Sunday, April 19

Cycling, corona virus, and decorating....

I have been meaning to write a post for weeks - I think the longer I go without writing the harder it is to get back into it, but I don't intend giving up. From the beginning of November until the last week of February, every spare minute was taken up with decorating our kitchen, but more of that later.

Over the winter I have kept cycling, but mostly just for transport, as the weather was not exactly conducive to pleasure rides.... It was so wet that several of our club rides were cancelled. Many local roads were flooded enough to prevent passage by bicycle. Even when the rides were on I confess I chickened out a couple of times as I just didn't fancy riding in wind and rain, and I do have the excuse that I have to ride nearly 6 miles to the start. I wasn't always the only one who chickened out either!

In fact the last ride I had with our local CUK group was way back in February, when I rode with the 2* group - the next one up from my normal 1* - on a ride to and round Oxford, led by one of the group who knows lots of interesting routes through Oxford. I've done two of these before and they are very interesting. This time we actually rode to Oxford, rather than going there by car and starting from a car park.

As the leader is also bursar of one of the colleges, we were able to have our refreshments within the college. It was an exceptionally warm and sunny day, but also very windy, and on the way back, into the wind, I really struggled to keep going. I ended up having to leave the ride early, for the first time, although in fact it was only about 2 miles earlier than I would have done anyway.  Total mileage for the ride was about 47 miles, over about 6 1/2 hours for me. I know, I know - nothing compared to what some people do. I was only riding a Trek hybrid though, and I am not exactly a spring chicken.... I had worked out from the times advertised before the ride that there wouldn't be very long for lunch, but I was a bit shocked when the call came to set off on the return journey as I had only just managed to finish my sandwiches, and later I simply ran out of the energy to fight the headwind. I hated having to give up, but I told myself that sometimes you just have to admit defeat, and not be ashamed of the fact.

At the end of February, as the corona virus was creeping into the UK, I went by train to Devon to visit Elder Daughter and middle granddaughter, while her Royal Marines husband was away. It was a good job I went when I did, as had I left it any later the travel restrictions would have been brought in, preventing me from going. While I was there I managed a couple of train rides, combined with walks, on the Exe Estuary Trail, otherwise known as NCN Route 2. One day I visited Topsham, a village on the route, and found Route 2 Cafe, and an excellent little bike shop round the corner. I would recommend both. I also found a lovely secondhand bookshop - a house basically, with each room full of books, and all very well organised. There I found a real gem, published in the 1970s, called "England by Bicycle", by Frederick Alderson. I have since discovered that he wrote several other bicycling-related books but I have not been able to find out much about the man himself. Here's an extract -





Methinks that the likes of Strava has taken over from the chart!

As I was walking the Route, I planned to return on my bike, either by cycling all the way down there, or by putting my bike on the train and getting off at Exeter, whence I could cycle the last 10 miles or so of my journey on the Trail. I haven't put my bike on a train since my early twenties (quite a long time ago...) and the tales I read of people who do it nowadays aren't always encouraging, so it remains to be seen whether that will happen.

However, we all know what has happened to our plans this year..... they have all gone awry! We are not used to our lives being disrupted as they have been in the last few weeks. I must admit that whenever in the past I have seen people on the news at airports moaning that their flight has been delayed, cancelled or whatever, and their holiday plans have been ruined, I think - yes, it is disappointing for you but worse things have happened. Life on the whole runs pretty smoothly, especially here in the West, and we should not be surprised that sometimes it doesn't; we can't always have what we want, whether that's a packet of loo rolls (or yeast, at the time of writing!!) or a holiday....

