If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Friday, 24 February 2012

Earth's Immeasurable Surprise

This time of year always brings a favourite poem to mind: utterly simple, yet utterly profound. Larkin at his best. From The Whitsun Weddings (1956):

First Sight

Lambs that learn to walk in snow
When their bleating clouds the air
Meet a vast unwelcome, know
Nothing but a sunless glare.
Newly stumbling to and fro
All they find, outside the fold,
Is a wretched width of cold.

As they wait beside the ewe,
Her fleeces wetly caked, there lies
Hidden round them, waiting too,
Earth's immeasurable surprise.
They could not grasp it if they knew,
What so soon will wake and grow
Utterly unlike the snow.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Word Verification: Bollocks

Hmmm. I had noticed that spam comments on this blog had increased noticeably recently, roughly coinciding with Google's introduction of the new Captcha word verification system. Now I see why:
Google’s Blogger service, already one of the largest sources of spam blogs on the Web, is now being innundated with another wave of spammers following the cracking of the Google CAPTCHA system. This means that spammers can now fully automate the process of creating and setting up new Blogger spam blogs, making the process even faster and enabling the creation of more spam blogs than ever before.

Yup, that sounds like it. In response to many negative comments, both directly to me and in other blogs, I am turning off word verification for a while. It's putting people off responding to blog posts, and since comments and debate are the whole pleasure and point of blogging in the first place, it is totally self-defeating.

I'll keep an eye on the spam. If it gets unmanageable, I will have to reinstate WV, but I am going to ride bareback for a while.

Please keep the comments coming. It's lonely here without the voices.

UPDATE: Thanks to eagle-eyed, square-jawed fighter ace Endemoniada_88, who spotted that the source referred to is from 2008. So the contents of this post may well be as per title, as per ushual.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


Familar to all those 'owners' of much loved 'pets':

Click for bigger ...

Bearing Up

I saw the doctor on Wednesday, and she signed me off work for a week. I am no longer ill (i.e. I feel pretty much OK), but I need to rest my leg and keep it elevated so that the antibiotics can get to work on clearing out the nasty things that have caused the infection. So, naturally, I have been working on the bike. (Seriously, I am fairly immobile. I can be up and about for half an hour or so, but then I need to rest again or the leg starts to throb and swell like something in a science fiction movie. But in the periods when I can get about, where better to do it than in the garage?)

I've been getting a bit panicky about the Sprint being out of commission. I have booked in for the Ride of Respect next month, and I was having visions of having to do it on the XT, which would have been less than ideal -and take twice as long.

Regular readers who have the slightest interest will remember that the steering bearings had become very rough and notchy, leading to a slightly embarrassing tumble at work and some entirely preventable cosmetic damage to the bike. When I got the headstock dismantled, this was what I found:

No wonder it wasn't keen on corners!

Yesterday and today I spent working on it intermittently. I had to cut the old bearings off. They are an interference fit and were very reluctant to leave the party. To get the new ones on, I had to leave the stem in the freezer overnight and heat the bottom race up in the oven beforehand. With all that done, and a few mighty blows of a hammer and chisel, the new ones went on without too much drama. And don't they look better?

I then drained half a litre of 12-year-old brown sludge out of each fork leg and replaced it with nice fresh 10W oil and put it all back together. While all the plastics were off, I took the opportunity to fit some better headlight bulbs. The Sprint's headlights are shockingly bad, and I am hoping that these Osram Nightbreakers will improve matters. HID lights seem to the technical fix du jour, but I am not keen to go down that route until I have exhausted all the other (i.e. cheaper and less hassle) alternatives.

This morning, the bike looked like this:

BTW, that's the garage after I tidied it up to store the new kitchen units. You didn't want to see it before, honestly. Note the sophisticated jacking arrangement to keep the front end off the floor.

