256/365

It was all about the bikes today as I went on a solo trip to the NEC to visit the cycle show. I haven’t been to one for a number of years, in fact in must be 20 years ago. Way back then, mountain bikes were just emerging from obscurity and there was the diversity that rapid development brings. This was a time when back yard engineers devised cunning items you didn’t know you couldn’t live without. Back then I had hair, CNC was but the stuff of dreams and I would think nothing of dropping off high things without the benefit of suspension. Roll forward to 2012 and much has changed. Advanced materials and computer aided design are at the forefront of development and it appears that the fluidity has crystalised. Stall after stall of very similar products each trying to push a unique selling point. Every salesman reinforcing my dislike of salesmen as they justified unbelievable price tags with seemingly unbelievable claims. Perhaps I emitted a special bankrupt odour as each skilfully avoided engaging me in a conversation. Perhaps I am just as unapproachable in social times as I am in work.

Cycling is riding a wave of popularity, evident by the number of normal people milling around the stalls. Probably there has never been a better time to be a retailer in cycling and associated leisure activities and yet I felt the show came up short on this. There were plenty of high end vehicles on show, there were energy drink vendors by the hundred and numerous tour operators selling the dream of not riding on british roads but aside from a cycle to work scheme and a cycle training company, the show seemed to lack something to manage the transition from novice to seasoned user. For the first time in decades I haven’t got a clue on how my cycling future will go. I wanted some inspiration for the way forward and I wonder how many others attended looking for guidance and found it a little flat.

There was a whole hall dedicated to electric bicycles, it is only natural that some born again cyclists don’t want to go to the trouble of pedalling but for me, pedalling is one of the attractions of cycling. There were a large number of very, very classy fixies, the choice of ride for the terribly chic and for those blessed with huge thighs or flat landscapes. For the rest of us and coming from the lower levels of the peak district, single speed or heaven forbid, fixed gear bikes are a recipe for knee replacement surgery and just a little bit too hard core. Having said all that, they were magnificent to look at. The old school beauty of steel tubing, nothing oversized, sculpted buttings, all just right and in proportion. Who needs progress when it was right the first time.

I wandered around the stalls and eventually came across a pair of velomobiles, fully enclosed trikes, I have to say that they appealed to me in a big way. There is a little bit of me going back to Holland tonight but I am sure it will wipe off. The notion of riding in something akin to a aeroplane cockpit, isolated from the environment is an attractive proposition, however when reality bites as in Birmingham’s road network and its’ noble users, I predict you would have to be quite brave to tackle the morning rush hour in a velomobile. Across from the trikes was a disability stall, a number of cleverly conceived vehicles were on display, but most notably they only catered for those with below the waist problems, for someone such as myself, there were no answers here. I was able to take away a number of ideas to mull over, the most notable being front wheel drive. As a recumbent designer, FWD offers a far tidier solution to long chain runs and does away with gear changing issues. I spent a long time looking at these systems trying to work out how they could be modified and applied in a home workshop environment. I also took a good look at the one bamboo bike on display and I suspect the owners will be very relieved to hear that I totally approve of the bike, good looks, light weight and super low tech, I feel that with care, a very good facsimile could be achieved and with a newly found source of industrial bamboo at what appears very good prices, it may be put on the list of things to try.

Being surrounded by acres of bike porn didn’t have the usual effect, the wanting and longing, the mental justification battling grim financial reality. It was nice to look at but genuinely wasn’t for me. I wonder if I am finally being cured of the galloping consumerism that drive me to rack and ruin. I appreciated the beauty, the form and the function of the impossible to attain but honestly I feel every bit as happy looking at the wooden bike project in my shed and happy in the knowledge that with the combined might of the bicycle industry amassed in the NEC, not one had chosen to take the path I have. I think that says it all.

 

 

 

255/365

It was the big day when the English Defence League graced us with their presence and as there was no circus in town, milling around Walsall town centre passed as entertainment on a windy autumn Saturday morning. We had parked strategically away from the centre of town so that in the event of a colossal disturbance of the peace, we could slip away and drive like buggery to the safety of middle class Aldridge.

