Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Returning from Koge on Sunday Afternoon


As I am working in Denmark all summer on a short term contract, I have been unable to get out into the hills as I would have liked, especially as Scotland is having one of its warmest summers in living memory.  This year I had to pull out of the TGO challenge (hope to give it a go again next year) so my concept of outdoors fun has had to change to match circumstances.  

Denmark does not possess any wilderness, nevertheless it does have an excellent cycling network and culture plus plenty of history worth seeing.  So it was that on Sunday I took the Brompton down to Koge - which has Denmark's oldest house.  I was out all day stopping off for the odd ice cream and Coffee and pastry as well as replenishing my water supplies in the 25C heat.  I ended the day back in Copenhagen with a Beer in the picturesque Nyhavn

Copenhagen to Koge and Back - Photos

Nyhavn for a Beer after a long day

Woodhenge at Amager
 Crossing the Bridge en route back to Copenhagen

Approaching Ishoj

Koge Square
 Koge Museum
Arrival at Koge

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

No Place Like Home, Thank God: A 22,000 Mile Bicycle Ride Around Europe by Steven Primrose-Smith; read 19 August 2016 and some very wise words - see last paragraph

“… we're sold a lie. Work hard, save for your pension and reap your reward when you retire. You've earned it! But even if you reach retirement age – hardly a given – your body is unlikely to manage the things it could in its twenties, thirties and forties. We see advertisements for retirement plans with silver foxes and foxettes engaged in something mildly adventurous, perhaps trekking up a little hill in the Lake District and beaming radiantly at each other in pastel knitwear. Look, folks, we got there. We're having the time of our lives. Buy our plan. But the things you'd ideally do today if only you'd more time might not be possible decades down the line. One dodgy knee and any physical plans are buggered.” Writes Steven Primrose-Smith near the beginning of this wonderful book. 

After a near fatal brain haemorrhage (3 in fact), with high blood pressure and as a result of long-term hypertension with kidneys functioning at only 60%,  Steven Primrose-Smith decided that there was a better way to recovery than taking pills for the rest of his life – instead he would spend the next 3 summers cycling 22,000 miles visiting every capital city in Europe – including the ones that aren’t really capitals (Douglas IOM; Cardiff; Monaco etc).  At the same time he would do 3 OU degrees (and the OU network would be crucial in providing support on his travels) as well as in each country he visits try a food that he has never before tasted – the worst of which is very early on when in France he just about manages to hold down a ‘poo sausage’, other delicacies included instant donkey milk and even fried insects.  His primary objective is to confirm, or otherwise, that there is nowhere worse in Europe e than his home town of Blackburn.

The book is a delight to read as Stephen succeeds in his objectives (except for reaching Moscow – which he wisely decides isn’t worth dying for given the nature of Russia’s roads and the competence of her drivers).  The tales of his travels are well written and full of humour that had me laughing out loud – who for example would have known that the ‘Kunsthaus was an art gallery and not the Swiss parliament’ or that ‘Some lives seem to be defined by a single moment: Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon, Einstein's imagining of special relativity, Josef Fritzl's first visit to The Ideal Home Exhibition’.  These or just 2 of the vignettes that appealed to my particular sense of humour but there is plenty here for everyone.  This is a great travel book in which the bike is important – particularly when in the final year it seems to struggle to keep spokes from breaking, but the cycling is not the story here – it is the places and the people along with Primrose-Smith’s story-telling that stand out.

The book is also something else.  At the end Primrose-Smith realises that Blackburn isn’t that bad a place after all but that it is familiarity that breeds contempt. So instead of seeing this book as a travelogue it should also be used as an inspiration to get out there and do something yourself.  Surely Primrose-Smith  is right when he says “What I planned to do was the sanest thing ever. The nutty ones are those who say they'd love to do an adventure but never get around to it”.  And to prove that his OU Maths course didn’t go to waste his final words on probability are worth repeating:

As Primrose-Smith says in his epilogue:

