The Day I Didn’t Cycle Round the Isle of Wight

May 1st, 2017

So, as most of you (i.e. those who come here via Facebook) will know, I didn’t achieve all I intended to on the Isle of Wight bike ride yesterday.

The plan was to do the 70 mile version of the Cycle Island Randonee – it’s normally 66 miles but the Cowes floating bridge was out of order yesterday so they had to put a diversion in, making it 70. In the process I would have a good bike ride, do a longer ride than I’d ever done before by some significant margin, and raise shed loads of sponsorship for T’s Vietnam school trip.

The day started as planned with a selfie in the Red Funnel car park, waiting to board the ferry to the Isle of Wight – well obviously the day had really started with getting up and getting dressed, driving to the ferry…you get the picture but I’m trying to avoid un-necessary detail here.
terminal

Incidentally all selfies in this post were taken using the selfie stick m’lovely Bridget bought me for Christmas :-)

Once on the ferry, we queued up for our Brevet cards, which we were to get stamped at every checkpoint to prove we’d done it. Don’t ask why I was wearing my bike helmet on the ferry, Red Funnel drivers aren’t that bad – although if I’d been crossing from Portsmouth on Wightlink, which I often used to do for work, it might not have been a bad plan.
card

Getting off the ferry at Cowes took longer than expected, mainly because the bikes weren’t stacked in the order people were lining up to collect them, but we were eventually off and on our way. The start of the cycle route from Cowes is uphill on a main road, but once past Osborne House we turned off onto a much more minor road and hardly saw any cars for a while. I’d planned to use the 5 miles to the first checkpoint as a warm up, so I spotted two people riding together at a speed a bit below what I normally ride at, and tucked in behind them.

CP1
The first checkpoint was on a caravan site just outside Binstead, to be convenient as a starting point for cyclists who’ve come over on the aforementioned ferry from Portsmouth, and after a few homemade sweeties and some homemade electrolyte drink (and the energy gel Jonny gave me :-) ), I was on my way. This was where the story really started: Soon after leaving this checkpoint the hills begin in earnest and I quickly realised I’d underestimated the hills and wasn’t prepared for them, and had to stop for a rest at the top of the first main hill. I wasn’t the only one but that’s not much consolation, and I’d quickly lost contact with my slow moving pace makers. By the time I reached Nettlestone I was glad there was a roadside bench.
nettlestone

From here to the next checkpoint I knew the way pretty well – we came here every year for holidays when I was a teenager and the route actually passes the entry to the campsite where we stayed, before passing down through St Helens and along the Bembridge front, before turning back inland past the windmill and up to the checkpoint.
CP2

I haven’t mentioned the wind yet – not the consequence of a Red Funnel bacon sandwich but the meteorological kind. It had been forecast to be blowing a hoolie and indeed it was: what the forecast hadn’t mentioned was that it was one of those magic winds known well to cyclists, which contrive to be a headwind no matter which direction you’re heading. I’m smiling in that picture because I’m indoors for a few minutes!

I’d worked out in advance what times I needed to hit each checkpoint to finish the course before the 6 PM cutoff time, and I left Bembridge ten minutes behind my slowest possible schedule. More hills followed, on pretty narrow country lanes through Brading and to checkpoint three at Alverstone. Even if I hadn’t stopped here at all I’d still have been ten minutes behind, and I knew I still had the worst of the hills to come.
elevation

I had coffee and cake and a banana at Alverstone…
CP3a
You’ll notice that in this picture I’ve put my waterproof on…yes, it had also started raining, although it stopped for a few seconds to allow me to get this picture outside the checkpoint…
CP3b

Coincidentally (or maybe not), Alverstone is also where you have to decide if you’re going to carry on and do the full 70 miles, or follow a different route for what they call the half-randonee of 35 miles. Normally under these circumstances it would be a no-brainer, but I didn’t want my sponsors to feel I hadn’t given it my best shot: However

  • I was by now twenty minutes behind schedule to finish the full route in the permitted time
  • I still had the two worst hills to come – see the chart above
  • If I diverted to the half-randonee, I would at least get a certificate of completion for something, even if not what I originally set out to do
  • If I was going to divert, this was the best place to do it – any diversion point after this would just involve more un-necessary hills, take me longer to reach Cowes and not achieve any more
  • Even then, I decided to carry on to the actual route divide and decide then – in then end I carried on to the point where I decided (in consultation with a family doing the same thing) that I’d actually missed the dividing point (it’s actually just before the Alverstone checkpoint), but that where we were offered an easy way back to the shorter route.

