Saturday, 28 March 2015

65 Mile Ride and Gorge Walking

The day ended with Richard and I freezing cold and naked in the woods together, how it started is another matter, however I should point out it was all very innocent!

I had told Richard what an interesting ride it was from Birmingham to Worcester along the canals and the opportunity came up for us to plan a ride for Saturday, so Richard came over on Saturday morning and we headed off to join the canal in Selly Oak.

Back a little richard

Barges aplenty

I remember riding over that bridge, it's closed and in disrepair now.
 Riding along the canal is great fun, however a word of caution as you get out into the countryside the path get's very rough and depending on the weather you are riding in slop or concrete ruts that can throw you off.  We both remarked how much concentration it takes to make sure you don't come off into the canal, you can tell when it's bad, the chat comes to a halt as all available brain power is diverted to cycling.

We made it into Worcester for the usual lunchtime meal and then headed back home on the roads for a total trip of 65 miles or so.  A great day out!

So how did we get naked...  well when we got back Richard explained that he had planned to go white water rafting on the Sunday but his mate was to ill to go, so I bought the ticket and we decided to go together.

Unfortunately the river was too low so we were given alternatives and we chose gorge walking which if you haven't done it before involves climbing into wetsuits and walking up the middle of a stream/river and jumping in from a height at various points along the way as well as scrambling up waterfalls and generally acting like big kids making splashes and getting wet.

Getting Started..
I look like private shultz compared to Richards
normal dashing self

Love the bermuda shorts they put you in

Look out below

Is the water too your liking sir?

Follow me in Rich, it's lovely and warm.. Honest

See Rich lovely and warm

A very slippery bottom (the river not mine)

nope I am not going to fall in

Just sit back and enjoy a steaming hot shower

still smiling

Richards turn for a shower

The Photo that made the day

about halfway

I had slipped over at this point you can see by Richards smile

Just sitting around in a stream as you do!

We took a few videos of jumping in the water, I had to endure a few comments about the swimming pool scene from shallow Hal and at one point Richard asked to jump in first to make sure there was some water left in...  It's amazing how accidents can happen out alone in a stream so easy to make a mistake Rich...

We didn't get a picture of our guide, he was taking all of the photos but it was a great day and when we finished it was a walk back to the car park and then into the woods with a large wooden fort that is used as a changing room.

Hence getting naked with Richard in the middle of the woods and wondering how such a great weekend gets started with a little jaunt along a canal!!!  Take an opportunity wherever you see it!

For anyone thinking of gorge walking it's great fun and kids will love it, our guide told us of a group of young girls who turned up all dressed as barbie in one form or another who took great delight in their makeup and mascara cascading down and ended up looking more like the rocky horror show cast!

One of the highlights especially for kids was a visit to a small clay hole where black clay is daubed onto your face as the "mark of the gorge walker"  just take it in fun and get into the spirit, aparently the girls mentioned spent an incredibly long time using their make up skills to paint harry potter glasses etc.. I went for the Hitler moustache and my guide simply stated "there's always one!" and then proceded to top me off with two streaks on my cheek.

All in all a part of my life well spent!

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Airbrushing my frame

My intention was to have my frame powdercoated orange with some custom letters in aluminium bonded to the frame.  The problem is, everyone who said they can do the letters then said they can't.....

So here's a man who said he could!  Danny at Dark Arts Air Brushing in Birmingham, located in the Oasis stores:

So I thought get them airbrushed on the frame, here's the first pics, there's more work to be done but need to let the first layer settle in.   Danny was great about fitting me in and picked up on what I was going for, I had originally wanted orange but as the rest of the frame stickers are red it would have looked a mess, I think Danny was relieved.

I left a camera with him and he took some photos as he worked:

That Newt is based on one drawn by another Danny who was 11 at the
time and sent it to me from Ireland so I would have a proper newt!

I am fitting the headset now, and it's going back to Danny next week to have the lettering sharpened.  The best part for me was the Newt, Danny took the picture I had of the original one and went with it in red I really love it.

I didn't like the badge on the Fairdale frame, TBH it really let the frame down as it looked just awful, Danny ripped it off and put my initials on instead.  

Danny is a great guy, really welcoming and I can do nothing but recommend him, I also found out that the guy does free T-Shirts for sick kids in hospital. 

All in all, I had a great day wondering around the city centre while Danny did his work and a really good meal as well at a carribean cafe, Jamaican Curry Chicken with spicy rice.  Chalk this up as a good day.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

My first real blog post

I don't know what defines a proper blog post.. and I am not prepared to look it up or get into an philosophical argument about it.. My posts normally have a point, and I realised that the post below is simply a collection from the last two days.. so it may be my first actual blog post... depending on your definition.

I am in Bristol for a week, I am on the MALC (Managing Across The Lifecycle) the last of the ITIL (IT INFRASTRUCTURE LIBRARY) exams to achieve ITIL Expert Status.  I came down early for the quiet, it has been a little busy at work and I needed some solo time to complete my pre-reading.

I managed to get out for 45 miles on Saturday Morning with a local friend Richard who I met through the CTC forum early last year.   Richard is a warden on one of the local cycle routes and I am incredibly lucky to have had him as my guide for the ride, he took me along the banks of the river Severn past SS Great Britania under the Clifton Bridge, and the crumbling wooden jettys that used to launch boats for the rich to travel on before the advent of good roads made them redundant.

There was a nice climb out of Portishead and I left Richard to chase after a cyclist who had passed me earlier when I had stopped to do my laces.  Now I don’t normally chase up hills, I leave that to the “go faster brigade” as Richard calls them, however there were several reasons to chase this time:   He gave me that look.. the one that says I just passed you and I think you are just wimping before the hill; I thought I could take him because he looked more out of shape than me… the predatory instinct for a weaker rival kicked in;  I was on my Boardman not my tourer; I had no panniers  and  I figured it was an excuse to get me to the top quicker.  

