Autumn. It’s not all that.

November 4, 2016 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Reasons you don’t need to worry about British Cycling

April 29, 2016 at 3:10 pm | Posted in cycling | 4 Comments
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Worried about what’s happening at British Cycling? Concerned that recent revelations indicate it’s a fundamentally sick institution rife with sexism, racism and ableism? Relax! I’m here to explain why you can carry on cheering and waving flags and just generally LOVING how totally brilliant we are at everything.

British-Union-Jack-Flag

Marvellous

1. Nobody ever complained about anything at BC before now, so everything must have been fine.
2. Well, apart from that review in 2012.
3. Nobody changed anything after the 2012 report, though, so it can’t have found out anything that important.
4. Oh, yeah, there was that book in 2012, too. But, well, she was never a team player. You know.
5. All the people who’ve complained about their treatment have chips on their shoulders because they didn’t get picked for stuff.
6. Well, okay, some of them got picked for stuff. But all the other people who’ve complained are well-known for crying a lot.
7. Well, all the women are well-known for crying a lot.
8. Top-level sportswomen cry at, like, EVERYTHING. They’re just bags of nerves. Honestly.
9. Okay, only some of the women are well-known for crying a lot. Maybe only one. Whatever. You get my drift.
10. Women have REALLY good imaginations. They’re always imagining stuff like sexism, when all anyone was doing was commenting on their arse in a totally supportive way and calling them ‘man one’ because, well, what, hang on, you mean there’s a WOMEN’S team sprint? Gosh.
11. No men have reported sexist comments being made about them, so there can’t have been any.
12. Lots of able-bodied athletes have said nobody ever called them ‘wobblies’ or ‘gimps’, so the others are obviously imagining it.
13. Lots of high-profile men have said everyone was always totally lovely to them, and they’re the REALLY successful athletes – you know, the PROPER ones that get lots of funding and everything – so we should listen to them.
14.None of the men said anyone told them they should go and have a baby. If anyone said it to a woman, he was probably just concerned about her making the right choices. Women always appreciate help with that.
15. No white athletes have ever been called ‘dirty terrorists’, so that must have been just banter. Where would we be without banter? What do you mean, in a more equitable and tolerant society?
16. Everyone at BC is always nice to their old mum.
17. Anyway that bloke’s resigned now, hasn’t he, so it’s all fine. Phew. Carry on!

Bike maintenance for LADIES

April 20, 2016 at 9:12 am | Posted in advice, cycling | 1 Comment
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girl bike tyreGood morning, and welcome to Bike Maintenance For Ladies, episode 37 in an occasional series. Observe the picture above*. There’s a lot we can learn from this neat demonstration of how to change a bicycle puncture.

First, note that the bicycle has been removed from the road, away from passing traffic, and leant gently up against a rock or tree stump. Do not lie your bicycle on its side, especially with the chainset downwards; you risk scratching the paintwork and damaging your derailleur. NEVER balance your bicycle upside down to effect repairs, as this will scuff the saddle and ruin your handlebar tape.

Protective sheeting has been put down to protect the floor from dirt and debris – although if you keep your bicycle scrupulously clean, as in the picture, you’ll find less maintenance is required overall.

Always carry spares and tools. If, like this rider, you prefer to ride without mudguards, you may feel a seatpack detracts from the clean lines of your machine. Simply use your spare inner tube as a hair scrunchie until required.

The rider has removed the front wheel carefully and propped it against her knee, saving the spindle from potential damage caused by contact with the tarmac. Observe how she lines up the valve on the replacement tube with the hole in the rim. Tyre levers are not always necessary: a good strong set of gel fingernails makes a perfectly acceptable substitute.

There are, however, some points for improvement in this demonstration. Firstly, the rider does not appear to be wearing socks. This is unhygienic, allowing the bacteria naturally present in sweat to propagate unfettered in your trainers. Secondly, road riders should always wear a helmet.

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* Thanks to @JEmptyloo on twitter for sharing the picture.

What barbershop chorus members are really thinking

March 19, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Posted in barbershop, barbershop, music, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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* * Based shamelessly on this post from Classic FM. * *

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* * Based shamelessly on this post from Classic FM. * *

German barbershop phrasebook

March 2, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Posted in barbershop, music, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I’m off to Munich this weekend, with my lovely fabulous barbershop chorus, the White Rosettes. We’re guests at BinG!, the German barbershop convention, and we’ll be singing on stage three times over two days, then finding as many opportunities as possible to sing in stairwells, in corners of the bar and so on. I used to speak fairly good German, so I thought I’d put together a set of useful phrases that my fellow Rosettes could employ over the weekend. In true barbershop style, I’ve provided teach tracks. Mach’s gut!

At the hotel

Do you have room service? Double egg and chips, please.

