Category Archives: Food

Funny old Spring and bum cream

It’s been a pretty weird Spring this year, hot, cold, windy, still, rain, sun, snow. As I tap the rain is pelting down outside, but the sun is due late on today.

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Hairy gorse out for Spring

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Tulips in the sun

I was cycling up on the hills two days ago with snow around and the week before I was back in shorts a few times. But then variety is the spice of life?

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A 50 miler 2 weeks ago

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Johnny trying not to run me over (me lying on the road!)

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Climbing up Redstone Rigg 2 days ago

My ribs have mostly healed but a couple of weeks ago I forgot I was recovering. I’m involved with the local community cinema (Pix in the Stix). We were putting on ‘Bill’ for the kids film, a comedy about William Shakespeare – great if you haven’t seen it. The adult film was ‘The Lady in the Van’, another terrific one. While setting up for the shows I lifted over the speakers, fairly light and easy. Then I hoiked up the amp in its flight case. Big mistake, I felt something in my ribcage tug and knew I should not have done that! So I was set back a wee bit, but still out on the bike. It was the 25th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’, so we decided to put on the film of Roger Waters, from the band, reflecting on this. He visited his grandfather’s grave from the first world war, and his father’s grave from the second world war, as well as giving a huge performance of The Wall. We also had a band playing, a younger member of Pix played some background music and I sang some old blues numbers. A brilliant night indeed, held in the old village hall at Tyninghame, which at one time was a bakehouse.

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Sound checks

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Setting up Pix in the Stix

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The band before ‘The Wall’

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Special cakes for the Pink Floyd night

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Aghghghghgh

I’ve had some good rides, as usual. I’m lucky as I relish variety in conditions. I’ve been up and down our local hills quite a bit. As regular followers know it’s steep round here, so I’ve needed to take it easyish as standing up peddling has caused discomfort or pain, till the last week or so. I look forward to going out with the groups I ride with, keeps me going pushing with folk a few decades younger than me. And there is good banter along the way or at the cafe too.

One of my favourite cafés is re-opening soon under new management. It’s going to be called The Lanterne Rouge, so it’s obviously going to give a huge welcome to cyclists. For those who are not into racing, the Lanterne Rouge was awarded to the rider who finishes the Tour de France in last place.

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Un Lanterne Rouge

Now the final bit, bum cream. As with all cycling things, eating, drinking, equipment, training etc. there are masses of opinions on what we should be doing and how, where, why etc. One of these is the more delicate parts of our anatomy which connect with the saddle. I am fairly scrupulous about spreading ‘chamois cream’ on my susceptable parts before a longer ride, but recently I forgot (or couldn’t be bothered – for want of a more appropriate word). One of these was an 85 mile jaunt to test bikes. Surprisingly I find few bad effects, so I’ve been experimenting a bit and it sometimes it makes a difference, others not. So I’ve reached totally no conclusion, not for the first time either.

So as ever a few extra pics for your delectation or otherwise:

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Up by the monument looking north to N Berwick Law and the Paps o’ Fife

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Subtle overshoes?

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Deep Spring ploughing locally

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Spring snow in the hills

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The climb ahead up to the tops, a mere 17%er

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At the top of ‘The Rigg’, warmer than it looks!

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Looking back over the Firth of Forth and the hills up north

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The Bass Rock below with the northern mountains behind

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Just a wee thing – ughhhhhhhh!

How small is a bug? How big is it’s effect? Two and a half weeks ago I was jetting off to Mallorca (Majorca) for a cycling holiday. I had done a 90 mile Sportive the week before and felt very fit and raring to go. The morning of the flight I had a tickly throat. The temperatures for the week were exceptionally hot, one day averaging 30ºC, despite starting early. I seemed to just feel thirsty the whole time, despite drinking litres of fluid.

How I feel now!

How I feel now!

Halfway through the week the cough started and as ever I rode through it, thinking “It won’t get any worse” -it did. We managed a lot of cycling both in length and height amidst some amazing scenery, with good food and drink (for me mostly non-alcoholic), and I thought “when I get back, I’ll have this cough for a wee bit, then I’ll be back to normal”. I didn’t and I wasn’t.

