Monthly Archives: July 2017

Record Of The Week # 23

July 23, 2017

Dawes – Stories Don’t End

I read somewhere that Rock was dead. As useless as that sounds then when you note that U2 are touring an album they made 20 years ago, The Who have a residency in Vegas and your inability to name the last great Rock album released since 2010 then it might be true.

With this rattling around my head then I checked to see what was one of the last Rock albums that I bought and that I still revere today and came up with one by Dawes. Never heard of them? Read on…

This troupe come from Los Angeles and have five releases to their name and in 2013 released Stories Don’t End. What a great album in the mould of Steely Dan meets Jackson Browne and Paul Simon. I’m always drawn to a tune and this band never fail to find a melody that is often delivered with a harmony vocal. The arrangements rely on guitar, bass, keyboards and drums but always delivered tastefully as if the practitioners are so accomplished that the sound serves the album rather than needing any grandstanding.

Guitarist and lead vocalist Taylor Goldsmith writes all but one of the tracks and his observational lyrics are perceptive about the ordinary lives we live. He has the gift for creating a situation that is common but unusual; from here you slip seamlessly into his world. “From A Window Seat (Rivers and Freeways)” tells the story of having that window seat on a flight and wondering about the lives and reasons for travel of his fellow passengers and the dream he has whilst he dozes. This stream of consciousness is paired with a superb upbeat rock track redolent with lead electric guitar flourishes.

“Someone Wil”l is an unrequited love song about a man who falls for a girl he imagines telling of his affections but has to concede that if he doesn’t tell her of her desirability then someone will. Again Goldsmith’s mellifluous tones come to the fore against a Graceland era Paul Simonesque tune with a prominent bass line from Wylie Gelber.

The riff/guitar signature of 2013 is unleashed on your ears on “Most People”. Again more lyrics about someone having views that she alone thinks she holds but frankly… most people do. The pace and sparsity of the sound of the band behind allows Goldsmith to deliver his heartfelt analysis whilst the bass anchors the song, and then comes the killer riff.

From The Right Angle has the opening stanza:

“You have found me on the other side

Of a loser’s winning streak

Where my thoughts all wander further than they should”

You know you’re onto a winning track especially when we put it with a great tune.

Throughout we have a very perceptive observer who’s never quite sure of his worth but certainly able to assess the worth of others telling you about the things that seem plain in front of him. You will listen.

I’m not sure how these guys have not made greater strides towards world domination but at least now you know what you’re missing.

Frogs, Pineapples & The Dunkirk Spirit – Week 29 : 2017

July 23, 2017

If you can appreciate the pressure that Chris Froome is under on his bicycle, in the most difficult bike race in the world, then it humbled me to see him interviewed after a Stage. He must have been weary, he’d been attacked by hostile competitors for 5 hours and then had to help some insistent journalist get a story; he’s class personified. His fourth Tour victory has been well earned not least when those classy French spectators boo’ed him in Marseilles in the stadium during the TT. He’s ‘badged’ as a Brit but really he’s a Kenyan. We’re lucky to have him on loan.

Food Banks are a sad phenomena but it would be even sadder without them if people need them. I fail to read the Tesco notice advising what not to donate as well as what they want and tip toe up to the box hoping I have it right. It did make me smile that these recipients maybe don’t have too many demands but are sadly getting healthier despite no ambition. No one puts anything in the box that isn’t nutritious, sensible or worthy! Even I selected the pineapple fruit chunks in juice rather than syrup!

Last weekend saw a trip to Trent Bridge, Nottingham for a day of cricket. The weather forecast had advised on the morning of the day we were attending that there would be heavy rain at 11am through until 1pm. So we set off later to avoid sitting in it with no cricket being played. You’ll possibly not be surprised to learn that not a ball was lost through rain and we missed four South African and two English wickets! Unfortunately there were a lot more English wickets during the rest of the day and rain would have been welcome to delay our heavy defeat.

On the horizon is one of my rare trips to the cinema. Dunkirk portrays the events of June 1940 when, over several days, nearly 340,000 men were evacuated off the French coast in 800 boats of various shapes, sizes and seaworthiness. It was not a victory but spawned ‘Dunkirk spirit’ as a phrase and summarised what many of us would hope shows the resolve and adventure of the British spirit in the face of murderous adversity. In times of continuing tragedy then we receive these events, on the surface at least, with outrage, exaggeration, bewilderment, needing a political party, organisation or person to blame and often analysis that borders on virtue signalling or smug cynicism. Imagine in 2017 approaching pleasure craft owners i.e. civilians, often in their retirement, and asking them to sail 20 miles over open sea with the scant cover from the RAF and Royal Navy whilst calamitous hell rains off the French coast from German artillery and the Luftwaffe. You do this for no money, compensation and maybe the risk of losing your life and boat. Remarkable.