On my return from Devon I came down with what I thought was going to be flu, but wasn't. I know that because I was tested for it in hospital the next day. I had come over hot, sweaty and nauseous and then fainted in front of Husband, he'd called 999 when he couldn't get me to respond, and after I had come round they told me to go to our nearest walk-in centre. I was a bit surprised that they were telling me to do that, as even then (end of February) people were being advised NOT to go to such places if they thought they had the corona virus. I didn't think I had but was clearly infectious with something. I also thought it was a bit over the top, but did what I was told and allowed Husband to take me to hospital in Swindon. They swabbed me - or rather they got me to swab myself  - for flu, and put a mask on me, and then I waited in the waiting room. They also checked my temperature, blood pressure, did a chest x-ray, and did blood tests. My temperature was normal when I got there but I wondered if the paracetamol I had taken had affected this, as later it had risen, but still wasn't high, although I know that my normal temperature is on the low side. The flu test came back negative, and the nurse who told me this also said -

"And you haven't got corona virus either."

It was only in later days that I realized that this must have been just her diagnosis as at that time the virus was not being tested for in hospital labs, and anyway test results were taking days to come back.

I was then allowed to remove the mask, but then sat in the waiting room for 4 hours sneezing and blowing my nose.....! Germs, anyone? The x-ray was fine. The blood tests showed everything was OK too except that I had raised levels of something or other, indicating some sort of virus. After about 4 hours there we came home. Altogether my symptoms were runny nose, sneezing, a cough at night, and aches in my back and legs, for which I took ibuprofen to help me sleep. While these are not typical corona virus symptoms, I do of course wonder now whether that "some sort of virus" might have been it. Within about 2 weeks Husband got a sore throat and sore eyes - both possible symptoms of Covid-19. He didn't feel particularly unwell and they were not symptoms we were told to isolate for. He is still at work, in a Tesco distribution warehouse. 

About 4 weeks after the start of my illness, but after I had recovered fully, I woke up one night with a horrible churning in my stomach and my heart was racing and pounding like never before and I thought - this must be it.... This went on for the next few hours, during which time I was glad that we had not run out of loo paper as I had three trips there in that time, but by the next day, although tired, I was better. Husband and I had both eaten the same things so it wasn't food poisoning.

I have included all this because I know that many people are wondering if something they had earlier in the year, or even last year, was Covid-19, and thought it might be useful to share my/our symptoms. I wish that we could both be tested to see if we have indeed had it.

For me, the new restrictions to life aren't really that bad; the fantastic weather has meant that I have been able to do lots of gardening, which I love. Unfortunately Eldest Son and Wife will not be visiting from Austria this month as was planned, we will not be visiting them in June, as was planned, and we cannot see our grandchildren. Having said that, I was out for my daily exercise one lovely sunny day last week and thought I'd cycle up to the end of  Younger Daughter's road, text her and say - "Can I come and wave to you all at your windows?" And just as I came to a halt - there they were, out for their daily exercise too! So we chatted, at a distance of course, and that made my day!

I am not using the bike to go shopping as often as I would normally do, as I have to make sure that I get enough for a week on one trip, to avoid going to shops too often, and that means using the car. Husband and I are not the types to be going out and doing lots of social things, or eating out a lot, enjoying instead our cycling, walking and (him) paragliding, but I really miss my trips to the charity shops, and my free cup of coffee while people-watching in, or outside, Waitrose! My daily exercise now is more often a walk than a cycle as, strange though it may sound, I rarely cycle purely for the exercise. When I cycle I normally do so either because I need to get somewhere and the bike is my mode of transport, or because I have got a whole day to go out exploring, and cycling is the way I love to do that. I take food, and stopping at a cafe for coffee is always part of the pleasure, but of course that's not possible now. I did actually have another reason for my ride last week, which was to return 2 books, which I had had since last year, to a library in a church a few miles away. Unfortunately it wasn't open, so I hung the books on the door. I then sat on a bench in the churchyard enjoying a flask of coffee and cake, which was later pointed out to me is a bit against the restrictions, but it wasn't as if I was in a busy park.....

