Borders and Pennines–time to relax

29 May

Photo 2023-05-07 21.10.43So, following the intensity of the Aberdeen to Edinburgh Dundee ride, I booked myself into youth hostels to break the journey back down. First stop, Kirk Yetholm, an associate hotel just north of the border and the end of the Pennine Way – and start of the Scottish National Trail. Time to relax.

The mist had followed me down, but I wasn’t planning on cycling anyway – a mooch round Kelso and a cup of coffee back at the hostel were enough. I was somewhat disturbed by the presence in my room of a very lifelike toy otter though.

The following day, I set off on the drive down to Langdon Beck in Teesdale. I rejoined the A68, which is one of my favourite roads in the country.. almost unnaturally straight for the most part, with little hamlets and the most extraordinary hidden crests and dips, like a rollercoaster with added views.

Photo 2023-05-10 12.50.49Langdon Beck is almost unbelievably isolated though – miles from the nearest town and completely invisible to cellphone signals. Time to reflect, to dream, to plan.. and time to get back on the bike. A 12km ride (downhill all the way!) took me to Middleton in Photo 2023-05-10 13.07.24Teesdale for coffee and essential supplies. Rather than ride back up the same road, I crossed the Tees and rode back up through little farming villages  to eventually recross it at Low Force waterfall.

Photo 2023-05-10 13.06.40Photo 2023-05-10 12.54.17

Photo 2023-05-10 12.54.17
The next day I felt sufficiently recovered to set out on a big ride again – but the weather was having none of it. I got about 10k up the valley before deciding it wasn’t worth it.

The next day saw me back in the car and on the way home. Somewhere I had managed to lose the protective packing for my bike rack…so some creative packing was needed to prevent it destroying my paintwork!

Adventures over, and time to regroup for the next one. I wonder what I should do next?


Two men, two bikes, and a small dragon named Trevor

28 May

Or: Aberdeen to Edinburgh – the 2023 bikepacking adventure

So my eldest son Davey is a keen gravel biker – in fact he’s taking part in the Edinburgh to Manchester ride in June this year. I love cycling too, so it made sense that we make a holiday out of it. Last year we bike packed across Norfolk in a loop from Thetford to Gt Yarmouth and back. This time – Scotland and mountains.

Photo 2023-05-05 08.04.43I’d decided to upgrade my riding experience with a new bike so with a little expert advice from Davey I took delivery of a new Sonder gravel bike: the luggage necessary for the trip nearly didn’t make it, but I managed to assemble everything in time, and drove up to Edinburgh to set out Photo 2023-05-07 16.44.52on the train up to Aberdeen. I was accompanied on the journey by a small dragon that I’d been given.. but looking at the weather, I didn’t think the wee guy would survive, so he was left to guard the car.

Photo 2023-05-05 19.31.19We got off to a slow start – a valve failure in Davey’s bike meant that we had to visit a cycle shop before we could stat out – and meant that we had to check in on the way too just to make sure it was OK. But finally we got going, and set off down the Deeside path  A gentle enough start to Photo 2023-05-05 16.53.59the day, although it wasn’t long before we were climbing through pine forests. Logging operations forced us to turn round, and the uneven terrain soon had me adjusting my cycle pack to stop it rubbing on the rear tyre.

We realised we needed a detour to get more water, so having stuffed as many bottles into pockets and bags as we could, and knowing we were running late, we set off on the climb into the Cairngorms. Tarmac and hard packed gravel soon turned into loose scree and a rocky trail that was almost unrideable. We were heading for a valley between two peaks, with a pretty serious climb, Photo 2023-05-05 20.00.53but somewhere we took a wrong turning and instead of heading through the valley, we climbed one of the peaks instead. One in three slopes found us pushing the bikes across mist covered moorland – it wouldn’t have been so bad if we could actually see a view from the peak!

We reached the peak in daylight, giving thanks for the longer hours of summer daylight in Northern Scotland, but the surface was so poor we had to walk down the other side until we rejoined the original trail.. and even then it was tough going. Rather than risk falling off in the middle of a ford we carried the bikes round that as well – it felt like we’d walked more than cycled. And then night fell. The birds continued their fascinating chiroing and calling, adding texture and interest to the evening. Eventually, we cycled into the camp site and pitched tents. after 11 hours on the road. only then did I realise that the camping mat hadn’t made it into my bags. It was going to be an uncomfortable few nights…

Photo 2023-05-05 19.31.24The mist hadn’t cleared the next day, but at least the ride was a merciful downhill towards Arbroath. I rapidly became an expert on Scottish dry stone walling, as it was pretty much all we could see. Occasionally a herd of sheep or a cow or two would relieve the monotonous view.. although we were grateful it wasn’t actually raining. Some of the downhill runs were fabulous, Photo 2023-05-07 12.11.15and a gloriously flat seaside trail from Arbroath to Carnoustie had our spirits soaring – even if the overall effect was of cycling through a horror film set. Vacant playgrounds rose up from the mists, and ancient castles loomed large and menacing from the murk. Even the sea views were hidden by the haar (see mist).

