August 25th - One thing that is good about a wet ride is that it speeds up the bedding in of new brake pads. Last week I changed the ones on the front, and although greatly improved, that hadn’t yet reached best efficacy. A ride in the wet - with some nice hard stops from speed - works wonders, and the rain on the disc mingles with the metal dust from the disc and pads, forming a grinding paste that wears everything together quickly.
On my return, I swill out the brake calliper and disc with a hose.
The brakes are loads better now than they were before. I’ve never seen this documented anywhere, but seems to work a treat.
August 1st - My return journey was weary, wet, grey and warm. Again, it felt like being in the gust from a hair-drier, so warm was the breeze. It was raining steadily, and having popped in to Brum, I returned from Shenstone down quiet, greasy country lanes, dodging a whole host of slippery hazards in waiting, now hydrated.
I note most of the harvest is done here, but for a couple of fields. In the UK, I guess it pays not to dither, and as I was waiting at Shire Oak I reflected on the wonderful unreliability of the great British weather.
July 31t - I had something to go to in the evening, and returned late. I returned after dark, and it was beautiful, as late summer nights tend to be; it had rained briefly in the afternoon and the damp had drawn out the frogs, toads and gastropods in huge numbers.
This delightful pair were within six inches of each other on the grass by the canal at Silver Street.
Some people find these creatures of the night slimy and unpleasant; I think they’re beautiful, in their own way.
July 24th - One of the sights of summer I’ve so far missed is the crop sprinkler. Near Shenstone today, one solitary spray, watering a field of fine looking potatoes. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can get a full rainbow in their mist, but my efforts to find one today wee fruitless.
If you’re even luckier, it’s near the road, and there’s a delicious game of dare as you try to cycle past without getting sprayed.
Wehen I was a youth, you could hear these - and there would have been large numbers of them - for miles, the light rushing sound and the toc-toc-toc of the rotator, but since crops have switched more to cereals, they’re a rarer sight.
July 4th - Sweet rain.
It’s been a long, dry and warm spell. Today was fraught, stressed, tired, sweaty. I was struggling against the urge to just go home, the heat, tiredness, irritation. But I could smell the rain on the wind. Sweet, distant, but present. I stood on the threshold of an open fire escape at work and filled my lungs with the smell of moisture on the wind.
As I left work, it began. I enjoyed it. Not torrential, but steady. Gently saturating the plants, refreshing the greenery, and making me feel if not less tired, more alert.
A sensory delight.
I was glad the week was over. And welcomed the rain.
May 24th - There’s probably some fancy photographic name for it, but some days seem naturally high-contrast. Something about the light. I spun around very wet towpaths out of Brownhills to Chasewater, and noted that part of Sandhills was dark, and another part was remaining in light. It really was quite beautiful.
Newtown’s bunny population were out enjoying the lush wet vegetation, and could be barely bothered to run away as I approached, and the view to Hammerwich was as wonderful as ever now it’s wearing it’s summer jacket. At Chasewater, the view from the dam was remarkable, with a rather threatening sky.
As I headed home, the heavens opened again.
But it’s summer, and warm rain is better than cold…
May 1st - I had to pop out in the morning, but worked from home for most of the day - which was just as well, as the weather was wet and miserable. Going out to meet a couple of pals later in the evening, I found myself chaining my bike up in a pub beer garden. Once the preserve of summer afternoons and rare, balmy evenings, pub terraces, beer gardens and play area have changed subtly in recent years, becoming a haven for smokers.
None here tonight, though, so the heaters on the parasol stayed untriggered. An odd, wet, otherworldly atmosphere pervaded the evening.
April 25th - This one’s for Trevor in Oz. You may miss life here when it’s sunny… but not on a went Friday afternoon.
A horrid ride. They guy soaking me in the last 10 seconds just clinched it.
The audio is the remarkable ‘Rain Dances’ by 1970s prog-jazzers Camel. Recording used at normal speed.
April 7th - Yay! The cowslips are here. Heading back to Brownhills from work, I took advantage of a gap in the rain, and spinning up a sodden towpath, I spotted the recurring patches of cowslips on Clayhanger Common near the Pier Street Bridge.
I’m sure I guerrilla seeded these a decade ago, and they’ve spread beautifully. Since then, further bands of these dainty little primroses have appeared all around the common. Seeing them in flower brings me enormous pleasure.
Cowslips are my favourite flower. To me, they symbolise spring; yellow, hardy, and they appear when the worst is passed. This year, they’re a good couple of weeks early.
The snail seemed quite pleased with them too…
March 25th - Further up Green Lane, I glanced to my left as I winced and grunted my way over the Black Cock bridge, which was harder work than usual. This solitary house, possibly at the end of what may have been Pepper Alley years ago, continues to fascinate me. Back behind here was once a sewage farm and the municipal mortuary. Today, it’s just fields and scrub.
It wasn’t really near sunset, but it was dark, grey and damp. Like October.
Tomorrow will be a better day.
March 23rd - The Chase is still very muddy. This is a normal speed clip, from Castle Ring to Stonepit Green this afternoon. Top speed about 30mph. I was absolutely plastered in mud. But by heck, it was funn.
Soundtrack ‘Ritual Dance’ by Michael Hedges.
February 17th - I had to be in Burntwood in the late afternoon for a meeting. After the spring of the day before, it was drizzly winter again, although the wind was still low. I quite like Burntwood, and more so Chasetown, although I’ve still yet to receive a funding offer for my planned remake of the chase scene from Bullit, on bicycles, down the sharply inclined High Street.
It occurred to me today why the place looks more prosperous than Brownhills - it’s the fact that a high percentage of buildings on the High Street are homes, not shops. Therefore, there’s a normal, bustling, lived-in atmosphere. It’s an interesting effect.
I love the Old Mining College, too. It’s long since abandoned it’s mining role, and is a community centre. Sadly, many of its services and staff are falling victim to budget cuts, which is a tragedy. It’s a wonderful thing, and well-loved by the community.
February 11th - After the snow stopped the day in Telford was dry and sunny.
'Never mind' they said. 'It'll be dry for the journey home' they said.
I left Walsall in the dry, without putting waterproof trousers on. 5 minutes later, when it was too late, the heaven opened, and then the rain turned to snow. For the second time today, I was wet, cold and fed up.
At least no one can ever accuse me of being a fair weather cyclist.
February 11th - The weather is getting worse, not better, but did hold an unexpected surprise for me today. I set out in the morning to the station, and the rain was heavy with a harsh wind. Even with waterproofs, I got soaked, and sat on the train dripping, miserable and cold. Fortunately, the subsequent train I caught to Telford was very warm, and dried me out a treat. This was by far the worst commute I’ve had for ages.
At Cosford, the torrential rain had become heavy snow, and was setting fast. When I alighted, there was about 10mm. Although wet and cold, it was a delight to see and cycle in, and I enjoyed the scenery and spectacle.
A couple of hours later, the sun was out and all the snow melted away. Glad I caught it, though.
February 10th - Then, there’s beauty. Just down the road in Walsall Wood. A peaceful, lovely canal view. There is beauty in the dullest, saddest, most grey days, after all…