Monday 27 June 2011

Mr Pickwick's High Summer Meander (215k audax)

This week saw the return to training. Training for the PBP! Can you believe it? Even though exercise has resumed, I have a need to work on my diet (maybe this will be looked at next week) and incorporate more than just cycling.

Monday was SJ's 21st birthday ;), so no exercise took place. However, we went to Alton Towers so that fear and high adrenaline could be experienced. I think this trip aged me somewhat!

Tuesday was the summer solstice and I took advantage of the long day. Took Scotty through Sambourne, across the naughty fields and passed through the Dovecote in Alcester. After this I went through the bit of off road section by Karen's house and down the off road section the other side which led to Coughton Ford. Cycled the cycle track back past Karen's and down the off road track (2nd time) and returned via naughty fields (not so nice in this direction) before reaching home. Am thinking of getting Scotty serviced, replacing the bar with a carbon one and maybe swapping my DMR's for SPD's (again) before the epic South Downs Way Randonnee. Hmmm.

Wednesday was spent indoors on the rollers. Am planning on cycling at least one indoor session per week until the PBP. During this session will attempt to keep my speed above 25 mph throughout.

Thursday was a rest day. Friday saw me cycle just 4 miles! I only cycled because I had to drop my car off for it's MOT (it passed!) and needed a way to get back home.

Saturday saw me complete my 21st audax event, namely 'Mr Pickwick's High Summer Meander'. This was a 215k event, ran by Black sheep Cycling Club, starting out from Tewkesbury. This audax was 'a grand day out - exploring the differing terrains that Gloucestershire can offer. Taking in the Forest of Dean, Severn Vale and the Cotswolds. Finishing where Mr Pickwick supped too much ale'. A map of the route can be seen below:
Started the event at 8 a.m, after a couple of banana's and a brief. The organiser told us to look out for sheep, pigs (wild boar) and deer that may be on the roads but none were encountered. Only a bear was seen. This bear was 'Bertie', a bear that SJ brought me to accompany me on my long distance adventures. This was Bertie's first road trip and we have since given him a surname - Bertie Pickwick! The first stage felt like hard work - I think the break from cycling and my added weight made this ride harder than usual. Was surprised to reach the first control, the Dean Heritage Centre as it opened. At this control I had my usual dish - beans on toast, washed down with a mug of tea.
Stage 2 took me to paths cycled during my last audax (the 600k menace) and indeed past the start and over the Severn bridge. I love this bridge and have now cycled across it many times. Beautiful weather all day, the sun never stopped shining. The control was in Sherston (I think) and this 'free' control was also used in the Mad March audax. I ate a relatively healthy lunch for me consisting of a tuna sarnie, sausage roll and crisps.

Started feeling better during stage 3. Ironic that I passed through a place called 'Happy Land'. It had taken me this long to find a nice pace and feel comfortable on my bike. From Malmesbury I cycled to Bourton-on-the-Water which looked stunning. The sun was beating down real hot and loads of folk were having picnics here. I stopped just to eat a kit kat, apple and banana. Did not feel particularly hungry today (unusual) and other than foods mentioned, I only ate 4 flap jacks and 1 gel.
The final stage to the arrivee in Tewkesbury was relatively easy. However, my front mech broke during this stage which meant that the last 30k had to be ridden in lower gears which was a bit irritating. My front mech broke during last audax too. Still, Mr Pickwick and I completed this event and enjoyed our high summer meander.

During audax I cycled 211.77k (my computer stopped working for aprox. 5k) or 131.59 miles if you prefer. I cycled at an average speed of 14.7 mph and reached a maximum speed of 42.3 mph.

Fundraising went okay this week. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) sent me my handlebar rider number (51724) and other paraphernalia. The event I am riding for the BHF is the South Downs Way Randonnee on 30 July 2011. To date I have raised £65 for this BHF challenge. My other challenge, of course, is the PBP where I plan to raise monies for a well to be constructed in Kenya. Further information and details of sponsoring me can be found here: Many thanks to all who have sponsored and supported thus far.

