Author Archive

Lucy

On 28th January 2017, my mum, Lucy Mary Hodgson passed away after a long battle with Lymphoma. Here is the eulogy I read at her funeral.


Thank you for coming to celebrate Lucy’s life with us. It means a lot to see you all here. We can’t possibly hope to fully capture her in this eulogy – everybody has their own perspective, but we’ll do our best. When I say we – my Granny Mary and aunt Paula had a big hand in this.

Lucy was born in Stratford upon Avon on 20th April 1956. She was the eldest daughter and the third of seven children. Mary, her mother, described her as “an exceptionally beautiful baby who rarely cried”. Some qualities are clearly set at a very early age.

The family moved to Woking when Lucy was five and she attended the Providence Convent School, which was situated on the site of this church. She was a confident little girl and played the leading role of Little Red Riding Hood in a school production.

However, as she got older and changed schools she became shy, quiet and self-effacing. Perhaps because of this people often underestimated her. She was amongst the first intake when the new St John the Baptist School opened here in Woking.

She enjoyed spending a lot of time at the swimming pool with her sisters and by the age of twelve she could swim a mile. Throughout her life whenever she was near the sea she’d want to get in for a quick dip – even in ridiculous Welsh winter conditions.

On leaving school she went to work at Slocock’s Nursery and studied horticulture concurrently at Merrist Wood.

Later, working in the greenhouses at Woking Park, she met and fell in love with the park’s foreman, Adam Hodgson. They married in 1979 and moved to Guildford where Adam started a landscaping business – Adam the Gardener.

To help the business Lucy became adept at administration and book-keeping. They bought an early Amstrad PC, and she was soon an expert with spreadsheets and accounting software – long before most people even knew what they were.

They had four children: me, Alice, Florence and Abigail. Lucy loved motherhood; her children were her pride and joy, she adored their company and would do anything for them.

Lucy had fond memories of her own childhood camping holidays, travelling all over the UK in a succession of family minibuses and converted ambulances. She kept up this tradition with her own family, making numerous trips to France, North Wales and even the Isle of Man to see the TT Races. Sometimes we joined forces with Sheila, Stephen or our friends’ families, camping en-masse so all the children – and adults – could play together.

She also took the family further afield to soak up the culture and sunshine in Malta, Cyprus, Florence, Rome and Florida.

Lucy travelled to Sri Lanka on her own, to Vietnam with her sister Sheila, and on a variety of European trips with her mother and as many of her siblings as possible. She loved to savour the local sights, cuisine and wine with her family.

She would have loved to have travelled more – she dreamed of seeing fall in Vermont, and of visiting her brother-in-law Piers in Australia. She loved to hear about all her children’s adventures too – firing her own imagination.

Her husband Adam was a keen motorcyclist. He and Lucy attended many events together including all night rides and large weekend events with the local classic motorbike club.

In 1994 Adam died in a motorcycle accident, so Lucy was left to close the business and bring up her children alone. His sudden death when Abigail was only two was a crushing blow; but she faced this, as with all the challenges life threw at her, with dignity and fortitude. She was a very private person and kept most of her worries to herself.

Adam supported Crystal Palace football club. Lucy took up his season ticket and we cheered them on from the Holmesdale Terrace together for a couple of seasons. She supported them ever since – taking great delight on the rare occasions when they embarrassed a much bigger team. I still remember her singing variations on “Que sera sera” when they were doing particularly well.

When we children had all started school or university, Lucy looked for work and for a while had three part-time jobs – helping various small businesses with their admin.

Finally, she began working in the office of Woodbridge Hill Surgery, just around the corner from her home. She loved the job and adored the people she worked with. She started small, effectively just sorting the post. Over time she grew tremendously, taking on more and more complex roles. She worked her way right to the top, becoming Practice Manager – an achievement she was rightfully very proud of.

Lucy had many hidden talents. In Woking at her old home there are several remarkable paintings completed when she was in her 20s. She carried on dabbling throughout our childhood, and in more recent years became a fixture at a local art class, developing her own signature watercolour style and making some good friends. Every year she would exhibit her work and sell her own Christmas cards – and then downplay her accomplishments.

