Build your own Downton Abbey Christmas special

November 9, 2015 at 6:47 pm | Posted in tv & film | 1 Comment
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Why cyclists get five copies of Cav’s autobiography for Christmas

December 27, 2014 at 6:09 pm | Posted in cycling | 4 Comments
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Every December, cyclists helpfully leave their copy of Cycling Monthly open at the ‘On Test: Fifteen Windproofs To Blow You Away’ page, and drop oh-so-subtle hints while wandering round the Ratha Coffee Club, in the hope that some lovely, sparkly new bicycle kit will find its way under the tree.

Vintage Ad #2,274: Family Christmas...Schwinn StyleAnd on Christmas Day, they open three Tour de France DVDs, some bicycle coasters and another copy of Cav’s autobiography. Where did they go wrong? Why are people so insensitive to their needs?

What they forget, of course, is that this conversation happened a few weeks previously.

Significant Other: Right. Christmas. New waterproof? You’re always complaining about that one flapping.

Cyclist: Ah. Nice idea. But not unless it’s, well, you won’t be able to afford it, and I’m pretty sure they’re sold out in my size anyway. Apart from in fluoro. And I don’t want fluoro.

S.O.: All right. Jersey, then? You said you wanted a new longsleeve one.

Cyclist: Ah. Yeah. If it has a full zip. And you can work the zipper with one hand. And three pockets, and a separate zipped pocket, a waterproof one. And the arms are long enough. And it’s not too long at the front. And you’ll need an XS, and they always sell out first. Unless it’s Italian, in which case it’ll be an S.

S.O.: Hmm. How about some kneewarmers? Those ones are full of holes.

Cyclist: Well, if they have those wide grippers, maybe. And they don’t make my legs look like a string of sausages, or cut off circulation in my calves. But they mustn’t slip down, either. And no daft colours. And not Roubaix. I mean, Roubaix kneewarmers? Who thought that up?

S.O.: Base layer?

Cyclist: Oooh. Well, I’d love a shortsleeve merino one. As long as it’s proper merino, not that itchy stuff. And the sleeves need to be long enough to tuck into my armwarmers, but not so long that they poke out under my jersey. And it’s got to be nice and long at the back. But not too long, or it’ll bunch up, and people’ll think I’m wearing pants under my shorts.

S.O.: Look! These t-shirts are great. Funny! And you like that colour.

Cyclist: Yeah! That’s an MTB, though. I don’t ride MTB.

S.O. [patiently]: Okay. Socks?

Cyclist: I dunno. They have to be right. Not too long, not too short, not too thick, not too thin. They need to go with my new shoes. No, not those ones: they’ve got LOGOS on them.

S.O.: Bidons?

Cyclist: Um. They don’t all fit my bottle cages. And those ones, they’re really hard to get open with your teeth. Not those, either: the necks are so narrow, you just get Science in Sport all over the kitchen.

S.O.: Book?

Cyclist: That should do it. WP_001462

The housebound cyclist’s festive calorie counter

December 23, 2014 at 7:31 pm | Posted in cycling | Leave a comment
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For those of us who like riding up the occasional hill without having to get off and push, Christmas is a scary prospect. All that rich food! All those weird bottles of sticky stuff that Auntie Lil brought back from Kos! All that sitting about watching It’s A Wonderful Sound Of Bridget’s Friends, Actually, Arthur!

At this time of year, fitness magazines like to lecture us on how many miles we need to ride in order to burn off each Miniature Hero, but what can we do if the family have trapped our bikes ENTIRELY by accident behind a teetering mountain of hastily-wrapped Christmas presents? My handy list maps Christmas treats onto a range of festive household activities, so that you can maximise your caloric expenditure while going about your normal holiday business.

