Brilliant Christmas Present.

One of the great things I got for Christmas was a series of cycle manufacturers' adverts from a 1920s cycling magazine.  Enjoy them.

(If you click on them they become bigger)


Christmas Cracker Joke Fail

Merry Christmas everyone.


Christmas Wish List

I'm not greedy when it comes to Christmas.  In fact, my Christmas list has only one item on it.

It's a five foot long model of a prehistoric amphibian.  He's called John.  The Yorkshire Museum are selling him on ebay.  If you don't live near enough to collect John, don't worry, because I do.  I've measured the upstairs landing and there's room for him there.

I promise that I won't play with him until Christmas Day, and will write you a nice thank-you letter on Boxing Day.  Thanks in advance for your generosity, and for enabling me to give John a home.

What John might look like on the upstairs landing.


Pink. Not always a good colour.


A Guest Post by Hester Made (up)*

When Marc invited me to write for his blog, five days ago, I was intrigued by the invitation.  I’ve never appeared on the internet proper.  Of course I’ve appeared on the website of the newspaper I write for, The Late-Afternoon Push, but I’ve never appeared on a blog before, I had to ask my daughters what they were.  “What the hell,” I thought, “you only live once.”

I agreed to write a guest piece and began to consider the numerous subtle and important differences between writing for a blog and writing my regular column for The Push.  Having brainstormed for an hour, and having disregarded many spurious and silly notions, I realised that I had two main areas of concern.

Firstly, the blog’s logo is large, contains pseudo-Soviet imagery and is red.  Would it clash with my hair?  I soon realised that this was beyond my control.

Secondly, the page colour is grey.  On Loose Women this week they stated that grey is unflattering so I knew that I would have to choose my writing-outfit carefully.  I went through my wardrobe.  Disregarding a pink floral dress, a blue trouser suit, a green wizard’s-hat and a bust of W.G. Grace, I settled on an old pair of  jeans.

Now these jeans have seen better days.  Push readers will know that they’re a bit frayed, but their fit is like no other jean.  I was concerned that they might not last for the five days until I began writing and knew I would have to take measures to ensure that they would.

I put my best foot forward and began to pace up and down in the garden.  It was then that I had a flash of inspiration.  I knew, having considered frozen food at great length – I may even have written about it – that freezing things preserves them, so I headed off to the garage.

As regular readers of my Late-Afternoon Push column will recall, our freezer is kept in the garage.  This does not cause any problems though, as the car is kept on the patio, the garden furniture in the attic, the random loft-boxes in the dining room, the dining table in the conservatory, the hat-stand, pot plant and welcome-mat in the living room and my husband in the shed, which is locked (from the inside).

I put the jeans in a watertight plastic bag (not daft, me) and placed them in the freezer on top of the frozen broccoli, between the Findus Crispy Pancakes and Arctic Roll.

It was there that they lay, until five minutes ago, when the time came to write my 400-500 word post.  I went into the garage, opened the freezer, and there they were.  It took a couple of minutes to put them on and they feel a bit chilly, but I’m sure you’ll agree they’re lovely.  Same time next week?

*Hester Made (up) is a fictional character and in no way represents any columnist from the York Evening Press, especially not Julian Cole, as he is quite good.



One of the things I've learned about recently, while building a website, is advertising.  I've learned that a lot of internet advertising (ads by Google, for example) is contextual.   Google use the words that are on the page to determine which advert to place there.  Today, I wrote about dancing, and dancing related adverts appeared on that page within seconds.  Another popular form of advertising is behavioural targeting, as used by Facebook, in which contextual advertising is further refined by using data from the user's past click-stream (ads that they have clicked on).

These are all adverts that have been targeted specifically at me.  I am perplexed.  Does anyone else have an advert profile as strange as mine?

To see the picture in its full size, click on it.


I'm in Australia

Not content with being here on this page, not in Australia, I'm there on this page, in Australia.  A jolly nice place it is too.  Thanks Splex and Alpii.


