Menorca day 2: 77kms

Food is seldom far from a cyclist’s thoughts. A day’s ride is predictably punctuated by calorie-loading stops, but here in Menorca, I begin the day with a local breakfast delicacy: the famous ensaimada.

A yeast-based pastry made with fortified flour, light to eat but surprisingly filling. One is good enough to take me 30kms…..And they taste nice, too!

The weather forecast for today was dire. The landlord warned me to take great care (obviously, he didn’t want to lose a tenant so soon after I’ve arrived!). Strong winds were expected, with gusts of up to 60kms per hour, and sea surges up to 4-6 metres high. With the wind coming from the north, it was going to carry the icy chill from central Europe, where temperatures have dropped to -20C. So I headed off very tentatively, going north to Fornells

taking the punishment of the headwind while the legs were fresh, with the prospect, of course, of coasting back home at the end of the day. 

When conditions out on the open roads are tough, it is nice to know that the Spanish Ministry of Transport has the safety of cyclists at heart…..

and, amazingly, most motorists do observe the 1.5 metre rule, patiently trailing behind me until they can overtake safely, allowing me the stipulated safety margin. I am impressed. And despite the strong winds, cyclists were out across the island doing their weekend miles, especially racing clubs, who frequently left me behind to eat their dust…..

But as I whizzed through (wind behind me, of course) Es Mercadal again this afternoon, I was treated to one of those serendipities that halt you in your tracks. Carried by the wind, I heard the familiar drum rolls of a drumming band, so I followed the sound to the main plaza, and chanced upon two bands practising for the patronal fiesta on Tuesday.

They were surrounded by a growing audience, flashmob-style, and kept us entranced by the complex rhythms of their repertoires. The most impressive display of drumming I’ve ever witnessed was the famous Holy Week gathering of 1000 drummers in Calanda in Aragon. At the stroke of 12 on Good Friday, the surrounding buildings began to vibrate with the sheer decibel level of the outburst. Today’s 20 drummers re-ignited that memory for me.

When I got back to Mahon, I was annoyingly waylaid by a Galician restaurant that beckoned me inside to sample their empanadas and padron peppers. Life can be so difficult to manage at times…….

Menorca: Day 1 (73kms)

You’ve heard it all before…..’The best laid schemes o’ mice and men….’. I picked up my hired steed (a very nice carbon fibre Specialized Roubaix)

at a winter discount price, headed out beneath a threatening sky and against a very cold 20kms head wind, and decided to do just 30-40kms locally to get used to the bike, and have a quick route of escape back to base in case the weather turned nasty…… and what happened?

I got into my stride, the bike felt good, I felt good, the weather didn’t turn brutal, and what should have been an amble round bays and through villages turned into a moderately long day ride. One day I will accept that I can’t simply do ‘ambles’, because ambles are rides without purpose. For me, a ride with purpose requires two ingredients: a destination and a distance, and you begin the ride with both as given, because at the end there is a sense of completion and achievement.

I began the ‘amble’ bit of the ride exploring villages in the south, stopping for a much needed hot coffee in Sant Lluis (the wind chill had really got to me), then got the bit between the teeth and motored north to Es Mercadal, to the foot of the infamous climb to El Toro. 

When you see an innocent little sign like this, there is nothing innocent about it. 3kms of bends in the road usually mean only one thing: a big climb with severe switchbacks. In this ‘post-truth age’ I won’t make any claims about my performance, because you’ll probably guess the real truth anyway.

But my quest to unearth a few more clues about the British occupation of Menorca in the 18th century was richly rewarded today. Sitting next to me at the bar in Sant Lluis were two venerable old boys enjoying their pre-prandial aperitives, and what were they drinking? Neat gin (an unusual drink for most Spaniards), but in very un-British large measures. Not only did we export one of our drinking habits, but it would seem our game of cricket pops up in the most unexpected places (as it did in Corfu)

And after following this winding country road for 25kms, I discovered that Kane was one of the British Governors of the island in the 18th century. He had had this road built to link the capital, Mahon, with the north of the island.

You see, doing ‘research’from the saddle of a bike is easy. Not to mention the bronze age megaliths that kept delaying my progress…..but don’t let me bore you with that.

