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Injuries of the Daft and Dangerous…

There can be no finer place to practise for the Jennings Rivers Ride than West Cumbria. I pose that as an hypothetical statement as I’ve done no practise for the Jennings Rivers Ride. However, if I had, I am sure that West Cumbria would be the place to do it. I am a complex man and every time my wife urges me to get out on the bike and practise I find anything  (and I mean anything) to distract me from that task. Instead of being a wiry, muscular cyclist I am now the proud owner of some bedding boxes manufactured from some old decking, a sandstone wishing well, half a chicken coop and a 1989 2 berth caravan that I’m doing up as a garden office. These things will not enable me to get up hills any faster in September but my joinery skills are improving and the caravan has a drinks cabinet.

I do tell a little lie – I’ve done a little bit of cycling, however it was cut cruelly short by stupidity and injury. In the next enthralling episode of ‘Injuries of the Daft and Dangerous’ ( I’m soon to have my own show on Sky Living) I can exclusively reveal that it involves the coming together of my, how should I put this, undercarriage and the crossbar of the Giant Defy that you can now find wedged up a tree near Maryport.

Most of my extensive sports  injuries come about through the use of cleats on my cycling shoes and the pedal. Experienced cyclists will probably laugh but as I don’t cycle anywhere near enough I seem to spend far too much time trying to align the bottom of my foot with a 1cm clicky target (sorry for getting technical) on the pedal (whatever happened to big pedals with reflectors the size of a Snickers on them?) As usual I’d cycled about 8 miles without seeing a soul. As soon as I tried to re-attach myself to the bike after an emergency Cornish Pasty break the whole population of Maryport magically came out to stare in my direction as I remounted. Wanting to look cool and  start powerfully I  pressed my foot down hard and as my foot slipped off the pedal I landed on the crossbar . Obviously I swore like a trooper with a particularly bad problem with profanity. The lady who had just chucked a bottle of Vimto and cigarette stump to the floor whilst her dog had a poo in the middle of the cycle track found my language and behaviour appalling (she’d obviously never reached the definition of irony in the dictionary)  and told me so. I think it was a lady as I couldn’t see through my tear streaked eyes. So from now on I shall be known as Vera and spend my leisure time as backing singer in a Bee Gees tribute band.

So not that much to report this month. However as a nutrition guru, I do sometimes like to share my extensive research with you prior to submitting my dissertation for my Doctorate.  The chapter I am currently working on is about the benefits of a balanced diet. As you can see from the attached picture I have found that a trio of real ale balances out very nicely with two pork pies and a pot of brown sauce.


Until the next time I don’t go out on my bike….

£1,000 essay prize for Cumbrian school students – and a chance to have your essay published

An annual essay competition for sixth formers who attend any Cumbrian comprehensive school is being announced next week at the start of the new term, thanks to the Hunter Davies Fund via Cumbria Community Foundation. The winning entry will receive £1,000 – half to go to their school library and the other half to the winning sixth former.

The winning essay will be published in Cumbria Life magazine and a book containing around 30-40 of the best essays will also be designed and published by Steve Matthews of Bookends and Bookcase in Carlisle. It is hoped it will lead to an annual collection of the best essays.

The title of the essay will be “What I did in my hols.” “Yes, it’s a corny title,” says Hunter Davies who is inaugurating the prize, “but that’s the point. It’s slightly ironic, leaving it open to the student to make of it what he or she wants.  It can be any sort of holiday they have had, at any time, and they can have done nothing but stay in bed all the time, helped their granddad or gone off to Thailand.

“It has to be non-fiction, i.e. based on a real event or experience, as opposed to fantasy or science-fiction, but really all we are looking for is good writing – can they write fluently,  amusingly, interestingly,  structure properly, hold your attention, and most of all make you read to the end.

“The main purpose is to encourage writing skills – which after all everyone needs in life these days, more than ever, for work and for pleasure, now that  we all seem to spend most of our time in some of sort  communication.”

The judges are Steve Matthews, author, publisher and owner of Bookends and Bookcase in Carlisle, Cumbria Life Editor Richard Eccles and headed by Hunter Davies.

The competition is being organised by Cumbria Community Foundation. For further information contact Annalee Holliday or Becca Wilkinson on 01900 825760 or visit our website which has full details of the rules.

Andy Beeforth, Chief Executive of the Foundation said “We’re delighted Hunter has created this fund with the Foundation.  We’re grateful for his generosity and his thoughtfulness. The prize will provide an incentive for a number of young aspiring writers to get creative and shine a light on their writing skills.”  He went onto say “The Fund demonstrates how people can make a real difference to an issue they care about by creating a fund with the Foundation”.

