Tag Archive: Family & friends


Family & friends

Christmas walk in the woods

This year we went back home to Bath this year to see Mum and Grandma for Christmas. Seemingly we had a bit more time this year so managed to get Grandma out for a quick walk and then headed out to the Quarrymans for a drink before wandering around Quarry Hill woods for a bit. I used to cycle around here all the time when I was a kid for hours on end. It’s funny to go back and see how small it is as well as how incredibly beautiful it is. You don’t really register these things when you’re younger I guess.



Cycling Family & friends

Nice bike Neil @ Bowman

My mate Neil has branched out on his own recently. I haven’t seem him for a while but I’ve been following his progress online with his new venture, Bowman Cycles.

It’s been really nice to see him get some positive press recently, culminating this week with an outstanding review on Road.cc as well as some fantastic comments which is unusual for that site. I’ve read a few reviews on there and nothing has come close in terms of its effusiveness – apart from the Giant Defy review but that’s close to 8k! It looks like a great bike at a pretty competitive price.


It would look even better with black bar tape and a black Shimano 105 groupset as well as nice pair of 28mm tyres – in black of course. I wonder if they could do it without the majority of the graphics and just the big downtime panel. Looks like a lot of fun. Hope to swing a leg over one soon.


Cycling Family & friends

Festive 500

I’ve been thinking about whether this would pop up again this year and also my thoughts on the event. Today I got an email from Strava noting the arrival of the 2014 Rapha Festive 500.

Give your legs the greatest gift this holiday by riding 500 kilometers with Rapha and Strava.

Once again, Rapha and Strava are challenging riders around the world to clock 500 kilometers between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

I really like the idea of it and it seems like a fun challenge to get involved in, especially when the weather is a bit crap and everyone is filling their faces. But then I’ve been riding a lot this year and getting into doing lots of challenges on Strava and for the last few months I’ve aimed to do a Fondo and try and hit 1250k each month. I’ve been riding lots during the week which means an evening or two not at home as well as Sunday riding. The Sunday rides usually end up far longer than planned and result in me coming back in a complete mess and unable to do anything else apart from eat and have a bath.

Which is why I won’t be doing the Festive 500.

Having had so much understanding and encouragement all year round from Emma and other family members it would seem pretty rude not to give my full attention to her, and them, over Christmas. But in some ways I want to say thanks for all that understanding and “sure go riding I don’t mind..” when I ask if it would be ok to be out all day on Sunday.

I’ve got a decent stretch off this year, from the 18th Dec to the 5th Jan so I’m sure I’ll do a few rides in there. I just don’t think I’ll be slogging it out trying to hit that target. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a good idea or poo pooing anyone doing it, it’s just that I’ll be watching Die Hard with a nice ale in my hand eating sausage rolls.

And if you are doing it go and read all about Richard Seipp and his wonderful Son who have completed it two years in a row. His son was 7 when they first did it! What a legend.


Cycling Family & friends

London to Bath then round Bath

I’ve been thinking about a ride to Bath for the last few months now and had looked at a bunch of different routes there. I had been thinking of going on my own and stop in and see my Mum before getting the train back the next day. However I was recently invited by Richard to take part in the FCBS office to office ride which this year was taking place from London to Bath fortunately enough (it alternates each year).

So after getting up at 5.30am and packing as much food as I could into a jersey I rode to their London office near Goodge St to meet everyone and set off to Bath. Unfortunately Richard couldn’t make it but I went anyway and chatted to a few people over a much needed bowl of porridge in their kitchen and dining space, which forms a nice shop front to their office. After that people gathered outside the office for a quick photo and then we headed off on the route.


We trundled through town, which was lovely and quiet, and out to Richmond Park where we came up against a bit of an issue, the park was essentially closed for a Duathlon. So we skirted around the edge a little slower than hoped and then made it out the other side heading to Ascot for the first stop. The pace was fairly gentle and we sat around 28-30kph. It seemed to drift along quite nicely. We stopped at Ascot for a coffee and re-group. The local cafe looked a little surprised to see so many lycra clad cyclists but served up the coffee nonetheless. My personal highlight of that stop was trying to use the disabled loo, in bib shorts, in the dark as the light was faulty. Good times. I recognised a few of the roads on the next bit and we even went past Swinley Forest heading West which was kind of odd having usually driven there on the M4.

London to Bath

Back on the road again it was more of the same but with plenty of chats. We had split into a bunch of smaller groups of around eight. More stops were had and it was great to get to know them all a lot more. We all seemed to be matched quite well in terms of fitness and it was great to make progress together. I tried to take plenty of turns on the front but seemed to get a bit carried away each time and drag the pace up a bit only to find I’d left everyone – pretty poor form in a group ride.

