Category Archives: House

‘Buffet Froid’ and a bear in the garden

We watched Buffet Froid last night. If you don’t know it it’s a French film directed by Bertrand Blier and starring Gérard Depardieu, Bernard Blier and Jean Carmet.

I must have bought it some time ago and then forgotten about it. I do that. A lot of our DVD collection is still in cellophane (just as many of my books are unread). Regular work seems to be improving my attention span though. I’ve finished several books recently and can now cope with whole TV programmes and films on an occasional basis.

So we watched it. I didn’t know anything about it beforehand. The cover speaks of a theme of urban alienation, but that hardly does it justice. It’s bonkers. Albert Camus and Luis Buñuel must be major influences. You have to work hard to make some sort of sense of it, but it is an enjoyable task. I’m still working on it today. I can’t see Hollywood remaking it.

In other news we have had a bear in the garden. We think it was bear. We have this new bird feeder thing – a pole with hooks on, water bowl, all that sort of stuff. It’s very popular with the birds and Morris the local squirrel.

Anyway, this morning the peanut holder has been unhooked, thrown to the ground and the peanuts emptied out and eaten. That’s got to be a bear, right? It might be a squirrel I suppose but Morris is no heavyweight and that nut holder is sturdy. So we have a bear. Or a squirrel. Or an owl – it could have been an owl.

They found the smallest dinosaur in the world just up the road the other day but that’s long dead.


>I am suffering from frustration. I’d got back into the training groove – admittedly dragging myself up hills and crawling into headwinds – but now it’s all fallen apart again. I think I may have mislaid my cycling mojo. I have excuses – DIY to do, plumbers to wait for, it looks a bit rainy – but, in truth, I’m not getting out there because I’m under-motivated. The house is a (wonderful) distraction that I’m using as an excuse. Tomorrow I will ride1.

Pat has flown away to China. I’m missing her already. I always worry that I will sort of disappear if she’s not here. She has instructed me to talk to people if I feel the invisibility coming on. I hope I don’t scare anyone.

I am sending CVs to potential employers. I expect to be flooded with job offers at any moment. If you need a playwright on the staff2 you’d better get in touch fast.

1 Check back later to see if I held to this.
2 Will also shine shoes, mow lawns, build Zeppelins, etc.

>The Berlingo has landed


Windmill Hill2
photo from

We are now Southerners. It’s eleven days since we moved from the Grimy Northern Industrial Heartlands (Harrow) to Bexhill and one day since we managed to get broadband re-installed (hence the lack of posts). In between times we have unpacked 500,000 cardboard boxes, worked out the bin collection schedule and have boosted B and Q’s profits by somewhat.

Most days we wander down to the sea and just enjoy being here. It’s a very nice place. There are cafés everywhere and there’s a great hardware store as well – “a print of nails, sir?”, “Yes, I think I will.”

I’ve finally managed to get out on the bike a couple of times. It took a few days to find the time (and my pedals) and recover from a cold. There are some great cycling roads round here – smooth and with relatively light traffic. They do have more headwind though, hence the proliferation of windmills.

I’m meant to be riding a 10 mile TT today, but I won’t. I’ve lost a lot of form in a short time. Time off the bike doesn’t help but the cold has knocked me sideways. I’ll wait a little while before entering anything else.

1 Berlingo translates literally as “the language of bears”. Why?
2 The windmill at Windmill Hill is a post mill. So called because they were made from kits that came via the post in weekly parts. This is why you see so many unfinished windmills.

>2011 – race #1

>And so it begins again.

I’ve had a fortnight of occasional short, gentle rides rather than training. We’ve been packing the house ready for the move and that has taken all of our attention. Despite this I did want to ride today’s event. I’ve got very anxious over the last weeks and cycling has helped take some of the pressure off.

I had a particularly good ride on Friday – an hour at Hillingdon on the Planet X TT bike for the first time in months. It felt like flying. On Tuesday I’d struggled to average 16mph on the road bike. On Friday, despite no effort longer than three miles, I did 19 miles in the hour. Given how unfit I’ve been feeling, it was a big boost. It was good to say ‘ta ra’ to the Tuesday/Friday veterans as well. I’m not going to miss the regular kickings they gave me though.

So Friday and Saturday we broke the back of the packing. The loft is empty and our life is almost all in boxes. This meant that I could legitimately spare the morning for a proper bike race – the West London Combine / Maidenhead and Dist CC 10m TT on the Knowl Hill course (H10/2). We might have had the Tour Down Under, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Strade Bianche, but we all know the season really begins at a village hall just outside Maidenhead in early March.

It was a cool, crisp morning with a slight tailwind to the turn. This made the early rise to Knowl Hill a little less lung bursting than usual, but made the last half a mile a living hell quite hard. I was pleased with my ride. Last year I messed it up by being on medication and snapping a gear cable on the way to the start. Two years ago I did a 26:37. Today I did exactly the same time. I’m not progressing as well as I might!