Tonight, it is back on its wheels, plastics fitted, and ready to go. A light drizzle and failing light meant that I wasn't too keen to test-ride it today, but if the weather holds I will take it for a few milkes tomorrow to see how it is shaping up. But even pushing it along the driveway I can feel that the steering is totally different; light and smooth as opposed to chunky and recalcitrant.

A shakedown ride, and then I will commute on it for a few days just to bond with it again. I'm looking forward to it. Assuming I can bend my leg.

Blogger back

The program or the person, who cares?

I was having problems with Blogger over the last few days. Curiously, they were exactly the same problem as I have been having with my work PC over many months now. I go to my blog and get the sign-in page. I sign in as normal and get taken to the Dashboard, where I can 'New Post', 'View Blog' etc. I usually go the blog and have a look around before doing anything else, and if I click 'View Blog' I get straight back to the blog main page, with 'Sign In' at the top right - that is, I have been signed out. If I go directly to 'New Post' I can write a post and publish, but as soon as I go back to the blog itself I am signed out again. This means I cannot comment on my own or anyone else's blog under my own login. Hence a lot of comments by 'Richard At Work' below the line on GFGN. And doing anything to the blog's design is out too.

The work PC seems to have cured itself, although I haven't posted much from there recently. Days have been too busy, and with all the ructions about pay cuts and shift changes there has been too much 'debate' at night, which always takes place in the office where the PC is. Not conducive to sly worktime blogging at all.

A couple of days ago the problem started on my netbook. I did all the usual (cursed, loudly, stamped my feet, threatened to throw it out of the window, even went back to a previous restore point) to no avail. Five minutes ago, I cured it. I found a site which dealt with Blogger issues, and read there that Blogger puts cookies on your PC to keep sessions open. Well, of course it does ... and then I remembered that, a few days ago, I had had a fit of privacy tremors, and had disabled third party cookies in my browser. Normal cookies were still enabled, but I went back and 'allowed' thirty party cookies. Problem solved. Why third party cookies are essential to Blogger's functioning is a mystery, but to be honest, as long as it is working I couldn't care less.


Additionally, a number of people have complained about the new 'captcha' feature for comments. I have noticed this on other blogs I visit, and I assume it is an 'enhancement' from Blogger. I certainly didn't request it, and I find it irritating and intrusive. I understand that there have been a lot of complaints about it, so perhaps Blogger will take that on board and revert to the previous, and perfectly adequate, system. If not, I will disable it and put up with the extra spam that it is designed to prevent. Having said that, I have had more spam on the blog in the last couple of weeks that in the whole of the previous year, so whatever it is, it clearly isn't working.

I'll give it a week.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Hiatus ...

... or pause, or lacuna, or whatever you like to call it. I'm having trouble signing in to Blogger, so if you don't hear from me I haven't cashed in my chips. I'm just sitting here in Nowhere Towers chewing through the straps in frustration. If this post gets published, there is a roundabout way to post, although not to log in, strangely.

Stay with it.

Friday, 17 February 2012

An Undignified Manor

According to the Daily Mail, the model Caprice had a night out in London on Wednesday, and when getting into a car on her way home she briefly exposed her stocking tops and suspenders to the waiting paparazzi.

Now, I read the interwebs and I know that celebrities often 'accidentally' show their underwear (or lack of) to the waiting world, especially when climbing in and out of cars. I assume it's some kind of publicity thing.

You know, "Hey, ChelseeaChevrolaye, your public profile has dipped six points. We need to get your gusset into The Sun and fast!"

However, Caprice is not noted for doing this kind of thing, so I will give her a pass on this one and say it was a brief moment of inelegance. The Daily Mail has this to say:
Caprice's fishnet stockings looked perfect before she flashed the undergarments as she sat down in an undignified manor.
At a guess, an undignified manor is where the gangs wear mis-matched clothing and frequently fall over into puddles of muddy water while belching loudly and wiping their mouths with the backs of their hands. Yes, spelling still matters. At any rate, it gives me the opportunity to post what may well be the nicest illustration on this blog for many a month.

Here you go. Click and it gets bigger (fnarr).