Handbag Theory

I have a theory about handbags.  Women start out with small handbags which, when they are young and haven't accumulated much, are sufficient for their needs.  As women age they accumulate more stuff and, every time they buy a new handbag, they purchase one which is slightly larger than the last.  Consequently there is never any need to sort out the handbag as its contents can just be tipped into the new, larger one, with room to spare.  Eventually the accumulated handbag contents of a lifetime become so great that elderly women require a wheeled shopping trolley to house them.  The wheeled shopping trolley is actually the ultimate handbag.

I have produced a handy picture to demonstrate my theory.

If you click on the picture, you can see it in its proper size.


3DTV : The Future is Here

Channel 4 is having a 3D season.  In conjunction with Sainbury's, they're giving away 3D glasses and putting on a week of 3D programmes.  There's going to be mix of original programming, old 3D horror films and also what will surely be the television event of the decade, there's going to be two hour-long programmes showing the Queen's coronation year in 3D.  The Queen in 3D!  This is surely what 3D glasses were invented for.   It'll be like having The Queen in your living room.

If you haven't done so already, go to Sainsbury's and pick up some free glasses.  Then you too, can look this cool.
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A Guide to Feline Facial Expressions.

I have a brilliant and quite well known cat, Horatio Pyewackett Caractacus Fearns.  He is pictured below.

I take my cat-owning responsibilities seriously.  Because of this, I have several books about domestic cats.  These books are all fairly alike, which is probably unsurprising, as they cover similar subject matter.  One thing that all of them contain is a guide to your cat's facial expressions.  I always find their interpretations to be a little general and inaccurate, and consequently unsatisfactory, so I've modified one to improve it (if you click  it, it becomes bigger).


Vicious Cycle.

You may remember the day that Briony's new bicycle arrived.  As we established, it's isn't really hers, it's mine.  It is now called Briony's Bike as a tribute to her panic and confusion.  It's a late 70s / early 80s Peugeot Carbolite that's been restored and converted from a multi-geared bike to a single-speed one.  It arrived partly done, it had been stripped down and resprayed, it had new wheels and brakes.  It still needed a fair bit of work to get it to the spec I wanted though.  I have toiled for the last few weeks in the bicycle workshop/kitchen.  It's finally ready to ride.

I shall be riding it with a fixed gear, which means that you can't coast: if you pedal forwards, the bike goes forwards; if you pedal backwards, the bike goes backwards; if you take your feet off the pedals going downhill, they continue to go round; if you get anything trapped between the chain and the chain-ring, you lose it - there are lots of gory pictures of that on the internet.

I've never ridden a fixed-gear bike (a fixie) before, so I'm rather looking forward to taking it out tomorrow.  It occurred to me that it might be difficult to mount as you can't spin the pedals to where you want them while the wheels are on the ground, so I've done some research and found these instructions (written by Greg Goode at this great site, http://www.63xc.com/) on how to mount a fixie and start pedalling.

The Handlebar Mount

Of course you can mount a fixed any way you like. But most people riding fixed don't use the traditional mount, where you swing the leg up and back over the saddle. Instead, they use the much cooler handlebar mount. They sweep their leg in a quick movement up in front, over the handlebars and back down to the pedal on the opposite side. This method is faster and smoother than the traditional mounting method. It evolved on track bikes, where the bars are a good deal lower than the saddle--and there are no brake cables to foul you up!
The entire mount takes about a half a second. The steps take much more time to read and grok! I've assumed mounting from the left (L) of the bike. If you mount from the right (R), then just switch the Ls and Rs.
It's good to practice rocking the bike. This is not absolutely necessary, so you can skip the next section if you wish. But if you get it down, rocking will help make your mounts and dismounts much smoother and faster.

