Category Archives: Miscellany

What will you be doing at 86…..?

Russ-Travers

86 year old Russ Travers

Click here for a short video-clip: ab.co/15Zm7xI

One wheel is enough?

I knew this sort of thing was fast becoming a craze, but to descend from a 5,600 metre summit on a unicycle…….that’s more than a craze….that’s just crazy. Enjoy!

Looking back before looking forward

Like most social media sites, every year WordPress provides its subscribers with statistics of their previous year’s blogging. It is always fascinating to look at the numbers, not just of hits and comments, but more particularly of the number and variety of countries readers live in. I seem to have connected with 127 countries in the last year.

In the blogging world, this is merely a ‘social blog’, with absolutely no commercial interests. Like many bloggers, I don’t go chasing numbers to attract advertisers, though I am aware that WordPress reserves the right to post adverts on my blog from time to time.

If you have been an occasional, or even a frequent visitor to this site, thank you for your company. I hope you have enjoyed something of what you have read, even learned a thing or two, or been occasionally inspired to do something different for yourself.

If you are still waiting for the inspiration to kick in, I hope that 2015 will be the year that ‘you take the road less travelled’. May the winds of life be ever at your back!

(Click on the link at the bottom of this post).

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 31,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Be astonished…..

….well, I was.

We’ve all heard of early flowering species, but to see daffodils in full bloom in the UK before the winter solstice (December 21st)….. something fishy must be going on with our climate.

Now, I am not going to enter the global warming debate here, but I am happy to pick up on a bit of Welsh folklore which tells me that the first person to see a daffodil in flower will have a prosperous year ahead of them…..but, of course, only if they are the first person…….second will not do.

And given that it is the Welsh national flower, they will be a bit biased about it’s powers…….but their optimism is shared by followers of Chinese Feng Shui, who believe it will bring good luck into their homes if it flowers in the new year.

Now tell me truthfully…..aren’t you thankful for these few pearls of wisdom?

December flowering....

December flowering….

Ballet and BMX

To the music of the “Sugar Plum Fairy” from ‘The Nutcracker’, ballet and BMXing come together in a rare and curious partnership………

Stand back in awe……..

What does it take to remove the barriers in our minds in order to unlock some of the potential we all have (sometimes in abundance)? Whether its scaling mountains, cycling mega distances, conquering fears, acquiring skills……or simply doing something different in our lives that takes us out of our comfort zones.

Click on this link and be prepared to stand back in awe. This man takes all our excuses away…..

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30295759?ocid=socialflow_twitter

Photograph by Manu Molle

Photograph by Manu Molle

 

Life’s twists and turns

Hardly serendipitous, more a question of misadventure. Life throws up many happy chance encounters, but some encounters are a little less welcome.

My wife, Jenny, recently had the dubious honour of requiring the services of the blue-flashing-light taxi service to our local heart hospital. The initial ECG readings taken by the paramedic flagged up enough concern to call the ambulance. Further checks in our local A&E prompted a quick phone call to Papworth Hospital……and without more ado, the blue-flashing transfer took Jenny to the HDU of our local distinguished heart hospital.

We had to wait 12 hours for the blood test that would reveal the critical enzyme pointing to a heart attack. And yes, it was there, and a heart attack was confirmed.

But behind every misadventure, there will be a few positives. We had caught Jenny’s condition at the very early stages, and didn’t make the mistake of imagining the pain was just heartburn or indigestion. The blockage turned out to be in a minor artery, too narrow to take a stent, but which can be unblocked through medication. The prognosis is very good, too. With the aid of continued medication and a gentle return to exercise, she will be able to return to most of her previous activities.

And given that in the few days previous to her mini-crisis, she had attended an exercise class, ridden 33 miles on the tandem, and had been swimming and nordic walking on the morning of the mishap………. we all have to come to terms with the certain knowledge that, however secure we feel about our own lifestyle and health, life will always be full of twists and turns.

