BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘life’

#365daysofbiking Anchored in the canal

Thursday November 26th 2020 – I’ve spoken a lot about anchors in the last few weeks – constant things that act as a reference point and help me get through the rough times of winter, illness, sadness or stress at work. One of the biggest is the canals that snake their way through the town in which I live, the Black Country and Birmingham which I love, the countryside I ride in and through my life like rich, flowing vein of natural energy.

Whether it’s the Tollhouse loop under the M5 Viaduct in Smethwick, the Trent and Mersey in Rugeley or the good old Wyrley and Essington at Anchor Bridge, I watch the canals in all weathers, and any time of day or night. They are a peaceful, nowadays clean haven of calm and wildlife, where I can enjoy my own company or that of close friends and get fresh air, solace and inspiration.

With a slight mist, the merest hint of an inversion, no sound of traffic to distract me, a late loop up the High Street to Anchor Bridge and back around to Newtown was just what I needed after finishing work late.

I’ve posted many shots of this view over the years, but this is my favourite yet. I like the colours.

My canal. My Anchor Bridge. My anchors.

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#365daysofbiking In a grump

March 25th – The country in which I live is slowly shutting down in a way I never considered likely, or even possible. Little things that make my daily life normal – stopping for coffee, calling into the supermarket – nipping out to the park – are now either not going to be possible, or require a lot of planning.

I have key worker status, and for now cannot work from home. So I continue to be out and about, but always with a letter, announcing my status and reasons for being considered so, should the police stop me.

There is now a normal, defensive hostility from strangers – like this gorgeous ginger and white floof who gave me the shoulder in Walsall Wood from the opposite side of the canal.

We’re all in a grump now, I guess.

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#365daysofbiking Life in all it’s forms

January 10th – At this time of year, I desperately scan the world around me for signs of the oncoming spring, however small or odd. Today, I spotted one.

This floating root in the canal at Walsall Wood spotted on the way to work is just such a sign. It looks like a random piece of flotsam in amongst the maturing algal bloom which in recent weeks has turned red from green. But this root is actually the front guard for a larger movement.

It’s a water lily rhizome.

These roots break from last year’s dead growth and sink to the floor of the canal, then as spring comes, they gain buoyancy and begin to float. They move with the currents, boats, winds, waterfowl moments and eventually settle and sprout roots.

In high summer they will provide a new carpet of the familiar huge leaves and bright flowers for us to enjoy.

So it’s good news: Lily thinks spring is coming!

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#365daysofbiking Long days

June 19th – Working long hours on a difficult project at the moment and I returned one in a pleasant summer dusk after rain had passed.

The towpaths were still a bit wet, so I headed up to Anchor Bridge and down the High Street. In doing so, I caught the setting sun over the canal.

When work is tough, that ride home is like a mental breath of fresh air and provides a buffer between work and home.

And a chance for peace. It was good to be near home.

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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.