L’Eroica Britannia

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My alarm rang on my iPhone, it was 5am, I climbed out of my sleeping bag and out of my tent (leaving my wife and two year old still asleep).   It seemed ridiculous, bent over, applying sun cream to my legs, arms and face on this cold, fresh summer morning in Bakewell before donning my vintage cycling jersey and tight fitting shorts.    Welcome to L’Eroica Britannia!

Having agreed to meet with a few riders from London, I met them at the Jamaican flag next to their tent.   We caught up and made our way to the starting line where we were waved off by the enthusiastic people of Bakewell.

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Ten miles in, we stopped in Tidewell for the best bacon roll I have ever tasted, it was a flat ride along the Monstral Trails and myself and Will caught up and spoke about his plans for the year ahead.   After our breakfast and coffee, we were off again and into some climbs, particularly the Mam Nick – a two mile stretch that tested us and our vintage bicycles.   So much so it was too much for Will’s, and his back cassette gave in and was rendered broken with no tools to fix it.   He had to pull out of the ride.   We were all pretty down with the prospect of leaving him to try to hitch a ride back to Bakewell but we had 12+ hours in front of us and some serious climbs.   We ploughed on.

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As we passed through the next stretch, we had some excellent views and more climbs,  only to be greeted at the stop with the phrase, “Sorry, there is no food left” (first of my small complaints about the ride).   It was over to the Rapha coffee stand for some of the best espresso I have ever tasted.   Water bottle filled and on the road again.

The next hour or so (10+miles) were lost, as we missed some junctions due to poor signposting (the second of my small complaints about the ride).   We had freewheeled down some of the best rolling descents I have ever been on before realising and asking a nearby farmer and his son, that we had to climb back up them all to get on track for the next stamp and stop of the ride.   By this point, the guys I was with; Martin and Matt had resigned to not finishing the ride and were thinking about making the quick route back up to Bakewell.   I had other ideas, I thought it better to crash on with pace and make the time back.   We pushed on and managed to get lost a couple more times, as you do when there is a lack of signage on the route and you are solely dependant on sheets of A4 paper with turn by turn instructions.   Difficult navigations.

We were now over halfway and had a beer and a scone at the stop in Tissington before we aimed to get back on track.  On the descent that followed, I passed three very stylish riders in full vintage peugeot kit, Avoiding a dog, I took a tumble and had a go at the reckless owner who was too busy on her phone to notice me avoiding hitting her dog with my front wheel, and then a grown man (in vintage peugeot kit) came tumbling over the top of my back.   We were both fine. Further down the white gravel roads we pedalled and now on the high peak trail leading us to the 78 mile stop at Cromford.  Tea and Biscuits.   Water, Water, Water. . .

With the end in sight, I sent a text to my wife to go to the starting line.   We had some more brutal climbing still to do, but I didn’t want her to miss us coming through the finish line.

Next stretch took us through the Chatsworth Estate and once again they had run out of resources, (Pimms and Prosecco).   So, it was sandwiches and potted meat for us, and more water.   10 miles to go.  Mostly uphill.

All in all, it was a wonderful ride, festival and I met some great people.   The guys I rode with were great throughout the ride and we all managed to keep each other going at the tough moments.   Would I do it again?  Definitely.   Just need to sort out the signage and the food stops.

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More photographs here, 

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2013 : Moments

Well, that was 2013.   A quick year in our household, Amélie appears to grow a little more every day and in every imaginable way.   As I write this I’m battling a cold and have conjunctivitis.   So, not on the finest form, and pretty much feeling sorry for myself.    I thought however, that this was an ideal time to stop and look at the moments that shaped our 2013.   These simple moments that follow are in no specific order at all, except really the order in which they came to me as I thought of the past 365 days or so.

One of the great advantages of keeping a photo diary on great websites like Blipfoto mean its easy to look over your year(s) to see what you actually did and when you actually did it. .

  • We decided to visit our favourite little log cabin in Canonbie near Dumfries for the holidays at Hogmanay and New Year 2012.

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  • We took Amélie to Edinburgh Zoo for her first birthday on the 6th January.
  • My good friends Chris and Jennifer had a little baby girl on January 7th called Simone.

