It’s been unmaintained for several years now, just ticking along under its own steam and miraculously not falling over. Nowadays, everybody seems to understand (or ought to understand)
RSS and can operate their own aggregator, so there doesn’t really seem to be any point in carrying on running the service. So when the domain name comes up for renewal next month, I
shan’t be renewing it. If somebody else wants to do so, I’ll happily tell them the settings that they need, but it’ll be them that’s paying for it, not me.
“But I still use Abnib!” I hear you cry. Well, here’s what you can do about it:
Option 1 (the simple-but-good option): switch to something better, easily
RSS aggregators nowadays are (usually) free and (generally) easy to use. If you don’t have a clue, here’s the Really Simple Guide to getting started:
Download the Abnib OPML file (https://danq.me/abnib.opml) and save it to your computer. This file describes in a computer-readable
format who all the Abnibbers are.
Go to Google Reader and log in with your Google Account, if you haven’t already.
Click Settings, then Reader Settings.
Click Browse… and select the file you downloaded in step #1.
Ta-da! You can now continue to read your favourite Abnib blogs through Google Reader. You’ve also got more features, like being able to not-subscribe to particular blogs,
or (on some blogs) to subscribe to comments or other resources.
You don’t have to use Google Reader, of course: there are plenty of good RSS readers out there. And most of the good ones are capable of importing that OPML file, so you can quickly get
up-and-running with all of your favourite Abnib blogs, right off the bat.
Option 2: switch to something better, manually
As above, but instead of downloading and uploading an OPML file, manually re-subscribe to each blog. This takes a lot longer, but makes it easy to choose not to subscribe
to particular blogs. It also gives you the option to use a third-party service like FreeMyFeed to allow you to subscribe to
LiveJournal “friends only” posts (which you were never able to do with Abnib), for example.
Option 3: continue to use Abnib (wait, what?)
Okay, so the domain name is expiring, but technically you’ll still be able to use Abnib for a while, at least, so long as you use the address http://abnib.appspot.com/. That won’t last forever, and it will be completely unmaintained, so when it breaks, it’s
broken for good. It also won’t be updated with new blog addresses, so if somebody changes where their blog is hosted, you’ll never get the new one.
It’s been fun, Abnib, but you’ve served your purpose. Now it’s time for you to go the way of the Troma Night website and the RockMonkey wiki, and die a peaceful little death.
Two years and one month ago to this day, I made an idiot out of myself by injuring
myself while chasing cake. Back then, of course, I was working on the top floor of the Technium in Aberystwyth, and
I was racing down the stairs of the fire escape in an attempt to get to left-over cake supplies before they were picked clean by the other scavengers in the office building. I tripped
and fell, and sprained by ankle quite badly (I ended up on crutches for
a few days).
Last week, history almost repeated itself, and I’m not even talking about my recent head
injury. Again, I’m on the top floor of a building, and again, there’s a meeting room on the bottom floor (technically in the basement, but that only means there’s further to go).
When I got the email, I rushed out of the door and down the stairwell, skipping over the stairs in threes and fours. Most of the Bodleian’s stairwells are uncarpeted wood, and the
worn-down soles of my shoes skidded across them.
You’d think I’d have learned by now, but apparently I’m a little slow. Slow, except at running down stairs. As I rounded the corner of the last stairwell, my body turned to follow the
route but my feet kept going in the same direction. They took flight, and for a moment I was suspended in the air, like a cartoon character before they realise their predicament and
gravity takes hold. With a thud, I hit the ground.
Perhaps I’d learned something, though, because at least this time around I rolled. Back on my feet, I was still able to get to the meeting room and scoff the best of the fruit and
sandwiches before anybody else arrived.