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After getting close to Marlborough I started picking up the pace with another Andy. We hammered it along together and hit 48kph on the flat, spending 60 secs on the front each. This was brilliant but then I gave a bit of a push up a small hill and bang. A spoke in my rear wheel went and all tension went, pretty much bending it in half. It was jammed against the frame, which caused me to stop fairly quickly, so I had to badly re-shape it with my spoke key. In the process I added a flat spot and couldn’t get it anywhere near true as well as rounding some of the a few of the nipples. I managed to keep going just without a back brake. I was so gutted at first that I would have to drop out after 140k. It was so nice to get going again and realise I could still ride the rest of it although it took me a few km to shake the grump from my wheel being mangled.

After getting to Marlborough plenty of cake was had, kindly bought by Geoff Rich, and then off on the final leg to Bath. Surprisingly we’d got 150k under our belts relatively easily and with not that much climbing really. It seemed to neatly fly by after that and then I was on the familiar roads through Chippenham, Corsham (where I grew up) and then cresting the hill with the wonderful view through Box and into Bath. It was such a great feeling to see this.

Some freewheeling with a Garmin-nose-touching-aero-tuck-position down Box Hill got us into Batheaston and to their studio pretty quickly. Pizza and beer was waiting and was gladly received. A bit more chatting to people and generally celebrating was had. It felt like quite an achievement and not as hard as expected. The lack of climbing and a steady pace clearly helping great deal.


After that I jumped back on the bike on the way I had planned to get to Mum’s adding another 25k to the route and another hill up Claverton Down which seemed entirely unnecessary really. Then it was onto the canal to Bradford-on-Avon and then up the steep climb out towards the main road back to Corsham. Having not felt too bad earlier I felt a bit shagged by the time I’d done the climb out of Bradford. I was pretty glad to see Mum’s house and the bottle of beer that awaited! Not a bad day on the bike really.

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After as much food as I could eat and a good sleep I was up the next day and into Bath to purchase a new wheel. Fortunately this meant I could take a trip to Colonna and Small’s for another incredible coffee. I grabbed a new wheel cheap from John’s Bike’s which is fortunately in new hands and looking in a much better state than the last time I saw it.

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I then headed out on a loop round Bath with Dad which I had previously done last year and then come off on a Diesel patch. I’d modified it slightly to avoid a few main roads and to take it out a little longer to hit Sherston as Dad had a cafe in mind.

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It was all together a much gentler affair and also meant a second visit to Colonna & Small’s! A few moments before I got there I got a flat which turned out to be due to the rim tape not being the right width in the new wheel. Piss poor for a new wheel really. Getting out of Bath we went up Landsdowne Lane which I had forgotten how steep it was! It’s a while since I’ve had my heart rate that high and god it hurt.

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After that it was out over the M4 and stopping at a cafe for a bit. The weather looked like it might close in but we managed to escape it. We stopped in Sherston later at an amazing little cafe that was pretty bike friendly too. Track pump, cake, coffee and even little sachets of energy mix to add to your water bottles. Not bad really. After that it was the home stretch through Yatton Kennel and Biddestone and then back through the back of Corsham Court’s grounds and through Gastard.

Another good days riding and another 110k under my belt. 335k in two days isn’t bad and has helped a great deal towards hitting that magic 1250k this month.

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Now, just need to think up of the next challenge for next month.


Family & friends Photography

Brean Down & false memory

A few weekends back I went back to the West Country to see my Mum, some friends, ride a bike and go to the dentist – the same one I’ve been going to for the last 25 years. On Sat I headed down the M5 to see my Aunty who lives in Brent Knoll near West-Super-Mare. My mum and my Dad are both from that area.

One of the things we used to do when we were younger was go and explore the now derelict fort on Brean Down. Brean Down is a rocky outcrop poking out into the Bristol Channel just west of Weston and overlooked by Uphill. It’s had various incarnations of a fort on the outer reaches of the land mass over time with the latter being of second world war origin.

The site has a long history, because of its prominent position. The earliest recorded settlement is from the Early to Middle Bronze Age.

The current buildings were constructed in the 1860s as one of the Palmerston Forts to provide protection to the ports of the Bristol Channel, and was decommissioned in 1901. During World War II it was rearmed and used for experimental weapons testing.

Burnham on Sea

But what interested me so much about it is that I had memories of the fort and walks around it as a child. When I thought back to it they seemed completely vivid and still strong in my mind. Yet when we walked up the stairs to the top of the hill it all seemed entirely new to me.


