28 Nov 2016

28th November 2016 Under-gardener 2nd class.


Monday 28th 27F, -3C, calm and clear with a white frost. A cold, clear day with sunshine and light winds. An hour's brisk walk down to the village and back. Eyes watering in the cold, northeasterly breeze on the way but it soon passed. Ponds now thinly ice covered. Blinding, low sun on the way back. Am I having fun yet? Spent the day working in the garden.

Tuesday 29th 33F, 1C, cold, still and clear at first. Wind and cloud expected later. It was 26F, -3C at bedtime last night. Another day of hectic activity in the garden.

Wednesday 30th 41F, 5C, very heavy overcast and windy but dry for the moment. A stiff wind for company as I walked my usual loop up through the woods and back along the road. A forlorn excavator guarded the heavily scarred field where the drainage project continues. Feeling tired and aching after yesterday's exertion with the chainsaw. Cue a chorus or two of: "I'm a lumberjack..." I was far too depressed by the heavy grey skies to bother with photography of the all too familiar landscape.

My emails were entirely absent this morning. The email service has been demanding payment for a once free service which I have now paid twice just to avoid being cut off.  Despite being a paying customer for two years they still switched me off. Update: It seems they had a technical fault which was not of my own making. Have you ever tried remembering a 13 digit number, seen only briefly, so you can collect a parcel from what now passes for the village post office? Thought not.

Spent the morning chainsawing again with frequent technical problems of my own. Mainly a lack of oil and chain shedding. Though I did enough sawing, intermittently, to finally complete the task my clothes stank of 2-stroke oil and petrol. [again] The Head Laundress was not well pleased. Though today I actually remembered to fit my walking gaiters to keep my socks free of wood chips. Well, one has to make every effort to maintain diplomatic relations with one's superiors. As under-gardener I hardly register on the radar of domestic, hierarchical machinations. 

Short afternoon ride in wind and driving rain to the shops. My cheapo, supermarket bought, X-Rage, cycling rain jacket worked perfectly. I was comfortable without overheating nor the slightest dampness on the winter cycling jacket underneath. Though my be-tighted knees were occasionally a bit 'noticeable' in the wet. Passing 7-axle lorries were offering free, dirty showers of diluted farmer's mud. They did not seem to care if I declined their kind offer. I was glad it was only seven, rather damp miles, fighting the elements in the name of belated, package procurement.


22 Nov 2016

22nd November 2016 Try not to inhale!


Tuesday 22nd 46-52F! 8-11C, mild, dry, breezy and clear. The news has twin worries for those who care about human health. Large fractions of the population suffer from asthma which can often be traced to vehicle smog. A recent storm in Australia caused mayhem when  heavy rain stirred up pollen resulting in a 6-fold increase in demand on the emergency services. Many who had no previous history of asthma found themselves in severe breathing difficulties. The second story was about resistant bacteria thriving and mutating in air pollution. The filthy air contains nutrients and catalysts for genetic mutation. Many cities with pretensions to being "green" suffer from corridors of filthy air along all major roads and motorways. The story suggested 10 million people a year could die from living in smog affected areas directly as a result of resistant bacteria.

Mmm! Choker Colour. Liquid diabetes dumping on a verge near you. Burp!

An hour's walk down to the village and back. The watery sunshine continued as I helped The Head Gardener bag fallen leaves. Fortunately we ran out of large bin bags before I wore myself out by going as fast as possible. Plastic snow shovels/ploughs make excellent tools for gathering and shoveling leaves. Their huge capacity and perfect shape allows them to be used almost effortlessly on grass or flat soil. They also save repeated bending down to the ground to grab single handfuls of leaves.Rode to the shop to get more bin bags. Returned at dusk. 17 miles.

Wednesday 23rd 43F, 6C, clear-ish with almost no wind. It should be similarly mild to yesterday's temperatures later. 52F in late November? But let's not complain. A day of persistent vapour trails. Horizon to horizon stripes being spread sideways by the high altitude winds. Five planes were making their bright trails simultaneously. I remember one morning where the clear sky was literally criss-crossed with very persistent vapour trails. A gaggle of geese went over as I stared up at the sky. The ground was very sticky on the bare mud. Forcing me away from the track in places where it had been churned up. It seems to be clearing to bright sunshine now. Which ought to mean a ride with these very light winds.

It wasn't to be. I was instructed, in no uncertain terms, to get on with a project I have been working towards completion for many months.

Thursday 24th 32F, 0C, white frost, calm and clear. Sunshine and very light northerly winds are forecast. I may be able to sneak in a ride today. It was already late when I suggested I go out yesterday. A tour of DIY stores amounted to 24 miles. Very short of breath with a blocked nose to start but improved steadily. Mostly bright sunshine with very little wind. Lots of birds of prey around today. I found an as-new, Helly Hansen [Helly Tech ®] jacket in a charity shop. I'm hoping it will be much more breathable for my morning walks than my present crop of tailored "bin bags."

It will also be [hopefully] more visible to sleep-driving commuters. For the stretches where I have to walk the roads to my exit portals to the real countryside. The jacket will be washed first so I can't report back on its breathable qualities quite yet. Interestingly [?] Helly Hansen recommend washing to keep the fabric working as intended. We have searched every nook and pocket but can't find laundry instructions anywhere. So we had to find them online.