Rocking The Bike
Rocking is a side-to-side motion that makes your mounts and dismounts smoother and more fluid. To rock the bike, stand to the L side of the bike. Orient your body so that your R hip is square on to the bike (or at a 45 degree angle). Hold the L handlebar in your L hand, and the stem in your R hand. Let your L hand go. With your R hand on the stem as a guide, let the bike fall about 10 or 15 degrees away from you, towards the bike's R. Now, with your R hand, gently throw the bike back towards your L hand, which will catch the bike's L handlebar. The handlebars and stem (saddle and everything else too) will sway L-to-R and R-to-L through an arc of maybe 15-20 degrees. Practice this gentle toss-and-catch movement back and forth, catching the stem with your R hand and handlebar with your L.
You'll use the rocking-toward motion in mounts, and the rocking-away motion in dismounts.
NOTE: The best spot to grab the L handlebar is on the 'flat', between the stem and the beginning of the curve. This grip makes it easier to keep the front wheel straight as you push the bike to the R.

Mounting The Bike
1. Holding the bike by the handlebar and saddle, lift the rear wheel off the ground. Give the L pedal a gentle kick to rotate the pedals until they are at 3o'clock/9o'clock, the R pedal towards the front wheel and the L pedal towards the rear wheel. Place the rear wheel back on the ground, and re-grip the bike, with your L hand on the L handlebar and your R hand on the stem.
2. Keep that grip with your hands, and orient your R hip towards the top tube. There should be about 8-12 inches between your belly button and the handlebars.
3. Let your L hand go and let the bike sway away from you, guided by your R hand on the stem.
4. Toss the bike back towards you with your R hand, and at the same time raise your R leg up and swing it over the handlebars. As your leg passes over to the right, the bike passes under to the L.
5. At the instant that your L hand catches the bars, your R foot reaches the R pedal. (Clip in if you like, but it might be safer to save it until you've practiced dismounting.)
6. Place your weight on the R pedal, using it to lever your butt into the saddle. Push forward with the R pedal and catch the L pedal with your L foot.
7. Congratulations, you've just mounted your fixed! Time for a quick victory circuit. Now you need the next section, which is all about dismounting.


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Definitely Don't Eat Here

That's the riverside terrace of Revolution, it's just off Coney Street in York.  I took this picture while eating next door at City Screen.  I'm sure that you've spotted it already but I'll repeat it just in case.

"We were actually blown away by how good the food was" - Yorkshire Evening Post.

Actually blown away?  Had you said, "We were blown away by how good the food was" I would have understood that you were using the term figuratively.  But to state that you were "actually blown away"?  How?  Where to?  Obviously you weren't blown far enough, as you were able to post your fatuous review.

I don't know what scares me more, that someone wrote that in a review, that the Yorkshire Evening Post apparently employ no sub-editors and printed it, or that Revolution actually (note correct usage) use this to promote themselves.

I am boycotting Revolution and the Yorkshire Evening Post, obviously.


Was Ist Das?

I have been using my words on the other blog this week.  Loads of them.  I am now wordless.  I shall write something more substantive soon.  I just need to know if anyone can explain this to me.  It's also rendered me speechless.


7 Reasons

If you're getting a sense of deja vu, you read the wrong blog first.  If you're not getting a sense of deja vu and are now a bit confused, allow me to explain.

I'm launching a new blog tomorrow, in collaboration with Jonathan Lee of jollyinterestingstuff.blogspot.com/.  It's called 7 Reasons and is based around a simple concept.  Every day we will provide you with 7 Reasons.  They could be 7 Reasons that all water should be sparkling, 7 Reasons that otters are better than cats, 7 Reasons that women should stay out of the loft (I'm definitely doing that one), the scope of this blog will be almost without limit.

It's a high-concept blog, but one that we think should be consistently entertaining, amusing and occasionally even relevant and topical.

We hope that you come and join us here.  We welcome all suggestions, comments, criticism (of Jon), ideas and contributions.  We can also be found on Twitter.

We start at 11am tomorrow.  If you enjoy it, please publicise it via Facebook, Twitter, word of mouth, or even pushing notes under your neighbours' doors if you're less technically minded, we'd really like to get this out to a large audience.  Obviously, as a reader of my blog you already have special 7 Reasons silver status, you get gold status for contributing and platinum status for contributing and publicising.   Now I'm getting deja vu.  