Menorca con mal tiempo

I tap out this post on my phone accompanied by tv images of critical weather conditions across Spain. Mercifully, Menorca is not going to have the snow and sub-zero temperatures of the mainland, but it is going to be cold and wet for the next 4-5 days….. whoopee! 

Unlike the Canary Isles, the Balearics do have a proper winter, but one which is usually mild and sunny…. but not always. In other words, if you come to enjoy out-of-season sport, you take your chances, just as I am this week. And because Menorca has a proper winter, most of the island is in winter-mode, with minimal services, and many bars and restaurants closed. Perfect if you prefer to avoid the crowds, but disastrous if you like nightlife and the buzz of human activity. Menorca in January slumbers like a hibernating bear. 

And my UK friends mustn’t imagine that we are the only country suffering from a crisis in our health services. Spain is reeling from a flu epidemic, people are dying, and the hospitals are in crisis. Here too, patients on trolleys are lining the corridors, and some of this has been caused by a somewhat less than enthusiastic autumn campaign to have the most vulnerable vaccinated.

Menorca: trying to leave the UK….

A dramatic and confused start to any venture brings with it a few anecdotal stories. I chose Gatwick as my airport of departure because Monarch Airlines offered a very good deal….and my plan to get there? Easy….a straight through train from Bedford to Gatwick. Ah, but there was the little matter of the ongoing Southern Network strikes…..damn! Plan B? Take a National Express coach from Milton Keynes. Straightforward? Sure, but let’s not mention the gathering snow storm hitting the south east which forced the cancellation of dozens of flights (admittedly mainly from Heathrow).

My coach faltered its way around the M25, while vehicles rapidly became enveloped in the white stuff, and it began to bank up on the hard shoulder. There was an element of touch-and-go about the last 30 miles, but we made it in the end, albeit 90 minutes late, putting the driver beyond his legal time limit. 

Any blessings? Oh yes, the fact I had decided to travel down the day before my early morning flight has been, undoubtedly, a huge blessing…… no fretting about the possibility of a missed flight unless, of course, we had got completely stranded on the M25. So, a night sleeping rough in the airport?

The capsule pod. I must be giving in to my feminine side, because I’ve just shelled out £45 to spend the night ‘glamping’ in the South Terminal. I can’t really believe I’m doing this. I was rapidly becoming a world authority on airport sleeping conditions, and the next plan was to write a Lonely Planet guide on airport sleepovers, assigning a starred rating to each one. 

So, proving that the spirit may be willing but the wrinkling flesh is weaker still, I booked into a Yotel, a Japanese-style capsule hotel, where the rooms are tiny pods that look like small (and I mean small) ship’s cabins.

These pods are only a one-floor lift ride from check-in, the pods are superbly designed, with full en suite, TV and WiFi, even a little camping stool and fold-away table. A couple of square metres is about the size of a small family tent.

So, instead of curling up across three uncomfortable seats near check-in and having all the disturbances of an airport at night (automated security announcements, cleaners etc), I am now wrapped up in an air-conditioned sound-proofed little pod where hot drinks are provided at any time of the day or night….and I can lie in bed to watch the 10 o’clock news. Is that cool, or what?

I am now pondering on all of this and asking myself…..am I on the slippery slope?

Menorca

My quest to cycle most of the major islands of the Mediterranean continues apace tomorrow, as I set off for the small island of Menorca, lying to the north east of Mallorca. I have already cycled Mallorca a couple of times, always off-season, and Ibiza and Formentera. Further to the east, I have spent a week each on both Sicily and Cyprus, but still in my sights are islands like Sardinia, Corsica, Crete and Rhodes. I have visited Malta as a tourist, and the size of the island and the density of both population and traffic make it a poor destination for a cyclist like me. menorca-map

Menorca, however, holds a lot of mysteries. It is small and basically has just one road that straddles the entire length of the island, about 50kms long. From this central spine, several local roads and tracks lead down to bays and beaches, all waiting to be explored. Around the entire island there is a bridleway, Cami des Cavalls, established by the British in the 18th century when they occupied the island for over 60 years. This route around the island was used by British coastguards (on horseback) to look out for invading forces.

The last remaining gin distillery is a lasting testament of the British presence, but much remains to be discovered in order to unearth other nuggets of information about the history of the British on the island.

Intrigued? Stay tuned…….

