Sunday, 15 April 2018

Cold, cough, sore throat, Syria and Lost in Space

I've been battling to avoid a cold for some weeks. About a fortnight ago I was fine, but when I walked into the office a couple of Mondays ago I found I had a streaming nose, which cleared up after a couple of days. The following Monday the same thing occurred. I'd been fine, nothing wrong at all, but suddenly a streaming nose and loud sneezing. Somebody even suggested it might be hay fever or the office air con. There are a lot of people in my office (I'm not one of them) who moan about the air con and heating, claiming it's too hot or too cold. I never notice it.

Andy gets out on the road, but I stay home...with a bad cold
About five days ago, possibly six or seven, I started to get a sore throat, but I still felt fine. It got worse and became one of those 'painful when I swallow' situations and last Friday, after nothing more than being an irritation, I started to feel hot and bothered, I couldn't really concentrate, I felt weary and not at all well. On Friday night I kind of knew I wouldn't be riding, certainly on Saturday, although I figured I'd be alright for Sunday. I sent Andy an 'abort' text, made a Lemsip and then started to watch the first episode of Lost in Space on Netflix, but it was late so I resolved to watch it later (I ended up watching episodes one and two on Saturday night, it's good). I say it's good, I'm not overly keen on the robot. In the original series the robot is much more friendly whereas the new one is a little dark and gothic in a Batman/Alien kind of way, but overall I'm enjoying it, although they've made Dr. Smith a woman (in my opinion you'll never beat Jonathan Harris' interpretation of the role).

So, back to the cold, or the flu or whatever you want to call it. There was no way I could make any kind of early start at the green and while last week late nights held me back, this week it was being under the weather. I was feeling so down at heel that I didn't ride at all. Instead, I walked around 2.5 miles into Croydon to get a blast of fresh air. I checked out Waterstone's but lacked the concentration to read anything, I found myself in the Camden Coffee House in the Whitgift Centre where I had a lemongrass and ginger tea plus a slice of banana cake (with walnuts) and read an old newspaper, or tried to, and then popped my head into a few other stores. Nothing really made sense to me so I headed home, catching the bus rather than walking the same distance back.

I still had enough energy to mow the lawn front and back. I was basing everything I did on staying in the fresh air and sunshine (as always when I abort a ride, the weather is beyond fine). The back lawn was done perfect (I gave it half a dozen mows, clicking down the cut size so that I eventually had a low cut, but stepped down rather than an immediate low cut which tends to rip the grass and clog up the mower. That said, I need a new mower, or a new blade. The front lawn wasn't so good. I was feeling weary and I didn't want to run through the cut settings like I had on the back lawn, so I gave it one high cut and then changed down to a four setting for one more cut: it looks terrible, but I plan to get out there today.

Low-grade political figure Williamson
Last night I watched the remainder of episode one and the whole of episode two of Lost in Space and then hit the sack around midnight, without a Lemsip. I had a streaming nose, I was sneezing (loudly, I always sneeze loudly) and I just hoped I would sleep well. I didn't. I awoke around 0400hrs and eventually slipped downstairs to make a Lemsip. Whenever I watch TV in the early hours Click is always on. Needless to say I listened to the news about Syria. Look, my view on the crisis is simple: first, I don't rate any of our politicians in the UK, they're all low-rent people who lack gravitas and shouldn't be in charge of the country. Just the phrase, 'Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary' makes me cringe, in the same way that one cringes at work when the general feeling is that somebody shouldn't be in a particular job, they don't fit, they don't deserve it. There are far too many imposters in my opinion, and there's an inordinate amount of them in British politics. Why is Gavin Willliamson defence secretary? Michael Portillo, yes, but Williamson, with his pet spider, he's SUCH a cock! And what did he say about the Russians? They should 'go home and shut up' apparently. Where's the gravitas? The Russians, quite rightly, derided his comments. And what about Boris likening Putin to Hitler, completely ignoring the fact that the Russians lost millions during the Second World War. Again, what a complete and utter COCK!!! So why would anybody trust these people with making decisions on invading another country? Invading another country? Isn't that what the bad guys do? Pardon? Oh, you mean we ARE the bad guys, it's just the BBC that tells us we're not.

