Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How to die cycling

So tomorrow we fly to Newark then to Heathrow then to Glasgow then a train to Sterling then a bus to Callander. After 18 hours of travel we should be in excellent shape to start cycling the next morning. 

Day 1 is 35 miles and it will probably be raining. I saw somewhere that this area gets about 283 days of rain each year and I think we are just about to experience 7 of them. 

But we are staying in what are supposed to be nice hotels and B and Bs. I have not personally selected these so they will probably not be rat infested hovels with no wifi or hot water. We shall see.

In the meantime I am planning next year to cycle the Great Allegheny Passage with my cobber David. This - plus the C and O trail - is about 335 miles on gravel roads and each day we will cycle about 40-50 miles.  

At night we will douse each other in cold water and beat ourselves with sticks before a dinner of cold gravel and a mudshake. 

Cate has expressed some doubt about my capacity to do this. She bases this on my vast age, my lack of fitness, my arthritis and my mental capacity. I have assured her that I will train hard, that my arthritis does not affect my cycling and the fact that I am a looney does not affect my ability to ride a bicycle. 

In any case David is much younger than I am and will be able to help me if I start to dodder.

Which reminds me of Bill Bryson who said in his latest book that he is now too old to get early onset Alzheimer's. He says when it arrives it will be right on time. 

So my next quest is to buy a mountain bike to make my training more relative to the task. This task may beyond me as I have had a look and there appear to be about a million from which to choose.

Monday, August 29, 2016

PK is a dangerous man

Me training in 95° heat. 
Having a whinge last night about the orange looney did me the world of good. I promise not to talk about him again until he does something really offensive. 

For the record I just love America and many who sail in her. I just don't like the racists, bigots and misogynists or indeed anyone who thinks that Donald Trump would be good for the country.

But hey - it’s your country - elect whoever you like.  

For the last couple of months we have been cycling regularly for exercise - and also because on Thursday we are going to Scotland for a cycling trip. It is called the lochs and glens tour and could prove to be challenging. We have been assured that there are many pubs on the route so we shall not perish for lack of sustenance and alcohol.

We are as usual going with Gwenyth and PK.  PK is a very dangerous man because - even though he is a tiny bit older than I am - he has the constitution of an ox. He can cycle all day and drink all night - and his drink of choice is Jameson  - and a Jameson session is not for the faint hearted. 

Gwenyth was until the last trip a source of amazement as she has had some of the most spectacular prangs ever witnessed on bicycle tours - and once in Holland ended up on crutches. 
Gwenyth contemplates death while PK wonders when he can decently
leave her to go downstairs to drink Jameson with me. 
When we arrived back at the boat Captain Mart - the looney skipper - looked at the blood soaked and tattered wreck that was Gwenyth and said something along the lines of ‘is the bicycle OK?’ whereupon he rushed past her to go and have a look. 

Since then she has become an avid bike rider and - like all off us - never falls off unless she hits a stray sheep or an  inattentive hiker - or gets totally hammered at lunchtime in some trattoria in the wilds of Italy or whatever country we are in at the time. 

So we will have enormous fun and may even on occasions enjoy the scenery. 

Cycling here has been tough because the summer has been ferociously hot. Perhaps it was like this last year but I do not recall it being this bad. Anyway - cycling 20 miles in this sort of heat and humidity is not easy. I really do hope it is cooler in Scotland - as the forecasts say it should be. 

If you are interested - we start in Callander and finish in Pitlochry 6 days later after circumnavigating Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

I had no idea

Look I honestly had no idea. 

Before we went to Vienna I had thought that America was a homogenous society where there were problems and that these were serious but manageable. To me from afar - and as a very frequent visitor - I saw a country much different to that which exists when one becomes immersed in it. 

When President Obama was elected I started to see the very real and ugly racism which permeates the society at so many levels.

This is not necessarily readily apparent on the surface but trust me - if you read the comments on such sites as Fox, Breitbart, Drudge and others and their ilk you will be - as I was initially - both shocked and horrified at the racism, hatred and ignorance that abounds in these dark reaches of discourse. 

The trash that is spouted by far right wing commentators such as Rush Limbaugh is scary but is a Teddy Bear's picnic compared to the full blown hate mongers and conspiracy promoters such as Alex Jones who has no boundaries at all and says things such as President Obama was a male prostitute and that his wife Michelle is really a man.

And then the orange buffoon arrived and lifted the rock and suddenly racism and hatred took their place alongside the right's traditional collection of bigotry and ignorance - and it became mainstream. He has turned stupidity, ignorance, racism and hate into an art form and has dragged along with him some of the most naive and dumb people in America. 

I despair of what this country is becoming. The presidential election campaign is a cesspool of dark and gruesome sludge which has brought into the light all of the worst that this country has to offer. The trogs and trolls see in the orange lunatic the savior for whom they have been waiting for so long.

At last within reach is a president whose dumbness matches their own.  A man who is a bigot, a racist, a serial liar, science denier and a serial conspiracist beyond compare. President Obama was not born in America. He is a Muslim. He founded ISIS. Climate change is a Chinese government hoax. Asbestos is safe. Vaccines cause autism. The Clintons are murderers. 

This is lunacy on an Olympian scale. In a rational civilized society this man would be hospitalized and subject to psychiatric evaluation. He is a textbook case of a narcissist with a severe psychological disorder. This is not a man who should be president. This is man who would be rejected on mental capacity grounds for a job as a  goat wrangler. 

But in  this surreal twilight zone he could well president. This is dark road and when you go down this road the lights go out and the scarecrows come to life.

This is not the type of society in which we wish to live. But we are very fortunate in that  while we are permanent residents here we can return to Australia. We may do this sooner than we had anticipated if the orange lunatic is in fact elected.

Spare me. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

I never tire

The Scarborough on which Frederick Meredith arrived in 1788
So I have settled on a name which will be impenetrable to most people. 

Fort Denison is the name of an island in Sydney Harbour and it was once known as Pinchgut - for the reason that convicts were sent there as punishment and did not get much to eat during their stay. 

I am descended from Frederick Meredith who arrived with the first fleet which landed in Sydney in 1788. He was a free man but had a few problems with the law and a possum and apparently ended up on Pinchgut for a while.

This is not recorded in the histories I have read - but is the subject of anecdotal evidence in various reports and diaries. I like the thought of my ancestor arriving as a free man but ending up briefly as a convict. So I thought I would use the island as the name of my blog. Because why not.

For a time I lived in an apartment on the harbour and could see Pinchgut from my window  - and could just imagine what it would have been like in 1788. 

Frederick Meredith married three times and the third time was to Sarah Mason who was a convict who arrived on the second fleet. These are my grandparents a few times removed. 

Up until the sixties people hid their connection to the first fleet and convicts but these days it is a badge of honour. There is a First Fleet Society and of course I am a member and have chart on my office wall showing the names of all the first fleeters. 

I never tire of boring people senseless with the tales of my relatives from long ago. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

As we speak.

I have expunged the title. 

Prematurely as it turns out because I have not come up with another title. This means that there will be a blank space for a while until I come up with something suitable. 

It took me all of 30 seconds to come up with Vienna for Dummies and I have been unhappy with that title for 8 years - so I plan on spending a bit of time on the new one. 

I am thinking about this as we speak. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Renewed and refreshed

I am renewed and refreshed and am just about to hurl myself back into blogging. I am going to leave Vienna for Dummies behind and am looking for a new and improved identity. This is the hard part but in the meantime I will blog on this one and then tell you where the new one is. Stay tuned.