with the blood, sweat and tears of the peasants from whom the Chumleys had stolen their land. As you gaze upon these monuments to exploitation and slavery, in the historical winds you can hear the cries of ill fed babies straining to get what little milk there was from their mother’s breasts; mothers who had put in a 20 hour day and who had only a carrot to suck on for dinner and a cardboard box to sleep in. Never mind, as long as Lady Chumley has a second home for her holiday, it was all worth it. The village green at Great Massingham was host to various hangings of miscreants who lost their lives for no worse crime than muttering rebellious thoughts about the aristocracy, tickling a pig or licking bread crumbs from the kitchen floor of Houghton Hall. During the first world war, Lord C rounded up the loudest critics, enlisted them as the Massingham Pals and sent them straight to the front line at the Somme. Some 56 local lads of Norfolk left. None came back. Well, one did, but upon return, his mind so traumatised by whizz bangs, he developed a taste for goat ‘worrying’ and was hanged without ceremony at Norwich assizes as a lesson to the revolutionary classes. 

And that is why we still have Tory governments today. 

The afternoon session, post lunch, saw us plunge deeper into Norfolk. I’m all for deep plunging…it has been said that I am one of best at it given a fair wind, some notice and several ales. My plunging exploits however are surpassed by one of my colleagues who shall remain nameless. We followed a straight road into a village called ‘Castle Acre’. We soon discovered why. 

It has a Castle, that is probably an acre in size. Don’t think of Windsor, Cardiff or Edinburgh. These are still pretty much intact. This one however dates from the 11th century is nowt but a ruin. However, it is pretty impressive, sitting upon the earthworks, dried up moats and rampart. parking the bikes we look up at the walls and are taunted by some French soldiers. History oozes from every stone. Close your eyes and you can hear serfs cleaning the floors, feeding the pigs and dying early from malnutrition and syphilis. Keep them closed and you can hear the Lord exercising his ‘droit de signeuer’ with the latest available, but unwilling, virgin brides. There is a some medieval graffiti on one wall. Simply says ‘Help, we are ruled by a madman’ but in Latin: ‘Aidorum, Nos est Regularum ab Lunitacus Illigitimus’  It was conditions like this that provided the inspiration for Marx’s ‘Communist Manifesto’.  Such Castles probably prevented the peasants uprising by working them to death, keeping them ignorant and feeding them fetid turnips. 

And that is why there are turnips/swedes are in Cornish pasties. They are there to remind you of your place in the social hierarchy. The present queen keeps pictures of Castles and Turnips in her favourite privy in Windsor as an historical comfort should Jeremy Corbyn become Prime Minister.  

Castle Acre also has a ruined Priory, courtesy of ‘our ‘enry’ no doubt. The monks are long gone but their recipes for beer and mead live on, the results of which can be seen on any Glasgow street at night. Many a young lady has lost her virginity, and many a fight in backstreet pubs across the land, can give thanks to the dedication of the Christian soldiers of the past who never stinted in going onward in their quest for brewing a drink to lose your mind to. The three of us, however, turn a blind eye to the hideous past of Castle Acre as we cycle past its only pub ‘The Ostrich’. This is an unusual name for a pub in this part of the world as to my knowledge there are few flightless birds indigenous to this region. I would have thought a better name for village pub out in the wilds of the Fens would be something like ‘The Sheep and Shagger’. Its pub sign would have to be carefully designed so as not to offend the local vicar with its depictions of an indifferent ewe being held by a cross eyed and furrowed browed bovine enthusiast son of the soil. 

The final stretch proved delightful if uneventful. 

The most exciting part was stopping for 5 minutes and watching potatoes being picked in a field. 