Not being able to cycle with my group has again made me think about whether I actually do like  cycling with other people......if anyone from the group happens to read this, it's nothing personal! - I do enjoy the social side. It's simply that cycling in a group is a completely different ball game to cycling alone; it's faster than I would go alone, there isn't the same opportunity to look round, and you can't stop whenever you want for rest or refreshment, or the call of nature - this latter has been know to be quite a cause of concern to me on some rides! Some people simply don't seem to need to go very often as even when we are at a cafe, they don't go! I think they are the same ones who don't drink much either, which follows.... And there are weeks when I can't afford the time to go out for a ride of my choice, as well as a group ride and shopping trips etc.

As to the re-decoration of our kitchen, just to remind you, we lived in this house for 3 years after we got married in 1981, and moved back into it after 32 years in another one a mile along the road. I still miss that old draughty cottage but know it was an eminently sensible decision to move back to this smaller one, and we are very happy here.

Ever since we moved back here, I have hated the brown kitchen cupboards. When we first lived here there were fewer cupboards (and not brown...) but there was a lovely larder, a sensible double drainer sink (one of the criteria on which I would base my choice of kitchen sink would be - is it big enough to bath a baby in?) and a Rayburn. The house was one of four built in the 1970s for farm workers. About 10-15 years ago,  the metal window frames were swapped for PVC double glazed windows, the Rayburn was ripped out and central heating installed, and new kitchen cupboards and a new sink put in. Admittedly that sink is not as bad as even more modern sinks, which are clearly designed with the assumption that EVERYONE these days has a dishwasher (we haven't) and therefore doesn't do much washing up by hand, but it still annoys me.

Anyway, to return to our brown kitchen cupboards. The wall tiles were also brown. The surfaces were a dark bluish grey. The whole kitchen felt dark, but despite thinking about painting the cupboards soon after we came here, I couldn't get round the fact that even if I did the surfaces would still be what to me was a horrible colour, and we couldn't afford to replace them. And how would I pick a colour for the cupboards that was an improvement on the brown, but also co-ordinated with the horrible colour of the surfaces? In the end, my colour choice was brought about by my sitting and looking at the colours on our calendar, and having an ah ha! moment, and then getting matching paint colour strips and sitting with those for ages to see if they felt right. Plus, and this was the big game changer really, I had read about the use of sticky back plastic for covering work surfaces, which meant we could completely change the look of them.

Dark kitchen with untidy shoe shelves on the right




The pile of cookery books on the table was there because I had recently removed the corner shelf,  to the left of that doorway, where I kept them. Ages ago I had also removed strips that went along the top of the cupboards, and the same underneath them. Those small changes had made a difference, but not enough.

This is how it is now - the worktops on the left are covered in the sticky back plastic, which Husband did. The brand is d-c-fix, and this is the one we used, though we got ours from B and Q. He sent me out of the room while he did it, so he could concentrate properly. You have to be careful not to get air bubbles under the plastic, as although you can remove them, it's just better not to get them in the first place. The worktop to the right I decoupaged, using a 30p charity shop Jamie Oliver cookery book! - I've kept the rest of the book! I put 4 coats of varnish on it, ignoring the fact that some people say do 10!!!!





Here's a few more pics - I repainted the tiles twice before I was happy with the colour, ditto with that kickboard, and ditto with the knobs, which replaced the old metal knobs. You may notice that the carved out bits on the drawers have disappeared too; I didn't like them and stuck mountboard over the top, and then Husband made the wooden strip handles to replace the old metal dangly ones.




Doors being painted


The decoupaged worktop, before varnishing -




Notice that bike bits are already appearing....

After varnishing (4 coats).



I even painted the compost bin - previously green. Actually, because I didn't have any primer specifically for plastic, I glued newspaper all over it first and then painted and varnished it. Originally the lid was joined on and it didn't have an inner liner, so I was always having to wash the whole thing out, lid and all, so I cut the lid off, and made an inner easily-washable liner out of an old 1 gallon plastic container.

Compost bin


The untidy shoe shelves have gone - the shoes are now in the cupboard just inside the back door, where we kept them 39 years ago! The cupboard came from the hall. The new shelf was the side of some shelves that Youngest Son gave us. The brackets are the scaffold plank type.




