The Correct Utilisation of the Bicycle Bell

After a month’s break from this blog and running ( 26.2miles really was a long run…) I break the silence as an urgent matter has exposed itself. During these lovely summerdays (yes, I am making a note of this in case I ever look back on my London years and remember them drenched in rain…) I have been taking my bike to work. I am very lucky because most of my route to the office runs in fact past the canal and is not shared with cars. It is however shared with pedestrians, kids on scooters, dog-walkers, wheelchair-riders and canal pub drinkers.

Cyclist, we have one, one!, ‘weapon’ in our arsenal: this is the Bicycle Bell. It looks like this:Bike bell 1

Or this:

Bike bell 2

The sound it makes isn’t very loud but when travelling down a quite road or say, hey crazy example canal towpath, it would be ideal. Now over the last few weeks, I have noted with great astonishment that the average Londoner does not know how to operate the bell. So here a short essay on The Correct Utilisation of the Bicycle Bell.

The purpose of the bell.
The classic purpose of the bicycle bell is to let other roadusers know you are there and you want to over-take them. Note: this is over-take, not under-take! If we ride on the right, you over-take on the left, if we ride on the left, over-take on the right. Road rules still apply when you are a cyclist! If you ring the bell I move further left to let you pass – if you try to undertake me, we might both end up in the canal and nobody is a winner.

The adapted purpose of the bell around the towpath is to let people know you are about to go underneath a bridge. Especially if the bridge is on a corner, it is hard to see if there is oncoming traffic and the path is narrow. Cyclists, this might surprise you but BOTH sides use this method! Which means: you don’t only ring your bell like mad while you speed around the corner, you have to listen for other bells. If it sounds ‘echoey’ – you know, like a sound made underneath a bridge – then for the love of God, WAIT before proceeding to cycle on. We might collide, both end up in the canal and nobody is a winner.

It is a little tricky but generally speaking: you anticipate. Example: you are on top of a slope, about to ride down and you see a lovely old lady walking her dog. She is walking away from the slope with her back turned to you. Do you:
A) Ring the bell when you are right behind her, so you all get in a panic and a fluster trying to coordinate dog, lead and bike.
B) Ring the bell as you spot her, so she has time to move.
C) Not ring your bell at all because you don’t want to cause a fuss, even though this mean you nearly ride over her dog and scare her into the water.

A and C are remarkably common… So in conclusion: dear London cyclists, if you feel very British and shy about using your bike-bell, try saying ‘thank you’ when someone moves over. That should balance things out.

…but let us start in Devon.

I realise after writing this, I should probably have a category called: Food. After having written about Last Suppers and other food adventures in the past, here another account of how I like to spend my weekends.

After an epic coach trip due to the M5 accident over the weekend, I made it to Plymouth for Bonfire/ birthday celebrations. ( Ok, I have to confess – terrible friend as I am I did assume it was the former rather than the latter: oops. Anyway Happy Birthday Gem!)

The weekend was simply fantastic and filled with food: after the Firework display ( cued on music, what a job!) on the Hoe, we went for an Indian meal. All ten of us thought it was wise to order the set menu: 30 min later we could feed a small African nation with the content of our table.

A bakery near Kabul, Afghanistan
Image via Wikipedia It took 30 min but we ended up with enough bread...

The baskets Nan bread seemed to be multiplying and we lost count of the plates of sag aloo. The curry dishes were amazing and we realised that Sunday- best was a mistake: this was a meal that required joggers. Later desert was presented: two chocolate cakes with 3 Letter-shaped sparklers spelling the name of the birthday girl: Happy Birthday  M-G -E!

Sunday was a gorgeous sunny day, after breakfast ( poached eggs and grilled bacon on brown bread: practically healthy) we went out to the country side.

Noss Mayo
Image by rach2k via Flick

The idea was to go for a walk first to work up an appetite for a cream tea but unfortunately the rest of Devon had the same plan, so we ended up strolling through the lovely village of Noss Mayo. We just sat by the water, which was surprisingly clear, enjoyed the sunshine and watched the boats. It was beautifully quiet. We contemplated getting boats and retire here ourselves when we saw a man struggling to get to his rowing boat: it broke the romance, having a boat seemed hard work.

Probably the best cream tea in the world

We were not up for that and thus it was time for tea.

In the quaint little tea room in Newton Ferrers, they indeed served the best cream tea. Despite you just having ordered 2 fresh scones with jam and clotted cream to go with your cuppa, the tea cups all had a little biscuit on the side as well – just in case. (In case you are wondering:1. take scone 2.  first jam and then 3. clotted cream…) It was epic.

A traditional Sunday roast: roast beef, vegeta...
Image via Wikipedia

Oh then we managed to cook a roast at home. From scratch. This is not the real picture, there was no time for that… We did have home-made Yorkshires and the best roast potatoes: super impressed.

I might havegained weight but the stress patches on my skin are completely clearing up: Result.


The ten missed calls indicated something was wrong. As I had to run an errand in town I had given Sura my key to let herself in: we travelled from Glasgow this morning and she was carrying a suitcase around. We had only caught up on three days of London riots that we blissfully missed.

