I hope you've had a great Christmas. I have.
And here's to a wonderful 2010.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
The Little Mermaid (In front of the big pumping station), originally uploaded by Dave Gorman.
A photo from January... seems like an appropriate image for the Copenhagen Climate Summit...
Monday, November 30, 2009
Martin and Danielle are real by the way. They're just not on camera.
If you want to hear the whole show, you can get the podcast from itunes here or you can get it from the Absolute Radio website here.
Oh... and here are Chris's tour dates. You really should go if you can. Of course other acts might be touring at the same time...
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Sometimes life is just too ridiculous for words. These photos were taken at Wembley Stadium.
It was a charity event - a match played against a team of soldiers - for Help for Heroes. The spine of our team was pretty damn good.
Ralf Little and Chris Kamara were able to control the midfield in the first half. In the second half, the soldiers superior fitness showed.
I was more of an agricultural right back who's not really agricultural enough but not cultured enough to be called anything else. I did make the assistant referee say, "Oh, well done" once though. That's plenty enough for me.
And in case you've forgotten... it's Wembley. The stuff of dreams.
You can find out more about Help For Heroes here.
You can see The Sun's report on the event here.
Big thanks to The Sun snapper for letting me use these photos.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
If you like it, head over to youtube and look up his other work. He's ace. Dan Bull, I mean. Not Peter Mandelson.
Oh... and if you'd like to register your opinion against the digital economy bill, there's a petition here.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
So I've compiled a list over at the show blog... and I'd suggest that's probably the best place to get in touch with any more.
If you want the podcast... you can subscribe via itunes here... or listen again at the Absolute Radio website here.
Friday, November 20, 2009
You know how sometimes you're at a party and it's okay but not great and you decide to leave. And then the next day, everyone says, "Oh! You should have stayed! It ended up being Amazing!"
And you regret leaving the party. And the next time you're at a party and it's okay but not great you don't want to leave because you don't want to miss the bit when it suddenly kicks off and becomes amazing.
Well that's what it's like trying to work knowing the internet is just there. The internet isn't thrilling me right now. I know I have some work to do. But I worry about what I'm going to miss if I start ignoring it.
So can you all turn your internet off during office hours? That'd be great. Stop enjoying it at least. Some of us have work to do.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Watch it all. About 40 seconds in it will suddenly surprise you. Then you will be disappointed that it's over.
Even though I've told you it will surprise you, it still will. In a really nice way.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
You know what it's like when you're not really concentrating on the TV, there's an ad break and you look up and think, I know that face. Where have I seen that face before.
Well it just happened. It was an Argos ad. I got so spooked I even picked up the remote control and rewound the television and paused it on the face in question. (It still freaks me out that you can do that)
I took a photo. Here it is:
Well I'll be damned. It's Anne Darwin. Wife of John Darwin the mysterious disappearing, back-from-the-dead canoe man.
Look, here she is:
Well, I knew she'd been ordered to pay the money back, but I didn't imagine a bit part in an Argos ad would pay that much.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
I wasn't sure how to host audio here, so I've used a couple of still photos and turned them into videos instead... here's a lovely one from Andrew Pugsley...
A really, really short one from Tom White that we've used loads and still makes us giggle...
... and finally, a lovely short and silly one from MJ Hibbett
We're always looking for more so do feel free to do one in your own style and send it our way. I ought to say, we have played several that aren't as, um, professionally produced as these so don't let that put you off.
If you can record a jingle and send it in... you can do so, here.
Oh... and if you use iTunes, you can subscribe to the podcast here and if you don't, you can get it from the Absolute Radio website, here.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I was sitting on the the tube the other day, reading a newspaper, minding my own business, when a woman got on the train accompanied by two impossibly cute daughters. I'd guess they were 7 and 8 years of age.
The woman sat down and instantly started reading a very well thumbed copy of the bible. Her two daughters tugged at her sleeves a couple of times and tried to engage "Mummy" in conversation but she didn't look up from her book. So the kids decided to entertain themselves. They achieved this by taking a pile of leaflets from their Mum and walking up and down the carriage handing them to the other passengers.