Is this really worthy of a blog post? Dan doesn’t have an accident is hardly remarkable (although perhaps a little more noteworthy than I’d like to admit, based on
recent experience). Well, I thought so. And I’ve got a free lunch. And I didn’t have to hurt myself to do so. Which is probably for the best: based on the number of forms I had to fill out to get root access on the systems I administer, I don’t want to think how complicated the
accident book must be…
Last week, we updated to the latest version of the CMS that powers the Bodleian‘s web site. During the process
of installing and testing the new version, we initiated a “content freeze”, disallowing the 100+ regular content editors access to the administration sections: any changes they’d have
made wouldn’t have been replicated in the new version, and we didn’t want a discrepancy in content while we were testing that the change had taken! We still had back-end access, of
course, and a few minor “emergency” changes were made (on both the old and the new version), but in general, the site was in a read-only mode for several days.
A similar thing happened to my head during this weekend’s house move.
While running a van-load of stuff from Old Earth to New Earth, Ruth, JTA and I stopped off at Argos to buy a few bits and pieces for
our new home. We parked in one of the few remaining parking spaces capable of accommodating our extended wheel-base van. Unfortunately this brushed us up very close to an
unfortunately-placed tree, whose branches reached in through the door as I clambered out. I spent a while trying to reposition them so as not to slam them in the door while Ruth and JTA
walked ahead, towards Argos, and so when I was done they were quite a way ahead. I turned and ran to catch up with them…
BAM! Something struck me on the top of my head. We’re still not all in agreement as to whether it was a branch or the wing mirror of the van, but it hurt like hell. My knees buckled up
and I collapsed into a heap.
Before long I was on my feet, but as I began to feel dizzy and nauseous, we started to worry that I might be concussed, and Ruth took me to the hospital. By then, I was unable to keep
my eyes open without feeling like the world was spinning and I was going to throw up, and I kept feeling like I was moments away from falling asleep.
By the time I’d seen a doctor, about three hours later, I was starting to feel a little better. We took a leaflet of “things to watch out for after a concussion”, which advised that I
shouldn’t lift any heavy things (“But I’m moving house today!”) nor use a computer or drink alcohol (“This is my life you’re talking about!”), all of which I ignored
to some degree or another.
I napped on and off for a lot of Sunday and some of Monday, but it was on Monday that the amount of damage I’d done became most apparent. I got out of bed and staggered downstairs to
find that Ruth and JTA had at some point bought a shoe rack. They weren’t around, but neither was the van, and I reasoned that they must have been out collecting more boxes, but I
thought I might as well make myself useful by assembling this shoe rack they’d gotten. It was of the variety that hangs on the back of a door, so I spent some time deciphering the
instructions and putting it together… only to find that it wouldn’t actually fit onto any of the (quite thick) doors in our new house.
That’s when Ruth & JTA arrived. “I saw you’d bought a shoe rack,” I said.
“Yes,” they replied, “We bought it yesterday. We told you about it.”
“Oh. I don’t remember that. Anyway, I built it, but it turns out that it won’t fit any of our doors.”
“Yes, we know: we told you that too. We were about to take it back to the shop.”
I have no recollection whatsoever of that conversation. Or several other conversations, it seems. In the hospital, I remember that Ruth talked to me for an hour or more (I
wasn’t capable of conversation myself, some of the time, but it was nice to hear a familiar voice), and I still can’t remember any of it except for snippets (something about her
father’s new house?).
For much of Sunday, my brain went into “content freeze”, too. A read-only mode where my memories worked fine, except that I couldn’t construct any new ones: everything just went in one
ear and out the other. Maybe this is to be expected: a quick look at some maps of brains and an examination of the bump on my head indicates that the blow came to a point squarely in
the centre of the middle frontal gyrus (the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) of the right hemisphere of my brain: an area associated with
emotional self-control, social judgement, lateral thinking, and the transfer of working memory.
