I will always reply to comments and always re-reply to re-replies.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


As my present , may I introduce you to Britain's foremost cycling artist, Frank Patterson.

Elegant work and nostalgia for a more gentle time.

If you like his work can I suggest a further link where there is also a delightful Youtube presentation of his work. Enjoy!

I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a peaceful and healthy 2009.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


HerHimnBryn has just posted a view of her old friends nuzzling up together. As a lover of "reading" other peoples' book shelves I thought this would be a good meme (although I guess it must have been done before.)

So let's introduce our old friends to each other and post shots of our bookshelves. They will be a good read and might provide inspiration for new reading.
Queen Elizabeth the First once said she did not wish to open a window into men's souls (after the progroms of Bloody Mary), but our bookshelves do just that! So I will lay myself open, to kick off this meme .
(you can click any image to enlarge it to read the spines)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


A crisp Autumn morning warranted a 12 mile cycle ride to the sea. The best bacon baguettes I have ever eaten can be had at a little seafront cafe in the small town of Dymchurch.

Warm and crisp with lean bacon and plenty of butter (and brown sauce, of course).

Join me sometime!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Once more Remembrance Day comes around and we buy and wear our poppies with pride. This year I would like to remember a brave man, an American pilot of the Second World War.
On my cycle rides through this peaceful countryside I often stop as I pass by this shrine and there are others too. You see, Romney Marsh, being flat and close to France was the site of many airfields during that war.

A guest to our country, let's talk about Lieutenant Johnson. His memorial is known as "Johnson's Corner" and the "Stars and Stripes" flies proudly over the English countryside there every day.


These faded poppies from last year will soon be renewed on November 11th.
(click images to enlarge)

There is a citation, obviously written by one of his surviving aircrew. One must do justice by quoting it in full:

Lt. W. JOHNSON US 8th Army Air Force.

This Corner is named after, and the Stone erected to one of the courageous Airmen of the Second World War. He gave his life to save his crew.

Pilot Lt. W. Johnson & crew, flew from Rattlesden, Suffolk in a B17. Take off time was 4.40 am. on Friday 13th. April 1944. Their target being the Messerschmitt Factory at Augsburg, Germany.

When in formation, their position being No. 4 Lead Squadron, they crossed the English Channel, entering into enemy territory between Ostend and Dunkirk. No flak for the first 90 miles. Then! All of a sudden, there were black puffs of smoke and cracking noises, bouncing the plane about.

Lt. Whitely, co-pilot, reported No. 4 engine stopping and No. 3 not running well. Finally, with No. 3 feathered (Turning the propeller blades into the wind to stop wind milling.) they left formation and headed for home. Flying over Abbeville France at 23,000 ft. they were hit by heavy flak. No 1 & 2 engines still running, they were losing height about 500 ft. per minute.

Orders were given to Sgt. Williams (right waist gunner), to dump all loose items and start to remove the Ball Turret. All bombs were dropped. Sgt. Zeiger (left waist gunner) was to stay on intercom and help Sgt.J Higgins (radio & gunner). Sgt. P. Simpson (ball turret gunner ) and Sgt. Williams were told to release the ball turret. They nearly went with it. We were hit continuously over Abbeville. Looking down through the ball turret hole it looked like the 4th. of July. ( Independence Day.)

The plane was badly damaged. The crew suffered casualties. Lt. Nye (bombardier) had a badly damaged arm, Lt. Francher (navigator) had quite a hole in his leg, but kept them on course in spite of the pain. Lt. Whitely had a hole in his wrist.

The plane’s cables were shot out, No. 2 engine was running but not good. They crossed the channel with No. 1 engine at maximum revs. The port fuel tanks were very low and fuel could not be transferred from the starboard tanks because the electrical pump had failed and the wabble pump had been hit. When they finally left enemy territory they were at about 12,000 ft. and they were losing altitude faster now that they only had one good engine. They prepared for ditching in the Channel. Sgt. Higgins notified Air Sea Rescue. Lt. Fancher said they would see land in a few minutes. Looking down, an Air Sea Rescue boat was below them, just in case they had to bale out over water. They crossed the British Coastline near Hythe at 2,000 ft. The oil line on number 2 engine fractured and immediately caught fire. The flames came past Sgt. Zeigler’s waist gunners window. He then noticed that the horizontal stabliser was missing.

