Tuesday, 31 March 2009

My other bike is a Dawes

I have been riding Sheila's bike the last couple of days since my bike - the Bike-with-no-name aka Florence is having its biannual service. So passing another cyclist this morning I wanted to yell out 'My other bike is a Dawes!'. Dawes are maybe the Rolls Royce of bikes but actually lighter and more streamlined than that image. II was recommended getting one for my LEJOG trip but others said your Pioneer bike will do it OK and it did.

As readers of this blog with more memory than sense will recall I brought my bike-with-no-name using advance royalties for my first book book - summer 1999 - hey that means the bike has its 10th birthday soon. Well I have just had the latest royalties for a 6 month period on this book of £34.72! Well at least it is still selling a little and my 3rd book published in North America in 2005 is giving me 600 dollars for last year's sales - neat that the pound is low against the dollar just now! So I am not about to retire just yet on my royalties.

It's not the royalties thought hat matter its my readership. I do get the odd email (some very odd :)!) from people who really value what I have written and that feels great. I try and make a habit of writing fan letters/emails to people when their writings really reaches me - do do the same. It is too rare that this happens.

Back to Sheila's bike, it is older and lighter than mine with drop handlebars which I don't like and I feel a bit clumsy on it. Nonetheless I have had great pleasure using her bike, just the simple enjoyment of cycling and letting my mind wander. These have been tough days of late and such simple pleasures have kept me going as have support from my friends and colleagues. My unwanted advise to anyone is find the physical activity that you most enjoy (apart from sex) and do more of it!

Best to all,


Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Voicing it

Regular readers of this blog will recall my painful history in relation to music. Being told to mime in my primary school always being bottom but one in music in my secondary school but always loving music. Then my delight 3 or 4 years ago in joining a family choir that meets at my daughter Grace's school and the twice yearly singing gigs. How this singing is a wonderful spiritual experience. And how one year ago after being inspired by Grace I took up piano lessons and have never looked back.

Well last week Rebbecca my piano teacher suggested we do some work with my voice since that would part of the Grade One piano exams. So yesterday she played some notes and helped me get my pitch right and it seems that I am bass baritone and I currently have one octave range that is about 3 notes below middle C downwards. I am stunned both to know what my range is and that I can find the pitch, and when I do something resonates within me and within the piano note when I achieve the right note. I can hear it and feel it.

And of course this could well develop.

That is not all. Again regular readers will know of my passion for the Pet Shop Boys - the new CD will be rushed to me any day now. (More on that soon!) Rebbecca let on that she is a Pet fan, maybe not an out and out Pethead like me but a definite fan. I am gobsmacked. How can this be? I have only met one other person who liked the Pets and that was in Bangalore! So who knows maybe with Rebecca's help i can do 'Red Letter Day' for my birthday do!

Synchronicity or God moves in a mysterious way or what?

Gobsmacked of Manchester

a.k.a. Bill-on-bike dodging the rain today but feeling I could cycle on on for miles

Monday, 23 March 2009


My institution has put a spoke in my wheel (there's a biking metaphor for you) with regard to my work in Kenya and I am feeling like s***. Believe it or not there is a massive amount of interest in Kenya and the surrounding countries in this work. I am trying to find a way forward with or without my institution. There has been such a lack of courage shown here.

I don't feel post colonial guilt. I do feel us Brits have a post colonial responsibility for the actions of our forefathers. But things are rough in Africa (and elsewhere) and friendship has led me to want to offer my best talent. I don't think that I am being naive. I am not making great claims for what I am doing. I am not working in the slums. I am working with some of the best talent in my field out there with people who are making a difference.

Best to all,


Stalked by sheep


Last Friday I was up in County Durham running a workshop and staying with Nonie who is more or less a neighbour of Neil Tennant! (Indeed her daughter once rescued his puppy dog and returned the dog to Neil!) However I guessed Neil was in London promoting the new Pets CD and certainly I did not see him whilst walking in the countryside early Friday morning.

But I walked through a field of sheep and new born lambs and they started following me. I stopped turned around and looked at them and then starting walking again and they followed me. I shooed them away and walked on and again they followed me!

