That time I met Alex Cox

Twelve years ago I was working in a small restaurant weekends and evenings as I was studying at the local college the rest of the time. One quiet evening Alex Cox walked in, and as it was quiet I had the chance to have a quick chat with him. Who? Alex Cox used to present BBC2’s Moviedrome as well as being a writer and film director. I used to avidly watch Moviedrome each week as you never knew what the weeks film would be. Some were terrible, some were good and some were absolutely brilliant, but they were always interesting.

I told Alex that I was a fan of his work and he asked me which of his films I liked best. ‘Walker’ I replied without hesitation, which Alex agreed was his best film.

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He appeared genuinely pleased to meet a fan, although as this was back in the day before I had a decent mobile, I haven’t got a selfie with him. Never mind, but if you get the chance, have a look for some of his films, they’re all listed on IMDB.

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Fireworks 500

Fancy an open water swim, in November, in an old quarry, at night, with a glow stick and hundreds of other lunatics. Definitely!

It sounds crazy, but it was the second time that me and my wife had done it. More people and more queues for the car park meant that the start was delayed, which also meant that many of the people in the first wave didn’t have working glow sticks, as they had already turned them on.

The water was cold, as expected, and it took until I had rounded the first buoy for my head to stop hurting. I lost my nose clip and glow stick, and could hardly see a thing, but it was great fun, especially get out at the end.

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As usual with Epic Events there are free photos to download, which is always a nice touch. The medal was also fantastic.

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To end the evening there was a big firework display, although we didn’t stay as our car was stuck in a muddy field and needed to be rescued by a farmer and his tractor.

We’ll definitely be back next year.

Book Review 2017 – Part XI

Not being able to cycle for a few days because of nasty cold means that I’ve managed to write one blog entry each day, with Part X Book Review here and an air quality entry here.

I first read Jericho Falls by Christopher Hyde almost 30 years ago. It was delivered by accident when I was a member of a book club and I forgot to send it back. I’m glad that I did because it’s a brilliant thriller/horror novel. I’d lost my original copy many years ago, so when I saw that it was available for a few pence form a large online retailer – I pounced.

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The story revolves around a small town sheriff from a nondescript town in the middle of nowhere. I don’t want to give too much away, but there is biological warfare, government coverups, evil military and general edge of your seat stuff. It’s a little dated, no mobiles, no internet, no Facebook, etc, but overall it stands the test of time well. It is worth looking out for, especially if you’re a Dean Koontz fan.

Generally, on a Monday, I borrow my wife’s car and drive to work, usually managing a quick swim at the Howe Bridge pool on the way. Driving home I get to listen to Simon Mayo’s book club on Radio 2. Usually by the time I’ve got home I’ve forgotten whatever book it was they were talking about, but The One by John Marrs stuck with me.

The plot is that a scientist has discovered part of our genome that identifies if we are attracted to someone, or if someone is ‘The One’. I would suggest that the science behind the book is a load of rubbish, but the premise is quite good. We follow the lives of six individuals as they interact with their ‘One’, without their stories ever crossing. This helps because sometimes a character might be a bit boring, while another is interesting, and then later in the book vice versa. There are plenty of plot twists along the way, including one character’s ‘One’ being a serial killer. Definitely recommended.

Another thing to like about John Marrs is that for his first book he self published, and gradually it gathered momentum until he could become a full time author for his later books.

Book Review 2017 – Part X

I’ve been a bit slack recently with my book reviews, and with my blog in general. I’ve not stopped reading, I’ve just stopped writing about the books that I’ve been reading. It’s got to the point where the stack of books that I need to review is bigger than the stack of books that I’ve not read yet.

First off then is another cycling adventure book; The Beardless Adventurer by Donna Ashton. A couple in their 40’s decide to cycle across Europe, all the way to the Black Sea. Between them they have very little cycling experience. and Donna has a bike which is too large.

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They both had a romantic view of cycling quiet French country lanes, with the sun shinning and being able to stop in quaint villages to buy fresh bread and cakes. The reality was closed campsites, hilly back roads, rain compounded with various aches and pains.

They persevered and it does end up being a great adventure, and I especially like their ineptness at the beginning because it gives me hope that I can manage the same one day.

Eleven Minute Late by Matthew Engel isn’t a cycling adventure book. Instead, as the title cryptically alludes to, it’s about trains in the UK. I was hoping that it would be a kind of Bill Bryson on trains, and it was, to start with. Matthew buys a two week unlimited travel card and sets off on various journeys, including the longest in the UK which runs from Penzance to Dundee and takes almost 12 hours.

I like reading about obscure routes where trains only run once a week. He also stopped off in Rogart, and small station in the Highlands where me and my wife spent an enjoyable night sleeping in a converted train. Unfortunately the book veered off into the history of the railways, who ran them and ultimately discussed privatisation. Interesting, but not really what I was looking for.

That Stupid Cycling Jacket

A few months ago I blogged about a very close pass that I was subjected to (read about it here), and how at the time I was wearing my “stupid cycling jacket”, photo below.

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My beautiful wife was understandably a little miffed by my comments, as she had bought me the jacket. The main reason why I feel that it is a “stupid cycling jacket” is because it feels necessary to wear it on my commute. The traffic between Wigan and Leigh is bad. There’s too much of it, too much congestion and no decent cycling infrastructure. During the summer it wasn’t too bad, but now, towards the end of October, it’s getting dark, the schools are back and the weather is starting to get a bit grim. This all adds up to a much more unpleasant commute.