This idiotic buffoon shouldn't be our foreign secretary...
Something else I can't abide is our arrogance, our belief that we are right and everybody else is wrong. There was a moment in the run-up to the air strikes when somebody on our side of the argument said that the Russians' were claiming that if there were casualties on their side, or any of their forces were hit, they would retaliate. The person, whose name I forget, said, as if surprised, that Russia's comments effectively meant that they, the Russians, were declaring war. Well, of course they are: we, don't forget, are the aggressors. If the Russians decided to drop a bomb on the Houses of Parliament (hopefully when it's in session!) then I would imagine we would retaliate militarily. Well, this is the same thing and what amazes me is how we think that whatever we do is right, even if we're invading a sovereign nation. The West was still referring to the chemical attack as 'alleged' and 'suspected' when they launched their attack.

Donald Trump came out with the best, and possibly the most self-damaging, quote of the conflict: "What kind of nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?" You won't like the answer, Donald.

Anyway, it's happened, we went in, dropped a few bombs and came away and ever since there have been the usual shots on TV of Theresa May, putting on her stern-faced look (I can only assume they're trained to do this, they don't really care) discussing how bad the Syrians and the Russians have been and trying to keep everybody on side. They lost my vote ages ago.

It's odd, also, that two 'chemical weapons' incidents should happen so close to one another: first the Skripals in Salisbury and then the alleged Syrian chemical attack. That's slightly odd, don't you think?

What should have happened in Syria is this: fine, the West isn't keen on Assad, but then the West has been responsible in the past for nurturing other despotic tyrants in the region, like Saddam Hussein, a man known, of course, for his chemical attacks on his own people. So we're not entirely innocent on this issue. It's obvious why Russia supports Assad: he and his bombed-out country are of strategic importance. It was mentioned recently that there are monsters on one side of the conflict and maniacs on the other. Well, my view is we should have engaged with the Russians, possibly assisted them in returning normality to Syria even if that meant continuing Assad's leadership of the country. What was the alternative? In the process rid the region (and the world) of ISIS and then rebuild Syria. Why prolong the conflict any longer than necessary? But no, our blind faith in ideology – on this occasion 'the Russians are the bad guys so everything they say and do we must oppose' – has prolonged the conflict and increased the likelihood of a fast return to the bad old Cold War days. Who wants that? Nobody. If I was Donald Trump, I'd pick up the phone to Putin today and try and sort things out man-to-man.

I went back to bed around 0530hrs and awoke at 1000hrs and now, having enjoyed my usual breakfast (multi-seed porridge with grapes, blueberries, raspberries and sliced banana plus a mug of decaff tea) I'm sitting here blogging.

The original series was the best and much funnier...
The weather is perfect for cycling, but there's no way I could have made it. A lazy day lies ahead of me. I'll resume reading the paper at some stage, later I'll have lunch, there's the traditional Sunday roast this evening, which I normally make (I'll probably do it tonight) and then there's Lost in Space, episode three. One thing I tend not to like about modern remakes of past programmes, like Lost in Space or, indeed, anything, is that those who make the remakes (and this is across the board) think that that word 'modern' means they have to be more edgy. I hate it, for example, when there's a 'modern' version of, say, a Shakespeare play and whoever produces it thinks: we must have rap music and graffiti and make it more 'of the street', or, as in the case of Lost in Space, take the humour out of the programme and, especially where the robot is concerned, give him a darker edge. In the original series there was a lot of humour surrounding Doctor Smith and the robot, but not in the remake, it's all 'serious' and 'dark' and I'm not sure if that's a good thing.

