Filed under: Uncategorized
I’m not going to say anything. Just watch.
Filed under: Words without wisdom | Tags: Ambulance, Ambulances, Goverment, Health, Healthcare, Hospital, Hospitals, National Health Service, NHS, Politics, Spending
If you’ve had the briefest of scans through this post before actually reading, and seen the ambulance-related photo that I’ve used to break up the body of this piece, I probably know what you’re already thinking. You’re probably thinking that this is going to be another one of those blog posts telling tales, possibly filled with blood, guts and gore, where I give details of my own personal heroism in the face of overwhelming obstacles but ultimately fail, someone dies, and I leave you with tears rolling down your face, muttering, “I couldn’t do your job”. Well, you’re safe. It’s not. You should know me better than that by now. It’s one of those other blog posts. One of the ranty ones, where I go off on one, ad nauseam, about how the NHS is being battered by men in suits. Another tale about your NHS, and what the pinstriped folk are doing with it. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way I roll.
Sunday evening saw my new crewmate (possibly a Welsh chap that possibly goes by the unlikely moniker of “Gwyndaf”), and I working from 3pm to midnight(ish). In the ambulance service, the shift always finishes at “-ish”. For the record, it was relatively unexciting. You’ve seen Casualty. You know the sort of thing. Running down hospital corridors while wearing florescent jackets, with bleeding people strapped to spinal boards, shouting blood pressures at doctors. It’s just like that. Honest.
Just like that? For those that watch and, heaven forbid, enjoy the aforementioned televisual delight, and it’s subsequent spin-off, Holby City, I’m about to shatter your world. It’s a right load of bollocks. Every couple of months you might deal with something that comes close to approaching that level of drama, and when you do you’ll be talking about it with your colleagues for weeks.
In my last post, The Thin Green Line, I waffled on about closing Accident & Emergency departments, ambulances queuing to get in, waiting for beds and other such stuff. I probably bored you to the point at which you gave up reading before the end. I don’t really blame you. Cycling is far more interesting. What you’re unlikely to have appreciated from my last post, however, is that I was speaking with little actual experience. Allow me to explain. For the last five or so years, I’ve been one of those Paramedics that you see sat on his (in my case, obviously) or her own, in a car, in the town centre, while you’re out shopping, going to the bank, or whatever. A “Billy-No-Mates”, who works alone. Like James Bond, but in an ill-fitting green uniform manufactured from man-made fibres, and sans vodka Martini and a ciggie (Ian Fleming’s Bond was a chain-smoking alcoholic, in case you haven’t read any). After five years of your own company, you start drawing faces onto your hand and talking to them, so I have recently made my return to a “proper” ambulance. It’s only been two weeks, so I’m still talking to my hand, but the psychologists say that this should stop eventually.
Now…where was I? I’ve gone off topic, and can’t remember. I’ve been too busy padding this out into a blog post, when the 140-character limit of a tweet on Twitter would probably have sufficed, and have been softening you up for the undoubtedly dull facts and figures that will inevitably come. Erm… Oh yes. The reality of Accident & Emergency departments. I done gone seen them. With my own two eyes.
The reality is this. If you can find somewhere to park your ambulance at A&E, what with all the bloody ambulances in the way, you’ve made significant process in delivering your patient to hospital. Then comes the queuing-in-the-corridor phase, behind the ambulance crews that arrived before you and are waiting, either in the same phase as yourself or phase three, the already-handed-over-to-the-nursing-staff-but-are-waiting-for-a-bed phase. Phase two, if you were thinking my numeracy skills were a bit shit, is the hand-over, where you don’t shout blood pressures at doctors and nurses or run down corridors but, instead, calmly and profusely apologise for bringing yet another very drunk almost-teen into A&E. Phase three has already been explained, and unsurprisingly comes after phase two. With our final patient on Sunday night, phase three took two hours and thirty-six minutes.