The jacket is well furnished with pockets. Handy for all the detritus so essential to an hour or two's walk slightly off the beaten track. Including an identity card in case I am found face-down in the brambles. Or one of those vanishingly rare police cars stop me for identification. I'd hate to be arrested as an undesirable and put on the next flight back to Gravely Blighted. A case of cruel and unusual treatment if ever there was one. I can't imagine my pidgin Danish will go down well at the local [Broxit] Aldis. I shall just have to demand refugee status.

Friday 25th 32F, 0C, dead calm, white frost, very misty, with strange, orange-pink stripes across the lower sky. A cloudy start is forecast with a clearing to some sunshine later. I just hope I can find the garden gate in this mist. An hour and a quarter walk up the woods. Circled via the tracks and back home again. The first Jay I have seen and heard for ages was guarding the entrance. The mist is slowly clearing as the sun grows brighter. Rest day being busy at home.

Saturday 26th 41F, 5C, heavy overcast, still. The forecast is windy with gusts to 25mph later. I shall have to leave early. My walk took me past the marsh where I upset the ducks and a large heron. Then onto the lanes and back along the roads. There was a cool wind at times.

Another dead gull and a polecat[?] were lying on the verge about a hundred yards from each other. I haven't seen a dead gull in years and now two in one week? I hope this is not indicative of bird 'flu? A pair of buzzards were wave riding on the front of the forest and calling to each other. The traffic was light enough to ignore until a bus overshot one of the sharp, blind bends to use half of my side of the road.  I need rear view mirrors on my walking hats now?

Shopping ride.  Headwind coming home heavily laden. 17 miles.

Sunday 27th 32F, 0C, sunny from a cloudless sky, quite still with just a light, white frost. I walked around the block in my latest, charity shop bought, walking jacket. I was warm and comfortable without the bin-bag sweats of the non-breathable examples. I m amazed how many people wave to me from their cars these days. Whether on my trike or walking I see hands waving from behind windscreens. Only the gentlest of breezes so far. Spent the day trimming branches off the overgrown garden trees. More than enough exercise for one day!

Click on any image for an enlargement.


21 Nov 2016

21st November 2016 On the dodgems.


Monday 21st 43-48F, 6-9C, heavy overcast, rain and calm. It should clear to some sunshine later. The winds were upgraded to storm force gusts for our area yesterday evening but passed largely unnoticed. No visible damage outside. Nor on my walk to the village. Except for a dead, juvenile gull. Which might have been struck a vehicle in bad wind conditions. There was no obvious sign of injury. It is very unusual to see a dead gull. Blackbirds, sparrows and pheasants are the usual road kill victims.  Blackbirds have the dangerous habit of swooping low in front of speeding cars.  Worse, they cross the road when there is absolutely no need to break cover. Perhaps they are playing "chicken" to impress the others? Young sparrows are rather weak fliers for a while. Pheasants are as thick as a brick. They haven't a clue which way to go when they perceive a threat.

An after lunch ride to the shops via the hilly lane then down through the beech forest. It was spitting as I left and rained steadily harder. Fortunately there was a tailwind coming home so it didn't take long at 16-18mpg despite the weight of shopping. By 3.30pm it was easily dark enough for lights. The Smart rear lights are amazingly bright and have a flickering flash to attract attention. The latest ones seem to have doubled up on the focusing lenses. Mine are still the older single lens plus a red reflector area but still excellent from a great distance. They must use a red LED because the lens is clear. To think of the decades before LEDS came along. It's amazing cyclists survived. Particularly as many cars did not have the brilliant headlamps of today.

10 more miles to break the 5000km barrier for this year. Thankfully I have cured myself of trike riding OCD. The gnawing emptiness of a rest day has passed to be replaced by a slight sense of guilt. At least the pain in my right hip/buttock has subsided. I cured the constant pain in my shoulder by lowering my mouse mat surface to just above my thighs. My elbow can now rest on the arm of the chair. Previously I used a raised mouse mat surface. The muscular tension from long hours at the computer gave symptoms of severe shoulder joint problems. The X-rays and scans showed nothing untoward. As did those on my hip. I was [inadvertently] causing my own severe pain. Now I just have to be careful about lifting heavy weights or the back pain comes back. Though it doesn't hamper my ability to carry large sports bags around stuffed to the gills with potatoes and 1 liter milk cartons.

I don't mention all of this to gain sympathy. But rather to point out how one's own life choices can easily destroy mobility and fitness. My morning walks are vital to unwinding aching muscles and freeing up my joints. Some days I almost hobble away from the garden gate clutching my back to try and straighten up. Only to find myself walking effortlessly within a few hundred yards. Walking on rough ground seems highly beneficial in my case. Which is why I usually choose to go "off-road" as much as possible. No doubt the beauty and soft green tones I see in the gentle Danish landscape provide mental rest and stimulus to help balance my thoughts. Walking on the road and avoiding poor drivers winds me up like a clock spring.  Unfortunately I have no choice until I reach my familiar and grateful exits to the real countryside.

Many driver's skills are seriously inadequate when they find an unexpected obstacle to their illegal speed or idiotic behaviour. Many commuters could easily be confused with a Hollywood FBI convoy as they drive nose to tail at above the speed limit. Many haven't a clue about how to corner properly and safely. "Braking distance" is a term completely outside of their understanding. The sooner computers take over the task of driving the fewer "accidents" will occur. I can only presume that these inadequate drivers have absolutely no pride. All of it is invested in their vehicle. None in practicing the fine art of controlling it with skill and thought.

