Friday, 10 October 2008

I bundled the extra cycle onto the train last weekend to go to supermarket as it is right by the side of the station, off iI trundled don the nice smooth ramp to the store. £80 of groceries later, I trundled back to the station, along the nice smooth ramp under the tracks and up to the other platform to catch the train home..exept the nice smooth rampended in a nice steep flight of steps I had forgoten about I had to rag the ladend beast step by step, jamming the brake on evey step tostop it crasg=hing back down...took bloody ages...thn I had o repeat the process at my village station as that only has stairs up as well...heavens knows what wheelchair useres have to do !

Friday, 19 September 2008

Summer almost over

The garden still remains productive, even some sald still under a cloche. Was was before just a area of shabby grass has provided, fruit veg and flowers, and been a eal talking point amongst the neighbours. I’ve become somewhat of a green tomato chutney production ine, the summer wasn’t conducive to ripe outdoor tomatos, I’m glad It wasn’t in a way the chutney and sauce is just superb if I do say so!....

I've been in the wars a nbit though...need root canal work under an existing crown...yuck..painfull and expensive...probablly less painfull than the infection currently eating away at my jawbone thouh...lets hope the antibiotics do their trick.

Andrea is complaining because I won't switch the heating on yet...I light a nice log fire in the stove..what more does she want...I though we were from strong northern stock!

Friday, 12 September 2008

Green tomatoes and hard leather

Well the weather hasn't been kind to my tomato plants, there are some cracking toms on them exept they are all I'll be makeing sauce and chutney. I planted some cos lettuce under a cloche and they are comeing allong nicely, will get some more bits and pieces in and some overwintering onions in the next few weeks,it will be time to take up the last of the flowering annuals soon as they are nearly over. All in all we have been pleased with the garden this year.....much better than a patch of mown grass!

I bought a new saddle, an all leather Brooks B17..its as hard as nails...I'm wondering how long its going to take to break in, and how long before my backside stops complaining!

Friday, 29 August 2008

The Wilds of Brixton!

I rode the xtracycle to work today, 30 miles or so, I havn't quite sorted the gears out yet and its ..well.. a bit clicky I'm sure a littl fettling will have it sorted, Streatham and Brixton were the usual congestion black spots, with the added attraction of the main road through Brixton being closed for something called a police incident...little numbered chalk circl es on te road with spatters of blood and other bits and pieces . I don’t know if it was an RTA or one of Londons regular shootings or stabbings.
The xtracyle got a lot of strange looks from fellow cyclists . The only problem though was it wouldn’t fit in the bike racks at work!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Scurry in a Hurry

I loaded up the Xtracycle and headed off for deepest Heartfordshire and a days scurry driving

As I cycle across the field behind our photographer’s 4X4, my bike’s pannier bags bulging with riding kit and waterproofs, I can see two perfectly matched grey faces peering over the top of a neat, well-kept stable door. “They aren’t small, they’re just far away,” I tell myself, as I follow the muddy tyre tracks. But I’m wrong, they aren’t far away – they are just small.
In fact, the two Welsh Section As, Topaz and Charley, are so small and impossibly cute that I feel as if I have been catapulted into the land of Lilliput. How can these two little mites who barely reach my waist propel cart, instructor and me around a field with anything approaching a meaningful velocity? Welcome to the world of scurry driving!
My instructor for the day is Sally Mawer, a top scurry driver and former HOYS champion. “Scurry driving lets you compete with the best and actually be one of the best,” she says. “Anyone can succeed, it just takes time.”
Sally’s proudest moment was her first HOYS win in 2001. After winning at Hickstead, her cart tipped over on a bend in the competition at Aldershot, and at the British Open her team decided to jump out of the arena! So all didn’t bode well for HOYS, and the win was a surprise and a delight.

