Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 5 (part 2) #BBBR12

Friday was finally a day with a more leisurely start.  So much so, that I was more able to consider breakfast, at which I had the most I did all week!

Bikes as usual were waiting outside, and (for the last time) I picked up the bike bags and ambled out to fix them to the bike (I have a capacious saddle bag for waterproofs, inner tubes (2), tools, food gels and bars, 1st aid kit etc etc; and a smaller bag just behind the stem for a few gels, camera, passport and money).  Knowing we had a schedule to meet today, I didn’t hang around and quite quickly was off following the orange arrows again.  It was a reasonably warm day already so for the only day this week I actually started with just a single layer on – my reliable Altura transformer top with easily removable sleeves.

Over cobbles for a bit, out under the Menin Gate, still a sombre reminder of times gone by, but strangely normal when reverted to normal traffic duties; and then out of town.  We were quickly into the surrounding farmland and cycling on poor concrete section cycleways.  A gentle climb past a few cemeteries (notably the Aeroplane Cemetery) just out of town.

After only about 6 miles (only really a warm up) we stopped at Polygon wood.  There, waiting for us, were a couple of the excellent Battlefield Tour Guides who had been telling us about the history of our route.  Polygon Wood cemetery is notable as a less ordered cemetery.  The graves were laid during the war, and as a wartime working graveyard the CWGC did not relocate them.  So in this small area there were graves pointing in various directions as you can see below

Even more unusual were 3 particular graves.  Firstly a German who’d been treated by the Allies, but died in their care.  And then 2 further graves that had the unusual addition of the home addresses of the men buried there.  One address was quite local to me, so I took a photo and resolved to check the address and see if the current occupants were related, or interested.

And then off through the dappled lane, through the forest and on to Passchendaele.  In a couple of miles we arrived and had the chance to enter the museum and see the reconstructed trench from WWI. Having visited this museum only last year with Mrs B, I resolved to carry on and get a second breakfast now I was more awake.  Sadly, this was not to be.  In the few short miles to Tyne Cot Cemetery (home to nearly 12,000 men, and commemorating about 35,000 missing after 15th August 1917) all the cafes were closed and there was nothing at Tyne Cot.

We were now 10 miles into the day (a proper warm up!) but having arrived at 9, we discovered that the staff there a) had the hump as they did not know we were coming and b) were not willing to bend the rules and open the toiletblock or the visitor centre until 10am as per schedule.  So I set to helping Anna herd the cyclists to the right area to park their bikes.  Come 10 o’clock preparations for the last big ceremony were under way and at 10:30 the bugle sounded.  Our Peddling Padre made yet another great speech and with another Last Post, more bagpipes, more wreaths, more commemoration we were left to wander around the cemetery.  Many spontaneously moved to the central cross and a superb image built up as most were wearing their BBBR12 cycling jerseys.  Others will have captured a better photo, but this was mine.

So, another couple of miles to lunch.  A very stop start day so far.  Lunch was the usual superb display, created from the back of large van, and lots of effort.  It being so hot I stuffed myself with more crisps for the salt, and even managed a bit of cake (nothing compares with the Apple Pie and Custard at Thiepval though!).  Camelbak loaded with 4 pints of water, a couple of Zero tabs for the nutrients I’d later sweat out and I was ready.

Thirty-eight miles to go, and if we could do it in a few hours, that would be good (we were told if we were late we’d miss the coach transfer to Calais!).
I got going!

I stopped briefly at a much more dark and sombre German cemetery (Langemark), where tour guides told the tale of the inexperienced school students who were mown down by more experienced Allies in the First Battle of Ypres.

So, we leathered on.  The road was a mixture of good tarmac and concrete sections that really tested out your contact points with the bike… ahem…  I nearly missed the next water stop, as we had to bleed off the road, down to a tow path along which we’d cycle.  At this point I was able to stuff myself with more oat bars etc, and grab a cup of tea, replenish the Camelbak, and then head off.  A waterside cycle is great, but in this instance speed was of the essence.  I’d lost track of the miles done, but just knew that the next water stop would be the last, and we’d be on the run in to Dunkirk by then.