I have been driving [and cycling] for decades and still apply full concentration and defensive driving skills just as I was taught by a professional instructor. How can anyone "read the road" properly with their mind elsewhere? Or while talking inane bølløcks on their mobile 'phone to another social inadequate? How does anyone dare to turn to their passenger or even the child in the rear seat while the vehicle is in motion? Is it a learned failure taught by Hollywood's [educationally challenged] film directors? The hint must surely be in the use of professional stunt men for all the driving scenes?


18 Nov 2016

18th November 2016 First winter storm threatens.


Friday 18th 42F, 6C, rain, windy and overcast. It might brighten later. Walked around the rural block going clockwise. Three miles in just under an hour dodging 7-axle lorries on what passes for the main road around here. Not much to report other than a cat going for a walk with the family dog and enjoying every moment. Heavy grey skies and quite a stiff wind but still dry until after I returned.

I finally found my "Smart" rear light, stay clamps and clips. They were on the Higgins. I must have been using it last winter and forgotten all about it. They were rather inaccessible with the trike hanging from the shed roof at the far end. So I had missed seeing them in the winter gloom. I really need more strip lights out there. Perhaps I should, investigate LEDs instead?

We bought a flat, multiple LED 'ceiling' light for the rear hall and must now wear welding goggles and SPF50 on our way to the bathroom. Meanwhile, I bought a single LED "bulb" for a table lamp and we now need night vision goggles in there. Exactly the same 'problems' as with the compact florescent 'bulbs' of less recent yore. It's all swings and roundabouts where modern lighting is concerned. It's difficult for we old fogies to keep up with it all. Sunshine at 12.30 against a black sky? It will never last. It didn't.

Saturday 19th 36F, 2C, breezy but clear skies. Hail had lashed against the windows in the night. The sun has yet to show itself [at 8am] so the promised sunshine is still on hold. The DMI weather chart for today shows the complete opposite to the wording! So that's all right then. The wind direction is completely unstable with my wind vanes are rotating fully 180 degrees back and forth.

It slowly became more overcast with racing low cloud on my walk up to the woods. Lots of puddles and even a rushing stream on the track. The mud was incredibly sticky this morning. Several hundred fidgety gulls floated across the fields, briefly alighted and then soon took off again. A solitary Yellowhammer moved away along the edge of the track as I steadily progressed. Why do birds and animals not learn to escape at right angles to the direction of the approaching threat?

Late morning ride to the shops as is my habit on Saturdays. Headwind going and tailwind back home. It stayed dry until the last mile when it started spitting. 15 miles.

Sunday 20th 38-40F, 4-5C, breezy and overcast. A dry start followed by rain. The first storm of the year is being sent over by the UK. Gusts to 40mph are forecast for this afternoon and overnight lasting up to 12 hours. I enjoyed my familiar woods walk in bright sunshine but in the opposite direction to usual. Normally I am impatient to get away from the traffic but Sunday offers some respite from the articulated lorries. Making it worth the longer road stretch before taking my grateful exit, sharp left up the muddy field track. Jackdaws and gulls wandered the fields aimlessly. While a solitary goose grumbled to itself as it flew under the gibbous moon. Straight into a stiff southeasterly but which held no real chill at the relatively comfortable 40F, 4.5C. It would have been very different without the sunshine. It started raining at 1.30pm and was immediately raining hard. The trees are already rocking back and forth to a gusty wind. Let us hope it doesn't get any worse. Definitely a rest day.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

16 Nov 2016

16th November 2016 Tales of mud and mist.


Wednesday 16th 42-44F overcast, calm and very damp with 300 yard mist. Walked up to the woods via the muddy field tracks. Where a foolishly over-competitive hare broke cover from behind me, overtook me and then raced away across the field. I was soon bogged down in thick, sticky mud with my boots grown to a generous EU size 50 and all the weight and lack of adhesion that entails. Two deer then overtook me and bounded off towards the woods. It was odd to see their pale buff, bouncing buttocks, the only visible sign of their swift exit into the steadily thickening mist. It was reminiscent of a mime artist working on a darkened stage.

I stopped to take a few shots of the low sun struggling with the mist and cloud. A difficult balance to achieve when the sun is washed out and the light levels so low. Misty scenes can often seem simply out of focus. I hope I have captured the melancholy scene.

As I took the short cut through the woods I could hear the distant thumping of the drainage excavator rattling its bucket. I was soon passing alongside as the tranches were being back-filled. My earlier [speculative] doubts over the wisdom of their trenching lines was further dispelled by the presence of a brilliant red laser and sight board being checked in the latest trench. The trailer behind the vast Case II tractor was filled with massive coils of corrugated and finely slotted drainage hose. The sheer scale of these vast machines is difficult to exaggerate when seen almost at arm's length. The drivers were too busy to even glance in my direction as I ambled past on the sparse grass at the center of the track to avoid further mud collection.

The wind has really picked up now and the mist thickened further as I finish my mid-morning toast and coffee. Plans to ride to the shops are weakening in their resolve. Even the nearer houses are now completely lost to view. As would I be if I rode far amongst the driving [raving] lunatics.