Haben Sie Zimmerservice? Zweimal Spiegelei mit Pommes, bitte.

I’m having a disco nap and do not wish to be disturbed

Ich mache Schläfchen und möchte nicht gestört werden.

Please could I book an alarm for nine thirty. No, that’s correct. I am English. That’s early.

Ich möchte einen Alarmruf, bitte, um neun Uhr dreissig. Doch, das stimmt. Ich bin Engländerin. Das ist für mich ganz früh.

Making conversation in the audience

They haven’t got enough blusher on

Sie brauchen noch ein bisschen Rouge.

I liked the choreo but the sequins were distracting

Die Choreographie hat mir gefallen. Ich fand die Pailletten verwirrend.

Is that David Wright over there? I’ll be right back

Ist das der David Wright dort drüben? Ich bin gleich wieder da.

At the afterglow

My doctor has expressly forbidden me to drink beer

Mein Arzt hat mir ausdrücklich verboten, Bier zu trinken.

Three gins, please, and easy on the tonic

Dreimal Gin, bitte, und nicht zu viel Tonic.

Shall we sing a tag? Do you know ‘Clouds On Fire’?

Wollen wir einen Tag singen? Kennen Sie ‘Clouds On Fire’?

Are you going to bed already? It’s only four o’clock!

Gehen Sie schon ins Bett? Es ist aber nur vier Uhr!

 

And a good old-fashioned blooper reel. In case you thought this stuff was easy.

Why it is perfectly OK to still like professional cycling

February 2, 2016 at 4:21 pm | Posted in cycling | 1 Comment
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1. Only impressionable under-23s with Machiavellian parent-managers motordope. The pros have been definitely not motordoping since at least 2010. Everyone knows that.

2. EPO is like, so last season. Procyclists are FAR too fashion-forward to be doing it now. They won’t even wear the same shades as last year. You’re telling me they’re still doing drugs?

3. Testing is really amazing these days. Everyone has basically given up because they know they’ll get caught, as soon as they’ve retired. Their reputation will be in tatters and they won’t be national treasures or get commentating gigs or anything.

4. The UCI are committed to routing out cheats and punishing them severely, by giving them two-year bans and only letting them have Cat 2 licences when they come back.

5. The really bad offenders have to sit on anti-drugs-in-sport boards, and become the Mr Mackeys of cycling.

6. It’s only a few bad apples. Well, and their dads. And their spouses. And their brothers. And their doctors. And their mechanics. And their team managers.

7. If Modern Cycling gets too much, you can squinch your eyes tight shut and imagine you’re back in seventy-something and Eddy’s bossing the peloton with a single sneer like the Brabantse Elvis and Hinault’s knocking bystanders out with a mere EYEBROW and cycling is marvellous and epic and heroic and totally believable and nobody ever falls off their bike suddenly.

8. Or you can go back to the nineties when nobody wears a helmet so you can still tell who is who and there are real climbers and rouleurs and nobody is good at everything and there are proper CYCLING HEROES like Pantani.

9. Anyway, there are BRITISH PEOPLE winning bike races these days, and THEY can’t possibly be cheating, because it just wouldn’t be cricket. So, marginal gains, and, you know. Beetroot. I’m cheering for beetroot. GO BEETROOT.beet

Build your own Downton Abbey Christmas special

November 9, 2015 at 6:47 pm | Posted in tv & film | 1 Comment
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The real worst cycling inventions

October 27, 2015 at 10:09 am | Posted in cycling | 2 Comments
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Cycling Weekly’s Worst Cycling Inventions were all a bit foreign to me. My cycling’s firmly at the ‘enthusiastic but a bit rubbish’ end of the spectrum, so I’ve felt no need for Spinaci bar extensions or Spinergy wheels (although my first commuter bike did feature Biopace rings; it’s nice to think there’s a reason I was so slow). However, cycling is RIFE with other rubbish things. Here’s my list of the REAL worst cycling inventions.

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Arsey bastardy buggety bloodery

1. Pannier fixings with those stupid elastic hooks. How many hours I wasted fiddling with these, tightening them, loosening them, snapping my fingers on them, swearing, then losing them when I took the panniers off, while the Manchester rain beat down upon me and local dogs revved themselves up, I don’t know. A lot.

2. Gel seat covers. Designed to give terrible saddles a momentary illusion of comfort, all they’re really good for is carefully storing the rain you avoid while you’re at work and timed-releasing it all over your arse on the way home.

