Category Archives: family

Another book on the way…

Proposed cover

Proposed cover

UPDATED 8/1/14: The script has now been published (ISBN: 978-1-291-62773-2) and is available from from lulu, Amazon and possibly from other booksellers.

I’m planning to publish the script of my 2005 play Upside Down and Back to Front as a book in the near future. I’ve sent off for a proof copy and this is the cover I’m thinking of using.

The play tells the story of a photographer travelling around Worcestershire in 1913 and the present-day story of a batch of pictures being found in an attic. It has loads of characters, which means the cast of three have to work really hard!

The play was commissioned and produced by artworcs at the Number 8 Community Arts Centre in Pershore. It was fun to do.

The cover image features my Gran in the hop yards when she was a girl.

More news on this soon.

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Tour de France

Today Bradley Wiggins won the 2012 Tour de France as the leader of a UK-based, Pro Tour cycling team. A British rider, Chris Froome, was second and Brits won seven stages (including three for Mark Cavendish). This is an astounding achievement.

I wish my dad was here to see it. He put me on a bike in 1973 – the Merckx years. We both rode, in a different era, for Wiggins’ first club – the Archer Road Club.

We would follow the Tour any way we could, even buying the Daily Telegraph to read Phil Ligget’s daily reports – the only way to get information within 24 hours. Dad would have been overjoyed to see a British rider leading a British team to victory.

In 1980 I went on a coach package trip to France to see the finale of the Tour. Joop Zoetemelk won the race for the ‘British’ TI-Raleigh1 team and Irishman Sean Kelly was winning stages. Two British riders started: Paul Sherwen packed before the end but newcomer Graham Jones showed well before dropping back in the last week. He was there at the end for us to cheer on the Champs though.

We thought that was a pretty good Tour for the Brits. The relative glory years of Tommy Simpson, Brian Robinson, Barry Hoban and Michael Wright were behind us but a new generation of riders were heading out to France and earning pro contracts2.

In the next few years Scot Robert Millar would light up the mountain stages (and win the Polka Dot Jersey), Sean Yates, Chris Boardman and David Millar would emulate Simpson and wear the yellow jersey.

I think that we thought that was about as good as it was possible to get. The ANC-Halfords 1987 Tour team had shown that the idea of a UK team competing at this level was unrealistic. The Irish, Americans and Australians, untrammelled by self-doubt, reinvented themselves as global cycling contenders while the Brits soldiered on bravely.

There are a lot of well-informed and well-written newspaper articles around today (which, in itself, is an amazing change) that analyse what has changed since 1992, when Chris Boardman won Gold at the Barcelona Olympics. I have no great insights to add.

I am just going to enjoy this amazing day. And raise a glass to my dad. Thanks, Brad and the team.

1 The sponsors were British but none of the Tour squad were. The manager, Peter Post, had a low opinion of British riders.
2 William Fotheringham’s book Roule Britannia is a great history of Brits competing in the Tour.

Heatwave

Today (October 1st!) in Bexhill…

The beach was crowded with day trippers

The beach was crowded with day trippers

Pat went sailing…

Pat hauls the Laser 2000 from the raging sea

Pat hauls the Laser 2000 from the raging sea

The sea was actually very flat. Some lovely reflections.

Reflections

Reflections

…and the sun glistening off the surface…

Sun

Sun

Guy in the middle distance

Some nice photos by Tom Davies. I happen to be in them (GITMD) but I like them because of the contexts. Thanks, Tom.

Bexhill from the beach at dusk

West Parade from the beach at dusk. I'm the silhouette with the MD

The baker talk

Back to the camera giving the baker talk

This was taken at Bodiam Castle’s medieval weekend. That’s me presenting the Baker Talk to a small audience in front of the West Range. I’m afraid that the hat has since been eaten by a dog.

Race #16 – Is that it?

Raglan Castle

Raglan Castle

Last weekend we went to Ross-on-Wye for my now annual attempt to ride the Ross-on-Wye and District CC 25 mile TT. The race is run in memory of my father.