Let’s get things clear, as once again I see myself being taken, hands bound and a hood over my head, into a misty wood by burly men carrying a rope with which to hang me, I’m not having a go at the ambulance services nor the hospitals. I can only praise the work they do, and will do so until I’m blue in the face which, ironically, is how I would look if they hanged me. In fact, it isn’t, as my left hand has a face with a very big mouth, through which I will continue to breathe, so the last laugh may be mine depending on how tightly the burly men bound my hands. Once again, it’s the suits I’m having a go at.
Here’s the facts and figures bit. The last time I looked, roughly 81% of patients presented at Accident & Emergency departments in England and Wales were seen, treated and discharged, with either a referral to their GP, an outpatients’ appointment, or without any further treatment being required. That’s millions of patients. Facts and figures dispensed with, we’re onto the logic bit of it. The NHS Trust responsible for hospitals in the area in which I work had three hospitals, each with a busy A&E. The Trust still runs three hospitals, but only one of those still has an A&E. It now has a busy A&E that’s doing the work of three busy A&Es. Now, I know as well as anyone old enough to understand the concept of money that running an A&E department costs money. Equipment, staff, heating, lighting and all that gubbins doesn’t come for free, but the NHS is still paying out for these things when they “downgrade” an A&E to a Minor Injuries Unit.
So is it me? Is it that I “can’t see the Big Picture” that they’re always talking about, or am I bordering on being a supreme being, with logic that would outwit Mr Spock on one of his best logic days? I’ve seen The Jeremy Kyle Show so there’s a good argument for my being a supreme being, but I doubt that’s the answer. Once again, it’s all about saving money. The NHS saving money, to be precise, and I’m fine with that. What I’m not fine about is the way they’re saving money. The cuts, reduction of services, implementation of “care pathways”, etc. is all about saving money in the short-term. It has nothing to do getting value for money, and it most certainly has fuck all to do with patient care. I shall give you an example to illustrate my point. A fictional ambulance service could buy a thousand poorly-made blood glucose measuring machines at a tenner each. For an extra fifty pence each, they could have a far superior machine that does the same job, but will last twice as long before it breaks and needs replacing. Now, they’ll buy the cheaper ones, saving five hundred quid. High-fiving all round. They’ve saved five hundred quid. Didn’t they do well? No. They didn’t. Two years later, they’re buying another one thousand machines. And two years after that, they’re spending again. It’s all fine though, because they saved five hundred quid each time, didn’t they?
Now, I’m beginning to bore even myself, so I shall leave you with this. This is, after all, my blog, so I’ll say what I like. I am a taxpayer and, since it’s supposed to make me a “tight bastard”, I’ll make mention of the fact that I’m also a Yorkshireman. I give the government plenty of my money, and I’d like them to spend it wisely. I don’t want short-term savings. I want value for money. I would be overjoyed if they’d spend that extra five hundred quid, and explained why they’d spent it. I’m not an idiot, and I’d understand that, ultimately, it’s good value for money. The difference is that it’s a sensible, well-reasoned saving, and not one that looks good for Tax Year 2012-13.
Told you I could’ve got this on a tweet.
Filed under: Words without wisdom | Tags: Ambulance, Ambulances, Goverment, Health, Healthcare, Hospital, Hospitals, National Health Service, NHS, Politics, Spending
There are few things in life about which I can speak (or write) with any kind of authority, and cycling certainly isn’t one of them. Neither, for that matter is politics, nor the subject of this post: the current failings of the National Health Service.
To be fair, that’s a little bit unfair. The NHS is not failing. Given the kicking the NHS receives on a almost daily basis by the men in suits that control the money, it’s an absolute miracle that the UK has a health service at all. Despite terrible funding cuts (or, no less difficult to manage, insufficient funding increases), inappropriate decisions made by people that have little idea what planet they’re on, and the ridiculous notion that healthcare is a profit-making scheme, the NHS still makes sick people well, and does so with dignity, professionalism and compassion. I work for the NHS. I’m one of those chaps in green outfits, as seen on Casualty. No…not Jimmy the Porter…more like Josh Griffiths, but good-looking and with hair. I’m frequently told, “Oh, I couldn’t do your job”, which clearly means I’m made of tougher stuff than some of you. This, in turn, means that I could duff you up in a fight and, therefore, unless you wish to find your nose bloodied you should stop what you’re doing and pay attention. This is your NHS, and like the punch-drunk boxer struggling to stay standing, it’ll only be a matter of time before a suited politician comes along to put it out of its misery.
