My name is Aiden and I am a Cyclist.

There are very few situations in normal society where you are expected to look out for the incompetence of others and if someone else gets it wrong you are responsible for the result.

The victim is usually a very normal person going about his lawful business, cruelly interrupted by the inconvenience of killing, maiming or injuring a cyclist. After all cycling is an outdated mode of transport, only weirdo’s and perverts ride bikes (unless winning the nation a bag of medals at worldwide sporting events). Despite lip service being paid to cycling as a viable, healthy and sustainable transport method, these lips disguise a forked tongue. Getting more people on bikes without providing a safe infrastructure and legislation is akin to feeding Grouse in July.

How can it be right that you can use the sun as an excuse for running someone down? How can it be right that you can use the dark as an excuse for running someone down? How can it be right that you can confuse a cyclist with a pot hole? How can it be right to not stop because you thought you hit an animal. In fact it seems less politically correct to not stop after hitting a defenseless bunny that squishing a cyclist. Last year, or was it the year before, a taxi driver got away with killing a cyclist who was mounted on his bonnet. The taxi only stopped after colliding with a tree, no doubt the cyclist obstructed his view therefore causing the tree unnecessary duress.

Of course there are answers to the growing problem of the popularity of cycling. One would be to spend some money on the infrastructure to allow two differing societies to co-exist, after all a white line is scant protection when compared to 42 tonnes of lorry, even more ridiculous is allowing 13 tonnes of public transport to share that protective white line but it is pretty cheap when compared to concrete bollards or even a couple of courses of bricks.

You could scare the motorised road user with the prospect of getting bummed in the showers of a detention centre but in reality, there is a long queue for the soap on a rope in her majesty’s hotels and let’s face it killing or injuring a cyclist is pretty low down on the list of important stuff like bunnies and kittens (unless it is a policeman, or a saint, or someone who counts). As cyclists, by virtue of being on the road we are asking for what we get. Mr Clarkson (an employee of the British Broadcasting Corporation) is allowed to use taxpayers money to prove how worthless we are as a sub class but to be fair, he is also a racist, a sexist and a xenophobe at our expense, so at least he is a balanced bigot. However, even if his big fat tongue is firmly in his big fat cheek in his big fat head, there are people out there who swallow his bile, I know this for a fact, I have to use the road with them on a daily basis. We are told to set an example to our children, wear your helmet or your child won’t, eat your greens or your child will die of bursting, Pick on cyclists so that you can reign over the metalled surfaces on the United Kingdom.

The real issue is that cycling went out of fashion for a couple of decades, in those years the car came to the fore utilising a largely Victorian network which was never going to cope when cars caught on for real. At the same time important people realised there was a niche to exploit, with minimal outlay they could fleece “hard working families”, centralise industry, reduce public transport and all the support systems they relied upon. People had to travel further to earn their money and those earning the better money were better than those staying local and earning less. Pretty soon those working locally threw their bikes away and got cars to prove they weren’t shit. Soon after that parents decided that they would look cheap if the didn’t take their children to school in their motorised status symbols.

Of course the less spent on that road network the more money the important people made. Instead of investing in integrated systems, they did what they could to disintegrate them and increase their wealth. Then the gridlock, lack of freedom and general unhealthy nature of sitting in a box, bit them on the arse, this coupled with gold medals and national pride resulted in a resurgence of cycling for a reason. Suddenly commuting and cycling were cool and healthy and hip and the governments couldn’t really dissuade people from partaking or they would look like knobs. However as it is better to be a rich knob that a poor dude.They tacitly agreed with cycling but without actually doing anything to assist it. Therefore it is far better to demonise those that do, rather than vilify those that don’t. Rather than stumping up the cash or legislating to enforce improvement they choose to pillorise the victims of their inaction. How difficult would it be to force any new developers into providing a safe network as part of their planning proposals, or for any road renewals to include separate infrastructure for non motorised use? It wouldn’t be difficult it just wouldn’t be as profitable. There isn’t any money to be had and a healthier lifestyle and would reap less profit from the heath service, aside from in major trauma industry.