Old Warden, Bedfordshire 71kms

old-warden-1It’s great when the club ride schedules its cake stop in a place of interest. Outside the small village of Old Warden in Bedfordshire, you’ll find the Shuttleworth Collection, a museum housing early vintage aircraft, cars, motorcycles, penny farthings, and a motley selection of farm vehicles.

Next door to it is the Swiss Garden, a Regency garden landscaped in Capability Brown-fashion to resemble the Swiss landscape.  Quite remarkable, really.shuttleworth-cafe

But to slake the thirst and replenish the carbs for a group of hungry cyclists, between the two there is an extensive café and restaurant, built to cope with large numbers. At this very ‘unbusy’ time of the year for cafés, a couple of groups of wheelers bring along some tidy business.

Not quite world’s end: John Simpson

john-simpsonHaving worked as a journalist for the BBC for over 40 years, John Simpson has a long history that provides him with the source material for his memoirs. Not quite  world’s end is just one of his memoirs, covering the late 1990s and early 2000s, dovetailing in with his marriage to Dee, and the birth of Rafe (Raphael) their son, when Simpson was 62 years of age.

The whole book is an unruly kaleidoscope of reminiscences, both about his personal experience of world events, as well as the more domestic happenings in his personal life and how they have altered his perspective on the world. From Iraq to Afghanistan, from Russia to South Africa, from Argentina to Bosnia-Herzegovina……  there is hardly a tract of the known world that Simpson hasn’t reported from and, in keeping with the nature of his job, he was nearly always drafted in to report from some of the world’s most dreadful conflicts where, it was not uncommon, he would often put himself and his camera crew in the most compromisingly hazardous situations just to get that key interview or camera shots of the devastation all around him. He talks of such life-threatening situations as if they were just part of the routine of his work…….which, of course, they were.

But the ‘heavy stuff’ is often lightened by personal reflections, the relationships he built up with people, the food and drink he enjoyed, and the fun he had with total strangers. A very good read, and well worth putting it on a short list of books to read if, that is, you enjoy this particular genre of writing.

 

 

The 10 most popular posts

I am just a ‘hobby-blogger’. I don’t chase reading stats to make a living out of my ramblings. I simply write for fun, and if my scribblings entertain or inform just a handful of people, I am happy. In other words, within the world of blogging, my website is small-time, creating barely a ripple on the surface of the blogosphere.

However, today I wandered into some of my administration pages and encountered a few veritable surprises, especially on the ‘Top Posts’ page that logs the number of hits for each post. Although the predominant theme of the whole website is ‘cycling’ (and I do apologise if you are a non-cyclist), and more specifically, my long expeditions in some faraway country, it is not entirely about cycling. Hence the cover title of ‘Serendipities of Life’, which opens the door to writing just about anything that catches my attention.

The statistics of the most-read posts, since I began blogging in 2010, reveal that amongst the top ten posts, six have nothing (or very little) to do with cycling, even though many of my posts would never have featured as a ‘serendipity’ if I hadn’t been on a journey of discovery on my bike. So, if you have nothing better to do over the next few minutes, take a dip into some of my most read posts.

