Here we go! Pedalling off to the Rugby World Cup Final at Twickenham.

Photo by Kevin Mayne

Courtesy of the ticket lottery almost a year ago I am in England for the big match, my first time at Twickenham for many years. One of those bucket list occasions, to attend a world cup final in almost any sport but especially one that I played and then watched most of my life.

Also an opportunity to catch with family and friends who I am connecting via a couple of days of folding bike touring around very wet but gorgeous Autumnal landscapes. “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” indeed.

Photo by Kevin Mayne Photo by Kevin Mayne

Very tempting to bike to the game too, but I will content myself to arriving by train tomorrow so a few beverages can be consumed, got to get into the spirit of the occasion after all.

Now the final dilemma. Who to cheer for? England long gone, the other home nations fallen by the wayside leaving an Antipodean challenge between New Zealand and Australia.

All Black Haka

Logically I can say I am a neutral and I am looking forward to an amazing match, even better if it goes to extra time. Emotionally I can say that English sports fans will always cheer for the underdog, which in this case is probably Australia because New Zealand have been so good.

Of course it is also fun to wind up the Kiwi half of the family and various friends all around the globe, although they tend to have a bit of a sense of humour bypass when it comes to rugby. You can easily substitute the word rugby into one of the quotes of Bill Shankly, the legendary Liverpool football manager, who said of the round ball game “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”.  (Murray, Stuart – are you reading this?)

But I have conferred with my English colleagues at work, I have had DNA testing done, read the small print and we categorically agree.

It is NOT possible to cheer for Australia. Can’t be done, won’t be done.

Yes we can hope for a nice, tight exciting game. Or we can hope that the All Blacks give the Aussies a right good kicking, that would be just fine. Game on!

El Botroul – glorious Autumn mountain biking in Belgium

Gallery

This gallery contains 15 photos.

Last Sunday I got up early and rode off into a misty Autumnal sunrise to take part in El Botroul, my club’s big annual mountain bike randonnee. The day was glorious and there was a lovely early autumn feel to … Continue reading

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light”

Belgium Wallonia

Lasne Chapelle St lambert

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light” is a line from the poem “Do not go gentle into that good night” by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. It was written as a poem for his dying father but both lines are among the most used Thomas quotes.

Thomas is an extraordinary lyrical poet, if you don’t know his work I encourage you to pick up an anthology or try reading or listening to “Under Milk Wood”, his play for voices. At Christmas every child should be read “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”. If you haven’t got a child of the right age borrow a suitable relative as an excuse to read it out loud, great for grandparents!

The line “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” has come to me many times in the past weeks because to me it sums up an urgency to take in the best of the sunlight and autumn colour before winter’s icy grip takes hold.

I think this year that feeling has been amplified several times over and I have been trying to digest why. Foremost I suspect is a legacy of our first Belgian winter which coincided with one of this part of Europe’s worst winter spells in living memory. There is no reason why it should repeat this year but I do find each bright sunny walk and bike ride precious as if I am banking them for the hibernation to come.

lone cyclist Lasne Chapelle St Lambert

On a more positive note we are definitely inspired by our new home of the past year. Living at the top of a hill and being surrounded by tracks and trails that open up wide vistas means that we can see the interplay of the light and the landscape much more than if we lived in town or even in a village. Sunrise and sunset are more part of the day, the sun rises and sets over the land and trees rather than being eclipsed by buildings.

And I am sure my final influence is my blogging. I have gradually found my relationship with the light changing as I have tried to describe my travelling and my cycling life here in Belgium. I am gradually learning the way light changes scenery and enjoying trying to translate that into photography for an audience.

This sequence of photographs was taken on one short November walk that summed up the whole feeling. I was too busy to post them when I took them but they capture the urgency of the battle between winter’s dark and autumn’s light perfectly. I knew the storm was coming and I knew I didn’t have much time to take the dog out for his walk.