The leaflets were advertising a church and looked to be full of quotations from the bible. I really don't know how I feel about this sort of thing. Actually, that's not true. I do know. I don't like it. I don't really think a parent should sit back and tacitly encourage their kids to engage in that kind of activity.
Faith - like politics - is contentious. People are entitled to their opinions and those opinions are often strongly felt. A grown up handing out such leaflets is, presumably, prepared for either rejection or debate - in a way an eight year old girl simply isn't.
A few people accepted the leaflets while others rejected them politely but there was a real sense of discomfort in the carriage. I certainly felt compromised when they thrust a leaflet my way. You look down at two eager, smiling, cute kids and you naturally want to make them happy. But I didn't want to give my tacit approval for the leaflet. I also figured that if a parent is going to encourage their kids to hand out that kind of literature, they have to have prepared them for the idea that not everyone would want them. So I smiled, gestured to my newspaper, in a look-I'm-reading-something way and said, "No, thanks."
They smiled, walked off and continued trying to hand out the leaflets to other people. I reckon about a third of people declined politely. Of the two thirds who took the leaflets... the vast majority just glanced at them before shoving them in a jacket pocket or leaving them on the seats. I think I saw one person actually reading the whole of it.
When the girls had approached everyone in the carriage, the younger of the two suggested to the other that they should go back to the people who hadn't taken the leaflets. The older girl thought about it for a moment and wasn't sure what to do, but just then the train arrived at a station where a couple of people left and four or five people joined the train. Fresh quarry... the girls were off.
It didn't take long. Two people accepted the leaflets. Three didn't. And once again the girls had nothing to do. Once again they discussed the merits of whether or not to approach those of us who'd declined their literature but this time they decided not to on the grounds that those were "bad people."
Now, for the sake of clarity, I'll make it clear that I wasn't straining to listen in to their conversation. They were propping themselves up against the two seats directly opposite me and they were talking in loud, un-self-conscious voices so that anyone within five yards of them could hear every word. Including their mother... who was still reading her bible.
So now I'm sitting there, hearing two young girls tell each other that I - and a third of the other passengers on the train - are bad people. It got worse. They continued by deciding that we were all going to go to hell. Proper hell. With lots of flames and things because the devil was going to punish us because we weren't interested in the good message that God wanted them to share with the world.
Along with a few other people I was being loudly condemned to hell by a pair of sisters, a few years shy of their tenth birthday... and their mother was sat there hearing them say it and doing nothing about it.
Now, as I don't believe in hell I think it's an empty threat... but even so, I think it's a hateful way to behave and wildly inappropriate for a parent to sit there allowing their kids to do so. If you want to bring your kids up with faith that's one thing... but the minute you want them to go out into the world on a recruitment drive you have a duty to explain to them that there are other views in the world and that people who hold them don't necessarily take kindly to being called evil. But what do you do?
I certainly wasn't going to try and remonstrate with two kids. I have no idea how much of what they were saying they understood let alone really believed. More than anything, I felt sorry for those kids. With an upbringing like that, I don't know how they have a chance of growing up as reasonable, balanced adults. Of course they're going to believe strange, hateful things if that's how they're raised. No, the person I had a problem with was obviously the mother. Whether or not the kids understood how much hate was contained in their words I couldn't tell you... but their mother sure should have done and in saying nothing to counter it she was sending out a strong message of approval.
I know I probably should have done nothing. I know I should have just got off the train and gone about my business, dismissing it as just another bit of eccentricity in the world, but I figured I had as much right to hand out literature expressing my point of view as they did. So I did.
We were approaching my stop so I hastily scribbled a few words on a scrap of paper and then, trying to do so in a way that her kids wouldn't notice, I handed it to the mother. I know it will have achieved nothing. I know the chances of that woman seeing any fault in her behaviour or that of her offspring is zero... but it still made me feel better to have done something. At least I didn't sit by and give their behaviour my tacit approval.
The words on my note were: "I find being condemned to hell by your children upsetting. They are learning to hate."
