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Won’t You Accept My Reward?

Sunday, 10 September 2006

Reward!In order to push through a massive pile of paperwork before a mammouth work trip, I went into the office over the weekend. 3 hours yesterday, 4 today. In order to break up the monotenous horror of doing exactly the same thing at the weekend as I do during the week, I cycled in and back. Well, half-cycled, half-pushed. It just made it different to the normal trudge up the hill. As incentive, I set myself an amount to achieve after which I could treat myself to an ice-cream down on the quay. So there is the stem ginger and vanilla ice-cream I just scoffed, with Woah Mule! propped against a wall beside me.

eggs over easy

Sunday, 14 May 2006

I went to the big supermarket a mile from here just now, to stock up on stuff which I should have bought yesterday from Stokes, the local grocers, but didn’t for various reasons. I shudder at how much more the fruit and veg is, and how much further so much of it has come (why are the potatoes from Israel? Why?) but:

  • I was amazed how my only thing not from the fresh section was the frozen puff pastry for making the morning pastries. This is the influence of the How to Cook Like a Grown Up weekend, I think. My cupboards now contain all the dry essentials and I have zero urge to buy any ready-made things. Not that I had much urge before, I just wasn’t confident enough in my own cooking skills to know I can make a healthy meal from scratch in the same time as I’d be waiting for a readymeal to cook.
  • I can cycle back from the supermarket with all my food in my rucksack including a carton of eggs. I am rather chuffed I managed that. I also didn’t change gear on Old Vicarage Road whereas a month ago I used to have to go up one on the slight rise. But I think cycling a mile with a carton of eggs without breaking them is pretty damn cool.

I have rewarded myself with a fresh fruit smoothie. Banana, apple juice, orange juice, lime juice, ice and a dash of milk.

It’s sunny enough to cycle in a tee, pedal-pushers and little girly ballet shoes as well, which is deeply satisfying after a winter using bicycle clips to keep my cords out of the chain. It’s clothing which suggests cycling is fun and doesn’t require sepcialist equipment. I saw a speed cyclist on Old Vicarage Road and I’m sure the goretex top, tight leggings and special shoes are great for speed but they do suggest cycling is a specialist sport instead of a way of getting from A to B and back.

Ha! I am retagging all my music, and Housewive’s Choice (mp3) – a theme which practically screams “cycling along country lanes like the Famous Five” – came up. Thanks to being back on the desktop, I’ve reorganised the organically evolved filing structure this PC has to match the more structured filing system of the laptop. This means my music has moved from \samples\songs to \music (because when I first got this PC I didn’t keep music on it – the mp3 revolution happened afterwards) and therefore needs retagging into playlists. I have a surprising amount of ska and french yeh yeh.

I am also working on the Contractually Signed Thing. I’ve ended up going back and combining elements from two drafts and I might pull in some things from the third attempt as well when I get that far. Amazing how a deadline concentrates the mind.


Wednesday, 5 April 2006

You know how you make approximate guesses at how far you walk or cycle? Or you get a pedometer which tells you that you did your 10000 steps but can’t handle you cycling any them, or so on?

Ta-da: teh interweb solves it again. G-map pedometer (via Sam) is a mapping tool which lets you mark out and save your routes. As well as calculating distance, calories etc, you can also see the elevation. The map below demonstrates that I am not imagining things when I tell people there is a big uphill climb along Cowick Lane. And you should see the elevation for the ride up to the uni! (The walk to work is less high or long, but a lot steeper).


I’m wondering if this counts as a way to save the planet, since it uses the interweb (mains power potentially from renewable resources) instead of the disposable batteries in a pedometer?

It’s Sunday, it must be…

Sunday, 26 March 2006

Ah, Sundays. I remember in the 70s, when Sundays was the day we got fresh meat (not literally fresh, obviously, but roasted with some potatoes) and I spent the day reading or otherwise avoiding the TV because it would be full of religious programmes. Being in a family who didn’t go to church (unless one got the religion bug and then you went on your own, walking the mile and a half to the parish church of St Michael on the Green Hill, where they all knew we were not baptised), meant Sundays were very quiet. Maybe there’d be a trip out to Fradley Junction, to play along the canal or a cycle trip to Wall to play on look at the Roman ruins. But it was mostly a day of restful activity enforced by the state religion making us all take the day off.

These days, Sundays are rather busy for me. Although the Sunday roast has gone, and it’d be at least a 175 mile walk to St Michael’s now, I have to Do Stuff. Sunday is my day to:

  • catch up on my fanfic readings
  • cycle to Sainsburys
  • catch up on inviting people to post their images in the Tate Galleries group I run on Flickr
  • Chores, especially working out if tonight is a night for putting out the recyc bin
  • laundering all the clothes I need for work, especially as I am – for the fifth week in a row – living out of a suitcase at some point this coming week
  • catching up on all the blogs I’ve not read due to said suitcase life

So far, I have been mostly doing the ones that involve sitting at the PC, apart from the cycle to the supermarket. Chores? Pah. They’re just so boring.

I have reached the moment of familiarity with the route to the supermarket that I always change gears at the same point. I also know where to expect cars pulling out in front, or overtaking dangerously, or taking the blind turn on Old Vicarage Road at 30mph. What I’d not encountered before was the massive puddle on Alphington Road. The one the width of a lane and running for perhaps 100 yards or so. Alphinton Road, as I may have mentioned before, is a fast and furious road when not snarled up with commuters, so I had to risk circumnavigating the puddle lake. In future, I shall use a slightly different route which means I go less directly to the cycle park at the supermarket but also avoid the Puddle of Death.