The Spiral

The Spiral near the top of Sa Calobra

A week & a half later the antibiotic is kicking in, the cough is finally subsiding, and I’ve still not been out on the bike yet and it has been so dry and sunny, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!! Plus I had to cancel a four day canoe/camping trip down the River Spey from Loch Insch to the sea at Spey Bay.

Last Spey trip 2013

Last Spey trip 2013

But at least I’ve got the feeling that things are improving, though I will have lost that hard gained fitness I suppose. It’s a re-run of November for me.

Meanwhile I have been saddened by events in Nepal. I went there in 1999 and have stayed in touch with some Nepal folk there since then. It has made me upset to see the destruction, devastation and loss of life caused by the earthquakes. At least one of the villages I stayed in has been reduced to heaps of rubble, with just one house left. I visited the monastery there with its ancient scrolls, wall paintings and hospitality, now just swept away. And throughout the country so many deaths, which will become worse when the monsoon arrives and lack of proper shelter, further landslides, food shortages and disease have their effect. It is such a poor country and the effect on tourism will be devastating to add to all their woes. The Disasters Emergency Committee (http://www.dec.org.uk/appeal/nepal-earthquake-appeal) are collecting donations to help in the UK and I know there are probably others in your part of the world. So if you feel inclined to give something that would be great. And if you’re doing it from the UK & pay tax remember to claim gift aid. Anyway, here’s to my next ride out and DEC continuing to help.

Langtang with the monastery at the back, now all swept away

Langtang with the monastery at the back, now all swept away

Langtang Monastery in 1999

Langtang Monastery in 1999

Langtang Monastery in 1999

Langtang Monastery in 1999

Langtang Monastery in 1999

Langtang Monastery in 1999

Especially for Burns Night & veggies or discerning omnivores all

Whoops, this got lost as a draft, so a bit late!

Just in case, you’re going to veggie Burns Supper you’ll need;

“Ode To A Vegetarian Haggis

1. Oh vegetarian haggis whit a view
Thou glorious, steaming bag of veggie goo
No one could ever say that you
Dish death to beasts,
Not a single murdered chicken, pig or coo
Taints your braw feasts.

2. But noble pud you must ignore the taunting bores
From meaty Caledonia’s shores,
The moaning bloody carnivores
Who think you need
To slaughter sheep in scores
To have good feed.

3. Thy beauteous form can satisfy
The keenest neb or mouth or eye,
Wi’ as braw’ a meal as ane could buy
Pulse, veg and spice
And ev’n sheep eaters that dare to try
Say Oh it’s nice!

4 So stuff the purists and their cries of sin
Let’s split this pudding, serve and shovel it in,
And what the hell if it’s wee skin
A humble plastic bag is.
Let’s drink a toast and we’ll begin
The vegetarian haggis.

Tim Dalling January 1993”

ps for those who don’t know Robert Burns is Scotland’s national bard (poet)

What Do You Taste?

A bit of ice to keep me warm!

A bit of ice to keep me warm!

Another in my self imposed series of the senses.
Taste is closely allied to smell, take way your sense of smell and it will diminish the taste of food or drink. If you can normally smell everything OK and get a bad cold it can take away the taste of food and diminish your appetite.
So what about taste and the bike? It is certainly varied according to the seasons, the terrain, the atmosphere etc.
So it probably starts before you’re even on the bike. Maybe that breakfast taste of marmalade and toast, that hot butter and coffee all still weaving their spell on you taste buds?
Eventually it fades away and the taste becomes a background consciousness of saliva or mucus working away in your mouth. In winter maybe this will be all, though following the peloton could alter this, for better or worse. In summer other tastes will float in with things like the pollens from the fields or forests, such as the sweet sickly taste of oil seed rape, sticking in the throat once your long past the bright yellow field. Or the salt in your mouth as you past the sea front on a windy day, with a faint spray making contact. Or that dry dust thrown up by the wind.
Then there’s the winter with the others in front of you, especially those without mudguards. Yuch, that mud thrown up, that earthy taste. Double Yuch, you pass a field of cows recently herded in, just keep that mouth shut otherwise this just isn’t going to be the sensation you want in your throat. Sometimes though it’s just snow flakes melting on your tongue.
Then bliss, a stop for coffee and scones. That quenching taste of the hot liquid heading down the tongue, lingering again when you’re on your way once more.
But there’s one I hope doesn’t happen too often, that familiar taste. You hit a bad pothole or a bump in the road hard, the blood is in your mouth from biting down suddenly. So much for trying to be alert for 100% of the time, it just won’t happen.
Your water bottle can provide a bit of variety, the slightly metallic taste of some energy compound mix, or sometimes, in my case, sometimes a faint sense of that tiny, tiny bit of red wine I mix in before I go. Also the gels or snacks for energy may give you another thing to savour.
And then there’s that delight when a great smell from a gorgeous field, or pine wood translates itself into a taste that just lingers gently in the background as you cycle on.
So, what do you taste when you are out?