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Something For The Ladies

I suppose my blog can be a bit phallocentric at times, inevitable really, being written by a man.  It probably doesn't cater for the female readership as well as it should.  The hottest pictures that I've posted on here have been of Elizabeth Carrington and all that women have had to look at have been pictures of tweezed, manicured, moisturised, metrosexual me.  I have decided to correct this imbalance forthwith.  I've heard that they like this sort of thing so here, just for the ladies, is a nice bit of ruff.


Cassetteboy vs Nick Griffin vs Question Time

Sometimes the simplest things are the most brilliant, such as Cassetteboy's fantastic re-editing of last night's Question Time.  Obviously this is not a universal truth.  Sometimes the simplest things are the least brilliant, Nick Griffin, for example.

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Michael Buble Points (A Lot)

I know almost nothing about Michael Buble.  Kevin Keegan, Lynne Truss, Dame Ellen MacArthur and Doctor Bingu wa Mutharika (President of Malawi) are just some of the people that know infinitely more about Michael Buble than I do.  I know he is a singer; I know he has a slightly daft surname; I know that his fans are mostly old women and because of this, if the singing doesn't work out, he could potentially maintain a good standard of living as a widow wobbler.  That is the sum of my knowledge about Michael Buble, or rather it was, until this morning.

This morning, as I read an unrelated article in The Times, I spotted this photo.

That's right, it's Michael Buble, pointing.  It's obviously a professionally taken studio shot, which led me wonder whether at some point the photographer said to Michael Buble, "Excuse me Michael Buble, could you look over there and point?  Thanks, there's a love," or words to that effect.  The alternative to this supposition is that Michael Buble is a natural and instinctive pointer and was ad libbing during the photo shoot.  I have now exhaustively researched Michael Buble's pointing and am ready to present my findings.

Michael Buble points a lot.
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From Failblog.

epic fail pictures

see more Epic Fails

Now I'm afraid of the internet.





I love Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars; I've been wearing them since I was fourteen years old.  I've had many, many pairs - ones with flames on, tartan ones, I've had at least ten plain black pairs.  I've had canvas ones, corduroy ones, denim ones.  I like both the low-tops and the high-tops.

Imagine how excited I was when, on Friday, I saw these in my local branch of Office.  I've seen Converse with double uppers before, in a high-top and in a low-top.  I'd never seen them with both a high and low top though.  They look great, I thought, and as I needed a new pair (that's why I was in Office), I bought them.

I have been wearing them for a weekend now and here are some preliminary observations:  Putting them on takes an age, they're tricky to get into as I have to manipulate two sets of uppers and two tongues into position, and then, instead of doing two pairs of shoelaces up, I now have to tie four.  They are also really uncomfortable, the outer layer, when done up, presses down on the inner layer, and the inner layer's laces.  These, in turn, press down on my feet.  As a result, when I remove my shoes and socks, the tops of my feet have red stripes.

These shoes are silly and, while visually and technically interesting, are impractical and uncomfortable.  Do not buy these shoes unless you are a big fan of bow-tying or are trying to cultivate a "just back from being pedi-flogged" look.
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There has long been speculation that the NASA moon landings of the 1960s and 1970s were a hoax perpetrated by NASA and the US government.  There are many books and films and much of the internet is devoted to this topic.  At 12:31pm today, NASA claimed that it had bombed the moon in an experiment to discover water there.  Here are seven signs that NASA faked today's moon bombing.

1.  NASA's television images showed no light flash from the first bomb, explosions create light and dust, none of this is visible.  See it for yourself here.

2.  NASA claim that they bombed the moon's South Pole.  This is ridiculous, the footage shows no evidence whatsoever of moon penguin corpses.

3.  The bombing took place at 12:31pm BST.  I looked out of the window, it was daytime and the moon wasn't even out.

4.  We're all familiar with NASA's mission control centre.  We know that it looks like this:

The mission control shown in the moon bombing footage is clearly someone's bedroom (thanks to @davidofyork for that observation).