    From here as far as Newport, the shorter route follows an abandoned railway line, and is therefore…wait for it…FLAT! The going was good, if a little muddy in places, and apart from brief stops where the route crosses a main road, and a slightly longer one to dig out some gravel jammed between my front brake blocks and the wheel rim, I made good progress. And from Newport it was a familiar route back Cowes, and I wasn’t even slightly disheartened to be overtaken by someone who’d been on the same ferry as me in the morning, but had done the full 70 in the time I’d taken to do 35.
    In the end I got a very nice certificate and badge, and I get to keep my checkpoint card
    memories

    Then I got on the ferry and had a Red Funnel meal deal…
    mealdeal

    …got off the ferry and went home to clean the mud off the bike!
    mud

    Thanks to all those who sponsored me – at the time of writing that’s

    • through the JustGiving page Bee, Debbie, Helen, Jane, John, Jonathan, Meri
    • directly cos they don’t have JustGiving access, Jane (different one), John (different one), Joan, Mr Robinson, my Mum and Steve.

    Why Does Everybody Call Me “Big ‘Ead”?

    March 19th, 2017

    As long term readers will remember, Purple Fred (Whom I Love Very Much) and I are registered with a company that sends out free tickets to be in the audience for recordings of TV shows. We haven’t been to one for ages, but she snagged us tickets for a recording of a new game show at the weekend, to be filmed at Elstree studios. It’s a new show that’s never been on before so we were asked to divulge little in the way of detail, but I can say that it’s called “Big Heads”, it will be on ITV on Sunday teatimes and according to the pre-event blurb it attempts to answer the question “What would happen if Camilla Parker-Bowles rugby tackled Donald Trump?”. Leaving aside that the real answer is probably “an international incident”, it promises to make some interesting viewing.

    Knowing the way these things work, we got into the queue outside the audience gates for Elstree studios at 5 PM, an hour before the advertised gate opening time, at which time we were about thirtieth in line. By the time the gate finally opened, about twenty minutes late, the queue had stretched to about five hundred people, as well as the usual smattering of first timers who went straight to the security man at the head of the queue claiming “but we’ve got tickets!” – to which the answer is, of course, “so has everyone else, now get to the back of the line”.

    Filming started at about twenty past seven, and with the usual technical delays – plus some unexpected ones – it quickly became obvious that the advertised finish time of twenty to ten was just a pipe dream on the part of whoever was paying the studio crew’s overtime bill. I’ve been to one of these before – at BBC Wood Lane – which overran so much that I only just made the last underground train back to Waterloo1 , and this one looked like going the same way – although as we had the car this time it was less of an issue. By eleven o’clock the people sat behind us, who had to drive back to Warrington that night, were starting to get a bit restless, and I was glad we were only going back to Purple Fred’s ancestral mansion half an hour up the road rather than the two hour haul back home. The genial bearded host commented during one of the technical breaks “you came here expecting a nice evening out and it’s turning into a hostage situation!” .

    I must add here, in case I’ve given the wrong impression, that it was huge fun and we’ll definitely do similar things again.

    We finally left just before midnight – by which time filming still hadn’t finished, but all that was left was the closing scene and the genial host’s final piece to camera, and they’d filmed the audience infill shots for those earlier in the evening so they didn’t need us any more. By then the local McDonald’s drive through had closed, so as well as being tired and grumpy we were hungry and grumpy too…and then I took a wrong turning which added fifteen minutes to our evening, or should I say early morning.

    Once I found the A1(M) the only event of any note was when I was going exactly on the speed limit (it was just about the right time for the traffic police to have all their anti-drunk-driver patrols out in force, and although I’d obviously have blown a clean breath test, getting stopped for speeding would only delay our journey). We were overtaken by an Audi going so fast I thought for a moment I’d stopped and parked without noticing.

    We were back indoors just after one in the morning, and collapsed into bed, only surfacing ten hours later just in time for lunch!

    And for the benefit of anyone younger than me, who may be wondering, the title of today’s piece is a line from a Max Bygraves song.

    1 as referenced in this blog post

    Punctures

    March 15th, 2017

    So…following on from previous comments, I sorted out my bike’s brake cable.

    A few weeks ago, I noticed in the bike cage at work that someone had dropped what looked like a couple of artery clamps on the ground. Another bike user and I had a giggle about how they might have got there, but I think I know now…as well as clamping arteries, they’re pretty good for holding bike brake cables steady to tighten up the tension adjuster!

