Running Ragged

I always seem to get stressed out on the run up to Christmas and this year is no exception, in fact Christmas seems to be catching up on me even quicker than usual. I have been so busy lately I have hardly made a start on the preparations.

What I intended to write about today has gone out of the window. I got very little sleep last night for some reason and I have spent most of today trying to do some Christmas shopping. Not without some success of course, I have managed to buy a fair few of the gifts that need to be posted but there are still some outstanding and I haven’t started on the ones for the family members that I will see over the Christmas period, nor all the little extras – stocking fillers, tree presents etc. – that go towards the fun of the day.

Apart from that I have not even thought about decorating the house and setting up the Christmas tree yet and I shall need to give the house a thorough clean first of course. I have not written any Christmas cards, I haven’t made even my first batch of mince pies this year and I have not yet made my Christmas cake. In a weak moment while shopping this morning I did contemplate buying the cake (I have done on a few occasions in the past) but I do prefer home-made and I have already bought the ingredients so it would be a bit of a waste if I just buy one. The recipe I am using requires some of the ingredients to soak overnight so my plan now is to do that preparation this evening and then I will have to make the cake tomorrow afternoon when I get home from my Spanish class.

Talking of which, this week it is my turn to provide the activities and refreshments for the group (we take it in turns) and the preparation for this occupied my weekend. I have an article for them to read and translate about Spanish Christmas customs and then we shall have a fun game about Christmas Carols and songs – at least I hope it will be fun. Each member of the group will draw a piece of paper from a Christmas stocking and must describe in Spanish the carol or song written on the paper without giving the title away and the others must try to guess what it is.

Other intrusions into my Christmas preparation time include a visit to the dentist this week and then, much more enjoyably two Christmas parties – one for the Spanish group and one for my poetry group. Then it is the final run up to the big day and at last a chance to relax as my son and his family are hosting at their house. Then they all come to us to do it all again on Boxing Day, but by then I should be ready.

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Corner

Despite the sunshine
chill wind blows round the corner.
I pull my coat tight.

Witness

Today the sun smiles
as if yesterday’s wind and rain
had never been.
Only puddles and soggy leaves
bear witness.

Dismal Day

Dull and dismal day.
Grey clouds chased by wind and rain.
Postman brings bad news.

The Sunday Gang

An earlier trip out with ‘The Gang’ on our previous tandem (we’re the ones in white)

The Sunday Gang is the nickname my husband gave to the cycling group we have often ridden out with in the past. It is not a club, just a group of friends and acquaintances who enjoy cycling together, no strings attached. It is organised by Bill (not his real name), in so far as it is organised at all – he co-ordinates the group, arranges the routes and e-mails round to let everyone know. They ride at the pace of the slowest rider so no-one gets left too far behind and usually cover around 20-35 miles with a café stop.

Several of the regulars also go out on a Wednesday when they ride further and at a much faster pace and we have joined them on a couple of occasions. I have to admit to never being very comfortable with the group as I have often been the only lady and at best there has only been two others, both of whom ride faster than me.

The group meets in the morning and we have a 7-8 mile drive in the car with the bikes on the back in order to join them, then on the return we have to re-load the bikes and drive home. This all takes extra time so sometimes, when the group has been heading out in our home direction we have arranged to meet them on route and then peeled off later where convenient ride home again.

We haven’t actually ridden out with them since my husband had his mild heart attack about a year ago. Recently, having got his heart problem and treatment thereof under control, he has expressed an interest in joining them again, especially if they are heading out our way and we can meet up with them on route and peel off when it suits, so he had indicated to Bill that he would like to receive notification of the rides once more.

Yesterday we were planning on going out for a ride on the tandem and hubby had been checking his emails the night before to see what ‘The Gang’ were doing. No messages. Then he picked up a message in the morning to say they were coming out our way and describing the route although there was no timing given. The nearest point to our house was barely a mile away at a crossroads so we made the decision to ride out in the hope of meeting them there.

We arrived at the crossroads where the group should cross in front of us, but of course we had no way of knowing (not having Bill’s mobile number) whether they were still approaching or had gone past. On the basis that if they had already gone through we would never catch them we decided to turn up the way they would come in the hope of meeting them. We didn’t. We retraced their proposed route for a few miles and there was no sign of them. So, knowing that they were making their round-about way to Stone, a town nearby we headed off towards Stone where we knew they often had their café stop at ‘Morrison’s’. We decided against the detour round to Morrison’s having no idea what time they planned to get there, and instead chose to pick up their route into Stone by going up Bury Bank, which we knew they would be coming down. We could always stop at our eldest son’s for a cuppa as we would pass nearby on our way home this way.

