So we didn’t win.

Even though it was a strong team and they were very strong against the very aggressive Italian players for 120 minutes, the England team lost on penalties yesterday.

I’m actually quite pleased it went this way. Not for the team; I’m gutted for those guys who tried so hard. Not for the real fans (the people who follow football like a religion, not the thugs who smash up town centres), but for the Government and the clown who sits in number 10 milking this patriotism for all it’s worth.

Had our team won last night he would have used it as a device to fuel the horrible nationalism the Tories seem to thrive on. The gammon would have had another reason why “Engerland” is the best in Europe, and another reason why we’re better out.

Well we lost. Italy is better than us at football. Get over it. Lots of people are better at us at most things. We might have invented the things they’re better at, but they’re still better.

I’m so pleased!

My old Vango TBS Micro 100 is actually fine after not being used for about 18 years.

My current plan of doing a cycling/camping trip is bringing to take form and with the impeding thunderstorms yesterday afternoon I decided to pitch it in mum’s garden to test how waterproof it is.

Apart from a few discoloured marks on the back of it, the tent looks great and I can honesty say after a lot of storms and torrential rain the tent did not let a drop of water in. This morning when I checked up on it, the inside was bone dry.

I was worried that if my tent leaked I may have to abort plans, or end up buying something like a Zelter Shelter which whilst it sounds like a cool idea, it also sounds incredibly claustrophobic though.

The difference between lighting styles.

Latex is notoriously difficult to photograph. It’s a very shiny material and under the right lighting it yields very reflective highlights.

Left to right we have:

1. Close lighting to the left; incandescent and one LED tuneable light set to cool white. Lighting straight in front – one incandescent spotlight about 10ft away.

2. Same as the first, but this time with the “house lights” on. These are fluorescent lights.

3. House lights and the 10ft incandescent spot only.

4. House lights only

As you can see the lighting really charges, particularly between the left two and right two photos. The specular highlights on the first two are really hot on the light levels.

22 miles!

When I was a kid I used to go all over on my bike with my mates, but in all honesty I can never say I went as far as 22 miles. The longest rides we used to do were to Elsecar reservoir, about 7 miles away; so about a 14 mile round trip.

Yesterday I did 22 miles – not easy miles either – the TPT towards Doncaster is uphill and quite strenuous – but wow is it worth it.

But it’s worth it for views like this from the Conisbrough Viaduct. This is the River Don as it heads downstream. The sad thing about this view though, is that it is close to a main road.

Why is that sad I hear you ask?

Well some of the views I’ve found on my cycling adventures are 2-3 miles from easy access. I think of them as my reward for the exercise and actually getting on my bike and doing something. For example, the really cool bridge below.

It’s miles from anywhere. You can’t drive to it. You can’t park near it. Karen in her SUV won’t visit it with her screaming brats.

The viaduct on the other hand was full of people who thought it was a nice day and they’d go and park on the main road and have a “nice walk”. By nice walk I mean stand in the middle of the cycle path and generally get in the way; even ignoring my bell and then looking offended when you ask them to move.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not become that selfish arrogant cyclist; but I am finding myself preferring the quiet routes. Luckily though as it was later in the day the canal towpath was quiet from Sprotbrough to Conisbrough. I would imagine at busy times this would be horrendous!

Now for my next adventures… A camping trip. As my fitness improves I’m starting to carry small loads on the back of my bike; and I’m gradually increasing them with the aim of going for a short (10 mile) camping trip. I’ve eyed up a campsite – it won’t be wild camping the first time I go – but I am looking towards a wild camp or perhaps meeting a friend on one of the trails.

Garden works

So we’ve decided to totally and utterly obliterate our old weedy garden and start from scratch. It’s cleared now and over the next few weeks we’re going to replant it.

Last week we laid two patios; one a rondal, the other a small sun patio for the evenings when the bottom of the garden goes into shade.

We have kept the shrubs which are healthy though as we aren’t really going to have any grass as such – it’s going to be all low shrubs and perennials including a fern area for me since I love ferns.

Yesterday I put in the lighting. Two bollards, both concreted and on drilled slabs to ensure they look tidy. Getting them vertical was not easy as the slabs are textured but I managed it.

I hate floodlights but I love to see low level lighting which is well designed and doesn’t light up the whole world. These are downward reflecting bollards which have a really good rating for efficiency when it comes to not sending light up into the sky. Over 99% of emitted light useful.

As an extra bonus I’ve put smart bulbs in them so we can dim them and change the colour of the lighting as required. This makes them really useful as we can mood light the garden.

They’re all on sunset timers and they turn off late at night, but like the rest of our stuff there are linking actions through Smartthings so if it senses movement on the camera it turns them on low for 10 minutes before fading then back down.

The other wire is for a socket on a post. This time we are determined to do it right and have some power on each of the two patio areas.