Today, as the boats sailed, we’d have journalists investigating the appalling circumstances that led to the need for this activity, the absence of any British plan to cope with the humiliating retreat, the British absence of an evacuation plan, the absence of a health and safety assessment, the absence of a plan of what to do immediately with 340,000 returning soldiers. At the same time as social media explodes with hate and anguish then we’d  probably have something like a Court Injunction to stop any movement until we have further actions or information clarified and agreed. Delightfully on prime time as the TV and radio channels fight for audience share we’d have interviews with Nazi experts agreeing with the enormity of the project and probably an ensuing debate on whether surrender would be the better option.

I don’t want to brush all our current tribulations under the carpet but when you put much of today’s challenges against history then are we who we think we are?

Lastly, there was a little merriment as my sister was selected by her grandson to read him a bedtime story. The pleasure was that we were not selected. Less merriment was had when said grandson appeared downstairs without his grandmother. He had survived the bedtime story but she hadn’t and was now nicely in the Land of Nod!

East France & The Black Forest in the Morgan – July 2017

July 17, 2017

‘Lord I was born a ramblin’ man’ sang Gregg Allman in 1972 and the riff from this classic Rock song is one that everyone knows because it became the theme to Top Gear. And so this is me again, the latest jaunt sees me load Samantha (Morgan Plus 4) onto the Hull to Zeebrugge ferry with a vague idea of where I am ramblin’. I enjoy driving the car, French camp sites, seeing new sights and generally being off the grid for a week or so.

Any holiday that starts on a ferry has a large frisson of excitement and despite spending a disproportionate amount of my children’s inheritance on this tug every year then I still have the same anticipation when I get on board.

Day 1

The pleasure starts when you drive off and attempt to drill into your numbskull that Johnny Foreigner drives on the other side of the road. Anyway with the hood down I soon strode across Belgium under sunny and then stormy skies.

First stop was the Decathlon superstore at Lille, their head quarters. Daughter No 2 (or Number 1 in her mind) worked in London for the French sports retailer and I just love the selection and prices! So I got to the store with the hood down and came back to the parked car (hood up!) to be in one hell of a summer downpour. This deluge continued as I headed south east down the main motorways for several hours.

Eventually the sun appeared but my once immaculately clean car was filthy and with this dark cloud over me I headed into some motorway services on the French / Luxembourg border. I only ever thought of this little country as a tax haven and irritant by being involved in World Cup qualifiers but also I really don’t like its foremost politician – Jean Claude Juncker. With Brexit looming he made a speech in French eschewing English given that we will be soon gone from his club. I thought this was childish and the prevalence of the English language unstoppable. And so it was in the services with the cashier clarifying matters for all people in English!

Border security has now been reintroduced and at every border there are traffic jams as gun toting police scrutinise the cars and trucks as they file past them presumably in search of terrorists. The implication was that I lost considerable time on all the borders. The longest delay was between France and Germany. Ironic really because I’ve noted that the Germans do not indicate their borders!

Eventually the motorway became too wearying and monotonous and in the late afternoon I find some side roads and look for a campsite. The car is bliss on windy smaller roads providing the road surface is good. The two most horrifying words in French a Morgan driver can see are in the photo below:

Eventually I find one. I last visited it in 2011, by bicycle, in Verdun. I passed this way when looking at the French and German WW1 battlefields. Job done for the day.

Day 2

A bicycle day starts early because there are big distances to pedal. However in the car it is a lot more leisurely. Also I was only sauntering down the road to Villey-le-Sec, near Toul. I have visited this campsite in the car in the last three years and some of scenery is staggering. The Morgan is wonderful with the hood down but if you take the temperature above the twenties then it is like being put under the grill. At McDonalds in Toul where I used the free wifi then the air conditioning was delicious. More memorable was the idiot trying to open my toilet cubicle door and twisting the handle until I came out. His face was a picture of contrition as he thought his work colleague was within (instead of me). Those crazy French eh?

