Wednesday, October 19

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2016 #1

I always enjoy cycling more when I've got a motive, whether that's the need to get somewhere and the bike is the only way of getting there, or whether it's just a lovely day and I can have a WHOLE day out - I'm not so good at getting out for shorter rides.

So I've decided to join in with this "coffeeneuring" challenge (details here, Oct. 7th to November 20th) which I came across on this (anniebikes) cycling blog I've recently started following. Basically it's about cycling and drinking coffee or tea. What's not to like?! I'm doing it as a way of making myself get out for short, but more frequent, bike rides during the next few weeks. I'll no doubt need another challenge after that to keep me going throughout the winter! It also means that when I eat that naughty something with my coffee or tea I can at least say "Well I've just used enough calories cycling here to justify it!"

This morning's trip, then, was down to a nearby lake at Baulking, which was until a few years ago a fuller's earth mine. I made coffee in my insulated Thermos cup and took it with me, along with a chocolate Hob Nob - currently on offer in Sainsbury's. I've never used the cup much so didn't know how well it would retain the heat. [NB - we did not choose this awful grey/green Formica! Or the tiles. Or the cupboards. But still, I can put up with them. Just.]

When the mining operation was closed down they planted lots of trees round what is now the lake, and there are footpaths through them. I got quite close to the lake with my bike but then came to a kissing gate, so locked it up to the fence and walked the rest of the way to the lake.

The photos are terrible. I don't know whether that's my camera or me, although I do know that there is a problem either with the camera, the charger or the battery as the battery went dead on me despite being newly charged.

So this is a grotty photo of the view across the lake. In the distance you can see White Horse Hill. Don't ask me what that grey splodge is.....

On the lake there are geese, swans and ducks. And apparently something called Blue Algae which can be dangerous, so the signs say, if you come into contact with it.

Unfortunately there are no benches to sit on and of course the grass was wet, so I just stood here and drank my coffee, which was warm rather than hot. But still, it made a lovely change from drinking it at home. And it was a good job I'd put the cup in a plastic bag (that's the white thing in the pic) and kept it upright in my panniers as it had leaked. Probably need a proper flask rather than one of these cups. This was where I stopped.

I then walked all round the lake and struggled a bit to find my way back to my bike. I am a bit inclined to get lost (probably older siblings kept telling me to when I was a child and it went very deep psychologically - certainly older sister and then boyfriend-now-husband bribed me with money for ice lollies to get lost!) but I don't really mind. Getting lost can be quite beneficial, and this morning I was in no particular rush to be anywhere so didn't mind getting mildly lost.

Because of the dodgy camera battery I didn't get the pic of my bike as proof that I'd actually cycled here (there are Rules for this challenge!) but the ride is on Strava so if anyone disputes my claim then I'll tell them to look on there.

I was going to cycle home doing a circuit of 6 or 7 miles but as it was such a lovely day I made it a longer circuit of 12 miles or so.


Tuesday, October 4

I'm back! with a black Singer 201

Hello again!

We moved in to our new house a few weeks ago, after spending the best part of two months getting rid of stuff we didn't need. Downsizing is hard work, but, as many people said to me, very liberating - getting rid of stuff you don't need. We gave it away to charity shops, sold lots on Gumtree, and had a permanent sale in our garage. On the day we moved, for some reason the three tier cake tin (very 1960s retro, had been my mum's) was one thing that I hadn't packed. Being fed up with packing, I looked at with a sigh and thought - "Do we really need cake tins?" Answer - only if you eat cake! So then the question was, of course, "Do we need cake?". Well no, not really, or if one does WANT cake then one can just buy it occasionally, and one hardly needs cake storage tins just for the occasional cake. I know there's nothing like home made cake and I like it as much as the next person, but it's an interesting question isn't it - do we need cake? And guess what, if you don't bake cakes then you can get rid of all your baking tins too!!! Or maybe just keep baking sheets for scones and muffins and fairy cakes. Imagine how much space that would free up in your kitchen! My imagination started to run away with me about all the things we don't really need. Tell me your thoughts on this!

