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Bin Bandits… a bit of a rant…

Oh Yes… here come the rant.

As I live in a small terrace house and do not produce a huge amount of household waste and that which I do is conscientiously recycled,  when I place my wheelie bin outside for collection it is generally not brim full. As I am mostly not at home on collection days and usually rushing to work, I carefully ensure that said wheelie bin is placed outside the night before collection in order that it is  not missed. Being on  2 weekly collections due to the imposition of draconian austerity cuts up here in the North (that not may be the real reason but hey I’m having a rant and so if I can  place even some of the blame on the coalition then all to the good!) means that a missed collection  takes us into the realms of very dodgy health and safety and the risk of the bin contents resembling something from the set of SlumDog Millionaire.

So time and again when I am at home and go the next morning to place the final remnants of my  fortnightly rubbish in  what should be my half empty bin I find it stuffed to the gills with alien bin bags… I know they are alien as they  are  slightly better quality  than mine. They also appear to be full of shapes resembling bottles and things which should by rights be in the recycling bin.

So now I am fuming on 2 counts

  1.  If your bin is over flowing is it not basic manners to ask before stuffing your rubbish in some one elses?  How would they like it if I stuffed my surplus rubbish through their letterbox or threw it over the wall into their yard?
  2. If the recycling police spot contraband in my bin I am the one  who will end up in court, I will no doubt protest my innocence  have a rant  and  in the blink of an eye  be behind bars desperately trying to mount a campaign to free the Wronged Wheelie Bin One.  And as I  have already p’d off Dave Cameron  in my first paragraph, no amount of lovely LOL texts and promises of ‘country suppers’ is going to get me any support in high places!

Well I am not  doing time for any Bin Bandits… you may well sneak down the alley under cover of darkness again but you will be foiled –  not via trip wires and booby traps… though it has crossed my mind… but I am re jigging my diary so that I  can put that bin out in the morning and will train the cat to sit on top fending off all comers until the dustcart arrives.

I am reclaiming my wheelie bin,  protecting my own rubbish and defending my recycling integrity…

Rant over… off to check out CCTV systems.


Charity… champagne and chocolates or pie and peas?

I have written on a couple of occasions about the power of champagne and chocolates to raise funds for charity, notably for Well last night saw a very different event, a fund raiser not in the lavish surroundings of a banqueting suite,  no gourmet menu, though there are those who would argue pie and peas trumps a bit of artfully arranged pea shoot and celariac foam anyday. There was no champagne reception but plenty of outfits which would  not have been out of place in such a setting.

We were in a local cricket club, where beer, cider (with ice)  and vodka was the order of the day… or rather night. The entertainment ran non stop, with an array of games including  heads and tails, where we employed tactics worthy of Team  Sky to bring home  the prize of  a quarter bottle of wine..

and the sense of  triumph was just as great as if England had finally won the World Cup.. and in true football style we did go out on penalties in the ‘rolling a  pound coin to win a bottle of vodka’  tournament!

The tension in the bingo game was intense – running 2 cards  nearly made my head explode – how do the ‘professionals’ manage 5 or 6 at once (and slight note of complaint… no dibber dobber things to mark off the numbers)  whilst the disappointment at seeing  the prize go to the next table was palpable.  

It may, as I commented at one point,  have been ‘Phoenix Nights on Acid’  but the room was full of people with a passion.  They had turned out on a cold and rainy night to make sure children and young people with disabilities, physical and emotional, are able to access respite care.

An organisation which previously provided this critical service  giving families a much needed break was a victim of the savage government cuts last year…. don’t tell me people have not suffered and that ‘we’re all in this together’.  However, the  manager has taken the initiative, put her own money on the line and formed a Community Interest Company  In Di Go,  to fill this gap, it is now on the launch pad and ready for take off.

But it still needs funds , the  service delivers one to one care, needing expertise, commitment and training. The core employees will be supported by volunteers, now the ‘Big Society’ mantra leads you to think  volunteers  just rock up out of nowhere  and can pitch straight in… but they don’t.. they need support, training, CRB clearance, insurance and it all costs.

So last night as we played silly games and enjoyed  a splendid pie and pea supper we were Big Society in action –  and  this time it wasn’t champagne and chocolates … though by a strange co incidence look what I won in the raffle…

Pie and peas, champagne and chocolates.. it doesn’t really matter – what does, is that however you choose to do it,  having fun  with friends, can make the difference to children and young people who really need our help and we should do more of it.

Against All Odds…..

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There have been plenty of times  this year when Team JBT have felt their  contribution to the 2012 UK sports bonanza was jinxed. No more so than at an unearthly hour of this morning when  two thirds of Team JBT plus technical support and canine mascot realised that due to a cycle rack malfunction our bikes had just flown  down the motorway into  an early morning fog!

Fortunately, the  road was deserted and a major accident  was averted, the bikes survived with minor injury, but for a split second our attempt to overcome bad weather, work stress, mud, rats and other obstacles which have prevented a full training schedule, looked doomed.