“And I would ride 8,000 km” – not quite the same ring as . . . . . . .

Looking across Belhaven Bay towards Traprain Law, next to the cycle path

Looking across Belhaven Bay towards Traprain Law, Scotland next to the cycle path

to paraphrase The Proclaimers famous song – ‘And I would ride 5,000 miles’ – it sounds so much better, even though it is less impressive, maybe?

Being a maths graduate (seems another lifetime away with the flares & tie die shirts), I love statistics, numbers & spreadsheets etc. So I accumulate masses of stats (thank you Garmin).

Just recently I reached the 8,000 km mark on the bike this year, which included 86,00 metres of ascent, over 350 hours of cycling and endless amounts of fun, happiness, companionship and enjoyment. My biggest ride so far was 147 km (92 miles) with 1,478 metres ascent (4877) – this was done on a blisteringly hot Scottish day, ending up fairly dehydrated. Was going for the century ride, but enough was enough. So, call me a geek if you wish, but, that’s your problem not mine.

There was also some angst, pain and frustration mixed in.

So what does it all mean? Not too much I suppose to most, but recollections of some excellent times for me & my pals. I usually annotate rides with weird titles & descriptions, but they mean something to me. So looking over my rides what churns away in the memory banks?

“Wott!! No coffee, scones or sprinkles?” – I have been out with one Sunday crew for a while now, but was requested to join another so popped along to see. The group is around 25, so we cycled along sort of together for a while, then split into fast & slow. Knowing there was a lot of downhill & flat I went for the fast and we flew, managed to stay with them for a long while till we hit the sea front and woosh, off they went, clung on for a few miles & then finally acted my age, and I wasn’t alone. But – no coffee stop as is usual for me. So – nowadays I alternate between the two groups, both of them good in their own ways.

“Tour of Tweedale,1ºC at the start, 30+ miles to warm up – then glorious”  – a Sportive in the Scottish Borders, 82 miles and 1,270 metres (4,000 ft) of ascent with a few tough climbs (one ramps up to over 20% – the Wall of Talla!) It was great, with a couple of pals, a magical food stop with wonderful home made soup and goodies plus plenty of good craic & meetings with pals and groups to follow (and lead) – just perfect despite the initial cold. I’ve done this for the last 3 years and the distance has varied from 80 to 99 miles – definitely the best Sportive I’ve taken part in.

“No Day of the Triffids” – a ride over the hills on the Sunday, the Triffids were the huge wind turbines which usually suddenly loomed close by as we crested the top of the hills.  Because of the thick, thick mist we couldn’t see them this time so had to creep down the hill slowly, slowly dodging gravel, potholes each other and one daft, mad car – so no daft 45+ mph descent for me this time!

And then there was South Africa – a whole different experience in oh so many ways.

Out in the bush, South Africa on "that bike" @£$%$&^%)?!!!!

Out in the bush, South Africa on “that bike” @£$%$&^%)?!!!!

And then there’s the wildlife met en route. Deer, badgers, swans, hares, rabbits, stoats, weasels, skeins of geese, rabbits, dogs, heron, eider ducks, fish, sheep, skylarks, pheasant etc. etc. Wow. are we cyclists sometimes so lucky to be involved in biking?

And looking forward already to next year, I’ve booked a week in Mallorca with the Tuesday bunch I cycle with – yippee!!!!

