One from the Vaults: Don’t talk to strangers

I’ve decided that once a week I’ll re-post something from my extensive archives. Obviously many of my early posts 2009 – 2012 heavily feature cycling. I’ll try to keep these to a minimum as I know not everyone is a cycling fan.

When I was very much younger my Mum cautioned me against talking to strangers. I’m sure your Mum probably said something similar. But who are these strangers? To be honest, Mum didn’t give me much clarification at the time, or since. I’m sure her intention was to keep me safe. But statistics show that most people are either harmed or killed by people they know ie not strangers. There are few really random acts of violence.

To be honest, I never much heeded her words and have spent most of my life talking to people I didn’t or don’t know. In fact I’m happy to strike up a conversation with pretty much anyone. The first instance I can recall was on a summer vacation to the Isle of Wight when I would have been around 18 months’ old. My parents (as a joke) deposited me in a large waste paper bin and walked round the corner. The joke was on them as I was rescued by a couple staying in the same hotel who heeded my cries for help. Just imagine the shocked looks on my parents faces when they returned seconds later to find me gone! Or maybe they were relieved.  In any event, we were shortly reunited.

While I was at primary school, Wednesday afternoons (and Saturday mornings) I attended ballet classes. My mother was hoping (in vain) to make me lighter on my feet. As a reward for my pirouettes my parents used to take me for afternoon tea at The Queen’s Hotel, later demolished to make way for New Street Station. Most of the hotel’s other guests were regulars, ladies and gentlemen of a certain age, often on their own. Once I’d been into the kitchens to see chef, and select my cakes, I would do the rounds of the hotel lounge. No one was safe. I would stroll up, bold as brass, and seat myself comfortably on a facing chair or sofa before smiling and then disarming them with my skilful interrogation techniques. No pliers or bright lights required. Once I had the facts at my disposal, they were filed away ready to be revisited the following week when I dropped by for an update. Early and very useful training for my future career as an auditor.

Now that I think about it, I’ve spent most of my life chatting to strangers and not come to any harm. Nowadays, when I’m out riding, I regularly strike up conversations with people I don’t know. I may not know their names, but they’re not strangers. We’re all part and parcel of the brother and sisterhood of cyclists.

Back in 2010, I started “chatting” with someone who shared my interests: football and cycling. We regularly dropped by one another’s blogs and left comments. I knew his name, where he lived, the names of his family and his email address, but that was it. We were to all intents and purposes strangers. In 2011 he made me and two other strangers a proposal we just couldn’t refuse. He suggested we pooled our efforts to write a cycling blog. It launched at the start of 2012 and has gone from strength to strength. It’s been such a blast. Mosey over to and check it out. Over the years, I managed to meet up with many of our VeloVoices and found we weren’t strangers at all, just long lost brothers and sisters in arms.

Not enough hours in the day……………….

Despite being freed of my housewifely burdens for four whole days this week, I don’t seem to be making my usual headway on that old chestnut, the “To Do List”. There are a couple of reasons for this:-

  • The fine weather (except for Tuesday) means I’ve been oft tempted out onto the road
  • I’m gearing up for forthcoming events at the cycle club
  • There’s been an increasing amount of televised live cycling
  • I’ve been moonlighting on my other blog: VeloVoices
  • A number of domestic and office appliances have malfunctionned

And that’s not all. The ironing mountain has expanded to become an entire range. My beloved is getting down to his last formal shirts and t-shirts. We’re talking items of clothing that probably haven’t seen the light of day for a year or two, which is possibly no bad thing. My terrace garden is looking decidedly sad. We really need to find plants that can withstand my wanton neglect. I’m thinking fake here!

My fridge-freezer has had a bit of a wobble. It’s stopped producing ice and, instead, the water just freezes thereby clogging up the entire mechanism. I’ve checked the mile high instruction booklet which seems to cover every small eventuality except this one. It may be time for a visit from the man from Gaggenau as the oven and hood lights also need replacing and these can only be fitted by, yes you’ve guessed, the man from Gaggenau. Of course, all the appliances are now outside of their 5-year  warranty period.

Bob, my formerly faithful robotic floor sweeper, keeps hiding under the bed. He’s like a heat seeking missile. I set him off in the lounge and in no time at all he’s made his way through the dining room, along the corridor and into the bedroom where he makes a bee line for the bed. He then attempts to suck up the ties on the mattress which get twisted up in his mechanism and he conks out under the bed where I can’t reach him.  I’ve tried pushing him out with a broom, but there’s no budging him. I do try to keep the door to the bedroom closed but as soon as I open it, quick as a flash, he’s in and up to no good.

