Saturday, 24 September 2016

Radio Ga Ga

The other day I was listening to a Scissor Sisters album, and heard the lyrics "There ain't no tits on the radio".
It occurred to me that the Scissor Sisters have obviously never heard Chris Evans on Radio 2, because if they had they'd know that there most certainly are tits on the radio.
Not that Chris is alone.
Turn on the radio at any time (especially the local stations pandering to a younger audience) and there's a good chance you'll be aurally assaulted by some overenthusiastic idiot who thinks the way to keep people listening is to shout a lot and talk bollocks between records that all sound the same.
I used to think BBC Radio 1 was the one station that adolecents with no taste could have to themselves, but the rot is rapidly spreading and I can't help but wonder if the days are numbered for radio as a form of entertainment. Mind you, they've been saying that since TV was invented.

I do still listen to the radio, but only in the car. Radio 4 on the way to work for a bit of news and current affairs, and Radio 2 on the way home because Steve Wright's show seems to have just the right blend of decent music, interesting guests and friendly banter.
But I never listen to it at home, and I suppose it's mostly because I don't bother to look to see if there's anything on worth listening to. It's a shame really because I could be missing out.
I sometimes hear a trailer for a programme that's on later in the week - Craig Charles does some really good shows but I always seem to forget when they're on.
I remember as a kid I'd go to bed at night and listen to whatever comedy show was on Radio 2 - something like 'The Grumbleweeds', or 'Hinge & Bracket' or whatever, but I don't even know if such programmes even exist any more.

I think there may be a number of reasons I lost interest in radio, such as the inexhaustible supply of inane shite that spills from the mouths of so many DJs, the severely limited playlists which mean you quickly begin to hate songs because you've heard them so many damn times, and if it's not a BBC station then you get bombarded with incredibly annoying adverts that seem to have been devised by someone with the IQ of a suspiciously crispy Kleenex.
You can try flipping around the stations but if you do, you'll just end up getting angry at all the crap on offer and just turn it off. Much like television really.
The popularity of streaming services like Spotify is no surprise when you consider the alternatives, but for my part although I'm happy to dance around the kitchen while making dinner with the ipod and bluetooth speaker on the go, or if I have the place to myself I'll slip a favourite CD into the hifi and indulge myself for a while, but most of the time I prefer to enjoy whatever quietness I can find.

A tit on the radio

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Easy as f**k

There are many words that have become overused, often in the wrong context, such as 'like' which is commonly used by the hard of thinking as a sort of filler in place of 'um or 'er' while they try to remember which word they intended to say next.
Another victim of this kind of misuse is the word 'literally' which has been noticeably on the rise over the past couple of years.

One word that has been in common usage for countless years is of course 'fuck'.
Perhaps its popularity is down to its versatility. It can be used to express so many things including frustration (Oh for fuck's sake), confusion (What the fuck?), defeat (Fuck it), hopelessness (I'm fucked), and many many more. Just Google uses of the word fuck and you'll find plenty of sites with lists of examples, but I suspect most readers will have an extensive repetoire of their own.

More recently however, it has come to my attention that there is a whole new use for fuck, and that is as a unit of measurement.
Now, while standard measurement units are related to a specific property like velocity (metres per second or kilometres per hour) or energy (calories, joules), fuck appears to be capable of being used as a measurement of anything at all.
Examples include speed (fast as fuck), temperature (hot as fuck), intelligence (dumb as fuck), and fighting ability (hard as fuck).
This makes fuck pretty much a universal unit, although its actual value is clearly very flexible as it only seems to occur in single units, with one exception. It appears that when used as a unit of caring, its default value is nil, as in 'zero fucks given'.

The opportunities this all provides for confusion are countless, so I suspect that for the purposes of more important things like designing aeroplanes and nuclear reactors, more traditional units of measurement may need to be adhered to.
On a day-to-day basis however, it's good news because it allows us to get out of having to be specific about anything ever again, while giving zero fucks about it.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Time for sausage

Just got back from the cinema having been to watch 'Sausage Party' at Vue in Cambridge.
Met up with the boy in the Grafton Centre, bought the tickets, and enjoyed the guilty pleasure of a bacon double cheese XL meal from Burger King until it was time to go in.
The big surprise was the seats - enormous leather electric recliners - a far cry from the usual bum-numbing flip-up rubbish in the Cineworld we usually go to in Huntingdon.

