Monday, 31 August 2009


I often feel I should hate supermarkets and avoid shopping in them. But most of the time they have a good range of stuff and make life so much more convenient (and cheaper). However, it's not great when there are three or four supermarkets which each apparently stock some things that none of the others do. What to do? Some sort of supermarket rotation system? Or just do without?

Or maybe they do stock what I want, I just can't find it....

Shaky cheese. That parmesan stuff. Can't find it anywhere. I'm sure they stock it, but in what section? Not apparently in the cheese section, not in the pasta and sauces section, not anywhere I can find...

Muesli. Proper muesli, I'm not a fan of Swiss style muesli, it's a bit sickly with all the added sugar and powdered milk and stuff. Tesco does about 6 types of muesli, all Swiss style. Oh admittedly they do other sorts of muesli in really small, very expensive boxes. But given I live with another cyclist, small packets of muesli don't last long.

I'm not going to boycott Tesco for this. Just be slightly disappointed every time I try to buy cereal from them.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Unexpected Musicians and Pajamas

I went to a comedy show on Friday night. It had been recommended to us as "It's kind of a sketch show, it's a bit weird but you'll probably like it." So we went. The Pajama are two middle-aged blokes wearing pyjamas (though they spell it pajamas because they're american). The vague story is their holiday, they tell the tale of what they did and all the people they met on a train journey. This includes many strange characters including an invincible boy (who isn't actually invincible, he's a teenager), a dead girl, a psycho, some women, some punks (I think), a magician, some other people. It was impressively fast and skillful, and I liked the fact they occasionally stepped away from the script and hammed it up even more.

The thing I liked most though, was the backing music. Provided by a bloke (Kevin Hume) with a keyboard, two guitars and a triangle. He reminded me of Nick Drake crossed with Fionn Regan so I bought his album. It's lovely. Especially the love songs to insects.

Pajama men website (Kevin is for some reason, apparently trying to look like a young Bob Dylan, but never mind):

Kevin's myspace:

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Charity Bike Ride

I did a 103mile (I'd signed up for 100miles, they only said it was 103miles on the start line!) bicycle ride for charity a week ago. It was the furthest I've ever ridden but was mostly enjoyable. The weirdest thing has been the different reactions I've had from different groups of friends/relatives/colleagues/etc:

Cycling friends: You'll be fine, it's not that far as long as you eat enough and drink enough - admittedly one of my cycling friends had a couple of weeks earlier done a charity ride of about 800miles. She cycled London to Edinburgh, then back to London in just over 118hours. It made my 100miles seem somewhat less distressing!

Non-Cycling friends and relatives: Ooh, sounds tricky but I'm sure you'll do fine, you've done some training and ride your bike lots (erm, well, I had swine flu a week before, not sure that's the ideal training plan but never mind).

Work Colleagues: Goodness, surely that's impossible! You won't be able to walk for days!! What, you're planning to come to work the day after?? You must be some sort of super-human cycling demon!!!!!! Err....well not really, I can do 15miles quite happily to get places, not really considering it as a ride. I did a 50mile ride on my own whilst still coughing horrifically from swine flu and felt fine after (admittedly a bit tired, but my legs were fine). I forget that a lot of people don't do exercise at all.

My boss: What would you want to do that for? (Scornful look). I brought my medal to work to show my office buddies, my boss saw it and laughed at me for being proud of it. Humph!

The weather was nice and dry, and a pretty perfect temperature. The only problem was the strong winds that had been forecast for a week or so. Prediction of 25mph westerly winds with 40mph gusts. Meaning we would have a headwind from the halfway point onwards. It turned out that the first half of the ride was quite sheltered in valleys so we didn't even get a tailwind! The first half of the ride contained a scarily steep climb. Unfortunately there were lots of little, quite steep climbs first so me and my friend kept assuming we were on the big climb. Then going round a corner and seeing another hill in front of us. We finally found the steep bit and managed to keep going all the way, I was surprised and relieved that we didn't get overtaken (especially since I have gears unsuitable for big hills).