5.  Americans are excitable and prone to prolonged and elaborate displays of self-congratulation (the average American Football game contains seventy-six minutes of play and two hours of congratulation).  If NASA had really completed a successful moon mission, would this have happened?

6.  According to NASA the rocket was moving at twice the speed of a bullet.  Everyone knows that only Superman is faster than a speeding bullet.

7.  If America had attempted to bomb the moon, the sun would have been destroyed in a "friendly-fire" incident.  It's still there.

I'm sure that in the fullness of time, when the footage has been more rigorously analysed, more evidence will emerge to support the notion that the moon bombing was a NASA hoax.  Do you have evidence?  Have you observed anything anomalous or suspicious?  Please share it via the comments section.

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Scarey Bread

This is fairy bread.  Australians eat this and give it to their children.  They make sandwiches from it.  Why are they not the size of Americans?  How do they beat us at sport?

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Call A Cycleogist.

I like cycling.  I find that riding a bicycle is a carefree and fun experience.  It's a liberating and refreshing feeling, to leave the baggage of day to day life behind (both physical and emotional) and concentrate on a simple activity.

When cycling I carry three things; a phone (for emergencies), the house keys (for domestic access purposes) and some cash (for emergencies or beverages).  I know that some cyclists carry a few more things than I do, my friend Bees carries a puncture repair kit, for example, and my friend Brad carries a pie (probably).

Today I got a puncture; fortunately I got home before the tyre deflated.  So this evening I looked at an online cycling forum to see if anyone could recommend a puncture repair kit.  In the thread I was looking at, one rider stated that in addition to carrying a puncture repair kit when he rode, he also carried a spare inner tube.  The next man posted this response:

I carry this :-
1 P*ncture repair kit
1 allan keys
1 set of tyre levers + 2 spare
3 inner tubes
Folding tyre
Tyre patches
1 small head torch in winter
marigold gloves
Small length of chain (3 inches)
1 small chain tool
Cassette tool and chain whip
Spare spokes
Kevlar spoke
Spare nuts, bolts, powerlinks
Wire cutters
2 small screw drivers
Small sockets to fit screw driver handle
First aid kit with triangular bandage paracetamol, co-codamol, gaviscon tablets
Batteries for rear light and computer and bulbs
Small tyre pump (not mini)
1 Co2 pump
Zip ties
spare keys for house, bike locks
Pen and paper
10 sheets of kitchen roll
Very small bottle of hand cleaner
Insulation tape
£5 in small change
Small roll of gaffer tape
Brake and gear cables
Spare bite valve for camalbac
Small roll string
Spare gloves

I find almost every item on this list baffling, it raises more questions than I could possibly go into here, I'll limit myself to one query.

Marigold gloves + spare gloves (non-Marigold)?  That's six gloves!  That's too many.  What are the Marigold gloves for anyway?  I've encountered many things when cycling; cows, horses, badly driven cars, fallen trees.  What I've never encountered is the washing up.  Not even a couple of spoons and a bowl. Never.

If you wish to query any of the other items on the list, please do so via the comments section.


Marc's A Reader: Part 4

I keep being forced to go out and do stuff.  Will this hell never end?

Something I Made


Marc's A Reader: Part 3

I was told that sitting around the house reading was bad for me and that I should go and get some fresh air.


Marc's A Reader: Part 2

Day two of reading James Ellroy's Blood's A Rover.  Obviously I still have to eat, a fact which necessitated a visit to the shops.

The book's great so far, by the way.
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Marc's A Reader

This arrived earlier.

It's the new James Ellroy novel, Blood's A Rover, the third and final instalment of the trilogy that includes American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand.

It's taken Ellroy a long time to write this, I've been waiting for years for it. The release date in the U.K. is in November.  I couldn't wait so I had it shipped from the U.S. as soon as it was released there.

This is just a quick post to explain why you won't be hearing from me or seeing me over the next few days - unless you are Briony or the cat, in which case I will look like this.