I say ‘cycle park’. There are four of those giant metal staples, so you can only lock up a maximum of eight bikes at any one time. In contrast, it has a total of 381 car parking spaces. The website for it doesn’t even mention cycle parking in its list of the facilities. I’d mutter darkly about how the bus stop which serves it is beyond the point at which trolley wheels lock, so you can’t bulk buy and use the bus realistically either but I am happily freed from public transport within the town now so…

I think writing letters/emails of complaint might become a regular feature of my Sundays from now on.

even if it’s old junk

Sunday, 12 March 2006

I am now Mags “two bikes” Halliday, having collected Faster Mule! Yah Yah! from my parents. It needs a lot more work than Woah Mule! to make it roadworthy again but I am feeling all enthused, having really just how old skool retro it is.

What’s the matter with the [bike I'm riding]?
Can’t you tell that it’s out of style?
Should I get a set of white wall tires?
Are you gonna cruise the miracle mile?

Faster Mule! was bought in 1982. For my siblings and I, the rule was simple: if you could ride the child bike when you turned 11, you got an adult bike. Having been unable to cope with the counter-intuitivity involved in taking corners as a kid, I spent the summer of ’81 forcing myself to get the hang on riding a bike so that I got a real bike. Faster Mule! had a ladies’ frame, 3 speeds, proper mudguards, angled handlebars and – and this is the thing I had forgotten – white wall tyres. My mum has also given me her old wicker handlebar basket, which has to be at least forty years old. So I’ve decided I’m going to spend a year or so renovating Faster Mule to turn it into a totally retro shopper and town bike.

It needs new tyres and inners, anyway, but I’m also going to do a new paint job, replacing the current (very late ’80s) mottled green, purple and gold with a British Racing Green frame and purple mudguards. It also needs new brake pads etc. Faster Mule never did make it up the serious hills in Devon, so will be strictly for trips to the local shops or the riverside pubs, whilst Woah Mule will remain my everyday ATB.

I’m not sure where this newly-rediscovered love of bikes has come from. I think it’s partially the exhiliration of road riding, where you have to be alert for cars, buses, pedestrians and dogs on extendable leads. Especially dogs on extendable leads. Coming back from the uni last week, I realised just how many dog walkers let the dog wander over the cycle path, creating a trip wire at just the right height for sending you over the handlebars.

Hills. I hate hills.

Sunday, 5 March 2006

This weekend was Microcon, held up at the Uni. The Uni is on the top of one of the higher hills within Exeter. Dauntless, I put on my chaps (well, alright, brown cords) and cowgirl shirt (no, really) and cycled up to be a paying punter. Trying to reach the uni when very out of practice really brought the ‘push’ part of ‘pushbike’ to the fore. I also wussed out a couple of times on the way back on Saturday, partially because Woah Mule‘s newly oiled brakes feel different and I’m not fond of hurtling down a 1/8 gradiant towards a busy road unsure if I can come to a stop at the junction.

Today I realised I had to get to the uni via the office as I needed to collect something. In a burst of rebelliousness I locked the bike to the railings, as the office landlord has instructed me NOT to do. Brings down the tone, you know. It’s Sunday, I reason, I can lock it up where I damn well like and he won’t even know. Except as I was unlocking it to leave (and padlocking the gate to the front yard/lightwell which someone else in the building had left unlocked) the landlord greeted me. Rumbled. Cycled and pushed up to the post-grad centre, which includes a stretch of long straight and just slightly uphill road. The sort of thing which exhausts you whilst being barely noticeable to anyone in a car. But coming back tonight…I did it! The whole way without any pushing or cheating! I did a right-hand turn I’d been avoiding (off New North Road into Howell Road, for anyone who knows the area) and did it with traffic passing me in both directions, then took a mini-roundabout by the station which I’d also previously shied at. By my maths, I did 4.5 miles today on Woah Mule alone.

Microcon is a great chance to catch up with various people, this year including Paul Cornell and Jasper Fforde. I missed the Saturday morning talks due to having to collect a marvellous mechanical Singer sewing machine from a shop but was in time for Jasper and Paul’s talks, as well as the annual Doctor Who panel, Richard Freeman‘s report on his quest for the Mongolian Death Worm and Mark Leyland’s talk on myths.

Each year, an underlying theme tends to emerge from the talks, and it seems that, along with Fay Sampson‘s talk on how death is treated in children’s fiction on the Sunday, this year was about retellings and shared systems of imagination. So Richard found the underlying reports of the Mongolian Death Worm rather less dramatic than the myths which had grown up around it, whilst Mark told a Trojan myth which wasn’t in the Illiyad or the Odyssey and therefore doesn’t form part of the common idea of the Trojan wars. Jasper talked about how his work plays with our ideas of how stories work – amongst many wonderful diversions, as usual. Paul covered a mass of stuff about writing for Who, about how it is perceived and what they could and couldn’t do. As usual, listening to these people talk impresses me. The breadth of knowledge, plus the sheer confidence to tangent entertainly, makes me want to up my game.

Also, sitting in the JCR telling people the two story ideas I have, made me realise the time has come to actually sit down and start on the one which already has shape and themes and characters in my head. Except tonight I have to do my chores and I want to play with the new-fangled sewing thing, so that’s another evening gone.

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