Like I say, it won't have made a jot of difference to anything or anyone but me. The children? You have to forgive them, they know not what they do. But their Mum does. And it's horrible.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
A Complete Alphabet of Eine's Shopfront Shutter Graffiti Letters, originally uploaded by Dave Gorman.
Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliet, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-Ray, Yankee, Zulu.
So goes the NATO phonetic alphabet. But ever since I started making plans with my friends Charlie, Juliet and her papa, Oscar to spend November in India where a company called Alpha Travel were offering us a great deal on a two week holiday learning to foxtrot and tango with some golf on the side and a free kilo of whiskey for everyone who books early it's been causing us no end of confusion. Especially when the crackly phone line between me in London and them in Quebec means I have to keep spelling things out to them.
So I've decided to come up with a new phonetic alphabet. I think there's much less room for confusion with mine. I expect it'll soon become the international standard.
Don't thank me.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I'm enjoying the Sunday morning radio show immensely. I think we clicked pretty quickly as a team on air and off but even over the space of three shows I think we've gelled more, which means that while we've increased the amount of content to each show they've also sounded increasingly relaxed.
To my mind the podcast is worth listening to just to hear Martin's musical contribution at the end. To have all your e-mails and texts summed up in song by the end of the show seems like a remarkable gift to me. I don't know how he does it. To really ram home how musical he is, he's performed the song on a different instrument each week so far. That's just silly.
I can never remember all the e-mails and texts we've received during the show so there's always a moment during his song where I suddenly think - "oh yeah... there was that one too!"
I'm pretty sure he's actually getting them all in.
In the last couple of shows I've done some (silly) found poetry (what's that?)... the first was constructed using the opening lines and subject headers from spam e-mails found in my junk folder and the second was made up of sentences found on the profiles of girls advertising on a couple of Russian Bride websites. I doubt we'll do Poetry Corner every week but it's been an enjoyable part of the show so I'm pretty sure we'll do more. If you have any suggestions for good, unwittingly funny, source material, let me know. (You can find out the sort of thing I mean by listening to the last couple of shows and hearing the previous examples.)
Of course that's only one of the ways you can get involved in the show. Some of the jingles we've been sent in have been superb. There seems to be a nice steady trickle of them now - but do keep them coming. Of course there are loads of other ways you can get involved in the show. For instance, there's always a talking point that we encourage you to contact us about. The story we heard this week - from a man who'd been going out with a girl for 5 years without knowing she wore false teeth was a classic.
Oh... and if you don't listen live but do get the podcast don't go assuming that you can't join in. If you're listening and thinking, "Oh... I would have told them about the time when I...." then send us an e-mail. We'd like the podcast listeners to feel involved too.
Here's the link to the podcast on AbsoluteRadio.co.uk And of course, it's also available on iTunes.
Monday, October 19, 2009
It seems impossible to imagine anyone having access to the internet and not having read (and read about) the article already so I won't bother to go over the details again. There's nothing new to add really.
I suppose it's possible that someone somewhere has just come out of a 4 day coma and so knows nothing about it and while it's stretching credibility a little to imagine that my blog would be their first online port of call, I suppose it is possible. But rather than repeat things that have been put better elsewhere I'll simply direct you to Charlie Brooker's words instead. (If you can stomach it and want to check for yourself that things haven't been blown out of proportion you could also read the original article (and its sanitised headline).
In a statement responding to the shitstorm of criticism, Moir says, "In what is clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign I think it is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones." I don't know where to start with that.
Highly-orchestrated-campaign or denial-of-homophobia? I'll toss a coin. Right. Denial-of-homophobia it is.
Y'know what? I reckon she really believes that she's not homophobic. People with prejudices are often unaware of them. You've probably heard a man say, "I'm not sexist, I love women. I just think they should be feminine... you know, pretty." (And at home.)
In her defence she points out the nice things she said about him... as if pointing out that someone was "sweet" and "charming" in some way makes it okay for you to speculate about the nature of their death and present your sleazy speculation as fact with no regard for how your words will wound those who are mourning.