Or perhaps this.

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A Kennedy Moment, with Simon Best.

The second part of a sporadically occurring series in which I open my blog to a special guest writer.  Last Friday night, youth-working Quaker and all-round good egg, Simon Best, boarded the Caledonian Sleeper at London Kings Cross.  This is his account of the experience.

Boarding the Caledonian sleeper is a bit like stepping back in time, even the name sounds like something from a 1930s Agatha Christie novel and it put me in mind of WH Auden’s poem, ‘The Night Mail.’  I personally haven’t received or written a cheque all year and I think the last postal order was sent in about 1973.

I travel a lot by train and usually platforms are announced just minutes before departure, I then find myself rushing to get on and scrabbling to get my bag stowed and to find a seat. With the sleeper it’s far more relaxed - you can board up to an hour before it leaves.  You’re greeted on the platform and shown to your cabin with plenty of time to get settled.

Although I’ve been on the sleeper before and my bunk was already made up, the first thing I did was to play around with the bed, open the little shelf next to the bunk, climb up to the top bunk and sit there, lift the cover to the wash basin, press the taps, turn the three different lights on and off several times and adjust the temperature slider about seventeen times to get it just right.

The sleeper seems to attract a variety of passengers: people travelling for work, retired couples, train enthusiasts (yes, in anoraks) and people heading north to walk in the Highlands. The only ones I couldn’t work out were the four guys stood topless in the corridor. My immediate neighbours were a father and his young son, clearly excited by his first experience of travelling by sleeper.  The cabin on the other side was occupied by a young lady whose eyes were red and cheeks streaked with tears having said goodbye to her boyfriend on the platform (and at the prospect of having to share her cabin with someone she didn’t know). The stewardess quickly found an empty cabin, settled her in and even took her a cup of tea.  This was just one of many examples of professionalism and kindness from the staff.

There is a sense of camaraderie on the sleeper – normally I don’t talk to strangers on trains, people are on their mobiles or laptops or plugged into their iPods – there is a different atmosphere on the sleeper. I had a great chat with a man and his son in the cabin next to me.  The son, who was about ten years old, was really excited about his first trip on the sleeper and couldn’t wait to explore the train.

The lounge car is probably my favourite part of the train, you walk past other cabins till you find a carriage that has been converted into a bar with comfy lounge chairs and mood lighting. It was staffed by one of the campest waiters I have ever encountered – imagine a Scottish Graham Norton, possibly the love child of Kenneth Williams and Rab C. Nesbitt.

I sat in the lounge car reading the paper, enjoying a gin and tonic and having a chat to the man seated opposite about our journeys (he was heading home after a week working in London, I was going to a wedding). The lounge car stays open all night but you can only get booze until 1am because, as my stewardess said, "this is a train, nae a nightclub". I love people-watching and the sleeper is a great place to do this - you get so much time to watch these people.  There was a young couple opposite me in the lounge car. They were heading for a weekend in Scotland, she hadn’t been before and he was trying to impress her with is knowledge of whisky. He let himself down by pronouncing the isle of Islay as ‘Is-lay’ rather than ‘I-la’ (not that the woman heard him or minded, she just continued staring into his eyes).

Back in my cabin, after a short deliberation, I decided to take the bottom bunk and settled down to sleep. It’s surprisingly comfortable and you are actually able to sleep, soothed by the movement of the train - which goes at about half daytime speed so you don’t arrive inconveniently at 4am. I woke briefly when the train was divided at Carstairs in the Borders, the back half destined for Edinburgh and the front for Glasgow.

About 20 minutes before we arrived in Glasgow I was woken with a gentle knock on my door and a cup of tea, which was very welcome (though I did pass on the early morning shortbread). We arrived bang on time, though I didn’t get off straight away (they let you stay on for about half an hour after the train gets in). I had a wash, packed my bag, said goodbye, thanked my stewardess and headed off to find breakfast and a shower.

For Marc’s benefit the engine number was 90021.
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