So here we are, back in the house we left nearly 32 years ago.  When we were here before there was a Rayburn in the kitchen and open fire in the sitting room. Now there is oil fired central heating, and an inset woodburning stove has been put in for us. Husband enjoyed the man thing of lighting it for the first time....  Oh and we also have double glazed PVC windows, which I hate on principal (I believe that you can get wooden ones that are just as good and they'd be more environmentally friendly) but they are fantastic at keeping out the draughts. I have always been amazed too at how they keep out all sound. I first realized this when I used to clean a house nearby where they had been installed. I wondered why you couldn't hear any birds. So here I tend to open a window just to hear the sound of outside. In our old house you could hear the birds and the wind and horses clip clopping up the hill without needing to do that!

Although we lived here before I had forgotten how light it is compared to our old house. It faces south, whereas our old house faced west. We thought we might find it a huge wrench leaving the house we'd lived in for so long, but in fact we both loved it here immediately and were glad we made the move. Although we are only a mile away and I have been along a lot of the footpaths round here before there are lots of different circuits we can do for walks, so it actually seems like a whole new area. Having said that, I peeped in at our old garden the other day, and did feel a bit sad when I thought of our children playing in it, and all the parties they'd had there. The house is now for sale, and is described as a "dream cottage"!!!!! It will no doubt be bought by someone very rich who will get rid of the draughty windows and put in central heating and do some very major alterations and extensions. I'd like to be there to say "No, don't do that, do this!" I used to dream about how I'd alter it if it was ours. Letting go.....

Husband chainsawed down seven huge conifers at the bottom of our new garden, which obstructed the view beyond. I have pruned several of the overgrown bushes and pulled lots of ivy out of the front border. I think I'd completely lost my gardening mojo in the old house - recently I had done less than when we had all four children at home - so it's lovely to get it back! 

Before we moved, I was browsing in my favourite charity shop in Wantage, which regularly gets sewing machines in, and saw a Singer 201 in a table. It was one of the brown ones so anyone who knows their 201s will know that that means it's the "new" shape. I have actually already got a "portable" one, which I bought a few years ago in fantastic condition, and have also got a treadle 201, but I quite fancied doing up another one, as you do once you've got the bug.... The table had been painted and the machine inside was filthy and the electrics looked as if they would need replacing. It was £50 and then got reduced to £30, but I resisted the temptation. Last week it was still there!

However, while browsing again just before we moved, they had another 201, but this time in black, again in the new shape, and in a nicer table and in better condition. I asked them to hold it for me and meanwhile off I went to the library with the serial number to do some googling. Apparently the black ones in the new shape are more sought after than the brown ones, and as it was in a table I thought that although I have acquired (free) a smaller table for my sewing it might be even more useful to have a machine in its own table.

So I bought it and here it is after cleaning.

It is in good condition, including the decals, and all it really needed was a good clean. Everything had moved OK when I turned the wheel in the shop.

I took off - the faceplate, the tension mechanism, the bobbin case, the foot and the feed dogs, the handwheel, the bobbin winder and also the tension discs that you use when winding the bobbin, the gear covers underneath, the plate at the back that opens to reveal the inside, and the stitch length mechanism. I read recently of someone else who refurbishes old machines who does one bit of the machine at a time, so that she doesn't have too many bits off the head at one time, thus risking not remembering where everything goes. But I prefer to take everything off at once, and the way I remember what everything is and where it goes is to wrap up the parts and screws for each bit and label them, and put them into those little plastic bags of the type that come with spare buttons in (I save them!).

The inside of the head had quite a lot of grease in, in places where you wouldn't expect it to be. My method of cleaning was to take the head outside and spray it inside with a mixture of paraffin and sewing machine oil, which is recommended in the files of the Yahoo Vintage Singer Group that I'm a member of. I left it overnight and cleaned off as much of the dirt and old grease as I could the next day with a brush and cloths.

The small parts I had put to soak in jars of paraffin, and cleaned them off afterwards with old cloths, scraping away at fiddly bits with a screwdriver wrapped in cloth. Bigger bits, like the faceplate, I cleaned with Autosol metal cleaner. I also used this on the outside of the head and it's done a pretty good job.

The task of putting it all back together was a trifle daunting, even though I've done it before. I have memories of taking things apart when I was young and not being able to get them back together! Fortunately labelling everything helps, and where I did get stuck, with the tension mechanism, it was because I had a piece the wrong way round, but with the help of the manual and a useful blog - useful for many old Singer things, but in particular for telling you all about the 201's tension mechanism - I got it all back together and working. The photos on the blog are really clear and I find the text easy to understand.

