News Archive

2009

2010

January 2010 - The end of the 'Noughties...

February 2010 - Arctic winter arrives!   W & G delighted...

 

March 2010 - Both bloody cars blow up!  Fixed just in time for our fantastic holiday on Mull...

 

April 2010 - The cycle racing season starts!  Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear...

 

May 2010 - It's a scorcher!  More rubbish cycling results....

 

June 2010 - Two wheeled monster arrives (well, sort of) and strange animal encounters....

 

July 2010 - Big changes and lots of stress....

 

August 2010 - A decorating marathon and an impressive arachnid....

 

 

 

September 2010

 

11/9/2010

 

  Wooooo….  More spooky stuff.

  Good job I’m not superstitious or anything or I’d be hiding under the kitchen table with a tinfoil hat on by now.  Our strange animal encounters continue – on a dog walk out near Somerleyton Hall we spotted what can only be described as a big black panther-like cat stalking in a field.  Straight up, honest.  We watched it for about 10 seconds then it just sort of melted into the trees.  The huskies had been going mental for a couple of minutes beforehand and I had no idea what was upsetting them so much until then.

 

 

  We were taken aback to say the least and, no, it wasn’t a Labrador or anything like that, it was a bleedin’ big black cat.  It walked just like a cat and held its tail in that big cat type way.  Plus it had a sort of funny fluffy bit right on the end of its tail.  It was defo a big black panther or something.  The pic on the left is exactly what I saw – this one was spotted in a builders yard in Telford.

  Strangely enough, it’s not the first one I’ve ever seen.  I spotted one out training really early one morning in a field by the Norwich to Watton road about 15 years ago.  Just stalking across a field as bold as brass.  I got ridiculed that time too until loads of sightings in nearby Wymondham prompted a feature in the local paper.

  I love the idea that all this exotic wildlife is thriving in our countryside.  About time we had a few dangerous animals back in the UK – wolves, wild boar, panthers etc….

 

 

 

 

  Almost as scary as fearsome feline predators was my first spell back in the classroom after a few years break.  To be honest, I fell straight back into it and really enjoyed myself.  I wasn’t sure I’d done the right thing going back into secondary science teaching but now I know it’s just the thing for me.  A lot of upheaval is on the cards in the coming year or two as my uni course starts and I start to spend more and more time teaching but I’m actually embracing the change rather than bricking myself about it.

 

 

  The only bummer this week has been that I took the van down for a pre-MOT check and it wasn’t good.

  “How did it get on?” I asked the tester.

  “Well….  The windscreen wipers were really good…” he sighed.  Death by Scrapyard seems to be on the cards.

  Now, I’m a bloke who likes a challenge and I’ve saved numerous vehicles from the scrapyard in my time but the amount of welding that needed doing was depressing.  I spent three days under a Transit a couple of years ago pretty much rebuilding it from the wheels up but I haven’t got the time or inclination to put that much effort into a vehicle that’s, to be brutal, only worth £300 on a good day.  So, it’s got to go.  There’s a week or so to go before the MOT runs out so we’ll be looking out for another old banger to replace it.  I was just starting to get attached to that van too, especially after the fab adventure we had on Mull in the spring.  Ah well…..

 

 

 

 

August 2010

 

 

27/8/2010

 

 

  Blimey, my month or so off before going back to uni has been far from boring – in fact I’ve probably been busier than I was at work!  This is the first time I’ve really felt relaxed enough in weeks to sit down and write.

  Spent most of the time decorating and DIY-ing, catching up on all the jobs I’ve not had time to do in the last couple of years.  Pretty much blitzed the whole house, especially the front room and the spare room upstairs which has now been transformed into a spectacular office / art room.  I’m sitting in here now, feet up, nosing out the window…

  We’ve got the builders coming in next week to rip out the 30 year old back boiler and install a mega new condensing boiler upstairs.  That means we’ve only been able to half finish the front room (we’ve done 3 walls but have left the wall with the fireplace) but we should polish it off once the plumbers / builders have finished.

 

  The garden has been quite spectacular too this summer.  Our vine that we planted about 5 years ago is having its first crop of fruit!  There are half a dozen bunches growing around Woolly and Greeb's pen outside.  The tobacco has been a roaring success too – the plants and flowers are ginormous and have a scary triffid like quality to them….

 

 

 

 

 

Yum, lovely grapes.....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

...and monster 'Virginian Gold'!

 That's quite a few roll-ups worth...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Most spectacular is the monster spider that has spun a huge web outside the front window amidst the potted flowers.  Over the last few weeks it’s been getting fatter and fatter – in fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a whopper in this country.

