Monthly Archives: December 2011

Ride more? Or wash more?

A blog which I follow had a recent entry which posed a question. Ride more? Or wash more?

Well, the Mrs needed to renew her passport at the French Consulate in London, and had made an appointment for the Friday morning.

Now, how was she to get there? Of course the choices were: to take the train, car, or ask me to take her on the bike.

Train: the first problem lies in getting to the station. This would have involved a walk to the bus stop, a £2 bus journey, the inevitable delays on First Great Western, and an underground trip on the tube. Then the same process reversed to get home again.

Car: the problem here was not only the cost of petrol, but also having to pay the London congestion charge. Then finding a place to park, with its additional London-weighted charges.

Bike: Hmm. No congestion charge. Free parking (it’s not run by Westminster City Council but by Kensington and Chelsea). The odds are heavily favouring the bike at this stage.

The weather forecast was for rain and heavy snow. Pah. A mere trifle.

So we took the bike. I stuck rigidly to the speed limit – we left early so had plenty of time. My heated gloves and heated grips meant I didn’t feel the cold at all. We were chatting away through the Autocom with a cd playing in the background. Lovely.

As for the rain and heavy snow – well, we had a bit of sleet when we left home but other than that, it was just a bit of drizzle. The roads were clear; traffic was fairly light and I didn’t even need to filter.

We got there with plenty of time to spare, so we went to a small coffee shop near Kensington tube station where we each had a coffee. Then off she went to her appointment. I needed the lavatory so went across the road to the Natural History museum (that large dinosaur is still in the entrance hall in case you were wondering.)

Then I went back to check on the bike which was parked just around the corner on its own in a solo motorcycle parking bay (obviously everyone else had believed the forecast and had left their bikes at home). On the journey in I’d noticed that one of the auxiliary light bulbs had blown, so I dug a spare bulb out of the toolkit and changed it. I then wandered back to the entrance of the French Consulate and loafed about some more. By this time the rain had stopped, so I people-watched for a while.

Then the Mrs came out, having been in there for a total of about 40 minutes which wasn’t too bad. We had a fairly relaxed journey home.

Of course the bike is covered with greyish road salt and muck, so will need to be washed this weekend. But overall, taking the bike was the best choice. Oh – and total cost for the round trip (including coffees) was around £15. The bus/train/tube would have cost £40. For one person.

And the answer to the question? Ride more of course!

Santa baby

Santa baby, slip some bristles under the tree, for me
I’ve been an awful good boy
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Bristles? Yes, the sort that you find in an old-fashioned floor scrubbing brush. I’ll explain.

Being a tight-fisted git an economically thrifty individual, I like to give useful presents for Christmas. I think it also means a lot more if a gift has been hand-made rather than purchased, and as I’m a fairly practical sort of chap I can generally make just about anything without too much swearing.

Granted, some things I’ve made are rather over-engineered, but longevity in construction is a good thing, no? If something I’ve made lasts for 300 years I’ll be well pleased.

So, having given the matter some careful thought, I decided that as we would be moving to a very rural location in the not-too-distant future, an item which would make an ideal present for the Mrs would be a “welly washer”. You know, the type of thing that sits outside the kitchen door, and you simply wipe your mud-encrusted wellington-booted feet on it to remove all the mud. (Another advantage of this type of gift is that I’d be able to use it myself as well).

Yes, I could have bought one off Ebay. But, as I mentioned earlier, if I can save some money by making it myself – well why not? I have the plans drawn up in my head – all I need are four wooden scrubbing brushes. The old type with proper bristles, normally used for scrubbing floors.

Well, people obviously don’t scrub floors any more. For the past month, during our weekend grocery shopping trips I’ve been surreptitiously investigating the cleaning products aisles at various supermarkets – Sainsbury’s, Asda, and even the Co-Op. And guess what – not a scrubbing brush in sight anywhere. I’ve even checked out the little corner shop/post office without success. So today I took a walk to Morrisons. Forty minutes each way. The closest thing they had was a “vegetable brush” made of plastic, with short plastic bristles. And even those were far too small. Sigh.

Still, at least it wasn’t an entirely wasted trip. I bought a bag of sugar which was on special (I am currently in the process of making some sloe wine) and on the way back I managed to pick up lots of discarded cans.

I also found a discarded empty champagne bottle which will be pressed into service for next year’s cider brew. (Hah! Pressed into service – geddit?)

For lots of other money-saving tips why not buy my book? Go on, do! It’s available for the Kindle you know – and it’s really not that expensive!

Where was I? Oh yes. Bristles. Or the lack thereof. So, as far as the Christmas present idea goes, it’s on to Plan B I’m afraid. More details will follow after Christmas, as I’ve already wrapped it so can’t take a photo. Always have a Plan B, folks. Sometimes you need it. Oh – and for those of you who don’t think a “welly-washer” would be an appreciated gift for a woman, you haven’t met my wife. Walking in mud? Bring it on!

But I haven’t given up on the “welly-washer” idea yet. As for the scrubbing brush, it looks like I’ll have to make my own there as well.

Bristles? Where would I get some bristles? Hmm.

Coming soon: How to catch a wild boar and shave his whiskers.