Lt. Johnson gave the order to bail out.

Lt. Johnson, Lt. Whitely and Lt. Fancher, using their skills, is the reason they all returned even though they were badly wounded. Sgt. Hazzard (engineer & gunner) did an excellent job of giving medical aid, and should have been given an award.

They started to bail out at Lympne over Romney Marsh. Sgt. Zeiger states that when his parachute opened he noticed that the main wings were very badly damaged. They looked as though a can opener had been at work. The last man out jumped at 800 ft. leaving just the Pilot, Lt. Johnson, who died when the plane crashed.

The crew were very saddened at the loss of Lt. Johnson, as they knew that he gave them priority.

Lt. Johnson was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously.

Friday, October 03, 2008


HerHimnBryn emailed this link to me. I enjoy clocks and watches (the mechanical kind) and this really floated my boat. I just had to share it with you all.

It is derived from John Harrison's wonderful clock of the 1700's (this is a long link, but the fascinating story it tells is well worth perseverence).

Thursday, October 02, 2008


(apparently this "Penny-Farthing Band - German - is available for hire)

Barrett Bonden asked me about my cycle gearing in my previous posting and I said that my lowest gear was "23 inches". A non-cyclist would be justified in saying "pardon?" So I thought you might like to know the history behind this calculation.

In English speaking countries cycle gearing is usually measured in inches. You don't really need to know what these inches stand for, just that a large number makes you push harder to go faster whereas a small gear allows you to winch yourself slowly uphill.

Gear inches come from the days when geared bicycles superseded the ‘ordinary’ – now known as a penny-farthing. This had its pedals fixed directly to the front wheel and if you wanted to go faster you needed a larger one. So bicycles were rated by the diameter of this wheel. A 52inch ordinary bicycle was big and potentially fast for its time, but only a tall man could ride it.

Then the safety bicycle was invented, on which all modern bicycles are based and in which the pedals are connected to the rear wheel by a chain and gears. These make the wheel turn faster (or slower) according to the ratio of front chainwheel divided by rear sprocket. A gear ratio of 48 by 16 for example, makes the wheel turn three times for one turn of the pedals. The effect is the same as if the pedals were fixed directly to a wheel three times as big, making a 26 inch wheel equivalent to one of 78 inch diameter. Such a bicycle was said to be geared to 78 inches – that would be one heck of a tall penny-farthing!

This system may be antiquated, but referring all gearing arrangements (including hub gears) back to a simple size of directly driven wheel gives us an easy way to compare all sorts of pedal cycles.

To calculate gear size you enter the diameter (in inches - or metric people could enter it in cms) of the actual wheel, and the numbers of teeth on the front chainwheel and rear sprocket, into the following formula:
Gear = Wheel × Chainwheel ÷ Sprocket

Not a lot of people knew that! But now you do. My lowest gear (23 inches or 58 cm)would have me riding an old penny-farthing with a front wheel that size - it would be like a small child's bike!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


(click on any image to enlarge)
The forecast was "warm with a light breeze". It was a bright September morning. Autumn fruits were in abundance

Work had been frustrating during the week so I decided a day's leisurely cycling was called for.
As a warm-up I cycled to my morning coffee break (A garden centre in the hamlet of Reading Street). Good coffee (free refills), toasted teacake and blackcurrant jam. Then a gentle freewheel down the little lane that once led to a busy landing place on the River Rother. Mediaeval sailing ships once traded here and a series of ancient, prosperous houses line the lane. This one, dreaming behind its sere fencing, was once the harbour master's house:
However, in the 17th century a great storm diverted the river's main course; the harbour had to be abandoned and all that now remains of the river here is a country stream.
After this some low gear work was called for as I cycled up an escarpment onto what was once an island. A breather was called for
The curiously named locality (village long since disappeared) derives from the Saxon "Ebun's ie" (the island owned by Ebun) . You will note my stragically placed coffee flask, for later use.
A gentle climb brings us to the summit of the "island" and the village of Wittersham