 

 

 

 

  Haven’t done anywhere near as much cycling and dog walking as I wanted to but, ah well.  The one consolation about the long run of cold, rainy, crappy weather we’ve had is that me, Woolly and Greebs got out for our first mush of the ‘winter’ yesterday.  Can’t remember ever getting out this early before – it’s normally October-ish before it’s cool enough.  The boys are seriously out of shape – they always are at first – but they get fit incredibly quickly.  I’m sooo jealous… 

 

 

 

 

July 2010

 

 

30/7/2010

 

 

  Tell you what, amazing how stress creeps up on you, isn’t it?  I’ve been hideously busy this last couple of weeks what with finishing all the various bits and pieces at work before I leave (hurrah!), getting my university stuff organised, sorting out the numerous cock ups with Student Finance, getting rid of Sue’s car and getting the Mondeo back on the road for her, plus all the usual stuff, racing, training, finding time for the doggies etc etc.  Not surprisingly, I’ve felt a bit run down this week.  Knackered in fact.  Felt like getting absolutely smashed last night so slurped 2 litres of scrumpy down with my dinner.  Felt much more relaxed (and a bit wobbly) after that but halfway through Dvorak on the BBC Proms, I burst into tears and had a real girlie 10 minutes.  Blimey.  They say stress is a silent killer, don’t they?  Obviously getting to me much more than I thought.  Anyway, feeling greatly de-stressed (and slightly hungover) today.

 

  As mentioned above, the 9 month effort to get the Mondeo back on the road is over and was sort of brought to a head by the fact that Sue’s Astra was on its last legs and the fact that it has been living in the yard at work.  Seeing as I was leaving I couldn’t really keep it there anymore.

  I bought it cheap as a bit of a project last November off my little brother who had got a new company car and so just left it sitting on his drive for a couple of years.  It had stood for that long a little silver birch tree had started growing out of one of the sills!  It needed a few new bits – power steering pump, tyres etc but the brakes were shot to pieces.  New discs & pads all round plus a few new brake pipes though and, tada, it flew through the MOT.  So we’re now the proud owners of a rather flash 52 plate Mondeo TDCi Zetec S.  It’s the 130 brake one and goes like sh*t off a stick.  I’ve spent most of my life driving old bangers that I’ve rescued from the scrapheap so it’s a bit of a change to have a nice car.

 

  Selling Sue’s car was needlessly stressful – I’ll never learn.  We’d gotten quite attached to it but it needed so much time and money spent on it for the MOT that it wasn’t sensible to keep it.  After vowing time and time again that I’d never, ever, sell anything on Ebay ever again, I stuck it on there as a ‘spares or repair’ bargain rather than scrap it.  I hate to see cars scrapped when they’ve got lots of miles left in them.  Anyway, before I knew it I’d got people offering me hundreds of pounds for it – they’d obviously not read the part about it being knackered and only having a week left on the MOT.  I began to see the potential for serious stress and thought twice about continuing with the sale on Ebay.  Some nob would undoubtedly pay for it without coming for a look, be disappointed, pull out of the sale or piss me about, then slag me off on Ebay etc etc etc.

  I rang around the local scrapyards and found out I could get £100 for scrapping it, plus I could get a refund on all the car tax that was left on it.  No stress, no comeback – sorted.  So I cancelled the Ebay listing with a few days still left to go on the auction.

 

 

  Then the ‘stalking’ began.  Bloody hell.  I made the mistake of sending one bidder my phone number so we could chat about the car.  As soon as the sale was cancelled I began receiving phone call after phone call along the lines of ‘It’s my car, I was bidding on it, I want it!’  I explained politely that the car was no longer for sale and not to contact me again.  The calls continued, 7 or 8 at a time which I ignored.  Then came the text messages which started off politely and got more and more abusive.  I got one which basically said ‘I’m going to find out where you live and come and sort you out’ and that was it.  I made a complaint to Norfolk Police and they had to explain to the deranged bidder that unless they desisted, they’d have to arrest them for harassment.  Apparently the poor policeman got a mouthful of abuse but, so far, I’ve not heard anything else.

 

  Nutters.  Bloody nutters everywhere.  Our society seems to be breeding a generation of unsocialised, uncivilised people who spend far too much time on their computers and not enough time interacting with ‘real’ people.  You know the sort – forums are full of them, ‘keyboard warriors’ I call them.  Rude, belligerent and offensive, hiding behind their monitors.  Tell you what, if somebody addressed me like that in real life, they’d get a smack in the chops and no mistake.

 

 

 

 

  So the moral of the story is…  I’m never, ever, ever ever ever going to sell anything on Ebay again.  No, no, I mean it this time…

 

 

 

 

 

12/7/2010

 

  Starting to get a bit freaked out now.  I was walking the dogs with Sue down near the seafront in the week when I was dive-bombed by a very aggressive looking seagull.  He looked strangely familiar and it did a very sarcastic cackle as he wheeled away back into the sky.  Sue thought it was hilarious but it really made me jump.  Couldn't be the same one, could it.....

  A day or two later, I was woken up at dawn by an insistent tapping on the spare room window.  This time Sue heard it too and we both got out of bed to investigate.  Sure enough, it was HIM again, sitting on the window ledge outside.  Looking as deranged as before, he just sat there knocking on the glass.  We watched him for a bit before shooing him away again.  What the bloody hell is all that about?  Think I may have to borrow an air rifle or something and nip all this in the bud before he manages to get inside one day and peck my eyes out or something.  Spooky…

 

 

 

"I know where you live Fatty," screeched the Satan Gull, "haw haw haw....."