The idea of memory is a fascinating idea to me and I think about it a lot, especially in relation to photography and imagery. I was somehow shocked that something could be so utterly different. I don’t seem to remember the long walk in or the compact nature of the site or the general form or arrangement of it. I also think that certain areas had been closed off and made safe since the National Trust had taken it over but even so I was till confused and at points not sure I had referenced the right place in my mind. This further makes you question what memory is and how the mind overlays its own additions in later years.


Regardless of relation back to childhood memory I was really blown away, quite literally in places, by the area. The sense of exposure, the wind, the height and the views over Weston, Burnham-on-Se and the Bristol Channel were incredible. It was sunny just long enough for us to get to the Fort and back before it closed in and started raining.


We had a look around the end and I clambered over some rocks at which point I realised how exposed I was and how rough the sea looked beneath me.

Brean Down

We also had a poke around the old gun emplacement which had a strong stench of sheep poo. Looking down we could see why, it was everywhere.


The mixture of the weathered concrete against the colours of the sea and the rocky outcrop made for a few nice snaps. I’d love to spend a few days there with a tripod though. So many photo opportunities! After that we made our way back along the lower path which was far less exposed and back to the van.


It really is a stunning place and well worth a visit if you’re ever in that part of the world. The Guardian even lists it as one of the best 10 walks in the UK.


Family & friends London

Not drinking for a bit

We didn’t call it a dry-athalon or try and go on about it too much hopefully, but we did somehow end up not drinking during January. We didn’t start immediately as it seemed a little odd to not have a glass of wine with our food on New Years day but since then we avoided all contact with the stuff.

I’ve never really considered giving up booze but over the years beer, and drink in general, has crept further and further into my life. Whether working late at work, relaxing in the evening, meeting people, weekends, dinners etc, booze has very much been a part of it. A pint of Guinness there, a can of Red Stripe there, a glass of wine with dinner, a G+T after a stressful day etc, it all adds up. The worst part being that your liver needs a break I guess and it’s just not getting it. I’m not suggesting that I’ve ever had a problem with the stuff, as I’m too much of a control freak, but booze pervades almost every part of my life at times. I’ve been weak too and it’s just easy to grab a drink as a habit.

We tentatively floated the idea and both agreed to do it for at least a month, or try. So we took all the booze that was in the house and moved it to the top shelf in the kitchen. Out of sight, out of mind so they say. At least it wasn’t looking at you in the face each time you were in the kitchen.

Forbidden fruit

And yes it’s a fairly random selection of drink. The Bells is for hot drinks with lemon and not to drink with coke or anything, and the Desperados – what can I say… I quite like one every now and then.

I guess booze is like any drug. It’s bloody hard to give up and we found the first few days painful, oh so painful. Trying to break out of the habit was really difficult, especially at the weekends where we might grab a few drinks and watch a film together. It’s hard breaking those ties or links to activities that usually involve a wee drink. Aleks likened my Twitter posts about not drinking to the five stages of grief which she seemed to find amusing. Those stages being, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.

So what do you replace it with? Well chocolate seemed to be a suitable substitute but it’s not quite right to replace it with another vice. But your body seems to want something else. We both ended up drinking a lot more water and have both lost a bit of weight as a result. It seems to have been a good thing to re-visit and reassess your relationship with alcohol, not as a detox* but just because you should probably have a break. I’ve also slept better, felt far fitter on the bike, had better sense of well being and not been such a grumpy arse. The latter has come back as the stress levels have risen again. It’s also a lot better for the bank balance, not shelling out all that cash at the corner shop on Red Stripe each evening.

And the strangest thing.. well we could have started drinking on Sat, but we didn’t. There seems to be a slight sense of fear of going back to the old ways, or maybe it’s just that we’ve broken that bond and we’re more able to say no? It would be nice to have a drink again but to keep it as a treat, just at weekends or something perhaps. Regardless it has been a fascinating experience to see how you react when something like this is taken away or you try to limit yourself in some way. I even had a crazy idea of trying to give up booze, chocolate and coffee but that really was scary. It does make you think that it could be quite achievable with enough will power. There’s something quite liberating about taking control of all that again. Perhaps we’re at the final stage of our grief, acceptance.

* I read Bad Science this year so avoid the term Detox at all costs now.


Family & friends

Birthday wander

This year my birthday fell on a Sunday which meant I didn’t need to take a day off work as is my usual ritual. My birthday is never a big thing but I don’t think anyone should be at work for a birthday really.

