Lost

The group gathered at the roundabout for the regular Saturday club ride. Pigeons perched on the lamp-posts and one dropped a load of shit on to Jimmy’s jersey. ‘You’ve got shit on your jersey,’ said Clancy. ‘Fuck,’ said Jimmy. Fuck, fuck, fuck-de-fuck.’ ‘They hate you,’ said Clancy. ‘Where we going?’ said Clovis. ‘I tole you’, …

Macedonia

Clovis sat in his armchair reading Bradley Wiggins’ book, Icons. There was a newspaper cutting printed in the book, a race that Wiggins won, and there, in fourth place was the name – S Griskowitz, North Downs Wheelers Cycling Club. His club, Clovis’ club. Once a big name in the cycling firmament, now smaller, less …

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Dolls Houses

  There were five of them, cycling through Kent at the week-end. Four men and a woman, she the wife of one of the men. The weather cold and misty, a sharp wind from the sea, heavy dark clouds, a fine drizzle buffeting their faces as they turned into the wind, huddled against the gusts. …

Clement Attlee

  Her hair was long and brown and straight, parted in the middle and it swished around her shoulders when she shook her head, and if she was nearby it brushed your face and was warm and fresh and clean and you wished it would always be there. She had pale green eyes with long …

National Railway Museum, York

Photographs from a visit to the National Railway Museum in York. …

Julian’s Fortune Biscuits

Be a good winner. I have a song in my heart but I can’t remember the words. Live each day as if it’s your first. Dance like no-one’s watching. An open mind is an open heart. Life is a train to somewhere; jump on and enjoy the ride. Life is a merry-go-round and one day …

Cycling in the Dolomites – day 6 – Passo del Mortirolo

In which I take a wrong turning through a 4km tunnel, eventually conquer the hardest climb ever, am moved by a memorial to Marco Pantani, eat a Twix, negotiate a steep descent, consume 6 delicious loin chops, treat myself to a gelati and have a distressing encounter with a rolling electric shutter. …

Cycling in the Dolomites – day 5 – Passo de Gavia

In which I climb a pass made famous by Andy Hampsten, observe copious amounts of snow and ice, espy a monument to Italian fallen, enjoy a fabulous fast descent and wander around Bormio with Ros, searching for cycle jerseys and tat (which is in short supply). …

Cycling in the Dolomites – day 4 – Passo dello Stelvio

In which I climb through 47 hair-pin bends, meet a photographer from Kingston, employ some fruity language, am plagued by motor-cycles, view a stunning waterfall, observe people skiing, make some offensive observations about middle-aged men in sports cars and visit a rather odd cafe. …

Cycling in the Dolomites – day 3 – Sellaronda

In which I complete the Sellaronda route of the Maratona, film a Bradley Wiggins Pinarello bike, am plagued by motor-bikes, hide from the weather, observe a strange game of catch, am taunted by an unfeasibly large dog, consume another pizza, laugh at an unfortunate accident, encounter a group of nuns and am almost wiped out …

Cycling in the Dolomites – day 2 – Passo Giau, Passo Campolongo

In which I struggle up the Passo Giau, encounter some beautiful scenery, climb the Campolongo and have an unfortunate encounter with a waiter. …

Cycling in the Dolomites – day 1 – Tre Cime Lavaredo, Tre Croce, Falzarego

In which I discover that the roads in the Dolomites are just like in Kent, describe my nutrition plans, bail out on the Tre Cime Lavaredo, climb the Tre Croce and Falzarego, encounter Mo Farah, discover the difference between pepperoni and peppers and meet some waitresses dressed in an odd manner. …

Mamil

Mamil stands for ‘middle aged man in lycra’ and the term was coined to describe ermiddle aged men in lycra who ride bicycles. For some reason it has become a term of mockery and abuse and conjures up images of usually professional, fairly well-to-do, invariably overweight, married often with youngish children, men who crowd the …

Whitstable, Kent

Photographs from a day in Whitstable, Kent with my daughter, Rachel, in October 2017. …

Dungeness

Photographs from a day in Dungeness, Kent with my daughter, Rachel, on 31 August 2017. …

Ready Player One

Ready Player One (awful title) is set in the future where most of the world’s population (except the ones that are still starving presumably) spend their days playing a massive alternative reality video game called Oasis, devised by autistic recluse James Halliday, played by Mark Rylance. Halliday (is this a nod to the late French …

Prague

Photographs from a trip to Prague with my daughter Rachel, in March 2018. On Charles Bridge On Charles Bridge Royal Palace John Lennon wall On Charles Bridge Royal Palace View from Old Town Hall Old Jewish cemetery On Charles Bridge …

Isle of Dogs

I want to live in Wes Anderson’s world. My world is grey and cold and it rains, and it’s dirty and grubby and many of the people aren’t very nice. There are things in my world that shouldn’t be there; it’s confusing and scary and there is darkness and sadness and a lack of order …

You Were Never Really Here

F Scott Fitzgerald’s last novella was The Last Tycoon, an unfinished thinly disguised portrait of Irving Thalberg, one of the great Hollywood producers of the pre-war years. Some years later (1976), this was made into a film by Elia Kazan from a script by Harold Pinter, starring a young Robert de Niro as Monroe Starr, …

