A Right Royal Do

The invite arrived – we were invited along to the Queen’s Garden Party in Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. We know not why or by whom, so maybe that mystery will be revealed sometime, though the nominators are not supposed to disclose the info. We, of course, were not alone, a few thousand others were there to have a neb & share the occasion.

The temperature dropped to about 11º, with a steady drizzle and a wind cooling us down even more. But as we entered the grounds of the palace it reduced to a fine smurr. The previous day had been warm, and now it’s warm again, so once again the Scottish climate had triumphed.

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Dressed half sensibly

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Outside the gates with our pals

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A couple of Royal Archers

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An older Royal Archer

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The sentry makes me feel ancient

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More Royal Archers

Folk were dressed in their Sunday best so the high heels digging into the grass and soil was a rare sight. Once again a triumph of fashion over common sense (and I don’t exclude myself). Some of my cycling or mountaineering gear might have been more appropriate.

We had lunch at the Scottish Parliament before we came across the road, but once in the palace grounds, we headed to the marquees for a top up. All the usual pomp and ceremony was going on, with the Royal Company of Archers (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Company_of_Archers) acting as a ceremonial  bodyguard, with lots of marching, lining up etc.IMG_4573

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Royal Archers doing their stuff

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Security up high

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Holyrood Abbey

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Not sure who these are!

After looking around the grounds the Queen & Prince Philip came out. Being an older sort of guy I was reflecting on how much things have changed, with the mobile phone cameras, selfie culture etc. rather than the reverence of yesteryear. No value judgement here, though no way could I be thought of as a Royalist.

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The Queen and Prince Philip emerge

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Prince Philip comes past

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Security again?

Eventually, Prince Philip came past while the Queen went a different route. Then back for another top up, a listen to the pipes & bands and back to the car before the shivering started.

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Different tartans for the pipers

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Watching the band

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And good they were too

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Classics ancient and modern

Altogether an interesting day & some great people watching time.

And then I got home for the drama of the 4th Stage of the Tour de France on the TV – all go?

Testing new club gear, dry roads then rain, wind, 9º, drenched by car & flooded roads, ah well

It’s been a bit of up-and-down recently. It’s supposed to be summer, but no one has told the weather goddesses! But cycling just has to carry on, doesn’t it? My poor old bike has been having problems, maybe it’s mourning me getting a newer model? Or just becoming a bit too old. The bottom bracket (the thing the pedal cranks go into) fits into some alloy cups that are epoxied into the frame. Unfortunately these have come adrift & have had it. Colin at the bike shop has tried hard to get something to fit, as Specialized won’t supply anything as the bike’s 2nd hand, so for the sake of a couple of bits of alloy the bike would have to be scrapped. Luckily, one of my biking pals works in an engineering place and offered to try to make replacements, so – fingers crossed 🤞🏻.

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Corroded cups, with the old bottom bracket bearings firmly stuck inside

Meantime my new Roubaix continues to delight, despite odd little things. Last week I extended the club cafe run a bit (OK then – quite a bit) and came home with 80 miles under my wheels, feeling energised and great despite strong winds out, but oh so quick returning, big smiles both ways too. We also had a club photoshoot for the Scottish stage of the Tour of Britain, all in our cycling finery.

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Posing for club photo

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Swollen head?

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The race is on

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Official Tour of Britain car

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Official British Cycling car

Then the weather went nuts. The temperature, after being in the 20s, plummeted down till today it was around 9°. So it’s been back to almost winter gear for now. Today it started off dry but then steadily deteriorated till I got back with squelchy shoes, top and breeks. But strangely enough despite the wind, wet and cold I still enjoyed the ride and the challenge.

The rivers are in flood and so are some of the roads, plus being drenched by passing cars going through huge puddles adds a certain ‘Je ne sais quois’ to the whole thing.

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Our local river, which has just been a trickle most of the year

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Scotch mist? Just down from Fenton Tower and it’s disappearing.