Work had been so busy that I’d kind of forgotten that it was a approaching. I was hoping to go riding the day before but the weather was horrendous and my email to people seeing if anyone was around was largely unanswered. Emma gave us a new set of amazing kicks in the morning and we then headed to Dragon Castle for Dim Sum. We somehow managed to sit down, order straight away and have a drink and were out in an hour. I think we will try and stagger the arrival of the Dim Sum next time. The food was great and whilst the Negroni wasn’t amazing it certainly helped me relax. After that we headed in to town to take a look around the National Portrait Gallery and the Taylor-Wessing Prize via Trafalgar Square and a quick peek at the new big blue bird on the fourth plinth.

Two birds on the fourth plinth
Up yours Andy
Picture takers

After that we headed up to Covent Garden via a few shops to grab a few bits and bobs for people. We stopped in at my usual favourite the London Graphic Centre and Monmouth Coffee as well as the Brooks store which has just opened up. After that a new pair of jeans in Carhartt and over to Mishkins for cocktails to finish off where they do proper Negronis! And that was that. A lovely day out to celebrate the grand old age of 34!

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From the ground


Family & friends

Just wandering around

Popped out yesterday with Emma to have a wander around, do some shopping for Christmas and then eat some great food at Bone Daddies. Took some photos too, saw lots of people dressed like Santa, then came home. Not a bad day really and Emma even let me take some pictures of her.

Structural gymnastics

Today I had to go to the office. :-(


Family & friends

A new addition to the family

“Let’s get a cat”, Emma said to me one day a few weeks back. Sure I said, why not. The landlord said yes and we went off down to Battersea Cats and Dogs home to have an interview and be checked out as a good home for a rescue cat.

Both Emma and I had family cats as children. My sister and I had two farm cats when I was 10 and she was 7, we named them Topsie and Tim after a series of children’s books we used to read. Mine was a bit stupid and kept getting in fights with cars, unfortunately he lost one of those fights in the end. Topsie lived on though to the ripe old age of 22 though! We had great fun as kids with them and it was lovely coming back home to see Mum and Topsie in later years.

So we both kind of knew what to expect when we visited Battersea. Due to us having a one bed flat without a garden we were limited to which ones we could re-home. We were told that it would likely be over ten years old with possible health issues like FIV or a heart murmur. That didn’t put us off really as it’d be nice to give an old thing a home to live out its retirement. So we passed all that ok, mainly due to Emma working from home. Unfortunately they didn’t have anything in stock that they could re-home with us at the time. We weren’t fussed on the model really.

We kept checking the website each day and ended up seeing one that could work but had already been reserved. We emailed the Brands Hatch centre and they said they had a 13 year old female called Sunny who hadn’t been added to the website yet, and would we like to see her. Of course we said and headed down last Saturday to meet her. Both of us were a little cautious in case it didn’t work out and we didn’t come back with her or there were any issues. Fortunately she had no health issues at all and although shy at first, was very affectionate. We filled out the forms and took her back home that day.

We were warned that it could take up to a week for her to come out from a safe spot, like under the bed, to say hello properly. So we left her alone in one room with food and water and put the heating on. We went in a few times to get her used to our voices and then left the door ajar in the evening. She did a few laps of the flat, sniffing everything possible in sight and then jumped up and joined us on the sofa, finally settling down on the top of the backrest for a nap. She’s been getting more and more confident since and is real pleasure to have around. She seems to hide away a bit during the day then spend more time out with us in the evening. We think this is just due to an old routine and will be out all the time when she’s settled in fully.

Apparently she was originally homed from Battersea in 2000 but it’s unclear why she came back. The chip details were out of date and her original owners couldn’t be traced. So we’re keeping her original name of Sunny, which seems somehow appropriate for a black cat. She’s very vocal and a real sweetie.



Family & friends

First ever football match

So I made it to the grand old age of 33 and 3/4s without seeing a football match in a proper stadium. To be honest I had very little interest in seeing any football as I’m just not a fan. But I had thought that it’d be a great experience to one day go to one.

Fortunately an email popped into my overflowing Outlook from Bob Barton. Would I like to go to an international match at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea vs Basel, with steak and beer before followed by more beer.

Hell yes.

We had some absolutely cracking seats as Bob is a season ticket holder. It’s smaller than it looks on the telly but a great atmosphere. Completely loved it apart from queuing for a pee with 800 or so other men in close proximity at half time. Crap result but a great evening with Bob, Bart and Henry.

And here’s a wonky picture of the view from our seats.

First ever football match. Chelsea vs Basel courtesy of Bob Barton.