Still: it was certainly a strange experience to be told about events from only a day earlier that I simply can’t remember. It also made Tuesday interesting: long weekends are confusing
at the best of times, but parts of my memory made it feel like I’d had only a two-day weekend (as parts of Sunday are simply missing from my memory), and so it was even harder than
usual to shake the feeling that it was Monday when I arrived at work on Tuesday. That’ll be a pleasant surprise on Friday, anyway, when the weekend “comes early”: maybe I should bang my
head every time there’s a long weekend.
As regular readers will no-doubt know, the other Earthlings and I are currently in the process of moving
house. Last weekend, as well as watching the Eurovision Song Contest, of course, we packed a lot of boxes (mostly stuffed with board games) and moved a handful of them over to New
Earth, our new home, by car (this weekend, we’re using a van, which – in accordance with our BSG theming – is dubbed the
Part of this pack-and-move process has been to cut down on all of the things that we no longer want or need. Of particular concern was all of the booze we’ve collected. I’m not just
talking about the jam-jar of moonshine that Matt R left here after our last Murder Mystery, although it is one of the more-terrifying examples. No;
I’m talking about things like the Tesco Value Vodka, the blackcurrant schnapps, and the heaps of absinthe we’ve got littering the place up.
The more we drink, the less we have to box up and move, you see! So we’ve spent a lot of the last fortnight inventing new (sometimes quite-experimental) cocktails that make use of the
ingredients that we’d rather not have to take with us to the new place. We’ve refrained from buying alcohol, promising ourselves that we won’t buy any more until we’ve gotten rid of the
stuff we’ve got and don’t want by one means or another. And it’s just about working.
Earth Sunset – a mixture of cheap vodka, grenadine, and lemonade, with stacks of ice – caused some debate when Paul
compared the drink to a Tequila Sunrise,
claiming that “it isn’t a sunrise without orange juice”. He’s certainly right that you don’t get that cool “gradient” effect without something lighter (both in colour and specific
density) to float on top of the grenadine. But on the other hand – as JTA pointed out – this is an Earth
Sunset: it’s name has little to do with what it looks like and a lot to do with what it represents – the end of our life on (what we’re now calling) Old Earth.
For those who are following our progression and comparing it to Battlestar Galactica canon, you’ll be glad to see that this works. We arrived on Earth, but
now we’re leaving because it was irradiated and inhospitable (okay, perhaps it’s a slight exaggeration, but the house was a little run-down and under-maintained). And so
we find ourselves making our home on New Earth.
There’ll be a housewarming thingy for local people (and distant people who are that-way inclined, but we’re likely to have something later on for you guys) sometime soon: watch this
Scientists investigating this week’s catastrophic lunchquake in the Dan’s Lunchbox region have released a statement today about the techtonic causes of the disaster.
“The upheaval event, which reached 5.9 on the Tupperware Scale, was probably caused by overenthusiastic cycling,” explained Dr. Pepper, Professor of Lunchtime Beverages at Tetrapak
“The breadospheres ‘float’ on soft, viscous eggmayolayers. Usually these are stable, but sometimes a lateral shift can result in entire breadosphere plates being displaced underneath
This is what happened earlier this week, when a breadospheric shift resulted in catastrophic sinkage in the left-side-of-lunchbox area, eggmayolayer “vents”, and an increase in the
height of Apple Mountain.
No lives were lost during the disaster. However, two jammie dodgers were completely ruined.
Recent emissions in the ring of fire area is unrelated to this recent lunchquake, and are instead believed to be associated with excessive consumption of spicy food at lunchtimes.
This morning I took a cycle out to the post office to put in the mail redirection forms (which they wouldn’t let us fill in online, and – in fact – they rejected once I got to the post
office because I’d used blue ink in one place on the form, rather than black… but that’s another story) in anticipation of the Earthlings‘ upcoming house move, and on my way out of the garage our neighbour came over.
“We’ll be sorry to see you go,” she said, gesturing at the “TO LET” sign at the end of the driveway.
“Hmm?” I responded. It took a while to sink in that she was talking to me: apart from an occasional “Hi” or “Bye” on the way in to or out of the house, we’ve never spoken to
one another before.
