Busy

Well here I am, a day later than promised! We had a great time at the York Cycle Rally and in between volunteering duties (I was helping in the HQ Marquee – answering queries, selling badges and other promo items etc.) we managed to go on one ride along the solar system from the Sun to Pluto and back, all in one morning. This was around 18 miles of cycle route along which there are markers for the planets in scale with their distance from the Sun – a fun ride that we have also done on a previous visit to the rally. There were also some interesting talks and other events (another quiz – no we didn’t win that one either) to attend, also the weather was good although cool in the evenings, but only a couple of showers over night, so that was a bonus.

Things have been a bit manic since we got back. This morning I had a hospital appointment and Hooray! my plaster has been removed. The wrist feels very weak and is rather painful and I have been given a brace to wear to support it along with a sheet of exercises to do at least three times a day. I’ve had a go this afternoon and not managed them very well yet, but it’s early days and I have been told to take it slowly. At least I can now wash my arm and leave the support off when it is hot, as long as I am careful. It’s just a matter of more healing time now.

Hoping to have my ‘poetic’ brain working again soon!

York Rally

Just a quick visit here as we are off again in just a few minutes and once again I will not have my computer with me. This time we are going to the York Cycle Rally, just for the weekend so I will be back again on Monday (maybe not here until Tuesday).

I’m not sure how much cycling I will be doing as many of the rides are at least in part along gravel tracks and are also quite long – neither of which I can cope with at the moment. At least there will be plenty going on back at the campsite this time and we are also volunteer helpers so I will find plenty to do if I cry off the rides.

Two Wheel Tuesday

Yesterday evening it was Two Wheel Tuesday in Stone, one of our neighbouring towns. This was part of Stone Festival week. Motorbikes, motor Scooters and push-bikes, whether clubs, groups and individuals, are invited to come along to display their machines in the market square and enjoy socialising.

The event has been a regular feature at the Stone Festival and has gone from strength to strength but this year is the first time we have gone along – on the tandem, needless to say. There was an incredible amount of motorbikes and scooters in the square and lining the street in all directions. One of the features of the gathering is that there is a competition for Best in Show for each category and all the bikes were immaculately turned out and gleamingly polished.

Guess who won the push-bike category! Above is our a photo of our certificate and medal. We thought that was it, but apparently we also get a prize which is due to arrive in a week or so and is a framed photograph of our bike, which is rather nice.

In the past apparently there has been quite a number of push-bikes attending but I have to be honest and report that this year we were the only one! This makes me feel rather guilty about ‘winning’ which will undoubtedly result in our picture being in the local papers and magazines. Oh well, at least I can add another 12 miles to my slow upwardly-creeping total for the month.

Charlotte’s Tandems

One of the most interesting talks at the recent Tandem Club National Rally was given by Alex Reeves, the founder of the charity Charlotte’s Tandems. Founded in 2010 and gaining charitable status in 2011 it provides free tandem hire to people with a variety of disabilities and special needs, from autism to blindness, stroke sufferers and so on, to give these people the chance to enjoy cycling with family or friends.

Tandems can be borrowed, with certain conditions (such as providing photos of yourself using it) for up to two months – or possibly longer if no-one else is currently requiring it – after which the user can decide if they wish to buy one for themselves. The charity does not sell bikes to their clients.

Charlotte, Alex’s daughter, after whom the charity is named, suffers from extreme autism and can only communicate by sign language. As a child she was often taken out cycling on a ‘tag-along’ bike which she loved. As she grew up she transferred to the back of a tandem and absolutely loves it, which inspired Alex to consider that other people with problems may enjoy the chance to go cycling, including many older people with eyesight loss or stroke sufferers who perhaps thought their cycling days were over.

The charity has many ‘volunteers’ around the country who look after the tandems, loaning out suitable bikes to clients and receiving them back after the hire period so most places in the UK should have access to one of these outlets.

The Charity did briefly also operate in the US, but due to bureaucracy and red tape eventually had to pull out again, however a sperate organisation with the same ethics is allowed to use the Charlotte’s Tandems name and does still operate in a few states. They did also start up in Ireland, but again had to withdraw.

The charity does not seek money, borrowing the bikes is free of charge, there is no real advertising budget so this is limited and much is by word of mouth or through social media (find them on Facebook). There are ways to donate if you wish – tandems do need to be bought and maintained, though most are bought cheaply second-hand. Please go to their website (above) to learn more or see what you can do to help spread the word or raise funds – maybe you know someone who might benefit, if so let them know!

Tandem Club Rally

We returned home on Saturday from our week away at the Tandem Club National Rally and I have been a bit busy since. I was hoping to post here yesterday but I didn’t find the time, jobs take twice as long at the moment – still better late than never.

The campsite for the week was the Rugby Club at Corsham , Wiltshire, a lovely part of the country. Cycling with my arm in plaster we knew was going to be a bit of a challenge. We arrived on Saturday and on Sunday we tried a short lap of the camping field – I was not happy, didn’t feel at all secure so the boss went out with a group on his solo bike that he had taken along just in case!