The Viking ship on the village sign reminds us that all this area was subjected to Danish raiding parties in the 9th/10th centuries.
Here I stopped to consult my map. I could see an interesting route would follow a road, then a farm track and then a bridle path going South towards Rye. The track went through the grounds of a stately home and the bridle path crossed a small river, but, what the hell, let's give it a go. So, inspired by the button badge on my saddlebag (a present from Herhimnbryn), I set off.
The road was swallowed by the gates of the statelyhome, with a notice saying "private drive". A cycle is an ideal way of traversing such a road - silence and celerity! We whisked through without disturbing His Lordship and out onto the farm track the other side. I was encouraged by the sign on the farm gate - the man must have a sense of humour

A couple of miles of rocky farm track followed and then the road petered out descending like a rabbit hole into a single pathway through the trees. This was mountain bike country, but I was tackling much worse than this on normal road lightweight bikes before they were even thought of (we called it "roughstuffing" and didn't know that you needed a special bike for it).
Eventually I broke through the trees and descended into the wide valley of the little River Tillingham, pushed the bike over a little footbridge and toiled up the other side of the valley.
(Down the hill by the finger of trees and over the footbridge by the pylon)
Let's have a look back over the vast valley - how could such a tiny river have carved it out? The answer lies some 10,000 years ago when the glaciers of our last ice age melted and mighty torrents of water roared down from the hinterland rolling rocks and debris before them.

At last, back on a firm road, I made my way through Rye's mediaeval gate into the ancient town.
It was time to take on fuel - elevenses having long been burnt up. Heavy meals don't suit me when cycling (a full stomach gets in the way when bending over dropped handlebars). So a couple of fried eggs ("easy over" for you American readers) with two slices of toast made from locally baked brown bread - plus a large pot of tea - topped me up nicely.
I crossed over the River Rother Bridge out of Rye (the following picture shows why these places are no longer ports - in a word "mud" - silt brought down in quantities for the Wealden clays)

I was now on the levels of Romney Marsh and decided to follow the cycle track which paralleled the road for some 9 miles towards the town of Lydd. At the outset of this screed I mentioned that the forecast was for "light breezes" - Hell! it was like cycling into a solid wall of air, with head wind at about 25 mph. (whilst The Marsh is pleasant cycling on calm days - no hills , it can be savagely windswept at times). This pleasant path-side scene belies the air whistling by my head at the time.

And so at last to Lydd - it's name sounds Welsh (but is Saxon). In fact it could hardly be farther from Wales, being the most southeastern town in Britain. I say town, but really a large village.

D'you see the whitewashed shop by the church? Well I decided I deserved a treat. I sat behind a church buttress, warm to my back, in the sun and out of the wind and indulged!
After that, the push for home - however there was another stop on the way - a church I had not visited before (I feel that Larkin's poem "Church Going" sort of sums my travels up beautifully)
Once I am sure there’s nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now: some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle clips in awkward reverence…………..
This is the church of St Mary the Virgin in the aptly named Marsh village of St Mary-in-the-Marsh
I'm glad I went in - for those of us who have a "handkerchief moment" at the "Daddy, my Daddy" scene in the film "The Railway Children" it will have special significance - the author Edith M Nesbit lived happily in the village with her second husband, "The Skipper" and is buried here. She required that no stone be erected on her grave so her husband carved a wooden marker over it - it is under the oak tree to the right of the churchyard.
Looking at the map, the direct route home would have brought me up to about 45 miles. "Why not make it the round 50?", I thought. So I braved the wind and put in a loop which had me finishing my flask of coffee, sitting in the late afternoon sun at my favourite stopping place.
And the final mileage? - 51.6 (82 km for those of you with a less "Imperial" bent!) and in spite of the wind a very pleasant day (would you believe that the following day there was not a breath of air - sod's law!)