 

 

 

  Had a nice jolly to Silverstone on Friday with my two brothers to watch the practice sessions for the F1 grand prix.  To make it a bit of an adventure, I decided to buzz down on the Z250.  150 miles on a little whizzer like that might seem a bit mad but it was quite entertaining, plus there are 5 mile queues in every direction when the F1 is on at Silverstone and its sooo nice to filter through the traffic like a nob.

  We all rendez-vous’d at Jacks Hill transport café near Towcester – middle brother arriving (very noisily) in his new 1976 Corvette Stingray and my little brother on his SV650 bike.

  Great day, but bloody hot.  Biggest cheer of the day was reserved for Michael Schumacher when he binned it and ended up in the gravel.  Shame.  I have to confess that I wasn’t remotely interested in F1 until I went to a race a few years ago.  It’s only when you see it all in the flesh that you appreciate the forces at work and the violence with which the cars go, stop and stick to the track.  Plus the noise is fantastic!  Standing at Copse corner at the end of the start / finish straight and seeing them tip into that 90 degree right hander without even backing off just defies everything sensible.  It’s pretty amazing.

  Unfortunately, my day got even more exciting on the way home about 20 miles into the journey when the bike clapped out.  I opened the old girl up to overtake a lorry and there was a brief flapping noise, then a major loss of power.  I thought I’d seized it up and coasted into a layby for a bit of a post-mortem.

  Spark ok, fuel okay…  but no ‘suck’ into the left hand carburetor.  Arse.  Stuck valve?  Bent valve?  Camshaft gone?  Double arse.

 

 

 

Andy had a sinking feeling that all was not well in the engine room....

 

 

 

  I got it going and limped along on one cylinder planning to make it into Northampton, find the station and get a train home (No AA cover, stupid boy!).  I could pop back with the bike trailer the next day and pick it up, dead easy.  But it actually ran okay on one pot but at 35 mph flat out so I thought I’d go for Cambridge and get a bit closer to home.  Cambridge was achieved eventually, so I set my sights on Thetford… then Norwich, then home.  I got back to Gorleston at 10 o’ clock, having negotiated 120 miles at an average speed of 26 mph, including the A11 and A14 at rush hour on a Friday evening!  Thing is, once I’d gotten into my rhythm plodding along in 4th gear, I got to quite enjoy it.  'At least it wasn’t raining' I kept telling myself.

  A quick engine stripdown the next day revealed a broken inlet rocker arm – it’d snapped clean in two.  New one on order so she’ll be as good as new in a few days.  Got to hand it to these old bits of technology, they may be simple but they’re bomb proof!

 

  To round off an ‘exciting’ weekend, I took the dogs swimming in the sea at Winterton on Sunday and got stung by a bleedin’ jellyfish.  Brilliant, just effing brilliant….

 

 

 

The Jellyfish was so preoccupied rehearsing for his cameo in 'Avatar II' that he swam straight into Andy...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2/7/2010

 

  Scary stuff.  Handed my notice in at work today.  Eeek!!  What have I done??!!

   Nothing horrible, in fact it’s a bit of a choker to leave but I decided some time ago that I’d really like to go back to teaching science.  Couldn't broadcast it for obvious reasons but I've been working on it since february.  So I’ve got the whole of august off to arse about on my bike and get loads of miles in get myself back up to speed on the GCSE and A Level syllabus, then I’m off to UEA to top up my post-graduate qualifications for a year.  Quite looking forward to it but it’s a bit scary packing in a reasonably well paid job at 40 years old and pretty much starting again.  Thing is, whether it’s teaching people to fly, teaching my wife to drive, teaching kids about pyruvic acid and anaerobic glycolysis or just as a Bloodhound Ambassador trying to enthuse kids about science with a 1000mph rocket car, teaching is the one thing I probably enjoy more than anything.  It’s immensely satisfying.  So what the hell.

 

 

 

Andy felt pretty sure that telling his Environmental Science class that

 Man-made Climate Change was 'bollocks' wasn't a particularly good career move....

 

 

 

  It’s amazing the effect that the even smallest throwaway comments can have on you, isn’t it?  I was getting a bit fed up with cycle racing, or rather my lack of success in it and was close to packing it all in again when I bumped into an old clubmate in the gents at the race HQ after yet another disappointing performance.  I got into my usual ‘bloody stupid pastime, I’m too old and knackered’ monologue when he suddenly jumped in with “well it’s about bloody time you stopped pissing about and took it seriously again then, innit?”

  Hearty guffaws all round but I thought about it long and hard on the way home.

  He had a point.  Whatever happened to the bloke who could train virtually to the point of unconsciousness?  Or the bloke who used to go and train for 4 hours in the snow?  Or the bloke who’d have to be lifted off his bike after a 100 mile time trial and be unable to walk for two days afterwards?

