Work done. Mostly. For a given value of mostly. And – come to think of it – work.

Riding done. Well a single jaunt back over the same trails that landed me in the dirt and then in the hospital. Managed to screw up enough courage to dispatch rocky obstacle of elbow bleed without pitching head first into a tree. Fantastic conditions, some diffidence. Hardly ridden at all in April, probably a bit too early to pretend I am tapering for Clic-24.

Fixing things. Done. Well some. ST4 needs some loving after my post-crash cursory inspection failed to pick up a gear cable attempting to wrest itself from the tumbling bike. Bodge got me past one ride, it wont’ last another. New Helmet with New Sizing apparently. My last four helmets in ten years have been from Giro. All have fitted me melon-like dome in size large. The latest incarnation is light, clever, airy and entirely suited to extremely large land mammals. Think elephant or rhino. If we are prepared to consider aquatic, does anyone know if whales browse eBay?

Packing. Not done. Not at all. Luckily Carol seems to have corralled food, tent, children and a vast quota of stuff. I thought we were going for three days. Maybe it was months? I dunno, what I do know is it is colder where we’re going to be sleeping in a thin draughty tent than it is here in a warm house. Apparently that’s proper camping. You come back burnt or frostbitten, there is no middle ground.

Windows. Done-ish. We have some new ones. Very nice they are too. Three tiny issues: 1) Only 2/3rds are fitted due to the house being built by a blind drunkard with only a hazy knowledge of straight lines and a buying strategy based on the cheapest tat available from anywhere. Poor bloody fitters have earned their tea times ten. The only straight thing in the whole process is their spirit level. Every other wall/floor/apparently flat surface is on the piss. 2) The rest of the windows now look really, really shit.* 3) We’ve run out of cash before we’ve run out of windows to replace.

Trailer. Done. Proper man now. Aged 43, I finally own a 6×4 metal trailer that will be absolutely vital for stuff. Stuff I’ve yet to fully explain to Carol, but let me tell you when that stuff comes along, I shall be in the vanguard of dealing with it, trailer firmly to the fore. Okay it’s missing a wheel (not a vital one, well probably not) and it’s certainly somewhere south of extremely pre-loved but it was cheaper and it’s metal. And manly. Oh yes, do not let there be even the slightest discussion on that.

Beer. Not done. Of the many and varied things on my to-do list that doesn’t even rate an entry. I shall enjoy that list an an entrée with Mr. Speckled Hen.

Back in three days. Or possibly three months.


* there’s a reason. They are. see point 1) re: purchasing strategy.

Marvel at my Massive Erection.

The Big Tent

All Carol’s work of course πŸ™‚ You have to admit it’s everything a monster from the enormous exterior footprint, to the capacious inner space separated into handy compartments; important people, small people, wine, food and dog.

Or possibly not dog. Our first family camping experiment was experienced in a retro-bell tent much loved for it’s height and space, but falling down on single living space and – nearly – due to rubbish pegging and a strong wind.

Murf was even more bionic back then; on waking at around 5:30am he’d meet the morn with a moist sniff of all pack members, finishing off with a sloppy lick roughly translated as “C’mon it’s MORNING, Let’s GO“.

To be startled from sleep by that hot breath, at the business end of a large black two holed snout, put me in mind of being woken by Darth Vader. There is also the small matter of my not so small 4×4 being squeezed seam-full of family, camping stuff, tent, emergency medical supplies* and squashed Labrador.

This – I think – gives me absolute carte blanche to go and buy a trailer. If nothing else it’ll make the trip out to our campsite a bit quieter. assuming the tarp keeps the kids inside. SoΒ£50 well spent I am sure on this pre-loved mostly mobile house. No idea how long it took to build, but next time it’ll probably be less than half a day, especially if the children aren’t involved in “helping” at all apparently.

An inaugural outing is loosely planned over Easter way out west on the “Welsh Riviera“. Where there are fabulous beaches, lots of fun hidden coves, great little eateries and an entire lack of anyone from London.

Apparently crumbly cliffs rear over these beaches, flat topped with soft meadows providing an idyllic spot for family picnics. By a strange co-incidence, these jutted butresses are also one of the very best sites to chuck toy gliders into a setting sun. Really, how lucky is that?

Got tent. Booked Holiday. Planned for dog abandonment. Just Spring left to turn up and we’re good to go.

* Comes in bottles. Normally Red. Always more than one.

It’s not about the bike.

And sometimes it is not about the rider either. Or more specifically not about me, as I had my socks well and truly blown off by Little Random and her cycling heroics today. My family – as befits a much put upon group herded around by one individual who is regularly as self centred as a tornado – have spent far too much time not enjoying doing not much while I do my stuff.

Examples include being abandoned in muddy fields while strangely dressed blokes ride round in circles, or suffering 50mph battering’s on remote hilltops while other men throw toy gliders into that wind, before collecting the remains in special bags.