The route took us past the area earmarked for the EDL to ply their vile trade of hatred and lies to a home audience of wannabe thugs. At the time, the amassed horde numbered no more than twenty, probably a tenth of the Police Officers that were overseeing the demonstration. The shouts and raucous singing was more in line with a football crowd than an alternative political stance. I am possibly slightly disingenuous in believing this was little in the way of voicing an objection and more of just wanting a good fight with someone, anyone, with moral outrage the mitigation. I walked away thinking they were more to be pitied than scorned, their lives bereft of the colour and vibrancy that multiculturalism delivers, to the abject impossibility of living an Aryan lifestyle in a cosmopolitan world.

We made our way to the appointed location for the counter demonstration, Gallery Square, the first location that Siberian weather makes landfall in the United Kingdom. Quite possibly the most windswept place in the whole of the West Midlands. I couldn’t help thinking the EDL were being pampered into good behaviour by being graced with a more sheltered spot. There were more police, lots more police and mobile cordons, there was no doubt that the preparations had been carefully considered and for a long while there was more of a carnival atmosphere than a demonstration. Everyone was smiling, united in a stance against the unacceptable. The music was good and the Socialist Worker vendors persistent, just as it should be. Things were about to change.

I am not sure how well this will go down but the sight of fifty hooded and masked Asian youths marching in en masse shouting “Allahu Akbar” is scary. I can’t have been alone in feeling this as the a silence descended and the smiles vanished. The police moved in and mingled a little more purposefully as community leaders called for masks to be removed and calm to prevail. We decided to “bug out” to our fall back location, Costa coffee and let developments do their own thing. After a period of time the group tried  to leave and the police flowed with them, we decided we had made our statement and it was time to leave. This was not as easy as we would have liked as the mobile cordons had been deployed and the “thin blue line” prevented access to most routes away from the Gallery. After a ten minute walk, we found ourselves thirty metres from where we had started but at least on the right side of the blockade. We then tried to pass by Leicester St and the ranks of the Fascist thugs had swelled to around two hundred. The vitriolic hateful words spilling out of loudspeakers inciting halfwitted appreciation disgusted me and I found it difficult to believe that anyone could believe it. Again I wasn’t alone as the gathering crowd of onlookers stifled amusement as their mobile phones captured the occasion on video. It seemed a good time to try and return to the car as a few of the guard thugs, sorry EDL event management, started taking an interest and videoing back.

We had just made our way through the maze of cordons as something detonated. The noise of the rabble grew louder and we were informed that it was kicking off. From the relative safety five hundred metres provides I was quite interested in what was kicking off but the riot policeman, who had been polishing his riot gear since Saltley Gate stepped in and started shouting repeatedly at a young Asian male to go away. His similarity to a Vogon guard was almost amusing but as he got louder in his repetition of “Go away” I could see in his eyes that he was losing it and we departed at a brisk walking pace  for fear of upsetting his finely balanced nerve.

I have to say in conclusion that the Police were on the whole, good humoured, helpful and a credit to their profession. Their presence was reassuring and I was dismayed to hear that some were injured in the brief outburst of violence but in a way this justified their level of preparedness, which I had previously considered over the top.  As we waited in traffic a cavalcade of black coaches was led through to collect the White Supremacist’s, oh the irony.

Well as my blog draws to a close, just a quick thank you to the EDL, thank you for wasting good oxygen in my town centre, thank you for closing shops and market stalls, thank you for causing travel disruption and thank you for trying to divide a happily multicultural population. Don’t rush back.

254/365

So the EDL are coming to visit my adopted home town tomorrow. No doubt it is their intention to discuss how Britain will be better with Far right rule. I expect they will propose radical ways to make Britain great again. With 27% of shops empty in the town centre, it will be interesting to hear how they will bring business to the Black Country. On a national front, it would be good to get an understanding of how education and health would be improved with Fascists at the helm.

On the other hand, they could just stand around shouting racist abuse, call for the Black country to be renamed and be totally vile about everything. Of course we aren’t strangers to vile loud mouthed idiots, Aidan Burley and Andrew Mitchell are close neighbours and not adversed to a bit of notoriety, The EDL have missed a trick by not inviting them to the party. In fact Aidan could have supplied the costumes and Andrew could have liaised with the Police.

