Things to Do in Wales When You’re Dead

There is a well established practice of charity fundraising here in the UK. Not only is the country one of the few in the world that lives up to the foreign aid target of 0.7% of GDP (much to the disgust of the Daily Mail), but its citizens are notably generous as well.

I don’t know the reasons for this (Post-colonial guilt complex, anyone?), but it’s very common for people to raise money on the back of running marathons, or half-marathons (or 10k runs (or 5k runs!)). Or skydiving, abseiling, or the like. Personally, I’ve struggled with this a bit – it feels like a bit of a cheek asking people for money on the back of doing something I fundamentally enjoy. So my 5 or so 100 mile sportives have gone unsupported in this way. I did a 150-mile ride which was organised by a charity, and so that kind of forced my hand. But I’m not very good at this asking for money thing, and only brought in about £40.

However, in a quest to find something more challenging this year, I came across one that is so far beyond what I think I’m capable of, that I think it deserves to serve for a bit of fundraising. It’s the Mille Cymru Audax ride around Wales, covering 1,000km in 4 days. (I couldn’t get a place on the ‘proper’ one which does it in 75 hours, but this is the next best thing I could find.) The route is as follows:


It’s that elevation profile which scares me the most. That works out to an average of 11,000 ft of climbing a day – where the most I’ve done is just under 9,000. And I couldn’t do much the next day that time. It’s going to be brutal. There’s more than just a nod to the old Andy Garcia movie in the post title…

So, to make that pain worthwhile, I’ve set up a Just Giving page here, where you can donate to the Alzheimer’s Society. Dementia affects something close to a million people in the UK at present, and it’s significantly underfunded compared to other diseases. Even if you don’t donate, it’s worth finding out about it – become a Dementia Friend, or read this excellent book.

I’ll probably do one or two more blogs on the training schedule (as anything that includes a ride called the Kidderminster Killer is worth writing about). And of course the ride itself will be covered (even though I just feel like I’m giving you advance notice of posts to ignore).



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H&S, One More Time

I promise, after this one, I won’t mention Health & Safety until next year. It’s just too easy a target.

So anyway, at our office we have a large open green area – originally intended as a cricket field, it more often plays host to a series of football pitches of varying sizes. There’s a stream that runs around the edge of it (ok, a manufactured stream) with a path along the edge that the Powers That Be encourage us to walk around at lunch (10,000 steps and all that). Now, there are four places where this path crosses water, and there are wooden walkways in place. But over winter, when it’s wet and rainy and cold and dark all the time, the wood gets rather slippery. So they rope off these sections and make us walk in the road instead. Like this:

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Note the “Danger – Deep water” sign as well. The water is deep. At least a foot, maybe two. Definitely possible to drown in that if you’re a particularly small hobbit.

Now, you’ll note that the wooden slats look dry, and this is, believe it or not, because they are dry. At the time of taking that photo, it hadn’t rained in weeks. So I got hold of our friendly facilities folks, and inquired as to whether they had a plan to open up the walkways again. They said, and I’m typing this slowly to make sure you get it, that they were waiting for it to rain again so they could see if it was going to be slippery when wet. But it’s not wet! It’s dry! And therefore it’s not slippery! And there are ways of getting water onto a path without waiting for rain. Listeners with keen eyes and socks to match would have noticed a ready supply in the photo above. Sod the Beatles: a bucket is all you need.

Since that exchange, it has rained, substantially. And the path was dry the next day, and not slippery. But I just don’t have it in me to go back and ask again, so I just move the rope out the way and walk on the boardwalk. You know me – taking my life in my hands, living on the edge – I’m all about that.

However, this got me thinking: surely there has to be a way to take Health & Safety at the office so far past the bounds of what is acceptable that the whole system will break down in a flat spin? Witness the following:

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Exhibit A

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Exhibit B

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Exhibit C

We have the space, the tools, and the obstacles to make an amazing office chair racecourse. Those ladders could be put in Vs to funnel and guide, causing bad decisions and accidents galore.

However, having written this here, I’m afraid I can’t be seen anywhere near it. So if you’re reading this, and you recognise those pictures, go on and do it. I’m thinking the afternoon of 28 June would be ideal…


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Cambridge Tour, Day Three

All’s well that end’s well, when it comes to mismade hotel bookings. Sleeping four in a room in a budget Travelodge is all very well when you’re doing a holiday on the cheap, but a surprise uplift to the Old Bull Inn, with Super King sized beds, and a separate room for the kids, was a very welcome change. Not to mention a decent breakfast. Starting out with stuffed stomachs at 9:30 was very different to our 8:30 start yesterday after a Starbucks panini. Wonderful.

The route for the first 20 miles was great too – small roads, winding lanes, and countryside more akin to what we’re used to – wheat fields instead of vegetables, and gently rolling hills instead of endless flats. However, it did skip out on an excursion to Bury St Edmunds, which denied me the opportunity to scratch something off my bucket list: to stand in the town centre and boldly proclaim

I have come to Bury St Edmunds, not to praise him!