At least I have my “Polite” hi-vis jacket. Truthfully though, it doesn’t really make much of a difference. Drivers who generally give cyclists enough room, continue to give me enough room. The problem is those drivers who don’t understand, don’t think it applies to them, are in a hurry, or simply don’t care. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how visible you. Much like the new signs that have appeared on the roads around Lancaster.

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These signs are supposed to make drivers more aware of cyclists, and to give them (us) at least 1.5m when overtaking. Again, like the cycling jacket, they don’t make the slightest difference with some drivers.

People who read the Telegraph or the Daily Fail believe the rhetoric that cyclists are an epidemic that need to be eradicated. Maybe “1.5m” could be burned into the retinas of fat middle-aged Audi drivers.

As I have said before, cycling is the answer (here) to congestion, air pollution, obesity, and therefore we should be doing everything possible to encourage it.

Le Tour De Bolton

Yesterday me and my beautiful wife took part in the Le Tour De Bolton Sportive, organised by Epic Events. You might think that a bike ride around Bolton might not be too much fun, but it’s not an area that we cycle around very often. In fact, Helen hadn’t previously cycled a single segment over the whole 60 miles. We arrived nice and early so that we could be off first, as we didn’t want to be out too long. H was also worried about the hills, especially The Rake, which is described by Simon Warren in his iconic climbing books thus – catch your breath if you can and turn right into the almost impossible 25% stretch to the top. If that wasn’t enough, we also had to climb Crown Point, Anglezarke and Sheep House Lane, along with a fair number of less spectacular climbs, adding up to over 1600m of climbing.

The route and profile can be found here.

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The start/finish was at a local school and as we set off out through the gates and onto the road I noticed a group of about a dozen cyclists off to one side who joined us as the moment we started. I know that some people like to ride sportives without paying, but at least don’t do it blatantly. Maybe wait a day or two, or even the following week. The event wasn’t that expensive and the organisers have spent many hours putting out all of the directional arrows, so don’t be a complete d*ck. Rant over.

The first few miles were busy with other riders, but fortunately very little traffic, so it was generally plain sailing until we hit The Rake. Although there was one guy riding a TT bike who was a bit wobbly. Not the bike for the course thought I. When we hit The Rake there were plenty of people walking near the bottom. H felt a bit trapped in and put on a burst to get some room, before reaching the very steep section. She didn’t quite manage all the way up without getting off, but made it far higher than many others. With a grin we continued, passing that one guy who hates to be chicked and just had to try to overtake us at any opportunity.

The feed stop was located in Oswaldthistle, and was busy but fully stocked with everything you could want, manned brilliantly by some local cubs and scouts. My brother-in-law was doing Velo Birmingham on the same day, and the first feed station had nothing left when he reached it.

We didn’t stop long, although I had the bright idea to tip my black coffee into my half empty water bottle. Lemon hydro plus coffee – not a good taste. Unfortunately the roads were now starting to get busy with cars and we also had to negotiate a couple of main roads, so it wasn’t until we hit the lower slopes of Anglezarke that we could relax again. Amazingly this was the first time that I had ridden the whole climb, and what a place for the official photographer.

We then turned onto Sheep House Lane for the last big climb of the day, although H nearly missed the turn. The Lane was also very busy with cars and motorbikes, combined with some very narrow sections of road. You can see why Ironman UK has such a fearsome reputation, as this Lane has to be climbed twice. We zipped down into Belmont, avoided a prat in a crap car, and made it back to the finish area with big smiles.

Epic Events put on some great events, including the Howgills Triathlon which I did last month (here), and it’s always good to be able to download the photos for free. We probably wouldn’t do this particular sportive again, but H does want to return to have another crack at The Rake. Finally, even though it wasn’t a race, my fit wife did manage to win her age group.

Book Review 2017 – Part IX

Walking Home from Mongolia is the second book by Rob Lilwall that I’ve read. The first one was reviewed here, where he cycled from Siberia back home to the UK, the long way. I enjoyed it, although there was a little bit too much religion.

In this book he decides to walk from Mongolia to Hong Kong, a distance of 3,000 miles. He asked his old friend Al to join him, but he was busy. Instead he was joined by Leon McCarron, who I reviewed here when he cycled across America.Leon wasn’t just going to walk with Rob, he was going to film it for a TV series.

As expected, they had some problems along the way, and as with Rob’s other adventure they didn’t always see eye to eye. A lack of Visas and extreme cold were other problems, but if I’m completely honest, I didn’t really enjoy this book. It didn’t make me want to go out on an adventure. It also came across that neither man was really enjoying the walk by the end. I think I’ll stick to cycling books.

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I don’t just throw together these reviews randomly. The second book, Thunder and Sunshine is by Al Humphreys, and as you know, Al was Rob’s cycling buddy in Siberia. This is the second book by Al and you can read about the other book here. In this book he continues to write about his cycle ride around the world, mainly up the whole of the Americas. As with book review part VIII (here) there is once again the small problem of there being no roads between Columbia and Panama, although Rob does cycle through much of Columbia, and finds it to be one of the most welcoming countries he visits.

The most intriguing section of the book is the Siberian part, this time from Al’s perspective. I really enjoyed this book, which goes to show that I am definitely more of a cycling person and not a walking type of guy.