“Oh yeah,” I said, after a pause, “We’re moving over to the other side of the city: we kind-of wanted a bigger place for the four of us.”
“Oh,” she continued, “I suppose it might be a little small in there for four. It’s a shame, though: you’re the best tenants we’ve ever had.”
Something in my head snapped, and unraveled, and it took a little time before I managed to re-assemble her sentence into something that made sense to me.
“You… own this building?” I asked, pointing back at our house. We’d never met our landlords (at least, I thought we hadn’t): everything had always been arranged through our
There was another twang in my head as something else snapped. Then moments later, half way through my next thought, I realised how incredibly racist I was being. You see: our contract
had stated that our landlord’s name was Mr. Patel, and that’s a name that in my mind had associated itself with a certain tone of skin colour. And it had, for a moment, seemed
inconceivable that the plump white woman in front of me could possibly be part of the family of the imaginary Mr. Patel that had taken up residence in my head. As I worked to reprogram
my brain with this new information (and perhaps a little less capacity for runaway assumptions), she continued:
“The previous tenants have all been awful,” she said, “The last lot broke all of the windows. The ones before that tried to burn the place down!”
This actually went some way to explaining the state of the building, with it’s various weakened and damaged parts.
“Well thank you,” I said, “I hope you get some more great tenants next time.”
“Yeah,” she replied, “I was going to say that to your dad this morning when I saw him leaving.”
“Yeah: he left here earlier; just a bit before your girlfriend left. Sorry: is he not your father?”
Every string that still remaining intact in my brain snapped simultaneously. This woman had just blown my poor little mind. I investigated:
“Dark-haired chap, with a beard?” I queries, miming the shape of a beard because for some reason that made sense to me – you know, in case she’d never seen a beard before.
“Yeah, that’s him.”
“Wow. No, that’s JTA. He’s… like four years younger than me.”
“Oh God!” she said, “You can’t tell him I said that…”
But it was too late: the blog post was already half-written in my mind, taking up the void that had been cleared during the earlier series of mental implosions. This one’s for you,
This week, I was reading the new EU legislation [PDF]
which relates to, among other things, the way that websites are allowed to use HTTP cookies (and similar technologies) to track their users. The Information Commissioner’s Office has released a statement to ask website owners to review
their processes in advance of the legislation coming into effect later this month, but for those of you who like the big-print edition with pictures, here’s the short of it:
From 26th May, a website must not give you a cookie unless it’s either (a) an essential (and implied) part of the functionality of the site, or (b) you have opted-in to it.
This is a stark change from the previous “so long as you allow opt-outs, it’s okay” thinking of earlier legislation, and large organisations (you know, like the one I now work for) in particular are having to sit up and pay attention: after all, they’re the
ones that people are going to try to sue.
The legislation is surprisingly woolly on some quite important questions. Like… who has liability for ensuring that a user has opted-in to third-party cookies (e.g. Google Analytics)?
Is this up to the web site owner or to the third party? What about when a site represents companies both in and outside the EU? And so on.
…not what I was looking for: just more circular and woolly thinking. But I did find that the ICO themselves does not comply with the guidance that they themselves give. Upon
arriving at their site – and having never been asked for my consent – I quickly found myself issued with five different cookies (with lifespans of up to two years!). I checked their
Honestly: I’m tempted to assume that only this guy has the right approach. I’m all in favour of better
cookie law, but can’t we wait until after the technological side (in web browsers) is implemented before we have to fix all of our websites? Personally, I
thought that P3P policies (remember when those were all the rage?) had a
lot of potential, properly-implemented, because they genuinely put the power into the hands of the users. The specification wasn’t perfect, but if it had have been, we
wouldn’t be in the mess we are now. Perhaps it’s time to dig it up, fix it, and then somehow explain it to the politicians.
