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Postcards from a Lunar Landscape

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Postcards from a Lunar Landscape



May 7th, 2011

The Big Pink One

Today, in fact right now the Giro D'Italia 2011 is underway in Turin. Its is the most magnificent race on earth - imho. One day I'll get over to Italy to see the race in the flesh. Until then, like most people I watch it on the TV, read about it in the magazines and of course buy the replica cycling tops. So here is my collection of Italian cycling tops. The last one I added to the collection, was in fact 'The Big Pink One' - the Malia Rosa.

Tops (left to right):
  • Italian National Road Champion - Team Katusha
  • Giro D'Italia 2010 fashion cycling jersey
  • Giro D'Itilia 2009
  • Tirreno Adriatico race leader's jersey 2011
  • Giro D'Italia race leader's jersey 2011
Over the next 3 weeks I'll be watching every stage of the Giro 2011, so expect a few posts here about how the race is progressing.

April 30th, 2011


I uploaded some tracks to Soundcloud. Came across this website ages ago, but finally got around to using it. Check out the wares here:


April 29th, 2011

A sportive organised by West Lothian Clarion, this event was on its inaugural launch this year, with a good few hundred at least on the start line. The route started from Cambusbarron near Stirling and headed north to Callander, then west to Aberfoyle going past Loch Venacher, over the Duke’s pass (500 feet of climbing over 2 miles), south to Drymen near Loch Lomond and then east back to Cambusbarron going past the Carron Valley. A total distance of 70miles, West Lothian Clarion, were hosting the national Easter Clarion event. If you want to know more about Clarion clubs, then do a web search.

All in all it was a great day with no real complaints - expect for a couple of missing signs! I arrived a bit late and it seemed like I was the last rider off at 09:37am. I had decided that I was going to go for, all guns blazing over the distance and try to get a decent time. The weather was a little on the chilly side, but a covering of embrocation helped out. In fact the gilet jacket was never off the whole way round.

Conscious of the fact that I was last, I hurried along the course looking out for the sign arrows. For quite a few miles I never came across another rider, until I spotted someone far off in the distance wearing a red top. I closed in on them and eventually passed by. I was ready to have a joke with them that they were wearing the appropriate coloured top as they were now the 'lantern rouge' - the last person in the field. However it turned out that they were actually from Stirling Triathlon club and not even doing the event. Damn, I was still last.

So I pressed on and it was good to see some marshals at the main turning points. At least I knew I was on the right track. In a strange way, it does give you much more of an incentive to ‘gun’ it along when you are last. I think I went along for the whole 31 miles to the feed station stop without over taking anyone. I was wondering ‘where the heck is everyone?’. This question was answered when I go to the feed station. They was a large bunch of riders there, lots of them all tucking into the energy food and drink on offer. In accordance with my aim to do the course fast, I only stopped for a bottle refill. I actually felt a tad on the impolite side as I tore off again without stopping to socialise and chat!

So I pressed on around the course and started to come across riders strung out along the route. I over took them, but as stressed earlier, this wasn't about racing against them and overtaking people – but racing against myself. It was then up and over the legendary Duke’s pass, with 500 feet of climbing to be done and then down the mighty descent to Aberfoyle. What a descent this is, it gives you a real feel of what it must be like to race in the Tour or the Giro. The route sign was hard to sport in Aberfoyle, but I eventually headed in the right direction, but only to be held up at the next round about where there was no sign. So I had to wait up for some other riders to find out which direction I should head in. Here we turned south towards Drymen, a few miles away from the Bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. It felt strange cycling into Drymen, probably because I’ve been through it a hundred times in car, but never on a bike.

The route then turned east passing along some very small and rough country lanes. All the while, I was overtaking more riders. Sections of this road had been re-surfaced and were tarmac heaven, where it was possible to glide along at very fast speeds and wishing that every road could be like this. With about 10 miles to go, I over took another bunch of riders from different Clarion clubs. One chap was from Bolton and he was riding something that wouldn’t look out of place in the vintage Strade Bianchi ride, a really old looking touring bike with down tube shifters. This group were going well and with a surge I passed them by and moved on ahead down the course. After a little while a rider passed by me coming in the opposite direction. I though, ‘oh oh, this doesn’t look too good’ and when I got to the end of the road, there was no sign to turn anywhere. Pondering which way to go, the group that I had overtook caught me up. It turned out they had been following me, thinking I knew where I was going. We had missed a turn off at further back at Carron Bridge and agreed that the sign was absent. Pranksters maybe? Who knows, but luckily 2 of the riders were local from the West Lothian Clarion and they led us back to the finish at Cambusbarron. It wasn’t a scenic route thats for sure – but at least it got us back. We did an extra 3 miles and 73 miles in total. My time was 4hrs 29mins, so that would probably have been about 4hrs 20mins. I’m sure if I hadn’t got lost and had to stop a few times, then I maybe, just maybe I could have got under 4 hours.

