Archives for February 2013

Oh! Deer!

Several dreary, grey, bitterly cold February days have been and gone since I last was out riding. Call me a wimp, but it’s simply not a great deal of fun cycling when it’s hovering just above freezing and there’s not even the hint of any sunshine. It’s been largely dry, true, but the stiff easterly wind has strongly mitigated against that being anything like a benefit.

So, no, I’ve not been out riding and I’m not going to berate myself for it. I have been on the turbo-trainer again but, I have to admit, in a fairly desultory way: doing enough to keep some ‘cycling fitness’ in my legs; doing it hard enough to make me sweat and work my heart and lungs a bit … but that’s all.

So, getting out today was a real treat. I didn’t go that far, I wasn’t out for that long really, and it was still a dreary February day, but it wasn’t quite so cold and the effort was rewarded by the simple pleasure of being out riding, and by the sight of a herd of, I think, Fallow Deer but I’m not wholly sure on the identification. They were near May’s Green, on the way to Henley.

From the photos it looks as if I disturbed them and maybe I did, they are very shy and wary, but there was a fair old interval between the first photo and when they started to move off, and they weren’t in any hurry.

With apologies for the photo quality – they were taken with a compact camera on its maximum zoom.

Deer, just sitting around. (click on the image to view gallery)

(Click for a full-size version and more images)

Time to move on ...
But no great hurry

But no great hurry

Off, off and away
Follow the leader and away into the distance

From A Bygone Era

With the prospect of another spell of chilly weather starting tomorrow, it would have been daft to not make the chance to get out for a ride today.

In just under a couple of hours I saw two family groups out cycling – one mother with three children; one mother, father and two children. (It’s half-term for many schools around here.)

Seeing them, the thought that came unbidden was that it was reminiscent of a bygone era. A moment’s reflection and the fact that I thought that struck me as pretty depressing.

I’m a cyclist – I don’t think of cycling as odd or anachronistic. Nevertheless, my unreasoned reaction – if you like, my ‘unmediated by my consciousness’ reaction – to seeing a family out cycling was that it was an event of a time now passed.
That even a keen cyclist like me is thinking that, surely, is a testimony to the power of marketing and how well we’ve all been sold a shiny, motorized, hi-tech and non-cycling life as the norm.

If ‘cycling’ wants to succeed as a lobby group, I fear it has an awful lot of counter-marketing to do.


Upturned Chair

Perhaps we need to upset the whole order of things

A cold wind today but plenty of sunshine and it’s still dry – which seems something notable after all the rain of late. Hence a decent length ride was in order, taking in Sonning Common, Henley, Remenham, the Walthams and thereabouts. Even the road by the gravel workings in Sonning is looking a little less like a causeway.

I spotted two big ol’ Mistle Thrushes in a field today, I guess foraging in the mud for worms and what-have you. Also, a very plumped-up Song Thrush rootling about in dry leaves on a verge. You don’t see either very often but whether that’s a reflection of their numbers or their camouflage I don’t know. Perhaps the drab state of the vegetation at the moment means they stand out a bit more.

Talking of camouflage, at this time of year you can see all the houses (mansions and similar) of the seriously rich dotted around these parts far more easily, simply because trees and hedges aren’t so dense. It occurred to me today that I don’t really know what it makes me feel, seeing all these examples of quite high end wealth.

Even if you conclude it all comes down to how the money’s earned, there’s still a lingering doubt. Perhaps the business that generated the wealth was fair and decent; perhaps the money came through creativity – being an author or something – and it’s all been above board in every way imaginable. However honest the toil, there’s still the doubt about whether we collectively benefit from a society that tolerates – let alone lauds – a class of super-rich people; people who, in turn, are happy to be so rich when there’s so much that needs funding for the less well off.

I know it’s complicated and messy. If you’ve earned a huge sum by honest and fair means, given 50% away but found that left you with more than enough to buy a mansion – what then? Giving away half of your earnings would be generous by any measure – it’s more than I donate. Yes, it’s messy. That doesn’t mean it’s intractable.

