Tuesday, June 28, 2005

It's got a basket

Three bike items:

1) Sunday, on the way back from the cottage, I called in at Ian(&Kate)'s to check out his spare road bike. He is a serious, 100k on a Sunday morning, cyclist and has upgraded from aluminium to titanium! I wanted to know whether it was the (25-year-old) bike that was knackered or the (52-year-old) body ("Cycling shouldn't be this hard!"). Unfortunately I was not able to test ride the bike as it had no pedals! So back again in two weeks.

2) Monday I decided to "treat" myself to some clip-ins to replace the (20-year-old) toe-clip&straps arrangement that I put on my bike shortly after I bought it off Penny and read Richard's Bicycle Book. Shimano I think they are.

3) Tuesday; anyway, my bike has pannier carriers with an old wire basket cable-tied to it. So uncool - no serious road-biker would be seen dead with such a thing. But for me practical as I dump my old shoulder bag into it containing the clean shirt to change into at work, post-shower. This morning Mary and I saw a similar old bike but for a basket he had a wooden Chateau Cissac box attached at the back; now that is style!

So what top growth claret box could I attach to the back of a Ian's road bike? Let me check out the cellar now :-)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

New World versus Old

A good wine tasting will have a theme to make it interesting and educational - be it 'vertical' (Vega Sicilia from the '80s and '90s), 'horizontal' (the 2004 vintage in Italy), 'varietal' (Rieslings from around the world), 'price' (supermarket reds for under a fiver), 'other' (bring something odd that the others might not have tried).

A popular theme is New World versus Old. Last night's tasting at the Charteris Wine Society went one better: Bordeaux versus South Africa. The wines were supplied by Virgin Wines and ably presented by the society's chairman, Jeremy. He knew his stuff but then so he should, he used to be a wine-buyer for Sainsbury's. The wines were:


South Africa

Chateau de Roques Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc 2004

Churchaven Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2004

Sichel Rocherolles Rouge 2003

Three Gables Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot 2004

Chateau Macquin St Georges St Emilion 2002

Radford Dale Merlot 2001/2002

Chateau Maucaillou Cru Bourgeois 1993

Rustenberg John X Merriman 2002

Worst of the night: the Sichel Rocherolles Rouge (slightly musty, little fruit).
Best of the night: Chateau Maucaillou Cru Bourgeois 1993 (good extraction, slightly smokey nose, gentle tannins).

Not entirely surprisingly I preferred the New world and Mary favoured the Old, apart from the last pair when we switched allegiances.

Then we wandered off to Carluccio's Smithfield Caffé for supper. Noisy but good food, I had an excellent liver - to eat that is, I am sure sure about the state of my own after all this wine.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Always wear a helmet

Around 70% of the cyclists killed on the road have major head injuries and over half of cyclists injured have head injuries. Source: ROSPA.

I always wear a helmet [see entry "And a trifle uncool"]. So does my mate Ian and it saved him from serious injury, possibly death. Just look what it did to the car:

car hit by cyclist

Don't argue: Just Do It! Wear a helmet!

More stats from ROSPA:

Cyclist Casualties (2003):
 • Killed: 114
 • Seriously Injured: 2,297
 • Slightly Injured: 14,622
 • Total: 17,033

Cycling Accidents:
 • 90% occur in urban areas
 • 75% happen at, or near, a road junction
 • 80% occur in daylight
 • 80% of cyclist casualties are male
 • About one third of the cyclists killed or injured are children
 • Around three quarters of cyclists killed have major head injuries.

Another source of info on cycling in the metropolis: London Cycling Campaign

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Disappointing progress but...

When we arrived at the Hovel-in-the-Hills™ on Saturday morning we were a little disappointed by the lack of progress on the fabric of the building. No more cones re-furbished and the collapsed trulli was just as we left it four weeks ago.

Daniele did admit that Francesco, the stonemason and critical-path resource, had been away working on another project (typical builder!). But we were assured that he was now back on our case and much progress would be seen by our next visit in five weeks time.

On the other hand the internal wall at the back of the lamia was up which made the kitchen and bathroom into real rooms and much easier to visualise where the fittings, worktops and units would go.

Mary, Daniele and friend discuss kitchen layout
Mary, Daniele and friend discuss kitchen layout

A big surprise was in the other bathroom. Daniele know that room had once held a fire by the soot on the ceiling (hence the false chimney he put on the top of the cone). But when the lads stripped out the old sanitary ware they discovered an actual chimney behind the plaster. This will become an alcove with shelves for toiletries.

