Friday, 18 April 2014

Square moment

"Which stop?" came the question, "Embankment or Temple?"

"If we get off at Embankment, we can swing past Trafalgar Square."

"What, like tourists?"

"Yes, but c'mon we are going to Covent Garden in any case."

So out of the tube, along a packed Villiers Street towards Charing Cross.

Traf. Sq. was packed with people. Some sort of event going on.

I suddenly remembered, "It's Good Friday, that'll be the Passion Play."

We watched a host of roman centurions nearby. Then a bearded man in white cloth walked speedily in front of us.

Yep, it was Him.

The story continued as Jesus reappeared a few moments later about to be recognised by Mary Magdalene.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

green brake blocks

Mind the Gap
I've had so much of the above, this year, that it's created quite a few gaps in my cycling plans.

Even so, I seem to have clocked up nearly a thousand miles already this year.

Compared with last year, I'm somewhat lagging behind, but I'm slightly surprised that I've done as much as this.
so far this year
I suppose I did the London thing a few weeks ago and I have a small team event coming up when a few of us get together to form a convoy going south. They are all practising and even have new bikes - no pressure for me, then.

At least I can now report that my carbon bike is back in business with decent tyres, tubes, a new chain and even a new set of brake blocks on order.
Swissstop Flash Pro Green

Wednesday, 16 April 2014


Jimmy's Iced Coffee
A refreshingly cold coffee on a train as I finish my current spell on the eastern side of London.

Thursday will have me tying a few loose ends. This mainly involves shredding documents. My shredder is like a kind of reverse printer. It has a paper tray area, but instead of putting in blank papers, it expects to be fed with A4 printed material.

It ponderously munches them and creates paper shreds that are about ten times the volume of the incoming material. I've the equivalent of an entire boxful (2,500 sheets?) to convert.

Monday, 14 April 2014

applying new black chilli sauce to the bike

Grand Prix 4000s II
It may look like a half-hearted snake charmer kit, but was my next attempt to get the tyres sorted out on the bike.

Swap out of the mistakenly applied old front tyre with a shiny new replacement and put the wheel back.

This time it was a much quicker process. 5 minutes to get the old tyre off, another 2-3 to put the new tyre on and about a further 5 to wrestle with the last 10 centimetres. Experts claim to be able to do all this in a few minutes, but my King of Tyres Personal Best is about 15 minutes with black hands at the end.
Grand Prix 4000s II
I like the new tyres more than I might have expected. They are reassuringly grippy, despite a lack of overt tread - which I think is mainly cosmetic anyway on road bikes. My last two sets of tyres on the carbon bike have both been Continental Grand Prix, but these updated GP 4000S II do somehow feel both lighter and grippier.

It must be the Black Chilli sauce.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

too early to be in the sea?

maybe still a bit cold in the sea?
A quick spin to the seaside today, although most sensible people would stay out of the water.

Seated at a small cafe, we basked in early sunshine, although away from the cafe's shelter a chill wind reminded us it was still before Easter.

Friday, 11 April 2014

longer levers

...and in a sort of update to yesterday's story, I had an email suggesting some extra long tyre levers. I took a look and have now ordered some, for the princely sum of £2.99. (OK, 6 quid because I ordered 2 sets).

I'll try them out when I get around to changing the front tyre next week. As well as ordering some more inner tubes. And maybe cleaning the bike.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

tyred story

My bike's had a very slow puncture on the back wheel. I think it might have been the valve, but anyway, I decided it would be best to replace the inner tube in the comfort of home, rather than be caught out somewhere on the road.

It sounds simple enough, but I managed to create a few problems for myself in the process. I took the back wheel off, let the remaining air out of the tyre and then used a tyre lever to start to ease the tyre off. It put up a bit of a struggle until I'd got about 30 cm of the tyre over the rim, but then I could get the tyre off from one side, pull out the old inner tube, look for anything untoward and then swap in a new inner tube.

In the comfort of garage (so to speak) I spotted a new tyre folded in a shiny box and decided to put that on to replace the one that had done several thousand miles.

So far so good.

Then to put the replacement tyre back on. It's supposed to be possible to do this with thumbs rather than the tyre levers. Hah!

Not my thumbs, they just couldn't manage it. Ten minutes of writhing and hand blackening, which I can remember from previous similar situations. I could have tried using plastic ties to keep the tyre in the middle of the wheel, but I decided to use a couple of tyre levers.

The tyre popped back on, and then I tried pumping it.

Yes, air was getting in, but then after about ten minutes, it was going out again. I realised I'd probably pinched the new inner tube, so undid the tyre again and realised it was so bad that I could hear air escaping with every pump.

Then I looked more closely at the new tyre.

I'd slightly wondered at the way the logo was kind of weathered when I was putting it on, thinking it must be a marketing/vintage thing.

But no. I realised that I'd actually just put on an old but clean tyre that I'd folded back into a convenient box. It was obviously a spare that I'd held on to for some reason.

This was becoming something of a downgrade situation. Now I had an old tyre and it was flat.

That was day one.

Next day, suited, I was walking around by Embankment tube station when a hidden force field guided me towards a nearby bike shop. I asked for an inner tube and the assistant shrewdly asked 'How many?'

I decided three should do it. And the cycling tractor beams had worked well. Just maybe a couple of proper new tyres as well? That way if I had to faff with the inner tubes, I might as well replace the highish mileage tyres at the same time.

Back home I dutifully removed the ex spare tyre and the dud inner tube. Put the new tyre half on, then the inner tube, then the other half of the tyre.

The last 10 cm was a problem again. I tried plastic ties this time to squish the tyre and got the tyre onto the rim without using levers. Pump up the tyre.

Guess what?

I'd somehow managed to make a hole in the second inner tube.