After lunch (pasta, tuna salad, crisps, chocolate bars etc - provided by the organisers, there were 4feed stops plus lunch) we hit the headwind, and the 20mile climb. Luckily we had cunningly set off at the same time as 4guys who looked like proper cyclists (full on lycra, road shoes, massive calves and no body fat) and managed to hang onto their back wheels for a while. At one point, one of them even dropped off the back and I managed to get him back up to his friends again. (I was very proud of myself, felt like a real cyclist!) Eventually the pace became too much for us and we couldn't keep up any longer. This section seemed to take forever, we had thought that each food stop was about 15-17miles apart. When we (finally) got to the next one and had a look at the map, it turned out it had actually been 25miles so no wonder it had taken longer than expected!

At the final feed stop, with 15miles to the finish, we realised we had set off 7hours previously. Having vaguely discussed times previously and decided that 8hours could be possibly attainable and suitably impressive, we went for it. The last few miles through the centre of York (on horrifically busy roads) were quite scary especially as the friend I rode with tends to get faster when angry - it was a bit of a struggle keeping up whenever he felt he'd been wronged by another road-user. Finally we made it to the finish, about 7hours 55minutes after starting! We must have spent over an hour at feed-stops in total so our average was probably just under 15mph! Since my usual average is about 12mph on much shorter rides, I was pretty chuffed.

We finished early enough in the afternoon that a leisurely shower and dinner could be enjoyed prior to getting the train back to Edinburgh. Finally got home about midnight. Getting up for work the next morning was a struggle! My legs were a bit tired and slightly stiff, but in general I was fine.

Who knows, maybe we'll do another one next year (though I'd rather not have to eat energy gels again, yick!)

Sunday, 9 August 2009


It's funny what being effectively housebound for a week will do. After spending the week sick with Swine Flu and only leaving the flat to stagger to the corner shop once we'd run out off food, even small excursions become exciting.

Several weeks earlier a friend had told me he was visiting Edinburgh this weekend and booked a slot to see me on the Saturday morning. The Farmer's Market is always exciting anyway but it wasn't until we got to Starbucks later on that I had a moment of hysterics. It's probably not even that funny to anyone else but I'd like to remind you that I'd been stuck with only a racking cough to keep me company for too long! Anyway, Starbucks these days always have some sort of merchandise counter thing. I don't know why coffee shops these days need their own gift shop but never mind, they had an array of different coffees, different drinking vessels and so on. This included a range of mugs with country and city names on.

The cities immortalised by a cheesy coffee mug were as follows:

And that was it. No Edinburgh mugs. In Edinburgh. I really don't see why anyone would travel to Edinburgh and think "I know what Auntie Susie would love, a Cardiff mug, awesome!!"

As it is August, Edinburgh is currently full of a million tourists who are confused by complicated things like roads and bus stops. I finally managed to get to my bus stop and joined the end of the queue. After a little while 4 little old ladies walked up. Two were frail, the other two were even more frail. I was at the end of the queue and let them through in front of me to the shelter seat. When the bus finally came there were a lot more people hanging around and I was a bit worried the ladies were either going to get separated or not get seats on the bus so I let them get on in front of me. Unfortunately as I'm polite, the rest of the crowd seemed to think they would get on in front of me too. When the last of the little old ladies grinned up at me, grabbed my hand and pulled me along with them:) Aww, it really made my day.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Cold Calling

Being off sick with the flu this week has reminded me how weird it feels to get phone calls on the landline! Pretty much all my friends only really contact me via internet or text (or phone my mobile if it's urgent). Parents phone the landline, but usually after 8pm (actually they usually email me but if the phone me I've got a good chance of guessing it's them).

Therefore if someone calls the landline during the day, I know they're usually trying to sell me stuff. The most confusing call I've had so far was apparently the NHS cold-calling to find babies...