Get set… go!
I squeeze myself into the back of the cart and brace my gangly legs on the bar underneath the driver’s seat, ready for the off. That’s my first mistake, although it may be more comfortable for me to sit like that, I should bend my knees and brace my feet against the side of the footplates. Sally then gives my some tips on leaning to balance the cart into the bends, This, I must remember, is very important if I don’t want us to tumble over on the sharp bends, and on reflection I probably don’t Then, after a few strides of trot, we are off like a cork out of a shaken bottle of Cava, It’s like the land grab scene from Far and Away with Tom Cruise, except at the end my prize isn’t a kiss from Nicole Kidman, it’s a dozen fresh eggs and a sausage sandwich – but more of that later! As we hurtle around the course with the tiny hooves of Topaz and Charley flinging up lumps of Hertfordshire soil, Sally explains the vital controls of whip, reins and voice, likening the whip to the legs of a mounted rider. As I listen, I gamefully fling myself to the appropriate side of the cart as we enter each gut-wrenching turn.

Taking the reins
After a few laps of the course it’s my turn. We climb out of the cart and I hop into the driver’s seat feeling like the Top Gear star in a reasonably priced car, under the tutelage of the Stig.
“Haven’t you forgotten something,” says Sally. “No, I don’t think so,” I respond.
“The reins?” Sally says, holding them aloft. “Ah yes… that would help.”
So how difficult can it be? I’ve seen Ben Hur, I know how it works. We start off at a brisk walk, and then a trot as I endeavour to get to grips with the steering, brakes and acceleration. I’m soon weaving all over the place by virtue of too much input on the reins, and the resultant over-compensation in the other direction.
“Think of it as the ultimate power steering,” says Sally, and she is right, the slightest pressure on the reins causes the two little stallions to instantly change direction.
“Go a little faster,” says Sally. “You’ll find the controls become lighter and easier.” A little encouragement with the voice, and a gentle touch of the whip soon has us going at a fair old lick around the outside edge of the field. Everything does indeed lighten up, just like power steering on a sports car.

Out on course
After a little breather and some more hints on handling from Sally, I get to try the course proper.
The course consists of ‘gates’ marked out by orange cones, in competition these would have balls balanced on top to make it doubly difficult. Each gate is 1.7m wide, which isn’t a lot when you consider that the rear axle width of the cart is 1.3m – not much room for manoeuvre!
On my first time around the course I’m all over the place, partly through over-excitement, and partly because I have no idea which way to go and I’m trying to concentrate on steering, controlling and listening to Sally’s instructions and directions at the same time. Over the clatter of the cart and the thunder of the hooves, it’s a case of sensory overload. By the second time around I’m beginning to get the hang of it.
We fly into the box – an arrangement of cones that form a sharp ‘u’ shape into which the ponies gallop and then almost spin the cart around on its axis and gallop out the other side. I’m not claiming any credit, as I suspect the ponies know exactly what they are doing, but we spin in and out like a fairground ride.
After another series of gates and sharp turns we enter the slalom, which is exactly what it sounds like. Sally tells me I have done really well and taken a good straight line… I’m feeling so pleased with myself that I completely demolish one of the cones at the next gate.

Pony power
The session ends far too soon as I’m really enjoying myself, it’s brilliant! The ponies seem to love it. Out of the arena they are calm little chaps pulling the cart along as if they are delivering milk, but once they see the cones in the field they are all fired up and ready for action, then when they leave the arena they are back to their domestic duties. It’s fascinating to watch them.
I could see myself getting hooked on this, as it’s a tantalising mix of skill and excitement, and a great adrenaline rush. I would recommend anyone, even non-riders, to have a go. Now all I need to start competing are two ponies, a cart and plenty of spare cash!
Oh yes, and the eggs? Sally has a flock of hens and ducks that she keeps at her yard, and was only too glad to part with them, along with a good cup of tea and an excellent sausage sandwich as a reward for my endeavours.
I met up with Sally again at the Edenbridge and Oxted show over the August bank holiday weekend, where she won her class with Whistle and Flute, her larger pair of ponies, and Topaz and his partner Cally qualified for HOYS.

l See Sally Mawer in action with her nippy ponies at the Horse of the Year Show at Birmingham’s NEC, from 8-12 October. Tel: 08719 45 45 00; visit:

Thursday, 21 August 2008


well the holiday has been good in as much as I havn't been at work and my wife and i have spent more time together. But the weather has been wretchid. I'm posting this from my phone during a gap in the monsoon! The xcyle has been fantastic for the garden center and shopping, even managed to get it on the train for my scurry driving trip! Thats another story!

Friday, 8 August 2008

Woo Hoo!

Last day at work today for two weeks! lots od gardening cycling and general holiday type stuff!