Polygamous marriages are not legally recognised in the UK and therefore any data received from a questionnaire that appeared to show polygamous relationship in the manner that you
suggest would be read as an error. It is recognised that the majority of respondents recording themselves as being in a polygamous relationship in a UK census do so erroneously, for
example, ticking the wrong box for one household member on the relationships question.
Therefore, the data to be used for statistical purposes would be adjusted by changing one or more of these relationships, so that each respondent is in a relationship with no more
than one person. This is consistent with all previous UK censuses, and others around the world.
A copy of the original questionnaire would be retained as part of the historical record which would show such relationships as they were recorded. We do not attempt to amend the
Any mismatches between the indicated sex and marital status of respondents will be resolved using a probabilistic statistical system which will not necessarily deal with each case
in the same way. The system will look at other responses for each person, including those for the Household relationships, and will alter one or more variables to make the response
consistent. In the example that you propose, it would either change the sex of one individual, or change the marital status to “Same-sex civil partnership”, depending on which is
considered statistically more likely to be correct.
Honestly, I’m not particularly impressed. They’ve committed to maintaining a historical record of the original, “uncorrected” data, so that future statisticians can get a true picture
of the answers given, but this is about the only positive point in this response. Treating unusual data as erroneous is akin to pretending that a societal change doesn’t exist, and that
this approach is “consistent with previous censuses” neglects to entertain the possibility that this data has value that it might not have had previously.
Yes, there will be erroneous data: people who accidentally said that they had two husbands when they only have one, for example. And yes, this can probably (although they don’t state
how they know to recognise this) be assumed to be more common that genuine cases where somebody meant to put that on their census (although there will also be an error
rate amongst these people, too). But taking the broad brush approach of assuming that every case can be treated as an error reeks of the same narrow-mindedness as the (alleged;
almost-certainly an urban legend) statement by Queen Victoria that lesbianism “didn’t exist.”
“Fixing” the data using probabilities just results in a regression towards the mean: “Hmm; this couple of men say they’re married: they could be civil partners, or it could be a
mistake… but they’re in a county with statistically-few few gay people, so we’ll assume the latter.” Really: what?
I’m not impressed, ONS.
Update: a second FoI request now
aims to determine how many “corrections” have been made on censuses, historically. One to watch.
Remember about three weeks ago when I re-met a Bodleian Libraries
employee whom I’d first met many years ago? And then went on to meet their friend, who turned out to have been somebody with whom I’d been trying to schedule a meeting anyway!
Well today I had that meeting (and was formally introduced to my friend-of-a-friend). And when I got back, I found the following (edited, here) email in my Inbox:
You may remember me from such RT requests as #1234567. I have an inkling that we may also have met (if you attended) at the National Nightline^W^WNightline Association AGM in Leeds a
couple of years back. I used to be a Nightline volunteer at Oxford.
This chap works for the Computing Services department of the University, and as a result he’s been helping to deal with my (many, many) tickets and request-for-change forms as I’ve
tried to get access to all of the systems to which I’ve needed access. And recognised me, apparently.
A conversation I had this morning with JTA, via text message:
Boiler update: this is getting silly. The probability-weighted Markov-chain based predictive text system I’m using this morning saw me type “boi” and suggested “Boiler update:”? /sighs/
On the upside, I’ve successfully arranged for the new distributor valve to be installed on Friday, when I’ll be around.
To give a little background, we’re having trouble with the boiler on Earth. You may have observed that
it broke last year, and then again this year: well – it’s still broken, really. Nowadays it’ll only produce a
little hot water at a time, and makes a noise like that scene in Titanic where the ship begins to tear
in two. You know – a bad noise for a boiler to make. Over the last two or three weeks we’ve repeatedly fought to get it repaired, but it’s been challenging: more on that
in a different blog post, if JTA doesn’t get there first.
