I drive and ride my bike daily. I drive into London. I drive my daughter to school. I ride my bike to save on fuel, keep fit and most importantly I feel the total freedom when I unstrap it from my car and set off.
Over the last months I have noticed, more than ever, the increasing number of “white vans” on the roads. They tower above me whether I am on my bike or in my car. They approach behind tailgating with only inches to spare when I am in my car without any regard for the fact they could not pass as there is another car in front of me and another in front of that and so on. When I am on my bike they cut me up, squeeze me so close to the curb, hoot me, pass within inches of my elbows and I know they see me. I can see them looking at me in their mirror, usually gesticulating!
In recent weeks, I have experience a new and amusing development in their evolution. They seem to come with a passenger hanging out from the off-side window as a standard feature. Maybe it’s an upgrade? This passenger shouts abuse at almost everything it passes, and that happens to be me fairly often at 7.30am on the roads of London. Only last Friday was I jolted from my traffic jam haze by the screams of one of these “white van passengers” to get off my phone!!! Funnily I was not on it so assumed the screaming, crew cut Nigel Farage supporter must have been confused with the light that comes from the Parrot device on my dash. Poor fellow! The van moved further forward and he continued the abuse from afar and then started directing it at another car too..
Our roads have now become so infested with these vans, that I cannot imagine what they all do? Is it that the haulage companies have found a way to reduce their fuel bills and so split each load between 6 vans? Have the motor companies that produce them started selling at cut down prices to the Millwall football supporters? (I photographed on the sideline of a Millwall match a few years back, so I know what I’m talking about) or has Nigel Farage done a deal with with Ford, Iveco, Renault and the plethora of other companies vying to produce models for the British roads, where for supporting his party they get massive discounts? Whatever the reason I would really love to know as there now seems to be a massive imbalance between normal traffic and white vans. They have even taken over from the 4×4 school drop off mum in those same areas….
Anyway, just to sum up, Im not in the slightest bit prejudice, I never generalise and I do lots of research… Apparently they are worth a whopping 35 billion to the economy.. Perhaps they should be running the country!?
I have now been cycling at some point each week in London for 18 months and my initial impressions are coming under a certain amount of questioning. Here is the first blog I posted about it.
I remember being impressed with the number of people I saw running with packs, running without, cycling or just generally being active. Cyclists seem to be everywhere and the lanes at certain times of day were packed. There is not much change in this and I am still impressed to a degree but having now seen the active commuting scene in London for over a year I have come to the conclusion that really not many people cycle to work.
I saw this article yesterday on the BBC website but didn’t yet read it. I generally don’t as I looked at the pictures, read the headline and pretty much new what it was about. However, it made me think about our “lacking” cycling scene and I have intended to post for a while about this. Referring back to the pictures on the BBC article; Where do you ever see this many bikes in London? You don’t. Where are the cargo bikes of parents taking their kids to school? There aren’t any. Where are the cyclists when it rains? Most are in buses, cars or on the already overcrowded tube which is such a shame. Even though we have access to the best waterproofing ever designed. And really rain is so beautiful once you are out in it. Read the rest of this entry »
I am constantly bemused by the lunacy that confronts me each time a travel through Heathrow Airport. I don’t think it would be nearly so bad if my experience was the same at each of the airports I travel through but its not. No matter where I am, the security checks are simple and respectful. Heathrow? Well, they are just unbelievable. Each of my last 3 or 4 journeys my bag has gone through the “extra check” line where it gets taken for a good swabbing and total empty out. Early on in the experience I was told it was the hard drives and camera and it was best to take them out with the laptop. So my next trip I did exactly this and in anticipation of a clear walk through I was again disappointed. I got stopped. So now I begin to get agitated and question why again?.
“Well, sir we need to check”
“Yes, but why?”
“Because you have cables sir.”
“Err, they are earphones, what on earth might you find in there?”
she ignores me and the search goes on, she searches my bag and returns and after 10 minutes I am on my way.
My next experience;
“Sir can I please have a look in your bag?”
“Do I have a choice then?”
“Well, you can say no but I will look anyway.”
“So, why are you asking me if you can look then?”
“Sir, I have to look in your bag! Can I please take a look”
“But Im going to have to have a look!”