Credit: Smartpictures.co.uk

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Not Man-Flu at all ...

... but a case of cellulitis. No connection with cellulite, by the way, except etymologically. Just thought I'd make that clear. Ahem.

It seems as though a small cut I had on my shin, which was taking an age to heal, was the route by which some unfriendly bacteria entered my skin and started doing what bacteria do - multiply like buggery. This was the painful leg on Saturday morning. If the bacteria then get into the blood or lymphatic system, they can spread rapidly through the body, giving
influenza-like symptoms with a high temperature and sweating or feeling very cold with shaking, as the sufferer cannot get warm.
Yep, that was me on Saturday and Sunday. I seem to have shaken that off, but the leg is getting worse and worse. I went to see my doctor on another matter on Monday and mentioned all of this, but I didn't get much of a response. By Tuesday morning, it was pretty painful and reddened, and Anna suggested (OK, insisted) that I call the surgery again. I managed to get an emergency appointment and this time my doctor examined me - at last - and gave me the diagnosis. And a hefty left-and-a-right of Phenoxymethylpenicillin and Flucloxacillin, enough for a week. I was told to call again if it was not improving in 48 hours.

Well, I went into work today, and it's been awful. I can hardly stand on that leg, and getting the bike boots on is almost impossible. I've called my boss, and he has given me two days off.

Rest, and elevation. My left leg looks like a red balloon.

Man Flu, my arse.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Warsity Match

And I am in contention for the Worst Pun In A Blogpost Title This Decade. But no matter.

I like Baroness Warsi. I've seen her often on television (I don't watch much, but it's usually politics and news when I do) and generally she talks sense and doesn't suffer fools. She's someone who appears to have got where she is on merit, rather than as a member of a quota. This week she is on an official visit to the Vatican, where she will address the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy - the first time in history that this body has been addressed by someone from outside the Vatican. And she's female. And she's of Asian origin. And she's a Muslim. I'd wager that the old duffers in the Academy won't know what's hit them.
"I say, Cardinal, that sunburnt chap's a funny shape ..."
And what message is she bringing to the Mother Church after penetrating so deep into its mysogynistic and anti-enlightenment heart? Let the poor of the world control their own fertility so that they can climb out of poverty? Sell a few of those priceless works of art to fund a clean water project somewhere?

No. She's going to tell them we need more religion.

"In order to encourage social harmony, people need to feel stronger in their religious identities, more confident in their beliefs," she is due to say.

"In practice this means individuals not diluting their faiths and nations not denying their religious heritages.

"If you take this thought to its conclusion then the idea you're left with is this: Europe needs to become more confident in its Christianity."

I'm probably best described as an agnostic, and certainly not a Christian. But I believe in freedom. That includes freedom of thought, and consequently of religion. None of us is so brilliant and wise that he knows all the answers, and while we all have the freedom to believe what we choose, there is hope for us as a species. There may be a Heaven; there may not. It may be full of beautiful virgins; it may be full of dull characters with harps looking holy and spending all their time praising stuff. The point is we don't know, and we will never know (as opposed to believe, not the same thing at all) until the final door closes and we are in Paradise of whatever flavour, or simply back out in the street with our pockets emptied and a bad taste in our mouths. Or nowhere, and not even aware that we are nowhere, because there is no-one there to be aware of anything.

Now we all have beliefs about all sorts of things. We couldn't live without belief. I believe the sun will come up tomorrow, although I can't prove it. I believe that a certain combination of metallurgy, chemistry and physics will, on the application of a spark, get me to work tomorrow. If we didn't believe things, we'd never get anything done. A belief is not the truth, although it is a kind of 'working' truth - assumed to be true until proved otherwise. If I sit astride the XT tomorrow and thumb the starter, I believe it will take me to my place of employment. If it doesn't, but instead transforms itself into a rainbow-coloured hippo and starts singing The Marseillaise, then I will have a re-think. (And take the car, but that's beside the point.)