The post ride drum up was very impressive with soup, rolls, cakes, cakes and more cakes. I chatted away to the rider from Bolton and was surprised to learn that he had in fact combined his trip up north with a touring holiday and had in fact cycled up from Bolton on his trusty touring bike (with the down tube shifters). That would account for his good form then. Another rider was Brighton Clarion and had traveled all the way up for this event. I was surprised by the camaraderie, dedication and friendship network offered by the Clarion system. So hopefully the event will run again next year. Is so, its a definite must even date for your diary.

February 18th, 2011

I'm Alive

Yes, I'm alive and I want to live. But I'll be honest with you, leaving this world - it passes through my mind quite a lot. Anyway I want to speak of living and breathing. There are many, many powerful iconic images in my mind of both the power and reason to live. One of the most powerful and maybe the most recent one (no, its not the Egyptian protesters) was music group The Police playing at Live 8 concert in 2006 - when they played 'I'll be watching you'. The Live 8 campaign and concerts have a particular resonance, because the G8 summit was held in Scotland at the Gleneagles Hotel in Auchterarder. I can still remember lots of Chinook helicopters passing over head ferrying the dignitaries back and forward.

'Every move you make, Every breath you take - I'll be watching you' those icon lines, delivered in front of a stunning back drop of such relevant worldly looking graphics, it rocked. The words were not aimed at the music fan nor the tv audience, but at the politicians themselves. Do something about world poverty or become part of everyone's 's*** list', was the battle cry. That was the message, it was pretty clear. I certainly remember the opening gig and it was U2. I'm a big U2 fan and they played with Paul McCartney. Personally, I feel U2 were the opener for 3 simple reasons, they are Irish and acutely aware of the history of poverty, they were the big success story of the 1986 Live Aid concert and they are currently the biggest rock band on the planet.

So, I wonder what has happened and what has been done done for African poverty since the concert? Probably not a lot, but the media reports. Maybe some small concessions here and there have been awarded, but nothing I would bet nothing significant. It then kind of becomes one of those things like the Sars virus, the Avian Flu or maybe even Swine flu. Its something that has passed through both the media and the human psyche - but now its out of sight and out of mind. Why worry, in fact, why worry about anything until it actually happens. Hey, it probably won't affect or happen to you or I anyway.

I wish I had the power to elevate these things to everyone's attention and perhaps send them all an e-reminder every 30 days or so asking 'hey, remember all those things that the media reported back then and now you've forgotten about, well - what are you going to do about it? Well, some of them are those issues are REAL. The lesson here is, always remember them because unlike when you switch the TV off at night, the nightmare goes on for all of those people.

December 22nd, 2010

The Winter Wasteland

Ventured out on the bike today, but not a road bike of course. Used the Touring / Commuting bike. Its an old Specialized Stump Jumper from the 90s, beefed up with big mudguards, pannier rack, lights. The tyres are Swabble Marathons with low tread i.e. 'slics' for city riding. I have to get around to buying some proper knobbly tyres. Anyway, I'm off work and was getting cabin fever so the gutsy fool inside me decided to go out and do some exploring around the nearby lanes.

Definetly do this if you want to beef up your bike handling skills. The fact I only feel off the once on some very nasty black ice is perhaps a testiment to the levels of concentration it takes. You have to pick your lines very, very carefully, use the back brake a lot more and keep the speed down. In some places it was so bad I had to get off the bike and wheel it down hill. When was the last time you can say that you got off a bike to push it downhill?

The countryside is beautiful, covered in thick snow with the sun punching through the pockets of freezing fog. At the same time, it perhaps resembles something from T.S.Elliot's 'The Wasteland'. The reflected light you can see in the tyre marks stretching right the way up the road is not where its thawed revealing a safe area. No, thats actually black ice, forzen solid.

It funny, the liquid in my drink bottle was well on its way to being completely frozen by the time I got home. They say we are well on course for the coldest December in a hundred years in the UK. Wouldn't want to have a bike mechanical and be stuck out doors in that, so I stayed close to home. Heres a snap I took, glorious landscape:

From Drop Box

Also snapped a pic of a water reservoir nearby. It's completely frozen over and the snow ontop makes it look like a farmer's field:

From Drop Box

December 18th, 2010

A New Guitar!

Every Xmas, I tend to treat myself to a new piece of music kit. I never know exactly what I'm going to buy, its a case of seek and ye' shall find!

