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Saturday, December 4

Last night - part one - the rehearsal
Well, last night was quite a bizarre mix of activities. Leaving the office to arrive at my rehearsal in plenty of time seemed like a good idea. The days have been flying by in the office of late, which is a good thing. Moves are afoot to increase my responsibilities, which will add to that fly-by-factor. The downside is that I would rather love to be one of the hyper-productive foot-soldiers that I'm trying to foster in the rest of the team. The double downside is that I'm not sure whether I'm up to the exertions of mind required to achieve that role.

Anyway, fast moving days are good. Slow moving ones are not. Being mentally befuddled ain't good. I've half a mind to spend some time drawing a diagram that demonstrates why I'm the perceptive one and everyone should listen to me. I've half a mind to do that, but not a whole mind. Time out of the office is intended to be spent on things that aren't office related.

So, rehearsals. Yes. They're a good way to spend an evening. Or at least that's surely the intention, since I'll be rehearsing for the majority of the next 8 weeks. On top of a full-time job, it had better be worth it.

Sadly, arriving at the rehearsal early was only beneficial from the point of view of being there in time to give another early-arriver, a respite from the cold air outside the locked rehearsal space. It was additionally beneficial from the point of view of giving me about 5 minutes of time on the piano between being let in and the arrival of the accompanist. I don't mind messing on a piano when its intended player is absent, but always defer to the more qualified musician on his arrival. The rest of the rehearsal was spent sitting around. I think I was actually in the process of actively participating in the rehearsal for about 15-20 minutes. I managed to royally mess up one of the bits of my participation, but that's okay in a rehearsal room. I was eventually realease from service early and headed, via a trip to the petrol station/sandwich vendor, to the comedy night in Heaton.

Last night - part two - comedy
The comedy was a lot more fun than the rehearsal. I needed something to release me from the stress of the day and a good laugh was definitely the ticket. I'm not going to review the performances of the comedians. Everyone did well and I knew quite a lot of the acts, which meant for a relaxed back stage mood. I'm gigging with a couple of the guys tomorrow, so it will seem like something of a comedy weekend for me.

I like comedy.

Post comedy
I came home. I had some chocolate porridge - this is a treat I'm indulging in again (I'm fairly certain I was hot on porridge - no pun intended - back in January or February). I don't think it's especially bad for you. It's just oats, drinking chocolate, milk and water. Blast it in the microwave and watch out for the bit where it goes everywhere - try to pre-empt that, so it doesn't.

Then, porridge having been consumed, I retired with a book. The Time Ships, the sequel to The Time Machine. I'm steaming through this book, which I borrowed maybe 18 months ago and never got around to reading. I shall return it to its owner very soon at this rate. I read until about 2 in the morning and then went to sleep without the alarm clock. My mission for Saturday, and I've already mentioned, was to buy a bicycle. I was in no rush to get onto this task and, with the various activities coming up, reckoned that uninterrupted sleep would probably be a good way to prepare for the week ahead.

Saturday morning
I had a couple of false wake ups, earlier in the morning, but eventually rose at 11ish. I had some breakfast - toasted bagels with very low fat cream cheese. Did I mention that the diet is really not happening at the moment and that I'm concerned for my lack of general fitness and the size of my waist? Well, I am, and eating bagels doesn't really threaten that. It still bothers me that I consume much in the way of food and do very little in the way of exercise.

Anyway, after mooching around the house for a bit, I had a showed, dried myself while watching one of the episodes of Fist of Fun on the hooky DVD I bought from ebay a few weeks back, and then forced myself out of the house. I was going to look at the possibility of buying a bike.

Biking a buy
I wandered around the nearest shop that sells bikes. They're pitching the purchase of a bike at the Christmas present customer. Fair enough. The CD in the shop was playing Christmas songs. It was, in fact, at this shop that I had my first hearing for this season of Slade's "So here it is, Merry Christmas" - last year, I think I heard it in November. It's not in my blog archive, so I can't be certain. At least I've recorded this year's first hearing. It's not important, but it's still stored for posterity.

Anyway. Bikes.

