Wednesday, August 31, 2005

It is the body that's knackered

It's official. We have the results from the Norwegian jury. It has been over two weeks since I bought my new hybrid bike. The journey time has not dropped; the average heart rate has not dropped; I feel just as puffed. So I guess it is time to fess up: it is the body that is old and knackered.

That said there have been some improvements since I started cycling six months ago. The weight has remained the same but the stomach has got smaller and the thighs have got bigger. Also I used to set the shower at work as cold as I could bear it to cool me down so I wouldn't still be sweating when I got out. Now I may not be cucumber-cool but I can enjoy a tepid shower.

So I have got fitter and I have saved money.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Spotted dog

Our plan for riverside dining had been a picnic in Battersea Park followed by the open air jazz concert. In the end we wimped out on account of the cooling evening. Instead we ate the picnic food indoors and went to the 9:15 showing of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory [excellent] at Cineworld Wandsworth. We do like their VIP seats, you can take your drink in, the seats are huge and there is a glass screen to acoustically separate you from the rest of the punters.

On the way down we passed the Spotted Dog public house and remarked that it did not look like our type of venue. Shaved heads, tattoos, tracksuit bottoms and chunky gold chains do not make a positive fashion statement. And so it proved two hours later on our way back. The first sign of trouble was the harridans young ladies screeching at each other in the shopping mall. Outside the pub itself there was much shouting and drunken jostling.

We crossed over the road but then crossed back when we saw this bloke lying in the gutter. Mary went to see if he was OK while I called 999. He was unconscious with blood pouring from a bottle cut on the back of his head. By the time I had given the dispatcher all the details two police cars had arrived and the "victim" was staggering up the road. So we left them to it and went home for a last glass of wine and bed.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Riverside dining

Our enjoyment of riverside dining three Fridays ago [Watching the river flow] was reinforced by dining at Marco Polo On The River* that Sunday.

We had gone for a late Sunday walk along the river side through Wandsworth Park as far as Putney when we were accosted by a bunch of Australians. By the time we had finished chatting and drinking it was too late to cook so we went for the Marco Polo option.

So the following Friday (two weeks ago) we decided to continue the watery trend and start working our way through the riverside restaurants. We went to Thai on the River. The next Friday (last week) it was the turn of Le Petite Max where the fillet steak was superb.

We have already been to Blue Thames, Thai Square - Putney Bridge and Al Ponte. We have yet to try Carluccio's, Putney. This Friday who knows where we will dine ...

* No web footprint yet. 6-7 Riverside, Eastfields Avenue, London, SW18 1LP. Tel: 020 8874 6800

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Weird in a deja vue kind of way

Tuesday night I had to activate the Emergency Drinking Trousers but this time to meet up with a different "person-not-seen-for-ages" - Pete Miller. We were students together at Hertford College, Oxford.

There were four of us who hung around together: me, Peter, Mike Gover and Vince Russett. There was also Alan "Luke" Bunker who was the fifth member of the quartet until he left to go to UMIST. We shared digs in various combinations, ate and drank together (Olde English Cider and Green Chartreuse) and generally lived in each others pockets as the saying goes.

But after college we mostly lost contact, Mike being the central communication node which is how Peter and I reestablished contact. This was triggered by an invite to a reunion "Gaudy", a college dinner, in September for our year. From Peter's email address it was obvious he must work not 10 minutes walk from this very office which is how this meeting came about.

Obvious and expected changes aside it was an odd and disorienting sensation to hear a voice I had not heard for a quarter of a century. I would write more but it still feels strange. It brought back a whole slew of memories but I am not yet ready for my own "A la recherche du temps perdu".

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Progress in Puglia

The lads chip away at the interior plaster

pizza oven door

Basically the squad have completed the previous property and have all moved over to our place. Progress now happens but even so I am chary of believing the guest property (nearest the camera) will be ready for our mid-September holiday.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Middlesex Sevens in the rain

Same as last year (see Fleetfoot Voodoo Man) one Saturday in August was spent at Twickers watching the Middlesex Sevens. As before, with a picnic in the car park, main course during the quarter finals, pud during the plate.