But before I go…

Before I head off on my ‘anti-crusade’, and re-affirm Constantinople’s modern reincarnation as the Islamic Istanbul, I must share a few images with you of last week’s trip to the tulip fields of Holland, the vineyards of the Alsace and the rolling 7 valleys of the Pas de Calais.

Somewhere near Lisse, Holland

Somewhere near Lisse, Holland

20140421_102916_Android

Only in France......

Only in France……

The mark of an ancient route of pilgrimage...

The mark of an ancient route of pilgrimage…

Climbing the Mont Ste Odile, with our French friends

Climbing the Mont Ste Odile, with our French friends

A picnic in an Alsatian forest

A picnic in an Alsatian forest

Patisserie in the Pas de Calais....how do you choose breakfast from this lot?

Patisserie in the Pas de Calais….how do you choose breakfast from this lot?

Les Jardins de l'Abbaye de Valloirs

Les Jardins de l’Abbaye de Valloirs

How does this compute? We got soaked in a downpour in this village!

How does this compute? We got soaked in a downpour in this village!

 

A big ‘thank you’…..

I would like to extend  my gratitude to all who have bothered to drop by this humble weblog in 2013, for leaving your welcome comments  and ‘likes’, and for giving me the reason and inspiration for ‘putting pen to paper’ or fingers to keyboard.

Blogging is all about the pleasure of sharing with a readership of willing volunteers.  There is no major literary achievement in the art of blogging, but if you compare it with other social media (and I do confess to using them myself), there is a level of engagement which puts it in a class of its own.

Facebook is for chatterers, Twitter for witterers, and blogging is for…………..(enter your own appropriate  description)? Communicators, perhaps?

I particularly enjoy my engagement with readers when I’m on one of my cycling expeditions. As a solo traveller, sometimes trekking through open empty landscapes, to be in contact with people thousands of miles away, and from the confines of my little tent, never ceases to be a wonderment to me. Not surprisingly, it is also when I engage with the greatest number of readers. Many, many people have a thirst for adventure, and if their circumstances prevent them from sallying forth themselves, from kitting out their bikes or donning their rucksacks, they love to do it vicariously by reading about the adventures of others. That’s what I love doing in my ‘down time’. And through the medium of the blog, you can get first-hand experiences from people as they are engaged in their adventures. That’s the power of the internet.

Somewhere in New Zealand

Somewhere in New Zealand

In the wider field of blogging, this blog is very much a minor player, but I have still had the benefit of over 29,000 hits in 2013, with one post in particular (No bluffing……… this is the end) attracting 348 hits. If you have been a regular (or even occasional) visitor, thank you. Your company has been very much appreciated.

It now remains for me to wish you a happy and adventure-filled 2014. And if you really want to know……. yes I am planning a couple of cycling adventures in the coming year. Watch this space……

So, if you ride a bike…….happy pedalling, and may the wind be (nearly) always at your back!

Left high ‘n dry….

One or two of you may have wondered at the lack of activity on this web page in recent days. Well, let me recount a true story with a salutary lesson……. of course, it happened to me.

A few weeks ago, I was preparing my laptop and projector to give a slide presentation of my cycle ride Down Under. I had an expectant audience waiting for the start. I had checked that all leads were connected, the PowerPoints were functioning normally, and the Windows Media file of music was set to play at the appropriate moment. All was working as expected, and I was about to indicate to the assembled audience that I was ready to start……… then:

“The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft a-gley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief and pain, for promis’d joy” (Robert Burns).

crashed laptopMy laptop crashed……. not just temporarily, but terminally (hence the lack of activity on this blog). I spent twenty minutes trying to re-boot the blasted thing, but absolutely no response. The prospect before me was either to bail out completely, or to fill the whole hour with words only. I thought to myself: the committed professional would never bail out, but then they weren’t paying me (so bail out!). The expert wordsmith would be able to paint word pictures (but then, I am not a wordsmith). I finally asked myself: am I really going to wimp out, or should I just take control of the situation and play down the importance of the technological lapse, and pretend it was only a minor inconvenience?  What would you do?