A village later and a small fountain in the middle gave some brief relief from the sun, and then off again.

By now it was getting really hot, and I changed jerseys – by now I felt I earned the right to wear the Big Battlefield Bike Ride 2012 jersey, a fresh jersey (like the world cup winning England Rugby team found) is a great refresher.  Not far out we came to the last Guide stop (with water!). Here we heard how a British officer had not only (allegedly) shot dead a cowardly commander who would not hold his flank during the retreat to Dunkirk, but also downed a German pilot by using his Bren gun more like someone out hunting pheasant.

I was getting desperately tired maintaining 15-20 mph cycling in the heat (and on the last day too).  But something clicked in and I was able to keep it going.  But all along I was desperately looking for signage to Dunkirk (with distances!).  When we turned away from a sign to Dunkirk I was dejected.  But then I wondered that maybe we were coming in a quicker back way.

Townscapes beckoned and the people alongside the road were cheering us on (the French really GET cycling).  Then, suddenly, a couple of blocks and the promenade was in front.  It was over.  Well not quite.

And I was only 4 minutes late.

We parked the bikes and formed a welcoming party for something.  About 20 minutes later a solitary Spitfire performed a magnificent solo display for us.  A short wreath laying ceremony later and the Peddling Padre told of his excitement at finding 4 converts the day before in teh fancy dress nuns, but it seems they've already lapsed.  Several were congratulated on their 1000 miles for H4H, many more for their 1000 units of alcohol.

Finally we set off down the prom to the cheers and waves of the locals to a finish line

Off the bike, strip it for transportation, hand it over the organisers, and onto the coach for the hotel in Calais.  I felt flat.  The achievements of the heroes on handbikes is so huge, anything I did felt modest by comparison.  Hey ho.

Hotel, shower, change and off to the celebration dinner.  There we were awarded a medal, and entertained by comedy awards (best lycra…) and a band played.  The Canadians handed out free beer, and the French caterers ran out of food, so H4H sent out for pizza!!!

Carriages were at midnight, hotel and bed…  just 1 more day until blighty…

Friday, May 25, 2012

Day 5 #BBBR12

Le Fin

More later :-)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

So the day ends... #BBBR12

battery flat
270 plus mile cycled
50 plus to go
Thiepval, Vimy Ridge, Menin Gate ceremonies done
Canadians - a roaring drinking/singing/joke competition (UK win)
One day to go
A sense of camaraderie proven
A certain numbness :-D
A good hotel
A sense of acheivement
A good job, nearly complete

Canadian contingent off to bars new! #BBBR12

Day 4 #BBBR12

Up with the lark again!

Over cobbles and out of Arras heading for Vimy Ridge. I must have hill legs now as I didn't really have any issues.

We were welcomed to Canada by the woundedwarriors.ca's padre. He gave he most moving eulogy which ended with the wreath laying and a rendition by the boys of the Canadian National Anthem. Go and search YouTube for BBBR12 or BBBR2012 and you'll see.

Leaving the ridge shrouded in an unearthly mist we headed off the ridge for a lengthy flat ride into a Fenland like headwind. Easy peasy for me !! But lengthy.

Mid afternoon we crossed into Belgium right onto the forecourt of a pub - Leffe seemed the right response!

Yet more punctures for others (one outside a bike shop where I got some new mitts to replace my absolutely shredded first pair and a long heavy ride on concrete cycle ways to the hotel. Except for me it was the wrong hotel. The path is marked by orange arrows and you follow until you see your hotel colour. But orange continues to one hotel. So if you miss the turn you carry on regardless. Seems someone removed the pink arrows at the turn... I got a lift back showered changes and a quick dinner before heading to the Menin Gate for the 8pm ceremony.

Now I really should find some steak frites! (well at 2500 extra calories per day I'm allowed :-)

Tomorrow brings Tyne Cot. And Dunkerque. And the end. Phew.
Be back on blighty before I know it...