Lady Bird

I was a teenager once, male not female, but still. And I was the father of a teenage daughter once and now I’m the father of a teenage son. I saw this film with my son. Maybe how you view this film depends on whether you’re a teenager (and/or a girl) and side with the …

Los Cristianos, Tenerife

Tenerife is not a pretty place. The roads are busy, many drivers are inconsiderate, the traffic heavy, the road surface often rutted and pitted, the resorts are crowded and bloated, the beaches stony and the food bland. There is no culture, no history, no beauty, no style, no design, no interesting architecture, nothing twee, nothing …

Wiggo’s wig slips but stays on – maybe

And so the whole sorry Sky saga staggers on with the publication of the Commons Select Committee report into doping in sport. Their investigation of British Cycling and Sky is only one part of the report, but it is the part that has garnered the most headlines. But one has to ask – why? What …

The Shape of Water

‘Love is All Around Us’ sang Wet Wet Wet in that dreadful song which was number one forever all those years ago, and those are the twin themes of this film – love and water (and it’s all around us and it’s wet, wet, wet). Sally Hawkins – last seen playing the title role in …

Cycling predictions for 2018

Nacer Bouhani will garner a lot of publicity for his team without actually winning anything. Romain Bardet will do well at the Tour but he won’t win. Neither will Nibali or Pinot or Richie Porte. Tom Dumoulin won’t ride the Tour although he should. He will win the Giro again. Peter Sagan will win a …

Journey’s End

Few films about the First World War can match the bathos and comedic horror and plumb the depths of sadness quite as well as the last scene of Blackadder Goes Forth but Journey’s End comes close. It is a film of browns – brown hair and moustaches, brown uniforms, the brown wood shoring up the …

The Post

Steven Spielberg is incapable of making a bad film, but he is certainly capable of making an average film and he’s achieved that with The Post. It’s maybe not his fault; he’s done the best with the material he’s been given but there are three key reasons not to be cheerful with this film. Meryl …

All the Money in the World

We need to talk about Kevin. Kevin Spacey is a fine actor who has been accused (accused, mind you) of some pretty unpleasant behaviour. As a consequence, he has become an un-person, an ex-actor, a non-celebrity, one of the disappeared; if you would seek his works, don’t look around you because you won’t find them. …

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

‘Anger begets anger,’ says 19-year-old Penelope in this wonderful film. Penelope is the new young girl-friend of wife-beater Charlie, estranged husband of Mildred Hayes, whose bitter anger over the rape and murder of their daughter – Angela – is the reason for the billboards. Ebbing (not a real place), Missouri (a real place) is like …

Darkest Hour – Keep Clem and Carry On

I find it hard in these strange times to watch a film without viewing it through the prism of Brexit. After all, what other reason can there be for making a film now about Churchill? And this is not the Churchill of the Boer War, not the Churchill of Gallipoli, not the Churchill of the …

Star Wars – The Last Remainer Jedi

I think I’ve worked it out – the whole Star Wars franchise is really a parable about Brexit. I mean, of course it’s all nonsense but if you believe enough, you can leave Europe and it will all turn out fine. Stay with me on this The First Order (the baddies) are the Brexiters of …

Chris Froome – puff the Magic Dragon

Chris Froome’s failed drugs test (for that is what it is) is a disaster for him, for Sky, for British cycling and for cycling as a whole and caps a year for him and Sky that is triumphant and catastrophic at the same time – a rare achievement. It is hard to see how he …

Britain’s Cycling Super-Heroes; the Price of Success – BBC2 19 November 2017

BBC2’s investigation didn’t teach us very much. Sir Dave Brailsford and Shane Sutton were unrepentant; two men obsessed with winning won a lot. And if some bodies fell along the way and a few people got upset, well it was a price worth paying. Why no interview with Jess Varnish? Sutton denied telling her to …

Le Ride

The 1928 Tour de France was one of the toughest on record. The route circled the whole of France (no plane transfers in those days), was 3340 miles in length – much of it on gravelled roads – and of the 168 riders who started, only 41 finished. It was also notable for the participation …

Murder on the Orient Express – train wreck

Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express, produced by Kenneth Branagh, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring er Kenneth Branagh has several faults, the chief of which is Branagh himself. Branagh has chosen to play Agatha Christie’s famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot as a sort of Indiana Jones with a funny accent and a silly …

The Death of Stalin

‘Comedy is tragedy plus time,’ says Alan Alda’s character in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanours. And later, ‘if it bends it’s funny, if it breaks it’s not funny.’ For various reasons I was in Moscow in 1957, shortly after Kruschchev assumed power and at about the time that Molotov was shot. Which is to say …

The Party

I was always in the kitchen at parties, hiding behind the pots, avoiding the pot, the fun and laughter and the people getting off with each other. And I was all set to hate The Party.  A few years ago, I went to see Transformers 9:  Revenge of the Batteries with my son and I …