    Anyway, as you might have seen on Facebook, I had a puncture on the way to work on Monday. I’ve had punctures before of course, but this was the first one affecting a work journey. I’d only gone about a mile, but I was a bit annoyed at the holdup as I’d sailed straight through greens without having to wait at the first two sets of lights, so a fast time was on the cards.

    I always carry in the bike bag an aerosol tyre mending thing: just screw it on to the tyre valve, press the button and it fill the inner tube with foamy stuff that seals the puncture and partly reinflates the tyre. It doesn’t work if the hole in the inner tube is too big, and it doesn’t last more than a couple of days but it’s a good quick fix. So I hooked it up and pressed the plunger. And after a few seconds was covered in foamy stuff which had leaked out. Looks like the hole is too big then.

    Still, no matter: occasions like this are the reason I also always carry a spare inner tube, and five minutes work had the tyre reinflated properly and me tryng to get at least some of the dirt off my hands. In another couple the bike is the right way up and I’m on my way.

    And before I get to the end of the road I have another puncture. In the same tyre.

    I only carry one can of foamy stuff and one spare inner tube, so this is the point at which I walk the bike home, lock it in the garage and use the hospital park ‘n ride to get to work. Two days later and the puncture is fixed, but there’s something wrong with the wheel thatI couldn’t fix before I ran out of daylight last night. Hopefully I can sort that this evening, or it’s park and ride for the rest of the week for me, and off to the bikeshop on Saturday morning.

    Still, I did say the bike was due a service anyway, didn’t I?

    It’s A Drag

    March 7th, 2017

    Leaving work last night I noticed that my bike’s back brakes were a bit loose, so I tightened the cable. I knew there was still a little bit of friction between the blocks and the rims – i.e. I’d overtightened the cable – but I thought that the first few quick dabs on the brakes as I whizzed down Dale Road hill would sort that out.

    It was only as I was puffing up the last big hill to home that I realised I was still being held back, and this morning cycling to work was like riding through treacle (and yes, I’ve checked the tyre pressures). I think the brakes need a bit more adjustment – mind you, the bike and I have now clocked up 2000 miles together so it’s due another proper service anyway. Got to organise that some time.

    I Like to Ride my Bicycle

    February 22nd, 2017

    So, cycling, eh?

    When I first knew that I was going to be working at the hospital, I realised that driving to work probably wouldn’t be sustainable: I’d been warned at the interview that new staff werent being allocated parking permits, and although I have a volunteer permit for when I’m on site as a hospital radio person, I guessed that using that regularly when attending for work would a) get me into trouble, and b) lead to me losing the permit altogether.

    So I reviewed the non-car-related options: I first investigated buying a small motorbike, but when you factor in the cost of training, safety kit, regular maintenance and all the other expenses – as well as actually buying the bike – this works out to be quite an expensive option. Probably if you’re spending that money anyway because motorbiking is fun and your regular mode of transport then adding commuting is nearly a zero-cost option, but starting from scratch is expen$ive. A good chum suggested I look at an electric bike – but that too worked out pretty costly.

    So I thought of buying a bike. I hadn’t ridden one at all since I stopped working in London, and it must be twenty or more years since I cycled seriously…but you don’t forget do you? It’s like…umm…riding a bike? Purple Fred (whom I love very much, and who knows me pretty well) had an even better idea:

    “If you buy a bike, you’ll come up with all sorts of excuses not to ride it. If I buy you a bike for Christmas, you’ll feel obliged to ride it and get all those lovely health benefits”

    So, I got a bike for Christmas, and Young Fred (I can’t call him Mini Fred now he’s taller than me) bought me lights and a waterbottle holder. I’ve now been cycling daily for just over a year, and I’ve got loads fitter, as well as losing some weight. I’ve started doing longer rides for fun, and at the end of April I’ll be doing my longest ride yet…66 miles around the Isle of Wight, raising money for Young Fred’s school trip to Vietnam.

    What’s that you say? Do I have a JustGiving page where you could contribute to this most worthy of causes? Funny you should say that…

    Here it is – and there’s even a picture of me in lycra

    A New Thing – a.k.a. The Resurrection Shuffle

    February 21st, 2017

    About a million years ago, I used to blog almost daily.

    Then life became more interesting, I spent more time living life than blogging about it, and blogs reduced in frequency. Then about four years ago, 34sp – who own the server that GottleBlog lives on – wrote and told me that they were shutting me down until I’d installed an effective spam comment blocker, because GottleBlog was getting so many spam comments it was affecting their service.