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My bike after ploughing through the glaur

Now, written two days later, some of the roads are still flooded, and there is loads of gravel, sand etc. washed down so despite a sunny (and very windy) ride my feet came back soaked after riding through the results of all that water.

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Over half way up the wheels in the middle – soaked feet!!

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Wet, wet, wet (very Scottish)

In just over a week’s time I’ve got an event down south I’ve signed up for. It’s the Dunwich Dynamo. It starts in London at 8 at night and finishes 120 miles up the NE coast. Why? you may ask. Well my niece let me know she was doing it, so I suggested my nephew & I come along for moral support to start with her. Hmmmmm! So there you are. I thought I would be immune to these challenges by now, but obviously not.

So the next time I post I should have a night adventure under my belt.

But before I go – please, please, please, if you are writing about the Tour de France don’t reveal results are names in the headlines. I, and I’m sure others too, watch the recording the next day and it really spoils the event if everything has already been disclosed.

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Handy for the Tour de France? Spotted in Dunfermline museum.

Quiet and Tears

Been involved in a lot locally recently.

We’ve had an exhibition of a local artist’s work Robert Noble, who died 100 years ago and is buried in the church yard. He deserves to be much better known. I’ve been helping in compiling slide shows and creating a large introduction board for the show and exhibition. The exhibition seems to be popular, and in the process there have been many paintings that have been discovered. I’ve managed to get to the exhibition a couple of times and it is lovely. Hopefully I’ll get back again before it ends.

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Robert Noble Exhibition – information

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Robert Noble Exhibition

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Another more serious event was our Drama Group’s moving production of “The Women of Lockerbie” by an American playwright Deborah Breevort. It tells the story seven years after the terrorist bombing of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie. The women of the village tried to stop the clothes and artefacts of the victims from being destroyed so they could wash and return them to the families. They had been kept for that long as forensic evidence. The play is unusual as it is done like a Greek tragedy, with a chorus of women. I was in charge of the lighting for the show and on the last night we had a standing ovation, with many of the audience visibly moved to tears. It was a privilege to be part of it all.

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Women of Lockerbie – set

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Women of Lockerbie – the chorus

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Women of Lockerbie – confrontation

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Women of Lockerbie – the release

The cycling recently has been wonderful, though I find myself full of tears for a different reason. I need to wear specs so cannot wear sports glasses, so I find that at speed my eyes water a great deal. When I get back my eyes are slightly crusted with salt, which isn’t too good. I’ve thought about various solutions – fur fabric round the sides & tops of my specs (may look slightly weird or Groucho Marx like), a visor, safety over specs etc. but haven’t come to any conclusion yet. But I am glad my tear ducts still work well. I’ve been racking up the miles and height this year and enjoying climbing the hills on the bike locally so much. One of the recent highlights was a 52 mile ride with over 6,000 feet of climbing after which I still felt great. I’m gearing up nicely for a much longer overnighter in just over a month’s time.

But there have been other moments too. The other week I had a time when I was going quickly with the wind behind. I reached that magic moment when, for just a wee while, I was going the same speed as the wind. Sitting in this bubble of air everything went quiet. No wind noise, no traffic noise, the hum of the pedals almost muted and smooth tarmac with the tyres smoothly rolling along. To me, on the rare occasions when all this comes together, it just seems a form of Nirvana – the soul seems at rest. As usual, a brief moment and then it’s away. Ah well, here’s to the next time.

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A steep one up ahead

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One of the many hills and a hairpin

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Sheep lie in the road up ahead

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Bog cotton on the tops

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A rare greyish day

Looks like our good weather is going to continue for a while yet, off and on, so it seems the legs will continue getting an airing.

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Just a couple of weeks back I was out on the Haddington Cycle Club ride. One of the magazines, Cycling Weekly, was coming out to join us, to do an article on the club. We gathered in the square, next to the fountain with the statue of Samson on a pillar. I had to borrow a club vest as I didn’t have any club kit. We had all been asked to put on a show & turn up. Over 30 of us gathered. Powerbar, who sponsor the shoot, had a lass handing out bars and gels. I took the former, but passed on the second. We were given instructions, such as “ignore the camera for a ‘realistic’ shot” etc. and split into two groups.