Photo 2023-05-06 19.02.27Eventually we turned inland to the camp site, although a promised steep climb failed to materialise.. a blessing for tired legs  This was a more civilised camp site – with entertainment in the form of a guitar and bongos duo and running water on tap.

Rising the next day we decided it was time to call it a day. The mist and rain was making it hard work, and the lack of views to lift our spirits and create interest was just making the ride boring and dull. We resolved to ride to Dundee and catch the train. Disappointment heaped on disappointment when we found the doughnut shop was closed.

So, we failed to make it to our destination, but we had done a god bit of riding, tested our kit out, and spent some time together. To my mind that counts as a win.

So, two men, two bikes, two tents, one sleeping , mat, no tiny dragon named Trevor, and a ride from Aberdeen to Edinburgh Dundee. Time for a few days to rest my legs…but that’s another story.

Ripley says… Happy New Year!

1 Jan

34415288_10160429581515147_7707758441229451264_nHello. My name is Ripley an’ I am a broken haired lurcher. I live in England with my Daddy. I’m only five but I have learned one or two things about life an’ I wanted to share them with you. My friend Timmy runs this blog an’ he let me borrow it for a bit.

Have a great year! heart-paw

Ripley’s life lessons . . .

Live your own style


Take time to enjoy the scenery.

Life will sometimes bring you strange bedfellows.
Embrace them.


Enjoy seeing new places.
Photo 2019-08-04 15.24.32_thumb

Ignore your critics


Always check your friends want to play before bouncin’ all over them.

Follow your own path. It confuses people.


Always live hopeful.

Make sure you get enough chill time.


Be ready to drop everything to go on a ‘venture with a friend.

Be polite


Explore everything.

Share a laugh with people you love.


Have fun.

Maintain your boundaries.


Get plenty of exercise . . .

…but know when to stop.

Always have that one special friend you can be yourself with.


Talk to animals. ‘specially dogs.


Did I mention getting’ enough chill time?

It’s OK to get a little muddy sometimes. It’ll wash off and you may end up smellin’ of raspberries.


Don’t worry what others think about you.


Make sure you have somewhere you can feel safe, secure an’ comf’table.


Learn to listen to good advice

If you’re not sure what to do next, have a sit down and listen to what your heart is tellin’ you.


Sometimes, you just need coffee.


If it makes you feel good, do it. Even if other folks don’t understand.


Always be ready to go for a walk in the countryside.

Make lots of time for relaxin’ with a friend.


Eat good food.

Devour good books.


Take an active int’rest in other people’s work.

Sometimes, the only thing to do is to just tune out and let the world go by.

Sometimes, the only thing to do is to just tune out and let the world go by.

Remember . . .You be you.

And remember to enjoy the journey . . .


2022 memories

15 Dec

Just a few pictures from an interesting 2021 . . . apologies if there seems to be a lot of pictures of Ripley..again.

Aviemore April (17)Aviemore April (29)

Photo 2022-05-01 15.26.49IMG_2809SCR 000173IMG_2730IMG_2773Photo 2022-07-14 13.43.52Photo 2022-09-30 11.46.02 (2)Photo 2022-07-03 12.56.11Photo 2022-01-15 12.34.50Photo 2022-02-09 07.29.46 (4)IMG_2842IMG_2846Arrochar & Loch Lomond (32)Skye Morning  (1)Arrochar & Loch Lomond (18)Rutland Water (11)Arrochar & Loch Lomond (15)Edinburgh Feb(23)Edinburgh Feb(28)IMG_2919IMG_2737

IMG_2704Sealand (2)Photo 2022-03-18 20.37.43Photo 2022-03-09 21.31.05 (2)Photo 2022-09-01 13.50.28

So. Many. Hills.