The industrial scale of the machinery has to be seen to be believed. In days of yore no doubt a thousand farm labourers would stoop and pick by hand each lovely spud and place it carefully in a wicker basket. They would carefully brush off the dirt and look for blemishes as they went. They would be paid in cider and wenches at the end of the day in the village pub, where they would pass many a happy hour growling and muttering in what passes for the local dialect. The Squire would pop in to the “Thirsty Ferret” at the end of the potato picking season and raise a glass of port to the study yeomen who make him rich by his taking the surplus value from their labour. Oh how they laughed and japed in their bucolic poverty not knowing that elsewhere townsfolk could enjoy hot tea, a log fire and sanity. Here however, ‘rural idiocy’ abounded due to the hard work and the diet of raw potato and worms, their lives made bearable by the beer. 

Today, tractors the size of Panzer tanks pull alongside massive machines that made all of these workers unemployed and stupid. Now all that left is for erstwhile labourers to make the trek to Norwich to cheer on a football team whose enthusiasm is in inverse proportion to their skill. 

The circular ride over, we scoff the three ‘pasties’ before setting off to Norwich for the night. 

  

 

Cycling back to fitness

Mont Ventoux

Tommy Simpson rests on Mont Ventoux. The cyclist died (on my birthday – 13th July) while attempting this stage of the Tour de France in 1967. One passes his memorial on the way to the top with only 1 kilometre to go. This fact became particularly salient as I passed it while experiencing chest pain on 29th July 2017.

After a further 500 meters, I had to stop due to the chest pain. Sitting astride the cross bar, gasping for breath, I could look up and see the weather station at the summit which was a mere 500 meters away, including a hairpin bend with a 20% ramp. I had completed this ascent just the day before and so I knew what I was up against. My friend, Sean, was already up at the top no doubt enjoying the views. We had already cycled from Chartres down to the Alps (via Alpe D’Huez, Izouard and Galibier) and therefore had quite some miles in our legs. After about 10 minutes, I cracked on to the summit.

Angina. Chest pain. When coronary arteries become ‘clogged up’ they no longer can deliver enough blood to the heart itself when demand rises for oxygen during exercise. A complete blockage will bring on a heart attack as blood flow becomes occluded resulting in cell death. Angina can be a precursor, a warning, if you like that something is wrong with your heart. Being told by your GP that you might have had a heart attack and being prescribed drugs to address the issue, is a life changer. In my case, scans revealed the extent of the occlusions which meant that I needed an angioplasty with the insertion of a stent to improve blood flow to the heart.

Now I am in need of returning to fitness after a 7 month rest from cycling. This time however, the challenge is very different given the new medical condition. Few of you reading this will be in the same position as I am. You hopefully do not have a heart condition. Before I comment on getting back to fitness, i need to outline the medical bit just so that you are aware so as not to make false comparisons. I am 59, now overweight coming in at 12st 6lbs. I need to take the following for the heart: Clopidogrel (only for 12 months following the angio as a blood thinner), Aspirin (same but now for life), Bisoprolol and Ramipril (to slow the heart and reduce blood pressure) and finally a statin to reduce cholesterol. My resting heart rate is 50, and my blood pressure has been reduced to about 125-75.

The challenge is training using heart rate zones. Normally we can estimate my maximum and threshold heart rate to set up a training plan using something like training peaks.com. Grant (Cycle for Fitness) provides these structured plans using training peaks. A problem is that my heart rate zones have been reduced by 30 bpm by the the NHS’s cardiac rehabilitation team due to the medication I am taking. My new zones are 64-101!   This in practice results in a very very slow regime of exercise. You might already know what level of movement will take your heart up to 80-90. believe me, it is not much.

I am now finding cycling to those zones to be a nonsense. It is for me a non starter as far as training goes. The plan now is to complete the 8 week very gentle exercise regime given to me by the medical team before I make plans to whizz up Mont Ventoux.

A lesson here is that we should not under estimate what having coronary artery disease is, the effect of having a stent inserted, the effects of the drugs and the time it will take to recover. I have heard stories of bravado – men rushing back to work only to find fatigue setting in. Honestly, just don’t do it.

