Friday, 31 December 2010

Most Rock 'n' Roll New Year's Eve EVARAR!!1!1!!!!!!!!

In years to come will YOU be able to recall where you were on the last day of the first year of the second decade of the first century of the third millenium of the current era? Cos I sure as shit will! I watched people who eat too much panic-buy corked-fizzy-wine in Sainsbury's and then did an epic spring clean of all three floors of the house! Now if being able to see one's face in one's bathtub and knowing that all the bannister uprights are dust-free isn't EPICALLY ROCK 'N' ROLL then I don't know what is!!!

At this point there should be a time-consumingly-prepared animated gif depicting some rock and roll, but there is not. You may now rest, assured that I DID waste fourteen minutes making the animated gif, but had not the patience to get this useless blog system to allow it to be animooted. If I spent the same amount of time on college work and improving my IRL standing that I do on utterly pointless crap I might, just maybe, not be the degenerate that's currently scribing bollocks!

Also, I stumbled today upon a picture of my faithful mongrel of a shitty phone being compared to a bourbon biscuit:

That's a "HAPPY NEW YEAR, PEOPLE!" right there, that is!!!!!! I sure hope twenty-eleven is a rockin' year for y'all.

Also, also, starting on the ice cream, SoCo & 7UP a little after sundown is a FECKING GREAT IDEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Also, also, also, on the last day of the year: this.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Here comes the summer

(I might wax and waffle here, be warned...)

The winter solstice is past! That moment where the Earth's axial tilt is furthest from the Sun (assuming a North-is-up-universe...) is gone, not one hour ago. No spooky shit involved, no silly solstice celebrations, no pagan propaganda: just the knowledge that the days are gonna get longer for the next six months - rock 'n' roll!

In other solar system news, I actually managed to get up at six this morning (on the shortest day of the damn year, no less) to head to a vantage point I'd spied out to watch the Earth get all in the way of the Sun and Moon. One look out the window: overcast as feck. Back to the land of nod, there'll be other eclipses.

In other weather-related news, the snow is finally melting. Seriously people, if you live somewhere that's covered in cold, white stuff for more than a few days a year, EMMIGRATE! It's fun for five minutes and then it's just patches of cunningly-hidden ice seperated by channels of black slush. Farewell snow, you shalln't be missed!

Having said that, I did have a thoroughly sodden ride in the sleet and snow to college the other day and it was great: one of those experiences that makes you feel really ALIVE.

And now to sleep, and a longer day.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

A Contrast Of Efforts

No one likes a day that starts badly: it sets you up for a day of despondancy and low expectations. But if you start on a low, as the song and slogan goes, things can only get better. The day's ready to turn its frown around and aim for an end on a high note or two.

I woke up this morning knowing that I had a physics exam this evening; knowing that I'd, so far, done no revision for that exam; and knowing that I didn't really have the motivation to do any during the day. Not the most auspicious of starts.

And it didn't really get any better: I pissed away the day on pointless practices. If nowt else, it was rather relaxing, though there was still a niggle...

... which proved to be a fruitless niggle - the exam was a doddle! This is the first exam I've done for seven and a half years and nothing has changed. I did minimal revision then and did well and the song remains the same to this day. (More on that song later...) One day this is gonna come and bite me in the ass, but today was not that day!

After a celebratory beer (for most of my fellows - I still have one exam to go in the ugly shape of maths tomorrow in the room of doom where 2 plus 2 definitely does not equal 5) I had a truly marvellous ride home. I fled South with the the cold North wind on my back and I pushed it. I don't hang about anyway on my bike, but tonight I really gave it some welly - it's all about those little moments when your breath is ragged and your body's burning and you think "hmmm, maybe I should just spin this next bit" but then the wee devil appears and suggests that perhaps it might be nice to click up a gear, accelerate over the crest of the hill, nail that made-for-jumping speedhump and hit the perfectly cambered corner flat out. I highly recommend pushing your body to beyond its limits and feeling the 'interesting' and yet so satisfying combination of irresitible muscular pain, burning lungs and that wonderful mix of epinephrine and endorphins knocking all yer niggles into a cocked hat. I love riding my bike and highly recommend getting out on one. (Also: endorpinephrine...? That needs to be a word, and if not, a drug. Ooh, the marketability...)

