Category Archives: Cycling

No Car

Just over two weeks ago I wrote off our car. I drove it into an (illegally) parked car which was sticking out into the road, and was clamped and then towed shortly after the accident. My windscreen was misted up so I didn’t see it, until I’d crashed into the back of it. I was fine, the other car just had a stratch on it, but ours had a reasonable sized dent and when I attempted to drive it again the steering was all off. So I decided it was safer to leave it at the side of the road (in a safe place), and then arrange for it to be picked up by the garage.

Its taken two weeks for the insurance company to decide that it’s a write off. So we’ve been without a car for the past two weeks. It’s odd, because all through university and for my first 18 months in Bristol I didn’t have access to a car. Other than my friend’s cars. And even when I was a child we had a car but my Mum couldn’t drive, my Dad was in work a lot, so most of the time when I needed to get somewhere I walked, cycled or bused it. But recently I’ve been taking advantage of having a car – being able to go to the supermarket of your choice, rather than the one that is walking distance, being able to move house, being dropped off at work when it’s tipping it down instead of cycling in. And in the past few months I’ve even had the car during the week days when I’m not in work, because Mr B’s been cycling to work. And then suddenly it’s gone.

It wouldn’t have been that big an issue if we had finished moving house. But we hadn’t. At the time of crashing the car was full of cleaning stuff and other odds and ends that hadn’t made it to the new house yet. I managed to salvage all of this stuff before the car got taken for scrap, by doing two trips on foot – the first with a set of plastic drawers (that we use for recycling) that had wheels on the bottom, so I filled it with stuff from the car and wheeled it along the pavement. The second time I took my big 55L rucksack and filled it, and then ended up carrying a garden hose, mop and bucket, two axles stands, a tent, a garden fork and garden clippers. I did manage to strap some of that stuff to my rucksack, although I think I looked pretty silly with a mop sticking a metre above my rucksack… And even more silly when Mr B showed me how to make the mop half the size… We also had lots of stuff in the old flat that we’d planned to take the recycling centre, and then couldn’t. We had to throw what we could in the bin and apologise to the landlord regarding the rest of it. We also did several walking trips between the old place and the new place, with stuff that hadn’t been moved yet. Thankfully it was only 0.7 of a mile.

So there’s the disadvantages… On the flip side, I think it made me realise how much I took our car for granted. When you don’t have a car, you have to cycle or walk everywhere. We normally try to shop locally anyway, but ‘local’ shrinks when you don’t have a car. Having said this, ‘Ikea’ is now ‘local’, in that it is walking distance, as we’ve recently discovered. The only problem with that is, you can’t buy any furniture. It’s made both of us slightly fitter, now that we *have to* cycle to work. We’re both slightly too far from work to walk now. And it’s up hill on the way home.

Yesterday we spent about four hours on a round bus trip to the suburbs to look at a car Mr B had researched online. And we’ve bought it! It’s a second hand car which cost roughly the amount the insurance company are giving us for the old car, but the new car is better! It’s bigger and the CO2 emissions are very low. We’re waiting to hear that its service is finished, which should be in the next couple of days. I think Mr B is going to cycle out there this time – we had a half an hour walk at either end of the bus rides, so it wasn’t exactly straightforward, and then hope to fit his bike in the back of the car to get it home. And then we can buy heavy stuff from the supermarket, the bike shed for our bikes and take some bits and bobs to the tip. 🙂 But we have promised to continue cycling as much as possible.

Faultlines

For every breath that leaves me now
Another comes to fill me
And for every death that grieves me now
The next will surely kill me
For those borders crumble every day
The faultlines are showing
And all I thought was here to stay
Slowly is going.

Faultlines, Karine Polwart

Holiday Photos

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If anyone is particularly interested in looking at lots of pictures of excavated Roman sites then let me know! I took quite a few photos on holiday, although surprisingly enough hardly any of them seemed to have The Wall in them. I think this was because it took two and a half days of walking to get to the first bit of wall, the fourth day we had a semi-rest day, and we didn’t see very much of it on day five and six. There was lots of other interesting stuff though! And some gorgeous scenary.