Then three text messages:  my road was full of police and all the shops on the high street were boarded up. All, apart from the shop beneath my flat. Sura was told by police to get off the street and thus urged me to find a new place to stay for the night. ( I later called my flatmate and she said the police woman in front of our flat said it were just rumours. Ah, the police woman in front of the flat you said?)

So here I am, writing you this from refuge in Mile End ( yes also shaky but at least less shops around.) There is a strange atmosphere around, people hurrying home before dark and there is an eerie quiet in the air. What a difference from the pretty Scottish place I woke up in this morning…

Sura and I have spent the last six days with our friend B who lives close to Glasgow. Highlights included:

  • An amazing wine in Cafe Gandolfi that had to be excavated from the cellar but the memory still brings tears to our eyes. ( The following days we had to remind ourselves nothing could live up to it.)
  • Sunshine – It Happened. We had 1 day of rain, we even had a drink in the sun, it was like summer had come to Scotland 😉
  • The night view over Glasgow from the rooftop of the old BBC Scotland building, after having met a few of its residents in a pub and having been invited to share their whisky at home. ( “Well, aren’t you boys kind and generous souls…”)
  • Super 8, the movie. It was a highlight, even with hangovers ( best quote that day came from B’s 10-year-old: “Are you hung over?”  We: “No, do we look hung over?” He: “No, but maybe girls cover that up with make-up and stuff…” *cue faces of disbelieve… )
  • Edinburgh, the festival in the rain: 12 hours – 4 shows. The first was One Million Tiny Plays about Britain, quotes from the British public are made into theatre. The second was the mind-blowing Orlando by Cryptic, whose technical wizardry really should be toned down to let their one woman do her thing in the show. As we are applauding Ed Byrne’s comedy we’re halfway out of the hall, legging it to another show, The Golden Dragon. We managed to catch the last extra train and felt very happy with ourselves.
  • Sura cooked dinner. I think that deserves a mention.
  • Another cinema round, where B and Sura see Horrible Bosses and I see Sarah’s Key. This had to do with pre-booked tickets, a cinema card and a sold out show. As I took in all the horrors of WW II , I realised that we were having a completely different cinema experiences… but the question remains: Jason Bateman, Yay or Nay?

It was lovely, a happy relaxing time. Something I will hold onto as I lay myself to sleep tonight. My flatmate just texted: All’s quiet here.

Let’s hope it stays that way.

Channelling Pollyanna

My life sucks a little right now, I turn out to be slightly allergic to the painkiller tablets ( make me feel sick) and the painkiller drops ( make my eye swell up) so imagine having a dozen papercuts over your right eye and I welcome you to my world.

Thus in a Pollyanna attempt for distraction here are some random things that can make me happy:

Tea and biscuits. Dutch herbal tea and Dutch Bastogne biscuits. In copious amounts.

That is right: the Taylor-Burton diamond. As if a great big fucking diamond wouldn’t make you happy. The thought that Richard bid for it on a payphone to be able to get the stone for Elizabeth makes me smile. The umpteenth example that if someone really cares, they find a way to show it.

My cool sister rebranding me from pirate-girl to Diva after seeing me with sunglasses despite the Dutch monsoons that seem to be raging.  I mean, yeah pirates are sexy but La Loren is timeless.

Sleep. My problems sleeping have been trumped by the need to escape the pain. So I sleep and I dream. Last night I dreamt I caught three small parrots while out fishing in a  swamp.  I set them free though. Answers on a postcard.

Chips and mayonnaise – Like the Burton diamond. How can it not make you happy.

Post cards. Writing postcards is fun. So much better than  just another email. Bit Old Skool but still nice to write and receive.

Home made art. Knowing that my best girls still know who I am despite only being able to see them once in a blue moon.

Once I regain full eye-sight, I am free to roam and travel wherever I want. No trouble sleeping anywhere, indoors/outdoors because I don’t need contacts or glasses ( which would help in my homeless state ;)), no problems driving in the light or the dark ( well no problems I can blame on eye-sight anyway!). I might even enjoy swimming again. Ha! Might.

Considering the way I ‘d like to live my life, this is worth it.  Great eyesight brings a lot of freedom and lord knows there is a lot more world to see…and just the thought of exploring the world makes me smile.

The Eagle has landed

Disclaimer: as I am writing this to fight off the sleep I would hereby like to apologise for all the nonsense that might come out. Already.

Firstly I would like to thank you all for your lovely message of support and your interest in my travels.  My top three of advice by you guys looks something like this:

1. Have fun and enjoy the course.

2. Eat loads of food and make photographs. ( still in debate whether pictures  in general or pictures of food are meant.)

3. Don’t marry a Yank. ( speaks for itself.)

To give you some indication of how unprepared I was, the residence that I was dreading is actually ok. It’s located ten minutes from Central Park ( what the taxi driver tried to point out to me for extra “Mr Guide”-points; unfortunately his ability of English, a plastic screen and my jet-lag made the conversation a lot longer than it needed to be.)

