For once, a tale of good customer service

Like Gary Turner, I recently suffered a garage-burglary in which the scumbags helped themselves to a couple of bikes. Luckily though my insurance company works with Wheelies Direct to handle cycle-replacement claims.

The staff at Wheelies have been friendly and helpful all the way from validating the details of the bikes I lost (they know their stuff) through to selecting replacement bikes and dealing swiftly with some transit damage to one of the replacements. It would be worth asking your insurance company who they use to handle such cases.

Going through the saga of reporting the theft and getting the replacements has served as a good wake-up call about actually using them again, and doing something about my appalling fitness level. Unfortunately, also like Gary, I’ve discovered the potential for too long a break from cycling to cause lung-coughing-up symptoms upon resumption of the habit!

London Atrocities

There’s been an outpouring of blog entries about this week’s events but strangely I’ve felt no desire to write myself until now.

I was lucky – running late for work I was still waiting at my suburban tube station when the network was shut down. That meant I spent the day at home, watching things slowly unfold on the net and the TV. Like many others I know people who were more closely affected, though so far as I know so far all have had lucky escapes.

The desire not to write (until now) has I think been to do with my own preferred way of dealing with new and disturbing events in the world – in that sense at least I am an introspective person. I’ve discussed things with people close to me, but not felt that there was something I wanted to write.

I’ve used the tube since Thursday, and like others admit to being a little more wary, a little more alert to what was going on around me – but not really any more so than during other times when terrorists were active in this city.

But as the days pass the other emotions come to the surface – anger that this has happened in the city that has been my adopted home for nearly twenty years, a belief that the most one individual can do is be determined to get on with their life and enjoy the freedom that London grants, and a feeling of utter contempt for the perpetrators who think they can drag us down to their level.

The London News Review says it bluntly, Ken Livingstone has risen to a surprisingly good level of oratory and unsurprisingly Tom Coates has said almost exactly what I wanted to say about not writing before I did.

It happened. I feel very sorry for those who have lost loved ones or suffered life-changing injuries, and extend them all the empathy in the world. And now the people who live here are going to just get on with things.

The end.

The Country In Your Heart

I’m an occasional reader of Whiskey Bar (I don’t often have the time his posts deserve) but this seemed especially thought-provoking for the way it captures the feeling that the country in your heart is no longer the one you live in:

It’s a strange place to end up: a man without a country, grudgingly supporting the country he no longer has because the alternatives are so much worse. But that’s how it goes, I guess, in this world of empires and religious fanatics.


Brugge Belfort, view from De Tuilerieen HotelI’ve just had the opportunity to spend a few days in Brugge (the view of the Bell Tower was from my hotel window). Although the centre of town was thronged with tourists it was only a few minutes’ walk to quieter districts where the architecture is just as impressive. Tourism is clearly the main industry of the town, although there are also lots of residential districts even within the old medieval city so I guess that there must be a range of other businesses in the outer parts. I should imagine that planning controls must be very tight, as there are no aerials or satellite dishes to be seen, and new developments in the centre seemed to be designed to blend in well with the medieval (and 19th century fake-medieval) surroundings.

The Belgians take their beer very seriously, so a tour of the Half Moon Brewery was near the top of the agenda. Straffe Hendrik is a sharp-flavoured blond beer that goes well with food and that I’ve not yet found a source of in the UK!

Sint Janshuismolen windmill, BruggeIf you are interested in things mechanical then the short walk to the eastern edge of the old city is well worth it to see the four windmills placed on the site of the old city walls. Three are displaced from elsewhere, but Sint JansHuisMolen has been on its current site for several hundred years and is the only one still working. Inside is a marvellous example of engineering in wood, with very little use of metal. Look out for the simple idea (as all good ones are in retrospect!) to control the speed of rotation of the sails – a traditional rotary governor attached to the arrangement of levers that adjusts the spacing of the mill stones – as the mill speeds up the governor forces the stones closer together, increasing the friction and providing the necessary negative feedback loop to keep the speed constant.

Spring has Sprung

Lots of signs of Spring this weekend:

  • Buds on the Birch trees in the local woods
  • An invasion of frogs to the small pond in my garden
  • The first wafts of barbecue smoke

Five and a half weeks

That’s how long since I posted here.

Some of that has been down to winter solstice ennui.

Some of it down to spending time with loved ones over the Christmas and New Year period.

Some of it because of work stuff (which I don’t write about here)

Some of it because of some painful transitions in a close relationship, and the transformative change that has followed.

And some of it because I am busy on a new project which you can expect to see mentioned here in the next couple of months.

2005 is going to be an interesting year!

Suburban Jungle

I was waiting for email to download this morning when I witnessed two cats and three squirrels playing “cat and tree-rat”.

Watching the activity that spread across the gardens of four or five houses I began to see that although the cats were very good at “seizing” the symbolic and literal high ground such as garage roofs, first-floor window ledges and critical fence junctions their attempts to interdict the insurgent terror-rodents were almost completely ineffectual.

The squirrels were busy with the life-and-death task of collecting and storing food. Occasionally one would stray near enough to one of the feline sentinels for the cat to take notice and switch to stalking mode. Standard squirrel response was “run away”, usually followed by the cat for a couple of yards until the predator gave up – these cats are all well-fed domestic pets and pursuit was at best half-hearted.

There was much more vigorous action when one squirrel strayed into the territory of another – high-speed, high level chases until the intruder was seen off.

All of this time there was no sign of the species that considers itself the “real” owners of these bits of territory!