Earlier in this post, I told a lie. It was unintentional, but a lie nevertheless. This isn’t about the failings of the NHS per se, but a small part of it. In fact, that’s probably a little inaccurate, too. This post is about inadequacies, not failings, yet such inadequacy will invariably lead to failure for the unfortunate minority. Sadly, such failure doesn’t mean that a business folds, a shop closes, or someone has to go back to working on the bins. Without being even slightly melodramatic, it means people die. Actual proper death. Gone. Brown bread. It could be you, your mum or dad, your wife or husband, brother, sister, girlfriend, boyfriend, etc. I think you probably get the picture without me listing all possible relationship statuses. Dead. To your terrible sorrow is now added bucketsful of anger. You watch, helpless to save your loved one dying, still waiting for the ambulance three hours after you called.
Ambulance delays are now an everyday occurrence. Fact. Lengthy delays. Life-threatening delays.
There are always occasions when delays are inevitable. Ambulance services are not immune to bad weather, heavy traffic, or the overwhelming desire of the general public to get pissed, then have a fight on New Year’s Eve. Heavy snow can turn a six-mile journey into a three-hour affair, but this isn’t the shit I’m talking about. I’m talking about your average day. A Tuesday, perhaps, because nothing of note ever happens on Tuesday. On every single average day, many lengthy delays can and do occur.
By now, an Ambulance Service manager, hot under the collar and fuming at my words, may be preparing to lynch me. That’s fine, but I suggest that he or she reads on first. I have a point to make before I swing. The point is that such terrible delays are not our fault. On paper, provision of ambulance cover is just about adequate. In practice, it would be equally be just about adequate were it not for closing Accident and Emergency departments, false or shelved promises of new super-hospitals, reductions in hospital beds, forced redundancies of hospital staff, and a whole host of other problems created purely by penny-pinching, blinkered civil servants, keen to make a saving that ultimately ensures their job security in the next reshuffle. The city in which I work does not have an A&E department, and hasn’t had one for over ten years. In the last two years, the towns on either side have also lost their A&E departments. The super-hospital that was promised prior to closing those A&E departments is invisible or, more probably, unbuilt. So where do ambulance patients go now? Very simply, they go to an Accident & Emergency department. An Accident & Emergency department that can not, for very obviously-logical reasons, cope with the additional influx of the sick, dying and dead. An Accident and Emergency department in a hospital that has had the number of beds, nurses and doctors reduced. An Accident & Emergency department that has ambulances queuing for hours outside it’s doors. The ambulance simply pushes the first domino, and they just keep on falling.
If you’re expecting me to have the answers to all these problems, you’ll be disappointed. Clearly, running the NHS as if it were a business, rather than as a publicly-funded healthcare-providing service, doesn’t work. Beyond massive cash injections, restoration (or an increase) of the pre-existing healthcare provision, u-turns in political policy, careful and considered spending, and people having the balls to admit that not all the implemented changes work, I fail to see how or when the NHS can pull itself away from the ropes and come out fighting.
As I haven’t written anything in these virtual pages for some time, I have no regular readers left. However, those amongst you, reading now, that were will know that most of my bleating takes place on the pages of http://twitter.com/fatmanonabike. Rarely does a day go by when some idiot posts an anti-cyclist tweet along the lines of “the only good cyclist is a dead cyclist” or “hahaha…I saw a cyclist get knocked off his bike on my way to work”, along with the usual comments about road tax.
Now, I don’t care if you don’t like cycling. I don’t care if you don’t ride a bike. I don’t care if you think wearing tight, shiny lycra and riding around, balancing on a pair of tyres narrower than the gusset in your girlfriend’s thong, makes me “a big poof”. I genuinely don’t. However, when I read tweets, such as one of the many this morning, which read, “I can’t describe the vibe I get when I drive by 6 cyclists and 5 I hit!”, my natural reaction is one not of outrage but of fear. I’m worried about saving my skin. As Robert De Niro said in Ronin, “…it covers my body”. Ironically, Ronin has possibly the best car chase scenes of any film made, but that’s besides the point.