When I told Nonie about it she said that it often happens to her and that she then sings to them. She suggested that if I had sung a Pets song to me who knows Neil might have appeared and joined in. Can you imagine - the new video William, sheep and lambs, Neil and Chris dressed in a gorilla outfit all doing Love etc the new Pets single!

Sigh! One can but dream!


Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Poem for Rebecca

I heard a tale
A familiar and family tale
Of messed up ambitions
Of taking a God given talent
Passed on down the generations
With an urgency
A need for expression
Too strong for these thin shoulders
To bear
To weak to carry
The weight of the parents
The weight of the ancestors

Let my daughter go free!


I was blogging yesterday about being in the world without the usual filters in place. Well of course it is like that often on the bike. Out in the sun, wind and rain all of which were a feature of my LEJOG trip 18 months ago. I remember one sunny morning awaking in Shropshire and cycled towards machine with the early light shining through the trees and into my face, magic moment.

And last night dragging my daughter out of the house to marvel at Venus shinning brightly if rather low over the roof tops - soon Venus will be no longer the evening star but will be the morning star instead. And also to show her Orion just splendid front on, high in the sky over our street. Magic, gifting the fascination with the stars passed onto by my Dad.

Last night I had a dream that I was planning another LEJOG trip. It was fun thinking about it. I would like to do it again but a bit differently. I would spare Sheila and Grace the rather dull task of being my back up crew. I would probably join an organised trip so that I did not worry about the route, carrying much stuff and bike repairs and for the company. If so I hope the route would be similar to the one I used but with a few variations. I would probably get a new bike purchased under a deal my workplace offers of tax free bikes, something lighter and a bit faster. Although I do have an affection for my 10 year old bike.

Cycling through Whitworth Park today passing the park gardeners and they had the new Pets single Yes etc playing on the radio, made my day. Such simple pleasures! I did manage to forget to buy the Mail on Sunday with the free Pets CD so if any of you out there brought a copy and can spare it let me have the CD! Serves me right really!

Best to all,


Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Dodging showers and

Dodging showers this morning but really enjoying being in the open air and passing through 3 parks. I get a memory that turns up like a Unicorn of staying with Mary and Pete on the edge of the North York Moors. I step out of their cottage early one morning and I am right in the landscape. The usual separation between me and the world has gone. I felt a bit vulnerable and scared but it was good feeling.

That was the feeling - without the scaredness -last summer on the Norfolk Broads waking up to the sounds of wild life and the water gently moving our boat or waking up in Kenya and hearing exotic birds.

Now my friend Francisco Brazil emailed me to say that he gets this experience every morning where he lives. This led me to reflect on my childhood in a small town where the countryside was a walk or a short bike ride away. So I was one generation or two removed from the land.

I think my first paragraph might work as a poem, let's try it:

Dodging Showers

Dodging the showers
On my bike
this morning
But really enjoying
being in the open air
And passing through 3 parks

I get a memory
that turns up
like a Unicorn
Of staying with Mary and Pete
On the edge of the North York Moors.

I step out of their cottage
Early one morning
I am right in the landscape.

The usual separation
between me and the world
has gone.

I feel a bit vulnerable
and scared
but it's good feeling.

I quite like that. Try reading it out if you can be arsed!

Best to all,


Monday, 2 March 2009

Ethical Dilemma

So, there will be a free CD by the Pet Shops Boys with this Sunday's Mail on Sunday. Now I will not usually be seen dead with a copy of the Mail which has a lot to answer for including its support of the fascist Mosley in the 1930s, it anti sex education in schools line etc etc.

At lunch today my friend Keith suggested that I could go in disguise into my newsagents' shop on Sunday. He also kindly offered to use the newspaper in his cat tray for me which made me feel better.

So what do you think, swallow my scruples and enjoy the Pets CD or maintain my integrity and miss out? At least it is a promising sign that the Mail is supporting the Pets in this way.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

PS Frankie says its a no brainer I must support the Pets! Q on the other hand says I must consider the lilies - whatever that means - are they a pop group? Len says life is too short enjoy the music and go Petabout. Stacey just breathes heavily in disgust.