Monday saw a treasure hunt ride of a bit over 15 miles scheduled which I thought would be fun but it rained so rather than risk getting my plaster wet we didn’t join in. On Tuesday we thought it best to do a short ride on our own to see how I got on, so we did a 7 mile round trip to the nearby National Trust village of Laycock – a beautiful, unspoiled village which was used in the filming of Pride and Prejudice. We stopped for coffee there and on the way back had to shelter under a big beech tree while a heavy shower went through. I felt reasonably safe riding, though heavy traffic and road junctions were a bit scary. After that we decided to do our own thing as most of the arranged routes were far longer than I felt I could cope with. We did the treasure hunt route on Wednesday, solving most of the clues – too late for the competition anyway so no prizes. On Thursday we did a route of just over 14 miles, taking in much of Corsham itself, another interesting place with an unspoilt town centre, used for the filming of Poldark. Then on Friday we did a bit over 16 miles based on the treasure hunt route but with some variations.

Despite my handicap I did enjoy the week. We were able to renew acquaintances from previous events and there were some interesting evening talks and activities, including a killer of a quiz in which our team of 6 managed to come 4th. The weather was a bit unsettled but there was some good spells of warm sunshine and we managed to avoid most of the rain. However the evenings were quite chilly and the final evening’s BBQ with Rhythm & Blues Band was a bit of a wash-out as it rained quite heavily most of the time. I did take some photos on my camera (easier to hold then my phone) but I really can’t cope with downloading them just yet. Wednesday evening’s Tandem Club’s 50th Anniversary ‘party’ was a great success though.

We have the York Cycle Rally coming up in a couple of weeks, just a weekend this time. I was hoping I would be out of plaster by then but my next appointment isn’t until a few days after the rally -perhaps it is just as well, the wrist would still be week and I might be tempted to do too much. I’ll be glad when things get back to normal though, I think the boss is getting fed up with doing all the cooking, housework needs attention and the garden is in dire need of some maintenance! It will all have to wait.

All Alone

A Poignant Picture
(An Elfje)

Seated
all alone
in the chapel.
Her beloved consort's funeral.
Majesty.
-----------------------------------

This is my last contribution to the Poetry Group’s Platinum Jubilee Collection. It recalls the iconic image of the Queen at the Duke of Edinburgh’s low-key funeral, held under COVID restriction at St George’s Chapel, Windsor on 3rd June 2021.

When you read this I will be away at the Tandem Club National Rally, which is going to be rather a challenge with my arm in plaster! The boss is also taking a solo bike in case I can’t cope with cycling every day, even on the back of a tandem. All being well I’ll be back next week.

Back Again – Or Not!

Well I am back after a wonderful long weekend away with the tandem at the Tandem Club National Rally near Oxford. The weather was glorious for the time of year and I even caught the sun before remembering to slap on the sun scream cream. We managed about 124 miles over four rides around roads, lanes and tracks.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that I may not be around much over the next few weeks as I have rather a lot on. First my brother-in-law, who is moving back to the UK from Portugal is staying with us while sorting out the purchase of a retirement apartment a few miles from our home. Although an offer has been accepted on an apartment and this is proceeding it could take some time and it is always difficult to find time to do your own thing when you have a house guest!

Secondly, my poetry group has produced collections of poems by members from time-to-time over the years, often for special occasions. We have decided to produce one for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and I will be editing it as our previous editor is not at all well and is no longer a member of the group. I shall need to get on with the job over the next couple of weeks so that it can be with the printer in time for it to be produced for the Platinum Celebrations in early June – and I haven’t even written my own contribution yet! The deadline for contributions by our members is 30th April so I must try to comply with my own rules. Most of my available spare time will be spent on this project.

I will drop in when I find the time but this may be infrequently until at least the middle of May.

Made for Two

On a bicycle made for two
cycling along in the cold,
hunkering down behind you,
isn't much fun, truth be told.

On a bicycle made for two
with fingers and toes turning numb,
not able to take in the view
as all I can see is your b_ _!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Naughty, naughty, slap my hand! Although we were out on one of our tandems this morning, which was a bit on the chilly side, this silly verse actually refers to our first Tandem Club ride of the year last weekend when it was bitterly cold.

To start from the beginning, our first tandem was a Gitane, which we bought quite cheaply on e-bay to see if we would like it. We then bought our George Longstaff tandem, which is the one we mostly use and to which we had added an electric assist. We had taken our Gitane out to Spain for our daughter and her fella but they hadn't ridden it very much and there were a few issues with it. So when we went out to Spain last autumn we brought the Gitane back with us and the boss spent much of the Christmas holiday period repairing and refurbishing it. We had taken it out for a short 'shake down' ride early in January after which he made a few tweaks. Then he decided that we would use it for the club ride, a bit over 22 miles on this occasion, which we would have to manage without electric assist.

