>Viva El Fulham

>Well today I managed to sort out a problem with my bike. I tried to box the bike on Tuesday only to find I couldn’t get the pedals off the bike. Disaster as it means bike won’t fit in the box. Fortunately, a trip to Ciclos Uno ( www.ciclosuno.com ) brought a quick solution. Thanks Euan. It also allowed me to get some new Spd -SL pedals for the bike. These are clip less pedals that are used with special cleats so your shoe fixes onto the pedals IE you clip into clip less pedals!! Go figure

I eventually managed to get the bike and most of my cycling kit boxed up. Just got my clothes and toiletries left to pack. Nearly ready for the off. I don’t fly until Sunday night, but am very busy for the next 3 days. So need to be ready tonight – or nearly ready.

I learned today that I can use MSN to have video conference calls for free. This will allow me to keep in touch whilst in the USA. Its easier than using Skype.

I also had a couple of calls tonight, neither of which was expected. Thanks to those who called. Its nice to hear from people who mean a lot to me.

Now, about the title of this post… I spent a very enjoyable night watching Fulham beat Hamburg in the Europa League Semi-Final. Its an amazing achievement for a side that 15 or so years ago were in bottom division (now called league 2) to have reached the final of a major European tournament.

Well done Fulham – shows all your money can’t buy European success doesn’t it Chelsea. Sadly I will be in Washington when the final is on otherwise I’d be in Hamburg with my Fulham mates.

>The Final Countdown

>Scarily, in 5 days time I should be in a metal tube flying towards to United States of America (volcanoes permitting of course) Its coming round far too fast. I must do some packing after I type this. I need to sort my bike and get it in the bike box – remove the pedals, deflate the tyres, turn the handlebars etc.

At least I have all the paperwork sorted – passport, flight tickets, car hire, hotel bookings etc.

The last few days has seen very little cycling. A broken wheel on one bike, a broken seat post bolt on another bike etc. I took one bike into the bike shop today to get the seat post bolt removed & replaced. As I left the shop a Rolls Royce pulled up and from the rear seats a bike appeared along with the bike owner. The car had the registration AMS1. The bike owner being one Alan Michael Sugar, a keen cyclist of a nearby parish (the posh one). Seems I shop at the same place as millionaires!

Going back in time. I spent most of the weekend  in Crawley, apart from a rapid dash back to the AGM of Lee Valley Youth Cycling Club. As it was our first AGM and I am chairman of the club it was probably appropriate for me to be there!. Saturday night brought a night of beer and curry added with good company. Thanks Michelle, Steve, Theresa and co.

Sunday was a St George’s Day parade in Crawley by the local scouts. Although at a glance one could be mistaken for thinking it was the local BNP Youth Rally, with lots of Union and St George’s flags on display and youths in uniforms. Seriously though, it was good to see so many people out at a service to mark our patron saint’s day. The only disappointment was that they missed out the final  (sixth) verse of the National Anthem.

Lord grant that Marshal Wade
May by thy mighty aid
Victory bring
May he sedition hush
And like a torrent rush
Rebellious Scots to crush
God save the Queen

Can’t see why we don’t sing this verse more often these days.
 
Onto more mundane matters like work. Its now the 27th April and the boss formally took up his role on 1st April 2010 – some 27 days ago. Its fair to say he was not in office until 12th April owing to leave. However, in the time since 12th April, I have still to either see or hear from him. Not even an email to the staff! Different people have different management styles, but I have never worked for a manager that does not communicate with those under him.
 
The good news is I now have pledges that will take me over the $1700 sponsorship target. Thanks to all of you who have kindly sponsored me

>Shakespeare(‘s Sister)

>Happy Birthday to this chap.

He wasn’t a bad writer was he? He was also a considerate chap, having the foresight to die on his birthday, so future generations of children only have to learn one date rather than two for his life.

Let’s also remember that this day is a significant one in the calendar for all us English people.

Happy St George’s Day to everyone. Now before people start accusing those celebrating our patron saints day as being racist….
a) You don’t accuse the Irish of being racist for celebrating their patron saint’s day, nor the Scots or the Welsh…
b) Far from being racist, we are celebrating the life of a Roman soldier. That doesn’t sound like the actions on a racist Englishman
c) There is nothing wrong with being proud of your country and patriotic.

A few facts for you (lifted from Wikipedia)
Saint George (ca. 275/281 – 23 April 303) was, according to tradition, a Roman soldier and priest in the Guard of Diocletian, who is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, and the Eastern Catholic Churches. He is immortalized in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His memorial is celebrated on 23 April, and he is regarded as one of the most prominent military saints.