Bury Bank is a killer! It is a long drag of a steep hill. (Coming down, of course, is a wonderful freewheeling ride.) We have ridden up it maybe three or four times in total. The first time I rode up it I had to get off and walk. About three-quarters of the way up there is a layby and we usually stop there to recover before doing the final stretch. After levelling out for a short distance our route towards our son’s house requires us to turn left and then climb another steep hill into Swynnerton before freewheeling down towards our son’s.

Sure enough, as we went up Bury Bank we met ‘The Gang’ coming down! They didn’t stop, they were having fun freewheeling. We exchanged greetings and carried on to our son’s, only to find that he was still out on his own bike ride. Our daughter-in-law gave us a brew and as we left some time later our son still hadn’t arrived, but true to the day’s form we passed him a short distance from his home as we were going in the opposite direction. We stopped for a few words of greeting but as it was getting cold we soon headed off again. In all our ride was about 18 miles.

Later hubby e-mailed Bill to let him know we hadn’t picked up his message in time to make proper plans but had hoped to meet them out and about and when we did we were on the way home. Bill e-mailed back with his apologies that he hadn’t remembered to let us know earlier and said that he was amazed to see us riding UP Bury Bank – he said we must be mad, nobody in their right mind rides UP Bury Bank! But we did and we didn’t bother to stop for a rest in the layby either.

Holly Berries

Already the holly bushes
are almost stripped of berries.
Will there be any left
to ‘deck the halls’ at Christmas?

Rain Drops

Icy rain drops on my face;
do I detect a hint of sleet?
Shopping done, I scurry home.

‘Bertie’ Bike News

It’s a few weeks since I wrote about cycling so it’s about time for an update. I should say that I haven’t really had much of interest to write about lately on that front as we haven’t been out on any more trail rides for a while, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been out and about on the bikes. Although the days are getting shorter and the weather cooler we have still been out for our normal road riding jollies of varying lengths and recently I have had cause to re-test my classic road-race bike ‘Bertie’.

I have written a few posts about Bertie in the past. You will find the most recent here, and if you follow this link you will also find links to earlier posts about the rest of Bertie’s story.

Although I have ridden ‘Bertie’ (now more usually referred to as ‘HB’) many times, including at the Eroica Britannia, I have always had a slight problem with the bike. More specifically with the gears. HB (Bertie) has the gear shifter on the down tube in the old style and there are only five gears. At least in theory there are five gears but in practice I have, more often than not, only had 4 or sometimes only 3 as No.5 and sometimes No.4 refuse to co-operate. Fortunately with at least four gears and given that it is the top not the bottom gear that has given most problem the bike has still been a pleasure to ride.

More recently though all the gears have been slipping. Sometimes I have changed down when going uphill only to have the gear lever slide its way back up again and changing gear had become somewhat imprecise. So hubby decided it was time to have a serious look at the problem. First he tightened up the gear lever. This was an improvement, it stopped it changing gear of its own accord, but made it rather stiff to operate.

Simplex Derailleur

New Simplex Derailleur

He had been mumbling for some time that the derailleur was not the best it could be and that perhaps he should change it, so finally last week he did just that. He tells me that the Simplex derailleur he has now fitted is not only in better condition than the old one that was on there when we acquired the bike (I think it was a Shimano – a good make but mine was rather worn!) but that it is also more in keeping with the age of the bike, or more age-specific as he termed it.

A  few days later we went out on a test ride. After a 16 mile ride I have to report that the problem seems to have been solved and HB’s gears seem to be fully operational, which is absolutely wonderful.

On this ride hubby rode his newly acquired hand-built Henry Burton bike, which he also declares to be a joy to ride. This he bought from Henry Burton’s shop in Stafford, now run by his son. The bike had been built by Henry for a local man in the 1960’s. The previous owner has now died and his family asked Henry’s son to find the bike a good home and along came my hubby!

This is not the only Henry Burton bike my hubby has recently acquired, he also has a slightly more recent model which was made by Falcon and branded as a Henry Burton (they stopped making their own bikes when Henry retired) which he obtained from our local bike re-cycling charity Back2Bikes and which he has just finished refurbishing. This, with our two Mixte (also branded Henry Burton but built elsewhere) brings our total of Henry Burton bikes to five. I think that is probably enough don’t you?

Noble Oak

The noble Oak
holds on to his russet leaves,
staving off the time
when Holly will take his crown.

Fallen

Now the leaves have fallen.
They lie scattered on the lawn
like dead soldiers on the battlefield.

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