Sausage Party is definitely not for those of delicate sensibilities. It's crass, vulgar, stupid and in-your-face outrageous, not to mention being full to bursting with peurile sexual innuendos.
I enjoyed it.
I enjoyed it even though the cast includes Seth Rogen who I find so obnoxious I firmly believe there's a whole new circle of hell waiting for him, and if I'm unfortunate enough to see him in a film a disturbing homicidal urge begins to rise within me.
Luckily Sausage Party is just an animated film so I didn't have to look at him.

The story (such as it is) is pretty pathetic, and some of the jokes are a bit close to the mark for comfort even for me, but provided you enjoyed things like 'South Park', 'Paul', and perhaps the 1975 film 'Jungle Burger', it's worth a look.
However, if you're part of any sort of minority and a bit thin-skinned about it, or if you're a bit of a prude, or object to a movie that possibly contains more fucks than any other, then it's probably best avoided.


Sunday, 4 September 2016

Clubbed to death

Yesterday, the most exciting thing I did was to bake a fruit cake (Mary Berry's pound cake recipe with a couple of alterations to use up the glace cherries and chopped dates that had been hanging around the cupboad for an eternity), and I have to say it turned out fantastic.
The boy, on the other hand, had more adventurous plans.
As it was a friend's 18th birthday the other day, he and a bunch of others were going off clubbing in Cambridge last night. It wasn't the boy's first clubbing experience, and as it went well previously (rolling in at 4:30am) we weren't particularly worried.

Unfortunately things ended up going a wee bit Pete Tong, and having been left on his own apart from his friend's extremely inebriated sister after everyone else in the group had buggered off without warning, he ended up with a fifty quid cab fare to get them both home to their respective villages.
Sometimes he surprises us with his ability to deal with awkward situations, especially as he so often appears to have all the common sense of a used teabag, but when all around him is turning to shit he seems to be the one that keeps it all together, looking after those who are beyond looking after themselves.
Despite all this he's still enthused with the whole nightclub thing, and in this respect he's very different to me.

On a few occasions over a couple of years between the ages of around 18 to 20, I did try my hand at clubbing, but it really wasn't for me.
There were a couple of nights out with guys from work, which basically involved a couple of pints and a curry before heading off to Ronelle's nightclub above Lion Yard in Cambridge.
Once in the club it was impossible to communicate with anyone unless you were literally shouting right in their ear, the drinks were too expensive, and for someone as hopeless with the opposite sex as I was, even a meat market like a nightclub was impossible to pull in.

I also went to a couple of clubs in Sunderland while visiting with friends.
I admit one of them wasn't too bad, because the music was pretty good and it was at a volume that at least allowed you to talk to someone without making their ears bleed.
I got dancing with a rather attractive girl who seemed quite friendly until my half-drunk brain got the better of me and made an inadvisably blunt suggestion to her.
Surprisingly this did not result in me waking up in the local accident and emergency department - instead she said "Maybe later" before sidling off to dance with a bloke who apparently did not have sexual tourette's.

The last club I went to was in Newmarket with a girl I'd just started dating. I really thought I'd struck gold there - she was really hot and unbelievably she seemed into me, but as soon as it started to feel like things were going to move on to the next level she went cold and it abruptly ended leaving me confused. In hindsight it wouldn't have gone far anyway - when I heard her say to someone that whenever a guy bought her jewelery she'd look it up in the Argos catalogue to see how much he'd spent, I knew it wasn't a good omen. The last thing I wanted was a gold-digger, no matter how gorgeous she was.
I remember it being Easter and I'd bought the most enormous Easter egg for her. I put it in my bag, strapped it on to the back of my Yamaha TZR250 and shot off to take it to her. Halfway there a worrying sound came from the back of the bike and I pulled over. The bag had slipped sideways and been dragged into the back wheel.
The expensive Easter egg was now in kit form and in no fit state to give as a gift; a fitting metaphor for how the relationship would turn out just a couple of weeks later.
I gave her a box of chocolates instead, and ate the disassembled chocolate egg myself. Waste not want not. Anyway, I digress.....