But beliefs aren't facts, and behaving as if they are is the root of all the trouble. We justify treating women, or black people, or gay people, as lesser beings because we don't believe, we know that God approves. The priest told us, and he got it from an old book, which was written by people who just knew, who were told by their God that it was true, in an endless recursive cycle back to where we started. The Islamic terrorist who blows up a building with a thousand souls inside does so, not because he believes that Allah wishes it, but because he knows that Allah wishes it. That doing otherwise would be contrary to everything he has ever been taught. He has no option. When you treat beliefs as facts, there is no room for any other interpretation.

The day we grow up and start to say "I believe what I believe, and I respect your right to do the same, and as long as we don't do any harm to each other in the process, we'll all get along fine, and the world will do what the world will do at the end of it all" is the day that the human race will start to move away from terrorism, war, torturing heretics, oppressing minorities, and hating folks just because they believe that a supernatural event which no-one actually saw occurred in a slightly different way.

So, Baroness Warsi, we don't need more religion in Europe. We don't need less either. We just need to shut up about it and stop assuming we know better than our neighbour what the truth is. And then live our lives as well as we can.

Religion has its place, and it's an honorable and vital place, in the human mind. It has no place in the making of laws which affect other people, or framing constitutions that govern whole countries, or of justifying wars that end with death and distress for people who may never have heard of your version of God.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Man Flu - here today, gone tomorrow

I have just recovered from a bout of vicious Man Flu, or something.

I got home from the night shift on Saturday morning feeling pretty good. So good, in fact, that I considered not going to bed, rolling through the day, and just having an early night that night. Anna had rented a carpet cleaning device and my 'blue job' for Saturday was to clean as many carpets as I could in the time available. Understandably, in the face of such cruelty, I went to bed for a couple of hours. I woke up about mid-day feeling as if I had been hit by a truck: every muscle and every joint was painful. By mid-afternoon I had a raging fever and went back to bed. Even with a duvet, a woollen cover and an electric blanket set to stun, I was bone-cold.

I got up for a couple of hours but had no appetite and was back in bed by ten. A cold/hot restless night followed - nine hours of lying in the dark, pondering life's mysteries and wondering who the Hell had moved Nowhere Towers to the Antarctic and stolen all the double-glazing. I felt a bit better this morning, but couldn't sustain it for long and went back to bed for another two-hour sleep. And when I woke up, it was gone.

Total time, just over 24 hours. No coughs and sneezes, no D&V, just painful joints and aching muscles, and a feeling that I would never be warm again. I don't have a medical thermometer, so I have no idea what my temperature has been, but I bet it was in the thousands. Celsius. I'm used to illnesses that take longer to arrive ("hmm, not feeling too good today ... hope I'm OK for tomorrow") and longer to leave. This was like the private sector version of an NHS complaint: in quick, do your worst, and home in time for tea. It can't have been 'proper' flu, as the sneezy, runny, snotty symptoms weren't there, but I haven't a clue what it was. Whatever, I am glad it has gone.

Anna knows me well enough to leave me well alone if I am feeling rough. I don't take cossetting very well. But that should not be taken to the extent of shutting herself in a room with the MonsterMac while I am bashing a book on the bedside cabinet trying to get her attention for a [croak] simple ... glass ... of ... water.

Ah well, I'm back in the room, normal service, and all that.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Ride of Respect 2012

I have now registered and booked my place on this year's Ride of Respect. The event is being run, once again, through Royal Wootton Bassett (possibly the town with the most doubled letters in the UK). Logic says it ought to take place at Brize Norton, as that is where the repatriations take place now, but pragmatism says otherwise. The organisers (to whom a flamboyant tip of the skid-lid) just couldn't go through it all again with a new County Council, a new Police Force, and so on. Maybe next year.

I have booked for the 10.00 am start. Last year, I was late registering and had to start at 9.00 am, which meant a fiendishly early departure from home, but this year I have been a bit more organised and given myself a bit more leeway.