Anyway, I felt that it was important for me to show my disapproval of everything they stand for. To be counted as one that says they have no place here or anywhere but it appears that they are being kettled up in Leicester Street and the anti protest protest is at the art gallery. Now, it is probably a good thing that the two sides are separated but how are they to know that they are hated, nee despised and unwelcome if they can’t witness it for themselves? I really don’t want them going away thinking that everyone who attended their demonstration  was a white supremacist thug and that Walsall was 100% behind them. There again it has been a long, long time since I demonstrated against anything and the rules seem to have changed somewhat. It will be interesting to see how the non adversarial approach to demonstration works, particularly as we are attending a TUC march in London, quite how they will kettle the plebs away from the Tories will be quite an achievement as I believe the golden paved streets of the nation’s capital are lined with them.

 

253/365

I seem to be getting in the swing of things with working the new software, which is a good job as I am flying solo tomorrow. I can always revert to the old system or blame my mistakes on the “new” system, so I am feeling quite calm about it all. It still brings up some baffling issues, mostly not being consistent in flagging problems but on the whole it is far more fun than the old system and sort of makes me want to make a better job of it. I must have been enjoying myself as I didn’t notice the clock tick past going home time.

I started off the day by taking a walk through the Arboretum with my new camera to test it out whilst making my way to the head doctor on the other side of the park. It was one of those perfect autumn mornings, the sky was clear and vivid blue without a cloud to be seen. Time seemed to be running slow as I meandered through the trees looking for particularly testing shots. This was my second visit to the “Arbo” and once again the power and calmness of the place pervaded. It was by chance I glanced at the time and realised it wasn’t running slow and I was running late, such was the exquisite distraction of it all.

The head tuning session was really a summing up and a goodbye. I am certainly in a better place now than I was nine months ago but the real tests start as I try to live the rest of my life. Certainly my thought processes are more ordered and I can see beyond my own problems and take an interest in the world outside my head. The fact that I have started caring about issues proves to me that I have less of my own. I need to work on a number of areas but again, because I can actually identify them means there must be less of them to be spotted. Quite where this is all leading I don’t know, I do know everything happens for a reason and how we deal with problems makes us who we are. Right now I know that a number of doors have been closed to me but an even greater number are creaking open.

252/365

Oh well, I guess you can’t walk in to a consultant’s room and expect to walk out with the answers you wanted and that was the situation I found myself in this afternoon. Mr Malik was very frank and answered my questions honestly and I have to accept that he knows his stuff. So rather disappointingly, it appears I need another operation with only a 30% chance of a successful outcome. The triceps muscle has “stuck” to the bone. This is why it isn’t working. An operation to peel the muscle from the bone and remove the scar tissue will take three months to recover from. The problem arose as a result of the severity of the damage to the elbow, it had to be immobile for three months, in this time the triceps stuck itself to anything it could find, so next time it will get freed off and physio can start sooner preventing the sticking to occur.

The nerve issues around my elbow are a permanent result of the surgery and they won’t get any better, so I have a lifetime of pain to look forward to from nerve damage as well as the arthritic pain I am already suffering. Lastly if I try to compete at archery without the cocking aid, I will shorten the useful life of the joint. I went in there with a glimmer of hope and came out 0-3 . I have to hope for a rule change for the archery, I have a 1 in 3 chance of getting full muscle use and my arm is going to hurt forever. Sweet.

So in a way it was a bit of a bonus that my new camera has arrived today and is in perfect working condition, it is easy to use, is light and portable and from a few test shots seems to take a good photo. I will once again be able to fill my blogs with pictures and spend nights making them into the shots I wanted to take. We are out and about on Saturday, so hopefully the weather will be favourable.

We spent a little bit of time continuing the ancestry research, mostly focussed on my great Grandfather Herbert. One of the saddest things was finding out his medals were auctioned back in 1997. I don’t know how they got into a doctor’s private collection or where they ended up but I feel upset that they are in the hands of someone who only sees them as a pieces of metal. He was born on the Army Barracks, joined the same regiment as his Father and Uncle at the age of 14, served all over the globe for 21 years, seeing battle in the Boer war in two of the bloodiest battles in what must be considered a black era in British history and being among the first to rejoin following the outbreak of the Great War. There is so much to discover and this is only but a part of the story. At the moment I feel lost in the details and the wealth of information available but I am sure we will make some sense of it all.

Tomorrow I have an appointment with my therapist, who will be asking how I am coping with my return to work and I don’t really know what I will say. I hoped the dust would have settled by now, that the unknown endings would be at least be in sight but alas I have upgraded to IOS6 and the map is a little blurry.