“The chance of your winning the jackpot of the UK lottery is extremely low, 1 in 13,983,816 to be precise (or 49!/43!6! if you want the calculation). You'd consider yourself very fortunate indeed if you won but you've already defeated much longer odds than those. You won life. For the sake of round numbers later down the line, let's assume the average woman is fertile from age nineteen to forty and has two and a half children that make it to sexual maturity. With one egg per month there's only a one in a hundred chance that… any particular egg will grow up and have children of its own. Let's also assume … the average length of a human generation, is 33 years….We can now go back to any given year and work out the odds of your being here from that date. Let's choose the year 1600. Since that time you have had about twelve ancestors, each with a one in a hundred chance of being born, meaning that, given the situation in 1600, the likelihood of your existing was one in 10012 or, … a bit less likely than winning the lottery jackpot three times in a row. If you want to calculate the odds of your being here from the year 300 AD – the year of Bruce Forsyth's birth – my scientific calculator gives up, but the odds are massive, something like one in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. And that was only 1,700 years ago. Modern humans are believed to have been around for 200,000 years and so your chance of being here since then is one in 1006000, which is one followed by 12,000 zeroes. Probability-wise that's roughly the same as winning the lottery jackpot every single Saturday from its launch in 1994 until the year 2027. But this is only a tiny fraction of the real calculation. You also have to consider all the evolution, with its random mutations, that had to occur exactly as it did over billions of years for humankind to come about in the first place, all the tectonic plate movements that isolated some populations and enabled others to be wiped out by predators, the geological make-up of the Earth and its composition as a result of condensing gases from the remnants of the early Solar System, but also the cloud from which the Solar System emerged and the earlier stars that burned their hydrogen and helium to form the heavier elements within that cloud that were eventually necessary to make you exactly as you are. The chance of your being here is so infinitesimally small as to be zero, or no chance whatsoever. You, me, any of us, shouldn't really be here at all. Make the most of it (my emphasis).

I loved this book!

Thursday, 16 March 2017



Having been brought up in Lincolnshire one would have thought that I would have visited Leicester – just 50 odd miles from my home town before I was 52 years old. In fact, I never had the need to go there until last October when my father was in the city’s hospital. I was then back just 2 months later for as my son was representing the Open University at a ‘Moot’ at Leicester University.

Richard's Tomb


I don’t know when I shall next be back but I did enjoy 2 short visits to the town. On the 1st I took the opportunity to visit the Cathedral where in 2015 Richard III was laid to rest, after the discovery of his body in a car park nearby in 2012. The Cathedral is actually rather small as it was in fact originally just a parish church and consecrated as a Cathedral only in 1927. Having said that it is a delightful building with very helpful volunteers willing to answer questions. The highlight of course is the tomb of the King – polished Swaledale Limestone containing many fossilised sea creatures - but there is also plenty of interest around the whole building including the shroud that covered the kings coffin during the re-interment. Nearby there is a visitor centre but I shall have to leave this for another visit – mum was with me and no way was she entertaining the ‘steep’ (actually very reasonable) entry fee.

Cover used at re-interment


Firstly, there was the graveyard, which has a visitor centre though as the site is well signposted this is superfluous for most visitors. I wandered around here for a while. One particularly interesting feature was the site of a church -now gone but where the memorial stones within had once been were place metal replacements that marked the outline of the church. The characters memorialised were a distinguished bunch indeed but I was particularly interested to see the memorial to Albert Walter Harris (1874-97) who must have been one of the 1st professional racing cyclists. 

Albert Walter Harris - Pro Cyclist Memorial


After wandering around the graveyard for some time I tramped over to the War Memorial behind the University and then to nearby streets which provided some very interesting building and ghost adverts from years gone by.

War Memorial - Surely Lutyens?


I would say that although Leicester is not really a tourist destination it is definitely worth stopping by for a look around there was certainly plenty of interest on my 2 visits.