In the end, I calmly pulled up a chair, sat down, meekly apologized for the delay and the lack of slides, and then proceeded to treat the whole hour like a fireside chat. I imagined the slides in my head as I pieced together the story: I was able to engage with the audience much more directly, respond to their questions and observations, and be much less tied to the sequencing imposed by a series of slides.

Thirty one years in the classroom had equipped me with the gift of “waffling”, and they liked it, apparently. For at the end they made a generous donation to the Syrian Appeal.

Message for me at the end? Well, first of all, go equipped with a plan B (ie. another device for showing slides). And secondly, it’s a mistake to think that your visuals carry the ultimate message. It’s you, the speaker, who carries the message. And interestingly, I didn’t see a single pair of drooping eyelids in the audience (a common factor in slideshows…..powerpoints do provide a trigger that sends listeners off to the land of nod).

So now I write this post on a new Windows Surface, having spent a couple of weeks familiarizing myself with the game-changing software of Windows 8…………..hey ho…..

Do Apps = ‘appiness?

I have to say, if it hadn’t been for the excellent guidance from a neighbour, and my earnest need to solve a technology issue on my last cycling expedition (New Zealand and Australia), I probably would never have entered the world of smartphones.

Maps

Googlemaps

My day-to-day need for a mobile phone is very limited. Like many, I carry one around for convenience and safety. Only a handful of people know my number, so I expect few calls. However, in my quest to keep my luggage super-light on the bike, I jumped into the smartphone environment and, to my surprise, I found I could (learn to) do all the things I needed to do on this tiny hand-held device: email, blog, facebook, skype, take photos, read e-books, use GPS, send SMS texts, surf the net, listen to the radio, catch up with the news headlines…….. In fact, though

Wordpress

WordPress

called a smartphone, the least useful facility turned out to be the phone itself……..

Many of the great mysteries of modern communication can be solved by the burgeoning App market.  It would seem that, whatever you want to do in life, there will be some App to provide a solution. Although ‘Latitude’ is now a ‘retired’ facility on Google, my wife could track me on my journey on the sub-continent via this layer in Google Maps. When my phone was connected to 3G, she could see where I was (though a weathermargin of error was detected when, one night, she thought I was somewhere offshore!).

From the tiny confines of my tent, in a remote corner of New Zealand, if I could pick up a 3G signal, I could communicate with the world. And it required no more than the touch of an App to call up my blog and write the day’s post; to open Facebook and catch up on the latest messages; to open Google Maps and find my way to a friend’s house in Sydney; to log on to the BBC and read the news headlines, and get a weatherBBC-News- report for the following few days. Instead of carrying books, I connected my phone to my Kindle archive; with a built-in camera I could take photos and directly upload them to my blog or Facebook; and with WiFi connection, I could Skype home without incurring any cost.

For those of you long-distance bike riders who feel bereft if you aren’t carrying (in addition to a smartphone) a netbook, GPS, SLR camera and MP3 player, with all the required leads and transformers, learn to detach yourselves and have faith in that small hand-held device that goes

Translation App

Translation App

with you everywhere. You will experience a surprising level of liberation.

And if you have a challenge with a local language, the Google Translate App has VOP (Voice over protocol) which allows you to say something in English and will provide a written version of what you say in the foreign language. Though frequently inaccurate in its detail, it should be readily understood by any sympathetic listener. Try it. It is surprisingly good.

Eat my smoke…….!

Somethings go together perfectly: cheese and wine, chocolate and orange, cycling and downhill……. Somethings, on the other hand, do not make a perfect partnership: politics and religion (?), drinking and driving, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry……..Cartoon cyclist smoking

Out on my morning ride today, I came across a startling revelation: some cyclists actually smoke!!! How does that work, I wondered……?