"Another real sadness about Gately's death is that it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships." Really? Was there a myth about gay people living forever? I don't honestly see how someone dying a tragically early death from natural causes strikes a blow to any other kind of myth. Unless the suggestion is that his sexuality is connected to his death and that no married, straight person could ever suffer a similar fate. And seeing as that's factually inaccurate, it's, y'know, homophobic. No matter that you also thought he was sweet and charming, Jan. In summary, when I read Moir's article, I took it to mean, "Sweet, charming, gay man dies because he's a sleazy, sordid gayer!"
Now, on to this strange idea that she's a victim of some kind of orchestrated campaign. I take offence at the idea that my offence - which feels kind of real to me - somehow doesn't count because I heard about the article online. All those people complaining are just doing it because they want to join in. Yeah!
Yes. And Marks & Spencers pulled their advertising from your page of the website and Phillip Schofield hoped you went to bed feeling ashamed because, as we all know, they're as far removed from public opinion as anyone could ever be. It's not like the host of This Morning and the nation's favourite underwear supplier are any kind of barometer.
More pertinent still is that it seems to be kind of ridiculous for anyone from The Daily Mail to be complaining about any kind of "campaign" when running such campaigns is what they seem to do best.
They seem so very happy when they're the ones waving pitchforks, rallying the mob, gleefully gloating about the number of complaints the BBC has received over the Ross/Brand affair, say, or stoking the fires by making ridiculous claims about the number of swear words used in Jerry Springer: The Opera but when the mob is gathering outside their door, one of their writers stamps her feet and yells, "Not fair!"
It's not even as if there is a campaign. Certainly not a highly orchestrated one. I've a friend who's a vicar. He saw Jerry Springer: The Opera. He loved it. He was vaguely troubled by one line but found its merits far outweighed that one moment of glibness. He was concerned when a petition arrived at his church encouraging people to complain about it. He was the only person in his congregation to have actually seen the show. Ignorance of the show's content didn't stop people signing the petition. And that petition was being sent to hundreds - probably thousands - of churches. That's a highly orchestrated campaign. That's people complaining about something they haven't seen.
But that's not what I witnessed online on the day of Moir's article. What I saw was lots of people linking directly to the article, in much the same way that I've provided links to that - and other articles - in this blog post. It's pretty obvious what I think about it but it's also perfectly possible for you to read the article and form your own opinion. That's not a highly orchestrated campaign. That's just the internet being good at being the internet. Things take off. Words get spread. Word of mouse they call it. I'll bet that the vast majority of people who've complained about the article have read it and that their offence is real.
But here's the rub. While the Mail likes to complain about broadcasters, they're also subject to completely different rules. I thought about this a while ago when the Scottish Daily Express ran a truly despicable article about the now 18 year old survivors of the Dunblane massacre. It was during online discussions about this article that I discovered the Press Complaints Commission has no obligation to listen to complaints that come from anyone other than those directly affected by the article.
If that was true for broadcasters, the only people who would be able to complain about the Ross/Brand thing would be Andrew Sachs, his granddaughter and other members of their family. The thousands of complaints could have been brushed aside. The only people who could have complained about the broadcast of Jerry Springer, The Opera would have been God and Jesus. (But not actual God and actual Jesus, no, it'd have to be the God and Jesus imagined by the flawed human being - and imagined - Jerry Springer and I reckon they'd be unlikely to put pen to paper.)
If you think a broadcaster breaches taste or decency you can complain to Ofcom. That's an independent body. The broadcasters have to abide by a code of conduct. Ofcom can punish them if they breach it. If you think a newspaper breaches taste and decency you have nowhere to turn. Unless you or your family are the subject of the article in question. The Press Complaints Commission isn't an independent body. The chair of the PCC Code Committee is Paul Dacre. He's also the editor of The Daily Mail.
The idea that the man who has to take ultimate responsibility for the printing of Moir's article is also chairing the committee that decides what rules he has to abide by seems utterly ridiculous. Especially when an article as tasteless as this (in content and timing) has been printed.