At the campsite I take a familiar spot opposite the Moselle. I have previously seen working barges but over the time I’m there I only see a few pleasure cruisers. I pop out and get some provisions and when I return it’s a literal procession of people who come up and admire the car. Lots of questions about the engine, where it’s made and even one Belgian admirer has one at home. As much as I love the car my heart gently sinks as the next Dutchmen slowly approaches asking if it is still made with a wooden chassis. In fact such was the love that I started getting paranoid. The next morning as other campers passed me saying ‘morgen’ I had to stop and not confirm to them that they were correct and it was in fact a ‘Morgan’.

With this admiring audience I wash the car and then chat with two German cyclists who I tease about carrying too much luggage. They defended the lugging of a cold box several hundred miles on the basis that they always had cool drinks to hand. I wonder if they’ll be so smug when they find more hills as they push on to Marseilles. Also on occasion you come across a lunatic cyclist tourer who is doing it all wrong…

A chap on a mountain bike comes into view pulling a child carrier trailer. In the trailer is fido. However within the trailer are no tent, cooking equipment, clothes etc. So this deranged cyclist finds a tree next to the river to shelter under (a good idea given the heatwave and tropical rain storm combination) and unfurls his sleeping bag, ties up the dog and then goes to sleep. Surprisingly he’s still there the next morning despite the considerable risk of his rolling into the river and floating downstream to the lock.

I imagine like me he was woken by four rooks that are making a spectacular din as they play/fight between the tents. Given that the French seem to eat anything then I may have a solution that appeals to them.

Day 3

So well awake and up I get on the road and decide that I’ll have a look at Strasbourg. First I stop at Decathlon in Nancy to buy Anna some cycling shorts. Apparently the padding is in a different place to boy’s shorts? I come out to lots of Morgan admirers. One besotted Frenchman after seeing my car and viewing the engine compartment drags me across to see the engine of his BMW Z3. Oh ffs

The decision to go to Strasbourg and avoiding the main roads takes me through some minor mountains on empty roads. Despite the midday heat then the wooded climbs keep me cool and I swoop and climb for many miles. My wife would have been thrilled as I saw a deer amble across the road as I slow for another hairpin bend.

What becomes clear here and in many parts of France is the rural abandonment that probably started 60 years ago but continues at a high pace. A lot of settlements have derelict hotels, mills, shops and houses. It seems the jobs went and so did the people. Whilst these places are not terribly remote then I can imagine, back in the day, telling a teenager who’s 25 miles from ‘civilisation’ that this is a fun place to be would be a challenge. Clearly if you’re a Brit with the dosh you can get a lot for a song.

In Strasbourg the intended campsite is reached, nicely within reach of the centre by walking. However, I am turned away as it is full! When I last drove to the site in 2016 it was shut as it was being refurbished. I don’t believe that I am meant to ever stay here! Positively, however, then I’m offered an option 5 miles away but it takes over an hour to reach. Kehl is on the other side of the Rhine but as there is a border then those cunning Germans have made entry on this busy route into a one lane affair and in the sizzling sun I broil as I inch toward the border. The campsite is super and the obligatory man over 50 appears to drool over the car (a bit like a scene from The Truman Show when a man on a walkie talkie advises the actors that I am now on the campsite and a man must appear to admire the car) and then a bloke from York seeks me out. He regularly comes here. So often in fact that he stays with the campsite owner! Anyway bonding done and I walk back to the bridge/border to get a free tram into Strasbourg.

What a beautiful city. Lovely architecture, probably owing more to German than French design but sumptuous and a magnificent cathedral. My mind wonders as to how much it would have cost to build originally. Mind-boggling.

Strasbourg is the other home of the EU and the MEP’s are meant to move between here and Brussels. The reality is that is a pointless double centre arrangement but unsurprisingly the French veto any talk of ‘shutting’ Strasbourg. ‘Non’.

So after a good walk around I find an outside restaurant and the result was excellent. I was only offered two cooking choices – ‘red or medium’! I get back on the tram to Kehl and then saunter back to the campsite. Another striking factor is the ethnic mix on the both sides of the border. There are many many people from the Middle East and Africa. I guess that there were a lot of newcomers long before Angela tore down the border for refugees.

