Cartoon competition!

Ollie has already done an artist’s impression of our destination. . . Complete with merry cyclists, doing their bike gymnastics, chateau and kung fu knights.
He is clearly joining the tradition of imaginative illustrated travel.

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I have spent another long session getting filthy, fixing new mudguards (Ollie got very muddy legs last time) changing a brake cable that was glued up and then a truly horrid moment when the head set was suddenly wobbling . . . . Potentially lethal? aarrgghh!
A long hot walk to a very good natured bike person and my dim lights came on. . I had tightened nuts up in the wrong order. Phew. The bike is not suddenly wrecked and we can still go.
My nerves are a little taut, it’s only Tuesday and I still have Ruth’s bike to check over before sorting out what goes into which panniers.
We have turned Ollie’s room into a command centre, so it looks as though a tornado has been through . . . but we are too busy playing duets to do any more today!

this was my neat tidy car when I left this morning.

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Doesn’t sir G look expectant and noble?
I think this little red dragon will be keeping Jenny 2 company.

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Eustace has never ridden a bike before, so he has a slightly anxious look about him, but I think he will look very nice on Ollie’s red bike.

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Oh by the way, my piano came home!

In a way this must complete the cycle: pun intended. . The photo of her coming home is almost identical to this one of her moving out. .  but I am told that it is harder going up the steps and that she isn’t going anywhere again!
Many many thanks to Phil Wroe and company for their sterling workmanship.

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Grizzle or Gratitude? Off again with Ollie

Just as my back is recovering from a nasty bout of bicycle-related bad, I have had to undergo  a dazzling and vigorously probing (and how) afternoon in the eye clinic where I was told that my sudden, moth-like ‘floaters’ are, alarmingly,  age related.
Pshaw, bah and a bit of despond.

On the plus side, I can see clearly-ish, pedal strongly-ish and joy, Ollie’s new passport has miraculously arrived in the post today after a tenacious conversation, late on Friday afternoon between my invincible daughter and a real person in the passport office.
They upgraded it to ‘team 11′ for urgent attention and surely someone must have slogged on a Saturday for it to arrive today?

On Friday, Ollie and I are setting sail for Cherbourg and then 10 days of touring around with a family group.
We are staying in a magnificent chateau with parquet floors and ‘no bare/wet/be-socked feet please’
The car will be abandoned in Poole, so it will be our first big tour with just the bikes together. We are VERY excited!
There are 6 panniers, a bar bag and a roll mat between 2 wonderful bikes.
Sir G got a nasty hernia the other day when I over-inflated his rear end, so is sporting a smart new tyre plus brake blocks (the old ones were worn to a nasty shred) which hadn’t been changed since I was in Sicily in 2012. They were also badly grooved. . . so much for my Mediterranean maintenance skills.
The new ones sit beautifully and precisely against shining rims this time if I say so myself.. . thanks to Ben, Dr.Bike I now know how to stop them from swivelling while I tighten them up by wielding a hulking great spanner to keep them still. Such black-nailed satisfaction!

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My mentor and bike maintenance role model. .
(Ben’s spanner is lots bigger than mine)

It feels a little like the aged ones are doing their best to patch themselves together and pretend to be as young as they feel inside again.
. . . . about 8, or nearly 9, like Ollie!

I am quite certain that the next set of cartoons will be a bit special, and who knows, there could be a piano in the chateau or somewhere on our travels. Ollie plays a bit of Beethoven these days you know. .  what a pair!
Watch this spot. .
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Grizzle or Gratitude? Off again with Ollie

Just as my back is recovering from a nasty bout of bicycle-related bad, I have had to undergo  a dazzling and vigorously probing (and how) afternoon in the eye clinic where I was told that my sudden, moth-like ‘floaters’ are, alarmingly,  age related.
Pshaw, bah and a bit of despond.

On the plus side, I can see clearly-ish, pedal strongly-ish and joy, Ollie’s new passport has miraculously arrived in the post today after a tenacious conversation, late on Friday afternoon between my invincible daughter and a real person in the passport office.
They upgraded it to ‘team 11′ for urgent attention and surely someone must have slogged on a Saturday for it to arrive today?