Am I right to be concerned? I think so. Consider for a moment, if you will, what the response would have been if the offending tweet had the word “cyclist” substituted with, say, “nigger”, or any number of other words connected with inciting racial hatred. People have seen the inside of prison cells for just that kind of tweet.
I concede that my knowledge of criminal law is now considerably more sketchy than the sketchy knowledge I had before I forgot a lot of it, but let’s, just for a moment, turn this around. Here’s a hypothetical scenario to consider: Brian Can’t wakes up one miserable Tuesday morning. His life is bad enough, having a surname like Can’t, and never being taken seriously when applying for a credit card, but he was late home the previous evening because he’d been “stuck” behind a “pesky cyclist”. Anyway. He gets up and tweets, “Cyclists piss me off. I’m going to knock a cyclist off his bike if he gets in the way today”. Not the most vile, hateful tweet I’ve read, but still more than a little unpleasant. Now, Brian has his Weetabix (other cereals are available upon request), a cup of tea, and chills out a bit. He then gets in his car, and sets off to work. Half way there, a wasp flies in through his open window and, being highly allergic to wasp stings, he panics a bit. The result of this panicking is that he’s involved in an accident, which tragically kills a cyclist. To many of you now, this sounds a little far-fetched, but I know for a fact* that stranger things happen every day. The witnesses to the accident saw Brian gesticulating frantically “at the cyclist”, not at the wasp he was desperately trying to get out of the car. Then some traumatised soul, having read Brian’s tweet earlier, and now surveying the scene, accuses Brian of murder. ”Look at his tweet,” the prosecution lawyer says, “It was a premeditated act of violence.” Brian’s defence of, “It was just a tweet. It was early in the morning, and I was grumpy” cuts no ice with the judge, and even less with the jury, seven of whom happen to be frequent cyclists.
So that’s just a hypothetical scenario, where no-one actually exists and no-one is actually killed. Warning tweeters that they should be careful not to say things they don’t mean, lest they find themselves being vigorously bummed in prison showers, is not my message. On that score, I’m hardly the one to talk. I frequently use Twitter to say things that I don’t necessarily mean or believe, purely to provoke a reaction. In the main, I do this to give people an opportunity to consider alternative perspective, or to be simply base. My message is far less complicated than that.
I am human. A human man, covered in skin, with blood, bones, liver, lungs and spleen. I have a pancreas of which I am excessively proud. Every time I swing my leg over the crossbar of my bicycle, and set off to ride on the tarmac that our taxes have contributed towards, I am in very real and, on occasions, very frightening danger. I ride on because it is good for my body and my mind. I ride on because I love the sport which consumes so many hours of my life. I ride on despite the danger and, although you’re not to tell the missus, because it is a little bit dangerous. I ride on, despite all the falls, accidents, broken bones and broken bikes. You won’t stop me riding by posting a vile, hurtful tweet, but you will, and regularly do, put the fear of fuck knows what into me. Are you the man in that Transit van that’s hurtling towards my back wheel? Are you the dickhead in the badly-pimped Vauxhall Corsa, paying no attention to the road as your mate shows you his cock-piercing? You’re probably not. You’re the unseen fear, the one that Tweets from behind a pseudonym, drives the unassuming car, yet scares the shit out of me from the comfort and safety of my own front room. I am one of those cyclists who, taken collectively, will make it onto your “militant wanker shit-list”. If you’re going to tweet things like this, you have to expect a very vicious backlash. It is because we are fucking scared.
*How do I know these things “for a fact”? I’ll tell you. I am a Paramedic. I’ve been in the Ambulance Service for eleven years. I’ve seen shit you wouldn’t believe. This isn’t a boast, or even something I generally divulge. I know what bits are supposed to be connected to other bits, and how much damage a car does to a cyclist. I’ve also seen how much damage a bike does to the driver of a car. Not much.