Blade Runner 2049

Philip K Dick was a truly visionary writer whose massive oeuvre of science fiction novels has proved fertile ground for film-makers. Ridley Scott’s 1982 re-telling of Dick’s novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ – filmed as Blade Runner – has gained cult status over the years for its beautifully realised post-apocalyptic Los Angeles landscape, …

‘Anquetil, Alone’ by Paul Fournel

Paul Fournel’s Anquetil, Alone is part biography, part hagiography, part limpid, poetic treatise and part a prose meditation on one of the greatest ever cyclists; the first to win 5 Tours de France and the first to win the Tour and Vuelta in the same year. Fournel traces Anquetil’s life through a series of lyrical …

Maudie

‘Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot – Oscar. Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man – Oscar. John Mills, Ryan’s Daughter – Oscar. You’re guaranteed an Oscar if you play a mental.’ Kate Winslet in Extras, written by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. We’re all outsiders in a way, or at some time in our lives. Gingers, …

Dunkirk – froth, bubble and a lot of noise

Christopher Nolan is a director of rare skill, depth, thoughtfulness, profundity and power. Memento, Inception and Interstellar, in particular, are brimming with ideas and you leave the cinema thinking, discussing, dissecting and struggling to understand what you have just seen. Unfortunately, Dunkirk is none of these things. It is a film, full of sound and …

Tour de France 2017

So, another Tour over and what have we learned? Chris Froome is the foremost stage rider of his generation. A consummate time-triallist and a more than good enough climber is an unbeatable combination. He will never have the affection of the public; maybe because he’s British in name only, maybe because of his metronomic, controlled …

‘Bike Nation’ by Peter Walker

Peter Walker is cycling correspondent for The Guardian and his book is a polemic about what it means to be a nation centred around the bike, instead of the car. It is full of stories, reports, statistics and interviews with leading lights in cities and nations that have transformed and are transforming the way that …

War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes is the best film I have seen in 2017. In many ways, it is perfect. The story is sensible, makes sense and can appeal to adults as well as a younger audience; the script is literary but not too wordy; the acting is uniformly excellent; it is moving …

Spiderman: Homecoming

The latest Spiderman film takes the story back to early teenagehood. In some respects this is quite an interesting idea – do Superheroes emerge fully formed as adults or do they go through the normal stages of puberty like everyone else? This film takes that idea – Spiderman is really Spiderteenager – and shows how …

Baby Driver

Walter Hill made a film in 1978 called The Driver which stared Ryan O’Neal as an enigmatic, monosyllabic crack getaway driver and Edgar Wright’s superb new feature film reprises the same idea, only now the driver of the title is young and baby-faced and called…Baby. Baby’s mother (an amateur singer) and his father (of whom …

‘Lanterne Rouge’ by Max Leonard

Leonard’s book is not a biography of the author of this occasional column (unfortunately) but an investigation into the ‘award’ given to the rider who finishes last in the Tour de France. This prize used to be well-regarded and even fought over although nowadays it is not much respected. Before the days of high salaries …

‘Ventoux’ by Jeremy Whittle

Whittle’s new book is – believe it or not – about the famous Giant of Provence, that fearsome mountain in the south of France, described by Lance Armstrong (no less) as the toughest climb in the Tour de France. Every cyclist knows of Ventoux and many have ridden it (including me) but its chief claim …

‘Higher Calling’ by Max Leonard

Last year I undertook the Raid Alpine – from Geneva to Nice across the Alps. One of the iconic climbs on the route – and the only one I didn’t complete (the flies and the heat did for me) – was the Col de Bonette, one of the highest paved roads in Europe. Coincidentally, the …

Wonder Woman

The latest series of House of Cards has just started on Netflix. It stars Kevin Spacey as an immoral, unscrupulous, conniving cheat of a President (sound familiar?) and Robin Wright as his wife. Wright is superb – cold, calculating, ruthless, restrained, icy, scheming, utterly immoral, wonderfully dressed, immaculately coiffed, oh and devastatingly sexy. Spacey may …

Pirates of the Caribbean – Salazar’s Revenge

What’s the difference between a sequel and a franchise? A sequel should expand and develop the story, move it forward, expand on the history and deepen it. Some sequels are better than the original – Godfather Part ll for example – whiles some are worse; Jaws 2 anyone? A franchise, though, is normally a cynical …

Business Lessons

It’s not important to be liked but it is important to be likeable.   Email is good but talking is better.   Why can’t an employer leave an employee the way an employee can leave an employer? Why is one a sacking and the other a resignation? It would be so much easier if an …

Mindhorn

What do most people know about the Isle of Man? Birth-place of Mark Cavendish, sometime home to Nigel Mansell and Jeremy Clarkson, motor-cycle races where riders invariably die, strange attitude to homosexuality, Parliament with an un-remembered name. Erthat’s about it. And now to add to the list; setting for Mindhorn, a new British film. Mindhorn …

Grey Sky Thinking

Sky Pro Cycling – a super slick, professional, cutting edge, massively successful (although not in the Classics), innovative, well-funded, expertly managed pro cycling team which has transformed the sport. Sky – satellite or cable TV channel offering 7 (count ‘em) sports channels (plus endless movies) which has transformed television sport and is (arguably) responsible for …