Anyway I got it back together. Now for the electrics. These do need replacing, and while I dare say I could do it, it would take me ages to teach myself how, and be certain that I wasn't doing something dangerously wrong, and so I am going to have it done by a professional, in this case Tom Dilley  in Swindon. Once it's done I'll have to decide which of my two electric 201s is the more useful to me, this one or the table top one, and thus which I am going to keep.

Below is the table, a "library" table, that the machine came in. They came in different woods and I've yet to find out which wood mine is.

Meanwhile, I have decided that the treadle 201 will have to go. I bought this a couple of years ago and got it cleaned and running well. I liked the idea of using a treadle machine - having both hands free but not using electricity, but I have now decided that that isn't going to happen. If we had the space we had in the old house I would have kept it, but here there isn't room along with the electric Singer 201 and Bernina 801, so it has to go. I'll be putting it on Ebay once I've re-oiled it and taken some decent photos. (So if you're interested......) I bought it from its original owner, a Latvian lady in High Wycombe, who had lived in Glasgow and whose husband bought it new for her in the 1940s.

And a bit more on sewing machines.  Before we moved I had a good think about which ones I wanted to keep, knowing we hadn't got the space in our new house to keep ones I wasn't going to use, and I gave away my great-grandmother's Jones Family CS machine on Freegle. I wasn't using it and as neither of my daughters wanted it I thought it better to give it to someone who would use it. The lady who collected it was giving it to her daughter. I also sold the Featherweight that I had bought on Gumtree a few years ago and had never got round to refurbishing. I decided that I was never really going to use it in preference to my other machines so the best thing was to sell it. 

So the machines I am keeping are - one of the two electric Singer 201s, my Bernina 801, and a hand cranked Singer 66, which I had originally got free (by asking on what was then Freecycle) and refurbished. I definitely wanted to keep a hand cranked machine and I kept this latter one in preference to the Jones as that was a long bobbin model, whereas the 66 uses the same bobbins as my other Singers. 

Here's my new sewing space, a mere corner of a room instead of a whole room as I had before! I do also have space upstairs as well (in the tiny bedroom that 33 years ago housed our firstborn) to store fabric. But it works very well, and what I love about it is being able to see out of the front window onto the road so I can keep an eye on the comings and goings of the neighbours or whoever else passes by. The cat is quite at home in her new surroundings and has made that spot on the windowsill hers, and is coping very well with the neighbouring cats, of which there are at least 6 within 50 yards or so. She's not as fat as she looks in the photo - she's actually quite small!

And now on a different subject, that of books. Brenda, of Cycling in the Sixth Decade, kindly sent to me the three books below on the left. The one on the right is a library book. They are exactly my sort of reading matter and I have now nearly finished all three. Others who have read them have left their names in the front. I think this is a great idea - it's like Bookcrossing I suppose which I have heard of but never participated in. So here's the offer - only to UK residents I'm afraid - if you think you'd like to be next to read these three books then leave a comment saying so and I'll pick someone to send them to next. I haven't got thousands of readers so you stand a good chance of getting them!

Till next time......


Friday, August 19

Can I do 65 miles in a day? Or will it be a call of shame.....(with pics this time!)

Let's just backtrack a bit, if you don't mind!  Husband finally managed to bluetooth my photos  across from the old phone to his new phone, and from there to the PC. Isn't modern life complicated sometimes.... The first one is at Windrush, near Burford, where I stopped for lunch on my first day. I just put this one in as it's the best one I've got of what I was carrying on my bike. Incidentally another last minute decision before leaving home the day before was to carry the rucksack (on the bench) my Deuter speed lite 5 litre, rather than using my home made cotton drawstring one which I normally stuff in my panniers and then just take out and carry when necessary. It was all to do with freeing up space. I thought I might find I got sweaty with it on my back, but in fact it was fine and didn't bother me at all.

My beast of burden

Now here is the campsite at Aston Somerville, a few miles south west of Broadway, called Manor Farm Glamping, where I stayed the first night. As you can see I was most definitely not in the glamping bit, but the wild camping bit. I knew very little about campsites before I went, and found this one just by searching the internet. It was £10 a night.

My pitch

Compost toilet straight ahead, washing facilities (with shower) on the right, my pitch over to the left.