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Chilly Scottish mist

Chilly Scottish mist

Only event I’ve done this year – The Tour of Tweeddale down in the Scottish Borders, which I love. Friendly, magic soup at the food stops, good organisation, well signed etc.

I’ve entered this event for the last 3 years since it started. The first year it was just over 90 miles, last year 99 and this year 80, so looked like it was going to be easier.

Left home and it was 8ºC, so not too bad, had on two cycling shirts, the leg & arm warmers for the hanging about bit. Got down to Peebles, the car registered 3º – but I had on my down ‘gilet’ so felt good. Meet up with all sorts of friends and acquaintances and good chat with new faces.

Leg warmers off and set off into the misty gloom with the Haddington/ North Berwick crews, cruising along averaging about 17 mph. Instant freeze up of hands, strangely  the rest of me OK. The Garmin if I could have seen it registered 1º for the next hour and more. Luckily with all these fit people up front, apart from my occasional leads, it helped mitigate the wind chill a wee bit. Not only was the mist down, but my glasses were just about opaque as well and with lumps of frozen sausages for fingers I was finding it awkward to change gear, let alone the thought of having to do some emergency braking. Even when the sun came out the mist hung low & the faint glow wasn’t enough to warm things up.

We came up Loch Talla, which looked absolutely amazing. The mist was swirling across the water, breaking up and reforming with the sun  casting bright patterns everywhere and the hills behind coming and going. I had meant to bring my camera, but had left it in the car by mistake – damn! At the end of the loch came ‘The Wall of Talla’. This climb out of the glen averages 20%, ramping up to 30% in places so it’s a slow grind up, but in the sun luckily. A really good warming up process with a fantastic swoop down on the other side past Meggat water. By now I had about 8 working fingers and enough confidence in braking to ‘go for it’ with the rest of the faster folk. Total exhilaration.

A stop at the food station by now with hands operating as per normal, with thick, thick delicious soup and other goodies. The Haddington crew went off while Jo & I waited for Ronnie. The rest of the trip was good with a couple of good climbs, one long and progressive (Berry Bush), and the other (The Witchie Knowe) steeper, with the summit always in view, sometimes not seeming to be any closer, then through the gap & down, down, down.

Ronnie & I - Tour of Tweeddale 2013, cheery as ever

Ronnie & I – Tour of Tweeddale 2013, cheery as ever

Ronnie & I were sharing the lead with Jo doing her occasional bit. But at one point I looked back & there were 8 folk on our wheels, ah well. So as in the past a great event with fabulous scenery, great company and some challenging terrain and a few new PRs. Better get in training for next year?

Le Tour de Farce – 1st Edition

Brilliant!!

Brilliant!! Hope you like the not-a-go-pro hanging round my neck!

Last year was the 100th edition of Le Tour de France, so a group of localish riders decided to head out to Alpes d’Huez for this historic event + 5ish days cycling, especially as the Tour was coming up the hill twice. We named our group Le Tour de Farce, and Tour de Farce it was in some ways.

Edinburgh airport, we were all assembled for our flight, bikes at the ready, the queue kept building up, nothing was moving. Finally they came to tell us all the ticketing computers had gone down. Aghghgh, slight panic – cars to collect at the other end. After 2 1/2 hours things were sorted (manually) and we left the ground.

Arrived at Geneva, got bike off the carousel, wandered through customs & passport checks to wait for the others. No-one at first, then some came out – 2 bikes had gone astray and 1 set of luggage, complete with biking gear. Aghghghgh – more slight panic. Decision time, some of us were sent off in one car, while the rest stayed in to see if things could be retrieved.

A few hours later in Alpes d’Huez, we went for a bite, a pizza – darkness coming, so too late for that first evening cycle. Apparently after midnight the rest of the gang arrived having achieved not much.

Next day the bikes were loaned out, but I was left with mine. The gang decided to go down the hill & then pootle back up (if that’s the right word for a 3,00 foot, 21 hairpin climb averaging too many %)

So I got on my bike & climbed up to the twin lakes a mere 1,100 feet above. I had had a break in my riding as my granddaughter had come over from S Africa for a month and we spent so much time together, so I knew this trip would be a struggle – but slowly, slowly . . . . . .