With two flashing "Smart" lights dangling off the back of the trike I headed out via the hilly route. Fortunately the lanes were quiet so there wasn't too much of a visibility problem anyway. The promised rain was only spitting at the worst and mostly absent. I was a bit breathless again. Though whether this is due to my recent three week "cold" is a mystery. Only 10 miles, with the mist now lifting.

Thursday 17th 39-43F, 4-6C, a clear, quiet start, with showers, leading to rain and wind later. An early ride would be most sensible. A pleasant walk in a rather cold wind and bright sunshine. I disturbed a single deer and saw several birds of prey. As the sun sinks lower, with deepening winter, it reveals new contours via grazing light and shadow. Sadly my camera can never capture the breadth and depth of the landscape as I see it. Wide angle just makes the foreground fields more prominent. Zoom just narrows the field of view. The vast, undulating lawns formed by the low, immature crops are very satisfying with the distant forests and copses as the perfect backdrop. The familiar views are constantly changing with the light, the weather and the state of crops. Or their absence. Much like lakes and the sea, there is an infinity of moods to wallow in, for those with eyes to see. Late morning ride for 7 miles. It stayed dry until much later, despite the forecast, but I mustn't complain.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

14 Nov 2016

14th November 2016 Even lower than box shifters!

Monday 14th 31F, 0C, the early calm and potential brightness will be replaced with wind and all day and night rain. The wind has turned to the south west. So now we get secondhand weather from the UK. An early ride and walk is indicated.

I started with a 3 mile walk around the rural 'block.' The sky was clear when I left but a wall to wall plate of grey cloud slid over. Fortunately it went north of us with only thinner cloud obscuring the brilliant sun at times. I saw a single Redwing calling from a tree. It did not seem worried that I walked right under its tree. They are normally quite nervous when moving in flocks. It is definitely becoming more cloudy now at 11am. I had better get out on my trike before the weather goes bad.

Summit plateau

Don't you just hate it when an online conman hooks your order by setting the [slightest] lowest price than the rest on a price comparison website? The fancy website is loaded with pretty images from the manufacturers to give the impression that their vast warehouse is loaded to the rafters and peopled by hundreds of joyful, elfin pickers. Instead of which the con men waits until a mug is hooked and places an order with him. Only then does the con man order the item from the wholesaler. Thereby adding several days to the delivery time.

Meanwhile, the honest trader, with stock, who could have supplied the item[s] by return of post, loses the order to the conman. Many honest, online traders can and do deliver next day, these days. Having been apprised of the lack of stock and the additional waiting time I do have the option of cancelling and placing my order elsewhere. But will the next website be just another posh website con man? Or an honest trader with stock and a fast turnaround? Should I take the chance and add further delays before I receive my items?

Why is it not illegal to take orders for non-stock items without the buyer being warned at the time of ordering? Why is a website not required to display running stock levels by law? With zero stock shown for everything listed but not actually in stock. Or, at the very least, the expected date of arrival of already pre-ordered goods. So the potential customer can then decide if the slightly lower price is really worth the extended wait.

The Telephoto view converts the 1,000 yard, corrugated field into a quarry.

Having lost several days already I shall probably wait. But, of course, give the con man the lowest possible independent review score and a highly negative written report. All in the hope that others, like me, are not conned into placing an order with a smart website conman by going for the lowest price with free delivery. [Amounting to only a few pounds/dollars equivalent in a several hundred pound order.]
Late morning ride to the shops. On a 28mph descent on a perfectly straight hill, with double white lines, a black van driver thought it would be amusing to cross [illegally] into my lane. Had a driver sped over the brow of the hill behind me there would have been a head on collision. But moronic van drivers never think about consequences, do they?  I disturbed a male Kestrel on a village street light and it went of like a rocket. Several buzzards were wandering about over the fields or holding down trees. I returned heavily laden, under grey skies and a building headwind. 14 miles. It started raining as I enjoyed a late lunch.

Tuesday 15th, 42F, 5C, breezy, 200 yard mist with a heavy overcast. The overnight rain might peter out. While the temperature may reach 10C or 50F! Albeit with 25mph gusts again. It was  slightly too cold for bare hands on my walk due to the constant wind and fine drizzle. Just as I reach the woods it began to roar in the tree tops and whistle in the hedges. A forlorn excavator guarded the criss-cross of trenches it had drug to improve the field drainage.

I am going back to the hospital to have my follow up consultation for the deer bug, borrelia blood test and examination. As a regular walker and cyclist in deer country, with a high incidence of bugs, I am rather prone to picking them up. Our cat used to come back with the bugs attached to his back all the time, when he was still alive. The expensive drops we used to apply were a poor to worthless deterrent despite claims to the contrary. 25 minutes to find a parking space then a couple minutes with the doctor. Where I was given the all clear. So I shan't have to sell my belongings after all. It's odd the things that go though one's noddle when a potential health problem hangs over one's head. Rest day.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

11 Nov 2016

11th November 2016 The invisible man with a halo.


Friday 11th 31-36F, 0+2C, quite clear and the sun is rising with a warm glow. The forecast is for mostly clear and bright with only a little wind. There is a potential goal if I am allowed out by The Head Gardener/Chief Medical Officer/Matron/Florence Nightingale.

 Winter, direct ascent to the 300 ft summit.

I am being gently nursed back to health through an ongoing "man cold" with extenuating circumstances but pedalling as fast as I can. The snotty nose seems to have subsided quite a bit. The germs probably died of cold! Now its all about clearing the tickly [year round] junk in my throat. I hope nobody was enjoying their breakfast while reading this.