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  • I managed to get back to boxing training this year for a while.
  • I took my Dad to our first ever experience of a 5 nations International Rugby game, we went to Murrayfield to see Scotland beat Italy.
  • I had two whole weeks with Amélie in February as Joni had decided to work full-time for a month.
  • I was involved in filming a piece for Vito Dance Theatre called Withdrawal.
  • The Catholic Church has a new Pope, Pope Francis I.   Amélie and I watched the election on television live from the Vatican.
  • I was involved in a 5 aside football tournament as a fundraiser for Callum’s Cabin and managed to really damage my left foot in a tackling incident.

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  • I finally had the opportunity to see Icelandic musicians: Sigur Ros and Ólafur Arnalds
  • Our garage was broken into and two bicycles were stolen, thankfully the police retrieved one and managed to catch one of the people involved.
  • I was lucky enough to have my first photograph placed in an exhibition in gallery.
  • Attended some bicycle maintenance classes as part of the Glasgow Bike Station.
  • Margaret Thatcher died.

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  • I attended two stag parties: we travelled to Bolton to enjoy a day of hospitality to watch them play Blackpool for my friend Paddy’s and then had a day at Auchentoshan Distillery (2nd visit) and greyhound racing for my brother in law Liams’.  
  • We had a trip to Morecambe for Joni’s Grandmother’s 80th birthday party.
  • I visited Glengoyne distillery (2nd visit) with my good friend Sace and we spent the night in his hut in Carbeth.
  • I had my very first rides on a Brompton folding bike, a  Dahon folding bike and even a Penny Farthing on the Harris Tweed Ride.
  • My Dad retired.

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  • I was asked to host the Refugee Week end of week showcase.
  • My brother in law Liam was married to Lyndsey.

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  • My good friend Paddy was married to Nicola.

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  • My good friend Findlay’s had a daughter called Lucy.
  • We had our first family cycling / camping trip to the outer Hebrides, to Barra.
  • I toured Arran twice (by bicycle), once with my good friend Alasdair and once on my own.
  • We had plenty of time in the garden, eating outside, playing with Amélie and enjoying whisky by the chiminea.
  • I had a few experiences of up-cycling, I created a pallet bookcase, a pallet mirror, made a gate and also made some fencing around our plants.
  • We enjoyed another Harris Tweed Ride.

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  • My good friend and I had a tour of the Glasgow Velodrome.
  • The Clydebank Town Hall has a new exhibition space, so we enjoyed visiting the Jolomo exhibition and the Harry Papadopolis exhibition.

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  • I rode 110 miles for the Glasgow to Edinburgh Pedal For Scotland.  (3’350 miles this year)
  • Amélie got her very first passport and we had our first fortnight trip abroad to Kefalos, Kos.  It was Amélie’s first time on an airplane and she had a great time.

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There will be many many things I’ve missed.   Until next year!

Single Malt Whisky: 2013 An Annual Review

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Its that time of year again where we all search for that perfect dram, for ourselves, or indeed for others,  whether its for St Andrews Day, or its for Christmas Day or its for bringing in the New Year at Hogmanay.    It was after being asked from some close friends last year for some whisky buying advice, I decided to place an annual review on this blog to help those in need.     Here is last years. . . . 

Aberlour 10 year old // Speyside

A whisky that I had the pleasure of enjoying twice this year, with two separate bottles.   My wife got me a bottle and my daughter picked one up for me for Father’s Day.   A delicious whisky, the colour alone makes you want to keep sipping it.  I really enjoyed this with cake, mainly my wife’s walnut and courgette cake, it seemed to be just the right mixture of sweetness, mixed with the dark fruity raisin flavours of the whisky.   I will most certainly be buying this again.

Auchentoshan Classic // Lowland

I had the chance to visit my local distillery again this year and had a wonderful tour, this time we tried the full range and I enjoyed each one, however the Classic was possibly my least favourite.   The Three Wood stole it for me, and after having a really good tasting with friends one night, we had the opportunity to try the Valinch before it was released.    That very same night my good friend treated me to the Springwood, again it felt quite young and almost not ready, but a nice light dram all the same.

