Thursday, April 28, 2005

What a difference a year makes

This time last year, on her birthday, Mum was still in hospital full of tubes and painkillers, recovering from her Mother's Day emergency aortobifemoral bypass

Last night Ian and I went down to Farnham to take her and Dad out for a Chinese meal. She was well and cheerful one year on. It was good to see.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Born to Boogie DVD

Many thanks to Clare at The Sanctuary Group for giving me a complimentary ticket to the pre-release screening of Born To Boogie DVD at the Curzon Mayfair.

An excellent evening with a chance to meet up with some Tillers from the TillDawn Mailing list. Also in the foyer were Gloria Jones (Marc's girlfriend), Bill Legend (drummer), Harry Feld (Marc's brother) with wife and Geoff Blayldon (Catweazel).

There were some introductory words from the Producer and music producing legend Tony Visconti. Then 50 minutes edited highlights from the DVD followed by a few words from Mark's son Rolan Bolan. Watching it brought back memories of that era and a promise of a longer post and review later...

Me and the other Tillers had black tickets which meant we could loiter, pick up a small goodie bag and shake hands with Rolan and Tony. Then off to the pub for a glass of red wine and home.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Me and Paula Radcliffe

Friday I was thinking "Cycling shouldn't be this hard!" and cursing E.W.Evans servicing abilities. I even got off at Battersea to check the back tyre wasn't rubbing. The previous owner of the bike had changed the thin racing tyres for normal road tyres which means the gap between rubber and frame is very narrow. The quick release mechanism sometime slips and then friction occurs.

But not this time, so I puffed and strained the rest of the way to work, 10 minutes slower than usual, swearing I would call Evans and demand some after-service service. When I got to work I did a final QA of the bike and found that a front brake block was loose and I had been cycling with the brakes on. Whoops.

Mind you even at my normal speed it takes me 32 minutes to do the 6.4 miles which is 11.29 mph.

Paula Radcliffe did the 26.22 miles of the marathon in 2 hours 17 minutes which I make 11.48 mph.

So that means she can run for over two hours faster than I can manage on a bike for half an hour. That is fast!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Biggin Hill - downward spiral of despair

Well not so much despair, more like boredom. And I think it is probably stacked circles like a vertical packet of Polo Mints. But whatever. As Herr Captain made his spiel the only word I caught was Biggin Hill.

Frequent fliers will know that can mean only one thing: inbound congestion at LHR and Swanwick have put us on hold. So settle back into your Recaro seats as the Captain banks the plane sharply to the right and deja vu sets in as the twinkling lights of south east London far below go round and round and round and round like aviation's answer to Groundhog Day.

And then it ended and we were down. So that was nice.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Infrequent flier demotion

Dateline: Swiss Executive Lounge, Zurich Airport.

It is six months since I started my contract in London and they have just noticed. Within the space of a couple of weeks Hilton Honors have demoted me from gold to silver and Swiss TravelClub have demoted me from silver to blue. So, no more free booze in the Executive Lounge; like any of us are executives anyway!

So how come I am here? Well, I have so many Swiss miles that I will never use that I am slowly burning them on upgrades. The client will only pay for coach and so 10k air miles gets me a wider seat, a free meal and access to the lounge (and some passable Chilean Cab Sauv).

People always go on about leg room but at 5' 8" that has never worried me. It is the lack of elbow room in coach that bugs me. Trying to turn the pages of my book, flip the pages of the paper or munch my way through the meal with my elbows virtually stapled to my waist is the bummer. Ah, the expansive joys of Seat 5F :-)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Kamikaze cat prevention

Having a cat in a fourth floor flat presents problems as summer approaches and we want to open the windows. Apparently a previous occupant's cat did jump and survived unharmed but not something I would not want to even think about risking with Cleo.

Sunday was spent assembling some mesh inserts from Cataire Screening which fit the bill and the secondary glazing slots very nicely. Assemble it yourself aluminium frames with black nylon mesh (hardly visible) which temporarily replace the sliding glazing panels for some cool summer breeze.

Good value and exactly what we wanted: definitely recommended!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Cycling "en danseuse"

Many thanks to Stroppy Cow for introducing me to this delightful French expression for cycling standing up. Something I do regularly when I do not change down in time for the lights or find myself going up an incline.

The trouble is I find I need to do it more and more. I don't remember it being so hard when I used to do the 9.25 miles from South Wimbledon to Devonshire Square. Now I am only doing 6 miles from Wandsworth to Drury Lane and it feels like I am on an exercise bike from the gym.

So Wednesday I took the bike to Evans Cycles in Wandsworth for the full service. They dismantle, clean and re-grease all the bearings. Thursday and Friday cycling was no easier so it must be my body that needs the service :-(

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Licorice on Bass

Listening to Devendra Barnhart as I walked up from Waterloo I was reminded not so much of Marc Bolan, to whom some of his early warblings sound similar, but more the folk tradition exemplified by Incredible String Band.

