Friday, 26 December 2014

Bicycle Interlude


In Machcoule (pronounced Mais Cool – like Very Cool in portuguese), a little town in the north of France we met a man with a collection of very cool bikes. Enjoy! 

That silver steed at the top is one of the first all aluminium frames and it is completely take-able apart-able. The little bike is a tiny gem for those mini-bike aficionados out there.

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Two dreams in blue…

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Enjoy Life! Enjoy Oranges!


Monday, 8 December 2014

Kenavo Brittany

There is a dragon that sleeps in the heart of Brittany. Some say Merlin is looking after it. Some say Vivian is. Well for now it seems he's sleeping quietly and it is safe for us to travel these ancient lands of legend.


Rolling down the Brest to Nantes Canal we get stuck behind a roulotte at Berrien. It reminds us to stop and look for evidence of our old friend Hok Braz and see if any earth folk round here still remember this big fella.


So up we goes the mountain to Huelgoat, to look for the Devil's hole. Up there in the forest we find this map.


We follow the map and find the Devil's Hole! Here the legend says Hok Braz went to play in the woods, to the place called the Devil's Hole....Unfortunately for us, Hok in his joy forgot to plug the Devil's Hole. We know this only too well, for there it is.  Woe and thrice woe!
Hok-Bras s'en fut jouer dans le bois, auprès de l'endroit qu'on appelle le Trou du diable,....Par malheur pour nous, Hok, dans sa joie, oublia de boucher le Trou du Diable. On ne le sait que trop en ce monde, hélas! 


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Down we go, down, down, down and there behind us looking over our shoulder there is, a scary creature. What is it? Is it the devil? Quick get out of here!
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Clambering out of this deep dark hole, escaping the devil we find refuge by the giant friendly mushroom.


We recover from our shock and carry on our search past the Trembling Rock, stopping to have a tremble of course and down to the Menage de la Vierge. The virgin is hiding and we don't get to see her. But we meet some more rock creatures. Much friendlier ones this time.
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They remember Hok Braz but nobody else round here does.
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So we make our way out through the beautiful, lush forest, to the lake....

... and say kenavo.


In Lorient we arrive just an hour or so late and miss the car free celebration.
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But further down the canal and south a bit in Larre, we do get to close a road to perform our show and we have our own car free celebration! The chairs are still empty but for sure they all filled up.

Is that the dragon puffing and fuming? Merlin do something!

In Nantes we find some friendly giants and so we know it is time to end our search for Hok Braz. We'll be telling his story soon...
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It is time to look for new legends. Like the one of the hairy cow? The legend of the veg box bike?

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Or perhaps the tandem that will carry a message from the future to Paris next year?


Alternatiba - for more about the tandem and it's journey follow this link
We're in Nantes for the Alternatiba event and there, all the friends, the friends we met came out to say good bye to us! 


Kenavo Brittany! We will return!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

A good day for cyclists, all the little animals, road kill and the Maasai

We weren’t going to blog about road kill something we see quite a lot of, but then a series of events prompted us to do so. So here we go whether it’s nice or not, it needs to be told. 

As we were in Bristol we went to Bristol City Museum to see if they had any animal noses. They don’t stock them anymore. And so by chance we got to visit a wonderful exhibition called English Magic, by Jeremy Deller, he of the ‘Inflatable Stonehenge’. Jeremy Deller - English Magic

Looming large at one end of the exhibition hall was this picture, entitled ‘A good day for cyclists’. Of course we liked it straight away and it made us think of road kill in certain regions where people drive vehicles such as depicted in the image and we see around forty to fifty dead animals on the road in one days cycling. 

AN21884235Jeremy Deller Eng
The story that had lodged in Deller's head and wouldn't go away was that 2007 incident of two of these rare birds being shot down over the Sandringham estate. The only people shooting that day, if you remember, were apparently Prince Harry and his friend William van Cutsem. Shooting the protected birds would carry a prison sentence but after police inquiries no action was taken. "That really annoyed me," Deller says with another smile, "so I thought I would do something with a giant hen harrier taking revenge on man, not Prince Harry necessarily, but man in general. It's called A Good Day for Cyclists because I am a cyclist in London, and as every cyclist knows, Range Rover drivers are the worst drivers by far, along with Porsche drivers. They are beyond the pale."

The artwork prompted us to find out more about this incident, hen harriers and why they would be shot even though it carries a prison sentence. 