Rachel and the Talking Fish

Chapter One There were nineteen fish in the pond in Rachel’s back garden but only three of them could talk. The three were Barney, an overweight shubunkin, Pi, a baby goldfish, and Rita, a platinum koi. Rachel discovered that they could talk one Saturday afternoon after everyone else had gone inside. It had been a …

Stranger in a strange land

Lanzarote has never been high on my list of desired destinations. Too bare, too stony, too common, too full English breakfast, too hot, too near, too Spanish, too easy, too volcanic. But I knew some people who went on a cycle training camp in April and they said I should join them. I resisted, but …

The Lost City of Z

I first read ‘Exploration Fawcett’ when I was about 18 (I’m now 60) and it made a deep impression on me. The story of a ramrod-straight, tall army officer with a big moustache and his young companions, including the improbably named Raleigh Rimmel exploring the wildernesses of South America was unbearably romantic for a callow …

Elle

It has to be said that Paul Verhoeven has form – this after all is the man who directed Basic Instinct (and what school-boy doesn’t remember Sharon Stone’s beaver shot?), Showgirls (widely regarded as one of the worst films ever made) , Robocop, Total Recall and Black Book (good film). Elle is his latest film …

Budapest

Photographs taken on a trip to Budapest with my daughter Rachel in March 2017. In the Jewish Museum of the Great Synagogue. Lovers by the Chain Bridge. Stalin’s boots at Memento Park.   Tourists at Fishermen’s Bastion. Koller Gallery sculpture garden. By the Presidential Palace.  Rachel being silly at Memento Park.  Memento Park. ‘Shoes on …

Hidden Figures

One is familiar with the classic images and stories of the black struggle in America in the ’60s – Martin Luther King, Rosa Parkes and the bus protests, Black Power salutes, riots, Emmet Till – but Hidden Figures reminds us that the black experience in America touched every part of life in ways that still …

Denial

There are 5 words one doesn’t want to see at the start of a film – ‘based on a true story.’ The dead hand of truth and real life can grab a film by the throat and stifle the life from it; truth in real life is vital, truth in art less so. Denial suffers …

Bash’s garage

My friend and Old Portlians club-mate Ian Bashford was killed on 25 September 2016 while competing in the Duo Normand Cycling event in France. Ian was hit by a car 200 metres from the finish line and was killed instantly; he was not at fault. Ian was a professional  car and cycle mechanic and his …

La La Land

Film is a relatively simple art-form but there are a few basic requirements: A (good) story. Interesting and believable characters Er, that’s it. If it’s a musical it’s a little more demanding because that requires songs, preferably with hummable melodies and audible and well-crafted lyrics. Think of the great musicals that live in the memory …

Life on the Road

Very few comedy series know when to stop. They tend to carry on, becoming less and less funny, while the locations become more outlandish, the situations more contrived and the scripts degenerate into self-parody. Some know when to stop – in particular ‘Fawlty Towers’ – John Cleese and Connie Booth made 12 perfect episodes and …

Holga

Photographs taken with a Holga camera. The cheap, plastic construction leaks light and causes unusual effects on prints. These pictures were all taken in Swanage in Dorset.   …

Whitstable, Kent

Photographs taken during a day trip to Whitstable in Kent with my daughter Rachel on 14 September 2016.   …

Paris, France

Photographs taken during a day trip to Paris with my daughter Rachel on 25 May 2016.   …

St Petersburg, Russia

Photographs taken during a trip to St Petersburg, Russia with my daughter Rachel in June 2012.   …

Tin Toys

Vienna, Austria

Photographs taken during a trip to Vienna, Austria with my daughter Rachel in November 2014.   …

The Racer – David Millar

Millar’s second book following his autobiography (Racing through the Dark) is a sort of diary of his last year as a pro racer with the Garmin team. Rather than chapters, it is a series of short (sometimes half a page, sometimes more) vignettes including sections on training, his family, other riders, races he was involved …

50p

She was warm and round and not very tall with brown hair that fell in waves around her shoulders. He was tall and lean, tanned from the sun and the outdoors, older than her by quite a few years I think and his hair had mostly left him leaving a small ring of grey stubble …

Cycling Jargon

Allen Key Allen Key was one of the founding members of the Old Ports – he invented the tool of the same name – essential kit for any cyclist. Brother of Allen Lane who founded Penguin Books. Ass saver Expensive piece of plastic which proves that cyclists will buy anything provided it a) has a …

Clumsy

I didn’t mean. You never do, do you? It’s all like some damn game to you. You blunder around, knocking over things, breaking things, ruining things. You don’t care, do you? I do care. I do. Really I do. It’s just… What? What is it? I’m clumsy, I suppose. Clumsy? Clumsy? You’re not clumsy, you’re …

Second Coming

He’s not coming. He is. He’s not. Be patient. He’ll be here. He’s not coming. He lied to you. Shut up. He’ll be here. You’re too trusting, that’s your problem. Someone tells you they’re coming and bam, you believe them. Look over there – what’d I tell you? You should have more faith. He’s not …