I did give nightclubs a shot - desperately wanting to be an outgoing person, desperate to be part of a group and most of all, desperate to get laid.
But no matter what, I just couldn't do it. I hated the music being too loud to be able to talk to people, I didn't like being ripped off for watered-down drinks, my dancing was so embarrassing that no girl in their right mind would come near me, and even if they did I'd only have messed it up by either not knowing what to say or by saying something stupid. Such is the folly of youth.
Nightclubs are definitely not my thing, but if the boy gets enjoyment from getting just the right side of paralytic and babysitting his mates while having his head stoved in by 1.21 gigawatts of amplifiers, then that's up to him.

"Sorry love, my bike ate your present"



Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Kryptonite for everyone

We all have our weaknesses. Junkies like a bit of smack, arseholes buy Audis, those who value style above all else are drawn to Bang & Olufsen stereos, and orange women with too much makeup and bleach-blonde hair need extra large wardrobes to house their collections of shoes and handbags.
Some of these weaknesses can have a profound effect on others, whereas others are more discreet and may not be obvious to anyone other than the person involved.

I'm certainly not without my vices, but leaving aside things like the pink and moist side of the internet and the countless hours spent playing 'Farming Simulator 15' on the Playstation, the really big one for me is alcohol.
Don't get me wrong, I don't drink to excess, but the urge is always there. I'm fortunate that I possess a great deal of self control because otherwise I'd be in a pretty bad way.
I just find great enjoyment in wine, whisky, rum, beer, port etc, and if it's in the house it'll be calling to me. The urge I really have to fight is when I get home from work, at which point the desire for a beer is huge, and when I'm cooking it only seems right to have a glass of wine on the go.
I like the taste, and I enjoy that slightly fluffy feeling that seems to knock the corners off the world, but I also know when to stop.
Even though I enjoy it and I manage to keep my consumption within sensible limits (nobody wants one of those big strawberry noses or to damage their liver) I still feel that alcohol has a grip on me.
A few years ago I went teetotal for about a year, and at the same time I also stopped drinking caffeine. During this time (after the caffeine withdrawal had abated) I felt better than I could have imagined. I was happier, I felt healthier, and the world seemed like a better place.
Eventually I caved in, although I don't remember why, and alcohol and (to a far lesser extent) caffeine found their way back into my life.

I regularly beat myself up about the drink, but somehow never quite make the break to quitting it.
I tell myself that a large glass of wine or a triple measure of rum a day, with a day or two a week without alcohol to give the liver a break isn't a problem but I know that if my self control were to weaken, there is the potential for things to go very pear-shaped.
At the moment there are three or four bottles of wine in the rack (including a bottle of Barolo and a nice Chablis) and there's a little bit of Captain Morgan spiced rum left, and it strikes me that what I need to do is finish up what's in stock and then quit completely.
It will be tough - I've done it before but this time I just need to stick with it. The only question is, can I find something more wholesome to fill the hole left by the alcohol?
One can but try.



Monday, 29 August 2016

Eat, sleep, repeat, bored.

When I was a wee kid, my parents took me to Linton zoo. It wasn't far to travel, it wasn't particularly expensive at the time, and as it turned out I enjoyed the experience.
On the strength of this I was taken again the following year. And the year after that. And the same again the next year and so on until I was old enough to rebel against doing the same shit over and over again.
At that time it was a similar story with camping holidays. Forget any notions of spending a few nights under canvas in the glory of the lake district - oh no. Due to a lack of funds and an even more catastrophic shortage of imagination, for several years we went camping at Landbeach Marina Park, which was a staggering seven miles away from home as the crow flies.
The first time I was too young to know any different and was quite happy to spend the days playing on the adventure playground, looking for fish in the shallows of the lakes (read: old gravel pits) watching the water skiers, and maybe having the odd game of Space Invaders in the clubhouse.
But of course once wasn't enough, and it ended up as the go-to destination every year, with the only exception being when the parents decided to go all Edmund Hillary and dragged me off to the deepest reaches of lesser-explored Comberton (four and a half miles from home) to spend the weekend in a field where the most exciting attraction was a very small toilet block.
Fortunately Landbeach Marina Park was sold off and the land used to build a commercial research development, which has saved countless children from the same experience that I endured.