CORRECTION: I misread my time. It was actually 20 seconds slower – 26:57. I need new specs.

Race stats: Time: 26:57 (22.26mph). First 5 miles: 12:20, last 5 miles: 14:37. Top speed: 29.6mph. Slowest mile (6): 3:09 (19.05mph), fastest mile (4): 2:18 (26:09mph). Average HR: 163bpm, maximum HR: 168bpm. Average cadence: ?rpm. 28th of 84 finishers. Winner: Peter Dixon (Willesden CC) 22:58

As it was an association event I rode in the colours of my second claim club, the Willesden. That should be my last ride for them… It was good to say cheerio to so many of the team mates and friends from other clubs who have made the nearly five years we’ve lived in London so nice. Apologies that I didn’t get to chat to all of you. Thanks all.

In other news – they’ve just run the Kiwi age group track championships. My sister Marie reports…

Final score for NZ National Track Cycling Championships:
Jennifer [my niece – U17]: bronze (scratch race), silver (points race), silver (team pursuit), bronze (team sprint), 4th (individual pursuit) and 6th (sprint)
Me [i.e. Marie – vet]: bronze (500m TT – PB 42:814), silver (2000m individual pursuit – PB 2:49:418)

Well done the Muhls!

>Willesden CC Reliability Trial

>Sunday was a nice day for a ride out (unlike last year’s event). I entered the short (36 mile) event, but couldn’t work out the route – after five years I’m still regularly confounded by the lanes round here. I decided to head out with the mid-speed group on the 100km event and turn round early. After 10 miles of getting dropped on every drag, twice regaining the group as they were held up at traffic lights, I was finally permanently detached on the short climb out of Chorleywood.

I kept the pace going on the rubbish road surfaces to Chesham, keeping the lights of the following cars in sight. As I left Chesham I accepted that this was going to be a solo ride and eased back a bit on the long, gradual ascent to Wendover Woods. I passed quite a few puncture victims on the way.

At Wendover I turned left and headed back to the HQ via Amersham, Chalfont Common and Denham. It’s two years since I rode the second half of the route over Bledlow Ridge and Small Dean Lane. My climbing form is so rubbish at the moment I think there may have been walking involved. I may be losing weight, but my climbing technique is useless at the moment – work to do.

I got back to Ickenham having covered just over 50 miles in about 3 hours (62 miles door to door for the day). The refreshments were, as ever, excellent.

I only just got back ahead of the fastest guys on the 100km route. My ex-club mates from the Willesden seemed to have a variety of epic rides, at least one of them involving a taxi.

The house move situation seemed to step up a gear at the end of last week. Some ultimatums from other parts of the chain led to a couple of sleepless nights. It does look as if things are accelerating – hopefully not falling apart. The thing is not to panic.

Less than two weeks to the first race (providing we don’t move the next day).

>It’s a funny old time of year

>I started January today. I began my training programme a little late, so I’m running off a different calendar to most people.

It’s a difficult time. The pain and disappointments of last season have faded and the new season is just over the horizon. The numbers are going up (as they should be) and it’s tempting to push on – to do too much too soon.

Keeping the intensity down is an issue for me. Few people now subscribe to pure ‘Long Slow Distance’ work, but there’s a consensus that this time of year is about building up endurance and working on skills. The trick is to allow enough time between training sessions (and real life) to recover. Going too hard, too soon can lead to over training.

Over training can lead to irritability, depression, aches and pains, insomnia, and headaches (hmmm). It’s a chronic condition that can take a long time to fix. That’s why it’s important to get the intensity right and recover properly (and each person’s response to training is different – you have to know yourself and be honest about what training load you can healthily sustain). Good nutrition and hydration are important as well. I’m useless at the nutrition side of things.

It can be a physically dangerous time of year as well. The days are (slowly) getting lighter and I’m desperate to get out onto the road. But several people have reported falls this weekend, caught out by the ice. An accident like that can wipe out any advantage I might gain from a long road ride. I looked out of the window on Sunday morning and decided to substitute a long turble session for the day. Not much fun, but safer.

There’s a lot of illness around at the moment as well. Pat has had really nasty flu this past week. I’ve been wearing a deep sea diving helmet around the house, so I hope I don’t get it. I think it’s made my hypochondria flare up again. I try to keep my immune system in good order by taking vitamins C and D, zinc, omega 3 and by touching wood on a regular basis. I wish I could avoid using public transport at this time of year.

I suppose the other January thing is motivation. Sometimes it’s lacking. I just don’t feel like training. The good news is that I don’t need motivation, I just need to get on the bike and ride. If it’s raining, icy or dark I use the turble. I don’t have to like it (see above). I have a plan for each session and try to execute it. If I do miss a session, I forgive myself and move on. It’s not the end of the world.