There's another one down the other end, for my cookery books -




I've found that we have to be very careful about what we plonk down on the newly covered surfaces. I put an old tin opener, blade down, on it, and it caused slight damage. But having to be careful is a small price to pay for something that has made such a difference.

Just about everything downstairs has been changed or moved around! Husband always hates it when I start changing things around; if I don't know exactly what I'm going to do next, e.g. "So where are you going to put the shoes now?!!"then he thinks I shouldn't do it, but I find that even if I don't know how I'm going to achieve what I want, once I have made that initial change the way forward becomes clear.

I also painted the walls, in a shade that was only a little lighter than the original colour, but again  made a big difference. I now like walking into our kitchen! When I came back from Devon after those few days away, I thought - ah, lovely! So glad I did it!

Apologies for such a long post! I hope you have enjoyed it....

Wednesday, November 27

Reviews of Torm long sleeved jersey, Rab Kinetic Plus jacket, and Equetec Dressage Briefs

These are three pieces of clothing that I am really glad I bought! Most of my clothes come from charity shops, but occasionally I splash out on something which I want mainly for cycling. I say mainly because in the case of these three only the Torm jersey is specifically for cycling and even that I would be happy to be seen in away from the bike.

So, here we go -

Torm TL8 full zip jersey

I came across these when I was looking at the Cycling UK heritage wool range of jerseys, which are made by Torm. They are made from Merino Sportwool, which is a blend of merino wool and a synthetic fibre. I have got other merino wool garments which have all got moth holes in - I'm hoping that the addition of synthetic fibre might prevent this happening. Hopefully the little blighters will not be so attracted to it. I bought it in the week before my ride home from Derbyshire, panicking slightly that I had no other layer like this (it's both mid and outer) to give me some warmth in the chillier weather. It proved invaluable - it's warm but lightweight, the sleeves are plenty long enough for my long arms, and the three back pockets were really useful. I bought the small size, equivalent to a size 12 although I'm really a size 10, hoping that this would mean I'd have room to wear something underneath, and it's perfect.

I think my only criticism of it is that the zipped pockets are waterproof lined, which I think is a bit unnecessary for a jersey which isn't really intended for wearing as an outer layer in the rain. On one occasion when I had overdressed and got too warm these waterproof linings in the zipped pockets actually got wet with sweat...!

Rab Kinetic Plus jacket

Rab describes this as a "waterproof, lightweight, breathable stretch softshell".

Earlier in the year when my very outdoorsie cycling/running/swimming Elder Son and Daughter-in-Law came to visit, Daughter-in-Law had with her one of these jackets, and Elder Son has one as well. I tried it on and thought it was just what I needed as a lightweight outer layer for perhaps three seasons of the year. They both said that it is the jacket that they wear most, for all activities.

I already had a softshell that I bought from Aldi a while ago, but it is considerably heavier than this Rab one, which folds up into its own stuff sack and weighs a mere 270g (I've weighed mine, and that figure is correct) as opposed to the Aldi one which weighs 350g and takes up a lot more space in my panniers.

Again, it has proved invaluable, both on that trip and ever since. In fact so far this autumn it has been the jacket I have worn on almost every ride; even in pretty cold weather it has given me enough warmth, with appropriate layers underneath. I bought mine from Cotswold Outdoor, where I can get 15% discount as a member of Cycling UK, although I see that they no longer have the lovely sulphur yellow colour I chose. I could have got it cheaper if I'd settled for a colour that wasn't really me, but........I love this colour and it makes me feel cheerful whenever I put it on! Regarding size, my DIL's was a 10 and did fit me, but I decided to order a 10 and a 12 to see which size was best. I settled on the 12, under which I can get more layers, and it is perfect. It doesn't look or feel too big. And once again, the sleeves are plenty long enough for me.