Now that I'm coming down from that glorious high I can look back logically at the exam and state that if I don't get the marks I had the time to calculate I would get then I'm going to blame it all on the choice of words in one early question. It was some clichéed query about the horizontal speed of something being projected from a height and the fact that, ignoring air resistance, we had to declare that it remains the same. Bollocks. How can one then not hum Led Zeppelin for the rest of the exam?? Distracting? Somewhat. Rocking? Hell yeah.

And on the subject of music... couldn't really pass up the thirty year mark of John Lennon's murder today. It's tricky reconciling Lennon the songwriter with Lennon the person. Bit of a drunk (and the rest...), bit of a bully, but he did write some matchless tunes, sung with a fecking amazing voice. And he did see the light and gave peace a chance, so rest in peace, John.

Things I need to write about:
- Still need to get on paper some thoughts about the usefulness of useful science Vs science-for-science's-sake.
- Not sure whether to rejoice or despair at the anti-education-funding-cutting activism much in evidence in the occupations on campus. It's vital that people have these means of making their feelings known, even though it probably won't influence tomorrow's Commons vote, but no matter the outcome of the protests and votes, they've all got it all wrong when it comes to higher education in this country., and in most states My thoughts on this are related to the science idea above, and also related to much else that's, in one word, wasteful about society.

Hmmm, an education and research system based on anti-bullshit, economically-efficient utilitarianism: I feel a manifesto coming on...

To counter the slightly heavy note that this entry would have ended on, let's have some grainy pictures from my rather drunken ride home across South London's commons in the snow the other day. So much fun that it took over two hours to get home (more than twice as long as usual...) and, upon arriving home, I then switched bikes to go out on my mountain bike at one in the morning. I froze my feet off, acquired a somewhat productive case of acute bronchitis and coloured by legs a rather interesting range of blacks and blues, but, by my various gods, it was FUN.

 There was even more snow inside my shoe...

Adding a little joy to many cars on Tooting's streets.
I would have paid to see the residents' faces of this road in the morning...

So you've fallen off your bike in the snow. Again.
Roll around laughing for a bit and then make a snow angel. Obviously.

And as a further countermeasure, this time to the above irreverence:

Here's a photo taken by Brother Jon of some Sheffielder pigeons poised on a picket. In addition to not being much cop at 'English Literature' (whatever that may be or mean, and despite my adamant adherance to alliteration even in the face of incorrectly termed fencing...) I'm certainly not one of those interpreters of photographs who can use all that photomystical language to come out with bork like "...and the subtle use of gamma correction in the composition with just the right focal exposure..." so I'm just going to say wow, now there's a lovely bit of photoing.

Better get some sleep ready for (snigger) revising maths ahead of tomorrow evening's exam.

Monday, 6 December 2010


I can't draw for shit, but then neither could those stone age dudes who scribbled all over their cave walls. They, like me, just wanted to represent what they saw. And what they didn't see: what they imagined; and perhaps, what they felt.

This one was the prelude to a lesson in recycling - the idea was to go on and compare recycling to rocket science, to wit working out if something should be put in the recycling box or in the bin is not as mentally challenging as getting three men in a (sinking) boat back to Earth when they're more than 3.2x108m away, and accelerating. Then I couldn't be bothered. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: you do what you can, you can't do much more than that.

At the moment I'm embroiled in a discussion over a suitable name for an establishment that, alongside serving tea and coffee and tasty cupcakes, also repairs gentlemen's and ladies' velocipedes. It's important to get the damn name right though I can't seem to get away from that hackneyed "What's in a name?" line. As previous writing will attest, it's been in my head for a number of weeks and a while ago I drew this:

As to the origins of this, well, I don't want to talk about it. So let's invent an origin. Let's pretend it's fanfic. Yeah, that's it: because of  my admiration for Shakespeare's work I decided to add a couple of lines to the final scene of his most famous romance. I wish I could claim I was that perceptive and had set out to introduce an exchange where Romeo demonstrates his newfound wisdom with a duelling repartee. In retrospect, and if you take it superficially, it fits rather well, but to submit such a claim would be bunkum. This is demonstrated by the fact that, in deference to me simply not getting a lot of Shakespeare, I'm going to further make believe that he would have been happy with the inclusion of "chuckled."