Sunday, September 21, 2008


A balmy Autumn day meandering among the hedgerowed lanes of the Kentish Weald with members of the Veteran-Cycle Club - about a 25 mile circle with the village of Headcorn at its centre. 18 out - riding up and down the column chatting to various about various. Lunch at a 16th century country inn. Cakes and coffee at the end, watching vintage aircraft doing stunts at a country airfield. "Jus perfick" (as a local character would have it).

We stopped on the way for a group photo - the road name seemed appropriate!

(click to enlarge)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Introducing Benjy

There was an unusual guest on the recent Veteran-Cycle Club run (a gentle day cruising the lanes of Romney Marsh, with lunch in the ancient town of Rye - 25 leisurely miles, riding the recently acquired Rudge.)

His name is Benjy and apparently he rides everywhere with his mistress. Needless to say he was a very popular addition to the group (about 25). He was quite happy on the back and settled down for a snooze whilst we all had lunch.
And John Head's beloved old Rudge ? - it cruised as serenely and majestically as a bishop walking up the aisle of a cathedral.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Have not blogged recently (although I have accessed many of yours).
Reason? My PC crashed catastrophically and since I was on Windows 2000 and the PC was as old as that I decided the time was ripe to get a new one.
So arrived home with a large box and multi-layer packing, from which I delved the new, matt black PC - there is no joy in any of this - it is just as much a tool to me as a bicycle pump.
So I now have the joy(?) of Vista (am I a masochist?). My scanner would not work on it, HP did not have a new driver and more or less told me to get a new scanner (or get stuffed) - so I did, but you bet it was not a Hewlitt Packard. My Canon printer worked with a readily available new driver, so it was a Canon scanner I bought.
Most of my programs seemed to load OK - I have even managed to get Office 97 Professional to work in Vista (which the PC shop said was impossible and "could they sell me the latest Office Suite".)
So.......having been staring, with frustration at a screen and frantic (and expensive) telephone calls to help lines , I have been heartily sick of PCs and the internet.
I did ask myself if I could manage without a PC, but decided not (although I managed to get through life for the previous 50 or so years without).
So..........that is the reason for absence - my sense of humour is gradually returning.

Monday, July 28, 2008


During a gentle cycling day with the Veteran-Cycle Club (which will be posted up later), we chanced to stop at the 13th century church at Brookland. I just had to share with you this gravestone in the floor of the nave.

What a magnificent name - they don't write 'em like that any more! I see that his wife, Ann, only outlasted him by a month (who says you cannot die of a broken heart?)

Friday, June 20, 2008


That "HerhimnBryn" at Secret Hill Mosaics says she is going through a creative block at present.

Mosaics are not currently inspiring her, so it would appear that she decided to set up another sort of blog to keep that creative mind of hers from rusting. Even at the age of two she was intent on creating a "stone and water feature", by blocking our back-yard drainpipe with pebbles! (sorry H!)

I just mention this in case others would like to follow me there (and also because I feel a certain parental duty - and pride!)

Thursday, June 19, 2008


To all lovers of the sublime Leonard:

Can I recommend a visit to the blog of "riseoutofme" see also this link for background.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


I don't know how long these have been around, Marmite Lovers, but I have just found them and they are absolutely delicious - particularly with a dab of creamy Irish Butter.
We have started buying Irish butter as from today in thanks for that great country saying "No" in their referendum to the scandalous proposed EU Constitution. This country is not being allowed a referendum on the subject in spite of this government's promise in their election manifesto to hold one. I will be toasting the Irish in Guinness today!
(Interestingly, the Irish language does not contain a word for "No" - instead it uses the phrase "it isn't")

Saturday, May 31, 2008


It's time to put the old horse between the shafts (figuratively speaking) and trot off with the caravan again. (Although I guess that a real horse might be a lot more economical than a car with the way fuel prices are going).

