Wednesday, July 31, 2013


No cycling on a wet Wednesday, just lunch with Karen at the Willow Tree in Bourn; so the total for the month on my bike was 391.5 miles, plus 155.75 miles on the hire bike for a total of 547.25 (ytd 1710, 2071) -- with most of the 47 being a round trip to St Neots, using Google Maps to find me a better way between the centre and the B1046 than I took earlier in the month, with streetview making it almost like I'd already been there before I actually needed to navigate the sections of cycle path and back streets.

It's just a pity that the Google car hasn't been supplemented by the Google bike or Goolgle bloke for extra streetview assist.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer Cycling Break

View July '13 Cycling Holiday in a larger map

Having done north then south Suffolk so far this year, this outing went more down the middle, to Framlingham and Woodbridge. Now the distance to Framlingham is quite short, so I started off retracing the first miles of the route I did a month earlier, to catch a marvellous garden which I'd passed in the rain, and before it was at its height -- but now it was prime season and a warm sunny day

And pretty maids all in a row

And pretty maids all in a row

before looping back to cross under the A14 at Claydon. From there, I sort-of follow the alternate route for the trip if one happens to start from there in one of the overflow hotels (as I did on my first holiday) to Debenham -- but then, checking the time, it looked like I'd be able to get to Earl Soham before 1pm, and so I swung back to get there for lunch. Alas the cafe was determinedly closed, so I went along to the Victoria, where over a couple of pints of the Victoria Bitter, I had a serious prawn and avocado salad which was excellent; and then some raspberry cheesecake that looked a little fridge-worn, though the fruit on top were perfectly fine.

Having only covered 30 miles and being so close to Framlingham so early, the afternoon was a wander up to Stradbroke, to take in reverse part of the route the satnav decided to send me down when I took the wrong turning on the way to Laxfield in March; and then down part of the very flooded route I cycled last summer, before curling back to the Crown for the night having done 60.14 miles, where I found I'd got a free upgrade to a double room!

Under new owners, the restaurant is back where it used to be, the menu is great -- I had crayfish chilli lime salad, sundried tomato, asparagus and goat cheese gnocchi, pancakes with gooseberry and maple syrup; and from the exotic tea selection in the room, a green tea for digestif; then in the morning as well as toast and cereal, their "posh beans on toast" -- with slices of tomato, chilli and spring onion in with the beans.

Monday started cooler and cloudy, but quickly brightened up; the early forecasts of rain all afternoon had reduced to maybe showers lunchtime; so I thought that it would be a good route to head up to Southwold for lunch before going south to Woodbridge, plus another bit of inadvertent retracing of the route I'd driven in the snow and ice in March.

The snow has gone

Snow has finally melted

And the weather continued fine with sunny intervals right until I'd got to within a few miles of Southwold, whereupon there was the most torrential shower, which ended just about as I was anchoring up, and which brought enough rain to create significant torrents in the gutters. So I was rather soggy when I finally got to table at the Blue Lighthouse -- and a well timed visit, as this was their last week of trading, as the owner of the property has sold out to a coffee chain; though the proprietors are taking over the Blyth Hotel, so I'll have to check that out next year.

Water hazard

Water hazard

After a lunch of brie tempura, tiger prawn red curry, and fudge brownie, I set off the same route as in the spring, only without the Dunwich detour, but choosing a new route to Snape via Saxmundham, avoiding the A road out of Aldeburgh, before taking the well beaten trail to Seckford Hall and my usual room there, for a cumulative distance of 121.12 miles.

Building works affecting the restaurant meant that food was relocated to the function rooms and the verandah; from a menu high on helpfully labelled comfort food I ended up with chilli king prawns, bangers and mash, and rhubarb crumble.

After coffee on the verandah, I wandered up to the A12 junction to check out what exactly had been done with it to close off the right-turn gap -- which was close everything but the foot-way; and on the return, from the vantage over the hotel, a glimpse of Mercury, well paced low in the twilight.

Pedestrian access only

Scope to run like crazy

Tuesday started grey and cool, but the weather forecast suggested rain mid-afternoon -- so I planned to cut through Ipswich, meander around a bit to get to Tattingstone White Horse for lunch, then belt back ahead of the rain. Alas, it started sprinkling while I was still heading through California, at around 09:30, and by the time I got to Belstead, it was raining in earnest, so I just bailed, taking a route that as much as possible avoided both major and very minor roads, getting me to Claydon not long after 11:30, at which point the problem of lunch needed to be solved.