Equetec Dressage Briefs

I can't remember how I came across these but I was probably searching for some padded knickers that were mainly cotton. So many of them are synthetic, and although my other pair are not, being merino wool, they too have suffered from the moth, and also were a lot more expensive. I don't wear padded knickers on all bike rides - it depends how far I'm going and which bike I'm riding. My Trek has a dip in the front of the saddle and I can ride probably 40 miles on that with no padding and without any discomfort, although I don't usually do that sort of distance on it since getting my Koga.

The Koga, however, has a Brooks B67 saddle on it, which has no front dip, and although I can also go a decent distance on it without padded underwear, on longer journeys, or when riding on consecutive days, I like to have some padding. What I particularly about these briefs is that you can choose whether to have the padding just at the front (the Primo version) or at the back as well (the Plus version). I chose the Primo version as that was where I wanted the padding, although if I were riding on consecutive days I would probably alternate between all round padding and front only padding.

One problem is one which, as a seamstress, I could foresee when I got them, and that is that the side seam is beginning to come undone. The seam is not as well sewn as it should have been. I'm going to email the company, with photos, to see what they say. I bought them in February this year.

If you want to read an excellent and very in depth article on female saddle soreness, I would highly recommend this one here on Cycling UK's website. It's wateringly eye-opening!!

And also, on the sock front - I have recently had a couple of enforced trips to Oxford, which doesn't happen very often. Normally I have no desire to go window shopping as it just makes me want stuff I can't afford, or don't need. However, not having been for literally years, on one of these trips I did quite enjoy doing precisely this, and in Uniqlo I discovered these lovely men's socks - there are 99 colours online!!! Guess which colours I picked, thinking of the colour of my Rab jacket..... And although in theory they'd be too big, they fit perfectly, particularly after a wash, whereas I usually find women's standard size 4-7 socks shrink to too small.

I have been doing lots of ordinary cycling too, and in fact tomorrow I am riding with our local CUK group on our usual mid-week ride, and leading it for the first time! I hope we all survive....


Tuesday, October 1

Cycling from Derbyshire to home in Oxfordshire, Part 2

Day 3, at my B and B south of Leamington Spa, started at 5.50 am; although breakfast wasn't until 7.45 I like to have plenty of time to get everything ready for another day. I was hoping I'd really enjoy today's cooked breakfast, as there were only 24 miles to cover so I knew I could relax more, but in fact despite its being beautifully cooked, once again I would have preferred to have been eating it about 2 hours into the ride. I've learned my lesson - next time I will try and negotiate a discount for not having breakfast, and will take my own.

I really took it nice and easy today, being determined to enjoy it after yesterday's events. In fact I was positively lazy and stopped after less than 6 miles for coffee in the very interesting village of Kineton, still in the county of Warwickshire. I'd travelled from Derbyshire to Leicestershire on my first day, and then into Staffordshire and Warwickshire on the second. I actually rather liked the fact that as I travelled along, I often didn't know which county I was in. I wandered around Kineton, half looking for somewhere to have coffee, and was just about to give up and cycle on when I spotted this -



It was a florist's - Flower Thyme - with a little cafe round the back. My coffee came in a lovely pottery mug and with a free biscuit, which I didn't eat, preferring my Kit-Kat, but it will go in the jar of free biscuits at home, along with the jar of free sugar sachets! I sat out the front in the sun, so that I could watch the world go by and also keep an eye on my bike.

Incidentally, the previous evening I had washed one of two pairs of padded knickers, but despite hanging them up at the window overnight they were still very damp. I remembered what my mum used to do to dry wet socks when we went on holiday; she would dangle them out of the car window as we drove along! A bike was even better for drying wet clothing - when I stopped later on to change behind a hedge into cut off trousers (it was getting hot) I rigged up my washing on one of the panniers, and found good use for the safety pins that I'd brought - I knew they'd come in handy!


Airing my (clean) laundry in public.

On my return home Husband was appalled that I'd cycled along displaying my underwear in this fashion. But it worked!

I had guessed that today would be more hilly than the previous two days, and I was right. This area is, after all, the Cotswolds, "a range of rolling hills" according to Wikipedia.  I started quite well but got off near the top of one hill and a man with an e-bike standing in the lay-by there said -

"Didn't your battery help you up the hill?"