Saint George is the patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, England, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, and Russia, as well as the cities of Amersfoort, Beirut, Fakiha, Bteghrine, Cáceres (Spain), Ferrara, Freiburg, Genoa, Ljubljana, Gozo, Milan, Pomorie, Preston, Qormi, Rio de Janeiro, Lod, Barcelona and Moscow, as well as a wide range of professions, organizations, and disease sufferers

Are all the people of these countries also racist?

I’ve a busy weekend ahead of me. After cycling home from work, I’m heading over to Crawley for the night, then driving back tomorrow morning for the AGM of the Lea Valley Youth Cycling Club of which I seem to have become the Chairman. (That’s the penalty for being too loud and bossy at committee meetings!). After the AGM, I’m back to Crawley for a night out with friends. Sunday night will see me back home and time to start preparing for the USA trip. Time to get packing.

Congratulations to Newcastle United who will be presented with the Championship Trophy before a record crowd for a Championship game.

Have a good weekend one and all.

>I Believe I Can Fly

>Well, after the excitement of last night and seeing Newcastle win the Championship and meeting up with an old friend, today has been much more mundane. However, that feel good factor from both the football and meeting an old mate for the first time in about 6 years was still there.

Even better, I actually have some work to do now. Yes taxpayers, I am actually working for my salary now- at long last. Its great to have work to do.

I’ve still not seen the new Chief Inspector. Its day 7 since he arrived and still not so much as an email from him. He has been out of the office so far this week, but is apparently back in the office on Thursday. I am on leave from after Friday week (31st 30th April). I wonder if I will have either seen, spoken to or heard via email from the Chief Inspector by then. Not speaking to or communicating with your staff is an interesting management style, especially when the organisation is so small.

The main news of the day is that at last planes are allowed to fly into and out of the UK. The volcanic ash cloud is apparently moving away so planes are allowed to fly. Good, that means I should be ok to fly on Sunday week to Newark. I have booked the last item i need. I have now hired a car for 6 days in the USA. I have hotels booked in NJ, Pittsbugh and Washington. Car hire in USA, car parking in the UK and flights. Got my ESTA clearance

>We Are The Champions

>

Does this post need any more explanation?
If it does, then you : –
a) have not paid enough attention to my previous posts
b) are probably a SMB
c) look at the Championship – Premiership we are back (perhaps for one season only, but we are still back)
Champions again!
Mike Ashley – you deserve no credit and no one thanks you for this. We won it DESPITE you, not because of you.
I can’t wait to see more pictures

>Here Comes The Sun

>Well, its been a glorious day in Essex today. The sun is out, the sky is blue, its beautiful and so are you, dear Prudence. Whoops sorry, this is a cycling blog isn’t it.

I am pleased to say that today has been a most productive day for me. I’ve used to good weather to enable me to:
a) do some washing
b) cut the grass
c) do some shopping and
d) prepare for a BBQ tonight.

Oh yes, and I went down to Woodham Mortimer in Essex with Drew and Sam to take part in the Whitham Wander Audax event. It was supposed to be around 100km, but with my detour (I blame the route sheet, it said turn left when the organiser meant go straight on). Anyway, I’m pleased to report that we completed 107km in 4 hours 24mins at an average speed of 24.2km/h with 2997 feet of climbing. To put this into understandable units (not of the foreign metric stuff), it was 66.2 MILES at an average speed of 15mph.

The only break in this ride was a quick toilet stop at the control point after 54km. I am pleased to report that my knee appears to have stood up to the event pretty well. I pushed myself to test the knee out to see if it is likely to survive the Police Unity Tour ride. I’m confident that me knee stood up better than I expected although it still is very painful to walk on it, but not to cycle on it.

There was one casualty of the ride today. Poor Sam doing his first audax found the going a bit fast for him. It was not helped by his having to ride in training shoes on cleated pedals. He left his cycling shoes at home.

I must give lots of praise to the organiser for his planning and smooth running on the day. The free food provided at the finish was magnificent. It was more in quantity and quality than most lunches provided at work conferences or training courses.

I rode the event on my touring bike which is the one I will be riding in the USA. The bike was fine, all seemed to work well. So, its going to be packed away now ready for the USA. I need to take off the mudguards, remove the pedals, turn the handlebars etc.

Its been a good evening. Drew & Sam, who did the ride with me came round for a BBQ, a couple of beers and a chance to chew the fat, review today’s ride, plot to do a few more audax events as well. We’ve righted the world, sorted out British Cycling and generally had a good chat.