As it happens, it looks as though the PCC will still act in this instance regardless of whether any of Gateley's family complain. I hope they do. But I can't help thinking that if they do it will have less to do with doing the right thing and more to do with protecting their privileged position of self-policing. While their rules don't oblige them to listen to 21,000 complaints, to ignore them would be ridiculous... so ridiculous that it might lead to renewed calls for an independent regulatory body for the press.
In the heat of the moment it would be nice to see Jan Moir made an example of but in the long term I'd rather our press were forced to play by the same rules as our broadcasters. If they were it might not have happened in the first place.
(My blog is automatically imported to my facebook page. I don't think it always carries all the links with it. So if you're reading it over there and want to see the links... you might want to visit http://gormano.blogspot.com/2009/10/jan-moir-and-all-that.html instead.)
***EDITED to add: I'd encourage you to sign the petition calling for the PCC to be made into an independent body here: (http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/makePCCPublic/)***
Saturday, October 17, 2009
I took part in a recording of two episodes of Radio 4's Just A Minute yesterday at Derby University.
That's the third time I've done the show - having done two episodes a while ago in London and a single episode at Hay on Wye last year - and it remains as damnedly difficult a game to play.
It felt like I spent the whole of the first show pressing my buzzer and trying to challenge only to discover that I was pipped to the post by my fellow contestants.
Early on there were plenty of times when I'd be sitting there thinking, 'oh good... I know exactly how I'll handle this subject' - but every time that was the case, I'd be unable to mount a fast enough challenge. After a while I stopped trying to think about what I would say if I got in and suddenly, I found myself faster on the buzzer and occasionally able to steal the subject. Next time I play - if there is a next time - I'll do no thinking at all and just let my thumb buzz when it wants to.
It was a hugely enjoyable evening with a lovely, fun audience. Tony Hawks, Josie Lawrence and Justin Moorhouse were all on fine form... you only have to add the remarkable presence of Nicholas Parsons to the mix and it transforms into something quite special.
Monday, October 12, 2009
I reckon it was nice and relaxed for a first show and while I'm sure things will get smoother here and there I liked its rough-around-the-edges feel. Martin's song at the end - summarising the e-mails and texts that had come in over the two hours was really something to behold. Amazing really.
The listeners do as much to define a station as anything else so seeing so many texts and e-mails come in really did make us feel very welcome. Thanks all.
It wasn't just messages either... there were a few jingles made by listeners too. Thanks to Jerry Mandarin (nice jingle, surely not a real name... gerrymandering... hmmm), David Wilks (very bizarre, that one) and Tom White (made us laugh each and every time we played it) for those. We have some more that we haven't heard yet and we'd love it if you kept them coming in. It set a really nice tone for the show.
If you're not a Sunday morning kind of person, the podcast is up already.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
So... as I said a few days ago, I start presenting on Absolute Radio on Sunday morning. (10 til 12 since you ask.) The only thing is that while I encouraged people to get in touch with us about the show by visiting the show's page on the Absolute website, that was before we discovered some technical fault meant that your e-mails weren't actually getting through. There's an alternative suggestion coming up...
We'd really like the show to be as interactive as possible... and we thought one way of getting people involved would be to invite our listeners to contribute jingles. I really like the idea of having some homemade jingles and it would mean the show's tone of voice would - in a way - be set by the people who listen to it. We haven't got any particular purpose in mind, just a generic show jingle... so anything that works for an Absolute Radio show presented by, um, me would be dandy.
Now this may be a longshot - and we might get nothing out of it - but at the same time, there must be some musically minded people out there who'd enjoy the idea of writing and recording something nice and short and, um, jingle-y.
I've already mentioned this to my mailing list and I encouraged them to visit the show's page and get in touch that way. Oops. That doesn't work... so if you've got a jingle for us - or anything else for that matter -
send us an email instead.
(mp3's are the best format, ta)
Thursday, October 8, 2009
It's taking me a while to adjust to life after the bike ride. My body was shocked for the first week and a bit of intense exercise and now it seems equally shocked by the fact that it's ended.