I saw a group ahead of me standing by the side of the road and, thinking they had suffered a mishap, I stopped to ask the if everything was OK. Then I noticed that two of the four riders were actually puffing away on cigarettes…..by the side of the road…..wearing club lycra……..holding onto nice carbon bikes……..looking to all intents and purposes like serious club riders…….and the other two were indulging their companions with their patience. Now, this got me wondering. Do cycling and smoking really go together?Eddy Merckx smoking 1Well, do you recognize this gentleman? Yes, the famous Eddy Merckx, known in the cycling world as The Cannibal. Some would contend he was the greatest cyclist of all time. Maybe he knew something about the oxygenating properties of tobacco……… smoking cyclists 1Obviously there was a time in history when the power of the weed was understood better than it is now……. and the guy crouching down in the second row wanted to be included in the promotional shot as well!Tandem smokingAnd being a tandem rider myself, it’s good to know that the famous Player’s brand of yesteryear even had the welfare of twosomes in mind, when the company’s scientists beavered away behind closed doors to make their product not only a legal stimulant in the cycling world, but a desirable health product.

And if you still don’t believe me that Eddy Merckx smoked, here’s another promo he did….eddy merxk smokingand contemporaries at the time will vouch that, at the end of a race, he would regularly light up as part of his recovery from the stresses and strains of the day.

Walter Raleigh…..you have much to answer for! But we do thank you for the potato.

It snow joke…….

If the bookmakers Ladbrokes have cut the odds of snow at Easter to 4/5,  after taking a flurry of bets in the last 48 hours, what is that saying about the chances of a white Easter?

IMAG0589But then Ladbrokes are not meteorologists, and they have no greater insight into the possibilities than the average punter on the streets. But there must be some quasi-scientific base on which they calculate their predictions………or is this just fanciful thinking?

IMAG0595A bit like the actuarial tables used by insurance companies to calculate the likelihood of key occurrences like traffic accidents, flooding and (dare I say it) death. Or, as in the case of the financial markets, we always calculate the future performance of investment funds using information on past performance, even though we are told that this is seldom a safe guide.

IMAG0582So, if it does snow on Easter Sunday, it will be the very first time in…………………..well………… only five years. As a lay person, that sounds to me like a distinct possibility close to certainty…….worth putting a tenner on it?

IMAG0583

Hit by climate change!

Now I know my 2,500 mile cycle ride in the Antipodes did not elicit much sympathy from anyone out there……nor did I expect it, given that I had chosen to do it. There was always an element of “serves you right” that had to be addressed, whether it was in the face of appalling weather conditions, tough terrain or serious mechanical issues. But there are some things in life that should elicit sympathy, even from the most hardy of comfort-zone dwellers……but then they might argue along the same lines: ‘you chose your bed of nails, so lie on it!’.
image

The day before I left Melbourne, the mercury had registered 38 degrees C. Back in the UK, the mercury hasn’t risen above 5 degrees C in the last week, but today (just a week before Easter) the country has been brought to its knees with heavy downfalls of snow, whole communities left without electricity, and flooding in some areas.
image

Whereas Melbourne was registering all-time records for heat in March, and this time last year the UK was registering the driest winter on record, we seem to be ready to set yet another record for the latest snowfall on record.
image

The bookies are raking in the money from punters backing the possibility of a white Easter this year. After all, it only takes one flake of snow to fall in the right place………on the Met Office?

Mileage tally for 2012

Lots of cyclists do a very boring thing when they get to the last day of the year: they total up their annual mileage. Now some of you are already breaking into a sleep-driven yawn, and saying things like: “C’mon, you can’t be serious….you mean you note the mileage of absolutely every ride throughout the whole year? I mean… how sad is that?”  My answer is : “very”.