Reliability

Monday morning, Feel Good cafe, West Wickham. Two cyclists are meeting for coffee. Their bikes are propped against the window outside. Helmets and gloves are stowed beneath their chairs. Outside it is windy with a light drizzle. Inside it is warm and the light lemon drizzle cake is soft and still warm. Coffee steams. A …

Bruv

Alright bruv? Yeah man, you? You know, okay I s’pose. What ‘cha doing? This ‘n that. Y’ know. Seen her? Who? Don’t give me that. You know who I mean. Have you seen her? Yeah. Around. Where? I said, didn’t I? Around. Here, there, everywhere. Around. Who’s she with? I dunno. I ain’t seen her …

Manchester by the Sea

There are many scenes in Kenneth Lonergan’s latest film which stay with you long after you have left the movie theatre. One in particular is played entirely without dialogue, with just Albinoni’s Adagio playing on the sound-track. This is a piece of music which has been often used in films but it sounds fresh and …

Carnival in Flanders

‘I thought they were going to rape and pillage. When is it going to start?’ Carnival in Flanders was made in 1935 and directed by Jacques Feyder. It is a comedy set in 1616 in a Flemish town. The town gets a message that the Duc D’Olivares and his escort of Spanish soldiers will be …

Assassin’s Creed

The Beckenham Odeon is a depressing place on a damp January Sunday afternoon. The staff look tired, the lobby is windswept and bare, the pick ‘n’ mix is simultaneously garish and faded, dusty and grubby with fingerprints from hungry, obese hands. The screening room is dark and gloomy thus hiding the pee stains and sticky …

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Has there ever been a greater kiss of death for an actor’s career than to appear in their first film as ‘Introducing…?’ Scorsese’s film ‘introduces’ Alfred Lutter as Tommy, the 11 year old son of Ellen Burstyn’s Alice, a put upon wife stuck in a loveless marriage with a husband who is killed in a …

Diary of an Embezzler

February Wednesday Why should they have all the money? Life is so unfair. I’ve been here for 20 years and they walk all over me – do this, do that. And they laugh at me, I know it. I know I’m not stylish or pretty like the other girls but I’m not bad-looking. It wouldn’t …

Chris Boardman – Triumphs and Turbulence

Chris Boardman’s autobiography – Triumphs and Turbulence – is a good read. It’s well-written, informative, interesting and gives a good overview of his (almost) great career. He comes across as thoughtful, humble (but not too humble), guilty about the time he spent away from his wife and children and respectful of others, including Steve Peters, …

9 Cycling books that are worth reading

The Passion of Fausto Coppi by William Fotheringham Fascinating biography of probably the first true cycling superstar. Well-researched and written, Fotheringham ably recounts Coppi’s scandalous affair with a married woman which led to his and her excommunication from the Catholic church and his tragic death as the result of an insect bite he received while …

David Millar – I mind

David Millar is intelligent, articulate, erudite, tall, good looking (a bit like my hero, David Gandy), personable, comfortably middle-class (born in Maidenhead, father an airline pilot who moved to Hong Kong), slim, achingly cool, the face of Maserati (if you can be the face of a car brand) and, oh, a drugs cheat. In a …

Sharadopa

Poor (poor?) Maria Sharapova. A figure to make a Bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window, legs that reach from Wimbledon to Tim Peake and a face that launched a thousand brands; brought down by one (one?) too many doses of hubris and a sea of advisers too frightened or too stupid to …

Sonny Parker has a cold

Sonny Parker has a cold. It’s not a cold like you get – sniffles, a sore throat, a little head-ache, feeling sorry for yourself, a mug of Lemsip and please let this get worse so I can call it man-flu and justify a day off work. No, this is a cyclist’s cold; laid up on …

Home Care Diary – Petition

Wednesday You’ve probably not seen the petition about home care and if you have you probably haven’t signed it. Not many people have. At the last count it had 22861 signatures which is one of the lower totals on the Government website. The highest is about meningitis vaccines for all children which has got over …

Home Care diary – Outcomes

Thursday I’ve been on a training course. I’ve been learning about outcomes. It was all day – well, they said it was all day but it started at 9.30 and we had a half hour tea break in the morning and we had lunch which was an hour and then we had a half hour …

Home Care Diary – Refer a Friend

Friday The agency has started a recruitment drive. They say they’ve got loads of work but there’s a staff shortage and they can’t get enough people. That’s good for me in a way because it means I get lots of work but I need a break sometimes. They’ve been advertising on the internet and they …

Home Care Diary – Rita

Friday My name is Rita and I’m a Care Worker. I have different names – some call me a carer or a home carer, Maude at number 9 calls me her ‘girl,’ Nancy at number 15 just calls me ‘you,’ Richard (that’s my son) calls me Mum and Tim – he’s my husband or used …

Home Care Diary – Lady Gaga

Thursday I went to see Lady _ today. I’ll call her Lady Gaga but that’s not her real name obviously and nor is she; gaga I mean. My Mum used to describe people as gaga when I was little. ‘I’ve been to see your Auntie Mo,’ she’d say. ‘She’s completely gaga now.’ I thought it …