It’s a much longer trip now – over four hours of driving. We stopped at Chedworth Roman Villa on the way there. The torrential rain stopped just as we got there. It’s a fine site and will be amazing next year when the mosaic floors are back on view.

I had thought (hoped?) the rain might lead to the cancellation of Sunday’s ’25’ but it was merely drizzling as the event started. Quite a few riders elected not to ride. I hadn’t ridden in anger for a couple of months and not at all for two or three weeks. This was going to be an ‘exhibition’ ride.

The first half of the race is mostly downhill and had a tailwind. I reached the turn in around 31 minutes, so I knew it was going to be hard coming back. In fact it got progressively harder – the wind rising and the rain increasing as the slope went up. I was pretty much on my knees at the end. Last year I did a 1:3:14, this year a 1:8:53. It’s true that training makes a difference then.

Race stats: Time: 1:8:53 (21.78mph). First 12.5 miles: 31:09, last 12.5 miles: 37:44. Top speed: 30.4mph. Slowest mile (19): 3:22 (17.82mph), fastest mile (2): 2:14 (26.87mph). Average HR: 166bpm, maximum HR: 173bpm. Average cadence: 74rpm. 28th of 34 finishers. Winner: Simon Harradine (Leisurelakesbikes.com) 55:14

A big thank you to organiser Paul Stephens and his team, particularly the marshalls who got a real soaking while directing us around the course.

I have no more races planned now.

It was good to catch up with family and friends. We finished the trip with a visit to Raglan Castle before heading home. I may write about Raglan later.

One more race (at least)

I haven’t ridden a bike for a couple of weeks. Do I feel guilty? Well, yes I do… a bit.

This season had been difficult with the house move, but I’d caught up with my training and the fitness levels were good. When the new job came along it allowed plenty of time for training and the commuting potential would add another element to my schedules.

So why quit? I guess that I was looking for an excuse. My performances this year have been dire. Without the positive feedback of any improvement – in fact a deterioration in performance – sustaining interest was always going to be difficult when another obsession offered itself.

I love making progress, whether that be physical fitness or learning a new subject. I’ve taught myself to persist more than I used to when things get difficult, but there seems to be a limit. And I’ve reached that with the bike at the moment.

I’ve entered my dad’s memorial race on Sunday 17th July. It’s organised by his last club – Ross-on-Wye and District CC. It starts and finished in the splendidly named Llanvihangel Crucorney sitting below Skirrid mountain. It looks as if I’ll be riding it on memory rather than proper preparation. That’ll work.

I’m just wondering whether it’ll be my last ever race.

>Arghhh!

>I am suffering from frustration. I’d got back into the training groove – admittedly dragging myself up hills and crawling into headwinds – but now it’s all fallen apart again. I think I may have mislaid my cycling mojo. I have excuses – DIY to do, plumbers to wait for, it looks a bit rainy – but, in truth, I’m not getting out there because I’m under-motivated. The house is a (wonderful) distraction that I’m using as an excuse. Tomorrow I will ride1.

Pat has flown away to China. I’m missing her already. I always worry that I will sort of disappear if she’s not here. She has instructed me to talk to people if I feel the invisibility coming on. I hope I don’t scare anyone.

I am sending CVs to potential employers. I expect to be flooded with job offers at any moment. If you need a playwright on the staff2 you’d better get in touch fast.

1 Check back later to see if I held to this.
2 Will also shine shoes, mow lawns, build Zeppelins, etc.

>Miles in the bank

>When I were a lad we used to talk about ‘miles in the bank’. Structured and scientific training was the province of the few (we had heard of ‘intervals’ and ‘fartlek’, but we didn’t quite know what they were and we  certainly didn’t know anyone who used them). Coaches were pretty thin on the ground and running a coaching business unheard of. Training started at the Boxing Day ’10’ time trial and continued through January and February with a series of unstructured, longish rides to knock the edges off. Pace and pain was added if you went out with faster riders. Racing started at the end of February and from then on in most people were ‘racing themselves fit’. Most of my PBs happened in July and August.

