Friday, January 28, 2011

Halcyon days

I'm quite conscious that lately my posts haven't really come from within my head, inasmuch as most recent ones have been either reposted material from my website which I've now closed since I didn't update it for the past year or so and it was costing me money to host, or occasional embedded YouTube videos which caught my eye.

I'm not particularly hung up on this, although for a while I considered it to be a bit of a literary failing, because I've accepted that times change and my use of this Blog will change, and probably change back, with my own personal zeitgeist.

Perhaps this is a moment however to reflect on what life's doing to me here at the start of 2011, albeit the virtual ink's still damp on my review of 2010.

Generally, life's reasonably good at the moment, leaving aside a nasty cold that's been lingering for a week or two and which currently is causing me to sound genuinely like a man yodelling when I try to sing in choir.  I'm due to sing live on BBC Radio 4 Long Wave on Monday morning in their Daily Service when the Cathedral Choir will be doing it from Glasgow, but we'll see how that goes!

I'm now at the end of seven days of annual leave, which although is happening now comes from my 2010 entitlement which I will lose if I don't use it up by the end of January.  So with not all that much to do, little money left after the Christmas festivities, and no one else on holiday to socialise with during the day, it's an odd time for a break, but fairly welcome nonetheless.

The biggest new thing to affect my life recently happened only a couple of days ago when, through the miracle of the UK government's Cycle to Work Scheme, I took delivery of a new bicycle, the first I've owned/ridden since 1997 when I bought one and used it for only a month or two before getting rid of it and trading up to a BMW K75RT motorcycle.

It's a Halcyon Monterey, like the one in the picture, which is a hybrid, neither Mountain Bike nor Road Racing bike but something more suitable to daily commuting with the occasional trip along a canal towpath or similar.  Front suspension and seat make it quite comfortable to ride, and although it's very early days to my surprise so far it's been less traumatic leg-wise than I expected, but I really need to replace the comfy gel saddle with a much wider comfy gel saddle!  If you get my drift.  Owwwwwww!

Having collected it, I decided there'd be no point just taking it home and looking at it, so I set off along the nearby towpath of the Forth and Clyde canal towards Glasgow city centre, intending just to be gentle with myself and see how I got on.  Before I knew what was happening I'd reached Lock 27, a pub next to, well, Lock 27 of the canal funnily enough, which was a lot further than I intended.  Taking the more direct route home through Anniesland cross (for those who know this area) and down through Knightswood, I had no real trouble until I stepped off the bike at my front door and tried to climb the 3 stairs with wobbly jelly legs!  One hot bath later I was fine, with only a sense of personal satisfaction remaining afterwards.  A check of AutoRoute showed that I'd travelled almost eight miles!  OK, in the grand scheme of things not all that far, but pretty reasonable for a first effort.

I intend using it to occasionally commute the few miles to work, using the Renfrew Ferry to cross the River Clyde enroute.  If I manage that once or twice a week I'll be happy and it'll be a whole load extra exercise I wasn't previously getting.  Not only that, the Cycle to Work Scheme means that my employer has actually bought the bike and I'm renting it from them over the next year, with the payment coming off before Tax & NI contributions, and at the end of the year I'll be able to buy it from them for an estimated one month's rental.  I won't know exactly what I'll save until I receive my payslip containing the first payment, but the bike (reduced from a retail price of about £400 to £199) plus the accessories (helmet, lights etc) costs about £275 and I think I'll end up paying about £200, so it isn't a bad deal.

Other things that are happening are that the countdown to a significant birthday starts in a week, so to celebrate that less than significant one I've aranged a group of about 20 friends to go for a curry in Glasgow next Friday.  It's ages since I had a curry and I'm really looking forward to it.  Of course the celebrations in 2012 will perhaps be more extensive, but I need to get my head round exactly how I want to celebrate it, and not be overly swayed by other people.

Glasgow Chamber Choir has an exciting year ahead, the first part of which is a trip to the Netherlands in March to sing with another choir there.  Our choir members are being hosted by their choir members, but since I'm not really in a position where I feel I can reciprocate when they come over to Glasgow in May (and I'm an anti-social bastard), I decided just to make my own arrangements, so I'm staying in a hotel in the centre of Amersfoort, near Utrecht, which is where that choir's from.  It's a small hotel, but looks very friendly so it should be good.  The hotel website describes it as, amongst other things, gay friendly, but I get the impression that although it's called the Queen's it isn't compulsory!  The flights and hotel are all booked, and as it gets closer I'll get more into it.

Oh, and the meaning of the title of this post?  Well as I'm sure you know, Halcyon Days are the seven days in winter when storms never happen.

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