A limerick a week #100

The most pathetic cycling event ever!

Cyclists in and around Aberdeen got rather excited when it was first revealed they would have the opportunity to ride the pristine tarmac of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route before its opening to vehicular traffic (after which bikes will be banned from it).

But to demonstrate that the road’s sponsor, Transport Scotland, comprises a bunch of pillocks, they have turned a terrific PR opportunity into an absolute shambles. How? By banning bikes, or at least the riders’ own bikes.

Yup, in another “I don’t believe it” moment, the imbeciles in charge of the event have decided that cyclists will be bussed to the road and then loaned a bike so that “cyclists of all levels can (sic) wiz, wobble or weave on the closed road, promoting active travel and greener transport”. Frankly, I’d rather ‘wiz’ on Transport Scotland!

“Before you say anything nasty about someone, just pause for a second and browse through some really good adjectives in your head” (Ian Martin).

The move led to the online road cyclists’ website and forum, road.cc, to question “Is this the worst cycling event EVER?”. I  pretty much think so…

Sadly, it won’t happen, but…

It’s a thing that we should not let pass
So, perhaps, we should set off en masse
Like at Kinder Scout
When the walkers strode out
And took part in a large-scale trespass!

A limerick a week #54

A Galway a week #1

This week Management and I have travelled around the island of Ireland in Priscilla the campervan. We only had limited time and could travel no further south than Clara and Galway so Waterford, Limerick and Cork will have to await our next visit.

Talking of Limerick …

I drove across Ireland today
And a thought crossed my mind on the way,
That it seems quite perverse
For a Limerick’s verse
To end with the words ‘Galway Bay’!

A limerick a week #28

A threesome with Priscilla…

I suppose my flirtations with Priscilla could be described as more mano a vano than mano a mano, nevertheless we have enjoyed some quiet trysts in secluded, out-of-the-way places; however, as with any developing relationship, others may feel excluded and thus Management decided that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

So the three of us headed west last weekend to what must have been a couple of the warmest and sunniest March days that Wester Ross has ever experienced, and to Management’s first overnight assignation with Priscilla and me.

Because Priscilla is a bijou little thing (“reet la’al” as I would have said in my youth) we were a little worried that the two of us would overwhelm her, but we didn’t and she fit us in with room to spare.

Priscilla in her preferred environment

… but the roads were awfully congested:

So why did the cows cross the road? To get to the udder side of course! (The apparent gaseous emissions from the rear of the coos are, in fact, reflections from Priscilla’s windscreen).

… and this week’s limerick is:

Anticipating a cool sense of frisson
We went to the Highlands to see some
Scenery galore
And I’ll tell you, what’s more,
We slept with Priscilla – in a threesome.

Postscript:  Me, supine and snapping on our weekend away:

“You’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without hanging on”. Dean Martin

Perspectives on cycling #1

In 2012 Beatrix Campbell was in the World Pride Power List of the 100 most influential gay people of the year and is a self-styled “republican with politics rooted in Marxism and feminism”. Although she is not a person without flaws, I was impressed that she had this to say about cycling:

In the context of the great debates about identity politics – are you gay or straight, nationalist or republican, British or English and so on – I would ask, “Do you ride a bike?

Of course I do!

View looking upstream from Park Bridge on the River Dee on a cold Valentine’s Day ride

It’s a vicious cycle …

The cyclist’s conjecture

n’ = n+1 for n=1..∞

states that n’, the number of bikes that a cyclist needs, is always one more than n, the number (s)he already owns, for any value of n.

That’s my way of saying “I’ve just bought another one”!

My oldest road bike is almost vintage having been bought in 1992. I used it in a group ride about four years ago only for a lycra-clad short-a**e riding a carbon-fibre bike to sneeringly tell me that “You don’t see many of them nowadays” …

Ca. 1991. ‘Steel is real’. Good old 531 tubing and a horizontal top tube. Classic lines and still in use!

… which is why I was rather pleased to win a modern aluminium-framed bike a year later with carbon forks and a Campagnolo gearset. It’s amazing what the purchase of a shrink-wrapped block of Wensleydale cheese can lead to – I’d bought a promotional competition pack to mark the Tour de France’s Grand Départ from Yorkshire.

My Tour de France winning bike or, rather, the one that I won for buying a packet of Wensleydale (“Cracking cheese, Gromit”).

So why buy another bike? Simples! The road bikes are terrific for tarmac, but not so good over slightly rougher surfaces and my travels with Priscilla (posts passim) lend themselves to both tarred and non-tarred outings. So I need a bike for each (of course I do).