  1. Land’s End to John O’Groats on a Moulton bicycle. The most read post of all time was my account of riding the 1000 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats in the UK, perhaps the most iconic of British routes that many people aspire to. Probably a key factor was the fact I completed it on a small-wheeled Moulton bicycle: https://frankburns.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/lands-end-to-john-ogroats-on-a-moulton-bicycle/
  2. Joe Tasker 1948-82. Joe and I were not only born in the same small town in County Durham, but we went to boarding school together. He became one of the most daring and successful climbers of his generation, pioneering ascents of the world’s highest peaks without oxygen, and operating with scaled down teams and minimal equipment. Sadly he died on Everest, with his partner Pete Boardman, in 1982. I had met with him just days before that expedition, and he had sent me a postcard from basecamp just before the final (and fatal) assault. I received that postcard 7 days after the confirmation of his death. Part 1: https://frankburns.wordpress.com/2011/07/15/joe-tasker-climber-extraordinaire-1948-82/…………….      Part 2: https://frankburns.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/joe-tasker-1948-82-continued/
  3. A ‘peek’ amongst the peaks, and not just about the bike. A fascinating visit to the Peak District in Derbyshire. https://frankburns.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/a-peek-amongst-the-peaks-and-not-just-about-the-bike/
  4. Ushaw College 1808-2011. My school was almost one of a kind. A Roman Catholic Seminary, its origins came out of the Reformation, and its construction coincided with that period of growing tolerance and eventual emancipation at the beginning of the 19th century. https://frankburns.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/ushaw-college-1808-2011/
  5. A “breeze” through the Outer Hebrides. A singular cycle ride through all the Western Isles, the Inner Isles, ending up on the islands of Mull and Iona. https://frankburns.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/a-breeze-through-the-outer-hebrides-2/
  6. Coba: human sacrifice and scary heights! An encounter with Mayan history on the east coast of Mexico. https://frankburns.wordpress.com/2011/02/05/coba/
  7. Brixworth Anglo-Saxon church. A rare and fine example of some pre-Norman architecture very close to home. https://frankburns.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/brixworth-anglo-saxon-church/
  8. Damien Hirst: a genuine artist? A few reflections after visiting a Damien Hirst exhibition in the Tate Modern.https://frankburns.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/damien-hirst-a-genuine-artist/
  9. Santiago-Muxía-Finisterra. Back to cycling again. The last stage of my cycling expedition from my home in Cambridgeshire to Santiago de Compostela in NW Spain. On this leg, I left Santiago to reach the most westerly point of the Spanish peninsula. https://frankburns.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/santiago-muxia-finisterra-138kms87m/
  10. Latin as a school’s ‘lingua franca’. I had a very classical education. Four of my ‘O levels’ were classical subjects: Latin, Ancient Greek, Roman History and Greek History. Hence much of the day-to-day language of the school was a derivative of this classical bias. https://frankburns.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/latin-as-a-schools-lingua-franca/

Ad finem annus……

dec-31st-2016When major airports were cancelling flights because of dense fog, I rode out the year with an unusually frost-free, fog-free, relatively windless 60kms ride…..overtook a fellow-rider on a similar mission (but he was too out of breath to engage in conversation), crossed paths with fellow-club riders with laconic waves, stopped to offer help to another rider who had punctured (but he had all he needed to do the job), picked up some of the last apples hanging on a friend’s tree, and began to ponder what 2017 might have in store.

Already in the calendar is a week’s winter riding on the Mediterranean island of Menorca, heading off in mid-January. But what about a more ambitious ride? An expedition-like ride in a distant land? And then a tandeming venture for Jenny and me to share together? We have already completed the Coast-to-Coast and the length of the River Thames, both challenging and exhilarating in their different ways. There is much to ponder.

But Strava fanatics will begin the year chasing personal ‘gongs’. Hundreds (even thousands) will head off to the hills (wherever they are in the world) on the first day of the year to try and secure a first KOM (King of the Mountains) placing. Each mountain climb will have its own category, and if the first person to climb a particular mountain  on January 1st is especially strong, they may hold onto the placing for much of the year. Weaker riders will almost certainly lose their placings within a few days. The use of GPS and training websites like Strava have successfully ‘democratised’ international amateur competition.

If you have been kind enough to follow any of my ramblings over the past year, I wish you a very happy 2017 and, if you ride a bike, ‘may the wind be ever at your back’.

 

Cyclist turned trailblazer

Tom Allen caught my attention a few years ago as an adventure cyclist, the sort of adventure cyclist who understands the essence of travelling unaided, across continents, carrying only what is absolutely essential for survival.

He has now switched his focus to long distance walking, and is in the process of ‘trailblazing’ a new hiking route across the Caucasian Mountains. You may be inspired by this 5 minute video…………..


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/192392143″>The Transcaucasian Expedition</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/tenacityinpursuit”>Dave Katz</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

A Venetian masquerade..

Caught up in a Venetian masquerade at the elegant Petworth House in Sussex. 