“Thats fine but don’t ask me if you can look if you are going to look anyway.. Just take a fucking look!”
“Please don’t swear at me sir!”
“I didn’t swear at you, I swore, period!”
The search happened and after 15 minutes of wasted time I went on my way… A few more times I had similar experiences and one really nice indian lady who apologised profusely before the search but said she had to, so I just kept my mouth shut and smiled. However, this last one took the biscuit.
I arrived at T5 checked in with no more than hand baggage, got to security and took out my laptop, cables, earphones, hard drives and anything that might matter. By bag gets selected again!!
“Please, please, tell my why my bag is being searched?”
She ignores the question and asks if there are any object that might hurt her in the bag so I ignore her. She asks again to which I said “no” so she opens the bag and empties it out. “Will you please tell me why the search?” I emptied everything out that could possibly perceived as a bomb or determine that I am a jihadist! Please?”
“Its liquids sir” she said tersely.
“What? What liquids?”
“Excuse me? Thats a tube of toothpaste 2 inches long!” She then took it out put it in a plastic bag and ran it through the machine again. It was a miniature travel tube!
I have come to the conclusion that the UK Airport security services probably all share the same brain cell. It is not rocket science when determining who might possibly be a danger, who really cannot be a danger and who might be a grey area. No other airport except American, of course, do I ever have such an experience. I am now on my way back to Heathrow which of course, will not be a problem but I really don’t know what to do next time. I think I will put each item in a plastic bag of its own, empty everything out at the X-ray machine, take three of the big trays and just see what happens.
This is my cut after hearing the music one evening at the end of an episode of “A Person of Interest” on Netflix. It’s a great track.
Faces of The Race
Its more than just the runners…
Mad In Marrakech
The Trans Atlas Marathon has been a truly beautiful experience from every perspective. The mix of the best Moroccan runners, some European runners, small Atlas villages, local people working the race and fantastic “tough race” conditions has culminated in a brilliant last stage. It set out from the village of Siti Fatma deep in the valley and took the following brutal profile.
The lead mens runner Ali Naciri by this stage was always going to win barring a major accident and he rolled home in Imlil in 32h57 for the 280km to cheers as he came down the street packed with residence cheering on their local heroes. He was followed closely by Samir Akhdar a regular at the MDS.
Winning lady was the incredible Aziza Raji, in 39h52. Aziza is a marathon runner of 2h 50 and the hills just never seemed to affect her. What a great competitor and role model for other Moroccan women. Another female competitor, Aicha Mrabet-Bensalah who ran her first race ever also completed. Half Moroccan half swiss, she came in at the end of the day to massive cheers and admiration for a truly brave and well run race.
The final stage of the event is a stand alone Marathon stage as well as being part of the Ultra. This allows other locals to enter without the fear of a huge first race or simply just to run a marathon. This years race was won by 2014 Marathon des Sables winner Rachid El Mourabity in 4h 46.
To summarise, as a new race I can only say good things about the Trans Atlas Marathon. I think it will grow fast but it will also be restricted in terms of numbers to keep the atmosphere that makes it so special. Sign up now if you are tempted. www.transatlasmarathon.com
Mens Results: 1st – Ali Naciri (Maroc) 32h57, 2nd – Samir Akhdar (Maroc) 34h40, 3rd – Smayri Rachid (Maroc)
Womens Results: 1st – Aziza Raji (Maroc) 39h52, 2nd – Magdalena Martini (Ger) 48h32, 3rd – AichaM’rabet-Bens (Maroc) 61h54
42K Results: 1st – Rachid Mourabity 4h46, 2nd – Abderahim Goumissa 5h02, 3rd – Abdeallah Ait Tazert 5h14
Team Winner UVU.
Here is a portfolio of the final stage to browse through.
Other stage profiles
As you can see, some pretty awesome days! Enter now.
Last night I arrived in Morocco for the first time in just over a year. The last time was to shoot for the Marathon Des Sables but I am here this year for a new race, The Trans Atlas Marathon. Travelling and filming with Chris O’Conner of CojoFilms, We were greeted by Mohamad Ahansal. The last time I saw him was winning the 2013 MDS. Since then he and his brother Lahcen have set up their own race and, wow! What a course this seems to be…. Read the rest of this entry »