The new one is of the ‘adventure bike’ genre: carbon forks with generous tyre clearance for fatter tyres, disc brakes and reduced gearing on the chainset (ideal for a moderately overweight recreational cyclist aka a MORC), but with road bike geometry and clearance for mudguards it makes for an ideal winter bike too. Win-win!

… and the new addition is finished in ‘stealth black’ (as if a MORC could even dream of being stealthy 🙁 )

Postscript: I was given a road bike for my 21st birthday, but remember little of it other than its saddle was nicked when it was securely racked outside a hall of residence in Dundee. Some while later the rest of it was nicked too.

I wondered at the time whether the thief followed the advice that I was given when I asked a girl off my course (who I thought of as a rather reserved and quiet lass): “How can I ride it without its saddle?” Reserved and quiet maybe, but also blunt, coarse and to the point: “Stick it up your a**e and pedal like f**k!” she said. I never saw her in the same light again!

Un ouef’s un ouef

I’d like to think that only classy items will be given a home in Priscilla the campervan. However, I wasn’t sure that the words ‘classy’ and ‘egg cup’ could ever go together until I saw these little buckets; just had to buy a couple …

How cute are these?
Hard boiled eggs. You can’t beat ’em …

I once tried to persuade Management and the rest of the tribe to adopt the same colour scheme for our front room. They just laughed 🙁

Meantime, an egg joke …

A couple of days ago I found a heron’s nest and smashed all the eggs in it, but I’ve no egrets now!

I’ve been sleeping with Priscilla … again!

I fancied an early autumn trip over to Shieldaig in Wester Ross to try the informal campsite on the community grazings and it just so happened to coincide with two of the finest October days that I can remember: no rain, no wind, very sunny (and very warm in the sun) and too late in the year for midges. Idyllic!

Just getting there was impressive enough with terrific views of Torridon …

Beinn Dearg and Liathach on the road to Shieldaig
Beinn Dearg and Liathach on the road to Shieldaig

… not to mention the location and views from the grazings

Priscilla at the Shieldaig community grazings
Priscilla at the Shieldaig community grazings

… or from the bedroom window!

A room with a view!
A room with a view!

I took the bike with me and had a couple of short rides. It is much hillier than I remembered for cycling and some of the steep ramps finished me off sooner than I would have liked, but I’m not going to complain when everyone else is having to be at work during the week (and just to rub it in: Q – what’s the technical term for a fine sunny day after two days of wind and rain? A – Monday!). 

It got cold enough during the evening for those in tents to need quilted jackets and bobble hats when sitting around their stoves; no such necessity with Priscilla although my clothes were pretty Baltic to get in to in the morning (memo to self: switch heater on for 15 minutes before exiting the sleeping bag).

The weather was perfect for my trip. It’s nice to be able to shoot off at the last minute when the forecast is for such fine weather, but for those who can’t be quite so choosy and always seem to end up getting wet on their trips west, here’s a camper’s rhyme that I learned whilst at primary school:

Whether the weather be fine
Or whether the weather be not.
Whether the weather be cold
Or whether the weather be hot.
We’ll weather the weather
Whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not!

Postscript: Since when did ‘bobble hats’ become ‘beanies’? Or more precisely, when did they become ‘pom-pom beanies’? According to an article last year in the fashion pages of the Graun: “There is no doubt that when future generations prise open the fashion time capsule marked “Winter 2015”, it will contain a beanie hat with a furry pom-pom on top“. The accompanying pictures were of bobble hats, referred to in the article as ‘pom-pom beanies’, with several costing less than a tenner. A couple were designer ones north of £100 including this one from net-a-porter.com:

A Eugenia Kim bobble hat - yours for £175!
A Eugenia Kim ‘pom-pom beanie’ (inclusive of faux-fur bobble and a dodgy looking stitch at the front) – yours for £175!

… or as one of the comments to the Graun article said: “Pom-pom beanie, my a**e!”


Priscilla, Queen of the Laybys

Well, Priscilla and I have now spent a couple of nights together and I have to say things are looking good between us. Our first trip was over to Ullapool to scout out the area as a base to cycle from. Looks good! Free all-day car parking near the ferry terminal should be fine for a few hours out on the bike and the nearby public loos with a shower facility mean that I can avoid the campervan equivalent of a bed bath to clean up afterwards. There’s also loads of convenient off-road laybys for overnighting, so no need for site fees 🙂

After looking over Ullapool we pootered back eastwards to lay-up close to Rosemarkie on the Moray Firth so that I could get to Chanonry Point early the next day to view the Moray Firth dolphins (parking at the Point is next to impossible for late arrivers). I got further east than anticipated and overnighted at the Clootie Well near Avoch in a small forest car park. It was quite spooky due to the cloots hanging from the trees. These are rags left by folk seeking for their ills to be cured; they provide an eery backdrop in the dark.

