Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Crippled Bicycles Of Brighton and Hove

As a keen cyclist, I guard my bicycle jealously and am grateful that I have a little space in the lobby to keep it safe and protected from the wind and the rain.

Sadly, many cyclists are not as fortunate as I and have to leave their trusty steeds chained to cycle racks, railings or lamp posts where they rust and decay amazingly rapidly in the pernicious sea air or, worse still, fall prey to bicycle thieves.

In my view, bike thieves are among the lowest of the low.

They mindlessly steal from a group of people who you would hardly classify as jet setters or the super-rich.

Many cyclists are like me: non-owners of motor cars and reliant on a secondhand bicycle to get around Brighton and Hove or to get to the station in the mornings.

Yet all over the city you see evidence of the thieves’ malfeasance: cut locks or broken chains where bicycles have been or, more commonly, bicycle parts that have been left behind.

This latter situation is particularly common and puzzles me.

I asked my friend Malcolm at the excellent secondhand bike, G-Whizz Cycles, one of my neighbours in Hove.

He explained that modern bike thieves go about their business like apple scrumpers, regarding racks of bicycles as orchards from which they can "scrump" the parts to complete bikes to sell.

Having taken half or a bit of a bike, they feel assured that the owner will leave the rest there, to be stolen at a later date, if required.

What an utterly cynical approach!

The situation is not helped, I suspect, by the habit of some cyclists simply to forget or abandon their bicycles for weeks or months on end.

I was chatting to one young chap who freely admitted that he abandoned three good bicycles in the past few years because he had moved cities or forgotten where he had left them.

This is possibly also indicative of a strange phenonomen: a carelessness with possessions coupled with a binge drinking culture.

Deliberately jettisoning a perfectly good bicycle strikes me as a selfish act.

If left on a public cycle rack, such as the one at the front of Brighton Station that is irritatingly always full, it is highly inconsiderate to active cyclists.

But, regardless of where it is abandoned, it could be given to someone who currently does not have a bike or sold to and renovated by a bike shop such as G-Whizz for recycling (excuse the pun) to a new user.

I bought a mountain bike in 2003 which deteriorated to a great degree in the back garden of my former home.

But I traded it in at G-Whizz where they changed the bearings and brakes and various other part and sold for a small sum it to a new user. 

So my rusty old wreck received a new lease of life. Marvellous!

This blog posting is illustrated by images of abandoned or part-stolen bicycles of Brighton and Hove with one from London for good measure.

I had suspected that Oxford had a similar problem but, on closer inspection, found this did not seem the case. 

If any bikes have been abandoned on the streets of Oxford, they have been removed, at least when I looked.

          The New Year has got off to a quiet start: nights in, very moderate drinking, not much to report.

However, I did attend a farming conference in Oxford in the first week of January, and as part of it visited the Oxford Union for the first time.

The conference staged a Union debate on renewable energy which proved very entertaining. 

The Greens won, although largely because of a very funny and creative speech made by an Essex farmer.

Back in Hove, my National Union of Journalists branch put on a packed meeting in support of the No More Page Three Campaign.

I helped out on the door and our speaker was Caroline Lucas, Britain’s only Green MP, who spoke very well. I photographed her (above) with a young woman from the No More Page Three Campaign. A charming pair.

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Secret Life of My Phone Camera

Since the age of 10 I have been hooked on photography and a bit of an aficionado on the subject.

From 1970 I have taken thousands of photographs on numerous cameras - film and digital - in colour or black and white, negative or transparency.

A camera is a camera and pretends to be nothing else.

Lens quality is paramount to taking a good image.

So I have always shunned phone cameras.

I would as readily attempt to make a phone call with my trusty Nikon FM as try taking a photograph with my telephone.

Therefore, it came as a huge surprise to me the other day that I accidentally looked under the camera symbol on my Blackberry to discover hundreds of images.

Not taken by me, I hasten to add, or anyone else, but by Mr Blackberry - without my knowledge.

Most are, I believe, pictures of the inside of my pockets, although a few seem to have shot by the sneaky phone while I trying to make calls.

I have to confess the wee chap has talent.

As you see from this small exhibition of his photography, he is as much a surreal artist as a lensman.

And, considering his lack of experience and dearth of opportunity, his achievement is truly remarkable.

I am going to enter him for the Turner Prize and who's to say he won't win.

More unlikely things have happened.

At least Mr B's art illustrates my first blog posting of 2014 with more originality and verve than anything I have taken over the festive season.

Christmas was good.

On the Day we had a veggie roast and a duck roast with a large variety of vegetables. Very good.

In total I had 10 meals out of that effort, with post-Christmas curry that went on and on.

Boxing Day was beautiful and I cycled to Rottingdean and back.

Between Christmas and New Year I spent some time in Oxford seeing my parents, brothers and their families.

It was all very restful.

I went back to Oxford early in the New Year and also saw my old friends John and Dorothy Butler.

I read the remarkable Berlin Diaries 1940-45 by Marie Vassiltchikov - one of the most complete and compelling accounts of life in Berlin in the Second World War.
On the recommendation of a friend and colleague, I also read The Genius in My Basement by Alexander Masters - a extraordinary biography of brilliant mathematician and public transport addict Simon Norton, a kind of tetchy conversation between biographer and subject with group theory for idiots lessons thrown in.

I also read an incredibly poorly written book by a gamekeeper and escaped to re-read The Little World of Don Camillo by Giovanni Guareschi.

I am pretty sure I last read it as a teenager more than 30 years ago, and found the same copy in my dad's attic. I enjoyed even more on the second reading.

This past week my nose has been back to the grindstone.

There is always so much to do.

I hope and pray that 2014 will be a successful year and a peaceful one.

My determination is to take a positive outlook and try to put past problems behind me.

Happy New Year, y'all!

Please enjoy Mr Blackberry's pictures.

He is in my pocket as a I write and, for all I know, may be shooting some more.

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