By now the red Bontrager tyre levers were becoming an indispensable accessory. This time I flipped the tyre off without much effort. Practice, I suppose was making it easier.

The second of the three new inner tubes was then deployed, and the tyre re-fitted again. I even had the tyre logo aligned with the valve.

This time it pumped up properly. 100psi. I put the wheel back on. It all worked.

That's the back tyre replaced plus a new inner tube.

That just leaves the front one.

Maybe next week.

Monday, 7 April 2014

junior pigeon

A pigeon in London? Where's the story? There's - oh - dozens of them.

This one was freshly minted. And was standing on our wall. Although nearly the same size as a grown-up, I'll guess that this one was maybe 20 days old.

It was looking a bit dazed. I'll guess it had fallen out of a tree or something, because it didn't seem to be that interested in moving away as I approached.

I decided it was actually a collared dove. They're the brownish-pink looking birds that mainly strut around this neighbourhood in pairs.

So what to do?

Leave it on the low wall, where it could become a cat's plaything or of interest to a passing hawk? I'd seen a bird of prey idly swooping around the neighbourhood yesterday, and a later flurry of other birds escaping radially from a spot out of my sight.

I found my bright yellow gloves. I'd simply move it to somewhere adjacent but camouflaged. That way it could sort itself out, or its parents could get to it without needing to break cover.

It let me pick it up but then decided it would like to try its wings one more time. First one outside my glove and then the other. I let it flap and away it spiralled. A slightly messy flight, circling upwards to a nearby roof. I heard some other birds calling. The rescue squad must have been watching all along.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

new bikes all round, except me

"Come and have a look at my new bike," said a familiar voice.

There it was, all black and stealthy and with its cogs all sparkly. A small amount of mud on the rear tyre showed it had been out for a spin, but the general impression was of pristine newness.

"I'm getting ready for the charity event."

"What, with a new bike?"

"Oh, yes, something - you know - modern and lightweight."

I gasped in wonder at the machine ahead of me.

"And what's that?" I asked, noticing another shiny machine. A red one this time.

"Oh, that's mine..." came another voice, "I thought I'd better get something - er, suitable."

I looked across to this one. Thin tyres, fancy gears, shining a bright red luminance over everything.

"What about you?"

"Er, I'll be using my normal bike. It's a bit oily at the moment, but I'll clean it up before we go."

My mind flittered to the options to compete with the shininess, but I decided I'd better find some of that pink Muc-Off and just spend the £5 or so cleaning mine up for the event.

Friday, 4 April 2014

different kinds of spaces

I've mentioned the still high 'crane count' around London as more new big buildings signify the London economy at some odds with much of the UK.

A few days ago I was driving around the City and had to take one of those impromptu diversions around an area where large trucks were being admitted to supply more walling to one of the new constructions.

Then across the river, my picture is of the April state in the development of the Tate Modern extension. It's already a monster building, an old powerhouse with vast internal exhibition spaces, including the currently empty turbine hall, complete with its filled in crack that runs across the floor as part of a now removed exhibit.

The extension work here is interesting because when complete, much of what is shown in my photo will have been bricked over, to make a finish more in keeping with the rest of the building.

It's one of those cases where there's a kind of artistic impression in this current state that I can't help feeling will get lost when the bricks land.

I understand the reasoning to make it stay in keeping with the original structure. Red phone box designer Giles Gilbert Scott shaped the brick power station that is now receiving the extension.

He also designed the other and more instantly recognisable brick cathedral power station further up river at Battersea.

But here in the South Bank, the Tate stands amidst a flurry of other new buildings with a mix of styles. Look at the Tate from the river and the new piece will be hidden from most views. See it from where I'm standing, and all around are different and quite colourful styles, in what is the regenerated Southwark.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

hers is a lush situation

I dropped into the Richard Hamilton exhibition whilst I was around Tate Modern the other day.

Hamilton is known as one of the Pop Art founders and the 'Swingeing London' painting of Jagger handcuffed to his dealer on the way from a trial is probably one of the best known. Oh and the White Album by the Beatles, probably as well.

I hadn't realised, until I was in the show, that there were actually so many variations of the original Jagger picture, but I suppose I should have thought of it in the context of Pop Art.

I was also surprised at the span of work. A long career and many types of technique used. There's an underlying draughtsmanship to many of the pictures and a peak era which tails away then occasionally produced a new burst of work - like the spooky cowboy picture of Blair called Shock and Awe.

There's hundreds of works on show, witness the catalogue's size.

One of the exhibits that fascinated me was a long wall of work not strictly by Richard Hamilton. It was the Polaroids that he had asked to be taken by many people he knew, spanning 34 years and including Francis Bacon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Andy Warhol and Bryan Ferry, to name but a few.

Despite putting himself as the subject, the pictures show a lot about both the person taking the shot and Hamilton too. There's hardly a dull frame in the 100 or more Polaroids on show.

Then there's themes he explores like the industrial designs of his curvaceous car series, tinged with the rhetoric of marketeers' persuasion. Note the Sophia Loren lips in the picture below and the windshield made from the United Nations building. Lush, baby.

Some of the work is clearly from its time, but overall it presents a fascinating story of a founding member of the Pop Art movement, which many formats still use today.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

I return to find my car covered in Saharan sand

I'm back more or less in the centre of London again this week, after my spell further east. My car looks as if it has been even further east, with a covering of sand splotches which I'm told are from sand blown from the Sahara desert.

The muddy looking spatter on my photo of St Paul's Cathedral is probably more of the same sand.

They say that the combination of sand and general pollution from across in Europe has created a particularly bad London atmosphere at the moment. Not exactly a London Particular, but certainly a London haze.

I took a picture from the Thames as well, and if you look closely there's a yellow haze in the air.