  • RHelp! I'm drowning in Quality Street!epeatedly blowing up spare bed that has a slow puncture you can’t locate: 1 medium glass mulled wine
  • Two-minute cold shower ‘cos the boiler’s conked out and nobody can look at it until at least next Tuesday: 1 pig-in-blanket
  • Filling the bath with twenty-five kettles’-worth of water: one spoonful brandy butter
  • Peeling and chopping vegetables for sixteen people while singing along to Phil Spector: 1 turkey thigh
  • Stumbling around the living room with your uncle who says he knows how to jive: 2 roast potatoes
  • Sweeping up broken ornaments elbowed during above-mentioned ‘jive’ session: 1 prawn vol-au-vent
  • Particularly rousing game of Pictionary: 1 small glass brandy
  • Scrabble argument over whether ‘NOPE’ is a word, involving five people, three dictionaries and somebody tweeting at Victoria Coren: 2 dessertspoonfuls gravy
  • Running upstairs to get your reading glasses, then coming down again because you forgot what you went up for, then going upstairs again to get them, then remembering they are on your head: 1 portion bread sauce
  • Turning house upside down looking for things you can cannibalise 6 AAA batteries from, to avert toddler tantrum: 1 glass dessert wine
  • Going through the Hoover bag looking for Luke Skywalker: 3 Brussels sprouts
  • Lifting an eight-year-old into the wheelie bin, demonstrating how he has to jump up and down to crush the rubbish, then calling fire brigade to fish him out again: 3 roast parsnips
  • Hoovering dog hair off the bed that Fenton won’t go on, no, really, he won’t, he’ll just sleep right here in his basket, honest: 2 Quality Street
  • Maintaining cheery demeanour for three days in the face of parental passive-aggression: 16 mince pies and a bottle of Bailey’s


‘Cross diary 8: I try spectating

December 31, 2011 at 11:54 am | Posted in cycling | 6 Comments
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So, I was ill for the fancy dress charity cyclocross race. Bah! But Primo was up for it, and so was @Psyclyst and his family, so we got our jumpers on, packed our gloves and snacks and cowbells, and went up to Heptonstall.

Heptonstall’s an ancient hamlet on the tops near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire – all winding one-in-four cobbled streets and blackened stone houses, with a 360 degree view of the surrounding moors. It’s all very Wuthering Heights. We splashed across the car park past several Smurfs and a member of KISS, and went into the Social and Bowling Club to sign on. Inside, the place was heaving with serious-looking Yorkshiremen in Elvis wigs and devil’s horns. Ladies in polonecks and slacks dealt out chocolate brownies and race numbers with businesslike charm. I pinned Primo’s number to his policeman’s outfit and he signed his name neatly in the tiny space.

The kids raced first. Fairies, several Santas, a Kick-Ass and a couple of boys with Bieber wigs on top of their helmets battled gamely with a twisty, muddy course, bumping up and down grassy hillocks. We realised in the first lap that Primo didn’t know he was allowed to get off and run. Oops. Once we’d put him right, he was off, and came in about halfway down the field, grinning, barely out of breath.

We went to the windswept little playground for a bit, then it was time for the grownups to line up. Theirs was an extended version of the kids’ course. ‘How’s it looking out there?’ I yelled at a guy from Pedalsport as he rattled past on his recce lap. ‘Bumpy!’ came the reply. We found ourselves a vantage point on a tight corner, got the cowbells out again, and started bellowing ourselves hoarse. ‘DEG EN, SCOATTISH SMURF!’ ‘GWAAN, TANDEM ELVISES!’ Jimmy Savile ground past, cigar gripped between his teeth, bling tangling in his handlebars, to a Mexican wave of yodelling.

I started yelling compliments on everyone’s pro remounts (it’s not easy when you’re dressed as Lady Gaga). An elf rode by in fishnets and bare arms, holding up her low-cut top with one hand and grinning sheepishly.

Halfway through I realised I’d forgotten to bring any handups. Idiot! Luckily, the tandem tankmen were lobbing out mini Snickers bars as they churned round.

LAATSTE RONDE! We cowbelled ourselves silly and screeched encouragement at the kiddyback tandemist, who had stopped every lap to change child stoker and was now visibly flagging. We’re not sure who won, but we know @Psyclyst did an extra lap, just because he could. He was rightly pleased with himself as he’d managed to overtake someone; as he went past, the overtakee said ‘Well done!’ Only in cyclocross…

Back in the Social and Bowling Club, they were dishing out mushy peas and raffle tickets, and laughing about how the race had only lasted 20 minutes. We sat down with coffees and tried to get our fingers to thaw out enough to take our gloves off, but had to leave in a rush when Segundo started fishing balls out of the pool table and flinging them across the room.

It’s an annual event; we’re already cooking up costumes and heckles and themed handups (mince pies? Chocolate liqueurs?) for the next one. Like the Terminator, we’ll be back. Or – hang on! Maybe *as* the Terminator…

Read the British Cycling writeup of the event here.

Some great images from Mandy Parker here.

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