To disclose its actual roots would be to reveal how I am, in the very truest sense of the word, a fool.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

n oh n

Following last night's madness-inducing maths, this is what was in my head when I awoke this morning:

101 - The room where maths lessons happen.*
303 - You can find your way home on it.
404 - Not found.
707 - "It's an entirely different kind of flying, altogether."
909 - Why didn't they just call the song 910...?

I think perhaps that I didn't get quite enough sleep...

* I kid you not. Why would a college even have a room designated to crushing spirit??

EDIT 29th November 2010: RIP, Leslie Nielsen. What a legend.

- jawj

Fountains Of Insightfulness

God forbid I should admit to the poppy rubbish I'm listening to (and enjoying...!) at this time on a Monday night whilst trying to knock out a maths assignment, but this song doesn't entirely fail to capture my current state of mind. Extra moolah for the creator of the utterly random video.

I think I need to sleep: it's been a long few nights and days. And great changes are afoot.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Nice Guys Finish Last...?

Bending over backwards, playing the doormat and bustin' yer balls gets you fecking NOWHERE!

Perhaps it's time to look out for #1... Yeah, I'm gonna go back to being an asshole. Hell, I might even start running red lights - they only slow me down, right!??

And then I put on Nice Guys Finish Last and then the whole album and then everything was ok. Ah, poppunkrock makes it all better. Sure, selflessness might go unthanked, unreturned and even unnoticed, but, it turns out, that's the point.

I reckon I'm just in a funk brought on by the trauma of the UCAS form - how is it so easy to blither on about me me me on Bananaworld and then be hit with a total blank when confronted by the need to write a personal statement?


What do you mean the personal statement can't just be a collection of unrelated ramblings? Just what are you implying about my blog??

Maybe it's easier if one's seventeen years old. But don't ask me, I can't remember that far back.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Beady Eyed Bakin'

Oh brother, yet another post about Oasis?
Well, no, not quite.

Oasis, subtract Noel Gallagher = Beady Eye

Pour votre plaisir I was bored enough to transcribe the lyrics to this little gem (har har har, get it?)

Bring The Light

I bring the light, you get to see.
You bring the love, it's ecstasy.
I see no point, what you're thinking.
I'm going out, I'm taking you drinking.

I get the car, you get hung up.
I'm standing tall, well fucking tough.
It's just your way, you hear me wrong.
I hear you say, you're getting now, getting now.

Baby hold on, baby come on.
Baby come on.
You're getting up, getting off.
Baby hold on, baby come on.
Baby come on.
You're getting up, getting now.

I bring the light, you get to see
You bring the love, it's ecstasy.
I see no point, what you're thinking.
I'm going out, I'm taking you drinking.

I'm coming in, you're coming out.
I'm coming up, you're coming down.
It's just your way, you did me wrong.
I hear you say, you're getting up, getting now.

Baby hold on, baby come on.
Baby come on.
You're getting up, getting off.
Baby hold on, baby come on.
Baby come on.
You're getting up, getting now.

Baby come on (Baby come on)
Baby come on (Baby come on)
Baby come on (Baby come on)
Baby come on, come on, come on... (yeah, yeah, yeah)

(Baby come on) Baby come on
(Baby come on) Baby come on
(Baby come on) Baby come on
(Baby come on) Baby come on
(Baby come on) Baby come on, come on...

Baby come on (Baby come on)
Baby come on (Baby come on)
Well, baby come on.

The Bananaworld verdict? Simple, basic rock 'n' roll, but rock 'n' roll nonetheless. No denying the lyrics aren't gonna start a revolution, but the piano thoroughly holds this song up. And you can jolly-well dance to it, which is sometimes all you need.

In summary: "Wait a minute guys, you spent how many minutes writing this song?? That computes to a catchiness:writing time ratio of over nine thousand to one! Rock on!"

And so to delicious cake.

A couple of baker's dozens of choclatey, nutty goodnesses.


Too much peanut butter in the filling and too little sugar in the mix means they taste exactly like peanut butter sandwiches. Now, I like peanut butter sandwiches, but they're hardly the sort of fare one could present to others. They're not bad cakes, but it's tricky making vegan cupcakes. Not that it's actually tricky making vegan cupcakes (rocket science, it ain't) but when the cake consumadors take a bite, they expect it to be only mediocre. They're thinking, "no milk, no eggs, no taste," so I reckon I need to go that extra klick to inject some sweet, sweet sugary goodness and bring them to a level beyond what one might expect of a weirdo vegan cupcake.