I think we all do this to varying degrees. You do something, you enjoy it and therefore want to do it again to revisit the same good feelings.
This is not always a bad thing of course - sex somehow manages to avoid becoming boring enough to not want to do it any more - but for many other things the novelty wears off very quickly.
Sometimes it's not even things you enjoy. I can be terribly clumsy and frequently end up leaking red stuff, whether it's from a sharp piece of metal at work or removing the skin off the end of my thumb with a cheese grater like I did yesterday. This sort of thing happens with alarming regularity and the fact that I never liked doing it in the first place should encourage me to be more careful, but so far it hasn't happened. The repetitive nature of this issue generates not boredom, but frustration.

Today we went to the Fenman Classic bike show in Wimbotsham which I first attended a few years ago when I still had the Yamaha FZR1000. The second time was when I had the BMW F650, and I was riding the Bandit 1200 the last time I went.
This year was the first time I've been without owning a motorcycle, and although lots of people turn up by car it does take something away from the experience when you're not rocking up on two wheels - and to be honest, the Beemer isn't built for driving on a farmers field like that provided by the organisers to serve as a car park.
I've enjoyed the experience of being at this show in the past, but this time it wasn't long before I'd had enough and was ready to go. I daresay part of the problem is that my motorcycle involvement is now in the past and as much as I still appreciate bikes, this kind of thing just makes me reflect on the past rather than enjoy the present, so to be honest I doubt I'll go again.

For several years now we've taken our holidays in North Yorkshire which we both love. It's nice to go to that region with the incredible scenery of the Dales and Moors national parks, and the more familiar we've become with it, the more comfortable it feels. Yet even this is beginning to feel a little tiresome, making us feel that perhaps we should broaden our horizons. We've talked about getting passports and trying holidays abroad, but although the idea has enormous appeal, the prospect of having to deal with airports and countries where English is not the first language somehow feels overwhelmingly scary.
Perhaps Scotland should be next. Baby steps and all that....

To keep everything fresh and exciting would mean constantly trying new things and going to new places, which although fine for the more adventurous people of the world is rather more difficult when you're about as outgoing as a hermit with one foot nailed to the floor.
Being such a person means that doing things you've done before gives you a sense of comfort, and the prospect of doing something different or going somewhere new brings on at best a major case of butterflies in the stomach and at worst a blunt refusal to do it.
This is what makes me a creature of habit which means that I'm usually quite happy doing the same things because they're within my comfort zone, but eventually I find that the repetition has made me bored shitless and I have to face up to the anxiety associated with doing something different.
Once I've done that and enjoyed the new thing I'll keep doing it until it becomes mundane and the cycle repeats.
I know what I'm like but I can't help it.


Monday, 8 August 2016

I'm a bit bored now - think I'll invent the wasp


After a number of false starts, summer has finally dragged herself out of bed leaving just enough time to have a quick shower and throw on a small cotton dress and strappy sandals before autumn comes knocking at the door.
A lot of people love summer and as soon as the clouds clear and the mercury in the thermometer shoots upwards they're in their element, with exclamations of "Ooh, isn't it lovely?".
Me? I prefer to stay in the shade, taking advantage of any opportunity to bring my body temperature down even if it means hanging around the chilled food section in the supermarket, trying not to look suspicious.
I don't function too well when the temperature goes up, which is why my ideal foreign holiday would probably be in Norway, not Spain. The hotter it gets, the more useless I become, with a steady decline in physical and mental function as it sweeps beyond about 22 celsius, and by the time it gets to 30 I'm good for absolutely nothing beyond sitting in the fridge with the beer until it goes away.

The heat isn't the only unwanted thing that summer brings out with her in her little sequined clutch bag.
Tucked away behind the bright red lipstick and a spare lacy thong, she keeps all manner of bugs specifically designed to make our lives unpleasant.
Probably the most useless creature in this little menagerie of meanness is the wasp. The idea of al-fresco dining is an attractive one, but the reality is that any attempt to do it will be spoiled by the arrival of a squadron of wasps with the sole intent of hanging around everyone's heads and stinging for no reason other than the fact that they can.
Depeche Mode said "I don't want to start any blasphemous rumours, but I think that God's got a sick sense of humour", and they were spot on. If indeed creation is real, then it would take a pretty twisted mind to come up with something as despicable as the wasp. Either that or wasps were one of the last things to be made and by that time the creator was so bored with making nice things like giraffes and meerkats that his frustrations came out in designs that expressed his grumpiness.

