Bank Error in Nobody’s Favour

July 31, 2014

To Bigtown, where my plan was to meet my fellow local cycle campaigners for what we like to call a board meeting (coffee and cakes at our favourite cafe) and to sort out changing the signatories on our bank account to reflect the fact that we have got a new secretary (for the last six months) and treasurer (for the last three). We haven’t been tackling this with a huge sense of urgency partly because we don’t really spend much money, well any money, so we haven’t actually needed to sort out the signatories and partly because every encounter with the bank – well, any bank – leaves one with a slight sapping of the will to live and we’ve been avoiding it. However, it’s the kind of thing that does have to get sorted eventually, and our old treasurer had managed to get 50% of the correct forms from the bank and get them signed, and I had managed to summon up the effort to take them in, only to be told that one of the forms was the wrong form and, after much poking of the computer and head scratching on the part of the bank clerk, be given two new forms, one for each new signatory, so they could prove they weren’t money launderers. I was then told to hang on to the form I had, until the new signatories had put in their forms, and then everything could go off to head office together.

One of our new signatories very efficiently gathered up all her ID and took everything into the bank where the form was carefully checked and supposedly put aside for the other forms to be taken in. The other signatory then emailed to say she planned to drop her forms in today and I, having had a bit of a premonition about it, decided to drop in the main form at the same time to check that nothing went wrong, which was a good thing because a) it turns out the first signatory’s form had already gone off to head office where they were now scratching their heads over it because they hadn’t had the main form yet, and so it was bouncing around in the system waiting for our old treasurer to reply to a letter they had sent him about it to an address he had moved out of, and b) the second signatory hadn’t brought in any ID because the form she had to fill in didn’t say anywhere that two forms of ID would be needed, despite the fact that it was a fairly crucial part of the whole process of proving you’re not a money launderer, and you’d think the bank might want to put that on the form just to save everyone some time.

I now have the horrible feeling that, once the second signatory’s form has gone in, it will sit in limbo along with my form, waiting for the first signatory’s form to arrive, which will never happen because it is already at head office, where they are waiting for the response from our old treasurer to their letter which he will not receive because he has moved to Lincoln. And so we will remain, at a bureaucratic impasse, until someone works out a way around it, the bank goes bust out of sheer inefficiency, or we all die of old age, whichever is the sooner .

Oh, and our new treasurer has just announced that she is leaving. So in a few weeks (or, more likely, months or years) we will have to do it all again. ‘Easier just to open a new bank account’, the other half suggests. I’m beginning to think he might be right.

And How Was Your Weekend?

June 15, 2014

In retrospect, the weekend had definitely been going far too well. The Bike Curious event had been a bit of a blast (more details here from one of our demonstrators) and we’d had a packed out room of women talking a mile a minute about cycling at the Women’s Cycle Forum in the evening, followed by the pub. I was at the station this morning well in time to catch my train home, secured the perfect seat (table, facing, power socket, no annoying fellow travellers) and settled down for an hour’s journey catching up with a little work.

Put it this way, when your quiet journey home is interrupted with a rattle and a bang, followed by the train coming to a halt and the news that the overhead lines have been severed and the pantagraph had come down and crashed into a window, the rest of your day is not going to go well. I won’t bore you with the tedious details (I used to have a whole blog for that) but suffice it to say that I was very very glad to have brought a book, an actual book that didn’t need to be plugged into a power socket to work, with me. Also that you know it’s serious when they don’t just distribute free tea and coffee, but crack open the contents of the snack bar and tell people to help themselves

So, having lunched on crips and chocolate, I have finally made it home seven hours later, although I suspect that had the passengers going to Lockerbie not formed a united and vocal faction and all but taken over one of the replacement coaches after they seemed to have forgotten about us, then I might be standing in Carstairs still. Fortunately, they do have a reasonable facility for train passengers driven mad by the chaos that reigns in the wake of a broken train. In fact, it’s possible some of the inmates had escaped a while back and had been keeping themselves busy trying to run a railway since…

Flight of the Bromptons

June 9, 2014

I’ve been down to Brighton this weekend for the Cycling Embassy AGM which, as well as many other things, functions as a sort of annual Brompton owners’ gadding about society.*

Bromptons at the station

Others will write in more detail about the events of the weekend, but suffice it say that the sun always shines on the Cycling Embassy AGM, except when we’re foolish enough to hold it in Manchester, and even though the BBC Terror Centre was predicting that the entire country would be washed away in apocalyptic floods on Saturday, by the time the participants had assembled at Brighton station, the rain had gone and the sun was about to come out for what was to prove a glorious weekend.

Bromptons at the pub

Naturally, we spent most of it in various meeting rooms but there was plenty of time for the pub too and I have to say that all the best meetings end with the die-hard participants (and their Bromptons) eating fish and chips on the beach as the sun slowly sinks into the west.

Bromptons on the beach

Today, all I had to do was get myself and the Brompton home, which meant transferring between Victoria and Euston. I considered taking the tube, but somehow, however daunting London traffic can be, it’s never quite as daunting as lugging the Brompton down the endless corridors that make up the average underground station.

I’ll draw a veil over the full horrors of the cross-London journey: put it this way, it did more in 30 minutes to remind me why the Embassy needs to exist, than the whole of the preceeding weekend. But it did have one high spot as I got to pedal down the length of the Mall on my very British bike, inadvertently photobombing tourists’ snapshots of Buckingham Palace. Indeed, with the Brompton rapidly becoming the London bike of choice, perhaps I was actually providing a spot of authentic local colour. How long before someone on a Brompton – ideally a smart city gent – becomes as much an icon of early 21st century London as a punk in a phone box was in the eighties?

beware of cyclists

* This is unfair. We mainly go on very serious ‘infrastructure safaris’ where we look in great detail at bollards** and only incidentally have informal rolling Brompton races down a particularly tempting ramp.

