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Jim ‘Django’ Gritt fellow Night Owl and Tweed Cyclist (Raleigh Superbe) has just posted his latest film creation. I appear in the film on my Pashley and of course Jim demonstrates his ukulele skills.  Hope you enjoy it!

 

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Nipper

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Today on my way home from school I met Nyomi, who is cycling from John O’Groats to Lands End on a bamboo bicycle.  We talked a little about bicycles and then of course I mentioned ukuleles and there tucked into the top of her trailer was a soprano uke!ImageGood luck to Nyomi and her ukuklele on the rest of their adventure…

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Nipper

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Last weekend The Night Owls decided to busk as a band. The idea was to hand out lots of cards, make some beer money and have some fun.  I have been busking many times but almost always alone and always without amplification; the ukulele is not a very loud instrument and in our noisy modern world we decided we would need small battery amps to increase our sound.  Being keen roadster riders Jim and I decided to travel to the busk by bicycle.  Jim strapped his amp, stand and ukes to his rack; I on the other hand, having a bigger ukulele and microphone stand decided to travel in style and use my trailer.

The day before the busk I tried to fit  everything in the trailer and found the microphone stand to be just a little too long to neatly fit in.  Twenty minutes with a hacksaw and I had adapted it it fit.  Packed neatly in were an sm58 microphone and stand, Night Owls Mic Façade, Vox DA5 battery powered amp, various leads, spare batteries and of course my trusty LB baritone ukulele in hard case.

So dressed in full Night Owls black 3 piece suit and correspondent shoes I trundled  into town to meet up with the boys.  The bicycles made a good backdrop to the band and as usual drew a few comments.

The busking went well and we have resolved to busk some more.  Rob has bought himself a battery powered bass amp and I (with some help form Yorkshire Pete) have pole mounted my  Vox amp. I may even try some solo bicycle busking, I could easily carry the equipment in my panniers and perhaps using a train/bicycle combination visit some interesting busking towns.

And so dear readers in a break from the usual 78s I leave you with The Night Owls and a rather cracking rendition of  The Sheik of Araby / Caravan.

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Nipper

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One thing that really upsets me about cycling in the UK is how difficult it is to cycle with young children.  The ideal situation would be for children to cycle to school and the shops alongside their parents, however unlike in Holland where this is common place, in this country the roads are far too dangerous for the very young cyclist. The cycle paths are  not properly separated and don’t join up with each other making them useless for everyday transport.  The only family cycling we see in the UK is leisure cycling and here is the rub, to do it,  you need a car to get to the safe cycle paths!  To get to safe infrastructure  a family will usually have to negotiate  main roads and this is not safe when cycling with small children.

Yesterday we decided to attempt a family cycle ride at the local park and ride.  The large car park is closed on a Sunday so makes an ideal spot for a little cycle practice.  It also has some dirt tracks behind it which are just about passable in good weather.  The tricky bit was how to get there with no car.  Fortunately the road that leads to the Park and Ride has pavement or separated cycle path so my boy can ride there, however the road is too fast and the pavement too narrow for my little girl, who is only just learning to cycle.  So to make the journey the little nipper sat on a cushion on the back of my bicycle and her bicycle was pulled along behind in a trailer.

Once at the park and ride we had a great time riding around, imagining we were in a world without cars.

It was wonderful to cycle as a family again, something we haven’t done since our holiday last year in Assen.  We only had to ride a couple of pavements to get to the park and ride and will be making this a regular trip.  The really annoying thing is we still can’t cycle together on our everyday trips to the shops. Until the children are older or we get proper Dutch style infrastructure our family cycling will have to be occasional and not everyday.

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Nipper

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Last Sunday saw yet another Taunton Tweed Cycle Chic ride.  This time we ventured from Vivary Park to North Curry, and numbered 19 riders.  The weather was positively continental and a marvellous time was had by all.  After meeting up we made our way through town, with Neil causing quite a stir on his 1882 Ordinary Bicycle (Penny Farthing).  The route took us along the canal and then down the beautiful back roads to North Curry.  We had a fine lunch and a few pints at The Bird In Hand and entertained ourselves with a selection of songs from the Saddlebag Songbook.  Thanks to all who came and made it such a great day.

I made a little film of the ride…

The soundtrack is ‘The Continental’ performed by the Lew Stone Band featuring Nat Gonella on vocals.  It was transferred from 78rpm record via my HMV163 Gramophone and a studio condenser mic.

Here are a few more photos of the day…

 

Thanks to Tom for some of the photos

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Nipper

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I haven’t blogged for some time but it’s time to get things moving again.  So before I launch into rants about crap cycling in Taunton… a little fun. Last week the members of Taunton Tweed Cycle Chic took to the cycle paths and rode from Vivary Park to Maunsell Lock.  The weather was hot, hot, hot so we only managed Tweed through town, but with bells ringing and loud ‘Good Mornings’ we certainly got noticed. Thanks go to Brian from Bicycle Chain for leading us off. We stopped for lunch at the canal side cafe and strummed ukuleles using the new ‘Bicycle and Ukulele Saddlebag Song Book’ (Post a comment for a free copy!).  So here for you delectation are a few photographs of the day set to a toe tapping soundtrack from Django Reinhardt.

The ride was great fun, because of the superb weather and the great company but also because the majority of the ride was car free and on separate infrastucture.

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Nipper

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I have always been car free, never even driven one, I don’t actually know what the pedals do.  It was never a really big lifestyle choice, I cycled to school and to friends houses and just never felt the need to travel any other way.  When I was 17 I began touring and 100 miles a day was a breeze, I could go anywhere by bike.

My first cycle rides were on the narrow lanes around the village where I grew up.  I remember many wonderful family rides, zooming around the Somerset levels and stopping for picnic lunches.  We almost never saw a car and the sun always shone…happy days.

In 1990 a  most significant cycling moment came with my first ‘Young Bell Ringers Cycling Tour‘, a week long adventure ringing in churches around Oxfordshire.  We stayed in youth hostels and cycled to around six towers a day.  The 30 strong group of cyclists made quite an impression on me and I knew then that I would always want to make the bicycle my primary mode of transport.  I went on two further tours and remember them with great affection.  Geoff the organiser has continued to run the tours and I am sure has inspired many more young people to become serious cyclists.

Fast forward 20 years…I am married with two young children and a demanding full time job.  I no longer have time for endless days of touring but I still ride my bike every day.  I have a trailer for shopping and to take the children around and ride to work every day. I  love the feeling of whizzing along and day dreaming about the long summer days of my youth.

OK, so I know I have rather rose tinted spectacles on when it comes to my memories of childhood cycling, but the point is I have positive memories of cycling from a very early age.  In my teenage years I flew around everywhere by bicycle and just remember the pure freedom it gave me. Are today’s children having the same positive experiences? Some maybe, but with the roads increasingly clogged by maniacal car, van and lorry drivers the experience of those lucky enough to be allowed out on a bike is likely to be much less satisfying.  The 21st century teenager is probably far more likely to be a car driver or passenger than to be using a bicycle for daily transport.

If we are to see more young people cycling we have to make it feel safe and fast.  The only way I can see this being achieved is if we adopt the Dutch model of segregated infrastructure.  When parents feel cycling is safe they will begin to use the bicycle for everyday transport and children will be able to cycle to safely school.  Cycling children will become cycling adults.

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Nipper

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