Interesting cycling challenge

A panel on the City Council that I’m a member of has been in discussions with our transport department, and Pedals, our local cycling advocacy group.  In early September, councillors have been invited to join officers and local cyclists on bikes around Nottingham city centre to look at good cycle facility design – and also some not so good.

I’m definitely interested in taking part, but I don’t own a bike.  Not only that, but even if I did, I wouldn’t really know what to do with it.  I can’t cycle.  I never quite figured out the balancing thing as a child.

One early way around the problem that was discussed was to use a cycle rickshaw. That would almost work, but would make me feel ever so lazy.  Councillor Lord Muck.  I think it’s also been ruled out as an option, but I’m not sure why.

I’m not averse to learning to cycle.  It would be a good way of getting more exercise, and P has long been talking about getting a bike, and reminiscing of cycle days out in Clumber Park,  and also closer to  home.  However, I’m chary about buying a bike if I’m not ever going to be able to figure out the balance.

I also live halfway up one of the highest hills in the County which is a a major disincentive to getting on a bike.  In theory, getting into the city would be great – I push the bike to the top of the hill, then coast down the cycle path on the Woodborough Road all the way into the city centre.  Getting home again would be rather more of a challenge.  And we also don’t currently have anywhere convenient at home where bikes could live.

One last plan of action is that I’m in discussion with Pedals to see whether I could borrow a trike for the day.  In the longer term, though, a trike would be even harder to store at home.  And they look, ahem, ever so slightly nelly. Even with a big hairy biker on them.

Today’s pointless factoid

Nominet UK sent me an email today asking me to complete a survey as a person who has just renewed a *.uk domain (I can’t remember which one it would be!)

In the email, they say they look after 6 million UK domain names.

That suggests there’s a .uk domain for every 10 people who live in the UK, assuming the population is still roughly 60 million.

Fascinating.

I have way more than my fair share of domains, but then practically no-one else I know has one at all, so it all evens out.

Lazy weekend

Spent rather too much of this weekend watching TV and drinking coffee, with a break for heading out to the cinema to see Die Hard 4.

We also had plasterers in on Saturday morning. Our heating engineers did something under our hot water cylinder that lead to a square meter of plaster falling off. We don’t know what happened – but it is old plaster, so it may not actually have been their fault. Still, the cost of repairing it came out of their fee.

Hole in ceiling

They’ve screwed plasterboard over the top of the whole, and skimmed on top. They finished yesterday at midday, leaving a ceiling that looked like it had a chocolate covered carpet on it. It’s drying slowly to pink and by Monday we can paint it.

Wet plaster Drying plaster

Next weekend they’re coming back to redo our kitchen. I’ve started uncovering the weird boxes over the sink, hoping that we could remove them entirely. Unfortunately, what we found was an ugly rusty girder propping up an old lintel and bricks. So the best the plasterers can do is the cover it back up again and skim it smooth. Or… we could paint it and make an industrial looking feature out of it.

Girder

But the mess in the kitchen didn’t stop me baking when I got a moment. Homemade bagels. Some of the kneading done in the breadmaker, until the dough got too heavy and started straining the motor. To be honest, I think this falls well within the “life’s too short” category.

Homemade bagels

Better at starting things

I am definitely better at starting things than finishing them. Two years ago, I almost started a diet.  What I actually did was set up a fancy spreadsheet to record my weight loss. Then found the whole thing about actually reducing my calorie intake was a bit mind-numbing, and got no further.

I am increasingly aware however, that tackling my weight problem is something I should take seriously, so fired up the spreadsheet and recorded a second entry.

I can tell you that in 729 days, I have gained 4 kilos. Which could be a great deal worse, I suppose.

A cixen on Flickr has come up with the bright idea of photographing absolutely everything she eats, and the results are posted to a group.  They’re certainly striking.  And they make her think hard about every single thing she puts in her mouth, since she has to reach for her camera before eating.  I wonder if she goes hungry if she forgets to pack her camera before heading for work.

Brighton Charter Hotel j’accuse

Mike points us to Overyourhead and a flickr photoset all there to heap shame on the festering cess pool that is the Brighton Charter Hotel.

I’m pretty sure I have stayed in the very room depicted, during conference season a number of years back.  It was a second year running at Brighton, and I’d had a bright idea.  The year before, I had spotted a number of top notch looking sea front hotels with signs in the window offering rooms at very low rates.  So my plan was to turn up at Brighton and trundle my wheelie suitcase up and down the sea front and find a top-notch hotel at knock-down rates.