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The Gathering – Haddington

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Andy gets his first shots

 

It was a bit chilly and cloudy at the start but gradually improved through the day. I took my camera with me and at one point pushed ahead a little to take a shot of the gang approaching. Unfortunately I hadn’t seen the cameraman, Andy, up ahead and was ushered back into the fold for a photo up.

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Leaving Haddington

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Trevor joins the gang

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Passing Berwick Law

As we headed up the coast towards the hills the sun made an appearance. Trevor, the journalist, rode with each of us gathering info for the article. He was impressed by the route and the countryside and said he’d be back in East Lothian some time to ride for himself.

We reached the cafe up in the hills, the Lanterne Rouge, resplendent in its Bianchi blue. The staff were brilliant managing to serve us all reasonably promptly, despite the numbers. As expected, there was loads of chat and Andy was busy circling round, camera at the ready. We all had to pose for a mug shot, complete with our names on paper napkins for later identification.

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Andy at work in ‘The Lanterne Rouge’

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Finally we left the cafe and sauntered, sort of, back to Haddington for a farewell to the team of two. We now await the publication, which is due in early June.

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Leaving ‘The Lanterne Rouge’ and Gifford

I then carried on to enjoy a ride of 70+ miles in all, great fun!

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Near the end of the ride, rough roading it

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Ducks in Tyne Bay, sifting mud

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Going round in circles?

Pedal in, Pedal on Parliament and Pedal Back

Yesterday we were outside a local bookmakers trying to inform folk of the fate of greyhounds, once their racing days are done, or if they don’t make the grade. There are plans to open a new as fair wheeching greyhound stadium in our region so try to persuade folk it’s not a good idea. Lots of information online and it’s not for the squeamish. Makes me realise how horrible some people can be.

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Going to the Dogs?

Today felt more positive. It was POP day. Pedal on Parliament is a demo keep up the pressure to improve sustainable transport with making roads safer for cyclists, better and more bike paths and many other issues to do with cycling and walking.

Many pals were away doing the Tour de Lauder, but I hadn’t signed up this year.

So I set off for Edinburgh. Despite a chilly northerly wind I weeching along, averaging almost 18mph for the first 15 miles, then traffic lights, junctions, back roads and the odd bad turn or two slowed me down. When I arrived at the Meadows, quite a few folk had turned up already. I chatted with a few folk I knew, or just met.P1250079

As the crowds grew, crossing over the Meadows and then round the corner and along the way, it felt great to be part of this movement. The assortment of bikes was amazing. Big, big ones, wee ones, balance bikes, cargo bikes, racers, single speed, tatty auld yins, trailers, tagalongs, recumbents, hand pedalled  etc., etc. – wonderful.IMG_4036IMG_4031IMG_4037IMG_4039P1250081IMG_4038

The participants were also a mixed bunch, from the very young to the old and from all over the world it seemed too.P1250068P1250090P1250088P1250091P1250089P1250092

After riding in hard I started to chill down, but eventually we set off. It was wonderful to see so many cyclists unified and moving together. I was with a couple of guys hand pedalling their way along and it was nice to chat. Lots of support from passers by too. When we stopped at traffic lights or for emergency vehicles it was a chance to have a wee chat to pedestrians going past and explain what it was all about.P1250095IMG_4040P1250097P1250098P1250100

When we arrived at the Scottish Parliament there were to be speeches etc., but I was too chilly to stay. An acquaintance I met asked me if I was cold, when I asked how he knew he said my lips were purple!!P1250104

So I set off home, with a climb over Arthur’s Seat to help warm me up, as well as trying to cycle hard and get some feeling back to my fingers. With stops for  traffic lights, the odd wrong way and a ‘comfort’ break behind a big tree. I mainly sped back, and even warmed up.