  Think I’ve become too much of a wimp.  Actually, it’s because I’m shit scared of making myself ill again and my discomfort threshold has become just far too low.  I don’t train any more if my legs hurt in the morning – years ago if I’d have done that I’d never have gone out on my bike!

  So I’m going to try and train through my Wimp Zone and try and train like I used to for a month and see what happens.  Nothing to lose really.

 

 

 

 

 

June 2010

 

25/6/2010

 

 

  People are strange.  Weird story this but it involves a bit of a mystery.  This site has seen a humongous rise in traffic the last few weeks, I mean 1000’s of percent.  Nothing to do with people following my cycling comeback intently or the adventures of Woolly and Greebs – it’s far stranger.  I went on Google Analytics to see what was going on and it turned out that all the traffic was going to the Vitamins and Minerals page.  Odd, I thought.  Hey, perhaps the strange experiments on myself were attracting the attention of the world’s top scientists and doctors?

  Nope.

  Homing in further, it turned out all the hits were coming from the title of one picture on that page (left).  Obviously I’m not going to type the words in again but it shows a man with the planet's most overgrown claws on his digits.  Thousands of people had been searching for ‘the ‘w**lds lo**est fin**rn**ls’ and had been arriving here and downloading the pic.  I tried it myself and I came up #5 on a google search!  Strange people.  I’ve changed the name of the pic now and the problem seems to have gone away.  Scanning down the list, I’d also cropped up in searches for Fat Cyclist (bastard, whoever you are) and, equally worrying, ‘Monster Tits’.

  The accidental moral of this story is that, if you didn’t know already, a scary amount of information about you is available to website owners if they know how to look for it.  Imagine what the owners of servers can do.  Frightening…

 

 

  "Oi, Fatty!  Let me in or I'll crap on yer car again!" demanded the Seagull

 

 

  Had a strange encounter with a seagull at about 4:00am in the week.  Seriously spooky.  Was awoken by what I thought was someone tapping on the front door.  Nope, no-one there.  I went back to bed and the tapping continued.  Getting more and more annoyed, I got up again and traced the noise to the spare room.  I was getting a bit twitchy by this stage so I edged the door open gingerly…  to find a huge seagull sitting on the window ledge outside!  An absolute monster.  He started banging his beak on the glass when he saw me with a strange, “Oi, let me in!” expression on his face.  As I got closer he seemed to acquire the look of one seriously unhinged bird, you know, Emu vs Michael Parkinson type stuff.  It was quite scary and I had to have a quick word with myself - 'Pull yourself together man....'

  A quick ‘shoo!’ and lots of arm waving saw him off but how strange.  According to Google, in mythology seagulls represent messengers from the ‘Otherworld’, wherever that is.  A very odd encounter that spooked me for a while.

 

 

 

  Still enjoying 'retro' motorcycling on my little Z250 Scorpion.  Thing is, other bikers don't nod at me any more - they used to all the time on my R1.  I never realised such snobbery was rife amongst bikers, I'm gutted.  My little brother rides a 600 V twin commuter and he'd warned me this might happen but I didn't believe him.  He noticed it when he took a new Gixer 1000 out on a test ride and immediately noticed more nods than usual.  Sorry Matt.  I still get a hearty nod back from the lads delivering pizzas on their mopeds, so that's something.  Off on a couple of long distance jollies on it soon and am hoping for nods from other slightly more discerning 'retro' bikers.  If I start getting nods from those blokes who insist on wearing white helmets & fluorescent sashes, then I'm going to kill myself... 

 

 

 

10/6/2010

 

 

  Wahey!!  Back on two wheels again!  I mean proper two wheels with an engine.  Bit of a mad impulse buy but I bought an ancient 1970’s Kawasaki Z250 to bomb about on over the summer.  It’s in lovely nick and great fun to ride although with about 10 times less power than I’m used to.  Me and Sue went for a thrash round two up on it and both spent the whole time grinning our faces off.  Lovely!!  Long time since I've been overtaken by cars on a bike though....

 

 

  In the non-motorised two wheel department, I managed a season’s best 22:40 something on in a ‘10’ Saturday, which was quite pleasing.  Still a good minute slower than where I really, really wanted to be this year but, ah well.  Roasting hot day too – fantastic.

 

 

 

  Had some amazing news on my compensation / personal injury claim from my cycling accident last feb when a silly cow knocked me off.  Several thousands more than I was expecting (hence blowing a load on the motorbike!!), just waiting for the final bits and pieces to get sorted and the cheque to arrive.

 

 

 

 

May 2010

 

24/5/2010

 

  Summer has arrived – hurrah!  Roastingly hot last weekend and spent most of the time frying myself in the garden, guinness or five in hand.  Poor Woolly and Greebs not too impressed though, they normally spend all their time lying around in a shady corner sighing when it’s hot like that.  Poor boys.

"Bit warm mate...  zzzz..."