Later, I decided to attempt the first free climb, winter ascent by the direct route. I could have used [more] oxygen as I crested the towering, near-300 ft shoulder with a panoramic view in all directions.

Though the air temperature is still hovering around freezing only the surface of the soil was stiff enough to walk on. There was no depth to the permafrost and the puddles were only thinly iced over. Crampons would have been overkill but I was grateful for my gaiters to protect me against the thin, cold air.

The image [above] shows the view from the snow-capped summit out over the serried foothills. I had made a total altitude gain of just over 60'. Not bad for somebody still nursing a cold. <cough-cough> It's amazing the fun you can have without ever boarding an aeroplane. WW3 broke out in the nearest woods but seemed to be limited to single shot weapons.

The descent went well and as the air thickened, I passed the large machines being used for field drainage. Walking back along the road required great care as I was in the low sun's blind spot for approaching vehicles.

I played it safe and adopted the verge whenever it looked too dangerous. One old fart [of my own age] never flinched from his route. Which would have required a lengthy stint in intensive care had I not literally jumped out of his way. Similarly with a young woman driver who never even attempted to go around my previous position right on the edge of the road. Not that being blinded by the sun affected their speed in any way. No ride today. The rear light clips clearly marked "Smart" didn't fit my Smart rear lights!

Saturday 12th 28F, -2C, white frost, calm, clear and about to be bright. An almost cloudless sky as I walked down the road and back to stretch my legs in light traffic. The light wind has moved more easterly.

After coffee I rode to my first DIY superstore/builder's merchant. Half a dozen different birds of prey moved away, at intervals, from foraging in the fields. One larger bird was flying parallel to me until it could use a roadside copse to cross my path. The sun caught a golden area under its tail and clear markings on its wings. Perhaps a Red kite but it was difficult to be sure in the low, blinding sunshine.The second leg of my ride was also hilly straight and into the wind but not too hard. I was a  little tired on the last leg as it was well past 3pm. I was now well laden, had shopped at four supermarkets, another DIY store and an electrical goods outlet without having eaten anything for hours. 28 miles.

Sunday 13th 33F, +1C, breezy and overcast. Some sunshine promised for later but gusting to 12m/s, 25mph. The Head Gardener/aka my lovely wife, has handed me a page from the local paper. An illustrated article described the use of a an electrically assisted, tadpole trike "rickshaw" at a "retirement home." It is fitted with a forward-facing, comfortable front seat and a 'pram' roof for giving outings to the elderly. What a brilliant idea!

I sometimes see the elderly being given 'walks' around the grounds in a wheelchair. Not ideal for those who do not feel themselves actually disabled. Moreover, the trike offers real, "wind in the hair" memories of cycling for those lucky enough to enjoy a tour. Many of those with dementia are said to respond and even thrive in realistic environments from their own past. The machine is said to have cost 50,000DKK or about £6000. I hope it gets well used. Since I could not save the newspaper illustration I had to borrow the picture from a Google search.

Click on any image for an enlargement.


10 Nov 2016

9th November 2016 Do you want ice with that?


Wednesday 9th 30-33F, -1+1C, light winds, heavy overcast, 2-3" of overnight snow lying with very light snow still falling. We are promised a clear up with sunshine. No sign of it yet. There is no problem with adhesion on modest snow depths with a two wheel drive [2WD] trike.

A snow plastered, roadside oak tree showing the  perfectly clear asphalt. The sky is as wintry as it looks with the threat of more snow.

The main problem is how incredibly wet and corrosive the roads are after ploughing and salting. Plus my holding up the traffic where the roads are considerably narrowed by the snow banks at the edges. It is not always possible to pull off briefly [and to brake safely] to let the traffic go past. As I often do with buses and lorries on the narrow and twisting roads. The entrances to farmyards and private drives are often invisible due to the snow clearing blocking exits.There never was a break in the grey skies but it didn't snow any more and there was a gentle thaw. No walk or ride but I spent a couple of hours working in the shed at 33F,1C. A down jacket is superbly warm and thin workshop gloves take away the pain of handling cold metal.

Thursday 10th 31-34F, 0-1C, white frost, very light breeze, distant mist, risk of sunshine. Snow still lying where it had not been cleared. I could hear tractors as I left home so I went to investigate what they might be doing in the snow. It turned out that they were bringing the large excavator back from the far end of the field where they had been making drainage trenches.

It is quite amazing how easy it is to hide things in the corrugated Danish countryside. I kept moving down the road trying to capture an interesting shot of the machines moving slowly in convoy as they appeared and as quickly disappeared again. They finally stopped alongside a JCB and I snatched a shot across the snow covered fields. It all looked very Xmas cardy but lacking the usual sparkle.

They had been using their huge, multi-purpose, Case II four-tracked tractor to tow an earth-moving trailer in largely soft conditions. The cold easterly breeze was not comfortable on my bare hands despite its lightness as I kept taking out my camera for a distant shot. The roads were clear thanks to the regular salting lorries. I saw the flashing lights approaching and ducked behind a road sign to avoid being sprayed by one as it passed. No reason not to go for a ride after coffee with the roads in this condition.

