Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Twenty is plenty

twenty is plenty

Another lunch time ride, and the number of cyclists is increasing. There are less motor vehicles, but still more than I expected. And the behaviour of some has gotten worse. I am still subject to close passes and tailgating.

Some of the new riders may not have ridden for a while, they ventured onto the roads out of necessity or because of extra free time. If they are to continue to do so, the roads have to be made safer. Many surveys say it's the danger that puts a lot of people off riding.

There are many reports of excessive speed on the now quieter roads, and calls for lower limits. The Isle of Man has instigated a 40 mph maximum. And this is a place where some roads have no restrictions.

Authorities want electric scooters restricted, but won't do the same for devices that inflict huge damage to anything they hit.

The AA are against placing any more legislation upon motorists . The AA president said speed limiters are not a good idea, his reason: a driver will just drive as fast as the restricted car will allow, even when that's not appropriate. I'd much rather a driver is restricted to twenty as they pass a school than be able to drive at any speed they want. As has been proved time after time most drivers will not lower their speed.

Many drivers even believe bikes shouldn't be allowed on roads, but object to the building of cycle paths.

Jeremy Clarkson has said public transport is only used by people who can't afford a car, he wants less space for them. He still doesn't realise the congestion he complains about is caused by too many cars. He talks about removing cycle paths; his reasoning, they restrict cars and therefore block emergency vehicles. It's the cars that do that, if more people cycled, walked, or took public transport - many journeys of under a mile are driven - the emergency vehicles he now campaigns for would have less to impede them. Public transport would be more reliable. I know a lot of what he says is for publicity, but the people who listen will be nodding their heads at his words.

He is just one example of the media message; repeatedly reporting on miscreant cyclists but rarely qualifying this with how many die in crashes caused by the drivers of motor vehicles. They make biased programs, and print poorly researched articles.

Cities around the world have created temporary bike lanes as they have restricted public transport and asked people not to drive. They have even closed roads to drivers. What has London done? Suspended the congestion charge scheme. Their reason is to allow critical workers to drive to work. They could easily have made an exception for the number plates of these workers. Ensuring the roads were kept as clear as possible.

There is no clear message in the UK promoting alternatives to cars; until there is, a lot of people will be put off using them.

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Monday, 30 March 2020

No tea


mountain bike leant against a fallen tree

Regular readers will know Matt and I ride together through Surrey and Kent. We stop for tea at one of many favoured locations. We put the world to rights and have a laugh about stuff. But not now.

We both still go for rides, but for the foreseeable future our tea breaks are against the law; I never thought I'd ever say that?

In Ireland they now have extra restrictions on travel, even for exercise. You have to stay within two kilometres of your home. If the UK does this it's going to make it harder to keep motivated, and burn the calories. I'm finding it difficult not snack continually.

Yesterday's horrendous weather kept me in-doors, only venturing out for the weekly shop.

I really want to ride everyday, I fear it will be very easy to get into the habit of saying I'll go tomorrow, and not going.

I had a dip in enthusiasm today, but now I'm back it was worth the effort. On the return part of the loop I saw a path leading off into the woods. I had an idea where it might lead to, but quickly realised I was lost.

I eventually found a road, and headed for home.

bike leaning against a gate, horse looking at me

I think the horse has probably seen a few more people than is usual pass it's field lately. I hope it wasn't expecting a treat, I didn't have anything on me.

It was also the trial of a new bag, I wanted to get away from a backpack. Wearing one results in a sweaty back. While I could fit everything in that I needed, I won't be using it again. My knees rub against it, and standing on the pedals is almost impossible. I hoped it was just the compact nature of the Kona frame, my Giant road bike is even worse.

top tube bag

So it's a return to a damp patch on my back until I can find another solution.

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Saturday, 28 March 2020

Day 5

giant defy daffodils

I think everyone has written something like this, so here is my contribution to the bandwagon.

