Archive for the 'Friends' Category

Moving, keep on moving…

Plenty to catch up on since last time. I’m feeling exhausted as I write, so apologies if it goes a bit random.

The big news: I’ve moved house again. I’m sharing with Brett and Christian again, just like old times. This time though, we’ve bought the place. It’s a nice early-Victorian maisonette in the park area of Cheltenham. If you want/need to know where it is for some reason, drop me a line. It’s just begging for some DIY and we’ve already started re-decorating. Watch this space for some of our more interesting adventures…

Yesterday Anton, Brett and myself drove up to Cwmcarn in south Wales with the downhill bikes, to have a play on a secret track up there. It’s a hell of a push up the mountain and I don’t think we got the top section right at all – we got confused where a load of moto-crosser ruts converged. It was good fun making our way down the random stuff though. The highlight for me was the monster “straight” (lumps, bumps, ruts, rocks, roots, ace!) that feeds into a ludicrously fast bermed corner before spitting you out into a much shorter rock-strewn straight. Chasing Brett and Anton into there was mental, Anton seemed to be climbing all over the front of his bike trying to keep up with Brett. He got a bit over-confident on the steep stuff further down the course and dived headfirst off the side of the course into an awful lot of brambles, slicing his shins up nicely. Mmm, blood. I was annoyed at myself for not riding the evil steep bit (again) but generally had an ace time! I’ll have it next time…

I was absolutely knackered after that, which made it all the more difficult to get up at ludicrous o’clock this morning.

Garry swooped in to drive myself and Charlie all the way up to Llandegla for a blast around the trails there. To be honest I was a bit disappointed with the place. The trails had their high points (there were some nice corkscrews and berms to play on), but they just didn’t really “flow” for me. The black runs were quite fun, but nowhere near the awesome roller-coasters I’d been led to believe they’d be. I thought maybe it was just me, but the other two agreed and the comments in the visitors book seemed to back it up. Still, the place has got loads of potential – given some time to develop it further it could become great. We had fun regardless – after all we were out in the countryside playing on bikes and they quite clearly rock.

Man, I’m proper tired now. G’night!

Boiled eggs

On Saturday 6th January 2007, my granddad Dominic McDonnell passed away, after a mercifully brief battle with cancer.

On hearing the news, I jumped on a train home so I could be with the family. My grandmother and most of his children (including my mum) had congregated at his house in Woking: we spent the evening celebrating his life, reminiscing and sharing our favourite memories of him. It was very much the right thing to do.

A week and a half later, I headed back down south for the funeral. I’m not sure why, but I felt almost emotionally detached during the service. The church was absolutely packed with friends and family, many of whom I hadn’t seen for years. It wasn’t until we left the church and I had my arms around my younger sisters that I broke down, as we watched the hearse carry Granddad away. The cremation service the following day was lovely, with his children, Justin, Claire and Stephen all reading pieces about him.

It almost feels wrong to say it, but the parties we had after each service were great. It was good to catch up with all of the people I only ever see at the really big family events.

You may still be wondering why I’ve titled this piece “Boiled Eggs”. It’s because that’s my favourite memory. I don’t think I voiced it at the time.

When we were young, Alice & I would occasionally be dropped off at the grandparents for a weekend. Our mum & dad were usually off doing something silly like The National Rally on their classic bikes. Anyway, breakfast was always a highlight: Dominic had perfected the art of the soft-boiled egg. It came from the chickens they kept in the garden. It went in for four minutes. It never cracked prematurely. The soldiers were toasted to perfection. There’s probably an element of rose-tinted glasses, but that’s the way I remember it. Good times.

Obviously he was a lot more to me than just the man who taught me how to boil the perfect egg. It was my mother that pointed it out to me: I was probably a lot closer to him than I might have been if my father hadn’t died in my teenage years. Granddad was always a man I looked up to. He was so bright, talented and worldly wise, without ever being condescending.

I was looking through my collection and could only find one photo of him. I’ll have to get some more from the family. My little sister’s got a nice photo of the whole family from the day of the funeral.

I’ve been blog-tagged

Sheila² got me: The object of the game is to reveal 5 things about you, which most readers probably don’t know, then nominate 5 friends to do the same.