Andy got out. I've just seen a tweet on Twitter. He went up White Hill Lane, a killer hill if I recall. Nice one, Andy, see you next weekend.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Solo ride to mum's on Saturday, rained off on Sunday

Nothing to report this week other than a late night on Friday leading to an abort text on Saturday. Andy went out alone, but I've yet to ask him where he went; he had a good ride, but that's all I know. As for me, well, I didn't want to waste the decent weather so I left the house around 0940hrs and rode to mum's where tea and cake were on the agenda. The ride there and back was good, I rode through Foxley Lane and along the off-road track leading to the Lavender field (no lavender yet).  From the lavender field I followed another off-road track into Carshalton Beeches, turning left at the Windsor Castle pub and then hanging a right into Alma Road, a left on to Shorts Road and then another left under the railway bridge to mum's.
Library shot of mum at home
The ride back was basically a repeat of the outward journey. I tackled the south face of West Hill and got back home some time after 1100hrs.

I awoke Sunday to rain and it didn't stop, it just went on and on all day, drizzling, so there was no riding, but I'd had yet another late night (an old mate's birthday party) and I aborted around midnight. In effect, I wasted an abort because the rain aborted the ride.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

To the Tatsfield bus stop – the fast way...

"Something ought to be done about the drug companies. They hold the world to ransom. It's a prime example of what is wrong with capitalism. If anything needs to be brought under government control it's got to be the drug companies – and transportation, the railways. We're all being ripped off," I said as we rode along the 269. It was cold. Four degrees. And cloudy too, but there was no sign of any rain. My phone promised cloud all day, but little chance of a soaking.

I simply couldn't face riding the slow way. "I'd prefer the hill coming out of Westerham to Beddlestead Lane," I said as we reached the first incline. It was a struggle this morning, coming up Church Way, so the thought of that long, steady climb filled me with dread, just the thought of it.

"Do you reckon it's a mile from Botley to the bus stop?"
"Could be, not sure," said Andy.
"It's three miles from the green," I said.

Easter Sunday and not that many cars on the road. But I still opted for the off-road path towards the end of the 269 as it makes conversation easier. I say 'the end of the 269' but what I mean is the end of our bit of the road. The 269 starts down by old Red Deer pub and ends somewhere in Edenbridge. Once day I'd like to ride the entire length of it, but not today; it's too cold and there's plenty of Easter stuff going on.

There was talk of mission statements and business plans when we reached the bus stop. I said no to biscuits, mainly because I've been overdoing it: chocolate, slices of bread, the odd biscuit, well, make that a good half a dozen biscuits, daily, over the past week. A chocolate HobNob, a ginger nut or two and then some M&S white chocolate cookies (smaller than I expected them to be). I was content to drink tea and then fling my tea bag on to the grass in front of me. Andy did the same and while he normally wins, I think my tea bags had the edge today.

The road sign has disappeared. It used to have the words 'Approach Road' written on it, but now it's gone. About a week ago I drove past the bus stop and noticed the sign had been uprooted but was still in place – vertically. Now it had been taken away.

There were some big potholes in the road on the return journey, but swerving late to avoid them was not a good idea. "There's a big one coming up," I said, and sure enough there it was and we both managed to avoid it without drifting into the middle of the road.

It was cold. The temperature was roughly four degrees Centigrade throughout the duration of the ride and it never rose above six degrees during the rest of the day. Or so it seemed.

Me, in the snow, Botley Hill, April 2008...
On Good Friday we rode 22 miles and on Easter Sunday we managed around 16, that's assuming that there is a mile between Botley Hill and the bus stop. A total so far of 38 miles. Not too bad considering we've had three weeks out of the saddle through bad weather.

