Helen Findlay

My adventures in Middle Europe and The Colonies. This blog contains my own views and opinions and does not represent those of my employers, or any other organisation with which I am involved. Remember, just because it isn't Singletrackworld, doesn't mean it isn't shite !

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

Haven’t done an entry for a while, so for anybody still reading, this is what I have been up to:

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Finals in Fort William. Awesome weekend ! Drove up by myself (and the three bikes in the back) on the Friday and met my friend Kim. The rest of the ERC lot were staying at a bunkhouse in a council estate at Corpach. As this would have broken both the “no bunkhouses” and “no council estates” rules, we were staying in a cosy wee B & B just above the main street.

The cross-country on the Saturday was fun to watch, if a bit predictable in the Womens with Gunn Rita-Dahle making her win look easy. A few Scottish girls were riding, and a couple of kiwis so I had lots of people to cheer for. I spoke to a couple of the riders afterwards, and it sounded like a great event to take part in, with big crowds and everybody cheering for you, so I am thinking about trying to qualify next year. I would come last, and be dogged by the motorbike that follows the end of the race, but I think it would be worth it for the experience.

Saturday night and while the boring (sorry guys) ERC folk stayed in their bunkhouse for a few quiet drinks, me, Kim and my new American friend Joe went out for a night on the town. Brilliant night, drank far too much and talked loads of rubbish with lots of mountain bikers I have never met before. Nearly lost Kim, who was busy trying to chat up the Norwegian winner of the Four-Cross on my behalf (what a friend) but remembered about her in time and went back to the club to look for her.

Although I have never actually thrown up in a Gondola, on Sunday morning it was looking well on the cards, so I decided to walk the 700 metres to the top of the Downhill course. Met up with Fiona and Martin and the rest of the ERC crowd to watch the Downhill, wandering down the course and running into people on the way. Every time I see Downhill racing I am both massively impressed and completely terrified at the skill of the riders. Great to watch, with the crowds cheering the British riders, including Steve Peat and Tracy Mosely who both won their events. Steve Peat was the last rider down, and in a nail-biting finish won by about 3 seconds.

I had forgotten that I don’t have a job at the moment, so when Joe suggested that Kim and I stay another night and go biking on the Monday it didn’t take much persuading. Spent the day riding the WC course at Ben Nevis and the black route at Laggan. A perfect end to a superb weekend.

Had some more mountain bike guiding work the weekend after, 8 Norwegians and Swedes wanted an afternoon’s riding in the Pentlands. They were all over 6ft, including the woman, so it looked kind of like the opposite of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. They were a good fun crowd, if a bit competitve. I left them to it most of the day, then raced them up the last hill to the hotel, hanging just behind the fastest guy and overtook him at the very end. Well it had to be done really.... They were quite drinky too, having pints of Stella at lunchtime and wanting to be taken to the Flotterstone Inn en route in the Pentlands. Something to do with beer costing the equivalent of a days wages in the Skando countries I suspect.

Not much happening since then. My friend Janine came up last week from London for four days. We had a fairly mellow week, visited Rosslyn Chapel, where they have just started filming the Da Vinci Code, and the Cartier-Bresson exhibition at the Modern. I had a job interview that week back at the Museum, which was all a bit fraught. Didn’t get the job in the end, but wasn’t that disappointed to be honest, not 100% sure about the job and only applied as my old boss (and her boss) had urged me to do so. Starting to look up the job pages and send off some CVs to a few places this week.

Oh, and I got a podium in the SXC series Elite/Expert race in Badaguish last weekend. Only cos only 4 girls entered the race, but I was going fairly well and felt good so pleased enough with that. Another mug for the collection !!

Fell off my bike AGAIN yesterday. On a really easy bit I have ridden over about 500 times on Falla Brae at Glentress. Forgot I had fast tires on, wasn’t concentrating, was tired and took a corner too fast. Splat. Blood gushing out of my knee. Didn’t think it was that bad and rode back to Edinburgh, but once I got the tights off and washed it, was quite a mess so had to go to the hospital to get it cleaned out and stitched. Nurse said to stay off it for 7 days. Ha ha ha – as if !!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Troyes, RIP Ginger Cat and some questions about the French...

Finally back in Edinburgh, after a looooong drive across half of Europe. Set off from Morzine at the first crack of 11am on saturday, and drove until I got bored. As I was only in Les Gets at this point I thought I had better put in a bit more effort, so hit the motorways for 5 hours. Got off and drove around a bit looking for a nice wee country hotel, no luck, so headed into the nearest sizeable town, a place called Troyes.

Very tempted at this point to make a few references to Homer and the Iliad (Brad Pitt in a leather kilt and all that) but don't want to blow my cover. I am hoping that there are still a few people out there that think I am a tough cool mountain-biking chick, and don't know that I am in fact a nerdy bookish cat-loving spinster librarian.

Lucked in severely in Troyes, was a good size place, found a place to park the car and a nice hotel pretty fast. Nearly kissed the guy behind the counter when he asked if I wanted a room with a bath or a shower. Managed to squeeze in 4 baths in two days.