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Another Month Gone By

What an amazing year so far, not even the end of March and I’m almost up to 2,000 miles of mainly joyous cycling, plus a new bike to play with.

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Showing off again? Fat & mountain bike together.

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Above the estuary

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He’s behind you, somewhere

The last few days have been splendid, with that evil wind finally decreasing and the sun coming out to play more. I’ve even been cycling in shorts again, lounging in the outside chairs at the cafe stop and overheating some of the time!

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Cafe stops & bare legs in March!

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Mainly blue skies and sunshine as well

As usual, shortly after my birthday I cycled my birthday miles – 69. It was wild and windy, but I managed to find some shelter in the bunch for part of the time on the upwind section. Back down out of the hills and along the coast we flew and quite near home I had averaged 16.5 mph, but was still 10 miles short. So on down to Dunbar and then a wrong decision, back home via the hills and into the wind again solo, oh how the average plummeted! Ah well!

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Into my 70th year on earth

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Some of the gang

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The new machine

There’s been some great rides too, both solo and with companions.

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Climbing one of the steep ones

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The hill fort caption board (see photo above for a view from above)

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Over the tops

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The road is there somewhere

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An adder escaping into the heather

I bought a new bike for my birthday, as my other one was wearing out after much use & abuse over the last 9 years. I went over to Fife to collect it, planning to cycle home via the Forth Road Bridge and Edinburgh. The ride up to the bridge was pretty desperate, with wild, wild winds and gusts. When I got to the bridge it was closed to lorries, pedestrians and cyclists, so back into Inverkeithing, onto the train station and as I wheeled the bike onto the platform the train was pulling in, yippee. I secured my less new looking bike & settled down for a short journey over the Forth rail bridge to Dalmeny on the other side. Whilst purchasing a ticket I was told that the train didn’t stop there, so my cycle journey was shortened by getting off at the outskirts of Edinburgh.

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The new road bridge over the Forth, from the train, on the way out

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Forth Road Bridge closed because of the gale

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An unexpected train journey for the new bike

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Looking out to the Forth Estuary

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Whoops – discovered this fault when I got home, no wonder the front gear change was clunky!!

I went right through the centre of the city, dodging cars, buses, taxis and trams etc. Once back into East Lothian I flew along in a little calm bubble as I was going the same speed as the wind.

And how has the bike been? Magicke. It has front suspension, which is great on our dodgy roads, the handling is superb, the disc brakes brilliant and all the hidden cables etc. make it a joy to keep clean. I’ve had it now for over 300 miles and the only change was putting on my old Brookes saddle, I just didn’t get on with the Specialized one, despite tinkering with the adjustment. The suspension is sometimes a bit clunky at times but works well and makes a difference to my tender ageing parts.

On foot, there have been some gorgeous days walking as well, though we missed seeing a kingfisher by a minute or so the other day. Plenty of other flora and fauna to entertain though.

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Seen on our walks . . . .

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Another recent highlight was going to a talk by Grame Obree, former hour world champion amongst many other achievements. He was ‘pure brilliant’, outlining his background, successes, downsides and personal philosophy with humour and truthfulness. It was a very enlightening evening, enjoyed by everyone I spoke to.

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Examining “The Beastie” at Graeme Obree’s talk

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At Graeme Obree’s talk ‘The Beastie’, how he fits in I’ve little idea

So, now Spring is rize, hopefully fewer layers and some good longish rides await.

Since I wrote this (tempting fate?) I’ve been off the bike for a week, but the cough, stiffness and aches are diminishing so should be out soon.

Winter throws it all at you

It’s been quite a winter here so far. Temperatures have been bouncing around all over the place, -2°c one day +11°C the next. It’s also been blowing a hooley one day and calm as can be the next. So what has that meant for cycling? Basically unless it is icy, just get happed up and out the door, then turn the pedals.

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Sunset ride and on with the snow, though near home

It helps that it is so gorgeous round here, wether it be the waves with white horses pounding on the sea in the bays, the farmers going about their business in the fields or the dusting of snow on the hills.