If anyone reading this is planning on going on the ride, drop me an email and we could meet up for a cup of mud and a corpseburger. Or just a manly chat. Up to you.

Bear with me ...

Nowhere Towers, having survived the onslaught of the Kitchen Fitters, Double Glazers and Boiler Installers (all at once) became afterwards a haven of peace, at least until Christmas. This weekend, it started all over again, on a smaller scale, with Anna's engagement of a friendly local man who is 'tidy like' at decorating. The living room is now denuded of everything but a heavy armchair and a Broadwood piano, so we are taking our recreation in the study (filled with the erstwhile contents of the living room) and eating standing up in the kitchen. Anna has commandeered the only horizontal space for the MonsterMac, leaving me with no option but to blog on my knees. Literally, not metaphorically.

In other news, the fault with the Sprint's steering which led, inter alia, to my minor crashlet the other evening, is being dealt with. I have removed the bodywork and the front forks and, after a considerable struggle against the depredations of time (in the form of seized parts and corroded fasteners) I have dismantled the steering stem. No bloody wonder it was a crash waiting to happen. The bottom bearing creaked and groaned like a rusty fairground carousel and the movement of the bearing (which should, according to the manual, be a smooth and almost silent spin) was jerky, uneven and utterly recalcitrant. New bearings are now on order, and await my next few days off to fit them, refurbish the forks, and possibly check the valve clearances while the plastics are off.

This is after a thorough clean. These bits should be shiny. Ugh.

All of which is a long way of saying that blogging will be light for a day or two until order and sanity are restored to the homestead. Keep the comments coming - I get everything in email even if I don't visit the blog, and I appreciate them all. Responses will be made in duke horse.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Taking One For The Team

Where I work (at least, for the time being, ha ha), we often play host to a company who use our facilities to run speed awareness courses for those caught a few clicks over the limit and who choose to pay £80 to be talked at, rather than have points on their licences. One of my duties is to check these people in and direct them to the correct location for the course. In this role, especially with the conscientious ones arriving half an hour early, I often have a brief chat and try to make them feel, at least temporarily, welcome. Some are just in a bad mood and don't want to talk (which is fair enough) and one lady was even highly abusive to me - I think because she blamed me for her getting caught in the first place. Perhaps the uniform triggered something. Most are in a cheerful but resigned frame of mind, and prepared to have a laugh about being put through all this nonsense for doing 34 in a 30 limit, or whatever. A few arrive in hot hatches or well-worn Beemers, but the majority are ordinary folk that you wouldn't give a second glance to in a car park, let alone think that they were dangerous or aggressive hooligans.

What has amazed me, however, is the number that say "Oh, it wasn't me: I took the blame for my husband because he needs his car for work." Yes, it's usually women who do this. Sound familiar?

Equally amazing is how everyone who has admitted this to me has done so with a laugh, as if it's no big deal. What I don't mention, but is at the back of my mind, is that they have moved - perhaps ignorant of the fact - from a traffic offence to a criminal one. From what is a minor irritant that most people have a bit of sympathy with, to something that, if they were caught, could land them in prison and leave them with a criminal record. Perverting the course of justice is not a trivial thing, nor should it be.

Perhaps a high-profile case involving someone famous (well, famous-ish) will give people a different perspective?

None of this really affects me at the moment. Anna has kept her licence clean all her life (although I think there's been a fair bit of good luck involved) and mine is currently in one of its clean phases. On the one occasion when I was caught speeding in her car, she shopped me without a second thought. But if I was on nine points and was caught by a camera, would I ask Anna to take one for the team? I regard myself as law-abiding and I would like to think that I wouldn't. But I can't say categorically. Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do.

Does that mean I would be tolerant of a high-profile public servant doing it? Absolutely not. Those who make the law must obey the law without exception, or how are we ordinary Joes expected to take any of it seriously? The things that are most corrosive of faith in the legal system are where the law-makers become law-breakers and get away with it.