I chased on and passed him, (I don’t ever look back) I prefer to imagine someone is just on my tail and easing up will let them pass, and usually I will nearly fall off because at the point I want to look back I am exhausted and likely to blow my lungs out through my nose like two pink balloons.  Which would at once look absurd, create a huge drag on the bike.. so I avoid that experience and never look back on the rare occasion I do give chase.

I got to the top with sweat dripping from my hat, deliberately not getting out of the saddle to make it harder, when I recovered enough breath to look back, my opponent was way back and pushing his bike up the hill in defeat.  All at once I felt guilty, if I hadn’t pushed passed him he would probably have made it to the top without getting off…  If you are reading this, equally large gentleman on a red bike with drop handlebars, carry on cycling don’t give up just because an idiot like me decided to use you as a motivational prop for his inner monologue!

I don’t think Richard let us touch an A road, he would get on with my Garmin Edge Touring that doesn’t like A roads either.  We wound along the strawberry road, slightly shorter than the silk road and used to bring strawberries along…  We stopped off for a Waitrose coffee that was exorbitant… and then stopped off for a coffee at a local fishing pool that was brought to us in a Cafetierre and only cost £2.00 the lovely lady who brought it to us exclaiming she would not sleep at night charging for coffee what Waitrose did (2.30 for a meagre cup).

We both had a guilty flapjack that after reading it was nearly 500 calories, I only ate half and put the other in my pocket, still trying to lose weight before my big trip.  Richard commented on this and did likewise, thanking me for ruining his flapjack by telling him the calorie count … Ignorance is bliss, especially when it is rolled oats in syrup…  

It was a great start to the weekend and put me in the mood to get into my hotel and stuck into my books.  I am staying at the Almondsbury Exchange and somehow ended up in a large room with a double and a single bed enabling me to spread my books out (about 15 of them) and a desk for my laptop etc..  I had specified wi-fi and was ready to move rooms as the signal is awful… which has some irony as I am a network manager and one of my recent projects is wi-fi oriented.

It never ceases to surprise me that people have such an unrealistic expectation of Wi-Fi??  Asking for a guarauntee with wireless is like asking someone to throw a cup of water on a tablecloth and take another cup and throw it so the water lands in the same place.  We have had television since 1936, earlier if you count mechanical television (yes there was such a thing google it I did), and you still can’t get a signal everywhere let alone a quality signal.  So why is it that lack of a Wi-Fi signal is completely unacceptable and I have witnessed the anguish that it can cause first hand??
In a recent national student survey, having a Wi-Fi signal was rated higher than heating or lighting???  I guess if your focus is on studying and being successful, the need to be online is extremely great..  

I believe that the problem is what I call “communication stress”  and appears to be inversely related to age, i.e. the older you are the less it stresses you.   More and more in my personal life and my professional life I see people communicating less and less face to face and more and more by various electronic means.  Don’t get me wrong I fully embrace this, it is after all my job to make sure it happens, but I also recognise it brings with it certain downsides..  There’s a feeling of disconnection and as studies have shown the younger generation are having difficulties in learning those initial social skills, preferring the safer distance communication over the more daunting face to face.

The I haven’t seen a soul in days kind of stress has been replaced with I haven’t had email or mobile coverage in days… there’s an expectation of instant reachability that if not satisfied is stress inducing.  Fortunately I am midway between the extremes often a good place to be, it gives you the ability to move into the extremes either way for a short while and then return when needed.. far more difficult if you either hate electronic communications with a passion or eschew human contact for them completely.

When instant messaging was first introduced into the workplace, I remember a colleague deliberately not picking up the phone to me and announcing he was training people to communicate via instant messaging as that was how he preferred to communicate.  My backlash to him was fairly swift as I explained that I was not a robot and certainly didn’t need him to train me like his personal dog….  He always had issues when dealing with people and it was well known you don’t let him loose on users…  I was always amazed at his apparent lack of social understanding, there was nothing medical at work (at least I don’t think so) he was simply an expression of a generation that preferred to communicate more like a machine than a human.

So to cut an incredibly long rant short, I put up with the poor wireless signal without giving the reception and management a hard time!  As I noted earlier being in the middle ground meant I can slide to either extreme at will.

On Sunday night (tonight) I treated myself to watching an Hindi film called Swades (2004) It was one of those films I had always meant to watch because a long time ago I had watched a music video from the film:  that showed a scene of him travelling in India in a motorhome having picked up a religious devotee on the way.

The film was about a NASA scientist/project manager played by Sharukh Khan who having lost his parents in his grief had lost touch with the nanny who had brought him up and he resolved to bring her back to America to take care of her the way she had done till he was 17.  When he arrives the story takes him through several life changing realisations, and watching it you get to see first-hand both the beauty of India, and the Poverty and ignorance that hold the land back.  The village doesn’t have proper electricity yet, and appears to be governed by the traditional feudal system and caste system that sees the low caste virtually shunned from the village, the hero himself a high caste Brahman is chided by the village elders for associating and eating food made by a lower caste..
The village post master a wonderful caricature is amazed to hear the wonder of the internet and email, he is convinced that it will save him much work.. instead of traveling delivering letters he would simply pass on these wonderful emails..

It’s a tale of love, learning, family and emotion all the best ingredients of a Bollywood movie… and does the guy get the girl in the end??? Well this is Sharukh khan… watch the film you will love it and you can find out yourself.  For me it was a great way to end a Sunday night, though provoking..  relevant to my last few days … and scratching that itch of watching a film I should have gotten around to a long time ago!