Weekly totals: Cycled 178 miles.

Sunday 19 June 2011

Back in the saddle

This week has proved difficult on the exercise front. Came back from Africa being almost 2 kilo's heavier than before I went. Took my resting pulse and this too had increased by 10 beats. How will I get back on form?!
Think I have secured my place on the PBP, that is registered a place (as opposed to pre-registered). I also purchased the 2011 official PBP jersey (for souvenir purposes), a reflective PBP vest (to comply with French law) and 2 meals on the Sunday afternoon (1 for SJ and the other to ensure I am suitably food loaded prior to the start, donated a little to a cancer fund (Institut Curie) and purchased a bandanna in support of Japan. I said 'think' I have secured a place because am not sure if any monies were actually taken from my account. Am not sure if any of these items get sent to me or whether I have to pick them up when in France. However, what is clear, providing I have secured my place, is that my time slot for bike check and brevet card collection is 5:15 pm on 20 August 2011. What also is clear is that I need to train.

Managed to do some training in the week. My first training for nearly 3 weeks. I didn't do any exercise in South Africa, save a few push-ups one time. The first bit of training I did was indoors on the rollers. Did not find this exceptionally difficult but my heart rate monitor indicated my heart was beating faster than prior to leaving for Africa and I was pushing smaller gears. Hmm. Only exercised once more in the week and this was on Scotty (my mountain bike). Took Scotty along the deer route and added a further section by including a trip to the Dovecote in Alcester. Was nice to be back on the bike, even though I experienced aches and pains after only a few miles.

Plan to train harder in the next 6 weeks or so before PBP. This training will certainly include a couple of 200k audax events and a 300k event for good measure. I have 3 permanent events too and it would be great to include those in my training schedule. Have contacted Chris PT and should he return my call then killer sessions looking at my core will pick up again. Indoor rolling, mountain biking and maybe a run should also form part of my basic training plan.

Thank you to my first 2 sponsors who have generously donated to 'Tim's Well' project. "Tim's Well" will provide clean drinking water for 280 students at a school being constructed in Kenya, for 40 teenagers residing in 'Kimbilio' (a nearby Agape in Action shelter) and for the entire surrounding community. I have managed to raise £105 thus far. For more information or for those willing to sponsor me, please click here:

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Goodbye SA

South Africa was such an amazing place. It kinda felt sad to write this entry from my home address rather than posting some information from Westville Christadelphian Church, which had been my home for just over 2 weeks. The eclectic mix of friends, volunteers and locals I had met in Africa continue to fill my head space and put a smile on my face. People spoke of Africa as being a dangerous, hostile and violent place - this was not my experience. I was part of a (sub) culture that consisted of Brits, Americans, Australians, Africans, Indians and Zulu's that all mixed into a friendly society that worked well with one another. The South African flag itself is made up of many colours and I read somewhere that this was to demonstrate how SA sees itself as an ethnically mixed society that values each person. Nice. SJ brought me a buff with the SA flag on it. Very nice!
My last few days in Africa were not as busy as my first week but proved to be fun all the same. It was sad to leave Happy's School behind but I was pleased to have the memories of such an experience firmly in my head. Am not sure if I had an impact on the lives of pupils there, but they had an impact on mine. The only real work carried out in the last few days was when we went on a 'work day' to help out a local Township. This day was spent cleaning and tidying up the local Church and it's surrounding environment. Loads of folk mucked in together and much rubble, rubbish dirt etc was moved, windows were cleaned, bins were put out and various tasks were completed. I spent a whole bunch of time with the children of this Township. We had treated them to face paints - sure enough they painted their faces but they painted SJ, Kim and I too, all in different colours.  The kids were given chalk too with which they chalked the road. What the kids drew and wrote was amazing. These kids are very young and poor and one child wrote 'Dear Lord, I love you because you help me' and another drew a figure of Jesus on a cross. These kids have little to be thankful for, yet they thank God for everything. Amazing. Humbling.