"Zzzzz...  not wrong Greebs, not wrong....."

 

 

 Done a fair bit of flying too, lovely.  That last hour or two before sunset is just incredible at this time of year.  Silky smooth and warm – just what microlights were invented for.  Giving a few lessons in an old Flash 1 microlight, a bit of a retro blast-from-the-past from the early days of microlights.  Good fun!

  I hope my health is returning to normal now as I finally seem to have shaken off the lurgy.  Been taking it really easy and the only bit of cycling I’ve been doing this last fortnight is the odd really gentle ride and the odd 10 mile TT.  Backing off like that seems to be helping no end and I hope I now might be able to get things back on track.  Every time I ride I feel stronger and faster – I must have been totally knackered and overdoing it, on top of a virus for good measure.  Just hope I haven’t damaged the rest of my season.  I know I'm going better because I've started doing what I did last year and really enjoying being able to go fast, then being dead halfway round because I've overdone it!  I'm racing properly again for the first time on weds evening (26th) and if I control myself and pace it properly I should do a reasonable ride.

  Van let me down (again) in the week – the water pump let go and I had a couple of days doing 17 miles per gallon (of water) before I could fix it.  But 37 quid and 3 hours under the bonnet sorted it. 

 

  It's been 15 months since I got knocked off my bike and suffered numerous injuries but my solicitor has told me that, finally, the whole affair could be settled within a couple of weeks.  God, it hasn't half dragged on, and on, and on....

 

 

 

 

 

 

10/5/2010

  Been a bit sniffly again most of the week but finally feeling like the lurgy is vanishing.  No cycling all week, in fact I’ve been a bit of a lazy sod really.

 

  Had a big biodiesel brew up at the weekend using all the crud, fat, lard, chicken fat, dead scampi etc that you collect over the course of the year.  It’s that foul gloopy stuff that you can never decant off and have to leave it in the bottom of the container.  It’s normally the stuff you have to chuck away and so not the easiest stuff to make biodiesel from (V high FFA content), but it’s incredibly satisfying when you do.  So I’ve now got 120 litres of lovely fuel from proper ‘waste’.  Excellent.  Cloudpoint tends to be a bit higher than the good stuff, so it’s a ‘summer only’ grade but BD made from animal fat always seems to make the car go like a rocket.  Energy density better perhaps?  Dunno.

 

  Been an interesting time at work too – I’ve been building some big bits of kit which I don’t get to do very often.  Lots of hardcore fabrication and welding to get me out of the office.  Makes a nice change but not sure I’d like to do it all the time.

  Hoping to get out on the bike for a steady ride this week.  Might even have a go at a local 25 mile time trial on Sunday if all is ok in the engine room.

  Final episode of ‘Blitz Street’ on later.  Exploding a 1 tonne V2 warhead on the street tonight.  Some people have got such fantastic jobs….

 

 

 

 

 

A tonne of exploding ANFO blasts 3000 tonnes of material into the air at RAF Spadeadam during filming for Blitz Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  And what about this?

You couldn't make this stuff up, could you??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4/5/2010

  Spent the week pretty much in the grip of the niggly virus which seems to be hanging around forever.  The good news is that today (Tuesday) I feel absolutely dreadful so hopefully that means it’s having its last fling before buggering off and leaving me alone!

  Done a couple of races this week, one went okay and I did a PB for the course despite feeling a bit feeble, the other was a disaster and I really shouldn’t have ridden it feeling so poorly.  Never mind.  It’s made me determined to shift the virus before attempting to ride again, otherwise I could end up messing the whole season up.

  Had a great time at Truckfest with BloodhoundSSC over the bank holiday.  It was the first outing for the new inflatable shelter made by Aireshelta which looks the business but was a bit battered by the gusty wind on a couple of occasions.  The weather wasn’t ideal but it didn’t seem to put many people off – tough lot these truckers!

  Quite a hectic schedule for the Bloodhound roadshow over the summer so it looks like I’m going to be quite busy!

 

April 2010

 

26/4/2010

 

  Fairly quiet week or so really.  After last week's doom and gloom about cycling being sooo crap and a waste of time, I turned up at a race on Sunday feeling like death cos of a niggly cold, knackered with a hangover and did the best ride I’ve done since last august!  In fact, it was probably a better ride than my PB ride last year, but on a crap course.  I didn’t ride the bike once since the Stowmarket disaster 8 days previous, so you can draw your own conclusions from that.  Had it stoked up to 28 & 29 mph on the flat a few times - lovely!  What with the speed and the sound of air rushing over my helmet, I felt like a racer again!  Still a long way to go but the season may not be doomed after all....   More on the Cycling page.

 

  Had an absolutely amazing experience at the Royston Cave on Saturday.  Me and Sue have done loads of ley line things over the years but this place was amazing.  We both had a sort of crackle of electricity about us in there and Sass felt all wobbly and faint.  All sorts of links to the Knights Templar, Freemasonry, the Holy Grail.  The only thing I’m surprised at is that it hasn’t appeared in a Dan Brown book yet.  Well worth a visit….