But we are not Team JBT for  nothing…

 if we can overcome a few rats and a bit of mud we knew  we could sort this –  though I have to say that there was a fairly strong sub plot running through this drama  involving a very dodgy tummy which could have de railed our collective problem solving skills. I will not go into  too much detail, but suffice it to know that the successful resolution  was the result of initiative, improvisation and a thick blanket of fog.

A  phone call  later, our back up tech team, having responded immediately and leapt from a snug bed emerged from the mist with a rescue car and support vehicle, bikes were loaded in  seconds and a two car convoy set off at speed for Cheshire. (Eat your heart out Team Sky)

With split second timing we drove on to the parking field, gave the bikes a cursory check, collected our third team member  who gamely was going to go it alone  in the event of us not making the start… and literally rode across the start line as the final 3 !

We may have started last but we didn’t finish that way… somehow we powered our way round in  faster times than last year!  We could say we were fuelled by the drinks, sweets and glucose we took on board at the rest stops, but I  really think it was the determination not to let our Charity, our sponsors and supporters down . More importantly the thought of  the children and young people of Blackburn with Darwen who will benefit from the funds raised spurred us on to complete the course. We may have our medals 

but the real satisfaction will come when we distribute the funds and know that we are helping someone realise their  true potential.

A massive thank you to all our supporters and those who have already sponsored us – for those who would still like to support our cause you can do so at

Mud, Rats and half a Banana…

… not typical fare for a Saturday afternoon and indeed last Saturday afternoon my cycling companion was sunning herself in Spain and I was dining in a magnificent restaurant in Umbria with a view to die for.

This Saturday in a desperate attempt to convince ourselves we could go the distance for  Cycletta Cheshire next week we set off to check our ‘Endurance’ level.

Picking a route close to the distance that we did with relative ease last year,  hopes were high as we pedalled along discussing our holiday experiences – for me lots of spirit lifting sun

 with the ever present reminder of the impending cycle ride…

 Our gossip probably led to the lapse in concentration which almost pitched my companion into the canal… shifting balance to avoid  crashing her head (helmeted ) into a low bridge arch, she caught her  shoulder  throwing bike and rider to within an inch of the murky waters of the Leeds Liverpool!

Recovering from this misadventure we pedalled on until it began to dawn  that our memory  was playing tricks and this was a lot further than we  thought. Coupled with a miscalculation on the amount of liquid and nutrition required, inevitably we began to flag, pedalling became slower and teeth were gritted. The last 20 minutes to our destination was torture – biting  head wind, no canal path just deep rutted mud tracks more suited to providing shelter  for a passing anaconda than  our tyres but with no option we squelched on…. pedalling through the quagmire.

As we finally limped and hobbled into the coffee lounge it was clear  an alternative plan was required for the return journey… calls for rescue were considered, but over coffee, a lukewarm crumpet (sent back for re heating ) and a massively stodgy scone, Plan B emerged. Agreeing to take it easy, stop and ‘share the banana’  we remounted and a bit of road work later we made it back to the hard canal path having avoided the East Lancashire paddy fields.

We were, however,  marked women  as having got our second wind we were then thrown off balance by  a large rat  darting across our path – though I have to say it moved rather more quickly than the elderly lady who launched herself across the road as I came screaming down the hill on the road section of our ride.

Stopping at the pre arranged point for a final drink and rather pathetically to ‘ share the last banana’  – clearly we were  thinking of ourselves as the recreation of Captain Oates (I know… we needed to get a grip, but we were tired)  the final stage was completed in  glorious sunshine, which had brought out yet another rat  soaking up the last rays of sunshine.

Having survived Mud, Rats and near collapse we reminded ourselves why we are doing this – raising  funds for our local charity

We know that in these difficult times every penny counts and the grants we make, however small, really do make a difference, and we will get round the course – so thank you to all those who have already  generously sponsored Team JBT and for those who would like to you can do so at





Big Hill Small Triumph…

.. or maybe the other way round? Our Cycletta training this year is pretty non existent. An array of reasons – or excuses have filled our lives, the weather, major work changes and related stress, the odd holiday and major bike rack issues have all conspired to prevent  the same level of pedal pushing as last year.

One thing we are agreed on though, is that if we are to stand any chance of getting round the course we have to be able to get up the hills. We have been avoiding our nemesis, The Hill of Doom for some  time, but today it was do or die. The Hill of Doom is an old railway track which rises 84 metres over 2 miles which to an accomplished Lycra warrior is easy peasy but to us it is the equivalent of Mount Ventoux.

So gritting teeth and girding loins  we set off – and had an eventful journey. Following a major revelation that air in tyres is in fact a  big help in this cycling  malarky I had, thanks to the helpful assistant at the local cycle shop, two rock hard pieces of rubber to bounce along. I was also fully equipped with a new bike pump  complete with  pressure gauge However having the equipment and knowing how to use it are two different things . The  helpful assistant assured me this pump would do ‘both’ types of valves… another revelation… there are two types?  Oh yes there are  and our two bikes have one of each, but never fear this pump will sort it… alas  the hieroglyphics on the packaging were clearly written by an ex Ikea employee  and  consequently incomprehensible to us.  We therefore set off on a set of hards and softs and fortunately on encountering two fellow cyclists negotiating one of those horrible metal gate things we politely requested help with inflating my companions tyres. They immediately sprang into action and examined  the pump –  and tyres – they did not match – and they too could not work out how to change the pump – undeterred they  ransacked their cycle bags to find suitable equipment. As we considered the options  we were joined by a sprightly pedalling pensioner out with his grandchildren who instantly produced a proper pump – one we would remember from childhood… that didn’t fit either. Perseverance paid off and eventually the correct fitting was found from the array of technology stashed in various saddle bags and we were on our way.

