Tag Archives: cycling

Breakfast, Landscape and Cottage Pie

Today I have been concerned with toilets to a greater degree than I would have liked.  Some days are like that. It is, as I often say, my age.

I had to stop for toilets before reaching Newark. This was a nuisance, but there’s always an opportunity in adversity, and in this case it was a Bridgford Breakfast at East Bridgford Garden Centre.

As a result I didn’t need to eat again until tonight, when I added mince to the left-over vegetables and curry from the last two nights and topped it with sweet potato slices. It produced a flavoursome and fibre-filled version of Cottage Pie.

On the way home from Newark I took a few photos, topped up my grudge against cyclists and got home just in time to fall asleep and miss Pointless.

Why would anyone ride one of these? I can see there are advantages, but the main disadvantage, that cars and lorries can’t see you, seems to be a compelling reason not to ride one. There’s no point in being fit and healthy if you’re flat. There are more strange cycles here.

As a positive end to the day – Julia has taken orders for five nest boxes. That’s £25 towards new covers for the polytunnels. Only another £475 to go. Or 95 more nest boxes…

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Field near Kneeton, Notts

Bicycles and the Military Cyclists

Today, the image of soldiers on bicycles seems incongruous, but in the late 19th century we were not blessed with quite so much technology. We take personal transport for granted, but at this point in history you either walked or, if you were rich enough, used a horse. Bicycles, in their way, were a quiet revolution.

The earliest cycle design dates back to 1534 when Caprotti, a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci, sketched a design. The first modern cycles, without pedals, were used in the early 19th century and pedals appeared in 1863. The Scots were at the cutting edge of bicycle design at that time (a fact I throw in for Tootlepedal). Designs moved on to the “ordinary” or “penny farthing” design.

Thomas Stevens used a penny farthing on his trip when he became the first man to ride round the world on a bicycle in 1884-6. Annie Londonderry was the first woman to travel round the world with a bicycle, in 1894-5.

The first British military cyclists to see action were the messengers attached to the Jameson Raid in 1895-6. They appeared again during the Second Boer War of 1899-1902, when one unit was equipped with specially adapted tandems to ride along railway lines and guard them from sabotage. Both sides used bicycle troops as couriers, scouts and raiders.

Unlikely as it may seem to a generation that needs four wheel drive to cross open country, bicycles were seen as the solution to moving quantities of troops rapidly across open ground and in Switzerland they were able to travel on terrain that horses could not. With a network of roads available to them bicycle troops were seen as cheaper, quieter and easier to train than cavalry.

Both sides used bicycles in the Great War and they were also a feature of the Second World War (the Japanese using 50,000 bicycle troops in Malaya),  Vietnam and the Tamil Tigers’ uprising in Sri Lanka. The Swiss disbanded their bicycle troops in 2001, whilst the Sri Lankan army still has bicycle troops.

At the beginning of the Great War the British Army had 14 battalions of bicycle infantry ready for use. Many were used on coastal defence in the UK, and others served on the Western Front, though they were not particularly useful until the resumption of open warfare at the end of 1918.

Although this may not seem like good value it was at least as effective as the cavalry, and bikes, unlike horses, didn’t need food or stables and didn’t produce manure.

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Painted enamel brooch of the Northern Cyclists – about three times life size, which is why some of the detail looks a bit blurred.

The Kent Cyclists served on  the North West Frontier during the war and, along with the 25th (County of London) Cyclist Battalion served in the Third Anglo-Afghan War.

The 2/10th (Cyclist) Battalion, Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) served in the North Russian campaign.

The Army Cyclist Corps was disbanded in 1920 and all the units were redeployed by 1922.

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Sweetheart brooch of the Huntingdonshire Cyclist Battalion. They spent most of their war guarding the Yorkshire coast. The fact that it is still there speaks highly of their efficiency and a job well done.

The Week in Brief and the Bookshelf Principle

Just catching up on a few things from the

On Wednesday we visited Dave for a Quercus meeting. It was a cheerful time despite the sadness of winding everything down. Once we’d poured the tea, passed round the cake  and discussed our health we watched the Tour of Britain on TV.

Nobody would mistake us for racing cyclists, but it was going round North Nottinghamshire and we were trying to spot places we knew. They had been sprouting yellow bikes and parking restriction notices for weeks so we knew where it was going. I had thought of going out to take photos but I fought off the temptation.

Although it was obviously sad for the participants it was also funny to see two cyclists disqualified for riding on the pavement.

The same could be said of the crash, as they came round a corner in Retford to find that a man with a Blue Badge had parked his car in the way. I am sorry for the rider who was injured, and the others who fell, both for the pain and the waste of all their preparation. However, I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t also funny to watch, even if there was something evil about my amusement.