After coffee I was sent to Assens to buy myself a bottle of <cough> cough <cough> mixture. Half an hour to get there with the light tailwind. 40 minutes to get back back. When it is this cold one becomes highly sensitized [literally] to the slightest wind. Reaching 15-16mph with a light tailwind was noticeably colder. I wore the fleece neck sleeve half the way there and it was cosy. However, I had to take it and the scull cap off off because I was overheating. Not wishing to return with only a small bottle of cough mixture I bought some replacement frame clips for my Smart rear lights. Which I'd lost over the summer somehow. Coming back I had to stop and put my warm GripGrab cap back on to stop my scalp and skull from aching in the cold headwind. I need all the brain cells I can muster these days so wasn't taking any chances with ice crystals.

Wind chill increases rapidly with falling temperatures. [Do a search for wind chill table] I could feel the cold pressing against my forearms through my best winter cycling jacket. As usual I was wearing only a normal [recycled] racing jersey over the thinnest, thermal, long "skiing" underwear. Bought for about a fiver each in the supermarkets they last for literally years despite being washed every day throughout the long winters. My legs never felt cold in equally thin Long-johns under normal racing shorts. The polyester material is no thicker than some women's tights. My feet stayed comfortable in NW, unlined MTB boots and loop-pile socks from the local, farmer's supply shop. I bought several pairs of socks they were on offer at a fiver per pair but they had risen to £7 by the time I was told to buy another pair to smooth out the daily washing routine.

To think of the agonies I went through on my first Danish cycling winters! Apart from the NW boots [£150?] I usually buy my clothing at charity shop and supermarket prices. Though my [Wiggle] shorts and more occasional [longer ride] bibs cost more. I couldn't go back to cheap shorts now after being spoilt by decent padding. Not that the quality extends to the graphics and cloth with some of these. They can't tolerate such regular machine washing even at the correct [low] temperature. My first pair of touring bibs lost the will to live around the thigh bands and went all floppy. They now look as if a certain French sprinter had borrowed them overnight. Which is ridiculous considering how little wear they have had. I usually only wear bibs for over 40 mile rides. 

For eye protection, in typically grey conditions, I continue to wear a dirt cheap pair of yellow lens safety glasses intended for industrial workshops. About £3 from the local supermarket from fading memory. They enjoy a broad single lens with subtle hints of 'visor' and have adjustable ear-leg length. No pair of "cycling sunglasses" I have ever tried offers remotely as much protection from eye-watering cold. Do the "designers" of cycle wear ever try their "creations" before sending the drawings off to China to be stamped out?  I have tried finding more yellow sunglasses at the builder's merchants but they all cost £15 and have toxic, Chinese rubber, nose pieces. Which bring my face out in a hideous, permanent rash somewhat reminiscent of a sci-faux Martian.

The lake by the stately home was thinly frozen over but parts of the moat remained clear in places under the gorgeously antique, pedestrian suspension bridge. The open water was thanks to the channeled ripples from the Easterly wind.  The autumn beeches looked stunning but I couldn't/wouldn't stop for photography. Only 17 miles.

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7 Nov 2016

7th November 2016 First sign of winter.


Monday 7th 34-36F, +1C, a light breeze with heavy overcast. The roofs are covered in granular snow. A chance of sunny periods or wintry showers. My voice no longer sounds like a robot. Only time will tell if this is an improvement. I did my usual walk up to the woods, cut through to the beeches and then down to the road and back. The field drainage is still a major project.

With my warmest winter cycling jacket and winter gloves on I rode my missed Saturday route. Flurries of lightweight hail now and then.  I "enjoyed" a complete range of wind direction from headwind to tailwind. After a stint riding at 18-22mph and just as I had reached the distant shops I went all fuzzy. It was if I had gone cross-eyed and then rather out of focus. Fortunately it passed off quickly as I tootled gently around the supermarket aisles. I'm obviously not recovered from my cold. More flurries of hail on the way back as I caught up with several missed shopping days. 15 miles for 3000 this year.

Tuesday 8th 30-32F, -1-0C, heavy overcast, light, frozen rain falling. Some sunshine and wintry showers forecast. I will be shoved out of the gate with a pointy stick and refused entry unless I return with the [organic] eggs I forgot to buy yesterday. An early ride is indicated to avoid the wintry showers and maximize the sunshine.

I was very comfortable yesterday in my normal winter kit: Cheap, thin 'skiing' long underwear from the supermarket. Thicker thermal underwear is awful because it holds so much moisture. The thin stuff  has no chance to get wet. Then I have my normal racing shorts and jersey with one my my several windproof cycling jacket on top. I wore my NW MTB winter boots over [£5] "farmers'" loop pile socks on my feet and "scooterists" gloves on my hands. Only my cheeks felt the chill at the start. As usual I wore the winter GripGrab pilot scull cap under my helmet. A balaclava might protect my cheeks more but quickly leads to overheating in my experience unless it is very cold.

Some "hardy" [masochistic] cyclists might think my dress style totally overkill for such a short ride. I offer the defense that I have ridden many thousands of miles at low temperatures down to -15C. Often I was the ONLY cyclist visible that day. The city Danes may ride to work in huge numbers right through winter but this is much less obvious rurally. Commuting Danes probably don't want the bother of changing every single item of clothing when they get to work.

