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Travels on a Motorcycle

Overland journeys, allotment dilemas, cycling, open water swimming and walking a dog.

Month

October 2015

A change is as good as a rest

Six weeks ago I would barely recognise my life now.  Six weeks ago, I worked 9-5 in a comfortable office for reasonable pay.  Now I work twice as hard for just over half the take-home.  I am now a hospital shift worker and it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done.

The hospital unit I where I work assesses emergency patients.  After assessment, patients are then transferred to an appropriate ward.  Patient flow is fast and unpredictable.  Work is mentally and emotionally demanding.

Although it didn’t feel like it at the time, office work was easy; after all, missing apostrophes didn’t really matter.  No-one died.

Each day tired and concerned family members are generally patient and concerned for sick loved ones. Occasionally families take out their anxiety on the staff.  A far cry from consultants calling to complain their hotel didn’t have appropriate parking or a window in their bathroom.

In a rare moment of calm this afternoon I watched an elderly lady sleeping unaware of the commotion of the busy unit.  A visitor sat by the patient’s bed, holding her hand.  The patient’s visitor caught the attention of a passing nurse and they stood talking next to the reception desk. I caught snippets of conversation.  The patient and the visitor were sisters.  The nurse gently told the visitor that her sister was nearing the end of her life.  The visitor hid her mouth behind her hands and she cried, still listening to the nurse as she suggested the visitor told her sister anything important before she left.  The visitor went back into the side room with her sister, sat by the bed and took up her sisters’ hand.

I thought about my mortality and my relationship with my sister.

The phone continued to ring and patients continued to come into the unit from A&E.  The sisters still held hands.  I finished my shift and cycled home with the image of the sisters in my mind.

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Wells reclamation yard

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Winter Drawers On (or preparing for winter riding)

It’s a beautiful October morning and my bike is parked out front.  Only one thing for it; a quick spin.  Not far, I need to be in the hospital by 3pm.  I slipped into my dainty biker boots grabbed my jacket and helmet and gleefully (and noisily) skipped out of the house.  But half way to the next town cold drafts wisp up my sleeves and down the front of my jacket and I wished I’d popped on a jumper over my t-shirt.  Winter is on its way and it’s time to wonder about my winter biking wardrobe.

Dancing shoes!
Dancing shoes!

Regardless of the temperature I ride in my boots and jacket.  I don’t always wear gloves and swap my protective trousers for jeans.  A helmet is mandatory here in the UK.

Being cold spoils my rides.  We all have our limits and I seem to get colder more quickly than the other people I ride with.  On summer’s days, while everyone else is warm, I’m hunting out extra layers.

To say that English weather is changeable is an understatement.  The Cornish say if you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes.

Weather is important in England.  Mostly because we have so much of it.  It keeps our beautiful, tiny island lush and green.  Without the weather, the English would have to think up different ways to start a conversation.  Famously, the Intuits have 50 words for snow, but in England we have fifty words to describe rain.  I digress.  The point is, I can’t be a fair weather rider or I would rarely get to ride.

With autumn ensconced most of the tourists have left the West Country leaving our beautiful roads empty.  Better still, plenty of dry bright sunny days with which to explore them.

With this is mind, some forethought is necessary to guard against the likely spot of rain and a drop in temperature.  However, with the prospect of grabbing a couple of hours for a spin, I don’t always take my own advice.  On one particularly cold day, my temperature dropped to the point that I had to get off my bike to warm up.  And then, with my bike on the stand, I thought a lie down would help and I started to feel very unwell.  A car stopped and the driver helped me to get warm.  I narrowly avoided a trip home in an ambulance.  Someone else rode my bike home that day and since then I have been aware of my need to stay warm.

So, for the next few months, I will be adding to the layers including full thermals until it’s time to plug in my deliciously warm heated jacket.  For anyone else a luxury, for me, the only way I can still ‘play out’ in the cold.

I obviously never use my need to stay warm to stop in cafes for coffee and cake or pubs with roaring fires.

If you have any ways you extend your riding in colder days, I’d love to hear about them.

Here are a few of my favourites…

  • A woolly hat in my tank bag.  A warm head for stops and also a great disguise for terrible hair.  Swap woolly hat for cap for summer months.  Highly recommended.
  • Waterproof trousers stashed under the seat.  Zero points for fashion, great for keeping the wind off.
  • Jack Wolfskin puffa jacket that squeezes into a small stuff bag. Another useful item for the tank bag.
  • Carefully (capital letters and underlined) warming gloves on the engine.  No points for burning holes in gloves.  Highly recommended if you get it right.  Useless if you get it wrong.

 

 

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