At one point in January, before I had seen the cardiac team to set down new heart rate zones, I thought I’d go for a cycle. Feeling great along the flat, I pushed the heart rate up to 135-140. I suddenly felt dizzy and had to stop for 10 minutes. Knowing now that my new upper limit should only be 101, it is not surprising that I felt ‘off’. I have had 1 more episode of dizziness while merely sat at the table.

So, for all you macho types that want to blast away getting fit again..great. Just don’t rush it. Discuss this first with your cardiac rehab team…then access Cycle for fitness to co create a training plan right for you but you must do this with your medical team.

Having a stent, an angioplasty, is not the end of your life on a bike. Well, I hope so because I have plans to return to France. First, I have to lose the weight gained and get fitter. I’ll be posting progress.

 

 

Redruth.

Jewel of the West, Pearl of the Orient (if you are in St Just) and darker than the blackest hole of Calcutta’s fetid sewer. However, there is a light to guide the weary traveller and the foot sore pilgrim. The station cafe serves a bacon sandwich the likes of which would turn an orthodox Jew into a slabbering, salivating apostate quicker than George Osborne shouts ‘welfare cuts’. So, suitably loaded with pork based victuals, we await the 1023 to Paddington.

Loading two bikes should not present too many problems.

Loading two heavily laden bikes with the handling characteristics of a hysterical toddler with ADHD and a caffeine habit, is another matter. We are in danger of holding up the train and thus causing First Great Western’s timetable to go into meltdown. The ‘Dispatch Team’ (one bloke with a white paddle, a grievance and a whistle) begin to wobble, fearing for his job no doubt if FGW’s management learn of late departures. And they will, because they are watching. There is a bloke in an office in Bristol sitting at a bank of screens monitoring every train dispatch from every corner of FGWs system. He saw us getting on at Redruth and with finger hovering over the ‘fire’ button of his weapon system, was ready for any tardiness. Luckily for us he dropped his cheese butty just as the train was leaving and so, momentarily distracted, we escaped his wrath. He has a calendar on his desk, but it only has one year: 1984.

The trip up to Plymouth was gloriously uneventful, if slow. I believe there are such things as ‘high speed trains’ up country. I believe there is discussion about building more high speed lines to connect the metropolis of London to ‘sorted’ Mancunia via Brummegen. I will also believe in fairies if it ever takes less than two and half hours from Penzance to Plymouth on the ‘drekly’ line. Never mind. I suspect that if a Cornishman does anything quickly it’s only to rubbish the quality of a Devonian cream tea.

Did I say it was raining in Redruth when we left? Mind you, you could have guessed it really. This is the default meteorological condition in Fore Street. There could be sunshine and tea treats in St Ives but the glowering granite bank of Carn Brea gathers the clouds up on its shoulders like little children who then need a pee over Camborne and Redruth. Anyway, those clouds followed us to Plymouth so that we completed the journey in liquid form. At one point on the train I heard children, which prompted a flash back to a train to Preston and poo. Not my poo of course. However, and to our immense relief, these children were well trained. I did not even smell a fart.

The Copthorne is our first hotel of many and is only a short 5 minute bike ride from the Station. And so to rest, to check last minute equipment needs. Note to cyclists: you know what ‘butt cream’ is for but refrain from asking your companion if they have their butt cream while walking into the corridor of a hotel in earshot of the cleaning staff. They might get the wrong impression and may not be able to sleep at night.

 

0700: A seagull awakes me, singing like cat trying a gregorian chant at 78 rpm•. Its friend joins in. Otherwise it is very quiet considering we are in the city centre. I can just about hear the gentle hum of tyre on tarmac as the odd car drives by. Only just. The hotel is next to a Sainsbury’s car park and I would expect a cacophony, but no. Plymouth is as quiet as a mid week church. There is a fan in the ceiling that has been on all night. Reminds me of the opening scene in Apocalypse Now but without the drinking, underpants and sweat. It, too, hums gently as the blades travel in a weary circle above our heads. The next sound I hear is an extended fart in what I think is in the key of A sharp major, a bit like a trombone tuning up. it should really be accompanied by a clash of cymbals. Sean sleeps the sleep of the contented.