More Snow and Ice

We’ve had a lot more snow here – Friday morning it was really heavy, forcing me to walk to work, and due to the deep frost, it hasn’t properly melted even now. Saturday morning when I walked the two miles to work again, I was one of the first people to walk along the ice rinked pavements – as it was 6am. In my job it is quite difficult to get to work on time with weather like this. Many people live out in the country, and they’ve either not been able to get in, or have come in late. Because we start so early, and most of the snow fall has been overnight, then all the roads are still covered with snow. On Friday absolutely none of the roads had been gritted, so on Friday night when the snow was still prominent on the ground, and temperatures when down to -7C, it made it incredibly dangerous. At least until the sun came up.

And my department isn’t exactly one where you can manage with half the staff. I heard a story of one department where the every single nurse rang in on Friday morning, to say they’d be unable to come in or they’d be late. The night staff were forced to stay until someone arrived to take over from them. Yesterday I heard that at a residential house in the country the carers had been unable to get home since Thursday. There have been other sad and tragic, medical stories which I know of, which may have turned out differently if it weren’t for the weather. On the other hand though, when a vial of medicine was required from the other side of the country, it managed to be specially couriered through the snow and it was given successfully to my patient.

At the moment the remaining snow is slowly melting and I’m hoping we don’t get anymore – at least not when I’m trying to get to or from work! I don’t mind cycling in the middle of the day, when there’s some snow around, because most of the roads are clear. But at 6am, you can’t tell what it’s going to be like.

On a slightly different subject – I discovered the other day that the radiator in my room was off. It has numbers 1 to 6, and then an picture of a snow flake, and it had been on the snow flake since I moved in last May. Since the beginning of winter I’ve always thought my room was quite cold, but generally I just put another jumper on. And I didn’t think anything else of it. I can’t believe I was so stupid not to check the radiator. But, on the other hand, I am quite impressed that I survived most of a fairly cold winter without any heating in my room. It’s very ecologically friendly. My window is single glazed – think what proper insulation and a couple of jumpers would do for the environment and your heating bill!

Cycling in the Snow

Normally my main source of transport around my city is my bike.  I go everywhere on it.  And I’ve been trying to still go everywhere on it today, when it’s been snowing for most of the day.  I was alright cycling into town this afternoon, I went along a main road which didn’t have any snow on it, and it was fine.  The snow was still falling, which was slightly annoying when you’re cycling into it, especially when it goes into your eye, but it was ok.  Then I locked my bike up in town for an hour or two, whilst i did some odd jobs.  I returned to find my bike under an inch of snow.  I took a photo of it on my phone and if I figure out how to get photos from my phone to my laptop, then I’ll show you.  I brushed it off, and cycled home.  I went slowly, because I was on less main roads, and the snow had stuck, but it wasn’t v.thick on the ground.

Once I’d shaken off the snow and eaten, I wanted to go up to Mr B’s.  I didn’t really want to cycle unless necessary, but given that more snow and freezing temperatures are forcasted tonight, and I’ve got to get to work in the morning, I figured it would be better to cycle to Mr B’s tonight, and then I’ll be walking distance from work in the morning.  The only flaw in this plan is that Mr B lives up a big hill.  So I’ve discovered that trying to push a bike up a slippery paverment is very difficult.  The only thing that I could hold onto was my bike, which isn’t stable given it has wheels and it slips around all over the place.  I had my walking boots on, and just about managed it, but it was quite difficult.  Most of the way I just went slowly, aside from the big hill, I only had to get off and walk at one point, when I was trying to cycle on a footpath with compressed snow, ice and a slope.  When my bike started skidding, I decided I was saver on my feet, although then my bike and my feet skidded.  Anyway, I got here eventually.  And within the time I’d allowed, before Mr B would come and look for me!