A life spanning 3 centuries

Stopping for a rest and refreshment in a small village churchyard, my gaze fell on a nearby headstone. Edna Jones, born 10 years before the start of WW1, had died at the ripe old age of 102…….a good innings and a high score, if you forgive the abuse of cricketing terminology. She had outlived her husband by 20 years who, himself, had enjoyed a much better than average innings. As I chewed on an energy bar to replace lost carbs, I began to ‘chew over’ a few thoughts on this lady’s life. If she had been born 4 years earlier and had still lived to be 102, her life would have spanned 3 centuries. By no means a unique accomplishment, because it does happen the world over, especially in countries like Japan……but it is still very rare.IMAG2566.jpg

Back at home, I wanted to check out a few facts to put this achievement into context. When Edna was born,  at the beginning of the 20th century, life expectancy in the UK was only 50 (worldwide only 30), so Edna had more than doubled the average longevity. The birth of the NHS in 1948 did much to improve health and hygiene, but by that time, Edna was already 44 years old, roughly the equivalent of entering into old age, so she had survived a lot of the terminal possibilities before the advent of free health care.

It is astonishing how rapidly  the average age of longevity has risen in the 20th century. In 100 years in the UK, it has risen from 50 to just under 80, the equivalent of an extra 12 months of life every three years (put simply, every three days an extra day). Quite astonishing really.

Back in the early 1980s, as I was invigilating a long tedious A level examination, I remember reading a question on the General Studies paper related to longevity and the payment of pensions to senior citizens. Apparently, the actuarial tables used to determine payments (35 years ago) were based on the average person working to the age of 65, and dying within the next 18 months. Today, conversely, one of our greatest concerns as a society is the imbalance the number of senior citizens is causing the country’s economy, and the added pressure placed on social and healthcare services. On the one hand, medical science continues to stride forward in its endeavour to extend the average life span, but the net result is the huge increase in the need to support the diminishing quality of life amongst people who have far outlived their biblical ‘three score and ten’ years.

So, where do we strike the balance…….?

Empire: Jeremy Paxman

After all that has been written over the years about the history of the British Empire, you’d scarcely think there was room for one more tome. But here it is, by the inimitable Jeremy Paxman, preceding a television series of the same title which can be played-back on YouTube.

jeremy-paxman-empire-book-coverI fully expected to be reading a highly critical account of Britain’s role as a colonizer of a quarter of the world, but Paxman deftly sails a narrow course between the two opposing views. That doesn’t mean that he is not individually critical of individuals, or actions and policies, he is to devastating effect on many counts. He is not averse to lampooning key figures who ‘got it all wrong’ in their enthusiasm to build the empire, and holding up to scrutiny some of the appalling episodes that became key markers on the empire timeline, such as slave-trading, the opium wars, Amritsar and genocide in Tasmania. But in his desire to create some kind of balance, he also highlights atrocities committed by the colonized, such as the Black Hole of Calcutta, and the institutionalized paedophilia, hand-loppings and floggings that occurred in many less-administered corners of the empire.

Although he needed to give more space to the sub-text of his book: “What ruling the world did to the British”, he cannily leaves us to make up our own minds about the oft-stated claim that if any nation is to be subjected to occupation by a colonizer, Britain was definitely the most benevolent of the bunch. I leave you to make up your own mind.

The illusion of elevation

ramsey

Whenever I think of heading east from my village, I brace myself for the windswept flatlands of fen country, following the straight lines of drains and dykes, on roads that disappear over the horizon without a rise or fall, and rarely a bend or curve. In short, it’s my vision of ‘cycling hell’. So when the Wednesday group decided to head out to Ramsey, I viewed the prospect with a certain hesitation. For those who know fen country, most of it is land that should rightly be under water, but Dutch drainage engineers in the 17th century helped mastermind the building of a clever system of drainage which has created some of the most fertile agricultural land in the country.ramsey-elevation

My ride took me over Holme Fen, reputedly the lowest part of fen country, dropping away to 2.75 metres below sea level, though my GPS only detected -1 metre on the road, which stood proud of the field level on either side. You can imagine my surprise, when I downloaded the stats of the ride at the end, to discover that over the course of 74kms, I had actually climbed 350 metres (1100 feet)…….but most of it heading in and out of the fens in west Cambridgeshire, which I frequently nickname as ‘Huntingdonshire’s alps’. In fact, the highest point of old Huntingdonshire is just a few miles from my home, just outside a tiny hamlet called Covington. Somewhere in the field known as ‘Boring Field’, there is a spot that is a towering 80 metres above sea level…….imagine that.ramsey-stats

imag2560-1

Watching our leader mend his own puncture….and no-one lends him a hand

 

 

Against the odds?