A training regime, of sorts

A training routine

I’m pleased to report that since my last blog, I’ve managed to get into something of a training routine. I am also pleased to report that I am noticing an improvement in my performance.

This routine involves at least one long cycle ride a week, of at least 40 miles or more, and ideally two. I am even trying to ensure that these training rides include one challenging hill or pass.

The result of this routine is that I have been able to strike some passes off my ‘must cycle’ list. In recent weeks I have completed Hardknott Pass (West to East) (the term completed is used very loosely here!), Birker Fell (both ways), Whinlatter Pass (both ways), Newlands Pass (West to East).

I’ve also managed a series of shorter climbs and the satisfaction of finding these getting easier is hard to express in words without using terms that would get me banned from blogging again!

Most of my rides are with a good friend. They’re always enjoyable, but as he’s much fitter than me, can be a bit of a moral crusher.

However, my recent improvements have meant that now when out on a ride, if I shout loud enough, and the wind is blowing in the right direction, my mate might just about hear something. In fact on a recent ride, on one of the passes, I thought I could see him. Turns out it was a car. A car far in the distance.

On top of the training rides, I’m trying to build up my cycling at the gym too. As I mentioned in my first ever blog, this isn’t the most exciting of exploits. It’s mildly amusing to see the speeds you can achieve when on a static bike and realise just how unachievable they are on our roads in our weather.

With only three weekends to go until the Rivers Ride, I plan to continue my twice-weekly regime, and have got my sights on a trip over Honister. Really, I should do the daunting triple-header of Whinlatter, Newlands and Honister, which finishes the Rivers Ride, but I’m not prepared to commit to that just now!

Finally, if anyone would like to sponsor me, I’d be eternally grateful! Go to (Did I mention I broke my back earlier this year?!)

The NSG Psyclopaths – The Journey Continues

Welcome back dear readers, I’m so happy you are sticking with me for the this voyage of discovery.

The training progresses well, despite the less than fashionable cycle wear – the pit helmet may be discarded for something more in keeping with the athletic physique!! However I find the lycra disturbingly comfortable! The attire performed well during my recent 46 mile round trip to Southport. Yes I know it’s flat but you’ve got to start somewhere! The hills of Rivington and Angelzarke are more of a challenge though and certainly give the old knees a workout.

One disturbing piece of news is that the Bouncing Baby of the team (Chris Hart) seems to think his youth alone will get him through the challenge. I think not young man – get on that bike and ride! I am reliably informed that the remaining Psyclos are pushing themselves to their limits. Whether their limits involve breaking into a sweat is yet to be determined.

The good news is that a reccy has been completed of the infamous Whinlatter – feared by some, admired by others. I can report that, from the comfort of my Alfa, as opposed to the discomfort of my saddle, that the pass is eminently passable. You need not fear the inclines, my fellow athletes, your fears can be allayed.

News hot off the press, another NSG team has thrown down the gauntlet of challenge, The NSGeese. Update on their lack of athleticism will be in the next update. Need to go now and stock up with Vaseline.

The NSG Pscyclopaths – The Journey Begins!

And so dear reader, the journey begins. The Rivers Ride came onto our radar some months ago. Methinks it can’t be difficult – rivers generally flow down valley floors so it must be flat. No problem! And so the call went out for willing and not so willing volunteers.

In the meantime further investigation discovered some minor challenges, there was a Pass involved!!! Now, my experiences of Passes particularly in Cumbria are not good. It generally involves inclines, effort and sweat and that was only on foot! I kept these little challenges from the willing volunteers. It was a need to know basis. They would get to know after they had signed up!

And so it came to pass (sorry about the pun) that The Pscylopaths were formed from veterans, young pups, athletes, novices and generally rotund, middle aged malcontents:

John Morris – NSG MD, he who must be obeyed and all round veteran athlete who can knock a decent tune out! Nigel Lowe – NSG Commercial Manager, team captain and finely honed athlete (in his head!), Mark Sheppard – NSG Assurance, budding athlete, Alan Hogan – NSG RPA, former athlete until middle age took hold!! Andy Watson – ringer from Silverdell, well we needed to get someone in who could ride a bike! and finally the bouncing baby of the team, Chris Hart another ringer only brought in to lower the average age!! All up for the challenge (haven’t told them about the pass yet though) and starting the intensive training regime – see you all down the pub then!