Not only was she a very talented artist, she could name most plants by their Latin names, and tell you when to prune them. She loved gardening, and every year she had some Gooseberries, Raspberries and Sweet Peas on the go. She could help you with your tax return. She knew all the details of football leagues and transfers, Formula 1 fixtures and tennis tournaments (all of which are quite incomprehensible to the rest of her siblings). She was a friend of the Royal Academy, a member of the National Trust and of the Guildford Cinema Club. She became engrossed in TV series as diverse as Star Trek, Doctor Who and Masterchef. More recently she took up badminton and proudly stuck to a workout regime at a local gym.

She loved music, attending festivals and gigs at first as a teenager, and then later with her own children. She saw some really big names over the years. Her vinyl record collection is huge – and she would relish the opportunity to get them out and dance around the living room, usually with one or more of her daughters. Whenever we were planning to embark on a long car journey, she would compile a mix-tape to liven up the trip and make the miles fly by.

She was also a big reader, regularly losing herself in a good book. Her most recent accomplishment was completing the entire back catalogue of Kate Atkinson.

Although she lived in Guildford she came every Saturday night to Woking to attend mass here with Mary, and then to stay and catch up over supper and a glass of wine.

She was never particularly evangelical about her faith – it was a very personal thing. She knew where she was going, and that gave her strength right at the end.

Lucy had a sweetness and kindness about her that made her the perfect restful company – she was one of those people that made you feel better the moment they appeared. She was funny, sympathetic and constantly good natured.

Nevertheless, she had strong views about everything, from politics and current affairs to books, films, artists, as well as food and travel.

I loved chatting with her over a long drawn out breakfast (her poison was bacon) discussing anything and everything, especially if it was on the front page of the Guardian.

She was open-minded, with no big expectations of you. She wasn’t pushy, but rather wanted you to find your own way. She would love you whatever you did – and she loved to hear all about it, too.

She got great pleasure from simple things; a new baby, cats, a Belgian chocolate truffle, a Stevie Wonder track, chickens, jigsaws, Sudoku, a good cheese, a glass of Petit Chablis in the sun, and all of our big family gatherings – especially Christmas in Woking and new year in Cheltenham with Stephen and Helen.

Of course, the new baby Lucy was most excited about was Alice and Angus’s daughter. She was thrilled to be a grandmother and loved to spend time with little Astrid, see the latest photos and to hear about every stage in her development.

A little over a year ago Lucy was diagnosed with a rare and very aggressive blood cancer. One of the things I’m most proud of is how she faced up to it: Her attitude was always strong, positive and forward-looking. Although she was often scared, she found the strength to push on through and take on the next challenge. Even at her lowest, she never gave up hope.

In her mind, the future was always bright. And of course, it still is – it’s just that now we’ll have to face it without her gentle loving presence.

Knee pads

We’re at Betws-y-coed, riding the Marin trail on a damp Monday afternoon. It’s the final leg of Alex’s stag weekend, which has involved the fantastic Penmachno trails, gorge walking, a crazy tree-top adventure, a parachute simulator and the odd pint of local ale, amongst other things.

We roll off the fire-road and into the final descent. Simon first, then Brett, me, Anton, Alex and Matt. Si sets off in his usual style: like an ICBM aimed at the far end of the trail. The rest of us roll in behind him, pedalling like maniacs to try and keep up.

We’re moving down the singletrack at ludicrous speed. It’s big, wet, rocky stuff. Properly rocky. North Wales rocky. It gets to the point where I have to back off a bit because my forks aren’t working very well I’m getting really quite scared.

We arrive at a particularly evil off-camber corner with a really rough run-in. Si has a big moment on the way through and stops a bit further up. Brett gets it wrong on the way in and has to really wrestle the bike around. I get all slidey going through the corner but manage to hold it together. Anton goes one better, losing the front wheel on the wet rocks and going down hard.

He bounces straight back up looking more or less unscathed, but for some reason he’s saying “That’s not good. That’s really not good.”

I look him up and down and can’t see what’s wrong. Then I look at his bike, which seems to be in one piece. I’m about to congratulate him on a spectacular crash when he lifts up the leg of his shorts to reveal the gash in his knee.