Better bake some more cakes soon...

Thursday, 11 November 2010

F(Drag) = blahblahblah·v²·blahblahblah

I've said it before but that sure ain't gonna stop me from sayin' it again:

Why, physics, WHY???? Why does drag have to increase with the square of air speed????

Feckin' wind.
Actually, feckin' maths exam followed by cycling the whole way home into the feckin' wind.
No wait: feckin' trying to draw accurate sine and cosine graphs followed by a feckin' maths exam followed by cycling the whole way home into the feckin' wind.

It may well be a cold start to winter, but that stresseffectortriplecombo had me sweating...

In other news: I've just this week, whilst discussing futures with my fellow students, stolen hit upon an idea for study and work that I actually, for possibly the first time, feel passionate about. (It happened to be on the 115th anniversary of the discovery of X-rays - I think Google infected my subconcious that day...)

Let's see where it goes! Perhaps beyond Bananaworld....

Sunday, 24 October 2010

(How Does It Feel To Be) On Top Of The World?

1998 was the only World Cup I can recall for which, amongst the flood of songs released to cash in upon it, there were any half-decent tunes. Of these was one that was certainly less than half-decent and it asked of the unfortunate listener the question: how does it feel to be on top of the world?

This is not my first post to mention football or the World Cup, and I've no desire to talk about either, ever, as I hope the last post on the subject got across. I was simply inspired enough to write an answer to "England United's" question:

Riding my bike through suburban Surry on a sunny Sunday with nothing but positive vibes and good feelings coursing around my mind is, it turns out, how it feels to be on top of the world.

Sure not everything's perfect and I've a thousand things I'd like to resolve and many friendships and places I'd like to restore and revisit, but, heck, you do what you can, you can't do much more than that.

For now, it seems my time will have to be occupied by study and the new friends and faces that that's bringing - and what a wonderful way to have one's time occupied! It's so good to be amongst like-minds and fellows who are as confused as I am about the trickier aspects of algebra and trigonometry. Brilliant!

The subject of like-minds brings me on to a fascinating coincidence! I was chatting to a coursemate over the course of a couple of ciders yesterday evening, following a day of "Study & Research Skills" at college, and the subject of "perhaps we shouldn't do scientific research that has the potential to cause untold destruction" came up. Her example was the concern over the starting-up of the LHC where various people thought it might lead to the creation of a black hole or two that would consume our solar system. (It was a valid point: safety first and all that, and even led to studies being done to calculate just how risky it would be to play with the fundamental fabric of matter. These studies concluded that, actually, there was no risk of the worries becoming reality.)

(Bear with me, the coincidence is coming.)

I recalled, not from personal memory, that similar end-of-the-world scenarios had been proposed before the Trinity test. These concerns too were studied before the event and found to be nothing to be perturbed about.

(In retrospect, perhaps I should have some out with an example that linked science to something less evil than nuclear weapons... Incidentally, even before yesterday's chat, I was writing an article for here that touched upon both the LHC and the early days of nuclear weapons. That one is still under construction, but I think it's quite interesting, so hold your breaths!)

The conversation moved onto whether we should do any scientific experiments because, by their very purpose, we don't know what the result will be. Tricky one that, but science plods on, thankfully, and hasn't lad to a completely scorched Earth yet, rather more thankfully.

(A winding road later, let's get back to the remarkable coincidence.)

So, after spending an afternoon having the trigonometry of vectors drilled into us (SOHCAHTOA: get it tattooed kids, your GCSEs will come quicker than you think!) and an evening of scientific doomsdaying, I rode home to find this:

Best read in its original location for the mouse-over and with the last phrase of the 'Test Predictions' paragraph in mind...

Yup, some might say that I'm guiltier than most of spending too much time reading (into...) xkcd's strips, but they are often insightfully witty and, as last night demonstrated to me and one other person at least, pertinent to everyday life, even if only because of a remarkable coincidence.

(Actually, in rereading, we could have visited the "remarkable coincidence" MUCH earlier by replacing vast tracts of this entry with the simple statment: "Today we did some trigonometry and I had a conversation about early nuclear testing, then I saw this comic" but where's the art in that? Unless conciseness is an art... Ah, screw it, the short version is what I would have wrote if I was under a visitation from my other self. Today is an arbitarily happy day!)