A couple of weeks way down West are planned. First to our beloved and nostalgic Cornwall. We return to a little farm site just south of Launceston most years. It is centrally located for the coast and the moors.

Then stopping over for a week in Dorset on the way back (near Cerne Abbas, with its ancient, priapic hill figure).

The weather forecast is not too good (my neighbour says he always knows when wet weather is going to set in - it is when we go on holiday!) Still - we take it as it comes.

Catch y'all later.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


In 1961 John Head wanted a bicycle to cycle across London to his job at the Bank of England. In view of the prestige of his employment he decided that it must be a "gentlemanly" machine in keeping with his dignity. Accordingly, he did his research and decided that the "Rudge Superbe" fitted the bill. Rudge cycles were by now part of the Raleigh cycle empire. He bought the deep red bicycle from a little south west London cycle agent:
Over the years the cycle carried him to and from work. He had children, joined the Cyclists' Touring Club and, eventually the Veteran-Cycle Club (having acquired a variety of machines over the years). But the Rudge was always his favourite bicycle and even though it was a "gentlemanly machine" he used it at cycle camps and rallies.

We now fast-forward to 2008. John is now 82. He always vowed to keep on riding his Rudge, but has reached the stage where he can no longer lift his leg over the cross-bar. To keep on riding (he has my respect) he bought a modern, open-framed bike. The Rudge was oiled up and stored, but he felt it a shame that it was no longer used and (reluctantly) advertised it for sale in the Veteran-Cycle Club's magazine for £100 (a satisfactory mark-up as it cost £28 in 1961).

This is where I come in. I saw the advert, then forgot it. 3 weeks later I re-read it, thought I would give him a ring, although I guessed it would have been sold. But no, he "had been mucked about" and it was still there. So I made the trip to West London and spent a morning with John and his wife (his reminiscenses were worth £50 alone!) and paid the full price for his beautiful, original and much loved machine. Here he proudly displays it on the day of sale:

Having taken it home and introduced it to my own bicycles, you see it here in detail

The saddle is a magnificently comfortable Brooks "B66" with large insulating springs

The chaincase protects the drive and means that one can ride it without resorting to trouser clips, or tucking them in your socks to avoid oil stains

Lighting is provided by the still working Sturmey-Archer hub dynamo set in stainless steel wheel rims and the magnificently chromed head lamp. Gearing (very low) is by Sturmey-Archer 3 speed in the rear hub.

The bell gives out a sonorous "ding-dong", befitting the bicycle's dignity, whilst the stand enables it to stand alone (nothing so common as leaning it against a wall!)

Fortunately your average bicycle thief would not give the bike a second glance (they only seem to pinch mountain bikes) - however the Rudge comes with a built in fork lock (John even supplied the two original keys)
The Rudge is a nice ride. Unlike my "head down, arse up" drop handlebarred bikes, it will not be hurried. As befits a "gentleman's bicycle" one sits high in the saddle, looking over the scenery whilst cruising serenely along. On the flat it will allow itself to run at about 12 mph. Middle gear takes care of head winds and slight rises, whilst I am astounded how the low bottom gear allows one to ride up almost any hill. One almost feels that a collar and tie should be worn when riding it!
I use it frequently to do the 3 miles into town and it will get its first run out (under my ownership) with the Veteran-Cycle Club in July. Appropriately it will be a local ride - "A Marsh Meander" over Romney Marsh, ending up for fish and chips at a cafe in the ancient town of Rye.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


HHnB writes about her childhood memories of Bluebells, so I thought that I would give her a treat and publish a few photos just taken in the wood over the way from here.

Anne Bronte's poem on the subject seems particularly apposite:

"There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell "

and is worth reading in full, H

Anne Bronte's sister Emily, also wrote a poem on the same subject, but I prefer Anne's.

Of course, the dog, Sabre, had to get in on the photoshoot. Some children had left a rope swing which he decided was worth playing with. He is 11 (77 in human years) but still thinks he can act like a kid (a bit like the bloke he lives with, I suppose!)