 

 

 

 

  I'm at Truckfest in Peterborough on the BloodhoundSSC stand over the bank holiday.  Should be a mega busy event...

 

 

 

19/4/2010

 

 Rode a 20 mile Hilly TT in Stowmarket at the weekend and felt dead from the start.  No strength in my legs, no speed, nothing.  Pretty hard to stay focused when you’re killing yourself to average 20 mph, so I sat up after 8 or 9 miles and just enjoyed a nice ride in the sunshine.  Not sure what the marshals made of it all!  Amazingly, I still didn’t come anywhere near last so that’s something!

 

  I’ve now pretty much reached the stage where I really can’t be arsed going through all this again and might just forget the whole thing.  My whole ‘exercise allergy’ syndrome continues to haunt me, I’m bloody doomed I reckon.  I’ll stop riding / training for a couple of weeks and see if anything improves.  That’s all I can do really.

 

 

 

12/4/2010

 

  Strange week or so.  Possibly the most exciting thing was me manning the BloodhoundSSC stand at Santa Pod over the bank holiday.  The stand was set up in the paddock right by the finish line which gave some spectacular views of the crashes, er, I mean racing but it also meant you couldn’t hear yourself think half the time.  We were squashed in the pits between the top fuellers and the jet cars too, so all in all in was bloody loud!

 

 

  Had a couple of crushing results in the first couple of races of the year.  I appear to be so far away from where I wanted to be at this point of the season that none of my ambitions are remotely achievable unfortunately.  Massively disappointed by a 25:50 on Tuesday evening (I was planning on an easy 23:odd for starters  at the very worst).  A bloody hard & chilly 18.5 mile hilly around north Norfolk yielded another finish in the bottom third of a small field of club riders on Sunday morning but I philosophically took it as a bit of fun and actually really enjoyed myself, considering I don't normally do: a) early starts, b) hills or c) the cold!

  Very disappointing.  I remember doing a 21:40 on my first ride of the year in 95 or 96 and winning that particular Open event on a sporting course easily.  Ah well.  Don’t know what’s different now (apart from the obvious 15 year gap!) but whatever it was I used to have has evidently vanished.  More on the Cycling page.

  I’ll persevere though in the hope of finding a bit of form later in the season.  Takes the pressure off a bit and means I can probably have a bit more fun doing it.  Still like to think that that pitiful 22:36 PB  will go before the summer is out...

 

March 2010

 

31/3/2010

 

 

What a fantastic holiday!  Peak district, Lakes, Mull & Iona.  No disasters, nice and chilled out plus the old van managed a whopping 1450 miles without missing a beat!!

 

 

The very northern end of Iona.  You could almost be in the Seychelles... apart from the fact it's only about 5 degrees C...

 

 

 

 

 

 

"We come in peace", says Sue

 

 

 

 

  The highlight was definitely Mull though.  We arrived about a week before the ‘season’ started and pretty much had the place to ourselves wherever we went.  Beautiful place, laid back locals and more wildlife than you could shake a stick at.  Golden eagles, sea eagles, sea otters….  We saw the lot in just a couple of hours strolling about by the shore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Can I get out now?" says Woolly, "it's bloody freezing in here..."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  We’re defo going back, maybe towards the end of this year but more likely the same time next year – for much longer next time.

  Marathon 580 mile drive back home, done with just one short stop – we did Oban to Birmingham without stopping!  Amazing when you consider that the van didn’t even have an engine in it a week or so before we left!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

600 feet underground, Andy was doing a remarkably good job of hiding his claustrophobia....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  The cycling season starts in earnest now so it’s now a question of getting stuck into that for a few months now and being a little more dedicated….

 

 

 

 

15/3/2010

 

  Ahhhh.  All’s well that ends well.  Van all back together and runs like a dream, in fact better than it has since I’ve owned it!!  Still can't suss the immobilizer problem out though and it looks like I'm going to have to modify the loom to get it working on the key again.  As a temporary bodge, I've got the sidelights wired up to turn the ignition on and the horn fires the starter motor!  Quite cool actually pressing a button on the steering wheel to start it - feels like you've climbed into some supercar or something.  Well, sort of.

  The Astra too accepted its new turbo without a great deal of drama so, all in all, I’m feeling fairly pleased with myself.  The old turbo was a wreck - the bearings & seals were so far gone the spinning impellor part had been hitting the wall of the casing and was worn down to about half its original size.  But the swap was completely painless, almost enjoyable.  In fact, the Astra repairs went so well I actually had enough time to respray the hatchback door which I had to replace about 18 months ago.  It was silvery green but now it’s red like the rest of the car.

  Unbelievably stupid story of how the back door had to be replaced in the first place – I was rushing about one day and pulled up outside the warehouse where I used to work.  I parked the car on the long concrete slope up to the warehouse doors and jumped out to unlock them….   without putting the handbrake on!  It began to roll serenely down the ramp, across the main road and into a conveniently placed lamppost.  SMASH!  Convenient because if hadn’t been there the car would have probably ended up in the office across the road!  Anyway, the rear door, bumper and lights were smashed to bits and I felt a total and utter knob.