God, that takes me back. Saw them at Birmingham Town Hall in 1969 (or thereabouts). With David Fee. Whatever happened to him, I wonder? Songs like "The Hedgehog's Song" and "Way Back in the 1960s". And Licorice on Bass.

Ah, nostalgia! It's not what it used to be.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I come from a land down under

Maureen left for Australia 24 years ago, married Pete and raised three beautiful daughters. As a consequence we only see her occasionally. The previous occasion was Mary and my trip to OZ in 2001.

I missed seeing her at Marilyn's 50th last summer so it was good to meet up on Sunday. She is over with youngest daughter, Nathalie, for a niece's wedding. We met at Bill's where he over-catered as expected. The usual suspects from "The Birmingham Crowd" were there most of whom I had not seen since Denise's funeral including some I hadn't seen for ages like Steve Glynn.

We were able to squeeze in an extra meeting Monday lunchtime as they came up to the West End and I work in Drury Lane. So that was an unxpected bonus.


Maureen and Nathalie at The Crusting Pipe in Covent Garden.

* Down under by Men At Work

Monday, April 11, 2005

Piss up in a brewery

For the benefit of non-native English speakers: "Piss up" is a social event involving alcoholic drinks. "Couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery" is a phrase used to describe someone low in planning and organisational skills.

On Saturday I arranged for myself and George (the brother-in-law) to do the Youngs Brewery Tour while Mary and her sister, Sandra, did a day's pampering at The Sanctuary. It has to be said that I kept remembering then forgetting, remembering then forgetting to phone up and book it. It was not until Mary sent me a text message, "Piss-up in a brewery!", that I finally made the booking. Oh dear :-(

I can thoroughly recommend the tour. This was my sixth brewery tour but always interesting to see another. The real novelty was the stables tour to see the shire horses that pull the drays. They are *big* and friendly. Finished off the tour with an excellent pint of stout in the Brewery Tap.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Fail to proceed

As previously mentioned I do not run red lights when on the bike. I use them as an opportunity to a) get my breath back and b) look around me.

London is not one homogenised urban sprawl: it is hundreds of once separate villages that the Victorian explosion agglomerated into a continuous habitation. My six mile cycle passes through a succession of micro-habitats from elegant to squalid and back again. Waiting at one set of lights I was reminded of a doubtless apocryphal tale told me by an ex-colleague...

So he claims the Rolls-Royce user manual used to contain a paragraph along the following sentiments: "The Rolls-Royce does not break down. It may occasionally fail to proceed. Should this occur the owner should contact the service department and await assistance. The owner may wish to avail himself of this opportunity to acquaint himself with his surroundings."

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Yours is no disgrace

Back in the saddle after a week off - evening social engagements and other feeble excuses - and I still get overtaken. This despite have swapped Mary's small wheeled folding bike for my [t]rusty old Claude Butler.

Passing the MI6 building I was, myself, passed by first a guy in yellow lycra, then some lardy-arse bloke, then a young slip of a girl (though the lycra suited her better!). Me puffing to keep up, caught up with them as they, unusually, stopped at the Embankment / Lambeth Bridge lights.

Then I saw that all three had the slick racing tyres and the proper, clip-into-place racing shoes. So they had the gear and, I suspect, had done this before. So no shame then to be overtaken by them and off I went singing to myself "Yours is no disgrace" *

* The Yes Album

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Leaning Tower of London

Walking home from work of an evening over Waterloo Bridge I can be guaranteed a tourist or two taking pictures of the London Eye, Hungerford Bridge, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. This evening I saw a novelty which made me larf.

Now if you have ever been to Pisa you will know it is mandatory to stand on the grassy area with your hands held up at an angle, just so. Then your friend takes a picture so it looks at though you are propping up the Leaning Tower.

Tonight there were a couple of young ladies doing the London equivalent: taking a snap so it would appear as though the one was holding a large vertical disc that is the Eye. Chuckling I went on my way.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

First BBQ of the summer

Last weekend Mary decided we would have a barbecue this weekend come what may. Thank goodness it turned out nice. We had Bob&Lynn round; they brought starters and cheese, we provided four grilled sea bass. We did a sort of v. informal tasting: three different Verdicchios from us and two Vina Albali from B&L (Riserva '99 and Gran Riserva '97).

Most of the weekend, however, was spend draining and cleaning the algae-filled pea soup that our Brass Monkeys splash pool has turned into over the winter. Emptied and sides scrubbed on Saturday. Today I was up and in the pool at seven o'clock (on a Sunday morning!) scooping out the last of the primordial slime and cleaning the bottom.

But now it is all re-filled and sparkling with a dash of chlorine. Mind you I think I will wait for slightly warmer weather before again venturing my t*st*cles into the icy water.