Friday 1 August 2014

Oh what a lovely war!

Brighton has a long history of losing piers...some of them really quite beautiful constructions.  Take the Chain Pier for example.  very beautiful.  Very washed away.

More recently, The West Pier, which is possibly most famous as the location for the splendid musical satire 'Oh what a lovely war!' was first left to rot and then destroyed by fire in 2003.  There is a mystery to the fire that revolves around it being in the middle of the sea with no electrical or other connections to the beach that would have allowed a spark or flame to reach it.  Funds had just be raised to revive it, thank you National Lottery, and become an upmarket rival to the day trippers' favourite Palace Pier just down the beach.  Some scurrilous wags had suggested there was a connection.  I couldn't possible comment

This is a clip from the film, and we were lucky enough to have seen the stage production in the original theatre in Stratford earlier this year; it's coming back to the West End if you want to see it

Anyway, this week there was a ceremony on the seafront to mark the construction of what you might describe as a vertical pier...the i360.  This is a tower that will rise high over Brighton on the landside of the site of the West Pier giving spectacular views over the seas, the city and the Sussex countryside beyond.  It would have arrived earlier, but the financial crash caused by those bastard bankers meant the money was lost, just proving how greed impacts in all sorts of unexpected ways.  It will be up by 2016, and we are very much looking forward to it.

Ironically, in the same week, this happened in Eastbourne, and we can only hope that it will be rebuilt as soon as possible

So sadly there are lots of 'lovely' wars going on around us at the moment.  Civil war in the Ukraine fueled by Mr Putin and his cronies.  The root cause of this is probably the failure to establish 'proper' government after the fall of the Soviet Union, but it is a tragedy that Moscow is exploiting it for its own ends.  There is an argument that this is because of the way the West has outmaneuvered Moscow in international affairs over the last decade or so, but equally you cannot deny Putin's desire to create a Greater Russia.  Among the victims are the families of the crew and passengers of the Malaysian aircraft shot out of the must be bad enough losing your a loved one like that, let alone having the knowledge that only two-thirds of the bodies have been recovered, with possibly some bodies removed to hide evidence of who actually shot them out of the sky.  That's an unimaginable horror of its own.

And then there's Gaza.  I am clear in my views, and have been for a long time.  Hamas is a bit stupid to be sending ineffectual rockets into Israeli territory, but when you've been subject to a blockade for the last eight years that has kept the population in abject and worsening misery and poverty, you're bound to do stupid things.  The US bares much responsibility for continuing to supply arms to Israel and unflinchingly supporting a country that is guilty of one war crime after another.  I can't help but feel that this blind support is because of a continuing guilt over the holocaust, and that is in itself creating a new one.  I can't help also thinking that if it hadn't been for Americans' money, the conflict in Northern Ireland would have ended decades before it did with many lives saved.  I'm donating significant amounts to Medical Aid for Palestinians, and invite you too here.  Its only humane.

Wednesday 30 July 2014

This was a challenge

Now, you may not have noticed it, but Sunday night was the second anniversary of the OPening Ceremony of the London Olympics.  You'll almost certainly know that this was one of the most memorable nights of my life.  We watched the Blu-Ray to re-enjoy the moment.  If you'd like to know what was going through our heads that night, do listen to THIS.  It's the In Ear Monitors with the calling instructions to does more than anything else to bring back the magic.

I said it wasn't that interesting, but I've mentioned it a couple of times...the Night Ride to Brighton.  I've done night rides before, and I've done rides to Brighton before, but I've never combined them.  I once did the ride on a tandem, having hired one from Snaresbrook, and rode it through London in the rush hour, including round Hyde Park to the start pint by myself.  I then picked up my passenger...erm I mean co-rider to complete the journey.  It was a blast.  When he was 13, The Boy and I rode from Brighton to Buckhurst Hill..that was an awesome achievement for him...we were both on mountain bikes, so heavy and unwieldy. We managed it...and I remain very proud of him for doing that.

So my ride was in support of the British Heart Foundation and I raised a couple of hundred quids for them...I don't have a particular affinity, but they organised it, so they got the money.  My first challenge was that because we were going to see Robbie Williams before hand, I couldn't ride the bike to the start point, and I no longer had the office to leave it in.  So I managed to find a store cupboard in the building and shoved it in during the morning.  After Robbie, I swiftly changed into my riding gear in the middle of the Gents, and hobbled off with The Cat's Mother (have you ever tried to walk in cycling shoes?!).  We kissed and went our separate ways...I managed to get the bike out of the cupboard and cycled to the start point down the street for my midnight start time.  It was then that I discovered, even before I started, that I had a puncture!  Fortunately, there were mechanics in the start area to sort me out...along with another 3000 fellow cyclists.  Off we went, our progress only hampered by traffic lights seemingly bent on stopping progress altogether.  Eventually we cleared the main city...a continuous stream of lycra-clad cyclists all quite relaxed and enjoying each other's company.  My ride was spent in the company of a girl who was also not in a team or with friends.  She was lovely, but a chatterbox.  I was grateful for the company...but she literally didn't stop talking for the whole 100km...I don't know how she managed it!