But as I get a little older, I can not but help notice how much more grown up our own kids are on a seemingly daily basis. How long before their idea of a quality interaction with their parents is only in their capacity as personal bankers or 24 hour on-call taxi services?

They do seem remarkably well balanced considering the eccentricity of half their genes, and I cannot but feel proud of their achievements – large or small. Tomorrow sees one reading a rather fine poem to a worryingly large audience, while the other is straining kidfully to pass her first violin exam*

But it’s not really Dad’s stuff is it? And with Verbal confined to barracks until the nice man in the hospital gives her an all clear to, well, be a child again, there has been little in the way of family outings including bicycles.

Carol isn’t really bothered and – even with a superb new MTB hanging up – I feel Verbal may be edging some way along that same genealogical branch. Random however is more a chip off the old block except for her willingness to learn, stupendous progression and apparent lack of fear.

Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010 Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010

Today we packed two bikes, two camelbaks full of water and snacks, and one dumb mutt in the love-bus for some woody singletrack Dad’n’Daughter action. We’ve ridden in these woods a few times, but generally on the easier tracks and with much pushing uphill. And some falling off, getting off, getting cheesed off going the other way. This time around things were a little different.

Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010 Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010

Random rode everything put in front of her. Sometimes with a little bit of help, sometimes ignoring the trail completely and plunging into scratchy undergrowth, but all the time with a smile on her face. One of the reasons for her improvement is that she listens, and after playing back to me “Stand on the Pedals, stay off the brakes, look round corners and remember to breathe“, I just shut up and let her get on with it.

Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010 Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010

On some pretty tough trails especially riding a heavy-ish, rigid bike wearing your dad’s crash-hat** and no gloves. The latter two issues due entirely to my inability to prepare the kids for anything without Carol sweeping up behind me. Asked whether she wanted to try the easy or hard option, she constantly chose the knarly option giving her license to burst back into the house explaining how many injuries she’d sustained. Proud of them she was, that’s my girl!

Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010 Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010

We managed two hours before very tired legs and some bleeding called a halt to our fun. Probably 10k in total (about 20 for the dog who at least had the decency to look a bit knackered), 10 great sections of singletrack conquered, three quarters of the fireroad climbing done in the saddle, and huge improvements in just those two hours. Stuff she couldn’t ride three months ago, is now dispatched with a carefree “Yeah, that’s easy now“.

Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010 Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010

So today I chose to ride not with my friends ripping up buff trails in the forest, but with my offspring at not much speed and with much getting-on-and-off. And it was brilliant.

Only one problem, won’t be long before she’s better than me.

* Standing joke is we decided to buy this big (wreck of a) house specifically when both kids registered a strong interest in learning to play a noisy instrument. Still may need more sound insulation tho.

** That’s what it is. I use it for that very purpose all the time.


Taken by Tim B, December 23rd 2009 during this ride when we still found snow novelty fun. How that changed over the next two months, with a winter cold enough to freeze or bore you to death.

Today was the first “proper” MTB ride with smallest (and yet not very small nowadays) child, with the Verbal one dispatched to ruin a friends’ house on the roundabout of Sleepovers that have erupted this last few months. Talking of eruptions, it is clearly a train company plot to bolster profits because we’ve had a horizon scraping blue sky day that speaks of summer. Ash did feature in my day but only shovelling some fire remains into the compost bin and fetching the dog out of what was left*

Random, despite her bike being mostly unridden for a few months, picked up from where she left off, climbing a few more hills, eeking out a bit more speed on the downs and looking pretty damn relaxed. A steep, loose path to the lake was a two person descent with one running along side holding the brake lever only last year. Now she just controls her speed using the infamous “Donut”**, until – about half way down – abandoning them completely and hooning off to the power of “wheeeeeeee”. Scary stuff I can tell you.

Embolded by fearless trail skills, we tried a “hard” track by the lake with a few roll ins, bigger roots and tight turns. Aside from falling off and attacking a stump with her front wheel, she was essentially awesome and undamaged. Even my personalised 1:1 tuition didn’t seem to hamper her much either. A half fallen tree was negotiated with a breathtakingly instinctive move to stick her head on the stem and hope for the best, while a tricky bit was undertaken three times to make sure “I got a decent photo“. No idea where she got that kind of Prima Donna “look at me” attitude from.

Obviously she then boasted to her now re-located sister on how much better her riding was, leaving me to arbitrate sibling DEFCON 2 with a crowd pleasing “You’re both really good“. “Yeah, but I’m still BETTER” asserted verbal. I chucked them outside and left them to it. Practical parenting I like to think of this as.

Anyway, the point – if there has to be one – is that the seasons have really changed. Apparently dead stuff is becoming leafy stuff, grass is growing, days feel long, weeds are being dug, things that look like weeds are being planted, and tomorrow I’ll be earning cold beer on dusty tracks, going fast and praying the weather won’t break for a bit.

