Archive for the ‘Whiffle’ Category

The International Dark Sky Association..

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

From the Times Online:

”At the end of a garden path, in a home-made observatory overlooking Wee Glenamour Loch, there is an air of expectancy among a gaggle of astronomers.

Better late than..

Friday, October 16th, 2009

The radio’s still faintly playing the slow, lazy, heat-haze pick n’ mix of songs. Summer slumbers, still making blue skies and sunshine in her sleep. But there’s no mistaking Autumn. She’s already been in and put the first cup gently down, tip-toed out dropping drifts of leaves from orange skirts, exhaling damp earth, drawing cool mornings with long pale fingers.

So make the most of it whilst Summer still sleeps, breath deep the slight scent of lingering sunshine, scatter your tyres with dust whilst you can because Autum’s in the wings, ready with that second cup. And then Summer will peer blearily at the season’s clock, stretch out nut brown arms to gather in her skirts, and with them the sunshine and the flowers. The warmth will seep away, the heavy indigo will fade making way for brittle blue. She’ll leave softly making way for Autum to soothe the trees to sleep, rustling quietly past, cold breath hanging heavy in the air. She’ll have her moment and she has pleasures of her own: the cold start snapping you from your sleep and the pleasure of the still just warm afternoon.

Then in the blink of an eye Winter will be hammering on the door, dragging mud across the carpets, rain running off his great-coat, depositing cases full of doom and gloom. He’ll stomp on the trails in hob-nailed boots, freeze your toes, scratch frost across your window panes and drag the skies with grey. Just once in a while a smile will crack his craggy features and the skies will spread with blue, the sun will sink low and spread the land with ice cold honey from bees with frost coated wings.

Random Travelogue #1

Sunday, October 11th, 2009


Italy 1992, 2:00 am

Living hell boarded the train somewhere between Aora and Bologna. Where there was tranquility, darkness and the ignorant bliss of sleep came light, chaos and undignified waking. The noise and attitude of seven, very black, very female with a capital ‘F’, foghorns raised in tribal chaos burst into our compartment and proceeded to make themselves comfortable whilst making us very uncomfortable. Carol rapidly retreated into her sleeping bag and I conducted a non-verbal battle of wills over the window, light and silence. All of which I eventually got but not quickly enough…..

Later that day:

We learnt the hard way if some one offers you accommodation at a reasonable price, close to the centre of town just take it. By the time we’d walked half-way across Rome in the searing heat and queued for a room we weren’t allowed to take (it was a YHA and we weren’t) then found another, after a hair-raising whistle stop tour of the city in a taxi (traffic lights have no practical use in Italy aside perhaps for ornamentation) there was little time or energy left for exploring. So we set off in search of a swimming pool with the hostel ’staff’ (ie a stalled traveller) Simon the ‘water-diviner’. His divination was 100% accurate, but unfortunately it didn’t extend to opening times. As you’d obviously *expect* on a national holiday, in mid summer in the capital of Italy, all of the pools, including Mussolini’s grand masterpiece, were well shut, very shut.


Friday, August 7th, 2009

There’s a blue fug coming out of the study. Deep breath, tentatively proffer help. My Dad appears to have broken the Ryanair site.

Give up on IE, download Firefox (if in doubt try another page) and we’re away. His gnat like attention span rapidly wanes and he hasn’t got his glasses so can’t read the numbers off his credit card. Ask his disappearing pride what his mobile number is for the contacts. He doesn’t know. No surprise there then, but I’m bemused by the instruction to look at the back of the phone.

Deep joy……  both parents have labels stuck to the back of their phones with their ‘address book’ (including their own numbers) written in tiny wee writing….

Contemplate the fact they’ve mastered the light switches in er a new light. Muse further on the fact that my Dad’s allowed to operate complicated medical machinery and doesn’t appear to have killed anyone yet.

Finally understand where my deeply ingrained Ludditism (sp) stems from… as much chance a a cat versus a pitbull.

Mission Impossible: Afan

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Oh lordy, the bar’s been set high. I can’t possibly reach. Stress-bunny hoppity- hop and worry through the week. Braved ‘hell in four walls’ for the shopping. Promptly obliged to spend several ‘packing’ hours de-stressing, with a tube of Autosol and a tub of Turtle Wax. All dressed up and finally ready to rock.

Makin calls not convinced, my reputation for concertina-time keeping preceding me. ” No really, on the road an hour, but I’m in the ‘minor. ” “Oh well we’ll see you tomorrow ” he says. “Sod” I said, but the sod was right. Performance anxiety out the window in the face of simply trying to turn up.

