Highways, herons and harmonicas

First day back at work after my holiday, and not a good one. It turns out I am indispensable after all - always a mistake.

I drive to the parking bay near to Trent Fields, and sit for 40 minutes listening to the wireless, only to confirm what every Englishman knew deep down at 10:30 this morning: given a whole day on a 5th day pitch, we can’t take ten Australian wickets, because all we’ve succeeded in doing in the last four days is to make them take us a bit more seriously.

In despair, I leap onto the 700c, ride 20 metres. The saddle’s a a tad too low. I dismount, adjust it, remount, and set off again. I pick my way carefully across the field, following the slimy narrow footpath, and arrive on the riverbank next to a surprised walker who splutters startled encouragement as I ride past.

The usual route takes me along a narrow strip of tarmac, with bushes growing on one side, and long mixed vegetation on the other. The tarmac is slightly rippled where roots are trying to lift it. Today, it’s like Piccadilly Circus, with pedestrians, joggers, dog walkers, bicyclists… and I weave past each obstacle (as I have come to think of my fellow human beings) sometimes caching my face in the overhanging foliage.

Then there’s the quick squirt along the embankment, making a point of riding along the top step, not because it’s difficult, but because it looks it (poseur, moi?) and I soon reach the suspension bridge. As I stand on the pedals and pick my way up the access ramp, a group of small boys howl derisive laughter from the river bank below. I merrily wave two fingers and carry on.

More tarmac, then a short burst across mown grass, and I reach the proper cycle track that runs parallel to the main road. For a while, I almost keep pace with a chap on a mountain bike. Then I reach the road works: the cycle path is closed. I can turn back, or…

I ride along the road. This is a four lane carriageway (2 lanes each way) and a 40 mph limit (assume 50 mph minimum!) with one traffic light controlled junction. I negotiate this safely and reach the next section of cycle track. Then it’s a quick swoop down up down up down up through the underpass, and round towards the next junction. Here, I time it badly, and have to stop. I plan to idle, but catch the balance wrong and I have to step off neatly. I’m the only person who knows, but every unplanned dismount is a failure, and it grates.

Along the tarmac back road to the sports field, and then a careful but brisk totter across the uneven grass and I reach the swoopy rolled grit path by the river. In the late summer, everything is lush. There is delicately scented rosebay willow herb at the side of the track - tall weeds with pink flowers, some towering above my head. The “rapids” are babbling cheerfully to my left, and a pair of wood pigeons flies overhead. This is pleasant, and I slow down to admire the view.

At the end of this path, I reach the next sports field (with all these sports fields, you’d think we’d be good at something!) and I receive good-natured taunts from a small gang of bored teenagers. They sound reasonably impressed as I make it up the short uneven slope onto the flood bank. Then I leave them behind as I make my way through the various twists and turns that lead to the footbridge across the canal.

On the far bank, I overtake a jogger, who, listening to her iPod, is unaware of my presence until I appear in her peripheral vision. I wonder what the death rate is for iPod-using joggers?

I walk through Beeston Marina then do a lap of Attenborough Nature Reserve. A lap is a mile or two (I’ve never measured) and, for some reason, I have always ridden it anticlockwise. Today, I ride it clockwise. One of the joys of unicycling is that a change of direction is a change of route, as tricky descents become tricky climbs, and vice versa.

I ride across two of the bridges, realising that this is the first time I have ridden either bridge in this direction. The second of the two is by far the more difficult - at least on this wheel - and as I safely complete the descent, I let out a sotto voce “Yes!” and clench my fist in a Henmanesque manner. Around the next bend, I am a little embarrassed to find a small group of elderly walkers who have clearly heard this. They display far too much caution, and virtually dive into the nettles to avoid me.

Back to the Marina, and time for a small bottle of beer and some crisps. (There’s not much you can tell me about sports nutrition!) The marina is a fairly run down place, with tatty boats rotting at their moorings. A family sits outside the marina bar, the kids with plastic bottles of fizzy pop. They have made holes in the bottom of the bottles, shaken them, and are drinking the pop as it squirts out under pressure. Science in action - but not good table manners.

On the plus side, a lad of about 10 is most excited to have seen a heron, and he is loudly explaining to his mother that the ducks he saw were “just the ordinary sort” which at least means he knows there’s more than one sort.

Then I decide to retrace my route along the river bank, rather than doing what I normally do, and following the canal towpath. Riding along the riverside path, I see a heron standing in the shallows in the middle of the river. I take a couple of photographs but it’s too far away and they come out all grainy, like CCTV photos of a murder suspect. On the grassy sports field, I UPD. As I remount, I hear a rustling noise on my helmet, reach up, and find a huge bunch of rowan berries caught in the vent. In surprise, I UPD again.

As I approach the underpass, I notice to my right that there is a cycle path that I’ve never explored. It goes under the main road between the walls that support the flyover. There are about 6 square section tunnels, all parallel, and separated by thin concrete walls. As I approach it, it’s like riding into a giant harmonica. Most of the tunnels are unlit, and have muddy floors, but one is brightly lit with a tarmac floor. Clearly this is the one they want me to use, but is it a trap?

The tunnel brings me out into the park and ride car park, and all I have done is knock a couple of hundred metres, a tricky junction and the underpass off my route. Still, you have to try these things.

Whizzing along the side of the road, I reach the road works that block the cyclepath. It is now nearly dusk. I dismount, switch my lights on, walk across the road, and prepare to remount. As I do, a Police car pulls up and the occupants look at me speculatively. I apply my basic principle: look like a cyclist, be treated like a cyclist, so I check the lights, check the traffic, mount cleanly, and ride smoothly away. The Police car drives off.