Today we head for France. The ferry leaves at 1500 from what I believe used to be Millbay Docks. I think the area is being ‘gentrified’, a euphemism for cleaning out working people whose only possessions are pots for pissing in and replacing them with slightly more wealthy white collar working people who have two pots for pissing in, both of which were financed by Northern Rock or RBS and are in negative equity, and if interest rates rise would need to be sold. You would then see pissing pots being sold in the pannier market for ‘affordable’ prices to Rich London Plutocrats who think Millbay would be a great place to base their mistresses. Thus the cycle of prostitution in Millbay would be complete. Plymouthian streetwalkers being replaced by the uber rich’s tarts in fur. This is a metaphor for modern Britain; we replace long established, if old fashioned, dirty work with nouveau riche foreign parvenues providing services. The only difference is a thin veneer of respectability and Russian blood money. I could of course be making this up, but we’ll see.

Breakfast will be big. A plate the size of the Harvest Moon. I ordered free range corn fed chicken eggs; freshly cured, smoked pig; croissants; flatulence free beans, coffee in a bucket and fifi trixie-belle to serve it.

The ship is the ‘Armorique’ which in Breton means “of the coast”. I’d rather it remains ‘of the sea’ as in my experience ships and coasts make uneasy bedfellows, a bit like a turd and your custard: to be kept separate. The captain, I’m assured, is not Italian and always keeps the bow doors shut. See what I did there? Two oblique Maritime disaster references for the price of one. Mind you the Armorique, when launched, was originally named differently. If you look closely at the present name on the stern, the blue letters on a white background ‘Armorique’, one can see a faint trace of the old name: ‘Le Titanic’. Sense of humour, the French. There is a fake iceberg anchored off Drake’s Island just for effect. It is made of the frozen tears of Plymouthians’ dashed hopes and regrets they were not born in Kernow, after all a ‘Dewdney’ is not a ‘Philps’. Anyway, the sailing is at 1500, so we’d better be ready. Bon Voyage!

*sigh, I guess I have to explain to the ‘youth’ that 78 refers to the speed of vinyl, or was it hard plastic like bacolite, record turntables.

 

“Isn’t it nice to be cycling without having to wear our wet weather gear”.

The morning sunshine was indeed warm in Plymouth as we made our way among the throng on Armada way towards the Post Office. The first task was to pick up Euros before another visit to Evans cycles for last minute ‘stuff’.

Yes, it was good not to have to wear the high viz jackets. Nicer still would be if we had them with us. Before leaving the hotel room we had both looked around just in case we left anything behind. I even remarked that this was something I am wont to do. Satisfied that all kit was safely stowed we checked out. Except it wasn’t. Two wet weather high viz jackets were safe in the wardrobe rather than on our bikes. So, back I went while Sean continued to get his Euros.

Another fine mess avoided.

So, then off to Rocksalt for Breakfast. As mentioned Millbay is being gentrified and this little gem of a cafe, bistro, restaurant is a real find. There really was only one choice on the menu – the full Rocksalt English.

Two sausages, made with the finest pork from hand reared pigs.
One egg, kissed by a maiden as it was laid to ensure its nutrient value.
One slice of toast, grilled to perfection fit for a Greek God.
Tomato. Just. Heavenly.
Slice of black pudding made from the blood of the sacred cows of Valhalla.
Black striped Char grilled bacon whose smoke infused flavour knows no equal.
Beans individually picked and sorted, marinated in a rich tomato sauce for 24 hours.
A succulent almost sweet mushroom.

The salt was served in a scallop shell. To serve it, a mussel shell to scoop the grains onto the tomato.