Back at the campsite I find a German lady who is admiring the car. ‘Ageing crumpet’ will save me a lot of words in describing her (apologies to the Thought Police). She has come to Strasbourg on her bike to meet someone to do something but tomorrow she is planning to escape the heat by going swimming with a Russian girlfriend (…you think I make all this up!) Anyway back in the ’90’s she visited the Morgan factory on a professional photography assignment and was relaying this to me with considerable colour – ‘oh, you should have seen zee factory with all zee walls covered in porno’.

Why she is travelling alone is now becoming a little clearer.

Clearly it is a long time before Page 3 girls were prohibited from being posted on lockers but I remember those years well. Not a loss. All in all I’m disappointed that this was her main memory of the most exquisite of British motor engineering!

Day 4

Anyway no rooks next morning but quite a bit of rain and being Sunday I drive into France to find a supermarket. Germany ‘does’ Sunday and no retail shops are open other than in tourist areas. A little face peaks through my car window as I park up and asks if I speak English? “A little bit”. “May I take a photo?” “Mais oui”.

The drive to Stuttgart up the E5 was horrid. I drank a litre and a half of water in 3 hours just sat still in the car as I toasted alive hurtling east. Along the way with pending late afternoon thunderstorms I decide on a hotel and find one on the internet. Through heavy traffic I get to the hotel in late afternoon to find the door in North Stuttgart locked! I ring the intercom and am advised to type in a code and a key pops out of a hole! The room was hot but it was good to get out of the storm and try and find my lost prescription sunglasses.

Day 5

Alas they were not to be found and I decided to solve the problem by going ‘old school’ to quote Daughter No. 1 (who definitely knows that she is No. 1) and planned to get some clip on’s. Very ‘1985’ I hear you saying but continuing on my travels squinting was not an option. Up the road was an optician and in the morning he had the solution and was prepared to cut the lens to fit my glasses. All for €19.

In downtown Stuttgart I found an underground car park and went in search of Second Hand Records. This is a truly brilliant vinyl record store for anyone collecting older stuff. In fairness they had lots of new but I bought some Humble Pie, The Nice, Santana & McLaughlin, Millie Jackson, Ten Years After, Candi Staton, Cat Stevens, Average White Band and Alvin Lee. Blissfully happy I steered Samantha into the Black Forest on the B roads.

Now this was the sensible way to head south west again. It is lovely although I expected a larger area. I got to St Peter and found a campsite that for views and shower block immediately makes the ‘Tony Ives Top 10 Campsites’ and all for €9 with great wi-fi. In speaking to Anna I demonstrated the rugged side of my nature as she listened to the rain falling on the tent. However real manhood would have been demonstrated as she heard the thunder and lightning that I endured until the early hours of the morning. I genuinely thought that the ground would be so waterlogged that I couldn’t drive the car off the grass next morning. It wasn’t.

In gentle rain I continued south and made it to Mulhouse. Here I popped into the shop to buy a couple of T Shirts at the French National Motor Museum. I went around it in 2013 and it is probably the best car museum in the world. I replaced a much loved T Shirt I bought back then.

Now it was up the mountains in the Vosges. This is where the car excels and it is a pleasure to surge up the hills and take the corners tight on the way down! I pushed onto another Google find in St Maurice-sous-les-Côtes. This campsite was a field of mirabelle plum trees with spaces and a small mixed shower block. In asking a lady when Reception would open I made a friend in Susan and her husband, Immer. She was an English woman, married to a Dutchman, who tuned pianos and painted oil pictures of our currently conflicted world… Trump, Theresa May, discarded plastic bottles in the ocean and miners with bird faces (so very Tony, I know). Knowing that she was a gentle soul I felt compelled to discuss Brexit! ‘Light blue touch paper and retire’ comes to mind. Anyway I hope I assured her that the world will continue to spin and Boris Johnson’s mum loves him even if Remainers don’t. I return to the tent to find the ‘neighbour’ shaving her legs (and trimming her moustache, just joking about the second part) but the Dutch are really a practical nation as was another Dutch lady changing her top in the mixed shower block the next morning!

All in all a lovely very French site with an owner selling local produce and being so courteous and helpful that I must find his site on Trip Advisor to anoint him. Maybe we bonded when he talked about the car on a TV programme that he watched about someone refurbishing a Morgan.