It’s also an example of a disabled driver parking somewhere despite the danger. People seem to think that possession of a Blue Badge or the use of hazard warners mean they can park anywhere.

On Friday morning I saw a convoy of silver grey Rolls Royces in the mist, some with consecutive personalised number plates. There were ten of them, which tends to suggest that there is big money in the funeral business. It must have been a big family to need ten cars.

Later on Friday I found myself in Retford, thinking that it might be worth looking at the accident site to see if there was any broken glass left. I’m sure it would have sold on ebay. Unfortunately my mind works on the bookshelf principle and I didn’t hold on to the thought.

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Do I need to title this “Bookshelf”

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the bookshelf principle, imagine a well-filled bookshelf with no ends. When you put another book on the shelf one falls off the end.

We used to use it (semi-jokingly) when coaching kids at the rugby club. Some of them had very short shelves and even a piece of litter blowing past could trigger sensory overload. As I’ve aged, I’ve begun to notice that my bookshelf has become shorter.

And that was how, when I saw someone I knew on the market, the ebay idea dropped off the end of the shelf.

Sometime this week I also published my 900th post, I think it was Friday but I sort of lost count. Or dropped another book…

A Tale of Two Cyclists

Second post of the day!

I’ve already written about the Ospreys, in an effort to catch up from last week, and now I’m going to write about bad weather and bicycles because that was the story of the morning.

On the way into town we came to the junction where a bus lane and two lanes of traffic squeeze into two lanes. It’s where I lost my mirror to a badly driven bus a few months ago. It’s also near where the town gallows used to stand and conveniently close to a cemetery. A couple of years ago I was caught on camera there and fined £30 for transferring to a bus lane five car lengths too early. All in all it’s a junction of ill-omen.

On the approach to the junction we had to stop when a cyclist pressed the button to stop traffic at a pedestrian crossing before riding across.

Highway Code Rule 79:  Do not ride across a pelican, puffin or zebra crossing.

Once across the road he proceeded to ride on the pavement, forcing several pedestrians out of his way.

Highway Code Rule 64: You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement.  (Their bold capitals, not mine).

Fortunately, just when this was in danger of becoming a discussion about the lawless ways of two-wheeled reprobates, we spotted a second cyclist.

He was struggling in the rain and traffic and just missed being clipped by a bus mirror as he pulled out of the bus lane in front of me. After stopping he failed to get his shoe clipped back on the pedal and lurched in front of a second bus. As an encore he then repeated the manoeuvre and lurched the other way. Fortunately I was far enough back for it not to be an issue.

I have seldom seen such fortitude displayed in the face of  adversity. In the old days he would have been leading a bayonet charge or discovering the source of an exotic river. Modern life is short on bayonets and undiscovered rivers, so it’s nice to see an area of everyday life where fortitude can still be displayed.

 

Book Review: Free Country

Free Country: A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain

by George Mahood

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (18 Dec. 2014)

Paperback 352pp    Paperback £8.99     Kindle £1.99

ISBN-13: 978-1490356662

I’ve read a few books of his sort (which I think of as novelty travel, or even annoying novelty travel) and have mixed feelings about the genre.  Is it really necessary to do more than travel and write entertainingly? Do you need to take a fridge with you, or in this case, do you need to start off in your pants and beg your way the length of the country? Not that it really matters, because charity shops are full of these books and they rarely cost more than £1.50. At that price I can adapt to most things.

Part of the problem is that everything seems to fall into place so easily, finding footwear before doing any serious damage to their feet for instance, and the other is that a lot of the stuff they are given is the result of theft. They may be amazed at the generosity of staff in large chains, but actually, that’s theft. Same goes for the employees of smaller establishments who give them free drink or food while the boss is away – theft.

George Mahood thinks the penniless journey is a demonstration of the basic decency of human beings who are selflessly prepared to help two idiots on their way from Land’s End to John O’ Groats.

I think it’s about finding a gimmick to base a book on.

It’s beginning to sound like I don’t like the book, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a good book, with well-observed characters, warmth, moments of peril, light and shade and humour. I did follow them with bated breath, I did worry about them, and I was rooting for them, despite my moral misgivings.

It was a birthday present from Number One son and arrived in the post whilst I was in the grip of several different infections (the advancing years are not being kind), so I left it for a week before picking it up.

Once I started it I finished it in two sessions and was really sorry to reach the end.

Judged from a moral standpoint – theft, begging, fecklessness and having defective brakes – it’s hard to give it more than three stars, but from a reading point of view it’s a massive five.