26 Oct

Portree Loop Ride (21)Today was the big one. The day to really push the envelope, and hopefully not push the bike. I’ve been in South Skye so far, but I really wanted to push up to the north, and set my sights on Portree. But just cycling up there would be too easy, wouldn’t it?

So as well as cycling up the coast to Portree on the east coast, I added in an extra loop to the west coast as well. Crazy, I know. Portree is the main town and port on Skye, so it made sense to get up there.. but I was pretty certain there was lots to see and experience on the way!

Portree Loop Ride (13)Portree Loop Ride (6)

The nagging puncture seemed to have calmed down, so I set off north with a spring in my step. When you’re cycling out and back you tend to take note of the hills… ‘that’ll be nice to come back down’ and ‘not looking forward to that on the way back’. You’d think that a coastal path would make life easy, but the geography of Skye had other plans! Northern Skye is volcano territory, long extinct, but the towering caldera pepper the skyline, the clouds sometimes forming a teddy boy’s quiff over the edge, at other times a badly fitting toupee.

Portree Loop Ride (15)I made my way over the first hill, past the desolate island of Scalpay, and over the headland to a welcome descent into Sligachan and the old bridge. Which is where I turned inland, headed for the west coast. Autumn seems a superb time to visit – the summer crowds have disappeared, as have the midges, and the roads are quiet. Autumn colours are vivid browns, with heather holding on to its colour while bracken and fern – and trees – create a stunning palette of browns and oranges. I cross miles of peat, the hedgerows of broom and gorse.

Portree Loop Ride (7)A slow climb leads to a drop into Struan harbour – I am briefly tempted by a trip to the Talisker distillery. Wiay island sits out in the bay but I turn inland, headed for Portree at last. These are narrow lanes, impassable in winter. I find a new hazard – cowpats. Although the cows are relaxed and calm as I pass, the sheep are skittish and can’t be trusted not to run in front of me.

Portree Loop Ride (9)Finally, I drop into Portree. Nothing much to write home about, but time for coffee and a sandwich. I have ridden 60km. A trip to the isle of Raasay (more distilleries) tempts me but it is a bit late now.. and as I ascend the long steep climb out, the nagging puncture finally makes itself known in no uncertain terms. I stop by the side of the road and attempt a repair, but the patches aren’t sticking. I replace the tube, and cycle on.

The hills are calmer now, and I realise that my hostel isn’t quite as far as the route tells me. I cycle gratefully up… my legs ache and I wish I had remembered the padded shorts. I make this 105km. Which I think is my longest single day ride ever.

I have managed so far without incident.. until today. I cycled up on to a pavement in search of dinner, but forgot (come on, I have just cycled 60+ miles) the requisite bunnyhop to hop onto the kerb. Net result, the bike stopped dead, and I toppled gently into the gutter. #novideoeveidence

This is the last day on Skye – tomorrow I must cycle across the bridge… and away.


Skye’s the limit . .

25 Oct

To Broadford (2)I’d suffered from deflating tyres on the way over to Broadford, so I resigned myself to having to fix that.. but in turns out that the Slime in the tyres had done its job so I set off on the first of my little rides out – a straightforward 50km out and back to Elgol. My ride the previous day hadn’t really prepared me for what was in store. Absolutely unbelievably Elgol Ride (12)stunning scenery that kept me on the edge of tears all day. The first 15km was fairly straightforward in the shadow of the Cuillin hills, and it descended gently into Loch Eishort and Loch Slapin, both estuaries into the Atlantic and with the island of Rùm glinting across the water. A food van was plying its trade on the banks of the water and it would seem rude to cycle past without a breakfast roll and a cup of tea.

Elgol Ride (7)Thus fortified, I began the climb up towards Elgol. Alternating between wild downhills and tough climbs, I finally made it past the sheep and cattle that littered the road and into Elgol (more properly Ealaghol – it does seem rude that we have anglicised the original Gaelic place names). The village proper is at the top of a hill (the word ‘hill’ does not really do justice to the brake-shredding descent to the harbour below). But down the hill I went, recognising that the brake-shredding on the way down was going to do serious damage to my legs on the way back up.

The harbour was offering trips across the water to Loch Curuisk and to the Small Isles, but I was content to just gaze out across Loch Scavaig and to the Black Cuillin over the water, just in awe of how beautifully tranquil this spot was.