Those that read this blog, know I like to talk about food. In Africa I ate very well. I ate my best curry ever here. Food was so good, I even remember some place names where food was served. Mmmm. I ate snails at the Woodcutter, bunny chow at Moyo, Steak at Nourish and had the biggest serving of carrot cake at Mugg & Bean. However, what I remember most is the kids at Happy's running up to hug me with chicken feet sticking out their mouths!
Hope you have enjoyed reading about my experience of SA. Maybe, in time, I'll visit Africa again and be able to share more experiences. Meanwhile, I am going to get back on my bike but keep Africa in mind and plan to fund raise for a clean water (well) project in Kenya. If you would like to have an impact on the lives of needy individuals living in Africa and share my latest vision, then please sponsor my next project here:

Sunday 12 June 2011

The Nasty Taxi song!

I have found the 'Nasty Taxi' song link! Please follow the link below, sit down and enjoy!

And if you would like to sponsor my next African project (to build a well in Kenya), please follow this link:

Many thanks :)

Saturday 11 June 2011

Nasty taxi

The second half of my second week in South Africa proved to be interesting. On Wednesday, SJ and I took a car load of young Zulu children to a zoo (where we met up with more volunteers and more Zulu children). I think we had 9 children crammed into our car - health and safety does not appear to exist in SA. These children were great and were singing in Zulu as we drove to the zoo. Not sure exactly what they were singing, but it sounded like 'nasty taxi, nasty taxi, I want a pasty'. SJ filmed this little ditty and should she post it on youtube I will provide the link! The zoo itself was relatively small and only housed smaller type animals like raccoon, meercat and the likes. The zoo had monkeys though, not as inmates, but as a band of thieves. These monkeys were awesome and would come over and steal yoghurt pots from the children as they tried to eat their lunch. (Most houses in SA have bars on their windows, this is to prevent monkeys from entering). My sister Jane had a car load of children too and one had puked big time all over himself and a number of others. The way back from the zoo was almost as entertaining as the first. We had a car load of sleeping children, except one who had pee'd herself. Jane took precautions and gave her 'sick' child a plastic bag - he wasn't sick again, but he wet himself!

Wednesday night was spent at the creche (which is also used as a church and houses Go go too). A kind Zulu lady called Vesta had prepared a Zulu meal for us volunteers. The meal was nice and was essentially a curry style meal. Delicious! Following the meal, there was much praising God and shouting and singing in Zulu style. The sky was lit up tonight with flashes of lightning too which was great.

Thursday was spent at the BEC. The BEC is an acronym for the Bible Education Centre, what I called 'the book shop' in previous blogs. The shop was not so busy today but kept us occupied all morning.

We had another big meal Thursday night, cooked by volunteers. This was equally as nice as Vesta's meal. All this eating and little or no exercise will have to revert when I go back to England.

Friday morning was not so great. Everywhere was flooded due to big rains in the night. We spent the morning doing little work and visiting a local shopping mall.

Friday afternoon was spent at Happy's. SJ, Simon and I picked up Nazipho en route. Nazipho is an ex Happy's student who had left about 1 year ago. Nazipho is wheelchair bound and suffers with arthritis. Help4Happy's supported Nazipho and she now has an electric wheelchair. Some of you sponsored me last year which supported Help4Happy's, so a big thank you indeed! On reaching Happy's, it wasn't the usual hectic place I had become used too. The rain had flooded the grounds so most pupils were indoors. This school still requires much support, it houses around 200 disabled pupils with special needs. 1 wheelchair bound girl spoke to me and informed me that her mother had died in 2004 and when not at Happy's was 'looked after' by a family that 'found' her. This story sounded okay till she told me that this family abuse her and she asked for my help in moving into a care home. How sad. I did not know the expectations of this child, but she told me she loved me before I left. This was a sad day really, as I was saying goodbye to the pupils. One particular albino pupil was never really tactile prior to today, this day he held my hand tights before I left. I have so many stories and memories from Happy's that I'm sure will last a life time.

