Category Archives: Cycling.

I’m back from a joyful and somewhat painful event!

When you spend about ten hours a day on the bike, pedalling away like a nutter, the mind plays tricks on you. At least mine did. I was busy trying to stay in the moment; not think ahead too much and certainly not beyond the next refreshment stop and my preoccupations became slightly bizarre to say the least. One was this –  had Saeed Manana (an Arab owner of racehorses) been strongly influenced in his choice of racing silks by French roadsigns?

The other recurring theme became a list. A never-ending list of pointless items that seem to get manufactured in some mysterious and warped factory despite there being perfectly good and sensible alternatives made anyway. For example – white hotel kettles that boil in their own time, orange juice that comes out of a bottle and tastes nothing like orange juice, railway signs that say “Kensal Rise – Temporary Sign” (actually that was when I was on the train with the bike but I was thinking about cycling) and finally the design of public places and transport’s soft furnishings and upholstery, which I consider to be the products of truly disturbed minds.

Je ne comprends pas!

Je ne comprends pas!

More on the actual cycling later…

Oh and don’t forget I am chez

It’s a good cause – honest.


Toodle Pip Mes Amis…

The makemeadiva blog is off to catch Mr Wiggins et al in Paris – full blog service to resume next week with exciting tales of the Tour and derring-do over the South Downs and in Normandy.

In the meantime I will leave you with a few more of the the “Pure Gold Search Terms” so you can fill in the mind-boggling blanks for me.

1) “and the fire that breaks from me then, a” – not “a” not “an” so it’s not explosion!

2) “he achieved a notable first in 1982” – who and what?

I hope that is an accurate depiction of the weather...

I hope that is an accurate depiction of the weather...

Carb-loading starts

Regretfully without the burrata cheese which sounded a bit disgusting frankly, described as being like mozzarella with buttery cream/creamy butter inside, and not worth the effort of sourcing.

So I made do with broad bean, asparagus and smoked salmon pasta with a lemon and dill sauce. Perfectly acceptable and the children had fun with the broad beans.

I spent the morning surrounded by cakes and biscuits in a day-long and terribly dull meeting for a database but I have learned you can’t carb-load a)in public b) before lunch. At least I can’t.

Actually carb-loading makes me feel a bit sick but I think it may be a necessity if I am not to topple off the ferry mid-crossing to Caen in a fit of exhaustion.

I think nerves and carbs are making me, if not quite monosyllabic, a bit less blogvoluble than usual.

Carbs spookily arranged as a dead deer (protein)

Carbs spookily arranged as a dead deer (protein)

Tour de Essex

I’ve been doing this for months now on account of being in training to cycle to Paris over 3 days in just under 3 weeks time.  Despite popular belief to the contrary, I can confirm Essex does have hills although, granted, they do tend to occur in isolation rather than in matey gatherings.  Which is quite good for softy cycling, but not much good when you are trying to condition your legs for a two-wheeled assault on the South Downs. 

Yesterday I cycled to, and then around, Canvey Island and then back up a beast of a hill at South Benfleet; Canvey Island on a Monday has a bit of a tumbleweed feeling and I don’t recommend it.  Coming back up to above sea level I could see why serious cyclists say they like hills.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like them one bit, but as I laboured up there with my eyes literally popping and the (what I think must’ve been lactic) acid needling my fingers and legs like a thousand angry red ants, I could see that the physical response to the extreme exertion could be somewhat addictive.  Maybe not in a good way.  Far more healthy to hate hills I would say.  I have a bloodspot in my eyeball now, which makes me want to faint as I suffer extreme squeamishness viz anything optical – ugh.

On the upside (excuse the cheap pun) I woke up a skinny person.

How those Tour de France lads do what they do for 4 weeks is beyond me.  Thought one is – no wonder drug use was rife and thought two is  –  they are crazy.  Well done anyway to Mark Cavendish who became the first Briton (Isle of Man) to wear the green jersey on two consecutive stages.  The overall leader, Fabian Cancellara, retains the yellow jersey for now.  The nuances of the Tour have never penetrated my brain before, but as we are going to be in Paris on the last day of the Tour it would be rude not to pay some attention to their progress.  Yesterday’s stage was 196.5 km, utterly staggering that they cycle such extreme distances on a daily basis.