A voucher appeared in a daily newspaper - spend over £30 and get £5 off - so I popped in to see if there was anything that tickled my fancy. Now this particular chain is well known for both its high quality and diversity of special promotions. So I wasn't too surprised when I saw an acoustic guitar on offer.

There's only so much information about a product that you can ascertain from looking at the box alone. It was a full sized dreadnought - but its star feature was the fact that it was electro acoustic. Yep, a full sized dreadnought that had electric capabilities! Also came with a case, a lead and picks.

So, after walking around and thinking about it I checked out the goods I had and asked the till guy 2 important questions 'Is that the last guitar - yes', 'If I bought it, can I pick it up later - yes'. SOLD

Got it home and it plays like a dream. You see, I don't actually have a full size dread and anyway I wanted a cheap guitar that I wasn't too precious about and could take camping etc. So, for £55 it was a bargain!

Here's a pic:
From Drop Box

November 19th, 2010

Hi All,
In Sept this year, I visited Caithness in North East Scotland for a week and a bit. I took along Ralph, my trust canine friend for a bit of company. Caithness is an amazing place, its truly beautiful! I visited lots of places of historical interest, as well as a day trip over to Orkney.

I was lucky enough to be staying in a town house in Thurso (http://www.holiday-rentals.co.uk/p98755?refid=property_link&catid=98755) and also at a luxury church conversion in Lybster (http://www.luxuryhighland.com/).

I took about 470 photos on my Canon EOS 450, so there were a heck of a lot of pics to process! Ontop of that that, I've also written a travel log report of my trip and it has plenty more photos to illustrate it. So far its weighing in at 4,500 words. Hopefully it'll be finished by the time the years out! So if you like these pictures, then look out for it when I eventually finish it.

In the meantime, I'd like to invite you to view a selection of images from each of the 8 days. You can see all of them online as - there part of my Google Picasa web account.
The links are here, just click on the photo to go straight to web page. There's also a slideshow button, which is rather cool.

Thurso Day 1

Thurso Day 1
13th Century church and Chambered cairns.

Thurso Day 2

Thurso Day 2
Old Wick Castle, Chambered cairn, Hill O'Many Cairns & Camster Cairns

Thurso Day 3

Thurso Day 3
Sinclair Girnigoe Castle

Thurso Day 4

Thurso Day 4
Orkney - Scapa Flow, Italian Chapel & Kirkwall

Thurso Day 5

Thurso Day 5
Dunnet Bay - Painting for the day

Thurso Day 6

Thurso Day 6
Duncansby Stacks

Thurso Day 7

Thurso Day 7

Thurso Day 8

Thurso Day 8
Brora, Helmsdale,Dunbeath, Old Nigg Church

Many thanks for viewing and the report will follow soon - I hope!

August 21st, 2010

Back on the .....bike again

Yesterday I went for another X-ray, 2 months after the last one. Unfortunately, there hasn't been any significant amount of repair growth. I couldn't really notice much difference between this X-ray and the last one. So the collar bone is still effectively broken. All be it that the pain has resided and it don't hurt so much now. However, it limits what I can do like lifting, sports. I main question I had to ask the surgeon was 'Can I out riding on my bike'?

Yes, he said, but just don't fall off! Alright, great so last night I went out for 45mins and it was pretty good. I have to go back in 3 months for another Xray. There's no way I could have done another 3 months on the turbo trainer, so thank God for that.

So this afternoon I was fixing a Cateye cadence and speed monitor unit to my road bike and was just finishing up cutting the final strap and cut the senor wire! OMG, hello horrified feeling. Shoot, I tried to fuse the 4 tiny little wires back together and got nothing. Not a sausage. No doubt my cynical mind tells me they make these units so that if the cable is broken, you have to buy the whole replacement kit, which is what I have to do. £18 it cost and I'm not too impressed!


August 14th, 2010

Cycling's finest

A couple of my Picasa albums you might like to check out:

Cycling babes:
Cycling babes

Giro D'Italia 2010 babes:
giro d italia 2010 babes


August 7th, 2010

Anyone familiar with James Brown, may have heard of Fred Wesley. Forming part of the brass section, Fred is a trombone player. Not just any trombone player, but probably the funkiest trombone player in the world. I've seen him playing live a few years ago and it was amazing. So it was good to have the pleasure of seeing him playing live last weekend (Sat 31st July), in Edinburgh.

Fred was accompanied by the New JBs, who could quite easily have been the old JBs as they were so good. My brother and I arrived 5 minutes before kick off and ended up sitting right up the front, within spitting distance of the stage. Before the gig, Fred was signing CDs, so I had a chat with him, got his autograph and also bagged a photo with him!

From Drop Box
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