Home Care Diary – Gun

Wednesday Yesterday I found a gun. Let me tell you how it happened. I’ve been visiting Dudley for a few weeks now. Dudley lives in __ in a Council flat in a tower block on the third floor. It’s one of those tower blocks like you seen in a Channel 5 documentary; lots of people …

Home Care Diary – Families

Monday Families – don’t get me started! I know everyone loves their Mum and Dad – well, nearly everyone, my Dad walked out on my Mum when I was 7 and I never saw him again – and their Gran and Graddad and wants the best for them but really. I know many of my …

Home Care Diary – Dentures

Friday Something funny happened yesterday. I wanted to tell you about it. It wasn’t funny really, it was actually sad and a bit tragic and horrible but it was still a bit funny – I’ll let you be Judge Judy. I had a visit to see Albert at 9am. I go to him a lot. …

Home Care Diary – Death

Thursday I didn’t have a good day today. One of my Service Users died. It sounds very cold when you say it like that, doesn’t it? Her name was Rose and she was 97. I’ve been going to see her for about 6 months. She was very independent; she lived in a little 1 bedroom …

Home Care Diary – CQC

Tuesday My agency is being inspected by the Care Quality Commission. We got a text from the agency yesterday which said they’d had notification of an inspection and CQC Inspectors might want to talk to us. Apparently they’ve also got ‘experts by experience’ whatever that is. Well, all I can say is I hope they …

Home Care Diary – Closing Down

Friday Well, it’s finally happened. I didn’t think it would come to this but my agency is closing down. I suppose I thought that this company would survive – you hear about all the problems with home care businesses and they tell you about being short of money but somehow you don’t really believe it …

Home Care Diary – The Affair

Wednesday I got into trouble yesterday. I go and see a gentleman called Bill who lives in some flats. I’ve been going to him for years; I think I’m the only carer he sees. He’s a lovely man; very talkative and very knowledgeable about the world. He listens to the radio all the time – …

Home Care – The Problem

Home care is in crisis because of a number of factors, the chief of which is that there is not enough money in the system to deliver an effective service. Budgets for local government have been cut and they in turn have reduced the amount of money that they spend on social care. Most social …

Herne Hill

The velodrome was hidden amongst the houses. You went up a muddy track between garden fences and parked beneath the trees. There was a lot of rubbish lying about; bits of wood, twisted metal, faded signs, empty bottles, tatty scraps of paper, fallen leaves, oil cans, broken vending machines. There were a couple of portakabins …

Cycling Monologues No 23 – The Spinner

“So anyway I just did this spinning session oh god I literally thought I was going to die I was sweating like a you know what anyway there’s like 20 of us and it’s led by Jo she is amazing she just really pushes you my heart was at like 185 for the whole session …

Hot Wings

Nick went to Paris with the club to watch the final stage of the Tour de France. There were four of them – Nick, Pete, Dave and Steve – and they drove to Ashford and caught the train from there. The train was busy and Nick was sitting beside Pete. Dave and Steve sat opposite …

Goats and Donkeys

Once through the ski resort and over the brow of the hill the road started to descend. For 10 kilometres it fell in loops like butter curls to the valley floor. To one side, the hill was dusty and gravelly while to the other it fell away sharply, occasionally into depthless ravines, now into gentle …

Cycling Monologues No 18 – Better in the old days

“So anyway I was looking through these old photos and I found one from 1972 I did a 10 mile event on the old G11 course I remember that I had my Roberts with the down tube shifters of course Campag obviously and a Brooks saddle things were better then you didn’t have all this …

Cycling Monologues No 17 – The Fixie Rider

“So anyway I just bought a fixie I got it from some bloke off Ebay he was a courier but had to give it up doesn’t have any brakes of course and he crashed broke his neck he’s paralysed now so he’s not riding still one man’s sorrow is another man’s joy so they say …

Cycling Monologues No 16 – The n + 1

“So anyway they say that the ideal number of bikes is n + 1 where n is the number you have already I mean everyone wants another bike don’t they I’ve got 4; a Bianchi, a mountain bike, an old steel bike and my Boardman which is like my winter bike but I really fancy …

Cycling Monologues No 15 – The Bianchi Rider

“So anyway now I’ve got 5 Bianchis why not they’re gorgeous did you know they were the first Italian cycle brand probably the first anywhere iconic they are I’ve got an Oltre that’s the road racer and a Sempre that’s like a winter bike and an Infinito that’s an endurance all day sportive type bike …

Cycling Monologues No 3 – The Rapha Rider

“So anyway I just bought this Rapha top in the sale I know it’s expensive even in the sale it was like 80 quid but it’s made from this amazing fabric which is almost like waterproof and it’s so soft here feel it, no go on I mean it’s got this reputation but really you …

Cycling Monologues No 14 – The Team Follower

“So anyway Sky is my favourite team and I’ll tell you for why they’re British for a start well almost I mean Sky TV is owned by an Australian Rupert Murdoch and 21st Century Fox is an American company but the Team Principal that’s Sir Dave Brailsford is British well Welsh anyway and they’ve got …

