BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking
digitaldion:

#30daysofbiking - day 7. A very short ride today! Left for work early, have an evening function and have a full day. So, I rode my #Brompton from the office to a nearby grocery store to get a sandwich between two meetings. A lovely ride on the pathway next to the Eerste River (First River) in Stellenbosch. It runs just behind our office building at the University. (at Stellenbosch University)

Gotta love the Bromptons…

digitaldion:

#30daysofbiking - day 7. A very short ride today! Left for work early, have an evening function and have a full day. So, I rode my #Brompton from the office to a nearby grocery store to get a sandwich between two meetings. A lovely ride on the pathway next to the Eerste River (First River) in Stellenbosch. It runs just behind our office building at the University. (at Stellenbosch University)

Gotta love the Bromptons…

April 5th - I wasn’t feeling great. I wasn’t down anymore, but I felt achey and muzzy like I had a cold coming, the weather was grey and windy, and I contented myself with a trip to Chasewater. On the way I passed the remarkable shrine to Jamey Coleman, who was tragically killed here in a hit and run incident a week before.
It pulled me up short. Don’t think I’ve ever seen so many tributes.
Please - if you know anything at all about this incident - no matter how inconsequential you think it may be, please do contact the police. 
Please see their appeal here.

April 5th - I wasn’t feeling great. I wasn’t down anymore, but I felt achey and muzzy like I had a cold coming, the weather was grey and windy, and I contented myself with a trip to Chasewater. On the way I passed the remarkable shrine to Jamey Coleman, who was tragically killed here in a hit and run incident a week before.

It pulled me up short. Don’t think I’ve ever seen so many tributes.

Please - if you know anything at all about this incident - no matter how inconsequential you think it may be, please do contact the police. 

Please see their appeal here.

April 4th - Riding a bike is a cyclic antidepressant, and riding one once a day keeps the black dog at bay. I was sad, really sad, but something on the way home cheered me right up. A young heron, fishing by Clayhanger Bridge on the canal. I can’t ever recall seeing one here before, but I love these comical, dishevelled fishers. He was hungry, and young enough not to be skittish. He tolerated me taking photos for ages. He made me remember what I was doing, and what I was about. 

I adore herons. Such complex, fascinating birds.

It’s taken me all weekend to pluck up the balls to write this sequence.

April 4th - I’ve been struggling with my relationship with Walsall, and my memories of it, for a very long time now. I think seeing some of the places I loved burnt down, and others displaced by progress started it. I felt it was time I acknowledged it for once and for all.

I still love this surprising green, but ugly town. I love it’s unexpected beauty, I love its corners, twists and turns. I love the people, the frankness. I love the mixed cultures and the frontier mentality of a place thats both within and outside the Black Country.

I hate what time and my memory have done to it. But change is what happens to everyone, and I what I suspect I mourn isn’t Walsall, but the times I spent here.

St. Matthews is a handsome church in a commanding location, atop a hill that I’m convinced was once probably a fortification. A very large, ambitiously designed church, it’s almost too good for the place yet completely appropriate. Resplendent in yellow sandstone, it watches over the town below. For two centuries or more, it was surrounded by a sprawling slum; it’s now sitting in proud isolation with greenery and open space around. Time has been kinder to St. Matthews than one might think.

I used to come up here to think, and dream and wrestle with things that troubled me. I found the benchmark on the side of the church before I knew what it was for, and its image was persistent and perplexing. In those days, someone had written above it in neat chalked script, ‘I can’t come here anymore.’ I never knew what they meant. I do now, but the writing has long since washed away.

As I wandered around, remembering good times and bad, trying to make sense of what I felt. I looked to the skyline, to the towerblocks of Paddock, and at the flowers growing so beautifully wild in the churchyard. 

I remembered the words of the great, tortured and lost songwriter Doug Hopkins:

The last horizons I can see are filled with bars and factories 
And in them all we fight to stay awake… 
Drink enough of anything to make this world look new again 
Drunk drunk drunk in the gardens and the graves 

The last horizons I could see are now resigned to memories 
I never thought I’d still be here today… 

It dawned, gradually, that it’s about going away, and returning. Spiritually, I left this place a long, long time ago. I let Walsall go. It’s right, and natural, and what happens to us all. But I never thought I’d still be here.