I still haven’t set goals for the season. The house move is progressing slowly. It might be two months or more before we move. I hope it’s less than that – we’d hoped to before Christmas. Whatever it is, it’s likely to take out the early season. Until there’s a bit more certainty around, I’ll hold back on the targets.



Even sub-tropical Harrow has been hit by snow this week. This coincides with week 5 of my ‘training programme’ when I’m supposed to be stepping up the time and effort. I did manage a couple of outdoor hours on Tuesday before the weather set in, but the white stuff mitigated against further outside efforts.

Thursday was the first of a programme of confusing low-intensity power intervals on the turbo which were over rather quickly and involved not quite enough intensity (I’ll know better next week when the duration increases).

I was scheduled to do 3 steady hours on Friday but the roads were too dangerous. I decided to go for a 2 hour session on the turbo instead. A DVD of Mark Cavendish winning the 2009 Milan-San Remo helped distract me some of the time but after an hour and forty five minutes my will and my undercarriage gave out and I quit. It was still my longest ever turbo session (so thanks for that, Cav).

I spent yesterday morning downloading a Sufferfest video, The Hunted. These vids are structured interval sessions with support from groovy music and videos of proper cyclists in races. Unfortunately the DVD wouldn’t run on my ancient lap top, so I ended up spinning away while Cav won Giro, Tour and Tour of Ireland stages for fun. I’ll be able to test The Hunted tomorrow thanks to the free VLC video player which runs on Windows XP. Hurrah (I think)

I have been gathering together a database of races that will run in 2011 from a variety of sources. We still don’t have a moving date, so it’s too early to be making strategic decision on how the season will look. It’ very frustrating. The house move will punch a pretty big hole in the structured training ‘plan’ as well.

>To the turbodrome

>The recent cold and snow has pushed me back onto the turbo. Not that it has been much warmer inside our lean-to – a couple of sessions were done at 3°C and it is looking cold out there again today.

Like a lot of cyclists I pretend to hate the turbo trainer, but really I’m just bored by it. This is especially true at this time of year when I’m building back to fitness. There are no really hard interval sessions to carry out (pain is preferable to discomfort in this context).

So I’ve been trying a few techniques to beak sessions up. I’ve found the following useful:

  • Spinning up the revs for 10-15 seconds every 5 minutes or…
  • Going up/down a sprocket every 5 minutes and adjusting cadence accordingly and…
  • Changing handlebar position every 1 or 2 minutes

These were amongst techniques suggested on the Time Trialling Forum – there’s also a thread “What’s the longest turbo session you’ve ever done?” which makes for scary reading – 5+ hours!? I’ve never managed more than 75 minutes.

In a way I’m glad to have had such a concentrated batch of turbo sessions – it’s got me back into the habit. It also gets you fit very quickly. I hope I’ll cope a bit better with riding with the veterans at Hillingdon this week!

Of course, I’m writing this post to delay today’s turbo session.

In Gear Quickvit Trainsharp

In other news,we had the Willesden CC AGM yesterday. I am no longer time trial secretary (my first and last annual report is here). Indeed, I am no longer a first claim member of the club. From next season I will be riding for In Gear Quickvit Trainsharp, a team based in Uckfield, close to where we hope to be living in Sussex. I’ll remain a second claim member of the Willesden and hope to see some of them at races.

The house move is now waiting on the chain to form. Someone down the line needs to find a place to live. After months of making decisions about our future, we are now subject to the vagaries of other people’s decisions. It doesn’t feel so good.

>Moving out of town

>Apologies for the lack of recent posts. We’ve been busy with preparing for our move to the South Coast. It’s all been a bit stressful with lots of last minute dashes South to see places and deals falling through. This week, though, promises to be a bit calmer *touches wood*.

Bike-wise it’s all been a bit of a disaster. One turbo session followed by a 24 hour stomach bug was last week’s work load. Nothing at all the week before. Tonight I did manage a short turbo ride after fixing a puncture – how can you pick up a thorn on a turbo? I hope to get to Hillingdon to do some open air cycling before work tomorrow. Maybe the season starts here.

I won’t be able to ride the Hillingdon Winter Series this year. My fitness has disappeared completely and I need to have good form to hang on, even in a 4th category race. As for next season – who knows? It feels like it might be a later start and perhaps a lower key season – more club events and fewer opens maybe. I’ll have to see what the training grounds are like down there. The traffic seems to be as mad as London’s.

One sad note (for me) – I’m leaving the Willesden CC. I’ve flogged a lot of my club kit, but there may be a few bits and pieces left if anyone is interested.


>After viewing houses in Eastbourne on Friday it was back to the South coast for a Prime Coaching Calshot session on Saturday. After not training the session came as a bit of a shock to the system, but it was nice to do something different.

Yesterday was meant to be a 2-up ’10’ and a hill climb organised by the Westerley CC, but that was never going to  happen – DNS.

Today’s house viewing session has also been abandoned – we’re both knackered quite tired. I’ll head to Hastings  later in the week to see more (including a second viewing!).