The weather has been good, I have been exploring as well as visiting usual haunts. At first it was okay, riding at my own pace and picking the route as I went along. Riding for more than three days in a row is rare, I'm up to five now. There is a vague limit on the distance I can go; I'm allowed out once a day for exercise. Most advice is stay local, it seems this is mostly to stop people driving to distant parks and beauty spots. I can see the point of this restriction, I'm surprised how many cars I see during my rides. But what does that mean for me; how far can I go? There is a concern about a bike failure; how would I get home? A ride at any time has the potential to leave me stranded, I can't phone home for a lift. But at least if it was too far to realistically walk I could take public transport, not an option at the moment. So no rides to the coast for the foreseeable future, which does leave a problem. I had only been doing this for four days on my own, and my motivation was waning. Today being Saturday normally means I meet Matt, and have a chat over tea. But that's out of the question.

I see more cyclists on each ride, which is encouraging. If driving is their normal form a transport, hopefully they'll have a new appreciation for what it's like to ride a bike. And give us more room.

I am determined to get out every day, and take a picture. But all of the normal places are well documented, and going much further afield is risky. I'll have to get creative and keep my eyes peeled for a great vista.

I don't know how long this situation is going to last, I am already pacing the house enough to annoy the wife.

In other news; I have cut my own hair. I wonder if I'll need to do it again before the barbers reopens. It doesn't look too bad, the back is a challenge to get straight. A thumbs up from Marcia is a good sign. Although who else is going to see it; everyone at Tesco keeps their distance.

I'll also have to put my thinking cap on for post titles, I'm not sure how long I can stay with day {insert number}.

Stay safe.

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Friday, 27 March 2020

All these unhelpful sayings. Stiff upper lip, pull yourself together


Reigate view

As I near the end the first week of this extraordinary time, I have a period to reflect.

Thanks in not small part to Moof IT, my employer. Read this for background.

I now realise that my way of dealing with problems - internalising everything - wasn't a long term proposition. My mantra was: Stiff upper lip, pull yourself together.

I do regret it took such a long time to work this out.

Opening up to your employer isn't easy, mine has been very good to me.

My Moof IT colleagues will have had to take the strain this week, I thank them for that. I hope I haven't added to their troubles.

Talking to family is just as hard, you don't want to add to their worries. I did, and it helped immeasurably.

Friends, I'm lucky to have such good ones.

This week I have taken a step forward because I have been given space and time.

I thought after a day all was good, but it really wasn't. Being told to take a longer break was right.

I'm much calmer, I have a better perspective.

When I returned from a circuit to tatsfield I was told I'm to be put on the government furlough scheme, it's better than the alternative. And while the weather stays good, more cycling.

I have taken many pictures here, I'll have to get to different places. Although I'm not sure if the exercise law allows me to go far.

tatsfield Surrey hills


reigate fort
Reigate fort
Thursday I rode to Reigate fort, a short ride but it had some very steep hills. Not much is visible; the gates are the main recognisable structure. There is one building at the center, the other parts are dug in to the earthworks that appeared to have formed the walls. It was built in 1898 in response to a potential invasion.

This could be a metaphor, I have finally opened the gates to fort Andy.

knockholt bench
Knockholt bench
Wednesday was my longest ride, to Knockholt. I passed many other cyclists, some may not have ridden much recently. On one particularly difficult climb I passed a struggling rider. I keep my distance but offered words of encouragement. As he passed me at the top, where I had stopped to congratulate him, he thanked me. He said he would have completed accent on foot if I hadn't been there.

caterham view
Caterham view
Caterham view, where the week started. And when a new realisation began.

These are troubling times, isolation is the way to stop the virus but it doesn't lead to good mental health.

I hope that family and friends can also talk to me about their worries and concerns.

Talking isn't always about asking for help. It can be just as effective to have someone listen.

A positive then to end the week.

Thanks for being there.

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Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Social distancing

cycling alone

The last few weeks have been tough; this week got tougher.

With each development in the Coronavirus saga my anxiety stepped up; my depression got deeper.

It was pretty much under control. My way of dealing with depression and anxiety is to put problems and worries in boxes, and keep them closed. I try to only open the boxes one at a time, when I'm going to deal with them. New issues are either dealt with or put in a new box.