3. Mini LED lights. After a lifetime of lugging battery lights around in case you get invited out for a drink, these look like THE ANSWER. So teeny! So cute! So light! So bright! Just pop them in your pocket! Except they don’t work in the cold. Or in the rain. And they go out suddenly if you go over a bump, and don’t tell you. And when you take them off to give them technical taps, you drop the elastic things in a puddle.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights - Even The Bikes Are Lit

Only acceptable use of LEDs on a bike

4. Single-sided pedals. As if getting clipped back in while going uphill wasn’t difficult enough already.

5. Tyres that are physically impossible to get back onto the rims if you’re a woman. A gent once stopped, kindly, as I cursed and wept over a flat. He must have been seventy. He offered to help. I let him.

 

Grand Designs bingo

September 19, 2015 at 9:14 pm | Posted in tv & film | Leave a comment
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Well, it’s a sitting duck, isn’t it. But anyway. I celebrate the return of everybody’s favourite unfavourite.

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Classical concerts: a no-rules approach

September 16, 2015 at 3:48 pm | Posted in music | 1 Comment
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I got all excited when I saw Gillian Moore’s Sinfini piece, Classical etiquette: the new rules. Finally! I thought. Someone arguing that people shouldn’t be keelhauled for sneezing in a quiet bit! Sadly, Moore’s new rules are basically the old ones, with a bit of ‘Calm down, everybody!’ attached.

stfu1Golly, classical music fans like telling each other how to behave*. When you attend a gig, know this: your fellow audience members are looking down on you for all sorts of human failings. Don’t decide you’re too hot in the middle of a piece, and try to take your jumper off; but don’t fall asleep because you’ve had a long day and it’s hot and you don’t dare to take your jumper off, in case you snore. Don’t have a cold, even in the depths of winter, in case you cough; never mind that you paid £50 for your seat and booked your train ticket and accommodation MONTHS ago and have been looking forward to this all year. Do know all the pieces in advance so that you know EXACTLY when it is safe to clap, but don’t follow the score, because that’s showing off. If you’re not sure when to clap, don’t clap until someone else has; but if you DO know where to clap, don’t clap too early, and never shout WOO! because that’s just attention-seeking, and absolutely DON’T stand up to clap, because others might not agree with you that the performance was so terrific it needs a standing ovation. And don’t take your kids, even if you think they might like it, because they might swing their legs in the wrong rhythm, and anyway it’s just smug parenting. And don’t forget to adjust your hearing aid.

I understand all this. I really do. I know that classical music isn’t amplified and you need to shut up in order to hear it properly. I get that performances will differ in subtle ways and you need to pay attention in order to pick these up and enjoy them. But some research suggests that coughing may indicate a lack of engagement, rather than a wilful attempt to spoil everyone else’s fun. Could people be allowed to engage with what’s going on a bit more?

I sometimes think I was born at the wrong time. Mozart-era concerts sound like a lot of fun. Apparently everyone was rowdily engaged, shushing each other in the quiet bits, applauding, yelling ‘da capo!’, chatting and laughing, and quite possibly chucking things if they didn’t approve. People got into fights over their favourite performers. It all sounds right up my street.

When I listen to music at home, I sing along, talk over the bits I don’t find that interesting, crank up the best bits and lie on the carpet. I nudge anyone who’s in the room and go ‘No, listen! I love this bit!’ I’ve been to classical concerts where I wanted to clap and whistle when I recognised the opening bars of my favourite song, like I would at a rock gig.

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Iestyn Davies, not singing in my living room, but, you know. Near enough. (Picture by Andrea Liu)

And it’s not all about me. I sometimes feel like we’re missing something else, something bigger, that we could be experiencing if we stopped looking on our fellow concertgoers as an irritation, and started taking notice of them. What would it be like if we tried to enjoy being in a room with a lot of other people, experiencing the music as a group, rather than all sitting in our individual seats feeling aggrieved that the chap next to us is manspreading and the woman in front is so ridiculously tall and trying in vain to pretend that Iestyn Davies is singing to us ALONE in our living room for our personal delight (however brilliant that sounds)? What if we weren’t scared to react to what was going on – if we turned to our neighbours and grinned, got to our feet and moved around, sang along and danced and interacted with each other? Maybe went for a beer in the bits we didn’t like, and worked our way to the front for our favourites?

Ah, you say, knowingly. It’ll never work. Tom Morris came a cropper last year with his no-rules approach to audience engagement at the Bristol Alternative Proms. With no etiquette to stifle them, the audience simply took the policing of other people’s behaviour into their own hands, forcibly ejecting a chap who tried to crowdsurf in the Messiah’s moshpit.

But this stems from the unhappy mixing of people who want to loosen up a bit, and people who don’t. Glyndebourne has separate performances for the under-30s. I think we need Performances for the Under-Disciplined. Then all the people who want to shoulder-poke can go to regular performances and tut loudly at each other’s programme-page-turning, and the rest of us can have some fun. I’ll bring the plonk, if you bring the sarnies.

* It’s not just classical audiences, of course. The ‘STFU’ above is in the Jazz Cafe, and even popular music has its shushers.

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