251/365

We started the day off by going over to my Aunties house in Derbyshire to collect a box of family history. It was lovely to see her again as it had been nearly two years and it had been nearly six years since I had been to the house. In this time her lake had matured and looked less like a well meaning scar on the landscape and more like it had been there forever. Jean hadn’t changed very much as she was as welcoming as ever.

The box was extremely large and full of items spanning over a hundred years, just in a jumble together. Photographs, letters and certificates of people I had no real knowledge of. Smiling faces in their Sunday best, living lives I cannot imagine and yet all strangely familiar. I had heard stories about my Great Grandfather David who we have gleaned, spent time in a school for the poor and homeless, he had worked in the ship yards, following the work from Glasgow to Barrow in Furness, who in later life had been quite a character. To stare him in the face as he looked back from a wedding photograph as a man about my age was actually quite disconcerting, such was the familiarity. It was a kind, proud face, well that is how it looked to me.

On my Grandmother’s side I had been told that her Father was killed at the Somme. This wasn’t something I remember being told, even though my Father and I toured all around there on motorcycles. To tour without that knowledge of connection has left me feeling a little empty, the fact, as is apparent from letters we now hold, that his body was never buried and that he was still out there, makes me want to go right now and pay my respects. Linda read out a letter that was sent in January 1917 from a friend that so eloquently conveyed the great loss of a great man that I want to discover RSM Herbert Goulding for myself. The description of the conditions recorded in the regimental history was beyond horrendous and my Great Grandfather received a Military Cross posthumously. There is no indication from the box as to why it was awarded and I think that needs to be addressed. Linda has been delving and sorting throughout the day, there is certainly plenty to keep us going for the foreseeable future.

Tomorrow is another action packed day, I have to up at 0500 to go to work and then have an appointment with the consultant, where hopefully I will discover if I will ever get my tricep back and whether he is agreeable for me to restart archery. I don’t know whether to cross my fingers or not as I still haven’t processed the mixed thoughts from Saturday yet.

250/365

Another busy old day in the office, the overnight rain had done its best to destroy the network and as I walked in a tree was falling on a train outside New St station. As  Birmingham expected the massed workforce to make their way in, the railway infrastructure wasn’t there to allow them too. I did the noble thing and manned the Short term planning desk and kept my head down. Not long after, rafts of the Salop lines found themselves flooded and reaffirmed my good decision to continue training on the new schedule input system.

Planning trains isn’t an easy job, planning trains at short notice in between planned trains can be quite frustrating, the system in place to enter these very short term planned moves has been around for five decades and relies upon  programming code, knowledge of railway geography and a lot of guesswork. These days the vagaries of guesswork and poor planning are punished. Every delay is someone’s fault, every delay costs money and faults and costs need avoiding wherever possible. There are also the instances where long term planning hasn’t managed to find a valid path for requests, these requests are hidden under the table and then faxed through at the last moment in the hope that someone else gets the blame for it going wrong.

So enter an all singing and dancing system, designed by experts to take away the guesswork and geography using clever algorithms and shit like that. I tried it before my failed flying lesson on New Town Row and it was pants, pants to the point of the tutor not getting the system to load at all, another attempt saw it load then crash. So I was interested to see how it had developed over seven months.

On the whole I was pretty impressed, it looks very pretty and the page is fairly well thought out for something not designed by the people who use it. There are a number of advantages in that you can work on more than one request at a time and it isn’t as easy to delete hours of work by pressing the wrong key. It is fairly intuitive and actually works out how much time to add, which will save me a lot of paper. It seems the problem was the geography and guesswork issues, it can’t do them, take them away and it is fine. It is a lot slower than the old system on the easy requests but I think it leads to a more accurate result, as long as you can guess how much time is required and where you are. I love progress, it is great.

I will continue looking at the system tomorrow as I am covering the job on Friday, even more so after the weather forecast overnight.

Tomorrow we are off to collect a file of family history stuff to continue the research into the family tree. I am looking forward to getting a few questions answered and progressing further back, the relatively recent history is more difficult than the older stuff as it relies upon memories rather than fact, a number of which have already proven incorrect. It is actually very interesting and a whole lot less dangerous than bicycle acrobatics