  One of the blokes at work helped me pull and bang the dents of the chassis but the hatchback door was a write off.  Fortunately, the local scrapyard had one for £15 – result!  Anyway, I had meant to spray it up to match the rest of the car but never got around to it, until now.  Looks loads better now AND doesn’t smoke like a bastard!  Reckon we might get another year or so out of the Astra now, just as long as change the cambelt as soon as possible.  Had a quick look at it and it definitely has seen better days….

 

  Training – Wow!!  I backed off all the base work weeks ago and have been focusing on quality rather than quantity.  It seems to be paying off.  Still over a fortnight to my first ‘race’ of 2010 but surely I must be loads up on my 2009 best already.  We’ll see!

 

 

 

 

 

"Next time Andy,” advised Mr Plod, “put yer handbrake on you bloody idiot…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4/3/2010

 

  Arse-arsety-arse-arse!  ARSE!  Bloody Astra has blown up now!  Let go big stylee when Sue was driving to college in Norwich.  Fortunately it got her to college, just, but smoked out most of Norfolk in the process.  I borrowed the work van and towed her home with no real hassles except for a 3 metre tow rope which tested Sue’s reflexes to the limit, to say the least!

  It’s now in the compound at work with my other non-working vehicles – van & Mondeo.  Bloody hell, three cars in the household and not one of the buggers works!  A quick look at it this morning has revealed nothing more serious than a blown turbo (hopefully) which should be a straight forward fix.  Just found one on ebay for 30 quid.

  Good news on the van however.  New engine went in with little drama and it started pretty much first time.  Cor, it runs sweet as anything – it’s made me realise what an old banger the previous one was.  The only two problems I’ve got is:

1.        because its stood so long in the chilly temperatures, the veg oil / biodiesel / derv mix in the tank has waxed up and blocked the pipes and filters.  I’ve got a cunning plan though which involves a calor gas camping stove underneath the fuel tank….

2.        because the van has an immobilizer, it isn’t ‘recognising’ the new engine which is a bit of a pain. I’m having to start it ‘hotwire’ style with leads from the battery.  I’ve got another cunning plan to get round it though hopefully.

With any luck, I’ll be bombing around in it again at the weekend.  The doggies will be really pleased!!

 

 

 

 

The poor van, engineless........

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old engine left, new engine on the pallet ready to drop in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1/3/2010

  Oh dear.  The van died!  Big style – cambelt let go and now it looks like someone has thrown a hand grenade under the bonnet.  Was a bit despondent for a while but a quick ring around on the phone got me a secondhand engine for just 100 quid.  100,000 less miles on it too!  Apart from the arse-ache of having having to spend a day or two swapping the engine, I’m now looking on it as a bit of a blessing in disguise.  I mean, the original engine was long past its best – crap compression, smokey, poor starting and just lately it’s been lumpy as hell.  The old one had done 188,000 miles and the replacement has done 60,000 odd.  Apparently, because of the car scrapage scheme, there are loads of decent engines lying around – my replacement came out of a Fiesta that had been scrapped.

 

 

 

"It's not as bad as it looks," said Andy, remarkably calmly, "I'll have it fixed in no time...."

 

 

 

  Got to admit, I’m not sure how I feel about perfectly good cars being scrapped – seems a bit counterproductive to me.  My van is a 1999 one and was one of my ‘spares or repair’ bargains that I saved from the scrapyard about 18 months ago.  Nothing wrong with it really, it just needed a new windscreen, few bulbs and a tiny bit of welding and it flew through the MOT.  With a new engine it should be good for a couple of years more at least.  Reusing stuff is considerably greener than recycling stuff in my opinion.  But what do I know.

  Anyway, should be back on the road for next weekend.  Fortunately, the weather is improving and I still have my bike to get to work…

 

  The 'Hero of the Week' Award goes to the anonymous man in the beaten up Landrover at the traffic lights in Bradwell, singing his head off to "I've got a brand new combine harvester' by The Wurzels on the CD player.  Not many people brave enough to do that.  Top man!

 

February 2010

15/2/2010

 

  Sniffle.  Spent most of last week with the foulest cold I think I’ve ever had.  Incontrollable snot levels – I’ve never seen anything like it.  Feel pretty much over it today so hope to get back on the bike asap.  Seems to be doing the rounds everywhere at the moment so at least I got it out the way sooner rather than later.

 

 

 

 

  Still, the Winter Olympics and the Six Nations on the telly.  Wahey!  Watched a programme about the Arctic Man race in Alaska and immediately decided it was one place I’d have to go before I croak.  Nutters – a ski / snowboard race with fast downhill bits and flat / uphill bits being dragged at up to 90mph by snowmobile.  Plus lots of drinking, partying etc.  Probably a bit like being dragged by Woolly & Greebs on a slow day….