Passing the Sorrel Horse, where I'd dined on the very first evening of my first cycling holiday here about ten minutes later, I decided to do a loop to loiter and get back there by midday, where I took refuge for a couple of hours, over sweet and sour pork, a much nicer cheesecake, and a hot chocolate, until the rain eased a little for the last few miles, taking advantage of the bicycle friendly paths around the A14/A140 junction, to a total of 155.75 miles covered in the three days.

And at that point my usual precautionary over-packing paid off, and I could change into clean dry clothes for the drive home.

View July '13 Cycling Holiday in a larger map

Monday, July 22, 2013

Phew, what a scorcher

METAR report form the local airport, ninety minutes ago

Location: EGSC
Day of month: 22
Time: 16:20 UTC
Wind: True direction = 130 degrees, Speed: 9 knots
Wind direction is variable between 080 and 190
CAVOK conditions: Visibility 10 km or more,
no cloud below 5.000 feet or below the MSA (whichever is greater),
no cumulonimbus, and no significant weather phenomena in
the aerodrome or its vicinity
Temperature: 31C
Dewpoint: 17C
Humidity: 43%
QNH (Sea-level pressure): 1014 hPa

Not quite as hot as it got at the hottest point of summer ten years ago, but about the closest it's been in the interim.

Which reminds me that some time in the last week or two marks ten years of this mix of cat-blogging, reviews and tech-blogging. Doesn't time fly?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Film — Blancanieves

Blancanieves is a silent black and white film self-referentially retelling the story of Snow White. In c1910 Spain, Carmencita's mother dies giving birth to her, the same day her famous wealthy toreador father is crippled in the bullring. A gold-digging nurse fills the role of the wicked step-mother who proceeds to ease both her new husband and later the unwanted stepdaughter off the mortal coil. However, in delegating the latter task, the deed was not carried through properly, and Carmencita, now amnesiac, is rescued by a troupe of half a dozen bull-fighting dwarfs.

After she displays the skills her father taught her, the troupe rebrands as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (including a scene where you can see some of them counting and head-scratching), and heads towards a confrontation in the same arena where her father was brought low.

A silent film with English inter-titles (and occasional subtitles when print material was being shown), it had much of the style of the original silents, but without the scratched and deteriorated media -- or their necessary brevity : there are several pieces that establish mood or setting that go on just that little bit too long for what they need to do.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Film — Pacific Rim

Super-robot on daikaiju action? Of course I'm going to see that, even if it has been whitewashed -- it was heavily Anglospheric, with only token Japanese flavour -- after all, outside Mako's flashback, it looked like the kaiju had a lousy sense of navigation, and managed to keep missing Tokyo! What self-respecting atomic monster would go to Anchorage or Hong Kong instead? OTOH, definitely a case of "Let's hear it for the Aussies!", even if they did have to play second string to the Americans.

That aside, it did have genre feel -- the necessary "You leave me no choice. We'll have to use THAT!" and pulling out the effective attack only when on the ropes, for example. That may have been dumb in, say, Voltron, but here it's a nod to genre, so gets a bye.

The nerdy comedy relief scientists were not really necessary, apart from satisfying current day Hollywood stock casting requirements (in the same way the commanding officer is always black). At least it was unconventional in lacking an obtrusive romance sub-plot to get in the way of the action (or at best provide opportunity for a comfort break mid-movie a-la-Armageddon)

In sum, a pretty decent summer popcorn SFX movie.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Too nice a day to be in the office

Well, I seem to have chosen the right year to take an extended summer break; we've not really had a summer with quite such extended spells of warm (verging on the too hot) since '03.

So yesterday I decided to take a spin out along the busway cyclepath up to St. Ives, using the handy map of cycleways that the council produced a while back as guide. And on a bright sunny morning with just a little breeze, covering ground on the generally level -- being the old railway line, after all -- path, it was easy going and great to be out in the countryside, away from roads (though by the same token I can imagine that it would be a horrid ride if you're using it to commute at the weather is dull, windy and wet, with no shelter from the elements.