Filed under: Words without wisdom
For many years, nobody has bothered to ask me the age-old question of why cyclists shave their legs. There’s probably a good reason that they don’t ask me, as I have a pair of pins that King Kong would probably consider trimming down a bit and, until recently, the hairy legs were accompanied by a suitably matching face.
The question in question (the shaved legs one, in case you happened to stumble across this blog by virtue of being a colossal pervert, searching the ‘net for overtrimmed ladies’ front bottoms, and finding my Shaven Haven instead) has, over the years, been asked of some of the world’s greatest cyclists, such as Eddie Merckx, Sean ‘King’ Kelly, Stephen Roche, et al. None of them, not one, could actually answer the question properly, coming up with a range of bizarre reasons, such as aerodynamics and, remarkably accurately (but no less twatish, as the answer came from Neil Stephens, who never was one of the world’s greatest cyclists and only made it onto the telly because he spoke English), “because everyone else does”. Kelly* himself muttered something about “dorrt” (which is, I’m reliably informed the Irish for “dirt”) and how “dorrt” doesn’t stick to the legs when they are shaved. No-one asked Lance Armstrong, as he’s a proper prick. And he didn’t exist that long ago anyway, being at a pre-production phase in an EPO laboratory owned by Dr Ferrari. Possibly.
Kelly’s legs. No “dorrt”
Let’s put this shaven legs thing to bed, once and for all. It’s pointless asking professional riders, as they were shaving their legs since before the real reason could or would ever become apparent to them. It is, after all, the done thing in cycling circles, and turning up to a race, any race, with wolf-like legs would result in howls (no pun intended, for once) of derision from their peers. The simple reason or, more accurately, reasons are these…no self-respecting burly soigneur would get his hands sullied by a pair of chimp-legs and, most importantly, having hairy legs massaged hurts like fuck.
Come to think of it, there’s another two reasons. A proper cycling photographer (and you know who you are, McMillan) told me that my hairy legs ruined his pictures. And fake tan is, apparently, a right fucker to apply sans streaks on the less-than-smooth skin of the, say, footballer. I like these reasons better than the proper reasons, to be honest. Balls to practicality. Vanity is where it’s at.
*Oh. Apparently, it was Martin Earley that said the bit about “dorrt”. I’m old now. I blame that. I still reckon it was Kelly, though.
Three-times Tour de France winner, Greg LeMond, once said, “It never gets easier, you just go faster”. It’s a great quote, but he’s wrong. When I started cycling again, I weighed nearly 100 kilograms. Most of those 100 kilograms could’ve been cut off and used to fry chips, were there not strict EU legislation against such things. Probably. An 8-mile round trip to nearby Amersham was a killer, and I’d need until the following day at least before my heart stopped beating like a fucked clock.
When riding a bike was so hard, writing about it was so easy. Spilling my guts all over the virtual pages of an interweb blogging site was infinitely easier than giving my soul to the tarmaced roads of Buckinghamshire. Sharing my agonies with the four people (if I include my mum) that read these pages eased the pain, and allowed me to give some humour to something that was otherwise excruciating. More than that, Fat Man on a Bike became my online cycling diary and, further still, the comments and encouragement from those that read it inspired me to carry on riding my bike.
Since that first recorded ride, way back in the Middle Ages or whenever it was, I’ve continued to ride my bike. I ride it for fun. I’m not training for anything, and I never have or will. I have met some of the most wonderful people ever to populate the planet. I’ve ridden in the Italian Alps, on the cobbles of Flanders, on Welsh mountains, in five different countries, and in many parts of the UK. I have ridden with Sky Pro Cycling and, despite my kind offer, Juan Antonio Flecha wouldn’t swap bikes with me. Soon, I will be going to ride in the French Alps, tackling the mighty Alpe d-Huez, Cols du Telegraphe and Galibier, and perhaps some other mountains too. With the exception of the ride with Sky, these events, all of which were wonderful beyond all comprehension, have gone unrecorded.
