Now we are two

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Two years ago I had the Tour de France on in the background in a delivery room at the local hospital. This year, Georgina has got her own wheels.
next stop, the Champ Elysses
The trike is a handmedown from my neighbours, and has been locked in the bike shed for about 18 months. I don’t think she’s be rivaling Bradley Wiggins or Victoria Pembleton just yet.


Continuing the “make do and mend” theme of the day, her other big present was a handmade toy. She loves Show Me Show Me on Cbeebies. It’s an unusual show in that it doesn’t have mountains of tatty tie-in merch. So, in the footsteps of my mother’s bold attempt to make me a Bagpuss in the 70s, I made her a Stuffy.
Stuffy. we love you Stuffy. you're the hero we all adore. handmade #cbeebies toy
This is partially because she loves him, and partially because even 25 years after my last sewing class I can still make a cube. Tracking down all the fabrics took longer than the actual sewing. She’s already taken to putting things in his back pocket.

Here’s his song on the CBeebies site.

The last part of the day will be a Spider-man iced cake. I baked it last night and haven’t had a chance to ice it yet. I asked her last night what birthdays meant and she has told me it involves hats. So expect a photo she will be embarrassed about tomorrow.

She’s learnt her numbers (although is prone to starting to count at 4) and colours. She can also load the DVD player, with favourites such as Singin’ in the Rain, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Bagpuss. I moved them to a lower shelf after asking her to “put it back on the table” only to find her standing on tiptoe on a chair trying to reach the shelf where they were then kept. Her current bedtime books include The Tiger Who Came to Tea and the Tony Robinson version of Odysseus. She helps water the garden, and weed it.

More tomorrow…I have to go and ice a cake the Marvel way.


Monday, 22 November 2010

Ages ago, Carrie and I discussed potential blockbusters we could write. What about one like Footballers Wives but about the Tour de France? The hotels, the podium girls, the lads, the scandals, le ventoux. Eventually, we dismissed this as an insane idea that would never sell.

Had we done any research, rather than discuss the idea idly, we’d have discovered it’d already been done.

Freya North
(Arrow Books, 2000)

Catriona (Cat) McCabe is a budding cycling journalist nursing a broken heart. She gets a gig as the Guardian correspondent covering the Tour de France, spending three weeks in the travelling village that is the greatest of the Grand Tours. In the process she makes friends in the press corp and on the teams, and finds a new romance.

I’ve said before that I enjoy romance novels. Sadly, I don’t enjoy this sort of bonkbuster.

There are some good elements. The Tour is a great hook for a novel, offering drama, surprises and people on the very edge. Each chapter is a day of the ride, so you get a sense of the structure of the Tour. I actually liked a section from the point of view of the fictional sprinter, Luca Jones, as he wins his first ever stage. And I’m amused that Catriona appears to have been named so her nickname of Cat mimics the Cat 4, Cat 3 etc climbs of the Tour.

But the prose.

The tenses are all over the place, skipping from third person present tense by one character to third person past tense from another within the same paragraph. There’s an authorial voice that uses first person singular and/or plural (always in italics) and has conversations with the characters so that they are answering questions instead of having internal monologues. I’m a believer in the idea that you can break the rules of written English for dramatic effect. But Cat doesn’t make it clear if North is deliberately doing this or is just rather sloppy.

Worst still are the supposed race report articles Cat submits to the Guardian. Here’s the opening sentence of an actual race report by the Guardian this year:

After more than 2,000 miles of racing over the past three weeks, exhaustion finally caught up with Andy Schleck today.

There’s a who (Andy Schleck), a what (he was exhausted) and a why (2,000 miles in three weeks). You’ll read on to find out the details.

Here’s one of Cat’s:

Against the shimmer of lavender fields and the stab of cypress trees, amidst the rustic stone buildings tiled in terracotta, under the gaze of the inky mountains of the Vaucluse, the Tour de France found itself in the midst of a Cézanne painting.

As all the journalists I’ve trained with would tell you, that 43 word sentence would be cut. It’s very poetic but poetry comes after the who, what, where, when, how and why of reporting. The opening para needs to contain some key fact other than Provence is rather pretty. And opening sentences tend towards 20 words.