There are better breakfasts. But none you will find this side of existence.
A couple of hours later we are sat outside the port o’ call cafe with a mug of tea overlooking Millbay harbour. The Armorique sailed into view to dock and unload. That was our cue to go. Just before we got up, a lady sat at the table next to us and enquired as to where we were going. It turns out she was also waiting for her husband. He duly arrived. The lady informed him of our plan, he turned towards us with a bit of gapless toothy grin. His hair was a grey bird’s nest. The bird was still in it. As he stood, he wobbled slightly. He was thinking of saying something but there was a disconnect between thought and speech, so he thought some more, thought about it again and obviously decided that talking was beyond him.

Right next door to the Port o’ call cafe is a pub. I think this is a clue as to this gentleman’s current predicament viz a viz talking. He mumbled something to his wife (?) and they both left. About ten feet away was a car. I somehow had the feeling that he was heading for it. Sure enough the wobble took him towards it, keys produced, both got in a drove away. I don’t think he got it out of first gear as he proceeded down Millbay road at walking pace. This was very probably a common occurrence. I fleetingly thought about undertaking my civic duty and calling the police, but in astonishment I had singularly failed to note registration number or make of car.

If you watched Spotlight this evening and a news item was about a car running amok on the pavement on West Hoe Road, you heard it here first folks.

We left for the ferry in the opposite direction, posed for pictures taken by Steve from the safety of his balcony, and queued to embark. We only had to wait for about 20 minutes in the sunshine and chatted to a couple on a tandem who were heading for the Dordogne, camping on their way down.
Compared to flying, catching a ferry is a complete joy. No security checks; no taking off of shoes, belts or pride. No orifices were searched, fingered or otherwise interfered with. No unpacking of bags, bottles or breaches of etiquette. No bomb jokes, queues or tantrums. Bikes were easily secured by helpful crew thus facilitating the early vending of chilled beer on the top deck in the sun.

So far, this cycling lark is a ‘piece of piss’, as they say in Germany. Tonight is Roscoff, arrival is about 2130 UK time. The hotel is about a 10 minute cycle maximum. So, early to bed before our Grand Depart to St Brieuc 67 miles away.

A bientot !

 

St Austell.

Nows there is a place one does not expect to mention on a journey in France.

We arrive at the Hotel Regina in Roscoff at the same time time as several cyclists and an Italian couple on a BMW motorcycle we met on the Ferry. Its strange how we all have booked the same place for this night’s sojourn. With bikes safely locked and stowed in the cellar, and accompanied by the high pitched notes of swifts on the wing, we decide to go for a short walk into ‘centre ville’ and a nightcap. At the Cafe Ty Pierre we order two ‘pressions’ and sit outside to watch the world. It is 16 degrees and very pleasant.

At the next table sit two gentlemen smoking and enjoying a drink. As I am in France I fancy a cigarette and so purchase a pack of Lucky Strikes from behind the bar. This pack of 20 should last the whole trip. The bar does not sell matches or lighters. This is like buying pasty but without the meat. I then ask the man sat at the next table for a light, and in good english he obliges. It is then he asks where we are from.

Not only does he know Cornwall, but he tells us his story of when as a young man he cycled to Cornwall and ended up in Galway. He fondly remembers St Austell and being taken in and dried off. Camping in Cornwall when it rains is hard, but the reception he got from the locals as they looked after him has left a lasting impression. So, there we have it, to hear a good word said about St Austell, you have to come to France. Oh the irony!

 

Ben and Sean’s excellent adventures

1000 miles in about 10 days in France for the `cornwall air ambulance’ see www.justgiving.com/benandsean.

what follows are ‘home thoughts from abroad’

 

Laurel and Hardy, Ant and Dec, Love and Marriage. What have they got in common? Nothing.

And that, I suspect, is what we’ve got, given our approach to packing.