Best stop of the day #BBBR12

Canada's Walking Wounded at Vimy Ridge #BBBR12

Vimy Ridge #BBBR12

Rudyard Kipling's Jack #BBBR12

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Most popular stop of the day - ice cream van. (#BBBR12)

an appropriate find (#BBBR12)

Day 3 (#BBBR12)

What a day...

Up at stupid o clock and couldn't really stomach brekkie so had a gel and an oat bar.
So we were off into a chilly Amiens morning.  Trundling past the waterside was a pleasant opener, but soon we were climbing the chalk downs to get to Thiepval for one of the key ceremonies of the week.

As we rose the air got colder and damper until we were enveloped in fog. At one cemetery we had the option to admire the views from the tower, but...
On and through more mist making an odd visual effect on my glasses. The water stop! Refuelling on bits and pieces and really my breakfast.
I was staggered to be asked to lay a wreath at Thiepval. Because of the family connections (more next week) I accepted as it briskly.

Now I had to get to Thiepval on time. The next few miles were a mixed bag of emotions and hills. Sweeping past Albert we curved just past Fricourt, and then turned northish when suddenly I noticed a Bernafay Wood cemetery. Having no time to spare I had to miss out on paying my respects to Great Great Uncle Arthur George Bryant.

Losing time to trickier hills Thiepval finally hove into view in the now strong sun.  But my legs were fading fast. Eventually, after a couple of tired pauses I arrived with time to spare.

Lunch first and then a conversation with Sean on the process. 
A colour party of us carrying 3 flags (I was proud to be on the  Union Flag) led the BBBR12 to the monument.  We were sharing wreaths between 3, but I'd written my GG Uncles' names on.  With me was a man whose brother had died (of natural causes) whilst serving. Embarassed to have the focus. I handed him the wreath to lay, he was military and it seemed more appropriate.

First the local Mairie's mother welcomed us with the padre translating. Her mother lost an arm, leg and eye  to British bombing in Amiens, but she bore no grudges. Then the pedalling General spoke movingly. Then we laid the wreaths. This civilian bogged  up by turning back.... Instead if walking backwards.
The bagpipes and last post inside Thiepval are stunning.
An emotional break.

Late away after mass in the memorial the afternoon was hard and very warm. It was tough, but after a great guided tour of the Arras tunnels it was hotel (cobble cycling is fun), dinner, phone calls, bed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day 2 #BBBR11

Firstly I forgot something from yesterday.
Dropping into Pourville I passed a speed camera with speed and smiley/sad face. There was no one around and no vehicles I got  :-( - I was doing 72kph!!!!

A ridiculously early breakfast at which I could barely eat. Partly edgy partly too early.
Off outside before 8 (7uk time) and off.

The first hour saw a MASSIVE hill as we left Dieppe. I remeber litle except a long hill, trees, and a few atopa on the way, but i cycled it all. The heroes on the hand bikes and the rickshaw made it so.

A few hills, and 28 miles or so and lunch. After another bugger of a hill.

At Grand Court cemetery we learned of a Halifax crew of 7 who'd flown from Leconfield (now Normandy Barracks) where the only red telephone box in Kingston upon Hull's white telephone franchise. A story is there, but later.
Also were 6 lads from the Norfolk Regiment left behind in WWII who died and were buried by locals.  This was part of the losses that meant the Norfolks were no longer a local regiment by war's end.

The afternoon was a more fen like ride with modest undulations leading to Amiens. A nice hotel. Dinner. A stroll round town and a beer. Time for bed.

Making a ceremony on time (I'm slow!)
Dry day
Giving new information to a Battlefield Tour Guide.
Making it.
More friends made
Singing Prof loudly whilst riding!
A bugler and a bag piper helping us up a hill
The s#1t who moved the arrows
Amiens cathedral
The prospect of Thiepval tomorrow

Monday, May 21, 2012

Day 1 #BBBR12

A very long day so I'll not say much...

A 5:30 alarm from the ship, and ready to disembark after a fitful night in an overly warm cabin

Through customs on to a coach and the 2 hour or so ride to Etretat.

Feeling increasingly queasy due to nerves and never ending waiting around. We finally start with a service with local dignitaries and parade outside in the small CWGC section of the churchyard.

