Two pots of pansies;
one thrives, the other one dies
and I don’t know why.


Tandem Club Ride Plans Change

Yesterday was our monthly Tandem Club ride. You may recall that when I last wrote about our Tandem Club outings (here) I had said that we were organising the September ride – and so we were, but unfortunately things do not always go according to plan.

Yes, we had come up with a route and had tested it out in a series of outings that saw us riding sections of it to check that it was all suitable. We had even located a convenient starting point – this is always a problem as we need a big enough car park, preferably free, with no height barrier across the entrance and with conveniently situated public toilets since many of our members travel some way to the ride and may need a comfort stop at start and finish. We had also arranged a lunch stop, made a provisional booking and notified everyone of the menu choices so that they could make their selection in advance. So far so good.

I was looking forward to the ride, which incorporated sections of trails along disused railway lines and canal tow-paths to make it more interesting. So imagine our dismay when a few weeks ago, we happened to go into Stafford to the car park we were to use for the ride and noticed that there were various signs up around the place informing us that the roads around that part of town would be closed on our arranged date for our ride due to a Civic Parade – we would have no access to the car park and there were no other suitable car parks we could substitute. Since we were due to go away for a couple of weeks, from now until the end of the month, we could not change the date (we haven’t gone – but that’s another story).

So we contacted the group organisers, who were on holiday in France, and explained the problem. Fortunately they came back to us with the information that they had another ride route ‘in the bag’ which started in Market Drayton, Shropshire, which could easily use the same lunch stop so those arrangements could stay in place and they would notify the members of the change of starting venue.

It was with relief that we accepted this proposal and so yesterday we made our way to Market Drayton, with our new tandem carrier rack on the car roof – it’s trial run. Seven and a half tandems had booked for the lunch (well, 7 tandems and a solo bike!) but shortly before setting off we received an email informing us that one couple had cancelled so we had to notify the café knowing there was a risk that the two meals might still need to be paid for. Fortunately they were very good about it, no doubt as we were early enough that the meal wasn’t already being cooked.  So six and a half tandems set off through the Shropshire countryside. Several miles into the ride we were joined by another tandem, members who hadn’t booked for the ride and who were happy to take pot-luck at the lunch stop, but one couldn’t help feeling that if we had known earlier that they were coming we needn’t have cancelled the order for the ones who dropped out!

The last few miles to the café were inevitably along lanes that we would have used for our ride. We were a bit early arriving at the café but staff took this in their stride. What I haven’t mentioned is that the café, at a Garden Centre, is one the club has used before and happens to be less than a mile from our home. This turned out to be to our advantage as somehow one couple had double-booked a lunch which we hadn’t picked up on so we still had two meals ordered that were extra to requirements and these would have to be paid for. The problem was solved by one of the additional couple agreeing to have one of the meals. This still left us with one meal to pay for as the other extra person didn’t want the pre-ordered meal. At this point I had an idea – our youngest son, Chris, was at home and would need to get himself some lunch. We phoned home and suggested he might like to join us to eat the extra meal; he was happy to oblige!

The food was excellent, we were fortunate that the mix-ups didn’t cause any serious problems and, after parting with Chris, were soon on our way again. continuing our circle back to Market Drayton. The route was all on roads, mostly country lanes and as always in this area the scenery was wonderful if becoming decidedly autumnal. The weather was a bit on the cool side although the occasional sunny spells were pleasantly warm. Sadly they didn’t last long.

As we neared Market Drayton our ride leaders, who live only a short distance from the car park, invited us back to their house for refreshments. About half of us took them up on the offer. Replenished with tea and cake we set off again for the short distance back to the car park. This is when I really felt the cold as the ride was too short to generate much warmth despite peddling quite hard. By the time we had the tandem back on the rack and setting off for home I was very chilled and it took me most of the evening, despite winter woollies donned on our return, to get warm again. However it was a very pleasant ride of just over 31 miles and we were very grateful that the changes of plan all worked out in the end. Our ride route is now on the back burner and we will bring it out again another time.

Preparing to set off after lunch

Preparing to set off after lunch.

Busy Bees

The bees are busy
feeding while flowers still bloom.
Autumn approaches.

Short-Lived Beauty

Red Admiral Butterfly

Red Admiral Butterfly










A Red Admiral
butterfly sunning itself.
Such short-lived beauty.