Now on to my ride home.

I'd asked for breakfast as early as possible today, which was 7.15, and was up about an hour before. I didn't sleep as well as the night before – the kind of tiredness you get from wandering round the NEC all day obviously doesn't make for as good a night's sleep as cycling/awful camping/more cycling did on my first night there! I polished off the same breakfast again, and left about 8.30. As I was attending to my bike outside the B and B the same Mature Redditch Lady I had spoken to at the bus stop the day before passed by, walking her dog, and we chatted again.

Then it was off down the road opposite, towards Sambourne, and very soon I was on the West Midlands Cycle Route. It was chilly but promised to be a lovely day, although it was still windy. The first few miles I was sailing along thinking “Oh isn't this lovely!” - the countryside was beautiful, particularly where the road crossed over a ford at Coughton. Some dogs rushed into the lovely clear water, swam around and then ran off again to find their owner, who probably didn't realize that I was there or he would have done his business a little more least he had his back to me. 

The ford at Coughton

The route passed over a footbridge, where I followed it to Great Alne and then I left it and headed south towards Welford-on-Avon, Long Marston and Mickleton. As usual I went a bit wrong and did two or three extra miles as a result. I thought -

Better not do that too often or I really won't make it home today....”

I'd resolved not to stop properly before I'd got 20 miles under my belt. I did have a banana break and a salted peanuts break, but that was all and I was sorely tempted to stop for coffee before this as there were several enticing signs to cafes. I even resisted the temptation to branch off a short distance to Hidcote Gardens, not that I'd have paid to go into the gardens – I just thought there might be a very nice National Trust cafe there with, you know, very nice facilities.

I actually stopped after 22 miles in a little village called Ebrington (Gloucestershire - by that time I wasn't sure which county I was in so checked with the lady watering the hanging baskets) where I had coffee in a pub garden – and what a lovely garden it was too! 

Pub garden at Ebrington

 I'm sure it was as good as Hidcote would have been..... Good coffee too, and in a nice mug! By then I'd already used hedgerow facilities so didn't need the pub's. As I was pausing down the road afterwards to text Husband to let him know where I was (as pre-arranged), two cyclists appeared and I saw them looking down the hill at me and joking - 

Well she's looking at her compass so she's lost too!” (Compass? No, my ancient Nokia.)

I called back that I wasn't lost! They boasted that they'd got maps. I said I'd got maps too so na na ne na na!

Beefore I pootled off again they called out, kindly -

So you're not lost then, you're all right?”

Yes thank you, just texting my husband to let him know I'm not lost!”

By then it was warm and sunny, though that pesky wind was still there, and I cycled off on my way towards Moreton-in-Marsh. I came across the two cyclists again, sitting on a bench, and they said -

Are you sure you're not lost?!”

No, just checking my map!”

Then we chatted a bit. They were working out a route for a bike event, and were quite impressed when I told them about my ride. They pootled off again, arguing a bit, and adding -

We're like an old couple – we always bicker!”

Then I did get lost........ and finally gave in to technology and to save any more lost time (pardon the pun!) I turned on the GPS to find out where I was. Having sorted myself out, I turned round and cycled back, only to pass the two cyclists again! This time they were sat outside a pub having lunch and they called out -

You ARE lost aren't you!”

Well I was but I'm not now!”

Not long after this I stopped to obey the call of nature again. I climbed over a gate into a field, did my business behind the hedge, and then got the shock of my life. No, not someone watching me, or a bull approaching, but literally the shock of my life! For some reason I had put my hand on the fence wire......not realizing it was electrified!! Quite a jolt to say the least. There was no warning sign – I suppose there didn't have to be as it wasn't by a footpath, but all the same I did think that maybe the farmer out of the kindness of his heart could have labelled it, just to be nice to potential climbers-over-his-gate-and-users-of-his-hedge.

Just before Moreton-in-Marsh there was quite a long hill - 600 feet of elevation to be precise. I did do quite well in getting up hills on this ride generally, although I wasn't averse to giving up and pushing either. The wind by then was VERY strong and it was quite tough going. I was very glad when I finally reached the top, although because of the wind I found I was still pedalling when I should have been freewheeling. That weather expert of mine told me later that the winds might well have been up to 30 mph.