Knocked Off

I was cycling home from work this morning after working all night, and as I was cycling down a bike lane I spotted a pedestrian on the side of the road, looking as if she was about to cross the road but without checking the way I was coming. The road was a one way road for cars and a two way road for bikes, and the first thing she was stepping into was the bike lane. I rang my bell and started to brake, but it was too late – she walked straight into me. Knocked me clean off my bike, into where the cars would soon be driving. My right elbow, right leg and head all made contact with the ground, although luckily I was wearing a helmet so my head remained undamaged. I quickly got up, worried about the approaching cars, only to receive the blunt blame for this accident from the seemingly uninjured pedestrian. She claimed I was on red. No – the cars coming the other way are on red. I am a bike. And that set of traffic lights had a little green bike picture on it. That means bikes can go. I wasn’t that rude to her face though… I said I was sorry, but that I did ring my bell and I was on green. She handed me my front brake handle that was lying on the ground and stormed off, without any apology or checking that I wasn’t significantly injured.

I got myself onto the pavement and inspected my injuries. Nothing too bad, just a stinging graze on my elbow and the beginnings of what I think will be a massive bruise on my leg. I was pretty shaken up though – I did let a couple of tears fall down my face as the shock and tiredness from the night hit. I thought I was going to have to walk my bike home, which would take at least half an hour, but I wanted my bed so much that I cycled home (slowly) without a front brake. Luckily I didn’t have to go down any big hills.

Cycle Rage

I’ve been cycling a lot recently. To and from work, to town, to church, to friend’s houses, everywhere. Unless its close walking distance or someone is giving me a lift, then I cycle it. And with that comes general annoyance at car drivers. There are a large number of cyclists where I currently live, so you’d think that the car drivers are used to us and give us plenty of space, etc. But no. Not a lot of the time. It bugs me. Its not uncommon for me to get road rage when I’m cycling, even though I never used to when I was driving.

What sparked this little rant was when I nearly got knocked out by a plane of glass this afternoon. I was cycling along slowly because I was trying to find a specific shop along the road, and I wasn’t exactly sure where it was. I then spotted it on the other side of the road, so I pulled over and stopped about 1.5 metres behind a parked van. The van was obviously a window fitting business, and it had a rectangular piece of glass attached to the side of the van, sticking out about half a metre behind the end of the van. Before I had chance to dismount my bike, to cross the road to the shop, the van started reserving fairly quickly. The glass and the back of the van was coming straight at me. I frantically tried to move myself and my bike backwards as quickly as possible, but I couldn’t keep going backwards at the same speed as he was coming towards me. And I think I must have been in his blind spot. There was a guy over the road who spotted this situation and started shouted ‘WOAH!!!’ to the van driver. I don’t think he noticed, but thankfully he didn’t continue reserving, and pulled out forwards, enabling me to breathe a sigh of relief. But as you can guess – it didn’t do my general opinion of drivers any favours.

Life

I realise I haven’t posted very much recently. Lots is happening in Real Life. Lots of changes. But mostly good ones. Having found a fab man and an almost house, its looking good. But I thought I’d tell you about my adventure the other night…

I was visiting the Almost House on Sunday and had gone out for dinner with the Almost Housemates before we started making our way separately to church. I was on my bike and they were in the car, so they agreed to take my bag for me, and meet me there. I set off on my bike, with my map, before realising that my big thick cycling gloves were in the bag that was in their car. I thought I’d be ok…. until it started snowing. And my hands went numb. Changing gear with your arm muscles is interesting… Then I got lost. My map showed clearly a cycle path coming off the road, and towards the town, but I couldn’t see it in real life, at all. After a quick phone call to my new guy and he told me you had to cycle through a block of flats car park to find it, I got over that hurdle. Don’t ask how I managed to use a phone with numb hands, I’m not sure myself. Then it went ok for a few minutes, I didn’t know exactly where I was going, but I could work it out. I reached the outskirts of the centre, and was just negotiating a Big roundabout (thankfully via the pavement / subway), when my bike stopped. Completely. It made a clang, and then refused to move. I clambered off, and soon realised that one of my elasticated spider things which secure bags on the back, had come off and wrapped itself around the back wheel spokes. I flipped my bike upside down and tried to remove it, but with numb hands and in the snow and dark, it wasn’t going anywhere! I rang my boyfriend back (I was also meeting him at church, supposedly within 5 minutes by now) and after talking about it, we figured the best thing to do for me to lock up my bike where it was, and for me to go straight to the pub next to church and warm up.