Cycling Monologues No 13 – The Data Junkie

“So anyway my resting heart rate is 64 which has gone down since I started cycling Indurain’s was 32 and Bjorn Borg was 27 of course he wasn’t a cyclist I did an FTP test and that showed 242 apparently Froome did about 460 on that climb last year they said Hoy could do like …

Cycling Monologues No 12 – The Brompton Rider

“So anyway I’ve just got this Brompton you know the folding bike made in Britain it’s the only bike made in Britain I think or maybe not anyway it’s got this really clever mechanism you pull the seat post up this is to unfold it and then you straighten the front wheel and lock that …

Cycling Monologues No 11 – The Commuter

“So anyway I’ve been commuting for about 5 years now I love it I must have saved a fortune on train fares over that time, of course I’ve spent a fortune on bike stuff but it doesn’t compare, you see some right idiots on the road now you don’t have all that hassle with the …

Cycling Monologues No 10 – The Charity Rider

“So anyway are you going to sponsor me then I’m doing this Marie Curie Cancer ride London to Paris three days 100 miles a day it’s going to be amazing I’m hoping to raise £500 of course the ride is costing £450 but that’s still £50 that goes to charity there’s a big group of …

Cycling Monologues No 8 – The Turbo Geek

“So anyway I’ve started going on the turbo I really love it I do about 5 sessions a week sometimes I do Trainer Road or Sufferfest or watch something on You Tube and I’ve just tried Zwift this online thing but I’m not sure about that it’s a bit boring you want my opinion people …

Cycling Monologues No 4 – The Ebay Stalker

So anyway I just got these wheels on Ebay they’re like Zipps well I mean they’re not real Zipps but just as good guess how much go on guess you’re wrong way wrong I got them off some bloke he’d only used them a couple of times not a mark on them well hardly anyway …

Cycling Monologues No 7 – The Track Rider

“So anyway you should do the accreditation it’s only 4 sessions if you do it at Herne Hill that doesn’t cover the Olympic circuit or vice versa no I don’t know why not maybe because one is inside and the other outside you don’t need a track bike of your own you can hire one …

Cycling Monologues No 2 – The Cycle Tourer

“So anyway I’ve been going touring for about 20 years now I love it I can carry everything on the bike I’ve got it down to a fine art I don’t carry anything I don’t need my bike is a Pearson it’s got a triple chain-set I don’t really need it but it’s nice to …

Cycling Monologues No 1 – The Time Triallist

“So anyway the season is starting soon I’m starting with the 10 on the G17 course down at Broadbridge I’m hoping for a PB I hate all those roundabouts getting up at 4.30 in the morning I love it you get it out of the way and the rest of the day is free to …

Cycling Monologues No 6 – The Sportive Rider

“So anyway I’m doing this sportive in Wales it’s called the Dragon Ride it’s the toughest in Britain so they say I think there’s 30000 feet of climbing and one of the hills is 1 in 2 apparently I’ve done loads of them I did that Circuit of Kent one last September it was a …

Ian Bashford – an appreciation

The cycling community is like a family, bound together by a shared passion, shared experiences and unseen bonds. And each cycling club is its own little family. Bash had two of these other families – the Old Portlians and the Meridien. He joined the Old Portlians in 1996 and he was the key member involved …

The Invention of the Draisine

Mannheim, Southern Germany, June 1817. Two years since Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, 195 years before a Briton will win the Tour de France. A group of well-to-do Germans are meeting after lunch. They drink schnapps and smoke cigars. The mood is jovial; the banter is German. They are listening to Beethoven who is playing …

The Secret Diary of an Indoor Cat

At the turn of 2016, the evenings drawing in but the weather unseasonably mild, my family moved to a new house in West Wickham. The previous owners had split up and moved away. On our first day in the new house we discovered a safe built into the wall in an upstairs cupboard. We opened …

Brown Sauce

Once on the Pilgrim’s Way Angela picked up the pace. Her legs spun the pedals with practiced ease. She leaned forward, hands on the drops, feeling the wind flow through her helmet and over her short brown hair. She felt Eric pull along beside her; he seemed so much faster than her. Her heart was …

Cycling Monologues No 36 The Weight Fanatic

So anyway I got this new bike it’s a Trek Emonda which is like French for stripped because it’s the lightest production bike ever it weighs like 5 kilos all built up I got these Lightweight no really that’s what they’re called wheels they’re German but still the lightest production wheels ever made and I …

Chris Froome is clean (probably)

The Usual Suspects is a superb film directed by Bryan Singer and starring Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne and Chazz Palminteri. There is a now legendary character in the film called Keyser Sose – a brutal but mysterious villain who is key to the whole story. At one point one of the characters says – speaking …

Harry Potter and the Prince of Tadros

The still dark sky was cold and damp as Harry Potter flew down from Hogwarts to Broadbridge Village Hall, his Cervelo P3 strapped to his broom-stick. He stamped his feet and blew on his cold hands but his new Castelli Gabba blocked out the wind and the icy air. ‘Nice Gabba,’ said Ron Weasley. ‘Wiggle?’ …

What do those World Tour team sponsors actually do?