Discovering New Poets

I may have mentioned before that I attend a Poetry Group at our local Library on the 1st and 3rd Thursday each month. This is not a writer’s group but more of an appreciation group, though we may read our own poems if we wish so long as they fit the topic. We have a yearly programme of topics suggested by members and this can be anything from, for example, simple ideas such as ‘Yellow’ through things like ‘Trains and Boats and Planes’ to named poets, such as Milton, Shakespeare and of course more modern poets too. The topic can be interpreted how you like and is for guidance only.

One of the things I like about attending this group is that in researching poems to take along I often come across a poet entirely new to me, or maybe I’m introduced to such a poet by someone else’s choice, especially poets who may be less well known. I have found many a poet to admire this way.

Last Thursday was our first meeting after the summer break and the topic was ‘An Irish Poem’. This gave pause for thought about semantics – why not Irish Poets? What makes a poem an Irish poem? This was by-the-by, most people interpreted it as Irish Poets. I wished to avoid the obvious such as W.B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney whose books number amongst my collection and who I thought would be well represented by other members of the group so I set about researching Irish poets writing about Ireland. I came across Eavan Boland.

Although apparently well regarded as a poet I had never come across her before. I am lead to believe that she is somewhat better known in the US than in the UK. She was born in Dublin in 1944 but spent her childhood in London and New York (her father was a diplomat), returning to Ireland for secondary school and University at Trinity College, Dublin. She is married with two daughters and her poetry often takes on board the relationship with her daughters. Her subjects tend towards domestic life, myth, love, history and the Irish rural Landscape. Poet Ruth Padel refers to her ‘commitment to lyric grace and feminism’ and she is keenly aware of the troubled place that women hold in culture and history, including the difficulties faced by women in a male-dominated literary world. She endeavours to write an honest account of female experience in Ireland.

If you have never come across her before I thoroughly recommend you look her up. I was most taken with the samples of her poetry that I discovered on the Internet and choose two to read at the meeting, although in the event I only read one of them but I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of our other members had also brought a poem along by Eavan Boland – her chosen one was one of the family poems whereas I had chosen poems about Irish myth and history, poems that could only be set in Ireland. The poem that I didn’t get to read at the meeting I would like to share with you here. Since I found it on the Internet I hope I am safe in assuming it is in the public domain:

‘My Country in Darkness’ by Eavan Boland

After the wolves and before the elms
the bardic order ended in Ireland.

Only a few remained to continue
a dead art in a dying land:

This is a man
on the road from Youghal to Cahirmoyle.
He has no comfort, no food and no future.
He has no fire to recite his friendless measures by.
His riddles and flatteries will have no reward.
His patrons sheath their swords in Flanders and Madrid.

Reader of poems, lover of poetry—
in case you thought this was a gentle art
follow this man on a moonless night
to the wretched bed he will have to make:

The Gaelic world stretches out under a hawthorn tree
and burns in the rain. This is its home,
its last frail shelter. All of it—
Limerick, the Wild Geese and what went before—
falters into cadence before he sleeps:
He shuts his eyes. Darkness falls on it.


the weather;
no easy task.
Frequently choosing the wrong

On Camera

Hedgehog eating


Caught on camera,
hedgehog junior eats supper
unfazed by the flash.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Previously I have taken a photo of my hedgehog visitor on my phone and it didn’t come out very clearly so this time I used my camera. This is the young hedgehog and he didn’t seem upset by the flash at all, obviously not yet learned to be wary. Just after I retreated indoors one of the adults turned up and joined him at the bowl. I crept out again hoping to get a photo of the two together but the adult beat a hasty retreat into the undergrowth of the rockery. When I went back indoors it reappeared but I didn’t risk another attempt! How I would love to get all three visitors together.

Vintage Bikes

Home again after yet another weekend jaunt. This time to the National Association of Veteran Cycle Clubs National Rally. We learned of this rally from a couple that we met at the York Rally earlier this year and thought it sounded like a fun weekend. We were not members of this club but were assured we could attend if we paid a small affiliation fee. So off we went last Friday, up to Garstang in Lancashire arriving at the rally Campsite at lunchtime.

In the afternoon, with no official ride scheduled, we took ourselves off for a short ride, first to find the village hall a mile or so away where much of the event would be based and continuing on for a rather longer leg stretch, doing about ll.5 miles in all. It was overcast, cool and windy. This was late August, but it should be warm! Rather foolishly we had not taken any ‘winter’ cycling gear but at least had some base layers – I don’t expect to wear two base layers in August. The legs, in shorts, were a bit chilly!