Elgol Ride (3)Eventually the ride back had to be faced. I made it half way up before I had to surrender.. I think the locals were watching to see how far I made it. Apparently ‘to the cattle grid’ is good performance. The return trip seemed gentler than outbound, although as my tour had made special note of the Blue Shed café (now, bizarrely, purple) it was essential that I stopped off for coffee and cake before gently finishing my trip off and coasting into Broadford (apparently ‘Broadford’ is a more original transliteration of the original Norse ‘Breiðafjorðr’ than the Gaelic An t-Àth Leathann).

Soup and a roll finished my day off.. tired and happy again. This trip is turning out to more than exceed my expectations. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

All points west!

21 Oct

Arrochar & Loch Lomond (56)Up early the next day for a morning ride round the other side of the loch. The part of me that needs to ride a different way back was going to be frustrated – this is a sea loch, and there’s no way to go all the way round it without a boat. But I did manage to find a nice bit of Arrochar & Loch Lomond (54)mountain biking trail on the way back, which I took with some alacrity as I realised I may not have left enough time to get to the train.

I needn’t have worried. Plenty of time to get to the station and then off on another adventure into mountains moors and lochs, This is scenery so stunning that you can’t afford to miss a moment. I was only a little distracted by the family with a slightly nervous huskie who needed a little bit of fuss so she felt better about being on a train.. To Mallaig & Ferry (28)This is a world of single track railways and tiny stations, of deep, dark forests falling away from railway lines that cling to hillsides in defiance of gravity. This is a world of railway viaducts that the Hogwarts Express would have thundered over, of grass only just hanging on the rock and stone. This is a world of towering hills, of peaty rivers and mossy banks.  A world where buzzards soar above it all, and red deer explode from the brush to hurtle across the moorland. This is a world that defies description, but can only be truly understood in person.

To Mallaig & Ferry (22)And that brought me to Mallaig. I could have rushed straight onto the ferry, but instead I opted for a little jaunt round the village, whose only real existence, beyond some fishing boats, is as the ferry terminus for Skye.

And forty-five minutes after leaving Mallaig I was in Armadale on the Isle of Skye.. and another dream was To Broadford (2)coming true. Just another 25km and a couple of steep climbs later, and I was in a youth hostel in Broadford, my home for three nights. Where, much to my surprise, and, it has to be said, the embarrassment of the proprietor, the fish and chip shop (in a fishing village) had run out of haddock.

Retracing my steps.. and beyond..

20 Oct

Arrochar & Loch Lomond (4)Once upon a time, long long ago, I used to work on a salmon farm on the west coast of Scotland. I had developed a computer system that the fishermen could use to weigh their salmon so they could decide which to keep back and which to move on. (Fun fact – did you know that they brand salmon, like they do cattle, using a nitrogen cold brand to identify them?). Anyway, that’s not really the point… but I did regularly get the overnight sleeper from Rugby to Glasgow, and then the train out past Fort William to Lochailort on the banks of (oddly enough) Loch Ailort. The hotel was the one featured in the movie ‘Local Hero’ – the host had a video recorder and one video: ‘Local Hero’.

That wasn’t the point either. But I did fall in love with the train journey – it was just mile after mile of astonishing beauty heaped on glorious wonder. And I always promised myself that I would go back one day.

Arrochar & Loch Lomond (56)So on a glorious October morning I pitched out of bed and cycled down to the station to hop a train to Glasgow and points west. It was raining by the time we left Glasgow but the scenery was unbelievable as we travelled up the side of the Clyde estuary and into the Trossachs. That took the best part of the day, so I stopped for a couple of nights in Arrochar on the banks of Loch Long (a sea loch) and a hop, skip and a jump from Loch Lomond.

Arrochar & Loch Lomond (33)And that meant I could do a bit of a bike tour while I was there. I checked trusty Komoot for local tours, and found a six hour tour that I could manage. Setting off up the banks of Loch Lomond, I was still in a state of complete awe at just how incredibly lovely it all was. The rain overnight had left rivulets of water pouring onto the road, while waterfalls had been filled and were cascading over rocky slopes. The heather and moss seemed newly fresh and vibrant, and the fact that I was cycling alongside the loch made for easy and rapid progress.

Until I hit the first hurdle. The ferry that I planned on taking across the loch to continue the journey wasn’t running. No problem, I thought. I’ll just cycle on and cross the loch higher up – when it’s just the Falloch River. It took me a good while to find that crossing, although I did manage to stop off at the falls of Falloch for a photo opportunity.