To sum up: this time we've learnt that science probably won't destroy the world, no matter how 'out there' the experiment. Next time I might get around, as kinda promised, to looking at the how & the why of certain aspects of humankind's innovativeness.

For now, I'm off to Lidl and will try to impart some good feelings to its less-than-happy employees by continuing to to feel on top of the world.

(Disclaimer: despite the inclusion of some great artists on the record, you should only click the above link if you feel the need to regurgitate your breakfast. It's shite - you have been warned... A similar level of mindless patriotism, but with better entertainment, nostalgia, bass and drums, can be found here.)

Sunday, 26 September 2010

That which we call metal...

A couple of weeks ago a colleague and friend of mine, Aron, had a birthday. I, as usual on this sort of occasion, had utterly no idea what gift I could take along to his party that evening, so decided to spend the day making a mess in the kitchen some cupcakes. This is not a natural state for me - I am more used to being on the receiving end of cakes, but Dr Pepper's logic, once again, won through.

Returning from the supermarket with flour and sugar and... stuff, I set about mixing shit up and putting junk in the oven. There were several batches, with well over 50 cupcakes made - that's a shedload of delicious cake right there.

Here are some of the tasty, tasty cakes.
More pictures, should you be particularly bored, can be found here.

And so onto...

The Adventures of 'British Steel'
"How I Won at World of Warcraft"

Yes, ladies & gentlemen, boys & girls, I will stand up, announce my name to be George and admit that, for several months this year, I was a WoW addict. I can't believe just how much I continually and actually needed to play that game, it's pathetic. I would spend hours doing utterly pointless tasks in the game like 'mining' or 'fishing' - bloody hell, what a waste of time! (Jon, if you're reading this, I'm sorry.)

I'm now surprised by just addicted to that game I was; that surprise is only surpassed by my current astonishment at how strongly the idea of playing WoW again, not so much repulses me, but simply bores me.

This quote here has finally cemented in me the incapability of returning to WoW. In fact, the website featuring that quote has really opened my eyes to the amazing number of poor bastards out there who are addicted to WoW, and how lucky I was that, despite its intensity, my addiction was short-lived.

This is actually my second break from that damn game, though it's proven to have lasted far longer. The first break came on the 21st of June when I was engaged in a particularly unfulfilling and trivial session of grinding one morning. I happened to glance at the glorious day exterior to my window and wondered just what the fuck it was I was doing running around in a non-existent world collecting non-existent crap to sell to non-existent midgets in exchange for non-existent gold. This wondering was particularly pertinent given that I had this...

...waiting for me in the garage. Verily, that is the most beautiful bike I have ever owned! It currently goes by the name 'British Steel' and is the product of many burns and much filing on my part, and some fine stove-enamelling on the part of Dave Yates.


And what a stunning thing it is. That, people, right there, is Flamboyant Ruby! Mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmmmmm!

So I did the sensible thing (deleted WoW) and got my butt on a train down to Dorking for some singletrack action. The first outing with this bike had been a week or two before with a group of riders (whom I'd valiantly struggled to keep up with in the bike's current singlespeed mode) but this time I was 'free' to take my time and enjoy the views. Actually, I completely failed to do that and proceeded to burn my lungs up and stain my clothes with salt by hammering out many klicks through gorgeous woodland. I love it around there...

This is a pleasant view:

And this might be, simply, my favourite place on Earth:

A little ribbon of tyre-worn dirt through a peaceful beech-lit glade - bliss.

The frame, and hence, bike, more than lives up to all I could have hoped it to do. People blither on about a bike's weight, colour, geometry, componentry and countless other things that, though collectively important, don't actually matter - the only thing that matters is the ride. And 'British Steel' rides wonderfully.

As regular readers might recall, I like to name my bikes. It can sometimes take a very long time for the right name to become apparent (notwithstanding, of course, in the first of two Shakespearean references tonight, what's even in a name?) and, though I shall certainly be getting some decals made of this, as we shall see, most metal of names, the bike's spirit has not yet revealed its true moniker to me.

But "why 'British Steel'?" I hear you cry (possibly). Clearly, the bike is British (not that I'm even slightly patriotic) and made of steel, so already the name fits, but crucially it was made in April 2010, 30 years to the month after the release of the mighty British Steel. A bike made of metal (though not nearly as METAL as the metal gods and creators of British Steel) seems a fitting tribute.