Went out for a few hours on the road bike on sunday and reaquainted myself with the big ring. Was nice to ride on some flat roads for a change. Had another bath, and set off to do all the touristy stuff in Troyes. The highlight was the "Maison de l'Outil et de la Pensee Ouverte". This was a museum of Tools. Much more interesting than it sounds, it was a couple of floors in a medieaval half-wood house of pre Industrial Revolution Tools, for making things like barrels, shoes, baskets, smithing and carpentary etc. They had huge big exhibition cabinets full of axes, hammers, files. Made for some unusual photos.

Next best thing was the Gothic "Basilique St-Urbain" a well proper Gothic cathedral, with gargoyles and flying buttresses (the best kind of buttresses) and everything. Back to the hotel for a quick bath (it was 40 degrees in the sun, I swear) and out for a French Chinese meal, which was excellent and well above any Chinese I have ever had in the UK.

Left about 9ish monday morning and headed slowly towards Calais. Had a bit of a horrowshow moment in the queue for lunch in a motorway services. Decided to phone the ferry company to get on an earlier boat, instead of the 10pm I was booked on. Was looking at the ticket, wondering why they didn't use the 24 hour clock like most Euro Types. Oh. They do. MERDE. Instead of looking at arriving 7 hours early for the boat I was on schedule for 5 hours late. Phoned and did some serious groveling, explained how I had changed the day of the boat over the phone blah blah blah lie lie lie and they put me on the 5pm for an extra £20. Nice Ferry people !! Got there at 2.30 so they put me on the 3.30, so was back in Epsom for 6.15, exactly 5 minutes after Jeremy got home. Picked Janine up from the train station, a few wines and another pleasant evening in Epsom.

Bit of a grim start to the final leg of the journey up to Edinburgh. Found a dead ginger cat on the road at 5am, that somebody had run over and just left. I was a couple of hours too late to help him out. Stopped and wrapped the poor wee thing in a towel and tried to arrange him nice on the grass at the side of the pavement. Couple of fraught hours worried that he was one of Jeremy's cats (he wasn't wearing a collar) but they had both been spotted scoffing well after I had left so that was OK. Still, I can't believe somebody could run over a pet and not even stop. Somebody loved that cat, but at least they will think the driver tried to help him, and won't find him splattered on the road. And I know I am soft but I don't care !!

Finally back in Edinburgh after I reckon about 30 hours driving up the M6. I'm liking the new Toll Motorway at Birmingham by the way, was £3.20 to miss out all the traffic around Birmingham. Bargain.

OK. I have observed a few things about the French that have me wondering. If anyone has any information that would clear up any of these questions I would appreciate an email.

1. "allez tout droit" - whats that all about ?? This apparantely means "straight ahead" when anybody with even a basic knowledge of French can see that it means "go always right". Although this may explain French military tactics, in particular in relation to the (non) defence of Paris in WWII. They were busy driving their tanks around in circles.

2. Stupit little dogs. In the same way that every Italian women over 40 grows an enormous bum, every French woman over 40 adopts a stupit yappy little dog. Accidently (honest) kicked one while stepping back from a counter, went to apologise to it and the maniac psycho smelley little thing tried to bite me ! Nice.

3. Every time you go out for a walk somewhere in France, you are guaranteed to pass at least one person carrying a naked baguette. You could be way up the top of a mountain on one of the most isolated Grand Randonees at 5am in the middle of a blizzard, and somebody will come by clutching their baguette and giving you a cheery "Bonjour !"

4. Jonny Halliday. Seriously !!!???!!!

Off up to Fort William this weekend for the last leg of the Mountain Biking World Cup. No idea what the weather will do, so am packing everything from shorts and sandals to full-on winter hill walking gear. Should be good fun, there is a well huge crowd going up.

Congrats to Jo and Daniel in Wellington on the birth of Lucien on Wednesday 7th September. I feel a trip to Baby Gap coming on....

Friday, September 02, 2005

Au Revoir Morzine...

It's been nice knowing you !! Have had a cracking week this week, fantastic weather all week, in fact today was the first day that a cloud dared show it's face over the horizon. To be honest it was getting a bit too hot, I have sunburn on top of sunburn on top of more sunburn.

The lifts closed for the end of summer on wednesday, and this town is now DEAD. I think my decision not to use the lifts has been a good 'un, all the best trails I have found have been inaccessible by telesiege. All the trails you can get to in the lifts are in a terrible state, rutted and worn and muddied up in the rain. Not to mention some what busy. Found some most excellent stuff by climbing up the walking paths and roads. Best descent of the week definitely the Col de Cou. Took me four hours of up and down to get to it mind... but it was worth it.

Not sure what to do this weekend. Haven't heard back from Britta, my own fault really for the short notice, and she has just moved house etc, so no quick segue into Germany.

I am very tempted to head up to Namur, have just realised I haven't been to Belgium at all this year, so need dosed up on Frites, Biere and Surrealist Art. But it's quite hilly in the Ardennes and I feel the need for some flat roads. At the moment I'm thinking Reims area, it looks flat on the map. Might just drive tomorrow for 4/5 hours then get off the Motorway and see what I find. Or even consult the Rough Guide.