Bad time to do ‘girl’. Stranded on the hard-shoulder in a skirt and inappropriate shoes. The local ‘garage’ not the AA arrive. They’re not fooling anyone, I’ve got a bigger tool box. Flat-bed to Reading to meet Keith. He did his best. After every patient fettle I putter round the lorry park trying to get Euston to cruising speed, dodging HGV’s and their bemused occupants. No dice. We were supposed to get back on the motorway heading for home. In the mess of the moment I didn’t notice we’d neither gone over or under it.. Keith took it well and we had another fettle in Newbury before trying to head back in the right / wrong direction. Eventually we do, attached to the back of the van. Keith got a hug. It was that or tears.

Five hours after leaving and back to the beginning. Frantically disengage the Moggy, unload and load up the Subie. Inevitably we’re running on empty, double back for petrol. Midnightish and finally on the road (again). Total disbelief , we have full beams or side-lights, what else can possibly go… Ramp them down. To no avail, for 200 miles I’m upsetting everything with functional lights. “I know! If could explain you’d understand, but I can’t and I’m sorry but there’s nothing, absolutely nothing I can do”. Fog rolls in nose glued to the windscreen hearing chords on well thumbed CD’s I’ve not heard before. Given that I’m stone cold sober and the only thing I’m high on is coffee this is not good.

It’s 50mph for what feels like most of Wales, hunched over the wheel a ball of stress. Finally, gratefully turn off the M4. My insides lurch remembering what my mind thought it had forgotten. Head up the valley, unsettled. There’s a low shadowy shape in the road. Thud. I should go back, but I can’t face it. Pray it wasn’t someone’s dog, try not to sob. Lost halfway up a forest road my mobile runs out of credit (well it would wouldn’t it).

The cavalry arrive in a spray of headlights, noise and gravel. Tim’s a ray of sunshine and a hug. Despite the fact that his car is wearing a landrover shaped dent he’s happy, as is everyone else. Phew. It’s 2am, two-hundred miles have taken nine hours. Raoul produces food, wine’s poured. Then it’s seriously silly o’clock , we’re down to three. Makin pulls the ‘lets wait for the sun to get up’ card. Brain shot through with lack of sleep, travelling and gin. And it’s wonderful in it’s insanity and it’s beauty.

Some snatched sleep and eventually we head out. The fast boys long gone. And oh to be back – the trails had matured and laid themselves back into the landscape. A gawky teenager all grown up. The cafe full of people and bikes. Re-united with old friends, not quite forgotten but lost along the way. Folk are met, people randomly arrive, skin gets lost, ribs get broken. A long way from perfect but still oh so lovely. Monday clinging on by my fingernails and a long, lazy, gentle chat in the blistering sunshine (is this really Wales..). I’m not ready to go and somehow I’m in a cemetery overlooking the steelworks, hugging a stranger both of us welling up. Bitter-sweet, salt and honey.

As someone said “hugs hunny, it’s been emotional”.

If in doubt..

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Woke up to find Mr Shattered was still in town and the come down from the weekend was still whirling through my mind, alongside the usual rubbish. Too much dust crowded in too small a sliver. Fretted and fought through the day.

Told to deploy bike. Feigned exhaustion, the usual excuses but nipping out on the grounds that it was quicker than walking made it a done deal. Home to grab the necessary and as per instructions , pedaled slowly through the heat to loosen up the legs and slowly unfetter the mind*

Sub-marine green woods. Blue skies. Heavy, comfortable blanket of heat. Bonus: baby black bunny and a pair Red Kites soaring over a just nude field. Sun sitting in the river. Grass grown long enough to hold hands between hedgerows. Dragonflies. Long-horned cattle cooling their feet for Constable. Balm.

If in doubt, any doubt, simply apply bike.

*There’s a streak of poetry in that Scottish soul and just occasionally a smattering of sense

(gentle smiley deployed)


Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Funny old day Sunday. I woke up to blue skies and sunshine but with only one thought in my mind and the utter conviction that it was the right time but I procrastinated and dithered. I’d missed the moment and I knew it.

So I fussed and flapped and got myself in a right old two and eight. Then it came to me that although I was tired, dog tired with quietly throbbing legs that I needed to ride and that I’d somehow salvage something from the day. So I grabbed the courier bag and crosser and set off to do some errands. And I was right. It was hot, the skies and sunlight were postively Mediterranean. Everywhere looked and felt ‘unfamiliar’. Slow and sophorific like the world and it’s contents were saturated, slowed and heavy from the sun. And it wasn’t just the rose tinted glow from wearing shades. The usual trails felt different, looked different, the folk I met were different. I felt like a tourist in my local town which was quiet, slow and strangely lovely even in it’s ugliness.