Possibly the best descent of the trip.

Possibly the best descent of the trip from Le Col de Sarenne

The after noon arrived and the 2nd group set off with me in tow to climb over the Col de Sarenne & then Alpes d’Huez. Fabulous weather but hot, hot, hot. On the way up to the Col we had to take to grass riding/ pushing to bypass the folk laying down fresh tarmac for the Tour coming through in 2 days time. We paused at the top and I stayed behind to take photos & videos of the team tentatively going down, then wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!! A fantastic descent for the fools like me and with the temperature at 90 degrees + (32+C) a lovely cooling off period. I managed to overtake everyone on the descent so not bad for an old fool.

The it was into Le Bourg d’Oisans at the foot of the big one for a well earned drink & pâtisserie. Then off to climb ‘The Hill’. I set off a tiny bit before the others, but most had passed me by about the 7th bend. Masses and masses of cyclist were toiling upwards. I then suddenly realised I was totally out of it, I was meandering all over the road & with not much between me and the drop beside me I decide recuperation was the order of the day. I later realised the temperature had reached 102 degrees (39C). So I hid under a bush for 20 mins, with a butterfly to keep me company. Once I continued I drank even more & doused myself with water under the roadside waterfalls. I’m from Scotland – we don’t do this sort of heat! But eventually made it back.

Then off for a pizza, now when in France I love to eat nice French food, in a lovely restaurant, but ‘the gang’ had other ideas. Not sure about the general Europop around the village either, but hey?

Breakfast at Boirg d'Oisans, French style

Breakfast at Boirg d’Oisans, French style

Next day the delayed bikes had arrived & it was the big one. The Col de Galibier beckoned. This time a mere 7,000 ft of ascent. At least the start was a a blast down from Huez and a lovely French breakfast in the village below.

At 13% a real sting in the tail

The team arrive up the final slope, at 13% a real sting in the tail

Several hours, 26.7 miles and 6144 feet later we were at the top, feeling fabulous.

La Meije, my acquaintance from 30+ years ago.

La Meije, my acquaintance from 30+ years ago.

Descending from La Meije Oriental summit 1985, maybe looking ovet to Galibier?

Descending from La Meije Oriental summit, 1985, maybe looking over to Galibier on the left?

On the way up we had views of the Meije Oriental, which I had climbed nearly 30 years ago. Then it was wooshing away back down. We stopped at La Grave for a late lunch and as we finished a huge downpour started. But, it was warm, so we set off anyway splashing our way down. I wimped out of the Huez climb again having already 70 miles and a car being available, but the others were braver than I. That night pizzas (though I opted for Lasagne), beer and Europop – no comment.

Next day, the great day arrived. Whizz, down to the bottom, breakfast at the cafe then the ascent before the Tour arrived. There were probably 20,000 or so of us peddling up those hairpins and 250,00 of spectators on the slopes. With my white beard & Scottish flag flying from the back of the bike I was greeted with cries of Ah, Le Diablo Ecosse (after an eccentric Italian who follows the Tour every year nicknamed Le Diablo). Loads of bravos, cheers, europop blaring out, manic Dutch corner, wee pushes and a wee diversion near the top away from the final finish. A really great but bizarre experience.

Alpes d'Huez - the leaders arrive first time round

Alpes d’Huez – the leaders arrive first time round

Alpes d'Huez, arrival of le peleton

Alpes d’Huez, arrival of le peleton

A quick sandwich & the down to the village to see Le Tour come through, accompanied by Europop, cheers that drowned out the music(?) and a fantastic atmosphere.

Le Pelton coming through Alpes d'Huez 2nd time round

Le Pelton coming through Alpes d’Huez 2nd time round

Then up to our apartments to watch progress on the TV & Le Tour coming through a second time beneath out balcony.

Then later, back down to the village for more beer and? (I’m sure you can guess by now)

Next day, up too late for a final ride, bikes dismantled the night before, then smooth progress back to Scotland.

An amazing if strange experience, would I do it again? Well this year it was the Giro d’Italia starting off in Dublin & I declined, But I’m glad I experience Le Farce & I’d try to be fitter next time.