Ooooh shiny!

So ASOS knows me exactly.

They sent me an advert on Facebook and it was for a high shine suit. I had to buy! It’s arriving this week.

The only worry I have is that it says in the reviews “runs small” and “no stretch on the fabric” on the sizing and even though I’m now a 36″ waist it’s a close thing. I’m not a belted 36 (which is my eventual aim).

It might not fit me now, but soon?

As you well know I have a huge penchant for shiny formal wear!

Mask Exempt?

I was at Alton Towers last week again. Yeah I know I love that place. Thursday was spent with friends and was a great time. We did the usual way of queueing for all the rides and enjoyed the conversation (and the Yorkshire pudding wraps).

We only managed about seven rides as it was really busy. Most of the day the queues were above 1 hour for most of the rides although the Smiler did get up to 110 minutes at one point.

That night I spent the evening in the hotel. Just me alone. I was in room 101. I will never go in a room so close to reception ever again. Whilst I accepted that there would be noise from the patio until about 11:15 when they turned the heaters off I didn’t then expect a member of staff to rearrange the furniture in the upstairs lounge at 3am.

Anyone who knows the TV programme Room 101 will shudder at the thought of staying in it. It’s the room into which you put all the bad things of society.

The lake in the middle is quite nice though. I had a view over this from my room (as opposed to every previous visit where I’ve had a view of carparks).

In all honesty though – I’ve never had a great experience at the Alton Towers hotels. If I were reviewing the stay as a whole I’d say the hotels are a bit of a cop out. The so called themed decor in some of the rooms is minimal – mine was simply a border, carpet and light fittings. Very little extra was done to make it an explorer room – and above and beyond what a standard Holiday Inn does there’s not much for kids to do at night. You need to entertain them yourselves.

Now I know I didn’t pay extra for a luxury room – this time it’s only the basic room – but still… I will say though that it’s very comfortable compared to a Travel Lodge or Holiday Inn room.

Breakfast the next day was at 7:30 ready for me to walk up to the park gates.

I was one of the first up there at about quarter to nine, and at just after nine o’clock they let us into the park. With no early ride time at the moment due to social distancing everyone is getting let in at 9. This gave me plenty of time to collect my Platinum pass!

Unbelievably on day two I hardly took any photos! Then again, I’ve got more than enough photos of rides from different angles and it certainly wasn’t great light for photos with a typical British grey sky sitting above.

I’m a bit miffed by some of the current Fastpass lines too, whilst Smiler, Oblivion, Rita and Th13teen have decent queue jump facilities; the batching points for Nemesis, and most specifically Galactica are far too early down the queue line and after you’re batched you still have 5 minutes of queue time ahead for Nemesis, and 15-20 minutes of queue time ahead. Hardly Fastpass – considering it’s a £105 upgrade!

This September is my next trip and I’ll be doing it the normal way then. No fast-pass. The park tends to quieten down in September, plus whilst fastpass has its benefits for maximum ride I do find I lose a lot of the experience of the place as I feel like I need to maximise my pass. When I do it the slow way I’ll sit in for dinner rather than grabbing it on the fly.

So I’ll say farewell to Alton Towers until September.

First Operation Snap success!

I didn’t start cycling to grass on people; I started it to get fit whilst enjoying myself. However I also didn’t start it to get hit by an idiot in a car who thinks passing me at less than 30cm is an acceptable overtake.

Police now run a system called operation snap where people can upload videos of such things for assessment and possible prosecution, and a few weeks ago I submitted my first one. It was on a cycle ride just outside Normanton – I’d taken the bike on the van and had a little ride at work during my lunch break.

The car in question – strangely enough an electric vehicle – a mini – put the pinch on me and forced me to swerve towards the kerb as they did a MGIF (must get in front). We stopped at lights not 100 yards later and I went up the cycle lane on the inside.

Well I submitted the video to West Yorkshire Police operation snap and I received a notification yesterday that the driver had been sent a notice of intended prosecution and had been offered a driver improvement course at their own expense.

Driver improvement courses are an alternative to 3 penalty points; although they stay on your driving record for 3 years and you can’t do another until the previous one has expired – so if you commit another offence you’ll not be offered one and will be dealt with in the appropriate manner. They cost more than the fixed penalty fine (£140 versus £100) but you don’t have to tell your insurers.

Sadly, South Yorkshire Police have yet to roll out operation snap – I had one close pass yesterday which I would certainly have reported – but I’ve sent an email to them asking when the scheme is to roll out and attaching my close pass video for their consideration.

I’ll not be publishing the videos provided both are resolved successfully. Whilst cyclingmikey on YouTube does post them with the result; I have a belief that if you report someone off the back of a dashcam or cycle cam video and they are successfully prosecuted then they should not be embarrassed any further for their mistake and hopefully they have learnt their lesson.