After that ride was when I had originally intended to write about "How I won at World of Warcraft" - the only way to win being to simply not play, but before I could summon the arsedness to write the piece I was playing again, damnit. It's so flipping hard to get out of once you're in - a testament to the designers and their craft(iness). And my warrior character was just so badass, and I'd given him the coolest name. Talking of his name (yup, this whole paragraph was just a prelude to talking about his name - yes, another paragraph about names, but then "what's in a..." - oh wait, I've used that one, better find another reference from the bard...) it wasn't an original name, though it is a jolly good name, but imagine my surprise when I found a certain item in the game...

Haven't logged into WoW for three weeks now. Too early to call myself 'clean' but I reckon I won't go back because I:
  • need to get my head around some maths (as I, against the odds, actually got around to enrolling on Physics & Mathematics),
  • intend to bake (many) more cupcakes because, if we're honest with ourselves, everyone loves delicious cake,
  • am kicking my arse into, for no known reason, learning Morse Code (best not to ask),
  • would like to exploit British Steel to its full potential,
  • think it might be nice to catch up with people in real life and share some chuckles.
More ponderations coming shortly. Quickly, children, go find something better to do!

Friday, 23 July 2010


Warning, those of a sensitive diposition, this post will contain: a dose of anger; details of an out-of-proportion punishment as retribution for a minor social infraction; and, probably, a tirade about how rubbish everything is. That's quite a lot to cover.

Godamnit, I am fecking sick of having to experience second-hand excrement emanating from the earhole-orifices of those brain-donors who are unable to moderate the volume of their iTwats. Yep, it's a pretty minor thing, when lain against the context of all the world's problems, but I know from personal experience that it's actually not that hard to check if the shite I listen to is only audible to me. 

This can't go on. Something has to be done. Have a polite word, you might well suggest, and you'd be bang on the mark. Believe me, I've tried, but remember the level of cognition we'll deal with here: at worst such an approach will ellicit a response on the end of a knife; at best you'll get a slack-jawed "Guuuuugh...?"

So what's the answer? Well, I'm willing to take a hit for the team here by changing my dream superpower. Oh yes, it's a quite an extreme response, but my current deam superpower of being able to breath underwater, whilst suitably 'nice' simply isn't going to clear our public transport system of these pillocks. My new dream superpower (remember, you read it here first!) was going to be the ability to call in an A-10 to provide my fellow travellers and I with an airstrike whenever it might suit our needs and watch the aforementioned boneheads be vaporised in a hail of 30mm shells as they step off the tram at East Croydon.

Giving it a little thought this might be seen as a little extreme: not only would it be a poor use of anti-tank ammunition but also, apparently, what's good for natural selection is not actually all that hot when seeking re-election, so a more measured approach of education is the way forward...

Perhaps my new dream superpower could be to be able to remove the power of hearing (temporarily, yer damn liberals...) from offending dunces until they are back in their sound-proofed cells homes. To truly appeal to the masses this superpower could be extended such that whenever someone is able to overhear a fool's choice of music, said moron is rendered deaf simply by the subconcious will of the afflicted individual. Eventually these inconsiderate zombies will concede that their infernal machines and their noise pollution are useless; they'll send their ipods away to be usefully recycled; they'll seek a new method of transportation entertainment; they'll start by reading trash like the Metro but given time... they'll evolve enough to pick up a book; then they'll expand their minds and the world will become a better place.

Hmmm, it seems that my alternative dream superpower leads to world peace. Result.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Dear England Football Team,

A small request: if you find it at all convenient I would very much appreciate you playing more matches (perceived as "crucial") that overlap with the times I ride my bike home.


The denizen of Bananaworld

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Those Were The Weeks That Were

The last month (ish) has been more interesting than most months that flutter by: I've cycled the length (well, not really) and breadth (almost) of the country to track down the perfect steel quadrangle (again, ish) upon which to further ride. The story of this jouney and the experience that was had is a slightly-more-than-mediocre place from which to begin my raconteurism.

I'd first heard the name Dave Yates in the nineties, when I got into cycling, as a builder of bicycle frames. I had had some fleeting contact with him nearly ten years ago asking about a custom frame (a project that I never quite brought to fruition as I blew my student loan on computer & hi-fi equipment, beer and bike parts...) Many years later, when I heard that he ran frame-building courses, and read a few accounts by people who had done the course, I was determined to get a piece of that action: a custom frame, built by me, how could I not do the course...?