** indeed we were so busy looking at bollards that we completely overran and ended up missing the World Naked Bike ride***

*** insert your own joke here, I’ve left you plenty to work with

I’m not Here

June 6, 2014

I’m here, in the Guardian again, wading into the murky world of cycling and gender politics.

I’m also in Brighton (well, Hove, actually) for this. And possibly a side visit to this. I’ll be keeping my clothes on though.


peace statue

Brighton to the left, Hove to the right

In other news, I successfully performed percussive maintenance on my Brompton, but that’s a story for another day

Creatures of Habit

May 19, 2014

So we spent this afternoon clearing out the shop that will be this weekend’s pop-up bookshop. A group of us started the bookshop last year, primarily to annoy the arts high heidyins who would rather local writers confined themselves quietly to giving readings in pub toilets and then dying genteelly in poverty instead of demanding to be noticed and celebrated by the literary establishment at our local book festival. By some accident of fate it turned out to be something of a success so we are now invited to pop up at other artsy events by the same powers that be (as long as we find ourselves a venue, sort out our own insurance and do all the marketing ourselves, obviously). Anyway, with the local Arts Festival looming, we found ourselves the perfect shop in Notso Bigtown, an old newsagent and stationers that shut down three years ago – and even then was old fashioned enough that the one time I went into it I was rendered unable to speak for about three minutes* because I could not shake the conviction that I had actually stepped back into the past. It has a long wooden counter with the goods displayed in glass cabinets behind it and I had to double check when I came out with my paper that it was actually that day’s edition of the Guardian, and not the Manchester Guardian reporting the Suez war or, indeed, the progress of the Gallipoli campaign.

the shop that time forgot

Since closing down, the owner has been using it to keep all those things you think might come in handy but don’t normally have the space for, plus things which he hasn’t got around to throwing away, on top of leftover stock dating back at least fifty years (dip pen nibs at 2p each, anyone? – apart from anything else, it’s a stationery fetishist’s idea of heaven). We were there last week for a preliminary clear out where we managed to hack the undergrowth back as far as the counters, and today we were cleaning and putting in some finishing touches that will turn it from the opening part of Alice’s Restaurant into a moderately convincing temporary book shop.

shop that time forgot

It was a satisfactory afternoon’s work all told, but what I did find amazing was – as we swept the floors, and cleaned the windows, and emptied out the cabinets, and stuck up posters with such giveaway hints as ‘pop-up bookshop this weekend’ on the door, in a shop that’s been closed for over three years – how many people still walked in and attempted to purchase a paper. Here’s hoping they’ll return for a book or three at the weekend.

*insert your own joke here

Bisy Backson

May 16, 2014

So apart from getting up at oh god hundred hours to attend the Newcastle bigtoonride tomorrow, and organising a popup bookshop next weekend, and my Anniversaire ride the weekend after that for which there is much baking still to be done, and then going down to Brighton for the Cycling Embassy AGM the weekend after that (the sun always shines on the Cycling Embassy AGM), oh and organising the Women’s Cycle Forum (although I say organising, can I heartily recommend Suzanne Forup for all your organising things needs as she seems to have done 90% of the work including securing all the funding, while I’ve just stood around making daft suggestions) the weekend after that – and a small jaunt to the Netherlands at the end of June, I shall mostly be relaxing over the next few weeks. Not. Still, through some slight oversight I do seem to have left one weekend unorganised between now and July … let’s see how long that lasts, shall we?

More Testing Times

May 14, 2014

So I finally got around to getting my eyes tested today after walking round every opticians in Bigtown with my poor out-of-fashion tractor-crushed glasses asking if they had anything like them in stock and booking myself in at the only place where they didn’t look at me as if I was some sort of a weirdo for wanting the sort of glasses I wanted to wear as opposed to wanting the sort of glasses the powers that be have deemed people should wear. So I actually ended up at the place where I got my eyes tested the last time and was avoiding because their lenses tend to be a lot more expensive than the bigger chains – never mind the frames, just replacing the high index lenses (essential for moles like me who don’t want to end up peering through a pair of milk bottle-bottoms) ended up costing almost as much as a new bike. But they were the ones who said, ‘certainly, we can order something like that’, rather than ‘they no longer make glasses like that; we’re sick of telling people there’s no call for them’ so I decided it was worth the expense.

squished glasses

They also have a very nice optician who explains what she’s doing when she’s testing your eyes so the whole eye examination felt more like a consultation and less like a series of trick questions. It turns out my eyes as well as being extremely short sighted are also quite variable – my astigmatism has mysteriously got better in one eye, but shifted in orientation, while my other eye has decided to develop astigmatism and both have got more short sighted. And while my close vision is still pretty good, the stronger prescription will mean that I will now start to do the thing where you want to take your glasses off to read small print, after which its only a short hop skip and jump towards needing longer arms, followed by the dreaded varifocals. ‘You’re not quite there yet,’ she said sympathetically. ‘But the time will come…’

After that, it was just a question of choosing some frames. As expected, they didn’t have anything in stock but they did know where to look on the internet and with a cry of triumph one of the assistants unearthed a couple of pairs they could order in for me to try on approval that only cost an arm or so, rather than an arm and a leg. And when I with trepidation asked about the lenses themselves, I got some more good news: not only had the prices gone down (from ‘how much?!’ to ‘ouch’) but if I waited until next week there would be a sale with 30% off the complete package, bringing it all the way down to almost reasonable. I can’t help but feel that they don’t let you know about little things like that in Specsavers…


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