Having a near miss with what appeared to be a male urinating in bushes we set off up the slope – the first 100 metres were the worst – that bit when you think your heart will explode before it finds its rhythm and settles…. then another near miss with a resting male cyclist  divesting himself of his track pants as a female companion checked for saddle sores…. were we in a parallel universe  of naked rear ends I wondered as we ploughed  ever upwards.

And yes we made it, with only a couple of issues as a result of gear technique (or lack of it)  and arriving at the summit we felt rightly proud of ourselves, a small  triumph may be but a big step forward, and boy is it better going back down!


A Night to Remember

Thanks to a twitter alert which triggered  a frantic scramble for the credit card and the need to overcome a major  panic when the password for the security payment page totally eluded me, I found myself on Saturday night sitting with a friend behind the triple jump pit in the Olympic Stadium. Having only secured the tickets on a third (and I had told myself it would be the last) refresh of the search button  late on Tuesday night it was a truncated experience of anticipation, hotel sourcing and weather watching, but it was so worth it.

Reaching my train was a close run thing as I entered Preston to find all routes being blocked by barriers for the Preston Guild Parade. Preston Guild for the uninitiated, happens only every 20 years… hence the expression ‘once every Preston Guild’ and I landed smack in the middle of it. Cue yet more panic and a slightly hysterical plea to a steward that I had to get to the station as I had Paralympic tickets,  but she rose magnificently to the occasion – or more likely decided she needed to to get this bonkers woman out of the way of the parade quickly,  telling me to just head through a no entry sign and to keep going and ignore anyone else  – which with heart in mouth I did, and made the train with seconds to spare.

There are numerous blogs and articles about how wonderful the whole Olympic Park experience is, and more articulate people than me have written about the inspirational performances of the athletes. All I can say is they are correct, we loved every minute of being in the park, the buildings and the sheer happiness of everyone, especially the  much lauded volunteers and the marvellous street entertainers was exceptional. Though  for me, one of the things I loved most was the wild flower meadow, a wonderful touch and  hopefully an indication of the future legacy for the area.

Once inside the Stadium what hit me most was its intimacy even with 80,000 people it was a cocoon enveloping spectators, officials and athletes together and generating a power of its own. I have been in large football stadiums and the difference here was there was no opposition, no home and away end spitting venom at each other. The whole crowd  appeared to be on the side of every competitor and whilst the biggest cheers were for the home team, winners were roared across the line in every event.

I had been particularly desperate to see the beautiful cauldron, and a thing of beauty it is, nestling in the seating it is almost part of the crowd, flickering and dancing along with the noise. I am not sure what the plans are for this amazing sculpture but I hope it takes it place in a public place to be celebrated for a long time to come.

Over the night there was emotion, laughter, tears, some very dodgy track suits, breathtaking performances and more world records than you could imagine – we saw the big names  and the (well to us at least) not so well known

and celebrated as  they went their own extra mile creating their personal triumphs.

It was truly a night (and a day) to remember and as we relaxed over a glass of wine following an unbelievably efficient journey back to our hotel we reflected it was not something we had ever imagined doing, but  we were glad we did.


Memories are made of this…

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… butterfly buns, bluebells, rainy nights and fish and chips to name a few.  A friend told me this week how a nightdress had triggered a memory of her mother and it made me think of things that create our memories, and it isn’t the big things is it? Its the small things.

I only have to see a butterfly bun and I am transported to my Auntie Mary’s kitchen in Selby Yorkshire, butterfly buns were her specialty and were always there when we visited. My brother and I this summer reminisced about  her larder with  its  mysterious bottles of beer and dark stout on the floor. I remember going for fish and chips on  a rainy Friday night to the chip shop in the front room of a small terrace house but where the range of fish on offer would beat any modern specialty restaurant. Memories all triggered by a piece of sponge and some buttercream.

Bluebells are my all time favourite wildflower, they grew in huge drifts on Brayton Barrff and we would pick them on our way home to Lancashire, my Dad placing them in the boot of the car still damp… though I think now we would be arrested !  Bluebells will always remind me of my Dad, just as Nivea Creme brings back my mother. I bought a jar of Nivea moisturiser yesterday and when I took the top off there was the familiar foil top to be peeled back.  I instantly remembered the flat round blue tins my mother used and how I would beg to be allowed to puncture that shiny silver layer and release the distinctive smell which along with Goya Gardenia and  Soir de Paris were her signature scents.

The big things  in life do create  lasting memories, births, marriages, deaths , parties and events that we  plan to perfection, but sometimes its  not the grand gesture but just the wonky butterfly bun, a slightly wilted bluebell and a piece of foil that takes us to our deepest happiest places.