It didn’t work one bit.  All the hotels still had the cheap room signs, but reception staff all looked at my sandals and trundly suitcase and sneered that whatever the sign said, the rate didn’t apply during conference season.  They had rooms, but they were on nightly rates of well upwards of £100.

So I ended up in the Brighton Charter, which was much cheaper, but nasty.  Very uncomfortable beds with dusty bedspreads on top of mouldy sheets. Holes in the very thin walls.  Yes, a sea view, but no working telly, barely a lock on the door and shoddy plumbing. No kettle either.  I see room coffee facilities as an absolute essential when away at conferences.  It’s an outrage to have to pay retail prices to sustain one’s caffeine addiction.

Worst of all was what I heard at night.  Loud music is one thing.  Domestic violence in the corridors quite another. There was lots of slamming of doors and tearful jibes shouted through the walls.  I’m not sure how serious the argument was, but some fairly serious accusations were shouted about violence, leaving me unsure of the ettiquette.  Should I intervene and risk getting myself beaten up whilst also not achieving anything? Should I sit tight and let them sort out their own affairs?  It carried on for three nights.

After that, I was fortunate enough to move out, because my then boss vacated his room in the Brighton Hilton two days early, giving me a vital key card (easy access to conference bar without grovelling to residents) and a few nights of luxury to wash away the squalor. The room probably had more floor space than my entire house, and had a private sea front balcony.  A huge bath helped greatly with the final day hangover.

This year, however, I’m still in two minds about whether to go to conference.  I have paid to go; and I have a costly room reservation in a nice hotel. I have much more space in the room than I need, as I was hoping to persuade P to come down too, but that is not to be. There’s even a spare bed.  I can still cancel my reservation and not lose money; and I booked long enough in advance for the conference registration fee not really to matter to me.

It would certainly be nice to catch up with old friends, and make policy and generally do all of those conferenc-y things.  But is it worth the hundreds of pounds it will inevitably cost?

Choir week

Well, choir week is over for another year. This year was as good as any I’ve been on, and certainly felt very different, being on home turf in Hereford.

I’m pleased to say the clergy and staff at Hereford have been the most welcoming of any cathedral we’ve been to. It may be because whilst some cathedrals and chapels have more visiting choirs than they really know what to do with, Hereford seems to find itself bereft of singers for long stretches at a time. Next week, they have no choir at all, and they will be having their main service said next Sunday. So when choirs do arrive, they are welcomed with open arms, invitations to sherry in the Precentor’s lovely garden and fed tea and biscuits after their rehearsals.

And whilst many cathedrals have invited us back to spend more time with them, Hereford is the first to do so during choral evensong itself!

Being in Hereford meant staying with my parents was most economical. The constraint of catching the last train home meant I drank less and slept more than in some previous years, but it is still somehow very tiring to spend seven days concentrating on singing and standing up for long stretches of time. I must definitely get fitter!

And once again I am better acquainted with my singing voice. I no longer sing at all between annual choir weeks, which mean my voice needs exercise, and going from nothing to singing for 6 hours a day every day is a strain. It’s strange how day to day, my range changes. At the fullest I can get from F above middle C to C two below in my main voice, and get much higher in falsetto. But by the time evensong comes around, many of the extreme notes will be missing, and I have to be careful not to crack in exposed places. So much singing with so little preparation is actually painful, and at the end of it, my speaking voice sounds raw. And I have a nasty feeling of dangling things hanging around my tonsils that I can hear vibrate when I sing. Urgh.
It’s also amazing what being surrounded by really good singers can do. This year, I was propped up by a bass with perfect pitch who could come in reliably and find weird notes with no problem. I’m not an excellent singer, in that I can’t hold a part entirely on my own, but near people who are, I can be a very useful additive volume.

We’ve had our share of odd bible readings this week at evensong. We’ve had a full set of readings about King David, from being chosen, to beating Goliath, to leading the Jews. Who knew that David had a ruddy face and beautiful eyes? (1 Samuel 16 v 12). By the end of the week, we had David meeting Jonathan, and having their souls bound together (1 Samuel 18). We also got a particularly steamy passage from the Song of Soloman.

And of course we found ourselves chanting very odd phrases from the psalms:

  • He hath no pleasure in the strength of an horse : neither delighteth he in any man’s legs.
  • Deliver me from the hand of strange children
  • I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.

Etc, etc.  There’s never any shortage of strange passages to sing.