The waiting list was something of an obstacle: the course needed to be booked about a year in advance so planning for this began in March last year. I say planning, but all I did then was book the course. I never really gave any thought towards actually getting to Lincolnshire until just a few weeks before the course. Looking at the available public transport options it became clear that, thanks to Dr. Beeching, the area I was aimed at was less than well-connected. True, the nearest remaining railway station was less than ten klicks away, but that would be a poor excuse for not cycling all the way there. So I rode there.

It was a lovely journey, with sunshine for the whole two days. Pleasantness was in abundance as I cycled from South London, through the centre and out of the North of London: what a feeling of freedom to escape the M25 like that! The hills North of there were quite hard work, especially with a slightly overloaded cycle, but they did provide some lovely views, and eye-watering downhills.
Then I rested: Around-about-a-half-a-way through The Shire Of The Bridge Over The River Cam the landscape changed and hills became not events in the here-&-now, but merely objects seen on the horizon of spacetime. I know cyclists should really dream of long, flat, straight roads, but when you see this in one direction:
And this in the other direction:
And this stretches on for nearly 11km. And it's far from being the only piece of road like it on your journey.

...things tend to get a little, well, if not exactly tedious, perhaps somewhat lacking in distraction. It is said(by who?) that a cessation of input stimulus can drive a man batshit insane. Thankfully my daily intake of dried frog pills meant I only experienced minor hallucinations.

In the afternoon of my second day on the road I reached Tattershall Lakes Country Park and was greeted by a receptionist, or rather, her several-centimetre-thick makeup and half-metre long fake nails and informed that the lake nearest the camping area was playing host to a jet ski competition. I don't really mind loud engines, but what really pickled me was...

[Now might be a good place to transcribe the notes I made whilst in my tent, that evening, in their original green biro]

"Some might say that cycling to Lincolnshire was not the most sensible way of arriving. These people would be correct were it not for the memories that light one's recollection of a journey; often the less sensible the journey, the more illuminating the memories that are associated with it. [Jesus, what drivel...]

Still cycling here was perhaps a foolish idea. I'm not sure if the nausea I'm feeling is down to hunger, thirst, exhaustion or the truly, truly needless karaoke taking place just a few metres behind my tent. Seriously, what the fuck am I doing at the Tattershall equivelant of butlins surrounded by jetskiing chavs whose idea of a good time is to shit on everyone else's peace? Ordinarily I would wish an A-10 airstrike on such fools, but more appropriate arms are to hand: as if to welcome me to the area a Spitfire had the kindness to pass over a couple of times. Thankfully our resident retards haven't murdered any travis yet, but one of their videos featured a Spitfire [plane ident FAIL: it was actually a Spanish version of a Bf 109 in the video] strafing the ground. I wonder if the BOBMF [BBMF] take on commisions...

As I attempt to use Radio 4 to quench the aural evil that is a karaoke version of 'Street Spirit[...]"

That's the end of that notage. Not sure where I was going with it, but I suspect the fantasy of strafing the field with vintage aircraft rather knocked off my writing hat.

Sunday was spent shopping for food, browsing the local roads for a route to Dave's place and, very satisfyingly, watching all the jetski monkeys dragging their knuckles away, leaving me in peace to gaze at a very pretty moon. And get attacked by ducks. And geese.

On Monday the course began! What joy to discover that Dave Yates was human and that both he and my coursemate James were up for a bit of workshop banter and laughter. Funtimes were had; acetylene was burned; tubes were cut; tubes were joined; astonishing manœuvres by Eurofighter Typhoons were observed, open mouthed; and biscuits were eaten, also open-mouthed. The framebuilding had begun.

That evening, as we cruising back from Dave's place James & I learned that we were both vegan. Wahey! Much vegan food was then consumed that week.

The week proceeded along much the same route as it began. Our awe of Dave grew as he introduced us to more exciting tools and techniques. We learned to saw; file; turn; drill; flux; braze; file some more; silver solder; file a bit more and, finally, to finish off, a little more filing.