I spotted a Budgen's supermarket just near the junction where I came into Moreton-in-Marsh, and made a beeline for it. I really wanted cherries again and thought they were bound to have some nice English ones as we were not far from the fruit growing area, i.e. the Vale of Evesham, where I'd got my lovely freshly picked ones at Boston Farm, but would you believe it they only had SPANISH ones! How stupid, I thought, and refused to buy them. Too many food miles. Instead I bought a punnet of ENGLISH strawberries. Then I spotted the hot cooked chicken counter, and thought that I could very happily gnaw on some drumsticks, so bought a couple of those, and then got some freshly squeezed orange juice and a bottle of water. I'm putting in this foodie detail because I find it very interesting knowing what other people eat, or don't eat, when they are cycling, or running. I read a fascinating book recently by the ultra runner Scott Jurek all about his vegan diet. Not that I have any desire to go vegan.

And the reason for eating the salted peanuts earlier was because our next door neighbour, who is one of those cyclists who does MILES AND MILES every day, had recently done a 200 miler (nutter!) and got cramp near the end of the ride, but had solved the problem with salted crisps and Coke and finished the ride. As I have a tendency to get cramp anyway I thought eating salted peanuts would be a good idea. And I didn't get cramp.

I relaxed on a bench in the middle of the main street, eating the chicken and some of the strawberries, drinking the juice, and doing a bit of people watching. Moreton-in- Marsh was a handy place for me to refuel and rest, but like Bourton-on-theWater on my first day, it's spoilt in the summer by all the cars.


Then it was off into the wind and sun again towards Milton-under-Wychwood. If I'd had time I would have gone through Adlestrop rather than just skirting round it, as Edward Thomas's words were going round my head – Oh come on, let's have a poem, it's not very long -

Yes, I remember Adlestrop
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop -- only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

As it was, I, like Edward Thomas, only saw the name.

Did he see willow-herb in “late June”? If he meant Rose Bay Willow Herb, it's actually flowering now, in August.

It was pretty hot by now and when I saw a sprinkler at the side of the road I thought

Well how kind of someone to provide a passing hot cyclist with a nice cooling shower!”

Can you see the water jets just there on the left?

and I dashed through it a couple of times, before riding off again much refreshed. Actually it was there to water the verge which I thought was ridiculous. What a waste of water! It also seemed to be watering the road as much as the verge! Verges won't exactly die from lack of water. But this was probably a bit belonging to someone rather rich who clearly didn't want his verge brown.

By the way, on this day I did so enjoy the sights and smells and sounds of harvest - the smell of freshly cut corn, the chugging noise and dust from the combines, the tractors hauling trailer loads of straw. It all seems so familiar, even though Husband has not worked on the farm since 2003. He says he sometimes misses the work, but not the long hours. Now he knows when he starts (7 am) and when he finishes (3.30). It's a rare day when he has to work an extra hour in the warehouse, and he can map out his days off for months ahead. It's hard physical work though and there's that thing of - are the workers achieving their rate? No? Well why not? Work a bit harder even if you are already working as hard as age and health permit! (even though some don't.....) It's just like in the Amazon warehouses.There's a cost to cheap food in the supermarket.....

I paused again at Kingham, for more strawberries and juice. And then it was pretty much on into Burford, another oh so pretty village utterly spoilt by cars. I wouldn't want to live there, especially in the summer. Here they are, blocking both lanes, at the top of the very steep hill I'd just pushed up and where I stopped for yet more refreshments. My supplies were now getting low but I reckoned I had enough to get me home.

Cars blocking the road both ways at Burford

Now I was beginning to feel that I was really getting near home, as I only had about another 20 miles to go. I can't believe I'm writing that as only a few years ago I thought I was doing well to cycle 5 miles into our local town, and back! 

I skirted round Carterton, and came south through Clanfield (stopped to dig deep into all pockets and polish off almost all of my last bits of food) and Faringdon, still with very strong winds, and finally - home at 8 pm, 11 1/2 hours since I'd left Redditch. 66.7 miles, the furthest I've ever done in a day. Then straight into the shower. Husband dished up food for me, and then I just about managed to clean my teeth before collapsing into bed.

I was really pleased not only to have made it home but to have done so without experiencing the bonk. I think I've learnt a lot about what to eat and what not to eat on a long ride.

And now I can't wait to go on another tour.......

I hope you've enjoyed reading this!