I’m struggling with my normal grumpiness. Probably means I’m due to fall off and lose a limb or something.

* That’ll teach me to give him a wash then. He’s remonstrated by rolling in anything ending in the word “Poo” for the last week. If anything he smells even worse, and honestly I didn’t think that was possible. It’s like having our own mobile Porton Down.

** Squeeze the brakes like you’re holding a donut and don’t want projectile jam in the mush I taught them. They now seem to think this means I have to actually give them a donut.


As all parents of pre-teen children secretly know, it’s vital to squeeze the few remaining drops of offspring obedience when the rare opportunity presents itself. In this case, Christmas presents were held as collateral blackmail until wellies, warm clothes and outside inserted themselves into the kids’ otherwise gleeful assault on innocent wrapping paper.

Christmas Day Walk (10) Christmas Day Walk (12)

It’s worth recording that my wrapping skills haven’t improved one jot in the last few years. This can be simply proven by noting that all the seasonal offerings were neatly arranged and identified with a colourful tag. Except my stuff which lay abandoned in a brutalised state after thirty minutes of frenzied boredom eventually gave way to cursing, tearing and the application of gaffer tape.

I think Carol’s got use to it now. Or possibly the word I’m looking for is resigned. The dog however hasn’t got used to snow and ice at all, and treats the whole experience as geographical catnip. Even with four-paw drive and a low centre of gravity, Murf still only sustains forward motion while the legs are scissoring sideways.

Christmas Day Walk (22) Christmas Day Walk (24)

And even this potentially lethal combination of crossed limbs doesn’t seem to bother him much. Not enough to baulk at the opportunity to crash through a semi-frozen pond to retrieve a iced in stick. I’ve said it before but it’s worth saying again, I don’t think this is because he is particularly stupid*, but because as a breed, retrievers see a stick and just can’t help themselves.

Christmas Day Walk Christmas Day Walk (9)

A little later the house was full of shredded wrapping paper and happy children, although we were a little disappointed at their lack of noticeable admiration for the MONSTER Scalextric we’d built for them as a Christmas surprise. First eBay, then a desperate assembly job between shoving them back to bed for the third time and falling asleep ourselves, brought forth this sprawling masterpiece of loops, jumps and dangerous curves.

More on this later, but it’s fair to say that there was a tinsiest little bit of buying it for ourselves πŸ™‚ I wasn’t expecting any gifts really since I’ve had one new bike already, and another one is on order. But Santa unloaded his sack** in an entirely unexpected manner by bringing forth a shiny helmet***. A roadie one at that which was both keenly priced and styled to transform the wearer into the Mekon from the neck up.

Right must get on, now we’ve had a whole day off it’s time to pick up the paint brush again to ensure incoming relatives are not aghast at our ongoing renovation project. Only one of the two adults in the house cares about this, while the other is wisely keeping his mouth shut πŸ˜‰

* Don’t get me wrong, he’s not a shining beacon of intellectual light but compared to other dogs, he’s not entirely clueless.

** Not sure the kids believe in Santa now, it may be all the rude jokes I’ve been telling them πŸ™‚

*** I could go on for ages, just say the word.

The future’s bright, the future is…

It flies! Retro colours, rubbish pilot

.. orange-ish. Had you going there eh? Thought I had bought a new bike. No, that particular item has not even reached the debating table, and the assertion that “it is easier to apologise than ask permission” is somewhat tempered by the potential loss of testicle to the rolling pin of fiscal stimulation.

Make of that what you will. Anyway another glider has been committed to aviation which is not as mundane as you may think. Because I* built it, covered it, plugged it full of electronics and even flew it on its’ first – and nearly last – flight.

The plunge into the valley below was, this time, not a direct consequence of my stick twiddling skills. No, the major factor was launching into a autumnal abyss not troubled by any actual wind. Cutting out the technical stuff, gliders without wind are generally slightly aerodynamic bricks soon to become many, many unrecognisable shards of splintered wood.

To my amazement I managed to land** some 15 metres below my feet in some handy bracken. Subsequent attempts at flying above the ridge have been mainly successful and, so far, I’ve returned home with the same number of pieces as I started with. In the same shape. This is pretty contrary to my flying career so far. Probably just got lucky.

Every time I stand on the slope, I think “I really should be riding my bike”. I have been riding, but it’s not exactly a priority for my spare time. Saturday we had a proper MTB ride in the woods with the kids, except they had a great time sliding between trees, and I less so chasing them on Shanks’ pony, much encumbered by tyre-chewing mutt.

I think the solution would be a new bike. And possibly a novelty testicle.

* Except for the difficult bits. Carol did those. Natch πŸ˜‰

** Verb used in the context of “was available for re-use” rather than anything you’ve experienced in a proper aircraft.