I like to think Dave was impressed by my:
  • Workshop practices (whatever that means...)
  • Brazing
  • Quick mental arithmetic and understanding of nerdy references (see below...)
  • Most impotantly: aircraft identification and appreciation. (It was great to have a plane geek as a mentor, though, as will be reported, this was sometimes a hinderance...)
I think Dave was less impressed by:
  • My ability, or rather lack thereof, to saw in a straight line
  • Me having to keep depleting his rain barrels of cold water in order to quench the many burns I inflicted upon myself. (Top Tip! Don't touch the tender insides of your wrists on red hot steel. Remember that one, kids.)
Here's what led to the burns:
▲ Test brazing.
▼ And the real thing.

And here's an example of my "that could do with some work" hacksawing...

I wouldn't be Bananaworld if I didn't mention the awesomeness of the aircraft that populated the skies over the otherwise (truly) unremarkable town of Coningsby (famous for its airbase and... its church clock that only has one hand, FFS.) We saw, in no particular order, these aircraft fly: Spitfire, Hurricane, Dakota, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, Hawk, Tornado and, of course, Typhoon.

On the subject of the Typhoon flights, here is an extract from something I wrote in a forum whilst 'discussing' Trident replacement. Please note that I have trouble staying away from irreverence.

"I spent a week last month camping next to a Eurofighter Typoon equipped base and came to the conclusion that the Typhoon has three major roles in the modern warfare theatre:

1) Firstly, it's absolutely the most fecking awesome plane to ever leave the ground. I mean, REALLY incredibly, sky-burningly, outrageously-expensively amazing.

2) Secondly, it's a Spitfire deterrant:

[Yup, that's a Typhoon and a Spitfire in a tailchase...]

3) Thirdly, its raison d'être is to distract Dave Yates into leaving his workshop at critical moments when you're just about to burn your frame in half."

Relating to point three in the above quote, here are a couple of pictures taken by James that demonstrate Dave's, entirely understandable, need to fly the workshop in order to gaze at planes:

(I was utterly fascinated too. I mean, there's a Dakota flying in formation with a Spitfire and a Hurricane! Not something you see every day.)

Against the odds (the Typhoons were training for the airshow season so were more distracting than normal) we completed our frames and developed silly grins:

That's James on the left with the lovely lugged road and touring frame he made, me on the right with my mountain bike frame and the man with the hammer plan, Mr Dave Yates himself. Thanks Dave.

Incidentally, here's a picture of a decal on one of his bikes:

I got it, but then, I'm a sad bastard who looks for the Ultimate Answer in comedy science fiction.

The end of the course came as a shock: both James & I were saddened that such a unique experience had come to a close. We did have shiny frames to show for it, or rather, we would have shiny frames once Dave had painted them for us.

That Saturday I rode over to Sheffield to see Jon & Rachel, who put me up for a couple of days. An employee in the Sheffield B&Q carpark helped me with directions. He was mighty impressed that I'd ridden from London, but couldn't hide is disappointment when he found that my ultimate destination was simply around the corner in Heeley. Could be worse mate: I could've left a velociraptor in one of your trolleys!

I helped Jon finish off his 'new' bike; was taken on a lovely walk in the Derbyshire Peaks (Peak/Peaks/whatever); disgusted Rachel somewhat on the walk by spending some time with a rabbit's head mounted on the end of my walking stick (yes, yes, I am a child who picks up sticks and pokes rabbit corpses); and ate all their bread. Ah, Northerners are so generous to even the smelliest of travellers.

Then it was back to work. I decided to become part-time scum as work was really getting to me and wanted more free time to play computer games draw silly cartoons; write inane babble; visit London's wealth of FREE museums; and apply to Birkbeck College. I haven't quite decided whether to study 'Planetery Geology' or simply go for the more fundamental 'Physics & Mathematics'.

In my extended free time I have learnt:
  • Taking the Southeastern High Speed service fom Canterbury to London, via Ashford, is fast. However, travelling through Kent and yet entering London through Essex is confusing.
  • Professor Jim has reminded me that "all elements seek the stability of iron." Conan could not have put it better.
  • And some other stuff.

After what was perceived as an interminable wait, the frame arrived; painted in 'Flamboyant Ruby' and beautiful. I ought take some pictures of it, but more importantly I should really finish making it into a bike and go for a ride. For now, I'm happy just to gaze at it in wonder because... how long had I spent staring at the scars on my hands and arms, desiring that lustrous lattice of soldered steel to sashay its way to forever stay with its pathetically pining progenitor.