There are news reports suggesting overnight snow, which could mean no cycling tomorrow, but I simply don't believe it. It's a bit nippy, yes, especially this morning, but I don't envisage there being any snow. Not that there hasn't been snow in April. And you all know that I'm going to bring up 2008 when Andy and I were caught out in it, close to Botley Hill. At first we thought it was fun and made our way towards the bus stop in awe of the increasingly white-out conditions, but by the time we had to head home our giggles turned to grimaces, our faces froze and, well, we were so glad to reach our respective homes. Hopefully we'll get a ride, but I suspect that if the snow don't get us, the rain will.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

To Westerham!

This weekend is going to be 'touch and go' on the cycling front. In fact I was fully expecting abort texts to fly and no cycling to take place. Why? Because of the rain, that's why. My iphone has a little cloud and rain symbol for the next few days, meaning it expects the Easter holidays to be a complete wash-out.

In fact, I'm amazed that we even got a ride yesterday (Good Friday) and even more amazed that we made it all the way to Westerham and back without getting a soaking. When I peered out from behind the curtain in the morning things looked sort of okay, but there was that 'it could rain at any moment' feeling going on as I trudged downstairs to make my porridge. Every morning I make porridge with blueberries, raspberries and a sliced banana. I might have mentioned this before, it's a good way to start the day, then I sit at the table with just one light on and check out the on-line world; well, alright, I look at the BBC website, check out what the papers say and then I might look at my emails, nothing special.

As always when I'm due to go cycling I check my phone for any abort texts and normally there aren't any so it's then a case of simply getting on with things: finishing breakfast, making the tea for the ride and then heading out to brave the elements. I was running 'mildly late' as I put it on a text to Andy, but all was fine as I headed along Ellenbridge, veered left and up Elmfield, turned left on to Morley, right on to Church Way and then roared, well, alright, I didn't roar, I trundled, along the Limpsfield Road towards the green.

As you can see I used a filter on this shot...
We decided to head for Westerham, mainly because we hadn't been on the bikes for three weeks – rain could have made it four weeks. On the way the ride was punctuated by the sound of gunshot from across the fields – pheasant shooting, I guessed, or possibly early morning clay pigeon shooting. I had a couple of close calls with cars driving too close so I used the off-road path for the last few yards of the 269. The ride was fine, albeit a little grey, but there was no rain and we decided to visit the Tudor Rose on our arrival, except that it was closed so we paid a visit to Deli Di Luca, a pleasant little caff, where Andy bought the tea and almond croissants, very nice. We sat there for around 30 minutes and then headed out of Westerham and up the hill towards Botley. It's always, without fail, a tedious ride to the top of the hill, but once we reach the 269 it's a straight road back to the green.

Once home the rain started and it didn't stop. It was one of those days: rain, rain and more rain. Nothing much was done.

Right now it's Saturday morning and Andy and I had both decided not to go cycling today, which is a shame because the weather looks good. Andy said yesterday that he wouldn't be going so I invited my mum round for lunch – it means driving over to Sutton and back twice plus getting things organised – so going for a ride is not a good idea. However, it's a clear case of Sod's Law: we don't go cycling and the weather turns out fine. You'll probably find that the rest of the Easter weekend is a wash-out, but the key thing is we got out to Westerham yesterday (a 22-mile round trip).

Here's hoping we'll get out tomorrow and Monday.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

I really must learn to shut my cakehole!

I really must, this is serious. I'm eating too much cake. Can't get enough of it! But what about my biscuit hole? That too! (They're one and the same). I don't know what it is, but cake and biscuits are fantastic. I love them! But you can get too much of a good thing and in my world that's an occupational hazard.

A few years back I embarked upon a diet. I limited myself to just three slices of bread per day (which was a little better than my (easily) one dozen slices. Put it this way, I'd wake up in the morning and have between two and four slices of bread, normally with marmalade (something I've given up completely, along with any 'spreads', so jam, honey, it's all been off the agenda for years now). Also off the agenda, 99.9% of the time are chocolate bars – wrapped chocolate like Twix, Mars bars and so forth. There was a time, about five years ago, when I lapsed for a while and enjoyed a Mars bar once a day, but that was short-lived.