SJ and I took Siphiwe (a Zulu volunteer) home from Happy's. Siphiwe is such a great guy and we have had a lot to do with home during our stay in SA. Will miss 'my brother'. Anyways, on this run home we passed a dead body on the side of the road which was a little grim to say the least. This body was near to the place where those wooden homes were being built - those homes that had no running water, only 1 room, no electricity and no toilet. These homes cost about £100, peanuts to us, but a large amount of money over here. If my story in SA has had an impact on you in any way, please dig deep and sponsor my next project. My next project is the construction of a well in Kenya (refer to previous blog entry) and you can help by visiting this link:

Thursday 9 June 2011

Down to the well!

Hi to everybody reading this blog. If you have been following my blog you will know that I am planning to complete the 2011 PBP 1200k cycle event, that starts on 21 August. You will also be aware that I plan to raise money for the 'Agape in Action' (AinA) charity by cycling this event. AinA have kindly set up my fund raising page and it is live now, so please, please, please sponsor me by following the link at the end of this blog.

I am raising money so that a well can be put in at a Agape in Action High School currently being constructed in Western Kenya. 100% of all donations will go directly to building the well. "Tim's Well" (as AinA have kindly named it) will provide clean drinking water for the 280 students at the school, for 40 teenagers residing in 'Kimbilio' (a nearby Agape in Action shelter) and for the entire surrounding community. Please donate to this great cause by following the link at the end of this blog.

At time of writing this entry, I am in South Africa, Durban, and have seen how sponsor money has had a huge impact on a disabled school. I have been visiting Happy's School where money from a previous sponsored event enabled a number of wheelchairs to be purchased and greatly improve the lives of the pupils. Please show a bit of agape (love) and help enable water to reach this community in Kenya.

Please sponsor me here:

Wednesday 8 June 2011

South Africans have little to be thankful for, yet thank God for everything

Sunday was an interesting day spent in SA. We went along to a Christadelphian Ecclesia (church) armed with our new Zulu Bibles. The service was a mixture of Zulu and English. Most of the prayers were in Zulu, but the lecture (exhortation) was in English and prepared by a volunteer (Simon). Bible readings were first read in English and then read again in Zulu. SJ and I were doing well following the Zulu passages. Our singing in Zulu didn't go quite as well. The Zulu singing is full on energetic and they stand, clap and bang their Bibles as they sing. As my sister Jane stated in her blog, the South Africans have little to be thankful for, yet they thank God for everything.

Most of Sunday was spent as a rest day. It was a good day to catch up on emails, to write blog entries and reflect on the past week. I am planning on raising funds for a project called 'Agape in Action' (agape is another word for love) and the project had sent me an email stating they were prepared to build my web page - watch this space! Sunday evening was spent planning project work to be completed in the week ahead, here in Durban, South Africa.

Monday morning was spent dishing out soup in the poly-clinic again. We were with different volunteers today, one of whom had a disability herself - she only had one arm. The other volunteer drove us from our base to the poly-clinic but was sadly stopped by the police en route. Because she was not in possession of her driving licence, she was fined 1,000 Rand, that's about £100! This weeks soup smelled so much nicer than last weeks though people initially appeared a little reluctant to take up the offer.

In the evening SJ, Kim and I went to Happy's. We played a whole bunch of games as per normal. Today, I helped one pupil with her tourism homework. A number of pupils all had exams this week - well wishes to all. One pupil, namely Miss Faith had added SJ as a friend on facebook and said we should get married. Miss Faith took me on a tour of the school and showed me where the girls grew vegetables and hand washed their clothes (SJ helped scrub). We spoke about village life - she could not believe that my village had electricity and running water. In her village, clothes were taken to the river to be washed - if I took my clothes to the river then folk would think I was mad.