In this article we found out a little more.
We learn, that it is thought that gamekeepers are deliberately killing these birds of prey in order to protect the grouse raised specifically for hunting.  At £1,000 per day per gun, shooting is big business. 
Hen harriers are now being considered an endangered species and are possibly facing extinction in Great Britain. You can read more about that here.
The controversy around grouse shooting and the killing of hen harriers continues. See below.

Royals hunting animals for sport seems to be a hot topic at present.
The Maasai are under threat of eviction from their lands so that wealthy people can go there and shoot lions and other animals for pleasure.

"We will fight for our land until the end."

The push is coming via Ortelo Business Corporation (OBC), a luxury safari company set up by a United Arab Emirates official close to the royal family. The OBC has operated in Loliondo for more than 20 years with clients reportedly including Prince Andrew. Since 1992, OBC has flown in wealthy clients to shoot lions and leopards, angering nomadic Maasai cattle herders who are blocked from pastures in the hunting grounds. Now OBC want to buy the land they have been using to hunt on.

The first Briton to enter the Serengeti, Stewart Edward White, recorded his explorations in the northern Serengeti in 1913. Stewart returned to the Serengeti in the 1920s and camped in the area around Seronera for three months. During this time, he and his companions shot 50 lions.
Because the hunting of lions made them scarce, the British colonial administration made a partial game reserve of 800 acres (3.2 km2) in the area in 1921 and a full one in 1929. These actions were the basis for Serengeti National Park, which was established in 1951.
In 1959 all people were evicted from the vast Serengeti by the British Government for the purpose of establishing the National Park. Among them the Maasai that were moved to Ngorongoro Conservation Area and also to Loliondo. 
Contrary to promises the Tanzanian government has continued with a greedy eye on lands that it wants for the exclusive use of hunting and photographic tourism. Currently this greed is focused on a corridor of land in Loliondo Division of Ngorongoro District.
The people of Loliondo need help, as well as moral and material support, from anyone around the world with an idea about how to fight back or with a platform to speak from, and most needed of all is the support of those that have the fate of the landgrabbing government in their hand – the people of Tanzania. 

Sign the petition here:
So there we are, Jeremy and us have opened up a right can of worms regarding the killing of animals for sport. Remember, it began with big cars running over little animals in England. Is there a link between the two?

Telling people about our experiences cycling around Europe, we found ourselves often commenting on the fact that we would see living animals on cycle routes, voies vertes, green ways etc. and dead ones on the roads. Consequently we were given this book by a friend, whose central motif is that of road kill and one of the characters is referred to as ‘the fat’, a greedy, grabbing, wealthy business man. We thoroughly enjoyed the read.
All the Little Animals - Walker Hamilton
A beguiling, perfectly dark, compelling, compassionate and original little gem of a modern fable set on the byways of rural Cornwall; a story about running away, the search for acceptance and burying road-kill.
It reads almost like a fairy story. But beneath its pastoral surface lies a brutal darkness that reaches its nadir in the book’s violent dénoument. With much of that violence coming from the encroachment of modernity on a more innocent world, in the form of cars and lorries.

And then Secret World…..

This little owl lives at Secret World, a 24 hours accident and emergency unit for wild animals, most of whom end up here because they have been hit by vehicles. 
We spent a night there with baby weasels, fallow deer, badgers, hedgehogs, birds all being cared for. There was baby ducklings and otters coming in in washing up bowls, hedgehogs in incubators, orphaned ferrets wrapped up in tea towels…. At reception there was a price list of how much it cost to x-ray an otter hit by a car or put a deer on a drip or perform surgery on a swan that had swallowed a fishing hook…. it’s not cheap...

Some people care for animals and others don’t.

So after all this we decided to share some of the horrors that we see and motorists don’t. We see dead animals on a daily basis, some days only a few and others just far too many.

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And of course it doesn’t stop with the animals. 
Fortunately humans don’t get left out lying on the road, getting squashed again and again and again. 

Here’s some figures to try and get your head around the numbers.

1 million mammals killed on UK roads every year   Survey  People's Trust for Endangered Species
The Global status report on road safety 2013 presents information on road safety from 182 countries, accounting for almost 99% of the world’s population. The report indicates that worldwide the total number of road traffic deaths remains unacceptably high at 1.24 million per year.

If it’s 1.24 million humans world wide and 1 million animals a year in the U.K. alone, how many animals is it world wide? 6 billion ???