Like mosquitos. Last night I'd just switched off the light when my dog-ears picked up the distinctive whine of a patrolling mozzie in the room, so rather than spending the night being a three-course meal I put the light back on and went hunting - knowing I'd be unable to relax until the bitey little bastard was dead.
Summer provides us with an abundance of flies too, with one of the greatest annoyances being those tiny little fruit flies that aimlessly circle the light fitting for a while before committing suicide by drowning themselves in my glass of Italian merlot.
During the summer every sip demands a quick inspection to ensure the glass doesn't contain more protein than it's supposed to.

Then we have ants. During the winter their miniature armies remain below ground where they belong, but as soon as summer gets her party frock on they despatch themselves to every corner of their kingdom, and on the hottest days they send out the air force to conquer new territory. There are few things as disturbing around the home than the sudden appearance of a wave of flying ants, You squish what you can before making an emergency run to the shops to stock up on Raid because the can left in the cupboard from last year only contained enough product to mildly inconvenience three ants with asthma.
If ants were the size of dogs we would not be the dominant species on this planet.
They appear to have no purpose in this world beyond expanding their numbers and territory at the expense of everything around them, including other colonies.
Much like humans when you think about it.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Wisdom unhinged

Leaving aside the fact that much of humanity seems hell bent on causing as much chaos, death, destruction and tax evasion as possible before they die, I like to believe that there is sufficient good left in the world that it's not yet time to duct tape a plastic bag over my head.
Feeling better about the world can come from a greater understanding, acceptance of the many different types of people, or simply being able to have a bloody good laugh at the absurdity of it all.
We're taught that age brings wisdom, but that's clearly nonsense because most people continue to make mistakes their entire lives. Though you may learn through experience not to do something again, there's bound to be another opportunity to make an idiot of yourself just around the corner.
People try many sources in search of wisdom such as religious texts or the writings of the Dalai Lama who I personally have a lot of time for, but there are others who have the ability to put life's little mysteries into perspective, and as examples I've listed below a number of quotes from a couple of often overlooked sources - Terry Pratchett, and the comic strip 'Calvin and Hobbes'.
Hopefully some might put a smile on your face or give you something to think about.


Terry Pratchett quotes:



1. Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.

2. A marriage is always made up of two people who are prepared to swear that only the other one snores.

3. Geography is just physics slowed down, with a couple of trees stuck in it.

4. An education was a bit like a communicable sexual disease. It made you unsuitable for a lot of jobs and then you had the urge to pass it on.

5. Give a man a fire and he's warm for the day. But set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life.

6. Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time.

7. In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods. They have not forgotten this.

8. Only in our dreams are we free. The rest of the time we need wages.

9. The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.

10. It is well known that a vital ingredient of success is not knowing that what you're attempting can't be done.

11. Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying 'End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH', the paint wouldn't even have time to dry.

12. Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.

13. It’s not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren’t doing it.

14. Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.

15. Inside every sane person there’s a madman struggling to get out.

16. The entire universe has been neatly divided into things to (a) mate with, (b) eat, (c) run away from, and (d) rocks.

17. Goodness is about what you do. Not what you pray to.

18. The intelligence of that creature known as a crowd is the square root of the number of people in it.

19. They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it's not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.

20. There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this.


Calvin and Hobbes quotes:


1. A day can really slip by when you're deliberately avoiding what you're supposed to do.

2. There's no problem so awful, that you can't add some guilt to it and make it even worse.

3. I'm killing time while I wait for life to shower me with meaning and happiness.

4. Reality continues to ruin my life.

5. Life's a lot more fun when you aren't responsible for your actions.

6. Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.