So I left my bike at this roundabout, and walked the 20 minutes or so across town to the pub where I warmed up with hot chocolate and cider (not together!). Thankfully I happened to have a spare, although muddy, set of clothes, in my bag. So as soon as the service finished, I got my bag back and was able to get some dry clothes on. My hands had impressively warmed up before I made it to the pub, thanks to my fleecy jumper, but my jeans were soaked through with freezing water. With the dry jeans, lovely friends and a bit of jumping around, I soon got the circulation going properly again.

My bike was slightly more interesting. Its booked in for a (complementary) service in the shop it was bought from on Wednesday. So I figured that they could fix the back wheel. If I could get it across town, with a disabled wheel. And when I was working 12 hour shifts Monday and Tuesday. Theres a reason I called my new guy fab – I gave him the keys, he retrieved it, removed the elasticated spider thing, cycled it to the bike shop, booked it in for the service, and even remembered to tell them about the slightly dodgy second gear! 😀 So all I have to do tomorrow is collect it.

New bike and Yummy Treats

I collected my new bike this morning! Its fab! I can ride up hills without too much effort and everything works beautifully.

For my birthday last July and when I graduated, I was given some money to put towards a car for work. But parking anywhere is so impossible here, and I’m so central that I don’t need a car, so I decided to spend the money on a better bike. This one is much better quality, should last a lot longer and I had 25% off the retail price!

There was some debate over what I’m going to do with my old bike. I was tempted to give it to a local homeless charity which does old bikes up for homeless people. But my parents pointed out that my sister and I are often complaining that there isn’t a bike at home suitable for us to use, when we’re at home (on holiday) and wanting to cycle somewhere. So it’s going home. Given that I had some money spare with the sale in the shop, I decided to leave my v.old lock and lights with my old bike for home use, and buy myself some new ones. So earlier this afternoon I fitted the new fittings onto my new bike. And now it really is set to go!

After picking it up, I cycled over to the organic farmers market and bought local cheese, freshly baked bread and homegrown mushrooms. This afternoon I walked up the hill and went to my regular local fruit and veg shop, and stocked up with food that I didn’t buy this morning at the market. And I discovered Burnt Sugar, in the Oxfam up there. They claim to be set to do what Green and Blacks did to chocolate, to the sweet market. Its all fairly traded, carbon neutral and very yummy! I treated myself to a bar of their fudge, and have made subtle obvious hints in reference to their honeycomb and chocolate easter egg. 😀

Down South

As most people who know me will know, I have recently moved Down South and started a new job. For obvious reasons my current location and details of my work will remain anonymous on such a public blog, but at the same time I am very aware that many readers will be wondering how I’ve been settling in, etc. So I’m going to try to give you an update, without disclosing too much.

Basically I feel that I am settling in fairly well. On my first proper day here, I went for an explore and within half an hour I found a kite shop and a Christian Aid protest – and I had a warm feeling that this could become home. I’m slowly beginning to find my way around and find the necessities. Work is going well – the staff are friendly and I get on well with my mentors. I’ve been receiving quite a lot of teaching and information overload often comes to mind, but at the same time I’m enjoying the challenge. I’m currently living with other NHS workers, who I get on reasonably well with, in a fairly decent flat – it has a much bigger kitchen than my old student house, not that that is hard! 😉 This morning I was kindly introduced to a local methodist church, where I negotiated offers to join the local student groups and help out with the Sunday School!

So generally I’m feeling positive about settling in properly. I do miss Swansea a lot, but I will be back to visit and my friends are planning trips Down South. I have to go back in November as I’ve organised an SCM gathering there, but I should get a quick visit in before then. My bike is currently in a friend’s garage, so that’s my excuse to go back and visit! Having found a secure and dry place for my bike at both home and work, I’m looking forward to being able to cycle to work and explore a greater distance with it.