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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.

Kuan Yin in the snow 2008

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Kuan Yin in the snow 2008I woke with the hail hitting the bedroom window. Weather rarely hits the glass, so the noise meant the wind was from the North. The thunder meant I didn’t go back to sleep fully, and then the chap suggested I look out the window. It was early, but the snow was falling like fat feathers and the road was covered. I was excited but by the time I realised I had to get up to take photographs, the snow was slowing and the sun was starting to appear. And my camera batteries were nearly dead. I hauled on boots and got this shot, and one of the painted buddha, off before the camera shut itself down.

I do have more, taken with my new phone, but by the time the camera was recharged and I was back outside the snow had gone. At 8am this morning, though, kids in the St Thomas Pleasure Gardens were making their first ever snowmen.

But we don’t care about the Young Folks

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Things are hectic. Not because of The Wedding Monster, but just a massive list of stuff to do combined with growing responsibilities at work. This morning, ignoring the list of stuff to do for a bit, I woke early and headed out on Woah Mule. The plan was to do my normal 10K ride to the end of the canal path and back. The light was the sort of pearly grey dawn that can turn fabulous as the morning burns off. As I’d hoped, there were some good autumn/winter shots to take on the path.
A Hazy Shade of Winter
Instead of turning around at the end of the canal path, though, I decided to carry on to Topsham as there are some fabulously big reed beds near there which could have been looking good. I reached the village around 9am: it’s a route I used to take fifteen years back but now there is a cycleway for most of the run. I didn’t get good shots of the reed beds – I think I need to be at the Swan’s Rest or Turf Locks to get that. But it was still pretty.
Topsham Strand I then got the train back, partially because I was feeling leg-tired from the steeper roads near Topsham, and partially because I’d forgotten about the ancient rule about Never Wear Jeans When Cycling and was therefore saddlesore.

Last Saturday, I was footsore instead: we spent several hours looking in every window in Hatton Gardens (London’s diamond market) for the bling ring. It is rather strange to try on a two grand ring and wander out into the street with it because the entire area has its own security. In one stall in a traders market, the chap behind the counter gave me a very effective lesson in gemstones which explains why I think diamond-only rings look like cheap paste on me. He got me to hold out my hand, palm-down, and placed different gems against my fingers. Seeing the coloured gems, the rubies and garnets and sapphires, against my skin tone made it obvious I need the colour. An awful lot of the jewellery in the shops looked, as I put it, “a bit Elizabeth Duke”. I just genuinely don’t get why some of the stuff is seen as attractive: it’s all too shiny and bright and over-eager. So we’re still deciding on a ring.

Sunday, and we went to see Peter, Bjorn and John at the Forum in Kentish Town. You probably know them through the irritatingly catchy Young Folks song. So did the most London yehyehyeh media tartlets in the audience, who buggered off after they played it part way through the set. So for once we weren’t rammed in. Live, PB&J are noodling, rambling, shambling rock muso types with an utterly different vibe to their album. I’d been wondering if the Forum – a vomit-smelling* bear pit of a venue which also hosts School Reunion and the Church – was the right place for the expected fey Swedish pop types, but my fears were totally misplaced. Best gig of the year so far (I liked Lucky Soul more, but the media bores stuck around in that one). Recommended.

*this is the downside of the smoking ban: the smell of gigs has changed.

Another Bird Done Gone

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Sébastian’s new kill count:

  • Rodents:
    Rats – 1
    Mice – 27
    Voles – 8
  • Birds:
    Sparrows – 4
    Dunnocks – 1
    Robin – 1
    Uncertain – 5 6
  • Other:
    Frogs – 1
    Unidentifiable remains – 2 3

Sébastian ‘Feathers’ Halliday strikes again.

Meanwhile…I visited a couple of new (or new to me) things in Exeter in the last couple of weeks.