Bathroom stripped to reveal old chimney
Bathroom stripped to reveal old chimney

Monday, June 20, 2005

Flashing blue bike

Friday lunchtime Mary and I converged on Stansted via Liverpool Street from our several places of employment. While Mary was changing buses at Mansion House she spotted a "Bobby on a bicycle" in hot pursuit of a cyclist who had run a red light. Despite a slight paunch said rozzer apprehended the miscreant and had words with him.

These days the police ride BMX-style bikes, no more the old sit-up-and-beg; not surprising really if they are to engage in hot pusuits. What made this bike remarkable was that it had a flashing blue light and a "POLICE" sign under the saddle (and presumably at the front as well).

We were heading for Standsted for the Ryanair flight to Brindisi and our monthly progress check on the Hovel-in-the-Hills™ of which more tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Emergency drinking trousers

One challenge with cycling in shorts and changing into a suit when I get to work is managing the logistics. If I go out for a drink after work not many wine bars' dress code extend to lycra shorts and a T-shirt.

Last night I met up with Martin Haswell (old KGS chum as previously blogged [1], [2]). I did not want to go out in the suit otherwise how do I cycle home and how do I get the suit back to work the next day?

The answer is the "Emergency Drinking Trousers" (pat. pending). I keep a pair of trousers in the cupboard at work and change into them (over lycra if cycling home). Then cycle in the next morning with the trousers rolled up in the saddle bag. Problem solved!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Faster than Paula Radcliffe

I have previously blogged how Paula can run faster than I can cycle. But today I knocked 6 minutes off the journey time from Wandsworth to Drury Lane. Thus increasing my average speed from 11.3 mph to 14.8 mph beating Paula's 11.5 mph.

I would like to claim it is all the training but I haven't done any, nor have I cycled for a fortnight. No, it was simply that I hit all the lights on green and that made the difference.

Suddenly decided to recheck my maths and realised I must have had a funny turn. A distance of 6.4 miles in 32 minutes is in fact 12.0 mph, and Paula's speed was 11.4 mph. So I was always faster (on a bike).

Mind you, I bet if you put Paula on a bike it wouldn't be me who was the faster.

Friday, June 10, 2005

1 Lombard Street Restaurant

Wednesday night Mary and I went to 1 Lombard Street Restaurant with Pete&Amanda and had a superb meal. If you booked through Top Table they did a 9 course Menu Degustation for GBP 45. I cannot tell you what we drank but this was the menu:

• Carpaccio of tuna with oriental spices, ginger and lime vinaigrette, black radish
• Feuillete of smoked Finnan haddock with quail egg, Coleman’s English mustard sauce
• Salad of artichokes, wild mushrooms and French beans, pumpkin seed oil and old balsamic vinegar
• Grilled scallop with Provencal vegetable confit, fennel seed and saffron jus
• Seared foie gras, parsnip cream and white truffle oil
• Poached new season lamb with spring vegetables, lamb and mint jus, Jersey royal potatoes
• Pave of Angus beef, morels and vin jaune a la cream, beef reduction, baby leeks
• Warm compote of strawberries in black pepper and Sauternes crème fraiche sorbet
• Feuillantine of caramelised Granny Smith apple, Guinness ice cream and glazed hazelnuts

All excellent but for me the standout dish was the Coleman’s English mustard sauce that went so well with the Finnan Haddock.

One disappointment was that we originally tried to get John&Andrea to join us but we cancelled the booking when Amanda discovered she was double booked. Then her prior engagement cancelled at the last minute so we rebooked and made an eleventh hour dash; too late to give J&A enough time to organise baby-sitting (we reckoned). Apologies Andrea, next time!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The wanderer returns

Not surprisingly there were few internet cafes seen in the glens so I may cheat and retro blog some back-dated entries later.

In the meantime we got back Saturday having got up early and decided to drive all the way home in one hit. This meant we could relax Sunday including a short walk around Wandsworth. Nestling amongst the light industrial units is Wandle Creek where the river Wandle flows into the Thames.

Strange to see, amongst the city sprawl a pair of grey herons, a small flotilla of tufted ducks, a couple of coots, a lone wagtail, the usual rabble of mallards and a couple of pointy-beaked chaps who we think were great crested grebes.

It may not rival the osprey we saw last week but still a heartening sight in the scruffy back lanes of SW18.