    And sorting THAT out went on my to-do list, and kind of stayed there.

    But then last week, I was looking for some information that I knew I’d blogged about at some time. So I tried a few Google searches, thinking that even though GottleBlog was inaccessible, one of the sites that archives old websites might have mirrored it. And that’s how I discovered that at some time in the last four years, GottleBlog had once again been activated.

    I’m not going to try to do a monster update: Suffice to say that PF and I got married and are happier – and more ludicrously loved-up – than ever. I changed jobs a year ago and now work for the NHS, which contributes even more to my happiness, and still do ham radio and hospital radio. I even geocache occasionally, although nowhere hear as much as I used to. And I have a new passion in the form of cycling, as a result of which I’ve finally managed to lose a sensible amount of weight.

    So, GottleBlog is back. Comments will stay switched off for the time being – if you want to respond, please comment on the Facebook post which I suspect brought most of you here!

    Stuff

    May 21st, 2013

    Gosh…Once again an amazingly long time between blogs!
    So, I’m well ensconced in the new job, and for those who’ve asked, yes it really is a salad factory! in fact looking out of the office window, In one direction I can see the watercress beds, and in the other the packing sheds where the greenery is washed and packed. My morning commute takes me down winding country lanes – I could use the motorway but the lanes are prettier and have fewer holdups. And I leave home two hours later thsn I used to every morning, and get home two hours earlier.
    Oh yeah…and in five weeks I’ve found seventeen geocaches in the area I can reach at lunchtime.
    Speaking of home life (which I was before I got distracted by geocaching), Purple Fred (whom I love very much) and I have been working hard on wedding plans: the ceremony is planned (we finalised the music last night), including choosing the reading and who’s going to read it; sorting out the wording of the vows; selecting the hymns and nominating our witnesses – this last undaunted by the fact that if Gatwick airport has a wobbly one of them might not actually be in the country.
    The reception is planned, or at least that bit of it that involves choosing the menu, which is the bit I did. PF (WILVM) has wisely done all the rest of it, on the sound assumption that anything not involving pork belly, black pudding and bacon rolls couldn’t be guaranteed my full attention.
    Ooh, and a supreme honourable mention to MaDoPF (that’s Mum and Dad of Purple Fred, but I’m sure you’d already worked that out for yourself) for their hard work on hand-crafted invitations and orders of service, ss well as about a million other things.
    And on top of all that, we’ve been on a cruise and had a weekend away in the caravan, with another two planned: we finished our commitment to the Drama Festivals (we didn’t go through from the second round) and ducked most of the work involved in the next one. Oh, and in spite of my recent Facebook post, we still don’t know when our Eggheads programme is due to transmit.

    Old News

    March 25th, 2013

    After the excitement of Totton Drama Festival, I commented to Purple Fred (whom I will continue to love very much after we’re married) that it was the second time in my life that I’d gone through to the second round of something. Which of course required explanation…

    Back in the far-off days of long ago (between 1974 and 1987, if I remember right), I was a cadet member of St John Ambulance. Our division had a team which entered first aid competitions, and our team coach was a man of great vision and imagination called Mike, who was also our Division Superintendent. Mike decided in my first year in St John that rather than entering the best team he could, he’d put together a team of the youngest and least experienced who would do badly in the first year, but would stick together through our time in the cadets and after a few years be the most skilled and experienced team around.

    Well the first bit of the plan – the bit where we didn’t do very well to start with – went as expected, but we did start climbing up the rankings. In our area – Hampshire Central -there were two competitions at the start of every year for cadets, the Allen Shield coming first, with the area round of the National competition coming and few weeks later. The competitions were in two parts, an individual round where each team member dealt with a simulated casualty on their own (although the judge would sometimes perform the role of a helpful bystander), and then a team round where we worked as a team of four to deal with a multi-casualty incident.

    There was also a uniform inspection with a prize for the best turned out team, but although we did our best we never caused any work for the people handing out the prizes in that one.

    Anyway, our last year as a team together arrived: before the next competition year started three of the four of us be too old for the cadets and would have moved up to an adult division. For the last couple of years our division and one of the other Southampton teams had been deadly rivals and the smart money had us coming first and second, although which way round was anyone’s guess. Not only that but their team leader, Philip, and I were in the same position for the Highest Individual Score award.

    The day of the area round came, we competed, and the results were eagerly awaited. The uniform trophy was awarded, but not to us: It was time for the Individual award. The room held its breath, as did Philip and I who happened to be standing next to each other at the front of our respective teams.