I can’t say seeing such wealth makes me angry or indignant. It does make me question how we’re living though. Perhaps I don’t get angry about it because I’m comfortable enough; indeed, because I’m comfortable with the idea of ‘enough’. Perhaps it’s because so many of us are more-or-less comfortable that a critical mass hasn’t formed, angry enough to lynch the bankers and the politicians that have permitted the bankers to thrive.

Protect The Important

South of Reading, local councillors have decided too band to together to protect open spaces from being built on. They’re doing so because they’re being ignored by council officials at a borough level, and central government will do nothing to help.

I saw these snowdrops and aconites at Welford Park yesterday. I saw plenty of snowdrops while out riding today – a circuit taking in a pothole-strewn downhill from Checkendon and a sweat-inducing uphill slog to Woodcote.

If spring bulbs aren’t important to you then you’re possibly dead from the neck up. If open spaces aren’t important to you, then you’re possibly dead from the neck up. Even if these things aren’t important to you, if you can’t see that they’re important for lots of other people, then surely you’ve no right to be in a position to make decisions that will curtail the enjoyment of others.

We do not need more building. If we are to provide future populations with a decent quality of life then we need to protect open spaces. If you say that we need more building to house a growing population, then the only sensible response to that can be that we need to look at curbing the population. Low-quality life isn’t a worthy goal. We know that humans don’t respond well to over-crowding so why perpetuate it?

Welford Park snowdrops and aconites

“Let’s build on this too.”

Councillors south of Reading banding together.
Welford Park.
You could start here for over-crowding research.

Regurgitating Drain

Regurgitating Drain

Regurgitating Drain …

Reasonable weather for a welcome change, after too many days with the temperature too close to zero and stints on the turbo-trainer the only sensible option.

And it was good to be out – a loop south of Reading then back across to Henley and over the top to Caversham.

If nature was a sentient being, it could be tempting to thing that nature’s getting her own back at the moment. After all the floods of late, most road-side ditches are full to the brim or have been recently, meaning all the dumped rubbish and litter has come to the surface. Nature’s revenge – as all our filth is regurgitated back at us.

Today I was riding in the Royal County of Berkshire and South Oxon. This whole region is a visitor destination. It’s a litter-strewn, pothole-riddled mess.

Dear politicians – this is the impression visitors are getting of Britain. Invest here – in a country, in a society, that’s all too happy to foul its own nest? It’s not a good omen …

A flooded ditch and field near you

And nature said, ‘Look at your filth’. And the businessman said, ‘Invest here? Not on your life’.

Of course, nature isn’t a sentient being. If only. Perhaps I’ve just been listening to too many old Bowie records lately.

An Old Evans Fixie (Just For Cyclists)

A short-ish (and cold) ride today, on a fixie just for a change. It was lovely.

For winter I’ve an old (early 80s, I think) FW Evans touring fame (thanks to @Sparky249) which has been converted to a fixed wheel mainly using bits I had knocking around from that era – an SR chainset with a nice drilled black Sugino 44 chain ring for example. Having full mudguards on it makes it a good bet for bad weather and it has the kind of clearances that allow fatter tyres comfortably – for comfort. It’s simply nice to ride.

And old FW Evans

“I’m on an Evans”

The frame and forks are good old 531 and, well, that’s a tubing that deserves its amazingly high reputation. It might even have been built by the legendary Chas Roberts if this excerpt from the Evans Cycles web site is anything to go by:

‘In the seventies the frames were produced by frame manufacturer Chas Roberts, who had his original workshop in Croydon close to one of the early Evans Cycles stores. In many magazine articles from the seventies and eighties journalists would boast ‘I’m on an Evans’. The Evans bikes with their steel frames can still be seen around the U.K, a testament to their robust high quality.’

I guess I’m boasting about being ‘on an Evans’ now, over 30 years later.

I was advised recently to hang on to my old hi-fi as it has a better build quality than most of what you can buy these days. I rather suspect there’s a lot of good things about old bikes that we all too easily overlook too. Perhaps there are advantages to being older …