A woman phoned and said her name, I muttered something in a confused way. She repeated her name and then said "the midwife". Ok I thought, a little odd, must be a wrong number. I told her my number and she was very insistent that yes that was the number she had and was the correct number for the person she was trying to call. Despite me denying there was anyone of the name she was asking after at our address she went on to say "What, you haven't had a baby? No-one there has had a baby?" Err no, it's just me and the boyfriend. I'm pretty sure I'd notice if either of us had had a baby. I'm still not convinced she believed me.

Saturday, 1 August 2009


You'd think cycling would be a cheap and healthy way to get around. I've generally found it fun as well. Until recently. Roadbike is still not fixed. I never realised trying to replace gear and brake cables could be so much hassle. First the internet retailer I ordered parts from didn't send me the outer for one type of cable so I asked them to send me it. Except they've sent me the wrong type of outer. I'm fed up of trying to get them to send me the right thing and decided to buy from a bike shop instead. Tried the biggest bike shop in Edinburgh. Wandering round for ages, I managed to find various brake kits and brake individual cabling parts, but not for gears. I asked one of the staffmembers, he stood looking at the display for a while and then decided that they didn't sell outer individually. They sell inners but not outers? Ok. So I asked for a kit, after a fair amount of dithering he said they probably didn't have any in stock (but didn't actually check on the system). I think asked about ferrules. He looked blank so I explained what he meant, then had to show him on a bike as he had no idea what I was on about. He wasn't sure if they sold them by which point I'd had enough.

I tried a different bike shop who did have gear kits but didn't sell the individual parts. So now I have one and a half sets of stuff to replace gear cabling for a lot more money than if I'd just bought the kit in the first place. Argh!

Also I hate the reactions people have to cyclists. I know some cyclists can be inconsiderate and break the rules of the road. That's because cyclists are actually human too. The thing is I'm a very polite, law-abiding cyclist, but since I'm small and female, I seem to get more of the anti-cyclist anger-venting. The other day I cycled to the pub. It was a Thursday evening about 9.30pm and starting to get dark. Since I'm a safety conscious cyclist I was wearing my helmet, high vis gilet and my bike lights were on. You'd think by the reaction I got that I was kicking puppies and assaulting grannies.

The pub is about 2miles away. The higlight of the trip was the car driver who wasn't paying attention to the road and nearly hit me. He did apologise though making him the nicest person on my trip.

The second person who reacted to me saw me cycling up the road (up as in up a reasonably steep hill) and pressed the button on the pedestrian crossing. Fair enough. Bit of a hassle starting on the hill but I wouldn't want pedestrians to get hit by cars. Except he stared at me, worked out in front of me, and then waited until the lights started flashing amber, then slowly sauntered off the road again. Now, being a polite, law abiding cyclist, I waited politely and so was inconvenienced. Whereas if I'd been a more aggressive cyclist, he wouldn't have bothered me at all as I would have just sped past him and ignore the red light. Bastard.

The third interaction I had with another road-user was a car full of 5 male youths. I was cycling along the road and the car shot past me and one of them yelled something. Now being idiots, they obviously didn't realise that shouting from a moving car makes them fairly unintelligible. Being Edinburgh, they had to stop at a red light about 20metres down the road and I casually cycled up alongside them. At which point they frantically wound their windows up again. Possibly sensible if I was large, male and agressive, but again I'm small and female and rather unlikely to take on a car full of stupid lads. I smiled at them politely. The window was wound down again and the passenger asked "Why are you riding a bike, why haven't you got a car". Now interestingly if the driver had said this it would have made a bit more sense. I didn't really fancy pointing out that he wasn't actually driving a car either, and that if I cycle, it means I'm actually allowed to drink alcohol in pubs.

The lights turned green and they shot off again. I was quite amused by cycling casually up to them again at the next 3 red lights.

*Sigh* People are idiots.