The sun was low and bright and lit up the fields and trees almost like a spotlight but it was made all the more striking by the glowering dark clouds that foretold the rain, making a dark contrast behind the foreground features.

Chemin Chapelle St Robert Lasne Autumn 2013

And as if to emphasise the difference the crop of green manure planted by the farmer was flowering bright yellow. This is a quite unusual crop, it is planted in September after the harvest of the main crop corn and sugar beet.  It then grows rapidly to a metre tall yellow flower in just six to ten weeks before it is ploughed back into the ground before the next main crop. It creates an unexpected splash of colour all over the area just as the rest of the plant life is taking on a dowdy winter hue.

Autumn trees Chapelle St lambert

Chapelle St Lambert autumn landscape 2013

In the end I didn’t escape the rain, but I did feel I had captured a precious feeling that I wanted to share.

Full version and audioclip of “Do not go gentle into that good night” here 

Grand halls, parks and sculpture of South Yorkshire in autumn’s glory

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This gallery contains 15 photos.

We have just returned from a weekend in South Yorkshire which was looking stunning in autumn sunshine. Not quite Peak District, not quite Yorkshire Dales, the hills and valleys west of Barnsley around Penistone are just as stunningly beautiful for … Continue reading

A quick return visit to Vienna. Cycling promotion at the FahrRadhaus and Radlager

Wein

Public bikes

Nice to be back in Vienna for a rapid visit after enjoying it so much in June. A bit rainy but in between showers lovely pre-autumnal temperatures which encouraged me out onto the city bikes. I was reminded by one of my hosts that I had been very rude about these bikes when I first used them last year. On one of the rides I did manage to pick up one of the original purple monsters with its huge over-gearing which made my dodgy knees ache but once I got the hang of it I learned that Vienna City Bikes are like a bag of sweets – pick them by the colour.  (Always take a yellow one).

Two places I didn’t get to see in June were the FahrRadhaus and the new location for the Radlager, a great retro cycle shop and café that I wrote about early in my blogging days, way back in May 2012.

City cycling office in Vienna

Radhaus is the City of Vienna’s official bike promotion centre which it has used as the base for Bike Year 2013 (Radjahre 2013). It as sign of the city’s commitment that this isn’t an unwanted cellar somewhere the wilderness, it is a nice piece of imperial architecture right next to the City Hall, the Rathaus (great wordplay in German Rad = bike, pronounced raat, the same sound as Rathaus, city or town hall )

I didn’t get a chance to come here during Velo-city so it was nice that my meetings for the two days I was in the city were in the Radhaus. It is a nice atmosphere, it doesn’t feel civil service, it feels like a promotional centre that gets cycling and cyclists. There are good displays of a wide range of city bikes and absolutely tons of printed matter, books, pamphlets, maps, guides, in fact almost anything you could want to take up cycling.

Fahrradhaus Wien
Vienna cycling office

Vienna cargo bike platformsThere are also mobile outposts of the Radhaus promoting cycling which seem to be transported by the biggest cargo bike platforms I have ever seen.

On my evening in the city I joined some of the cycling activists for dinner and then we rode city bikes around the city to the cycling quiz night.

Radlager WienSadly I arrived too late to take on the local talent but I looked around our venue and realised I was in a  nerds paradise, retro bike stuff and restored bikes all over the place amongst the beer and coffee. “Look like the Radlager” I said to my hosts, referring to one of the coolest bike cafés and bike shops I have ever been to in Vienna. (See previous post here)

“This is the Radlager” they said.

Doh!

I hadn’t noticed the names and logos around the shop so I hadn’t realised that the café had moved to a new much more central location. Maybe I was confused by the fact that more Moultons than I can possibly recall seeing in a small shop had moved in among the Colnagos.Moulton cycles

I like it and it is now much more accessible to visitors so I do encourage any bike nerds going to Vienna to pay a visit to the Radlager as well as the Radhaus.

However I miss that gallery – it really was a great display.

I’ll treat myself to using that photo again. Enjoy.

Bikelager Wien