Yes, that time has come when the bikes need loading, the planning is complete and loins are girded. Sean’s approach to ensuring that all necessary equipment is required, and my approach, resembles that of Scott and Amundsen. One amiable gentleman with faith in simply being British to carry the day, the other engaged in Nordic analysis and planning. We know how that all ended. The difference this time is that Scott and Amunsden are joined as a team. This ensures that success is upped by a factor of 0.01%. This random figure is about as mathematically sound a method of prediction as astrology. The fly in the ointment and what actually is in common in the above pairings, is comedy. Except for Love and Marriage, which are as funny as piles on your birthday, only less rare.

With weeks to go, I had a list of items to be taken in the panniers, cognisant of weight and utility being criteria to be applied to any item. This list I shared with Sean, in the vain hope it now appears , as planning is as Alien a concept to Sean as ‘ecumenicalism’ is to Islamic State, the only difference is that ‘The Caliphate’ can spell ‘ecumenicalism’ while ‘planning’ , I suspect is ‘what other people do’. Scott did not get to the Pole without meticulous planning, oh wait a minute…! That’s right, if I recall, a trip saved only by a good quote and gin and a typically British disregard for adequate resources, knowledge of the terrain and a map. For every Nelson, there is a Mr Bean, for every Wellington there is a Frank Spencer and for every Queen Elizabeth there is Philip. Glorious amateurism, joined with enthusiasm and a comedian’s nose for order will combine to make our own Tour de France a beacon of British civility, self delusion and misplaced grandiose ambition.

On our way to Plymouth:

Redruth.

Jewel of the West, Pearl of the Orient (if you are in St Just) and darker than the blackest hole of Calcutta’s fetid sewer. However, there is a light to guide the weary traveller and the foot sore pilgrim. The station cafe serves a bacon sandwich the likes of which would turn an orthodox Jew into a slabbering, salivating apostate quicker than George Osborne shouts ‘welfare cuts’. So, suitably loaded with pork based victuals, we await the 1023 to Paddington.

Loading two bikes should not present too many problems.

Loading two heavily laden bikes with the handling characteristics of a hysterical toddler with ADHD and a caffeine habit, is another matter. We are in danger of holding up the train and thus causing First Great Western’s timetable to go into meltdown. The ‘Dispatch Team’ (one bloke with a white paddle, a grievance and a whistle) begin to wobble, fearing for his job no doubt if FGW’s management learn of late departures. And they will, because they are watching. There is a bloke in an office in Bristol sitting at a bank of screens monitoring every train dispatch from every corner of FGWs system. He saw us getting on at Redruth and with finger hovering over the ‘fire’ button of his weapon system, was ready for any tardiness. Luckily for us he dropped his cheese butty just as the train was leaving and so, momentarily distracted, we escaped his wrath. He has a calendar on his desk, but it only has one year: 1984.

The trip up to Plymouth was gloriously uneventful, if slow. I believe there are such things as ‘high speed trains’ up country. I believe there is discussion about building more high speed lines to connect the metropolis of London to ‘sorted’ Mancunia via Brummegen. I will also believe in fairies if it ever takes less than two and half hours from Penzance to Plymouth on the ‘drekly’ line. Never mind. I suspect that if a Cornishman does anything quickly it’s only to rubbish the quality of a Devonian cream tea.

Did I say it was raining in Redruth when we left? Mind you, you could have guessed it really. This is the default meteorological condition in Fore Street. There could be sunshine and tea treats in St Ives but the glowering granite bank of Carn Brea gathers the clouds up on its shoulders like little children who then need a pee over Camborne and Redruth. Anyway, those clouds followed us to Plymouth so that we completed the journey in liquid form. At one point on the train I heard children, which prompted a flash back to a train to Preston and poo. Not my poo of course. However, and to our immense relief, these children were well trained. I did not even smell a fart.

The Copthorne is our first hotel of many and is only a short 5 minute bike ride from the Station. And so to rest, to check last minute equipment needs. Note to cyclists: you know what ‘butt cream’ is for but refrain from asking your companion if they have their butt cream while walking into the corridor of a hotel in earshot of the cleaning staff. They might get the wrong impression and may not be able to sleep at night.