Day 6

In more rain I head north. Now I’m thinking about the ferry home and edging closer. Again Google finds a site as I’m sat in a McDonalds in Reims charging the iPad and using the ‘whiffy’. I drive to Guise and find a gem of a town with a fabulous campsite. “Where can I pitch the tent?” “Anywhere”. Correct answer. So that means away from the kids and other folk at the bottom of the site! Here in the now warm evening I wash the car. Originally I got the really grim dirt off it at a car washing centre with a high pressure jet but back on the site some further detail work needed doing. After is a stroll into town to meet Stella (Artois). Then back for another episode of House of Cards Season 5, nicely held on my iPad after a Netflix download.

Day 7

Again a leisurely departure and a drive north through arable land and past French and British World War One cemeteries. All poignant. A stop at a supermarket in Roubaix to get some vittles for the ship and then onto the ferry.

There are signs warning about illegal migrants stowing away on trucks and at the ferry port security are checking cars. I am exempt from the search as it become plain that my fitting into the car with luggage is difficult let alone a bloke fleeing Afghanistan.

A routine sailing with me catching up on the blog with a pint of Guinness later.

Day 8

Into the Hull rush hour and then home.

Pennine Cycleway – Derby to Leeds

July 4, 2017

Day 1

So back on the road… how exciting! After a winter of injury then to actually pack the panniers and gingerly advance on my trusty steed toward York Station was quite a thrill. Frankly I’m not fully restored but I was anxious to see how the knee behaved as I had planned a tour that by any standards was not a gentle re-introduction.

Lord knows Cross Country Rail is not a thing of beauty and even less so as it arrived 35 minutes late as I wended my way down to Derby to start the ride. The first challenge was loading the bike onto the correct carriage and then ‘hanging it up’ in a special recess. That went well but at the next stop, Leeds, another cyclist was moving my heavy bike to create space for his and clattering it as he grappled with its weight. I was heard to utter a loud ‘whoa!!’ to indicate my displeasure at his manhandling. The weightlifter in question objected to my objection and pointed out that the ‘train wasn’t my personal property’….’’maybe, but the bike’s my personal property”. Anyway I went back to my seat hoping he had an unfortunate accident with a car outside Wakefield Station when he alighted.

Eventually Derby came and I met up with Tony Franco who’d had to hang around the Station until I arrived. Tony and I met in 1985 when we studied at the University of Bradford for our MBA’s. Tony has a busy work schedule but is a cyclist, runner and swimmer. However such a long trip was new to him.

The Marketing Guru led off through Derby traffic for our evening accommodation but gave an indication that it might be three days of intensive supervision when he forgot the directions on the way to his parent’s house! To confirm my suspicions then on this short trip he managed to get a puncture.

Anyway we left Mr & Mrs Franco’s and were later fêted like Kings at his sister and brother-in-laws’ house in Littleover and then retired to contemplate the expedition ahead.

Day 2

A grey and chilly morning greeted us as we cycled to Etwall to pick up Sustran’s Route 68 – ‘The Pennine Cycleway’. This was on country lanes par excellence and made even better by the sighting of an early morning E Type Jaguar on its way, no doubt, to a Show or some such.

The road rose and fell a little but Ashbourne was reached with little distress. We nearly missed it as we were diverted around the edges of the town but stopped at the beginning of the Tissington Trail for a teacake and cup of tea. After this we had a gentle 10 mile uphill ride. We joined a Hen Party on their hired bikes, sporting sashes, grinding along uphill stoically. Being cheery with this hung over party was not completely well received and the future sister-in-law did confide that she was looking forward to the pub stop (it had been promised) not too far away. It also was busy with walkers on the Trail and there were a lot of small teenagers hidden by enormous rucksacks out in the wilds doing their Duke Of Edinburgh awards.

The views of the Peak District were fabulous as we pedalled along and we left the route briefly at Hurdlow for some lunch at a pub. The complete joy of long distance cycling is that you can eat what you want with impunity… we did. At this stop I instructed Tony how to operate his expensive Garmin Sat Nav/Computer sat on his handlebars looking, up until this point, neglected.

Up until this point Tony and I had been jauntily suggesting that our wives could have completed and enjoyed the ride so far and so let’s have them invest in those padded shorts and get their diaries out. As the day progressed then this idea seemed less promising.