On the plus side, at least this saga is overriding your phone’s memory of your previous life as a male prostitute. :-)
I was once mistaken for a gay prostitute, actually – by a gay prostitute – but that’s another story, I guess. In any case, I responded:
Until now! you’ve just mentioned that again, which means it’ll be the “last message received” when the paramedics go through my phone if I’m killed on the way to work this morning. And
they’ll say, “yeah; I’d pay to have sex with him.”
Quickly followed by:
And his mate will say:
“Now he’s dead, you don’t HAVE to pay.”
If my corpse is raped by a paramedic, I’m blaming you.
To which JTA said:
You’re talking about people who drive blacked out vans full of drugs. I’m pretty sure they never pay.
From prostitution to necrophilia to date rape over the course of only a handful of text messages. What a great start to a Wednesday morning. I do like the image of an ambulance as “a
blacked out van full of drugs,” though…
This week included the Cinco de Mayo, the anniversary of the
overwhelming (and surprising) Mexican victory over a superior French force at the Battle of Puebla, but used mostly as an excuse for Mexican expatriates and non-Mexicans to celebrate Mexican
culture. And food. Mostly food.
To mark the occasion, one of my favourite restaurants, The Mission in Oxford, announced that they were giving away
free beer to customers, and your next burrito
free if you came along dressed as a Mexican. The Mission already wins my favour by making the best burritos I’ve ever tasted; giving me an excuse to dress up and get
free beer and more burritos is just a bonus!
We’d had a long, long day already. After work, I’d mostly been doing administrative work with helpline Oxford Friend, with whom I’m a volunteer. Ruth and JTA had perhaps been even busier, as
they’d spent the evening working on the Yes to AV telephone lines, making sure that everybody who had
pledged to vote was out and doing so. We all really felt like we’d earned our burritos. So we donned our ponchos and (in my case) my sombrero, and went to The Mission.
I learned two things:
The Mission remains awesome. If you’re looking for food in Oxford, I highly recommend them. And no, they’re not paying me to say this.
It’s really, really hard to cycle while wearing a sombrero. Those things catch the wind like nothing else, and unless you enjoy riding along with what feels like a kite tied to your
neck (and that’s if you’re lucky enough that the neck string catches you; otherwise your hat flies off into traffic and you have to run after it, yelling and screaming), cycling while
wearing one is not a good combination.
We brought home a takeaway for Paul, too, which I suspect was his second burrito of the day. Seriously: nobody
celebrates Cinco de Mayo like Paul does.
I’d just like to say thanks to everybody who, upon hearing about my dad’s injury, passed on their best wishes for his speedy recovery. I spoke to him yesterday, and passed on your thoughts. He’s going
to be in surgery this afternoon in an effort to turn him into Wolverine (although I was disappointed to hear that they’ll be installing mere aluminium, and not adamantium,
into him). Why not go the whole way: I’m sure he’d suit retractable metal claws!
Last weekend, I was cycling through Oxford, as I do, enjoying a reasonably leisurely pace. I say leisurely, but it’s been my experience that compared to the cyclists in Aberystwyth,
where the city planners decided to build every single road on the side of a hill, the cyclists in Oxford are somewhat… wussy. They’re numerous, certainly, but very few of them actually
put their backs into the activity, instead preferring to crawl around at a frankly pedestrian speed along their overcrowded cycle paths.
On several occasions, I’ve routinely seen people get off their bikes and push to get up even mild to moderate slopes like that outside the hospital, around the corner from
Earth. The slope is long, certainly, but these people aren’t even
giving up half-way… they’re giving up at the bottom! It just makes me want to send them to Aber for a few years to learn what real hills look like.
So there I was, cycling into the city centre, overtaking other cyclists as I went, when another cyclist… overtook me! This was only the second time this had ever happened to me since I
moved to Oxford last summer. The other time, like this one, the perpetrator
was a fit, lean young man, clad from the neck downwards in skin-tight lycra, donned with a streamlined helmet and riding a bike that just screamed out that it wanted to be raced. It was
almost begging me to give it a challenge. So I did.