Anyway, tome over, This week appears to be road safety week, and it is working. The A34 wasn’t closed at Perry Barr, neither was the M6,. Those nice chaps at the West Midlands Police decided to tweet some helpful tips and Her Majesty’s Press at the West Midlands Beeb did an in depth report on cycling, worthy of Tom Heap from Countryfile, . Stay safe, stop and give way, wear your helmet, use your lights, not small ones mind, they don’t count. Not big ones mind, they blind law abiding road users, Use Goldilocks lights, they are the best, not too bright, not too dim, just right.  When you have finished, have a little nap, you are well safe in a bus lane, nothing nasty will happen as you have a white line to protect you.

Helmets; I wear a helmet, I regularly change my helmet and I have an expensive head, so I wear an expensive helmet. I have smashed two into oblivion. Well I smashed one and a Mondeo driver smashed the other but that is being obtuse. I am a fan of helmets, mine is a limited edition as used by a few of the world tour teams, It looks ace and makes me look amazing but I am the first to admit it would be fuck all use if my bus lane sharing 13 tonne mate decided to run me over. My first destroyed helmet didn’t save me from a broken back and my second didn’t save me from a destroyed elbow. Helmets don’t save lives, not having incidents saves lives. Not being put in situations; saves lives.

I will tell you another thing that saves lives, sticking as best you can to the laws of the road. This includes not jumping red lights, this includes stopping and giving way, it also includes using not mobile phones, not wearing seatbelts and not speeding. However these issues don’t count because decent law abiding citizens do them. Politicians, Police Officers, Solicitors, Media stars, Footballers, they all transgress these stupid outdated laws. Some even manage to tweet about these matters whilst driving, now that is proper multitasking.

I ask any of you who have got this far, to take notice of how many cyclists jump red lights tomorrow and how many car drivers blast through on red. It is the same offence, committed in a different manner and just as wrong in both instances. I ask you to observe how many cyclists ride without lights and how many cars drive on sidelights in a 40mph or above, or with fog lights on. How many bike riders are on their phone compared to motorists at the wheel or even those without seatbelts compared to those riders without helmets. Finally compare how many cyclists are breaking the speed limit compared to motorists, whilst also considering the prospective damage they could individually do. We all break the law so don’t get prissy when someone breaks a law you care about, this is called hypocrisy, so suck it in and lets get on with all arriving safely where we wanted to get to.

In this last paragraph I wish to announce that my omission does not absolve a wrong doing. If my lights aren’t bright enough, this isn’t an excuse to kill me. If I am not wearing a helmet it doesn’t give a reason to run me over. If I am not wearing hi visibility clothing it doesn’t absolve you from driving in a responsible manner. For reporters in the Coventry area, if you are hit from behind, you didn’t collide with a car, it HIT YOU and the burden of guilt isn’t on the cyclist for having lights, considered by an expert, to be a bit small, it is on the driver for being negligent. If the road narrows and you can’t overtake me, it isn’t my fault for your misjudgment. If you are really late for work and I am only doing 25mph in a 30mph, it isn’t my fault the important people didn’t provide a safe infrastructure for us to use or that you failed to set the appropriate time on your alarm clock. Get over yourself and leave me alone.

I promise to pay the bearer

The Plastic Hippo

Money

Like hearts, dreams, ambitions, mobile phones and the best wine glasses kept at the back of the cupboard for special occasions, promises are easily broken. There is a long and contemptuous tradition of politicians promising all manner of goodies to a gullible electorate without ever having any intention of coming up with the goods. When challenged to explain the failure to deliver pie-in-the-sky promises, the rulers with more ambition than heart usually ignore the awkward questions or sometimes talk of a change in circumstances or trot out the tired excuse that the promise was misunderstood by stupid voters.

The hilarious shambles in the House of Commons over the vote to have a vote on not having a vote to vote to enact a bill to re-adopt the European Arrest Warrant is just the latest farce in a long line of duplicitous wriggling that stretches back to the Stone Age. This…

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But is it Art?

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Linda and I travelled down to London today to visit the Tower of London as the “Tower of London Remembers, ” fittingly closes on November 11th. It was ironic that today was the day BBC Radio 5 chose to have a heated debate on the merits of filling the Tower moat with a Sea of Red which was a reflection of the 888,000 men who lost their lives in the Great War.