After gentle gradients then gravity took a more serious and unwelcome role in our lives as we approached Buxton. Figures like 13% started to appear on my Garmin as I reached for the granny gears on the bike. Close to Buxton the frailties of friendship and consultation reared their ugly head and instead of logically following a trim female road cyclist on a carbon bike up an A Road to Buxton I gave the option to Tony of following the map or the cyclist. Anyway the upshot was a long walk on a shattered track resplendent with boulders and loose stones. If I am to blame for this mistake then it was not to have questioned in more detail a very nice gentleman picking up litter near said track. I just enquired as to whether it was a quick route into Buxton, which he confirmed it was. He also did add that it was quite a decent road surface until all “the four by fours fucked it up”!

We eventually got to the delightful town that is Buxton in warm sunshine and partook of refreshment before contemplating the next part of the ride.

This meant a very serious ascent out of the town and by now I’m feeling like I am punishing Tony with the amount and severity of climbing. He was, in fairness, cheerful and game throughout but maybe my planning had been a slight over optimistic. Toward the top of the hill outside of Buxton the map directed us up another terribly steep hill to where the road became a stony track. Once in a day is careless but twice is stupidity and so a plan was hatched to stick to main roads from here to Glossop. This decision was immediately rewarded by a several mile descent toward Whaley Bridge. A man in a small Peugeot convertible passed with a washing machine in the passenger seat, I wondered if he had ever thought that online dating sites might bring him more success?

At the bottom I rang the pub that we were staying at for the night to be treated like a retard and told there was no reservation. I had arranged everything in early June and so this was not only inconvenient but also simply ignorant. Trip Advisor will inform the world of their oversight: I promise.

So with Tony consuming gel bars and Mars bars we climbed into Glossop and completed our 65 miles for the day and clocked up 1,676 metres worth of climbing. The last few miles were enormously steep gradients. For a novice this was a remarkable baptism of fire… sorry! The Travel Lodge in Glossop had space and after a shower and some food we both separated to sleep soundly

Day 3

I think Lionel Ritchie once volunteered ‘Easy like Sunday morning’. Not if you’re with me Lionel! We went into Wetherspoons for breakfast and consumed a complete ‘heart attack on a plate’. Delicious. I did ask the waiter if they actually served alcohol at 8 am? He said that they didn’t until 9 am. He did say that some lost souls actually did buy booze at 9 am. He liked to think they were off a night shift somewhere but he knew they weren’t.

In line with a developing pattern we climbed out of Glossop and went in search of Route 68. Stopping to ask the locals was quite funny as we asked one chap who gave a very good plan of how to get to it only for him to leave and another bloke to dismiss his directions as tosh as ‘he was new around here’. I can’t pretend we nailed the route to start with but eventually we made progress north until near Holme Moss. Here I foolishly, in retrospect, followed the ‘Trans-Pennine Way’. If that was foolish then the Park Ranger who gave us further directions was even more of a fool. We were sent on a trail that wasn’t fit for bicycles or well marked. The upshot was that we pushed our bicycles up a long grassy hill/mountain to a stone shed that was clearly a dead end.  One interesting discovery was that in a space of several hundred square miles cows can crap copiously on a small strip of grass path – the only place where you can push or ride your bicycle.

Holmfirth was eventually reached in lovely sunshine and predictably heaving with tourists. All no doubt seeking a cup of tea at the famous café used in Last of the Summer Wine. It was early afternoon and we had over 40 miles to cycle so we pushed on. The Sat Nav said Huddersfield next and we entered the home of Premiership football in no time and then reaching for our crampons climbed out of the town leaving the speeding cars below us. Tony was now starting to understand long distance touring and was developing his own nutritional solutions – Peppa Pig Gums.

Elland was a wonderful discovery only because of the amazing descent shortly after you pass beneath the M62 and from here we aimed for Halifax. It was here that my nutritional solution was adopted – McDonalds. Being a cool dude then Tony had heard of this fast food outlet and apparently close relatives of his frequented these popular temples of delight. Unfortunately, he had not sullied the premises in his living memory and I’d like to think I helped him overcome some psychological barriers as he ravenously consumed a Chicken Legend, fries and two large Cokes.

Pleasure was short lived as Halifax provided more steep climbs and continuing heavy traffic before a long descent into Hebden Bridge. Here we checked out letting the train take some of the strain and found out we could get to Burnley on the 16:52. So a quick spin around Hebden Bridge and even a look in a record shop before back to the Station to catch… the wrong train. Anyway Manchester Victoria was nice and Tony bonded with an older lady who remonstrated that the train driver had failed to stop at Smithy Bridge (no, we had never heard of it either). We felt her pain and no doubt so did the train driver who she bolted toward when we came to rest.