The night ended well with Drew giving me another £40 ($60) towards my sponsorship target.

>Waiting for the Day

>This seems to be the theme of things at the moment.

Waiting to see or even hear from my new boss at work. I find it incredible that since he formally took up the post on 1st April, there has been no communication from him to the staff under him. To be fair, he did not actually start in the office until 12th April owing to leave etc. However after a week in the post, you would have expected to have at least received an email sent on his behalf. Still, perhaps its unreasonable of me to expect the boss to communicate with the staff he is responsible for. Perhaps we are all mushrooms…..

Waiting for something exciting to happen in the General Election campaign. Its a snoozeathon until May 6th, when I happen to be out of the country and will miss the excitement of the swingometer etc in the post election night vote counting and analysis. Being a true democrat of course, I have registered for a postal vote and will be doing my duty before I fly to the US of A. It will be interesting to see how they report the election results, if at all. I can’t imagine they will give it as much coverage as we gave their presidential elections.

Waiting for the Championship title to be decided. If Middlesbrough had managed to take a point off West Brom today, Newcastle would have won the title today. Those useless Smoggies managed to lose and stop us winning the title today. Mind you given the way they have played this season, its no surprise. Monday at 8pm on Sky TV it is to watch the Toon play at Plymouth. Sounds like an excuse to go down the pub as I don’t have Sky TV.

Waiting for the volcanic ash to clear so that planes can fly. Its incredible that the whole of Northern Europe’s air traffic can be brought to a stand still indefinitely by a volcano some 800 miles from the UK. Clearly the people of Iceland are somewhat deaf. What we said was give us back the CASH, not the ash. I just hope its all sorted in a fortnight’s tie so I can go to the USA. I don’t care if it re erupts whilst I’m away- an extended holiday in the USA would be nice.

Now as this is a blog about cycling, I suppose I should mention it. Friday brought a bit of a problem for me. As I was setting off home from work, I discovered I had managed to crack the rim on my rear wheel on my winter bike. I rode the 12 miles home on it very slowly, steadily and gingerly. I did get home safely. The wheel will need a new rim. I was going to take it into the bike shop today before going to see Orient play. I was running late owing to helping Michelle buy a new car, so never got to the bike shop. As it happened I’m glad about that as the bike shop is shut as the staff are away on a cycling week. I suspect they will be late getting back owing to that volcanic cloud.

Well, I must get on preparing my touring bike for tomorrow’s audax. I’ve not ridden the bike for at least 6 months, so it needs checking over. Its the bike I did LEJoG on and the one I am taking to the USA. A 65 mile ride tomorrow should give it a good test, and me as well

>Everybody’s Talking

>Well, today was eventful. I woke up this morning to a text from Michelle telling me her flight tonight back from Manchester to London had been cancelled. Seemed strange that she knew this at 0700 when her flight was not for another 12 hours. I suggested she got the train instead.
Then I put the TV on to hear that most flights in the UK had been cancelled owing to a volcano erupting in Iceland. Amazing that when I went to bed there was no suggestion of any problem yet by breakfast time all airspace in Scotland and Northern England had been closed. As I type this UK airspace is closed to all non emergency flights until at least 0700 on Friday!

Now as today is the day of the first ever TV debate between the leaders of all 3 UK parties, the air traffic story brought to my mind a statement by Harold Wilson to the effect of “Have you ever noticed how England only win the (football) World Cup under a labour government.” It could be said that air traffic space in the UK is only ever closed under a labour government – thinking of 11th September 2001 and now 15th April 2010.

Now as I said, it was the first of the 3 TV debates tonight. So, I settled down excitedly to watch this 90 minutes of political jousting and fighting. Expecting sharp replies, great political skill and lots of scoring of political points. Instead, I rapidly realised it was like watching S*nderland, no skill, no scoring and generally about as interesting as watching paint dry. Can’t wait for the next one- it will motivate me to clean the toilet.

I managed another 30+ mile commute today. Livened by the complete psychopathic Toyota driver I met near St James Park after him trying to tell me that apparently I should stop for pedestrians waiting to cross the road, he tried to stop me cycling off, when I turned round and road the other way he reversed up the road, tried to drive his car into St James Park and then tried to drive round the roads around the park to stop me leaving the other side. He’s a bit dozy as I simply turned round again and rode the other way whilst he was trying to turn round again. Pillock doesn’t realise I can take my bike where he can’t move his car. Still, it livened up the commute for me. Wonder if he will be around tomorrow? I might not be getting the miles in that I should be, but I am certainly getting them in quickly. today was my second fastest ever commute to work today. Not bad considering it was in rush hour traffic.