Tim vainly inspects the skies in search of blue

As you can see from the photo (please excuse the crapola quality, it was taken with a phone camera) it was not the most summery of days. Ah well, I guess that is the unpredictability of August in England.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Conscious Incompetence

Riding my new bike home on Friday evening and commuting this week put me in mind of the "Conscious Competence" model of learning. Unfortunately I am going backwards round the model. It was like being a learner driver all over again. Crunching the gears *wince*, wobbling round corners, trouble gauging the width of my vehicle.

Having ridden the old bike over 20 years and 10,000 miles I didn't even have to think when and how to change gear and could slalom betwixt taxi and bus with graceful and flowing curves. Now I am back to: approaching lights, change down, front cogs, changer on the left, forward lever, towards me, *clunk*.

Plus I am getting used to the whole style of the bike. Aluminium front forks are far less forgiving than steel over the cobbles of Storey's gate. The switch from dropped handlebars to straight alters the whole upper body posture. It all takes some getting used to. And the jury is still out on the bike vs body question. I must re-do my old route one morning to get a fair comparison.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Watching the river flow

Mary always finds being next to water relaxing. She has a friend who reckons that is because it is an essential for life and something in our animal hind brain takes comfort from the presence of flowing water.

Friday night Mary and I decided not to rush down to the cottage along the M3 with all the happy campers but have a relaxed evening in London. So we went to Ghillies on the River for an excellent meal and watched the sun set over the Thames, one of the great rivers of the world. That set me thinking about other great rivers we have dined beside:

• Old Father Thames. Of course. Ever since the Romans made it their principal crossing place, the river has played a vital role in the riparian history of Britain and, during the height of the Empire, the world. The mud postively oozes history.
• The Seine. As a courtesy to Paris I will include the Thames' sister river across the channel as a great river of the world.
• The Rhine. With me working in Basel in the past it has given us the opportunity to dine next to the Drei Koenig bridge watching the river - and the people - flow. Once a year the canton does a collective swim down the river; strange to spend a meal with hundreds of bobbing heads drift past.
• The Nile. We have dined beside (and on) this river during our honeymoon and again for our tenth wedding anniversary.
• The Mississippi. Dat 'ole man ribber. Maybe this is the river Bob* had in mind. I would not be surprised. We have been to the Jazz Fest twice and New Orleans is my favourite US city (Apologies to NY,NY).

What does that leave. The Ganges, the Amazon, what else...? I don't really fancy the Ganges. Holy it may be but it does not have a reputation as the cleanest and most hygenic of rivers. The Amazon is a different matter, I like the idea of a Latin-American trip and a Brazilian bank-side dinner.

* Watching the river flow by Bob Dylan

Friday, August 05, 2005

Hybrid or Road bike

Apologies to my regular readers (both of them) for a low blog count this week.

Monday I had thought to write up our wine-tasting from Saturday but didn't have my tasting notes. FYI it was four Chardonnays and four Syrah / Shiraz from the back of the cupboard (i.e. getting on and in need of drinking). Wednesday we had the head honcho from the client doing a tour of inspection - so no lunchtime surfing for all. Now it is Friday and I collect my new bike from Evans just round the corner.

For some time I have been toying with the idea of a new bike. Unable to decide whether it is the bike or the body that is old and knackered, I decided it was worth a try with a new bike. On the theory that I cannot change the body so changing the bike was, at least, worth a try.

Hybrid or Road bike was the next question. However this week's cycling make up my mind for me. Cycling the new off-road, cycle path route that Mary and I have sussed out, I have twice this week slid off on corners due to the smooth nature of the path. The pain, bruising and blood, not to mention the tear in my newly acquired lycra top, means I now want knobbly tyres with good grip.

Also this week hitting a pot hole at speed (swerving under the black cab to avoid the hazard was not really an option) meant having to reset both wheels at the kerbside. A road bike would have been f*****d by such conditions; I need a robust bike.

So, with some help from the charming and helpful Brazilian sales lady, I settled on a Specialized Crossroads Comp 2005. I left it there yesterday so they could fit the various accessories. Tonight I shall know the truth - body or bike!