St Ives

The river at St. Ives

Now, I had been intending to just run up the cycleway, then loop back through the villages; but by the time I got to St. Ives, it was still before midday, and the map showed paths leading onwards that didn't seem to add too much to the total distance I'd have to cover going home.

Hemingford Abbots

Hemingford Abbots church

So I stopped for refreshment at the Axe and Compass -- an eminently civilised pub, with bike stands provided in the car-park, before heading onwards to Huntingdon, and then -- well, since I'd come that far, it wasn't that much further to St. Neots via Grafham Water

Grafham Water

Grafham Water from the cafe

and from there it would only be about as far as from home as St. Ives; and that could all be done on the B1046 until I picked up the normal way home from work.

Trouble was that, by the time I was committed to that loop, it was getting to the hottest part of the day, and there was a total dearth of pubs on the quiet country lanes (where it wasn't actually farm tracks cross country) -- that is a big defect of the Sustrans cycle route I was following -- until it got to be well past closing time, if, indeed they opened at all on Mondays. At least there was a cafe on the side of Grafham Water where I could get a cold drink, but even with that, the fruit and half-gallon of drink I'd packed were on the scant side given the way the heat built up during the afternoon -- memo to self : make it a whole gallon, like I did in France, next time.

That aside, getting home with time for a leisurely soak in the bath before making supper, and sitting out to eat in the cool of the evening over a beer wrapped up what was an enjoyable day, doing about 60 miles in all. And today, probably a gentle ride to the shops by way of recovery.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Film — Akira

I filled in a gap in my viewing by catching the 25th anniversary screening (subtitled) of Akira as a late show last night (and actually Tuesday will be 25 years after the opening scene of the movie). It was frenetic enough in that wacky 1980s anime style that it generally distracted from the general all-over-the-place nature of the narrative (there's a neat idea -- let's add it to the mix!).

I can see why it would have been a popular event back in the day, because of the concept scatter-gunning and ultraviolence; but as a mix and match of what were standard 1980s anime/manga themes -- neon dystopia (e.g. GitS, Bubblegum Crisis, ...) + psychics (a number of forgettable titles, in a manner of which Shinsekai Yori was a descendant) -- it was hard at this remove not to feel somewhat jaded by it.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Film — A Field in England

After a long drought, the local arthouse advertised and then actually showed* a film I thought worth going along to see, just to give an economic signal.

That film was A Field in England, which mixed arty experimentalism c1970 (black and white, "am I ominous yet" music, fragmented narrative and playing with crosscutting and overlays) with spaghetti Western sensibilities in a Civil War** setting. An alchemist's manservant hunting a magus who stole books from his master falls in with a number of deserters from a battle and finds his quarry camped in the eponymous field where the only sustenance to be found is a fairy ring of magic mushrooms. So after a while the "they're all tripping balls" effect leads to the arty stuff and an "I don't have to explain anything that goes on" approach to the narrative.

When it doesn't have its head up its fundament, and lets the (perhaps unintentional) spaghetti Western tropes surface, it's quite good; but on balance the "so edgy I could cut myself" approach gets the better of it.

*Back around Easter they'd put Dragon in the printed programme, but come the week it was supposed to show, nada, and no sign that it even came around earlier than expected.

**That's the 1640s, of course.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

7000 on 7/7

It was just such a glorious day that, after getting the chores out of the way, it was just the weather for getting on the bike and making random explorations, this time down the Roman road past Wandlebury, which made for good going in this dry weather -- though beyond the A11, it did start to get a bit overgrown in places, with weeds brushing against the panniers.

Fortunately the underlying countryside is gentle enough that the uncompromising "Forwards, go!" didn't really make the going at all difficult -- just a couple of places where dropping down close to bottom gear for a few yards near the crests of a climb, which is really no different from my usual route into work.

And so, on the third anniversary of fitting the odo to my bike, I've just nudged it over the 7000 mile mark, and will probably run it around the clock next autumn.

Monday, July 01, 2013


So, only just over the 250 mile mark on my own bike this past month, but 372.4 when holiday hire biking is included. That makes 1318 miles on my bike and 1524 total in the half year -- compared with last year's dismal total of 950 what with all the wet weather we had.

Let's see if I can keep that up for the second half of the year.