Vintage Bikes

Some of the Vintage Bikes at the Rally

On Saturday there were two rides programmed, one short one of about 10 miles for the vintage cycles and a longer 25 mile ride for classic bikes which we had planned to do as we have classic, not vintage bikes. (We had taken our Henry Burton hand-built bikes from the early 1960’s).  However the weather had other ideas and it was raining heavily when we were due to set off. After a delayed start the two rides were lumped in together and we did a rather slow and steady ride of approximately 11 miles in company with a ‘Penny-Farthing’, (or ‘Ordinary’ as they were originally called) and various other vintage bikes, about a dozen riders in all went out on the ride. We enjoyed a stop at an ice-cream parlour where I had the biggest ice-cream I have ever eaten, and that on a day that was cold, wet and windy – hardly ice-cream weather! We did have occasional sunny spells and when the sun came out it was warm but we were pretty cold and wet by the time we got back to the campsite and were glad of the heater in the Motorhome.


Two of the ‘Ordinary’ cycles, commonly known as ‘Penny-Farthings’

Sunday was to be the main rally ride and many more vintage cycles turned up at the village hall to take part in a leisurely 10 mile ride to a local pub and back. The weather, although still cool and windy, was at least fine for the morning. We joined a classic ride of approximately 22 miles, again several more people had turned up just for this ride. The intention was to meet up with the vintage bikes at the pub, which we eventually did, but it was so crowded there we elected to ride on to a pub at the next village of Cockerham. Here hubby and I parted company with the official ride to make our own more direct way back to the campsite as we had not booked in for the lunch that was provided at the village hall.

Shortly after we got back to our Motorhome it began to rain heavily. After lunch we chose a lull in the rain to set off to the village hall for the end of rally get-together and to hand in our numbers. Even though this was only a short distance we got caught out in a heavy downpour and had to shelter for several minutes before continuing on.

We had intended to stay on at the campsite overnight as we were not sure what time everything would finish but in the event all finished early enough for us to make the journey home in the evening. Deciding quickly to avoid another cold night camping we packed up post haste and arrived home in time for a late dinner. Before we left we informed the organisers we were leaving and were offered a refund of our Sunday night camping fee but hubby told them not worry. In the end it was agreed to use the money to pay our membership fee to the club – so this is yet another cycling club of which we are now members!

Despite the unseasonal weather the rally was most enjoyable. We met up with a few people we had met before at other events and also several new and interesting people. The area was great for cycling; scenic, very pleasant and relatively flat, with just a few slightly more taxing uphill bits. It was great seeing so many really old bikes out on the vintage ride, several ‘Penny-Farthings’ and many other rare bikes that I cannot hope to name and confess I have no wish to try riding as they all look heavy and difficult to handle, but it was wonderful to see the riders all dressed up in appropriate gear for riding these elderly bikes. We understand that the rally was somewhat down on numbers this year, which may have been due to the weather, but those who were there were real enthusiasts and good company.

High Peak

August, driving
through High Peak.
Low cloud, mist, drizzle.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
On Wednesday we drove through the Peak District National Park up to Holmfirth (home of ‘Last of the Summer Wine’) to collect a roof-rack carrier for our tandem which had been made for us by a little one-man business based there. A most interesting man he is too; he developed the carrier design himself and it is probably the best on the market. Now semi-retired he is an ex-bicycle frame builder who still repairs bicycles as well as producing his tandem carriers. He also restores motorcycles to show condition for his own use. For six years during the filming of ‘The Last of the Summer Wine’ TV series he had a contract with the BBC to maintain and repair the bikes used on set.

The wonderfully hot weather we have been having deserted us and it was a much cooler day. As well as the damp misty drizzle over the High Peak we also had some heavy downpours.

We were pleased to note that The Roaches, on the edge of the National Park not far from where we live and where there had been severe moorland fires last year, seems well on the road to recovery.

Not Natural

Dead fawn
at the roadside.
Nature is cruel,
but this death is
not natural.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
We have just got back from a long weekend away, checking on our boat and attending a family gathering. This poor dead fawn was by the roadside about half-way into our journey to the boat and is the second young deer I have seen killed on the road in the last couple of months.

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