 

Ferry at three.

0700: A seagull awakes me, singing like cat trying a gregorian chant at 78 rpm•. Its friend joins in. Otherwise it is very quiet considering we are in the city centre. I can just about hear the gentle hum of tyre on tarmac as the odd car drives by. Only just. The hotel is next to a Sainsbury’s car park and I would expect a cacophony, but no. Plymouth is as quiet as a mid week church. There is a fan in the ceiling that has been on all night. Reminds me of the opening scene in Apocalypse Now but without the drinking, underpants and sweat. It, too, hums gently as the blades travel in a weary circle above our heads. The next sound I hear is an extended fart in what I think is in the key of A sharp major, a bit like a trombone tuning up. it should really be accompanied by a clash of cymbals. Sean sleeps the sleep of the contented.

Today we head for France. The ferry leaves at 1500 from what I believe used to be Millbay Docks. I think the area is being ‘gentrified’, a euphemism for cleaning out working people whose only possessions are pots for pissing in and replacing them with slightly more wealthy white collar working people who have two pots for pissing in, both of which were financed by Northern Rock or RBS and are in negative equity, and if interest rates rise would need to be sold. You would then see pissing pots being sold in the pannier market for ‘affordable’ prices to Rich London Plutocrats who think Millbay would be a great place to base their mistresses. Thus the cycle of prostitution in Millbay would be complete. Plymouthian streetwalkers being replaced by the uber rich’s tarts in fur. This is a metaphor for modern Britain; we replace long established, if old fashioned, dirty work with nouveau riche foreign parvenues providing services. The only difference is a thin veneer of respectability and Russian blood money. I could of course be making this up, but we’ll see.

Breakfast will be big. A plate the size of the Harvest Moon. I ordered free range corn fed chicken eggs; freshly cured, smoked pig; croissants; flatulence free beans, coffee in a bucket and fifi trixie-belle to serve it.

The ship is the ‘Armorique’ which in Breton means “of the coast”. I’d rather it remains ‘of the sea’ as in my experience ships and coasts make uneasy bedfellows, a bit like a turd and your custard: to be kept separate. The captain, I’m assured, is not Italian and always keeps the bow doors shut. See what I did there? Two oblique Maritime disaster references for the price of one. Mind you the Armorique, when launched, was originally named differently. If you look closely at the present name on the stern, the blue letters on a white background ‘Armorique’, one can see a faint trace of the old name: ‘Le Titanic’. Sense of humour, the French. There is a fake iceberg anchored off Drake’s Island just for effect. It is made of the frozen tears of Plymouthians’ dashed hopes and regrets they were not born in Kernow, after all a ‘Dewdney’ is not a ‘Philps’. Anyway, the sailing is at 1500, so we’d better be ready. Bon Voyage!

*sigh, I guess I have to explain to the ‘youth’ that 78 refers to the speed of vinyl, or was it hard plastic like bacolite, record turntables.

 

 

 

Sustainability, Health and Cycling ‘on yer bike’

Sustainability, Health and Cycling.

 

Following the success of cycling at the London Olympics, which has propelled Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton into the limelight, and two successive Tour de France wins by British based Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins, the Great British public are getting back on their bikes and not just to find work. At the mass cycling event ‘Ride 100’ held in London this summer,  even London Mayor Boris Johnson (17 stone) took part, commenting that he was no “chiselled whippet”. Boris is of course also known for the introduction of the Boris bike in the capital. He stated: “The truth is it’s not that hard, and I’m here to prove it. I am 17 stone, I’m by no means fit, and I got myself round that (100 mile) course in a perfectly respectable time. Not supersonic, but perfectly respectable…The message we’re trying to get over is this is for everybody”.