On Monday night, SJ and I had some 'us' time. We went for a meal at a place called 'Nourish'. The meal we were served was lovely. It appeared as though the African restaurant staff are keen to swipe your plate or cup away as soon as you have finished (or in the case of SJ before).

We were again at the poly-clinic on Tuesday to serve out tea and coffee. This would be our last visit here (probably) and in a funny kind of way I will miss it. Following the visit here we went to 'go go', the granny group/creche for the last time too. Go go is in Marianhill (not Cleremont) and it such a wonderful place.

On Tuesday night, SJ, Kim, Si, Cam and I went bowling. This was fun, despite the fact that SJ and I were quite naff. The amusements in Africa are similar to those in the UK from about 20 years ago. The original 'Out run' being an arcade favourite. Kim looked great - SJ and I had dyed her hair blue! And if things couldn't be more bizarre, SJ, Kim and I all ate snails prior to our bowling experience!

Sunday 5 June 2011

The saga in South Africa continues

SA has continued to amaze me, inspire me and humble me. So many stories to share that this blog will never do my experience justice. Below is just a nutshell version of my past 3 days.

I forget which day of the week it is, but remember the days a little more clearly. Day 4 was spent at the poly-clinic with the HIV/TB sufferers. During this particular visit we were serving soup plus bread to the patients. The patients were quite grateful on the whole (considering the quality of the soup). As usual, cups had to be counted at the end to ensure none had been stolen. After soup had been served we had our lunch. My lunch was at a place called 'Mugg and Bean' and I had an excellent blue cheesecake drink?!

The afternoon was spent at Happy's again. We took a parachute with us which proved great fun. SJ ensured all the kids were lifted in said parachute, regardless of whether they had a wheelchair or not! The extra balls we took were well used too. Such wonderful children.

Day 5 was spent working in a Christadelphian book shop. This was a strange experience. The book shop was kept real busy with so many folk coming in wanting to know/learn about God. The book shop offers free bible lessons (home or group) and offers certificates and photo should course be completed. I was amazed at the level of interest. Largely speaking, one is considered a freak in the UK should they believe in God. In SA it appears you really are quite normal to have a christian belief. SJ and I supported this book shop and both even purchased a Bible from there.

The evening of Day 5 was spent at Happy's again. We love it here and the kids love us. I plan to spend more time here. There is a child with no legs and severe disability, yet he has the biggest smile I have ever seen. As I left Happy's I saw some housing project happening. A number of people here live in what look like sheds. These sheds are smaller than my bedroom and have no bath, sink, fridge, cooker etc and no running water or electricity. These communities look similar to battery hen farms. So sad.

Our evening was spent near the beach which was nice. We find we reflect on the things we have seen when we are not working. The smile of that disabled child had been stuck in my head.

Day 6 saw the greatest jumble sale of my life. We took a whole bunch of jumble to Cleremont and had what was best described as a car boot sale. Lots of the community came to buy used clothes and toys. We were selling items for between 10 and 30 pence (1 to 3 Rand) to such a poor community. The road we were on was incredible - it housed what appeared to be a happy community yet a slum was one side of the road and built housing the other. I saw a banana tree growing here too. The children turned the sale into a fancy dress party which was awesome. SJ found a wedding dress ...

Later that day we did a whole bunch of stuff. High-lights included a trip to the markets. The markets had goat and sheep heads hung up ready to be purchased. Eek! SJ and I walked along the beach, stepped into the sea and even took a cable car. We ate bunny chow today, a famous African dish, which I have previously cooked at home. SJ, bless her, said mine was nicer.

Today is Sunday, a day of rest, so I plan to blog again in 4 days time.

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