And once you’ve left, although you can come back, you can’t go there anymore.

Relieved, but hurting, I got back on my bike, and rode home.

April 4th - I broke free after lunch and had time to kill in Walsall. It wasn’t a particularly bright afternoon, but I headed up to the church and memorial gardens as I hadn’t been up there in a long while. The Memorial Gardens were as I remembered them; quiet, peaceful, solitary and beautiful. Slightly down-at-heel, but no less beautiful for it, the flowers there are just kicking off. I have great memories of this little-known spot, but while I was here, it occurred to me that somewhere in the intervening years between my discovery of this wonderful place and the present here and now, that either Walsall had lost me, or I had lost Walsall.

These places, these streets, used to feel like mine. I used to haunt them. I knew them well, the shops, pubs, cafes. Today, although I pass through regularly, I don’t know any of it anymore. I still get the geography. But I’ve lost the sense of belonging. 

The horizon I could see from here today over the dull, overcast town was the same horizon, but changed, I saw three decades ago. But somewhere, inbetween that place and this, I exchanged that whole wide world for other horizons.

I wept a bit. But you can’t go back; I can no longer class this place as mine. But there are other places, and this will always, always be a part of me.

For better, or for worse.

More…

madoldbaggage:

12 miles today. This cycling malarky is easy peasy! Just happy that I can do it and that I’m not scared any longer.

Well done Linda. So pleased for you!

April 3rd - the mist, poor air and lack of sun means something remarkable is happening unnoticed. In the last week, the trees, hedgerows and shrubs have mostly been bursting into leaf. The deciduous copse at the rear of the new pond in Clayhanger is alive with willow, oak, birch and elder, all sprouting a variety of foliage. At Catshill, the blackthorn blossom is gorgeous, and everywhere there are the vivd greens of fresh growth. 

If the sun would only shine, they’d positively glow.

April 3rd - The poor air quality brouhaha at the moment isn’t all hype. As a chap given to a degree of sinus trouble, it’s hell out there at the moment. There’s an appreciable wind, and the air isn’t wet like in normal mist; yet it feels oxygen-less, like being stuck in an unventilated house with the heating on. It makes me feel breathless faster, and stings my eyes, as well as causing a blocked nose. 

I’ve never experienced days like these before. I’m used to traffic fumes in the city in high summer, and the effect it has on my hayfever, but I’ve never seen this before.

The New Ring Road in Walsall looked ethereal and grey, even dystopian. But I did notice one thing; that’s a fine weathervane on the roof of the old Workhouse Guardians office, there.

madoldbaggage:

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It’s been a long time. My ill health problems left me scared of climbing on a bike and hitting the pedals. It didn’t help that I got conflicting advice from different doctors, so I wasn’t sure and I certainly wasn’t confident. The weather this winter didn’t help either. It was never going…

April 2nd - The dying art of repairing a puncture. For years, I scarcely bothered, after all I have mercilessly few incidents with the Marathon Plus tyres and road tubes were quite cheap. I just carried a spare or two as I always did. But with a change of tyres, I needed to be more ready to do spot repairs. I’ve tried puncture resistant liners with moderate benefit, and have also gone over to sealant filled tubes. But even those fail, and out on the road this morning, I was slain by a metal clipping that spiked my rubber - the sealant tried bravely, but failed. 

There’s no way I’m chucking an £8 tube in the bin, so I bundled it up in a bag, popped in the spare and repaired it when I got home. They do work, as when I took it out, there were three piercing hawthorn spikes as well as the catastrophic failure. 

The modern self-adhesive patches are OK, but I don’t trust them like a good, old fashioned kit. My favoured one is Rema Tip Top - good quality patches, and a well-sealed tube of cement that doesn’t dry up in the saddlebag. 10 minutes, job done, and back in the tyre.