I wish I could remember who it was that’s supposed to have said “A happy writer is a lousy writer”, or something similar. It’s probably attributed to Mark Twain and, therefore, almost certainly wasn’t him. Whoever it was was spot-on, and I don’t mean flea treatment for cats and dogs. I doubt Bob Martin said anything quote-worthy, and his pet products are shit. The point is, I am now a happy cyclist. I weigh less than Lance Armstrong did in 1999, and I wouldn’t pretend to be ill if you rang to tell me we were off out to ride 100 miles today. My legs still hurt, my lungs still hurt. My arse, although toughened from hours in the saddle, still hurts. However, my mind doesn’t, so that’s it. Being a happy cyclist has turned me into a lousy writer. There’s no way I’m giving up my bike, so Fat Man, in it’s present guise, is over.
Leave the door on the latch on your way out, though…you’ve not heard the last from me.
Sunday, 18th July 2010
Sue Ryder Big K Cyclesportive
I’ve heard it said that a happy writer is a lousy writer. That is not to say that Fat Man on a Bike is borne out of a suicidal depression, or periods of alcohol-fuelled paracetamol overdoses. On the contrary. However, I have become fitter, and the suffering has become secondary to the enjoyment of the cycling itself, words have failed me. Sort of.
Perhaps it was destined to only be a temporary blip, a relatively brief period when I could convince myself that I was getting better, but still maintain that I should be spending July in France, riding somewhere in the Alps, wearing a yellow jumper, and shoving a bicycle pump through the front spokes of that little Spanish chap, Bertie Cupboard-door. Or whatever his name is. The proof would be in the pudding which, in this case, was a big fat Yorkshire Pudding. With sugar and lemon juice. This was the Bronte Big K sportive.
I was relatively confident that an eighty-eight mile jaunt around the hills that I still considered “home territory” would be little more than a walk in the park, and the utter absence of blazing sunshine, as is customary in Yorkshire, would simply make it easier. I duly arrived at my brother’s house at around 08.00hrs, and was greeted by a man dressed not in a lycra outfit, but instead in the expected dressing gown. Never ready, he’s nothing if not consistent. After much messing about, bouncing of a small child on my knee, and a torrential downpour outside, we finally set off for the event registration in nearby town of Keighley.
It wasn’t long before we were on a hill, although we nearly didn’t make the first climb of the day. The signage was pretty poor coming away from the town centre, and a bit of common sense (one of the most inappropriately named senses, perhaps) was needed to avoid riding round in uninspiring circles for the entire day. In retrospect, it’s entirely possible that common sense failed, as we could’ve used it as a criterium-style circuit, and saved ourselves from the sadistic route planner and his/her vile course. Anyway. The first hill was the climb from Keighley up into Haworth, home of the Brontes. Well, it was, but since they’re all rather dead by now, and as we’re not a pair of time-travelling freaks, I should probably have said the former home of the Brontes. We’d left the start line with another chap, who was clearly a wheel-sucker with no intention of sharing the pace. It took a set of temporary traffic lights, and our refusal to disobey the road traffic regulations to get rid of him, as he whipped around us and disappeared off up the road. That was the very last time anyone rode past us all day.
The first climb of the day was already completed, and I was looking forward to a few miles of flattish road to get the legs going. I was going to be denied this most basic of requirements by a route planner that probably drove around the course rather than riding it on a bicycle. The hills were joined together with hills, with some wind and rain thrown in there for good measure, meaning that at times we had to ride at an angle of approximately 45〫to the road. Or 135, depending on which side you’re measuring. Pedants. By the time we dispatched a number of riders on the 26% ascent of Goose Eye, I had a thigh strain, and couldn’t ride out of the saddle for much more than ten or twelve pedal revolutions. I had to ride like Der Kaiser himself – Jan Ullrich. Except without the a face full of chips. Or, sadly, beer.
Twelve hills in, we hit something that not only resembled a descent, but was somewhere I recognised. Considering I spent the first twenty-nine years of my life living in the area, I’d been utterly lost until we reached Stoney Ridge. From here, we dropped down into Saltaire, a picturesque Victorian model village, founded in 1853 by Sir Titus Salt, a miserable twat who built houses for his workers so they couldn’t be late for work in t’ mill (or something), and boasts streets named after his children, the most memorable being Fanny Street. My brother is, by his own admission, shit at riding his bike downhill, and I’d opened a gap between us. The gap was to be very short-lived, as this was also the location of the second feeding station. On offer were such delights as the cyclist’s perennial favourite, the banana, flapjack, and the highly-rated High5 energy drink. I threw back several small cups of High5, and was tucking into a nice bit of cake when my brother arrived. “Don’t go drinking that High5 stuff fast…it’ll give you a really bad stomach if you do”, he said (or words to that effect).