I could have done without the dessert...
I think it's foodstuffs (better make that food groups) with the letter B, so bread, buns, biscuits and now, of course, beer, since I've stopped drinking (coming up for five months on 28 March – actually, that's today!).

But of late I've lapsed on the letter B foods. I simply can't resist a biscuit or two during the day and I really wish this wasn't the case. I've also lapsed on cake. Whenever I visit a National Trust property, which is roughly once a week (forget the culture, I go purely for the cake and the gift shop) I enjoy a slice of cake. And then there's Westerham's Tudor Rose café, where I've been a regular fixture over the past few weeks, and guess what? There's a great selection of cakes. Only last Sunday I enjoyed a chunk (make that a brick) of bread pudding and the week before there was a rather nice Bakewell tart with icing and a large cherry and just a day before that a lemon sponge with lemon curd sandwiched between the two sponges and lemon icing on top – wonderful, yes, but good for me? Well, spiritually, perhaps, but I've noticed my trousers are a little tighter, which means they've got to stop.

I've forgotten to mention my weekly trips to mum's. My mum makes exceedingly good cakes and I make a point of having two slices (make that chunks) with my tea and I have been known to raid the biscuit tin too – it's all got to stop. Perhaps I'll stop everything but my weekly ration of mum's cake. Yeah, that's what I'll do.

Now that the severe weather has lifted (that said, it's raining today and for the foreseeable future no doubt – it's the Easter bank holiday this coming weekend) I'm getting out at lunch times for some long walks and I've even walked to Merstham railway station some evenings. That's the good news. I'm also guaranteeing myself 40 minutes of additional walking everyday simply by taking the train from a railway station 20 minutes' walk away (as opposed to just 10).

Breakfast and dinner are fine, it's just the bit in between that is causing problems. While my lunch, give or take, is fine (normally baked potatoes, heatlhy stuff, or a sandwich from M&S) it's the snacking in between that's an issue. God forbid if anybody has a birthday in the office as the rule is they have to bring in cakes and stuff and most people push the boat out and display an array of goodies, normally from Sainsbury's, including mini millionaire's shortbreads, doughnuts (I'd only eat the custard ones, but they never get them) and other snacks that carry labelling saying 'not good for you'.

Fortunately the summer is coming, and that can mean warm weather. Warm weather suppresses the appetite a little and with sunshine comes exercise, so the future is looking good, but I must resist foods beginning with the letter B and as I said earlier, there's loads of them, although a lot of them good be grouped under the title 'Baked Goods'.

My rule on chocolate has been broken a couple of times this week as I've bought, as part of my lunch from M&S after a walk, is a small bar of chocolate (containing tumeric – so I think it's healthy). The bar boasts just 144 calories (not bad) so, well, no more, let's say that, no more.

Anyway, that's just to let you all know where I am on the dieting front. I'm not doing too bad in the scheme of things, but I think my report card would read 'could do better'.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Long time no riding

It's not good, but we've not been out for three weeks. Alright, if I go today, which I plan to do, then it's only been two weeks out of the saddle, but I didn't go yesterday, Andy isn't going today, so we're on dodgy ground.

My plan today is to ride over to Kenley, not a million miles away, only 12 there and back (give or take) but there's a couple of decent hills (Whyteleafe Hill on the outward journey and Tithepit Shaw Lane on the way back) so it's a good enough work-out.

Not much going on cycling wise, but loads of crap happening in the world at large. Let's start with Russia and its recent, alleged nerve gas attack in Salisbury: well, what to say? I can't believe the idiots in the British Government and, as you know, the biggest idiot of all is Boris Johnson, followed by that twat of a defence secretary Williamson. I mean, how childish to say that the Russians should shut up and go away. Sounds like a little kid in the playground. When are we going to get some proper politicians?