It was at this point that I realised WHY nothing crossed the river. Although I had read the map and was convinced that cycle route 7 lay on the other side of the river, it turns out that I cannot read maps properly. The other side of the river lay the mountains, Ben Lomond included, and the gravel path I found soon petered out in the West Highland trail.. rocks, peat and tiny burns running down the side of the mountain. The few hikers I met were rather surprised to see a man carrying a bicycle across a hillside, but nodded a cheery ‘hello’ – not once did I hear someone mutter ‘idiot Sassenach’ but I suspect they thought it.

I gave it my best shot, I really did – but eventually I had to surrender to the inevitable. I retraced my steps and fled across a camp site back to the west shore of the loch.

Arrochar & Loch Lomond (49)But that meant I had time to do another route that I had planned for a breakfast ride. This loop went according to plan the old road by the loch has been left for walkers and cyclists, keeping me away from the A82 and into lochside tranquillity. A tough climb into the hills led to me a gradual descent into Loch Long and back to the hotel – fighting hard to keep up with another cyclist who had rocketed past me.

Not bad for the day – 80km of riding in some of the most beautiful scenery ever. And some work on the upper body carrying the bike. I retired to the bar with a pint of Caffreys.. and slept soundly. Not in the bar, of course.

The Plot Against People

12 May

In 1968 Russell Baker wrote a short article entitled ‘The Plot Against People’. For some reason, this story stuck with me through the years.

The goal of all inanimate objects is to resist man and ultimately to defeat him

Baker writes:
"The goal of all inanimate objects is to resist man and ultimately to defeat him. Accordingly, inanimate objects are classified into three major categories-those that don’t work, those that break down and those that get lost.
The goal of all inanimate objects is to resist man and ultimately to defeat him, and the three major classifications are based on the method each object uses to achieve its purpose. As a general rule, any object capable of breaking down at the moment when it is most needed will do so. The automobile is typical of the category.
With the cunning typical of its breed, the automobile never breaks down while entering a filling station with a large staff of idle mechanics. It waits until it reaches a downtown intersection in the middle of the rush hour, or until it is fully loaded with family and luggage on the Ohio Turnpike. Thus it creates maximum misery, inconvenience, frustration and irritability among its human cargo, thereby reducing its owner’s life span.
Washing machines, garbage disposals, lawn mowers, light bulbs, automatic laundry dryers, water pipes, furnaces, electrical fuses, television tubes, hose nozzles, tape recorders, slide projectors-all are in league with the automobile to take their turn at breaking down whenever life threatens to flow smoothly for their human enemies.
Many inanimate objects, of course, find it extremely difficult to break down. Pliers, for example, and gloves and keys are almost totally incapable of breaking down. Therefore, they have had to evolve a different technique for resisting man.
They get lost.
Science has still not solved the mystery of how they do it, and no man has ever caught one of them in the act of getting lost. The most plausible theory is that they have developed a secret method of locomotion which they are able to conceal the instant a human eye falls upon them. It is not uncommon for a pair of pliers to climb all the way from the cellar to the attic in its single-minded determination to raise its owner’s blood pressure. Keys have been known to burrow three feet under mattresses. Women’s purses, despite their great weight, frequently travel through six or seven rooms to find hiding space under a couch.
Scientists have been struck by the fact that things that break down virtually never get lost, while things that get lost hardly ever break down. A furnace, for example, will invariably break down at the depth of the first winter cold wave, but it will never get lost. A woman’s purse, which after all does have some inherent capacity for breaking down, hardly ever does; it almost invariably chooses to get lost. Some persons believe this constitutes evidence that inanimate objects are not entirely hostile to man, and that a negotiated peace is possible. After all, they point out, a furnace could infuriate a man even more thoroughly by getting lost than by breaking down, just as a glove could upset him far more by breaking down than by getting lost.
Not everyone agrees, however, that this indicates a conciliatory attitude among inanimate objects. Many say it merely proves that furnaces, gloves and pliers are incredibly stupid.
The third class of objects—those that don’t work—is the most curious of all. These include such objects as barometers, car clocks, cigarette lighters, flashlights and toy-train locomotives. It is inaccurate, of course, to say that they never work. They work once, usually for the first few hours after being brought home, and then quit.
Thereafter, they never work again.
In fact, it is widely assumed that they are built for the purpose of not working. Some people have reached advanced ages without ever seeing some of these objects—barometers, for example—in working order.
Science is utterly baffled by the entire category. There are many theories about it. The most interesting holds that the things that don’t work have attained the highest state possible for an inanimate object, the state to which things that break down and things that get lost can still only aspire.
They have truly defeated man by conditioning him never to expect anything of them, and in return they have given man the only peace he receives from inanimate society. He does not expect his barometer to work, his electric locomotive to run, his cigarette lighter to light or his flashlight to illuminate, and when they don’t it does not raise his blood pressure.
He cannot attain that peace with furnaces and keys and cars and women’s purses as long as he demands that they work for their keep."