So then, here’s five things you might not know about me:

  1. My dad and I went to watch the Isle of Man TT several times on his classic bikes, including a Matchless G3LS (350cc single), an AJS 500cc twin and later a Honda CB750 (the rest of the family followed in an old VW Minibus). The Honda was my favourite at the time, though I look back on the 350 most fondly. The last time we went, the I.O.M. Steam Packet Company crashed one of their ferries into Douglas harbour. Joey Dunlop was a boyhood hero of mine, so seeing him win at the TT was pretty special.
  2. At school we built a wall-climbing robot that got us second place in the local Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. It used compressed air and suction cups to climb up smooth surfaces. I did all the artwork – it was probably my first proper bit of design. Looking back, it was a bit rubbish. The awards were held at the old motor racing circuit at Brooklands in Surrey.
  3. On the same day I had a look around the Sultan of Brunei‘s old private plane which was housed there. Very plush. A few years later at college, I became friends with Steve, who comes from Brunei. The plane was still at Brooklands when I visited an Auto Italia event with Owen & Anne a couple of years ago. The three of us finally made it out there for Steve’s wedding earlier this year.
  4. I’m a founder member of the Kusatado Ninja and I’ve got the bright yellow jersey to prove it. We took turns “racing” mountain bikes round in circles for 24 hours. I use the term “racing” in the loosest possible sense – we didn’t do very well, but we had a great time burning round on bikes, burning on the blazing sunshine and getting high on RedBull. Wonderful.
  5. When I was a kid, we used to live right on the River Wey, in Guildford. We had a large canvas-covered canoe that my dad, my sister and I would row up and down the navigation, carrying it around the locks and generally having a laugh. We had a big adventure one day after some particularly heavy rain. The current carried us for miles, we took some interesting detours through water-meadows (they take the overflow when the river floods) and nearly got dragged down the odd weir. In the end we had to phone my mum and get her to come and collect us in the minibus.

You know what? It was good fun reminiscing about that lot. Good times.

And with that I tag you Weon, Matt, Simon, Rich and other SimonAndy.

It’s a bit wet out

You know that thing where despite the fact that it’s utterly miserable outside, you drag yourself out on your bike? You should do that more often. It’s ace fun!

I headed out with Weon & James on Sunday. It was raining, windy and generally horrible and you know what? That really didn’t matter. We had an absolutely ace time.

Owen was on a mission on the way up the hill. Once we got off-road, he went for everything. The Tramway, which is a soul-destroying drag straight up the middle of the hill was conquered first, before he took on and beat the sting in the tail of Dog-Poo Alley. I’d have managed it too if my bike had been willing to change down to the granny gear, honest guv’nor!

James is still quite new to mountain biking, so he’s keen to try everything out and absolutely bursting with enthusiasm. It’s really refreshing to see someone shouting “YES!” because they got through a tricky section in one piece and giggling like a loon when they fall off in the mud.

One trail we hadn’t ridden for ages follows the escarpment across the top of the hill above Sandy Lane before diving down into the woods. It’s an ace bit of single-track, especially when howling winds, driving rain, wet roots and James diving into the undergrowth all make it that little bit more challenging.

We finished off by slipping and sliding down Daisy Bank (cheeky!). James fell off at least once, I did that thing where your wheels follow different ruts and you end up at 90° to the trail and somehow Owen made it down in one piece.

One of the best things is the looks people give you on the ride home across town. They’re sat snugly inside their cars staring out at us: soaking wet, caked in mud and clearly having the time of our lives. Brilliant.

Unintentional style

“Hey Olly, you just hipped off that jump.”
“You what?”
“Yeah, you rode in, took off and swung the bike around under you.”
“Sweet! I had absolutely no idea.”

I wouldn’t have the first idea how to hip-jump. The truth is, getting air still scares the crap out of me.

The dead leaves and the dirty ground

Say good bye to the summer, autumn’s here with a vengeance.

Myself and Weon had a fairly typical autumnal ride. We encountered everything from blazing sunshine to torrential rains with howling winds chucked in for good measure. The leaves carpeting the ground made navigating some of the unfamiliar trails an interesting exercise in guesswork. They were all still on the trees the last time I was there. Still, we didn’t get lost at all.

We blasted down dry hard-packed single-track and ploughed through axle-deep bogs. We sheltered from the weather in a forest and ate cake, fruit and chocolate. We wheel-span up slick wet grass hillsides and picked our way down rocky technical descents that had us shouting expletives as the bikes misbehaved beneath us. We kept riding until we were both completely and utterly exhausted.

It added up to about 30 mainly off-road miles all in all. I feel a bit broken now, but with that satisifed “I did good stuff today” feeling. Rocking.

I really should have cleaned the bike when I got back.

Nah, those things never happen to me

Matt’s not the only one who’s had their credit card used fraudulently recently.

I had a phone-call from Barclaycard this morning to inform me that my card had been used for some bizarre transactions over the past few days and ask if it was me. I’ve not used it for ages, so it came as something of a surprise.

They started out by buying a bus ticket over the internet. When that went through, they tried for a few big purchases. Big red lights flashed and klaxons sounded at the Barclaycard Fraud Investigation Department bunker (I guess because I rarely use the card) and thankfully, they declined most of it.

They’ve cancelled the card and are sending me some forms to fill in. It’s a good job they phoned me, or I probably wouldn’t have noticed until the next statement came through in about a month’s time.

So keep an eye on your card statements. You never know who else might be buying things on your behalf…

Finding Balance

Design is finding balance in what you create

Sorry Anton, I couldn’t resist ‘shopping it. Here’s the original and here’s the Flickr group with a whole lot more…