Hard not to be impressed

Hard not to be impressed

Great Sporting Weekend

The Tour de France started, there was some motorbike racing, Roger Federer completed his 15th Grand Slam title in nerve-shredding fashion and Sea the Stars became the fifth horse to complete the Guineas, Derby and Eclipse treble in his three year old season.  The latter was not even mentioned on the BBC news at 10 (or whatever time it rocks up on Saturdays) which mildly enraged me.

I, on the other hand, was to be found desperately trying to cycle the Southend end of Essex, be with the family, exercise the dog and not kill all the plants in the garden during the heatwave.  That’s the problem with great sporting weekends, 4 and 7 year old kids (not to mention dogs) don’t care and demand service as usual.  So I managed to catch the Eclipse with my bike in the bookies, some of the 2nd, 3rd and 5th sets at Wimbledon yesterday and not much else.  That meant I missed the delightful Speightstown colt Lord Shanakill’s win in the Prix Jean Prat in France.  His first Group 1 win and the first for his trainer.  I liked the horse a lot last year, I have mentioned him before and I thought he might struggle this season having been raced 8 times as a 2yo, at a high level and having been very genuine in so doing.

Not so.  He won at 11/1 and had I had time to read the Racing Post in my possession before the race I would have been swayed by the piece of information “thriving on work is a family trait” in the Bloodstock world page.  Then there was the trainer comment “I think he has come on for his run in the St James’ Palace”.  I form my views as the season unfolds and then these are the nuggets of info (along with his liking for fast ground) that inform final opinion and staking on the day.  Unfortunately, on the day, the Post was in the footwell of the car (unread apart from admiring the photo of Sea the Stars) and I was prancing around dog agility (dog) and archery (kids) at a country show.

That is the conflict of the punting life.  You can’t afford to let up on studying and keeping in touch otherwise you will miss something, on the other hand you can’t afford to spend your children’s lives with your nose stuck in form and the Post.  That’s why I like Group races during the week – I can pay attention to the form and not entirely neglect my motherly duties!  Hurray for Ascot, the July meeting and Glorious Goodwood. 🙂 

I can report that agility is not my lurcher’s metier, but notwithstanding dangling from the A-frame and refusing to entertain the tunnel he did the rest ok and got a certificate.  The scurry went less well (retrieval).  He amused those nearby by doing a good “time trial at Crayford” impression (tight bends) and then had to be practically handed the retrieve thingummyjig which he sort of tossed in the air to break its neck properly.  On the upside he deigned to be caught quite easily which would have never happened but a year ago.  I think, once this bike ride is done, we will have to seek out some lurchering events for him to enjoy.  After all,  it’s no good trying to put a round peg in a square hole.

Dog & Daughter with no Racing Post in sight!

Dog & Daughter with no Racing Post in sight!

Poetry Competition to raise funds for The Big Issue

As some readers of the blog may already know I am cycling with others to Paris later this month to raise much-needed funds for the Big Issue, the organisation that helps homeless people to help themselves.  If you watched the BBC1 programme “Famous, Rich & Homeless” and wanted to know how you could help, why not enter the competition – all proceeds to the Big Issue.

The Big Issue is launching a poetry competition sponsored by Diplomat pens. If you see yourself as a budding poet, put pen to paper and send in your efforts!

The title of the poem must be ‘Invisible Lives’, and the winning entrant will win a Diplomat Excellence Guilloche Chrome Black pen set (fountain pen, ballpoint pen and pen pouch, worth around £250), and have their poem published in The Big Issue magazine.

Stephen Foster, author of best seller ‘Walking Ollie’ will be judging the competition.

Diplomat pens are known for their unique, elegant and innovative designs that will never go out of fashion. Highly skilled and trained craftsmen have been hand assembling the pens at their German workshop since 1922. This attention to detail has earned Diplomat an international reputation for producing much sought after and durable pens. To ensure long-lasting customer satisfaction, each pen is hand finished, quality tested and comes with a five year guarantee, which is longer than most other pen brands.