    It was a draw between Philip and me. We shook hands and smiled at each other.

    Then it was time for the big one: the overall result, the aggregate of the team score and the four individuals, which would decide which team represented Central Area in the Hampshire round.

    It was us…with a margin of seven marks out of three hundred!

    So we went to the county competition: the winner here would go on to the South of England regional round, beyond which stood only the National final. Not only did we not win, we were totally outclassed. I’m hoping not to repeat that experience.

    More Drama

    March 24th, 2013

    Well who’d have thought it – we got through to the next round, the quarter finals of the All-England Drama Festival! Not only that, but Frances, one of our cast, was nominated for ‘Best Supporting Adult Actor’ so joy all round. We didn’t win our heat or anything, we were third or fourth, but the adjudicator puts through the four acts that he thinks will do best in the next round, and we were included in that.

    So after the announcement of the results, we had to rush home, fire up the laptops and take the props and furniture off of EBay, before someone bid on them!

    So now we’re straight back into rehearsals, working on those areas the adjudicator recommended we work on, and generally polishing our performances. And yes to the comments from last time – when we head up to Shaftesbury for the next round (where the famous Hovis commercial was filmed), we’re planning to get a proper man with a van!

    Drama

    March 22nd, 2013

    Well i suppose I ought to tell you about this drama thing.

    As regular readers will know, m’lovely Purple Fred (whom I love very much) is a figure of some importance in the local amateur dramatic community, and through her good offices I have somehow agreed to appear in the group’s entry in Totton Drama Festival, the first round of the All-England Drama Festival.

    The play is ‘In Room Five Hundred and Four’, about a young couple in the early years of the second world war, who’ve just got married and have one night for a honeymoon before he goes off to war. ..never to return as it turns out. I play the hotel manager and have a key role to play in setting the scene of a seedy boarding house that thinks it’s a luxury hotel. My Skegness accent has to be heard. ..luckily I only have to maintain it for six lines.

    Meanwhile there’s been offstage drama as well. ..I took today off work to be available to move scenery to the theatre (our performance is tonight). I anticipated doing the whole thing in one trip (although to be fair I knew I was pushing my luck to get both halves of the bed in the car at once), leaving me the rest of the day to catch up on some minor jobs and sit around in my dressing gown watching ‘Top Gear’ repeats on Dave. So I loaded up Evie B, (I will need two trips) and set off with my first load.

    Before I got to the end of the road. ..’What’s that funny noise? ‘

    Oh. I have a puncture.

    So I emptied the entire load all over the pavement, dug out my lovely space saver spare wheel and changed it at the roadside. Then I loaded back up and headed on my way, stopping at the first garage on route to sort the tyre pressures.

    I’m hiring a van next time

    Bumper News Edition

    March 14th, 2013

    Well, it’s been so long since I last blogged, and so much has happened!

    Most importantly, wedding preparations are well underway: we’ve set the date and booked the church, the reception venue, the photographer, the cake and the hotel for the overnighters. We’ve sent out a lot of the invitations (Gaz and Bel, can you confirm you’ve had yours? ) and settled the menu choices, and as I write this, the future Mrs Gottle is short listing hymns.

    In work-related news, I have a new job! Some of you will know that I’ve been looking for a while, and now I’m on my way to being Health, Safety and Environment Manager in a salad factory. So I’m moving from the public sector in the excitement and buzz of the Nation’s Capital, to the private sector in the peace and calm of the Hampshire countryside. I can’t wait!

    As well as all that, we’re busy with plans and preparation for the drama group’s entry in Totton Drama Festival (I’ve been promoted from playing a tramp last time to a sleazy hotel manager for this one), looking forward to our forthcoming holiday. We don’t like being bored. .

    Meeeeeee and Mrs….Mrs Gottle

    January 22nd, 2013

    Well, as my darling Purple Fred (whom I will continue to love very much after we’re married) has already told you…we’re getting married! We haven’t set a firm date yet…mainly because of checking availability of reception venues…but we’re aiming for before the end of the Summer.

    For those who’ve not yet met her, my lovely Purple Fred (WIWCTLVMEAWM) is great fun and with quite a mischievous of humour. She’s also very clever – even more so then me, which definitely saying something. The first of my friends to meet her were Rockin’ Rob and Sally-J, who said she was adorable, and I’m not questioning that.