I can see his kneecap.

That’s really quite unpleasant.

Several stitches later, he’s off the bike for a few weeks while it heals up.

Earlier that day, when we were getting changed into our biking kit, he put his shoes on before realising he hadn’t put on his knee pads. “Ah bugger it” he said, and didn’t bother.

Magic people

I broke a gear cable on the Cannondale, so when last tuesday’s Hotsingletrack ride rolled around, Tim very kindly lent me his classic Voodoo.

We met up with the others on Leckhampton Hill in the pouring rain. Luckily that eased off a bit, but after a few weeks of foul weather the trails were coated in a thick layer of thick, wet mud. Here I was, on a completely unfamiliar bike, riding in some of the most challenging conditions I could imagine. In the dark. Game on.

Just like the last time I borrowed it, I finished up the ride wanting to keep the Voodoo. It’s a lovely bike, all light, pingy and playful. It’s an XC race bike at heart, though. You can’t just sit back and cruise. Faced with a climb? Hammer up it. Deep mud? Hammer through it. Stretch of road? Big ring it leaving everyone else for dead.

And the descents? YEAH BABY! Off the brakes, BRAARP! OK, so I spent more time travelling sideways than forwards and there was at least one spectacular leapfrog-the-bars dismount. It was proper fun though, drifting everywhere, mud flying in all directions, whooping as we went. Especially comical was the sight of the two Marks dragging their bikes across a field, wheels completely clogged up with the thick, claggy mud.

I still haven’t fixed the ‘dale, and Tim’s put a shorter stem and wider bars on the Voodoo now. I wonder…

Pondering web technology

There’s been a lot of talk lately about HTML5, which is the latest incarnation of the language we use to write the web. So far, most of it has been about the new structural elements it brings, which is a great start, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Thanks to HTML5 and a handful of other standards, in the not-too-distant future web browsers will do all of this without the help of plug-ins (e.g. Flash):

  • Vector graphics (SVG, Canvas)
  • 3D Graphics (Canvas3D)
  • Animation (Javascript, SMIL, CSS animation and transitions)
  • Rich media (native handling of audio and video)
  • Javascript at speeds close to native compiled code
  • Proper layout and typography (through advances in CSS)
  • Complex form handling

This all all potentially awesome stuff, but there are a lot of hurdles to overcome. I have questions.

Do plug-in technologies like Flash, Java and Silverlight become irrelevant? Or will they continue to do things that the browser alone can’t (yet) do? What are those things?

What will it take to bring these new capabilities into wider use? The likes of Webkit & Opera are already bringing much of this stuff to millions of users through their mobile phones and games consoles. Will that be enough, or will the dominant desktop browser (Internet Explorer in case you hadn’t guessed) hold them back?

Will efforts to hack support into IE by other means (e.g. Raphaël, which uses IE’s proprietary VML to fake SVG support) be a good enough stop-gap measure to help with the adoption of these technologies? Can we leverage the likes of Flash, Java and Silverlight to help out where IE is lacking? (Will cross-browser headaches ever really go away?)

Then there’s the question of developer tools. The availability of decent authoring software helped the adoption of Flash massively. Will such things appear naturally when enough people are hand-crafting these technologies, or will the tools drive adoption?

Obviously I don’t have any answers. I can’t wait to start playing with it all though.

Things you don’t want to hear when you’re out night biking

Me: Was that rain? Or maybe snow?

Brett: Neither. I blew my nose.

Me: AARGHH! NOOOO!

Twice

I nearly always bring a bike when I come back to Guildford, but I never seem to actually ride the thing. Last time I was all set for a ride with Raoul before realising my helmet was still in Cheltenham. Bugger. This time though, things were going to be different. This time, I got up on Christmas Eve, chucked the bike in the car and headed towards vaguely familiar territory.

I’d not ridden around Peaslake for years — not since the heady days of my GT LTS singlespeed. My memories of the place were all a bit hazy…

Now, I’ve not been out on the bike at all for a week or three. I had a couple of “can’t be arsed” weeks, followed by a bout of the dreaded man-flu. So perhaps charging up the opening climb like a bat out of hell wasn’t my best move. Where’s my lung capacity gone? Why am I trying to cough them up? Why do I feel like I’m going to vomit? Surely it shouldn’t hurt this much…ooo singletrack! Lets see where that goes!