Yesterday I wanted to take a look at the rennovation of the old mill down by the quay. It’s at the back of the Bishop’s Blaize pub, and when I’d cycled past last weekend I’d noticed serious work was underway and the various wheels and cogs were on display. Like the mouse mill in Bagpuss, although it shows no sign of turning butterbeans into chocolate digestives. More’s the pity. So, walking over to the Bon Gout deli yesterday, I diverted us via the old mill area. For ages there has been an old house down there, wrapped in scaffold. The scaffolding is off and the building is revealed as a branch of the eyestorm art gallery, selling contemporary prints. Unlike the Spacex (too 80s and never fails to disappoint) or the Triton (too prone to Athena-style Vettriano-esque triteness), this gallery actually had work which I was attracted to and which I thought would engage on a long term basis – which is the key to artwork you might buy. Not that I can afford to buy any of it, but I wasn’t made to feel like I shouldn’t walk in to look. One artist in particular caught my eye for producing large-scale pencil drawings which captured how I saw characters from Daniel O’Mahoney’s new novel Force Majeure. I just wish I could remember the artist’s name (it was something like Mark Beswick but he’s not listed on the eyestorm site and google is blank).

The week before, I signed up to join a new cult film rental place. Brazil, named after my favourite film, was bound to catch my eye as it is on Fore Street in what the council insist on calling Exeter’s West Quarter. This means I walk past every night on the way home. For those of you who live in Exeter, it’s where Langham’s News used to be, opposite Kitsch-U-Like (the retro shop which isn’t as good as Otto’s further down the hill). It’s got a wide selection of films on DVD and VHS and works on the old-skool model of membership and nightly rental fees. This appeals partially as I’ve realised Lovefilm, whilst good on paper, doesn’t allow for if you don’t fancy watching Guerrilla – The Taking Of Patty Hearst tonight. Moreover the guy who runs it clearly loves his films. There’s a section devoted to Ghibli, another to early British horror, another to John Waters. So popping in to pick a movie means getting some cineste film chatting in as well. Highly recommended.

Exeter Goes Pop! / April Dreams England

Monday, 9 April 2007

The next Exeter Goes Pop night is this coming Friday, 13th, from 8pm in the Phoenix cafe bar. It will include live music from The First Division, a band whose members are also in The Pines and The Visitors, who will be playing tracks from their April Dreams England album. Also the usual electic blend of sounds from the international Pop underground, sixties soft pop, girl groups, Northern soul, Swedish tweelectropop…

It’s free and in the bar at the Phoenix. So if you’re in town and free, pop in. Alternatively, if you are in town and at the Reginald D Hunter gig at the Phoenix, drop by for a drink afterwards.

There’s now an Exeter Goes Pop! group, which means there is also an Exeter Goes Pop! streaming radio station available which plays tracks loved by the group’s members. Click here to play it.

If you’re on MySpace, you can also find out more from the Exeter Goes Pop! thingy there.


Sunday, 15 October 2006

For about two years I have been muttering darkly about the recycling collection service in Exeter. Not the service itself, and especially not that silly season story about the woman the council took to court (especially as recycling has improved dramatically since the case), but about the complexity of the collection dates.

Once a year the Council send out a leaflet informing you of the black (non-recyclable waste) and green (recycling from home) dates, and these are collected on the same day (Monday for me). In our street it’s done at 6am because any time later and it would be blocking one of the main roads into town. So far, so simple. If you’re not sure which week it is, you can look at what the neighbours are putting out on a Sunday night and get back in synch. But the white* (garden waste) recycling is on a different day, at a different time and – this is the good bit – not necessarily on the same week as the green. The quarterly council newsletter always said “if you are on scheme A for normal collection then…” which naturally assumed you still had your leaflet and could work out which scheme you were on. The website only offered the leaflet in PDF form. I complained more than once, asking how bloody difficult would it be to create a form online? I don’t give a stuff for all the damn festivals the council organises, I’d prefer the money to be spent on basic services for all residents.

Today I’m planning to do my big garden clean up for winter. I bought my white biogradable sacks and decided to give the website a last go. Hurrah! You can now type in your postcode and be told when your next black, green and white collections are! There, Exeter City Council, was that so hard? You’ve given me the information I required about your services quickly and without me needing to phone up someone and waste ten minutes whilst they work it out. That’s real accessiblity and openness. It also tells me there is no point doing the garden today, as the collection isn’t till the 25th and the biogradeable sacks tend to, er, degrade, if left outdoors in the rain.

*residents who can have wheelie bins get to have a brown wheelie for garden waste but I only get the sacks.


In other news: I have mild RSI in my right hand. I think it’s mostly due to using a wheelie mouse.

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