Saturday, September 19, 2009


My wife is this thing: a horrible barstard; and she is a horrible barstard because she just told me off for opening the cheese in the wrong way. How many ways can you open cheese? - No. Wrong. There is only one way to open cheese and it is my wife's way and therefore my cheese-opening skills are faulty and require training.

We have just been for a ride to Ngatimoti where we had a long chat with a roadie whose wife fancies a tandem, and we like our tandem hugely because although she is a horrible barstard is my wife, it's fun whizzing along in a Bolt Upright position at the sorts of speed I used to manage on Herbert's bike. - Herbert gave me his old racing bike a few years ago, and it is a fine racing bike because Walter Haenni gave it to him after Walter Haenni won the Austrian road championship on it. Herbert was Herbert Franz and he was Walter's coach, and he was also Karen Holliday's coach when she became New Zealand's first cycling world champion. I expect you can Google all this if it excites you, but I don't suppose it will and anyway I only include it because I like name-dropping. It is my vice. Along with incorrect cheese opening.

It was a lovely sunny morning and we got to Ngatimoti and waved at an oncoming cyclist and stopped because it was Celia, and while my wife and Celia wagged their jaws at one another I fixed Celia's front brake which she had disconnected 'because it rubbed'. I shall not give my views on Celia's bicycle maintenance other perhaps than to say cheese opening is uncontroversial by comparison.

While we were variously wagging jaws & repairing Celia's brake two tandemists came hurtling past in a racing crouch. Well, four tandemists, in four racing crouches on two - anyway you know what I mean. And then a third tandem, and soon we discovered we were in the middle of Tandem Rush-hour. One after another came past, occasionally two or three together, occasionally shouting 'Hi Richard' which left me wondering who they all were. So we left Celia and headed back to Motueka and half an hour later found that Mike Gane, who is a famous cycling event organiser, had for our convenience organised an entire tandem race, and we joined him at the finish line and commanded him to build us some tandem wheels because mine, as everyone had assured me they would, are going all agly. Spoke tension is astray, rims are beginning to nudge brake blocks, and since I know for a fact that Mike Gane has a tandem triplet - actually it might be a tandem fourtlet so I don't know it for a fact at all - and a bike shop in Stoke, I was happy to take his advice which is that 40 spokes on a 559 wheel will be fine for a tandem.

Back in town a boring old bloke with shaggy black hair whom, unfortunately, I happen to know came over and started telling me how I should have braced the frame of my tandem. From past conversations I have established that he has made this many tandem frames:
and he has this much experience of making recumbent-or-trike-or-any-other-cycle frames:
and the advice that he gave me today was misremembered from something that I had observed to him a while ago and what he told me was this:
and I started to wonder what it is about me that turns me into an Advice Victim. Wherever I go I find myself on the receiving end of large amounts of advice about what I have already done from people who have never done it themselves.

Since the children, who are up on bullying, have told me this is against my Yuman Rights, I shall now take a leaf out of their book and start to dish out advice in a similar manner.

I shall start by advising a former cabinet minister not to read his text messages while he's driving his car. I have never myself done this on account of not having a mobile phone, but on an occasion when I was passenger in a motorcar driven by a cabinet minister, he did read his text messages and turned me into a Very Frightened Passenger. I have chosen this advice carefully because it's about to become illegal anyway, and ex-cabinet ministers always obey the law.

(Well, some of them do. Some exercise their constructive spin skills on their having deliberately run over and killed a cyclist )(I wish I could read Dutch. It would be interesting, given their attitudes towards cycling, to see what the Netherlands media make of the story.)

I'd quite like to advise our present cabinet ministers that $25 a tonne (about ten quid, the current NZ proposal) as a cap-and-trade price for carbon dioxide is not going to make folk more thoughtful about cars since it'll only cost each of us a hundred quid a year. But, when he's set his heart on it, advising a cabinet minister not to do something completely pointless is like advising a teenager not to smash his bourbon-and-coke bottle on the BMX track.

Hmm. Maybe I'm a wuss. Maybe I need to be more assertive. Maybe I need to get in training. Maybe I'll go and advise my wife how to open cheese.


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