Priscilla at rest (at the Clootie Well)
Priscilla resting quietly at the Clootie Well

The car park was quiet other than for the owls hooting through the night and the local dogging fraternity (… only joking, to the best of my knowledge no dogging occurred even though the car park bore a striking resemblance to that of the ‘Camping’ episode in the TV show ‘Not Going Out’ where Lee, the show’s chief protagonist, tried to prove his manliness by joining his mates on a camping weekend in the middle of a dark, spooky forest that turned out to be … you’ve guessed it … a dogging hotspot).

So no ‘canines’, but the dolphins were around the following morning porpoising gently rather than putting on a proper show for us, and the sun, although welcome, was in exactly the wrong place to photograph them. Still, it was a splendid situation and I can recommend the Rosemarkie Beach Café for a late brunch.

Dolphins swimmin porpoisefully at Chanonry Point
Dolphins swimming porpoisefully at Chanonry Point, photographed directly into the sun

The second trip was to overnight at Ballater. Free parking in the village centre provided the base for a 40 mile ride from Deeside across to Donside via Glen Gairn and the Old Military Road. The first 12 miles included some very steep ramps (see ‘Bring back the birch’, May) and due to the excess baggage that I’m still carrying there were a couple that I had to push up rather than pedal. After that the worst was over and there were some terrific downhill runs before stopping for coffee in Bellabeg; itself winding down quietly after the weekend’s highland games at the Lonach Gathering. The return leg to Ballater via the Muir of Dinnet Nature Reserve was altogether easier even though the hills at the start of the day had rather knackered me. Still, it wasn’t work and the sun was shining so I didn’t mind. I strongly suspect that this may become a favourite cycling route

Muir of Dinnett Nature Reserve
Muir of Dinnett Nature Reserve

Another lay-by, another night. A bit noisy with passing traffic this time, but up with the lark for a bacon butty breakfast in Ballater and a supposedly gentle ride along the 10 miles of tarmac to Loch Muick. Well, under normal circumstances it would have been gentle, even if it is mostly an uphill drag along the glen; however, yesterday’s hills had been more tiring than I thought so it was a bit tougher than it should otherwise have been, but coming back? Glorious! Downhill all the way (in a good way, unlike post-middle-age life generally)!

So, that’s a couple of trips out with Priscilla and two great successes, both helped by the arrival of a little bit of fine weather. We really do live in a beautiful part of the world (it helps when the sun is shining) and to be out and about breathing in the freshest of air and looking at the most splendid of views is truly invigorating – especially when everyone else is at work!

Vans of mash destruction

My microcamper is ready to collect! It is a Hillside ‘Dalbury’ conversion based on a Nissan NV200 (see posts passim) and I’m soon off to Derby to take ownership. Insurance is sorted (at not too bad a price) and I’ve already bought my first add-on, a sticker for the back …

Road.cc's answer to the HGV 'stay clear' posters
Road.cc’s answer to the HGV ‘Cyclists Stay Clear’ stickers. Coming soon to a campervan near you!

It’s completion was three months later than anticipated due mostly to Nissan’s extended lead time for delivery to Hillside, and that means half the summer has passed without it, but I’m already looking forward to its first outing to the west coast at the end of July; a short photography trip with a few friends from the RGU B&W film photography course (staying in a bunk house though, not the van). We’re off to Applecross so it also gives me a chance to recce the Bealach na Bà; the bike’s going too but I’m not intending to attempt to cycle over the pass on this trip!

Meantime, those friendly folk at the Daily Mash have a few words to say about campervans (a few pompous mobile home owners on one of the ‘anorak’ forums took these articles literally, not realising that the Mashters are satirists – sad really).

Postscript: Based in Derby, Hillside names its various camper conversions after towns within the county of Derbyshire, hence the ‘Dalbury’. Forme, a Derbyshire manufacturer of bicycles does the same with its products which is why the Forme road bike that I won a couple of years ago is called the ‘Longcliffe’. Good job neither were named after Fanny Avenue, (Killamarsh), Spanker Lane, (Nether Heage) or Butt’s View (Bakewell) all in Derbyshire, and I hope neither would live up to the name Knockerdown (Ashbourne) either.