“Oh”, I replied. “It might be a bit late for that”. He wasn’t to be proved wrong.
Leaving the feeding station was a slightly confused affair, with crap signage and the route requiring us to cycle over a footbridge where cycling is prohibited. A few turns later, and we were heading up into Baildon, and across Baildon Moor. The High5 had delivered it’s promised stomach problems as soon as we’d set off, which is a shame really, as the road pointed upwards. I went backwards, and it was the last I was to see of my brother until well after the finish. On the descent from Baildon Moor, I chased as hard as I could without puking, but the rider in the distance turned out not to be him, but a chap who’s name almost certainly wasn’t Jeff Dangleberry. I caught and passed Jeff easily enough, but he hung on my back wheel for a while and refused to come and share the work. I gave it as much wellie as I could find, and dropped him.
A few solitary miles later, and after an energy gel which seemed to suck energy out of me rather than put it in, I rolled into the posh spa town of Ilkley. You can tell it’s posh, because it has a Betty’s cafe. Or maybe it has a Betty’s because it’s posh. Either way, if it didn’t have a spa, it’d be as piss-poor as everything else around it. But it does, and so it’s not. It’s a pleasant, busy little town, with a big bastard hill on the other side. This is where I was headed. Ilkley Moor is the highest part of Rombalds Moor, and is famously known outside of Yorkshire because of the stupid git who tried wooing his bird on the moor without his hat on, and the associated county anthem, On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at. I’d considered the climb of Ilkla Moor (upon which I was wearing a helmet, which is a sort of hat, I suppose) to be the toughest part of the route. On it’s own it didn’t concern me, but after fifty-something miles that was tougher than I was expecting it looked bloody huge. It was. At it’s steepest point, it’s “only” a 13% gradient, but I managed to go slow enough to be, albeit briefly, stationary. After about four days, I crawled past the Cow and Calf rocks, and the public house of the same name, and I was at the top.
Despite all my moaning, groaning and wheezing, I’d managed to not only not get caught, but to catch someone up. Well, nearly. From the top of the Cow and Calf, the road levels out briefly before starting a lumpy descent across the moor itself. I pedalled for all I was worth, all £3.26 of it, in a desperate pursuit of the chap in front. Hitting speeds of over 50mph, the descent into Burley Woodhead became a little technical, due to my lack of desire to ride through steaming piles of horse poo, and the road surface leaving a little to be desired. I caught Mr Yellow-jumper just before The Hermit public house, and his legs clearly felt as bad, if not worse, than mine, as he disappeared behind me as the road kicked up again.
Either the road surface was getting worse, or my arse was getting more sore, as I felt every bump after the descent from the Cow and Calf, and I suspected I had a puncture. I looked down at my back wheel through my legs, but it looked alright, and so I pressed on. I bumped along for another mile, realising that there was something very much “up”, but not quite being able to put my finger on it. I figured I should probably stop and have a proper look, and there it was. A great big fat hole in my tyre, winking at me like some kind of rubbery pervert, measuring about and inch and a half, with my still-inflated inner tube poking through like some kind of cycling hernia. It occurred to me that slowing to safely negotiate steaming horse excrement may well have saved me from a speedy crash which would have left me, physically and metaphorically, in the shit.
I’d ridden for only sixty miles of the total eighty-eight, but the tyre was dead and, if I rode on, there was a fair chance I’d be next. Apparently, the better part of valour is discretion. I turned round and headed for The Hermit, and a nice pint while I awaited rescue. Don’t blame me…blame William Shakespeare. It’s his line, not mine.
Fatman: Planet X SL Pro Carbon with full 10-speed Ultegra
Patrick: Some Orbea thing with 9-speed 105, and Ultegra compact chainset