Given my accumulating transgressions for this murderous route then I was keen to re-apportion blame for this mistake and Tony accepted my opprobrium with good grace. So catching another train to Burnley we got there with a bijou 13 miles to complete to get to Barnoldswick. I had telephoned ahead to the hotel/pub to advise we were coming but worried that we might not get food on a Sunday night in this little place and urged Tony for one last push. Poor chap he was cycling on memory by now but uncomplaining and up for the challenge.

So through Burnley, Nelson and Colne we pressed on in the early evening sunshine noting the differing communities and the surprising number of elderly immaculate Mercedes and BMW’s being driven by young Asian lads blaring out the Top 20 from Karachi. Another feature of the communities was a sewing machine shop! There must be many dressmakers to keep a shop in business and it momentarily reminded my mother and her dress making back in the day.

The Fountains Head was a noisy pub with rooms upstairs – yet despite our being late, smelly and it being very busy with many patrons we were ushered in and fed magnificently. The room was super but to be honest we could have slept on a clothes line by now.

I am a great believer in the maxim that you should only tell the truth if it serves a useful purpose. To this end whilst paying the bill at the bar a fairly well oiled woman perching on a bar stool made the perceptive observation, probably driven by my being in an orange lycra jersey, cycle shorts and looking knackered that I had been riding a bike. I confirmed her assertion and then went onto to outline the route (“never heard of Glossop, is it in Kent?”) and the distances involved. She then opined that as I was ‘getting on’ then clearly this was an achievement…. I never did like Barnoldswick.

‘Scores on the doors?’ – 54.2 miles for the day and a mere 1,360 metres of climbing. (Sorry, again).

Day 4

Rain! This was the greeting as we stepped out of the door after our ‘thank you’s’ to Carole, the owner of said hostelry. However before this we were befriended by Dave Dee (or Duxbury to his bank manager and doctor). Dave made breakfast, sadly not a core competence, and then regaled us with his disappointment at large families living off Benefits whilst he made do on a lot less, his time as an undertaker (loved the job), Night Club Singer (Tamla is his forte), his broken earlier marriage, child bereavement and his discovery that his real father (he was adopted) sang on cruise liners. We needed some quiet time on the bike to process all this…

Carole suggested picking up the Leeds to Liverpool Canal towpath at Skipton. Between Barnoldswick and Skipton was a poor path apparently. So we joined the Monday morning rush hour on the horrific A59 to Skipton – awful!

Once in Skipton I found the canal as Tony sped past into the centre of town with me bawling “TONY!… Pay attention 007”. He dutifully turned around. The towpath after Skipton became a muddy track with large stones and tree roots – no fun and after a coffee stop in Silsden I was thinking that I cannot ride this for another 25 miles into Leeds. Fortunately about a mile south of Silsden the track became a made up towpath and from here into Leeds got progressively smoother and faster. After the earlier two days I owed Tony something flatter and the ride into Leeds was a gradual descent from the top of the Pennines.

This canal was opened in the early 19th Century and cost £877,000 to build. However miraculously you could leave Leeds on a Wednesday and be in Liverpool on the Saturday. I expect that the railway soon led the canal to lose its traffic and with the motor vehicle the waterway is now a beautiful relic. In fact we saw few barges and if you did it was as they were queuing or within the locks that help the barges deal with the terrain. The canal was picturesque and the towpath sparsely populated.

There was a lot of development near to the canal as we progressed toward Leeds and I expect residents wanted a view of the canal and its calming influence. You could see some imposing and large converted mills along its length that foretold a very different history to the de-industrialised world we now cycled through. A beautiful ride and easy to boot. Frankly, I am not sure why I have not heard of more folk doing this.

Lunch was taken at Rodley in the outskirts of Leeds and then we literally cycled past the entrance to Leeds Station where Tony bought a train ticket to London with the rejoinder that for the same price he could have booked a return flight to Barcelona!

This ride from Barnoldswick totalled 38.1 miles and a mere 159 metres of climbing.

I then dragged my weary body up and out of Leeds and found some of my regular cycle routes near Thorner. These took me back to York where I amassed 62.8 miles for the day and 469 metres of climbing. I didn’t envy Tony who had to reawaken those screaming muscles at Kings Cross and persuade then to function through London rush hour traffic on his ride home.

A great whirlwind of a trip. Great company, memorable cycling and at times captivating scenery. Can’t wait for the next one.