Monthly Archives: February 2020

Australia Bike Ride – Melbourne

(Blog 3 – February 28)

It’s a long way to Melbourne. I feel you may know this fact.

Two ‘back to back’ flights of 7 and then 12.5 hours respectively in Economy, through several times zones, is hard work. The Etihad baggage allowance of 35kg is excellent but it’s split over 23kg in the hold and the 12kg two in the cabin. To my relief I managed to get all I wanted to take into this quota but I did spend literally hours, back in York, weighing things and agonising whether to take it or leave it.

My worldly possessions at Manchester Airport

The flights were generally fine (about two hours of turbulence on the second flight, however, prevented any attempt at dropping off to sleep) but on the first flight I had talkative neighbours and on the second flight the art of communication was abruptly curtailed by a chap wearing a face mask and his wife wearing a burka. I learned a lot off the noisy neighbours on the first flight. One was heading to India for four weeks with his family to see relatives and escape the British weather. He regaled me with his wife’s need for a stent to be fitted on one holiday trip to the country of their birth. He talked of the stress of sorting this out at an Indian hospital. The practises and quality are variable. We both agreed how brilliant our NHS was. He’d come to Blackburn 58 years ago as an immigrant and worked for Phillips in the town.

The other chap was heading to Islamabad for two weddings that both lasted six days each. The six days I also surmise, due to religion, were without alcohol. How would you cope? This chap was an entrepreneur and we went through his Sheffield property empire, his former Indian restaurant project and his furniture shop. The chap was very modest but I think he enjoyed a conversation about business. My voicing that he might be viewed, by his Pakistani relatives, as ‘Mr Big’ and worth tapping up for a bob or two led him to quip “oh, I don’t tell them about all that!”

I learned nothing from the guy in the face mask other than the fact that he eventually took it off. In reality the chances of getting coronavirus, if it’s in the air, on a flight are as likely as that of being cooped up on a Japanese cruise liner. You have no chance of avoiding it.

At last we arrived but being at the very back of the flight meant a wait.

Much to my relief the bike box appeared confirming that my steed had also made it Down Under.

We’ve all seen the Australian Border TV ‘fly on the wall’ series where various unfortunates and miscreants are stopped at Customs for having the wrong visa, importing half a succulent dead lizard or planning to convert an everyday package into its probable street value, as drugs, of c£100k. I was concerned that my oat energy bars might be deemed as dangerous and toxic or specks of mud on the underside of my mudguards would be identified as a bio hazard. Anyway there was no such problems and I proceeded through all the steps of Immigration and was soon sat in a taxi. Continue reading Australia Bike Ride – Melbourne

Australia Bike Ride – Prologue

(Blog 2 – February 22)

My bike rides in the USA were such life defining events that still today not a single day goes by without something coming to mind about a person met, a hill climbed or a sight seen. I wanted to have one more epic ride.

Australia offers such an adventure. I’ve never been to Australia but have genuinely loved the country and people from afar. It seemed time to get acquainted.

I booked flights to go in January and even managed to work in some fabulous warm weather bike training in South Africa in November. Even better was that I contacted Louise Sutton at Leeds Beckett University about some proper nutrition for the 40 days away. Louis is a sports nutritionist/practitioner, as well as lecturer, and was interested to help. She set an MSc student, Cameron Blake, on working up a regime. All good? Not quite.

However back to South Africa. On our holiday Anna also cycled, she was having a ball (maybe seeing what my addiction was about). One day after an unbelievably windy stretch, which meant she was working hard, she clambered back onto the bus and looked out of the window. She saw wildlife but the number was doubled. She had double vision. We shortly found out it was Sixth Nerve Palsy and the prognosis was that it would eventually heal but it could be in a few weeks or a few months time. Anna was left to wear glasses with one lens frosted and instructed not drive. In every other respect she was absolutely fine. Obviously I couldn’t leave Anna without a chauffeur and so my plans and flights were cancelled. She described my decision and subsequent demeanour was like living with someone who was grieving!

The present Mrs Ives looking cool in Franschhoek, South Africa about to climb a very steep hill out of the town.

As if by magic on one day in February the nerve started working and the double vision went! The hospital confirmed that all was well on February 13th and I’m now booked to fly to Melbourne on February 25th. The University has continued to offer help and I’ve had some brilliant guidance given and explained to me by Cameron. A tremendous boost. I will elaborate on this regime in future blogs as it can help all endurance cyclists. Continue reading Australia Bike Ride – Prologue

Australia Bike Ride 2020

(Blog 1 – February 19)

They say you should never meet your heroes. I’m anxious because Australia is one of mine.