I hadn’t actually considered that some would be outraged or disgusted at the tribute but the Radio 5 listeners often surprise me. I hadn’t actually considered that using art to commemorate the sacrifices made was bad form, In fact my memory abounds of many using creative media to report, explain, understand or exorcise. I haven’t read much poetry in my life but I was given a pocket book of Siegfried Sassoon poetry as a small boy by my Mother “because it was important” and I remember that among the first films my Father bought after obtaining a Bell & Howell 8mm projector was “Wings over the Western Front”.  The flickering black and white images offered in silence were poignant statements, the lyrical words emphasised the horror; 888,000 poppies rammed home the sheer volume of lost life.  What other way would there be to show what 888,000 looks like? Each poppy a person, each poppy a telegram, each poppy a wake of despair and a future irrevocably changed. Art? Maybe. Brutal? definitely. Fitting? absolutely.

We managed to find a reasonably quiet spot, near Traitors Gate, to take a moment to reflect. I’m in no way religious and I believe that those who wish for war should be the first into the melee, rather than barking orders from a safe distance but the words of the poem that is rolled out every Remembrance Sunday echoed around my head. “They shall not grow old as we grow old, ….Age shall not weary them, … They sleep beyond England’s foam.”

Somewhere in that moat was my Great Grandfather, he didn’t make it back across the foam in any manner. Lost forever in the mud of the Somme. I picked a Poppy, it seemed brighter than the rest, that was him. I shared a moment in the pouring rain and considered what had been and what could have been, for things were certainly very different for those he left behind. I then looked across the “bloodswept land” and tried to take in the 888,000 futures that could have been.

There are plenty of ways to dispute the validity of war. There are plenty of ways to show anger at a system and plenty of ways to try and push a twisted vision of patriotism  The Poppy isn’t one of them it is as it was meant to be, an icon of Remberance.

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Disgusted of Chipping Norton

The Plastic Hippo

Image via upr.fr Image via upr.fr

There can be few things as unintentionally funny as witnessing a conman bluster manufactured outrage after being accused of being a conman and then proven to be a conman. The usual defence of indignant silence when presented with evidential facts goes out of the window once the game is up. When the stock response to being caught red handed is not to dignify sordid allegations of being bang to rights with a rebuttal will not work, then the only course of action is to summon up carefully rehearsed apoplectic fury.

David Cameron`s tub-thumping lectern abuse in Brussels on Friday was not just hilarious, but also smacked of a chocolate covered kid denying he had stolen the Mars Bar. To be fair to the Chipping Norton conman, being presented with an unexpected bill for nearly £1.7billion would make any of us bang the table and search out someone…

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Midge Mk2 build diary. (chassis work complete)

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After what seems like an age, the rejuvenating of the SJ chassis is complete. Anything that is still rusty in the pictures is being replaced by new bits so no thinking I’m being slapdash.IMAG0094 IMAG0069

Connor had a lesson in making fuel lines and I set about the painful task of cutting the stainless steel braided fuel line. The final job was to give everything a good clean with Bilt Hamner Surfex HD and the jetwash. This included the drive which has suffered a real hammering over the last few weeks. I am smugly happy with the finished job and looking back at pre clean up photos it is hard to believe how far it has come on.

As Connor has finished college for a while, I have taken the coming week off work so that we can start the bodywork and I really can’t wait; so I didn’t. The first job was to seal the floor from the elements using a concoction of PVA glue and Wilkinsons exterior wood and metal paint as suggested by John Cowperthwaite in his car build manual. I was a little less than convinced but there is no denying the finished panels look amazing. I mixed the glue and undercoat and applied it with an emulsion roller over the plywood which had been pretreated with watered down PVA. The resulting textured effect was very pleasing. After being allowed to dry properly I finished with a couple of coats of satin black applied with a gloss roller. I tested the strength of the finish with my fingernail and the fingernail lost, who needs emery boards when you have a Midge floor?

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So that is where we are. Tuesday the interesting work starts for real, I will try and update my blog daily but if I can’t the pictures should make it to Twitter with monotonous frequency at @aideym