    Don’t expect a conventional wedding…we’ve got a wedding cake decorator with some original ideas for a start…but it’s sure going to be fun! I’m looking forward to married life…and I can’t think of anyone i’d rather spend it with than PF (WIWCTLVMEAWM) :-)

    He is useless isn’t he – but I do love him (Sick in a bucket time!)

    January 21st, 2013

    This is written by PF (WHLVM) as Paul has not bothered to announce his earth shattering, life changing news. So I guess I must do it for him. He is about to become an old married fart. Nough said! Now tell them all about it Paul unless you are trying to keep me a secret. P.S. can I have new initials WIWLVMEWM now.

    Oops

    January 1st, 2013

    Well apparently I’ve let another whole month go by without a blog post. I considered being sneaky and back dating this by a day, but I am, as ever, honest with you my readers.

    There’s still no news on when our Eggheads appearance is going to be on TV – it’s likely to be around Easter, so stay tuned and I’ll let you know as soon as I do.

    2012 was another exciting year – my beloved directed her second major play, which kept us busy for much of the first half of the year, between her doing all the things that go with being a theatre director and me being her sound designer – which itself involved me learning more than I expected about SurroundSound. We still managed to fit in a fabby holiday in Florida, hitting all the Disney parks, Kennedy Space Center (spelling americanised in honour for the fact it’s in America!) and GatorLand, as well as swimming with manatees – or at least swimming in manatee poo.

    In Summer we grabbed a late deal on a holiday in Lanzarote and had a lovely week in the sunshine, visiting volcanos and animal parks, swimming in the pool and scuba diving in the sea! Oh, and of course I’d done my two weeks working hard at New Wine earlier in the month.

    We’ve had some lovely weekends away – uppermost in my mind without reading back are Abbotsbury Swannery during the cygnet season, tank driving with MiniFred near Leicester, and a weekend in Bath almost visiting the Christmas Market. Then there’ve been theatre and cinema trips (we saw The Hobbit last week), and all sorts of other stuff.

    I promise I’ll try to blog a bit more often in 2013 (and I know I said that almost exactly a year ago…)

    As Promised…

    November 1st, 2012

    A picture of some Eggheads!

    Eggheads and Challengers

    Eggheads: Chris, Daphne, Pat, Dave and Barry
    Us: Alan, Steve, Neil, Rob, Me and Gary

    Eggy Goodness

    October 27th, 2012

    And now, the blog you’ve all been waiting for…

    We did Eggheads! That is to say, the quiz team Sixty Not Out were on the show. Contractual obligations mean I can’t tell you the result, and in any case I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you, but you’ve got a while to wait – the series currently being filmed is the next one to be televised, in about six months time.

    What I can tell you is that Chairman Steve, Rockin’ Rob, Neil (who is also called Guy), Gary (who doesn’t have a daft nickname yet) and I…along with our reserve Alan “No Sugar Al” flew to Glasgow where we were put up in sumptuous accommodation. Alan went off to visit his niece, Neil (wiacg) and Gary(wdhadny) went to the pub, and Rockin’ Rob, Chairman Steve and I stayed to eat in the hotel, followed by a quick geocache before bed. Well it was a hundred feet from the hotel front door, it would’ve been rude not to.

    There was another Eggheads team in the hotel, and we met them at breakfast. They weren’t much fun so we stuck to talking to each other, before leaving the hotel horribly early…and, as it turned out, two hours early. We’d had two emails telling us what time to get there, and we’d believed the wrong one. So after two hours, we were taken through to the green room, where we had yet another legal briefing, and our shirts were chosen.

    We’d all had to bring a choice of four shirts, from which the wardrobe team would tell us which one we could wear. So if anyone’s reading this who doesn’t like the shirt I ended up wearing, (eg, Purple Fred [whom I love very much]), blame Mrs Wardrobe, she made me wear it.

    Then it was down to make-up (and in my case, having anti-shine on my head), and were finally ready to go through to the studio.

    We recorded our introductions, our own mini-piece to camera (“hi, I’m Paul, I’m 49 and I’m a civil servant!”) and the the Eggheads came in. They were all jolly, and made us feel welcome, and then Dermot, the questionmaster arrived.

    Then we did the quiz, and jolly good fun it was too. And I don’t think I’m giving away anything I’m not allowed to if I say that my worst fears – of making myself look a total arse on national television – didn’t happen.

    We’ve got some photos, which I’ll share with you as soon as we get them from No Sugar Al. And of course I’ll let you all know as soon as they tell us the transmission date.

    Egghead on a Jet Plane

    October 21st, 2012

    OK, OK, I know it’s been a while. But I have an excuse…I’ve been busy revising.