The Department of Transport has produced figures on walking and cycling by local area based on a survey in 2010/11. The key findings include 10% of adults cycle at least once per week but this varies a great deal by area (from over 50% to less than 5%), 11% of adults cycle for at least half an hour at least once per month but again with huge variations (35%-4%). Perhaps unsurprisingly, Cambridge  reports 52% cycling at least once per week and the highest rates are reported in cities and boroughs within cities. Why do we cycle? The survey suggests that 16% do so for utility purposes and 77% for recreation. The Cycling Touring Club (CTC) reports cycling is up by 20% in the last 12 years from 4 billion kms in 1998 to 5 billion kms in 2011.

So this is good news. For society, a shift from cars to cycling may bring about reduced air pollution, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and increased physical activity. For the individual there is an increase in exposure to air pollution and risk of road accidents. The health benefits of cycling are well understood. According to the NHS choices website these include helping you to lose weight, reducing stress and improving fitness. The example of calorie burning is given: someone weighing 80kgs (12st 9lbs) will burn more than 650 calories in an hour’s riding. As a keen road cyclist I can burn 1500 calories on a weekend ride. Of course there are concerns about death and injury on the roads, even Bradley Wiggins has been involved in a collision back in the UK after winning the Tour de France. Department of Transport figures for 2011 indicate that 107 cyclists were killed, but this figure is declining from 2004. However, combined figures for deaths and injuries show these steadily rising to 19,215 in 2011. What of course we really need to know is the relative risk of cycling compared to say horse riding, other forms of motor transport or any other activities. We need to know how many deaths per 100,000 kms of cycling and then to ask, whatever the number is, is cycling beneficial despite the risk?  Depending on who you ask, the health benefits of cycling do seem to outweigh the risks. Hartog et al in their study (2010) argue “on average the estimated health benefits of cycling were substantially larger relative to car driving for individuals shifting their mode of transport”.

Cycling is not just an individual issue, it is a social issue and perhaps a political issue as well. Both Denmark and the Netherlands have higher rates of cycling than the UK. This might be obvious given the geography, but the story is not as simple as the relative lack of hills, it is also down to political and urban planning decisions taken and active policy decisions by politicians over decades to make the countries cycle friendly, to get people back on their bikes.

In ’The Energy glut – the politics of fatness in an overheating world’ Roberts and Edwards (2010) argue that fossil fuels are making whole populations fat/obese. We have replaced food with fossil fuels as our main energy source while at the same time we are eating, if not less than we did, then certainly no more. We have become sedentary, replacing walking and cycling as active transport with mechanical modes of transport, mainly the motor car. Whole societies are using the energy oil has given us to replace physical labour. The upside is the construction of advanced civilizations and huge increases in food production, and the ability to buy stuff, the downside is that as countries develop and begin to increase their car use, whole populations get fat, and experience death and injury on the roads that make cycling injury statistics seem small. Did I mention the contribution to climate change?

Cycling as active transport is a positive sustainability issue, but it is also complicated in that in achieving positive health gains and reducing carbon emissions on the one hand, we have to also consider the carbon footprint of cycling. This includes the manufacture of cycles and  their transporting around the world. Raleigh manufactures in the Far East and my own Bike, a ‘Merida’, was shipped to the UK from overseas. Then of course there are the clothes and accessories and the taking part in weekend ‘sportives’ which may involve driving to events across the country. I have not calculated the carbon footprint of my own cycling interests nor have I calculated yet how many car miles I have not done as a result of cycling. I have to confess that I am one of the 77% who cycle for recreation, having not yet bitten the bullet on commuting. My only excuse is a 20 mile round trip to work on an A road in West Cornwall at , yes even in Cornwall, ‘rush hour’ where far too many drivers seem not have yet woken up and speed by far too closely.

My value system approves of cycling, I believe it has health benefits as well as risk but the risks could be far better managed if UK policy makers went even further in their plans for cycling. Am I about to sell the car though….?

 

 

 

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