Yes, I know, it’s weak. I didn’t say how high it was on my bucket list, and I’m not particularly bothered by its continued presence. The reason for the change was due to the overrun yesterday – it seemed the least I could do to reduce today’s tally by about 6 miles in recompense. Ah well, next time.

Well, lunch in Newmarket was followed by a second stint which took us back to Cambridge, where an ice-cream truck beckoned. In the end, it’s just the urge to finish that keeps you going, and as much as I’d have loved a walk around Cambridge in the sun, it just didn’t happen.

And that was that. Nothing too exciting, just a gentle ride that had a beginning, and a middle, and an end. In total, just short of 130 miles of cycling over three days. Which may not feel like a lot for me – but with pretty much all the luggage packed on my bike, I certainly knew about all the uphills. And it’s quite an achievement for the kids, especially since we didn’t get around do doing any training with them this year. Apart from one trip down to Henley Ice Cream, which is one of our staple routes…

Anyway, here’s a video of the ride:

And one or two photos:

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Cambridge Tour, Day Two: Detours and Tours de Force

Today started much as yesterday finished: it’s flat on these here fens, and once you get up and rolling, the miles just pass by without too much effort. Especially with a tail wind.

There was a section where we went off road, so to speak, taking a narrow single track farm road across fields of vegetables. Wonderful, but a harbinger of what was to come, as our route planning app had actually led us through a private no access road. Which signage we ignored…this time at least.

The villages of Feltwell, Brandon and Thetford came and went, each with a stop for a snack, a lunch, a coffee. Or rather, given our early start and rollicking pace, second breakfast, elevensies and lunch.

And then the route planning came back to bite. The way from Thetford to Mildenhall goes along a dual carriage A-road. So we’d plotted what looked like a country lane through a forest. It turned out to be a genuine forest track which got rougher, and rougher, until we gave up, exited left and took the long way around. 50 miles instead of 43 will not make for happy campers at the best of times…

…only to find that our hotel booking was for the previous night. Yes, I’d made the mistake of booking two hotels in two different places on the same night. Try telling two tired teenagers that they need to cycle 7 miles back to the next budget hotel… So we’ve splurged on an inn a few hundred yards away, with the added bonus of not having breakfast in Starbucks.

Here’s the video for the day’s ride:


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Cambridge Tour, Day One

Funny how when you’re going on holiday, you don’t consider the traffic caused by those who still have to work. Well, I tend not to. Friday morning, rush hour, the M6, and road works. Not a great combination. Still, it only added 15 minutes or so to our journey to Cambridge, and we were on the bikes and cycling by 9:40.

The route varied between quiet country lanes and cycle lanes alongside busy roads – could definitely have been a bit better, but it was pleasant enough most of the time. St Ives was a highlight, as was Witcham.

I think that the different scenery lends itself to a different type of road. Round our way, we have loads of little single track lanes, which wind up and down hills. Here, the countryside is flat, meaning that it’s easier to plot a direct route, meaning that there are fewer roads, and those are busier. Just a theory, though. And it is flat: 37 miles with only 750 feet of elevation.

Tomorrow sees us do a bit of a zig zag to Mildenhall via Thetford. 45 miles or so. But here’s today’s animated route replay:

And a few photos that didn’t make it into the video:

Bikes racked up at the start

Elmsdon clock tower in the market square

The old Bridge at St Ives

Church in Witcham

Ely cathedral

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Cycle Trip, with family in tow

Long-time readers of this blog will know that once a year, I manage to get my family sufficiently enthused to get on their bikes and go for a three-day cycle. Three years ago, it was the Devon Coast-to-Coast, two years ago was Birmingham to Oxford. And last year, well, I’m sure something else happened. Two out of three ain’t bad, as they sing.

This year, under pain of death, I was instructed to find somewhere flat. Having gone for a day-trip to Cambridge with the Wiff, and noticed a) some cycle paths, and b) a complete lack of elevation, that decision was easily made. So, we’re off to Cambridge tomorrow to do a round trip of St Ives, Ely, Brandon and Bury St Edmunds. Thusly:


Now, this tied in to part of the Lad’s Aspire program, whereby he needs to organise something. So he plotted the route (yes, it’s all his fault that it’s 126 miles, not 100 as the ladies suspect!), booked the hotels, and arranged the car parking.

But it’ll be good to be back on the road as a family again – good times usually ensue, unless there’s rain. Which, according to the eminently accurate folks at the BBC, there shouldn’t be.

I’ll report back when we return – unlike the Oxford trip, where it seems I didn’t bother writing anything. Tut tut.


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TGIF, or not really…

You know it’s going to be a bad day when:

  • It’s raining so hard that a day out of the office volunteering in a local park is cancelled
  • You’re going camping this weekend. In Wales. Where any rain is magnified, intensified and persistentified.
  • Your own company spells your name wrong when setting you up on a system, meaning that you now have to remember to spell your name wrong every time you log in.

Come, share in my joy:


I hope you have a wonderful day, though.

Posted in Humour, Weather, Workplace | Tagged | 1 Comment