Metal clippings on the roads in Darlaston are a pain in the arse - watch out if you’re around the Darlaston Green or Heath Road areas. They fall from the scrap wagons that thunder through there, and unlike puncture repairing, sheeting loose loads seems like a dying art…

April 2nd - I spun past the St. John’s School site this morning, and noted it was now almost totally cleared, and it appears the demolition crew have left the site. The one gable remains - in use as a private residence - but otherwise, little trace of 150 years of history is evident, and the scraped ground and piles of crushed hardcore await the next stage. 

Of course, the old building had been derelict for four decades, so in many ways, this is already an improvement of sorts - it means progress.

I hope construction will start here soon…

April 1st - This day last year, I was cycling past 4ft drifts of snow in Bardy Lane, Upper Longdon, and the weather was wet and cold indeed. Today was very warm and mostly sunny, and at Grange Farm at High Heath, the early oilseed rape is just about to come out in a riot of scent and colour.

I love this crop; vivid yellow, smelling like Emmental cheese, it sets the countryside alight with vibrant yellow. Frequently and unfairly blamed for hay fever, the sticky pollen of this plant is way too heavy and course to be wind-borne. A member of the brassica family, it’s closely related to mustard and cabbage, and will provide a boon for bees and bugs as it blooms.

And as it does, I feel the season advancing a little further…

April 1st - This journal is three years old today. Three years since Renee Van Baar cajoled me into doing #30daysofbiking. I’ve cycled every day in that three years except two days when I was too ill to ride a bike during about of food poisoning over New Year, 2012. That’s a 1094 days when I’ve been out and taken a picture or recorded a little video of the day’s ride. Thanks for joining me, and for all the likes, shares and retweets, as well as the excellent and knowledgable reader comments..
I have no idea why folk like this thing, but they seem quite fond of it, and I am too, for it’s made me look at something I do in a different way, and it’s also made me look more closely at what’s around me in my day-to-day life.
Cheers to everyone for being stoker on the tandem.
The cat isn’t impressed. He barely opened his eyes to display his utter contempt as I passed through Alumwell on my way back from work. I stopped to let oncoming traffic through, and he peered at me sleepily. I thought he was rather special, so disgusting him even further, I took a quick picture.

April 1st - This journal is three years old today. Three years since Renee Van Baar cajoled me into doing #30daysofbiking. I’ve cycled every day in that three years except two days when I was too ill to ride a bike during about of food poisoning over New Year, 2012. That’s a 1094 days when I’ve been out and taken a picture or recorded a little video of the day’s ride. Thanks for joining me, and for all the likes, shares and retweets, as well as the excellent and knowledgable reader comments..

I have no idea why folk like this thing, but they seem quite fond of it, and I am too, for it’s made me look at something I do in a different way, and it’s also made me look more closely at what’s around me in my day-to-day life.

Cheers to everyone for being stoker on the tandem.

The cat isn’t impressed. He barely opened his eyes to display his utter contempt as I passed through Alumwell on my way back from work. I stopped to let oncoming traffic through, and he peered at me sleepily. I thought he was rather special, so disgusting him even further, I took a quick picture.

BrownhillsBob’s #365daysofbiking turned 3 today!

BrownhillsBob’s #365daysofbiking turned 3 today!

March 31st - I hopped on the canal to check out if the swans were nesting yet at the new pool at Clayhanger, but I couldn’t get a close enough look properly. As I pressed on homewards to Brownhills, I noticed that the land where the Bayley House towerblock used to stand near Catshill Junction is being prepared for the newbuild development planned there, with plant clearly operating and equipment arriving.
This land has been idle for a decade this May. It’s good to see it come back into use.

March 31st - I hopped on the canal to check out if the swans were nesting yet at the new pool at Clayhanger, but I couldn’t get a close enough look properly. As I pressed on homewards to Brownhills, I noticed that the land where the Bayley House towerblock used to stand near Catshill Junction is being prepared for the newbuild development planned there, with plant clearly operating and equipment arriving.

This land has been idle for a decade this May. It’s good to see it come back into use.