My room has a fridge ( after 3 months of sharing half shelf this is a bit amazing.) a sink, a desk and a bed. Also a bit amazing,  having slept in my sister’s room on an airbed, I haven’t slept in an actual bed for about two months.

Apparently there is a common room, a kitchen and a laundrette somewhere – tonight is not the night they will be found. Some weirdo already knocked on my door, I guess he got the room wrong: the doors do all look the same. Apart from the numbers by them obviously.

I got a sympathetic nod from the doorman as I struggled with my suitcase, the door and then my name. There are shops about five minutes away from the place and I am running low on water but I just cannot move again tonight.

The rest of my 2 hours will be filled by reading the guidebook to see what’s around and to see what I can do with a Sunday morning before I meet a friend of a friend for (no doubt more) coffee.

Excited is not the right word for now, but content and calm is something I settle for. So day one and tonight this sleepy lady signs off from the city that doesn’t sleep.

Welcome back

She was wearing grey  patterned tights with brown boots. Skirt with early 90’s print, oversized jumper that was attempted to shape with a wide double belt over it, hoodie on top and a bag that had the kind of plastic fabric paint splodges over it – like you used to DIY back in the day. The nineties. It is 2011 and the nineties are retro but 14 is still a hard age.

Her mate was really just a very tall child. A boy, the only hint of man was his size. Desperately in love with her, trying to make her laugh, attempting to get closer to her, to touch her hair then losing his nerve and stepping back. Pretending to find out which way they were going.

The gooseberry was a clueless boy, big hair frizzy hair that in 10 years will look cool or will have disappeared, oversized clothes, unwashed, skin-issued, uneasy and clueless about his mate’s attempt. If he was in the way, it wasn’t his problem.

Three children were sleeping on the Tube chairs, Dad manages to wake up the elder two but the littlest one cannot wake up. He’s maybe three and no matter how much his father shakes him, his eyes do not open. Dad even attempts to just stand up his sleeping son. This, for obvious reasons, does not work. I want to shake the father and tell him to pick up the child you lazy bastard!

A man bending over to grab his gloves from his bag shows the world his lower back hair – unnecessary. Still he wears a wedding ring. A contradiction personified.

Friends say goodbye to each other a little too soon, there is that awkward two minutes where everyone’s been hugged and hands are shaken and still we haven’t arrived at the tube station and the doors stay closed. A quick touch with the fists when they finally leave seems contrived for their age and ethnicity.

When I pick up some milk at the cornershop, the man looks at my suitcase and asks me where I have been. Home I answer. Am I studying here? I was but now I am looking for a job. What kind of job? I’m a writer I say. He thinks this is funny and starts to laugh out loud. I’m not sure how to react to this and pay for the milk. When I leave the shop, he is still laughing.  Whatever it is that has set this off I hope that it makes him happy. I might have to find another cornershop though.

Ah London. Bittersweet, extremity and contradiction filled city. Welcome back.

The Famous Five Go To Wales * (end)

A Danish Christmas tree illuminated with burni...
Image via Wikipedia

Ok I am going to wrap this up: even I think it is getting a little drawn out and I am writing it.

Throughout this whole ordeal tempers are remarkably calm, the only moment of stress occurs when the plumber arrives. He walks in and quips that it’s a little chilly. No shit Sherlock, we are all still dressed in Arctic gear. The man turns out to be  really nice and calm, but just as he is being shown the toilet issues upstairs, the house phone rings. It is probably Mr D, who is continuously calling to make sure his ceiling hasn’t collapsed. ” Can someone pick up the phone!”  The phone is passed around like a live hand-grenade, no one can find the button to make it work… Fortunately Mr D is a very persistent caller (who wouldn’t be) and by the fourth time he rings, we have found a way to switch the phone on. ” No sir, your roof is still standing and it turns out there are only a few minor problems to do with the frost. The heating can be switched on again.” Grand. We might have omitted the fact that the plumber had to disassemble the whole of Mr and Mrs D’s bathroom to reach the offending part of the toilet… There is a time and a place for these kind of messages.

The heating is switched back on (Yay!) and the plumber asks a very reasonable fee for his services on this Saturday. We would have paid him a kidney each if that would have been necessary but he kindly offers a lift to the cash-machine and brings the girl home again too. Customer service with a capital C, like real it is still possible.

Champagne is opened in celebration and after showers (some of us even had hot water… what can I say, you snooze you lose! ) we went to the local pub where we spent the whole evening being entertained by food, drink, conversation and pool. It confirmed that London-prices are indeed extortionate. On return to the house, we put the Christmas tree up and start decorating. It’s 2am, the house is fully Christmasfied and it is warm. Phew, what a difference a day makes…

by Ju Ju Be


On our last day the sauna works and we use it for an hour before having lunch with our helpful neighbour. We say our goodbyes and pack up the car to return to the Big Smoke. By the time the brothers start cursing the snail pace of the London traffic again and with my head resting on the ironing board that needed to come back too, I can only think it is a fitting end to this crazy weekend.

* Ah yes, if you want to know where in Wales this was, I still have no idea. Even if I could remember the pronunciation, I wouldn’t know how to spell it…