"Go away and shut up!" This man is in charge of our defence!
Did the Russians do it? We don't know is the truth, but Buffoon and Williamson prefer to work on the guilty until proven innocent model of law and order; they really are a disgrace.

Russia has dominated the headlines over the past fortnight, diplomats have been expelled and it's all very boring. Three people were involved in the nerve gas attack: two Russians (one a spy) and a British policeman who was released from hospital last week. The two Russians are not out of the woods yet, it is claimed.

What else? There's always Brexit so we'll leave that alone (it's SO boring!). Oh, I know, a Quantas jet has gone into the record books for flying non-stop from Perth to London in just 17 hours. On the flip side, two pilots of an easyJet flight have been suspended for fucking around on social media while flying a plane full of passengers – what a couple of nobcheeses.

The other big scandal involves Facebook and a company called Cambridge Analytica. In a nutshell somebody developed an app for the social networking giant and it harvested the data of something like 50 million Facebook users. It is alleged that the data might have been used to influence the result of the US presidential elections. Zuckerberg might appear in front of a Parliamentary select committee in the UK and Facebook shares have dipped dramatically.

I'll report back later on how the ride went.




Sunday, 18 March 2018

More snow means no cycling...

The roads were covered in snow this morning, always a bad sign, but Andy and I had already aborted today's ride. Yesterday was characterised by watching videos of The Fall performing Theme for Sparta FC and interviews with people like Stewart Lee (about The Fall). I ended up watching This is Your Life: John Peel, on which Mark E Smith made an appearance, not live in the studio (he was in Manchester performing). Alright, I'll admit it, I'm kind of obsessed with The Fall, but that's only because they were so good. Like a lot of bands, however, I was never 'in to them' at the time, although that's a weird thing to say as The Fall, unlike, say, The Smiths, have been around for the past 40 years. I did buy Levitate, a great album, especially the track I'm a Mummy.

But enough of The Fall, although it looks as if I'll be crawling around the internet later on the look-out for any interviews I haven't read before (a task and a half if you ask me).

Our curtains are still drawn, Andrew Marr's on the television, everybody's talking about the Russians and we're all experiencing Russian weather.

There's not much else to say, there never is when there's not much else to do other than watch TV, read the newspapers and generally chill out.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Planned ride to mum's aborted because of snow...

I was planning to meet Bon on Woodmansterne Green this morning, but when I looked out I could see the snow was coming. It started quietly, invisibly almost, but it was there, and soon I received a text from Bon suggesting we abort. We did. And now the snow is really coming down out there, the cars and slowly being covered, the lawns front and back are now white and it looks like a day of keeping warm, watching more television that I'm used to and, well, eating.

The weather forecasters are saying the snow is going to settle, meaning a ride tomorrow will be out of the question, but never say never.

Two weeks without a ride can't be good, but I might get out for a walk if the snow stops falling, although it looks as if it's going to snow all day.

The shot on the right is of my back garden. As you can see the snow is sticking around on the lawn, but it's not on the roads, which is good news. However, I reckon if the snow continues all day (as forecasted) then it might well cover the roads by tomorrow morning.

My Specialized Rockhopper is keeping warm in the garage and will probably remain there all weekend, as it did last weekend. But next week? Let's hope we all get on our bikes.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

In Bilbao...

1910hrs: The weather has improved considerably, there is a weak sun, but it's there, and I can see blue skies as I sit here in Starbucks having enjoyed a mint tea and a cinnamon Danish. The latter are very good as they're much thicker than the conventional varieties found in most bakeries. There's reggae playing, but I'd rather be listening to Theme for Sparta FC by The Fall because it's absolutely brilliant. Mind you, I'd better not drink any more tea otherwise I might become 'totally wired' to borrow from Mark E Smith's track of the same name.

This sums up my state of mind I'm afraid...
While there is sunshine and bluish skies, there's a wind blowing. The conifers are swaying a little bit, but it's nice to see the mountains silhouetted against the grey-blue skies.