And so it begins. I followed myriad trails up and over and down and around. My mental map of the place started to return, or so I thought. I rode all the way up one mysterious bike-tracked path until I reached a car park on top of the hill. “That one’d be really good in the other direction” thought I. So I turned around and hammered back down it.

With the exception of the odd puddle twenty foot deep bog of death, it was fantastic! I found myself drifting through loamy turns, railing natural berms, pumping the undulations and getting all sketchy over the exposed roots. Awesome. But my mental map had let me down. Somewhere I’d taken a wrong turn and ended up by a reservoir I’d forgotten even existed. I was about to ride off up a rather dull-looking trail when I spotted another bit of singletrack over the road…

Oh man. I remembered this one from years gone by. That ride when we broke Tim springs to mind. Back then, it was a fun and sinewy little bit of singletrack. Good, but nothing really special. Someone’s been tinkering since then though. The fun factor’s been turned up to eleven. Loads of little jumps, whoops, drop-ins, fantastic zig-zag berms, endless roots and whoops of delight. Oh, and it’s really very fast indeed.

One moment stands out vividly. I came charging though a corner, saw some evil-looking roots ahead of me and instinctively pumped the front of the bike to lift it over them. Usually in these situations the back wheel follows without issue. Not this time. The rear shot sideways at light-speed before gripping hard. The back of the bike was now pointing in an entirely different direction to the front and moving just as quickly. I’ve no idea how I held it all together, but I pin-balled wildly into the next section with a massive grin on my face. BRAAARRP!

The descent finished within sight of the village. Whist resting there, I spotted adverts on the village noticeboard for biking companies based in Morzine and near Glentress, and that the village welcomes mountain bikers. Refreshing.

My second loop took an altogether different route around the woods, before quite coincidentally ending up at that car-park on top of the hill. Same again? Well, it’d be rude not to, wouldn’t it?

WHOOOP WHOOOOOOP!

That was odd.

Death in Vegas intrigue me. I bought The Contino Sessions years ago, but only ever liked one or two tracks. Later I saw them do the sunset slot at Glastonbury and thought they were brilliant. They didn’t release anything for ages after that, so, well, I forgot about them. Then a couple of weeks ago, I noticed Satan’s Circus Vol.1 on eMusic and downloaded it — more out of curiosity than anything else. It’s been sat there in my “new and unplayed” playlist ever since.

This evening I finally put it on in the background while I read some more of Thirteen.

I think I bought it for my mum last christmas. She read it, then passed it back for me to have a go at. It’s the first book I’ve read in ages. I was a bit bored a few evenings ago and picked it up. I spent the first couple of chapters thinking how trashy it was. A couple more and I was utterly hooked. It’s an intriguingly wierd story.

About an hour later, the album finished at precisely the same time as the book did. The last note of Come On Over To Our Side, Softly Softly played as I read the last word of the novel.

That was odd.

Guak!

Picture the scene: It’s the evening before the Megavalanche qualifier. We’ve all returned from a day of riding and a few of use are out on the balcony, fettling bikes.

Building bikes

One of the guys staying on the floor above us leans over their balcony:

Excuse me, do you guys have a 7mm screwdriver?

Funnily enough, we don’t, but it’s not long before Brett‘s upstairs taking on the role of works mechanic and bleeding brakes for them. It turns out they were legendary downhill world cup racers Tommi and Pau Misser (now co-owners of the mighty Guak empire), who’d come to the mega with their mum. She was busy cooking them dinner and shouting at them every time there was any danger of grease going anywhere near the carpet. Brilliant.

Tommi went on to win his qualifier the following day, with Pau finishing fourth in his. Whether it was because they couldn’t stop, we may never know…

For us though, “Guak” took on a whole new meaning. It became the call of some sort of rare animal, and could be heard ringing out across alpine valleys for the next week and a bit. GUUAAAARRRK! GUUUAAAAARRRRRK!

You probably had to be there.