Under a pale watery winter sun this afternoon, I passed a target that I thought would have been impossible 11 months ago. My cycling target for this year was to reach 5000 miles (8000kms) by the end of December, and I hit it today  with 4 weeks to spare. Now I know some of you mile-eaters out there will sneer at this, wanting to point out that you’d do that sort of annual distance just on your pre-breakfast rides. And I would understand that. But 11 months ago to the day, I had an ‘event’ that I thought was going to put paid to my continuing ‘bad behaviour on a bike’………and it almost did.

imag2559

Keysoe

 

Getting out of bed too quickly one morning, I experienced a catastrophic drop in blood pressure and collapsed, fracturing a few vertebrae in my back and, in the process (although this had nothing to do with the collapse) I discovered I suffered from paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (arrhythmia), a condition that happens to be quite common amongst endurance athletes. Like a lot of long-distance athletes, a scan revealed an enlargement of the upper atrium of the heart which, in itself, may be of little consequence, but coupled with Afib, needs to be controlled and monitored.

Two months after the event, I remember climbing painfully on the bike for the first time and managed to squeeze 4 miles (6kms) out of the legs…….but it hurt. At the beginning of March, I started some serious but gradual cycling ‘re-hab’, and my rides progressed from 7 miles (12kms) to 27 miles (44kms), reaching a total of 280 miles (450kms) for the month. I rapidly progressed to 600 miles per month (1000kms), hitting the usual high in August of 1000 miles (1600kms), the longest single ride of the year being 65 miles (104kms)

So, after a few years of hitting annual mileages in excess of 10,000 miles (16,000kms), this year’s total of a mere 5000 miles is way off the mark, but for me this has been a minor victory on the road to recovery.

Harmonious balm….

Many things in life have a corresponding counterpart, an anti-dote, as it were. For thirst it is drink, for hunger it is food.

After a hectic day in Cambridge, Jenny excitedly exhausted after hours of Christmas shopping, I suffering from a surfeit of ‘over-browsing and over-borrowing’ in Cambridge Central Library, we sank into the warm melodious harmonies of a King’s College evensong, and all was mysteriously right with the world once again……

THE KINGS COLLEGE CHOIR IN CAMBRIDGE REHEARSING FOR THE CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE.,Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.. Image shot 12/2010. Exact date unknown.

Infidel: Ayaan Hirsi Ali

It is a long time since a book has kept my attention riveted for 6-8 hours a day, and sometimes awake into the small hours.

infidelAyaan Hirsi Ali, born in Somalia, brought up in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya, escaped to the Netherlands as a political refugee, eventually becoming a member of the Dutch Parliament, came to prominence when a film producer, Theo van Gogh was murdered in the street by a Muslim extremist, with a knife in his chest affixing a letter addressed to Ms Hirsi Ali. She then embarked on the rest of her life (in 2004) regarded widely as the feminine version of Salman Rushdie, fearing for her life and living with the intense pressure of maximum security.

It is the story of a journey. Not just a physical journey escaping from one country to another, but a psychological and spiritual journey. She had been born into the ‘relaxed’ Muslim society of Somalia which practised excision (genital mutilation), and she describes that experience with painful detail. She joined the Muslim Brotherhood and became evangelical about her faith, but over time, she found many of her questions about the nature of her faith and its treatment of women unanswered. Her father forced her into marrying a distant cousin from Canada whom she’d never met and, on her way via Europe to join him, she made her escape into Holland where she (falsely) claimed status as a political refugee. This chapter of her life was to be the most tumultuous.

Deeply impressed at everything she found in Holland, she gradually lost her faith, became secularized, joined the feminist movement, and began to publicly denounce the practices of the Islamic faith, especially in the area of women’s rights. After the 9/11 attack in the USA, she went on record declaring that terrorism was endemic within the Muslim faith. The murder of Theo van Gogh resulted from a 10 minute film they had made together called Submission, and the letter pinned to his chest called for a fatwa against Ms Hirsi Ali herself, precipitating months and years of isolation and intense security.

In 2005, Time Magazine voted her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. She is now a naturalized citizen in the United States, has been elected a fellow at the Kennedy Government School at Harvard University, and is now married to Niall Ferguson, the controversial Scottish historian who also teaches at Harvard.