75 people die on Europe's roads every day. That’s kind of like at least one aeroplane full of people crashing in Europe every week. Would that be acceptable?
World Day of Remembrance for human victims of road traffic was a week ago 

We don’t think there is one for animals.

Some deaths are acceptable and some deaths are not?

Monday, 24 November 2014

Britannia, Bristles with steep hills galore

First stop turn left, orientate yourself onto the wrong side of the road, the right side, the left side. Get some pictures of the Queen printed out of the wall, find the little Cremyll ferry and have a nice proper mug of tea while you’re waiting for the ferry to come.
We had to take everything off of the bicycles and lift the bicycles onto the ferry. Off we goes to Cornwall, chug chug chug.
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Off the ferry we meet our first Cornish hill. We don’t know how steep, but it is quite a hill up and over Maker down to Millbrook to spend a lovely couple of days with Cornish seadogs, canoeing in the Cawsand bay, eating English Breakfast, Fish and Chips, drinking real ale, catching up on all our cravings. The fish were jumping out of the water, the beaches glistening with whitebait lining the shores and one evening a giant shopping bag full of mackerel has been delivered to every household in Millbrook, well almost.
We performed the show at Maker Campsite, a great little place on the top of the hill and caught up with old friends and made new ones. Good place for a staycation. We like English campsites, it’s refreshing to see tents pitched on the top of the cliffs, with no hedges separating them and the local pub and artists studios just next doors, aaargh, right salty it was.

Up the Drakes Way towards Dartmoor and the Hairy Hands. But first we have to get past this beastly creature and others that were scorching about in Plym Wood.
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Going up onto Dartmoor we learned that it isn’t very good cycling on too many full english breakfasts. It was rainy and foggy and cold and up and down and up again but fortunately there was another lovely pub campsite in Princetown (where the famous Dartmoor prison is) a pub with homely pub grub pies and more full english breakfast. Aah the Plume of Feathers, what else would it be called?  In Princetown we caught sight of Sherlock Holmes and his dressing up box and a big scary hound. The Hairy Hands don’t like the wet so they stayed in and we were safe.
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After Princetown there was another killer day of hills around Morton Hampstead and then into Exeter. Never again! Europe’s so flat!
And then onto the canals, through gorgeous gorges….
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…across the Somerset levels, the Strawberry Line, were there’s no Strawberries to be seen, just cider apples….
It’s kind of nice to be on home turf.
And it’s always a pleasure to visit real bicycle shops like Really Usefull Bikes out in the outskirts of Bristol.
It seems to be the only shop in Europe where we can actually really truly buy the things we need, like strong wheels for our cargo bikes, special tools other little special things that no one else stocks anywhere but here! Thanks Rob!
If you want a really beautiful useful bike go and visit Rob in his workshop and have a ride on one or two or all of the bikes and for sure you’ll fall in love with at least one of them.

Now that the work is done and we have fixed our bikes it is time for some serious fun with our friends …..
Hackspace provided the table and the tea necessary to make 100 throwies for high visibility mini bikes and cycling safety. And then it was up to Leigh Woods for our only only Zoobomb of the year. Past the zoo, up the downs and down the hill to King Street for real ale and real chips. Oh yeah!
see Facebook  Post by Molly Bikebeard.

We got to play our show at Roll for the Soul, which opened just after we left. So it was great to finally see it and play to a home crowd.
Keep it rolling and growing soul rollers!

Drooling over mini bike heaven at the new Les Velobici headquarters at the Bristol Bike Project.
Les Velobici -

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It is bicycle art at its finest!

More art at the Bike Project, which just doesn’t stop growing. The future is now!
We even went up to Clifton to not find Biggles at a Pop Up Bicycle Exhibition/Shop. Bicycles in Clifton!? The future is now!
That Clifton pop-up

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Time to say good bye. Kevin tries to float down the cycle route in a paper boat…
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…. it,s not working so he’s back on the bike. It’s very green in England, the canals are a bit special!

We met the Gruffalo and his friend the mouse on the river Exe and they warned us of the scary hills to come…

… but it is sure, there’s nothing we can do but face them and all their %ness. This beastly one here is 20%. The gentle landscape is deceiving, cause them hills go straight up them rolling hills. It’s still the toughest cycling we’ve met, down here in Devon and Cornwall….
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Next stop Portugal. If you’re lucky you’ll get another blog before that, because it’s not far now.