I also need to put in a call to our IT man as both printers are printing sporadically. The one HP printer has always been the print equivalent of the supermarket trolley with the wonky wheel. Sometimes, it works impeccably and then, for no rhyme or reason, it refuses to perform various functions. Not all the time you understand, just from time to time. We’ve followed all the helpful instructions, re-booted, re-installed etc but it’s as if it has a mind of its own. Currently, it’s refusing to scan. The other printer, our heavy duty black and white one, which doesn’t scan, fax or copy, is generally used by my beloved. A man who, left to his own devices, could fell an entire Swedish rainforest in an afternoon’s print orgy. His rapidly failing eyesight means he simply has to print out everything; and, I do mean everything. Of course, he generally then forgets to pick them up the documents from the print tray before leaving for the airport! It’s gone on strike, it just won’t print at all.

To add to our woes, the HD service we receive from Orange over the internet isn’t working. This means a call to Orange. I’ve been stalling as I know I’ll have to do the rounds of various call centres before I haphazardly chance upon someone who can help. They do have an English speaking service but sadly it’s staffed by people whose English is infinitely worse than my French and I’ve found it’s easier to stick with the regular service. But this does mean I’ll have to deal with them as my beloved would rather have his molars extracted without anaesthetic than deal with Orange, other than face to face. And he’s tried that already.

My Twitter service on my Blackberry is working but well in arrears which means it’s a bit difficult to keep up with what’s happening and respond accordingly. The one I set up on Hootsuite for VeloVoices receives but now won’t send tweets and it takes so long to log into Tweet Deck that it keeps logging me out before I’ve gotten in. My only solace in the face of this overload of technical and mechanical insolence is to escape for a few hours of peace and quiet on the bike.

No ordinary cookie

The past few days I have been fighting  a rearguard action but I’ve caved. It’s official, I have a cold which I’m now feeding with my favourite remedy – hot toddies. I think it was made worse spending a couple of hours down a cold, damp clubhouse yesterday evening. We had a meeting of the management team to re-elect the key members – like there were any other takers! Indeed the one club member who had shown in interest in becoming M Le President next year has done an about face. I suspect he was keen on high office while he thought he had me on board to do all the donkey work – think again.

This is, of course, quite a serious issue. If we can’t find someone to take over at the end of our period of office, we’ll either be left holding the baby or the club might fold. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that the President must live in the same town as the club’s based, and be newly retired. Sadly, not too many of our members fall into this category.

Fond though I am of my fellow clubmates, they are often quite frustrating to deal with, even though I know they have the club’s best intentions at heart. Sometimes it’s like herding sheep, which either makes me a shepherd or a sheep dog. Though I do like to think of myself as a goat, it is after all my star sign.

I have at long last managed to recruit someone to help me with marketing our big annual cycling event “La Laurentine Andrei Kivilev”. Taking a leaf out of the book of my fellow writers on Velovoices, I have recruited a youngster to liven up the Facebook page. However, he’s not familiar with Twitter (can’t have everything) so we’ll broach that at a later date.  I have high hopes. Having discussed our potential strategy with him yesterday evening, I have instructed him to go forth and multiply our friends.

The cold has meant I’ve had to turn down an opportunity to ride with my coach today, but I don’t want to give him a cold.  It’s going to be an excercise free day. This is slightly upsetting as adverse weather conditions are forecast for this week end. It had to happen at some point. Although I am jetting off to the sunshine with my beloved this week end: pleasure for me and business for him. It’ll be a week in Dubai’s sunshine which at this time of year is in the mid-to-low 20 degrees centigrade. Ideal for a spot of sunbathing or sightseeing.

Do these look good enough to eat?

Cold aside, I’ll still take my English class this evening, as I promised them a celebratory English afternoon tea in honour of the one who celebrated his 18th birthday at the week end. I’m preparing a traditional tea with some rather (if I say so myself) splendid chocolate chip cookies. They contain cornflake crunch, mini-marshmallows as well as the ubiquitous chocolate chips. I expect these to evaporate in seconds, rather than minutes.

Thursday postrscript: Did I say seconds? I should have said nanoseconds. They were a monster hit and more have been ordered!