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Rainbows near home

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Up in the hills

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One of the ‘interesting’ roads up high

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Below the hills with sunset approaching

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Another dodgy local road

We had a gale recently with cold sleet lower down. I had previously got out my skis for a failed cross country attempt up in the Lammermuir hills. This time I was lucky. I got up to the start before the reservoir and put on my skis beside the car, then away. Conditions were amazing considering there had been no snow at all two days before. Hardly any wind, deep blue sky and not too cold. I took a fun route up, the wax on my skis just gripping enough to get me up the first slopes. I then came across the wee feeder dam with its water channel leading off. Enough snow to pop along it for a mile or so. As I skied gently along the grouse were calling, making that sound like small motorbikes. I skied round the reservoir then fitted the skins for the steeper ascent to the tops. The snow was slightly crusted but I was soon up above the valleys, only breaking through the crust occasionally. It was glorious up high, calm, views for miles and white all round the horizon. A day to dream about? I only saw two folk out and passed only one, pausing for a wee chat. The descent was ‘interesting’, a few quick turns, but with a mixture of heather end breakable crust it was mainly a stop, a kick turn of my freeheel skis and a scoot off again on a long travers. I somehow managed to ski down, with the occasional slow speed tumble. Just a wee bit along from the car I had to unclip as the patchy snow lower down had decided it was time to melt.

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Hare tracks near the start

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Collecting water for the reservoir

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The viaduct just waiting to be skied

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Not too much snow low down

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Getting higher, with Hopes reservoir below

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A distant wind farm – Crystal Rigg

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Looking back at my ski tracks

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At the summit for today

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I came down the snowy bit in the sun, snow had melted now lower down

Next day, another storm and almost all the snow had disappeared. Sometimes you just have to grasp the opportunity!

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Up in the Lammermuirs again, 2 days after skiing, where’s the snow?

A couple of days later we were up over the hills again, this time on our bikes. It was blowing hard again, but we dug in and ploughed our way up Humbie for coffee and scones. Then with the wind behind us Terry & I peeled off to climb over the Rigg – a locally renowned section. We knew we would see plenty of folk as an audax was on and going that way. After scooting fast along the back roads, pushed by the winds, we came across bunches of cyclists heading upwards. We joined them and pottered slowly up. On the steepest section, (17°), I was hit by a ferocious gust and stopped dead with a quick dismount. I was fairly puggled anyway from fighting the wind uphill, so rested for a bit to regain my breath, once there was a slight lessening I mounted again and carried on to the top. The descent was fabulous, whizzing down at 45 mph. On the way we had met other friends so we pottered along, more or less together , chatting away. So a good 65 mile ride, not bad for February?

How do I keep warm on these cold days? Plenty of layers. Above 2 or 3°, 3 layers on top, double fleece gloves with oversize cycle gloves on top, buff and head cap too. Breathable waterproof socks over solid soled cycling shoes with no vents and bright pink neoprene overshoes. No real fancy expensive clothing, just stuff that does the job for me. If it gets below -2º another layer on top, winter cycling shoes and a ninja style neoprene face mask and bright yellow, horrible to us mitts. The final tip is to put shoes, socks and gloves on the radiator to warm up well before I go out. Works a treat and makes all the difference to me. I can cycle easily for 4-5 hours if I need to, and my circulation is rubbish!

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November 2016 – A rare pic of me, dressed for winter

Lastly a treat coming up. I’ve been looking at a newer bike as mine is now 8 years old. The new Specialized Roubaix Expert is looking just the bike for me, so I’ve been enquiring after deals – I’ll let you all now how it goes.

On a final note, there was a march through Edinburgh expressing our distaste and fear of Trump’s actions, as America affects us all. We joined in and it was good to see the home made posters appearing.img_8599img_3541img_3554And a wee antidote to politics from my ride today (2nd March)

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Snowdrops in the woods at a ‘comfort’ break