He thought my bike, too, was electric. We chatted for a few minutes and he told me that he was 76, lived locally and did an 11 mile circuit every day, which I thought was pretty good, even if his bike  was electrically assisted. He mentioned the hill up to Whichford, and said -

"You'll be pushing up there!"

I said that sometimes I prefer not to know what's coming in the way of hills..... I cycled on to Upper Brailes, which I learnt later is on the side of Brailes Hill, the second highest point in Warwickshire. There I spotted a little bakery and stopped to buy a filled bap (baps, butties, rolls, confusing isn't it? Especially as in some places baps are plimsolls....) then to Lower Brailes, lower down the hill (obviously....) and then, although I'd intended to eat the bap much later, I couldn't resist sitting in the sun on a bench at Sutton-under-Brailes to eat it. I must have been hungrier than I thought, as I enjoyed every mouthful.


The weather by now was sunny and warm, and today was definitely a day for stopping wherever I fancied, so when I saw a sign for the Cotswold Distillery (with cafe) I popped in. A very posh place. I noticed a sign just inside the door where there was a cask of whiskey and a sign that said something like "Fill a bottle for £84.95"!!!! Hmmmmm, well, Husband does like a wee dram sometimes but that was not quite within the budget I'd set myself for this trip! On I went up those rolling hills towards Whichford, and although I got off near the top of one, I was feeling very smug (dangerous...) about doing so well after what Mr E-bike man had said, who incidentally I had seen a second time, and waved to, as he returned on his circuit.

At the top of the hill there was another sign, this time for Whichford Pottery - also with cafe. I knew I'd heard of this somewhere, and later concluded that I must have found it online when I was looking up the prices of large terracotta pots, the reason for which (which, Whichford....) was that I had fished one out of a skip and wanted to know how much it was worth before I attempted to flog it!

Look at all these pots! -



The place was actually a lot more than just a pottery, and had beautiful courtyard gardens, a workshop which you were, amazingly, free to wander round, and a cafe called The Straw Kitchen, very rustic, quite hippyish -



Once again I resisted the cafe, preferring to spend the time wandering round the courtyard gardens, although I did spend some money in their lovely octagonal shaped shop. One thing that attracted me was the coloured spools of Nutscene twine, and I bought one for a present for the sister who had organized the weekend. I hope she appreciates having a ball of string for a present.  I had no idea that Nutscene produced their famous garden twine in so many colours. That was another thing that I rescued out of the same skip the pot came from - various half-used spools of Nutscene green twine. I actually have a bit of a thing about string! String and notebooks.

I also trespassed, quite by accident, in a part of the garden that was private; I had gone through a door which happened to be open, and assumed that that part of the garden must also be public. I did wonder if I was mistaken though, when I saw chainsaws on view, in this most amazing building -





The painted walls were incredible. I'd love to know the history and significance of this building. I wish now that I had taken more photos, but somehow I got the feeling I shouldn't be there - and I was right! A gardener appeared, and when I asked if this was all public, he said no, but without seeming very bothered that I was there! He had left the door that I had come through open when he had gone to get a ladder. I made to leave but by then was a bit lost, so he directed me back to the door I'd come through, on the front of which it said "Private Garden"!

My smug self then had several more hills to contend with...... one was horribly busy and I missed my  right hand turn near the bottom of it , so to avoid going back down and having a sharp left turn to negotiate, I carried on and took another one on the right. My last hill was up into Chipping Norton; I slogged up it, then, seeing traffic lights for road works, I decided to be kind to the drivers and get off the road. As I crossed over to the pavement, the driver behind me shouted something. No, not something abusive, but -

"Well done!!"

And he gave me a big smile and a thumbs up! Whoever you were, kind sir, you made my day!!!