The difference a day makes…

Yesterday, I returned from a 25 mile ‘bash’ on the bike so wet, so completely soaked to the skin, that I left a pool of water on the garage floor. It then took me all of 15 minutes to pare off the several layers, wringing each one out as I created a sodden mound on the kitchen floor. The saving grace of the whole experience was that I had strangely enjoyed the ride (despite the rain), and that by virtue of all the layers, I hadn’t actually got cold. However, because of a serious accident several years ago, when I came off the bike on black ice and broke my femur, I now carry a tightly rolled ‘space blanket’ in my back pocket in case of emergency. Avoiding hypothermia in the cold winter months is a key element of survival in the event of an accident, especially on a remote country lane.

Today, however, was a different story. Bright and occasionally sunny, I headed down into north Bedfordshire to meet up with the Wednesday group at a hitherto unknown country café between Gamlingay and Potton. The Christmas menu just happened to be out on the tables. As we chomped on our cakes and bacon ‘butties’, one of the group had a ‘bright’ idea……why don’t we go for a full 2/3 course lunch on one of our pre-Christmas rides?

Groan……I considered the prospect with mixed feelings. Nice to have a Christmas lunch, but what about the 25 mile ride home afterwards? Rarely do I eat a meal mid-ride…..

woodview-farm

A poppy man

I know it’s well past the season, but this caught my attention today. Put there by the British Legion, the framework was made from the wiring salvaged from old Remembrance Day wreaths from the past. Original and creative, it beckons you to sit next to him and share his space.IMG_20161122_152826067_HDR 1.jpg

The 50 list: Nigel Holland

50-listNigel Holland, in his early 50s, suffers from an inherited genetic disorder known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), which is a motor and sensory neuropathy. Basically, this means that his nerves cannot communicate action messages to his muscles. He was diagnosed in his infancy and, since then, has progressively lost his ability to live independently. He has been confined to a wheelchair for many years, but has never let this get in the way of meeting the challenges of life. In his own words, he may have a disability, but he is definitely not disabled.

This book is a diary of one year in his life (his 50th year) when he set out to complete 50 challenges, which not only included obvious challenges like scuba diving, zorbing and drag racing, but also less obvious ones like making a creme brulée and completing a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. The whole book is written as a message of hope to his young daughter, who has inherited the condition, and Nigel wants her to know that she doesn’t have to lower her sights in life because of her progressive disability.

Writing the book itself was one of the 50 challenges, and I would heartily recommend it for its very human story.

Looking For 42

Traveling the world looking for the meaning for life (and whatever else I might find along the way)

Off The Beaten Path

Inside news from Bicycle Quarterly and Compass Bicycles

Bike 5

A better way to get where you're going.

Kite*Surf*Bike*Rambling

KITESURFING, CYCLING, SUP: ramblings, idiocy and not much more

Cycling Dutch Girl

the only certainty is change

4000milestothesea

On a bicycle from coast to coast across the USA

CyclingEurope.org

Europe... on a bicycle

Self Propelled

Self propelled adventures through life; blogging on cycling, touring, micro-adventures, general shenanigans, and environmental news

chrisp666

Cycling across Europe, Cornwall to Munich

fossilcycle

FOSSIL - A Fine Old Senior Soul In Lycra

The Vicious Cycle

A man searches for meaning...in between leg shavings

2 l o v e c y c l i n g

It's about cycling ... and other travels

There And Back Again

Life at 15 miles per hour

As Easy As Riding A Bike

Well it should be, shouldn't it?

Bike Around Britain

Blog on cycling around the coast of Britain

David Noble's Blog

Life, Loves and Living

weston.front

The Weston Front - the destination of a road less travelled...

The Innocent Bikestander

It can be better

Bike, Banjo & Baby

They go together so well

Something for Kiki and the Pok

the adventures of Christopher Yardin - by plane, bike, through a lens, or the eyes of a child

Bricycling...

Cycling Blog

Richard Tulloch's LIFE ON THE ROAD

Travel adventures on wheels and legs

THE SPORTSWOOL DIARIES

................."Cherry picking the nicest places in the world to cycle"

Gippsland Granny

Musings from Metung

Serendipities of life

Taking the road less travelled

I Do Not Despair

When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race. ~H.G. Wells

Tom’s Bike Trip

Adventures and experiments in two-wheeled travel

All Seasons Cyclist

Real World Product Reviews For Avid Cyclists

machacas on wheels

Taking the road less travelled

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