7. Life is full of surprises, but never when you need one.

8. So the secret to good self-esteem is to lower your expectations to the point where they’re already met?

9. God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I am so far behind that I will never die.

10. In my opinion, we don’t devote nearly enough scientific research to finding a cure for jerks.

11. I don’t know which is worse: that everyone has his price, or that the price is always so low.

12. Nothing spoils fun like finding out it builds character. 
  
 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Busy doing nothing

While the rest of the world appears to be running around like a headless chicken, getting all stressed out and telling anyone daft enough to listen how there simply aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done, I deliberately engineer my life to be as stress-free as possible.
I have no trouble doing what needs to be done because there is so little that needs doing.
This confirms my long-held belief that life is only as stressful as you make it. I sit back watching others work themselves up into a frenzy as they rush about from one self-induced crisis to the next as though being in a constant state of angst is their own personal crack cocaine.
Different things work for different people of course, and no doubt some of these stress monkeys would rather have something sharp and hot inserted somewhere sensitive than spend an hour reading a book or sitting by the river with a nice cold pint watching the ducks.

Last week I was off work, using up some of the leave that I'm blessed with having a good amount of.
I'd planned to do a couple of jobs to keep me occupied sufficiently to stop boredom setting in, but I wasn't going away anywhere.
The conservatory roof needed attacking with the pressure washer, I was going to service the Honda, and then I intended pottering around doing some of those little tasks I'd been putting off for a while.
I got the roof cleaned, but then I urgently needed new tyres on the Beemer so servicing the Honda has been deferred to next month.
The plan to do all those little jobs around the house also amounted to nothing because as hard as I tried, I couldn't remember what any of them were.
Oh well, Playstation time then.

Having become frustrated with 'Doom', which had been really good up until the point when I was supposed to kill this fifty foot tall minotaur sort of thing that simply refused to die, I searched the local video game library (AKA my son's bedroom) for something different.
I slipped 'Farming Simulator 15' into the PS4, wondering if years spent playing first person shooters and drivers would make me find this sort of thing incredibly tedious, but I didn't really know what to expect and I was getting desperate.
I definitely didn't expect to become so utterly addicted to it.
Usually if I sit down for a gaming session I'll play for about two hours, maybe three if I'm on a roll.
With this game I spent the rest of the week getting up early to switch it on and the console wouldn't be turned off until bedtime, occasionally leaving it running itself while I dealt with meals, trips to the lavatory, and a visit to my father.
Even internet porn didn't get a look in as I spent hour after hour ploughing, fertilising, sowing, harvesting, expanding the farm and buying increasingly exotic machinery while the money kept rolling in from all the renewable energy sources I'd bought and placed around the map.
I was truly hooked, and having to go back to work on Monday was even more saddening than usual because I wouldn't be able to feed this new addiction.

It sounds insane that a 45 year old bloke could spend so long doing something that the headless chicken brigade would consider a colossal waste of time. But what is a waste of time?
Does it really matter how anyone spends their free time? Whether someone likes to spend their leisure time watching TV, baking, skateboarding or juggling flaming chainsaws with greasy handles while tap-dancing on the back of an angry crocodile, surely their choice is as valid as anyone else's?
The trouble is that I tend to feel guilty if I'm not accomplishing something of value - constantly fighting that nagging voice in the back of my head saying "You really should be doing something more constructive you know", and most of the time I give in.
If I have nothing to show for my time I feel I've wasted it. Last week however, I fought back.
Apart from a bit of daily exercise either on the cross-trainer or cycling, I spent most of the time sat on my lazy arse and achieved sod all.
And for once I didn't feel bad about it.


Sunday, 10 July 2016

On yer bike

Cycling has long been a favourite outdoor activity for me. It has always been a wonderful way of getting away from it all - a time when it's just me, the bike, and whatever little-used back roads I find myself riding down.
Once I'm off the main roads and cruising along with no sounds apart from the tyres on tarmac, the tall grass rustling in the breeze and grasshoppers chirping in the verge, it's almost meditative.
I used to find the same sort of thing when I was doing archery. Once I was on the line it was as though the rest of the world and its distractions disappeared, leaving just me, my bow and the target.
That was half the reason I did archery. I never felt compelled to be competitive beyond improving my ability for my own gratification, but I enjoyed the activity and there were some nice people at the club who were happy to have a chat when we weren't shooting.
It was such a shame when I damaged a tendon in my arm and was no longer able to shoot because it meant my twice weekly meditation session also came to an end.

