365daysofbiking Ever falls the twilight:

October 6th – I returned to Brownhills in the overcast weather hinterland between night and what passed for day. It was damned grey and inside, I felt that way too. The onset of winter has me by the neck this year and I’m alternately OK with it and then quite down. I somehow feel I let summer slip away – I didn’t, I rode lots and saw lots and it just ended early, but I feel bereft.

From the Silver Street pedestrian bridge, I surveyed one of my classic winter views: Autumn is settling well here now, and the new houses with the nice line along the canal made an interesting match to the colour of the trees before them. There is life here now, lights in the new dwellings, and no longer does it feel desolate to stand here and be confronted with the place I love. 

This town is changing, like the season; slowly, imperceptibly if you’re not attuned to it, and I think for the better. Finally, the ghosts of the civic failure here are being exorcised, and there is evidence of a little hope, a little life, a little warmth.

Unlike the season, Brownhills is opening up. Perhaps this grey twilight is better than I thought.

May 4th – In the past couple of days I’ve mused on the sudden explosion in the number of herons on the local canals around Walsall, and also noted the amount of fresh waterfowl hatchlings.

In one journey from Walsall to Darlaston this morning, I saw four lurking herons. But only one coot chick.

It was lunchtime before the connection struck me. The herons are finding food in the tiny new lives that have been nurtured in canalside nests in the last few days and weeks.

I can’t grumble – the herons are doing what herons do, and the reason many clutches are so large or certain species are prolific breeders is precisely because of the attrition of new generations by predators.

But it’s a grizzly thought. These very attentive coot parents were very attentive of their offspring – only 10 metres of so from a patient, waiting heron.

August 16th – I spotted him near the Marina at Northwood Bridge in Aldridge. Clearly en repose, hunting seemed to be done for the day and this elderly heron was content to let me take photos without being disturbed.

There’s definitely an Eddie Cochran thing going on there. You don’t see much of that sort of thing in the local avian community, to be honest.

February 9th – Meanwhile, other signs of life – primroses in a town centre planter, just being bright and trying to get our attention.

Gorgeous little flowers, a little dishevelled by the elements, but colourful and cute, all the same.

August 6th – This is in response to a recent request by top bloke and Brum social media whizz John Hickman. This is a saddlebag vomit.

Don’t be alarmed, is a meme, or idea carried from something common elsewhere – handbag vomit/daily carry – where someone posts pictures of what they carry in their bag daily. 

Here, minus personal stuff like paperwork and work junk, is what I carry daily in my saddlebag. I regard these things as essential. I suspect some folk will find them surprising.

The items are, in roughly back to front order:

  • 1l flask of earl grey or chai, sugar and milk
  • Sharpie marker
  • Cheapo multitool thing
  • 2 spare tubes for different bikes
  • Apple mac network adaptor
  • clean paper towels and disposable gloves for mechanicals
  • Emergency sweets (milk gums) for bonks and sugar crashes
  • Pack of self-ahesive patches still in blister as case is crap and they pop open
  • Muji box with sheets/tubes of meds – Sudocrem, painkillers, hay fever pills etc.
  • Nasal decongestant for troublesome sinuses
  • Pedro’s tyre levers – the best I’ve found
  • Aquapac for keeping phone dry in the wet
  • 2 Rema conventional puncture kits
  • Spokey spoke wrench (again, the best there is)
  • Emergency work phone
  • Camera
  • Bahco mini socket, ratchet spanner and bit set. Brilliantly useful.
  • 15mm stubby spanner
  • Spare camera, GoPro and GPS batteries
  • Mini torch
  • Memory cards and sticks in waterproof box
  • Various everyday USB and charging leads on a keyring with thumb drive
  • Huawei 4g mobile WiFi router with selection of SIM cards for different networks
  • 7000mAH USB battery for charging phone etc.
  • Google tablet (interchangeable with iPad/macbook air depending on work requirements)
  • Not shown: cable ties, pager, security access cards, clean socks and about 100g of assorted detritus

The tools and survival items have evolved over years and changes of bike. Surprisingly, this lot doesn’t weigh much and leaves plenty of space for the junk of the day and shopping if necessary.

Is this the geekiest saddlebag out there? What do you lot carry?

July 1st – New Street Station is still a mess, still barely functional, and mostly, I think, now beyond reclamation. But on an early summer sunny morning, there’s something about the concrete, steel and surrounding architecture that renders it if not impressive, then rather fascinating. Architectural styles and textures clash. Machinery grinds and rumbles. Rails screech and clatter. Overhead wires buzz and crackle.

In the midst of this, the most unnatural, built environment that one would consider utterly hostile – signs of life. Shrubs and weeds, their seeds deposited by birds or wind, by luck find a little moisture, a sheltered fissure and just a little nutrition.

If only human design had such bare-faced tenacity, audacity and beauty.