There is a period when  a cyclist goes into heavy sweating mode after dismounting. The exercise has warmed them up and it takes time for that heat to subside. Having a sweaty back on a bike is one of the most miserable experiences imaginable. As soon as you ride downhill it will chill to icy cold! I had a couple of years like that until I built up my cycling wardrobe from charity shop purchases. At first I would keep adding fleece jackets but they were absolutely hopeless for cycling. Far too warm due to their thickness and not remotely windproof no matter how many jackets I wore.

Yes, the cycling bod must be protected form the cold wind. But the clothing must still breathe away the body's moisture naturally generated from heavy exercise. A steady ride on the flat is obviously far easier to cope with than a hilly one. Which may explain why Denmark and Holland are cycling friendly in cold winters. Climbing hills rapidly cause overheating if the clothing cannot shed the rider's busy evaporative cooling system. Try wearing a coated nylon cagoule or anorak on a bike and you will rapidly discover the meaning of a mobile sauna.

The completely sealed material is as useful as an obscenely priced,  black bin bag where breathability is concerned. Any jacket that is closed to water vapour is an absolute disaster. They are only useful for standing still at a windy bus stop. Just don't bother to shuffle about or jog on the spot or you will rapidly break into a sweat. Once your clothing is wet you are wide open to a serious chill. The major difficulty is not being able to remove the jacket once the dew point is reached. The jacket was protecting you from the slightest [cooling] breeze. You might as well jump in the nearest canal as far as continuing comfort goes. It will probably be safe to take the anorak off on the heated bus but you will not be remotely comfortable.

If you think that dressing seriously for cycling is overkill then I suggest you find another [less masochistic] hobby. I am usually comfortable at all temperatures thanks to fine adjusting my clothing for every ride. That usually means my choice of jacket. Better to start off rather cool, knowing one will soon warm up, than being cosy form the start and sweating later.

Removal of hats on climbs and opening jacket zips can really help to keep you cool. The moment that prickly feeling arrives between the shoulder blades or lower back you are in for severe discomfort on the next chilly descent. It can take miles to warm up again by working hard. The wind chill effect increases with your speed. The dampness in one's clothes has to be evaporated somehow. Riding hard may actually produce more moisture. Best not to get in that state to start with. I often ride through the rain in a windproof jacket and never bother to get the waterproof one out of the bag.

A quiet walk up to the woods, cut through to follow the edge of the woods back to the marsh by a different way. Saw two large dear grazing out on the fields which galloped into the woods to hide. I could hear buzzards calling plaintively for much of the time but could see nothing overhead. Frozen rain was increasing steadily throughout my walk. Strangely 'organic' strips of ice marked many of the small puddles in the tracks. The bare soil was mostly frozen just enough not to be sticky but was very wet in sunken places under thin ice.

Late morning ride to the shops making my own headwind. The turbines were all still as I rode back with a panoramic view of several groups. Going quite well as my cold subsides. Already below freezing with overnight snow forecast. 13 miles.


3 Nov 2016

3rd November 2016 Just swanning around.


Thursday 3rd 29-34F, -2+1C, calm and clear with a hard white frost and sunshine on the way. I can't be sure, but my cold feels slightly less awful this morning. Still waking up far too early to get up. Even the light bulb in the lamp near my computer blew when I turned it on. Obviously a protest at being woken so early.

Swan pretending to be a cruise missile. Distance, rapid movement and poor light made it a very difficult target. 

Our large and colourful Horse chestnut tree was dropping leaves like confetti. The highest leaves in bright sunshine were causing amazing cascades as each leaf struck another and another on the way down.

I walked for an hour in such light winds even the [supposedly] electrically-driven, wind turbines were standing still. The firm going allowed easy progress along the meter-wide, spray tracks up to the woods. Where I circled back down through the the firebreaks and then back along the edge of the marsh. I disturbed dozens of pheasants near the marsh. They must have been having a large social gathering. Perhaps a wake for the fallen?

Further on, an immature Trumpeter[?] swan followed the several herons into the air as soon as I arrived at the pond. By sheer luck I caught the swan one-handed with my camera just as I was about to put it away. Trumpeter swans are not listed for Scandinavia so where this one found its all black beak is a bit of a mystery. Even the Whooper juveniles are supposed to have a distinctive light or yellow patched beak with a black tip. The Mute swans are different again.

 A large field pond has been expanded to improve the shooting. Note the band of corn left around the site for bird and animal cover. This seems to be a popular ploy these days. Deer and pheasants can easily disappear and reappear through the leafy stalks.

The herons circled nonchalantly pretending they hadn't really noticed me. While the swan went off across the humped field like a low flying, cruise missile. It wasn't until I checked later that I discovered the all black beak wasn't the far more common Whooper swan that I see most. It isn't often I see any swans on the local ponds. They are more of a sea bird with many thousands gently cruising the quieter inlets or they are foraging out on the fields. There were far fewer ducks visible today. 

Our Horse chestnut had all but bared itself on my return. Presumably a reaction to the first real frost of the year along with bright sunlight. A short shopping ride under cold, grey, breezy conditions. The cloud had taken over and the earlier, bright sunshine was gone. Only 7 miles.

Having shown the experts on a bird forum my picture of the flying swan it seems that juvenile Mute swans can also have black beaks. This should help to reduce traffic congestion on the local roads as every twitcher in Western Europe descends on the pond to add a new rarity to their log. That'll teach me to trust Google image search!

Friday 4th 42F, 6C, heavy overcast, all day rain and wind forecast. A ride is very unlikely today. It wasn't.