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Dalmore Tweed Dram // Highland

A generous gift from my Brother and Sister in law.   I really enjoyed this and the bottle disappeared quite rapidly.   Definitely one to try if you haven’t already and a fantastic bottle too.   The colour is not dissimilar to the Aberlour but the taste was not quite as sweet, so still had the the kick of a full flavoured Highland whisky.

Fettercairn Fior // Highland

Another generous gift from my Brother and Sister in law (man, they’re good to me. . . ).   A delicious whisky, just the right amount of peat for someone who is not (yet) a fan of the darker more mysterious stuff that makes your throat burn and go numb.   Its a full mouthful of everything you’d expect from a highland whisky and then BAM, there is the peat!  Just a wee touch though to remind you that the barley was in fact dried with a peat fire.   Lovely, and a great bottle.

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Glenkinchie 12 year old // Lowland

A gift from my Mum and Dad, and the bottle we took to have over the New Year into 2013 down in Dumfries and Galloway.   Nice wee dram for a lowland malt with plenty to talk about, flowery and tasty however for me there is nothing too threatening or distinct that makes it stand up against some of the more interesting belters.   A safe bet for someone who hasn’t tried it.

Isle of Jura Superstition //  Island

Similar to the Fettercairn, a little finish of peat in this one.   I’ve actually been really enjoying this little dram with some water, which believe me, it unusual for me.   I think it maybe is just opening up the peat a little and giving more of the nose.   A gift from my brother for my birthday, its November and I still have it…..its done well.

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Ledaig 9 year old // Island

The peaty little monster that lives in the same distillery as Tobermory,  I really enjoyed this as it was a gift from friends that had asked me to play at their Wedding, which to be honest, was a gift in itself.   It was one of the Glenkeir treasures from The Whisky Shop, and the unusual age made for an interesting dram.   Similar to some of the more peaty Islay beauties, this was a rare treat.   I’d definitely try some of the other years if I get the chance.

Macallan Gold // Highland

My brother picked this up for my Christmas this year, and I loved it.   Its difficult to go wrong with The Macallan, and its actually difficult to go wrong with Highland / Speyside whiskies.   I had just finished this bottle when I read an article mentioning that there is a trend that distillers are following that will do away with ages and instead use descriptors such as; Gold, Amber, Sienna, Ruby.  I however hope this trend doesn’t catch on, I love knowing the age of my whisky.

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Singleton of Dufftown 12 year old // Speyside

A favourite of my good friend and whisky drinker, Beano.   I’ve had a couple of bottles of this and have just taken the neck out of my latest.   A unique shaped bottle, and a really pleasant little warmer.   Nice and smooth with just enough kick to remind you that you are in fact drinking whisky.    Personally, I normally enjoy a wee bit of peat, but this is a really good little change if you’re searching for something that little bit lighter or something to have before those really really cold nights come along. . . and then you would look for the Ardbeg or Laphroiag.

Over the last few months I also had some little nights out where I’ve been in good company to enjoy a wee dram or two, mainly from some of my favourite Glasgow pubs.  (The Lismore, Dram, The Scotia Bar and the Ben Nevis).

In no order, I’ve enjoyed my first taste of Deanston, I had a nice glass of what the late Mr Iain Banks calls ‘The Perfect Dram’, Glenfiddich 21 Year Old (I think, thanks Beano).   I also have been lucky enough to finally enjoy the wonderful oily and strong nectar of Kilchoman in their 2013 Machir Bay Release, and was blown away by both the Ardbeg Corryvreckan and the Isle of Arran 10 Year Old.

Dedicated to Mr Iain Banks. . .

Sláinte!

L’Eroica Britannia

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Having completed two 100 mile century rides over the last two years and feeling, well, slightly out of place on my 1980’s steel frame bicycle with (only) 10 gears and shifters positioned on the down tube, I know, can you imagine. . . ?   I came across L’Eroica Britannia which will be taking place in June 2014 in the Peak District in England.   This is the very first time this exciting event has been in the UK, and I fully intend to take part.   In fact, I just recieved an email informing me I am one of the first 500 to register and so will be able to qualify for the early bird rate of £55.    Its very exciting, and I think it will suit my bicycle, and myself a whole lot more.