Was it special or was in just in my head? Who knows, but I’m glad I made the effort just to get out there and wander, explore it a little. Moments like that are to be savoured. Supped slowly to let the flavours resonate. I have the luxury of time, time to take that moment, cup it in my hands and wonder at it. For that I’m grateful (and quite possibly barking).


Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Thursday n’ Friday miserable knickers, antibiotic exhaustion with a splattering of despair and a reminder of what it was like 3/4 years ago (every activity was punctuated by repetitive sitting ‘n lying) and ‘I thought I’d got past that’ thoughts.

Saturday, delivery of cake ‘n goodies courtesy of me Mum and a friend (cooks like a goddess) and a raincheck on a ride in the SLK (rubs hands). Peer at the mobile which mostly gets ignored to find a day old, but still doable invite from a friend who habitually disappears for months, nay years on end and then pops up like a jack in the box when you least expect but often most need. Cue a ‘Minor’ Adventure cross country to Bledlow Ridge via Missenden, Kingshills, Naphill, Walters Ash, Loosley Row et al. I couldn’t face Wycombe and it was too lovely not to make the most of the skies. Sans map, following my nose. In the nick of time for supper at the local then back for an evening wine and natter followed by a peaceful nights kip. No motorway drone or kids squawking (actually I mostly like the kids, just in not in ‘my’ mornings).

Home, decide to try and ride off supper. The sun’s shining it’d be rude not to. Run into loads of folk doing the Offroad Sportif. Now it was late in the day so the people I met were obviously doing the long loop and tired but after about the fifth ‘pack’ of team- lyrca clad idiots had tried to ride me off the track, and my cheery hello’s had fallen on deaf ears and stoney faces I was beginning to feel slightly miffed. I harbour this strange idea that it’s polite to hold a gate open for other riders not just barge through it yourself. It’d also be rather nice if you shut the f**king things after you.  Especially when you’ve just ridden through what is clearly a farm yard complete with cattle grids. I came across an old gentleman looking baffled and windswept.   Like a load of miserable, hairy-arsed, ignorant, f**kwits had just ridden past at speed..

Now I know that the world is full of c**ks and preportionally there’s going to be just as many on bikes but it was a lovely day, the trails were dry, you expect more surely..

Deployed sarcasm instead of smiles ie told one lot it’d clearly been a bad day given the number of miserable faces I’d seen (including yours). Cue blank look and drool.  Persistence won and I finally managed a nice natter with roadie biting his off-road cherry and a few others further along,  which left a better taste as I twiddled past feeling just ever so slightly smug on the crosser.


Friday, May 8th, 2009

It’s a parkland amble compared with ‘that, that went on before’ but Round II is robbing me off my new found va voomery. And I didn’t have it long. A joyous weekend in the Peaks and a soul singing, heart lifting week in the Lakeland sunshine, conquering mountains and clocking up more miles ‘n smiles than I’ve managed in an age.

Now I can feel the energy draining down, leaking out from my toes. The pain monkeys have sent their helpers, just the little ones mind but tearing myself from my duvet is becoming harder with every passing day. Circulation feels thick and soupy, a vaguely toxic sludge creeping slowly through the veins. Body is heavy and slow, concrete and lead, aching quietly to itself.

I know that once I’m up it’ll be better, by that second cuppa it’s almost okay. It’s just the ‘getting up’ I’m having trouble with. I need a caffeine drip on a timer, I need to roll naked in the nettles to wake up, remind myself that I’m still alive and just be grateful that I’m not hiding behind the sofa and walking the thin line of the insane and the fearful. That my ears are buzz free and I’m not looking for buses.

So I need to pull my finger out and just TOUGHEN THE F**K UP THEN*

*Tried. Did my errands by bike (cross bike of course). Felt very off and I can’t blame the headwind, which wasn’t trying that hard. Sweating ‘n shaking even before I had to crawl back up *that* hill with far less gearage than I’m happy with. Decidedly *bonky* by the top, despite having a proper breakfasty lunch. Obliged to buy a paper, coffee and a bun and pass the time a while. Every cloud then..

Keeping Grant company

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Overdone it. Riding to stop the noise in my head and ‘damn the consequences’ caught up with me good and proper at four o’clock this morning. The pain monkeys had all the tools out and the shoulder not wanting to be left out joined in. Gave in, got up, made a cuppa and broke the glass on the ‘for emergencies only’ painkillers.

Pottered around, tidied up a bit, gave the cat an early breakfast, read for a while. Waited, sleep rolled in sometime between six and seven. Phone rang around ten. Got up delt with it and considered starting the day but battered and shattered clearly hadn’t left the building. The cat in his infinite wisdom got up stretched, re-arranged himself on his side of the duvet and went back to sleep. I followed suit minus the stretching. Surfaced around lunchtime. Weary but the tools are back where they should be.