One bleak bit was coming down a hill to see a collection of half a dozen blue flashing lights on ambulances, a bike in one direction, a sprawled cyclist in the other...they'd lost control on the way down.  I heard later that they'd survived, but with serious injuries.  Hills were a major challenge (yes Surrey and Sussex is not quite as flat as I remembered), and even more of a challenge were the people who pushed their bikes up the hills...spreading themselves across and blocking the road.  I asked politely, but sometimes it was hard...

At the second refreshment stop, I started off again to hear a clank, clank, clank...a spoke had detached itself and wrapped itself round the rear gears.  Fortunately no damage done, and fortunately someone with some wire cutters could cut it off...

The final hill was the most difficult...up Devil's Dyke.  I've never failed to climb a hill before, but as I went up I realised I wasn't going to make it.  I was devastated.  I stopped, determined to start again when I had my breath back.  I did and made it.  I was pleased, but not half as pleased as when I looked down and realised it had been so difficult because I'd been in completely the wrong gear.  Not slightly, but totally. Actually my defeat had become a total triumph.  Elated?  You bet!

From there it was all down hill, and then along the seafront.  Sadly no free bacon butties on offer, but I got my medal and then found a cafe.  Relaxed, and feeling very, very happy with my exertions.  It had take five and a half hours.  Not bad, not bad at all.

Monday 28 July 2014

This may prove a challenge (3)

This is like making mortgage payments...once you slip behind, it's hard to catch up....

...anyway, I'm really disappointed with all of one mentioned that in the pictures from Ascot, there were two where the horses were running in opposite directions....

So, before the bicycle ride, what else has been happening?

I'm sharing an office with a bunch of journalists, which is a bit like inviting a fox into your chicken shed, but hey ho.  Now, this is truly and totally exciting for me.  Firstly it's pretty much a garret and very ramshackle, which help creates a terrific atmosphere.  Secondly, there's somewhere for me to put my bike, so I can still cycle.  And thirdly, these are not just any old journalists, but include people who do stuff for the Beeb, The Times, the FT and any number of top line outlets.  Their interests pretty much cover mine, so theres' a danger that I'll spend all day, everyday chattering away. Anyway, it should be good for work, and the day I signed up, it felt like Christmas had come early.

We had the local picnic last weekend, and the guests included Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble, Abbing and The Rolling Stones.  Ok, they may not have been the real thing, but they sounded pretty damned good to us as we danced the night away in the pouring rain (well it is England anyway).

Earlier that day, my good friend Graeme (the one who took me bobsleighing earlier this year) and I did the 8km Anniversary run round the Olympic Park.  It would probably have been sensible for me to train, but I didn't.  I still managed it with Graeme's encouragement faster than last year and with no blisters, so very happy about that. Next year, it will finish in the stadium we'll both be running again, if anyone wants to join us.

We slipped out for one night only last week (The Cat's Mother is still suffering badly with her back) to see a very, very fine performance by The Temper Trap.  I'd missed out when the tickets originally  went on sale (the venue - Oslo in Hackney - hold only a couple of hundred people), so finally took the plunge and bought them on the second hand market.  Of course, we paid a premium, but the tickets were cheap to start with so it wasn't too bad.  The gig was truly amazing, helped by me being completely non-critical.  They're a group that I really enjoy, so I am very much looking forward to their next album...

This weekend was spent in sunny Brighton.  For everyone who thinks we never sit still for a moment, let me confound you by saying, yes we do.  We sat on the hot pebbly beach all Saturday evening eating remarkable cheese and charcuterie from cave de Fromage in Hove whilst drinking a lovely chilled bottle of wine.  We loved the people watching, we loved each other's company and we loved seeing the sun slowly set.  It was a close to paradise as you can get.  The sound of the sea is completely relaxing and enchanting.  The Cat's Mother had remarkably never done it before; I had forgotten just what a beautiful experience it is.  We shall do it again.  Soon.

And today, I gave a donation to Medical Aid for Palestinians.  There was no question I was going to do it, but it was difficult to decide how much....I guess that's why charities tell you what different amounts will do for the people/things they support.  In the end I decided on £1/Palestinian who has been killed in the fighting. It's not that I value each life at £1, but I just had to find a way of quantifying what I could give.  There is a link here if you would like to do the same.

And about that bike time