    You see, following my last post, our team has been accepted for Eggheads! We’re going under the title Sixty Not Out because we’re all from Southampton Hospital Radio and the station is sixty years old this year. In fact, we celebrated our sixtieth last Thursday, the same day that some other broadcasting organisation (the BBC) celebrated its 90th anniversary.

    Our programme is being recorded this coming Saturday…in Glasgow! So on Friday afternoon, Sixty Not Out will be travelling by luxury airliner (FlyBe) and staying overnight at a top quality five-star hotel (Premier Inn) before heading off to win thousands of pounds on the quiz.

    For those of you that haven’t seen it (I know I have some non-UK readers), Eggheads is a quiz show where a team of challengers (us) is pitted against the house team, the Eggheads. These are all previous winners of some of TV and radio’s biggest quizzes, including the first million-pound winner on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, a multiple-Mastermind winner, and the chap who used to be the question setter for Brain of Britain.

    To ensure the team’s humiliation…sorry, I mean triumph…is seen by as many people as possible, not only have I been posting details here, but Purple Fred (whom I love very much) has been telling everyone possible, including the staff at our local pub (where I’ve been practising by playing heavily on the quiz machine), and our chums from AmDram. Oh, and when we left Mikey’s birthday party last night, Jonny announced it to everyone.

    Oh yeah…and m’colleague BellEnd is organising for a party at work to watch the programme in a pub near the office, and had grassed me up to the editor of the company newsletter.

    We don’t know transmission date yet – as soon as we hear I’ll post it on Facebook, and in the Twitter feed box at the top right of this blog.

    Egg(head) on Face

    September 19th, 2012

    Some of you already know that, along with a few chums, I recently auditioned for the BBC quiz show Eggheads.

    Southampton Hospital Radio is sixty years old this year, so Chairman Steve thought it would be a jolly wheeze to enter: he assembled a collective of the station’s geekiest finest minds, nagged us until we filled in our application forms, and put our entry in.

    About a million years later – or at least six months – we were called for audition, and this indeed was where we went last Saturday. Chairman Steve, Rockin’ Rob, Neil (who is also called Guy) and yours truly (accompanied by Neil (wiacG)’s good lady), caught a horribly early train packed with already-drunk football supporters and headed for the Nation’s Capital.

    We got to London a bit earlier than necessary so we took the indirect route to the TV building, browsing through an open-air book market on the way. We should have browsed more thoroughly, as will become apparent. Anyway, once we arrived, we found we were one of four teams being auditioned – two of the other teams had only brought three of their five members with them, so we didn’t feel too bad about having left our number five, Gary (who doesn’t have a daft nickname…yet) behind – he couldn’t get the day off work.

    Once the audition proper started, the first thing that happened was an individual written quiz: I won’t tell you the real questions as I’m pretty sure that somewhere in the two hundred pages of legal documents we signed, we said that we wouldn’t. But to give you a flavour, one of them was something like “Which American crime writer wrote I, Alex Cross?” As that was one of the books we’d all browsed about thirty minutes earlier, you’d think that would’ve been easy…you’d think wrong, we all had to guess, and it transpired that we all guessed wrong. Another question was similar to “To which island group does Sark belong?” to which I originally put the right answer, then crossed it out and put something else. But first prize for numb-nuttery, at least in this round, went to my answer to a question similar to “What does the S in USA stand for?” Of course I knew the answer (the real question was, if anything, even easier than that), but I totally failed to RTFQ and answered “United”.

    Perhaps in some future quiz, I’ll be asked “What does the F in RTFQ stand for?” I’ll probably get that wrong too…the correct answer is of course “flipping”.

    Next up was a mini game of Eggheads between the four teams. The first round was Films and TV, so we nominated Chairman Steve, who’s probably seen more films than the rest of us put together. The question was to identify a film from which a particular quote came – he had one of those blank moments where you know the answer but for some reason say the wrong thing. Ah well. Two of the other teams lost a person that round too.

    Next up was Food and Drink, which I’d already claimed as my number one sepcialist subject, so I stood up, answered my question correctly, and sat down. At least it wasn’t a whitewash. The next round was Sport, so we put in Neil (who is also called Guy). They asked him possibly the only sports question in the whole world that he didn’t know the answer to, but he put in an inspired guess and was right.

    Round four was Science – I wanted to take it as my second-claim sepcial subject, and as there were only four of us, one was going to have to go twice, so I could have done. But Rockin’ Rob hadn’t been yet, and got the question right, so it was lucky I didn’t.