Well, they had loads of the buggers from the inexpensive through to the rather expensive. The reason for buying a bike? Well, I think I might be able to combine a need for transport with the need for exercise. If I can make myself exercise, but not put it in the way of my ability to arrive somewhere on time, then the bike could become an integral part of my day to day routine, without me losing out on everything else I do. The main part of this plan is to be able to go about London over Christmas without resorting to the car, or just use the tube and get no exercise.

I want to be fitter. If I'm not fitter, I will not survive the next few months. Well, I will, but it might not feel that way.

So, I chatted to the chap in the shop about the bikes on offer and what might suit me. This was a fatal mistake. Once I've gotten speaking to someone, it's very hard for me to walk away. The lad (and he was a lad) was not trying to sell me anything, he was merely answering my questions about what would suit me. We quickly narrowed it down to two models and then to one. Now I really can't walk away. I'd priced bicycles on the internet earlier in the week and had some idea of what sort of price I might be asked to pay. This lad was offering me the bike and a bunch of accessories to go with it, for about what I'd expected to pay for the bike alone. I couldn't really say no. So I didn't.

I now own a 18 speed mountain-bike-style conveyance with front suspension. It doesn't have disc braking. Shame. It does have a 22" frame. I have lights. I have a tyre pump. There's a lock. I bought a bike computer to show me how fast and far I'm going. Oh, and I even bought a puncture repair kit.

The lad in the shop said he'd assemble the bike and attach all the accessories for me. He predicted half an hour's work. I toddled off home and did some general purpose tidying and the like. After an hour I returned to the shop. The 30 minute estimate had been way off track. The attachment of accessories had proved more of a time-cost than they reckoned. I mooched around the shop, waiting for the engineering project to be completed. I asked one or two pertinent questions. As we approached the handover moment, I realised that both the manager and the lad who had sold me the bike were actually treating me like a complete moron. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's the way I look. Perhaps they just assume all their customers are morons. Perhaps I was asking dumb questions. I really don't know. It was probably the moment when the lad explained how to use a bicycle pump that I most noticed this. Ok. So, I'm not really a cyclist. I used to be, though. I used to be a master of the engineering requirements of the velocipede. It's not a complicated bit of kit. I have fixed punctures in the most unusual of places (that's locations for the bike to be in, not the location of the puncture - they're always in the inner tube!). I am not a moron. Still, I was treated like I was a bit special.

Well, special I may be, but I'm capable of buying a shed-load of cycling equipment (don't forget the helmet). I fended off the manager's suggestion that I buy a yellow glow-in-the-dark waistcoat with luminous strips.

The test drive
So, I drove the bike home in the back of the car. I went inside, adjusted the cycle helmet so that it fit me, and then went to get the bike out of the car. Before too long I was headed down the street on the bike. I've not ridden a bicycle in years. I hadn't forgotten the principles involved, though. Well, it's like... (yeah yeah yeah)

During the first excursion on the bike, I hit a top speed of over 20mph. I travelled around 4 miles (the underside of). I probably coasted quite a lot. I stopped, either to adjust the saddle or to catch my breath, quite a few times, and I was away from home no more than 20-30 minutes.

I then spent the next hour and a half totally unable to move or breath deeply.

I'm not a cyclist. Oh dear me, no.

I'm also not deterred. Some of what I need to learn is technique. Some of what I need to learn is the optimal manipulation of the gears. A lot of what I need is strength and stamina.

I shall be back on the roads again. And soon.

The idea behind spending a fair amount of cash on this was the same as the idea which caused me to go and buy a Dyson vaccuum cleaner two Januarys ago. I reckoned that a neglected area of my life, in that case, the vaccuuming, would seem more important to me if I'd parted with a noticeable bundle of cash for some sort of equipment related to it. So, hopefully, the thought of the bicycle, now resident in my garage, will spur me on and make me use it.

Maybe I should have shopped around and found a bike which didn't reduce me to an airless ball of sweat. Maybe I shouldn't be such an airless ball of sweat.

I'm quite looking forward to seeing how quickly I can get to the office by bike. It may be faster than going by car! It's all downhill. I'm not looking forward to working out how to get from the lowest point in the city (the quayside area) to the highest (where I live). But, if you're on a bike, what goes down must come back up. D'oh!

Maybe I should have bought a motorbike!

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