It was a long time since I'd been to Chipping Norton, which is built on the side of a hill, as a grandmother at Whichford Pottery had reminded me, telling me how the car door slammed on her granddaughter as she got out of the car, parked on the slope, on a recent trip there. It's also the home of the Chipping Norton Set, i.e. a load of rich posh people amongst whom is David Cameron. When I told someone I had booked an Airbnb place there they wondered if perhaps it might be Call me Dave's home, but no, it wasn't. I doubt if he's down on his luck enough to need to let out a room. Another member of this set is Jeremy Clarkson, and judging by the enormous volume of motorised traffic going through the town, there must be quite a lot of other petrolheads in the area.

My room was in fact a very tastefully furnished one in a modest house on the Burford Road; it was very noisy but it did quieten down eventually, though long after my bedtime! -



Notice the "things to be charged" section on the chair


I had a bathroom which was right up my street, given my liking for plain and sensible baths and basins. Have you noticed how that word "basin" is disappearing? Once upon a time the thing you had in your bathroom to wash in was a basin, and the thing you had in your kitchen to wash up in was a sink. Now it seems the thing you have in your bathroom is also a sink. Fancy mixer taps are also a pet hate of mine (sorry, Younger Daughter.....). Half the time you have to work out how to use them; up, down, turn one way, turn the other. Why not just go for the good old fashioned one hot, one cold, like these? Simplzzzzz!


There was a separate shower too.
When I had arrived in Chippy, as I believe it is known to locals, I had had a burning desire for pizza and a glass of red wine. In the end I thought wine might keep me awake, and as I'd no way of heating up pizza and wasn't prepared to go back into town later and visit a pizza take away, I made do with buying muesli, milk and natural yogurt, a bowl of which I enjoyed before I indulged in a bath. In fact it really wasn't much of an indulgence, as on the rare occasion I have a bath I can never seem to get out of the habit of only having about 4 or 5 inches of water in it! It doesn't help that in our own house the bath takes ages to even partially fill, but I think this habit stems from my upbringing; at home we had a large hot water tank with a "sink" switch and a "bath" switch. In other words if you only wanted a sinkful of hot water, such as for washing up, you put the sink switch on. If you wanted a bathful of hot water, you put the bath switch on. (How this system worked, I don't know.) However my economical mother always put the sink switch on, even for a bath...... so I grew up totally unfamiliar with the idea of having a long hot deep soak.

Today's 24 miles seemed like a lot more, but that was indeed all I'd done. At 7.20 I got into bed - so early! - and read/wrote until 7.45, when although I was very tired, sleep was difficult until the traffic died down much later.

At 5.40 am it started up again! So I got up and started the preparations for another day on the road. Another bowl of muesli and yogurt, but again no tea, as unfortunately the tea bags provided made a ghastly brew. I will defnitely take my own next time and have added it to the spreadsheet! The weather forecast was good again, so this time I went for the cut off trousers straight away, to avoid having to change behind a hedge again later on. The night before, realizing how much traffic there would be on the first couple of miles of my ride, I had planned a different route for this section. At 7.30 when I set off, even these minor roads were quite busy, and clearly used as cut throughs by commuters. I soon passed through the village of Chadlington, where I rejoined the route on my Garmin, and where there was a very tempting cafe, but I decided to wait for my coffee until I'd done a few more miles. This was another day for pootling and I was really enjoying the ride. As I travelled on through Cornbury Park I thought to myself - oh, so this is where Cornbury Festival is held, but no, I was wrong, it's further north east at Great Tew.  You could tell that the Cornbury Estate was wealthy as the signs were plentiful and expensive looking, not like the battered ones on the sold-off estate where we live!! Then I went round the edge of Wychwood Forest towards Leafield.

Incidentally, yesterday, although I wasn't aware of crossing the county border into my home county of Oxfordshire, I felt sure I must have done, because the state of the roads got a lot worse. Before that, in the other counties, they were in a much better state of repair. It surprises me that in such a wealthy county the roads are so bad.