Movistar was formed in 1959 by Gregory Peck, a noted actor and keen cyclist who won an Oscar in 1962 for his performance as a big game hunter in To Kill a Mockingbird. He was 17th in the Tour of Flanders in 1960 where he rode under the name Styn van Whitevan. Katusha is a …

Harry Potter and the Order from Wiggle

Harry Potter sat in his room at Hogwarts surfing the internet on his iPad. Ron Weasley was lying on the bed gazing at the mirror on the ceiling while Hermione was sitting on the rug scrolling through her Garmin. ‘Have you heard of Wiggle?’ Harry said. ‘Professor Snape had one,’ said Hermione. ‘It’s a magic …

Cyclist Conversations

‘So how d’you get on?’ ‘It was rubbish, a long 1.’ ‘Oh tough. What was the course?’ ‘The G17/29.’ ‘What? With all the roundabouts?’ ‘That’s the one.’ ‘So who won?’ ‘I’m not sure. I think it was old Charlie Starkweather with a short 53. But I didn’t hang around, it was cold.’ ‘Who was organising? …

The Old Man and the Seat

Nick took his bike down from the rack and wheeled it out of the shed. He had many bikes but this was his favourite. It was a good bicycle, one of the best. He loved the clean lines, the pale blue colour, the shiny components. Nick was old and tired. His hair growing thin, his …

Ultegrysses

Far beyond the evening’s early glow and the late commuter traffic is damping down, there is a cool breeze as I glide down the hill to Corkscrew. I see Mike mad miling from Selsdon past the dog walkers and ipod runners as he eases past the roundabout changing down for the early rise to Layhams. …

A Farewell to Armstrong

Films about sports are seldom successful; actors aren’t great sports people and sports people don’t make great actors. ‘Escape to Victory’ was a film set in a prisoner of war camp where the inmates started a football team; I seem to remember Bobby Moore and Pele were in it (they couldn’t act) and also Michael …

Tangfastic

Jeff turned left and soon the road started rising. It had been warm, almost hot in the valley with the strong sun and little cloud but as he climbed higher the sun slipped behind the trees and the temperature fell. Jeff didn’t mind; he wore a base layer beneath his top and the exertion of …

Vienna Riesenrad – Ferris Wheel

‘I never knew the old Vienna before the war with its Strauss music, its glamour and easy charm.’ Graham Greene – The Third Man. …

Sportives – toll roads for cyclists

Before the coming of Starbucks, coffee was sold in cafes (greasy spoons) or in tea shops where it was tolerated but not encouraged. Starbucks’ greatest trick was to get people to believe that paying £3 for a cup of coffee with a silly name in a ‘coffee shop’ was better than paying £1 in a …

A week in Mallorca

A week in Mallorca Day One December was cold with gusts of snow and biting winds and even though I got out on my bike I needed some warmth. Steve and Sally, Mig and Father Jack had all been to Mallorca and recommended it and the Sky team and others used it as a training …

Roubaix Sportive

Try everything once, said Lord Beeching, except incest and folk dancing. To which I would add – the Roubaix sportive. It was cold and drizzling as the Old Ports headed out of our hotel in Tourcoing to the Roubaix Velodrome and the start point. Once there we delayed as first one, then another Old Port …

Breaking Away is the best film about cycling – ever

Breaking Away is a 1979 film, written by Steve Tesich (who won the Oscar for best screenplay) and directed by Peter Yates, the British director best known for Bullitt – iconic, San Francisco set crime thriller with the second best car chase sequence ever. (The best? The French Connection). Breaking Away is sent in Bloomington, …

Rapha – pretentious, moi?

Rapha is (arguably) one of the most hated brands on the planet – up there with Islamic State, the Daily Mail and McDonalds. Why? For those who don’t know, Rapha makes cycle clothes and accessories, sold mainly through an achingly hip website. The clothes are usually modelled by older people, often with beards and invariably …

Zwift

Zwift is an online game designed for turbo trainers. Download the (currently) free software to your computer and use an ANT+ dongle to transfer heart rate, cadence and power data (depending on your devices) to the game. Currently it requires a desk-top or lap-top running either Windows or Mac but an ipad version is planned. …

The Enduring Appeal of Marco Pantani

There is nothing like dying young in tragic or unusual circumstances to cement your reputation. As a career move it can’t be beaten. Just think of who’s done it – Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Jimi Hendrix, Heath Ledger, Marc Bolan (who he?), Amy Winehouse, River Phoenix – all now regarded as flawed geniuses. And Marco …

Prudential Ride London Surrey

I have nothing against charities or charitable giving – I give to charities (I even bought the Band-Aid single) – and I recognise that most of them do good work and are not profligate or wasteful of the donations they receive. But … I do resent the way that the Prudential Ride London Surrey has …

Too Many Kudos

Strava – for anyone who has been in a coma – is a web based app enabling you to record and upload rides from a Garmin or smart-phone, using GPS co-ordinates, thus allowing you to compare and compete against other riders. You can create ‘segments’ – specific routes or sections of road (eg hills) and …