The last three years have afforded us many examples, none of them very edifying.

If Huhne is guilty (and from what I have seen of the evidence I think he probably is) then I hope he goes down for a long time. Pour encourager les autres, and because justice demands it. If he gets off on a technicality, or if he is found guilty but given a small fine, then look out for a million ordinary citizens doing the same thing. That can't be good.

(Footnote: if he is found guilty, what a delicious irony that the offence committed by the Minister for Climate Change was in a Toyota Pious.)

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Another day, another IAM poll ...

This time it about the perennial SMIDSY ('Sorry, mate, I didn't see you') accident, so familiar to cyclists of both the motor and pedal variety.

You don't have to be a member, etc etc. Responses from as wide as possible, pass it on, etc etc.

Here it is. Fill your boots.


The BBC is not the Daily Mail. So if the BBC publishes a story about people on benefits, it will be sympathetic and supportive, and ever-so-slightly designed to make those of us in work feel a little bit harsh and guilty for our knee-jerk 'get a job' attitude, right?

Well, wrong. Either the BBC has had a sudden change of heart, or someone in their research department hasn't had the memo yet. They have published an article entitled "Family Life on Benefits", and in it they have sneaked some very pro-Coalition propaganda.

The article concerns Raymond (not his real name) who lives with his wife and seven children. No-one in the family works, and they receive benefits totalling £30,284.80 per annum. Now this is the money they actually receive in their hands, so it will be the equivalent of a pre-tax income of around £40k. Now this interests me. I don't have seven kids (I took the 1970s mantra of 'Stop At Two' seriously), but that income is way, way more than I have ever seen. I have been Head of Department and Faculty in a large comprehensive school, I have worked as a commercial trainer, and I have been Health and Safety Manager for a medium-sized company - all good, solid jobs requiring qualifications, skills and experience. I have worked hard all my life, paid all my taxes and been a loyal and conscientous employee. And the most I have ever earned in one year has been £25k. So when I read that the average income in the UK is £26k I start to wonder where I have been going wrong. And when I hear of someone receiving substantially more than that for doing nothing (and when the taxes from my earnings help to pay for it), my ears prick up.

The BBC article could be calculated to raise the hackles of any working taxpayer. Here are some of the reasons:

Why isn't Raymond working?
Ray says: "The market for my skills dried up 10 years ago - there's a total lack of work in my area of expertise."
He was a writer of educational software, but he hasn't worked since 2001. Was there no work he could have taken on to tide him over until he got himself retrained?

Why isn't his wife working?
His wife Katherine suffers from bipolar disorder with an anxiety disorder and is unable to work.
If she's genuinely bipolar, than of course I am very sympathetic and I wish her well. But why do I see the words "anxiety disorder" and see someone who has managed to talk an overworked GP into signing her off for a vague condition which can't be disproved?

The impression is that of two people who have decided long ago that they don't want to work, and have managed to convince the system that they would be better left alone and fed, clothed and housed by the rest of us. I could be wrong there, but I doubt it.

Where this gets really Daily Mailish is when the family give a breakdown of their spending, and claim that the proposed benefits cap will force them to choose between "heating and eating". The breakdown includes the following items every week:
  • 200 cigarettes
  • Large pouch of tobacco
  • 24 cans of lager.
Let me see. 200 Sterling King Size cigarettes, £56. 50g Samson rolling tobacco, £13. 24 cans of Carlsberg, £18. Total £87.

Add the Sky TV that they say is essential
because we're stuck in the house all week - otherwise we wouldn't have any entertainment.
and costs another £15 a week. (I used to have Sky, the minimum package just to get the 'free' box and dish. I stopped it years ago because I never watched it, but I couldn't afford to start having it again even if I wanted to.) So the work-free family feel that the rest of us ought to stump up out of our own earned income to buy them booze, fags and 'entertainment'. (Entertainment is no longer something you make for yourself; it's something you buy. Says it all.) And an expensive £60 per month subscription to Sky is not necessary, even if you are a telly addict. You can get a Freeview box for under £20 these days - a one-off payment - and have between 50 and 100 channels for nothing.