I encountered another problem with my route at Little Minster, where part of it had very recently been made one way, but I was now nearly on home territory and so, with the aid of the map, finding an alternative route was easy. And this is the great thing about cycling - you find you can't go a certain way but then the alternative route leads you to somewhere you wouldn't have otherwise found, in this case an amazing cafe in the nearby village of Brize Norton. I had asked a couple if there was a cafe nearby, and they pointed me to a sign for one about 100 yards down the road. Humble Bumble Cafe had a notice up saying "Cyclists and walkers welcome" - always a good sign! It didn't look all that impressive from the outside, being an old sports and social pavilion, and I did think maybe it might be the sort of place that sold filtre coffee which had been kept warm for hours...... but I was in for a surprise! Inside it was wonderfully cosy and welcoming, and there was plenty of outside seating which I took advantage of on this sunny day.  I ordered a bacon butty, coffee, and banana cake, and it was brought to me outside, where I had the company of this lovely dog, who I think must belong to the owner of the cafe -



He looked as if he had a bit of Golden Retriever in him, and certainly had the gently and friendly temperament of one. He sat by me all the time, looking longingly at my bacon butty, and I would have given him some bacon but didn't think I should. He'd soon end up fat if every customer fed him tit-bits.....

After that feast, I continued on down the road past the RAF base, and saw a few plane spotters at one of the crash gates, so called, I believe, because emergency vehicles need to be able to exit them in the event of a crash away from the main site. I wondered if something might be due to land or take off; I have to admit it is quite thrilling to hear and see these planes overhead and I decided to stop. I was amazed to see these men, Dutch judging by their number plates, up ladders (folding ones which they bring in the boots of their cars) with their huge telephoto lenses poked under the razor wire. I was surprised that this was allowed, and in some countries it isn't, so I was told, but apparently the razor wire and boarding behind the fence wasn't there until more recently, making it easier then for the public to see in -

Outside one of the crash gates at RAF Brize Norton


I waited there for over an hour, chatting to one of the spotters, and learnt that a big old German plane that was apparently quite rare was currently over the Atlantic but was due back in, as it was lunch time and the crew usually wanted to get back for lunch! I got quite an education talking to him; when I asked how he knew all this stuff, such as when planes were due in, and what sort they were, he told me that there is a military plane tracking app which gives you the information. I had seen Youngest Son looking up into the sky, seeing a passenger plane and then identifying it with an app on his phone, but didn't realize you could do this with military aircraft. I really hoped to see this one that was due in, and get a photo to impress both Younger and Elder Son (the latter studied aerospace engineering) but unfortunately, despite the long wait, it didn't appear. It was still mid-Atlantic when I left. Either something interesting was going on over there or the German crew weren't that hungry!

Later I couldn't resist calling in at one of my favourite charity shops in the village of Bampton, which is the ficitious Downton of Downton Abbey fame, of which I've never watched a single episode. In the shop it was "fill a bag for £5" so I did, and here is said bag on the back of my bike -




I wondered if I'd get up a local hill (Buckland Road hill if anyone local is reading this) with this extra load, but I'm pleased to say I did. And then it was a mere twelve uneventful miles to home. I find that sometimes the home straights can be the worst; I'm usually tired and there's a certain two mile stretch that I often dread, but today all was fine - it was a good end to a perfect day's cycling of 35.25 miles.

In the last few months I have been experimenting with different tyre pressures  and was a bit worried that Husband's recommendation of pumping them up a bit harder for the trip would prove a mistake. Another slight cause of anxiety was shoes - the day before leaving home, I rode it to Younger Son's for him to put in his van, wore a different pair, and found my feet seemed to be slipping on the pedals. Was it the bike/pedals and not, in fact, the shoes? Panic, panic!!  On the Sunday night in Derbyshire I also had to decide what shoes to keep with me and which to give Husband to take home - and one, or two, pairs? I chose to keep just my Keen sandals, as I could wear them with or without socks. But in the end all went well, and I was really pleased at how comfortable the bike was. And no saddle soreness, even though on the day my washing was drying I had had to go without padding......

The trip in total was 152.25 miles. Now, where can I go next..........?