I still have not met my new boss, he’s only been in the building everyday this week and has still to meet his staff. Given we are a small organisation with about 20-25 people in this office, I have to say I am surprised not to have met him yet. It doesn’t do a lot to make one feel valued when a new boss doesn’t seem to want to meet his staff. I’m sure he has his reasons……

I started typing this post on 15th April which is a date that no true football fan will forget as on this date in 1989 the Hillsborough Disaster happened and 96 Liverpool Fans were killed at the FA Cup Semi Final. They were doing what so many of us do- supporting their team. It was a tragic accident for which those responsible have never been brought to justice.
YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE
Justice for the 96

>This Will Be Our Year

>Well another day over and another day nearer to my trip to the USA.

I am getting closer to my sponsorship target. Only $202.50 needed to reach the minimum amount I need to raise. I do have a couple of promises of sponsorship which will hopefully take me about $100 nearer. So if you are reading this, then how about making a donation to ensure I get to my target. Sadly at least a couple of people who promised sponsorship have failed to deliver. It would have been better if people didn’t make promises they wont keep.

I’ve been off work today owing to my knee playing up. Its fine when I cycle but it is painful to walk on. I am going to have to try to rest it as much as possible between now and the ride. How can it be that my kneee is ok to cycle but not to walk? Think i will try to get some more physio in before I go to the USA.

Talking of the ride, its only 18 days till I fly to the USA and its 25 days till the ride starts. I have made most of the arrangements for the USA, apart from the car hire and meeting the Ohio Cyclists to drive to the ride start in New Jersey. I also need to start pulling together all the paperwork and details of the hotels, etc I will be using.

Well, last night I went down to Reading to see Newcastle almost guarantee the League Championship title with a 2-1 away win. Sadly Newcastle need 1 point from last 3 games to guarantee the title so the celebrations were somewhat muted. Still it was good to see one or two old faces, even if one of them was only in the pub AFTER the game as he got stuck on the M25 and missed the game. Newcastle don’t play again until Monday when they are at Plymouth. Hopefully they will be Champions before then. Here’s hoping Middlesbrough can get a point at West Brom on Saturday.

What else is happening in my life? Well, I am meeting up with an old school friend next week. Not seen him for 6 or so years, so will be good to share a few beers with John for it is he.

More mundane matters – recycling of household waste. Whilst I support the idea of recycling and try to do as much as I can, my local council operate a seemingly strange system. They will not recycle cardboard or similar items. They refused my recycling bin 2 weeks ago saying it contained the wrong items but collected the same recycling bin last week. Apparently somehow it now had the right items in it despite me not touching the bin in the intervening week.

>Winner Takes it All

>Well, its getting nearer and nearer to my trip to the USA. In fact its about 19 days till I leave. What have I done in preparation? Well, I’ve done one day of 60 miles, a few of 30 miles and that’s about it. Not as much as I should have, but……

This Sunday, April the 18th, I’m doing the Whitham Wander Audax cycle event. It is a 106km ride through the Essex Alps. I did this about 4 years ago and I can confirm it isn’t the flattest ride. This will be the last big ride before I go to the USA and the first time I ride the bike I am taking to the USA. I am looking forward to it, well the free cakes at the end at least.

I have been cycling 30+miles each commute now, adding on a little loop round St James Park and up the Mall. Quite a picturesque loop. However, I didn’t cycle home on Friday as I ended up in the pub for a quick drink. That ended up with me falling asleep on the train home, missing my stop and having to get a taxi home. I’d love to say this was the first time this have ever happened to me, but too many of you know me.

On Monday, a new era began at work with the start of a new Chief Inspector, the big boss. Although there were only about 15 or less staff members in, the new boss was not seen by any of us. I hope this is not the way things are to be.

The good thing yesterday was my fastest ever commute, both ways. My ride into work was faster than I have even managed on a quiet Sunday morning. So I might not be getting enough miles in, but am doing threm quickly. Even Tom managed to get out on his bike on Monday up in Durham with my father. Well done Tom, its not too late for you to enter the Whitham Wander….

No cycling today as I am heading over to Reading tonight to see Newcastle play. A Win tonight will all but guarantee the Championship title. A win would put Newcastle 9 points clear of the 2nd place side with only 9 points left to be played for. So, here’s hoping…..