I’ve spent a lifetime enjoying the people, the sports competition, the apparent relaxed lifestyle, their humour, their music and many images of a beautiful country with often stunning scenery. However not least is my gratitude and admiration that so many have fought and died in wars for a freedom and way of life that I enjoy today in Yorkshire.

So what’s the plan? I exit Melbourne on February 28th and start my bike ride of  2,500 miles to Cairns. I’ll trundle through Sydney and Brisbane before coming to rest quite near the top of the country. That’ll be in early April. I will be riding solo – the Grey Nomad Goes Down Under! – and camping most of the way.

A journey north through four States and two time zones

I expect I will find that but also a drifting ship that is slowly but inexorably moving away from Britain and our former Commonwealth. I’ll find a multiplicity of ethnicities, a tilt toward Asia and maybe the USA in its culture, cuisine and language. I’ll find some coastlines to die for and maybe some busy roads nearby that I will have to be careful to avoid dying on.

Continue reading Australia Bike Ride 2020

Record Of The Week # 86

Bob Dylan – Another Side Of Bob Dylan

If I was bragging I’d tell you I bought my first Dylan album in 1974 – Before The Flood. I say this because we all know that any affection for Bob carries kudos for the follower. It suggests that you are serious about your popular music – its history, construction and icons. However, I haven’t dwelt on his catalogue until the last few years. Of course I knew a lot about Dylan through the 70s onwards. I’d collected a couple of the 60s albums but I’d only played them once in a while. If pressed I’d say that Blood On The Tracks was the meisterwerk. Now I’m starting to truly listen to his catalogue and trying to reconcile all I hear with his own personal development. The earlier stuff is exceptional.

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Another Side Of Bob Dylan was his fourth release and came out in 1964. By all accounts the ‘voice of a generation’, with his protest songs, disappointed the masses by abandoning his rôle as their spokesman. There’s still considerable profundity in most of the songs but none that you can trace back to the upheaval of 60s America. The upheaval came in the form of the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam war, Kennedy’s assassination and the growing non conformity of a generation that regularly protested and abandoned the uniform of dress codes and short hair. Peace and love were just around the corner.

Continue reading Record Of The Week # 86

The Guest List, Aortas & My Cartier – Week 6 : 2020

I’ve been lucky enough to be on the guest list when attending a gig with the Mighty Jessney from Vixen 101 but never in my own right. So it was a thrill to collect my free tickets at The Sage in Gateshead to see Country music star, Brandy Clark, on stage.  It’s not so much the avoidance of the cost but I now felt part of the music industry. If I consider how many albums I’ve reviewed on websites, and in the press, then a little ‘recognition’ was splendid. Under ‘Music’ I have a review of the concert. Check it out, she was magic.

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We made a weekend of our trip to the North East. We stayed at a very modern and swish B&B near Hexham. This enabled us to visit Carlisle (impressed) on the west coast and avoid the rain. The next day was a walk on Hadrian’s Wall. After a mile or two stumbling up and down rocks, hills and mud we made a decision to do it again!

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Sadly I hit a pheasant driving into York. It simply strolled out in front of the car and there was nothing I could do. Horrible. When I got to my destination in York I checked the front of the car and extracted a few long feathers from the grill. On my I return I drove past the spot where we collided. There was no sign of the bird. I hope it was not fatally hurt and had just wandered off. Unfortunately that couldn’t be said for the one I ate on my stay up in Hexham. We dined at the Barrasford Arms, near Hexham, and the menu was a delight and I had game by way of a change.

When my then employer, Moores, was bought by an American company in 1996, the directors received a bonus. I bought a coveted watch – a Cartier Santos. I think it cost about £1,600. As a smart executive I was wearing Jaeger suits, shirts and ties and the watch was a compliment for all this sartorial elegance. (Nowadays I’m often found wearing fleeces, jaded jeans and a Swatch or maybe my Apple Watch). The Cartier usually sits safely secured in the house. However the battery does eventually expire and a visit to the jeweller is necessary to replace it. To maintain the waterproof seal and have an expert eye cast over its workings I take it to an approved Cartier specialist. As with all luxury items, with moving parts, the cost isn’t just about the purchase price. To replace the battery, check it over and replace a fragment of blue glass on the winder it cost £218. An expensive business you’ll agree.

For whatever reason we’ve been in and out of Boots (the chemist/pharmacy) over the last few weeks. The visits are for various reasons but latterly it‘s been to try and buy some hand disinfectant gel. This had meant visiting many outlets. The north of England has been gripped by coronavirus anxieties and the gel has sold out in most places. The chap in one of the Leeds city centre Boots told us that he was also out of facemasks. Anyway I am struck by how tired and run down so many of the shops are. A quick Google suggests that the company is considering about selling out to a private equity company. Let’s hope punters, in the interim, don’t abandon them in a fashion that they are abandoning their stores.