Saturday 5th 42F, 6C, light winds, distant mist, heavy overcast with rain steadily increasing as I walked briskly for an hour in a loop on edge-of-field tracks. I was hoping the exercise would distance me from my continuing cold symptoms, but no. It was only spitting at the start but was raining more seriously by the time I returned.

A predatory Japanese Knotweed is not unattractive in its autumn colours.
For the first time in living memory my pictures were spoilt by rain drops on the lens. One of the disadvantages from having a fully retractable lens and an inability to use a lens hood. Along with the ongoing suction of dust into the camera body. The lens can be forced to stay out in the [battery saving] menus but it is a clumsy procedure and may drain the battery. Another long, wet and miserable day speaking in a high pitched voice because of my now, 9-day cold. The Chief Medical Officer has excused me tricycling with a sick note to The Head Gardner.

Sunday 6th 41F, 5C, grey, heavy overcast. Rain or showers again. The present light breeze is expected to gust to over 25mph later. Yesterday's squeaky voice has become a croak overnight. I forced myself to have a walk in a thin, cold wind. Then turned back at gunfire from the woods ahead.

Click on any image for an enlargement. 

1 Nov 2016

1st November 2016 Tick, tick, tick.


Tuesday 1st November, 51F, 11C, heavy overcast with light winds. Possible showers early on. Still struggling with the clocks going back. No walk today. No ride either. Spent the morning at hospital having tests for Borrelia after multiple deer tick bites probably from my almost daily walks in the woods.

Low mist hanging in the woods.

Fines from the fleet of police speed camera vans have doubled in only two years. There is political pressure to reduce the number of manned police vans and replace them with automatic speed cameras. The hope is that fixed cameras at known traffic black spots will reduce driver's illegal speeds rather than increase fines even further.

From my two decades of experience of driving and cycling on Danish roads it will take more than a few cameras to slow the vast majority who treat speed limit signs like roadside trees. i.e. Completely invisible unless you actually run into one. Finding any roadside tree without serious vehicular damage around the base is quite another matter.

I assume we can look forwards to vandalism and vocal protests at the unfairness of actually being caught breaking the law. They already had to change the policy of using non-police personnel in the camera vans. They were being attacked and abused so often that it took manning the vans with armed police officers to keep the raving sociopaths at bay. I kid you not.

Wednesday 2nd 42F, 5C, light winds, heavy overcast. Still completely bunged up with my cold and feeling awful. Went for a modest walk anyway. Cool and rather cloudy but with the promise of sunshine in between.

Investigation of the motorway terrorist attack with concrete blocks, which killed a German mother and seriously injured the father, has made some slight progress. A series of DNA tests on the motorway bridge and the weaponized blocks has provided traces of an, as yet, unidentified individual. Victims and witnesses at the scene of the attack have been excluded from the DNA results. Unfortunately the DNA does not match any known offender on the Danish database.

I'm not sure whether the Danish police still have access to other DNA data bases after leaving the European association of police forces. Presumably this was to save money to allow tax cuts for rich, Danish, non-tax payers. The ultra-right wing parties which gained office with promises of blocking open immigration make such dogma driven, tax reduction demands for cooperation with the multiparty coalitions. Like those elsewhere in Europe, some of these ultra-right parties are now being investigated for fraudulent use of EU funding for boat trips, restaurant meals and other personal expenses.Ironic that these same parties usually campaign on reducing money "wasted" on social security. As many of those made unemployed by exporting every manual job to China are now caught in a downward spiral into poverty and homelessness. Tents, which were once considered totally unfit for immigrants, may soon house the new Danish born homeless in "benign socialist" Denmark.

Meanwhile, back at the motorway: A lorry driver has come forward to suggest that two people were kneeling on the bridge at about the time of the motorway terrorist attacks. Despite 450 tip-offs from the public the police seem no nearer to finding the terrorist[s.] So now a 250,000 Danish Kroner or £30,000, $30,000US reward is being offered for information leading to the culprit[s] capture.

The massive concrete paving blocks used in the brutal murder were carried over 8 miles from a shopping mall building site, on the edge of Odense, to a very quiet, rural motorway bridge. This strongly suggests it was deliberate, premeditated  attack. Rather than brain dead vandalism using locally found materials. The bridge would be completely unknown to anybody not intimately familiar with this area. Or, who had not done some very careful research. The Danish Lorry drivers association has stumped up 50,000DKK equivalent towards the large reward. I can well imagine why with repeated copycat motorway terrorism by the equally brain dead.

The E20 motorway is the only route across Denmark [or Western Europe] leading to all the other Scandinavian countries and Eastern Europe. The only other motorway route is through Germany and runs right around the vast Baltic Sea through Poland and Russia. The planned Femern crossing from Germany to Danish, Southern Sjaelland is still quite some way off after endless delays. A tentative 2028 opening date is suggested.  But only with a following wind blowing through the record long, 18km, sunken, undersea tunnel.

How do you plan to ventilate a tunnel which will carry [supposed] electric vehicles in the future rather than the present diesel and petrol? Who knows what major technological or political changes will have occurred by 2028? Putin could be ruling Europe by then and it will be back to Lada, Skoda and Yugo hybrids burning cow dung and vodka. Still not well enough for a ride. Or anything else, for that matter.

Click on any image for an enlargement.