So that's a total of £102 per week of what even the most bleeding-heart lefty would not describe as essential expenditure.

And, for comparison, there's a total of £82.40 per week which they claim would be snatched away from them if the benefit cap were introduced. Less than they spend on booze, fags and telly. So when they say they are going to be forced to choose between heating and eating, what they mean is that both heating and eating are less important to them than their ciggies and beer. Good priorities to be teaching those seven kids, don't you think?

As an additonal bit of what-the-fuckery, listen to Mrs Raymond's reason for continuing to smoke:
On the cigarettes, my wife tried to give up, but she missed one appointment on the course and they threw her off it.'
You see, we really want to be good, but NHS bullies keep stopping us.

If this story had been in the Daily Mail, I would be discounting it as an extreme example, polished and honed to cause the maximum apoplexy in the slightly-dim middle-aged. But not when it's presented by the BBC. Not because I trust the BBC to be unbiased and factual - I don't - but because the BBC's agenda is usually exactly the reverse of the Mail's.

The benefits cap is proving massively popular with the general public, and this article is the reason why. Last word to Raymond:
But, says Raymond, "If these proposals go through we will take a massive hit to our finances - and it's not as if we could move into a smaller or cheaper premises. I see eight people here having to choose between eating or heating."

I'm going to borrow Julia's 'World's Tiniest Violin', if she'll let me.


Last winter, we had about ten days when the temperature dropped to -12° at night. For Pembrokeshire, stuck out in the Gulf Stream, that's unheard-of levels of winter coldness. In my current job, I am commuting either to or from work at around 5.30 and 6.00, both morning and evening, so I was out at the worst times. And with snow for the first time in many years, and widespread black ice, I admit to leaving the bike on the driveway and taking the car for those bitter days. Yeah, I'm a wimp.

This winter has been much milder, and so far I haven't really been cold on the bike at all. But last night the winter bit with a vengeance and I got caught out. It was a very cold night here (I am on nights this week) and by the time for home came round, it was -3°. Regular readers may remember that I bought new riding kit for this winter - a jacket with some hi-viz panels and some trousers that didn't let water in. The problem with the new kit is that it is much closer-fitting and has less insulation. Better on the fashion runway, but not as good at 5.30 am when the bike is a uniform crystalline white when I go to start it up for the ride home. And, lulled as I was by the last few weeks' mildness, I didn't have inner gloves and had left the thermal liners out of the pants.

I kept to sensible speeds for the journey home, never going above about 50 mph. Consciously, this was because of the risk of ice patches, but unconsciously I think I was also aware that going faster would mean much quicker heat loss. By the time I got home, I was as cold as I have ever been. I turned the central heating on, got a bowl of cereal, and leaned on a radiator. It was an hour before I was warm enough to go to bed.

There's a phrase I sometimes use with non-biking friends: You've never been cold until you have been cold on a motorbike. Pain in the extremities, illusions of heat in the coldest parts, and whole-body shivering are not unknown if you don't dress for the ride. I had all of those last night. Out of curiosity, I did a little research into wind chill. It would appear (for example from this site), that a temperature of -3°C and a wind (i.e. a forward speed on a bike) of 50 mph combine to give an equivalent still-air temperature of -17°C. No wonder I was cold.

It hardly seems worth it for my 20-minute commute, but if I were planning a long journey in these conditions I would definitely be considering electrically-heated clothing.

There is a weather station on a roof about 50m from here and I have a link to the readings. At the moment (it's 3 am) it is -3°C again.

And where the bike is usually parked is a car. Mine. With a heater, and Cream's Wheels Of Fire album in the CD player. If I take it easy, I will be able to listen to the whole of Ginger Baker's magnificent drum solo in 'Toad' before I get home.

Sometimes, being a backslider is quite pleasant.
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