On Friday, Ollie and I are setting sail for Cherbourg and then 10 days of touring around with a family group.
We are staying in a magnificent chateau with parquet floors and ‘no bare/wet/be-socked feet please’
The car will be abandoned in Poole, so it will be our first big tour with just the bikes together. We are VERY excited!
There are 6 panniers, a bar bag and a roll mat between 2 wonderful bikes.
Sir G got a nasty hernia the other day when I over-inflated his rear end, so is sporting a smart new tyre plus brake blocks (the old ones were worn to a nasty shred) which hadn’t been changed since I was in Sicily in 2012. They were also badly grooved. . . so much for my Mediterranean maintenance skills.
The new ones sit beautifully and precisely against shining rims this time if I say so myself.. . thanks to Ben, Dr.Bike I now know how to stop them from swivelling while I tighten them up by wielding a hulking great spanner to keep them still. Such black-nailed satisfaction!

It feels a little like the aged ones are doing their best to patch themselves together and pretend to be as young as they feel inside again.
. . . . about 8, or nearly 9, like Ollie!

I am quite certain that the next set of cartoons will be a bit special, and who knows, there could be a piano in the chateau or somewhere on our travels. Ollie plays a bit of Beethoven these days you know. .  what a pair!
Watch this spot. .

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Hay Bluff and Lord Hereford’s Knobb

The thing about major expotitions with an 8 year old, is that you have to factor in countless unthought-of impediments and find a way to muddle on regardless whilst being genuinely ready to abandon all so that there is never any overt pressure to follow the original intentions, or at least something approximating to them.

Today has been full of the unexpected and several moments of wondering if the bikes would ever venture forth from the midst of the impossible collection of camping gear in the back of my car.

We didn’t like the weather. We were tired. We were busy lopping off the tops of thistles with terrible vigour or whizzing up to great heights of grassy hillock….the saddle was wrong, the brakes squeaked, we must swap helmets or we wouldn’t wear our hi-viz vest……. anything to put off the moment of mounting up.

And then almost without a moment’s notice ( and I may say a great deal of quiet, dogged packing, bike fixing, negotiation and moment by moment letting go) off we slipped, from the top of Gospel Pass, at agonizingly slow, moto molto interuptibus for a 7 mile descent to Llanthony Priory.
By the time we got to Capel-y-Fin, it was pouring with rain and “nobody ever listens” but there was some Elgar sheet music on the harmonium, (STOP IT NANNY) the teddies were still there and for my inner peace, the beautiful window, ” I will lift mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help”

It was Ollie who said ” let’s not wait for the taxi, why don’t we just ride back up?”
But on this I was firm. “No darling, another day when we have built up our muscles and not had so many chips”

Back up on the heights we scampered off to conquer Lord Hereford and then watched countless cyclists sweltering up from the Hay side as we pottered quietly down in awe of the fantastic landscape.
We really thought about staying to camp so that we could go up to come down, but jags of lightening, black skies and torrential rain persuaded us to go back to Bristol via ‘Golden Valley’
A diversion meant a tiny steep, narrow lane. Reversing cockily to allow a big car through I slid gently into the invisible ditch and was truly stranded.
The big car owner ( who knew every inch of ditch ) nobly stayed put until it was clear that I couldn’t budge and hailed a farmer to help me out with his tractor. Mercifully the underbelly of the car must have cleared the ground by a fraction of an inch and we were pulled out without the faintest graunch or scream of metal on gravel.
The entire contents of the boot ( ejected to the road edge in a fruitless effort to find the tow hook ) were slung back in any old how just in time for us to pull forward so as not to obstruct the big car on his return. Friendly exchanges and a promise to reverse for no man, woman or beast on account of the rest of the ditches and our adventurous day ended with a couple of episodes of ‘Narnia ‘

Reality and fantasy are merging with the help of my very fine apple brandy. Ollie is covered with teddies and asleep.

I am trying not to think too much about our fitness/aptitude levels for our French group cycling holiday at the end of July.