It’s not that North didn’t do her research: the acknowledgements thank David Millar (Scottish rider, once dirty now clean) and Alasdair Fotheringham (one of the two Fotheringham brothers who are regarded as great cycling writers). She loves the Tour, it’s clear, but this is not a great cycling novel.

And let’s not even wonder how Django McCabe came to be named…

Tour Baby

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

It’s a month since I was in a delivery room at the local hospital. I’d spent the previous three weeks watching the Tour de France on Eurosport, even getting namechecked for a tweet about cake. And I’d bought the bedside TV package when I was admitted to the RD&E. I have vague memories of the yellow jersey being surprisingly closely run on the Saturday, but there’d been a lot of gas/air and other confusions that day. On the Sunday I was very distracted what with the whole giving birth thing. But the TV was on in the background and the pelaton was looping around the Champs Elyssees. I’ve just checked and Mark Cavendish must have won whilst Georgina was snuggling on my chest. This will in no way be a formative experience for her.
Mark Cavendish

practising for winning a #tdf etape


One Man & LEJOG

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Ant, a mate from work, is currently cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Which is an insane way to spend a fortnight’s break from work, but chapeau to him for it.

He’s raising money for The Stroke Association, and I can only echo what he says about the devestating effects a stroke can have on a family’s life, having seen it myself. A quarter of a million people are living with long-term disability as a result of stroke in the UK. The Stroke Association funds research into prevention, treatment and better methods of rehabilitation, and helps stroke patients and their families with the after-effects.

The direct link to his sponsorship page is at, and you can follow his progress day by day on his blog.

Le Tour de Exe

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Exe - sailboat
I made myself get up just after 7am, so I could cycle down to Starcross before the day really started. Naturally, my chain slipped off at one point (due to messing about with the gears) and I shall spend the rest of the weekend scrubbing bike oil out of my fingers.

As you pass the Turf Locks, you go from riding alongside the ship canal, fairly sheltered, to riding along a seawall with no protection from the wind. But that bit also brings the smell of salt air and the clack of cordage on masts, so you really feel you’re a long way from the city.

It took 90 minutes to cover the 9 mile route (nb – I actually start somewhere else in Exeter but I’m not going to pinpoint my house here). Around 2 miles were along the seawall – which is not a metalled path – that made me glad I still have my off-road tyres on. The train back? 9 minutes.

Getting back into the city, and the rain is threatening, so I’m going to settle down to watch Mark ‘the cock’ Cavendish take another Tour de France stage.

My Ever Changing Moods

Sunday, 8 July 2007

One of the things getting woah mule! last year meant was getting to grips with modern bike valves and pumps.

I learnt to ride and service bikes in the early 1980s. I wasn’t allowed a racer as they were too dangerous, but still, think of this Jam video for an idea of when I could last strip a bike and rebuild it. (Also, for Talbot’s frankly wussy helmet which wouldn’t have stopped anything.)

But I went down Halfords and bought a stirrup pump because they look soooo cool. Also, a hand pump to stuff in a bag so I could fix tyres in transit. I just couldn’t get the hang of them. No matter what I did it wouldn’t fix on right. The value would just start venting, or the valve wouldn’t open and the pump attachment bit would fly off the valve. So I’d been going down friendly bike hire places and getting a pump up. Today, watching packs of cyclists going through London, I decided I would get to grips with the damn pump. And I have! Hurrah! I am no longer afeared of long rides in case I need to pump the tyres!

What with one thing and another (i.e. the chap, new job etc) I’ve not been on the bike much, and certainly haven’t got around to fixing up faster mule yah yah! as I planned. But the bike holding bay (i.e. an odd bit of the hallway where I can lean them) is now tidied up and I’m ready to whizz around to the supermarket again.

ETA: Alistair, who is a proper bike nut (see his Grande Depart post), will be hosting another Exeter Goes Pop! night this Thursday at the Phoenix in Exeter. If you’re around, pop in. It’s free and laid back.

[For some reason, blogger doesn't like me putting titles in unless I'm in Preview mode - this is very annoying]

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