Back on the bike, but no form.

Now that I’ve had the all clear from my doctor that there’s nothing dreadfully amiss with my back (even though it still hurts) and have been told I can go back to cycling and swimming, I’m trying to make the most of it, before winter arrives.

For my first ride back, last Wednesday, I went with group 2; I’d forgotten just how slow they are, with frequent route finding stops, eating and drinking stops, loo stops and stops for U-turns when we’d got it wrong. In winter the weekend rides move to Saturday afternoons, which I can’t often make, but could today. I had a look at the two routes proposed for today; group 2 was only 50km and completely flat, whereas group 1’s route, though not much further, at 60km, was very hilly. I hoped there’d be someone wanting to do group 1 bis; often they either follow the group 1 route, but more slowly, or they cut it a bit short.

On arrival at the start, there weren’t many prepared to brave the wind that had been battering the region since last night, so only 4 riders in group 1 and, apart from me, all very strong cyclists. Nevertheless, I’d go with them, I couldn’t face staying with the other group. We set off at a cracking pace; I held my own for the first few, flat, kilometers, but as soon as the hills started, I was off the back, realising just how much fitness I’ve lost over the past few, inactive weeks. When they stopped to wait for me to catch up, I said I thought I’d go home, I was really struggling, but they wouldn’t hear of it; they’d drop the pace a bit. I was still off the back most of the time and my lowest gears were playing up, which wasn’t useful on such a hilly ride, but I struggled on. There was so much debris on the roads that in places it was impossible to tell if the road was tarmacked; leaves, twigs, branches, and even a few trees and telegraph poles brought down by the wind.

Finally we were back in Dax – I’d made it; at least I know I’ve done something as I drink my cup of tea and contemplate the partially painted spare room furniture on the balcony. I was going to finish the undercoat when I got home, but I think it’ll wait till tomorrow.


When the band was invited to a “soirée” at Arboucave I must have missed something in the conversation. I knew we weren’t taking instruments, but should turn up with some food to share and that only three of us were available, but I had no idea it was a karaoke evening, complete with a very high quality sound system.

There weren’t many people, about twenty, but what the event lacked in numbers was very much made up for in enthusiasm and friendliness, with people really throwing themselves into everything they sang. All the singers had good voices, but especially a young guy called Alex, who made every song he sang sound effortlessly beautiful. The variety of music was impressive too, from country and western to heavy metal, pop rock and even a bit of Italian opera thrown in.

There was so much food! Everyone must have brought enough for 10 people! We tucked into crisps, nuts, olives etc for the apéro, followed by quiches, all sorts of salads, mountains of bread, cold meats and cheeses. Most of the desserts were untouched, there were so many, even though people had two or three pieces each, but we all took home the remains of what we’d brought

I was quite happy just to listen and to chat with Jean Michel and Jean Marc from the band, as I didn’t know anyone else, but as we finished eating, Alex came over to ask if I knew any Irish songs; the first one that came to mind was “the rocky road to Dublin”, which is difficult to sing as it rolls along at a good pace and has very few breathing spaces. Suddenly a microphone was thrust into my hand and the lyrics appeared on the screen. I have never sung it so fast! It was difficult even to get my tongue around the words and by the finish I was quite short of breath, so fast was the rhythm! But they all seemed to enjoy it. I did a few more songs later on, “chasing cars” and “zombie” among them, as well as “sweet dreams” and “knockin’ on heaven’s door” with Jean Michel. I suspect they were only just getting warmed up by the time I left just after 11. I had over an hour’s drive home and didn’t want to be too late.

I now use Google maps to get anywhere I don’t know, which was the case last night; the way to Arboucave was fine, dual carriageway , then reasonably big, straightish roads, but google thought it’d have a laugh on my way home and took me along all the smallest, twistiest, country roads, through lots of tiny villages; I was counting on the last 25km being dual carriageway, but that didn’t happen. An hour to get there, but nearly an hour and a half home – thanks Google!


I’ve got friends coming to stay in a few weeks, so I’m desperate to finish redecorating the spare bedroom; having had niggling back problems for the last 3 months means that I can only do an hour or two at a time, so progress is painfully slow.

However, it is progress; I stripped the room of its two layers of vinyl wallpaper, knocked out and filled no fewer than 58 plasterboard fixings and lined the walls with heavy duty lining paper. Over the last few days I’ve painted all the edges, so I’ll soon finish the walls and be able to start painting the furniture (it’ll be a treat to get it out of my workshop – I can hardly move in there!)

This morning, having finished painting, I thought I’d take down the light fitting. Nick always made it look so easy – it couldn’t be that hard, could it? I turned off the electric and 10 minutes later I’d removed every screw I could find and undone a couple of nuts, but the light fitting was still very much attached to the ceiling. I messaged Kieran, with photos; he said I had to move that little tab to the left in order to remove the rectangular plug from the circular plaque by pulling on the wire – he warned me it could be difficult. It was. In fact it wasn’t going anywhere. Maybe I could get a screwdriver into the side, to help lever it out…… At last it came free.

The next part was to remove the light fitting from the wire so that I could reattach the wire with a bulb. Again I struggled for a while, making no headway. I didn’t want to disturb Kieran again as he was at work, so I collected together the light fitting and a selection of screwdrivers and spanners on the dining table and called Adrian – he understands these things. WhatsApp video calls are brilliant for this sort of thing. After a few false starts, I ended up with a plug attached to a wire, attached to a light bulb. I plugged it back in, turned the electricity back on and lo and behold, it works!

What would have been a 5 minute task for Nick had just taken me over an hour, but I did it 😊 Quite a sense of achievement.

Easy to see why I wanted rid of this!
“just move the tab to the left and tug the wire”
Just a bare light bulb to you, but a massive sense of achievement for me.