Nowadays, of course, even if you don’t have a coach, you have access to myriad coaching manuals, magazines and on-line forums. I train far less than I used to – last week I rode 230 miles, which is the most I’ve done in a week since the 1970s. I used to clock up 300+ miles a week regularly and once, memorably, rode over 600 miles in a week.

I know the new methods produce results, but habit makes me think of getting the miles in the bank. And I’m hoping there’s something in it.

After a stressful couple of weeks, where we thought the house buying chain might crumble, we finally exchanged contracts yesterday and we’ll be moving to Bexhill in a couple of weeks. This is great news but will lead to a reduction in training. My focus is elsewhere and there’s a lot to do between now and the move. I’m going to be cashing in some of my miles in the bank.

I hope that I can get back into full training again in April and start racing properly in May. I will try and ride next weekend’s ’10’ just so that I can say the season has started! It’ll be interesting to begin late. My recent seasons have seen performances peak in May and early June. Perhaps we’ll see a reversion to the old pattern.

Yesterday’s news about the house was topped by wonderful family news. Tonight we have a meal with friends and tomorrow is Pat’s birthday. It’s turning out to be a pretty good weekend.

>Merry Christmas everyone

>Have a great time. I’ve managed to engineer a rest day from the bike. Looking forward to a great day at home with Pat.

It’s been great following the Kiwi Christmas on FB and now Skyping to Beijing to catch up with J and V. I’m not always a fan of new technology, but I appreciate it at this time of year.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

>Watch Dowsett Go

>On Thursday night I took my third kicking in three weeks at group training. This time I lasted 30 minutes before being blown out of the group. I’m supposed to be group leader. I see the sack beckoning. I finished the session in a more even paced group. I was quite ill when I got home.

On Friday we went to the Barbican for Pat’s (sorry – Dr Pat’s) OU graduation ceremony. I was as proud as punch. I like the OU – It’s great to see so many people celebrating what is a considerable achievement.

I almost didn’t ride Saturday afternoon’s North Hampshire RC ’25’ on the Bentley course (H25/8). I did not feel good in the morning and only the effects of vitamin I (Ibuprofen) persuaded me to set out. Once there I did a gentle one hour ride to try and get mind and body in the right place. It was a nice day and gradually things seemed to improve, so I headed for the start line.

The race itself was pretty tough. The breeze got up throughout and the second time towards Alton was, as it so often is, a bit of a graveyard. Apparently I was climbing all over the bike in an effort to keep it going.

At about 19.5 miles I was caught for 13 minutes by Alex Dowsett warming up for the U23 TT World Championships in Australia. He went on to record a 46:58 – an incredible time for this course. He already held the course record with a 47:50 earlier this season – another ride where he caught me!

I went on to finish in 1:2:25 – my fastest ever ’25’ in September (I used to finish the season on the first weekend of September, so I’ve not ridden many 25s this late in the year). I was quite pleased that my form seems to be coming back, though probably too late now.

Race stats: Time: 1:02:25 (24.03mph). First 12.5 miles: 30:40, last 12.5 miles: 31:45. Top speed: 34.2mph. Slowest mile (15): 2:53 (20.81mph), fastest mile (9): 1:59 (30.25mph). Average HR: 166bpm, maximum HR: 172bpm. Average cadence: 73rpm. 50th of 89 finishers. Winner: Alex Dowsett (Trek Livestrong) 46:58

On Sunday I rode the Willesden CC 100km Dulcie Walker road race for 3/4 category riders. I was dropped after a couple of miles and span round for two laps (stopping for coffee at one of the marshalling points). It was a duty call. In the afternoon I helped marshall a junction for the E123 John Walker road race.

As the season draws to a close (last race scheduled for October 17th) I’m beginning to think about next year. We’re moving to the South coast, so I’ll probably be looking for a new club/team. And a new job or jobs. I suspect the Winter will be rather busy, so training might be disrupted.