Street Views


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

I wouldn't have gone unless Adrian had pre-planned it

Monday dawned cold - just 3C and very overcast.  Snow level was down to 400 or so feet and visibility wasn't great - a fairly typical dreich February morning.  Adrian Stewart had suggested we do a ride over the Suie and then through the Lord's Throat, suggesting he would cycle from Inverurie to meet me in Insch.  Well I am glad he suggested it as with the weather as it was I would not have bothered on my own, in the end we had a good ride with Adrian leaving me to return to Inverurie at the end of the Lord's Throat whilst I headed north towards the Chapel of Garioch and then home.  A good 45 miler but not a day for photographs.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Still early in the year but managed a ride after work

Last night was a race home from work to beat sunset.  Finishing work 10 miles nearer to home after a meeting the opportunity to get a ride in before darkness was tantalising especially as the thermometer in the car was reading 12C (even if there was a strong SW wind).  A check of the weather app on my phone gave a sunset time of  1710, I could just squeeze something in.  Needless to say I was in a rush on getting home so left the house without cycle computer and GPS watch but didn't have time to search for them.  I did get out and of course ended up returning well past dusk but it didn't matter the daylight portion of the ride was a joy to achieve this early in the year - its a joy to think the lighter nights are returning even if only just.  Here's my route for the ride.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Best Podcasts of 2016 (IMHO)

This selection is somewhat limited as it applies to those podcast to which I was listening last year , there may well be better ones out there and I certainly know of some good ones that I didn’t get time to appreciate last year but are on my list for the future.  So in no particular order here is my listening list for 2016:

The Outdoors Station Podcast - http://www.theoutdoorsstation.co.uk/

Bob Cartwright has really got his mojo back this year and is turning out some excellent outdoors based podcasts.  Bob has recently moved house and it seems this has been a spur to get after the podcasts once again with new enthusiasm.  Recent episodes have included interviews with Chris Townsend, Alex Roddie (Outdoors Writer and Blogger) and Ellie Bingham (7000 kms on a shoestring cycling across S America without spending money).  Bob has also spent time on a couple of shows introducing other worthy listening podcast for outdoors enthusiasts so I plan to give these a listen also.  I have really enjoyed having Bob back but one of the great things about his podcasts is its extensive back catalogue which has a number of items worth going over again and again – in particular the TGO challenge and 3 men in the Cairngorms episodes.  Great to have you back Bob.

The Bike Show from Resonance FM ‘Podcast and blog of the world's most popular bicycling radio show, rolling since 2004’    http://thebikeshow.net/

This is another podcast with an extensive and excellent back catalogue that is well worth downloading (despite originally being London Based, the articles are, for the mostpart, by no means London-centric ).  Jack Thurston is an excellent host , who now lives in Abergavenny so I’m not sure if the show is still broadcast on Resonance FM but that doesn’t matter as the podcast is still live and kept up to date .  Recent episodes have been particularly interesting for anyone interested in long bike rides – I particularly enjoyed the 3 episodes on the 2016 Transcontinental race (58 mins ; 40 mins and 54 mins in length respectively.) Not just for cyclists this but if you’re interested in Sport, the Outdoors or Cycling you will love this podcast.

This is the podcast of the BBC’s History magazine and like those above again as an extensive archive. Nowadays it is released weekly so its hard to keep up with, but for anyone with an interest in the subject it is a must listen podcast.  Unlike the magazine, the podcast has time to explore, usually with recently published authors or TV documentary producers, the latest thinking on a huge range of historical topics.  IN the last year, I have listened to Jonathon Dimbleby talking about the ‘Battle of the Atlantic’, to Marc Morris talking on te Norman Conquest and Tony Robinson talking about historical TV programmes to name just a few.  In the archive there are some real gems and I urge anyone to go and have a listen.  A couple of other BBC podcasts worth a mention are In Our Time – weekly with Melvyn Bragg and usually 3 academics discussing a variety of Historical , Cultural, Scientific or Religious ideas – I haven’t had time to listen in this year but have always thoroughly enjoyed this show.  For me the BBC’s podcast output alone is worth the licence fee!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Blowing Away the Cobwebs - A short walk on Bennachie 2 January 2016

Well back to work tomorrow so only a short chance to get some walking in - so its off to Bennachie for the 1st time in 2017.