But, of course, it has to be done. Someone has just got to do it. It may be the only bit of news worth listening to at the last minute, of the last hour, of the last day of the year. C’mon let’s lighten up a bit! The only news to dominate the airwaves was the possibility, at 23.59 Eastern US time,  of the whole of the USA falling over the ‘fiscal cliff’…….and probably taking the rest of the world with it (fulfillment of the Mayan prophecy?). There had to be a diversion to distract us from that.

Cyclists, like myself, spend most of our cycling lives going round in circles. It is similar to the insanity manifested by joggers,  rowers, skiers, ultra-runners, and a host of others. Namely, we use a mode of transport (be it feet, bikes, skis..etc) basically to go nowhere. We set off from point A, which is frequently home, and end up at point A on the return. In other words, we go round in circles. Seldom do we use the mode of transport to go from A to B, where B is possibly several miles from A.

I have to admit that the bulk of my mileage in 2012 has been circular, even though I spent a week in Mallorca at a training camp, and a week in Shropshire at a Cycling Rally. All the rides at both events were circular. So the result of all these musings is: though the bicycle was invented as a mode of transport, many simply revel in the activity for its own sake.

My total mileage for the year was 10,288 miles (16,558 km) which, visualised as an A to B ride, would have looked something like this: Bodo, Norway (north of the Arctic Circle) to Cape Town, South Africa. That might have been a great deal more fun…………………

Krakow speaks for itself

Go to Krakow in December and you are certain of a wintry reception….by the weather, that is, not the people (who are universally warm and welcoming). Snow, freezing temperatures, wind chill to -9C. The trick is to wear half the clothes in your luggage on the outward journey, take only a carry-on bag, and save the extortionate cost of check-in luggage. It’s the KISS philosophy of life: Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Now I will let the ancient city of Krakow speak for itself:

Image

Tower on Market Square

St Adalbert's church, smallest and oldest in Krakow

St Adalbert’s church, smallest and oldest in Krakow

Tantalising food on Christmas market stall

Tantalising food on Christmas market stall

Stained glass window in St Mary's Basilica

Stained glass window in St Mary’s Basilica

And oh, by the way....it snowed!

And oh, by the way….it snowed!

Wawel Cathedral, in the ground of the Castle. Wardens looked like characters out of Harry Potter!

Wawel Cathedral, in the grounds of Wawel Castle. Wardens looked like characters out of Harry Potter!

"If God is with us, who can be against us?". Hmm...depends which God you are talking about!

“If God is with us, who can be against us?”. Hmm…depends which God you are talking about!

I liked the symmetry of the arches with the Castle in the background

I liked the symmetry of the arches with the Castle in the background

The mighty River Vistula

The mighty River Vistula

In case you ask......London was not included. But Edinburgh was!

In case you ask……London was not included. But Edinburgh was!

This could never be a blokes car............?

This could never be a bloke’s car…………?

I have yet to find out why so many people attached padlocks to this pedestrian bridge over the River Vistula

Love locks fixed to the pedestrian bridge over the R. Vistula. The keys have been thrown into the river! Now, what if……..

Ah, the allure of hot spice wine on the market.....irresistible!

Ah, the allure of hot spiced wine on the market…..irresistible!

The thrill of a carriage ride outweighs concerns about the cold weather

The thrill of a carriage ride even outweighs concerns about the cold weather

Inside this crusty loaf hides a stew.......a Georgian delicacy.

Inside this crusty loaf hides a stew…….a Georgian delicacy.

A 'chocolatier' at work

A ‘chocolatier’ at work

A Krakovian Nativity scene that won a prize in last year's competition

A Krakovian Nativity scene that won a prize in last year’s competition

Not to forget the bleak suffering of Krakovians during the last war.

Not to forget the bleak suffering of Krakovians during the last war.

Cometh the floods……

The Rain

I hear leaves drinking rain;
I hear rich leaves on top
Giving the poor beneath
Drop after drop;
‘Tis a sweet noise to hear
These green leaves drinking near.
And when the Sun comes out,
After this Rain shall stop,
A wondrous Light will fill
Each dark, round drop;
I hope the Sun shines bright;
‘Twill be a lovely sight.