I have to be careful - I'm still eating like a man who's cycling 50 miles a day. I could undo all the good work I've just done in a very short space of time.
I was concerned that going straight into a new project wasn't going to be a good idea but as it goes, our first meeting about the new show on Absolute Radio really helped to draw a line under the tour and the cycling. Finding myself being all excited about what I'm about to throw myself into was actually the best way of throwing off the shadow of what I've just experienced.
I'm going to be presenting a show on Absolute on Sunday mornings (10 til 12) starting this week and it's really exciting starting with a blank piece of paper and building from there. I say, 'we' because the first thing we've added to the mix is a couple of co-presenters in the shape of Danielle Ward and Martin White - both of whom are excellent and funny and - most importantly - highly distinctive and definitely not cookie-cutter you-know-what-you're-going-to-get kind of stand-ups. I'm really looking forward to it.
We'd like to make the shows as interactive as possible so do pop along to the show's page on the Absolute site and get in touch - especially when we're on air.
Monday, October 5, 2009
I did read through the comments left on the post I made on Day 33 (both here at gormano.blogspot and on facebook where the blog is automatically imported) and I don't mind admitting that it wasn't long before the wave of warmth and support had me shedding a lovely tear. Thanks all.
So here's how Day 33 panned out...
At just under 14 miles it wasn't a very long ride:
And while the last seven miles were uphill it wasn't especially steep...
But what was against us was the weather. It was raining heavily and the wind was raging... and Caithness is so flat that when the wind gets up there's really nothing to get in its way. If we'd have been doing the ride 24 hours later we'd have had 80mph winds to contend with and that might have meant it was impossible.
I hadn't planned on having a Human Sat Nav for this ride. I figured it would be a weird thing to share with a stranger. I knew that completing such a mammoth task would have an emotional impact on me of some sort and it would be odd sharing that moment with someone I'd only just met and had only been with for an hour and a half or so. I also knew that I didn't need to have anyone show me the way... it's not as though there are several roads leading to Dunnet Head.
But I did have company. In the shape of The Delightful B. I knew she was coming up to see me at the end of the journey... but I really wasn't expecting her to volunteer to share the final ride with me. It made perfect sense. There's nobody else better placed to understand the way I'd be feeling at the end of this thing and nobody I'd rather share it with.
So it was the two of us who braved our way through the elements, with TDB on Boardman1 and me on Boardman2...
But we made it...
Here's TDB at the finishing line
I told you it was wet.
And here's me opening a celebratory bottle of champagne...
Still... there's always someone wetter...
I'm so proud of the last month. At times it's been harder than I thought but I've come through it in better shape than I imagined I would. Whenever I spoke to people who'd done long rides - Lands End to John o' Groats for instance - they all said the same thing; "when we got to our B&B, we had a bite to eat, one pint and then fell asleep." Nobody ever talked about doing 4 or 5 hours of energetic work at the end of the day but that's what I managed to do.
Doing the shows was the untestable part of the whole venture and I can't quite believe that I made every show on time and got through them all without much of a hitch.
I couldn't have done it without the messages of support from folks along the way, the Human Sat Navs - heroes every last one of 'em - and my tour manager, Ed:
This was always going to be a strange tour and because of the unusual nature of what we were doing Ed was taking on far more than the logistical and technical duties of a normal tour manager.
Now... I'm back in London. It's raining. I'm not sure what to do with myself. I might go for a little bike ride...
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I'm exhausted. I'm also exceedingly proud.
There's not much of an internet connection here so I can't offer pictures or maps or whatever but I'll catch up when I'm back in London. I'm going to take a couple of days off before that happens though. Lots to sit and think about.
It's been an amazing month - the most exhilarating of my life - big thanks to everyone who came to a show (no spoilers now, it tours again in the spring!) and to everyone who's offered encouragement along the way. It's been much appreciated.
Yours, with a slimmer waist and chunkier thighs,
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Here's my Human Sat Nav for Day 31; Nigel. He showed me an ace route from Inverness to Clashmore.