Moe waiting over an early lunch, and off. Up 4 miles of steepish undulation. I make it, non stop. A big improvement!

On to ceremonies and more hills and 63 miles later arrive in the hotel. Phew

Saw about 12 punctures. And three lost chains (mine one)
not much rain
Strong head ish winds
Some heroes on handbikes doing amazing things.
Charlie Chaplain on Matt Baker's rickshaw
Lots of fellow enthusiasts
Only walked one hill when I missed a gear and simultaneously my calf cramped (must remember to take pills!)

To bed :-) Up at 6:30

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Now that #TEE12 have released the scheduling (and more) app. Time to plan!

This year (at last) we return to a couple of really great scheduling features for Tech*Ed EMEA.  I have consistently moaned about their lack in previous years, so it’s only right to praise where praise is due.
Problem 1.  Whilst some recent TEE events have had a scheduling facility online; it has been structured around just one event per timeslot.  This means that if you are not sure what to attend, or want to schedule a fall back option, you can’t (other than using a paper based system).
Problem 2. Handheld information.  For a few years, whilst Microsoft were promoting the Windows platform on Compaq iPaq and others, the support crew (brilliantly led by Andrew Cheeseman) developed an offline app for session planning, feedback etc.  Sadly that died, and despite requests, never came back. 
But, hallelujah, an app is back (on Windows, iOS, and Android) from EventBoard: http://europe.msteched.com/news/pin-to-start-download-teched-europe-s-free-mobile-companion-now
The app works offline (so it should) but when you connect will also give you up to date notifications of session changes etc, and allow you to do session evaluations as well.  All that the old app used to do!
One feature you might not notice at first – as this is a generic app for other events as well.  If you want to synchronise your session between devices, then on loading for the first time – create your login account first, *before* you enter the Tech*Ed content.  Once you are in the Tech*Ed stuff, login is not exposed as a function (or at least I couldn’t find it!).
So, once you are running what should you do?  I strongly recommend the following:
  • Schedule for the speakers you like – even one or two for the wisecracks rather than the content.
  • Schedule for the track(s) you need to follow
  • Then just browse for anything of interest.
  • Put them *ALL* in your schedule
  • Leave it a day or two, then review by the timeslot and spring clean the more obvious clashes or silly choices.
  • Leave *at least* 2 or 3 sessions per timeslot in your diary.  I sometimes have 7 or 8 in the time slot as legitimate subjects of interest.  As the week progresses some will become redundant (or moved/repeated); make sure you have everything you might possibly want to learn in Amsterdam.
  • By the end of the evening before, trim your schedule to just 2 or 3 per time slot for the following day.  Make sure you know where the rooms are – this is important as having started your first choice and decided it is rubbish – you know which room to dash to next!
  • Don’t forget the exhibition is a valid use of at least 1 time slot J
On the day - choosing sessions from those last 2 or 3:
One thing later editions of the old app had was access to the PPT decks for the sessions.  Provided I can see the decks I have a very simple rule of thumb.  The fewer slides, the better the presentation.
  • If you have a session with a deck of 30 odd slides then, even when discounting the half a dozen or so marketing and summary slides, that’s still a lot of content.  A lot of the information you will get in the session is on the deck, so read that instead.
  • If you have a session with 8 slides, that promises lots of extra information on the subject, and probably a few demos as well.  That (for me) is much higher value.
Lastly, one (sadly) unknown problem may remain: feedback at Tech*Ed is based on just one session per timeslot.  Thus if you bail out of a really bad one and go to another you can either penalise the bad one, or praise the second one – but not both.  I do hope that the organisers will allow multiple feedback per time slot.  They really *need* to know a session was so bad I left it after 5 minutes.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

#evil #google takes another step at locking you into their platform, IE no longer supported at #blogger

Well that’s not a problem, oh no….
I’d be more open to Chrome if they weren’t so blatant about it.  But given (according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_web_browsers#StatCounter_.28July_2008_to_present.29) that IE is still the top browser (albeit with Chrome racing up behind it); this just stinks of the *old* Microsoft bullying tactics of past decades.
Bloody idiots.