Each box has a label: needs to be sorted soon, can be kept closed for a while, I can't resolve the contents, and not important.

Occasionally a couple of boxes are accidentally opened together. That is not a good day, but the labels help. I deal with or close them depending on my filing system.

But this week I had a mini earthquake in the admin room. Most of the boxes fell over and opened, plus I had to add a new one that I wasn't sure how to label.

I tried to carry on with work, look after my wife and get the chaos in order.

I made it until lunch time; I called my boss. It wasn't easy to admit, even though everyone has done as much as they could to help. To accomodate how I need to work.

I went for a ride on the bike to clear my head. Until I was on the call hadn't realised how on edge I had become. I shouldn't have worried about talking, Henry understood. I hadn't maybe told him all that was going on in my head, but he knew enough. It did feel like a weight had been lifted. The stacks of containers are a little tidier now, if not completely shut.

caterham view
A chance to tidy up
I have a great circle of family and friends who, if I need them, will help, or listen. Knowing I have them allows me to deal with everything. Moof IT have been brilliant as I have said above.

I'm lucky to have such a good support network. Even if I don't involve them as much as maybe I should, it's good to know I can get help with my filing when I need it.

Hopefully I'll soon be cycling in groups to pubs and cafes again. Here are a few pics from the last few years.

Everyone in my circle helps so much to enable me to get out on my bike.





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Thursday, 19 March 2020

Big day in the studio

black and white mesh top

I haven't been in a studio since August. That was a themed event, shared with another photographer. Before then, in June I was in an unusual home studio. Both very much using the location to steer the ideas.

At the beginning of 2019 I put together team for a fashion shoot. I model I had produced great work with previously, a place I had used before and a MUA. Eventually the results were published.

It was a whole day shooting against a coloured background. I would normally shy away from this because I didn't think I could keep suggesting poses and ideas. Hence the search for interesting locations.

I learnt from it, coupled with youtube videos I have since watched, that the model contributes to the process far more than I thought. Ideas might start with the photographer, but they need to be translated, or interpreted. To that end I have been fortunate to work with very good models who did that very well.
They have been able, I now realise, to instinctively translate my ideas. More than that, give life to them.

It may look easy standing in front of the camera, but one of the many lesson I have learnt is that if you want the pictures to have energy, passion and expression; work with a good model. I may not be describing this very well, and doing the models a disservice. If you look at a photograph and are drawn in to it, that's a result of good teamwork.

I have stopped watching the how-to videos, the {insert a number} things to avoid/do, or how-to tutorials. They are all pretty much the same. Basic light with very little variation, or overly complicated, impractical setups. It just got boring. I found myself only thinking the way they did, and it started to put me off photography.

This project was intended to put that spark back. I still watch videos, but now they are of working photographers, with interesting ideas. The work they produce looks different, not extreme themes or lighting; subtle, quality productions. Their clients don't want pictures that look like the ones their competitors use.

And that's what I wanted to do this time; it was a studio I had used before, that time I certainly used the varied sets. The pictures were great, exactly what I had wanted.

Alex and I had a brilliant shoot in July last year.

We packed a lot into this session, plenty of wardrobe changes, and lighting setups. Some of the arrangements worked, some didn't. We either made small changes to solve the problems, or abandoned them.

I had initially planned to process only to black and white, but the colours that tumbled out of the suitcase couldn't be ignored.





casual with a small chair
Some black and white.

black and white mesh top


black and white mesh top

This is going to be a long post. I took so many pictures; using numerous lighting setups, many wardrobe changes and Alex nailed it all. It took me a long time to narrow them down to a reasonable number. And then to reduce the total again to share with you lovely readers.

The dress and coat combo caused a raised eyebrow from Alex when I suggested it and my wife was also surprised when I told her it was my choise. Both agreed it worked.

blue coat purple dress dress

blue coat purple dress dress

More black and white

moody black and white


And one last colour image to finish

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Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Reason to be cheerful

bourne river flood lake

As the weekend approached it seemed unlikely we'd get one ride; two could be out of the question.