Diplomat pens are stocked at The Pen Company.

Please send entries to: Jonathan Hunt, The Big Issue Foundation, 1-5 Wandsworth Road, London, SW8 2LN

Cost of entry is £5 ( free to Big Issue vendors).

Please send cheque or postal order with entry.  

Please include name, postal and email address, and contact telephone number with all entries. Closing date 31st July. The poems will not be returned.

Good luck!

Feed the Beast

The thing is with the blog you have to keep at it.  If you don’t your posts slip into blog history not exactly lost for ever, but shrouded in the mists of irrelevance and no views.

For some reason, that I fail to understand, one of my posts about Chow Chows gets read daily.  There are either a lot of prospective Chow Chow owners out there, or some very hungry blog readers…

For those of you that have read that post, my sister came to stay this weekend and reported that despite a prolonged battle with Stan’s tail which had a mind of its own and wilfully refused to keep a bandage on it, it refused to heal and some more was lopped off.  Fearful of the tail-trimming becoming a bi-monthly occurrence, in between endless sessions of tail-dressing, and poor Stan ending up like a badly planed door she has finally found a vet who would cauterise and that, we hope, is that.  If none of that makes any sense you could seek clarification here:

In the makemeadiva meantime, I have been trying out my new bike – yep, they changed it without a murmur.  The medium size looks more elegant.  Unfortunately I do not grace the saddle as such.  It came with cleats.  The last one did not have cleats – needless to say on my maiden voyage I remembered to take my foot out of the cleat until I was right outside my front door whereupon I forgot and crashed to the floor!

The once, so elegant, left knee is probably next in line for a spot of cauterisation; which rather makes a monkey of my deciding to find a glamorous signature scent to waft about in in my 40th year.  Yet again a self-improvement plan thwarted at its very inception.

The knee is not “cycling to Paris threatening” but I was lucky not to stove my head in against the front garden wall, so I’ll be counting my blessings and rubbing my knee today and feeling pretty sympathetic to the lovely Irish Wolfhound cousin Stan.

More gianter than a shed in the Mid-West

More gianter than a shed in the Mid-West

Infuriating to hear that Halfords profits top £90 million

before breakfast this morning.

The Today programme, the main place I get my news, interviewed the Chief Executive and he even namechecked my too long Chris Boardman bike. The cheek of it. Inspired by moral outrage and my £500 quid outlay which is represents nearly 1/2 thousandth of of their profits I am going to – get on the phone!

There has been no reply to the pigeon email I sent (obviously) and I can’t rush down there now for various reasons – procrastination being the main one. Yes, a phone call it shall be…

9.44 a.m. Call 1 – the phone rings out
9.46 a.m. Call 2 -no Bike Hut manager in the store today (presumably the spanner-wielding ten year olds are in sole charge) but someone else listens to my tale of woe then promptly puts me on hold. She then takes my details and says the Deputy Manager is in later today and I will “probably” be getting a phone call.

Is that progress? We’ll see.

Left in sole charge this morning

Left in sole charge this morning

Halfords Bike Hut

I have sent an email to customer services on the matter of the too large bike that is doing evil things to my back.  It seems that the reach from the seat to to the handlebars would best suit an oran-utan and that cyclists way taller than me are opting for the medium frame.

I have received an automated reponse saying: we will get back to you at our leisure (within 5 days) and don’t bother sending us another email lowlife tosser until we have responded to the first one (in our own sweet time).


Of course what I should be doing is taking the bike straight back to the store.  I can’t just now because the kids are off sick and my back hurts and I had a fly in my eye which means I am in severe danger of dissolving into tears in the Bike Hut.  Which won’t do.

The makemeadiva blog is made of sterner stuff than that innit!  I’ll wait to see what comes back from the ether and if there’s nowt by tomorrow then I will steel myself for the lion’s den.

A good likeness and hopefully sufficiently scary for the Bike Hut muppetry?

A good likeness and hopefully sufficiently scary for the Bike Hut muppetry?

Maybe I will threaten them with Chris Boardman himself…