I wish someone had told me the show was in Clashmore before. I was told it was in Dornoch so that's what was on my website. And apparently the phone number I had there was also for a different venue with the same name: Carnegie Hall. Not helpful. Sorry! Still, it was only a couple of miles away and it was the most beautiful village hall I've ever seen... but I'll show you that later.
I'm ever so slightly phobic about suspension bridges - I understand the physics of how they work but I can't help but entertain horrible notions of them failing when I'm on them. I didn't tell Nigel that until after we'd crossed Kessock Bridge because once the person I'm with knows it only makes it worse. I made it across okay. That took us on to the Black Isle where we made a brief stop at the Clootie Well.
There are hundreds - possibly thousands - of rags tied up on the branches of the surrounding trees here. I gather it's supposed to be a holy spring and the rags are tied as part of a prayer of supplication to help you with some ailment or other.
Nigel's wife had prepared a rag for me...
It says, please get my legs up Berridale Braes. I'd never heard of the Clootie Well and I'd only heard of Berridale Braes the night before when several members of the audience warned me about it after the show. It's a big, steep, winding climb that cyclists are supposed to dread. I was - therefore - dreading it... and grateful for the raggy request for help.
Nigel had one of the classiest tea stops planned for us... he'd parked his car up by the Cromarty Ferry with a proper boss picnic inside:
My first taste of the Scottish speciality, a macaroni-cheese-pie:
It tastes exactly like cold macaroni cheese in a pie.
This was my third ferry ride of the trip - one across the river Fal, one on to the Ardnamurchan peninsula and now this one on to Nigg. It was the smallest one of the lot. The road sign for a ferry always shows two cars on a boat. This one only takes two cars...
We'd been dealing with rain and a headwind for most of the way to Cromarty so it was relief once we were on Nigg to find the weather clearing up a bit.
The route only had one climb of any scale mind... and we did well to avoid the dastardly A9 for as much as we did.
Although, as we did end up having to contend with it - and all the lorries on it - for the last few miles...
And here's the beautiful Carnegie Hall... it really is beautiful. Like a scale model of a much grander building.
And here we are at the finishing line...
Which is when Nigel said the ominous words to me, "I would love to come with you tomorrow as well but the truth is, I'm not sure I could do it... I'd be a liability."
I slept that night with nightmarish visions of what Berriedale Braes held in store.
One thing the day seemed to have in store was beautiful weather. It was gorgeous when I got to the starting line for the 32nd day:
This was set to be the last big push. I knew I had a 75 mile ride - a long one - and my final show of the tour at the end of it - and that on Day 33 all I'd have left to do was a piddling 15 miler. So this was the one. Berriedale Braes. Gulp.
I enjoyed the first half of the ride though... the weather was ace, and the terrain nice. I was glued to the A9 for most of it - apart from a detour through Embo (I think) - but the traffic wasn't too bad and the views were amazing.
What journey am I on again...
... oh yeah... this one:
As you can see there were two notable climbs. The first one - Helmsdale is actually the harder of the two - and the second one is the dreaded Berriedale Braes. It's full of hairpin bends and has "escape lanes" full of gravel at the bottom of it... it takes you down and then up... past two graveyards.
But the truth is that I found it very manageable. I didn't end up in my granniest of granny gears and felt fine at the top.
That's either a sign that my fitness has improved... or a real credit to the work of the Clootie Well.
Before the ride I was a bit worried about this one. I'd had the fear put into me about the climbs and knew it was likely to be in the region of 75 miles. But having completed the two ascents I was pleased enough with my progress to make time for a couple of stops.
But I might have made a mistake because the weather was going to turn against me. As I cycled along hugging the coast I was constantly getting blown towards the sea so obviously when I made that left turn I inevitably headed into a headwind.
It's a long straight road with no obstruction and the wind was strong... and two miles in the rain came too. That long stretch was far harder than Berriedale Braes. Oh well.
Still, I (and my mismatched outfit) made it in the end:
There are fifteen miles to go. So close...