I better not get too carried away with the old blogging or I'll miss my flight, but in all honesty I've run out of things to say and just want to be at home, although there's still a long way to go, even when I land in Stansted: two train journeys and a run on the London Underground, plus the possibility of another taxi. How awful it all is, seriously. I really don't need it if I'm honest. What had been a chilled time, give or take the work, which was full on, but worth it, the trip has been a good one, but it was ruined at the very last minute.

I'll sign off now as even iPhoto doesn't work so you'll have to make do with the shot on the right, a kind of representation of the state of my mind and the capacity of my brain.

In Avilés, Day Two and Day Three...

Well, it's technically day three as I flew in on Sunday evening, but who's counting? I flew easyJet and they have weird flight times: like they don't fly back until some ungodly hour tomorrow night and arrive in Stansted gone 11pm [or do they?*]. Something mad like that. Anyway, here I am, sitting in front of the flat screen television at the desk underneath it, the bed behind me, coffee machine to the left and nothing much to the right of me. Yes, I'm in Room 209 of the NH Palacio Hotel, Avilés.

Room 209, NH Palacio Hotel, Avilés
Yesterday was a long day, but I got a good night's sleep and went down for breakfast around 0800hrs, probably just a bit before. I travelled down in the elevator, two floors, and then bowled into the room where all the breakfast items were laid out before me: pastries, fresh fruit, yoghurt, bread, cereal, cheese, fruit juices, tea, coffee, the usual stuff, but today the coffee machines (both of them) had ceased to work so I couldn't enjoy this weird fruity tea, the one I had yesterday morning – not the same teabag, you understand, but the same variety. Anyway, it's still in my pocket now, as I thought I'd have it later in the room. The teabag in my pocket is wrapped and dry, not wet, just in case you thought I'd do such a thing.

So I'm in my room, I've got about three minutes before I'm due to head downstairs for a morning of work and then, after lunch, I'm free to do my own thing. I'll take a wander around and report back later.

Later on...
After lunch in Gijon (pronounced 'hee-hon') I decided to check out Avilés and realised pretty quickly that it's a small place and easily covered by a 90-minute walk. Now, I ought to point out that I'm referring only to the pedestrianised roads that spider out from the NH Palacio hotel and I say this because once I reached the end of one of these roads, the rest was queuing traffic and the occasional lorry, which wasn't quite as appealing as the quaint streets, free from vehicular congestion. I rarely retraced my steps, but managed to walk around the perimeter of the area until I found a road free of cars that would return me to the magic of this small city. Or is it a town? I'll have to ask somebody. I think it's a city, one of three in the area, the others being Oviedo, further inland, and Gijon**

The view from room 209, NH Palacio, Avilés
As I mentioned yesterday, this region of Spain (Asturias) is known as 'green Spain', the climate is very similar to the UK, more's the pity, although it's slightly warmer at present. The sea temperature in the summer appears to be similar to 'Great' Britain too, and while I've been here in Avilés there have been light showers, cloud and occasional sunshine, like yesterday (Tuesday 13th March) from around 1630hrs when I stopped for a small black tea sitting outside a café facing the main square. I sat there reading Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle and then headed back to the hotel to carry on watching Mark E Smith interviews, documentaries about the band and interviews with a former band member who has recently published a book about their time in The Fall.*** I tend to agree with the media about MES: he ploughed his own furrow, lived his life to his rules and was, quite simply a genius. He managed to run The Fall for over 40 years, produce about as many studio albums, one per year, and bring out many live albums and get involved in the world of ballet too. There's much to say about the man, but for now, considering he died, aged 60, at the end of January, I'll say Rest in Peace.

And while we're talking about great men who have passed away, let's not forget Ken Dodd, Professor Stephen Hawking and Jim Bowen, host of the 80's darts gameshow Bullseye. All of these are recent news since I've been here in (ahem) 'sunny' Spain.