Am I too nervous? I’m the bloke who had his motorcycle stolen twice, and had four tax discs stolen, in a year (making six incidents), then got a ticket one rainy Sunday for having an undersized number plate. So far, none of the thieves has been caught.

Not much to report after this section. Just an easy pedal along my regular paths in fading light. I ride up past the skateboard ramps where last time a young girl shouted, “I hope you fall off and break your neck.” My response that time was terse. This time, a young girl shouted, without obvious irony, “You are so talented!” I touch the peak of my cycle helmet in polite acknowledgement. Progress of a sort.

The last quarter mile is along the road, where it is definitely dark enough to need lights. I get back to the car at 9:00 and it is dark already. Summer is already drawing to a close.

That’s a ride of about 12 miles or so, and I am still feeling fresh, except for a slight twinge in the left knee. The Miyata saddle, although thin, is much more comfortable than the Viscounts on my MUni and on my Coker. Yesterday’s work on the bearings does seem to have got rid of that annoying noise after all. This 700c is rapidly becoming my favourite unicycle.

Here’s a photo taken at the Marina during the beer stop.


Re: Highways, herons and harmonicas


Exactly how many Brits still use the word ‘wireless’?

Re: Re: Highways, herons and harmonicas

At least one.:wink: I no longer say “gramophone” though.:wink:

Re: Highways, herons and harmonicas

“goldenchicken II”
<goldenchicken.II@NoEmail.Message.Poster.at.Unicyclist.com> wrote in message
> - - -
> Exactly how many Brits still use the word ‘wireless’?

I am not at all sure that I could provide you with an exact answer to that,
but certainly a majority of those people I know of pensionable age still use
“wireless”. I think I prefer it to “tranny” and “ghetto blaster”.

Is there a problem with “wireless”?


Grandparents are those people that encourage your kids to do all those
things they would not let you do, and at a time in your life when you have
finally come to accept that, all those years ago, they were right.

As good and as bad Shane Warne is, I bet he can’t ride a uni. Only the Brits and the Aussies will understand this.

Lets organise a uni Test series. Uni cricket so to speak old chap.

Test 1, the Aussies V’s Brits Circus skills
Test 2, Muni skills
Test 3, Trials
Test 4… ahh I have run out of ideas, maybe Coker distance!.
Test 5 uni writing skills (You win)


i think there should be a big competition at the next Unicon
everybody get’s a number when they register and on the final night they have a lucky draw and the person who’s number is drawn, wins a day-ride with Mikefule

and keep softening up those Aussies for us, we’re kicking it our of them in the rugby and will take them on in the cricket once u’re done with them

Re: Highways, herons and harmonicas



The lucky winner would no doubt be disappointed. The consensus of those who have experienced both is that I’m a better writer than rider.:o Nice idea, though.

Re: Re: Highways, herons and harmonicas

I like the word. It is very graphic and self-explaining. Especially if you compare it to the French word for radio: TSF - which I believe also to be obsolete.

Why, I even made a wireless the villain of a comic jam!

Re: Highways, herons and harmonicas

I’m sure your talents are wasted there, I think you should go on coker tours of the country and write books about them. Have you ever thought about becoming an author?

Re: Highways, herons and harmonicas

Mikefule wrote:
> Here’s a photo taken at the Marina during the beer stop.
> ±---------------------------------------------------------------+
> | Attachment filename: beestonmarina.jpg |
> |Download attachment: http://www.unicyclist.com/attachment/348751|
> ±---------------------------------------------------------------+

Aww, and I was hoping for a picture of those kids drinking pop. I must
try their ingenious technique sometime, but obviously not when my own
kids are watching.

Danny Colyer (the UK company has been laughed out of my reply address)
“He who dares not offend cannot be honest.” - Thomas Paine

Re: Re: Re: Highways, herons and harmonicas

I think wireless is just about the least descriptive word in existence. When you call something wireless, all that you are saying that that there are no wires.

Lots of things don’t have wires. The peach I’m eating has no wires. My dog, too, is wireless.

Re: Re: Re: Re: Highways, herons and harmonicas


As a kid, I wondered why my grandad’s “wireless” was called a “wireless” when I could clearly see that it was plugged in to the mains with a plug on a length of wire!

For those younger readers who don’t understand the word:

The first electronic communications were “telegraph” (“tele” meaning far, or long distance (as in telescope, teleological, television) and “graph” as in writing (graphology, etc.)). The signal went along wires which often ran alongside railway tracks. (US = “railroad”)

When radio was introduced, it was called “wireless telegraph” to differentiate it from ordinary telegraph that went along telegraph wires.

Telegraph was originally by morse code - a system of beeps or taps to represent letters of the alphabet. As it became more common to transmit sound (telephone) the term “wireless telegraph” evolved into “wireless” - which is, as Vanman2004 pointed out, a singularly undescriptive term.

Language is like that. How far would you see through a pair of telescopic forks?

Lovely write up, as usual, Mikefule. MattPH is right, there is at least a “collected works” worth in your postings, surely?

BTW, I’m intrigued by your new avatar. Were Kropotkin, Bakunin et al unicyclists? Must look through my old pamphlets to see if I missed something…

Hmmmm. Leading anarchists… I was thinking more along the lines of Lydon and Vicious. That and a midlife crisis and I was sitting at the computer bored.

In any case, it’s a fine avatar.

And if anyone’s having a midlife crisis, I always recommend learning to ride a unicy… oh.

I’m surprised that Mikefules new avatar isn’t a Snickers logo.

That’s how I got started. Right after I turned 50-years-old I went out and bought my first unicycle. It was a lot cheaper than a bright red convertable Italian sports car.

Red wheel and no Snickers?