Here are some pics of today

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Nothing Like a Little Jaunt. . . Bristol via Muchelney . . . then Offa’s Dyke with Bikes

Ollie and I are going cycling tomorrow, but today, on my way to fetch him from school, I swung into Taunton to replace a mislaid map. I was sure they have a Waterstones. Hooray, they did and so I shall now be able to find the Gospel pass which teeters from Hay-on-Wye in the magnificent shadow of Offa’s Dyke through to Capel y Fin. . . . and if the weather is clement and our bottoms sufficiently padded and blood sugar levels precisely sustained, who knows, we may make it to Abergavenny?

I was also cheered by noticing I could divert easily to Langport and thence to the wonderful cider distillery near Muchelney.
At last I now have my long awaited cider brandy, a memorable visit to Muchelney Abbey and Parish church and some lovely photos to share. This before I have even put tyre to tarmac!

This evening Ollie and I have had a very happy time divided haphazardly between bike fixing, packing, team cooking, discussing tree climbing, watching Narnia and singing, playing the piano, ( Ollie is astonishingly good for only having a term of lessons ) planning my own piano return, and dreaming our way to becoming Real, as in the Velveteen Rabbit.

What a lovely bedtime story.

On being Real. . .

“Does it hurt?” Asked the Rabbit

“Sometimes” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

How does one read out loud when the throat is choked?

Anyway, while I have wifi I can post some of today’s little adventure and no doubt there will be some great bikers on bikes to follow.

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Retracing my steps.

As an enthusiastic 18 year old I cycled with a ludicrously heavy (96lb) bike from Church Stretton in Shropshire via Radnor, Hay-on-Wye, Talgarth, Llangorse, Brecon and Abergavenny to Blandford. It POURED for nearly all of those 6 strenuous days.

I have just spent 3 days walking in this beautiful area in awe of the sunshine as well as ambling down memory lane. Offa’s Dyke with 2 very small children, singing silly sheep trail songs to keep us motivated. Offa’s Dyke again, but in the freezing rain of Holy nights early in 2008. Walking on Pen-y-fan in the snow. Bouncing from one deep heather cushion to the next as a school girl on a biology field trip in Llanbedr, discovering different species of oak and bracken and heather and getting wet through…. I don’t think we had heard of waterproofs then.

With Miki as my companion it dawned on me that this is an area that has been a big part of my life for ….an incredible ….. 40 years.

I am now plotting to whizz down Gospel Pass (the long steep downhill thrill from Hay-on-Wye to Abergavenny beneath Offa’s Dyke ) as soon as humanly possible with Ollie, to cement the love of Wales still deeper!

Here are some lovely photos of our gorgeous time away. Miki returns home to Japan soon, so we have been making the most of our precious time together.
We managed to see Tom and Beckie in Bristol on the way home, as well as relax with a meal in Exeter…. and the sun continued to shine.

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Tintern Abbey.
Ll’Anthony Priory.
Bee, somewhere near Capel-y-fin
Shetland Pony at Llangattock, Wern Bunkhouse.
1000 year old Chestnut near Crickhowell.
Llangorse Lake.
Sheep above Llanfoist, Abergavenny.
Clouds nearing Monmouth.
Exeter Cathedral.

Everything has been tinged with beauty, poignance, the passing of time. The people we have met along the way have been warm and delightful.
A young woman came with 9 girl friends for a hen party to the bunkhouse. She will be marrying on my birthday. Her lovely friends wore home made pink T-shirts with ‘Bride Security’ in bold print ….. they were courteous, considerate and teetotal. Quite a few in habibs. Some were going to try out mountain biking while the rest sketched. They came from far and wide and made a gorgeous meal in which I was invited to share simply because I couldn’t resist asking them about the event and each other. I declined, but I had already been welcomed which really touched me.

The cloud formations were in spectacular array on the way home….such a variety it was hard to keep my eyes on the road and we had to stop several times to be able to look up safely.

I think I have mentioned that it has been a bit of a bumpy landing, inwardly, to return from being on the road. It is now nearly 2 years since I disembarked at Plymouth with food poisoning, a nasty Achilles strain and a tendency to be impossibly worried for no apparent reason.

I will probably have that anxious habit to deal with for as long as I continue my earthly journey, but I am pretty confident that I will also have some magnificent memories. This weekend will join the throng. I really hope my brain will manage to hold up in the storage department. …. and if it doesn’t, please send kind people to tell me about things like clouds and bees and bicycles and Beethoven and so on.

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