The Longstaff has a fairly upright cycling position and I can usually crane my neck to see a bit over the boss's shoulders, (although more often I'm looking to one side or the other resulting in a crick in my neck!). The Gitane had me leaning forward over uncomfortable handlebars in a posture a bit like a racing cyclist and I couldn't see much of anything over his shoulders. I also kept sliding forwards on the saddle and bumping my knees on the handlebars. Although it was cold and uncomfortable I did actually enjoy the ride, out in the fresh air, with good company, although I didn't see as much of the scenery as I would have liked! We didn't really miss the electric assist as there weren't too many hills and the bike is quite a bit lighter in weight than the Longstaff.

So more tweaks were clearly in order followed by this morning's ride on it for a another test run. I now have different handlebars - much more comfortable and the saddle behaved. I still can't see very much out front but it was better and we actually had quite a nice 13 and a bit miles ride. Nothing, though, can change the fact that on the back of a tandem the most likely view is the back of the person in front - get used to it!

Into Spain

After several days with my cousin Ruth we drove all the way on to visit our daughter in Spain in one day – quite a long drive, we arrived after dark to a lovely barbeque meal.

We had chosen this time to visit as we were once again going to participate in the Pedals de Clip classic cycling event that we have done several times before and, as well as the tandem we had taken classic solo bikes with us for this. The event usually takes place in the spring but due to COIVD it was cancelled last year and postponed until late October this year. The event, held over a weekend, starts and finishes in the small town of Sant Marti Sarroca in the Penedes area of Catalunya sort of a bit south west of Barcelona. Last time the event ran, in 2019, a time trial was introduced on the Saturday. The Sunday ride out traditionally finishes at a castle at the top of a steep climb up of one kilometre so the Saturday time trial started in the town for 1km and then up the hill to the castle – 2km in total. Our daughter had entered in 2019 but was unable to do it due to racing commitments but she entered again this year and won the ladies event. We took advantage of the podium for a family photo!

Family Podium!

The region is mountainous (by UK standards anyway!) and the route for the Sunday ride contains a number of hills, some of them quite steep and tough. I little helping hand is a blessing – its surprising how much difference it makes when someone rides alongside with their hand on the small of your back. Here Becky was in turn assisted by another participant! You can tell how cool the day was as we were all wearing arm warmers – mine quite snazzy!

That’s the way to get up a hill!

By the time we got the the castle at the finish of the event it was really quite hot although it soon started to cool down again. Sadly one participant was taken ill on the finish line which rather held up proceedings. He was eventually taken off to hospital by air ambulance and we heard a few days later that he was making a good recovery.

The boss and me with finishers medals and free beers!

After the event we stayed on in the area for a few days to sampler more of the countryside on the tandem before eventually going, via our daughter’s again, a bit further south to Peniscola – a lovely place that we have also visited before. While we were there the weather began to turn cold and windy but we managed a few tandem rides before returning again to Becky’s for a final few days before heading back home through France – a journey completed fairly quickly this time as the days were getting colder.

The Pedals de Clip is a thoroughly enjoyable event which I happily recommend to anyone to likes riding classic bikes, but it does seem to get a bit harder every time we do it! Next year it is returning to its usual spot in May so we have even less time to prepare. However COVID permitting it is quite likely we will return.

Travels

I’m off on my travels again tomorrow morning. We’re hopping a relatively short distance across country to Nottingham with our tandem on the back of the Motorhome for the Tandem Club 50th Anniversary National Rally! We will be there for a week. This time we will have an electric hook-up but sadly no WIFI access so again I will not be taking my laptop and will be off-line.

There are an number of ride routes organised for the week but you can choose which day you do them. They are of varying lengths and you have the choice of joining with others to do a ride or doing your own thing. The weather looks to be unsettled for the week and several of the rides are rather longer than we would wish so we will probably mostly do our own thing and maybe just do sections of some of the longer rides rather than the whole route. Due to the continuing COVID situation, despite the end of all restrictions, we would be happier to be on our own or in a small group. We are, however, intending to join the ride to a nearby village for the anniversary celebratory cream tea with prosecco on Thursday – probably making our own way there as the suggested ride route is one of the longer ones, taking a large loop round. We plan on taking a somewhat shorter, more direct route to the cafe.

I also have an old school friend who lives not far away from the campsite who I don’t catch up with often enough so we will hopefully be able to spend some time with her; one of the slightly shorter rides goes near her home so we could detour to visit, or alternatively she may come to visit us at the camp-site – assuming visitors are allowed, which it is possible they may not be!

I have several books to read in case the weather is not fit for cycling and shall also have pens and paper to maybe write some ‘small stones’ or longer pieces – I just hope my son at home remembers to feed the birds and hedgehogs and water the garden if we do by chance have a hot, dry spell. All being well I will see you again after the end of next week.

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