William Henry Davies 1871-1940

Bathed in the warm glow…

……bathed in the warm glow of the autumn sunshine as it filtered through golden leaves that were gently jettisoned by trees heading for the slumber of winter hibernation………..

Words lifted from my previous post……and I was asked by a reader why I hadn’t included visuals of the ‘warm glow’ and the ‘golden leaves’ being ‘gently jettisoned’ from the trees in front of our house. Well here they are. Our large picture-frame lounge window give us a perfect view of the cherry blossom in the spring and the falling leaves in the autumn.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Very Inspiring Blogger Award logo

Every day is exciting……you never know what will come in the ‘post’!

Very many thanks to Dear Kitty for nominating Serendipities of Life for the VERY INSPIRING BLOGGER AWARD.

It is great to be singled out amongst the plethora of offerings in the mighty blogosphere.

The rules of this award are:

1- Display the award logo on your blog
2- Link back to the person who nominated you.
3- State seven things about yourself.
4- Nominate fifteen other bloggers for this award and link to them.
5- Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

Seven things about myself are as follows:

1. I love riding bicycles…….a lot!

2. They provide me with an important gateway to travel……….long distance travel, sometimes crossing continents.

3. Travel has to be accompanied by extensive reading………and I enjoy reviewing books.

4. I was excited when a new author (living in the USA) sent me a courtesy copy of his first novel….and I will be reviewing it forthwith.

5. Raising money for a good cause always concentrates my mind…….the refugee children in Syria are currently on my mind.

6. Planning the next journey always ‘gets me off the couch” and kicks me into fresh activity…….independent travel is by far the best.

7. And….I like riding bicycles a lot……(have I already said that?)

The 15 blogs I would heartily recommend are as follows:

Steep Climbs

Cycloterriens

Velo Richard

Bike v Car

A little blog of books

Chris Martin Writes

Travel Destination Bucket List

Our Adventure in Croatia

Sebastian Cole author

The Farmer goes to Seminary

Springfield Cyclist

Cornish Camino

Friday Afternoon Body

Richard Tulloch’s Life on the Road

Lives Adventure

HAPPY BLOGGING!

A cure for ear worms……..?

Sitting with group of cyclists  in a village hall, in remotest Northamptonshire, enjoying a light lunch prepared by the local ladies of the village. During a lull in the table conversation, I said:

“Anyone know a cure for ear worms?”

The lull continued for another minute or so, until someone lifted his face out of his soup and said:

“What was that you said? A cure for ear worms?” Then, suddenly, they all lifted their faces out of their soups, realizing this wasn’t a rhetorical question………………..I was actually expecting an answer.

“C’mon, you can’t be serious. There’s no such thing as ear worms………….how can you get them in your ear?”

Five minutes of lively banter ensued, most of it a mixture of mockery and concern. “Why don’t you go to the doctor then?”. “I have”, I said “but he told me he can’t help”.

When it became apparent that no one at the table could help, I told them the story of when it all started.

When we were in Santiago de Compostela, two street opera singers (a baritone and tenor) kept singing the top ten most popular operatic arias, their voices resounding from the acoustically perfect confines of an ancient arcade, and carrying for hundreds of metres in all directions. When you have heard multiple renderings of Nessum Dorma, let me tell you, it sticks in the brain. It steals its way into your subconscious and defies all attempts of eradication.  And that is the personal travail that has now besieged my life, especially my hours on the bike.

It appears that the tempo of Nessum Dorma perfectly accompanies the cadence of pedalling and, with its rousing crescendos, is the perfect stimulant for making those cranks turn just a little faster.

I tell you, EPO, testosterone, blood transfusions, double expressos do not compete. Maybe that’s what Lance Armstrong, and the cohorts of cheating cyclists, needed to know before they committed themselves to activities that brought about their downfall.

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Cycling, Life, and Everything In-Between

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