I moseyed on back to the hotel, stopping at gift shops en route and not buying anything purely because there wouldn't be room to take whatever I purchased on the plane. I fly back late tonight (or do I?) and I can't help but wonder why easyJet runs such a sparse schedule. Had I been able I would have flown back immediately after the meeting on Monday, but there were no flights; there was nothing yesterday either and today (Wednesday 14th March) my flight takes off for Stansted around 2230hrs (or maybe it's 1030 in the morning). This in turn means another night in a hotel in Stansted, which I could really do without; I just want to be home.

A typical Avilés street
On Tuesday night, instead of trawling the streets indecisively for somewhere to eat an evening meal, I decided to try the hotel restaurant, which had been closed on Sunday evening. It looked a bit upmarket and, dare I say, a bit poncy. There were two poncy-looking waiters and the place was virtually empty bar one table full of poncy people (English and Spanish) and a couple of solitary diners like myself trying to be inconspicuous.

I can't say I was happy with the meal. I chose what was billed as a fresh vegetable roll with spinach soup, which, when it arrived, took me by surprise as I was expecting the rolls to resemble spring rolls, like the ones you get in Chinese restaurants, but no, it was basically two 'rolls' – which looked more like alien fingers covered in a thin membrane-like material that revealed the contents of striped carrot and asparagus. I didn't like it. The main course was 'Ox beef with roast potatoes, leading me to believe I'd be getting a hearty roast dinner (why else did I choose the vegetable roll to start?). But the reality was troubling: an architecturally challenging structure of ice hockey puck proportions with what looked like Parma ham entwined on top like a bad haircut. The meat was tough and chewy and fatty – just like Parma ham – and the best part of the dish was the potato and the accompanying bread roll. Dessert was the best of the lot, simplicity always brings out the best of anything. 'Seasonal fruits' was the dish and it consisted of pineapple, banana and sliced apple. I had a bottle of mineral water on the go, much to the dismay of the waiters who knew only too well that the restaurant would only make its money on alcohol sales, but for me the bill was a paltry 22 Euros, which did the job, and I left there feeling a little disappointed, but ready to hit the sack.

The NH Palacio Hotel from the main square
The best part of the meal wasn't the meal, it was the chilled environment, which enabled me to read my book in peace and under good light. When I reached my room I continued to follow the life of Mark E Smith on YouTube and then went to bed.

Wednesday 14th March
It's now 0836 hrs and time I made my way down to breakfast. Hopefully today the coffee machines will be working, not for the coffee but for the hot water (I'll be having some kind of purifying 'Bio' tea, only because it tastes nice.

I'll write more later probably but I've got to check out later on, hopefully noon, and then it's a case of literally hanging around until about 2000hrs for Luis, the taxi driver, to take me to my hotel. In fact, I'd better check things out on that score.

But oh how wrong I was! I won't bore you with the details, but the end result of everything not being as it seemed is that I had to act fast, check out and haul my sorry arse over to Bilbao. It took two coach journeys: one to Oviedo, the other to Bilbao (roughly three and a half hours) and now here I am, sitting in Starbucks having just enjoyed a cinnamon Danish and a cup of mint tea. "Dinner" a few minutes earlier, was a ham roll and a black tea without milk. Earlier there had been stormy conditions, but right now as I look out of the window it appears to have cleared up and I can see a few bluish skies through the cotton wool clouds. I took a taxi from Bilbao bus station in the pouring rain and once through security I managed to relax a little bit. I feel fine now, but the chilled day I thought I was going to have didn't materialise.

I don't know what's wrong with me sometimes, but, like all of us, I guess, I too am not infallible, I can (and do) get things wrong, but not drastically so. I'll be back in the UK around 2230hrs and then I think I'll try and get a train home rather than stay in another hotel for the night, even if that was my original, but doomed, plan.

* They don't basically, my error.
** Gijon, pronounced 'hee-hon'.
*** The Big Midweek by Steve Hanley.