This is where Baker’s essay ends. But I think that inanimate objects have been secretly evolving, resulting in a new class of object: the computing device. Whether it be a desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, smart watch, Bluetooth speaker or satnav, these smart devices are more cunning than we think. They will, in some cases, get lost. But we have found ways to minimise the impact of this. With ‘Find My Phone’ and location technology, it is almost impossible to lose this class of device for too long, and it has also made it almost impossible to get lost yourself while carrying one. (If, of course, you are carrying a desktop PC you have hopefully not set out on a long walk or extended bike ride anyway).

(It is at this point that I will confess that at one point in my life my secretary suggested that she tie my wallet to one end of a piece of string and my phone to the other, then thread the string through my sleeves in the same way that my mother used to, to make sure I came home with both mittens)

While computing devices do present the opportunity to break down, mankind has realised that in most cases a simple press of the reset button will restore them to their working state. In deference to the behaviours of other inanimate objects that break down, they will of course crash/lose data/inexplicably wipe the hard disk just at the point that you have coompleted your short story/university thesis/project plan/marketing pitch but (and this is the important bit) NOT BEFORE YOU HAVE SAVED IT. Exactly how computers establish this is not yet well understood and is part of an ongoing study. So while they may indeed lose your life’s work and your sole contribution to humanity, they have not, of themselves, got lost.
The sheer cost of smart devices combined with increased expectations and the widespread use of guarantees (a resourceful human trick to fight back against the inanimate revolution) means that even if the devices don’t work, they are quickly returned to the point of sale to be replaced by one that does.
However, they will almost certainly NOT work the way they were expected to. They will exhibit strange and unexpected behaviours which will initially drive the owner to the edge of insanity, but will over time come to be accepted as the norm, forcing their human host to behave in increasingly bizarre and convoluted ways in order to get the job done.
And to just up the ante a little more in this war of objects vs humanity, computers will, suddenly and without warning, change their behaviour. After several months of sending emails to the correct recipients, they will suddenly and inexplicably send your most intimate thoughts to a company wide distribution list. Your chillout playlist for romantic evenings in will inexplicably include ‘both ‘Barbie Girl’ and ‘Agadoo’. A simple text message to your boss will change a single word in a business meeting confirmation to sound like a proposal of marriage. After countless successful journeys they will suddenly divert you down a one way bus lane that leads only to a deserted industrial estate with no visible means of exit. There is no apparent reason for this. Some theorise that a passing beta particle flips the state of a logic gate within the computer that results in this erratic change in behaviour. Yet this random factor cannot explain the completely destructive nature of the change.
And so the struggle continues in a constant campaign of attrition that humanity cannot hope to win. I doubt it will end well for us, as it now seems clear that inanimate objects are a parasitic life form looking only to use the human collaborator as a means to evolve and further their bloodless agenda.

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Karma strikes . . .

21 Apr

external-content.duckduckgo.comWhen I worked for a major multinational I was flying to the US a couple of times a month, and built up a stock of those little amenity kits – you know, the little zip bags that contain anything from eye masks and socks to lip balm, aftershave and mouthwash. I used to use the little travel size containers for, well, travel – in my car, in my luggage… although I never really found a use for the eye masks.

Anyway, one Christmas I was travelling back from my mother’s on her usual Boxing Day ‘invite the whole family’ event, and a while back I had had a glass of my step father’s choice of German sparkling Spätlese. Not enough to put me anywhere near the limit, but even so, I didn’t particularly want to arouse the attention of the local constabulary when I was driving a bright red sports car that might as well have had ‘pull me over’ written on the back.

I reached into the glove compartment and took out the mouthwash specially reserved for this moment (and the unlikely possibility of kissing someone), and took a swig. At this point, I realised I had made a fairly serious mistake, and I had mistaken the bottle of mouthwash for a bottle of far more astringent aftershave.

I had very few options as to what to do, so I wound down the window to get rid of the results of this inadvertent miscalculation. At this point, I realised another grievous error. There’s a awful lot of wind while travelling at 70 miles an hour.

There’s probably a moral to this story. I have no idea what it is though.

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