As a result of Clare, I've recently found myself helping with the Ramblers' Association's Mystery Walker program, in which they send me a grid reference and I go for a short walk starting there and tell them how it went. A few weeks ago, this took me to Quy Fen, and I noticed some waymarks that were not just inadequate but actually wrong (giving the wrong status for several paths). I reported this to the County Council and got a friendly reply explaining that they'd love to correct the problem but had no money. In the meantime, I'd looked up the council's policy on waymarking on their Web site and noticed that they would provide markers to parishes and volunteers on request. So I volunteered.

Thus, I found myself visiting the council offices on the way to work so that a slightly counfused rights-of-way officer could try to work our whether this strange person from the Internet could be trusted with a pile of waymark disks and a bag of County Council nails. After a generally useful conversation, it turned out I could.

Thus, the next weekend I was back on the paths near Horningsea with the council's signs and nails and my own hammer, along with the knowledge that I was authorised under section 27(5) of the Countryside Act 1968 to erect signposts along those paths. A little while and quite a lot of nettle-stings later, and the waymarks were corrected. I returned the spare disks and nails to the council the next week in the knowledge of a job done, possibly even well.


What I did on my holidays

I took last week off work because I have far too much leave to use up, and because the tide tables looked good. Before I could take advantage of the latter, though, my parents turned up on Saturday morning. They'd just cycled down from Little Thetford, and having left much of their luggage at my house suggested we go out for a ride somewhere. Happily, I'd been expecting this and was ready to take them on the rather lovely section of LEL 2013 between Haslingfield and Thaxted, and then back to Elsenham for the train home.


On Sunday, we all went down to London to meet Georgina and family at the Hackney Wicked festival. This felt a bit like a urban kind of Strawberry Fair, but with more artists. On Monday, parents were sent off in the general direction of Luton and I got some time to myself again to plan Tuesday.

Tuesday was one of the lowest tides of the year, so my plan was to go and find more grid squares in the Wash. I was somewhat underprepared, and while I got to Hunstanton on time, I managed to leave both my camera bag and the rucksack adaptor for my pannier at home. This meant carrying the pannier in my hand across the sands, and putting it down in the water every time I wanted to take a photo. Being Ortlieb, of course, it at least didn't let any of the water in.

Despite these handicaps, I managed to get to two new grid squares, and to get back home again without drowning. I did end up with a rather painful blister though, so I didn't go out there again on Wednesday as previously planned. I also accidentally left my GPS receiver running on the bus back to King's Lynn, so if you ever need to know what route the number 11 takes, it's here.

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While waiting for my foot to stop complaining, I did some more work on the slightly mad Haskell program that generates maps of connections for Owen's station collection. It now works quite a lot better than it did and is better integrated with the rest of the site maintenance scripts. Adding connection data for all stations will take a little while, but at last West Yorkshire is complete (and the map for Leeds now takes less than a minute to optimise).


Now, back to work.


Castles, Coast and Cornfields (and an extra 50km)

When my alarm clock went off at half past five on Saturday morning, it was very tempting to just go back to sleep. However, that would have meant another "DNS" in my list of Audax results, and one seemed like enough, so I got up, had breakfast, and trundled off to catch the first train to Bury St Edmunds. I got to the start at Bildeston a couple of minutes late, and that was enough to ensure that I didn't see any of the other riders all day. This didn't really matter, since the weather was fine, the terrain gentle, and the winds seemingly always at my back. I'm not sure Orford really counts as "coast" by my standards, but it's the nearest an East Anglian Audax has given me yet.

The calendar ride was only 160km, but I'd arranged to do the rides between Bury St Edmunds station and the start as an extended calendar event, so the whole day was officially a 200k. Of course, I managed to arrive back at Bury just after a train to Cambridge had left, but after 200km, sitting around at the station for an hour somehow didn;t seem all that onerous.


Breaking silences

It's far too long since I've written here, so it seems fitting for me to write about something else I've done for the first time in ages. Until about a week ago, I hadn't bought any recorded music for over a decade. Various things came together to change that. First credit must go the marvellous duranorak and her occasional practice of posting cheering pieces of synthpop that I could listen to at work. Then Clare started posting mini-reviews of bands she might like to see at WGT, and I found that listening to the better of them was a good way to get less permanently distracted from work. Finally, I found the Amazon MP3 store and its slight integration into Ubuntu's standard media player. The result is that I seem to have about nine hours of MP3s on my netbook now.

I used to say that I didn't have any musical taste of my own, but just accepted whatever was played around me. I'm not sure I've actually developed any taste, but now I have a little more influence over what I hear.


Up north and back again

That was a very welcome and relaxing holiday. Nothing went very wrong, and I got to spend a week paying practically no attention to the problems waiting for me back in Cambridge. The Northern Dales was a spectacular ride, and less difficult than I'd feared. I wouldn't have finished, though, without the appearance of a helpful angel bearing a spare tyre at a critical moment. The curious will find GPS tracks at <> et seq.


Ooh, that looks like being a holiday.

I seem to have accidentally arranged a summer holiday, of a sort. It all started when I realised that I'd miscounted and would be 200km short of a Brevet 3000 award this year (for Audax rides of 100, 150, or 200km totalling 3000km over any period). This obviously wouldn't do, and after scouring the Calender I found a 200km event starting from Arnside Youth Hostel, so I could sensibly spend the nights before and after there.

It seemed a bit silly going all the way to the edge of the Lake District for a single day, so I planned to go up there on the Friday and back on the Monday. Looking at the trains, though, there were no cheap outward tickets on Friday, or even Thursday, and I started to wonder if it might not be easier just to cycle up there. A bit of map-examining later, and I seem to have a plan to do the Mildenhall 200k one Saturday, pack on Sunday, spend Monday to Friday cycling to Arnside, explore the Lakes a bit on Saturday, do the Northern Dales 200k on Sunday, and get the train home on Monday. Should be fun.


Ooh, nasty.

I'm currently finding typing a little difficult. This is because I had a head-on collision with another cyclist on my way to work this morning. Obviously it was all his fault, though the phrase "just as dead as if he'd been wrong" is wandering through my head. Anyway, the main consequence on my side was an impressively bloodied right hand. After getting to work, I decided that I really shouldn't get blood all over my keyboard and took it to the doctor's. The nurse at Bridge Street was marvellous and spent some time carefully sticking the skin back together before giving me a tetanus jab and some sweet coffee and sending me on my way.

My bike, despite being newly-reassembled, seems to have come out of the incident without so much as a scratch, which is more than can be said for my counterparty's machine. I think I might leave the bloodstains on the handlebars.


Christmas cake 2008

Even though I didn't get round to making any experimental fruit cakes after February, they served their purpose and the Christmas cake was generally judged a success, so I think I should record what I did before I forget. The basic recipe was the one from the Dairy Book of Home Cooking (second edition, I think), with rather a lot of changes. I replaced the flour with Doves Farm gluten and wheat free flour, and added 15ml of extra milk to make up for its absorbancy. I kept the usual amount of fruit, but varies the mix to fitwhat we had in the cupboards, which were light on raisins and heavy on sultanas. I also included 100g of whole glace cherries (a great success), and some quantity of dried pineapple (not so exciting). I also replaced all of the nuts with ground almonds.