I guess part of me was offended that he happened to have come across me on a day when I was taking it easy. Traveling to and from work, for example, I’ve been pushing myself: the other
week, I beat my personal best, making the 2.4 mile journey from the Bodleian‘s bike sheds to my
garage door in just a little over seven and a half minutes. How dare this… enthusiast… overtake me when I’m just on a gentle meander in the sun.
We were just pulling into high street when he passed me, buzzing past in his fancy orange-and-black cycling shorts like a bumblebee riding a bullet. Ahead, cars and buses were coming to
walking pace, backed up as far as I could see as the bank holiday traffic ground what was once a trunk road into little more than a car park. Between the vehicles, cycles picked their
way around, darting in and out of the lanes of traffic. This was to be our arena.
My pedals span as I dropped back into a less-comfortable gear, picking up speed and pulling around a police van to get right onto the tail of my opponent. His speed advantage had been
reduced by having to evade a taxi cab, and within a few seconds I was able to pull up into the wake of his slipsteam. Ahead, a bus began to pull away from a stop, and he overtook it.
Seeing my chance as the bus began to indicate, I went around the inside, pulling almost alongside him as we streaked across the first of the pelican crossings and into the next block of
traffic. Car, car, van, car, bus… we passed each one on one side or the other, and I occasionally caught a glimpse of the young man with whom I was competing.
Up ahead, the second pelican crossing switched to red, and we pulled up to the line together. Surprised at having somebody alongside him, I think, he looked across at me, and looked
even more surprised when he recognised me as the person he’d overtaken a little while back. He eyed up my bike, as if he were assessing his chances. He seemed confident: and why not –
he was riding a lightweight racing bike, designed to make the most of every bit of its rider’s strength to propel it along. I was on a mountain bike, designed to be rugged and durable –
multi-purpose, nowadays. Weighed down by mudguards and pannier frames, I didn’t fancy my chances either. But my bike was running very well – I’d recently stripped it down to its
component parts, washed and re-greased each, rebuilt it and fine-tuned it – and if ever it was set up to take on this racer, today was the day.
The lights changed, and we were off. He wasn’t holding back, now, and by the time we were half-way to the junction with St. Aldates I was panting, gulping down air to feed to my legs,
pumping away beneath me. Our routes sometimes put us side-by-side or one behind the other, sometimes put us on the other sides of lines of stationary cars, but always kept us in
sight of one another. This was going to be close.
The lights at the junction were in our favour, and we both rocketed around into the downhill section at St. Aldates. Buses crawled along the street, but there was plenty of room on the
wide, slick surface, so we accelerated as we shot down the centre of the road. Ahead, heat haze made the black surface glisten like oil, and I was suddenly aware of how much I was
sweating. Summoning all of my strength, I stood up and leant forwards, searching for just another half a mile an hour to catch up with him; his slender bike and slender body cutting
through the headwind and pulling away from me. It worked: by the bottom of the road, I was alongside him again, and we were almost to my destination: the bridge at the bottom.
“My stop!” I called out, holding my arm out to indicate (mostly to him; there were no cars behind us at even close to our speed) where I was to go. I came to a halt, glad
that I’d thought to tune up the brakes during my recent maintenance. He pulled alongside me, and for a moment I wondered if he perhaps had the same destination as me.
“Are you in a cycling club?” he asked, and I noticed that he, too, was beginning to get out of breath – although not so badly as I was.
“No,” I replied.
“You should be!” he said, “That kind of speed, on a bike like… that…” He gestured to my bike.
As he sped away and I started to look for a place to lock up my bike, I felt a great sense of satisfaction and pride. I didn’t know that I’d be able to match pace with him, but through
sheer grit and determination, I’d managed. And then, just as I was chaining my bike to a conveniently nearby fence, another thought occurred:
I was still holding the letter that I’d meant to post on my way here. The postbox was back at about the beginning of the race… you know; where I was slowing down to begin with.