Lastly, I finish with medical matters. Before you worry..  I’m feeling great and behaving as regards diets, exercise and nearly always remembering to take my medication. However as the clock ticks well past 60 then the interest that the NHS is taking in my wellbeing is unnerving. I’ve gone an age group related routine regime to check for bowel cancer every other year. Not a nice project to administer when it comes round! Then after a visit to the surgery over something else I had my cholesterol levels checked. Another random visit had the doctor taking my blood pressure and don’t get me started on prostrate health… I went through the whole investigation and my lasting memory is asking the assistant practitioner what his training was for the rectum test.

So thinking I’m clear of more blood samples and prodding I was dismayed to see the latest letter drop onto the mat. This was an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening. This main artery can burst and there’s a 15% chance of survival if it does fail. So catching it can be a useful thing to do but the leaflet went on to advise that 2.4% don’t survive an operation to repair the aneurysm even if it hasn’t burst. Gulp.

So I tripped into the surgery for the ultrasound scan noting that over 1% of those scanned have a problem. I’m delighted to say I have no problem but I’m watching the door mat with anxiety for the next test the NHS has on it’s plan.

 

Record Of The Week # 85

Lynne Hanson – Just Words

Canadian Lynne Hanson has been compared to Lucinda Williams and Mary Gauthier. That alone should be enough to grab your attention. For me it was one of those CDs that was so good it kept creeping back into the player. It certainly shortened a few long drives. I can now add she also reminds me of Mary Chapin Carpenter.

 The opening song on Just Words is “True Blue Moon”. It has all Carpenter’s tunesmith sensibility with a story about a failed relationship and her accumulated cynicism about love’s temporary nature – “happy ever after lasts as long / as a rainbow in June”. Despite her misery the melody is a real earworm and the band’s arrangement layered and slick.

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“Long Way Home” has another great melody and an arrangement that hangs off a steady bass and drum rhythm. Her voice is expressive with an attractive range and timbre throughout. Maybe it’s the recurring theme of the unshakeable grief and longing for a departed lover that makes her vocals yearning and soulful. “Just Words” is about verbal bullying: a modern and topical subject. In alignment with the angry and raw message the sound has rousing yet eerie atmospherics with some discordant notes that amplify the tension. All this builds up to another great guitar solo from Kevin Breit. His CV includes playing with Rosanne Cash, Cassandra Wilson and Norah Jones. Continue reading Record Of The Week # 85

Brandy Clark, The Sage, Gateshead – January 31 2020

I drove 100 miles north hoping to wallow in Brandy Clark’s repertoire about bored or beleaguered housewives, delicious revenge ditties and heart melting love stories. She has a beautiful voice and has written some classic country melodies, not least on her own albums. Previous concerts revealed a consummate but serious, and not particularly engaging artist. She was getting her time in the spotlight after years of stoking the star-making machinery by writing amazing songs for other country Royalty. However on the night, in front of an audience of over 400, we got a relaxed woman at ease with herself and beyond chatty!

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She was playing five European dates debuting her new album – Your Life Is A Record. (This is before a big US tour starting in February and continuing until May) The six songs from the new album were immediate as regards their impact. She’s said that the arrangements are different to her earlier releases, not least, for the inclusion of more strings. To achieve the sound with her backing band she brought along Kaitlyn Raitz on cello. There was a story behind her latest single “Who You Thought I Was”. Here it tells the end of a relationship but the title idea came from attending an award’s ceremony where John Prine was giving one of the accolades. He was taken aback by a standing ovation; with characteristic dry humour he commented, “I’m John Prine, but I’d like to go back to being who you thought I was”! The other five songs she played are a continuation of lyrical themes and quality melodies from earlier records. It’s released in March and you’ll be well rewarded.

The band also comprised Billy Adamson on electric guitar and Ashleigh Caudill on upright bass. They’d all met up in Oslo (at baggage reclaim) for the first time. They fitted in seamlessly: Adamson’s skilful and well placed flourishes and Caudill’s additional talent on backing vocals. Holding this all together was Danny Young on drums and vocals. The set of 23 songs showcased the first two albums equally. It was here that the humour of her take on life shone through with great introductions to favourites such as “Mama’s Broken Heart”, “Stripes”, “Daughter” and “Get High”. On the latter she commented that around the world fans would sidle up to her and tell her that the character in the song was their own sister! Continue reading Brandy Clark, The Sage, Gateshead – January 31 2020