Riding my bike is the only way I'm able to come near to replacing that feeling, especially if it's early on a Sunday morning before the rest of the world has taken to the roads.
Then of course two and a half years ago my world got turned upside down by the motorcycle crash and since then my attempts to do any sort of cycling have been patchy at best.
After the first surgery to rebuild my knee I sold my 1200 Bandit (knowing I didn't want to ride a motorbike again) and used some of the money to buy a Trek 1.1 road bike to replace the Diamondback hardtail mountain bike I'd been using for the past few years - a decent enough bike which was fairly light and pretty good for tarmac use with the fitting of semi-slick city tyres. I'd fancied a nice lightweight machine for a while and in many ways it is a fine entry level bike, but like most things there was the odd drawback.
The first thing was the toe-strap pedals. My feet naturally turn outwards slightly, so forcing them to point straight forward made my hips ache and the injured knee screamed at me. So I replaced the pedals with a decent set of alloy mountain bike ones to give my feet the freedom of movement I need.

For a while all was well and cycling was proving to be a useful form of physiotherapy, but after a few months the knee pain was increasing and it was time for more surgery.
After a recuperation period I got back on the bike. Things were a little better, but by this time I was tired of the razor blade that manufacturers find necessary to fit to road bikes in lieu of a proper saddle. My bum doesn't have much in the way of natural padding, and padded cycle shorts are restrictive and make you feel like you're wearing a nappy. So the next modification was to fit a nicely shaped gel saddle that keeps the weight off the delicate bits and provides far better support without the need for padded clothing.
Unfortunately I didn't have long to enjoy the benefits of this because once again the knee conspired to make any such exercise too painful to bear.

A couple of months ago I had surgery on the knee again, and it seemed to make a huge improvement, so once things had had time to heal I tentatively swung my leg over the bike and went to the end of the street and back and was surprised that it didn't hurt at all.
With hope in my heart I pulled on some trainers and rode off to the old pumping station which is about a mile and a quarter from home, and by the time I got back I was still pain free and feeling so happy it was amazing.
I was however quite out of breath even after such a short distance. I knew this would be a problem. Having been without proper exercise for the best part of a year has left me with a subterranean fitness level, plus my left leg has about half the strength of the right one and needs to be built up.
I'm not disillusioned though, just determined to get back as close as possible to my pre-crash capabilities and fitness.

For the bike there just remained one more modification - the handlebars.
I've tried to get on with drop bars but for the sort of riding I do they're just not right. I found myself always riding with my hands on top of the bars which makes it awkward to reach the brakes and still pitched me slightly too far forward for comfort. Plus to be honest I didn't like having any sort of association with the standard issue lycra-clad tossers that usually ride road bikes - especially those who ride in big groups spread out across the road pissing off motorists.
So I took the plunge and ordered Shimano Claris shifters and brake levers for flat bars that match the existing derailleurs (good old Amazon Marketplace), and picked up some low-rise mountain bike bars and a pair of grips from the bike shop near work.
It took a couple of hours work to strip off the original bars etc, fit the new components and rig the gears correctly, by which time the bike was looking rather different.


What I've ended up with is a sort of Frankenstein's monster that combines the best attributes of a road bike and a standard off-the-peg hybrid.
I've retained the light weight, gearing, geometry and low rolling resistance of a road bike while adding the more ergonomic riding position and comfort of a hybrid.
This morning was my first proper ride in this configuration, and I'm happy to report that the desired effect has been achieved.
I did a 9.5 mile circuit which although not very long by normal standards felt like quite an achievement considering my current physical condition, and the bike felt fantastic. The riding position is now spot on for me with minimal weight on my wrists and the wide bars giving good stability.
I can now look forward to getting out there whenever the great British weather isn't taking the fun out of it by raining or blowing or some disagreeable combination of the two. My fitness and strength is already starting to get better, and even if it's not appropriate to go out on the bike there's the cross trainer in the shed to make sure I don't have an excuse to slack off in my pursuit of physical improvement.
And who knows - all this effort might even help shift those few unwanted pounds around my middle.