 

 

 

  I bought myself a new car before xmas, well, not new, but newish.  It’s my little brother’s old Mondeo – nice motor but stood on his drive for about 18 months going mouldy.  Bit of a project – power steering pump gone, tyres gone, front and rear brakes knackered etc, but very close to getting it back on the road.  Nice car.  Hoping it will replace the increasingly rattly / smokey Astra which is very close to the end of it’s life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Started whipping the garden into shape too although the ground is still a bit too hard to do a lot.  I try and do something adventurous most years so I’m going to have a bash at growing tobacco this year.  Got some Virginian Gold seeds.  I don’t smoke but the plants look really pretty and it’s a bit different.  Me and my other brother are growing lots of different chilli varieties too which will result, I imagine, in some sort of competition to blow each others faces off with the results.  Bring it on….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5/2/2010

  Been a bit quiet – sorry.  That’s mainly been because not an awful lot has happened really!  Had some really good falls of snow over the last few weeks and Woolly and Greebs have been in their element.  I even plucked up courage to go dogboarding with them and I’d forgotten how fantastic it was!  I basically use the dogs’ scooter lines but attach it to a big scaffolders belt that I’m wearing then get on the snowboard.  It tends to confuse them for a while as they’re not used to the initial resistance of the snow (the scooter rolls much easier) but they soon get the hang of it.  Big mistake setting off down a narrow alley after not having ridden for well over a year – within 5 seconds a Tom & Jerry type crash involving dustbins had occurred, much to Sue and Saskia’s amusement.  Then another one with a low branch (well, it was nearly dark)….

 

 

 

 "It's just a scratch," said Andy, "don't worry about it..."

 

 

 

  Three car crashes within the space of an hour on our road because of the snow, one involving my parked van.  Got a knock on the door and opened it to find a polite but very worried old lady confessing to sliding into the van in her car.  Apologising profusely, she showed me a scuff or two on the bumper and a nick or two on the bodywork but the dogs have done worse with their claws getting in and out to be honest and it didn't bother me.  Did I need her insurance details?  Did I need to call the police?  I explained with a smile that I'd hardly notice one more ding amidst all the others and that a bit more 'battle damage' would add to the character etc and not to worry about it.  She left still apologising and possibly under the impression that I was some sort of nutter.  That's the great thing about driving an old banger I suppose.  If it'd been a brand new car I'd have probably beaten her to death with her own handbag.

 

January 2010

 

  Happy New Year!  Well, that’s that, the end of the Noughties.  Blimey, that decade didn’t half fly by!  I remember the millennium celebrations in Norwich like it was yesterday.

  I had a pretty grumpy and depressed Xmas hol though.  My big thing is the winter solstice so Xmas and New Year always seem like a bit of an anti-climax.  Plus, I spent Xmas day fixing the washing machine and new year’s eve fixing the tumble dryer!!  Good grief.  Got some nice bike rides and dog walks in though.  Lovely.

  Me and Sue decided to cycle home from a boxing day party at her mum and dad’s and ended up having a huge drunken crash at midnight in the middle of town.  Sue sustained a few bruises but I was okay (I landed on my head).  We both did the usual trick and fell asleep at about 11 o’clock on New Years Eve too and missed the whole thing again.

 

  Not sure what I’m expecting from 2010 to be honest, apart from the usual stuff like a big Double Rollover win on the Lottery etc.  Hoping the coming cycling season is a pleasing one but I won’t really know until it starts.  With any luck I’ll FINALLY get the insurance / compensation money through from my bike crash – it’s been nearly 10 months now and is really dragging on.  Desperately need to upgrade some of my equipment.

 

  Can’t think of a highlight for the year really, although got lots of nice memories.  Dipping under 24 mins in a ‘10’ for the first time was great, as were my days on the Bloodhound SSC stand.  Plus me and Sue’s great few days away in London and Brad Wiggins great ride in the Tour.  I survived Swine Flu and discovered the wonders of Vitamin D3 too.

  I can say without a doubt that the worst thing of 2009 happened in the James Paget hospital while I was heading for my MRI scan earlier in the year – I haven’t mentioned this before.  I was bustling along a corridor on my way to the MRI suite when a bed came around the corner being pushed by two porters.  The guy on the bed had drips in and looked seriously ill, I mean at death’s door sort of ill – he was all wasted and gaunt – cancer I suspected.  As he was pushed past, he opened his eyes, looked straight at me and held his hand out.

  “Andy!” came a weak cry and then he was gone, off up the corridor.  By the time it had registered (I was rather preoccupied), the bed had turned another corner and gone.  I’ve thought about this a lot and still find it quite upsetting.  To be honest, I couldn’t really tell you who it was which is the absolute worst part.  I think it was a lad who had some flying lessons with me but I’m not sure.  Whoever it was, I can only apologise.  I was too wrapped up in my own stuff to be bothered at the time, although that's no excuse.

  Ah well, onwards and upwards....

 

 

 

                

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