The picture above was taken on my way home on Sunday. It's normally a very small stream, barely a trickle. The recent rain had tested the flood defences built a few years ago.

Saturday was a little late to start, but we still had time for the long way to the bus stop.

The usual type of chat ensued, a bit about the Coronavirus and the panic surrounding it. Every grocery shop is sold out of hand sanitiser and for some reason toilet roll. It's not just here; a video from Australia went viral, excuse the pun, when people started a fight for bog paper.

Sunday, again was a late start, Matt initially sent an abort text. It wasn't raining at my house so I was determined to get out. When Matt sent another text saying it was dry and he was on his way; all was good.

The same route as Saturday resulted in more general chat. We often think what it would be like if anyone else were to join us. To be honest I don't think they would get it. There was Phil for a while, but he drifted away to cycle with people from his company.

One thing that did come up was my reaction to two cars that overtook us on a narrow lane. Matt said I was a little unfair, especially to the second one. Thinking back maybe I was; a little. He did wait for a slightly wider section of road. But when he did pass he barely gave me any time or space to move aside before accelerating quickly. There are lots of potholes and plenty of mud. I could easily have bounced or slide into his path.

I explained to Matt that I get so passionate about cycling because I need it. I didn't realise how much until recently. The number of close passes are increasing; a really close shave had me thinking seriously about cycling straight home. And possibly never cycling again. Near to meeting Matt on Saturday a Coughlans delivery van caused more concern.

Cycling started as a way to get fit, and have a laugh with friends. Now it's good for my mental health. I have grown to almost depend on the rides to reset after a bad week, and to help prepare for the next one. It's my reason to be cheerful.

It does anger me that I may have to stop riding if it doesn't get safer.

The police, my MP, the media; all say they want less motor traffic, and more cyclists. But do little to encourage it.

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Sunday, 1 March 2020

Responsible adult

croissant at the cafe

When will these storms end? One of the first questions Matt and I asked each other when we got to the cafe in Westerham this morning.

Looking back we have missed three rides this month due to the weather. Maybe it's average for this time of year, but it feels worse. Waking up to heavy rain and strong wind is not great on any day, but when it's the weekend; it's just not fair.

Yesterday was terrible, a lie-in was always going to be the best option. During the day it alternated between sunny and hailstones. A few times I contemplated going for a ride, but was glad I didn't when I was reminded we hadn't seen the back of storm Jorge.

I have lost count of how many we've had and their names. I hope Jorge is the last for a while.

It's not the rain that really puts me off, it's the cold and high winds. I have yet to find clothing that will keep me dry and warm at this time of the year. The biggest problem though is the wind. Close passes from motorists are so common, I don't feel safe with so little margin for error. It's bad enough on a normal day, sometimes I just want to give cycling a miss all-together. My MP, the media and police don't seem to prioritise road safety and cycling. I have contacted them, after an initial period of interest; total silence.

Back to today, it was a good ride. The "long way" to Westerham. We use the "long way" to avoid the B269 when we go to the bus stop. It adds a bit of distance, and some hills bit it's safer. The B269 is a fast road, and on a windy morning the risk of being blown off course into a close passing car or van is too great. This is another indication of how bad it's got; I choose routes by perceived safety, rather than distance. The longer rides I have planned for this year require the same considerations. I use google street view to gauge the type of road, and find alternatives if they look dangerous.


Anyway; Westerham: we arrived too early, despite the extra miles, for our normal cafe. So it was to  an Italian cafe a short distance away. Tea, croissants and a hazelnut paste filled crusty morsel was well received. The talk was of cycle clubs, I mentioned that I had thought about joining one, but it was maybe too formal and regimented for me.
We discussed our "club", and why we're the only members. I asked what would we had to offer members; other that our repartee, and mugs of tea. When we couldn't think of anything else, the idea was shelved. A bigger group would take more organisation, and require someone to be the responsible adult. Neither of us wanted that role.

Fingers crossed for a period of stable weather, so we don't miss any more rides.

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