    The last individual round was Music: Had Gary (who doesn’t have a daft nickname…yet) been there, he would’ve been our music expert, but Neil (who is also called Guy) stepped up to the plate and answered brilliantly, so we were fine. Three out of the four of us through to the final round!

    In short, we won.

    The final part of the day involved each team doing a piece to camera about how interesting we are, and what an enthralling episode of Eggheads it would make if we were picked. If we’re shortlisted, we should hear in the next couple of weeks.

    Once we left, Neil (who is also called Guy) headed off to join his lady for a day’s research into his main sepcialist subject, Real Ale Pubs of London. We tried to tell him that isn’t a round in Eggheads, but he went anyway. Rockin’ Rob had to get home because he was playing a gig that night, I needed to get home because I had a toilet to mend, and Chairman Steve isn’t safe to be left out on his own, so the three of us headed back to Waterloo. We had a thirty minute wait for our train, so we stopped for a drink and a go on the pub quiz machine.

    We played two games of Eggheads on the quiz machine. We lost dramatically both times.

    A New Generation

    September 16th, 2012

    I promised you a better picture of my generator when one was available…here y’go then…

    Generator running

    Generation Game

    September 11th, 2012

    I’ve been considering buying a generator.

    I’ve thought for a while that it would be a useful adjunct to the caravan; if nothing else to keep the battery topped up – and therefore enable us to run the lights, radio, telly etc – while we’re on a remote site without electricity. I only recently realised that it would be just as useful during the winter “no caravanning” period – the storage site where the caravan lives has no mains, so a generator would enable me to use power tools, and the Hoover, for those out-of-season maintenance jobs, as well as keeping a maintenance charge in the leisure battery.

    The problem is that a generator worth having was always too expen$ive for the benefit it would bring. Even a small good quality generator like one of these:

    runs into several hundred, even second hand.

    So I started thinking, what would my ideal generator be? after all, if it’s never going to be any more than a wish, I may as well be wishing for the best.

    1. Runs on propane gas. Most or all small generators run on either petrol or two-stroke: Since my car uses diesel, that would mean carrying another type of fuel only for the generator. Whereas I always have a cylinder of propane in the caravan. Petrol engines can be converted to run on propane (and so can two-stroke, although it’s a right fiddle), but the conversion kit alone costs more than I was prepared to pay for the whole thing.
    2. Small enough to be easily transportable: seems obvious but a so-so generator that you’ve got with you is more useful than a brilliant one that you left at home because it’s too big to lug around
    3. Powerful enough to be useful: I don’t expect to be able to power the whole house in the event of an electricity outage, but I want to be able to run power tools and the telly etc.
    4. Quiet enough that the neighbours on the caravan site won’t complain about it – although generally on the kind of sites where I’d run a generator, the neighbours would be running theirs too.

    So there’s my wish list: point one puts things beyond what I’m prepared to pay, and points two and three are more or less mutually exclusive, but one can dream!

    But then, at a country fair a few weeks back, I spotted one of these: it doesn’t run on gas, but it fitted all the other requirements including price, and really the only reason I didn’t buy it was that I’d have had to carry it around for the rest of the day!

    But it started me thinking, and researching on line: I bid for one generator on fleabay but didn’t win it – then the same day spotted another one, cheaper and smaller, and therefore more portable. So now I’m the proud owner of this!

    (Better picture coming once I get the chance to point a camera at it in daylight!)

    Inspired by the Olympics

    September 7th, 2012

    Gosh, another blog-free month :-( The good thing is that it’s mainly down to the fact that I’ve been too busy having fun to write about having fun, rather than anything bad!

    Anyway, today marks the end of the Olympic invasion of London, at least as far as commuting days are concerned, so it’s a perfect time to tell you about the genius idea my colleagues and I had. Y’see, Brian, Ricardo and I noticed that in spite of being a huge continent, Antarctica has no representation in the Olympic games. This seems like too good an opportunity to miss, so before Rio 2016 we’re going to register as citizens of Antarctica. Being the only three who qualify, we’re bound to get selected for the team!

    We’re a bit worried about events like the 4 x 100, given that there are only three of us: also that we might be expected to turn up for the equestrianism riding polar bears*, but other than that it seems like a plan with no foreseeable drawbacks. And at least we get a month in Rio out of it.

    * in spite of the fact that polar bears come from the North Pole, not the South. But I’m relying on the average sports commentator not knowing that.